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Evolving environmental activism: from stewards to guardians for lasting impact

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By Kasper Benjamin Reimer Bjørkskov

· 4 min read

The human role in solving the polycrisis

The anthropogenic notion of being separate from nature is highly problematic, akin to post-humanists arguing that humans are equal to all other living beings. We need to acknowledge our interdependence with nature and also recognize the power we hold, which surpasses that of other life forms on the planet. The term "stewards" is inadequate as it implies control, leading to arrogance that hinders our ability to address the crisis. Instead, we should embrace responsibility and approach the task with the required humility. By doing so, we can become the guardians of this remarkable planet. To achieve this shift, we must first understand the root cause of the problem.

The root cause

The fundamental cause of the crisis lies in the capitalist system. Capitalism is a socio-economic framework centered on private ownership of the means of production, driven by profit. It encompasses the accumulation of capital, competitive markets, a price system, private property, recognition of property rights, voluntary exchange, and wage labor.

The term "polycrisis" refers to the interconnected crises of climate change, inequality, and political instability. These crises are rooted in the inherent contradictions of capitalism.

One of the central contradictions of capitalism is the pursuit of profit. Businesses strive to maximize profits, leading to continuous growth and expansion, which results in overconsumption of resources and environmental destruction. The climate crisis is a direct consequence of this relentless pursuit of profit.

Another contradiction arises from the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few, leading to inequality and social unrest. The privileged few exploit the marginalized and vulnerable, leaving the majority of the population to bear the brunt of the polycrisis.

The polycrisis demands immediate action. We must boldly break free from capitalism and forge a new, sustainable, and just system to safeguard humanity and the planet.

We don't need a new vision built on old ideals

Both socialism and capitalism can present issues when they imitate the consumer-driven "good life." Denmark serves as an illustrative example, with a welfare system built on socialist principles yet still centered around a growth-based capitalist economy. As a result, Denmark's wealth comes at the cost of emitting more per capita than any other nation, prompting us to reconsider our approach to the concept of a "good life."

We must exercise caution when constructing a new vision for society, avoiding reliance on outdated ideals. History reveals that radical ideas have the potential to transform material conditions and ignite collective desire. However, it also cautions us that improperly considered, these ideas can lead to increased oppression. It is essential to tread thoughtfully and critically when embracing change to ensure positive outcomes for all.

A new vision is needed

To inspire change, the green movement must recognize that people don't require constant management; they are capable of finding their own solutions. However, what we lack is a shared vision.

The goal of social movements is not to get everyone to think alike but to get everyone who thinks differently to fight for the same cause. 

To do this we must reimagine the green movement, uniting around a common understanding that the root cause of our problems lies in an unjust system perpetuating inequality. 

We need to go beyond simply telling people what to move away from and start showing them where we should go.

Developing and articulating a clear vision is essential for systems change. It should show people what a new system could be like and help them comprehend its benefits. Only then can we truly enable a green revolution.

Envision a world where we do not release more greenhouse gasses than can be naturally sequestered, where we do not extract resources at a rate faster than ecosystems can replenish, and where pollution remains within the capacity of the environment to cope. A society where we must work together in making collective decisions, ensuring equitable distribution of wealth, and breaking free from the idea that prosperity solely relies on endless economic growth.

To achieve this transformation, we must let go of outdated concepts, theories, and approaches. The polycrisis offers an opportunity to create a new and improved world, and it is our responsibility to envision and shape the path toward this better future. Only by uniting behind these a common vision of a better world can we enable real change.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Kasper Benjamin Reimer Bjørkskov is an architect who specializes in converting complex environmental and social challenges into innovative, sustainable architectural solutions, promoting inclusive design that spurs societal change. He has actively engaged in numerous architectural projects dedicated to minimizing CO2 emissions, demonstrating the feasibility of constructing buildings and simultaneously reducing CO2 with no additional costs.

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