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Book review: Fisher, Andy.  Radical Ecopsychology: Psychology in the Service of Life.  Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2002.

This is a book review, really some ruminations, upon Andy Fisher's Radical Ecopsychology.  Here I wish to explore the subtext of capitalism's spell in Fisher's book.  Our separation from the world-ecosystem in equilibrium and our joining with the machines of industrial development under the spell of capitalism is what is at stake; Fisher speculates upon the possibility of "making sense of suffering in a technological world" so we can "hear our own inner voice" (183) in a naturalistic sense.  In short, Fisher wishes to break the spell.  Fisher intends ecopsychology as a therapeutic support to an ecology movement which must win something for our "human nature" if any of us are to survive.

(Crossposted at Docudharma)

I am going to take a break from the health insurance diary business today in order to address issues of our separation from nature.  Those of you who wish to engage my most sincere opinion upon this urgent matter should consult jamess's diary of yesterday, with which I agree.

Health care reform in Congress may be the most pressing issue for the political types which visit Orange: however, the most fundamental issue facing the world today is the spell which pervades the social group mind, the spell of the capitalist system.  Overcoming this spell will probably be a prerequisite to saving the world from ecological disaster, of which abrupt climate change is the most telling sign.

I can say other things about capitalism's spell with reference to other books.  The idea that the capitalist system operates a sort of magic upon people, through a sort of spell, is not new: it at least dates back to Marx's concept of "commodity fetishism" in vol. 1 of CAPITAL.  In the linked section, Marx refers to "the mystical character of commodities" by way of this poetic fairy tale:

...we will content ourselves with yet another example relating to the commodity form. Could commodities themselves speak, they would say: Our use value may be a thing that interests men. It is no part of us as objects. What, however, does belong to us as objects, is our value. Our natural intercourse as commodities proves it. In the eyes of each other we are nothing but exchange values. Now listen how those commodities speak through the mouth of the economist.

"Value" – (i.e., exchange value) "is a property of things, riches" – (i.e., use value) "of man. Value, in this sense, necessarily implies exchanges, riches do not."[35] "Riches" (use value) "are the attribute of men, value is the attribute of commodities. A man or a community is rich, a pearl or a diamond is valuable..." A pearl or a diamond is valuable as a pearl or a diamond.[36]

So far no chemist has ever discovered exchange value either in a pearl or a diamond.

If commodities could speak, they would say "you WANT us, don't you, and not because we have any purpose in your life, but because we're VALUABLE!  BWAHAHA!"  Thus the idea that, for instance, gold, has inherent value, rather than the value of gold being a byproduct of pandering after it, is the spell laid upon gold by participants in the capitalist system.

Accordingly, then, participants in the capitalist system pursue this social magic throughout their adult lives in the form of money, property, and, generally, "assets."  The phrase curriculum vitae means "the course of one's life," and, if one is of the professional classes, one's curriculum vitae lists one's work history, one's educational history, and one's portfolio of accomplished works.  The curriculum vitae does indeed express the course of one's life, but as a means of conjuring up another job, using all the incantatory power of the fabulous jobs one has already accomplished in the course of one's life.  The curriculum vitae, then, is also an incantatio capitalisticus, a capitalist spell.

As for the rest of "normal life" under capitalism's spell, consumerism and family life define normal roles for participants in "leisure time"; "work" itself is equivalent to being on someone else's payroll (or, for the more contingent workers, of performing "billable skills"); and the absence of work is "unemployment," which is equivalent to poverty in a world in which the possibility of living off of the land has been denied.  

Philosophically, the adult individual living under capitalism believes that she believes whatever she wants to believe, and is "free," and this is what the philosophers call "liberalism"; participation in the employment system, however, is what actually gets put on nearly everyone's personal calendar of events.

Earth itself, whose ecosystems provide us with life, is conceived under capitalism's spell as composed of "real estate."  Earth's ecosystems are conceptualized as mere collections of "natural resources" which are to be transformed into "raw materials," "consumer products," and "waste" (in that order) if any value is to be attained for the system's sovereign individuals before they die.  This activity is guided by the philosophy known as possessive individualism; its institutional form is called property.  


