29 June 2010
I hope to post short blasts here as I make my way through the text, but I should mention that even a cursory look confirms that this volume contains a number of totally germane and timely interventions into the permeable boundaries between environmental, social and aesthetic ecologies.
I started this afternoon with Darragh's "Blame Global Warming on Thoreau?" and was immediately reminded of Elliot Anderson's comment regarding viewer interest in the possible remediation of mercury poisoning through the promise of genetically engineered plants. Darragh begins by reading Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus' article "The Death of Environmentalism" in which the authors claim that "the environmental movement has failed to make headway on global warming issues because of its reliance on technical fixes and single-issue politics." Rather than reduce the environment to a "thing" that needs fixing or saving (one disaster at a time//each "fix" leading to further catastrophe), Darragh attempts to approach environmentalism outside of the "morality play" often depicted in "'nature poetry' as 'close reading.'" She writes,
"Thoreau framed our relationship to the environment as a balancing (see: management) act with wilderness and civilization seen as distinct categories that bring out the best in the other as long as Nature is 'rightly read.' This objective discernment of Nature results in the improved moral status of individuals."
But what happens, however if "individual consciousness development" (in which the notion of the Good thoroughly predicates our relationship to our immediate environment and our engagement with it) is not balanced and "contested by arguments that foreground political-economic structures"? Here Darragh makes what I take to be a pretty interesting claim, though at first sight it doesn't sound too deeply radical: "I believe we can build coalitions to protect all creatures and the environment by focusing on a slightly skewed form of 'tolerance' to hold us together rather than a grand narrative of 'coherent morality.'
I agree that the model linking objective and coherent notions of morality to completely subjective and incoherent actors in this "morality play" promises to dig deeper trenches in already deeply polarized issues; but I wonder what Darragh means here by "a slightly skewed form of 'tolerance'"? How skewed? and toward whom? And while tolerance might help to build coalitions, how will coalition-building as such deliver us from "single-issue politics" and "technical fixes"? When I hear the words "coalition" and "tolerance" in the same sentence, I immediately get the sense that praxis has been sacrificed on the alter of consensus. But I hope to hear more from Darragh on this front before proceeding...