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Published by The Ecological Citizen, 2018-12-25 12:20:24

The Ecological Citizen - Vol 2 No 2

Vol 2 No 2 of The Ecological Citizen

The Vol 2 No 2 2019

Ecological ISSN 2515-1967

Citizen A peer-reviewed journal
www.ecologicalcitizen.net

CONFRONTING HUMAN SUPREMACY IN DEFENCE OF THE EARTH

IN THIS ISSUE

Saving wild rivers
The ‘why’ and ‘how’
Pages 131 and 173

The case against
‘enlightened inaction’

Applying lessons from
Henry David Thoreau

Page 163

AN INDEPENDENT JOURNAL

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EC Ecological
Citizen ISSN 2515-1967

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A protest against damming of 1 Advancing ecological knowledge The copyright of the content belongs to
the Vjosa on the river’s banks 2 Championing Earth-centred action the authors, artists and photographers,
3 Inspiring ecocentric citizenship unless otherwise stated. However, there is
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“The task is to think of ourselves as within ecosystems

[…] These enfolding land-and-water systems, used and

abused by humanity, are more than resources; they are

part of the miraculous world ecosystem that brought life

”into being, sustains it and renews it.

Stan Rowe

118 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net Contents

The Ecological Citizen | Vol 2 No 2 2019 For a listing of
Friends of the
Editorial 121 Journal, please
see page 146
Water – a free-flowing subject that reveals the urgent need for humanity to change its course 129
Joe Gray and Ian Whyte 131 Featured artists
137
Opinions 139 This issue also features
141 artworks by Chris Alton,
The Anthropocene: Where on Earth are we going? Rebecca R Burrill, Tony
Will Steffen 147 Cassils, John Cussans,
149 Clare Price, Maggie
Fighting the disappearance of Balkan rivers Roberts, Marina Roy,
Cornelia Wieser 153 Anna Sebastian and
Franciska Tawetz.
Holistic versus individualistic non-anthropocentrism 156
Gregory M Mikkelson
163
Addressing the decline in wetland biodiversity 173
C Max Finlayson 183
189
Ecuador endangered: A call to action
John Seed 198
202
Reflections
213
Limited civilization based on beauty (a vision)
Victor Postnikov

Decoupling the global population problem from immigration issues
Eileen Crist

Special feature

Neptune’s Navy: A global initiative
Captain Paul Watson

Photo feature

Photo feature – The devastating scale of waste in the oceans
Caroline Power

Long articles

Against enlightened inaction: Edification from Thoreau
Luke Philip Plotica

Future rivers, dams and ecocentrism
John J Piccolo, Richard D Durtsche, Johan Watz, Martin Österling and Olle Calles

Rights of rivers enter the mainstream
Grant Wilson and Darlene May Lee

Dandelions are divine
Bill Vitek

Book and culture reviews

Damaging thinking: A review of Timothy Morton’s Being Ecological
Adam Dickerson

Looking beyond the past to give African wildlife a future:
A critical review of The Big Conservation Lie

Tarik Bodasing

Poetry section

Works by Wendell Berry, Aleksander Blok, Julia Travers, Rebecca R Burrill,
Susan Wardell, Erica Stretton, Pete Mullineaux and Elizabeth Carothers Herron

Selected by Victor Postnikov

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 119

Editorial Board www.ecologicalcitizen.net

Editor-in-Chief David Blackwell John J Piccolo
Patrick Curry Educator and Nature-lover Associate Professor in
Halifax, NS, Canada Environmental and Life Sciences
Writer and Scholar Karlstad, Sweden
London, UK Susana Borràs Pentinat
Lecturer in Public International Law Deborah Rose
Associate Editors Tarragona, Spain Adjunct Professor in
Eileen Crist Environmental Humanities
Tom Butler Sydney, NSW, Australia
Writer and Teacher Writer and Activist
Blacksburg, VA, USA Huntington, VT, USA Coyote Alberto Ruz Buenfil
Adam Dickerson Environmental and Social Activist
Writer and Gardener Nigel Cooper Huehuecoyotl Ecovillage, Mexico
Gundaroo, NSW, Australia Chaplain and Biologist
Joe Gray Cambridge, UK Dyane Sherwood
Field Naturalist and Eco-activist Jungian Psychoanalyst
St Albans, UK Paul Cryer Oberlin, OH, USA
Ian Whyte Conservationist
Field Naturalist Hillcrest, South Africa Vandana Shiva
Ottawa, ON, Canada Scholar and Environmental Activist
Cormac Cullinan Delhi, India
Art Editor Environmental Attorney and Author
Stephanie Moran Cape Town, South Africa Steve Szeghi
Professor of Economics
Artist and Librarian John Davis Wilmington, OH, USA
London, UK Wildways Trekker
Westport, NY, USA Bron Taylor
Art Advisor Professor of Religion, Nature
Salomón Bazbaz Lapidus Alan Watson Featherstone and Environmental Ethics
Founder and Visionary – Trees for Life Gainesville, FL, USA
Director – Cumbre Tajín Festival Findhorn, UK
Papantla de Olarte, Mexico Andrew Walton
Mumta Ito Bioregionalist
Poetry Editor Lawyer, Zoologist and Birmingham, UK
Victor Postnikov Founder – Nature’s Rights
Forres, UK Haydn Washington
Poet, Essayist and Translator Environmental Scientist
Kiev, Ukraine Marjolein Kok and Activist
Environmental Activist and Researcher Sydney, NSW, Australia
Consulting Editors Utrecht, the Netherlands
Sandy Irvine Rachel Waters
Helen Kopnina Academic and Advocacy Journalist
Political Activist Environmental Anthropologist Brooklyn, NY, USA
Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK Leiden, the Netherlands
Ted Mosquin Fiona Wilton
Naturalist Joseph Lambert Programme Coordinator
Lanark, ON, Canada Researcher in Earth Jurisprudence – Gaia Foundation
Brighton, UK Colombia/Uruguay
Editorial Advisors
David Abram Sandra Lubarsky Doug Woodard
Scholar in Sustainability Environmentalist
Cultural Ecologist and Geophilosopher Flagstaff, AZ, USA St Catharines, ON, Canada
Upper Rio Grande Valley, NM, USA
Melinda Alfano Michelle Maloney George Wuerthner
Graduate in Water Resources Lawyer and National Photographer, Author and Activist
New York, NY, USA Convenor of AELA Bend, OR, USA
Oussou Lio Appolinaire Brisbane, QLD, Australia
Practitioner of Earth Jurisprudence Peter Jingcheng Xu
Avrankou, Benin Alexandra Marcelino Researcher in Literature
María Valeria Berros Jurist in Environmental Law Beijing, China
Researcher in Rights of Nature Lisbon, Portugal
Santa Fe, Argentina Mersha Yilma
Maria Carolina Negrini Practitioner of Earth Jurisprudence
Lawyer Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
São Paolo, Brazil
Suzanne York
Vanja Palmers Director – Transition Earth
Buddhist Teacher promoting Animal Rights San Francisco, CA, USA
Lucerne, Switzerland

Alessandro Pelizzon
Researcher in Earth-Centred Law
Lismore, NSW, Australia

120 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net EDITORIAL

Water – a free-flowing subject
that reveals the urgent need for
humanity to change its course

