There are many modernized, Western and Eurocentric beliefs, values, and assumptions that have fueled our environmental crisis and continue to perpetuate the exploitation, objectification, and violence towards our planet. A person-in-environment perspective links social and ecological problems and recognizes how deeply intertwined they are.
Our extractive economy could be considered a “terminal economy,” as the rates of production of non-renewable resources now far exceed the “self-healing and self-regenerating capacities of Earth” (Coates, 2003, p.2). Failing to acknowledge unsustainable practices, production, and development speaks to the ideology of determinism which assumes that, our Earth and Universe are “never changing” and under human control. This pervasive modern assumption does not recognize that social structures rely on natural ecosystems, and the dismantling of resources and natural ecosystems is contributing to the current environmental crisis. Homo economicus and progressive values of our society also continue to maintain that economic well-being, material abundance, and technology will improve the human species and solve all problems over time (Coates, 2003, p.2).
The fact the aforementioned values and assumptions are so widely accepted underscores the greatest cause of the environmental crisis today; modernity, and the ways in which it denotes what is of importance and value at the expense of the natural world. So how can we be encouraged to work towards creating more sustainable communities? Communities that are already marginalized or live in poverty often pay the highest price for environmental pollution – so where do we even begin?
Promoting a paradigm shift from dualistic perspectives and harmful values, beliefs, and assumptions of the modern era is necessary for communities to see themselves as interconnected to the Earth and people everywhere. In order for us to have the capacity to become more sustainable we must recognize the “essential embeddedness of humanity in nature, and the fact that human well-being is dependent on the well-being of all (both people and the rest of nature)” (Coates, 2003, p.3). We can counter notions of modernity with ideologies stemming from deep ecology.
Deep ecology encourages self-awareness of both individual and community dispositions in relation to: our place in the natural world / universe, our identity constructs as they relate to the environment, our relationships to the global community and environment and place within in it can promote an awareness of our interconnectedness and reliance on each other (i.e. human kind / nature).
Acknowledging and accepting root causes of social and ecological exploitation and injustice is essential to this process. Helping others to view the environmental crisis from a social justice lens increases the likeliness of mobilized, action-oriented efforts on individual, group, societal, and global levels.
Coates, J. (2003). Exploring the roots of the environmental crisis: Opportunity for Social Transformation. Critical Social Work. Retrieved from: file:///C:/Users/cenmc/Downloads/Exploring%20the%20Roots%20of%20the%20Environmental%20Crisis%20(1).pdf