How Deep Is Deep Ecology? (George Bradford) pdf, epub, doc

How Deep Is Deep Ecology? ePub and PDF Available
I found the critique that he offers of the "deep ecology" philosophy advocated by Earth First! important, and it probably seemed necessary to make this definitive statement in the face of what seemed like an emerging movement at the time (1989).

As it turns out, EF! is no more influential now than then, and I imagine that if anything it is significantly less so. I certainly don't know of any eco-activists as well-known or influential as Dave Foreman or Edward Abbey today. (Derrick Jensen would qualify if he were more of a public figure, and less insulated from regular folks. He does now seem to be going in that direction.)

Anyway I think Bradford (a.k.a. David Watson) stretches a little too far in his critique of those he identifies as neo-malthusians. (And Thomas Malthus really was an anti-proletarian bastard, it turns out.)

There was some very disturbing stuff coming out of the mouths of Foreman and Abbey in the 80s. Some racist, xenophobic, arguably genocidal stuff. For example, Foreman wrote in response to criticism of his support of third world population reduction through starvation, "Call me a fascist if you like, but I am more interested in bears, rainforests, and whales than in people." As far as I know, Abbey mainly restricted himself to Mexican-hating.

There is no defending this kind of "deep ecology."

But, in one important case, Bradford is mistaken. He claims that, in his book Overshoot (1980), William Catton is incorrect to include nonrenewables like fossil fuels in his idea of "phantom carrying capacity." That—maybe my favorite—part of the book is actually a very early (rudimentary) recognition of "peak oil" a couple of decades before it was being discussed in public.

Watson simplistically assumes that, because humans don't biologically require industrial civilization, the modern technical apparatus shouldn't be part of any metric of carrying capacity. Unfortunately members of industrial civilization are very much biologically dependent on it because as a rule they don't have the knowledge to provide for their own subsistence otherwise.

He fails in reading this as a malthusian justification of present starvation, when it is only a warning of (more generalized) starvation to come, resulting from an eventual disparity in the need for the fuel of industrial society and an inevitably waning supply of it. Foreman and his ilk may have read it the wrong way, but that's not Catton's fault.

Otherwise Bradford is right on when he points out problems like Catton's absurd reductionism to ecology of everything political and economic in human history and his unthinking "Yankee Doodle" patriotism, which I think is just typical old man talk. (He's probably a WWII vet.) Bradford makes it clear that current starvation is solely the result of capital's expropriation of land from third world peasants for the purpose of agricultural exports to the US and other developed nations; and high rates of reproduction are a desperate attempt to achieve some economic security in the conditions of poverty that global capitalism has imposed.

He continues on the theme of third world starvation and population growth in the Essay-Review of Reproductive Rights and Wrongs that finishes the book. Here capital takes the blame, and the profit:

"Desertification, like deforestation, is largely a result of inequities... A world land census in 1960 revealed that 2.5 percent of landowners controlled 75 percent of of arable land in the world, and the top 0.23 percent controlled over half. And where starvation ravaged the poor, those regions, as in the famished Sahel of Africa, actually increased agricultural exports." p. 76

The issue of overpopulation, as Bradford shows, is problematic, especially when the focus is isolated on specific populations, in a context of international economic exploitation. At the same time, industrialism's profligate exploitation of fossil fuels has resulted directly in a generalized population explosion the grim consequences of which are inherent in the finitude of that, its primary fuel.

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