Response to Social Ecology B

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Bookchin’s comprehensive approach to environmental problems echoes the weak anthropocentrism ethic proposed by John Huckle in his essay “Sustainable Development.”  It is only appropriate to approach an interdisciplinary and comprehensive problem like environmental exploitation with integrated solutions that incorporate dimensions of society, economics, and science.  Many approaches to environmental exploitation and subsequent consequences of it only treat symptoms of the problem rather than addressing the root cause.  For example, soil toxicity problems are treated by removing top layers of soil and disposing of them at a landfill as hazardous waste.  Clearly, this approach to remedying soil quality does not prevent further soil pollution or address any issues of quality control regulation or environmental injustice likely associated with this problem.  If Bookchin’s social ecology was applied in a soil toxicity case study, it would serve as a preventative measure against pollution in the first place.  Additionally, such an approach would naturally and elegantly integrate the precautionary principle. 

I feel that a comprehensive approach to environmental issues comparable to social ecology or weak anthropocentrism would so successfully focus on treating exploitative activity that arguments from climate change deniers would hold no water.  That is, if the exploitation of environmental resources can be addressed (which can be agreed upon by a reasonable majority as a phenomena that occurs and does not require elaborate model-based scientific data to prove), activities that contribute to climate change would be reduced by default.

A drawback to implementing social ecology is the breadth and scope of changes in contemporary social values, policy, and regulatory enforcement that would have to take place.  Such a social paradigm shift would occur in no less than a decade.  While this may seem grim, the 1973 Oil Embargo catalyzed an environmentally conscious movement in the United States that spurred alternative energy research, increased the enforcement and strength of environmental legislation, and made environmental conservation a hot button voting issue. 

John Huckle states, “We should balance our rights to self-determination and development, with responsibilities towards the rest of the human and biotic community” (emphasis mine).  I disagree that this statement should merely be a prescription of human behavior, but must become a description of contemporary behavior within the next decade if we are to avoid positive feedback loops that would send climate/ecological cycles into a tailspin. 

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