Page 16 - Perspective Paper
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5  Final remarks

               The  climate  is  the  consequence  of  an  immeasurable  amount  of  processes  occurring  at  all  spatial  and
               temporal scales. Many of these processes are controlled by Earth’s living systems (the biosphere) through
               their  energy,  water  and  carbon  cycles,  which  are  the  connecting  agents  between  the  terrestrial  and
               atmospheric domains. Thereby the composition, temperature and dynamic state of the climate is largely
               controlled by the state of the biosphere and vice-versa. Humanity makes up part of the biosphere.

               For as long as humans have roamed the Earth we have been transforming the landscapes which we inhabited
               through  subsistence practices,  from  foraging  to  fully  agriculture-dependent  economies  including  animal
               husbandry. The availability of food played a key role in the pace and nature of migrations, but also gave rise
               to  the first complex  social systems that would  control the distribution of resources amongst a growing
               population. Naturally, the development of Neolithic culture to the point of profound global land cover change
               has set us apart from the rest of Earth’s living systems, and has catapulted humanity into the role as being
               the apex species of this planet. However true our position as the dominant species is, we have always been
               and  will  always  be  interdependent  on  the  environment  around  us;  we  impact  the  environment,  the
               environment  impacts  us.  Our  socio-technical  systems  continue  to  evolve  on  the  path  of  domination,
               exploiting resources for short-term gains. In the rush to feed our communities, we have become blind to the
               reciprocity between humanity and the natural world, and are now starting to feel the first consequences
               through climate change.

               On the other hand, however, we have also developed a vast amount of technological tools that have given
               us great insight into the natural world, and is increasingly enabling us to understand the functioning of
               ecosystems and quantify the true value of natural resources. The possibilities there are today to incorporate
               the natural world into our socio-technical systems is interminable, and blatantly exciting to say the least. The
               acknowledgement of our power as modern humans to impact the global climate carries great responsibility.
               Consciously resituating ourselves as active agents in the Earth System is the key to redirect our policies and
               ethical  principles  towards  the  development  of  a  fully  regenerative  global  society,  in  which  indigenous
               communities will likely be our teachers.

               Fortunately, alongside technological advancements, we have also become increasingly able to reflect upon
               the socio-technical systems that have come forth from these advancements. Some of these systems may
               have served us in the past, but now show to be unsuitable for the long-term. Our technological capabilities
               combined with our increased self-awareness puts us in a position not only to take ownership of our faults,
               but  also  to  act  upon  them.  The  growing  realisation  that  we  are  already  transgressing  the  planetary
               boundaries that demarcate the safe operating space for humankind challenges our existing paradigms on
               economic growth, sovereignty and anthropocentrism (Wang-Erlandsson et al., 2022). Just as society at large
               is interdependent to the environment - the governments, companies and individuals that make up society
               are similarly interdependent on one another. This mutual dependence has positioned us in a causal nexus -
               an endless loop of waiting to see who makes the first step in tackling the consequences of our actions – of
               which the climate crises is one. The wait is often driven by the looming risk to lose money, status or power -
               which makes perfect sense in a world where wealth is measured by precisely those variables. Having found
               ourselves in an endless concoction of crises, it leaves us wondering whether we have misunderstood what
               wealth truly equates to. Jointly exploring alternative definitions of wealth may help in breaking the vicious
               cycle we are in. Such transitions, from the current consumption-focused economic paradigm to one that
               embodies the vision of earth stewardship, are critical for transforming societal goals from increasing material
               wealth to instead fostering built, natural, human and social capital (Chapin et al., 2022).

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