The overwhelming trend of mankind is to advance. Forward progress is always a goal. Even in periods of renaissance or re-visitation, much more new is gained than old is recovered. Why is this? Why must we keep on racing from achievement to achievement? Is there any explanation for this epidemic malcontentment with the present, and can it be cured? Moreover, should it be cured? This is precisely the core issue in the argument for romanticism vs. anthropocentrism.
In a nutshell, romanticists believe that mankind has advanced too far. Under their view, technology has brashly interrupted the natural, intended flow of the earth, the environment, man, animal, and plant. Industrial power plants pump out hazardous waste by the ton, and there is a sharp, undisputed correlation between the size, amount, and usage of factories, cars, energy plants, waste sites, et cetera, and the amount of pollution. Large cities such as Shanghai, China, and Los Angeles, California are almost known for their unclean air. Furthermore, names like Chernobyl and Fukushima have practically become household names. As global demand for natural resources such as fish, wood, and fossil fuel skyrocket with the population, irreversible damage seems to be done to their respective ecosystems. Time after time, the blame is always pointed at technological advancement, almost as if it had appeared completely without invitation.
Anthropocentrism is the belief that mankind is the single most important species on this world and on worlds beyond. If this is true then a tremendous weight has somehow been placed upon human shoulders. It is beyond debate that man is set apart from animals. Even if it could be proved that genetically and physically we are identical to the rest of the Animal Kingdom, there is still something more to mankind. You can call it consciousness, you can call it a soul, you can call it whatever, but you cannot deny it. By a dictionary definition, anthropocentrism does not explicitly call for humans to use technology to solve all problems, but it certainly allows for such a doctrine to take root. Albeit technology may sometimes cause messes, it has certainly taken us leaps and bounds in the right direction. Can you imagine a population as rapidly advancing as our own trying to feed all 7 billion without the use of harvesting, processing, shipping, and nutritional technology? Where would waste go without the vast disposal and recycling utilities which have been painstakingly engineered over the past several decades? Personally, I do not believe it feasible to even recommend living in such a manner. To ignore all the hard work, the sweat, the blood, and the tears which have been sacrificed for our own good would not only be insulting but also suicidal. It would be like a child refusing to eat a home-cooked meal because his mother burnt her hand reaching in the oven. Yes, harm was done, and yes it could have been avoided, but we are here now. Things may seem discouraging for the moment, but that is never the whole story. If it were not for the horrific conditions of the Industrial Revolution, many of the work-related salary, safety, and health benefits we take for granted would never have come into existence. Everyday research is being conducted to relieve the carbon footprint, patch the ozone, and discover clean, replenishable fuels. While it may be vain to believe that humans are the center of the known universe, I do trust that humans have the power to fix and overcome any challenges which may await them. A brighter day is coming, but until then will you use light bulbs or torches?