Reimagining the human

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Science  14 Dec 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6420, pp. 1242-1244
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau6026

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  • RE: Reimagining the Human
    • David Barkin, Distinguished University Professor, Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana

    Eileen Crist’s critiques the worldview of “humanity” that is setting society on the precipice of self-induced destruction if “it” does not come to grips with the multiple dimension of collective hari-kari. She argues that “we” must scale down and pull back to abandon the notion of human supremacy in favor of a more gentle relationship with the earth. When combined with here earlier joint authored piece in this journal (10.1126/science.aal2011), she argues for the need for population control, reducing consumption, and ceasing some ‘infrastructural incursions’ in favor of a form of collective self-control to reduce “our” global impact on the biosphere.
    In place of her critique of anthropocentrism (1) and her invocation of a worldview based on an “all-encompassing… belief system of human supremacy”, I suggest we need to look into the root causes of the present situation. It would be useful to replace her invocation of the Anthropocene (2) with a different characterization, the Capitalocene (3), something that she did previously (4), recognizing that dominant patterns of social organization, consumption, and resource extraction are based on the unrelenting pursuit of accumulation by profit seeking entities that shape the global economy and public policy internationally and within each of our countries. But we must go further, recognizing the plethora of alternative worldviews that are guiding peoples whose governance systems ensure and deepen their ability to ensure a ba...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Response to Philip Green

    Mr. Green’s letter queries the image and caption associated with my Perspective “Reimagining the Human.” He states that the picture (from British Columbia) and accompanying description misleadingly equate harvesting and forest management in Canada with destruction of habitat. He adds that this is a patently false claim since harvesting is not deforestation. This latter assertion rests a specific definition of “deforestation” as the permanent clearing of forests to make way for non-forest uses.(1) This definition, however, elides that second-growth tree plantations are very different from the ancient forests they replace. Controversially, ancient-forest logging continues in British Columbia (BC); second growth is now extensive throughout the region.(2) BC’s least human-impacted zones are all remote and/or difficult to access.(3) While these second-growth environments provide more wildlife habitat than, say, an industrial agriculture field or urban settlement, they are not equivalent to ancient forests in terms of water conservation, climate services, tourism value, and, most importantly in the context of this discussion, biodiversity. Additionally, the conversion of intact natural forests into second growth for harvesting necessitates the construction of infrastructure—especially roads—which fragment natural habitat. Habitat fragmentation is detrimental to biodiversity.(4) British Columbia has large levels of habitat fragmentation associated with land uses, including infra...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Reimagining the human

    Accompanying the essay by Eileen Crist is a photo of a harvested stand of trees in British Columbia. The caption says "rising human consumption is driving widespread destruction of natural systems, such as this forest in British Columbia." This equates sustainable harvesting and forest management in Canada with destruction of habitat, a patently false claim. Harvesting is not deforestation (1). Deforestation is the permanent clearing of forests to make way for non-forest uses. In Canada, all forests harvested on public lands must be regenerated as part of sustainable forest management. Only 0.2% of Canada's boreal forest is harvested each year. Canada accounts for 9% of the world's forests but only 0.3% of deforestation. (1) 94% of Canada's forests are publicly owned (2) and managed sustainably according to provincial and federal laws.

    1. Sustainable Forest Management in Canada: Key Facts. 2016. Canadian Forest Service.
    2. Forest Land Ownership. Natural Resources Canada.

    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Human Nature

    " is crucial to recognize that human supremacy is neither culturally nor individually universal, nor is it derived in any straightforward way from human nature. However, western civilization has elaborated its most forceful, long-standing expression, and through the West's ascendancy the influence of this worldview has spread across the globe." This is unscientific wishful thinking. Humans everywhere, always, believe they are each & together, exceptional. If people continue to blame external influences - like capitalism, agriculture, or western civilization - for our expansionist, invasive, hierarchical behavior, humans will never be able to acknowledge the innate driver for collapse, let alone ameliorate it.

    Competing Interests: None declared.

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