“The Energy of Cultures,” paper given at the Cultures of Energy 2nd Annual Spring Research Symposium, April 19–21, 2013
Jeff Kripal is mc for this one.
How we got into this mess can be understood via religion.
1967: medieval historian UCLA Lynn White.
>> consideration of deep ecology
>> fossil fuel (Alberta and Tar Sands Pipeline)
we have already caused enormous damage by extracting huge amounts of fossil fuels
mountain top removal, deep water drilling, fracking, mining of tar sands
could >> collapse of life support systems
White, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” in Science, just 5 pages. But has been extraordinarily cited.
launches environmental philosophy; greening of religions
cover story of Time 1970
we need to think about fundamentals: religion and crypto religion as a source for understanding
what we think about ourselves
Christianity as the most anthropocentric religion ever
He doubts ecological backlash can be avoided << tech
the remedy must also be essentially religious whether we call it that or not
he acknowledges possible contribution of Asian religions but thinks Christianity should be reshaped
how does White’s thesis
modern western science <> Christian theology
transcendent conceptions of god >> possible to exploit nature as indifferent to humans
>> Arne Naess
views of the self are not innate
the ecological self and related process of self realization
Naess: “we underestimate ourselves” we tend to confuse self with ego
we can’t help identifying with nonhumans
identification with all life
rigid boundaries between lifeforms falls short of ecological consciousness
“the whole self is the whole thing”
Gandhian ethics followed closely
intimacy of connection >> identification >> nonviolence
violence << seeing as radically other
cultivate insight into true nature of reality and self
absolute oneness of god and therefore of humanity (Gandhi)
ethics don’t stop at boundaries of the human
Gandhi said an excellent thing re Scopes monkey trial; affinity with snakes; didn’t want trees cut in his Gujerati ashram
compassion >> include the whole
“my religion embraces all life”
“I want to realize identity with all life”
radically all-inclusive love >> attention of Naess
recognizing other beings’ interests as one’s own
replacement of altruism with enlightened self-interest [but see Parfit on self-interest theories at massive temporal scale]
“I am protecting the rainforest” >> “I am part of the rainforest protecting myself”
>> explore some religious responses to modern fossil fuel extraction
John Seed quoting Lovelock. If the brain were to decide it was the most important organ and were to decide to start mining the liver.
the consumer-brain machine
Alberta Tar Sands mined for bitumen. The devastating effects including on first nations people. Unique biome of coniferous pines, spruces, larches, network of rivers, wetlands, lakes. >> complete destruction or serious compromise of health over area size of Florida. Canada 1/3 intact forests on Earth.
removal of topsoil >> death knell for forest. Diversion of streams. Athabasca one of North America’s longest undam-ed rivers. Waterfowl nesting and staging area, one of the most important in North America.
continuous withdrawal of water required, more than for a city of 2 million!
wastewater reservoirs covering 50 square km
acute air pollution
greenhouse gas emission
James Hansen: Canada’s tar sands contain double the amount of CO2 than previously emitted
grave threat to all life clear and imminent
alliance of North American indigenous peoples
Gary Snyder: identification with indigenous beliefs
religious rationale in tune with deep ecological principles
chief calls for move towards more sustainable futures
Idle No More coalition: “to join in revolution which honors indigenous sovereignty which protects the land and water”
Protect the Sacred movement (Lakota)
Earth as self regulating community of beings
water as the lifeblood of Mother Earth
Christian and other groups in North America also release statements on this
What kind of energy and what cultures of energy
subfield of religion and ecology
not just a matter of ethics (reasoned restraint or sacrifice for others)
it’s about ontology
there is a particular religious ideology informing tar sands operations
two options; continue within a culture of energy bent on ramping up the crises by failing to acknowledge the interrelatedness; delusion of self as autonomous and separate.
Or strive to inhabit more harmonious cultures of energy