The Culture of Extinction: Toward a Philosophy of Deep Ecology by Frederic L. Bender (Humanity Books) Excerpt: As Mark Bahti relates, the people of Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico, tell of a man who neither believed in, nor oriented his life around, the sacred ground of being. As a result, he never saw the world's beauty, never danced, joined in the ceremonies, or helped others. He crushed insects and ate birds' eggs whenever he saw them, and enjoyed killing snakes with rocks. One day he sucked the life from some eggs he had found. As he rested after his meal, people nearby suddenly heard a great sound, like a whip. A huge snake flew through the air and into the man's mouth. When the snake came out, carrying her eggs in her mouth, the man was dead)
In myth snakes often symbolize nature. They move directly over the earth's surface, possess power over life and death, and suggest nature's cyclicity by sloughing their skin. Depicted swallowing its tail, a snake's extremities resemble the coniunctio of masculine and feminine. Earth goddess religion often identifies the goddess with serpents, or makes them her consorts, children, or helpers. Perhaps the Cochiti tale is trying to tell us that, once the man had exceeded the limits of appropriate con-duct, the earth had to protect her young. Like so many of us, he had selfishly abused nature without the least bit of awareness, humility, or thanks.
Yet how many of us see ourselves in this story? Who really puts nature first? Won't living in harmony with Earth reduce our physical comforts, foil economic growth, and bring progress to a stop? How can Christians doubt, as the Bible proclaims, that Earth is a gift to humans from God? If science frames your worldview, is it not certain that nature is a matter-energy mechanism, concerning which value assertions are meaningless? Who questions the capitalist shibboleth that anyone who owns land may abuse it at will, heedless of its ecological role? Who would willingly pay significant costs to reduce toxic pollution or CO2 emissions, or to use energy more efficiently, or to preserve species or wilderness? Would environmental extremists have us abandon our whole way of life, just to save a few trees or animals? Irrational beings, after all, do not count. Besides, have we not changed enough already? Many reforms are in place. What more do we need to do?
Conservative activist Aaron Wildaysky calls global warming "the mother of environmental scares." This is the only issue, he says, capable of "realizing the environmentalist's dream of an egalitarian society based on rejection of economic growth." Environmentalists use global warming to scare up support for "a smaller population eating lower on the food chain, consuming a lot less, and sharing a much lower level of resources much more equally." Environmentalists use global warming, he adds, to justify "nothing less than changing how we live," e.g., replacing private cars with public transport, or regulating all sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Worse, "by the time we know whether and to what extent global warming has occurred, the United States will have started down the path to deindustrialization."
Propaganda like this, backed by corporate big money, is quite effective. It scares those who are vulnerable economically and reinforces the belief in prevalent religious and secular myths. Allow me to suggest, putting off the evidence for later chapters, that if we refuse to change our ways significantly, we will end like the man of the Cochiti tale. Time, chapter 1 will show, is running out for palliative measures. Changing metaphors, it is time not merely to douse the brush fires, but to "take on the pyromaniac." The fault, I argue in part 2, lies chiefly with our culture, one that arrogantly teaches us to treat Earth with impunity.
Radical environmentalist Christopher Manes, I believe, gets the credit for coining the phrase, "culture of extinction." This idiom captures the fact that industrial society's assault on the ecosphere, a.k.a. anthrogenic impact, is as destructive as the meteorite that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. We of the culture of extinction treat Earth as if it were an infinite sink for our pollutants and wastes. We divert its waters for our use, ignoring the impact elsewhere. Our fossil fuel power plants turn rain-water to acid. We prevent lightning fire from renewing forests. We hunt, fish, farm, and pollute countless species to oblivion. Our sprawling cities devour grasslands, wetlands, forests, and other formerly wild habitat. Our industrial effluents raise the tropospheric ozone level, even as our chlorofluorocarbon gases (CFCs) reduce stratospheric ozone. We pump up atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), causing global warming and climate change. Our trade and travel habits promote bioinvasion, the movement of species to places where they have no natural enemies. Our agriculture reduces genetic diversity, bringing many wild plant and animal species to the brink of extinction. Our toxic wastes eliminate birds, amphibians, and top predators. Nitrogen pollution from our industrialized farms creates algae blooms that stifle the world's streams, lakes, and rivers. The list goes on.
As environmental writer Chris Bright points out, whenever we make large-scale changes in the ecosphere, inadvertently we set in motion events that can cause ecosystems to crumble without warning.? Due to positive feedback loops and synergistic collapse, the ecosphere is unraveling much faster than expected. A large dam, for example, removes silt from stream water and reduces flow rates as designed. Simultaneously it alters habitats in unexpected ways hundreds or even thousands of miles downstream and offshore. Likewise, no one expected that greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels would cause global warming. Worse, by increasing stratospheric cooling over the poles, these same gases also help CFCs break down stratospheric ozone. The ozone hole accelerates UV-B penetration of streams and lakes, sabotaging aquatic food chains already stressed by chemical pollution, altered rainfall pat-terns, and so on.
Anthrogenic impact is growing exponentially. Local and regional ecosystems are everywhere under siege. Evidence mounts daily of disruptions in the great ecospheric cycles regulating climate, air and water purity, biomass renewal, and biodiversity. As a result, Earth's ability to cope with anthrogenic impact is spiraling downward. As conservation biologist Michael Soulé warns, "for the first time in hundreds of millions of years significant evolutionary change in most higher organisms is coming to a screeching halt." We adopt half-hearted environmental solutions only after much delay and compromise with vested interests. Just as we cannot cure cancer with bandages, a purely reactive, piecemeal approach to anthrogenic ecospheric impact is bound to fail.
In the standard policy debate it seems we have only two options. On one side, business-as-usual has brought us up against vital planetary limits. Yet, for business-as-usual exploiters, Earth is nothing but a trove of resources. Ecocide, i.e., destruction of the ecosphere (detailed in chapter 1), is for them a meaningless term. Business-as-usual's defenders see only the prospect of endless growth, along familiar lines. On the other side, reform environmentalists leave the growth ideal uncontested, pro-posing so-called sustainable growth or sustainable development by modifying some current practices. Neither side sees that anthrogenic impact's exponential growth cannot continue indefinitely, until the ecosphere's stress tolerance and resilience are exceeded.