One can see, then, that following the traditional recipe for "Marxist revolution" is not entirely going to succeed in canceling out capitalism's spell.  Even if we could take over government and abolish property and money by decree, people would still believe in those concepts, and live their lives under their spell.  The history of the Soviet Union offers evidence of this.  The Soviet elites attempted to impose "Communism" upon the Russian people, but this lasted only for seventy-odd years, until the end of 1991 when the Soviet Union was abolished by decree.  At that point the new elites dismantled "Communism," at great cost to most of the people there, but the people did not rise up to reinstate it.  An authentically-popular communism would not have been so easy to eliminate.  The spell survived, over all those years.


Thus there is something distinctly psychological about our adherence to the existing order, despite its environmental costs.  Most importantly in this era, we (or more specifically our society's professional and owning classes; the rest of us merely acquiesce) cling to capitalism despite its descent into the hazards of abrupt climate change.  There must also, then, be a psychological solution.  This solution needs to take the form of a psychological "reunion" between people and the natural world.  This reunion is not just about having a "back to nature" adventure, although Fisher does use a wilderness rite of passage as part of his therapeutic practice.  Rather, the psychological divide between inner and outer nature must be exploded.  We the human race must be brought back to reality to confront the vast damage we have done to the natural world, and thus to ourselves:

Ecopsychology is a psychological intervention aimed at contributing to the transformation of society by encouraging or providing for the recovery of our nature and our experience, for the regaining of lost world-relations and life-meanings.  It is an effort to remember that, and how, we are a part of the big life process; to get us back into the service of all life.  (187)

Ecopsychology is meant for self-understanding, not as any sort of "cure"; rather than promising the individual psychological health from within a sick society, Fisher points to the environmentalist movement as leading the way to a social cure, while ecopsychology's role is to "make sense of suffering in a technological world":

...the Ego isolates itself from the ground of being, attempts to exist for itself outside the flux of life, to become a permanent island in the swirling ocean of nature -- and suffers from the impossibility of the project.  While the tendency toward this suffering mode is given in the human situation, the attitude a society adopts toward it is not.  A society, that is, can develop ways to understand, find meaning in, minimize, and move through suffering; or -- at the other end of the spectrum -- it can choose to mystify, institutionalize, exacerbate, and exploit it. (71)

Fisher puts special attention into the analysis of shame as evidence of psychopathology.  He conceives of us in industrial life as experiencing a sense of shame at having destroyed our natural environment, replacing it with the various caricatures of nature we call "cities," "suburbs," "farmland," and so on.  Fisher's first task is to give voice to that shame, to bring it out and to let it speak, as shame is evidenced by acts of hiding.

Fisher's intended purpose for ecopsychology, in guiding human spirits, is to "develop a psychology that embeds humans within a more-than-human society" (125) -- which would bring us to a state of intersubjectivity with the natural world, as it long ago was expressed in the traditional rites of some hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies.  Fisher suggests a number of practices for doing this: environmental education, for instance, could be performed in the context of "the intimacy of lived relationships with other life" (186).  Fisher also works with "peer self-help psychotherapy groups" and "focusing" communities (182); there are a number of paths to reunion.  The necessary element in these paths, he suggests, is sensitization:

We generally prefer to stimulate ourselves -- to get excitement into our deadened bodies through bungy jumping and watching horror movies -- rather than to resensitize ourselves.  To the extent that we can do the latter, however, the benefits are trememdous, for (among other gains) we reclaim a centre for ourselves.  (183)

Thus breaking the spell means being sensitized to the world of the natural "other,' rather than being stimulated by its ability to present spectacles for our consumption.

The specific flaw of the technological world, Fisher well knows, is "the economization of reality" (84-87).  For Fisher, the domination of Earthly nature by the capitalist system promotes narcissists:

The permeation of our culture by narcissistic features signals one of the central psychological outcomes (and engines) of our historical mode of relating to nature.  While narcissism is usually discussed in terms of grandiosity and self-absorption, I want to emphasize that at the core of the classic narcissist is an utterly shame-bound person whose early needs were severely violated to such an extent that they have almost no sense of their own insides, their own bodily felt living.  They identify instead with grand self-images that act in fantasy to compensate for their terrible sense of inadequacy.... on the whole, however, this condition is not a problem for the running of a capitalist society, for feelingless, hungry narcissists are in many ways perfectly adapted, if not tailor-made, for it.  Having had their own nature violated, and lacking much grasp of their inner motivations, narcissists consume endlessly in a quest for lost selfhood, and, seeking self-esteem through productivity, performance, ladder-climbing, and hollow expressions of brute power, are all too prepared to participate in the technological ruination of nature (85-86)

