What with Monsanto, Dow Chemicals and other corporate/capitalists(Corpitalists) only concerned with the bottom line and responsible for such products as DDT, GM foods and other hazards to the planets natural cycle, it is time we became aware of how important the earth is to our own survival. Women have always been the harbingers of the earth and its goddess, Gaia, or Mother Nature. It is only fitting that a woman, Judi Bari, wrote this article.
Starting from the very reasonable, but unfortunately revolutionary concept that social practices which threaten the continuation of life on Earth must be changed, we need a theory of revolutionary ecology that will encompass social and biological issues, class struggle, and a recognition of the role of global corporate capitalism in the oppression of peoples and the destruction of nature.
I believe we already have such a theory. It's called deep ecology, and it is the core belief of the radical environmental movement. The problem is that, in the early stages of this debate, deep ecology was falsely associated with such right wing notions as sealing the borders, applauding AIDS as a population control mechanism, and encouraging Ethiopians to starve. This sent the social ecologists justifiably scurrying to disassociate. And I believe it has muddied the waters of our movement's attempt to define itself behind a common philosophy.
So in this article, I will try to explain, from my perspective as an unabashed leftist, why I think deep ecology is a revolutionary world view. I am not trying to proclaim that my ideas are Absolute Truth, or even that they represent a finished thought process in my own mind. These are just some ideas I have on the subject, and I hope that by airing them, it will spark more debate and advance the discussion.
Deep ecology, or biocentrism, is the belief that nature does not exist to serve humans. Rather, humans are part of nature, one species among many. All species have a right to exist for their own sake, regardless of their usefulness to humans. And biodiversity is a value in itself, essential for the flourishing of both human and nonhuman life.
These principles, I believe, are not just another political theory. Biocentrism is a law of nature, that exists independently of whether humans recognize it or not. It doesn't matter whether we view the world in a human centered way. Nature still operates in a biocentric way. And the failure of modern society to acknowledge this - as we attempt to subordinate all of nature to human use - has led us to the brink of collapse of the earth's life support systems.
Biocentrism is not a new theory, and it wasn't invented by Dave Foreman or Arnie Naas. It is ancient native wisdom, expressed in such sayings as "The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth." But in the context of today's industrial society, biocentrism is profoundly revolutionary, challenging the system to its core.
Biocentrism Contradicts Capitalism
The capitalist system is in direct conflict with the natural laws of biocentrism. Capitalism, first of all, is based on the principle of private property - of certain humans owning the earth for the purpose of exploiting it for profit. At an earlier stage, capitalists even believed they could own other humans. But just as slavery has been discredited in the mores of today's dominant world view, so do the principles of biocentrism discredit the concept that humans can own the earth.
How can corporate raider Charles Hurwitz claim to "own" the 2,000-year-old redwoods of Headwaters Forest, just because he signed a few papers to trade them for a junk bond debt? This concept is absurd. Hurwitz is a mere blip in the life of these ancient trees. Although he may have the power to destroy them, he does not have the right.
This is basics stuff that most corpitalist supporters and city dwellers can't figure out anymore. They have created their own concept of nurturing reality and are completely out of touch with the natural laws. They find a way to blame other forces for the worlds condition and ignore their culpability in the excessive abuse of the planet. There is a general reality that affects all of us and it is abuse of not just each other for greed but also the abuse of nature, that this can go on forever. The logic of Marx and his economic theories goes to the heart of the matter and cuts through the madness of the corpitalist agenda. Judi Bari expands on it taking it one step further.
According to Marxist theory, profit is stolen from the workers when the capitalists pay them less than the value of what they produce. The portion of the value of the product that the capitalist keeps, rather than pays to the workers, is called surplus value. The amount of surplus value that the capitalist can keep varies with the level of organization of the workers, and with their level of privilege within the world labor pool. But the working class can never be paid the full value of their labor under capitalism, because the capitalist class exists by extracting surplus value from the products of their labor.
Although I basically agree with this analysis, I think there is one big thing missing. I believe that part of the value of a product comes not just from the labor put into it, but also from the natural resources used to make the product. And I believe that surplus value (i.e., profit) is not just stolen from the workers, but also from the earth itself. A clearcut is the perfect example of a part of the earth from which surplus value has been extracted. If human production and consumption is done within the natural limits of the earth's fertility, then the supply is indeed endless. But this cannot happen under capitalism, because the capitalist class exists by extracting profit not only from the workers, but also from the earth.
