Dr Tim Weiskel (Balliol, Rhodes Scholar, 1969) writes for Voices from Oxford on his ideas and research regarding transition studies, and the pressing need for humanity to change its ‘business as usual’ approach if we’re to have any future on planet earth.
There is an old Chinese proverb that occasionally shows up in fortune cookies and gives us cause to pause for thought. It states the obvious: “If you do not change direction, you are likely to end up where you are headed.”
Simple enough, perhaps, but quite disturbing, nonetheless — especially as we think of where we are headed as a species. For decades ecologists and system thinkers have warned us about this. More recently Pulitzer Prize winning journalists have underscored and reinforced their work by pointing out that we are in the midst of Earth’s sixth great extinction event, one which it seems we are provoking and may well not survive.
It is now clear that it has been the collective experience of European overseas colonialism and the enduring physical, cultural and intellectual legacies it has engendered that have set us up for imminent collapse as a civilization and perhaps as a species.
Can Oxford help humanity avoid this unfolding fate? Perhaps. But only if it undertakes some fundamental rethinking of what it has “learned” from the European “colonial moment,” and only if it seeks to undertake some basic reforms in what it teaches in the years ahead.
An extended discussion of these themes is available online at:
“Can Humanity Survive the Anthropocene? Can Oxford Help?”