Merchant, Carolyn 1996 Earthcare: Women and the Environment,
Routledge, New York - ISBN 0-415-90888-5
Also: Merchant, Carolyn 1980 The Death of Nature,
Wildwood House, London. ISBN 0-7045-3049-X
NOTE: This extract is included as an essential reading for transforming the world. You are requested to purchase the book yourself as it is, without question, essential reading material.
Extracts from: Earthcare
EVE: NATURE AND NARRATIVE
Carolyn Merchant is Professor of Environmental History, Philosophy and Ethics in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California at Berkeley. She is the author of Radical Ecology: The Search for a LIvable World, The Death of Nature and Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution.
The recovery plot is the long, slow process of returning humans to the Garden of Eden through labor in the earth. Three subplots organize its argument: Christian religion, modern science, and capitalism. The Genesis story of the Fall provides the beginning; science and capitalism the middle; recovery of the garden the end. The initial lapsarian moment (the lapse from innocence) is the decline from garden to desert as the first couple is cast from the light of an ordered paradise into a dark, disorderly wasteland. The Bible, however, offered two versions of the origin story that led to the Fall. in the Genesis I version, God created the land, sea, grass, herbs, and fruit; the stars, sun, and moon; and the birds, whales, cattle, and beasts-after which he made "man in his own image ... ; male and female created he them." Adam and Eve were instructed, "be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it" and were given "dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." In the Genesis 2 version, thought to have derived from a different and earlier tradition, God first created the plants and herbs, next "man" from dust, and then the garden of Eden with its trees for food (including the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the center) and four rivers flowing out of it. He then put "the man" in the garden "to dress and keep it," formed the beasts and fowls from dust, and brought them to Adam to name. Only then did he create Eve from Adam's rib. Genesis 3 narrates the Fall from the garden, beginning with Eve's temptation by the serpent, the consumption of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (which in the Renaissance becomes an apple), the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the garden "to till the ground from which he was taken," and finally God's placement of the cherubims and flaming sword at the entrance of the garden to guard the Tree of Life.' During the Renaissance, artists illustrated the Garden of Eden story through woodcuts and paintings, one of the most famous of which is Lucas Cranach's 1526 painting of Eve offering the apple to Adam, after having been enticed by the snake coiled around the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Figure 2. 1). Writers from Dante to Milton depicted the Fall and subsequent quest for paradise, while explorers searched for the garden first in the old and then in the New Worlds. Although settlers endowed new lands and peoples with Eden-like qualities, a major effort to re-create the Garden of Eden on earth ultimately ensued. Seventeenth-century botanical gardens and zoos marked early efforts to reassemble the parts of the garden dispersed throughout the world after the Fall and the Flood.'
But beginning in the seventeenth century and proceeding to the present, New World colonists have undertaken a massive effort to reinvent the whole earth in the image of the Garden of Eden. Aided by the Christian doctrine of redemption and the inventions of science, technology, and capitalism ("arte and industria"), the long-term goal of the recovery project has been to turn the earth itself into a vast cultivated garden. The strong interventionist version in Genesis I legitimates recovery through domination, while the softer Genesis 2 version advocates dressing and keeping the garden through human management (stewardship). Human labor would redeem the souls of men and women, while cultivation and domestication would redeem the earthly wilderness. The End Drama envisions a reunification of the earth with God (the Parousia), in which the redeemed earthly garden merges into a higher heavenly paradise. The Second Coming of Christ was to occur either at the outset of the thousand year period of his reign on earth (the millennium) or at the Last judgment when the faithful were reunited with God at the resurrection.' Greek philosophy offered the intellectual framework for the modern version of the recovery project. Parmenidean oneness represents the unchanging natural law that has lapsed into the appearances of the Platonic world. This fallen phenomenal world is incomplete, corrupt, and inconstant. only by recollecting of the pure unchanging forms can the fallen partake of the original unity. Recovered and Christianized in the Renaissance, Platonism provided paradigmatic ideals (such as that of the Garden of Eden) through which to interpret the earthly signs and signatures leading to the recovery.' Modern Europeans added two components to the Christian recovery project-mechanistic science and laise fair're capitalism-to create a grand master narrative of Enlightenment. Mechanistic science supplies the instrumental knowledge for reinventing the garden on earth. The BaconianCartesian-Newtonian project is premised on the power of technology to subdue and dominate nature, on the certainty of mathematical law, and on the unification of natural laws into a single framework of explanation. Just as the alchemists tried to speed up nature's labor through human intervention in the transformation of base metals into gold, so science and technology hastened the recovery project by inventing the tools and knowledge that could be used to dominate nature. Francis Bacon saw science and technology as the way to control nature and hence recover the right to the garden given to the first parents. "Man by the Fall, fell at the same time from his state of innocency and from his dominion over creation. Both of these losses can in this life be in some part repaired; the former by religion and faith; the latter by arts and science,"
