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Ecologism: Core themes | Ecology | * Ecology developed as a distinct branch of biology through a growing recognition that plants and animals are sustained by self-regulating natural systems (i.e. ecosystem) composed of both living and non-living elements. All ecosystems tend towards a state of harmony or equilibrium through a system of state regulation. Biologists refer to this as homeostasis: Process where food and other resources are recycled and the population size of animals; insects and plants naturally adjust to the available food supply.Eco systems interact with other ecosystems.E.g. A lake may constitute an ecosystem, but it also needs to be fed fresh water from tributaries and receive warmth and energy from the sun. In turn, lakes provide water and food for species living along its shores. The natural world is therefore made up of a complex web of ecosystems – the largest of which is the global ecosystem: the “ecosphere” or “biosphere”.Ecologists argue that humankind currently faces the prospect of environmental disaster because of material wealth.Material wealth and consumption upsets the ‘balance of nature’ and endangered the ecosystems that make human life possible. * This is all a result of the growth in human population * The depletion of finite and irreplaceable resources such as: Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas * The eradication of tropical rain forests * The pollution of rivers, lakes and forests and air itselfEcologism presents a radically different vision of nature and the place of human beings within it - one that favours ecocentrism and challenges anthropocentricism. The distinction between the environmental movements: Shallow * Basically environmentalism * Recognises there is a problem * Still desires to manage the economy and not live in harmony. * Uses technology and modern practices to resolve the problem – reformist approaches not radical. * No real change – just radical tinkering. Deep * Challenges anthropocentric views. * Reject any idea of human supremacy * Exist to create a radical social change i.e. through communities – Totnes, transition town. * Argue for a return to permanent culture practices based on nature, not a mastery of it. | Holism | Traditional politics has normally simply regarded nature as little more than an economic resource. In the seventeenth century, philosophers were beginning to understand the world as a machine whose parts can be analysed and understood, rather than organic. However, some have argued that human beings are a part of the world rather than its masters who can repair or adapt the ‘machine’. Capra suggested this fixation with the “Newtonian world-machine” must be overthrown.Holism is based on the belief that the whole is more important than the individual, suggesting that each part only has meaning when referring to the whole. * Holism has been the unifying theme, which means that the natural world can only be understood as a whole and not through its individual parts. Smuts believed that science commits the sin of reductionism by the way it attempts to see individual parts rather than the whole. | Sustainability | Ecologists argue that inbuilt assumption of political creeds by mainstream political parties is that human life has unlimited possibilities for material growth and prosperity. * Green thinkers commonly lump capitalism and socialism together as a form of “industrialism”, which links to the material growth. * Therefore, green thinkers and environmental movements are classed as the idea of “spaceship earth” by Kenneth Boulding because it highlights the limited and exhaustible wealth. * Boulding argued that humans have traditionally acted like they live in a “cowboy economy” which means an economy with unlimited opportunities, which fosters ’reckless, exploitative, and violent behaviour’.Ecologists have created the idea of closed and open systems:Open: The system receives energy or inputs from outside, e.g. ponds, forests, lakes and seas are sustained by the SUN.Closed: Not sustained by external inputs. The earth is an example of this when it becomes a “spaceship” – This is called “entropy”: Tendency towards decay or disintegration.Entropy law for ecologists needs to be emplaced to prevent issues like industrialization, which sees the exhaustion of non renewable sources like fossil fuels.Schumacher in Small is beautiful says that humans have made the mistake of thinking that energy is “income” that is being topped up each week or month. This mistake has allowed energy to demands to increase especially in the West. * Not only have humans failed to recognize that they live within the constraints of ‘closed’ ecosystems, they have shown a lack of concern in overusing the resources. However, ecological economics in not only about warnings and threats but also about solutions. E.g. the effects of entropy may be slowed down or delayed if governments and private citizens respect the ecological principles. Ecologists argue that the human species will only survive and prosper if it recognises that only a healthy, balanced biosphere