The Ecological Citizen: Confronting human supremacy

 


 

What is human supremacy? (A definition)

 

Human supremacy is the dominant worldview of human superiority and entitlement. It asserts that humans are separate from and above all other life forms. Human supremacy includes the precepts: Planet Earth belongs to humanity; Earth consists of 'resources' that are useful, profitable, or desirable; humans exhibit a form of consciousness that is essentially distinct from that of every other species; and humans rightfully possess absolute power of life and death over all non-humans and absolute power to possess and control all geographical space. While these precepts are broadly shared, fortunately they are also being increasingly contested.

Human supremacy is a worldview, rather than an ideology, for two reasons. One, it constitutes an implicit belief-system, i.e., it is not explicitly articulated and championed. Two, human supremacy reflects and informs how humans relate to everything non-human (living and non-living), and it manifests as an enormous gamut of actions, laws, practices, assumptions, vocabulary, and institutions. Given the tacit nature of human supremacy and its universal scope, human beings 'believe' (without actually thinking about it) that it is normal to colonize the planet, do violence to wild and domestic non-humans, act without restraint in the ecosphere, and drive a mass extinction event.

The worldview of human supremacy is arguably the lynchpin of the eco-social crisis that is imperiling all life on Earth. For the belief-system that humans are superior and entitled gives permission to human expansionism (demographic, economic, trade, infrastructural) to stay on course. Human supremacy can also be understood as a form of solipsism: human affairs unfold on the seeming assumption that social systems can keep growing and endlessly encroaching as if they are self-referential and independent from the rest of life and planetary realities.

The human-supremacist worldview blinds humans to the magnificence of what we are irreparably destroying, disables our awe towards life and existence, eradicates our capacity for humility, and sponsors endless forms of violence toward the non-human realm. What's more, the dominant culture cannot yet see that human supremacy utterly robs humanity of its dignity. Human supremacy also confers a false sense of security – humanity appears to be under the impression that humans are so smart, resourceful, and technologically adroit that they can overcome any challenge.

Letting go of human supremacy would enable a new human identity and another world to emerge in which humanity recognizes that Earth is a living cauldron of exquisite diversity, complexity, and abundance that we have the great fortune to belong with.

 

 


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