If we follow business-as-usual policies, we might maintain the current growth-orientation for a few more decades. New technologies might raise material living standards, at least in the world's more affluent regions. By applying ever more energy and chemicals, agricultural output might rise a bit longer. Nonetheless, as sustainability theorist Donella Meadows and her colleagues argue, "if the policies that influence economic growth and population growth in the future are similar to those in the past, if technologies and value changes continue to evolve in the manner prevailing now, and if the uncertain numbers in the model are roughly correct," then we overshoot ecological limits by mid-century. Alternatively, imagine considerable success at environmental reform, "sustainable" growth leading to a "conserver society." Perhaps nonrenewable resources turn out twice as plentiful as we now believe. Perhaps we allocate enough capital to reduce pollution to 1975 levels, an arbitrary benchmark of decent material living standards, with significantly less ecological impact than today. We could apply genetic and other, yet unknown technologies toward increasing agricultural yields. We might take steps to reduce global land erosion. We might rapidly deploy resource-saving technologies, until total resource consumption decreased to its 1975 level. Assume, wildly optimistically, that we succeeded in these Herculean tasks. Perhaps we might postpone ecological collapse until late this century. If everything stabilized at 1975 levels, total industrial output would stagnate sometime after 2050. By 2075 it would decline, as the costs of holding off ecological limits finally brought industrial growth to a halt.'' Turning the culture of extinction into a conserver society—against staunch business-as-usual resistance—will not avoid overshoot. Meadows's conserver model is deliberately and unrealistically optimistic, with no military sector to drain capital and resources from the productive economy, no war or civil strife, no nuclear accidents, no surprising environmental failures, nor any great pandemic. Short of this perfection, rising population and industrial production drive anthrogenic impact upward, to Earth's limits and beyond. As it turns out, so-called sustainable growth is not physically sustainable.
If business-as-usual and sustainable growth both fail, then we have to change the terms of the debate. We need to find a third way, one that identifies the common flaw of business-as-usual growth and palliative reform and proposes how to overcome it. That fatal flaw, I argue, is our anthropocentrism and human chauvinism. Anthropocentrism is the belief that humans are outside, and superior to, nature. To be a human-chauvinist is to act on the assumption that anthropocentrism justifies unlimited anthrogenic impact on the ecosphere. We are chauvinists because, as I argue in part 2, the culture of extinction's dominant worldviews, e.g., Christianity, modernism, and nihilism, are anthropocentric. Thus, whether we favor business-as-usual or sustainable development, we remain anthropocentric and human-chauvinist. We have not yet found a way to think "outside the box." Chapters 11 through 17, however, make the case for replacing our outmoded anthropocentric worldviews with ecocentric or nondualist ones. The key lies in refraining human identity as inextricably part of nature, i.e., as fully embedded in the ecosphere. Allow me to define some key terms, while pointing to some major themes I develop in later chapters.
I use the term ecosphere in two ways. The first sense denotes the highly complex relations obtaining among the sun's radiant energy, Earth's rocks, ice, air, water, and living beings. In this sense the ecosphere consists of six interlocked "spheres." Pyrosphere refers to the ambient solar energy warming the planet and, symbolically, everything physically affecting Earth from without. Lithosphere designates Earth's geologic processes, while cryosphere refers to the polar and glacial ice that periodically scours and sculpts the land, raising and lowering sea levels. Atmosphere and hydrosphere denote the gases and liquid water circulating at or near Earth's surface. Finally, biosphere denotes Earth's living soils, microbes, plants, and animals, humans included. Thus, in this first sense, ecosphere denotes the interdependence connecting all terrestrial beings.
In its second sense, ecosphere matches Spinoza's phrase, nature manifesting itself or "nature naturing" (Lat. natura naturans). Here, ecosphere denotes Earth as a dynamic planet, whose complex laws and functions bring all terrestrial entities (a.k.a. particular things) into being. In this second sense, Earth is source and substance of all terrestrial beings. As natura naturans, the ecosphere is internal to each of its spatiotemporal manifestations, i.e., each particular thing manifests or expresses the Earth's basic laws and principles. Expressed prescientifically, Earth is Mother-of-all-beings, e.g., the snake of the Cochiti tale. Besides the term ecosphere, I also use Earth and the Planet (always with the initial capital) as synonyms for ecosphere as natura naturans. This idea of the ecosphere's generative primacy over its manifestations finds scientific expression today in James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis (chapter 14).
Ecosphere's two senses correspond to two distinct ways of knowing. Objectively, everything is distinct, yet connected to everything else. Holistically, all terrestrial beings are metaphorically children of one mother, Earth. Nondualism is the conceptual framework from which we view nature no longer in accustomed anthropocentric terms, as objects of human cognition and use, but objectively and holistically. Epistemological-ontological dualism is the bias that the world consists of objects accessible to human subjects via cognition, action, aesthetic contemplation, etc. Linguistic dualism is the axiom that the subject/predicate structure of declarative sentences maps this object-world accurately. Together, both kinds of dualism promote the ontology of substances and properties,corresponding to subject-terms and predicate-terms, respectively. Long ago, Aristotle made this point explicitly in his Treatise on the Categories.
Seen objectively, however, entities are neither self-standing sub-stances, since nothing stands alone, nor objects, since human cognition is not a necessary condition of their being. If there really are not entities or substances, then properties do not exist, either. The same applies to humans. We are neither the epistemological nor moral centers (subjects) of the universe. Like everything else, we are linked interdependently to all other beings. The neoconfucians like to say that all beings, in their mutual relations, form our extended body, a.k.a. the ecological Self This is why what we do to the ecosphere we also do to ourselves.
