Save the people, not the planet (or is it the same thing)?

Nancy Saddington

Time is running out for our planet and it's inhabitants

Written by Andrea, our 2019 Summer intern and philosophy student at the University of Zurich.

Personally I am not a big fan of slogans like ‘save the environment’ and ‘save the planet’ - they feel so abstract and distant, the problem so large, I feel overwhelmed by the scale of the problem.  I would like to change the perspective on sustainability: we are not doing it ‘for the planet’ but for ourselves!

Changing perspectives

The first Swiss environmental activist, in the 18th century, was not a hippie talking about peace and love, but an economist named Hans von Carlowitz.

As a result of centuries of cutting down trees and forests, wood as a resource had become scarce and the price had increased disproportionately, without society drastically changing their way of life (and building houses), the economic system would collapse.  The solution, Hans realised, lay in the sustainable consumption of wood:

- Increased efficiency: adopting strategies that would need less wood

- Investing: planting new saplings

- Substituting: using alternative materials

The point I want to make with this story, is that the driver for Hans to make wood consumption more sustainable (use less, replenish and find alternatives) was not ‘for the sake of the planet’ but instead, ‘for the sake of the people’!   

I too, believe that being environmentally conscious is the best thing we can do for the survival of the human race.  If we deplete the oceans, and cut down every forest on the planet, before we are able to kill the earth, we will be the ones to perish.

Nature is a powerful force and whatever we do, the Earth will survive, admittedly if we go too far there will be some drastic changes, but the point is life will go on.  I am definitely not a climate change sceptic, rather my question is:  Can we survive such drastic change?

Learning to live WITH the earth

To maintain our life on earth as we know it, we need to adopt many little changes.  For example if we want to continue eating fish we should eat it less frequently: the oceans are currently overfished, this path is unsustainable, soon no fish will remain…this example of overconsumption is repeated over and over, society as we know it is on the brink of collapse, but with small changes we can continue, if we would like to survive we must learn to live WITH the earth, not on the back of it.

So let’s stop saying ‘save the earth’ and lets start trying to save the human race, let’s make the mission personal - let’s understand and be very clear about what that means: to save the human race we all need to make lifestyle changes and live more sustainably, because humans can’t live healthy lives on an ill planet. Time is running out for our planet and it's inhabitants