Humans, he asserted, could "recover that right over nature which belongs to it by divine bequest," and should endeavour "to establish and extend the power and dominion of the human race itself over the [entire] universe."" The origin story of capitalism is a movement from desert back to garden through the transformation of undeveloped nature into a state of civility and order." Natural resources-"the ore in the mine, the stone unquarried land] the timber unfelled"-are converted by human labor into commodites to be exchanged on the market. The Good State makes capitalist production possible by imposing order on the fallen worlds of nature and human nature. Thomas Hobbes' nation state was the end result of a social contract created for the purpose of controlling people in the violent and unruly state of nature. John Locke's political theory rested on the improvement of undeveloped nature by mixing human labor with the soil and subduing the earth through human dominion. Simultaneously, Protestantism helped to speed the recovery by sanctioning increased human labor just as science and technology accelerated nature's labor." Crucial to the structure of the recovery narrative is the role of gender encoded into the story. In the Christian religious story, the original oneness is male and the Fall is caused by a female, Eve, with Adam, the innocent bystander, being forced to pay the consequences as his sons are pushed into developing both pastoralism and farming." While fallen Adam becomes the inventor of the tools and technologies that will restore the garden, fallen Eve becomes the Nature that must be tamed into submission. In the Western tradition, fallen Nature is opposed by male science and technology. The Good State that keeps unruly nature in check is invented, engineered, and operated by men. The Good Economy that organizes the labor needed to restore the garden is likewise a male-directed project. Nature, in the Edenic recovery story, appears in three forms. As original Eve, nature is virgin, pure, and light-land that is pristine or barren, but having the potential for development. As fallen Eve, nature is disorderly and chaotic; a wilderness, wasteland, or desert requiring improvement; dark and witchlike, the victim and mouthpiece of Satan as serpent. As mother Eve, nature is an improved garden; a nurturing earth bearing fruit; a ripened ovary; maturity. Original Adam is the image of God as creator, initial agent, activity. Fallen Adam appears as the agent of earthly transformation, the hero who redeems the fallen land. Father Adam is the image of God as patriarch, law, and rule-the model for the kingdom and state. These meanings of nature as female and agency as male are encoded as symbols and myths into American lands as having the potential for development, but needing the male hero, Adam. Such symbols are not essences because they do not represent characteristics necessary or essential to being female or male. Rather, they are historically constructed and derive from the origin stories of European settlers and European cultural and economic practices transported to and developed in the American New World. That they may appear to be essences is a result of their historical construction in Western history, not their immutable characteristics. The Enlightenment idea of progress is rooted in the recovery of the garden lost in the Fall-the bringing of light to the dark world of inchoate nature. The lapsarian origin story is thus reversed by the grand narrative of Enlightenment that lies at the very heart of modernism. The controlling image of Enlightenment is the transformation from desert wilderness to cultivated garden. This complex of Christian, Greco-Roman, and Enlightenment components touched and reinforced each other at critical nodal points. As a powerful narrative, the idea of recovery functioned as ideology and legitimation for settlement of the New World, while capitalism, science, and technology provided the means of transforming the material world.
THE MODERN ERA
The most recent chapter of the book of the recovery narrative is the transformation of nature through biotechnology. From genetically engineered apples to Flavr-Savr tomatoes, the fruits of the original (evolved) garden are being redesigned so that the salinated irrigated desert can continue to blossom as the rose. in the recovered Garden of Eden fruits ripen faster, have fewer seeds, need less water, require fewer pesticides, contain less saturated fat, and have longer shelf lives. The human temptation to engineer nature is reaching too close to the powers of God warn the jeremiahs, who depict the snake coiled around the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as the DNA spiral. But the progressive engineers who design the technologies that allow the recovery to accelerate see only hope in the new fabrications. The twentieth-century Garden of Eden is the enclosed shopping mall decorated with trees, flowers, and fountains in which people can shop for nature at the Nature Company, purchase "natural" clothing at Esprit, sample organic foods and rainforest crunch in kitchen gardens, buy twenty-f irst-century products at Sharper image, and play virtual reality games in which SimEve is reinvented in Cyberspace. This Garden in the City recreates the pleasures and temptations of the original garden and the Golden Age where people can peacefully harvest the fruits of earth with gold grown by the market. The mall, enclosed by the desert of the parking lots surrounding it, is covered by glass domes reaching to heaven, accessed by spiral staircases and escalators affording a vista over the whole garden of shops. The "river that went out of Eden to water the garden" is reclaimed in meandering streams lined with palm trees and filled with bright orange carp. Today's malls feature stone grottos, trellises decorated with flowers, life-sized trees, statues, birds, animals, and even indoor beaches that simulate paradigmatic nature as a cultivated, benign garden. With their engineered spaces and commodity fetishes, they epitomize consumer capitalism's vision of the recovery from the Fall."
CRITIQUES OF THE RECOVERY NARRATIVE
The modern version of the recovery narrative, however, has been subjected to scathing criticism. Postmodern thinkers contest its Enlightenment assumptions, while cultural feminists and environmentalists reverse its plot, depicting a slow decline from a prior Golden Age, not a progressive ascent to a new garden on earth. The critics' plot does not move from the tragedy of the Fall to the comedy of an earthly paradise, but descends from an original state of oneness with nature to the tragedy of nature's destruction. Nevertheless, they too hope for a recovery, one rapid enough to save the earth and society by the mid-twenty-first century. The meta-narrative of recovery does not change, but the declensionist plot, into which they have cast prior history, must be radically reversed. The postmodern critique of modernism is both a deconstruction of Enlightenment thought and a set of reconstructive proposals for the creation of a better world.