T here is perhaps no theme that Editorial (see Box Essay 2) looks at how Joe Gray and
reveals more than water does our aquatic contexts can help evoke such Ian Whyte
need to behave as a plain member empathy.
of the Earth community. In this, the fourth About the authors
issue of The Ecological Citizen, we bring you We also explore, in this issue, ocean- Joe is a field naturalist
a collection of articles, poetry and artworks related matters. In a special feature (pages based in St Albans, UK. Ian
on this subject, as well as a number of other 153–4), Captain Paul Watson reflects on is a field naturalist who
pieces not specifically related to water. the achievements of Sea Shepherd. We also lives in Ottawa, ON, Canada.
Much of the aquatically themed content have a photo feature from Caroline Power Joe and Ian are Associate
focuses on freshwater, and, in particular, on plastics and other waste in the sea. We Editors of the Journal.
rivers. John Piccolo and his co-authors, in plan to return soon to the ocean, including
an article starting on page 173, explore the the looming threat of deep sea mining, Citation
guidance that ecocentrism offers on the with articles being in the works for our next Gray J and Whyte I (2019)
trade-off between ‘clean’ energy and the issue and an upcoming special supplement Water – a free-flowing
negative impacts of hydropower. Cornelia exploring the biodiversity crisis. subject that reveals the
Wieser, in her Opinion piece (pages 131–5), urgent need for humanity
makes an empassioned plea to save the Rounding out the issue’s main theme, to change its course. The
Vjosa and other natural river systems in Max Finlayson describes what needs Ecological Citizen 2: 121–7.
the Balkans. A protest that she organized to be done to halt the loss of wetland
for this cause is depicted on our cover. In biodiversity (pages 139–40) while activist Keywords
addition, Ian’s mini-essay within this John Seed presents a call for action to save Conservation;
Editorial reflects on abuses by humans to the remarkable rainforests of Ecuador ecodemocracy;
his local river, the Ottawa (see Box Essay 1). (pages 141–5). ecological empathy;
societal change; water
The ‘rights of rivers’ movement has There are also a number of water-
received some press attention in the past focused artworks in this issue, and we have
couple of years, and Grant Wilson and Stephanie Moran (our Art Editor) and the
Darlene Lee review this topic in an article many talented contributors to thank for
starting on page 183. They observe, more this. Within this Editorial, photos by Tony
generally, that establishing legal rights Cassils appear in Ian’s mini-essay and the
can give non-human nature a “seat at page that follows it (and can also be seen
the table.” This idea – as the recently elsewhere in the issue), and we conclude
launched Global Ecocentric Network the piece with a digital illustration by
for Implementing Ecodemocracy (GENIE) Franciska Tawetz, titled Life, which is
states in its advert on page 125 – can be about the overarching importance of
extended to push for seats at not just legal water. “Making visible the indispensable,”
but political and adminstrative ‘tables’ Franciska comments, “could help the
too. Where such seats can be obtained, planet in its struggle.”
it will be important that those humans
speaking for non-human life have not In addition to these articles and
just a sound ecological knowledge of artworks, the issue’s poetry section,
the ‘silent stakeholders’ receiving their compiled by Victor Postnikov, exclusively
representation but also an empathetic comprises water-themed works, both
understanding. Joe’s mini-essay in this classic and contemporary, including his
own translation of Aleksander Blok’s

Text continues on page 126…

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 121

EDITORIAL www.ecologicalcitizen.net

Box Essay 1. Can we stop choking the life out of rivers?

by Ian Whyte

E cocentric principles accord intrinsic value to water. Ontario’s Mississippi River, a tributary of the Ottawa River, in
The reality of this value ought to be reflected spring flood (photo by Tony Cassils).
in water’s treatment by humans. How does society
reflect this? I’ll use the Ottawa, a big river with a mean which, thankfully, is not at all related to today’s US
annual discharge of around 2000 cubic metres per
second (Pham et al., 2000), the river I know best, as an Republicans. Here, educated, informed and substantive
example. It flows within a rich country. How has the
Ottawa been treated? I’ll bet you can guess: it’s more voters take part in a government dedicated to the
or less typical of how all free gifts from the commons
are treated. common good. In theory at least, greed is not part of it.

A toxic disposal facility, five stories high and In a similar manner, the Buddhists have a concept of
containing up to 1 million cubic metres of low-to-
medium-level radioactive waste, is to be constructed ‘right livelihood’, which could easily be turned to right
within a kilometre of the river, and this by a company
with a ten-year contract (CBC News, 2017b). That an behaviour (if it has not done so already).
environmental impact assessment has been conducted
is supposed to make us feel better (or at least those It would also be useful to many to ruminate on the
of us who have had no experience with such things).
Humans do not value the future of the river. ideas that there is no right way to do a wrong thing,

The City of Ottawa dumps sewage in the river on its and before doing anything one ought to consider the
rainy days – lots of it: 2.1 million cubic metres in 2017,
and again, on only two days in 2018, nearly 600,000 needs of all species and the Earth. These concepts,
cubic metres (CBC News, 2017a; Willing, 2018). Humans
treat the river like a sewer. married to ecocentric precepts, would go a long way

The river used to contain eels. Enough eels came to towards allowing the world’s water problems to be
Ontario to constitute up to 50% of the fish biomass in
relevant waters (MacGregor et al., 2013). Now, owing to remediated. n
dams, they are locally extinct. Humans are choking the
life out of the river. CBC News (2017a) Ottawa sewage overflow in 2017 even more than
future tunnel could handle. CBC News, 23 December. Available at:
By the personal observation of anyone who cares to https://is.gd/SHBnHM (accessed November 2018).
look, there is lots of garbage along the shores. Humans
treat the river as if it is a trash can. CBC News (2017b) Proposed radioactive waste disposal site in
Chalk River raises concerns. CBC News, 10 April. Available at:
And, of course, there is the endless infestation of https://is.gd/34kiem (accessed November 2018).
private dwellings and public infrastructure along both
sides of the river; this actively blocks the usefulness Curry P (2017) Ecological Ethics: An introduction (updated 2nd edition).
of the riparian area for its rightful users. Humans try to Polity, UK, Cambridge.
seize all value for themselves.
MacGregor R, Casselman J, Greig L et al. (2013) Recovery Strategy for the
How can these observations lead to action? I’ve come American Eel (Anguilla rostrata) in Ontario (Ontario Recovery Strategy
to believe, over years of continuous battles featuring Series). Prepared for: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources,
few, often overturned or otherwise negated, victories, Peterborough, ON, Canada.
that it is not rewarding to fight on individual issues.
Their main use probably should be as examples in Pham T-T, Rondeau B, Sabik H et al. (2000) Lake Ontario: the
a larger struggle. Without changing the paradigm, predominant source of triazine herbicides in the St. Lawrence River.
nothing will really change; this is where we should Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 57: 78–85.
work.
Willing J (2018) Ottawa River’s big, gross gulp: city’s combined sewers
Patrick Curry, in Ecological Ethics, mentions favourably dump in 340M litres of diluted sewage. Ottawa Citizen, 26 July.
a form of government called ‘civic republicanism’, Available at: https://is.gd/J9hhNX (accessed November 2018).

