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The Status Quo must not Continue

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
June 17, 1999


"We have come to define progress as the degree to which our lives become more artificial, the degree to which we surround ourselves with man made systems." — Theodore Roszak

Currently I am involved in a discussion course on Deep Ecology. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, Deep Ecology is the philosophical approach in which humans look at their relationship with the earth, and the interconnectedness of everything on it. The inquiries prompted by this ongoing discussion includes readings that address the emerging field of ecopsychology. Which is pretty heavy stuff.

Surprisingly enough, this has actually help shift my thinking in ways that have left me feeling somewhat foolish.  Historian Theodore Roszak, asserts that "ecology needs psychology," and that  by constantly relying on the negative scare tactics and blame game, environmentalists are only creating a backlash in people who otherwise share their concerns. Guilty as charged, it seems now, I was not looking deep enough to see that we are all caught up in a lifestyle that has severed our connection with the natural world.

Considering that the industrial paradigm began 300 years ago, and is based in an ideology of conquest and control. I now see that vilifying current society is, for the most part, counterproductive to bringing about a deeper understanding of the human species, and our symbiotic relationship to the natural world we try to dominate. Caught in a vicious cycle not of our creation, finger pointing serves only as a panacea for any viable action. Education is what is needed, not accusation.

I am just now beginning to understand that instead of using this column to promote the process of healing, I have merely complained about the symptoms of environmental ill health confronting western culture. Very much like an addiction, our reliance on the industrial model of progress, only furthers to disconnect us from ecological realities. Like peeling an onion, Deep Ecology has prompted me to investigate the psychological process I utilize to confront the issue of my own disconnection.

As a culture, and I include myself in this assessment, we are addicted to technologies that we know are destroying that which we rely on. By viewing nature as a resource to manipulate, we are caught up in a cycle of manipulations that seems impossible to escape. Out of fear, we cling to technological manipulations, as we would a life preserver, trying desperately to keep our head above the water, in a sea of our own machinations.

About this time I bet most of you wondering what this has to do with those of us in coastal North County. In a word? Everything. Our disconnection is evidenced by our very reliance on fossil fuels at a time when we are quite aware of the damage being done by this tool of convenience. Oddly enough amidst the growing knowledge of the impact auto culture has on earth's biological systems, consumers rise up in protest when the cost of these polluting fossil fuels increases.

By developing a sense of ecopsychology, we can begin to see for ourselves how a diverse, open system encompasses more ways of responding to environmental stresses than the closed industrial model allows. Currently we respond to freeway gridlock by widening freeways, as opposed to confronting the fact that we have forced ourselves onto these freeways in the first place. We know that our cars  pollute the environment, yet in response to this knowledge we incorporate chemical additives as a way of trying to alleviate the damage done, and in the process we just compound the problem.

Deep ecology asks us to recognize the human need to have a healthy sense of connection to the earth, and that without this earth connection we are spiritually adrift in a world in which we have replaced balance with a materialistic disorder. The fact that we could allow another species to go extinct so that we can wear feathers in our hat, as was the case of the Carolina parakeet, is just one more example of how we have lost sight of how truly disconnected we really are.

In the past it might have seemed that I was under the impression that I had all the answers. And I am sure I was entirely responsible for such creating such an impression, it is only now that I begin to see that I was completely missing what is now so obvious. To be very honest, I was totally disregarding friends who kept advising me that you can't attract allies with aggression.

Hopefully this, finally absorbed revelation, will translate into a less confrontational, and more inspirational column. A column that encourages a move towards an environmental awareness that allows all of us to regain our place in the biotic community without sacrificing those things that make humans unique, such as art, music and the sense of awe that inspires them both.

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