The identification of modernism as a problem rather than as progress was sharply formulated by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno in the opening sentences of their 1944 Dialectic of Enlightenment: "The fully enlightened earth radiates disaster triumphant. The program of the enlightenment was the disenchantment of the world; the dissolution of myths and the substitution of knowledge for fancy." They criticize both Francis Bacon's concept of the domination of nature and Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' optimism that the control of nature would lead to advancement. They faulted the reduction of nature to mere number by mechanistic science and capitalism: "Number becomes the canon of the Enlightenment. The same equations dominate bourgeois justice and commodity exchange .... Myth turns into enlightenment and nature into mere objectivity."" Among the critics of modernism are many feminists and environmentalists who propose a reversal that will initiate a new millennium in the twentyfirst century. Cultural feminists and cultural ecofeminists see the original oneness as female, the Terra Mater of the neolithic era, from which emerged the consciousness of differences between humans and animals, male and female, people and nature, leading to dominance and submission. The advent of patriarchy initiates a long decline in the status of women and nature. Men's plow agriculture took over women's gathering and horticultural activities, horse-mounted warriors injected violence into a largely peaceful old European culture, and male gods replaced female earth deities in origin stories. In the proposed recovery, Eve is revisioned as the first scientist, Sophia as ultimate wisdom, and the goddess as symbol of female power and creativity. Feminist religious history redirects inquiry into the gendered nature of the original oneness as both male and female. The recovery would therefore be a feminist or an egalitarian world." Feminist science sees the original mind as having no sex, and hence accessible to male and female minds alike. It has been men, many feminists would argue, who invented the science and technology and organized the market economies that made nature the victim in the ascent of "man." For such feminists, the new narrative entails reclaiming women's roles in the history of science and asserting female power in contemporary science and technology. Hence both sexes can participate in the recovery." Environmentalism, like feminism, reverses the plot of the recovery narrative, seeing history as a slow decline, not a progressive movement that made the desert blossom as the rose. The recovery story is a false story; an original garden became a degraded desert. Pristine nature, not innocent man, has fallen. The decline from Eden was slow, rather than a precipitous lapsarian moment as in the Adam and Eve origin story. over the millennia from the paleolithic to the present Nature has been the victim of both human hubris and social changes that overcome "the necessities of nature" through domestication, cultivation, and commodification of every aspect of an original, evolved, prehuman garden. So-called advances in science, technology, and economy actually accelerate the decline." As the twentieth century draws to a close and the second great millennium since the birth of Christ reaches its end, the environmental decline approaches a crisis. The greenhouse effect, the population explosion, the destruction of the ozone layer, the extinction of species, and the end of wilderness are all sub-plots in a grand narrative of environmental endism. Predictions of crisis, such as those of Paul Ehrlich in "Ecocatastrophe" (1969), the Club of Rome in Limits to Growth (I 972) and of Bill McKibben in The End f Nature (1989), abound, as first (evolved, prehuman) nature is totally subsumed by humans and the human artifacts of second (commodified) nature." Like feminists, environmentalists want to rewrite the modern progressive story. Viewing the plot as declensionist rather than progressive, they nevertheless opt for a recovery that must be put in place by the mid-twentyfirst century. "Sustainability" is a new vision of the recovered garden, one in which humanity will live in a relationship of balance and harmony with the natural world. Environmentalists who press for sustainable development see the recovery as achievable through the spread of nondegrading forms of agriculture and industry. Preservationists and deep ecologists strive to save pristine nature as wilderness before it can be destroyed by development. Restoration ecologists wish to marshal human labor to restore an already degraded nature to an earlier, pristine state. Social ecologists and green parties devise new economic and political structures that overcome the domination of human beings and nonhuman nature. Women and nature, minorities and nature, other animals and nature, will be fully included in the recovery. The regeneration of nature and people will be achieved through social and environmental justice. The End Drama envisions a postpatriarchal, socially just ecotopia for the postmillennial world of the twenty-first century."
CHAOS THEORY AND PARTNERSHIP ETHICS
Seeing Western history as a recovery narrative, with feminism and environmentalism as reversals of the plot, brings up the question of the character of the plot itself. The declensionist and progressive plots that underlie the meta-narrative of recovery both gain power from their linearity. Linearity is not only conceptually easy to grasp, but it is also a property of modernity itself. Mechanistic science, progress, and capitalism all draw power from the linear functions of mathematical equations-the upward and downward slopes of straight lines and curves. To the extent that these linear slopes intersect with a real material world, they refer to a limited domain only. Chaos theory and complexity theory suggest that only the unusual domain of mechanistic science can be described by linear differential equations. The usual-that is, the domain of everyday occurrences, such as the weather, turbulence, the shapes of coastlines, the arrhythmic fibrillations of the human heart, cannot be so easily described. The world is more complex than we know or indeed Gan ever know. The comfortable predictability of the linear slips away into the uncertainty of the indeterminate-into discordant harmonies and disorderly order. The appearance of chaos as an actor in science and history in the late twentieth century is not only symptomatic of the breakdown of modernism, mechanism, and, potentially, capitalism, but suggests the possibility of a new birdi, a new world, a new millennium-the order out of chaos narrative of Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers. But chaos theory also fundamentally destabilizes the very concept of nature as a standard or referent. It disrupts the idea of the "balance of nature," of nature as resilient actor or mother who will repair the errors of human actors and continue as fecund garden (Eve as mother). It questions the possibility that humans as agents can control and master nature through science and technology, undermining the myth of nature as virgin female to be developed (Eve as virgin). Chaos is the reemergence of nature as power over humans, nature as active, dark, wild, turbulent, and uncontrollable (fallen Eve). Ecologists characterize "Mother Nature" as a "strange attractor" while turbulence is seen to be encoded with gendered images of masculine channels and feminine flows." Moreover, in the chaotic narrative, humans lose the hubris of fallen Adam that the garden can be re-created on earth. The world is not created by a patriarchal God ex nihilo, but emerges out of chaos. Thus the very possibility of the recovery of a stable original garden-the plot of the recovery meta-narrative-is itself challenged. Recognition of history as a meta-narrative raises the further question of the relativity of the histories through which we are educated and of our own lives as participants in the plots they tell. Like our nineteenth-century counterparts, we live our lives as characters in the grand narrative into which we have been socialized as children and conform as adults. That narrative is the story told to itself by the dominant society of which we are a part. We internalize narrative as ideology. Ideology is a story told by people in power. Once we identify ideology as a story-powerful and compelling, but still only a story-we realize that by rewriting the story, we can challenge the structures of power. We recognize that all stories can and should be challenged.
