There is an ‘Ecology’, the Fascist Turn and on Privilege

When Mckenzie Wark appeared on Novara, Resonance FM on May 28th 2013 he argued that a critical theory that does not confront environmental problems as one of its central problems was not worth discussing (I am paraphrasing – what he actually said was is more complicated and is transcribed below). Oddly, in this interview Wark managed to simultaneously acknowledge the validity of the environmental crisis as a theoretical problem – while also denying its implications in practice. For me this was a significant moment for Novara since it was certainly the best attempt they have yet made (that I am aware of) to engage with the ecological problem. Unfortunately, while Wark has many good ideas, his convoluted take on ecological theory is a classic example of extravagant lengths intellectuals (and especially the environmentally disengaged radical left) devise to continue to dismiss the most fundamental challenges posed by the ecological crisis and this culture’s legacy of ignoring ecological relations and perspectives. I will quote the most problematic parts of what Mckenzie Wark had to say starting with the following:

I would not call it an ecological crisis because that would presume that there ever was an ecology… and there sort of isn’t. It’s… what we know of the natural world includes its instability…and our species being is one that has acquired the capacity to kind of rupture environments on a kind of global scale. So I would be a little hesitant to use the word ‘ecological’….

Yes, it is true that what we know of ecology includes some instability – but far more important is the fact that there is relative stability within planetary boundary conditions. In a similar way to how our bodies can only function within a relatively narrow range of temperatures (maintained by homeostatic mechanisms), the earth will only be habitable for humans within planetary boundaries (including factors beyond climate change such as the nitrogen cycle and biodiversity loss). Once ecological Continue reading

London Premier of ‘An Ecology of Mind’

Yesterday night I attended the London premier of Nora Bateson’s film: An Ecology of Mind: A Daughter’s Portrait of Gregory Bateson. Gregory Bateson has been described as ‘the most important thinker you’ve never heard of‘, an intellectual renegade who contributed to a variety of disciplinary traditions, earning him an array of diverse followers. Bateson fans are always independent thinkers, often ecological thinkers and sometimes critical thinkers. This blog will briefly review some main themes in Bateson’s legacy, its potential and hint at some of the issues that keep ecological thought from achieving its goals.

The event was organised by critical urban ecologist Jon Goodbun and hosted by the University of Westminster. Jon shares my interest in Gregory Bateson’s seminal work on the nature of mind, epistemological challenges to current ways of knowing and the critical importance of ecological thought in addressing contemporary challenges. Jon kindly invited me to sit on the panel with Nora Bateson, Iain Boal, Wendy Wheeler, Ranulph Glanville and Peter Reason after the screening.

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