Mary Catherine Bateson is a well-known cultural anthropologist and writer. She serves on the boards for the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
For decades Bateson has worked in the field of anthropology. She is a Harvard and Radcliffe graduate and the daughter of social anthropologist Margaret Mead and cybernetics pioneer Gregory Bateson. She’s written on religion, family dynamics and aging but now is deeply involved in environmental issues.
Bateson recently spoke at WSU on the importance of seeing nature and society as interdependent.
She said there is a great danger facing our planet and it's a mystery as to why anything effective isn't being done to stop it.
"So far, we're not doing very well, " she said. “We have to think intelligently about the data the scientists are giving us. We’ve got to be able to think about how we can cooperate with other nations all the way around the world.”
Bateson first learned about climate change from a conference that her father held back in the ‘60s called “Conscious and Human Adaptation.” The name changed from greenhouse effect to global warming to climate change. But whatever you call it, Bateson said, a whole set of interrelated things are happening and getting progressively worse.
“Whatever we do at this point, it’s going to go up," she said. "The ice is melting in most places and we’re going to have to change our habits.”
Bateson said we should call climate change, climate disruption. We’ve moved from an era of relative stability to an era that seems like a violent weather phenomena --all related to global warming, she said.
“The temperature of the oceans as well as the atmosphere is rising," she said. "You don’t have very many tsunami’s in Kansas, do you? But you do have drought, you do have to worry about your water supply, tornadoes, you got them, so we’re getting more violent weather which means humanitarian disasters and we have to get organized to deal with them.”
Climate change causes more problems than extreme weather patterns and rising temperatures. It’s also affecting all living creatures, including flying insects. Bateson said we are extremely dependent on bees and they're dying.
“It’s probably the latest really scary process that’s going on," she said. "Some kind of an infection being passed among hives and colonies of honey gatherers, which in the process, that’s how the plants grow. That’s how they are fertilized,how they make seed for grain.”
We can live without honey, but not without pollination. She said we completely depend on the natural world we live in.
“We depend on the climate, we depend on the rain, we depend the honeybees, we depend on the bacteria and the soil."
She said we’re not going to get through this problem unless we think of it as a relationship with all those factors. She compared it to a family relationship and being part of a larger whole, all of us connected to care for the future of the planet.
“In the hope that it will be here and thriving long after we’re gone," she said. "We can only do that if we work together at it.”
Working together and believing in cooperation is how things get done, she said, rather than arrogance and violence. Bateson said f we continue on our current course, we will destroy the planet.
“It can happen. It’s our job to save it."