In other words, if we extract profit from labour and the land we should be forcing these corpitalists to return moneys to the people who provide profit, for community development as well as repairing the damage that was done to the land and restoring it to its previous condition. This is not being done, as the major movers and shakers are only interested in bottom line economics and higher profit margins to satisfy their parasitic investors. When do they make enough? When will they have all they need? It never happens. The raping of humans and the environment is endless, without a thought to what they are doing. Then they enlist the services of so called "Experts" who can give this chart and that example that this or that event is not the workings of man's actions, such as global warming. These paid lackeys are more examples of what money can do to ensure it continues to be the force of power in the world. Money is just a paper representation of theft and abuse. It is the epitome of the Lying, Cheating and Stealing that permeates our society, from it's grass roots to it's ivory towers, and everything in between. In the end, when all that is left is money, we will figure out that no matter how hard you try, you can't eat money.
A small business may survive on profits, but at least its basic purpose is to provide sustenance for the owners, who are human beings with a sense of place in their communities. But a corporation has no purpose for its existence, nor any moral guide to its behavior, other than to make profits. And today's global corporations are beyond the control of any nation or government. In fact, the government is in the service of the corporations, its armies poised to defend their profits around the world and its secret police ready to infiltrate and disrupt any serious resistance at home.
In other words, this system cannot be reformed. It is based on the destruction of the earth and the exploitation of the people. There is no such thing as green capitalism, and marketing cutesy rainforest products will not bring back the ecosystems that capitalism must destroy to make its profits. This is why I believe that serious ecologists must be revolutionaries.
She goes on to state that although a leftist, she doesn't see communism or socialism as a solution either.
But as to what should be implemented in capitalism's place, I don't think Marxism has shown us the answer. One of the reasons for this, I believe, is that communism, socialism, and all other left ideologies that I know of speak only about redistributing the spoils of raping the earth more evenly among classes of humans. They do not even address the relationship of the society to the earth, Or rather, they assume that it will stay the same as it is under capitalism - that of a gluttonous consumer. And that the purpose of the revolution is to find a more efficient and egalitarian way to produce and distribute consumer goods.
This total disregard of nature as a life force, rather than just a source of raw materials, allowed Marxist states to rush to industrialize without even the most meager environmental safeguards. This has resulted in such noted disasters as the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the oil spill in the Arctic Ocean, and the ongoing liquidation of the fragile forests of Siberia. It has left parts of Russia and Eastern Europe with such a toxic legacy that vast areas are now uninhabitable. Marx stated that the primary contradiction in industrial society is the contradiction between capital and labor. I believe these disasters show that there is an equally important contradiction between industrial society and the earth.
But even though socialism has so far failed to take ecology into account, I do not think it is beyond reform, as is capitalism. One of the principles of socialism is "production for use, not for profit." Therefore, the imbalance is not as built in under socialism as it is under capitalism, and I could envision a form of socialism that would not destroy the earth. But it would be unlike Marx's industrial model .
There is solutions that with a little help from the people wanting less and offering more to the world could change our natural/societal cognitive dissonance.
Ecological socialism, among other things, would have to deal with the issue of centralism. The Marxist idea of a huge body politic relating to some central planning authority presupposes (1) authoritarianism of some sort; and (2)) the use of mass production technologies that are inherently destructive to the earth and corrosive to the human spirit. Ecological socialism would mean organizing human societies in a manner that is compatible with the way that nature is organized. And I believe the natural order of the earth is bioregionalism, not statism.
Modern industrial society robs us of community with each other and community with the earth. This creates a great longing inside us, which we are taught to fill with consumer goods. But consumer goods, beyond those needed for basic comfort and survival, are not really what we crave. So our appetite is insatiable, and we turn to more and more efficient and dehumanizing methods of production to make more and more goods that do not satisfy us. If workers really had control of the factories (and I say this as a former factory worker), they would start by smashing the machines and finding a more humane way to decide what we need and how to produce it. So to the credo "production for use, not for profit," ecological socialism would add, "production for need, not for greed."
