CC 300 G: The End of the World

3 Credits 
TR 1:30-2:45 pm – Professor Western

Humanity now has the power to destroy ourselves – and not just ourselves but all life on Earth – in ways both unprecedented and terrifying. We live under the loom of an ecological crisis that’s potentially apocalyptic in scope and the product of human handiwork. We hunker before the threat of nuclear annihilation and have done so for generations, since the creation of the first atomic bomb. With the expansion of trade, travel, and globalization in general we face fast-spreading and rapidly-evolving diseases. While it might seem like science fiction, there are thinkers who seriously ponder whether our own robotic creations will surpass and replace us in the future. Has there ever been a moment when humanity has faced so many existential threats of our own making?

This course begins with the notion that such existential threats can be seen as ‘karmic reckonings’ – by which we’ll mean simply the consequences of humanity’s own character, cultures and actions – and then investigates what it is about our character, cultures or actions that lead to such threats. Put another way, this course poses the question, “to avoid existential threats of humanity’s own creation, what aspects of contemporary human behavior should we look to change?” For the sake of focus the course will linger on current ecological crises – for example, climate change, species extinction, deforestation, sea level rise – investigating both the facts of ecological crises and human behaviors that may account for them. But students can anticipate some space to explore other deep threats they may find interesting.

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