For those of you who read my last post, I touched on environmental ideologies and my own beliefs in regards to that, specifically ecocentrism. If you haven’t read it, the link is here. I want to dive a little deeper into the idea of ecocentrism—the term in general is fairly vague, but it’s because there are several other ideologies beneath this. Personally, I feel I gravitate towards a combination of a few of these. Before I lay out these labels, I think it’s important to understand where the root of these ideologies come from. Where anthropocentrism is rooted in a hierarchical, self centered place, ecocentrism comes from a place of respect, selflessness, and love.
In order for us to have a mindset that respects all our surroundings for not just our own use, but for their own personal place in the world, we need to be able to take ourselves down from the top of the ladder. By placing ourselves level with all other living, and nonliving, parts of our earth, we are able to gain a perspective that wants to preserve and conserve for not our own gain, but for the environment’s own pursuit of life. Several ideologies tie into this method of thinking: ethics and values-driven ideologies, such as animal rights and land-based ethics; and transformative ideologies, such as ecological sensibility, deep ecology, social ecology, and ecofeminism. Along the lines, but also separate from, these are ideologies that are based from religion: native american ideology, and eastern traditions.
Ethics and value-driven ideologies both follow a similar belief of respect for other organisms that are not human; however where land-based ethics encompass all elements of the biotic world, animal-rights based ethics focuses on just animals. In Communicating Nature (2006), Corbett quotes Aldo Leopold on his idea that this is the shift when we think of other life forms not as “a subject of human interest, but as an object…a being that has its own purpose.” This is where the beginning of my own ideology forms—any eco-related actions I may take are not for the benefit of humans, but for the protection of all life forms being and continuing to be equal. Ecological sensibility plays a part in this too, as it “recognizes the importance of relationships, systems, and individuals” (Corbett, 41). The piece I take from this ideology is the “ethical duty” that we as humans don’t interfere with natural processes. That, in a nutshell I think, sums up my entire belief. We should live our lives in a way that minimizes the impact we have on other organisms. Now, it’s important to point out the anthropocentric side to this argument—Joe Shmoe claims that creating large buildings and burning fossil fuels are what humans are meant to do, therefor living out their own purpose and activities. Maybe. But just because we can destroy numerous habitats for our own gain when we could be doing it in a far more sustainable and habitat saving way doesn’t mean we should. Take note Joe Shmoe—the world does not revolve around you.
The last bit of ideology that plays into my own is the deep ecology ideology. The two major components of this are “biocentric equality” and “self-realization.” Pause for a moment and take a step back towards eastern ideology. Many similarities exist between these four ideologies, and those of East Asia religions, specifically Buddhism. I add this in because I feel my ideologies have been shaped by the fact in recent years I have identified as a Buddhist. As Corbett points out, the Buddha teaches us an extreme level of selflessness and awareness of our surroundings, resulting in a heightened sense of equality. Basically, we are all the universe and the universe is all of us. Everything on earth holds equal value and we and them are all intertwined. Now, that being said, this is the same opinion I pull from the deep ecology ideology, as they have the same basic principle.
The root of my ideologies come not just from respect and Buddhism but, as I said before, love. The short story Yellowstone: The Erotics of Place from Terry Williams’ An Unspoken Hunger (1994) gives a beautiful example of the love we need to have for our earth in order to put forth the proper respect it needs, between mythology stories of Pan and Echo, and a the followings of a man looking to protect bison skulls. He says that we are “engaging with the land. Loving the land and dreaming it. An erotics of place” (Williams, 85). And I agree. That’s exactly what we need to do. Love the land—all of the land, all of the time. Then maybe we can take ourselves down from the top tier and work towards replacing what we’ve destroyed.