As highlighted in my last post, Belgium does not have many issues relating to the their own environment. They tend to be ahead of the curve when it comes to being progressive about stopping climate change, reducing emissions and conserving resources. While they do struggle with water pollution and a decreasing amount of green space due to the growth of cities and their population, they tend to handle environmental issues efficiently, especially in comparison to some of their neighbors in Europe and the United States.
In her TED talk, Dr. Elizabeth Lindsey addresses her personal experiences with the connection of environment and humanity through her work as an anthropologist and with the National Geography Society. She explored how people consider their environments and even more so, how they consider themselves as a part of their environments.
When listening to Dr. Lindey’s talk, I was struck with her ideas about the current state of society. Even in a country like Belgium, where environmental issues are being handled at a relatively good rate of efficiency and effectiveness, I do not believe that they are doing these actions out of a deep connection to their environment or a belief in what Dr. Lindsey recalled as a “fluency of meaning.” It seems as though everything is a race, perhaps even the race to be the most environmentally friendly. That does not mean that what Belgium is doing is not good, I just found it interesting that even the things we tend to do for the environment tend to come from our need to behave a certain way or be successful in the eyes of others.
That thought makes me sort of jaded about the way societies work in today’s world. Dr. Lindsey talked about how we are being sold a lifestyle and told we have to live in certain ways to prove ourselves worthy enough of acclaim and love. I definitely agree that it is this lifestyle, some may argue the “western” lifestyle, has defined our breaking with our environments and our lack of care for it. This consumerist, mass-intake lifestyle has helped fuel industry and economy, but it has come at the cost of the earth and as Dr. Lindsey points out, maybe even our happiness, our self-peace or self-love, maybe even our very souls.
That part of her talk brings forward, in my mind at least, how environmental issues relate to human rights. If we reignite that caring within us, not only for our environment but for our neighbors, for humankind as a whole, we can start solving problems and stop creating them. I think without the sense that our earth and all of the people in it need care, we cannot expect our growing population to survive in the future.
I believe that Farish Noor’s concept of moving outside and away from eurocentrism in “Beyond Eurocentrism” are closely linked to Dr. Lindey’s ideas about the importance of listening to human voices.
Noor argues that the idea of Eurocentrism has been spread throughout the world and that this harms the dignity of non-western cultures. She gives examples of how Eurocentric ideals have permeated societies throughout the world and drown out local culture, such as the British occupation of India. She also claims that in order to heal areas where many cultural and religious ties pit a country or region’s people against one another, western culture has been implemented. She calls it the “lowest common denominator” of an area. I found this notion especially interesting because I feel that it can be seen in Belgium in the issues between Flanders and Wallonia. The English language is being used there as a connection between the two zones, who differ on everything from state of their economies, to language, to political belief. This, however, is helping to squander the cultural capital of both areas, and does not seem to be aiding much in healing the broken relationship between the two areas.
The effects of Eurocentrism may not be most evident in Belgium because it is a European country. And while Belgium does not have any great crimes against humanity or human rights offenses in the recent past, I believe they are experiencing something revolutionary in the amount of Syrian (and other) immigrants that have came into their country. Because Eurocentrism is so deeply rooted in western countries, any immigrant who comes to Belgium must offer up their culture in many ways in order to fit into a new type of society. Some may argue that this is fitting, some might say the opposite. I, for one, would not be surprised to see human rights abuses increase in Europe in general (though perhaps not in Belgium, or at least not only in Belgium) because of the meshing of cultures currently occurring there. The federal government of Belgium will have to decide how it plans to handle this influx of new culture, added onto the fact that they already possess two existing warring cultures within their own borders.