Objectivity alone, however, is insufficient to prove that what we do to nature we do to ourselves. We also need holistic empathy, or empathic understanding, to recognize our common situation, metaphorically our kinship with other terrestrial beings. Objectively, nature is a single nexus of conditions in which everything depends upon everything else, and in which each entity is distinguishable from all others relationally. However, in ecosphere's second sense, all entities are one, since each is a spatiotemporal manifestation of natura naturans. Thus, nondualism walks the "middle path" (a Buddhist expression) between holism and objectivity. Though each standpoint is true, neither taken alone is the entire truth. We can no more say, objectively, that "things are many, but interdependent," than we can say holistically, that "all things are one." Nondualistically, both claims are true, though each finds its full meaning only in relation to the other.
I use the word ecocide to describe the culture of extinction's systematic assault on the ecosphere. As Manes notes, ecocide is the result of distinctively modern values: "economic growth, `progress', property rights, consumerism, religious doctrines about humanity's domination over nature, [and] technocratic notions about achieving an optimum human existence at the expense of all other life-forms." Only after an age's leading values lose their grip can we see them for the delusions they always were, even while cloaked in language that made them seem natural, universal, or absolute. This point has been made by Manes, Roland Barthes, Marx, and Nietzsche. Values retain their legitimacy only if value-discourse continues to "suggest and mimic a universal order," disguising the power of one socially dominant group over others. When that disguise becomes obvious, former truths become mere values, and their hold over thought and emotion collapses. The ancient notion that kings were gods typifies this change; today we recognize that ancient peoples valued their monarchs mistakenly. Analogously, ecocide and imminent overshoot now make the culture of extinction's values obsolete. This is especially true of the beliefs that God gave humans "dominion" over Earth (chapter 6), or that nonhuman terrestrial beings are morally inferior to humans (chapter 2), or that unlimited anthrogenic impact is physically feasible on a finite planet (chapter 1). These values turn out to be excuses of institutional power, justification of capital's control over everyday life, etc. (chapters 8 through 10). Though today, for the first time, we can see anthropocentrism as a value-framework, few have discovered ecocentrism as our new truth. This is because the truths of an age do not become values overnight. Their delegitimation ushers in a period of nihilism, when formerly binding truths lose their grip, but have not yet been replaced by new ones. We live in such a nihilistic transition right now, as chapter 10 explains.
Overshoot stands for the fact that exponentially increasing, anthrogenic ecospheric impact must inevitably exceed Earth's carrying capacity. The evidence cited in chapter 1 suggests strongly that overshoot and col-lapse will occur during the present century, with devastating consequences. Ecospheric collapse (a.k.a. ecocide) will follow in its wake. Ecocide's five mutually reinforcing causes taken together define the culture of extinction. These are an ever-expanding human population, the capitalist industrial growth economy, the latter's preferred industrial technologies, ' the modern nation-state and anthropocentric legitimating ideologies, derived from biblical religion and modernism. Thus, to face ecocide head-on requires what Arne Naess calls the "deep questioning" of long-standing beliefs, ideals, and institutions. We might take a lesson from biology. Living beings normally stop growing exactly at their limits, if they receive accurate and timely signals from their environment and if they can respond to these signals quickly and accurately. The culture of extinction, in contrast, ignores or discredits the mounting evidence of imminent overshoot. President George W. Bush's withdrawal of the United States from the Kyoto Accords in 2001 typifies this stance. When forced to respond, we act slowly and feebly, always compromising good science with entrenched interests. No one really wants to stop the pyromaniac because, as the cliché asserts, "he is us." Nonetheless, overshoot demands we significantly change industrial society. We might, for example, restore large wilderness areas on what is now developed land, ban most pesticides and toxic wastes, abandon the private automobile, close coal and nuclear power plants and petrochemical manufacturing sites, or drastically modify our chemical and energy-intensive farming and feedlot beef production. Perhaps we might redirect biotechnology to the task of restoring ecological balance, or find humane means to reduce human population to a sustainable level. Almost certainly, as Manes says, we must sharply curtail that "most relentless engine of environmental decline, the multinational corporation, whose sole purpose is to loot the Earth in search of an annual return on its capital.
I also use extensively two terms from sustainability theorist William R. Catton Jr. First, he suggests that we think of ourselves not merely as Homo sapiens, but as Homo colossus, i.e., as a culturally evolved hominid species of unprecedented per capita ecological impact. New species emerge whenever an existing one significantly changes its ecological niche, e.g., whenever a species draws down ecospheric resources at the expense of species that formerly it had left unaffected. From this perspective, humans evolve whenever cultural change (population, production, technology, organization, or legitimating ideology) increases their will or ability to draw down more of the ecosphere than previously. Canon's second term, overshoot and collapse, signifies that point at which Homo colossus no longer can sustain himself. We reach this point when we undermine our primary resource, the Holocene ecosphere within which hominids evolved, to the point that it can no longer sustain Homo colossus. Under business-as-usual conditions overshoot and collapse are the default condition, very likely within the present century. I do not mean that all humans will perish. Small remnant bands likely will survive ecospheric collapse by resuming the hunting-gathering way of life. If so, then the overriding issue of our time is whether Homo colossus can mutate culturally sufficient to avoid overshoot, or at least meliorate its worst effects. The ideas analyzed in parts 3 and 4 arguably contribute toward this goal. Chapters 15 through 17 directly address what kind of wisdom we need for a culture of ecological sustainability, i.e., one that gears human actions into harmony with ecospheric limits. This wisdom is what I mean by deep ecology.
For now, let me suggest that the challenge we face requires a gestalt shift of awareness, from anthropocentrism to ecocentrism, around which to redesign new ways of life. This is not altruism, for three reasons. Altruism is an ethical ideal, according to which I should center my moral concern on others indifferent to my own interests. Obviously, altruism is just as dualistic as egoism, merely reversing the priorities of self and other. Second, the human motivation to altruistic behavior, though not nonexistent, is notoriously weak. Most important, though, the ecosphere is not other, nondualistically conceived. We are the ecosphere, in the second sense of that term, as defined above. Of course, we are also completely dependent upon the Holocene ecosphere's robustness, in the first sense of the term. Once the situation becomes clear, and once we become aware of the dualism permeating the culture of extinction, we might find ourselves embracing ecocentrism surprisingly easily. After all, throughout most of our existence humans have tried to live by nondualist norms (chapter 3).