122 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net EDITORIAL

Photos of
Gatineau Park,
Quebec, Canada

by Tony
Cassils

Higher-resolution versions:
https://is.gd/ecoartwork

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 123

EDITORIAL www.ecologicalcitizen.net

Box Essay 2. A spring of empathy in a barren landscape

by Joe Gray

“Why should one of those damn plants get the water? source… The mammals must have been thirstily waiting for
[…] Lots of people could use the water.” their turn… What a warm afternoon it had been, and what a
tough summer… Why did I stay so long?… And there it was:
An exasperated outburst from Lolo, the a spontaneous, emotionally powerful feeling of empathy
main character, in The Tamarisk Hunter for other creatures. (This empathy born of a shared
yearning and need for water can also extend to insects, as
Paolo Bacigulapi’s 2006 short story The Tamarisk Hunter Ed Abbey wrote [Gray, 2018].)
pivots around the life of Lolo, who is paid “$2.88 a
day, plus water bounty” by the Bureau of Reclamation to *****
remove tamarisks from the riverbanks of the US’s desert
south-west. In this tale, which is set in 2030, the alien Two weeks earlier, I had been walking near my home in
status of these plants is not the issue; rather, it is that England when I came to an unexpectedly high stream.
they are using water that humans do not want to give up. Rather than see the challenge of picking a route across
Our refusal to share water – in this imagined, but easy- the larger stones through human eyes, my immediate
to-believe, near future – with riverine vegetation is a thoughts as I approached it were as a badger – specifically,
frightening idea. a female badger looking to find a safe crossing for her
cubs. The reason for this is that a couple of days earlier
We know that water tables are dropping (e.g. Chaudhary, I had been playing the video game Shelter (by Might and
2018) and that lakes are drying up (Weiss, 2018); yet the Delight [2013]), in which the player experiences the wild as
human population continues to swell. With the intense a female badger sheltering her cubs from hazards. Again,
water-based conflicts that seem sure to arise between a feeling of empathy for another creature had arisen in
humans and the rest of life over the coming decades, me, but this time through a virtual experience (for more
we must not waste the current window for building a on this, see Seegert [2014]). A similar experience with the
platform of ecocentric understanding and empathy. potential to evoke empathy for aquatic life is the Ocean
Odyssey digital aquarium, in which visitors are able to
***** interact, virtually, with creatures of the sea (National
Geographic, 2017). I truly think there is something in this.
In September, my wife and I spent a week in an abandoned
village in rural Aragón. Walking late one afternoon down *****
a path that took us from the restored house in which we
were staying through the barren and ruggedly pleated To conclude, sharing water is going to be an increasingly
landscape, we bumped into a walker who told us of a
secret river. More through good fortune than a knowledge stern test of our willingess to behave as plain citizens, but
of the local dialect, we managed, after about half an
hour’s exploring, to find a safe descent to the river – a our shared need for this life source also presents a rich
waterway named el Río Susía in Aragonese.
context for the development of true empathy for other
Rejoicing in the serenity of this hidden place, I spent
some time leaping between the dry patches of the river’s creatures, something which can be fostered through
exposed slabby bed in search of aquatic life, before the
pressing of dusk sent us homeward. experiences both real and virtual. n

Ascending, we noticed on the otherwise dry track a Bacigalupi P (2006) The Tamarisk Hunter. High Country News, 26 June.
muddy patch. This natural canvas was crammed with
tracks of the river’s mammalian visitors: deer of different Chaudhary J (2018) Delhi’s groundwater plummets. Down to Earth, 12 June.
sizes, the splaying of their slots suggesting urgency; Available at https://is.gd/Q9yyEg (accessed November 2018).
possibly a fox; and almost certainly at least one wild
boar, with dewclaw indentations having the wide spacing Gray J (2018) Armchair ecotourism: A tribute to Edward Abbey. The
characteristic of its kind. We skirted the mud to avoid Ecological Citizen 1: 145–7.
erasing the beauty of the prints with our Vibram soles,
as strong thoughts began to cycle… There were so many National Geographic (2017) National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey
prints… The river was not my playground but a vital water officially opens October 6, 2017. Available at https://is.gd/Dq1wLj
(accessed November 2018).

Seegert A (2014) Pixels and pathos: Video games and empathy. Presented
at: Interdisciplinary Symposium on Empathy, Contemplative Practice and
Pedagogy, the Humanities, and the Sciences, University of Utah, UT, USA.

Weiss KR (2018) Some of the world’s biggest lakes are drying up. Here’s
why. Inter Press Service, 1 March. Available at https://is.gd/V4dKiE
(accessed November 2018).

124 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

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EDITORIAL www.ecologicalcitizen.net

A brown pelican near … continues from page 121 198 and 202). We also have articles by
Gulf Shores, AL, USA Luke Plotica, arguing against enlightened
(Ian Whyte). Marsh Priestling. Victor has also contributed inaction, and by Bill Vitek, on how we can
prose to the issue, in his Reflection titled find “grace, beauty, love and even divinity”
126 ‘Limited civilization based on beauty in wildness. These pieces, which have been
(a vision)’ (pages 147–8). This provides inspired in different ways by the life of
a taster of another special supplement Henry David Thoreau, start on pages 163
in preparation, on ‘ecocentric visions’. and 189, respectively.
Victor’s piece is followed by a Reflection
from Eileen presenting her view that Finally, Earth-system scientist Will
the global population problem should be Steffen bemoans the lost connection
decoupled from immigration issues. between contemporary human societies
and the rest of the living planet (pages 129–
Elsewhere in the issue, there are a pair 30), while philosopher Gregory Mikkelson
of book reviews by first-time writers for argues the case for ecocentrism over
the Journal. Adam Dickerson (an Associate sentientism and biocentrism (pages 137–8).
Editor of the Journal) and Tarik Bodasing
critique, respectively, Being Ecological and As always, we hope you enjoy reading the
The Big Conservation Lie (starting on pages issue as much as we enjoyed assembling it,
and we very much welcome your views. n

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net EDITORIAL

Life

by

Franciska
Tawetz

Higher-
resolution version:
https://is.gd/ecoartwork

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 127

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www.ecologicalcitizen.net OPINION

The Anthropocene:
Where on Earth are we going?