The narcissists, of course, are the professional class that is put on display in America's, and the world's, mass media, and the physical world has been redesigned to be their collection of conveniences, their spectacles, and their occupational ladders.  Their power is that of the capitalist system (and of the government which facilitates and imitates it -- which is why I speak of capitalist discipline, and not merely of capitalism).  The fantasies of our narcissistic professional class are reflected nightly in televised broadcasts.  Our world's global economy (not to mention its national and international political structure) rewards productivity, performance, and hollow expressions of brute power for its professional classes.  Bringing this group to a reckoning with the ecological facts of life may be an important saving gesture in our efforts to bring the human race "back to nature" before nature does away with us.


Now Fisher tells us that ecopsychology is a project-in-formation, which means that there is as of yet no elite of ecopsychologists, no professional doctrine, no established practice, no guaranteed cure for the human race.  To be fair, any real practice would have to veer into the realm of political activism, for only through politics will we be able to deal with the results of the history of power, in which the strong have triumphed while the weak have been killed off, marginalized, or gang-pressed into the working class.  To sum up, then: Fisher's book is a good start: it hopes to begin the process of healing.

Originally posted to Cassiodorus on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 09:11 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for ecological sanity (nmi) (7+ / 0-)

    "The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." -- Gramsci

    by Cassiodorus on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 09:11:08 AM PDT

  •  Stimulating as always (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, RosyFinch

    I think the ontological problem lies deeper in history than capitalism.  IMO, the roots of this are in monotheism, the strongest generator of binary thinking in our culture.  With monotheism in place, capitalism was inevitable.  

    The most basic logical structures of capitalism, monotheism, and narcissism are linear, binary, and at best treelike, while the most natural logical structures (those deriving their form from the observable world) would be lateral, multifaceted, and at their simplest rhizomic.

    I don't believe we (humans) are naturally binarists, I believe the reduction of all questions to yes/no answers is the product of the epistemology of monotheism and its cultural imposition over the course of (mostly western) history.

    •  To clarify (1+ / 0-)
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      The cultural cornerstone of commoditization is in the book of Genesis when man is given "dominion over all things".  Accepting this premise, the separation of humans from their environment, has turned humans away from participating in the earth (the central idea of many noneuropean aboriginal cultures) and psychologically empowered them to exploit it.

      •  Fisher discusses that stuff -- (1+ / 0-)
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        the questions for you, then, are 1) at what points did the turning-away from the life of the ecosystem become a "spell" (possibly before monotheism; consider, for instance, the Roman pastoral model of the domination of nature) and 2) how did the spell survive the disintegration of monotheism as a social control?  Today, for instance, the human race does not (except for a few fundamentalist groups) go about its business for theological reasons; yet the logic of domination persists.  Why?

        "The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." -- Gramsci

        by Cassiodorus on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 10:04:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I would argue man desire to dominate (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          is built into our pack oriented nature.  

          •  Domination is slightly different from rejection. (0+ / 0-)

            One can compete or contest with another without rejecting their fundamental equality with oneself.  Monotheism's most functional idea is the demonization of the "other", the automatic stripping of validity from any who is not us.  This idea makes it intellectually possible (even desirable) to institutionalize slavery, control a society by inquisition, or conquer through the destruction of culture (like Cortez destroying Montezuma's libraries).

            •  I am not sure the difference matters, even if (1+ / 0-)
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              you accept it, ad I am not sure I do.  Polytheistic Rome had no problem demolishing Carthage's culture, or enslaving Gauls, driving various species into extinction for entertainment purposes, or any other such thing.  And that's just in the west!

              •  The cult of the emperor wasn't very much (0+ / 0-)

                different from other forms of monotheism, y'know?  

                It's the idea of this that I'm interested in, more than the specific labels.  That idea (binarism) will appear anywhere (it's simple and efficient).  It was codified (and even given unassailable authority) when it was defined as the will of the only god rather than merely the strength of the largest army.

                •  Very different. (1+ / 0-)
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                  The cult of the emperor was a matter of patriotism.  All citizens belonged to the imperial cult but most also worshiped in other belief systems, not possible in monotheism.

                  •  Which is why the empire became (0+ / 0-)

                    in its next phase the center of catholicism.  Having the only "true" religion was an improvement (epistemologically) on having the biggest army.

