Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ecology, fascism and democracy: imagination and advertising

"The future of environmentalism is in liberating humanity from the compulsion to consume. Rampant, earth-destroying consumption is the norm in the west largely because our imaginations are pillaged by any corporation with an advertising budget."

- Micah White, "An alternative to the new wave of ecofascism".

This is the kind of debate that we need more of. The irony of political agents who fight any ecological protection legislation on principle is that they are likely setting up conditions for more authoritarian regimes in the future when desperation gains a strong hold on the public imagination.

In short, this piece argues that the corruption of desire performed by the dominant strand of contemporary liberal (hyper)capitalism will undermine the conditions of possibility for liberalism. And so only a renewal of the imagination can lead to true reduction of the consumption levels that are choking the life out of the earth. We need a compelling and attractive picture of human life and flourishing that is not predicated on endless acquisition and consumption.

Where on earth can we find the sources for such a renewal of the imagination? I doubt it will be simply be through reclaiming billboards (though the usefulness of creative acts of civil disobedience cannot be ruled out). Perhaps our good news for new times may come from old sources.

6 comments:

meredith said...

Wouldn't that be what your thesis is about? :-) Hope the writing is going well - don't underestimate the signifance of your thought leadership on these issues!

besideourselves said...

"By liberating humanity from the compulsion to consume, climate catastrophe can be averted without recourse to authoritarianism"

Well, it's really quite simple then isn't it? *Remove-tongue-from-cheek* At least they've identified the core issue.

A reading of verses such as Matt 5:13-16 suggests to me that only Christ through the Church is going to provide the inspiration for such a paradigm shift. Do you think that a rational inference?

If so, then this is a conversation that desperately needs to be had within the Church. Perhaps we need some robust engagement with what it actually means to bear the Imago Dei. I can't think of any picture more compelling to the life of humanity than that.

byron smith said...

Peter - Yes, you're right that I think they hit the nail on the head, and this was what caught my eye. As Meredith says, this is indeed an important part of what my thesis is about: trying to articulate the kind of freedom from (certain kinds of) fear that means that Christians neither ignore ecological catastrophe nor desperately grab for whatever solution (authoritarian or otherwise) that first presents itself. I do think that the good news is good news to us in our ecological crises, (though part of that good news may also be facing the truth of our situation and that there might not be a "solution", at least not one that conveniently avoids a lot of suffering with little cost). But being freed from despair also means being freed to love, even where that love may be only a sign and foretaste of God's promise of resurrection life in a dying world.

And so you're right that this conversation needs to happen not least within the church. So, to that end ;-) - what do you find particularly useful/inspiring/insightful about the concept of imago Dei (the image of God) that you think might contribute to a healthy Christian response to a society with a (possibly) terminal diagnosis?

besideourselves said...

Facing the truth... that there is no (human) solution...

Without getting all allegorical, there are interesting parallels here with the Good News itself. I agree wholeheartedly with your bottom line assessment, and probably don’t really have anything to new to add to it.

“But being freed from despair also means being freed to love, even where that love may be only a sign and foretaste of God's promise of resurrection life in a dying world.”

My line of thought is that the absence of a thoroughly Christian ecology is simply a failure to see a present outworking of the redemption of creation. Romans 8 indicates that the dominion we now exercise is an extension of the demonic dominion that was established at the fall. Dominion has been assumed from the imago Dei as simply an authority to subjugate without an adequate analysis of just what that subjugation should look like. Well, being in God’s image it should like God’s example! So to Christ we go...

Meshing the imago Dei with the redemptive work of Christ asserts that the redeemed are both authorised and expected to re-establish the proper rule of mankind as "loving lords of creation"; regardless of one’s eschatology, ecology is then liberated to be what it always should have been - an extension of the Kingdom.

So to me the redeemed expression of dominion as per the imago Dei is the nexus for integrating ecology with the Gospel. Self-sacrificing redemptive love toward everything fallen then is the consistent message of Christianity across the board. Taking ecology thus to the cross may help overcome the inertia of world-negation within Christianity, and presenting (redeemed and redeeming) mankind itself as the hope of creation should be currency with the humanists (that’s inherently-humanist-without-realising-it rather than dyed-in-the-wool-philosophically humanist).

Obviously, I’m not really going much further than Micah White to actually providing a solution, but as discussed elsewhere, perhaps a solution is a false hope. Redeemed dominion is the most creative, cohesive and compelling Christian response I can come up with.

Probably not particularly insightful or helpful but for what it’s worth, there it is. I’m actually rather more interested in finding out what you’ve got to add to the discussion than I am in displaying my own ignorance, so I’ll get back to exploring your Blog!

Shalom.

byron smith said...

Yes, they are significant and important contributions. Thanks for unpacking them from imago Dei. Our dominion has to be understood as part of Christ's servanthood, rather than "lording it over". And it also has to be seen as one metaphor amongst many for the relationship between humanity and the rest of creation.

byron smith said...

Why eco-totalitarianism is the likely outcome of neoliberal economics: or, why an ideology of small government will lead to much, much bigger government.