Our Synthetic Environment

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"Ecology, in my view, refers to a broad, philosophical, almost spiritual outlook toward humanity's relationship to the natural world, not merely to a scientific discipline or pragmatic technique. Environmentalism, by contrast, is a form of natural engineering that seeks to manipulate nature as mere "natural resources" with minimal pollution and public outcry. Environmentalists, such as Mr. Nixon, are not ecologists, nor do I regard serious ecologists as environmentalists." - Intro Colophon Edition, XV

"It is a bit too superficial to blame this tendency on the misbehavior, greed and moral delinquency of a few large corporations, culpable as they may be. On this score, the so-called "radical" wing of the environmentalist "movement" displays more rhetoric than insight. To the degree that Barry Commoner in The Closing Circle makes corporate misbehavior a moral problem rather than a tendency inherent in the social system itself, he may have advanced beyond his earlier rather limited technological critique of society, but he still remains far removed from the core problems of the environmental crisis. This crisis is not "somber evidence of an insidious fraud hidden in the vaunted productivity and wealth of modern, technology-based society," as Commoner would have us believe; rather, the crisis is evidence of a marketplace nexus that equates economic survival with growth - a nexus that is perhaps best summarized by the maxim "grow or die". The environmental crisis is inherent in bourgeois society, not in a "modern, technology-based society." It is somber evidence not of an "insidious fraud" but of the very law of life of capitalism. It stems not merely from greed but from a market-oriented system in which everything is reduced to a commodity, in which everyone is reduced to a mere buyer or seller, and in which every economic dynamic centers on capital accumulation. Hence the prevailing society is inherently antiecological, not only morally delinquent. References to "frauds", "vaunted productivity", and a "modern, technology-based society", however well-intentioned the author's purpose may be, essentially serve to deflect public attention from the deeply social nature of the environmental crisis. A Nadar-ism that does not reach much beyond judicial litigation and the demand for institutional reforms replaces the historic need for basic social changes." - Intro Colophon Edition, XXXIII

"The alternatives confronting us today are not between energy shortages and scarcity, but between an irrational system of production and a society based on ecological principles, one that can amply meet rational human needs with a minimum of onerous toil. We can have all the energy we need if we use the sun and wind rather than fossil and nuclear fuels. We can have all the material amenities of life if we produce goods of lasting quality and if we rescale our needs along humanistic lines. To make these sweeping changes implies an entirely new social order in which the planet is shared communally by free people with a non-hierarchical, cooperative mentality, rather than parceled out privately as so much real estate to satisfy competitive, profit-oriented egoists." - Intro Colophon Edition, LX

"The real rot lies in the prevailing social order - an order that, by the internal logic of its commodity system and market economy, would devour the entire planet. By this logic, the society would continue to increase its output of garbage even if its population were halved. Its advertising system would be mobilized to sell us three, four or five color televisions instead of one or two. Production rates would continue to soar and the switch turned from "scarcity" to "affluence", or vice versa, depending entirely on the profitability of the commodities that were produced. Pollution would increase and so would waste ... Certainly, there is a lot that you can do if you happen to live in a reasonably enlightened rural area, if you happen to have access to land that you can garden according to your own principles, and if yo are favored with an adequate income to choose the best that you cannot produce for yourself from a rather bad lot. This will not solve all or even most of your environmental problems, and it may consume much of the free time you might otherwise devote to cultivating many of your intellectual interests," - Intro Colophon Edition, LXXI

Posted by St. Drogo at 2:27 PM  

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