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Planet Earth: How Perceptions Impact Sustainability Efforts


Abstract


This article explores the complex dimensions of environmental governance and the need for more inclusive and diverse approaches to address the adverse effects of global warming. It further highlights the potential of technological advancements, such as the implementation of artificial intelligence, in promoting sustainable benefits for individuals and the environment. Regardless, it also emphasises the need to examine both the positive and negative aspects of these developments to gain a comprehensive understanding of their significance. The article also delves into the impact of discourse and language in shaping our understanding of the environment and the importance of indigenous knowledge in promoting environmental justice. It concludes with a discussion on the pros and cons of pursuing a growth-oriented economy in addressing the challenges of global warming, and the need to prioritise social and cultural diversity and reduce social inequality while promoting sustainable development practices.


Keywords: global warming, sustainable technology, complex decision-making, environmental consciousness, transcultural perspectives


Introduction

The critical examination of the current Western-scientific discourse on environmental governance, as well as the integration of indigenous knowledge systems, is of great significance for achieving a more comprehensive and inclusive approach to sustainability. Incorporating indigenous knowledge systems can provide valuable insights into the natural and human world and contribute to a more holistic understanding of sustainability. Thus, there is a need to shift away from growth-oriented economic systems towards sustainable development, which takes into account economic, social, and environmental dimensions. The conventional economic paradigm that prioritises economic growth over sustainability is considered unsustainable in the long run. It is, therefore, crucial to incorporate social and environmental considerations into the development process to achieve a more sustainable and equitable future. In conclusion, this underscores the importance of adopting a multidisciplinary and integrated approach to environmental governance that prioritises indigenous knowledge and values and emphasises sustainable development. Global warming has become a salient and widespread topic of discourse, drawing significant attention in contemporary conversations worldwide. The perception of planet Earth as a cohesive entity influences our understanding of environmental changes and the urgency to address them. However, the discourse on mitigating socio-environmental changes is predominantly shaped by Western perspectives, as reflected in the agreed conventions on climate change and technological solutions. The current discourse on global warming is primarily characterised by an overemphasis on science and technology as the sole means of addressing these complex issues. This view has been criticised for being inadequate in addressing the multifaceted dimensions of environmental changes, and there is growing recognition of the need for more comprehensive and diverse approaches. Moreover, environmental governance is beset by a lack of discursive inclusivity, which perpetuates social inequality. The extraction of natural resources and growing consumption of goods and services have been identified as significant contributors to social inequality. The current approach to environmental governance falls short of addressing these issues, leading to marginal dcommunities bearing the brunt of the adverse effects of global warming. To address the multifarious challenges posed by global warming, there is an imperative need for more inclusive and diverse approaches to environmental governance. These approaches should prioritise social and cultural diversity and emphasise the reduction of social inequality, while promoting sustainable development practices. Such comprehensive approaches can potentially mitigate the adverse effects of global warming more effectively and ensure more equitable outcomes for all.


Harnessing Technology to Address Environmental Challenges: The Role of Eco-Innovation in Environmental Governance


Prior to delving into the social aspect, it is imperative to mention that technological developments hold the potential to promote sustainable benefits for both individuals and the environment. For instance, the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) in projects related to biodiversity has facilitated the mapping of global biodiversity loss. Dr Bistra Dilkina, a computer scientist at Georgia Tech, is utilising computing skills to optimise biodiversity corridor planning for various species. In the field of energy engineering, AI has also played a pivotal role in processing complex decision-making related to the environmental impact of solar and wind farm sites (John, 2016). However, it is essential to examine both the positive and negative aspects of these developments to gain a comprehensive understanding of their actual significance.


AI solutions demonstrate a scientific approach to addressing climate change. While innovations such as smart home management and electric cars are often presented in a futuristic and utopian manner, the potential bias in the data used to train AI algorithms raises concerns about unforeseen challenges. Recent research by Ricardo Vinuesa & Hossein Azizpour, along with other scholars, reveals the presence of racial and gender bias in face recognition tools, highlighting the obstacles that AI practitioners must still overcome (Vinuesa et al., 2020). However, the existence of initiatives such as corridor planning for animal species indicates that solutions do exist and there is still hope. Yet, these solutions can only be effective if we begin to question both the algorithms and our understanding of the factors contributing to the destruction of the natural world. Ultimately, the bias found in machine learning reflect our beliefs about reality.



Beyond Rhetoric: The Impact of Discourse on Creating Sustainable Futures


Language plays a critical role in shaping our understanding of the environment. English grammar, for instance, tends to differentiate humans from the rest of the natural world, using special pronouns for people and the dehumanising pronoun 'it’ for non-human objects. This linguistic paradigm reinforces the normalisation of natural resources exploitation for economic gain. In contrast, many indigenous languages, such as those spoken in the South Pacific islands, integrate Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) into their vocabulary. This knowledge includes valuable insights about the medicinal properties of plants, ecological relationships between different species, seasonal cycles, and animal behaviour. Many indigenous communities view humans as deeply interconnected with their surrounding environment (Luu, 2019).