This is the point that the importance of a feminist viewpoint comes in. The view of the world is a patriarchal one, as we know about Bush's view and oppression of women and killing of mothers and children, The reductivist view of nature and the control of humanity,- who gets to live and who gets to die- the tree of knowledge of good and evil and man's supreme place in the universe. Man was made in gods image after all, and to dominate the world and its creatures. So the good book has been translated, only the translation is innacurate on the second point. It actually states that man is to be the caretaker and treat nature with respect, not dominate it.
Biocentrism Contradicts Patriarchy
Patriarchy is the oldest and, I think, deepest form of oppression on Earth. In fact, it's so old and it's so deep that we're discouraged from even naming it. If you're a white person, you can talk about apartheid; you can say, "I'm against apartheid" without all the white people getting huffy and offended and thinking you're talking about them. But if you even mention patriarchy, you are met with howls of ridicule and protest from otherwise progressive men who take it as a personal insult that you're even mentioning the word. But I think that the issue of patriarchy needs to be addressed by any serious revolutionary movement. In fact, I think that the failure to address the patriarchy is one of the great short comings of Marxism. (One of my favorite examples is the book "The Women Question", which was written by four Marxist men!) The other deficiency in Marxism, in my estimation, is the failure to address ecology. I think both of these are equally serious shortcomings.
So I would like to address eco-feminism, and its relevance to biocentrism or deep ecology. Eco-feminism is a holistic view of the earth that is totally consistent with the idea that humans are not separate from nature. I would describe eco-feminism in two separate terms. The first is that there is a parallel between the way this society treats women and the way that it treats the earth. And this is shown in expressions like "virgin redwoods" and "rape of the earth", for example.
The second thing, which I think is even more important, is the reason for the destruction of nature by this society. Obviously part of the reason is capitalism. But beyond that, destruction of nature in this society stems from the suppression of the feminine.
Let me clarify that I believe men and women have both masculine and feminine traits. I'm not saying "all men are bad - all women are good." I define "masculine traits" as conquering and dominance, and "feminine traits" as nurturing and life-giving. And I think that the masculine traits of conquering and dominance are valued no matter who exhibits them. As a macho woman, I can tell you, I've gotten all kinds of strokes in my lifetime because I can get out there head to head and be just as aggressive as any man. Conversely, the feminine traits of nurturing and life-giving are devalued and suppressed in this society, whether a man or a woman exhibits them. The devaluing and suppression of feminine traits is a major reason for the destruction of the earth. So that's my personal view of eco-feminism. I know the academics have a lot more complicated definition and description, some of which I don't even understand, but I'm going to use my personal, easy to understand definition.
The relationship between the suppression of feminine values, and the destruction of the earth is actually much clearer in third world nations than it is in this society. Where colonial powers take over, when nature is to be destroyed by imperialistic corporations coming into third world countries, one of the ways that the colonial powers take over is by forcibly removing the women from their traditional roles as the keepers of the forest and the farmlands. The women's methods of interacting with the fertility cycles of the earth, is replaced by men and machines. Rather than nurturing the fertility of the earth, these machines rip off the fertility of the earth. For this reason, many of the third world environmental movements are actually women's movements; the Chipko in India, and the tree-planters in Kenya, Brazil, to mention two. In each of these situations, the way that the feminine is suppressed is very parallel to the way that nature is suppressed.
It's less obvious, I think, in this society, but it's still here. Anyone who has ever dealt with the Forest Service, California Department of Forestry, the Endangered Species Act, or anything like that knows that science is used as the authority for the kind of relentless assault on nature in this society. And science is presented to us as neutral, as an objective path to knowledge, as something that's value-free.
But science is not value-free. The scientific methods (there's not just one method, despite what we were taught in science class) of western science are not value-free at all. In fact science was openly described by its founders as a masculine system that presupposes the separation of people from nature and presupposes our dominance over nature. I want to give you some quotes to let you know why this is so, going back to the origin of the scientific method in the 1600's and the Renaissance period. First of all, the initiation of the scientific method, the elevation of this as absolute truth and the only path to truth, began in 1664. For example, there was something that was called the "Royal Society" and it was composed of scientific men who were developing these theories. They described their goal as, and this is a quote, "to raise a masculine philosophy, whereby the mind of men may be enabled with the knowledge of solid truths." So the idea is that this masculine philosophy will provide us with truth, as opposed to the more "superstitious" feminine kind of knowledge.
