“No One Can Be Whole Alone.”

2020-10-26 Academic

The world has been dealing with unprecedented climate change in terms of scale and rate, and now it is contending with the new challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic

In view of these extraordinary challenges, Kyung Hee University hosted the 2020 Peace Bar Festival (PBF) on the 39th anniversary of the UN International Day of Peace (September 21) under the theme of “The Era of Urgency, a New Horizon for Political Norms,” addressing the global threats to the future of humankind and seeking practical alternatives. Since 1982, the University has been hosting an annual international conference to celebrate the International Day of Peace, which was declared in 1981 by the proposal of the founder of the Kyung Hee University System. This year’s PBF was held online, from September 22 (Tue) to 23 (Wed), in consideration of the COVID-19 situation.

Professor Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University opened the first day with a special lecture titled, “Reclaiming Cooperation in a World of Competition.” She noted that the relentless push for expansion and growth is threatening the global ecosystem, and that, should humanity continue in the self-righteous binge of unlimited competition, civilization will end soon. She stressed building a system of cooperation that supersedes competition to change the present course.

The climate crisis threatens today's prosperity and urgently requires resolution.
Professor Oreskes retraced the footsteps of capitalism and neoliberalism, explaining that capitalism, in emphasizing freedom and competition, developed a worldview that judges every sphere of our lives from an economic perspective. She said, “Neoliberals claim that the world has flourished under the capitalist system of global competition, but climate change caused by capitalism is threatening today's prosperity. Nonetheless, we are doing nothing.”

Yet, we can no longer afford to sit idly by while COVID-19 and climate change are threatening our existence. "The advocates of competitive free market capitalism reinforced the idea that greed and egotism were virtues ingrained in human nature and any other form of social system was against it," explained Professor Oreskes.

“Caring for others is caring for self.”
The Harvard professor expressed the view that we should work together to stop this crisis. “Altruism is everywhere. We can easily find people around us who are kind and willing to cooperate,” Professor Oreskes continued, “Although it is said that competition is the mover of evolution and that human genes are selfish by nature, we are better off when we cooperate than competing with each other.” According to her, altruism is not a sacrifice but a self-care.

“It is wrong to believe that competitive capitalism is the only effective system. Instead, we should believe that there are alternatives and that they are achievable,” said Professor Oreskes. If that’s the case, how can we make sure that alternatives are achievable? By having faith in mutual human connection. As she mentioned, “Let's find the responsibilities we share. The future will be different. Let us believe everyone can contribute.”

Professor Oreskes concluded the lecture with this message: “No one can be whole alone. COVID-19 and climate change serve as a reminder of this simple truth. Knowing climate change in our heads is not enough―we need to feel it from our hearts. And then, resolve to act in accordance with what we know and feel. We have opportunities along with responsibility. We should not listen to those refusing to shoulder responsibility.”

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