Lighting the fuse

Perhaps ‘environmental philosophy’ is too precise a name for what I’m concerned with here. I want to think outside; outside the box, perhaps outside the academy, and certainly immersed in what we rather foolishly call ‘the environment’. But what might that mean? In a very fundamental sense everything around us is the environment, but somehow we’ve taken the word to mean ‘the natural world’. That’s not helpful: As Murray Bookchin, the founder of Social Ecology, points out, the the languages of many aboriginal peoples lack any equivalent for our word “nature” because they are “[i]mmersed in nature”, and so “it has no special meaning” (1993).

Could environmental philosophy be about our relationship to wilderness? I’ve talked elsewhere about the dubious staus of that notion (Where is Wilderness?) ‘Wilderness’ has been framed as a romantic myth, a social construction or even a tool of capitalism (various authors in Baird Callicott & Nelson, eds., 1998). It feels inadequate to simply dismiss wilderness as a cultural construction: my experience of being in wilder places is not satisfied by such a reductive argument. But the idea of wilderness remains problematic.

I’m looking for something wider than ‘environmental philosophy’ but less confused than an appeal to wilderness. I think Felix Guattari may have the rigor and breadth I’m looking for. Guattari takes environmental philosophy out of the box: He expands the concept of ecology, taking it beyond the science of organic interrelationships. Guattari suggest that there are three interconnected ecologies of mind, society and the environment (2000).  His emphasis on the connections between psyche, society and environment is just the kind of thinking I want to engage with here. If that appeals to you, read on.


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