Cultural climate change

15 Jan 2024

Life can get quite complicated - and sometimes, you need help from the world's greatest philosophers to figure it out. In her blog, Jara Majerus looks at life through the philosophical monocle, employing the help of some of history's brightest thinkers. This week, Jara is starting the year with a different kind of New Year's resolution: changing the cultural climate about climate change.

My Christmas break in Tyrol was wonderful. I baked lots of cookies and ate them too, I sat by warm fireplaces, and I knitted one and a half scarves. But something was bugging me during all these lovely moments: the grass in my parents’ garden was green.

All the snow that had fallen the weeks before had melted away and during Christmas, only the very tops of the Tyrolian mountains were covered in white. In Tyrol, December felt like April. In the Netherlands, all the melted snow filled the countries’ rivers and almost flooded cities. When celebrating the end of 2023, we celebrated the end of the hottest year in recorded history. In other words: my Christmas break at home showed me that the climate crisis is becoming more and more visible every year.

I read an article in the Guardian with the headline ‘World will look back at 2023 as year humanity exposed its inability to tackle climate crisis, scientists say’ and it made me wonder. Why do we not seem to care about this? I think the answer to these questions lies in the Western philosophy of nature.

In the West, we see nature as a tool. We use and exploit it to ensure our comfort and prosperity. But most importantly, we perceive ourselves as superior to nature because of our capability to reason – think of Kantian and Cartesian philosophy. Yet I wonder what this capability to reason is worth, seeing that it does not stop us from letting our home burn. Reason does not seem to do the job. We need something else.

‘Instead of living off nature, we need to live with it’

‘What humankind actually requires is a cultural climate change, a change in our thinking and actions,’ writes Daniel Wildcat in his book Red alert! : saving the planet with Indigenous knowledge. According to Wildcat, the Western world needs to learn that humanity is not separate from nature. Of course, the Western world is not the only polluter and of course we will need global change to mitigate the climate crisis as much as possible. However, we in the Western world have had our fair share in destroying the environment based on our perception of nature.

So, starting with self-critique before pointing our fingers at other countries is a good place to start for a change. We can and must change our own philosophy. We have to acknowledge that we are not superior beings, that we share this earth with all other living beings, and that we hold certain responsibilities. Instead of living off nature, we need to live with it. To do so we need to change our lifestyle, writes Wildcat.

And I absolutely agree with him. We need to change our Western philosophy of nature. And seeing that we are all so fond of using the beginning of a new year for changes, let us change something meaningful this time: let us change our culture to save our home from burning. Small changes help too. So, next year, I will enjoy vegan versions of my cookies in front of a digital fireplace. And I will be finishing the other half of my scarf.

Read Jara Majerus's blogs here

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