We spent a big chunk of the first and second weeks on group projects to present different perspectives on the environmental issues we face.
They ranged from bizarre, obsolete opinions that overpopulation is the #1 problem we’re facing and that women somehow are to blame, to cynical, fear-based game theory predictions that people will mostly act selfishly when it comes to the environment, because the concepts are so vague and so painful to engage in, all the way to ethics- or economics-based ideas about what the issues are and what we should do. Is society separate from nature, or is everything interlinked? Should we be separated? Can we be? Will a change in consumer demand affecting the economic forces and patterns of production and consumption be enough, or do we need rules and regulations? Who should do most of the dirty work? Are we all going to be affected equally? Should that even matter, or do we have a moral responsibility to act for the good of the planet and all life within it?
Some perspectives are flat-out dangerous. Some are wishy-washy. Most are incomplete, one-dimensional.
Whenever we communicate out beliefs and understanding of the environmental issues, we will almost always do so from our own perspective — our own bubble or box, if you will. We will most likely be communicating with people who have completely or at least somewhat different perspectives.
We all know this but how often do we forget it? How often do we keep rambling passionately about our own views, frustrated that the others aren’t hearing us.
Could we reach out more effectively by being more attuned to other perspectives?
Could we influence other people’s perspectives without first understanding them and where they got them from?
I believe that a willingness to adopt new perspectives, and adapt your own perspective when you come across new information, is the hallmark of a great mind.
A man who has always refreshed my perspectives, challenging them through somewhat dark humour, is the comedian Louis C. K.
I strongly believe that humour is as important as empathy and serious understanding. We can go deeper into that philosophy another time, but for now, please enjoy a masterpiece by Louis C. K. on the environment:
(NB: This is something I find funny and refreshing; it is in no way directly related to anything in the course, the programme, or the university.)
I feel that he beautifully illustrates the importance of perspective when deciding what action is right in the extremely complex context of environmental issues.
In the same stand-up, he opens another perspective on our Western lifestyle and our responsibility to care for our surroundings:
I think that humour like this can open us up to new ways of thinking, reflect on ourselves with fresh eyes, simply thanks to the reduced tension and heaviness when delivered as a joke. It takes less courage to admit our problems and mistakes when we can laugh wholeheartedly about them.
Please comment on your reactions, your thoughts and feelings below.