I'll give you another example. This is from the aptly-named Sir Francis Bacon. He was one of the worst and actually pretty shocking. He said that the scientific method is a method of aggression. And here is his quote: "The nature of things betrays itself more readily under vexation than in its natural freedom. Science is not merely a gentle guidance over nature's course. We have the power to conquer and subdue her, to shake her to her foundations." And that the purpose of doing this is, "to create a blessed race of heroes who would dominate both nature and society."
So these are the roots of the scientific method upon which CDF justifies clearcuts.
Another of the really worst was Descartes' "Cogito Ergo Sum," "I think therefore I am." He arrived at that by trying to prove that he existed without referring to anything around him. The very concept of that shows a separation between self and nature. But he did a pretty good job of it, and I thought it was pretty interesting. But he went beyond that. He also said, "Well I can doubt this room exists. I can doubt that you exist. I can doubt that I exist. The only thing I can't doubt is that I am doubting. AHA! I think, therefore, I am!" So that was pretty smart, but it was still very narrow and very self-centered. I always said that only an oldest child could have come up with this kind of solipsistic view of the world. Descartes also named the scientific method that we learned in science class "scientific reductionism." The idea is that in order to understand a complex problem, reduce it to its simpler form to know it, in order to "render ourselves the masters and possessors of nature." So the very concept of "scientific reductionism" is really the problem with science and illustrative of why it's not a neutral objective path to knowledge. This is the methodology that we're going to look at a little piece at a time, in order to understand something complex.
One more example is a statement from Bacon to James I, who was involved in the inquisition at the time. The rise of the scientific method, of this masculine method of knowledge, emerged during the same time period as the very violent suppression of the women's knowledge of the earth, herbal ways etc. So this wasn't just, "Oh, we have a better way, you women stand aside." It was "we're going to burn you at the stake," so it was certainly not neutral. It was a very aggressive and violent imposition of a masculine system of knowledge. In this context Bacon said to James I, "Neither ought a man to make scruple of entering and penetrating into those holes and corners when the inquisition of truth is his whole object - as your majesty has shown in your own example." The only way they can perpetuate the myth that the scientific method is objective is to remove it from the context of the social conditions from which it arose. It's not objective at all. It's not the only method of knowledge. It's not the only path to truth. And it's not value-free. It's openly masculine and it openly presupposes the separation of humans from the earth, and it presupposes that the purpose of science is to dominate nature.
What did the more feminine methods of knowledge that were being suppressed at the time involve? The "feminine" methods were based on observation and interaction with the earth in order to increase the fertility cycles in a way that's beneficial to all. For example, we learn that if we bury a fish with the corn, the corn grows better - those kind of things. The women's knowledge of the earth was passed down generation to generation - and was dismissed as mere superstition by the rising scientists with their reductionist methods.
However, reductionist science has indeed had a lot of success. It's created nuclear bombs, plastic shrink-wrap, Twinkies, Highway 101, all kinds of wonders of the earth! But it has not led us to a true understanding of nature or the earth, because nature's parts are not separate, they are interdependent. You can't look at one part without looking at the rest, it is all inextricably interconnected. The way that reductionist science has looked at the world has brought us antibiotics that create super bacteria, and flood control methods that create huger floods than ever existed before and fertilizers that leave us with barren soil. These are all examples of the defects of a reductionist kind of science.
There are solutions,- like re-education practice, a blending of masculine and feminine irdeals, not making it a bad thing to share and care,- but it means a wholesale change in attitude by the people in control. It means that men have to openly admit that their way of seeing life is questionable and that to change things for the better they must be willing to share power and admit to the fact that domination of other humans and nature is not the answer to the future. The old ways are obsolete, the ways man deals with crisis and conflict have to be changed, and again it is a reality concept that is required- not a reductivist logic that presupposes certain traits in humanity that have existed from the time of civilizations turning on nature as its co-dependant. We are married to the planet and this is the disconnect that we must return to.
