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The Human Connection is the topic of the Weekly Chat for Module 02 during the weeks 4, 5, and 6.
Background: Are you a New Yorker? A European expatriate? A refugee? An exchange student? However you define yourself, chances are at least one of the “frames” involves where you are from, or the place that you find yourself today. Culture—the clothes you wear, the language you speak, even traits like your personality and worldview—are defined at least in part by your sense of place. And this fact is part of what makes each of us a unique member of the human race.
In turn, our cultural practices have an impact on our natural surroundings. As humans build their homes, clear land for their crops, extract minerals for their iPods, and mine coal to burn for their electricity, they leave an indelible mark upon the environment. Slowly, this interrelationship evolves: Place defines culture, culture redefines place, and that redefinition requires cultural adjustment.
Today, with 6.8 billion people on the planet, this action and reaction is global in scale. Hence, the worldwide changes that are emerging in the environment, such as global climate change. Today, the scope and speed of environmental change exceeds the ability of cultures to adapt. If climate change is not checked immediately, we stand to face a wave of “cultural extinctions” as entire groups of people lose their connection to the local frames that define their culture. Some of these displaced peoples, like the Inupiaq of Shishmaref, will become literal refugees, as their regions become uninhabitable.
A teenager in Ohio leaves her computer on all night, burning another few ounces of coal. A teenager in Brazil cuts an acre of cropland out of the rainforest, reducing the rainforest carbon sink, to provide for his new family. A generation ago, such actions were both isolated and easily overlooked. But that’s no longer the case. In our shrinking world, the relationships between place, culture, and change are rapidly cohering into a single mandate for action.
In light of this new understanding of global interconnection—and the dramatic risks of widespread cultural extinction—what is the role of the individual? How are individuals and cultures accountable—or even culpable—for their impact on the global community? What steps can each of us and all humans take to insert positive change in the evolution of culture, place, and change?
Some questions to possibly open the chat with or discuss prior to the LIVE chat!
How is your culture defined by place? Has your culture changed your place?
What is our responsibility toward other cultures? If our cultural practices end up changing another place/culture, what should (or can) we do to reverse that change? Or should we not?
We live in a shrinking world in which all cultures are interconnected. How does this help or hurt our attempts to acknowledge and preserve cultural heritage and our sense of place?