T he advent of the Anthropocene, half of human emissions of carbon dioxide Will Steffen
the proposed new geological epoch are absorbed by the land and the ocean,
in Earth history, serves as a stark much of it by biosphere processes. But that About the author
reminder that humanity’s destructive is being eroded: proportionally less carbon Will is an Emeritus Professor
assault on the rest of the living world has dioxide is being absorbed by a biosphere at the Australian National
now reached the global level. Geological that is increasingly stressed by direct University, and a Senior
time intervals are often marked by changes human pressures. The integrity of critical Fellow at the Stockholm
to the biosphere – the appearance of new biomes, such as the Amazon rainforest Resilience Centre.
organisms through evolutionary processes and vast boreal (northern) forests, is being
or the sudden disappearance of whole eroded by direct human actions such Citation
families of organisms through shocks as land clearing and industrial forestry, Steffen W (2019) The
to the Earth system (such as a meteorite making them more vulnerable to massive Anthropocene: Where on
strike or a massive volcanic eruption). disturbances such as wildfires and insect Earth are we going? The
But for the first time in Earth history, a attacks. Ecological Citizen 2: 129–30.
biological species itself – Homo sapiens –
is knowingly driving a multitude of other The problem runs far deeper than Keywords
species towards extinction and drastically just putting a dollar value on so-called Anthropocentrism;
reducing the numbers and range of many ‘ecosystem services’. The core problem is biodiversity; nature;
other species. that contemporary human societies have sixth mass extinction
lost their connection to the rest of the
There is now little doubt that the Earth living planet and are becoming increasingly
is headed for its sixth great extinction alienated from it. Nature is no longer valued
event. Current rates of extinction are now and respected as our planetary life support
at least tens or hundreds of times greater system, and in its own right as a realm of
than background rates (Ceballos et al., beauty and solace, but rather viewed simply
2015). Human domination of the terrestrial as a ‘resource’ to be costed, exploited,
biosphere is particularly striking. The wasted and then abandoned as investment
mass of humans – the sum of the body dollars move elsewhere. Put simply,
weights of all 7.5 billion people on Earth – contemporary human civilization has lost
now comprises 32% of the total mass of all its moral guidance system with respect to
vertebrates (mammals, reptiles, birds and the biosphere, something that indigenous
amphibians) on land. Our domesticated cultures are often reminding us – as well
animals, such as cattle, pigs and sheep, as providing us with valuable wisdom about
comprise another 65%. That is, humans the proper relationship between humans
and our domesticates comprise 97% of and the rest of the living world.
the mass of all terrestrial vertebrates –
leaving only 3% for all of the Earth’s wild Contemporary science, which some argue
terrestrial vertebrates (Smil, 2011). is part of the problem, is, finally, starting to
move beyond the simple cause–effect logic
Humanity’s rapid erosion of the of the Newtonian world and beginning to
biosphere’s integrity also has implications embrace a ‘systems view of life’. In fact, a
for the functioning of the planet as a whole. recent book by that name (Capra and Luisi,
The biosphere plays an important role in the 2014) clearly shows how our physiology,
climate system by regulating the amount and indeed our consciousness, have
of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; about evolved as part of life itself, and continually

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 129

The Anthropocene: Where on Earth are we going? www.ecologicalcitizen.net

interact with it. We are embedded in the of the only living planet that we know
biosphere, a critical relationship that is
increasingly being broken by the high- of, our relationship with the biosphere
paced, technology-driven, competitive,
exploitative culture that we have created is a deeply ethical and moral issue. As
and is rapidly expanding around the
world via globalization. Recent research indigenous cultures already know, we need
shows that our health and our cognitive
functioning both suffer from breaking this to show respect for the rest of life and act
evolutionary bond with the rest of life.
responsibly to the Earth. n
How to deal with this? Clearly it is in
our self-interest – our health and well- References
being both individually and as a society
– to reconnect with the biosphere. But Capra F and Luisi PL (2014) The Systems View of Life.
more fundamentally, as creatures that Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
are now driving the future trajectory
Ceballos G, Ehrlich PR, Barnosky AD et al. (2015)
Accelerated modern human-induced species loss:
Entering the sixth mass extinction. Science Advances
1: e1400253.

Smil V (2011) Harvesting the biosphere: The human
impact. Population and Development Review 37:
613–36.

Visit our free-to-access sister website

An anthology of ecological, philosophical, spiritual, economic and cultural
articles, editorials and reviews exploring the values of the planetary

ecosphere, its ecosystems, communities and wild species – as the natural
and time-tested source of a new and compelling ‘Earth ethic’ for humanity

www.ecospherics.net

Show your support for ecocentrism
by signing the Statement of
Commitment to Ecocentrism

Read and sign it here: http://is.gd/ecocentrism

130 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net OPINION

Fighting the disappearance
of Balkan rivers

If you follow a wild river from its Balkans. The volatile political situation Cornelia Wieser
source in the mountains to its mouth and economic stagnation that followed
to the sea, the river reveals a variety the Yugoslav Wars have kept these rivers About the author
of characteristics. In its upper course it is safe from ‘development’ for decades. Cornelia (Conny) is
fast-flowing, steep and narrow, carving Thus, the rivers have remained widely Executive Assistant at
its way through deep gorges. In its middle unimpaired and have become the most RiverWatch, working on
section it slows and widens into a braided important freshwater biodiversity hotspot project coordination for the
river section, dividing into anabranches in Europe: they host 113 endangered ‘Saving the Blue Heart of
as it finds its ever-changing paths fish species and 40% of the continent’s Europe’ campaign.
through huge amounts of pebble carried endangered freshwater mollusc species,
from the mountains. Even further down such as mussels and snails (Neslen, 2018). Citation
its course, the river starts to meander, Furthermore, the Balkan rivers constitute Wieser C (2019) Fighting
flowing slowly through the plains and Europe’s El Dorado for outdoor lovers: fly the disappearance of Balkan
providing the river’s floodplains with fishing, kayaking, climbing, exploring rivers. The Ecological Citizen
water. Each of these characteristic stages waterfall spectacles or untouched gorges 2: 131–5.
of a wild river comes with its own unique – the rivers in the Balkans provide all of it.
ecosystem, providing habitat to a vast Keywords
number of species. However, the situation of these rivers Biodiversity; conservation;
has recently changed for the worse. A direct action; water
Such a river is the Vjosa in Albania – gold rush atmosphere for hydropower
one of the very last big wild rivers in has emerged in the region: 2800 dams
Europe, and probably the very last river are planned to be constructed between
whose tributaries are also unimpaired. Slovenia and Greece (Figure 1), leaving
As such, it forms an intact river system virtually no river undammed (Neslen,
that is without par in Europe. 2017). Thirty-eight dams are projected
in the Vjosa catchment alone. Corruption
Wild rivers are disappearing at an and weak environmental laws (or weak
alarming rate (Yaggi, 2018), and many of implementation thereof) have nourished
us living in industrialized countries no this spate of destruction. Without respect
longer know what such a river actually for nature and endangered species, rivers
looks like. The characteristics of a wild are being destroyed, their water is being
river are lost when it is dammed and diverted and whole landscapes are drying
put into an artificial corset. A dynamic up. Not even national parks are to be
river turns into a stagnant water body spared, with more than a third of the dams
above a dam; its sediments are trapped planned inside protected areas. Affected
behind the dam walls and no longer residents are rarely consulted or even
reach the sea; fish cannot migrate to informed. Many projects are funded by
their spawning grounds. Embankments multilateral development banks such as
restrict the river to a fixed rather than the European Bank for Reconstruction and
dynamic riverbed and disconnect it from Development or the European Investment
its floodplains. We grow up thinking that Bank, as well as by commercial banks
the embanked channel in our backyard (Vejnović and Gallop, 2018).
constitutes a river.
The absurdity of this situation becomes
Most of Europe’s last natural or near- evident if one considers that millions
natural rivers can be found in the

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 131

Fighting the disappearance of Balkan rivers www.ecologicalcitizen.net

Map of existing and proposed hydropower plants on Balkan rivers

Legend N
Existing dam
Dam under implementation
Planned dam

Size in megawatts
0.1–<1*
1–<10
10–50
>50

*Not exhaustive for existing dams

0 50 100 150 200 km

Figure 1. Map of existing and proposed hydropower plants on Balkan rivers (modified from a graphic produced by Fluvius in 2017).