                    •  I think it was accidental. Rome collapsed (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      soon after adopting Christianity in the West.  Hardly an improvement.

                      •  Some might say (0+ / 0-)

                        That Rome collapsed because it didn't have the juice to maintain its dominance.  It reached a limit of what it could do with simple force.  The next great empire that rose to its east was powered by monotheism.

                        The vatican dominated Europe for centuries without even needing an army.  In terms of efficiency, that is a huge improvement.

                      •  This isn't quite factual (0+ / 0-)

                        The Roman Empire started its collapse in the west about ninety years after the Emperor Constantine I adopted Christianity in 312.  In the east, the Roman Empire began its collapse with the invasion of Crusaders from the Fourth Crusade in 1204, or perhaps earlier with its defeat at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 and the subsequent invasion of Turks into what we now call "Turkey" in the decade thereafter.

                        "The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." -- Gramsci

                        by Cassiodorus on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 11:39:35 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

        •  skipping to 2) (0+ / 0-)

          I don't believe monotheism has disintegrated as an epistemology even if it no longer calls itself by the names of the religions.  It has informed the logical structures of Stalinism/Maoism fr'instance.  It was the first cultural instance of applying an absolute scale of division on life, a total alienation of "man" from his surroundings.  

          That alienation has persisted and is fundamental to western thought.  That mode of thought has been spread around the globe through colonialism and by now has become fundamental even in many cultures that are not originally monotheistic (India, Indonesia, Japan, etal).

          People have always sought to control and manipulate nature (we wouldn't be human without that), the distinction is in where that passes over from use (which is necessary for our survival) to exploitation.

          The exclusionary logic of monotheism (which insists on the rejection of all other points of view) is unique in early cultures.  It doesn't seem coincidental to me that this model wound up dominating the earth.  Exclusionary logic not only allows but celebrates the destruction of the "other" (whether that's a race, a culture, a religion, or a nation).

          •  Be careful! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I don't believe monotheism has disintegrated as an epistemology

            That isn't what I suggested.  What I suggested was that monotheism no longer directs business.  

            The comment in my diary about "liberalism" is apropos of this.  Under capitalism's spell, the (managerial-class) individual believes she believes anything she wants to believe.  Monotheism, atheism, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it's all the same.  What matters, of course, is what's on the individual's calendar of events.

            "The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." -- Gramsci

            by Cassiodorus on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 10:41:40 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  But doesn't the managerial class (1+ / 0-)
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              operate out of the same sense of entitlement.  I think the sense of entitlement has its origins in 'god gave man dominion over all things".  Very few western people even question their entitlement to exploit the earth.  

              This isn't about religion at all, it's about the most basic premise from which we operate, i.e., the sense of entitlement which has commodified as many things as it can.  (Do you remember that scene in "The Corporation" where the capitalist's answer to enviromental degradation is to have every cubic of air "owned" by someone?)

              •  Some reactions (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Entitlement?  Doesn't the work ethic demand labor from the individual?  And don't the "successful" individuals credit their labor for their "success," the "unsuccessful" ones blaming themselves for their failures?  To be sure, the super-rich feel "entitled."  But they don't really "operate," so much as they toy with their trust funds.  They may own society, but they're not its movers and shakers.

                As for this:

                Very few western people even question their entitlement to exploit the earth.  

                Of course they don't.  As Marx explained, the commodity quality of all things, incl. "the earth," appears to those in the spell of commodity fetishism as a property of the thing itself.  The Earth, then, appears as a collection of "natural resources" -- to its unquestioning exploiters, that's what it is.

                and this:

                Do you remember that scene in "The Corporation" where the capitalist's answer to environmental degradation is to have every cubic of air "owned" by someone?

                Don't remember the movie, but we've got people arguing this very point in the comments section of this diary.  

                "The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." -- Gramsci

                by Cassiodorus on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 11:25:25 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I don't think any creature imagines (1+ / 0-)
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                  that it isn't on earth to work.  That's simply what life is (for nearly everyone).  

                  The entitlement I'm referencing is the propertarian entitlement (the roots of which are put in a nutshell by the book of genesis --in which god is the first landlord) to exclude the impact on the larger society from impacting ones decisions.  In environmental terms that would include the pre 70s idea that "owning" a section of riverbank entitled one to use the river as a sewer.

                  The idea of earth as property isn't general to all cultures.  For the most part it's a western idea that radiated from europe to conquer the globe, not owing to its philosophic merit, but to its capacity to rationalize cruelty.  For many societies the idea of "owning" things one never sees or uses is an absurdity.