Thus, I divide the book into four parts. Part 1 explains how unique—and acute—the current ecological situation actually is. Part 2 shows that we readily accept anthropocentric and human chauvinist ideas because all of the culture of extinction's dominant worldviews are dualistic. Part 3 critically evaluates the many ways progressive thinkers have argued for conservation, environmental preservation, and, in a few cases, for ecological sustainability. Finally, part 4 shows that nondualism is directly applicable to the urgent transition to ecological sustainability. Now, with the key terms defined, it is time to document that ecocide truly is underway.
We left the Cochiti man when the mother-snake, representing Earth, had taken her revenge after he had killed her young. However, before his body could be buried, his spirit was taken to the realm of the dead. Along the way, he marveled for the first time at the land's beauty. When he asked how that could be, his spirit-guides replied it was because people "cared for the land," "believed in everything," and had "good hearts." He could see that the spirits who received him were sad, because he had done none of these. Suddenly, he wept. Seeing his remorse was sincere, they told him he could return to his body if he would care for the land, believe in everything, and develop his own good heart.
Now, having discovered Earth's beauty for the first time, he began to believe in "everything-all-together" and to cultivate his "good heart." He learned to accept with joy life's transiency and his own interdependence. The spirits hurried him back to the village and put him back into his body. When he awoke, he embraced his father and mother and related what he had learned. The spirits "told me not to harm snakes or insects or birds or any of our brothers. They told me that when I am hunting I must respect the spirits of those that let themselves be taken. They told me to believe in the spirits and the medicine men. They told me to believe in every-thing." And so he did, becoming a shaman (sage), living to a very old age, and serving his people well.
This little story symbolizes the spiritual journey, from egocentrism, nihilism, and human chauvinism at the beginning, to awakening as a new person to the nondualist truth of "everything-all-together." With this wisdom, and by identifying with his fellow beings-of-place, our protagonist could develop his "good heart" of humility and compassion. Like so many of us affected by deep ecology, he discovered that all beings are kindred and, although we must take life for sustenance, we should do so with ritual and reverence, not harming living beings (thus, ecosystems) for any other reason. Nondualist wisdom gave his new life meaning and turned it into a gift for all the beings among whom he lived. Deep ecology does the same.
I would like to offer the following suggestions for reformulating the deep ecology platform. I believe the platform's language should be forthright about deep ecology's debt to ecology, hence also its nondualism. At the same time, since there are many paths to deep ecology, if you accept some, but not all of the points, you are to that extent still a sup-porter of the deep ecology movement. I have taken into account some of Naess's 1993 reflections and my earlier arguments. The following are proposed nondogmatically, or, as Naess now suggests, as a set of abstract, general statements that most supporters of the deep ecology movement might accept.
Proposed New Deep-Ecology Platform
Everything on earth is both interdependent and transient.
Each species' self-realization requires and contributes to that of all others.
Nonhumans do not exist for humans' sake.
Continued evolution without catastrophic setback requires the preservation of biodiversity, especially at the genetic and ecosystemic levels.
Other things being equal, human action is justifiable when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and complexity of the biotic community; it is wrong when it tends otherwise.
Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive and rapidly worsening.
Significant reduction of human impact requires first doing no further harm, then protecting and restoring biodiversity, wild-' ness, and evolution.
Deep ecology supporters encourage the deep questioning if human happiness, progress, and technology as commonly .1 defined. The necessary changes include deliberately and humanely lowering the human population, redesigning the global economy, adopting low-impact technology, and changing personal lifestyles as required for ecological sustain- ability.
Ecological sustainability also requires peace and justice throughout the world, and recognition that quality-of-life is about more than material standard of living. Especially in the poorest countries, social justice and long-term ecological sustainability are equally necessary, if people's material, self-preservation, rootedness, and spiritual-growth needs are to be met.
Those who subscribe to these points have an obligation directly or indirectly to try to carry out the necessary changes. Though the platform's applications vary considerably, in general deep ecology supporters work for local self-sufficiency and autonomous cooperation, and against centralization of power, exploitation of the weak, and corporate-controlled economic globalization.
The platform, in short, poses a counteroffer to the culture of extinction, outlining numerous possibilities for engagement for those who take nondualism, ecology, ecocide, or overshoot seriously. Thus, deep ecology is potentially a solution, not only to ecocide, but to nihilism. The platform, in fact, puts us in a position analogous to that of the Cochiti man of the introduction, after he had overstepped nature's limits.
Essential Environment: The Science behind the Stories by Scott R. Brennan, Jay H. Withgott (Benjamin Cummings) is an introductory textbook that uses case studies and real data to demonstrate the role of science in solving pressing environmental problems. Dynamic central case studies are integrated throughout each chapter, capturing readers' attention and providing them with a contextual framework on which to build their understanding of concepts in environmental science. Science Behind the Story boxes explain how scientists know what they know about environmental problems, while opposing viewpoints on contentious environmental issues allow readers to hear both sides of the story. With only 14 chapters, the book avoids the encyclopedic approach of other textbooks on the market and instead offers only the essential concepts, theories, and principles of environmental science. In particular, the authors have condensed the material on environmental policy, agriculture, atmosphere, and water, providing the reader with the essential material they need in a more concise, affordable format. An Introduction to Environmental Science, Environmental Economics and Policy, Chemistry, Energy, and Environmental Systems, Ecology and Evolution, Human Population Growth, Soils and Agriculture, Toxicology and Environmental Health, Atmospheric Science, Air Pollution, and Climate Change, Marine and Freshwater Resources, Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, Land Use, Forest Management, and Creating Livable Cities, Nonrenewable Energy Sources and Their Environmental Impacts, Renewable Energy Sources, Waste Management. For all readers interested in using case studies and real data to demonstrate the role of science in solving pressing environmental problems.
Excerpt: We live in extraordinary times. Human impact on our environment has never been so intensive or so far-reaching. The future of Earth's systems and of our society depends more critically than ever on the way we interact with the natural systems around us. Fundamental aspects of nutrient cycling, biological diversity, atmospheric composition, and climate are changing at dizzying speeds. Yet thanks to environmental science, we now understand more than ever about our environment, the way our planet's systems function, and the ways we influence these systems. Environmental science illuminates not only human-induced problems but the tremendous opportunities we have before us for affecting positive change.