“The absurdity of euros are being invested in river protect the most valuable rivers in the
restoration in the rest of Europe, as Balkans.
of this situation the EU has stipulated that freshwater
becomes evident if systems are to be restored to a good There are several ways you can help us to
one considers that status by 2020 (European Commission, protect the Balkan Rivers.
millions of euros are 2016). Restoration scientists need river 1 Please sign the petition that is calling on
systems like the Vjosa as a reference
being invested in point in order to study the functioning of international banks to stop funding the
river restoration in natural, intact river dynamics. destruction of Europe’s last wild rivers:
https://blueheart.patagonia.com/take-action.
the rest of Europe.” Call for action: 2 And please spread the news about both
Save the Blue Heart of Europe the beauty of, and the threat to, these
rivers by sharing our Facebook posts:
The Vjosa and other natural river systems https://www.facebook.com/balkanrivers/posts.
in the Balkans need our protection. 3 You can also donate to our campaign at
Together with local partners and affected https://balkanrivers.net/en/donate. Your
communities in the respective Balkan donation will be used to hire lawyers to
countries, the conservation organizations support local communities in their fight
EuroNatur (https://www.euronatur.org/) and against these proposals and to continue
RiverWatch (https://www.riverwatch.eu/) our lobbying on behalf of Europe’s last
are trying to stop the destruction. Our wild rivers.
campaign ‘Save the Blue Heart of Europe’
(https://www.balkanrivers.net/) aims to It will require a major effort from many
people if Europe’s blue heart is to be saved. n

132 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net Fighting the disappearance of Balkan rivers

References Neslen A (2018) Balkan dam projects could Yaggi M (2018) Let our rivers run free: A
result in loss of one in 10 European fish global look at how dams are destroying our
European Commission (2016) EU Water Framework species. The Guardian, 18 April. Available at waterways. Waterkeeper Alliance Magazine
Directive. Available at https://is.gd/Ue0LlQ https://is.gd/hSouX8 (accessed August 2018). 14(2). Available at https://is.gd/w694fh
(accessed August 2018). (accessed August 2018).
Vejnović I and Gallop P (2018) Financing for
Neslen A (2017) Balkan hydropower projects hydropower in protected areas in Southeast
soar by 300% putting wildlife at risk, Europe: 2018 update. CEE Bankwatch
research shows. The Guardian, 27 November. Network. Available at https://is.gd/oypaCt
Available at https://is.gd/zkKtT4 (accessed (accessed August 2018).
August 2018).

The ‘queen’ of European
rivers, the Vjosa in
Albania. If the Albanian
government has its way,
this braided river section
will be drowned in a
dam reservoir (photo
by Gregor Subic).

Scientists studying a 133
tributary of the Vjosa.
The river system serves
as a rare (and perhaps

unique) reference
point for future river

restoration. Until
recently, this river
system had not been
explored by scientists

(photo by Thuile
Bistarelli).

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

Fighting the disappearance of Balkan rivers www.ecologicalcitizen.net

Construction of the Medna Sana
hydropower plant near the source of
the river Sana, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The Sana is one of six most important
rivers for the huchen, a globally
endangered fish species (photo by
Matic Oblac).

Dam construction site at the
Valbona, in northern Albania.
Construction continues even

though the appeal court has
ordered a construction freeze

(photo by Cathrine Bohne).

134 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net Fighting the disappearance of Balkan rivers

A protest against damming of the Vjosa on the river’s banks near Qeserat, Albania (photo by Oblak Aljaz).

The ‘brave women of Kruščica’, Bosnia-Herzegovina, who kept a construction site occupied for a year as
part of efforts to prevent the construction of a dam and save their local river (photo by Andrew Burr).

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 135

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www.ecologicalcitizen.net OPINION

Holistic versus individualistic
non-anthropocentrism

I  applaud The Ecological Citizen for biocentrism. For example, I have contended Gregory M
defending ecocentrism, a worldview that – depending on the answers, currently Mikkelson
the Earth needs urgently. Many of the unknown, to certain empirical questions
Journal’s articles to date have targeted – individualistic theories commit their About the author
anthropocentrism as their main opponent. adherents to endorsing one of two repugnant Greg is an associate
However, holders of that patently extremes: utter human domination of the professor in the School
defective view arguably now comprise a planet, or human extinction. Ecocentrism’s of Environment and
minority, even of Americans (Leiserowitz intrinsic-valuation of biodiversity saves Department of Philosophy,
et al., 2005). The real battle seems to it from this dilemma, and justifies the McGill University, Montréal,
have shifted from theory to practice, obviously preferable middle ground: an QC, Canada.
where anthropocentrism remains firmly Earth with thriving populations of all
entrenched (McShane, 2016). Meanwhile, 10 million species, including humans. To Citation
two other rivals of ecocentrism remain further vindicate ecocentrism, I have found Mikkelson GM (2019) Holistic
largely unchallenged in these pages, on it necessary to get more specific about what versus individualistic non-
either theoretical or practical grounds: it entails. The best-known exponents of the anthropocentrism. The
sentientism and biocentrism. view – such as Aldo Leopold, Arne Naess Ecological Citizen 2: 137–8.
and Val Plumwood – have offered much
Sentientists hold that all sentient inspiration and food for thought. However, Keywords
animals have intrinsic value. But they deny I submit that the lesser-known theorist Agriculture; animal
a further claim that biocentrists assert: Peter Miller synthesized such insights more ethics; anthropocentrism;
that non-animal organisms, such as plants coherently and convincingly than any of ecological ethics;
and fungi, also have moral significance for these more famous thinkers have. Miller worldviews
their own sake (Varner, 2001; Attfield, 2013). defined intrinsic value as “richness”, which
What sentientism and biocentrism share is in turn a function of variety, harmony
is a commitment to moral individualism. and achievement (Miller, 1982; 1983). One
According to both, the intrinsic value of a advantage of such an axiology is that it
species or ecosystem reduces to the sum, arguably explains the intrinsic goods
average or some other function of its involved in sentience, and in life, better
individual constituent organisms’ well- than even sentientism or biocentrism can
being. What distinguishes ecocentrism (Mikkelson, 2019).
from these rival views is the idea that
such an ecological whole is ‘more than the So far, I have stressed the need to champion
sum of its parts’. That is, in addition to ecocentrism against sentientism and
the well-being of its constituents, certain biocentrism. However, I will close by noting
holistic properties count for their own one important value judgment on which
sake as well, such as overall diversity and all three of these non-anthropocentric
integrity within the species or ecosystem. theories converge: that at least at anywhere
Proponents of holistic ecocentrism must near current levels, livestock farming is a
show how and why their view is superior massive net disvalue. Ecocentrism counts
not only to anthropocentrism, but also to not only the harms inflicted by this industry
its non-anthropocentric but individualistic on individual domestic and wild organisms,
alternatives. but also its devastation of biodiversity
and ecosystem function (Machovina et
Arguments for ecocentrism in general can al., 2015). Ecocentrists thus have even
make some headway against sentientism and

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 137

Holistic versus individualistic non-anthropocentrism www.ecologicalcitizen.net

greater theoretical motivation than non- Machovina B, Feeley K and Ripple W (2015) Biodiversity
conservation: The key is reducing meat consumption.
anthropocentric individualists do, to fight Science of the Total Environment 536: 419–31.