will sustain human life.Sustainability: The capacity of a system to maintain its health and continue in existence over a period of time.It sets clear limits on human ambitions and material dreams. An example of a sustainable energy policy would be based on dramatic reduction in the use of fossil fuels and search for an alternative. Therefore, sustainability requires an alternative approach to economic activity. Schumacher provides an example of this: Buddhist economics: the principle of ‘right livelihood’ which is where individuals generate goods, services, skills, talents in order to move away from the conventional obsession with wealth creation. Modern ecologists support “weak” sustainability, which tries to reconcile ecology with economic growth, which is getting richer but at a slower pace. This could be achieved through changes to the tax system, discourage pollution; reduce the use of finite resources.HoweverRadical ecologists (deep and social ecologists) support ‘strong’ sustainability, which places greater emphasis on preserving the natural capital and resources and is less concerned about economic growth than modern ecologists. They think that the origin of the ecological crisis lies in materialism, consumerism. The solution for them lies in “zero growth” and the construction of a “post industrial age” where people live in small rural communities and rely on craft skills. | Environmental Ethics | It is concerned with extending moral thinking. This is because conventional ethical systems are anthropocentric.One ethical issue that ‘shallow’ ecologists are particularly concerned with is the moral obligations to future generation. The consequences of our actions will determine and be felt by the next decades of generations to come. Ecologists are forced to extend the notion of human interests to encompass the human species as a whole, making no distinction between the present generation and future generations.Such ‘futurity’ may be justified in different ways. Obligations towards future generations have been seen as a ‘natural duty’, an extension of a moral concern for our children. This idea of futurity can be claimed by Eco conservatives, who link this idea to tradition and continuity and conserving the world for the benefit of future generations. A concern for future generations has also been linked to the idea of ‘ecological stewardship’. * An alternative approach to environmental ethics involves applying moral standards and values developed in relation to human beings to other species and organisms. Peter Singer’s case for animal welfare had considerable impact on the animal liberation movement. Drawing on utilitarianism he pointed out that animals, like humans, have an interest in avoiding physical pain, therefore he condemned any attempt to place the interests of humans above those of animals as ‘speciesism’. * The moral stance of deep ecology is that nature has a value in its own right; therefore, environmental ethics has nothing to do with human values.Goodin attempted to develop a ‘green theory of value’, which holds that resources should be valued precisely because they result from natural processes rather than human activity. * However, it embodies a residual humanism that fails to satisfy some deep ecologists. Nature is portrayed as an ethical community; humans are nothing more than plain citizens. This moral stance implies ‘bio centric equality’; all organisms in the ecosphere are of equal moral worth.HOWEVER: Some ecologists are for modern science. E.g. in quantum theory the physical world is understood as a system (not a collection of individual molecules, atoms or particles). A system view of the world concentrates not on individual building blocks, but on principle of organization within the system = stresses relationships within the system. Therefore this stresses the relationship of the system and the integration of the various elements that are composed to make the whole.The idea of Gaia has developed into an ecological ideology, conveying the powerful message that human beings must respect the health of the planet and act to conserve its resources. * Lovelock suggests that the Earth itself is alive and sees the living and the non-living world as one. However, Gaia differs from concerns of environmental movement; it suggests that the health of the planet matters more than that of any individual species presently living upon it. Species that pose a threat to the balance as humans do are likely to be extinguished. HOWEVER: Gaia philosophy doesn’t always correspond to concerns of the green movement. Humanist ecologists = wished to change policies + attitudes to ensure the continued survival of the human species. Gaia on the other hand is non-human + suggests that the health of the planet matters more than any individual species. | From Having to being | Ecologism seeks not only to revise conventional moral thinking, but seeks to reshape our understanding of happiness and human wellbeing. Ecologists have advanced a critique of materialism and consumerism. Consumerism is a psycho-cultural phenomenon whereby personal happiness is equated with