Doesn’t saving the world strike you as an odd concept? I mean, there are no super-villains out there that are bent on world destruction, like there are in comic books or James Bond movies.

Of course, there are all kinds of groups and organizations we see as threatening the world. During the Cold War it was the Soviets, and today it’s the Taliban or US Imperialism or the New World Order.

But even if you ask any of these guys, the think they’re trying to save it. The Soviets wanted to save it from capitalist oppression, the Taliban from heresy, infidels, and eternal damnation, and the New World Order from economic inefficiencies and the archaic power structures of nation states.

None of these groups want to destroy the world. What they want to do, rather, is dominate it.

And that’s why we see them as a threat. Their brand of world domination can’t accommodate or won’t tolerate some of the things that we hold dear. Their world outlook is framed by certain values and priorities (religious, political, economic, etc…) that are at odds with out own, and our values and culture are things that are very tightly woven into our very personalities.

We fear world domination because we seek to preserve our identity. The problem with some cultures and identities, though, is that they won’t tolerate others — they seek to dominate, displace, or destroy them.

Saving the Planet

One thing we can all agree on is saving the planet. But even “saving the planet” is kind of a silly and inaccurate characterization of some very real, shared problems — pollution and climate change.

The planet will be here long after we’re all gone. What’s really at stake is the ecosystem that makes human life possible.

What’s at stake is our very biosphere.

Where opinions differ is over what’s needed to sustain that biosphere. No one wants to go extinct, but people differ on what’s needed to sustain the biosphere for our survival.

There seems to be this widespread assumption that human life can survive on its own. That is, people seem to think that it sucks when animals go extinct, but at the end of the day, we have to make room for “development” and “progress” — so if we can reconcile that with preservation, great; but if we can’t, oh well.

But we’re starting to figure out that bio-diversity, down to the microscopic level, in the oceans and even the soil has a significant impact on the quality of air we breath and global warming. Basically, human life is only a very small part of a very large, complex picture, and our survival depends on maintaining a very precarious balance.

So just like any outlook aimed at “world domination” doesn’t really get us anywhere, a human-centric perspective on saving the planet is also pretty useless. In this respect, we might even look at coexistence as a metaphor for biodiversity.

More to the point: maybe we should stop thinking about saving the world or saving the planet, and start thinking about saving ourselves.

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