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Deep Ecology and Alternative Political Models

By Viktor Postnikov

Asurvey of socio-political models and movements based on ecocentric ethics — left biocentrism, bioregionalism, global eco-village movement, post-historical primitivism, and the “coerced” biocentrism of Pentii Linkola — reveals that all these models share a common vision of an anti-capitalist, anti-industrial, and decentralized (self-sustained) society, while conventional political modes to this time have mainly been based on centralised, authoritarian, human structures—Monarchies, Empires, Republics—all designed to serve human needs. With the growing complexity and interdependence of ecosystems in the entire planet, these social organizations pose a grave threat to human beings, to the environment, and to non-human species. Incorrect decisions made at the top of the human power structure can easily propagate, augment their impact, and affect a great number of humans as well as animals of the non-human world. Decentralisation of power and “local” solutions seem to offer the only remedies that can avert us from imminent global destruction.

Left biocentrism

According to David Orton3, an originator of left biocentrism, this socio-political model has descended from several parallel anti-capitalist and anti-industrial movements in green politics and environmental activism, with the aim of marrying deep ecology and left perspective:

  • “deep green theory” of Richard Sylvan14
  • “socialist biocentrism” Helga Hoffman and David Orton2, 3
  • “ecologism” of Andrew Dobson16;
  • “radical ecocentrism” of Andrew McLaughlin15;
  • “revolutionary ecology” of Judi Bari13;
  • “green fundamentalism” of Rudolf Bahro12.

In fact, left biocentrism can be viewed as a left political wing of deep ecology4. The later, however, is known more as a philosophy of ecocentric ethics14. The “left” means that biocentrists try to weave ecoethics with the class issues and social justice, but do not hold them above biocentrism, or ecocentrism (like the left parties). At present, this direction is being developed within the international discussion group, comprising activists, philosophers, scientists, poets and ecologists. The group was initiated in the 90s by a Canadian writer-activist David Orton.3 The group has an on-line theoretical journal Dandelion Times1 and links with other left-wing “green” organisations.

Bioregionalism

Bioregionalism is a political, cultural, and environmental system based on naturally-defined areas called bioregions, or ecoregions18. Bioregions are defined through physical and environmental features, including watershed boundaries and soil and terrain characteristics. Bioregionalism stresses that the determination of a bioregion is also a cultural phenomenon, and emphasizes local populations, knowledge, and solutions19 The term appears to have originated in work by Peter Berg and Raymond Dasmann in the early 1970s.20

The bioregionalist perspective opposes a homogeneous economy and consumer culture with its lack of stewardship towards the environment. This perspective seeks to:

  • Ensure that political boundaries match ecological boundaries.21
  • Highlight the unique ecology of the bioregion.7
  • Encourage consumption of local foods where possible.
  • Encourage the use of local materials where possible.
  • Encourage the cultivation of native plants of the region.
  • Encourage sustainability in harmony with the bioregion.22

So far, bioregionalism has spread primarily in North America. Since 1984 there have been bi-annual gatherings of bioregionalists23 that have given rise to national level Green Parties.

Global eco-villages

Today, the number of eco-villages in the world exceeds 10 000. They all are interconnected in the Global Ecovillage Network.6, 24 Eco-villages are the small communities (20 to 500 members) with tight social connections, united by common ecological and spiritual interests. These communities could be rural, urban, usually low-tech, depending on circumstances and the intentions of their members. For example, Ökodorf Seiben Linden  is a rural community in Eastern Germany with a minimum energy consumption. Eco-village “Los Angeles” is a small region in Los Angeles. Village Sasardi  is hidden in the tropical rain forest in northern Columbia. The world’s oldest (since 1962) Findhorn eco-village is located at the northern extremity of Scotland. They all have deep respect for nature and are striving to build self-sustainable communities with a minimal ecological footprint. Many eco-villages serve as a learning ground for those who seek to radically change their life ways.

Post-historical primitivism

This (theoretical) model is based on the works of Paul Shepard. According to Fred Bender,9, 10 Shepard recommends that we need to recover pre-history and reconnect to mythos (sacred story), ancestors, and nonhuman Others. He believes that history’s real lesson is that it is no guide to the future, because it is a declaration of independence from the deep past and its peoples, living or dead, and from the natural state of our being. Despite these deep-rooted prejudices, we must study primal peoples (who are not primitive in any defensible sense of the term) so we can begin to think about living ecologically in post-historic and post-industrial ways. Contrary to the deep-rooted prejudices, we must study aboriginal people, in order to learn how to live ecologically in post-historical and post-industrial times. Other deep ecologists, particularly, Jerry Mander11 also develops this theory.