the global scourge of animal agriculture. McShane K (2016) Anthropocentrism in climate ethics
and policy. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 40: 189–204.
However, in practice, sentientists like
Mikkelson GM (2018) Convergence and divergence
Peter Singer and Martha Nussbaum have between ecocentrism and sentientism concerning
net value. Les Ateliers de l’Éthique/The Ethics Forum (in
probably inspired more people to reduce press).

or eliminate their meat consumption than Mikkelson GM (2019) Sentience, life, richness. In:
DesRoches C, Jankunis F and Williston B, eds. New
have ecocentric thinkers (but see Tudge Directions in Canadian Environmental Philosophy.
McGill-Queen’s University, Montréal, QC, Canada:
[2018]). Thus, while ecocentrists should 96–114.

advance their worldview against all forms Miller P (1982) Value as richness: Toward a value theory
for an expanded naturalism in environmental ethics.
of moral individualism, they should join Environmental Ethics 4: 101–14.

their fellow non-anthropocentrists in Miller P (1983) Axiology: A metaphysical theme in
ethics. Journal of Value Inquiry 17: 3–16.
seeking to dramatically diminish the
Tudge T (2018) Lies, misconceptions and global
livestock industry, and rewild the land that agriculture. The Ecological Citizen 2: 77–85.

this will free up (Mikkelson, 2018). n Varner G (2001) Sentientism. In: Jamieson D, ed. A
Companion to Environmental Philosophy. Wiley-
References Blackwell, New York, NY, USA: 192–203.

Attfield R (2013) Biocentrism. In: LaFollette H, ed. The
International Encyclopedia of Ethics. Wiley-Blackwell,
New York, NY, USA: 526–34.

Leiserowitz A, Kates R and Parris T (2005) Do global
attitudes and behaviors support sustainable
development? Environment 47: 23–38.

Show your support for ecocentrism
by signing the Statement of
Commitment to Ecocentrism

Read and sign it here: http://is.gd/ecocentrism

Never miss an issue of The Ecological Citizen

Sign up for content alerts at:

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138 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net OPINION

Addressing the decline
in wetland biodiversity

In this short piece, I highlight the alarming wetlands are more threatened than those C Max Finlayson
extent of the loss of wetland biodiversity of temperate regions (WWF, 2012).
globally, and outline some steps for About the author
addressing this destruction. Governments Halting the loss Max is an internationally
have been unable – or unwilling – to halt this of wetland biodiversity renowned wetland ecologist.
loss, even though 170 national governments He is a professor at the
are Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Strong action is required to address the Institute for Land, Water
Convention on Wetlands, which since 1971 critical condition of wetlands and their and Society at Charles Sturt
has endeavoured to support efforts to stem species worldwide, as follows (Finlayson University (Albury, NSW,
the degradation of wetlands. et al. 2018): Australia).
1 prioritizing the enactment of connected,
The increasing threats to wetlands have Citation
been widely recognized, and action plans well-funded and well-managed networks Finlayson CM (2019)
drawn to address them (Ramsar Convention of protected areas for a significant Addressing the decline in
Secretariat, 2018). There have been some proportion of the world’s wetland wetland biodiversity. The
success stories, including the inventory by habitats; Ecological Citizen 2: 139–40.
the Ramsar Convention of over 2300 sites, 2 maintaining and re-establishing wetlands
covering nearly 250 million km2, as wetlands and halting their conversion to other land Keywords
of international importance, representing uses; Biodiversity;
13–18% of the total area of the world’s 3 restoring wetland plant communities at conservation; water
wetlands (Davidson and Finlayson, 2018). large scales;
4 rewilding wetlands with native species,
However, wetlands now cover only a including apex predators, to restore
fraction of their original range. Where ecological processes and dynamics;
data exist, we know that 35% of wetlands 5 developing and adopting adequate policy
have been lost since 1970, and up to 87% instruments to reverse the loss of wetland
since 1700 ce (Davidson, 2014). The Wetland animals, especially from over-fishing
Extent Trends Index confirms that the and poaching, and the exploitation and
decline of wetlands continues at a rapid rate trade of threatened species;
(Dixon et al., 2016). Unsurprisingly, many 6 reducing, through education and better
populations of wetland-dependent species infrastructure, the wastage of wetland-
are in long-term decline and threatened derived food;
with extinction. According to the IUCN 7 promoting dietary shifts to reduce
Red List (www.iucnredlist.org), 25% of the extent of overgrazing by cattle on
the roughly 20,000 wetland-dependent wetlands;
assessed species are endangered or 8 increasing outdoor wetland education
critically endangered. Moreover, 34% of for children and adults, as well as the
inland species dependent on rivers and involvement of wider society – especially
streams are globally threatened, as are local and indigenous communities – in
20% of those of marshes and lakes. the management of wetlands;
9 encouraging positive environmental
According to the Living Planet Index, change in wetlands by supporting
81% of populations of freshwater species ecologically sound financial investments
have declined since 1970 – far greater than and divesting from ecologically destructive
the decline of species depending on other investments;
ecosystems (WWF, 2016). Overall, tropical

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 139

Addressing the decline in wetland biodiversity www.ecologicalcitizen.net

A giant otter (an 10 devising and promoting green technologies References
endangered species) in the and adopting renewable energy sources
Pantanal wetland region that do not adversely impact wetlands; Davidson N (2014) How much wetland has the world
of South America (Gerry lost? Long-term and recent trends in global wetland
Zambonini; CC BY-SA 2.0). 11 shifting our economy to reduce wealth area. Marine and Freshwater Research 65: 934–41.
and inequality, and to ensure that prices,
taxation and incentive systems take into Davidson N and Finlayson CM (2018) Extent, regional
account the real costs which consumption distribution and changes in area of different classes
patterns impose on wetlands. of wetland. Marine and Freshwater Research (in press).

Successfully implementing these actions, Dixon M, Loh J, Davidson N and Walpole M (2016) Tracking
global change in ecosystem area: The Wetland Extent
or getting them underway, is needed to halt Trends Index. Biological Conservation 193: 27–35.

the dramatic declines in wetland biodiversity Finlayson CM, Davies GT, Moomaw WR et al. (2018) The
Second Warning to Humanity – providing a context
that are occurring. In particular, the effort for wetland management and policy. Wetlands (in
press).
needs to focus on stopping ongoing losses
Ramsar Convention Secretariat (2018) Global Wetland
and restoring degraded wetlands. To help Outlook: State of the world’s wetlands and their services
to people. Ramsar Convention Secretariat, Gland,
to achieve this, wetland scientists need to Switzerland. Available at https://is.gd/HNpVfS
(accessed November 2018).
engage more effectively with civil society
WWF (2012) Living Planet Report 2012: Biodiversity,
and non-governmental organizations, and biocapacity and better choices. WWF International,
Gland, Switzerland. Available at https://is.gd/jsWTpx
encourage policy makers to enact appropriate (accessed November 2018).