the consumption of material possessions. For ecologists its deficient in at least 2 ways: * It tends to undermine psychological and emotional wellbeing. As modern advertising create greater material desires. Consumerism thus keeps people in a state of neediness, want and aspiration. * It provides the cultural basis for environmental degradation. Occurs as the ‘consumer society’ encourages people to place ST economic considerations ahead of LT = nature is nothing other than a commodity/resource. Ecologism can be seen to be associated with ideas of anti-consumerism and post-materialism.Ecologists view human development as dangerously unbalanced. Humankind has acquired the ability to fulfil its material ambitions but not the wisdom to question whether these ambitions are sensible. * Schumacher- ‘man is too clever to survive without wisdom’. Eco-anarchists, eco-feminists and deep ecologists emphasise the importance of ‘quality of life’. They have been more willing to contrast ‘having’ with ‘being’. * ‘Being’ representing satisfaction that is derived from experience and sharing, leading to personal growth, even spiritual awareness. * Warwick Fox- embraced ‘transpersonal ecology’.Such ideas has been shaped by Eastern religion mostly Buddhism = ‘no self’ where individual ego is a myth or delusion. |
Nature and Politics:

Modernist Ecology | Cares for the environment to help capitalismThis is a form of green politics that is practised by most environmental pressure groups and by a growing range of mainstream political parties.Modernist ecology Is reformist because it seeks to advance ecological principles without rejecting the central features of capitalist modernity e.g.: Self-seeking, materialism, economic growth etc. And therefore it is a form of shallow or humanist ecology.Modern ecologists seek to raise recognition it in that there are environmental aspects that limit growth. For example: Pollution, increased carbon dioxide emissions, the exhaustion of non-renewable energy sources and other forms of environmental degradation ultimately threaten economic performance and growth.In the sense that could be described as environmentally sustainable capitalism.The two main ideological influences on modernist ecology are liberalism and conservatism: * Liberalism: Radical ecologist criticise liberalism and individualism as a stark example of anthropocentricism. They also undertaken much a classical liberalism. * Conservatism: Conservatives have evinced sympathy for environmental issues on two main grounds: Firstly conservatism has been drawn from a romantic and nostalgic attachment to a rural way of life, threatened by the growth of towns and cities. It is a reaction against industrialisation and progress. It favours the maintenance of the more familiar preindustrial state. They want to preserve and protect the natural heritage, for example; Woodlands, forests, Lakes and so on. * Conservatives want consumer sovereignty: where the consumer is the determining factor within a market economy, this is because firms will then produce environmentally sound goods and adopt green technologies.Capitalism is supposedly green because it is linked to the idea of long-term corporate profitability, however this can only be achieved in context of sustainable development. | Social ecology | This is the idea that ecological principles can and should be applied to social organisation.Eco-socialism:Eco-socialism has been associated with Marxism in that the theorist Rudolph Bahro argued that the root cause of the environmental crisis is capitalism. He believes that the natural world has been spoiled by industrialisation but this is merely a consequence of capitalism’s relentless need to generate such profit.An example of this idea is private property. Eco-socialists believe that humans have dominated nature and that it turns into something that only has exchange value and so can only be bought and sold like property. * The core theme of eco-socialism is that capitalism is the enemy the environment. They believe that if an environmental catastrophe is nothing more than a by-product of capitalism then environmental problems are best tackled by just abolishing capitalism or taming it. * Therefore the ecologists should not form their own separate parties but rather join the larger Socialist movement and address the real issue economic system. This can only be achieved by abolishing. * However ecologists have been reluctant to agree to this because socialist parties have been slow to adopt environmental policies and also because they base their electoral appeal on the promise of economic growth. Eco-anarchism: * Anarchists believe that in a stateless society harmony develops out of mutual respect and social solidarity amongst humans. This links to Ecologism because they also believe that balance or harmony spontaneously develops within nature in the form of eco-systems, which resembles the anarchist communities. The anarchist rejection of government within human society thus parallels the ecologists’ warning about human rule within the natural world, as they both believe that the world should require no