Ecology: On Paradigm and Activism

    Risalatul Hukmi
    Risalatul Hukmi
    Post-Nietzschean free thinker

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    Ecology, as a scientific study of the relationship between living things in their living and non-living things, has provided a new perspective on a system of interconnectedness. However, most environmentalist mistakenly understands this way of thinking as something that has been final in itself. Therefore, the conclusions that often arise are merely about living in harmony with nature for the sake of the sustainability of life on earth.

    Vandana Shiva is one of the activists who concludes inaccurately about how survival can only be achieved by living according to the rules of the biosphere; sharing and caring (Bauman, 2017: 39). Shiva seems to assume that this system will always be sustainable and deny any changes that might have taken place without human intervention.

    Such statements, indeed, are not entirely wrong, but they can be simply disproved by presupposition: what if one day a space object with more than half size of the earth is slowly approaching Earth, could living in accordance with the rules of the biosphere guarantee humans survive? Exceedingly impossible.

    This is the point I am not in line with the conservative outlook in environmentalism. Back to nature movement as campaigned through the religious way is just an old romanticism that does not guarantee anything about the survival of life on earth. Thus, in this paper I will question the framework of thinking used by environmentalists and ecofeminists; can advocacy about the environment be justified through holistic paradigm in ecology? Where exactly is the ethical anchor of environmentalism, is it humans or the earth?

    Is that possible to advocate environmentalism in a ‘holistic paradigm’?

    Advocating to be aware of something always presupposes a framework that can support a change. This means that environmentalism campaigns cannot possibly be built on a final foundation. That is why ecofeminists then choose to stand on social constructivism thinking so that they can argue the thought that we must change the construction to get out of the ecological crisis.

    This way of thinking, indeed, is philosophically problematic. If Merchant and ecofeminists, as explained by Bauman (2017: 42), insist that nature is a social construction, in nature and nurture debate, it means that they must reject the entire conception of physical and biological construction. Meanwhile, such rejection is contrary to the interconnected (holistic) paradigm that is carried by ecology itself.

    Ecology, as Bauman stated, is an observation effort that sees everything is connected to one another. “There is no organism on earth,” Bauman said, “that is not part of a web of connections and relationships; … Nothing is separate, nothing is alone (Bauman, 2017: 38).” In such a framework, social construction should never be separated from natural construction. In fact, if we can state that the natural world plays an important role in how the concept of religion is reconstructed (Bauman, 2017: 2), it means that it should also play a role in social construction.

    Thus, we can question again whether nature really is only a social construction? In a holistic paradigm, the answer should clearly be ‘no’. A construction is never possible in an empty space, it presupposes another condition that might be nature itself.

    A philosophical offer: how should we view the ecological crisis?

    I would say that there is something fallacious in how environmentalists view the ecological crisis. On the one hand, they see that the universe is, in Capra’s term, ‘a web of life’ which presupposes interrelation with one another. On the other hand, ecological discourse always leads to the issue of how humans play a major role in climate change. It means that we are still trapped in an anthropocentric framework which views humans as anchors of reality; humans are active subjects who have a large role to play in the survival of the earth.

    One important question that seems almost forgotten is what is the cause of human activity in its role in the ecological crisis? Does nature have no role at all in the pattern of human action in treating nature? If the answer is ‘no’, then the concept of interconnection has been mistaken from the beginning. In this way of reasoning, humans are assumed to be free agents who are cut off from the causality chain of the material world. Humans are always placed as a cause, never an effect.

    It seems to me that if we are consistent with the holistic paradigm, we must see that everything, ranging from destructive patterns of human action, ecological crises, to environmental movements, is a chain of causality that is somehow connected to one another. We do not need the concept of social constructivism to invite people to care about the environment. In time, nature will force humans to adapt in a completely new way—this has begun to be proven by scientific discoveries that can convert CO2 to O2 by several methods, one of which uses Caltech Reactor. Has not the theory of evolution taught that nature forces us to change from time to time, or are we just afraid of failing to move on to the next stage of evolution? []


    Bauman, et al. (2017). Grounding Religion: A Field Guide to the Study of Religion and Ecology. New York: Routledge.

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