Democratic Forest Trusts (PDF)in Watson, Alan; Dean, Liese; Sproull, Janet, comps. 2006. Science and stewardship to protect and sustain wilderness values: Eighth World Wilderness Congress Symposium; 2005 September 30-October 6; Anchorage, AK.Democratic trusts with leadership elected by citizen-members promise to solve many of the problems afflicting both traditional government and corporate ownership of forestlands.Â This article explores these issues in some depth.Complexity and the Dream of Human Control of Eco-Systems (PDF)in Watson, Alan; Dean, Liese; Sproull, Janet, comps. 2006. Science and stewardship to protect and sustain wilderness values: Eighth World Wilderness Congress Symposium; 2005 September 30-October 6; Anchorage, AK.The title captures it.Â I then explore the kinds of institutions compatible with both nature and the modern world that are implied from this analysis.Rethinking the Obvious: Modernity and Living Respectfully With Nature (PDF)The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy, Winter, 1997.Modernity is usually considered a wrong turn in terms of respect for and sustaining the environment.Â I argue the reality is more complex, for modernity has freed us from personal dependence on agriculture, ended the economic value of children, radically reduced the likelihood of large scale wat, and shifted much production to intellectual rather than material capital.Â This partially decouples society from nature, which gives us important opportunities as well as problems.Towards an Ecocentric Political Economy (PDF)The Trumpeter, Fall, 1996.This paper begins my effort at showing how liberal modernity can be harmonized with an ecocentric perspective on our relationship with the natural world.Â It is a corrective to much “free market environmental” literature that sacrifices Nature to money as well as to anti-liberal attacks by well-meaning but economically naÃ¯ve environmentalists.Unexpected Harmonies: Self-Organization in Liberal Modernity and Ecology (PDF)The Trumpeter, Journal of Ecosophy, 10:1, Winter 1993This is my initial paper exploring how what I term ‘evolutionary liberal’ thought can be an important means by which society and nature can be brought into greater harmony.Â The other Trumpeter papers build on it.Deep Ecology and Liberalism: The Greener Implications of Evolutionary Liberalism (PDF)Review of Politics, Fall, 1996.Liberal thought and deep ecology are usually regarded as mutually exclusive. But the “evolutionary” tradition offers a way to integrate the two through commonalties in the work of David Hume, Michael Polanyi, Arne Naess, and Aldo Leopold, providing a stronger foundation for liberalism while strengthening the case for an ecocentric ethic.(Related subjects: Ecology)Saving Western Towns: A Jeffersonian Green Proposal (PDF)in Writers on the Range, Karl Hess and John Baden, eds., University Press of Colorado, 1998.Developmental pressures in the rural and small town West involve three groups: long term residents, new arrivals, and environmentalists. Today their interests often conflict. This conflict is in part the outcome of institutions which prevent harmonizing competing interests. The concept of developmental trusts, both for rural regions and for small communities offers a means whereby these interests can be harmonized for the benefit of all concerned.(Related subjects: Politics)Social Ecology, Deep Ecology, and Liberalism (PDF)Critical Review, 6: 2-3, 1992.Murray Bookchin is considered a leading radical environmental theorist. However, his analysis is incapable of leading humankind towards a more respectful and sustainable relationship with the natural world. Criticisms of Bookchin from both the deep ecology and evolutionary liberal perspective complement one another, pointing the way towards a better understanding of how modernity relates to the environment.The paper as a whole offers an early discussion of issues that are more clearly addressed in later papers, particularly Deep Ecology and Liberalism (1996) and the three Trumpeter articles in 1997, 1996, and 1993. However, there are other ideas in the article which have not been developed more thoroughly elsewhere.
We have seen a major victory among the forces of decency in our country. Not only has Rush Limbaugh now lost 141 advertisers. Better yet, a great many have indicated they want no association with right wing hate radio. They are leaving not only Limbaugh, they are leaving the whole putrid industry.
Given the nature of our right wing enemy we need to learn from this victory and build on it. The basic principle here is “framing.”
Limbaugh attempted to punish a private citizens for speaking out in Congress by viciously attacking her sexuality and claiming she wanted taxpayers to pay for her sex life. This was a lie, but more important, it was an attempt to frame the contraception debate in terms of whether we should pay for others’ sexual behavior. Those terms favored a conservative view of morality and put liberals on the defense: “No, that is not what she was arguing…” Now we would be playing in the right wing sand box.
