Gaining historical perspective, the Anthropocene and humanity trying to come of age

January 14, 2021


The 2020 Human Development Report  is centred on the belief that people are protagonists of change and outlines action that needs to be taken to live in harmony with the planet in a fairer world. We are entering a new geologic age: the Anthropocene. The age of humans. The age we need to be one with our nature, but also with each other through solidarity and collective action.  

The Anthropocene inspires us to examine our interaction with the planet in the ways that we live and work and cooperate. The conclusions from the Report demand changes in the structure of society to reflect the interdependence of all its elements, as well as the reciprocal relationship with the natural world that sustains it.

The human race has collectively traversed infancy and childhood. We, the current generation, have witnessed the turbulence and commotion of the world as humanity is struggling to come of age. We are witnessing the emergence of global consciousness around the importance of humanity’s interdependence and interconnection. We are witnessing nothing less than the organization of human society as a planetary civilization, possibly the last and highest stage in humanity's collective life on this planet. This means we have to identify new social norms, improved incentives and working with nature. We need to cement more maturity in our behaviors: to be self -aware, to be accountable, to be other-centred.

The transformational change requires moving beyond a social contract governed by self-interest and relying on fear, guilt and shame to maintain social order. The Anthropocene is calling on a greater transformation, a transcendent social order based on shared responsibility, acceptance of interdependence and centred on human emotions of love and beauty. Love and beauty creates connection and inspiration.

At one level, this attraction is manifested in our delight at the natural world, in our engagement with, and appreciation of, the arts and music, and in our response to the elegance of an idea or a scientific theory. At another level, attraction to beauty underlies our search for order, meaning, and transcendence in the universe.

The search for a new world order based on love and beauty that inspire us to live in oneness demands an earnest examination of our understanding of human nature and of the cultural frameworks driving institutions of government, business, education, and media around the world.

We live in a world in which the forces of fear, hate, conflict and contention, and estrangement are more powerful than forces of collectiveness, inclusion and love and beauty.

In societies overwhelmed with conflict and contention, what holds peoples together and aligns with nature is love and beauty. If love and beauty are prerequisites for existence, and hence prerequisites for the achievement of peace and unity, why have we removed such principles from the language of peace and development work?

Just as UNDP and other development actors mainstream human rights principles in all that we do, and integrate other normative methodologies to enhance the impact of our support, concepts of love and beauty must also be mainstreamed into all work aimed at  building peace. Our interventions should be based on a holistic understanding of humans that considers the influence of mind, body, and spirit

For humanity to come of age, to be one with nature, requires “new social norms”. Isn’t it the time to move from conflict analysis to love and peace analysis?  We must embrace new virtues and powers, new moral standards, new capacities. To be one with nature requires us to be one with ourselves and with each other.

If there is any way to prevent violent extremism, it is to infuse love into every neighborhood and social space in which we aim to be of assistance. Love that is disseminated through conversations that create new susceptibilities in human hearts, open minds, and loosen the hold of biased norms and social systems so that they can gradually take on a new form that aligns with the requirements of humanity’s age of maturity.

Love Is the Answer. The power to bring peace and unity to the world and live in harmony with nature lies in appreciation of the power of love. As Martin Luther King Jr. said “Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”