Thoughts On Living
To know is to understand reality. What do you do if that reality is so discouraging that it threatens to overwhelm you? How do you grieve for a planet and all the amazing lifeforms on it? How do you say a requiem for the Earth?
Can we feed a future population of 10 billion people a healthy diet within planetary boundaries? The EAT-Lancet Commission recently brought together more than 30 world-leading scientists from across the globe to address this question and reach a scientific consensus that defines a healthy and sustainable diet. Their conclusions suggest that all of us should be drastically reducing our meat and dairy consumption if we care for the health of our fellow humans and the long-term health of our planet.
The philosophy of Humanism holds many promises of a better world. A world based on reason, compassion, human potential, and self-actualisation. How do you turn that philosophy into action in order to address a problem which is likely to destroy the very world Humanists are trying to create? There are many things we as Humanists can do, either individually, through our organisations or in a global alliance with like-minded organisations. Whether we can succeed depends on how much insight we have into our own motivations and how much willingness we have to change.
Reason, evidence, the opinion of experts, reports of the United Nations and other respected bodies cannot solve the problem of global warming. In fact, the most important factor that will determine whether we achieve the necessary goal of preventing global warming rising above 1.5C in the next 12 years is human nature. It is human nature that stymied the efforts made in the 1980s to get global warming under control before it got out of hand. Many people are pessimistic that it will be human nature that will stop us acting with enough commitment and vigour to do what is necessary in the next decade to stop global warming being a catastrophe. The latest United Nations report on global warming states that we need transformative action to change our economy and society if we are to deal effectively with the problem and that voluntary efforts will not be enough. Humanism has a strong philosophy on how we as humans should be behaviour, can it help?
This article is about the dilemma that global warming poses to us all. Do we vigorously deny that it is happening thereby ensuring that we can continue to nourish our self-interests, prejudices and ideologies? Do we ignore it, or put it to the back of our minds and get on with our lives? Do we accept it is happening and try to do what we can whilst hoping that it won’t be as bad as suggested, or science will find a way around it, or there is still time to tackle the issue? The scientific consensus is clear, by 2030 we must transform our global economies and societies to reduce our CO2 emissions and prevent the increase in global warming rising above 1.5C. Do we embrace the facts or rationalise our way out of making the necessary sacrifices? What about Humanism? It values reason, a rational and evidence-based approach to decision-making so shouldn’t it be leading the charge?
We were warned years ago, and with increasing urgency lately, that global warming was happening and that the consequences, if it was not addressed, would be severe. However, most of us have done very little that will really make a significant impact to stopping the catastrophic heating of our planet. Plenty of us have tried our best in all sorts of ways but it is not enough. Do we need throw ourselves into campaigning to reduce its impact? Or do we become stoics knowing that we have gone too far for rescue to be a realistic option? Do we go quietly into the night? What will you do and is Humanist philosophy any help?
Damasio’s ‘Strange Order of things’ had such intellectual thrust it was hard to know where to start. I wrote this review as an attempt to capture how magnificent the concept of homeostasis really is and how much the idea is contributing to a paradigm shift within biology.
This essay was inspired by the various humanist community outreach programs and begins to consider other future potentials. It draws on Eastern and Western thought and considers how a humanist approach embodies the spirit of trial and error.