In 1966, James Brown belted, “This is a man’s world.” Although Brown’s simplistically chauvinistic, yet beautifully sung, words may not resonate with the contemporary listener, Mother Earth may have a considerably harder time dismissing the general concept. This thought can be daunting. On one hand, we are a product of this world, and on the other, we have shaped it. Moreover, are impact on the world has had and will continue to have crucial consequences for us. The challenge for us inhabitant-creators is twofold. First, we must untangle ourselves from our attachments to an epoch long gone. Second, we must determine how, if possible, we will survive in this one—the anthropocene.
How to survive a trap you created is basically the foundation of any good parable. The antropocene is no different, except for the facts that this is not fiction and the future of humanity depends on its collective next move. From climate change to food insecurity, humankind has to decide what is important and what price we are willing to pay for it. In Carolan’s The Real Cost of Cheap Food, we are confronted by some of what is at stake. Resource depletion, environmental destruction and social degradation plus $1.00 is the current going price of a large fries at McDonalds. And many of us are more than happy to pay it.
But what can be done? We live in a world where, according to National Geographic, a 3.5g chocolate bar takes 450 gallons of water to produce. This begs the question; are we already done for? Forbes puts the average US chocolate consumption at 9.5lbs per person per year, or 19,543.50 gallons of water. The picture is bleak.
I don’t know if we are doomed. I’m a little scared to know even if I could. More knowledgeable commentators in the film Anthropocene range in their own opinions, with some believing we can engineer our way to a brighter future. Perhaps the anthropocene doesn’t have to be a cautionary tale for some future or alien intelligent life form. Or maybe this is just the terminal delirium of a species about to meet its maker.