Social Ecology versus Deep Ecology: A Challenge for the Ecology Movement
by Murray Bookchin
[Originally published in Green Perspectives: Newsletter of the Green Program Project, nos. 4-5 (summer 1987). In the original, the term deep ecology appeared in quotation marks; they have been removed in this online posting.]
The environmental movement has traveled a long way since those early Earth Day festivals when millions of school kids were ritualistically mobilized to clean up streets, while Arthur Godfrey, Barry Commoner, Paul Ehrlich, and a bouquet of manipulative legislators scolded their parents for littering the landscape with cans, newspapers, and bottles.
The movement has gone beyond a naive belief that patchwork reforms and solemn vows by EPA bureaucrats to act more resolutely will seriously arrest the insane pace at which we are tearing down the planet. This shopworn Earth Day approach to engineering nature so that we can ravage the Earth with minimal effect on ourselves---an approach that I called environmentalism in the late 1960s, in contrast to social ecology---has shown signs of giving way to a more searching and radical mentality. Today the new word in vogue is ecology---be it deep ecology, human ecology, biocentric ecology, antihumanist ecology, or to use a term that is uniquely rich in meaning, social ecology.
Spiral Island is the name given to two world famous floating artificial islands built by British expatriate and eco-pioneer Richart "Rishi" Sowa.
Sowa, a musician, artist, and carpenter started constructing the original Spiral Island in 1998 in the Maya Riveria of Mexico. The first Spiral island was located in a lagoon near Puerto Aventuras, on the Caribbean coast of Mexico south of Cancún. Rishi began filling nets with empty discarded plastic bottles to support a structure of plywood and bamboo, on which he poured sand and planted numerous plants, including mangroves. The floating bottle island sported a two-story palapa structure, a solar oven, a self-composting toilet, and three beaches. Some 250,000 bottles were used to construct the 66 feet (20 m) by 54 feet (16 m) floating island structure. Rishi planted mangroves to help keep the island cool, and some of the mangroves rose up to 15 feet (4.6 m) high.
Richie Sowa (Re)Builds Mexican Island Paradise on 250,000 Recycled Floating Bottles
If you can’t afford to buy your own tropical island paradise, why not build your own? That is exactly what Richie Sowa did back in 1998, from over a quarter-million plastic bottles. His Spiral Island, destroyed years later by a hurricane, sported a two-story house, solar oven, self-composting toilet and multiple beaches. Better yet, he has started building another one! His ultimate goal? To build the island bigger and bigger and finally float out to sea, traveling the world from the comfort of his own private paradise.
The original Spiral Island was (as its successor will be) built upon a floating collection used plastic bottles, all netted together to support a bamboo and plywood structure above. Located in Mexico, the original was 66 by 54 feet and was able to support full-sized mangroves to provide shade and privacy, yet also able to be moved from place to place by its creator as need with a simple motorized system.
An environmentalist to the core, Sowa is also an artist and a musician. More than just the universal dream of an island retreat, Spiral Island is also his vision for low-impact sustainable living. The next version of the island will be built to withstand more treacherous weather than the first and will also be located in a more sheltered part of Mexico’s waters.
The Above Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not video is a great introduction to the island, which conjures images of Gilligan-done-right. Spiral island is able to exist and move about in Mexico in part because it is classified as a ship, not an island, like an atoll out of WaterWorld (only much much cooler). On September 7, 2007 the new Spiral Islander social network utility was opened to the public to allow visitors, Spiral Islanders and friends of Richie Sowa to connect and communicate about the history of Spiral Island and to learn more and discuss Richie Sowa’s new Spiral Island. Want more islands? See these 7 Island Wonders of the World from WebUrbanist.
The underground water supplies, upon which 1.5 million Palestinians depend for agricultural and drinking water, are in danger of collapse as a result of years of over-use and contamination that have been exacerbated by the recent conflict.
The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) are calling for the widespread uptake of 'green' agricultural practices that will deliver multiple benefits to the world's rapidly growing populations
Iraq wants to eliminate ozone depleting substances (ODS) such as CFCs from its refrigeration and foam industries by 1 January 2010 in accordance with the target set under the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty set up to protect the ozone layer.
You are invited to attend the launch of the world's first international commission on the catastrophic loss of the world's ecosystems. Legislators will argue that Governments are failing to stop the destruction of the world's ecosystems at a summit in Nairobi on the 18/19 July.
The heads of five international organizations have joined the international campaign to galvanize public support for a successful outcome to UN-sponsored climate change negotiations by signing a global petition addressed to world leaders.
In a keynote address to Chatham House in London, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said G8 leaders have a golden opportunity to focus political action towards powering forward a Green Economy future.
In an effort to green the Sochi Olympics in 2014, UNEP has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Russian Olympic organizers to help and advise them on making the Games environmentally friendly.
Hopes that a comprehensive climate agreement can be agreed in Copenhagen in December were given encouragement after leaders of the world's eight major economic powers agreed to broad goals for reducing global warming at the G8 meeting in L'Aquila.
16 top CEOs from China have attended a workshop at the UN Environment Programme headquarters to learn more about what the agency is doing in the Green Economy initiatives, combating climate change, international campaigns, green construction, reforestation and the green technology.
Achim Steiner, the head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), today welcomed the 'Green Growth' Declaration by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) saying it underlined the way environment was rapidly being brought into the centre of economic discourse and policy-making. Ministers from 40 countries said: "Well targeted policy instruments can be used to encourage green investment in order to simultaneously contribute to economic recovery in the short-term and help to build the environmentally-friendly infrastructure required in the long term—the crisis should not be used as an excuse to postpone crucial decisions for the future of the planet".
At least 21 UN agencies today backed the call for a world-wide transition to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy able to deliver multiple economic, social and environmental opportunities in the 21st century. Such a transition is needed to catalyze a sustainable global economic recovery while generating decent jobs, enhancing food security, and reducing dependence on finite fossil fuels. A Green Economy can also address multiple persistent and looming crises from overcoming poverty and combating climate change to reversing the degradation of multi-trillion dollar ecosystems and their services, experts argue.
On the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Bonn Convention, the Russian Federation has enhanced its support for the conservation of the Saiga antelope by signing the relevant agreement established in the framework of the Convention. The Saiga antelope is one of most rapidly declining land mammal species worldwide. While one million of the ungulates still traveled through the Eurasian steppe as recently as the early 90s, their populations have dwindled to less than 100,000 animals today.
"The world faces a growing risk of "abrupt and irreversible climatic shifts," was the conclusion of report by international scientists issued on Thursday. The 36-page document summarized over 1,400 studies which were presented at a climate conference last March in Copenhagen attended by some 2,000 scientists from over 70 countries. The research, which was written and reviewed by many of the scientists who compiled the benchmark UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2007, presents the newest scientific evidence that warns that ocean temperatures, sea levels, extreme climate conditions and the retreat of the Arctic sea ice have picked up more pace than experts predicted two years ago.
A scientific paper, highlighting the need to accelerate action over a group of gases known as Hydroflurocarbons (HFCs) as part of the climate change agenda, was today welcomed by the head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The findings, by an international team of researchers are published in the Proceeedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The scientists argue that HFC use could climb sharply in the coming years in products such as insulation foams, air conditioning units and refrigeration as replacements for ones being phased-out to protect the ozone layer.
Echoing the 'Healing the Earth' ceremonies of Mexico's ancient Mayan civilization, President Calderon announced on World Environment Day his government's landmark plans to combat climate change alongside the establishment of new protected areas.