Political Ecology and the Anecdote of the Jar

Governments the world over have been imagined in different forms. In some cases, a society's governing structure has been seen as a benevolent patriarch, a contract among equals, a custodian of what is or a shepherd that will lead us to the future. What would be the result if we thought of politics in ecological terms?

There was a wonderful post on Civil Eats last week, A Young Farmer Calls for Political Ecology. What struck me most was the first bit:

"As an ecologically-minded horticulturist, I like to think about everything with an ecological framework. Ecology, simply, is the study of organisms in relation to other organisms and the environment. Many things could be said to be wrong with the state of our nation’s political life, but if there is one to emphasize, it is the lack of a political ecology. We tend to compartmentalize political issues, along the lines of our individual political identities (sometimes referred to as issues “silos”), and this often negates efforts to connect the dots between diverse issues.

This is something I blog about frequently: our worldview is mirrored in our behavior, meaing we should pay attention to the imagination as a tool in creating a better life. Whether we use the earth or the body as our map, we must find some vision that binds us together as citizens and humans. Resources are only going to get scarcer, and unfortunately a worldview based upon nations and individuals has given rise to a situation like climate change that demands a global solution.

As the "young farmer" says, "The environmentalist’s worldview is steeped in the interdependent view of life; the understanding that one action can cause reactions beyond the expected." What seemingly-separate issues do you see as interdependent?

The "siloing" of political discourse made me think of this Wallace Stevens poem,

Anecdote of the Jar

by Wallace Stevens

I placed a jar in Tennessee,

And round it was, upon a hill.

It made the slovenly wilderness

Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,

And sprawled around, no longer wild.

The jar was round upon the ground

And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.

The jar was gray and bare.

It did not give of bird or bush,

Like nothing else in Tennessee.

Tags: Collective, Ecology, Environmental, Interdependence, Policy

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