                  I don't at all disagree with Marx, I just think there's prior condition that will need to be addressed if we are going to disempower capitalism.  

                  Do you remember that scene in "The Corporation" where the capitalist's answer to environmental degradation is to have every cubic of air "owned" by someone?

                  Don't remember the movie, but we've got people arguing this very point in the comments section of this diary.  

                  Wow, that's very sad.

                  •  I've known people -- (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    who are completely uninterested in work.  Trust fund babies do not feel obliged to work for anyone, at all.  I don't feel I'm on Earth to perform the farce that the straight world here calls "work" and which Marx calls "alienated labor."  But of course I do work -- I put out this diary for instance.

                    As for Earth as property, check out Wood's The Origin of Capitalism.  Property attains its peculiar nature in our society because of its Greco-Roman heritage as a concept.

                    Wow, that's very sad.

                    You've seen Burrow Owl's post, no?  Burrow Owl once argued on one of my diaries that the capitalist system offered its subjects an "optimal distribution of goods."

                    "The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." -- Gramsci

                    by Cassiodorus on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 12:44:49 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I've know one or two of them as well (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      but I regard them as perversions of nature to s certain extent.  To be fair I've also known a few who worked as hard as anybody.  I don't equate "work" with "a job".  I do a lot of the former (which I view as my reason for existence) and as little as I can afford of the latter (which I consider an imposition).

                      I've skimmed Wood's Empire of Capitalism (?).  Her thesis in that was that we were moving out of capitalism (driven by nation states) into permanent war (an idea popularized by Gore Vidal during the early Bush years.  I'll check that out.  In the other one she tended to numb me with jargon sometimes (I never finished highschool), which was how I ended up with Gore Vidal (which I thought was OK, but not brilliant).

                      Ah, Burrow Owl. . . .   (shrugs, turns palms upward, drops chin towards chest, shakes head slowly).  

                      So many of us (americans) have been raised on the koolaid of capitalism that it will take an enormous epistemological shift to persuade most people to even question the validity of tenets.  Theirs is the same defensiveness (clinging) that convinces teabaggers that Obama wants to kill old auntie sarah.

    •  How can you know that other (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cultures aren't binarist?  Do you have some extra-systemic vantage point to view them beyond the western epistemology?

      We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

      by burrow owl on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 10:02:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  ask any navajo (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        or native australian, or any of a zillion other people.

        Chief Seattle: "The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth."

        •  After, of course, Chief Seattle's ancestors (1+ / 0-)
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          caused a megafauna mass extinction. When you suffer the effects of radically crummy ecostewardship it is easier for a culture to see the usefulness of good stewardship.

          •  I'm not at all trying to posit (0+ / 0-)

            that all human errors have been made by monotheists or capitalists, only that cultures working from the epistemological framework generated by monotheism has a tendency to institutionalize and often celebrate these errors.

            A culture such as ours claims a right to pollute in many cases.  Other cultures certainly pollute, but tend to think of it more as a problem to solve than a cause to defend.  China, for example, is attempting to move itself in a greener direction far more rapidly than the US is.

            •  You really think so? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              burrow owl, Urizen

              China is interested in not being dependent on fossil fuels much more than the west, something that stems more from China's elites need for control more than any green impulse.  In every other way you can be green China seems to be getting worse, not better, and taking only propaganda steps.

              •  The US spent the last 30 years (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                doing everything it could to prevent green technologies from evolving.  China (for practical reasons more than philosophical ones) isn't doing that.  Yes they are making a horrible mess, but they aren't going to the lengths the US has gone to pretend they aren't.

        •  I'd prefer to ask Claude Levi-Strauss, (0+ / 0-)

          who clearly demonstrated the binary logic at work in various aboriginal mythologies.

          We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

          by burrow owl on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 03:11:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I met Andy Fisher once (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    through a former student. He is a nice guy as well as an insightful writer. Thank you for a thoughtful diary.

    We have only just begun and none too soon.

    by global citizen on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 09:41:16 AM PDT

  •  I'm tipping and rec'ing -- looks interesting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, jlms qkw

    but may comment after several cups of coffee.  Very dense material, not enough sleep for me.

