Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ecopsych, part II

Hi Lee. Thanks! Um...let's see...

-Precisely. The Web of Life IS Nature. A web is a whole (the web's structure) with parts (the strands) that it is more than the sum of. Or that's how we think it, and that image is really dependent on a lot of Hollywood mood music and lighting. There seems to be some likelihood that actually living things aren't these mechanically nested fitting into fitting into fitting into... , but actually are just sort of mashed together whether they happened to fit or not, and they're all (or mostly) making the best of it. Artificially. Intentionally. Spontaneously. Deliberately. Both out of choice, and because they have no choice. A lot of it isn't beautiful, and it doesn't "just happen", which is what Nature and industrial capitalism both mean: "just existence", or "merely existing", or "environmental".
- Yes. Everything nurtures, just like everything gardens. It was actually Permaculture that helped me to understand this point about Dark Ecology (if this IS Dark Ecology that I'm talking about and not just my own totally weird spinoff on Tim Morton's idea). But the fact that nurture is not just an anthro phenomenon is the easy part to get. The hard part is that animals and plants and Ebola and termites actually all exist on THIS side of reality, with us, in human social space. We're starting to get it, with this incredible extinction we've got happening, but they didn't all just come over here when we started recognizing their presence among us; they've ALWAYS been in our space with us, we just thought we were in a different space (nurture or culture or non-nature or techno-world or humans only or whatever), while they were all over there in Nature. See, they were safe when they were over there. We didn't have to worry about being responsible for them, because Nature is like a modernized factory or "the market": it just takes care of itself, automatically.
2) A conscience is a good thing to hear evidence of. Unfortunately I also hear evidence of future "zoning". Precisely who will be at the centers (or apexes) of these self-sustaining "zones"? This is why I wish everybody would read Naomi Klein. Look, just because you've got a good heart and want to see the best thing done doesn't mean the structure of your politics isn't steeped in the same ideology that gave us agriculture. Seeing everything in terms of concentric circles (something my PC teachers actually encouraged me NOT to do) with us at Zone 0 and "the rest" in ever widening distances is the same mistake that leads to a belief in "self-sustaining" systems. There is no such thing! Not even among objects we think of as non-living. For any object X, X is only X because it is not not-X, and the only reason not-X is not-X is because it is not X. This means that X is made of not-X. Everything is dependent on everything else, and nothing comes from nothing. Of course you're meant to think that people will "have to" use sensible methods (sensible meaning you like them) or else resort to cannibalism. That's the kind of thing people who are invested in an idea have to believe. In fact, people tend not to eat each other in a crisis (PLEASE read Naomi Klein), so I don't think we really have to worry about people not adopting "self-sustaining" systems. People will build systems that sustain each other...basically just like they already do; it'll just look different from our dead old perspective that won't matter anymore. I just think it's weird to look forward (even with horror) to a future where "Omigosh, it's so sad and everybody's suffering," but also enjoying that a little bit, because it leads to more people using more sensible methods of living. We actually have no concept of how bad it can get, and we're not the ones who get to decide how to deal with it in most cases. I think it's actually quite likely that we might just keep doubling down on resource extraction and preserving (human) life at all costs, including quality of life. You ask with what funding? With what funding do you imagine we're doing it now? You realize we haven't been on the gold standard in over a hundred years, right? The Market is as made up a thing as Nature. The funding will be decided by those who define what's valuable. Who will make those decisions? That's up to people to decide collectively. So far our decisions have been pretty crap. I'm not blazingly optimistic.
3) They ARE actualizing the theory correctly; I just don't agree with the theory! Utilitarianism always ends up being about utility to humans, or at least utility to nonhumans in a way that's useful or pleasing to humans in some way. Things aren't "for" anything except being things and playing around and with other things.
4) Well, that's the trouble: how do you KNOW you're adhering to a non-anthropocentric philosophy? Isn't that kind of like saying "I am now speaking to you from a position outside the universe?" One of the things I actually loved about permaculture was it's open anthropocentrism! At least it's not deep ecology, where the anthropocentrism is all in the closet and the best thing humans are supposed to be able to do for the planet is go extinct. I approved of people having an active and deliberate role in ecology! That is openly anthropocentric, with no attempt to hide the ugly fact that we're a species, and that species act like species. Do you think walruses aren't walruspocentric? I don't even know why you're interested in permaculture if you're not interested in humans participating in intentional ecological relationships with other beings; it's just important to understand that the quality of those relationships will always be judged according to what people want, not something from outside human social space. There is no outside. Not even for walrus-space. Don't worry, I'm not interested in influencing permaculture as such. I'm more interested in influencing individuals to build different collective systems that may more or less resemble something like and also unlike permaculture. People who would get so offended by what I say that they couldn't learn from it really aren't in my audience, you know? The development of established permaculture isn't what I care about. I don't care about being excluded from a group which takes itself that seriously, and I actually am glad to hear criticism, particularly the intelligent variety, so thanks, Lee.


