We are the children of the Anthropocene. We live in an extra-ordinary historical moment characterised by the terrible impacts caused by humanity on the Earth’s systems, and onto the human and non-human beings that live in it. The scale and intensity of human disruption on the planet is so big that it is provoking significant changes in all the complex interdependent systems – the air, water ice and rock – that make up its fabric. This has pushed planet Earth into a new geological era – the Anthropocene – characterised as being permanently hostile, unstable and unpredictable.
The Anthropocene is a product of affluent societies. It would be incredibly unjust to make all human societies and individuals on the planet equally responsible for the current situation. The global class of affluent consumers is pushing the planet into toward the precipice. This elite is intoxicated by the arrogance of techno-industrialism, addicted to oil and to the promises of material wealth made by a perverse idea of development which is blind to the biophysical limits of the planet, as well as to the toxic by-products and to the suffering that it generates.
The Anthropocene is also characterised by a severe mass extinction which is already under way, the Sixth Great Extinction. For the first time in the history of planet Earth, human activities have driven a mass extinction that affects the whole web of life and its crucial networks of relationships founded on interconnection and interdependency. To put into perspective, the Fifth Great Extinction happened 65 million years ago and saw ¾ of the plants and animals that inhabited the planet wiped out, including the dinosaurs.
We are aware we are entering a new epoch with unprecedented consequences. It is an epoch in which the toxic products of techno-industrial development and climate impacts are taking place everywhere, but in unequal forms. This reinforces pre-existing structures of inequality and it also generates new ones. The children of the Anthropocene are in solidarity with the human and non-human frontline communities that are already suffering the impacts of this crisis of crises, even though they have not created it. It is an epoch for which there has been no biological adaptation, cultural learning or transmission to prepare ourselves to the type of threats and socio-environmental changes that are going to happen.
Climate change is already happening and it is, without doubt, the most important socio-environmental problem of our time. Its grave implications for the ability of life to continue on this planet impose on us a moral responsibility to take urgent action. We must radically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases so that we don’t exceed the point of no return in climate system and avoid dangerous climate change. We can not waste any more time. However, it is important not to be seduced by the siren songs of the industrial techno-optimism that tries to sell false solutions in order to continue business as usual. If we are to avoid reaching the feared world of a 4 degree temperature rise which we are heading for at top speed – or the hell of a 6 degree rise – then our actions must focus on the root causes of the problem.
This is about profoundly questioning the dominant patterns of social organisation and social thought, which have brought us to this situation: the social, economic, cultural and political structures. This is about changing the current structures of the production system, challenging extraction and leaving at least 80% of fossil fuels in the ground. This is about putting an end to the most polluting industries, including industrial agriculture and cattle farming. This is about changing the transport system in cities, regions and countries. This is about heading towards Zero Waste. This is about granting rights to the Biosphere. This, among many other things, is about degrowth: producing less, consuming less and reinventing what having a good life for all means in a finite and disrupted planet.
Climate change offers a unique opportunity to radically, profoundly and creatively re-structure modern societies. It appeals to the urgent need to put nature and the ethics of care at the centre of social organisation and to learn to respect both the bio-regenerating rhythms of ecosystems and the ecological commons (air, water, soil and seeds), incorporating criteria for inter- and intra- generational and also inter-species justice.
We, the children of the Athropocene, embrace the idea that we are also nature and, as such, we must defend ourselves and fight against the multiple and powerful social forces which hubristically assume that human beings exist to unscrupulously exploit and dominate the rest of nature. These social forces pretend that everything can stay the same, jeopardising all of us and our future.
It is a matter of survival, justice and responsibility.