decisions. It is also crucially important to WWF (2016) Living Planet Report 2016: Risk and resilience
in a new era. WWF International, Gland, Switzerland.
consider the knowledge, and seek the input Available at https://is.gd/YIxghD (accessed November
2018).
of, local and indigenous communities, who

generally have a closer association with

wetlands than many other members of

our societies. n

140 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net OPINION

Ecuador endangered:
A call to action

The tropical Andes of Ecuador are at in water sources and water recharge areas, John Seed
the top of the world list of biodiversity in the national system of protected areas,
hotspots in terms of vertebrate in special areas for conservation, and in About the author
species, endemic vertebrates and endemic protected forests and fragile ecosystems John is Founder and
plants. For example, Ecuador has more (for some recent coverage of this struggle Director of the Rainforest
orchid and hummingbird species than see Hill [2018]). Fortunately, unlike Information Centre in
Brazil, which has an area 32 times larger, the previous administration, the new Australia, and he has been
and has more biodiversity than the entire US. government has signalled an openness involved in many direct
to hear indigenous and civil society’s actions that have resulted
In the last year, the Ecuadorian concerns. in the protection of the
government has quietly granted mining Australian rainforests.
concessions to over 1.7 million hectares But we will need a massive international
(4.25 million acres) of forest reserves and effort to rescind the existing concessions – Citation
indigenous territories. These concessions many billions of dollars of mining company Seed J (2019) Ecuador
were awarded to transnational corporations profits are opposed to some of the most endangered: A call to action.
in closed-door deals without public biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth The Ecological Citizen 2: 141–5.
knowledge or consent. and the many local communities and
indigenous peoples who depend on them. Keywords
This is in direct violation of Ecuadorian Biodiversity; conservation;
law and international treaties, and it The lure of mining profits is a deadly indigenous culture
will decimate headwater ecosystems and mirage (Roy et al., 2018). The impacts of large-
biodiversity hotspots of global significance. scale open-pit mining within rainforest
However, Ecuadorian groups think there is watersheds include mass deforestation,
little chance of stopping the concessions erosion, contamination of water sources
using the law unless there is a groundswell by toxins such as lead and arsenic, and
of opposition from Ecuadorian civil society desertification (Roche et al., 2017). Mining
and strong expressions of international transforms a lush rainforest into an arid
concern. The first country in the world wasteland incapable of sustaining either
to inscribe the rights of nature into its diverse ecosystems or human beings.
constitution (the celebrated Pachamama) is
now ignoring that commitment. Without a huge outcry both within
Ecuador and around the world, the
The Rainforest Information Centre biological gems and pristine rivers and
(www.rainforestinformationcentre.org) hired streams will be destroyed.
Ecuadorean researchers and discovered
that 41 bosques protectores (protected It does not have to be this way. Civil
forests) have been secretly concessioned. For society needs to be in open conversation
example, nearly all of the 311,500-hectare with the state. Ecuador’s society and
Bosque Protector Kutuku-Shaimi, where government must explore how an economy
5000 indigenous Shuar families live, has based on the sustainable use of pristine
been concessioned. For a detailed mapping water sources, the country’s incomparable
of the full extent of the horror being forests and other natural treasures is
planned, see Vandegrift et al. (2017). superior to an economy based on short-
term extraction leaving behind despoiled
In Ecuador, civil society is mobilizing and impoverished landscapes. For example,
and has asked their recently elected studies by Earth Economics in the Intag
government to prohibit industrial mining region of Ecuador (where some of the new

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 141

Ecuador endangered: A call to action www.ecologicalcitizen.net

mining concessions are located) show References
that ecosystem services and sustainable
development would offer better approaches Hill D (2018) ‘Our territory is our life’: One struggle against
even when considered in purely economic mining in Ecuador. The Guardian, 10 April. Available at
terms – let alone ecological and social https://is.gd/jGDemo (accessed April 2018).
ones (Kocian et al., 2011).
Kocian M, Batker D and Harrison-Cox J (2011) An
How you can help Ecological Study of Ecuador’s Intag Region: The
environmental impacts and potential rewards of mining.
Please join, follow and share the Rainforest Earth Economics, Tacoma, WA, USA. Available at
https://is.gd/SQ5eyC (accessed April 2018).
Information Centre’s campaign to save
Roche C, Thygesen K and Baker E, eds (2017) Mine
Ecuador’s rainforests on social media Tailings Storage: Safety is no accident. United Nations
Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya, and
(https://is.gd/Ecuador). Please also sign GRID-Arendal, Arendal, Norway. Available at
https://is.gd/b5mwd2 (accessed April 2018).
their petition (https://is.gd/ecupetition)
Roy BA, Zorrilla M, Endara L et al. (2018) New mining
and support the crowdfunding campaign concessions could severely decrease biodiversity and
ecosystem services in Ecuador. Tropical Conservation
(https://is.gd/ecufund).1 n Science 11: 10.1177/1940082918780427.

Notes Vandegrift R, Thomas D, Roy B and Levy M (2017) The
Extent of Recent Mining Concessions in Ecuador. Rainforest
1 A longer version of this article can be found Information Centre, Nimbin, NSW, Australia. Available
at https://is.gd/Pu2NqP. For more links to the at https://is.gd/e0w7wy (accessed April 2018).
history and causes of Ecuador’s mining crisis,
visit http://ecuadorendangered.com.

Insects of Ecuador Ball-bearing
treehopper
Photographer: Andreas Kay (Bocydium
globulare)
About the photos: These images have all been cropped from photos made available
under the Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/
licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/). The species identifications have been taken directly from the
photographers’ descriptions and have not been independently checked.

Adult and nymph of the
treehopper Alchisme grossa

142 Adults and nymph of the
shieldbug Edessa rufomarginata

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net PHOTOS

Snake-mimic Caterpillar of
chrysalis of a moth in the
genus Naprepa
the butterfly
Dynastor darius

Caterpillar of a saturniid moth Snake-mimic caterpillar of the
moth Hemeroplanes triptolemus
Malachite
butterfly The moth Idalus herois
(Siproeta
stelenes)

A metalmark 143

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

PHOTOS www.ecologicalcitizen.net

Lichen katydid
(Markia hystrix)

A monkey hopper A pair of
(Homeomastax sp.) grasshoppers
(Megacheilacris
bullifemur)

144 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net PHOTOS

A brentid beetle

Target tortoise beetle A beetle in The beetle
(Ischnocodia annulus) the genus Stolas placida
Omophoita

Pair of fungus beetles

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 145

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146 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net REFLECTION

Limited civilization based
on beauty (a vision)