  1. Thanks for your response!

    1) - I agree with that the web of life is nature.
    - What I meant was: does nurture exist in natural spaces that are void of human beings? I interpret nurture (in the nature v. nurture dichotomy) as behavioral conditioning being stronger than the a priori traits of a genome. Specifically, that a being comes into life as a blank slate which is effected almost entirely by how it is nurtured. These learned traits are repeated even in the absence of their "unnatural" source. It seems the nurture phenomenon exists primarily in the animal realm.
    The new question is: Does nurture exist in the vegetable and mineral realms? I don't think a landscaper is exhibiting "nurture" in making a garden. The only way that structure can be maintained is by human interference. I'll stop here because I'm curious about your thoughts.
    2) Which Naomi Klein text are you referring to? "This Changes Everything"? I've studied "No Logo" and "The Shock Doctrine", so I'm familiar with her work. Your response reminded me a lot of Baudrillard.

    I look forward to reading your future blog posts and am enjoying this dialogue. So...I'm going to hold off on my thoughts about cannibalism. Unless you ask about them...

    I'm on your side that it isn't right to get satisfaction from the thought that we'll be forced to live in more "ecological" self-sustaining systems.

    I also believe in the noumenal reality. It isn't possible for us to know the in-itself of a plant's reality. I also think that the human survival instinct was at the center of permaculture's creation. There isn't anything wrong with that.
    -I don't agree with anti-natalist sentiments like "We're the earth's cancer and we all deserve to die." I don't want us to be extinct, but the fact that a lot of the human species will die is probably the best order of things. We need to humbly accept our place as animals. We are meant to be predators and prey. We haven't been prey in a long time. That combined with medical advances which have extended life spans have thrown things intensely out of balance. Yes, Climate Change will be a travesty. However, what I don't hear a lot of contemporary environmentalists bring up how much overpopulation will be at the center of our problems. I believe it's because it's going to be the most difficult circumstance to adapt to post 2030.

    I think the focus of current "environmentalists" should be on how differing communities will realistically cooperate. The paleo and vegan communities can barely have a dialogue.

    I enjoy reading your blog. You have real insight.
    I hope to read more in the future...

    1. Hi Lee. For a lot of this, I think I should just refer you to what Tim Morton has already written, because I'd rather develop on what others say than repeat it. You can't possibly do worse than to read his available material, and his blog is pretty accessible. However, briefly:

      There are no "natural spaces". Your ideas of "natural" and "not-natural" are both dependent on an ideology developed in what YOU might call "unnatural space". Also, "space" itself is an object, not an exo-objectile container FOR objects; rather, it's a field that radiates FROM objects in a way analogous to heat, etc. There has never been "untouched wilderness"; even the Amazon jungle is riddled with the remains of human settlements right to its core. As for today, our carbon and plutonium is layered on everything, and we and our food are 97% of the vertebrate biomass on the planet. Even if there ever WAS a Nature (and I definitely agree with TM that the whole idea of Nature is what got us into trouble in the first place), it's gone now, and has been for at least half a century. It was too late to save by the time we even thought of it in our wildest dreams.