The radical biocentrism of Pentti Linkola

Radical biocentrist Pentti Linkola stands at some distance from the aforementioned models, as his model is based on a coerced radical reduction of population, rejection of technologies and consumerist economy. His programme, elaborated mainly for his native Finland, despite its radicalism, does not differ in essence from other decentralist models.17 The only significant difference is that Linkola envisages the introduction of an authoritative government as the most radical solution for the transition of society and conservation of life (he does not have illusion about the voluntary transition to the new way of life). Linkola’s programme has 205 points and evokes admiration from some and severe critique from the others. Nonetheless, we can’t render Linkola a “fascist” because he speaks against nationalism or any expansion of a nation, or race, to the detriment of all others – which is the major feature of fascism.

Conclusion

To prevent the global catastrophe, provoked by an excessive anthropogenic pressure, deep change in individual consciousness is needed. But that is not enough. We need to radically change the social structures. Some ecocentric ideologues are sceptical as to voluntary transition of the large masses, let alone “the golden billion”, to the ecocentric society. The issue of the permissibility of a coerced transition remains open.

About the author

Viktor Ivanovitch PostnikovViktor Ivanovitch Postnikov is a Russian-born independent scientist (DSc.) who lives in Kiev, Ukraine. A prolific poetry translator, he has also translated books on both eastern philosophies and deep ecology, and written many essays on Russian anarchism and eco-poetry for journals and other publications.

References

1. http://blogs.stuzog.com/dandeliontimes/category/left-biocentrism/

2. http://home.ca.inter.net/~greenweb/

3. David Orton – My Path to Left Biocentrism: Pt.1- The Theory http://home.ca.inter.net/~greenweb/GW63-Path.html

4. David Greenfield –The Left in Left Biocentrism http://blogs.stuzog.com/dandeliontimes/2008/07/the-left-in-left-biocentrism/

5. Bill Metcalf – Sustainable Communal Living Around the Globe, Diggers and Dreamers 00/01, p.5 -19.

6. Albert Bates, Ecovillages – What Have We Learned? – Communities Magazine, issue #117.

7. V.Postnikov – Ecocentric Ukraine Project – a sketch http://www.proza.ru/2009/01/13/716 (In Russian).

8. V.Postnikov – Russian Roots: From Populism to Radical Ecology, Anarchist Studies, Volume 12, N.1, 2004.

9. Frederic Bender (2003). The Culture of Extinction: Toward a Philosophy of Deep Ecology. Amherst, NY: Humanity.

10. Frederic Bender, On the Importance of Paul Shepard’s Call for Post-Historic Primitivism and Palaeolithic Counter-Revolution against Modernity, The Trumpeter, Volume 23, Number 3 (2007)

11. Jerry Mander, In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1991.

12. David Orton, Rudolf Bahro (1935 – 1997): A tribute, Socialist Studies Bulletin_ No. 50 (Oct.-Dec. 1997).

13. Judi Bari, Revolutionary Ecology. http://www.judibari.org/revolutionary-ecology.html

14. Patrick Curry, Deep Ecology and Left Biocentrism: An Introduction,
http://blogs.stuzog.com/dandeliontimes/2008/08/deep-ecology-and-left-biocentrism-an-introduction/

15. Andrew McLaughlin – Regarding Nature: Industrialism and Deep Ecology (Albany, State University New York Press, 1993.)

16. Andrew Dobson, Green Political Thought: An Introduction  (London: Harper Collins      Academic, 1990). A book review by David Orton http://home.ca.inter.net/~greenweb/Ecologism.html

17. Pentti Linkola, Can Life Prevail? http://www.evfit.com/linkola_CLP.htm

18. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioregionalism

19. Don Alexander, Bioregionalism: The Need For a Firmer Theoretical Foundation, Trumpeter, v.13.3, 1996.

20. Berg, Peter and Raymond Dasmann, “Reinhabiting California,” The Ecologist 7, no. 10 (1977)

21. Davidson, S. (2007) The Troubled Marriage of Deep Ecology and Bioregionalism, Environmental Values, vol. 16(3): 313-332

22. Bastedo, Jamie. Shield Country: The Life and Times of the Oldest Piece of the Planet, Red Deer Press, 1994.

23. North American Bioregional Congress website http://biocongress.org/

24. http://gen.ecovillage.org/index.html

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