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The Impotence of Current Society and the Potential for a New Present- Draft

Marina's picture

There exists an alternative lifestyle— an ideal form of being—which humans are currently incapable of achieving: ecological intelligence. Within this lifestyle lies the key to overcoming self-destruction.

“Ecological intelligence takes account of relationships, contexts, as well as the impacts of ideas and behaviors on other members in the cultural and natural systems” (Bowers 45).  That is to say, ecological intelligence is an awareness of the interconnectivity causing every “agent” of Earth to live in complete dependence on one another (Latour). Reaching this awareness is brought upon, as emphasized in LeGuin’s, “Vaster than Empires, and More Slow,” by an innate ability to empathize with every agent in existence. Empathy allows for the mutual understanding between entities, that every aspect of Earth impacts and is impacted by every agent it interacts with.

The obstacle the “human agency” is now faced with is a certain reliance upon a set of communications that do not offer up a method of articulating ecological intelligence. In “Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene,” Bruno Latour states, “the point of living in the epoch of the Anthropocene is that all agents share the same shape-changing destiny, a destiny that cannot be followed, documented, told, and represented by using any of the older traits associated with subjectivity or objectivity” (15). The “association” with the notion of subjectivity and objectivity creates a rift, an inequality born of distinction between subject and object, between various agents and leaves communications too broken for empathy to take root.

Latour therefore proposes “the crucial political task…to distribute agency as far and in as differentiated a way as possible—until, that is, we have thoroughly lost any relation between those two concepts of object and subject that are no longer of any interest any more except in the patrimonial sense” (15). And so, “we are condemned by the history of philosophy,” to die long before the solution to ecological intelligence is reached (15). The death of our “dialectic” generation, indoctrinated by the concepts of individual and other, is the salvation of future generations to be born into a world “that has not previously been deanimated” (16).

Humanity’s goal of survival is long term—effects will not be immediate and will most likely not be seen in their entirety within our lifetime. This does not mean that we will not be acted upon by these effects. Part of ecological intelligence relies on empathy not only with those who have preceded us, but those who will succeed us. “In the real world time flows from the future to the present…The reason why such a point is always lost is because of a long history during which the “scientific worldview” has reversed this order, inventing the idea of a material world” (13). Latour encourages a discontinuance of our “scientific worldview,” which traps us within a misconception: a fallacy that the present is more strongly influenced by the causality of past on present, than the potential of future actions. Humans have the potential to progress towards a partial state of ecological intelligence at this very moment. How the human agency has previously decided to act upon this potential for the future has decided the present we are currently in (facing a global crisis), and the way we decide to act within our impending future will create our new present. The progression of time from future to present becomes an infinite cycle which is of equal importance as that of the past, to our conceptions of the present.

As for the potential actions we have available to us, I believe Latour would argue that the best course of action in our efforts towards ecological intelligence would be to abandon the current methods of instilling, within younger generations, a reliance on thought processes and communications influenced by distinguishing agents as either subject or object, acting on or being acted upon. He claims that it is necessary for “the various threads of geostory [to] ally themselves with new sources of activity and dynamism,” leaving behind the archaic concepts of politics and the scientific worldview (15). “The prefix “geo” in geostory does not stand for the return to nature, but for the return of object and subject back to the ground…Only then will the Earthbound have a chance to articulate their speech in a way that will be compatible with the articulation of Gaia” (16).

Bowers, C.E. "Steps to the Recovery of Ecological Intelligence." OMETECA 43: 14-15.

Latour, Bruno. "Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene." New Literary History 45, 1 (Winter 2014): 1-18.

LeGuin, Ursula. "Vaster than Empires and More Slow." The Wind's Twelve Quarters: Short Stories. New York: Harper and Row, 1975. 148-178.