Nature & Otherness

It’s all alive, it’s all connected, it’s all intelligent, it’s all relatives.” BIONEERS: Revolution from the heart of nature

This is our second entry in our series on othering. To learn more about this concept, please see our first post, Othering within the energy sector. In short, othering can be defined as a set of common processes and conditions that propagate marginality and group-based inequality. Members of the othered group are seen as less worthy of dignity and respect and ultimately denied their humanity. 

Prior to the rise of many modern cultural systems, our ancestors lived enmeshed within the natural world. They understood and respected the complex dynamics of the ecosystem and believed in maintaining a reciprocal relationship with nature and all other beings. Their stories paint a picture of communities prospering within the planetary boundaries while remaining spiritually connected to the Earth through ceremonies and rituals. In essence, they were bridging the gap between their society and nature.

In Bhutan, humans have maintained their connection to nature and live in harmony with the natural world. Bhutan is the first country to become carbon-negative.

Othering of Nature

Through various complex historical events, the widespread separation of humans from nature in Western culture slowly shaped the dominant narrative of many societies. Many experts argue that these values laid the foundations for anthropocentrism, a viewpoint asserting that human beings are the central, superior, and most significant beings in the world, apart from and above nature. This sense of superiority and separation has justified the exploitation of our planet and all other beings beyond the capability of restoration. Anthropocentrism has led to the viewpoint that nature is just a commodity and a resource that can be bought, sold, and exploited to meet the needs of humankind.

Today, more than 50% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase every year. Many of us do not know where our food is produced, where our energy comes from, or where our massive piles of waste go to “disappear”. As the population and the economy grow, more ecosystems are sacrificed to pave the way for production facilities and resource extraction. The othering of nature now runs deep in our cultural, social, and economic paradigm and has led to the erasure of nature from our collective consciousness.

The current paradigm centered around colonization and exploitation and geoengineering of nature has led us to the age of anthropogenic climate change. Humans have significantly altered our planet’s ecosystems and biodiversity. Scientific evidence is finally proving what Indigenous peoples have known all along: we need a transformative change of our systems and our values to restore our connection to our planet to avoid the dire consequences of the climate crisis.

Clearcut #1, Palm Oil Plantation, Borneo, Malaysia, 2016.

Othering within the renewable energy sector

The climate crisis is complex, stemming from multiple oppressive systems, the loss of biodiversity, widespread pollution, and land and water exploitation. It is deeply rooted in the othering of nature and people, where their well-being is not valued. To mitigate global warming, the global community needs to reach 100% carbon neutrality by 2050. This requires a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. While the focus should be kept on how to live within the planetary boundaries and redefine our relationship to nature, the transition is instead centered around the switching of fuels, from nonrenewable ones to renewables ones. The switch tries to achieve an isolated change in a deeply interconnected system.

The rapid development of renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, or battery storage to meet the ambitious 2050 target comes with its own limitations. These developments are heavily dependent upon nonrenewable materials including lithium and nickel. As such the demand for these are expected to explode by several hundred percent by 2050.  But industrial-sized mining is unsustainable: it results in the destruction of land and displacement of communities, destruction of local biodiversity, pollution of air, soil, ground, and surface water. In the name of addressing climate change, these mines are allowed to manipulate and change the local environment for the unforeseeable future. The idea that we can mine ourselves out of this crisis, demonstrates how far removed we are from understanding the complexity of our planet and its biosphere. For those of you who want to learn more about mineral extraction and the energy transition we strongly recommend reading the report by War On Want.

Tyrone Mine #3, Silver City, New Mexico, USA, 2012

The path forward

To address climate change we need to recognize that this is not only about replacing one fuel with another. It requires a change in how we view our natural world, how we use it, and the restructuring of the economic and power structure of our society. It’s about creating a world that is able to sustain itself within planetary boundaries. Instead of othering nature, we need to relearn how to live, work, and play within our planet, not against it. 

Join us on this journey as we bring science and traditional knowledge together to embrace nature and all beings in our collective circle of concern.

References

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