      It doesn't matter whether conditioning or genetics are "stronger", because the difference is only perceptible to whatever human being is doing the analysis. Outside of our Cartesian dualistic ideology, behavior and genetics are not "two"; they are One. Behavior (of both the organism AND its neighbors) and heritage are endlessly coinfluential, and everything is impelled to go on existing, so the whole thing is sort of deliberate, you know? I'm probably not explaining this very well, but NOTHING comes into life as a "blank slate". No such animal. That doesn't mean that this or that behavioral trait is "natural" or "genetic-only"; just that DNA is just as much a code as a language is. The fact that it's also meat doesn't make it not be a language!

      There is no "animal realm"; this is just another fake boundary: everything nurtures everything, from chickens to orchids to suburbs to volcanoes to sand to sun to carbon to blue jeans to...

      I was referring to Shock Doctrine. People don't eat each other in crises. That's all affluent-class paranoia that's been absorbed by the entertainment media and internalized by the public. People are more likely to help each other in a crisis than in any other social situation.

      Maybe you can't get to an object's intrinsicality, but only to its appearance-to-you; that doesn't matter, because a thing's appearance and that actual thing itself are inextricably intertwined and you can't separate them. To be a thing (such as a plant) MEANS to have a completely invisible gap between you and your appearance. This doesn't mean that we use our understanding of a thing's appearance to the greatest possible benefit to human beings, such being defined as the greatest possible number of human beings existing. The only reason to do that is if you are a utilitarian, and you don't have to be a utilitarian to survive; you just do if you want to get along with most permaculture folks! ;-)

      No, nothing wrong with human survival; I just think that aspects of Permaculture were also influenced by utilitarianism, and you don't have to be a utilitarian to survive. You just have to be a utilitarian to be Bill Mollison or Dave Holmgren. ;-)

      It's too late for a die-off of the human species to help earth. We have to remain here and devise recombinant ecologies just so that life isn't wiped out completely or reduced to a state of living hell.

    2. The "balance" of predator-prey is an agrilogistical illusion, another idea based well within your own idea of "unnatural". I don't mean to be unkind, but the Holocene Epoch is over, my friend. We're in the Anthropocene now, and there's no going back. Remember that big environment that everything used to exist inside of? Well, that's US now: WE are the big environment!

      Nothing is "meant" to be anything: manifest destiny is a crock. "Meant" by who? And did He also "mean" some people to be black and others white? And was it His desire that some be rich and others poor? And did His holy feet walk upon the water? Hallelujah, hooray...

      Overpopulation is a non-issue. Malthus brought it up because a bunch of 18th Century racist capitalists asked him to. Current worries about it are just repeating that meme. The real problem is how we live in relation to other beings, and that's always been the problem, it's just that since we saw non-human beings as "other", we didn't think twice about crushing them underfoot...and we also didn't have a problem with crushing humans if they were a different color or poorer than us or living in another country. We need to get out of this ideology, because it's preventing us from dealing with real problems. For instance, just try posting anything about Fukushima on Facebook and see what happens. Your closest friends (REAL friends) will politely ignore you or outright ridicule you: yes, even the liberal, eco-permie vegan ones! Meanwhile, radioactive raindrops are falling on their heads.

      Yes, we have a huge problem with noncooperation. I cry plagues on all houses in this regard: both vegan and paleo diets have been formulated in the context of agrilogistics. So has the idea that eating anything makes a person anything in particular: that's entirely influenced by consumerism. Basically, a lot of us are all about self-identification with some kind of symbolic "good", but the trouble with that is if you have a "good", that means you've identified an "evil", and as soon as you do that, BAM, you ARE evil. Evil people do evil things to each other, like telling you that doing this or that is evil and so they can't work with you as long as you keep doing it. It's the Hegelian "Beautiful Soul", or "Prima Donna" syndrome. We have to be better than that: there is no one fit to make such judgments.

    3. Error: when I said you can't possibly do "worse" than to read Morton, I meant "better".


I'm very happy to have you weigh in. I make no rules against the use of words or the expression of honest emotions, but let's all please keep it civil. Thank you!