Examining indigenous knowledge unveils a profound and interrelated connection with the natural world, where 'Mother Earthassumes a profound role. In contrast to Western scientific practices that study the natural environment as an external entity, indigenous communities view themselves as part of a larger whole, in which all beings are connected. Their ecological knowledge is grounded in ancient philosophies that recognise the agency of the natural world. Maintaining a balanced relationship between humans and other entities is essential for achieving environmental justice (Tortell, 2020). In New Zealand, for example, the Whanganui River has been recognized by the Crown as a living and legal entity, demonstrating how indigenous knowledge can shape the discourse on sustainability.


Keeping this in mind, it is crucial to acknowledge that technological advancements aimed at mitigating or minimising CO₂ emissions are indeed a step in the right direction. Nevertheless, in and of themselves, such innovations cannot suffice to tackle the rapidly growing destruction and damage. A more comprehensive outlook would require an examination of the impact of various projects, including the effects of the widespread adoption of electric vehicles on the surrounding ecosystems, especially in the context of the extraction of raw materials for the final product. It is imperative to expand our perception of how we relate to nature beyond the confines of our preconceived notions of what constitutes the 'right' way of doing things. Such an approach would entail considering the potential trade-offs involved in our efforts to address the environmental crisis, and their potential impact on the natural world.



Rethinking Economic Growth: Exploring the Pros and Cons of Pursuing a Growth-Oriented Economy


It is foremost important to recognise that the impact of global warming extends beyond our individual perceptions, and that certain communities suffer disproportionately due to the destructive practices of the majority. It is unlikely that these affected communities will benefit from projects such as solar panels in the Western hemisphere. Therefore, it is vital to engage in dialogue and share knowledge to establish a new approach to our relationship with the environment. The inadequate response to the devastating floods in Pakistan last year demonstrates the interdependence of humans and nature, which we may have underestimated (Bhutto, 2022).


The emphasis on economic growth as the basis of development continues to drive extreme weather events. However, instead of addressing the destructive aspects of profit-driven societies, the focus is on mitigation efforts, as previously mentioned. Clothing production contributes 10% of global carbon emissions, and overproduction generates 92 million tonnes of solid waste annually (Lo and Mair, 2020). Similarly, the meat, dairy, and fishery industry have a significant environmental impact, with greenhouse gas emissions contributing to over half of the total food sector’s impact (Caat et al., 2022). Despite this, GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and consumption remain the foundations of our economic systems. In that light, some argue that the advancement of technology for global warming mitigation only conceals the inherent deficiencies of these systems.


Conclusion


The need for a more inclusive and comprehensive approach to understanding global warming cannot be overstated. It is time to acknowledge and incorporate alternative perspectives that have been previously silenced or underrepresented. The current discourse on global warming tends to follow a strictly economic and Western-scientific path, with a focus on technological innovations such as artificial intelligence to move beyond traditional thinking. However, it is imperative to recognize that the same economic philosophy that drives technological innovation is also the cause of environmental destruction. The current capitalist model, which emphasises economic growth above all else, cannot coexist with inclusive sustainability. Therefore, there is a need for more research to broaden the perception of sustainability in policymaking and to explore alternative economic models that prioritise sustainability and social equity. The emphasis on technology and economic growth in the discourse on global warming is limiting and problematic. It is crucial to broaden the discussion to include social, cultural, and political perspectives to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted issues surrounding global warming. Only through this comprehensive and inclusive approach can we develop policies and strategies that effectively mitigate the impacts of global warming while also promoting social and economic justice. In conclusion, the current discourse on global warming must move beyond the narrow focus on economic growth and technological innovation. Alternative perspectives must be acknowledged and incorporated, and a more comprehensive and inclusive approach is needed to effectively address the multifaceted challenges posed by global warming. Only then can we achieve sustainable development that benefits all while ensuring the long-term survival of our planet.



References


Bhutto, F. (2022, September 9). The west is ignoring Pakistan's super-floods. Heed this warning: tomorrow it will be you. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/sep/08/pakistan-floods-climate-crisis


John, J. (2017, September 8). Computing cost-effective wildlife corridors. Mongabay Environmental News. https://news.mongabay.com/wildtech/2016/11/computing-cost-effective-wildlife-corridors/


Luu, C. (2019, July 11). How Language and Climate Connect. JSTOR Daily. https://daily.jstor.org/how-language-and-climate-connect/


Lo, C. K. Y., & Mair, S. (2020, December 7). The clothing industry produces 3 to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, as accurately claimed in Patagonia post. Climate Feedback. https://climatefeedback.org/claimreview/the-clothing-industry-produces-3-to-10-of-global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-as-accurately-claimed-in-patagonia-post/


Ten Caat, N., Tenpierik, M., & Van Den Dobbelsteen, A. (2022). Towards a More Sustainable Urban Food System—Carbon Emissions Assessment of a Diet Transition with the FEWprint Platform. Sustainability, 14(3), 1797. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14031797


Tortell, P. (2020.). Earth 2020: An Insider’s Guide to a Rapidly Changing Planet. Open Book Publishers.


Vinuesa, R., Azizpour, H., Leite, I., & Nachtnebel, H. P. (2020). The role of artificial intelligence in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Nature Communications, 11(1), 233. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-14283-3



Dominique Keizer


As a master student of global studies is passionate about issues related to global warming and it’s impact on socio-environmental relationships. Dominique believes through a holistic approach one can achieve a more inclusive understanding of the changes in the natural world.






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