The field of environmental science captures the very essence of this unique moment in history. This interdisciplinary pursuit stands at the vanguard of the current need to synthesize our increasingly narrow academic disciplines and to incorporate their contributions into a big-picture understanding of the world and our place within it.
We wrote this book because we feel that the vital importance of environmental science in today's world makes it imperative to engage, educate, and inspire a broad audience of today's students—the citizens and leaders of tomorrow. We have aimed in this book to maintain a balanced approach and to encourage critical thinking, while fleshing out the social debate over many environmental issues. We have also tried to avoid gloom and doom and instead provide hope and solutions.
As environmental science has grown, so have the length and expense of the textbooks that cover it. With this volume, we aim to meet the needs of introductory environmental science courses that require a more succinct and affordable book. We have distilled the most essential content from our full-length book, Environment: The Science behind the Stories. We have reconceptualized and streamlined the organization of chapters and sections, and have carefully crafted our rewriting to make Essential Environment: The Science behind the Stories every bit as readable, informative, and engaging as its parent volume. We have also retained the major features that made the parent volume unique and that are proving so successful in classrooms across North America:
Central Case integration. Our teaching experiences and feedback from colleagues across the continent clearly reveal that students' interest is best captured by compelling story-telling about real people and real places. Providing narratives with concrete detail also greatly aids in teaching abstract concepts, because students have a tangible framework with which to incorporate new ideas. While many textbooks these days serve up case studies in isolated boxes, we have chosen to integrate each chapter's central case into the main text, weaving information and elaboration throughout the chapter. In this way, the concrete realities of the people and places of the central case are used to help illustrate the topics we cover. We are gratified that students and instructors during this book's development and review have consistently applauded this approach, and we hope it can help bring about a new level of effectiveness in environmental science education.
The Science behind the Stories. Our goal is not simply to present facts but to engage students in the scientific process of testing and discovery. To do this we have included an extended discussion of the scientific method and the social context of science in the opening chapter, and we have described hundreds of real-life studies throughout the main text. We also feature in each chapter The Science behind the Story, which elaborates upon particular studies important to the topic of each chapter, guiding readers through the details of the research. In this way we show not merely what scientists discovered, but how they discovered it. We expect this feature to enhance comprehension of each chapter's material. We also expect it to deepen students' understanding of the scientific process itself—a key component of effective citizen-ship in today's science-driven world.
Viewpoints. Although environmental science is an objective pursuit that is separate from environmental advocacy, many instructors and students have expressed the feeling that some existing textbooks in this field have conveyed an unwarranted bias toward environmental protection and against development. We have strived to present a balanced picture of environmental issues, one always informed by the hest science that hears upon those issues. Moreover, to ensure that students are exposed to opinions held by advocates on multiple sides of key issues, we present the Viewpoints feature, paired essays authored by invited experts that present different points of view on particular questions of importance. These help ensure that, beyond our own synthesis of the issues, students receive a taste of informed arguments directly from individuals who are actively involved in debates on environmental issues.
Weighing the Issues. Because the multifaceted is-sues in environmental science often lack black-andwhite answers, critical thinking skills are necessary to help navigate through the gray areas at the juncture of science, policy, and ethics. We have aimed to encourage and help develop these skills with our end-of-chapter questions for review and discussion and with our Weighing the Issues feature. Several Weighing the Issues questions are dispersed through-out each chapter, serving as stopping points for students to absorb and reflect upon what they have read and wrestle with some of the dilemmas of the complex field of environmental science.
An emphasis on solutions. The complaint we have most frequently heard from students of environmental science courses is that the deluge of environmental problems can seem overwhelming. In the face of so many problems, students often come to feel that there is no hope or that there is little they can personally do to make a difference. We have aimed to counter this impression by drawing out throughout
the text innovative solutions that have been implemented, that are working, or that can be tried in the future. While not painting an unrealistically rosy picture of the challenges that lie ahead, we have tried to instill hope and encourage action. Problems are portrayed as challenges and dilemmas as opportunities. Indeed, for every problem that human carelessness has managed to create, human ingenuity can devise a solution—and likely multiple solutions.
The Wellbeing of Nations:
A Country-by-Country Index of Quality of Life and the Environment by Robert
Prescott-Allen (Island Press) (PAPERBACK)
The United States is one of only 37 countries that are more than half way toward
The Wellbeing of Nations, a new analysis of the state of the world. But
to achieve sustainability, the United States must adopt a wider policy agenda
and greatly improve its environmental performance.
The Wellbeing of Nations surveys 180 countries using Wellbeing Assessment, a unique method of measuring human and ecosystem wellbeing developed with the support of Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and IUCN-The World Conservation Union. The new approach gives equal weight to people and the environment, and its Human Wellbeing Index and Ecosystem Wellbeing Index cover a wider range of concerns than other yardsticks such as the Gross Domestic Product, the Human Development Index, or the
Environmental Sustainability Index.
"Good health, knowledge, freedom, equity, and security from crime and violence are as essential for a high standard of living as a strong economy, so the Human Wellbeing Index measures them all," the report's author, Robert Prescott-Allen explains. "But because national agendas are narrow, 91 countries end up with a poor or bad Human Wellbeing Index and only three (Norway, Finland, and Denmark) with a good HWI."
"The Ecosystem Wellbeing Index gauges the quality of land, air, and water and the diversity of plants, animals, and habitats, because they are vital supports for any standard of living. But they also are low on national priorities. Consequently, 72 countries have a poor or bad Ecosystem Wellbeing Index and none a good EWI," Prescott-Allen adds.
"The atrocities of September 11 were a horrible reminder that no country can disengage from the world. The wellbeing of one nation is intertwined with the wellbeing of the others," Prescott-Allen comments. "President Bush has called terrorism an attack on freedom. More broadly, it is an attack on wellbeing. To attain a high level of wellbeing all nations need to pursue a much wider agenda than they have done to date because no dimension of wellbeing is an optional extra. Wealth, freedom, peace, justice, and a diverse, healthy, and productive environment interlock and reinforce each other. All must be sought with equal commitment."
