Avoiding Anthropocentric Bias in Sustainability

As humans, we all have a tendency to see everything from our point of view. We have a tendency to think of ourselves as ‘other’, separate from, and above the rest of the natural world. But though we are (as far as we yet know) a unique evolutionary form, it is important to remember that we are part of nature. As we strive to boost sustainability, it is vital for us to remember that everything does not revolve around us.

One element of anthropocentric (human-centred) bias involves thinking of ourselves as separate from the animal kingdom. We must take care to remember that we are animals too. It is important that we do not fall into the trap of thinking that other animals were placed on planet earth for our ‘use’. We must see them as the distinct living, feeling beings that they are. There are certain religious factors, and ethical lines (whether we eat meat and use animal products or not, for example). But no matter where we fall on that spectrum, we must all cherish other forms of animal life, and always treat them with the respect and dignity that they deserve.

Another problem that springs from this bias is ‘plant blindness’. As humans, we have a tendency to see plants merely as a backdrop. We often fail to see that they too are a form of life – albeit one that is in some ways very different to us. Plants are a lot more complex and interesting than we often give them credit for. Plants ‘talk’ to one another, they co-operate, or fight. They can nurture their offspring, and defend themselves against attack… When we spend more time around them, and truly ‘see’ them, we can begin to appreciate them as the complex lifeforms they are.

Humbling ourselves and understanding that we are just another part of the complex web of life on this planet can give us the foundation we need to truly work towards a more sustainable future for all.

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