But can we actually step outside the story into which we are cast as characters and enter into a story with a different plot? More important, can we change the plot of the grand master narrative of modernism? Where do I as author of this text stand in relationship to it? As a product of modernism, mechanism, and capitalism, I have internalized the values of the recovery narrative I have sought to identify. I participate in the progressive recovery narrative in my daily work, my wages for intellectual labor, my aspirations for a better material life, and my enjoyment of the profits my individual achievements have wrought. Yet I also believe, despite the relativism of environmental endism, that the environmental crisis is real-that the vanishing frogs, fish, and songbirds are telling us a truth. I am also a product of linear thinking and set up this recovery narrative to reflect the very linearity of progressive history. This is history seen from a particular point of view, the view I have identified as the dominant ideology of modernism. I also believe my recovery narrative reflects a fundamental insight into how nature has been historically constructed as a gendered object.
Yet both history and nature are extremely complex, complicated, and nonlinear. What would a chaotic, nonlinear, nongendered history with a different plot look like? Would it be as compelling as the linear version, even if that linear version were extremely nuanced and complicated? A postmodern history might posit characteristics other than those identified with modernism, such as many authorial voices; a multiplicity of real actors; acausal, nonsequential events; nonessentialized symbols and meanings; dialectical action and process rather than the imposed logos of form; situated and contextualized, rather than universal knowledge. It would be a story (or multiplicity of stories) that perhaps can only be acted and lived, not written at all. I too yearn for a recovery from environmental declension-for my own vision of a postpatriarchal, socially-just ecotopia for the third millennium. My vision entails a partnership ethic between humans (whether male or female), and between humans and nonhuman nature. For most of human history, nonhuman nature has had power over humans. People accepted fate while propitiating nature with gifts, sacrifices, and prayer (often within hierarchical human relationships). Since the seventeenth century, however, some groups of people have increasingly gained great power over nature and other human groups through the interlinked forces of science, technology, capitalism (and state socialism), politics, and religion. A partnership ethic would bring humans and nonhuman nature into a dynamically balanced, more nearly equal relationship. Humans, as the bearers of ethics, would acknowledge nonhuman nature as an autonomous actor that cannot be predicted or controlled except in very limited domains. We would also acknowledge that we have the potential to destroy life as we currently know it through nuclear power, pesticides, toxic chemicals, and unrestrained economic development, and exercise specific restraints on that ability. We would cease to create profit for the few at the expense of the many. We would instead organize our economicand political forces to fulfill peoples' basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, and energy, and to provide security for health, jobs, education, children, and old-age. Such forms of security would rapidly reduce population growth rates since a major means of providing security would not depend on having large numbers of children, especially boys. A partnership ethic would be a relationship between a human community and a nonhuman community in a particular place, a place that recognizes its connections to the larger world through economic and ecological exchanges. it would be an ethic in which humans act to fulfill both human needs and nature's needs by restraining human hubris. Guided by a partnership ethic, people would select technologies that sustained the natural environment by becoming co-workers and partners with nonhuman nature, not dominators over it. (See Conclusion.) A partnership ethic implies a remythicizing of the Edenic recovery narrative or the writing of a new narrative altogether. The new myth would not accept the patriarchal sequence of creation, or even the milder phrase "male and female, created he them," but might instead emphasize simultaneous creation, cooperative male/female evolution, or even an emergence out of chaos or the earth. it would not accept the idea of subduing the earth, or even dressing and keeping the garden, since both entail total domestication and control by human beings. Instead, each earthly place would be a home, or community, to be shared with other living and nonliving things. The needs of both humans and nonhumans would be dynamically balanced. if such a story can be rewritten or experienced, it would be the product of many new voices and would have a complex plot and a different ending. As in the corn mother origin story, women and the earth, along with men, would be active agents. The new ending, however, will not come about if we simply read and reread the story into which we were born. The new story can be rewritten only through action.
EARTHCARE FOR A NEW MILLENNIUM
Based on the idea of trickle-down economic benefits, an egocentric ethic is the idea that what is good for the individual, or the cor poration acting as an individual, is good for society as a whole. Nature com prises resources that can be turned into commodities for trade. It consists of free goods from an inexhaustible tap whose wastes go into an inexhaustible sink. Following the model of a factory, nature is conceptualized as a dead machine, isolated from its environment, whose parts are manipulated for assembly line production. Resource depletion (the tap) and environmental pollution (the sink) are not part of the profit-loss accounts, hence there is no accountibility to or for nature. Because the individual, or individual cor poration, is free to profit, there are no ethical restraints on nature's "free" goods or on free trade. The result is the Hobbesian Good Society and an ego centric ethic.'
GATT's egocentric ethic, like that of NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), eliminates barriers to trade and with it environmental and consumer-safety measures, despite the possibility of environmental sideagreements. For example, in 1990, the United States, in response to a consumer boycott of tuna caught in drift nets that trapped and killed dolphins, enacted an embargo on Mexican tuna. Mexico protested and a GATT review panel ruled that no country can restrict imports on the basis of methods of production, essentially invalidating a U.S. law protecting dolphins (the Marine Mammal Protection Act).9 GATT harmonizes environmental and consumer safety standards to the lowest common denominator worldwide. It increases corporate control and decreases local control. Communities and resources are forced to comply with the demands of the global market. This approach essentially removes control from local communities, homelands, and indigenous and tribal peoples over their own resources. In addition, tropical and temperate old-growth forests suffer along with marine mammals and other components of local ecosystems. GATT further externalizes environmental costs and penalizes sustainable technologies that attempt to internalize costs.