Encountering the Past in Nature: Essays in Environmental History edited by Timo Myllyntaus and Mikko Saikku (Series in Ecology and History: Ohio University Press) Six essays by Finnish scholars (which accounts for some of the notes being in Finnish) discuss the "new" science of environmental history, issues and case studies of change over time in forested Northern Hemisphere zones due to natural and human forces, and Western conceptions of wilderness.
Indigenous Traditions and Ecology: The Interbeing of Cosmology and Community by John Grim (Religions of the World and Ecology: Harvard University Press) The thematic organization of the essays lays out some of the observations of these introductory remarks. The opening section, "Fragmented Communities," draws attention to both the intense development pressures that threaten to fracture indigenous communities and the intense symbol systems that foster commitment and creativity. Articles by Darrell Posey and Tom Greaves shed light on traditional indigenous environmental knowledge and technique as intellectual property. Posey describes field experiences of shamanic initiations among the Kayapo peoples of Brazil to highlight the nonlineal and mythic character of indigenous environmental knowledge and the manner in which those ways of knowing are largely unavailable to Western categories of linear, historical analysis. Posey also explores the possibilities and inadequacies of arguments to protect indigenous knowledge from the standpoint of "intellectual property rights." These efforts to protect indigenous communities have floundered both conceptually and legally, largely because of the individualistic and entrepreneurial orientations in copyright law, but also because of the complex and costly procedures for filing cases nationally and internationally.
Greaves draws out the struggles over indigenous lands, resources, and values by examining "five major theaters," namely, economic rights, sovereignty, management of intellectual and cultural property, sacred meanings, and the struggle by native peoples to control their futures. The complex examples in each of these "theaters" subtly accentuate the pervasive and ambiguous presence of environmental concerns and racism in native peoples' efforts to preserve ethnic identity, cultural heritage, and homeland.
Pradip Prabhu provides the reader with an overview of the green political storm raging around India's "Scheduled Tribes," as many of the indigenous peoples are designated by the Constitution of India. In his historical, cultural, and economic discussions he analyzes the contemporary realities of traditional environmental knowledge among several native peoples of India, as well as the commercialization of that knowledge evident in development schemes. Prabhu compares earlier colonial exploitative laws to the "greenwashing" national legislation, which promotes protected environmental areas while disenfranchising indigenous peoples from power and self-control in their own homelands.
Stephanie Fried examines the impact on the adat, native peoples of Kalimantan Borneo, of linked ideological, material, and political exploitation by Chinese Christian missionaries, multinational logging companies, and the politics of Suharto's Golkar Party. She describes the often ambiguous interactions of these exploitative forces within Indonesian Borneo on the traditional Kaharingan religion of adat peoples. Embedded within her remarks is the suggestion that attentiveness to religions accompanying modernization, such as Christianity and Islam, is a significant feature of any study of indigenous traditions and ecology.
The next section, titled "Complex Cosmologies," attempts to cut across stereotyping and romanticizing tendencies in discussions of indigenous environmental concerns to emphasize the inherent complexity of these traditions. These articles suggest the manifold approaches to reality active among diverse native societies. Jack Forbes opens this section by investigating the use of such terms as "nature" and "culture." He provides a sampling of both Euro-American and indigenous linguistic perspectives on these terms. He presents linguistic considerations from several Native American languages as parallels to the nature-culture dualism so prominent in Cartesian rationality. In his discussion of "nature," Forbes translates several linguistic referents with the phrase "away from people," drawing attention to different indigenous understandings of geographical space determined by forces other than those stemming from the human. Neither wild nor undomesticated, the meditative, subsistence, and solitary implications of being "away from people" cast instructive light on the "wilderness" controversies in environmental thought. This direction of thought also provides fruitful sources for nuancing the holistic concerns of indigenous "religions" without losing the categories for distinguishing difference in the world so evident in those traditions.
The next article discusses Southeast Asian environmental concerns in Sarawak, or east Malaysian Borneo. Mention should be made of extensive efforts by indigenous peoples in other settings of this region, such as East Timor, to assert ecological and political sovereignty. In his article Peter Brosius questions the appropriateness of the use of the word "sacred" in discussing indigenous ecologies. He suggests that the term, sacred, is linked to the "grammar of conquest," and that unexamined uses of the term, sacred, may actually be counterproductive for indigenous peoples. Concentrating on the Penan of Sarawak, Brosius investigates the local and biographical character of Penan religious ideas related to the environment. Penan experiences of rivers, ridge site camps, and ridge burials stand in sharp contrast to Western ideas of the sacred conveniently adapted by outsiders for the exploitation of Penan homelands.
Leslie Sponsel examines the historical ecology of Hawai'i, identifying four assumptions operating in this volume. These four positions regarding indigenous societies are; 1) significant knowledge of local ecosystems; 2) sustainable economies; 3) conservation practices; and 4) a profound spiritual ecology. Sponsel examines the backlash reaction to the promotion of an indigenous spiritual ecology and appropriately acknowledges that the romanticized stereotypes of indigenous spiritual ecology entirely miss the diversity of indigenous relationships with local bioregions. Focusing on the Hawai'ian islands, he discusses the environmental impact of both Polynesian and Euro-American settlers. His sobering assessments of the global trends toward ecological disequilibrium bring a special force to his understanding that any practical solutions of the current environmental crises must take cognizance of approaches by indigenous societies to the four assumptions mentioned above.
Manuka Henare foregrounds Maori cosmological values that have clear ecological implications. Drawing on the nineteenth-century speech of a Maori elder, Henare explores Maori terminology for concepts helpful in understanding native sustainable development. He draws on the metaphor of the koru, or unfolding frond of a plant, to liken Maori cosmology to a philosophy of vitalism. His presentation also suggests parallels and connections to process thought in his analysis of the ecological character of Maori thought. As much as Henare amplifies the intellectual aspects of Mdori thought, he also emphasizes their pragmatics in linkages with local lands and environmental values imaged in the spiraling growth of the fern frond. The Mayan anthropologist Victor Montejo reexamines Mayan religiosity as fostering interconnected realizations. Reaching beyond the alternating fads for interpreting Mayan religions, he argues that Mayan spirituality is a quest for a holistic perspective in which the human, environmental, and supernatural realms become interconnected. He reexamines the ecological metaphors in Mayan mythology for the deeper meanings that ground economic and political life in ethical relationships with the land.
