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The following are some rough notes taken by one person attending the workhsop given by Eirik during the recent event, An Ecology of Freedom. The notes do not necessarily reflect exactly what was said. Please feel free to comment or edit this post if you were there (especially if your name is Eirik!)
Social Ecology in More Depth
Social ecology is not just radical environmentalism.
Nor is it green issues tacked onto some existing social theory. All major political ideologies (apart from maybe the far right) claim to care about the environment, from green Marxists to the Tory party.
Ecology – the interactions between species and eco-communities
Society – the interactions between humans
Social Ecology tries to understand society’s role in nature.
But this begs the important questions: 1) What is nature?
2) What is society?
1) Nature is not a mystical oneness, not Gaia (in Greek mythology similar to mother earth).
Nor is it something we go out into the countryside to see.
Nature is primarily evolution – that is to say social ecology views nature as the complete history of its own development over time.
2) Similarly society is primarily human history, or phrased another way society is viewed as social evolution.
If we think about a person they are not just their physical existence but neither are they just their entire personal history. We also conceive of them as all that they can possibly be in the future. The person embodies the tension between all that they have been and all that they could possibly become.
Social Ecology applies this same tension to both society and ecology. So…
Nature is all past evolution AND all possible future evolution.
Society is human history AND all that humanity could potentially be in the future.
So what is society’s role in nature?
Social ecology shows how humans are unique on earth as they have both 1st and 2nd nature.
1st nature: the natural world, evolution, humans as a species
2nd nature: human society, human history, humans as a society with consciousness and institutions.
So humans are part of nature and apart from nature
(1st nature) (2nd nature)
Humans are a species with genetic characteristics and are part of many eco-systems but humans are also a society and therefore distinct from this 1st nature.
Social Ecology explains the possibility of a 3rd nature, a free nature. This would occur when humanity brings its consciousness to evolution in a positive (non-antagonistic) way. That is, rather than using our consciousness to destroy species and environments, this 3rd nature would be reached when humanity renders the 1st and 2nd natures self-conscious through the full functioning of local assemblies.
This is inevitably an anti-capitalist project because capitalism homogenises nature destroying biodiversity (ignorantly destroying 1st nature) and also homogenises society destroying the richness of cultural diversity (ignorantly destroying 2nd nature).
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