GATT's egocentric ethic promotes Trans-National Corporations (TNCs) and limits democracy in these industries. The successful completion of GATT's Uruguay Round is the dream of the self-made man, the darling of Reagan-Bush-Thatcher economics, and the ethic of capitalist patriarchy. The Women's NGO treaty, adopted by the Global Forum, contains an indictment of GATT as a major cause of environmental degradation."
In contrast to GATT's egocentric ethic, the ethic of UNCED's sustainable development program is a homocentric ethic. It is a utilitarian ethic based on the precept of the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Developed by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill in the nineteenth century, utilitarian ethics became the conservation ethic of Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot during the Progressive Era in the early twentieth century with the addition of the phrase "for the longest time." The idea of "the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time," is a public-interest, social-interest ethic that considers conservation of natural resources to be consistent widi the needs and interests of the majority over those of the individual. in Bendiam and Mill's formulations it promotes the general good, the greatest happiness for the greatest number, and freedom from pain and suffering. In its purest form, it is the ethic of federal and state agencies, acting free of political forces and private lobbyists on behalf of the people for the common good. The utilitarian calculus of benefits and costs, rather than the bottom line of profits, guides the ethical choices made. in reality, however, homocentric ethics are always in conflict with the pressures of the egocentric ethic from the influence of private interests and lobbyists on government officials and the confluence of state/monopoly capitalist interests. Conflicts of interest therefore develop, one example of which is the ethics of GATT versus the ethics of UNCED. For the homocentric ethic of UNCED, as for the egocentric ethic of GATT, nature is viewed primarily as a resource for humans and a source of commodities. But in contrast to GATT, the United Nations is dedicated to promoting the general good of all nations and all peoples in the world community. Its policies reflect the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number. Like the Progressive Era's conservation ethic, UNCED's sustainable development ethic adds the principle of the longest time. Sustainable development is development that fulfills the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations. This principle brings future generations into the accountability calculus. The Earth Summit's goal is to promote greater democracy for more people for a longer time by developing and conserving resources sustainably." Many (but not all) environmentalists attending the Earth Summit, subscribed to the assumptions of a third ethic-ecocentrism. Developed by ecologist Aldo Leopold, who formulated the land ethic in the 1940s, and elaborated as ecocentric (and biocentric) ethics by environmental philosophers over the past three decades, ecocentrism includes the entire biotic and abiotic world. Leopold's land ethic expanded the human community to include "soils, waters, plants, animals, or collectively the land." "A thing is right," Leopold said, "when it tends to preserve the integrity, beauty, and stability of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." Ecocentrism, as elaborated in the 1970s and 1980s, went a step further to assert that all things have intrinsic worth-value in and of themselves not just instrumental or utilitarian value. Because biota have evolved over millennia, all organisms have a right to exist and should be preserved for future generations. Biodiversity is necessary not only for utilitarian and humanitarian reasons (for maintaining the present and future health of the entire biosphere, for enhancing the quality of life, and for aesthetic enjoyment), but for its own sake. Ecocentrism expands the good of the human community to embrace and include within it the good of the biotic community. From an ecocentric point of view, accountability must include the rights of all other organisms, such as those in a rainforest, to continue to exist." (Figure 10.2) Ethical dilemmas occur when real world situations produce conflicts among the three forms of ethics. Acting on the basis of GATT's egocentric ethic, with the goal of maximizing profits through free trade in natural resources, transnational corporations harvest rainforests for timbers and turn cutover areas into range lands for grazing cattle. Acting on the basis of ecocentric ethics, with the goal of saving rainforests and endangered species, environmentalists engineer debt-for-nature swaps that preserve and value whole ecosystems. Both ethics, however, can negatively affect communities of indigenous peoples by forcing them out of long-inhabited areas onto marginal lands, where they increase their populations to obtain the labor to survive, or migrate to cities where they end up jobless and homeless. In this example, the social-interest ethic of these communities to fulfill their basic needs conflicts with the egocentric ethic of transnational corporations and the ecocentric ethic of nature preservationists. From one point of view nature is victimized at the expense of people, from another people are victimized at the expense of nature." The three dominant forms of environmental ethics all have conceptual and practical shortcomings. Egocentric ethics are criticized for privileging the few at the expense of the many (narcissistic, cut-throat individualism), homocentric ethics for privileging majorities at the expense of minorities (tyranny of the majority, environmental racism), and ecocentric ethics for privileging the whole at the expense of the individual (holistic fascism). Egocentric and homocentric ethics are often lumped together as anthropocentrism (by deep ecologists, for example). But this approach masks the role of economics and particularly of capitalism, placing the onus on human hubris and domination rather than the capitalist appropriation of both nature and labor. Moreover, it fails to recognize the positive aspects of the social-justice approach of homocentric ethics. on the other hand, the ecocentric approach of many environmentalists suggests the possibility of incorporating the intrinsic value of nature into an emancipatory green politics." An alternative that transcends many of these problems is a partnership ethic. A partnership ethic sees the human community and the biotic community in a mutual relationship with each other. it states that "the greatest good for the human and the nonhuman community is to be found in their mutual, living interdependence." A partnership ethic draws on the principles and advantages of both the homocentric social-interest ethic and the ecocentric environmental ethic, while rejecting the egocentric ethic associated with capitalist exploitation of people and nature. The term partnership avoids gendering nature as a mother or a goddess (sex-typing the planet), avoids endowing either males or females with a special relationship to nature or to each other (essentialism), and admits the anthropogenic, or human-generated (but not anthropocentric, or human-centered) nature of environmental ethics and metaphor. A part nership ethic of earthcare means that both women and men can enter into mutual relationships with each other and the planet independently of gender and does not hold women alone responsible for "cleaning up the mess" made by male-dominated science, technology and capitalism. just as egocentric ethics is grounded in the principle of self-interest, homocentric ethics in the concept of utility, and ecocentric ethics in intrinsic value, so partnership ethics is grounded in the concept of relation. A relation is a mode of connection. This connection may be between people or kin in the same family or community, between men and women, between people, other organisms, and inorganic entities, or between specific places and the rest of the earth. A relation is also a narrative; to relate is to narrate. A narrative connects people to a place, to its history, and to its multileveled meanings. It is a story that is recounted and told, in which connections are made, alliances and associations established. A partnership ethic of eartbcare is an ethic of the connections between a human and a nonbuman community. The relationship is situational and contextual within the local community, but the community is also embedded in and connected to the wider earth, especially national and global economies."
