In considering how I am engaging in the environmental problem, I looked at all the past lectures and readings and identified two key elements. First, I am contributing to the environmental problem in ways that are easily changeable by altering day-to-day habits: taking public transportation when that is available, recycling more stringently, and supporting open spaces for other species, even in the city. There are actions I can do to address these problems, and expand my awareness to the greater society. I have begun to view the world from a larger perspective than simply myself, my friends, and my immediate surroundings. I have begun to build a less anthropocentric view of the world.
This course has taught me that consumerism is an important aspect of environmental issues (MacDonald 21 Jan. 2014). In the readings for this particular lecture, Kates rasied an important question of when enough is enough for consumers (Kates 15-16). Kates argued that consumer demand might be reduced either by satiation, having only what you actually need, or by sublimation in which you take less to assist the overall community.With all the advertising and messages demanding that I buy the latest product, I acquire many things I do not need and potentially deprive others. I found this message particularly powerful. It has begun to help me think closely about purchases I make—do I need them? Or do I just want them because everyone else (according to the ads) has them?
I also learned our fundamental economic system, capitalism, also plays a key role in environmental issues. The discussion by Desai (1993) combined with Lecture 6 (MacDonald 23 Jan. 2014) illustrated how capitalism plays a part in increasing imperialism throughout the world and also promotes slavery—human and animal—in the name of profit and increased market share. This played directly into the realization that humanity views the world as our home, not the home of millions of species sharing our world. The lectures on anthropocentrism made this very clear also (MacDonald, 4 Feb 2014 and 10 Feb 2014). I was especially intrigued by the argument presented by MacDonald that an enlightened anthropocentrist should ultimately protect the environment (MacDonald 4 Feb 2014) because protecting the environment also protects human interests. Yet because of clashes with economic interests—capitalistic ones—that doesn’t happen. This implies that in our culture money (as the major “scoring” factor of success in capitalistic systems) is valued much more than quality of life. Kates noted something similar to this by pointing out that our system does not allow trading of time for money (Kates). The Desai discussion noted that human and animal slavery in the name of increased profitability has been acceptable (Desai 113).
In terms of my own actions as a result of this new understanding, I have changed some of my daily habits in small ways. I take public transportation more often. I try to think before I buy rather than automatically go for the greatest new gizmo. More than that, however, I am trying to understand how I can stop the cycle of capitalism that feeds on humanity like Dracula sucking the life out of our world. When relationships with other people, our families, and the world around us are less important than a big paycheck, there is something wrong with our value system. I would like to help change that if I can. Kates claims that individuals cannot sustain such counter-capitalism and still remain viable in the larger world. I lack the knowledge and wisdom of how to change it, but I believe it must be changed. I want to learn and grow until I can help make that change come to pass.
- Desai, Meghnad (1993). “Capitalism.” In Joel Kreiger editor in chief, The Oxford Companion to Politics of the World. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 112-114.
- Kates, Robert W. “Population and Consumption: What We Know, What We Need to Know.” Environment. 42. 3 (April 2000): 10, 12-19. Print
- MacDonald, D. “Lecture 5: Causes: Consumerism” University of Toronto Earth Sciences Lecture Hall 1050, Toronto. 21 Jan. 2014. Class lecture.
- MacDonald, D. “Lecture 6: Causes: Capitalism” University of Toronto Earth Sciences Lecture Hall 1050, Toronto. 23 Jan. 2014. Class lecture.
- MacDonald, D. “Lecture 9: Causes: Values, Anthropocentrism” University of Toronto Earth Sciences Lecture Hall 1050, Toronto. 4 Feb. 2014. Class lecture.
- MacDonald, D. “Lecture 10: Causes: Human Power over Humans and Over Nature” University of Toronto Earth Sciences Lecture Hall 1050, Toronto. 23 Jan. 2014. Class lecture.