Instead he was consistently attacked for his slanderous and vicious defamation of a private citizen, Sandra Fluke. Fluke did a good job making her case and demonstrating the viciousness of Limbaugh’s behavior. Many rallied around her and pressured his advertisers to leave – on grounds of decency on the airwaves. This framing worked, and the vicious and depraved Rush Limbaugh may have seen his career destroyed, at least in so far as supposedly representing a national constituency of more than pathetic losers is concerned.
Earlier the right wing had attempted another frame: that religious freedom was at stake is contraception were mandated in health insurance. That was also a lie. Many states have similar provisions and the Catholic Bishops had never objected even though they found time in many cases to cover up child abuse. But if the lie had taken hold we would be arguing about religious freedom and what it should include, again stuck in the right wing sand box, rather than arguing about empowering women. Another piece of evidence that this was thought out in advance was that Republican hearings over the contraception issue brought out lots of male apologists for religious bigotry nut not a single woman. Not one. Having a woman there, even a conservative evangelical, would have muddied the frame that what they were attempting to do had nothing to do with women. They were irrelevant.
Happily it backfired. How dare these guys discuss such an issue without including a single woman? And when the Democrats held a hearing that actually incliuded a woman, the right wing pounced on Sandra Fluke with an incredible barrage of lies.
But liberals and decent people had an alternative frame: the “war against women.” It is accurate. It also puts the right wing on the defensive: “No, we are not warring against women.” At that point is is easy to bring up many other examples to show that they are. Their whole agenda is exposed as the fetid moral swamp it truly is. Think of the right wing defense of having Viagra in insurance but not contraception. The more they make their argument, the more they demonstrate to any American with a functioning brain their double standard, their hypocrisy, and their general nastiness.
In “A Pagan lesson for an evangelical,” an earlier piece on Beliefnet I demonstrated how the same method of rejecting the right wing framing and substituting my own more accurate one could have a powerful impact in religious discussions.
Arguments always take place within larger contexts that provide the frame in which particular points are viewed. The frame is accepted on all sides, either deliberately or by accident, and usually it helps one more than the other. The right wing has been a master at this, likely because they get help from hacks who studied psychology in order to make lots of money as marketing consultants. Marketing Chicken McNuggets and marketing Rick Santorum require similar skills on the part of the advertiser. Meanwhile liberals and decent people assume that sincerity and sticking to facts and logic will carry the day. They do for some people, but obviously not all.
My debate with the evangelical rejected his framing at two points where, had I not, I would have been arguing defensively on terrain he chose. First I rejected his suggestion that everything was “God’s property,” which assumed a noxious concept of God, and replaced it with “The sacred is everywhere” and so the term “property” is irrelevant. When he suggested that I “worshipped the creation” I said at root there was no “creation” for again, the Sacred was everywhere, immanent as well as transcendent. He could not get a foothold for his tried and tested arguments on this terrain. I rejected his sandbox and did so reasonably, by offering a bigger one.
Then he tried to shift to new ground, and claimed that in the absence of a powerful deity both he and I would have little moral substance. We would go wild. He ‘modestly’ included himself here. I responded “Most people do good things because they enjoy doing good things – your logic is that Christians do good things because they are told to and expect to be paid well later by going to heaven. Christians therefore are not really acting morally. Like a prostitute they are offering services in exchange for a pay off. Christians of that sort lack the moral capacity of most atheists who expect no pay off.” Now he was on the defense. His better nature enjoyed doing good things and it was in deep tension with his noxious theology of original sin and a vengeful and abusive deity.
My point about framing is not for us to become manipulative liars like the right wing. The term “War on women” is not a lie. It is a fact, an attempt by them to turn back the gains women made in obtaining control over their lives and destinies that men had long taken for granted. Bad and weak men had long resented this, and now they were moving to destroy their gains. Similarly, framing Rush Limbaugh’s actions as far beyond the pale of decency was only telling the truth.
But here is the most important point. These successful frames married truth to decency, mind to heart, whereas the right wing needs to separate the mind from the heart in order to win. When we can accomplish this we deepen our own understanding of where we come from and simultaneously engage the right wing on the only grounds where many are accessible: their hearts. Their minds are closed but their hearts are in pain, and in at least some cases open enough to be touched.
The brilliant philosopher George Lakoff has done more in my opinion than anyone else to help us understand framing and how to push back effectively – and yet many liberals, Progressives, and genuinely spiritual people have not taken his lessons to heart. I recommend this brief essay from the Huffington Post as a good start in seeing what needs to be done.