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General Ecology. The New Ecological Paradigm

Editor: Erich Hörl. Associate editor: James Edward Burton.

May 2017.

Texts written by Erich Hörl, Luciana Parisi, Frédéric Neyrat, Bernard Stiegler, Didier Debaise, Jussi Parikka, Bruce Clarke, Cary Wolfe, David Wills, James Burton, Elena Esposito, Timothy Morton, Matthew Fuller, and Brian Massumi.

My article, “Elements for an ecology of separation: Beyond ecological constructivism,” begins this way:

“Everything is interconnected: such is the principle of principles of ecology. The objective of an ecology of separation is to contest this principle, not in order to refute it entirely, but to show that every relation is founded on a separation. In other words, it is concerned with causing the repressed content of ecology, and of the thinking which inspires it, to resurface. This repressed element is the following: interconnection must leave room for separation and must metabolize, symbolize, recognize it, if it is to avoid falling into the confusion resulting from the abolition of differences. For a confusion is not a relation, but its opposite—an indistinct jumble.

This confusion is not only harmful to theory, that is to say, to our capacity to distinguish [faire la part] forms of existence, but also to the political. Without separation, that is, without the capacity to produce a distance within the interior of a socio-economic situation, no real political decision is possible, no technological choice is truly conceivable, no resilience—understood in the first instance as the capacity to draw back—can be expected.1 In a universe of pure continuity, with no faults, no outside, automated reactions replace decisions, and each new technology that appears in the saturated market of anthropogenic environments presents itself as an ineluctable destiny. For we no longer know how to tell apart [faire la part], we no longer know how to maintain a distance, how to separate ourselves. We are fascinated by the accumulation of forecasted ecological catastrophes, and we continue to adore a divine Technology that we expect to save us from ourselves; every year we award a prize to the Hollywoodian scenario of the end of the world that we find most probable, and we admire the proposed atmospheric shield that geo-engineers promise will protect us from climate change.2 The imagination does not help us to contest this world: it does not offer us an alternative image, a counter-model to what we are; nor does it constitute the romantic reserve of lost voices of modernity, but participates in the production of the global network in which the living and the machinic, humans and nonhumans blend together. We are thoroughly interlinked, and we dream of being even more so.

The ecology of separation, this apparent paradox, does not refuse relations, zones of continuity and contiguity, the marvellous ambiguities in which differences change places and lose themselves; it is not in any sense about restoring pure ontological identities, sealed boundaries or any kind of symbolic order!3 The ecology of separation maintains simply this: to be truly political, to take into consideration the dangers which may threaten us, to distinguish between that which humans may construct and that which cannot or should not be constructed, to know in what ways it is still possible to use the words “nature” and “environment,” to enable the ecosystems to be resilient and to endure the disasters of the Anthropocene, ecology must leave space for separation. This will not be possible without attacking that which is clogging up this space, which we may call “ecological constructivism.””

 

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