We have the power to both destroy the world and save it. This is Anthropocene.
There can be no dichotomy between the planet and humankind. We urgently need to envision new ways of cohabiting harmoniously and we have do it NOW. We cannot afford to give pessimism the space to get in the way.
Like the British cosmologist and astrophysicist Martin Rees said: “There is no Plan B, or rather a Planet B. If we have to live on this planet, we have to do everything possible to save it.”
While the prefix, anthropos, defines human beings, the noun itself is a reference to a geological era marked by human action that has profoundly impacted the environment.
It has been argued that the beginning of the Anthropocene age began at the start of the Industrial Revolution, when in 1784, James Watt made a patent for the steam engine.
However, the starting point of the Anthropocene age remains contested amongst scientists and historians. Did it begin with the colonisation of the Americas, with the sea lanes and silk roads connecting continents or with the birth of capitalism?
But whether it was the atomic bomb, the acceleration of 20th century mass consumption or the Asian economic boom - scientists agree that humans have made an impact on planet Earth.
Earth has been around for 45 million centuries, yet this is the first century in which a species - as in Homo sapiens - is aware that its actions change the planet.
The sheer volume of people living on Earth means we could easily strip it of everything it has and leave nothing behind for future generations. Yet there is a duality at play here and the evidence is seen in the power to combine our knowledge with technology to reverse the situation.
Everything depends on us, and us only. Everyone of us, here and now.
Change is triggered by our capacity to be visionaries and by tapping into the power of imagination - something undeniably inherent in every Homo sapiens.
To be a visionary is to glimpse specific scenarios of the future and work towards making them a reality. It is an epithet applied to people, groups, organisations, communities, cities, countries and festivals: all of which can implement the antithesis to destruction when they seek answers, imagine solutions, think creatively, spawn new ideas to counteract apathy and find alternative ways of making a positive impact.
Fifty years ago, the global population was at the 3.5 billion mark. Today, there are 7.6 billion people in the world and forecasts predict we will reach the 9.8 billion mark by the year 2050, with 70 percent of the populace living in cities. Urban pressure will increase and by 2030, populations in cities like Lagos and São Paulo will exceed 30 million.
There is no doubt the world’s capacity to contain and sustain us is affected by the lifestyles we choose. Nine billion people across industrialised countries consuming meat, fish and energy is far from sustainable.
So what is the solution to feeding Homo sapiens and the (often) deplorably-raised livestock on which too many people still think we depend on for survival?
It takes between one and three tons of water to produce a single kilogram of wheat and 15 tons of water for a kilogram of beef. The environmental impact of the food industry is already astronomical and is looking to rise by 50-90 percent by 2050.
Conventional agriculture - responsible for consuming 70 percent of freshwater - proposes an increase in food production. This intensification will bring more herbicides and chemical fertilisers, therefore further killing soil microfauna, the very basis of life on Earth.
Creating the antithesis to this scenario is a work in progress, as shown by a growing movement dedicated to organic and regenerative farming. With it, comes greater respect for the soil and elevated levels of appreciation for cultural diversity and animal wellbeing.
In fact, a 2018 study by The World of Organic Agriculture, found an organic approach to farming has been applied to 57.8 million hectares of land, rising by 7.5 million hectares since 2015. This includes double digit figures for main markets, including a 22 percent growth in France alone. Furthermore, we have seen that 10 percent of the landmass across 15 different countries is also dedicated to organic farming.
Today, with 2.7 million registered traders of organic produce, we have witnessed the growth of a market now valued at an astronomical €80 billion.
Scientific evidence suggests that organic farming has the potential to meet the needs of a growing population, which is a challenge to the so-called logic conveyed by conventional methods of manufactured farming. This may bring about more conscious approaches to the way we interact with nature and animal life.
The Anthropocene is not a one-way street.
At this time, we are living through the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. We only need to look back to the year 1820 to see that only 12 percent of the global population knew how to read - a figure, which rose exponentially to 83 percent by 2014.
Child mortality was excruciatingly high back in those days too with a staggering 43 per cent of children only living until the age of five - a figure that has thankfully risen to 96 percent in the present day.
Evolution has been a saving grace for the human race. Extreme poverty (fixed in 2015 at living on less than $1.90 per day) was rampant in 1820 when 94 in every 100 people lived on the brink of it. In 2015, it was calculated at 10 in every 100 people.
But even over a period of just two decades, we have witnessed other kinds of change too. Support for right wing populist parties across Europe has more than tripled as hate crime and the propaganda of fear continues to rise alongside it.
From a rising right wing in one continent, to the growth in mass surveillance in another, Asia’s ‘algorithmic governance’, as coined by international economics expert Martin Chorzempa, is exemplified by mass surveillance cameras in their hundreds of millions controlling its most populous country.