    Full disclosure: Planet Earth pays me, in sunsets, to Adopt A Senator for ACES

    by RLMiller on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 09:48:34 AM PDT

    •  Thank you -- (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jlms qkw

      I've revised this diary a bit because upon rereading it I felt it needed to make more connections between its various parts.  It should be finished by the time you're ready.

      "The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." -- Gramsci

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 09:54:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ironic that communist states (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    decimated their environments, while capitalist states have been comparatively good stewards. (the reason, of course, is the tragedy of the commons: w/o property rights, there's no incentive to protect that property)

    We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

    by burrow owl on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 09:58:42 AM PDT

    •  *cough* (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Urizen, RosyFinch

      Many pre-capitalist communities were far better at ecosystem stewardship than is global capitalist society, which is about to bring the catastrophe of abrupt climate change upon itself.  If you want a significant comparison that runs the other way, compare ecosystem resilience under Maoist China with ecosystem resilience under post-Maoist China.

      "The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." -- Gramsci

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 10:08:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And many others were much worse. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        burrow owl

        See Jared Diamond.  Economic systems don't seem to have  much of an impact on eco-stewardship.  

        •  They do (0+ / 0-)

          There really isn't any economic system that is harder on its ecosystem than post-Maoist China.  

          "The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." -- Gramsci

          by Cassiodorus on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 10:34:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's the political system. (0+ / 0-)

            China is no more, maybe even less capitalist than India or Japan, and yet when they developed/are developing they were less hard on the environment than post Maoist China.  That is because China's rulers' have gained legitimacy from economic growth, not general good governance, and have to seek that at any cost.

            •  You don't understand -- (0+ / 0-)

              the relationship between political systems and economic systems, outside of the dogmas in your head ("I would argue man (sic) desire to dominate is built into our pack oriented nature.")  You have no idea about pollution in China -- do some research.

              "The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." -- Gramsci

              by Cassiodorus on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 10:51:09 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  They did better because they were inept (0+ / 0-)

        technologically.  eg, they didn't fuck up the environment because they couldn't, not because they didn't want to.

        We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

        by burrow owl on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 03:07:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I don't buy it. The "magic of capitalism" (0+ / 0-)

    in the form of comfort, social status, and the seeking of those things are hard wired into our jeans, and exist in hunter gather societies as much as capitalist ones.  Humanity naturally, and I would say most sentient life naturally, economizes reality.  

    Andy Fisher seems to want to make us something other than human, and I doubt he will have much luck with that.

    Further than that, it is tough for me to see noncapitalist mechanism to combat climate change without reverting to a kind of eco-dictatorship, so I am not sure what Andy wants.

  •  I've thought about this before (0+ / 0-)

    and I think that these arguments miss the root of our current environmental problems.  The magic of capitalism casting a spell on us is at best a superficial symptom.  Acquiring resources is what the natural world is about.  It is not surprising at all that primarily hunter-gatherer societies tend to have different value systems about ecosystems relative to agricultural/pastoral systems.  Resource use is under entirely different sets of ecological constraints in the two situations.  Hunter-gatherers acquire resources from ecosystems in very different ways than agriculturalists so it is natural that value systems would be different.

    Technological innovations temporarily allow us to get around these constraints.  However the drive to acquire resources remains.  As I see it, our fundamental problem is not that we are behaving unnaturally, it is rather that we are behaving as we always have but the constraints on our actions have been shattered by technology.  To save ourselves we have to deliberately restrict our acquisition of resources.

    •  You miss the conceptual frame in my argument (0+ / 0-)

      Acquiring resources is what the natural world is about.

      "Acquiring resources" is a particular, ideological, way of looking at the natural world, and not the only one, not by a long shot.  An ecologist would look at the world as a series of interrelationships: plants rely upon the sun, animals rely upon the plants, plants need animals as reproductive devices, and so on.  None of these entities has to be seen as "acquiring resources" -- they all survive through behaviors which establish each in a habitat.

      Resource use is under entirely different sets of ecological constraints

      The main "ecological constraint" placed upon "resource use" is that if the human race continues to act upon the world as a collection of resources, as (in Gary Snyder's words) a great refrigerator to be raided by whomever gets to the goodies first, there will at some point be no more goodies left to raid, and all will starve.

      However the drive to acquire resources remains.

      There is no "drive to acquire resources."  What there is at this point is a dominant organization called the "corporation," whose profit motive is inscribed in the fiduciary duties of managers to stockholders.

      "The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." -- Gramsci

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 11:08:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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