Un-fathoming the Spirit of Sustainability
Over the last twenty years, a considerable amount of thought has gone into the stubborn refusal of solutions to one of the most intractable issues of our civilization: global warming. Despite clear indications that global warming and its attendant feedback effects are likely to cause extensive damage across the globe—and may threaten the survival of human civilization itself—significant enough change in human behaviors to avoid this future has been absent in recent history. The most rigorous body of academics and professionals studying global warming and its impacts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has reported, with 90 % accuracy, that global warming is anthropogenic; similarly, these same scientists have articulated an array of dire consequences, within our lifetimes, if humans continue to fuel current behaviors with long-held assumptions that structure reified relations to nature and to other human beings. This essay applies recent theoretical insights from anthropology, cultural theory, and philosophy, as well as findings in marine biology and other marine sciences, scientific and social science approaches to the theories of global warming, and paleontological research to investigate and exhume the largely unexamined assumptions driving geoglobal politics of identity and the fissured, highly mobile, provisional networks of globalization itself. Cabo Pulmo, the northernmost surviving coral reef in North America, functions as an example of the “awkward engagement” characteristic of global exchange and reveals the lines of friction in global encounters. Finally, the Cabo Pulmo community offers a counterdiscourse to the failures of globalization to re-envision, reimagine, and reconstitute environmental sustainability as the community discovers alternative economic, human, and environmental identities.