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Human Supremacy and the Roots of the Ecological Crisis

Human Supremacy and the Roots of the Ecological Crisis

Chapter:
(p.44) Two Human Supremacy and the Roots of the Ecological Crisis
Source:
Abundant Earth
Author(s):
Eileen Crist
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226596945.003.0003

“Human Supremacy and the Roots of the Ecological Crisis” explicates the history of the connection between the human-supremacist worldview and humanity’s impact on nature—stretching back to the dawn of civilization. Drawing on environmental historians and philosophers, it focuses especially on Western civilization for two reasons: Western culture has developed the most prolonged expression of anthropocentrism; and the West has today become the globally dominant civilization. It discusses how the anthropocentric worldview has operated by displacing others ideationally and physically. Ideational displacements have been propagated by means of disparaging ideas about the nonhuman realm—and, until recently, also about so-called inferior humans. Physical displacements have worked in parallel with such disparagements, extinguishing “inferior” others and conquering wild nature. The worldview of human supremacy has been sustained over history’s course as the synthesis of ideational disparagements and geographical conquests reinforcing one another. Beyond the massive impact on the biosphere that it has fueled, it is also important to understand how human supremacy has affected human beings inculcated into its precepts. Two consequences are discussed: an inability to discern any reasons to limit expansionism; and an inability to recognize the tragedy of losing life’s marvels and ultimately the biosphere’s full magnificence.

Keywords:   anthropocentrism, western civilization, human supremacy, ecological crisis, human enterprise

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