The third section, "Embedded Worldviews," presents articles that focus on specific traditions and the ways in which environmental values are deeply implanted in indigenous cultural life. Each of these regional studies explores dimensions of the religious, symbolic life of particular indigenous peoples. These articles bring the reader into a diversity of challenges faced by native peoples, and the ways in which their symbolic and ritual life provides resources for addressing those challenges. Ogbu Kalu draws on worldview analysis to investigate the interactions of development schemes and traditional values in West Africa. In turning toward African traditional religions, Kalu probes ethical and theological responses to the ecological crises, and the ironies that flow from inappropriate development strategies. Kalu assesses the benefits and limits of indigenous worldviews, such as that found in the Ife divination system of proverbs, for transmitting cultural identity in the struggle with modernization.
Simeon Namunu continues this analysis in terms of his home region of Misima Island in Papua New Guinea. Namunu develops the ecological implications of gut pela sindaun, a Melanesian conceptualization for the traditional knowledge of life. Likening this concept to the Western idea of "worldview," Namunu draws out the ways in which spirits, body painting, and traditional symbols manifest an exchange relationship at the heart of his peoples' interactions with the nonhuman world. The diminishment of this traditional system among the governing indigenous elite of Papua New Guinea figures prominently in the growth of extractive enterprises in his country. Recovery of ecological ideals evident in the Constitution of Papua New Guinea will not come from such an elite, according to the author, but by the reassertion of traditional religious and aesthetic values that provide openings both to modernization and indigenous forms of democratization.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz continues this regional focus on environmental knowledge, writing of her Igorot peoples of Northern Luzon, Philippines. Her work explores Igorot lifeway, or Sinang-adum ay Pammati, as well as colonial religious attitudes toward those customary indigenous laws that knit together the human and natural worlds, spirit beings, and the ancestors. Focusing on rice cultivation, ritual prayers, and pest control, Tauli-Corpuz suggests that Igorot religions wove together a complex system of ecological balance, which is today breaking apart under extreme pressures.
The Nahua scholar Javier Galicia Silva demonstrates how rural indigenous agricultural life has actually been an ongoing field of resistance to dominant colonial exploitative practices. Maize agriculture, especially, continues to transmit core worldview values of the ancient Mesoamerican indigenous civilizations. Silva describes the techniques of Nahuatl agriculture and the living cosmovision in which mythic narratives, gardens, and mountains interact to fructify those practices.
Continuing the Mesoamerican focus, Maria Elena Bernal-Garcfa presents a close reading of the significance of the sacred mountain to indigenous peoples of the region according to sixteenth-century myths and histories. Recognizing the relationships between mythic metonyms, such as "mountain-plain" in the Popol Vuh, and the spatial metaphors in the indigenous landscape, Bernal-Garcfa lays out her reading of the sequence of transformations with which native Mesoamerican cultures related to the earth as the sacred mountain of bountiful reality.
Next, Angel Garcfa Zambrano discusses the historical process by which specific flora, specifically the famous calabash gourd, and cacti figured in the rituals of settlement performed by indigenous peoples as recorded in colonial Mexico. His work underscores the formal and functional relationships between native peoples and regions that focused on certain plants known from the ancient myths as the embodiment of their ethnic identity.
The final essay in this section, by Werner Wilbert, focuses on Warao spiritual ecology. He provides a detailed study of the ethnography and geography of the Warao peoples of the Orinoco River Delta. Wilbert's work describes the types of soil, plant, and animal knowledge that has enabled these peoples to live in relative equilibrium within their riverine delta homeland. Given recent archaeological evidence, he conjectures that the Warao have lived in this manner from an undetermined period well before the historic period. Most importantly, Wilbert endeavors to present Warao taxonomies and ecological concepts so that the reader might understand how the Warao interpret their environment. His perspicacious and empathetic presentation enables a reader to understand the basis on which Warao make judgments about what levels of pollution and loss of bioregional life are acceptable in the struggle for economic gain and political sovereignty.
The fourth section, titled "Resistance and Regeneration," presents articles that detail the clashes, compromises, and modes of reinventing indigenous communities and their worldviews in the era of increased market and media globalization. There is a decided circumpolar focus on North America in the opening essay, but reference should also be made to Eurasian Saami and Tungusic peoples, as well as to other North American Inuit and Athapaskan peoples, such as the Gwich'in. These peoples have all drawn on their worldview values to mount significant environmental resistance to development projects they have judged harmful to themselves and their homelands. Several crucial issues in this section are hydroelectric damming, co-opting tradition, and indigenous agricultural knowledge.
In his overview of the James Bay Cree resistance to hydroelectric damming by the Quebec provincial power company, HydroQuebec, Harvey Feit details the ways in which Cree leaders have skillfully translated indigenous cosmological concepts and subsistence practices into mainstream metaphors, such as the image of the "garden." Juxtaposing such diverse ideas and customs as Western property ownership and Cree stewardship of hunting territories, he explores their differences and brings the reader into the ways that the Cree have understood and echoed those differences to educate non-free about their way of life. Feit shows how Cree elders have for some time been deeply involved in the conversations involving conceptual analyses and political activities in international debate about indigenous resistance to outsider development schemes.
Smithu Kothari's article deepens this analysis from the standpoint of indigenous swaraj, self-rule, in light of the national development policies of the overtly Hindu governing alliance, namely, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Kothari also identifies four central elements that stand at the core of South Asian indigenous traditions, namely, the centrality of forests, the primacy of the collective, the regeneration of language, and the need for political and economic autonomy. Threaded through these issues, Kothari maintains, are adivasi, or indigenous, self-awakening and regeneration. Though challenged to define their relations to the modern world, indigenous peoples, according to Kothari, seek to modernize in ways that are distinctive-neither simply imitative of the democratic, individualizing nation-state nor marred by the self-loathing of traditional wisdom too often inculcated by successive dominating states.