Eco-feminism, however, does not seek to dominate men as women have been dominated under patriarchy. Instead, it seeks to find a balance. We need both the masculine and the feminine forces. It's not that we need to get rid of the masculine force. Both of them exist in the world but must exist in balance. We need the conquering and the dominance as well as we need the nurturing. Eco-feminism seeks find that balance.
Without this balance between the masculine and the feminine, I don't believe we can make the changes that we need to come back into balance with the earth. For those reasons, I think that deep ecology/biocentrism contradicts patriarchy, and to embrace deep ecology/biocentrism is to challenge the core belief of this masculine, scientific system.
There are solutions of course and she presents them at the end.
If we are to continue, Earth First! and the entire ecology movement must adjust their tactics to the profound changes that are needed to bring society into balance with nature. One way that we can do this is to broaden our focus. Of course, sacred places must be preserved, and it is entirely appropriate for an ecology movement to center on protecting irreplaceable wilderness areas. But to define our movement as being concerned with "wilderness only," as Earth First! did in the 1980s, is self defeating. You cannot seriously address the destruction of wilderness without addressing the society that is destroying it. It's about time for the ecology movement (and I'm not just talking about Earth First! here) to stop considering itself as separate from the social justice movement. The same power that manifests itself as resource extraction in the countryside manifests itself as racism, classism, and human exploitation in the city. The ecology movement must recognize that we are just one front in a long, proud, history of resistance.
You cannot seriously address the destruction of wilderness without addressing the society that is destroying it. It's about time for the ecology movement (and I'm not just talking about Earth First! here) to stop considering itself as separate from the social justice movement. The same power that manifests itself as resource extraction in the countryside manifests itself as racism, classism, and human exploitation in the city. The ecology movement must recognize that we are just one front in a long, proud, history of resistance.
A revolutionary ecology movement must also organize among poor and working people. With the exception of the toxics movement and the native land rights movement most U.S. environmentalists are white and privileged. This group is too invested in the system to pose it much of a threat. A revolutionary ideology in the hands of privileged people can indeed bring about some disruption and change in the system. But a revolutionary ideology in the hands of working people can bring that system to a halt. For it is the working people who have their hands on the machinery. And only by stopping the machinery of destruction can we ever hope to stop this madness.
How can it be that we have neighborhood movements focused on the disposal of toxic wastes, for example, but we don't have a worker's movement to stop the production of toxics? It is only when the factory workers refuse to make the stuff, it is only when the loggers refuse to cut the ancient trees, that we can ever hope for real and lasting change. This system cannot be stopped by force. It is violent and ruthless beyond the capacity of any people's resistance movement. The only way I can even imagine stopping it is through massive non-cooperation.
So let's keep blocking those bulldozers and hugging those trees. And let's focus our campaigns on the global corporations that are really at fault. But we have to begin placing our actions in a larger context - the context of revolutionary ecology.
So she leaves the onus of responsibility on us- All of us- the rich, poor, worker, corpitalist, investor advantagist etc. A new age must be drawn up and we all must agree to wanting less and giving more. Get rid of our leaders and charge those who would endorse our own deaths with the responsibility of getting down on their knees and fixing the very things they exploited and abused- both human and nature. We have two choices in life now. Stay the way we are going and watch the earth and our greed destroy us, or work as a team unselfishly bent on repairing the damage we have caused. All we have to do is acknowledge our ignorance and abuse of it, or face the consequences. If we don't change the way we see the world now the consequences will be dire indeed.
And so we are heading for an armageddon, not caused by some wrathful imaginary gods in the sky but one of our own making brought about by our own patriarchal view of life, wuth its greed and ignorance to the real laws of ownership of property, the one brought on by the true god of life -- Mother Nature.
Please read the whole article and also check out sites like Choose Reality and ask questions about the validity of such statements as- What is (our concept of) reality? What is our vision of the future? What are we going to leave our children? How is it we can ignore the obvious in our little world? Why did we let things get this way? When will we begin to change things? Who is responsible? Where can we go if it all goes bad? Etc.
These are questions we need to ask and answer ourselves. Surely we're not so blinded by our lights and civility to imagine this can go on forever.