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Adopting an Ecocentric Worldview: Could This Save the Planet?

Cheyenne Chrisp Nov 18, 2021

Witnessing the rippling water transform to stillness at the end of a river, I notice my portrait painted gently on its surface. Capturing my sky-blue eyes and sun-kissed skin, my reflection reminds me that I am also nature, for the H2O molecules circulating in this body of water comprise over 60% of my own physical body. Respecting the river is respecting myself.

I dream of a future like this – one where all people perceive themselves as components of the natural world instead of separate from it. A society where nature’s complex, interdependent systems are deemed valuable by everyone. Deepening this sense of connectedness between human beings and nature would intrinsically place value on the environment’s mere existence rather than its functional purpose for humans.

In doing so, we must adopt an ecocentric worldview. Ecocentrism recognizes the ecosphere as the matrix responsible for unifying every organism on Earth, along with the various elements and processes that sustain them. Bringing awareness to all interrelated components of the ecosphere is fundamental to shifting our focus from human-related desires to the uncompromisable needs of the earth. Before a healthy, sustainable future is truly attainable, we must first abandon our outdated, anthropocentric (human-centered) thought and behavioral patterns.

How Did We Get Here?

Perhaps 100 years ago, burning fossil fuels was necessary. As a result of the considerably low standard of living for the global population of only 106 million people, coal, oil, and natural gas prompted outstanding improvements in many day-to-day lives. The creation of modern inventions that we rely on so heavily today would not have been possible without the widespread accessibility of these energy sources. However, it is now time to wake up from this perpetual dream of ignorance and acknowledge the true costs of attaining such exponential growth.

If we are currently living on the only planet (as far as we know) which is habitable for meeting our biological needs, why do we take its invaluable natural resources for granted? Our Mother Earth has bestowed upon us an abundance of trees that provide us oxygen to breathe, lakes that bless us with fresh water to drink, and soil that nurtures the growing food we eat. If we have been gifted all we need to survive from the source itself, why are our time and energy expended on activities that contradict this — degrading our air, water, and soil?

Quite possibly, the answer lies in our collective detachment from the natural world around us. Consider the extensive journey traveled by water to arrive so readily at our faucets – being pumped from different water sources, undergoing several treatment processes, and then being transported to our homes – just for the average person to mindlessly waste 30 gallons per day. This phenomenon of completely ignoring our connection to Earth is a symptom of our anthropocentric behavior.

By unsustainably consuming nearly all of Earth’s exhaustible resources, we are now on the brink of losing the same planet that birthed us. To combat this, we must use our awareness and understanding of the environment’s vulnerabilities to foster deep sympathy and immediate action toward ecological preservation.

For the people or for the planet? Why not both?

For a brief moment, envision a conscious, global population that does not feel separate from land, ocean, and wildlife but rather feels a deep belonging to it. What characteristics does this collective group uphold? As climate action becomes the forefront of more discussions, Population Media Center remains hopeful that, as long as we can transform our day-to-day behavior and redefine our uncompromisable values, the imagined society is within reach.

Rewriting our relationship with the earth urges us to adopt a more sustainable outlook on our internationally industrialized economy by curbing our collective overconsumption behavioral patterns and respecting the natural world as we do business.

The much-needed transition from an industrial economy to a restorative economy would allow us to close the widening gap between current business practices and nature. Paul Hawken, green entrepreneur and author of The Ecology of Commerce, provides valuable insight in his book on how that restorative economy may be attained. While acknowledging the limits of Earth’s natural resources, he introduces the idea that earning profit and restoring the environment should be the same process. And while engaging in business-related practices, we must ask ourselves these critical questions:

• Were the lives of the surrounding communities enhanced?
• Were there any deaths during or at the end of production?
• What resources were depleted?
• What people/places were exploited?

We will know that we are abiding by an ecocentric worldview once our production methods no longer pose a threat to the future of society or harm existing communities and ecosystems.

Next Up: 8 Billion

Soon, our global population will surpass 8 billion people. This alarming number of individuals will be reached whether our planet has the necessary resources to support them or not (spoiler: it doesn’t). In fact, ecological footprint analysis has shown us that the available biocapacity of Earth has been deemed unsustainable for the last five decades. As every new person added to this planet increases the demand for resources like water, land, trees, and energy, climate impacts grow even more perilous to not only us but nearly all plants and animals.

Though our increasing population is not the only contributor to the exploitation of Earth’s resources, it undoubtedly exacerbates the already existing issue. Because of this, Population Media Center focuses on establishing the conditions for slowing down population growth while promoting pro-environment behavior like sustainable farming practices and species protection.

Abiding by an ecocentric worldview and living harmoniously with the natural world demands us to recognize the value in nature itself, aside from its utilitarian purpose. Once we do just this, our trees, sun, soil, and water – along with all else that makes up our Mother – will continue to bless and nurture us.