Opening her work with a strong emphasis on ethnographic difference in Australia, Diane Bell presents a historical analysis of what happened to the land after European settlement in Australia and why. Following the legal implications of the principle of terra nullius in Euro-Australian relations with Aboriginal peoples, she also turns a reflexive eye on her own anthropological community. From her own field experiences she brings a sharper awareness of the mutual meanings of kin and country for Australian indigenous peoples. Her discussions of gender knowledge and confidentiality in Aboriginal women's struggles for voice in the political and legal maze of Australian justice have striking implications for the study of religion and ecology.
Tom and Ellen Trevorrow, active in the Ngarrindjeri Lands and Progress Association and principal organizers of the Camp Coorong Race Relations Cultural Education Centre, give first-person accounts of the government inquiry conducted by the Hindmarsh Island Royal Commission. Their perspective reorients the placename of the inquiry to Kumarangk, namely, the Ngarrindjeri women's name for this island to which a bridge has been proposed by outside developers. Their discussions accentuate the poignant injustice that indigenous people face when legal experts use "tradition" itself as a criteria with which to subvert the claims of a people battered by centuries of colonial and governmental oppression.
Tirso Gonzales and Melissa Nelson extend this discussion of environmental issues in North America, or Turtle Island as many indigenous nations call the continent, by giving an overview of legacies of "internal colonialism" on Native North American reservations. Stressing that "land is everything" for native peoples, they relate various innovative ways in which indigenous individuals, communities, and organizations are involved in environmental issues They describe an active Internet organization, the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), and its efforts to link up with other grassroots indigenous groups, especially through its annual "Protecting Mother Earth" conferences. They also discuss two case studies, namely, the Mescalero Apache struggle over locating a nuclear waste depository on their New Mexico reservation, and the proposed location of a low-level radioactive waste dump on a sacred site of five local California Indian tribes, collectively called the Quechan peoples, in Ward Valley. The striking differences in these two case studies stress the underlying political economic and cultural realities on American Indian reservations, as well as the ways in which the marginalization of indigenous peoples from both local and national markets shadows both of these case studies. This marginalization results in degraded reservation environments in which "sovereignty from above" subverts indigenous efforts to reestablish ecological equilibrium. The authors emphasize re-indigenizing activism in which de-colonizing becomes a spiritual, emotional, physical, linguistic, and social act.
The final section, titled "Liberative Ecologies," presents articles describing environmental pedagogies flowing from indigenous thought that have implications for dominant societies. These contributors offer insights that may help dominant societies unlearn some things and become open to other ways of knowing the world. Ann Fienup-Riordan's paper on the Yup'ik peoples of Alaska presents striking narratives of the resentment engendered among these Inuit peoples by wildlife management policies in which they have little or no voice. Her work explores Yup'ik cosmological concerns for the effects of personal thought on the community-both human and nonhuman. The Yup'ik affirm the value of hunting as the human act which initiates the return of even larger flocks of geese from year to year. Such a traditional value conflicts with the material, empirical, and individual concerns of science-based conservation research. Thus, scientific wildlife management assumptions about over-hunting collide directly with Yup'ik views that geese intentionally return in response to respectful hunting. Moreover, Yup'ik peoples avoid the types of direct human-animal contact that occur in wildlife management tagging, saying that it diminishes the flocks of geese. Her descriptions of emerging co-management practices suggest that some insertion of Yup'ik spiritual concerns into ecological policies is possible. Perhaps more importantly, these collaborative exchanges may also enable the Yup'ik to learn more about science and "Fish and Game" biologists to appreciate the human dimensions of traditional values and the need for indigenous participants to have significant local control in game management.
In addressing the pressures on indigenous, or adivasi, peoples of South Asia, Pramod Parajuli develops the concept of "ecological ethnicities" in terms of their communities and their flourishing cosmological visions, intellectual thought, and political activism. Parajuli presents a historical model in which indigenous peoples are seen as becoming more resistant to national development programs and global economic schemes. He proposes that in several geographical settings in South Asia the ethnosemiotics of oppressed indigenous peoples stand as viable alternative development models for social action against the dominant semiotics of market-based capital.
In considering several indigenous ecological perspectives in Papua New Guinea, Mary MacDonald emphasizes place, relationships, and work. Walking with an old friend from the Kewa peoples of the Southern Highlands, MacDonald notes the substantial spatial modes of memory active in their conversation. Linking this "tastescape" and spatial memory with a "give-and-take" ethic, she highlights the attentiveness of indigenous peoples to subtle memories of interaction with place. The sense knowledge encoded in this ecological patterning is further developed by the ritual work connected with gardens. Each of these indigenous realities-place, relationships, and work-is now undergoing profound changes in which resource extraction, the introduction of monetary economies, and the allure of modernization are creating crises in the transmission of traditional knowledge.
Gregory Cajete's overview article on North America provides the reader with a personal narrative from his own Puebloan perspective. His focus on orientation to place highlights the central purposes of indigenous education as an experiential quest to know "that place that Indian peoples talk about." Emphasizing art, hunting, and planting as the source of mythic tribal expressions, Cajete explores the indigenous ecological education embedded in Puebloan lifeways.
The indigenous Andean agronomist Julio Valladolid withdrew from his academic post to work more closely with Quechua and Aymara peasant farmers. He and anthropologist Frederique ApffelMarglin describe the work of the indigenous agricultural organization PRATEC in fostering indigenous agricultural ritual knowledge and techniques based on ancient ways of "seeing" and "feeling." Apffel-Marglin's essay critiques the intellectual position that indigenous techniques based on mythic cosmologies lack adequate objectivity by affirming their collective data gathering and concerns for bioregional health. Valladolid extends this analysis by critiquing the individualizing, objectivizing, and homogenizing tendencies of modern agriculture. He points out the concerns for diversity and variability in indigenous, community-oriented agriculture as well as its intellectual foundation in the "impenetrable" character of all life as unique beings in the process of change.
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