A partnership ethic has four precepts:
A partnership ethic goes beyond egocentric and homocentric ethics in which the good of the human community wins out over the good of the biotic community (as in egocentric and homocentric ethics). It likewise transcends ecocentric ethics in which the good of the biotic community may take precedence over the good of the human community. In contrast to Leopold's extensionist ethic, in which the community is extended to encompass nonhuman nature, partnership ethics recognizes both continuities and differences between humans and nonhuman nature. It admits that bumans are dependent on nonhuman nature and that nonhuman nature has preceded and will postdate human nature. But it also recognizes that humans now have the power, knowledge, and technology to destroy life as we know it today.
For millennia, Nature held the upper hand over humans. People were subordinate to nature and fatalistically accepted the hand that nature dealt. Since the seventeenth century, the balance of power has shifted and humans have gained the upper hand over Nature. We have an increasing ability to destroy nature through mechanistic science, technology, capitalism, and the Baconian hubris that the human race should have dominion over the entire universe. in the late twentieth century, however, the environmental crisis and developments in postmodern science and philosophy have called into question the efficacy of the mechanistic worldview, the idea of Enlightenment progress, and the ethics of unrestrained development as a means of dominating nature. A partnership ethic calls for a new balance in which both humans and nonhuman nature are equal partners, neither having the upper hand, yet cooperating with each other. Both humans and nature are active agents. Both the needs of nature to continue to exist and the basic needs of human beings must be considered. As George Perkins Marsh put it in 1864, humanity should "become a co-worker with nature in the reconstruction of the damaged fabric," by restoring the waters, forests, and bogs "laid waste by human improvidence or malice." While thunderstorms, tornados, volcanos, and earthquakes represented nature's power over humanity to rearrange elementary matter, humans equally had the power "irreparably to derange the combinations of inorganic matter and of organic life, which through the night of aeons she had been proportioning and balancing.... 11 16 In the 1970s, Herbert Marcuse conceptualized nature an opposing partner, emphasizing the differences, as well as the continuities that people share with nature. Nature is "an ally," not mere inorganic matter,-a "life force in its own right," appearing as "subject-object." Nature as subject "may well be hostile to man, in which case the relation would be one of struggle; but the struggle may also subside and make room for peace, tranquility, fulfillment." A nonexploitative relation would be a "surrender, 'letting-be,' acceptance." 17 A partnership ethic therefore has two components-a homocentric social-interest ethic of partnership among human groups and an ecocentric ethic of partnership with nonhuman nature. The first component, the idea of a partnership among human groups, is reflected in both the preamble to UNCED's,4genda 21 of "a global partnership for sustainable development" and in the opening paragraph of the "Rio Declaration on Environment and Development" proclaiming that the conference met "with the goal of establishing a new and equitable global partnership through the creation of new levels of cooperation among states, key sectors of societies, and people." Article 7 of the Rio Declaration asserts that "States shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect, and restore the health of the Earth's Ecosystem." The concept of partnership is also called forth in the title of the Miami "Global Assembly of Women and the Environment-Partners in Life."" The document from the second Miami conference, the world Women's Congress for a Healthy Planet, exemplifies ways of actually putting the human side of the partnership into practice.
First, as they would apply to the sphere of production, the Women's Action Agenda 21 and its Code of Environmental Ethics and Accountability hold (among other things) that:
Second, as they would apply to the sphere of reproduction, the Women's Action Agenda 21 and its "Code of Environmental Ethics and Accountability" hold (among other things) that:
The second component of the new partnership brings nature into an active relationship with humans and entails a new consciousness of nature as equal subject. Postmodern science reconstructs the relationship between humans and nature. While mechanistic science assumes that nature is divided into parts and that change comes from external forces (a billiard ball model), ecology emphasizes nature as continuous change and process. Chaos theory goes a step further, suggesting that the human ability to predict the outcome of those processes is limited. Disorderly order, the world represented by chaos theory, is the second component of the partnership ethic.1' While a certain domain of nature can be represented by linear, deterministic equations, and is therefore predictable (or can be subjected to probabilities, stochastic approximations, and complex systems analysis), a very large domain can he represented only through nonlinear equations that do not admit of solutions. The closed systems and determinism of classical physics described by Isaac Newton and Pierre Simon Laplace gives way to a postclassical physics of open complex systems and chaos theory. These theories suggest that there are limits to the knowable world. This is not the same as saying there is a non-knowable noumenal world behind the phenomena. it says there is a real, material, physical world, but a world that can never be totally known by means of mathematics. it is a world that is primarily chaotic and unpredictable and therefore cannot be totally controlled by science and technology. Science can no longer perform the god-trick-imposing the view of everything from nowhere. it cannot offer the totalizing viewpoint associated with modernism, the Enlightenment, and mechanistic science. The real world is both orderly and disorderly, predictable and unpredictable, controllable and uncontrollable, depending on context and situation." Chaos theory challenges two basic assumptions of ecology as it developed in the 1960s and 1970s and formed the basis of environmental management-the ideas of the balance of nature and the diversity-stability hypothesis. The historical concept of a balance of nature which humans could disrupt implied that people could repair damaged ecosystems with better practices. The idea that biodiversity led to ecosystem stability meant that species conservation and ecological restoration could improve ecosystem health. Yet chaos theory suggests that natural disturbances and mosaic patches that do not exhibit regular or predictable patterns are the norm rather than aberration. Moreover, the seemingly stable world that is the object of socially-constructed representations can be destabilized by human social practices (as when pesticides produce mutant insects or antibiotics produce resistant bacteria). Such theories undercut assumptions of stability at the root of Leopold's land ethic and of holism as a foundation for ecocentrism. They reinforce the idea that predictability, while still useful, is more limited than previously assumed and that nature, while a human construct and a representation, is also a real, material, autonomous agent. A postclassical, postmodern science is a science of limited knowledge, of the primacy of process over parts, and of imbedded contexts within complex, open ecological systems."
