Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Biocentrism as a Solution: Reflections on "The Land and Language of Desire: Where Deep Ecology and Post-Structuralism Meet" by SueEllen Campbell

The Unknown's picture

          It is ironic that the ecological world is so concentrated on systems of connection, when it seems that the social and political structures are constantly trying to show distinctions, disconnections, and confusion. “Even in the rare cases when someone from one world really tries to deal with the other side, the chasm seems unbridgeable, the languages too different to translate” (Campbell 125). I was intrigued by the way Campbell complicated the relationship between nature and textuality.

            “Perhaps this seemed possible because I was just then crossing the dividing line, part of my mind still full of theory, the rest of it with my body in the quiet sunshine” (Campbell 126). Part of thinking ecologically, involves losing and letting go of seeing ourselves at the center. It is terrifying to think that we are not one “body.” I was impressed by how clearly Campbell connected authority, tradition, and history to this idea that humans are the most important beings and that everything is concentrated around us. He explains that this notion is political and justifies destruction and stealing of natural materials for the benefit of the wealthy and powerful. This commonly recognized idea that people are above, stronger, faster, and more adaptable than any other species, enables structures of inequality, injustice, and devastation to continue and remain fortified.

            To become more ecological, means to dismantle power structures and who decides how we communicate and connect with our surroundings. SuEllen Campbell articulates that to see ourselves as belonging to and intertwined with the environment means reorganizing our values and priorities: “What is at stake,’ writes the theorist Sandor Goodhart, ‘is Western humanism at large” (Campbell 127). Campbell and Goodhart argue that humans have always communicated and collaborated with the land, both in action and in thought, and to understand this is the beginning of ceasing to destroy the land. If we understand that it is not only possible, but also people have lived ecologically, than confronting issues of climate change and extinction seems attainable. Confronting these “natural” issues is addressing our own existence. It is also important to rearrange our principles so that they are centered on preservation and renewal.

            SueEllen Campbell argues that there is nothing separate about humans: “Barry Lopez, for instance, replaces the distinction between humanized landscapes and uninhabited wilderness by paying attention to how the human imagination- as well as human action- has always interacted with the land” (Campbell 128).  Campbell addresses how the lens through which people interpret and understand the world is possibly just as significant in understanding the ecological connections as what we see. Though his conclusions make sense, I had not thought that through looking and searching for answers around us, we are also exploring solutions within us. In a sense, there is no reason to look beyond ourselves for explanations, if we are essentially connected to everything.

            According to SueEllen Campbell, theorists and ecologists challenge these systems: “Both theorists and ecologists … are at core revolutionary. They stand in opposition to traditional authority, which they question and then reject” (Campbell 127). Theorists and ecologists are constantly interrogating Western ideas and their negative effects. They are challenging rank and a notion that one part of the ecological interconnected order is more important than any other. Ecology reorganizes and prioritizes what is important.

            I was stunned by Campbell’s definition of strange/mad and reminded of our discussion a few days ago. SueEllen Campbell explains the words different and strange: “From the Middle Ages on, in different ways at different times, what we do not want in our society-not just delirium and hallucination, not even just hysteria and hypochondria and criminality, but poverty and idleness and discontent” (Campbell 128). Though we skirted around this definition, we never quite stated that difference or strange could also be what the elite deem as not necessary in society. Difference can mean exclusion and separation- a severing of connections. Seeing something as strange takes away its value and purpose.