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If We Are Ecozoans, Can We Live However We Want?

We use the term ecozoan to describe those who are lovers of life, feel-think with Earth community, and seek the wisdom of the lifeworld. We also use it to identify those who are committed to the realization of the Ecozoic era, in other words to Thomas Berry’s Great Work. 

It seems though that some ecozoans do not think that being an ecozoan requires them to change the way they live. Some feel they, as ecozoans, are called to travel even more to beautiful places. Some believe they need to have parties for the well-heeled and well-connected. Some feel they need to buy energy saving devices to lower the energy usage of their large houses or buy electric vehicles and drive them as far as they want. Some belong to expensive clubs or have second homes. Some seek to reduce demands on the environment, by moving into smaller homes, even eco-villages, but few live within one ecological footprint as measured by the Global Footprint Network (in part because as population increases the allowable share of each person decreases). 

There is a trick in my use of the term “ecozoan” in this article. Here I am referring to people who live in the Global North and who know, understand, and are committed to the work of Thomas Berry or that of other deep ecologists. There are many ecozoans who, if we take away these qualifiers, do live within one ecological footprint. Indeed, billions of the world’s people, most of whom are non-ecozoans, live within one ecological footprint. This is because the size of one’s ecological footprint is more a function of wealth than of environmental concern, even of concern of the deep ecology type. 

So my question is, if you are a Global North ecozoan, can you live however you want? 

I recently received this cartoon in Rick Moody’s “Climate Change in an Again Society” newsletter:

Note that the only thing happening in this time sequence is that the cars of those complaining about “This country’s addiction to oil” are getting bigger. Then there is that zinger at the bottom, “Stupid is as stupid does?” Are Global North ecozoans who are living large stupid? 

One might wonder if it is better to be stupid, which may be excusable, or a hypocrite? Are ecozoans who live as typical, or even above average, citizens of the Global North hypocrites? Does being an ecozoan grant us an exemption from reducing our footprints? Does it give us authorization to increase our footprint for the cause? Is it okay to buy carbon credits to offset our carbon footprint rather than actually reducing it? Have we, you, I, increased our, your, or my footprint in the last five years? If we, you, or I have, does it matter if we or you are, or I am, an ecozoan? 

Environmentalists (a larger group than ecozoans) feel an urgent need to have people understand climate change. Yet has understanding climate change changed the way environmentalists live? How many of them believe that given the right government policies, technology will enable us all—all 7.9 billion of us—to live as we want and as our financial means permit us to do? 

Isn’t how we live a more serious question for us than for environmentalists generally? We are ecozoans. 

Should we challenge each other on how we live? 

How should we ecozoans live? 

When CES began its second 20 years in 2021, we posed this as the central question for our next five years: “How are we—especially we of the Global North—to live well with Earth and all her beings so as to bring about a principled transition to an ecological age?” 

We did not mean by live well, live large. We meant how were we humans as a species (all 7.9 billion of us), especially those of us in the Global North, going to live well in Earth community with all of its limits and its demands for reciprocity? This is not an easy question for those of our generation for whom “progress” has justified living large. 

Is it impolite to put this question on the table? Does our activism, our reading, our advocacy, our concern mean we do not need to change the way we live or even permit us to live larger because of all the good we do? all the regional and global work we need to do? or all the beautiful and sacred places on Earth we need to visit, honor, love, be nourished by, revere, and preserve? 

Since we ecozoans are such a small part of the human community, does it really matter how we live? 

We need to talk about this. We of CES would welcome your thoughts.