This disorderly, ordered world of nonhuman nature must be acknowledged as a free autonomous actor, just as humans are free autonomous agents. But nature limits human freedom to totally dominate and control it, just as human power limits nature's and other humans' freedom. Science and technology can tell us that an event such as a hurricane, earthquake, flood, or fire is likely to happen in a certain locale, but not when it will happen. Because nature is fundamentally chaotic, it must be respected and related to as an active partner through a partnership ethic.
If we know that an earthquake in Los Angeles is likely in the next 75 years, a utilitarian, homocentric ethic would state that the government ought not to license the construction of a nuclear reactor on the faultline. But a partnership ethic would say that, we, the human community, ought to respect nature's autonomy as an actor by also limiting building and leaving open space. If we know there is a possibility of a 100 year flood on the Mississippi River, we respect human needs for navigation and power, but we also respect nature's autonomy by limiting our capacity to dam every tributary that feeds the river and build homes on every flood plain. We leave some rivers wild and free and leave some flood plains as wetlands, while using others to fulfill human needs. if we know that forest fires are likely in the Rockies, we do not build cities along forest edges. We limit the extent of development, leave open spaces, plant fire resistant vegetation, and use tile rather than shake roofs. If cutting tropical and temperate old-growth forests creates problems for both the global environment and local communities, but we cannot adequately predict the outcome or effects of those changes, we need to conduct partnership negotiations in which nonhuman nature and the people involved are equally represented.
Each of these difficult, time-consuming ethical and policy decisions will be negotiated by a human community in a particular place, but the outcome will depend on the history of people and nature in the area, the narratives they tell themselves about the land, vital human needs, past and present landuse patterns, the larger global context, and the ability or lack of it to predict nature's events. Each human community is in a changing, evolving relationship with a nonhuman community that is local, but also connected to global environmental and human patterns. Each ethical instance is historical, contextual, and situational, but located within a larger environmental and economic system. Partnership ethics draws on feminist theory and on women's experiences of and historical connections to the environment, but it does not claim that women have a special knowledge of nature or a special ability to care for nature. Partnerships can be formed between women and women, men and men, women and men, people and nature, and North and South to solve specific problems and to work toward a socially-just, environmentally-sustainable world. Partnership ethics also draw on social and socialist ecology in making visible the connections between economic systems, people, and the environment in an effort to find new economic forms that fulfill basic needs, provide security, and enhance the quality of life without degrading the local or global environment. Finally, partnership ethics draws on work in the sciences that suggests possibilities for non-dominating relationships between humans and nonhuman nature. As in all cases of applied ethics, the implementation of partnership ethics is not easy. Problems stem, for example, from the meaning of the term sustainable development and its relationship to power. Defined by the Brundtland Report as "development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" and as "meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life," sustainable development can be used either to mean sustained economic growth or fulfillment of basic needs. Secondly, sustainable development cast as a partnership between North and South obscures existing, uneven power-relationships. The debt burden of Third World countries, imbalances between the G-7 and G-77 nations, the role of militarism, the export of military technology and toxic wastes, and the power of aid organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the economic power vested in TNCs and GATT are all implicated by their egocentric, self-interested ethical and power relationships. Rather than sustainable development, which reinforces dominant approaches to development, women's environmental groups, and many other NGOs, have substituted the term "sustainable livelihood." Sustainable livelihood is a people-oriented approach that emphasizes the fulfillment of basic needs-health, employment, and old-age security, the elimination of poverty, and women's control over their own bodies, methods of contraception, and resources."
A second potential problem for the implementation of partnership ethics comes from relationships among women's groups themselves. Some women of the South criticize the consumption-oriented lifestyles of many of those in the North and of elites in the South. At the same time, they point out the bur den on poor women of the South from Third World indebtedness to the North; the effects on women's bodies of poor health and nutrition, involun tary sterilization, and "population control" programs; and the effects of envi ronmental exposures to pesticides and toxics from cash crop production by TNCs. From this perspective, the poor woman of the South is in a privileged position to criticize maldevelopment and the many Northern environmental groups who blame the environmental crisis on women's reproduction of large numbers of children. Moreover, if a woman's body is her primary envi ronment, the desperate need for food, water, and fuel just to stay alive would seem to preclude the possibility of a partnership with nonhuman nature. Women of the South focus instead on subsistence, healthcare, and security as the primary needs. The approach of the South is not inconsistent with part nership ethics, bowever, and a reconciliation of North-South differences might be achieved from other perspectives." From the perspective of socialist ecofeminism, for example, the key causes of the crisis are the twin impacts of production on ecology and of production on reproduction. Production oriented toward profit-maximization, sanctioned by the egocentric ethic, undercuts the conditions for its own perpetuation by destroying the environment from which it extracts "free" resources. Production threatens biological reproduction by driving people onto marginal lands and into urban areas where they produce children as a labor asset to survive, while also threatening social reproduction by creating homelessness, poverty, crime, and political instability. Historically produced colonialism and capitalism in First World/Third World relations results in the expansion of profit-oriented market economies at the expense of basic-needs oriented local/subsistence economies. An analysis of the role of colonial and capitalist forms of production in the larger system of bistorically-generated power relations can illuminate common problems and suggest new strategies for change.
