ecology and the closing of the political-ethical divide

(this post is in honor of the newly released U.N. report on global warming)

Ecology structurally resembles old-time religions. Specifically, it in some sense goes further than any religion has up until now:

If in christianity you had to do/believe X in order to save your soul and could tell others about it, should you feel so inclined;

and if in Islam you had to do/believe X in order to save your soul and were supposed to force others to do likewise (but would still save your own soul should you not succeed in converting others);

with ecology you have to do X in order to save yourself (though you have no longer a soul) but you also have to convince/force everyone else to do the same if you are going to succeed in saving yourself! This is going further than any of the monotheisms ever went.

Of course: ecology’s “holy book” is a whole bunch of carefully verified scientific findings, whereas christianity and islam’s holy books are, well, revealed. But that doesn’t change the basic similarity in the structure of the “religions”, though it does make ecology much more believable.

This analysis implies one important thing:

(1) with ecology, the distinction between ethics and politics disappears. You can certainly be a good ecologist on your own, reducing, reusing and recycling in your own home and biking to work, but this will only avoid a disaster (i.e. the End of The World) if governments force everyone else to do likewise. This is what christian and islamic fundamentalists in the U.S. and Middle East are also trying to do.

Ecology has a view of well-being that is all-inclusive; it allows for no individualism as far as salvation is concerned (in this sense it is closer to the mono/heno-theism of judaism). Either we all make it, or none of us do. We therefore must force one another to be good. Ethics therefore trumps politics (as it should when we can all agree on the ethics). There can no longer be a separation between ecology and state, however much we might still want to separate churches from the latter.

Now i am not dissing ecology. As i stated above, it is by far the more believable of the options out there, and i do realize that it does not see itself as a religion (no new religion ever does). And i’m all for it, anyway. But nonetheless and my personal feelings notwithstanding, it looks awfully much like a religion, and a rather stringent one at that! And to top it off, we cannot either imagine it being wrong or come up with an alternative. Now does that not ever sound like good old-time, medieval religion (only its green now)!

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3 Comments to “ecology and the closing of the political-ethical divide”

  1. Ecology can be viewed in as many ways as there are lenses. It is new and not new. It may be a Religion (pantheism perhaps or an enlightened Theism?) but, though rules flowing from it’s holistic scientific view can be embodied in the laws of a state, the view need not be included,
    i. e. people aren’t required to believe it; they must do it.
    We can’t post the 10 commandments in a courthouse in the U.S.; but we can still make a law of “though shall not kill” — ah hum, unless it is state sanctioned of course (but that is another matter… or is it?).

    Communities have always had restrictions regarding the environment. Not defecating in your water hole is perhaps the oldest. Over time, as science has shown that we shit in our waterhole (and air, soil, etc.) more than we knew, the taboos increase. Sadly, they don’t increase as fast as our population and use of inappropriate technology: we filter shit while we produce more shit than we can filter. And even if most can agree we must not destroy our world completely, intelligent people may differ about what is an acceptable (sustainable) level of pollution and how we treat it.

    We will never all agree on an Ethics, but political bodies can declare and enforce the evolving rules following the ethics of the day.
    The Rule of Law. However, for the law to evolve, unjust laws will be broken, and people unjustly punished, before the law is altered to reflect a more complete understanding.

    The lense may be pragmatic: don’t do this or we’ll all get sick.

    It can be pantheistic: the many forces of nature are sacred and should be treated as such.

    It can be a certain kind of earth-respecting Theism: that we must respect God’s creation. (Not the Christianity of Manifest Destiny that mostly slaughtered the indigenous populations living in concordance with nature. It slaughters still!)

    Etc.: name your lens.

    It’s about time for a greening of Religion, a greening of Ethics, a greening of government, a greening of all things.

    Pardon my ramble.

  2. eduardo –
    ur right about ecology being mostly a matter of ethics, and one that has always been legislated at that. The point of my own ramble was simply (i think) that people now have a strong personal ethics that they can only realize through politics. The distinction between private ethics and public politics is no longer tenable. of course back in the day when people were shitting in their neighbours drinking holes, such a distinction didnt even apply. but the moderns (18th, 19th, 20th centuries) thought it did and tried to enforce it. We are now back to a point where we have to start forcing people to behave certain ways (taking away freedoms) instead of granting ever wider discretion. It can’t be avoided, but i think we need to be aware of it.

  3. I meant to write in the first paragraph: Thou Shalt Not Kill.

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