external authority or control. * Bookchin therefore likened an anarchist community to an ecosystem, as they are both distinguished by respect for diversity balance and harmony.Anarchists have also advocated the construction of decentralised societies with a collection of communes and villages where these communities would be living close to nature and each community will therefore attempt to achieve a high degree of self-sufficiency.Self-sufficiency would make each community dependent on its natural environment, spontaneously generating an understanding of organic relationships and ecology. (Bookchin) * Anarchism is seen as a means of getting to ecology, rather than that an ends. * Although anarchists believe that progress will only be possible when government and political authority are overthrown, Many in the green movement see government as an agency through which collective action can be organised. * They fear that dismantling or even weakening government may simply give free reign to those forces that generated industrialisation and blighted the natural environment in the first place.Ecofeminism:The basics theme of ecofeminism is that ecological destruction has its origins in patriarchy: nature is under threat not from humankind but from the men and institutions of male power.They argue that patriarchy has distorted the instincts and sensibilities of men by divorcing them from the private world of nurturing, homemaking and personal relationships.Theorist Mary Daly argued that women would liberate themselves from patriarchal culture if they align themselves with female nature, where there is a link between women and nature. * Modern ecofeminists however highlight the biological basis for women’s closeness to nature in the fact that they bear children and suckle babies. Women cannot live separate from natural rhythms as it operates in and through them. * Ecofeminists believe that women are creatures of nature and men are creatures of culture: their world is synthetic or man-made and a product of human ingenuity rather than natural. * Therefore patriarchy establishes the supremacy of culture over nature where the latter is nothing more than a force to be subdued, exploited or risen above by men. * Cultured man VS natural women. | Deep ecology | This is sometimes called ecocentrism. It is concerned with the impact of human species on the biosphere. For them anthropocentrism as an offence against the principle of ecology.Deep ecologists view nature as the source of moral goodness. * Nature has intrinsic and inherent value not just instrumental value to benefit human beings. * They advocate biocentric equality. Naess expresses this in the idea that all species have an equal right to live and bloom reflecting the benefits of biodiversity. * Deep ecology calls for a change in consciousness specifically an adoption of ecological consciousness.Deep ecology is also associated with a distinctive analysis of environmental degradation and how it should be solved. For deep ecologist nothing less than paradigms change - the change in how we approach and think about the world –will properly address the challenge of environmental degradation.Deep ecologists’ goals: * Wilderness preservation: They believe that the natural world when unspoilt by human intervention is a repository of wisdom and reality. It is different from conservationism In that conservation that wants to protect nature in order to satisfy long-term human ends. * Population control: Deep ecologist argues that a substantial decrease in the human population is the only way of ensuring the flourishing of non-human life. As a result deep ecologists have rejected aid to the developing world because they called for a reduction in birth rates especially in the developing world and argue that immigration from the developing world should be stopped. * Simple living: Deeply colleges believe that humans have no right to reduce richness and diversity of nature except to satisfy vital needs (Naess). Essentially promoting quality-of-life – This implies being inwardly rich but outwardly poor. * Bioregionalism: Deep ecologists want humans to prescribe to the system of bioregionalism where humans organise themselves by bioregions like nations. This will lead to a general support for self-reliant, self-supporting and autonomous communities. |

Industrialisation: Eco-socialism, it is the reason for environmental degradation and the negative impact on the environment
. Industrialisation turns nature and the environment into something that only has exchange value.

Sustainability: Keeping future generations in mind and so It sets clear limits on human ambitions and material dreams.

Post materialism: We are living in a post-materialist age and there is a standard way of living, we are now able to think about humane issues that are not to do with materialism. We are living comfortably and should be able to address issues like gender equality, sex trafficking etc. We no longer have to think about food, health care etc. because we have achieved that and should focus on other topics.

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