excerpts from “Unchaining Human Ecology,” part 1

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A short time ago, an essay called “Unchaining Human Ecology:  Paul Shepard, the Nature of Freedom, and the Crisis of Modernity” appeared in conjunction with the project represented by this blog.  What follows are selected excerpts illustrating some of its main points.

Paul Shepard may the most vital voice in the ensemble of contemporary writing seeking to understand the ubiquitous crises of modern civilization.  Profound psychological malaise for the individual, endemic dysfunction for society, and the contempt shown by both for an utterly collapsing environment are all intimately-related aspects of the same pathological culture, which have only been addressed insufficiently by the social and natural sciences. Shepard transcended certain limits of the academic context of his time and of his background as an evolutionary biologist to attempt an answer to the most crucial question facing the human species and the one most poised to reward our attention: why do human beings persist in destroying the natural environment that sustains us.  His theories are as plausible, soulful and visionary an attempt at an answer as it is possible for one human to offer in printed form.  His unique and potent synthesis of ideas is deployed in support of his theory that epidemic pathological behavior on the part of individuals and societies has its origins in the subversion of our genetic heritage.  If, as Paul Shepard desired, ecology– the rediscoverer in the modern age of the interdependence of all life– could possibly play a part in the redemption of past wrongs, it could only do so upon freeing itself from inauspicious beginnings, and manifold pitfalls along its paths.  The perspective of human ecology as espoused by Paul Shepard represents the best prospect for such redemption and freedom…

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The Dawn of Subversive Being

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Welcome to a new project.

It starts with a question:  what insights of vital interest to anti-authoritarians could possibly be offered by the study of ecology, particularly by human ecologist Paul Shepard and his ilk?  Most radicals, anarchists and communists would be at a loss to answer.  The relevance of an academic pursuit like ecology to the liberatory projects of social antagonists– their insurrections as well as their capitulations, their attempts at communization and their individual revolts– seems at best immaterial, obscure, or anachronistic, conjuring nostalgia for a quaint and failed countercultural attempt at social transformation whose wave broke decades ago and that left us ultimately high and dry.  At worst, ecology has become the whip that lashes the backs of the masses and a narcotic sop to our powerlessness in the face of environmental devastation, social evisceration, and individual malaise.  Admonition follows admonition.  But recycling, riding bikes, and taking nature walks have, of course, all failed in a pursuit for which they were never intended:  the sweeping away of a lifeway based on capital accumulation and state power, with their basis in patriarchal civilization, and their concomitant constraints on our experience, managed as it is by bio-power.

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