Ecological Civilisation by Freya Mathews

From one article in Mother Pelican this month, a summary and then some key quotes from a long but important article: “Ecological Civilization: A Premise, a Promise, and Perhaps a Prospect” by Freya Mathews

A Summary: Two broad approaches to ecological civilization are here distinguished: the reformational and the transformational. The reformational approach seeks to limit the ecological impact of modern industrial civilization without changing its underlying human/nature dualism. The transformational approach seeks to change that premise by instituting entirely new modes of praxis that integrate economic production with ecological functionality: forms of economic production are proposed which do not merely limit the impact of production on the biosphere but contribute positively to its ecological health and functionality. 
Biomimicry, understood as a principle of design, is considered as an operating principle for such an economy but is rejected in favour of Biosynergy, understood as a protocol for engagement. Defined in terms of the twin principles of conativity* and accommodation and least resistance, biosynergy is proposed as a fundamental protocol of living systems. Modes of production guided by biosynergy would not seek to create artificial systems modelled on the design features of living systems; rather, they would engage collaboratively with living systems in ways that encouraged them to provide for human needs while simultaneously enhancing the functionality of those systems. Crucially, this would require us as humans to adapt our ends to those of such systems; in a word, to desire what our ecological-others need us to desire.

*CONATIVE : The aspect of mental processes or behavior directed toward action or change and including impulse, desire, volition, .

– “As long as the dominant techno-industrial modes of production prevail, holding the dualistic ideological core of civilization in place, the biosphere will continue to be seen as subordinate to human interests.”

 – “No one can determine which of the myriad existing species, planetary cycles and systems are truly necessary as underpinnings for human civilization.”

– “As a key to designing an ecological civilization the philosophy of biomimicry is problematic.”

– “In the biosphere, the conativity* of most species is broadly shaped by biosynergy because this is the strategy that, being energy- conserving, tends to result from natural selection.”

– “Vegetation is the basis of Earth-life, and maintaining and increasing vegetation is the conative imperative of the biosphere.” 

–  “A deeper understanding of the ecology of climate dynamics would reveal innumerable other ways in which restoring ecological functionality would ameliorate current climate distress.”

–  “For the moment it may be enough to show how, even in our contemporary mass societies, we could in principle return to ways of feeding ourselves that retain continuity with pre-agrarian modalities.”

The full article was published in the May edition f Mother Pelican. Peter

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