Thus to place the blame for the environmental crisis on the evolution of domination and Western dualism (as do some social ecologists and social ecofeminists) or on anthropocentrism (as do deep ecologists), or on the primacy of power relations and enlightenment rationality (as do some postmodernists) is insufficient. These approaches tend to ignore or downplay the critical role played by capitalism (as well as state socialism). They can be helpful, however, when integrated into an economic analysis of the capitalist exploitation of people and nature. The emphasis placed by many environmental groups on "overpopulation" in the South and "overconsumption" in the North neglects the crucial role of production that underlies and unites both causes of degradation. Instead, reduction of production for profit and its reorientation toward fulfillment of basic needs and human security would go a long way towards creating sustainable livelihoods and stablizing populations. A framework based on the dialectical, historical, structural, and systemic relations among the conceptual levels of ecology, production, reproduction, and consciousness can integrate these approaches into a comprehensive analysis and propose strategies for revolutionary transformation. Such strategies would analyze past and present power relations, identify the weak points in the system, and draw on the energy and vision of new social/ecology movements and NGOs to bring about a sustainable world. If the goals of economic production were reoriented toward the reproduction of human and nonhuman life (rather than the reverse as is presently the case), many of the problems that promote exponential population growth, unlimited economic expansion, and environmental degradation would wither away. Such an ecological revolution could realize the goals of the Global Forum's Planeta F&mea by implementing a partnership ethic of earthcare and a movement toward a sustainable world for the new millennium. Perhaps "the gaping void, chaos," Gala, "the ancient earth-mother," and their offspring, "the world and the human race" could once again be reunited."
The New World Eden and the Sacrificial Maiden
A Penobscot Indian story from northern New England explains the origin of maize. A great famine had deprived people of food and water. A beautiful Indian maiden appeared and married one of the young men of the tribe, but soon succumbed to another lover, a snake. On discovery she promised to alleviate her husband's sorrow if he would plant a blade of green grass clinging to her ankle. First he must kill her with his ax, then drag her body through the forest clearing until all her flesh had been stripped, and finally bury her bones in the center of the clearing. She then appeared to him in a dream and taught him how to tend, harvest, and cook corn and smoke tobacco.' This agricultural origin story taught Indians how to plant their corn in forest clearings and also that the earth would continue to regenerate the human body through the corn plant. it features a woman (the corn maiden) and a male lover as central actors. It begins with the state of nature as drought and famine. Nature is a desert, a poor place for human existence. The plot features a woman as saviour. Through a willing sacrifice in which her body is returned to the earth, she introduces agriculture to her husband and to the women who subsequently plant the corn, beans, and squash that provide the bulk of the food sustaining the life of the tribe. The result is an agroecological system based on the planting of interdependent polycultures in forest gardens. The story type is ascensionist and progressive. Women transform nature from a desert into a garden. From a tragic situation of despair and death, a comic, happy, and optimistic situation of continued life results. in this story, the valence of women as corn mothers is good; they bring bountiful gifts. The valence of nature ends as a good. The earth is an agent of regeneration. Death is transformed into life through a reunification of the corn mother's body with the earth. Even death results in a higher good.'
Into this bountiful world of corn mothers enter the Puritan fathers bringing their own agricultural origin story of Adam and Eve. The biblical myth begins where the Indian story ends-with an ecological system of polycultures in the Garden of Eden. A woman, Eve, shows "the man", Adam, how to pick fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and harvest the fruits of the garden. instead of attaining a resultant good, the couple is cast out of the garden into a desert. instead of moving from desert to garden, as in the Indian story, the biblical story moves from garden to desert. The Fall from paradise is caused by a woman. Men must labor in the earth by the sweat of their brow to produce food. Here a woman is also the central actress and like the Indian story it contains elements of violence toward women. But the plot is declensionist and tragic, not progressive and comic as in the Indian storyThe end result is a poorer state of nature than in the beginning. The valence of woman is bad. The end valence of nature is bad. Here men become the agents of transformation. They become saviors, who through their own agricultural labor have the capacity to re-create the lost garden on earth.' According to Benjamin Franklin, Indians quickly perceived the difference between the two accounts. Franklin satirically writes that when the Indians were apprised of the "historical facts on which our [own] religion is founded; such as the fall of our first parents by eating an apple, ...an Indian orator stood up,...." to thank the Europeans for their story. "What you have told us ... is all very good. It is, indeed, bad to eat apples. It is much better to make them all into cider. We are much obliged by your kindness in coming so far to tell us these things which you have heard from your mothers; in return I will tell you some of those which we have heard from ours."' Historical events reversed the plots of the Indian and the European origin stories. The Indians' comic happy ending changed to a story of decline and conquest, while Euramericans were largely successful in creating a New World garden. Indeed, the story of Western civilization since the seventeenth century and its advent on the American continent can be conceptualized as a grand narrative of Fall and recovery. The concept of recovery, as it emerged in the seventeenth century, not only meant a recovery from the Fall, but also entailed restoration of health, reclamation of land, and recovery of property.'