The Canadian writer John Ralston Saul brilliantly asked how we’d design a society not knowing in advance what our role or place would be. That question, broadened beyond its anthropocene bias, might become: how would we design an ecozoic culture not knowing what life-form we’d embody – Huon pine, Siberian tiger, march-fly, sea-dragon? Or: what might constitute ecocracy, governance by, for and with the biosphere and the future?
These are unexpurgated versions of three letters published recently in the Guardian Weekly. I still wince when the editor lops me off, usually before the peroration. Reprinted here with permission.
6th October 2012
Thank you for your lifegiving thoughts on women as peacemakers (Women are creating harmony, but only men broker peace deals, 28 September). Three years ago my son and a colleague visited Afghanistan to research a policy document on the conflict; they conducted interviews across the cultural spectrum, from tribal leaders to NATO. Yet not a single woman was consulted. While I honoured the courage and intent of their journey, it still seemed to be ultimately a discourse by, with, about and for patriarchy. How could the same segregated, gendered consciousness – or lack of it – that had created such chaos and anguish, even begin to resolve the nightmare? Your article has transformed my disquieted maternal mutterings into a shout, dares me to dream out loud of the day when a robust and doughty ecology of eirenicon – the restoration, keeping and making of peace – replaces the lie of war as our central cultural narrative; when oxytocin, the ethical hormone that generates trust, kindness and reciprocity, is no longer trampled by testosterone (Dr Love’s drug comes from a hug, 3 August); and when the obscenity of the institutionalised, multi-billion dollar arms trade is outlawed and its perpetrators prosecuted for crimes against humanity.
Sexism is an insidious, many-headed hydra; here it is again in your headline to Bryan Furnass’ splendid letter (Homo bloody stupidus, Reply, 28 September). Why, in 2012, are we still using such subsuming, sidelining, silencing nomenclature? More than half of us are not homo. We are women. Hear us eirenically roar.
22nd August 2012
I’m gobsmacked by the torsion, the schizoid incongruence between ‘Hunger for rare earths leaves toxic legacy’ and ‘Wearable computers? Just wait…’ (10 August).
Baotou in Mongolia is uninhabitable. Its soil, air and water are putrescent with radioactive sludge and hazardous chemicals generated by the mining and processing of rare earths, essential components of glamorous, sexy, must-have e-gadgets such as energy-guzzling goggles that enable their users to simultaneously snowboard, receive weather forecasts and emails, change music channels and download their prowess to the internet.
What’s fun about a choice whose toxic consequences are excreted onto other humans, other species and the future? Freedom not co-valent with accountability is a self-serving and greedy lie.
Are smart-phones and their ilk in fact terminally stupid? Why aren’t they labelled like cigarette packets? ‘This product irreparably damages the biosphere.’
How do we stand our ground, reclaim agency in the face of our own terrifying nihilism, our ecocidal mania? What cultural, moral and ecological dots do we need to join up before we cannibalise our only Earth? How do we recover from collective disassociation so deep it’s delusional to the point of psychosis?
We’re in paralysed thrall to a market economy ruthless as a dictatorship, that would rather crucify lifekind than relinquish power. How do we wake up, break free, go sane? What might a planetary spring look like?
15th August 2012
The fact that I’m a staunch reader of real as opposed to e-books is irrelevant, because it’s not addressing the right question (My life as a bibliophile, 20 July; Reply, 10 August). If our only planet is to survive the 21st century in any viable form, our likes and dislikes, particularly when they’re dependent on or fuelled by the market, must take second place to the long-term common good, with ecological accountability as the non-negotiable benchmark of all human activity. Every decision we make – how we work, play, travel, eat, dress, waste – has major and increasingly dire consequences that reverberate throughout the biosphere and deep into the future.
It’s not possible to make an authentic choice between real and virtual books without a rigorous cradle-to-grave analysis of their environmental impact; if all the currently externalised costs – borne by air, water, soil, the poor, other life-forms and our children’s children – aren’t wholly factored into the market price, then we’re hubristic freeloaders embezzling and pimping a planet.
How do we learn to live in harmony with the multi-valenced, poly-nuanced, wildly creative, interdependent, continually evolving ecosystems on whose wellbeing our own depends? The Canadian writer John Ralston Saul brilliantly asked how we’d design a society not knowing in advance what our role or place would be. That question, broadened beyond its anthropocene bias, might become: how would we design an ecozoic culture not knowing what life-form we’d embody – Huon pine, Siberian tiger, march-fly, sea-dragon? Or: what might constitute ecocracy, governance by, for and with the biosphere and the future?