Meanwhile, the corporate world is adapting its language with buzz words that pledge to integrate capitalism with a new planetary consciousness. But even as they pitch mantras like triple bottom line; change management; theory u; mindfulness, circular economy, zero marginal cost and clean capitalism - to what extent have we evolved from ‘green washing,’ and do they set a new example for walking the talk?
Our existence as human beings on planet Earth, or Anthropocene, has witnessed the eruption of artificial intelligence, dataism, biotechnology and other great advancements, which have brought unprecedented levels of change to the world.
But Anthropocene not only leaves an indelible mark on the pale blue dot. Our impact on the world in the technological sense also modifies the human being. And in a big way too as we endeavour at greater speed than ever, to transfer human consciousness to the cloud, to mega data centres and to the virtual world.
Digital privacy is becoming a far and distant dream as Homo sapiens settle for a simplified language of likes, dislikes and emojis to cope with their lives.
Technology is explicitly dividing us as much as it is uniting us. From the deregulated environments that become freeways for hate speech and bullying on social media networks - to the rise of powerful global movements like #YouthForClimate, #ExtinctionRebellion, #BlackLivesMatter, #Occupy, Egypt’s #TharirSquare and Hong Kong’s #UmbrellaRevolution. In parallel, the movement #ReclaimSocial has been calling out for positive coexistence within the online realm.
Yet despite our quest for wiring up to machines more intelligent than us, we’ve never seen as much evidence proving the benefits of connecting with nature, or of participating in holistic practices like yoga, meditation, wellness, ikigai, hygge or fika.
We have proven we have the power to save the planet as much as we have to destroy it. So positive human action is an affront when it dares to challenge the fatalistic attitudes that are so easily triggered in the face of the collapsing ecosystems around us.
There is no hiding from the fact various animal species are becoming extinct. Yet we cannot ignore the remarkable recovery of the once-endangered giant panda. Or how the reintroduction of the Iberian Lince populations in Spain and Portugal has demonstrated our capacity to reverse the threat of mass extinction. It is in our hands to continue in this spirit.
We’ve also witnessed a recovery in the thickness of the Ozone layer, thanks mostly to collective efforts and laws banning chemicals in recent decades.
The convergence of such events and circumstances, is an invitation, seemingly, to refresh our ideas. So far, it seems, we have shown we have what it takes to win the battle against our extinction.
We stand on a knife edge scenario where everything we have achieved could easily collapse should we allow the resurgence of all that we thought we had left behind...
So whether it’s nationalism, fascism, institutional racism, sexism, violence, ignorance, fanaticism, neo-colonial arrogance, neoliberalism, media mind manipulation, ultra-individualism and so forth - we must now reshape our collective approach.
For Boom Festival in particular, it is a call to re-examine our tradition in utopian thought, transformative processes, individual awakenings and collective celebration.
We can reinvent what it means to assimilate, hybridise new ways of sensing and conceive innovative ways of doing things.
For over 20 years, hundreds of thinkers, activists and doers have sprouted from Boom - all pushing for a more conscious human existence on planet Earth.
The festival, however, is not an escapist paradise in which to obliterate the memory of all disturbing thoughts and patterns before returning to ‘business as usual’ beyond the festival gates…
It is however, a place for learning, for being inspired, for traversing our respective realities with a fresh outlook and then taking the experience of what we learnt into our daily lives in the aftermath of the event.
South Africa’s Desmond Tutu said reducing our carbon footprint is not just an environmental necessity, it is “the human rights challenge of our time”. He calls upon us to fight for these causes in the same way in which apartheid was tackled: through moral reprobation, boycott, and economic disinvestment.
To be a visionary today is to deepen our knowledge about the world and what is around us. It is about using our hearts to feel all that surrounds us. It is about changing habits. It is about DOING something.
The theme of choice for Boom 2021 represents an invitation to reflect on this. It is a call to imagine ceaseless, focused action at both individual and collective levels, whether in regards to the small choices we make, or for the greater causes we advocate.
It is by your side, Boomers, that we envision common horizons. Boom is the product of co-creation. It is the outcome of what stands at the crossroads of a playful confluence between people and their kaleidoscopic outlooks.
It has been over two decades since the birth of Boom and 235 since James Watt established a patent for his steam engine. And on an unstable, slightly wonky yet wonderful planet, where the possibility of a brighter future intersects with a very real sense of despondency - we call upon the activist within each of us; the sensitive being, the dreamer, the visionary. We appeal to your positive nature to make a concrete contribution to a regenerative Anthropocene.
The theme of Boom 2021 is THE ANTHROPOCENE.