Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ecology and Ideology: An Introduction

Introduction to Polygraph 22
Ecology and Ideology

What is really amazing and frustrating is mankind’s habit of refusing to see the obvious and inevitable, until it is there, and then muttering about unforeseen catastrophes.
—Isaac Asimov

How small the vastest of human catastrophes may seem, at a distance of a few million miles.
—H.G. Wells

Ecology as Critique    

From Hurricane Katrina to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the metastasizing specter of climate change, an initial foray into the rhetoric of “natural” disasters over the past decade finds surprise and shock as a primary theme. Whatever happens, “no one could have predicted” the results; ostensibly secular pundits have learned to comfortably and without contradiction invoke “acts of God” as the first line of defense against anyone ever being held responsible for anything.

Ignorance has become the ground for our relationship with Nature, precisely mirroring those official descriptions of terrorist violence in which “hatred” and “anti-modernity” provide instant and totalizing explanations for the actions of otherwise unrelated agents. Once Nature takes over, throwing off the economic function assigned to it, “we”—humanity—are all forced together onto the same side. Who, after all, could possibly be to blame for hurricanes, floods, volcanoes, and earthquakes? Who could possibly have the power to predict when and where disasters will erupt? Even in the case of BP’s irreparable destruction of the Gulf Coast—where the “culprits” seem clear and the potential consequences of deep-sea drilling eminently foreseeable—mainstream commentary finds itself gored on the horns of a false dilemma: because the spill was not purposeful, because no one wanted this to happen, it must therefore be a terrible “accident.”

Speaking simultaneously about the Deepwater Horizon spill and the recent Massey coal mine collapse in West Virginia, and by implication a host of other disasters past and future, an indignant Rand Paul, the current Republican Senate candidate from Kentucky, lamented “It’s always got to be someone’s fault instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen.” Here we see the paucity of options for critique in the neoliberal age: the profit-seeking hand of the market can never be faulted, not even in the face of incalculable catastrophe.

Read more HERE (PDF).

1 comment:

  1. Recently I wrote a blog entry offering a leftist critique of the ideology of “Green” environmentalism, deep ecology, animal rights activism, eco-friendliness, and lifestyle politics in general (veganism, “dumpster diving,” “buying organic,” etc.). I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter and any responses you might have to its criticisms.