Summerschoolblog: Why are we exhausting the planet?

25 juli 2016

Summerschoolblog: Why are we exhausting the planet?

On Monday morning, many participants were still tired from going into the city Bengaluru the previous day and especially because they watched the final soccer match which started 00.30 local time.Still, it was an exciting morning.

Roos Bodrij

Still, it was an exciting morning. After all sorts of introductions, on the programme, the people, India as a context and globalisation, today the first thematic lecture took place. It was Henk Manschot’s lecture about pluralism and ecology. Personally, despite the fact I think of it as such an important topic, ecology seemed not connected to pluralism or human development. But, Henk really had me rethink my prejudice. What struck me most was a video clip about astronauts going to the moon.  Unexpectedly, they were faced with a new perspective on the Earth and this was overwhelming. They described the Earth as alive, a unified whole, dynamic and beautiful. But it also struck them, from this new perspective, how fragile the Earth actually is. I liked this beautiful poetic image, which really explains our changing human thinking, literary our perspective about the world. We really cannot leave the Earth out of the equation when we think of human development. Without the Earth, there is no human development. The Earth is our only home planet and we are exhausting her. She is even striking back as explained in theories on Gaia!


It is important to reduce the ecological footprint of more industrialized developed countries and develop new ways of development without automatically increasing the ecological footprint. If we compare the impact of the ecological footprint of countries to their scores on the United Nations Human Development Index, the correlation between the two seems to exist. The higher the HDI, the higher the footprint. This means our current conception of development is unsustainable. Perhaps surprisingly, the statistics of Cuba showed it is possible to achieve good results in both areas.  


The whole lecture gave me much to think about, and I am not quite finished thinking at this point. Henk also discussed the new sustainable development goals, which, according to him, should have local grounding. In contradiction to the more abstract millennium goals, locals can relate to their immediate environment and initiate self-sustaining communities. Bio-regionalism cannot be not the whole answer to all problems, but could guide us to develop more equality and prevent exploitation. Personally, the idea really speaks to me: being an Earthling (Bruno Latour’s term for human beings who realize their interconnectedness with the Earth) and taking care of my local surroundings (nature and people). Still, my pessimistic side wonders how local civil initiatives compare with the enormous power and pollution of multinationals on this planet. They don't seem to conceive of themselves as Earthlings.

This lecture prompted me to reconsider many of my assumptions, so luckily we had the afternoon off. However, instead of reading or meeting with my subgroup, I got food poisoning. It was an abrupt end of my day and blog. Although food poisoning too can be seen as a real summer school experience, I hope most of us will be spared the inconvenience. But if one does get sick, we luckily have the lovely Mr. Murthy to guide us to the doctor and help us with anything we might need or want.

Roos Bodrij studies for a master degree at the University of Humanistic Studies. Before, coming to the UvH, she completed a bachelor in Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam where she was active in student politics