Ecological, economic, political, cultural, and spiritual facets form the climate kaleidoscope. UnEarth Magazine looks through this refracted prism and teases out the interconnections of the climate crisis.
The climate crisis is a paradigm-altering event. It challenges, stretches, and smashes the dynamic norms upon which we have built our civilization. For the climate crisis is not just an ecological issue, but also an economic, political, cultural, and spiritual one.
The ecological dimension of the climate crisis is perhaps the most clear-cut. As humanity transitioned from a nomadic way of life to a sedentary one, the natural world became ever more exploited. Intensive agriculture replaced holistic hunting and gathering, pouring the foundation of environmental degradation upon which towns, cities, and empires grew.
The invention of the steam engine catapulted our civilization into a hydrocarbon ascent. Fossil fuels became fodder for the insatiable hunger of global capitalism, an economic transition that laced the atmosphere with carbon and subjugated the masses to a racialized, gendered, inequitable order.
The capitalist logic was hyper-inflated with the advent of late 20th century neoliberalism. Profit, growth, and consumption became the economic dogma, leading to an explosion in socioeconomic inequality and a similar eruption in carbon emissions. Since the distillation of neoliberalism, humanity has emitted more carbon than at any prior point in history.
Rather than impede carbon capitalism, our political leaders chose to advance it. Moneyed with corporate donations and fattened with lucrative stock options, politicians eroded the welfare state and let the fossil fuel special interests play king. After decades of lukewarm market approaches and failed international agreements, our political systems have done nothing to slow the advance of a raging climate crisis. Yet a new generation of progressive leaders, indigenous movements, and youth uprisings are upsetting this dismal trajectory, providing a spark of hope in a darkened landscape.
In the initial phases of an unfurling planetary emergency, our culture has largely been lulled to sleep. Placated by denial propaganda and comforted by political ignorance, there has been little cultural resistance let alone concerted uproar. The time is now for the arts to articulate the climate crisis, for our education systems to teach students about climate solutions, and for our societal conventions to become more sustainable.
The climate crisis also challenges the spiritual foundations which humanity has relied on. Judeo-Christian traditions have peddled the myth that humanity is separate from nature, a corrosive lie that has cultivated fertile ground for the commodification, exploitation, and brutalization of the natural world. Confronted with a hostile new climate unknown to humankind, our spirituality will have to undergo a similar reckoning with the dominant anthropocentric cosmology.
Ecological, political, economic, cultural, and spiritual facets form the climate kaleidoscope. Gazing through this refracted prism reveals our interconnected climate reality and forces us to make the changes for a more equitable, compassionate, and sustainable world.
- Noah Herfort: Editor-in-Chief