environmental-philosophy

Without modifications to the social and material environment, there can be no change in mentalities. Here, we are in the presence of a circle that leads me to postulate the necessity of founding an “ecosophy” that would link environmental ecology to social ecology and to mental ecology.
—  Félix Guattari

Anthropocentrism:
1.) the notion of human exceptionalism which is the belief that human beings are the most significant and valuable species on the planet, and 2.) the assessment of reality through an exclusively human perspective.
In environmental ethics and philosophy, it is considered to be the root of problems caused by human interaction with the natural world. These interactions typically involve the attempts of the human race to dominate, exploit, and transform nature to suit their own needs, justifying these actions as necessary for wholly human notions of progress, even if these interactions are also directly or indirectly damaging to human life as well as the rest of nature. 

See also: human supremacy and speciesism

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with people. Given a story to enact that puts them in accord with the world, they will live in accord with the world. But given a story to enact that puts them at odds with the world, as yours does, they will live at odds with the world. Given a story to enact in which they are the lords of the world, they will ACT like lords of the world. And, given a story to enact in which the world is a foe to be conquered, they will conquer it like a foe, and one day, inevitably, their foe will lie bleeding to death at their feet, as the world is now.
—  Daniel Quinn

Property is not an intrinsic property.

It’s a manufactured concept that organizes human action and perspective. The world is not made of property and owners; it is made of trees, rivers, sediment, amphibians, birds, animals, etc. It is made of an infinity of life forms, fluid through time. There is no essence of being-property which defines a forest, a crescent of land, a strain of corn, a group of horses, a human slave. These things are not property in themselves. They get called property. They get made property. And their identity is lost.

Property revalues the world anthropocentrically. It puts existence in the domain of control. It revalues the world instrumentally. The existence of a mountain no longer belongs to the mountain; it belongs to the human who owns the title deed. And the human has complete control. The human can invert the mountain into a mine, bottle its water to sell, shoot the grizzly bears and cougars who live on it, cut its slopes into fields. Any action done is justified because the mountain is property. Its existence is determined by its owner.  

But it is not the essence of humanity to be property owners. This is a word we gave ourselves after of a long history of political thought. We defined ourselves as the sole life-form allowed ownership. And then later, the sole life-form allowed self-ownership. We are subjects in a world of objects, a world of property. So where is there room for ethics?

Savage Nature

Savage comes from a French word which means “wild”, which derives earlier from a Latin word “of the woods”.

The descendants of colonialists spent decades upon decades calling anyone who didn’t look like them and anyone who didn’t live like them a savage. Their “savage” nature was used as a justification to simply wipe out their communities and their way of living.

But today, so many of those descendants are the environmentalists, the deep ecologists, the ecotheologists and the ecofeminists who pride themselves in living with regards to nature, seeing themselves as a disciple of the wilderness.

In modern use, it’s common to use “savage” to mean brutal, violent, aggressive, cruel, and primitive. it’s both hilarious and disappointing that we associate these traits with a word that means to live alongside nature, when they really should be associated with words prided by those who have chosen to destroy it.

There is an ancient world here, compressed by Gore-Tex and rubber boots.

In Hesquiat Harbour, we learned that people belong to place. Identity means the land that circulated through your ancestors, the salmon who fed your wooden homes, the tide that sifts food across the beach. Who you are is where you live.

The centre of the universe is an infinity of “nowheres”.

You have looked on the mountains across the harbour for countless generations. They are green shadows that rise above the fog and catch the edges of the sun, the shelter of other families, places of meeting. And the rivers slowly pull them towards the ocean. The mountains have defined your home for ages longer than the millennia of cedar trees.

And then imagine the impossible loss of watching the forest churned into stumps and pulled away, logging roads scarring the mountain slopes, the land opened and exposed and left to dry empty for generations. Timelessness broken for quick money.

From an animistic perspective, the clearest source of all this distress, both physical and psychological, lies in the aforementioned violence needlessly perpetrated by our civilization on the ecology of the planet; only by alleviating the latter will we be able to heal the former. While this may sound at first like a simple statement of faith, it makes eminent and obvious sense as soon as we acknowledge our thorough dependence upon the countless other organisms with whom we have evolved. Caught up in a mass of abstractions, our attention hypnotized by a host of human-made technologies that only reflect us back to ourselves, it is all too easy for us to forget our carnal inherence in a more-than-human matrix of sensations and sensibilities. Our bodies have formed themselves in delicate reciprocity with the manifold textures, sounds, and shapes of an animate earth—our eyes have evolved in subtle interaction with other eyes, as our ears are attuned by their very structure to the howling of wolves and the honking of geese. To shut ourselves off from these other voices, to continue by our lifestyles to condemn these other sensibilities to the oblivion of extinction, is to rob our own senses of their integrity, and to rob our minds of their coherence. We are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human.
—  David Abram, The Spell of the Sensual

On some level, it is useless to pursue an academic debate on the meaning of things. Meaning are constantly being appropriated, renegotiated, shifted. There is no such thing as an authentic definition. Definitions change. “Sustainability” means carbon credits, selective logging, paper bags, the total collapse of industrial civilization. Its meanings twist with instrumentality. How a word is used determines what it means. And words are political.

On some level, meanings are impossible. Once you define a word, you limit its potential. You enclose it with space that is finite and constricting. To define sustainability the wrong way is to end the life of the planet. Its meaning determines our vision of the future. It determines what is possible, commensurable, desirable, probable.

What time frame do we want to work on? 20 years? 50 years? 100 000 years? Until the moment that the planet is eclipsed by the swelling sun? This will determine what is possible and desirable.

And who do we care about? Our children? Distant descendants? Rainbow trout and dragonflies? The aim of reform is to improve life. But who’s life is counted?

Environmentalist discourses remain laden with presumptions that
transformative action can be instigated through emotive, mediated appeals to
human and environmental solidarity by stressing the role of individual action in
resolving structural problems and by producing alarming images of potential
dystopias.
—  Sarah S. Amsler, “Embracing the Politics of Ambiguity: Towards a Normative Theory of “Sustainability””