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based. hat atitude, as I have argued, is quite visible in our economic
systems, which take for granted that ecosystems are “natural resources”
for human beings to use. It is inherent in our political traditions as well,
which find it difficult to take a perspective other than the human into
account. In fact, it speaks for nearly every dimension of modern, indus-
trial society, which everywhere takes human sovereignty for granted.
Climate change refutes that atitude, and it refutes it for good. Because
we regard nature merely as the backdrop for human activities and con-
tinue to live as we please, we threaten the conditions of life as we know it
and thus undermine modern society itself. We are in the process of dem-
onstrating, once and for all, that without a flourishing biosphere, human
life on its own cannot flourish in the least.
But if that is so, climate change tells us that much more is amiss than
climate change alone. It is only one consequence of a broad array of
anthropocentric activities, each of which threatens the biosphere. From
an ecological perspective, we have already intruded into countless land-
scapes to make space for our own activities, spewed pollutants into innu-
merable ecosystems on land and sea, and driven a vast number of spe-
cies to extinction. In the last three or four decades, we have begun to take
steps to curb these practices, but we have far to go.
All these problems, including climate change, arise from the enor-
mous increase of productive power that came with advanced industrial-
ization. Drawing on the energy provided by fossil fuels, industry could
produce goods more cheaply and abundantly than ever before and gen-
erate chemical fertilizers that allowed modern agriculture to be much
more productive. Together, the industry and agriculture powered in this
fashion sustained a much greater population. That population, with its
highly developed way of life, now expects a similar standard of living in
the future, as do in some measure the people living in the developing
world. Although advanced societies are geting beter at producing goods
and services with less energy each passing year, providing an advanced
standard of living for all the world's people would still require using far
more resources than are available on this planet. There is not even the
shadow of a chance that the developed way of life under existing energy
technology can be shared with all or even most of the world's people.
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