The anthropic principle was suggested in cosmology, based on the observation that physical constants in the universe have certain values, and they must have these values or the universe would not exist as it does, capable of housing intelligent/conscious life (read, for all our intents and purposes: human life, though this is something of a misnomer, technically speaking).
It is a tautology since the universe’s laws must allow for our existence, or we would not exist and observe the universe and its laws. Thus, our existence should not be used to explain the values of the physical constants we observe, for that’s circular thinking.
The interesting thing in the context of #ecohappy, though, is how this runs parallel to much of our thinking about our place on this planet of ours. In a similar fashion, the ecology of the Earth system must be amenable to human life, or we would not have evolved and would not be here.
The problem, however, is that many people take the state of the world, ecologically speaking, to be a state, to be like the physical constants we observe in the universe.
We are so intimately dependent on all the various bits and pieces that make up the ecological functioning of ecosystems and the total Earth system that our lives depend on, we do not see just how important it all is. We are like the proverbial fish in the water (who cannot recognize the water for being constantly surrounded by it).
It didn’t matter much when there were so few of us spread out so far that there was either not enough negative impact for it to matter, or a collapse caused by too great a negative impact was contained regionally or locally. At times, the human impact was even so well-managed, having learned how to work with and as part of local environments – because there was no other way to make a life – that productivity was increased and functioning human/cultural ecosystems were created.
Recently, however, our collective influence has reached levels that are running up against planetary boundaries, changing the entire Earth system, and thus potentially threatening our existence. But, we’re still used to the notion of a stable condition and little influence of ours, rather than a shifting system into which we better fit ourselves so that it all functions well for us.
In fact, because we have become capable of so much so easily, thanks to fossil fuels and the energy, fertilizer, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and plastics derived from them and mined with machines powered by them, we are forgetting about older techniques and not creating new adapted technologies that fit in and work with and for ecological functioning and ways of (making a) living, but still believe that it’s all no problem.
Either the world must be and remain as it has been, or we’ll just control everything like we control our automated homes. And lives. And weights…
Only because recent ecological functioning and conditions, in all their variability, have been amenable to human existence, in all its adaptability, it does not mean that this variability could not go outside of the range within which we can exist, making our adaptability reach its limits.
If we want to propose a true eco-anthropic principle, therefore, it is not that conditions are and must be amenable to our survival and continued existence as a species. It is that (Earth) life has become self-aware and has a chance of getting off-planet with us, but any chances for anything like that require that we learn to live in, with, and as a part of the diversity of life on Earth.
And, there is still a great untapped potential for better living by ecology, and even a good anthropocene, hidden in that, in plain sight. But only if we make it so, not do whatever we wish because the world is supposedly made for us, without any sort of ecological thinking.