Ecocene Politics

It has been a while since my last post. The reason for this is very simple: I have focused all of my writing energy on two books that had been long in the making, and that have now been published: Understanding the Rights of Nature: A Critical Introduction, and Ecocene Politics. Both are also available in open access, in addition to the classic formats (for decent prices). Here, I want to briefly present one of them; I will do the same for the other in a separate post.

Before I start: I am very happy to have worked with a publisher dedicated to pioneering new, ethical publishing models. Open Book Publishers deserves a lot of credit for their efforts in disseminating work widely, with a sustained focus on the Global South. I am privileged to have worked with them.

For some time I have been reading and thinking about the dire ecological predicament more and more people find themselves in. There is a lot of work on that out there. The new era has been given the now popular name of the Anthropocene – the age of humans, because ‘humans’ are modifying ‘nature’ to an unprecedented extent and at unbelievable speed. How to think our way through and beyond this era is not so obvious, especially if we start our reflections with a lucid stance that accepts the fact of perpetual and destabilising environmental loss.

Starting from this admittedly sobering point, my book tries to think its way towards ways of living that can work with the reality of loss. I like to think that in an uncertain and potentially much worse future, we will still be able to compose good lives. Imagining what that may mean is an important task, and it starts with rethinking basic political ideas that are no longer fit for a world whose ecology is changing dramatically.

It is, indeed, ecology that is changing. But ecological arrangements have always changed, they are always dynamic, albeit it at various speeds. So, it seems that the science of ecology may harbour political ideas that are worth exploring. I try to do this, and consider ecological science side by side with ways of thinking about the surrounding world that are not a main driver of what causes ecological disaster to begin with (extractivism, callousness, infinite growth). I therefore also consider philosophical traditions, such as Māori ones, that can help us recompose in the wake of loss, because they have developed ideas that are very different from dominant modern ones.

Is it, then, the age of humans that we have entered? Or is it more politically useful to think that we have entered the age of ecology, the age when ecology has to matter like never before, and the age when ecological process become disruptive political forces themselves? Of course, geologically we can talk about the Anthropocene; but politically, it may be that the Ecocene suggests better futures.

I spend a lot of time with this idea in the book, teasing it out, thinking about different ways of feeling and living – reciprocal ways, for example, visible through practices that try to restore constructive relationships between particular humans and particular environments. There is too much in there to go over here, but on a personal note, the writing of this text has been meaningful beyond the concepts it may propose. It is not just ideas that are developed, but also a particular sensibility that sustains them and gives them affective force as well. I like to think that this book is not just an intellectual exercise, but also a way of feeling a world that we have to perpetually get to know, even when we are about to be engulfed by its violence.

The most I can hope for is that, as reader, you will feel and receive the energy that has sustained this book. Thank you for tuning in; what a pleasure to meet.

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