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CLARK, John. A Social Ecology. 07. An Ecological Imaginary
Article published on 31 May 2004
last modification on 25 April 2015

by r-c.
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Presentation

1. The Social and the Ecological

2. A Dialectical Holism

3. No Nature

4. The Ecological Self

5. A Social Ecology of Value

6. An Ecology of the Imagination

An Ecological Imaginary

One result of the careful study of the social imaginary is the realization that a decisive moment in social transformation is the development of a counter-imaginary. Success in the quest for an ecological society will depend in part on the generation of a powerful ecological imaginary to challenge the dominant economistic one. While this process is perhaps in an embryonic stage, we have in fact already developed certain important elements of an emerging ecological imaginary.

The image of the region poses a powerful challenge to the economistic, statist and technological imaginaries. Regions are a powerful presence, yet have no clearly definable boundaries. This is the case whether these regions be ecoregions, georegions, bioregions, ethnoregions, mythoregions, psychoregions, or any other kind. Regionalism evokes a dialectical imagination that grasps the mutual determination between diverse realms of being, between culture and nature, unity and multiplicity, between form and formlessness, between being and nothingness. The concept of regionality implies an interplay between the overlapping, evolving boundaries of natural spaces and the flowing, redefining boundaries of imaginary spaces. [1]

The region is intimately connected to another powerful ecological image—that of the wild. The wild is present in the spontaneous aspects of culture and nature. We find it in forms of wild culture, wild nature, and wild mind : in the poetic, in the carnavalesque, in dreams, in the unconscious, in wilderness. We find it in the living earth, and in the processes of growth and unfolding on the personal, communal, planetary and cosmic levels. The point is not to find the wild in any «pristine» state; it is always intermixed with civilization, domestication, and even domination. The discovery of the wild within a being or any realm of being means the uncovering of its self-manifestation, its creative aspects, its relative autonomy. It is the basis for respect for beings, but even more, for wonder, awe, and a sense of the sacred in all things. The revolts and individualisms of the dominant culture appear quite tame when civilization is subjected to the critique of the wild. [2]

The image of the earth as «Home,» or planetary household, and humans as members of the earth community has great imaginary power. As we develop greater knowledge of ecological complexity, and as we rediscover the marvelous richness of place, the earth image begins to incorporate within itself a rich regional and local specificity, and become a holistic representation of planetary unity-in-diversity. As the horror of economistic-technocratic globalism becomes increasingly apparent, and as the world is remade in the image of the factory, the prison and the shopping mall, the rich, dialectical counter-image of the earth will necessarily gain increasing imaginary force.

The ecological imaginary can be expanded further to cosmic or universal dimensions. All cultures have felt the need to imagine the macrocosm and orient themselves in relation to the whole. Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry contend that the universe story, taken from contemporary cosmology and transformed into a culturally-orienting narrative «is the only way of providing, in our times, what the mythic stories of the universe provided for tribal peoples and for the earlier classical civilizations in their times.» [3] Through the universe and earth story, people see themselves as part of larger processes of development and «unfolding of the cosmos.» They thus achieve «a sense of relatedness to the various living and nonliving components of the earth community.» [4] These powerful, indeed sublime narratives relativize cultural absolutes and shake the dominant imaginary, just as they give new imaginary meaning to human existence, consciousness and creativity.

Continued:

8. Freedom and Domination

9. Eco-Communitarian Politics

10. Social Eco-nomics

11. The New Leviathan

12. The Future of Social Ecology

Notes :

[1For a discussion of the radical implications of regionalism, see Max Cafard, «The Surre(gion)alist Manifesto» in Exquisite Corpse 8 (1990) : 1, 22-23

[2See Gary Snyder’s classic essay, «Good, Wild, Sacred» in The Practice of the Wild (San Francisco : North Point Press, 1990).

[3Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, The Universe Story : From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era (New York : HarperCollins, 1992), p. 3.

[4Ibid., p. 5


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