Earth Systems Thinking: Global Consumerism, Climate Change, and the Spiritual Value of the Earth

G. D. Bothun


In this paper we consider the root cause of climate change to be the industrial waste heat by product of increasing global consumption. The embodied energy associated with the conversion of Earth’s resources into consumer goods has largely been driven by fossil fuel based energy. Using available data, we show how a) the rate of annual CO2 emissions to the atmosphere is increasing, b) the land+sea temperature anomaly index is increasing, particularly the last 3 years, c) the rate of heat addition to the world’s oceans is also accelerating as this is in direct response to a globally increasing consumption per capita. In short, all of our human induced rates related to consumption are accelerating with increasingly severe consequences to the Earth system that maintains us. This is occurring amidst the reality that humans are in a necessary physical partnership with nature. Despite this, many human cultures have pursued dominance over the Earth’s resources. This dominance is asserted by the mechanical philosophy of Descartes. Under this world view, the Earth is just a (soul-less) machine and man is distinct from nature and therefore entitled to dominate it; the Earth has no spiritual value. So this gives us license to dig up the planet to create the escalating distribution of products to global consumers and this is exactly what can be verified from the data. We refer to this as the business as usual trajectory. To correct this course trajectory, we propose two avenues: a) extend the concept and legality of the Public Trust Doctrine to all of Nature’s resources so that current generations have an obligation to ensure the future generations can same similar access to these resources, b) adopt a systems thinking approach that prioritizes human equity, dignity, environmental justice and environmental health over escalating global GDP. In short, global justice should be our priority, not global profit. From the systems thinking viewpoint, the Earth is not a market commodity subject to resource exhaustion, it is rather a sacred equilibrium system for the welfare of all.

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Copyright (c) 2018 G. D. Bothun

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Environmental Management and Sustainable Development  ISSN 2164-7682

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