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.
I think Earth Day is a particularly important moment for contemplation and commitment by us Pagans. Often American Christian critics accuse us of “pantheism,” and in a important respect they are right. We do find the sacred, most of us, in the earth without reference to any transcendental spiritual force. In my mind there is a transcendental dimension as well, but it is not needed at all for us to honor the earth as sacred.
Even important Christian traditions honor the earth as sacred. Paul Metzger’s new book, Connecting Christ criticizes Pagans for their pantheism or, in my case, “panentheism” compared to his purely transcendental view of God. (For my purposes here the two terms are equivalent. Panentheists are Pantheists ‘plus.’) He kindly offered me a chance to respond to his critique of Pagan spirituality. I pointed out that Bishop Kallistos Ware, a Christian he cited approvingly in a different context, also described his own view as panentheistic.
Metzger’s argument was not between Christians and Pagans, it was between those of us, Christians included, who regard the earth as a manifestation of the sacred, and those Christians who do not. The view that the earth is just stuff, perhaps made by God but completely separate from “Him,” is in my view a conceit of those who have allowed their pride and sense of entitlement to get in the way of their hearts and minds. It ignorantly diminishes the Sacred.
It is also a conceit that many secularists have picked up and run with, to disastrous effect for the planet, us included. Modern America is increasingly an autistic civilization incapable of appreciating any relationship with others, human or not. This autism initially developed towards the earth and now increasingly characterizes America’s relation towards everything. This attitudes underlying this tragedy are captured in a story Herman Daly tells about when he was senior economist with the World Bank. He was evaluating a manuscript, Development and the Environment. Howard Silverman relates Daly’s account of what happened.
“The evolution of the manuscript of Development and the Environment is revealing. An early draft contained a diagram entitled, The Relationship Between the Economy and the Environment. It consisted of a square labeled ‘economy,’ with an arrow coming in labeled ‘inputs’ and an arrow going out labeled ‘outputs’ – nothing more.
“I suggested that the picture failed to show the environment, and that it would be good to have a large box containing the one depicted, to represent the environment. Then the relation between the environment and the economy would be clear – specifically, that the economy is a subsystem of the environment and depends upon the environment both as a source of raw material inputs and as a ‘sink’ for waste outputs.
“The next draft included the same diagram and text, but with an unlabeled box drawn around the economy like a picture frame.
“I commented that the larger box had to be labeled ‘environment’ or else it was merely decorative, and that the text had to explain that the economy is related to the environment as a subsystem within the larger ecosystem and is dependent on it in the ways previously stated.
“The next draft omitted the diagram altogether.”
This episode depicts a secular version of Metzger’s Christian vision of the earth as without intrinsic value, a place for us to dominate and subdue, but not to honor and love as an expression and manifestation of the sacred.
I wonder whether an autistic relationship with nature breeds an autistic ‘relationship’ with people. A kind of “autistic psychopathy.” Increasingly I think it does.
In his blog Mark Kleiman once observed it seemed to him as if those businesses that simply extracted from the earth and had no need to sustain it, bred exploitive mentalities towards both nature and people. I have thought about his conjecture ever since he made it, and I think he is right. Treating the earth as simply a storehouse of things to be used magnifies pride and greed and so a willingness to use everything, people included, as tools to be thrown away when no longer useful. It’s ultimate manifestation is the public corporation which makes even normal people accomplices in such behavior.
Ultimately it even reverts back upon the religious beliefs of those who have adopted such a position.
Today “Christians” like Paul Ryan endorse the ethics of Ayn Rand, for whom everything, including people, is a resource to be used or regarded as useless or an impediment. Americans are rapidly losing the ability to think of themselves as a people or even of their communities as anything other than resources for individual use. Mitt Romney doesn’t know the purpose of public lands. Rick Santorum says the same. They also do not know the purpose of Americans caring for one another or seeing themselves as part of a community that matters ethically. Combined, those who support these men form the overwhelming majority of the Republican Party, a group that has lost all sense of citizenship in a free society and replaced it with egoism tarted up as morality.
If I am right one deep root of this pathology is disrespect for the earth. Until we can as a society honor and respect the earth, our capacity to honor and respect other people will be undermined.
Earth Day is a day where we can reconnect with the sacredness and not just the utility of this beautiful place that is our home.