“Someone’ll come along someday the hungry people with “guts plastered to Victor Postnikov
with imagination and patch it up. […] their spines” are left with nothing except
Someone with a soul for pretty things festivals dedicated to the destruction of About the author
[…] Might give us back a kind of limited that Past. Books are burned, motorcars Victor is a poet, essayist
sort of civilization, the kind we could smashed, paintings torn, etc. When the and translator based in Kiev,
live in peace.” time comes to spit on Mona Lisa, a boy Ukraine.
(Bradbury, 1952) who stood in the line of those eager to do
so fell in love with her smile and saved Citation
“At times, you shouldn’t speak at all a small piece of the painting from the Postnikov V (2019) Limited
of the lofty and the beautiful, unless destruction. Ultimately, he managed to civilization based on beauty
you have shown, as clearly as daylight, carry the piece with the painted smile – (a vision). The Ecological Citizen
the ways and paths to it, for each and all that was left of the painting – home, 2: 147–8.
everyone.” and then it continued to live on, quite
(Gogol, 1937–52, 8: 298) independently. As Bradbury ends the Keywords
story: “He shut his eyes and the Smile Visions
Recently, Salvator Mundi, a masterpiece was there in the darkness. And it was still
by Leonardo da Vinci, was sold at there, warm and gentle, when he went to
Sotheby’s for the unbelievable sum sleep and the world was silent and the
of US$450 million (Helmore, 2017). I do not moon sailed up and then down the cold
have any clue as to the motive of the buyer, sky towards morning.”
and would like to believe (perhaps, naively)
that he or she did so to save the painting The story echoes my idea of ‘poetic
for future generations. Immediately, I economy’ (Postnikov, 2011). Along with
thought of another Leonardo masterpiece, conservation efforts directed at saving
Mona Lisa, which has tantalized humanity the beauty of wildness and species from
for generations, and which has again extinction, we should start building, or
sparked my imagination after reading rather re-building, a limited civilization.
Ray Bradbury’s short story ‘The Smile’ Not destroying indiscriminately the
(Bradbury, 1952). I was particularly ‘Past’, as in the Bradbury story, but
delighted to find there a line mentioning instead saving the beautiful things that
limited civilization, an idea which resonates inspire and elevate the soul.
with my vision of the future.
Next, or in parallel, we need to stop
First, the gist of the story. The scene doing unnecessary work, and the sooner
unfolds in the post-apocalyptic future, the better. As Leo Tolstoy once remarked,
with “cities all junk, roads like jigsaws from most modern work is unnecessary, if
bombs, and half-cornfields glowing with not outright ruinous. Everyone needs
radio-activity at night.” But what amazes to invoke an inner artist to begin the
most is the aptitude of the explanation dismantling and transformation of the
that one of the characters gives: “It has to wasteful globalized economy and its
do with hate. Hate for everything in the infrastructure into his or her personal
Past. […] You hate whatever it was that got work of art. Shift to manual craftwork.
you all knocked down and ruined.” Then, Avoid and boycott complex machines. And
smile, while sending the pressed cars to
the dump.

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 147

Limited civilization based on beauty (a vision) www.ecologicalcitizen.net

“Is this utopia That could signal the beginning of a Surely, the revival of these forgotten
great limited civilization built on the skills would be a tremendous task.
attainable? I do not premise of beautiful simplicity. Many of us are so weakened morally
and physically by civilization that, as
know. But would Why simplicity? Because it is Robinson Jeffers suggests, we would
essentially a way to leave the world rather “passively go […] to the grave /
I hate to see the alone. A way to curb the demons in ask[ing] only a pinch of pleasure between
humans so that they cannot ruin the the darknesses” than agree to change our
alternative.” world. In other words, it is a return to lifestyle (Jeffers, 2002). Yet, co-creation
what, actually, humans are: one species, with nature and friends – directly, not
with its peculiar characteristics (some via screens – should help us survive and
pleasant, some not), sharing equal rights even bloom.
with other species, on an equal footing.
The paramount right of all species is to Is this utopia attainable? I do not know.
enjoy life and beauty in its fullness. This But would I hate to see the alternative. n
return is vital to the whole family of
species, but humans need it most. References

But what is being offered to all those Bradbury R (1952) The Smile. Fantastic, June (Summer)
sophisticated people, vying for new issue. Available at https://is.gd/fGunIa (accessed
technologies? Cheerful and healthy August 2018).
simple life. In the open air. Simplicity
means not only a calm and modest life, Brown A (2013) Living with just enough. The Global
it also means creativity par excellence. Oneness Project. Available at https://is.gd/n3RO6m
But the nature of creativity will have to (accessed August 2018).
change. Now, it will be channelled into
saving nature’s beauty and rectifying Coates C (2001) Artistic visionaries. In: Coates C, ed.
past human damage (cf. Tompkins, 2013). Utopia Britannica: British utopian experiments 1325–
The time has come to rehabilitate and 1945. Diggers and Dreamers Publications, London,
renew ourselves as a species, and to UK: 117–61.
remember the skills of our ancestors. It
is crucial that we stick to our immediate Dodge J (2015) Bioregional poetics/aesthetics: Some
cultural environment, defining our tentative tenets. Letter quoted in P Nelson’s
preferences and methods (Dodge, 2015). introduction to: Nelson P, Stanley G, McKinnon
B and Maestas N, eds. Make It True: Poetry from
Simplicity means renunciation of Cascadia. Leaf Press, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.
‘specialists’ and ‘experts’ of all kinds, Available at https://is.gd/qoEgmc (accessed August
and a reversion to the creativity of our 2018).
own hands and minds. It is the revival of
our ability to work manually. It is William Gogol NV (1937–52) Polnoe Sobranie Sochinenii, 14
Morris and John Ruskin, Tolstoy and vols. Akademii Nauk SSSR, Moscow, Russia.
Gandhi (Coates, 2001). It is artists and
craftspeople. It is a return to the beauty Helmore E (2017). Leonardo da Vinci painting sells for
that reigned before industrialization $450m at auction, smashing records. The Guardian,
took over. It is renunciation of 17 November. Available at https://is.gd/0P7wFb
machines, except those which are safe, (accessed August 2018).
elegant and easy to repair. (A scythe, a
bicycle, a sewing machine: aren’t they Jeffers R (2002) [1929] Subjected Earth. In: Hunt T,
marvellous?) It is also the resurrection ed. The Selected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers. Stanford
of an artisan life: growing vegetables, University Press, Stanford, CA, USA. Available at
baking bread, making linen and cotton https://is.gd/tpwU51 (accessed August 2018).
fabric, simple and comfortable furniture
(Brown, 2013). From now on, every Lubarsky S (2017) Life affirming beauty. Post-
activity will be viewed as an artistic act Carbon Institute. Available at https://is.gd/exuLsg
(Lubarsky, 2017). (accessed August 2018).

Postnikov V (2011) Economy of poetics: A sketch. Culture
Change, 6 February. Available at https://is.gd/l2EVcU
(accessed August 2018).

Tompkins D (2013) The Next Economy. Available at
https://is.gd/MGxvRT (accessed August 2018).

148 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net REFLECTION

Decoupling the global population
problem from immigration issues

M uch soul-searching has gone framework. This framework, I argue (Crist, Eileen Crist
into why the environmental 2018), has three salient components. One,
movement, international policy empowering women and men everywhere About the author
arenas, and university curricula sidelined with accessible and affordable state-of-the-
global population concerns in recent decades. art family-planning services to make their Eileen has been teaching
Research has revealed that a number of reproductive choices. Two, agitating for all at Virginia Tech in the
factors converged to envelop the population women worldwide to achieve equal standing Department of Science and
question in silence (Campbell, 2007; Potts, with men, and focusing most immediately Technology in Society since
2009; Crist et al., 2017). Paramount among on securing educational opportunities for 1997. Her work focuses
those factors have been the following: a girls and young women (at least through on biodiversity loss and
perception that the population problem is secondary education, after which a sizeable destruction of wild places,
‘solving itself’ given a globally declining fertility drop generally occurs). Three, along with pathways to
fertility rate; the spectre of climate change, providing what the United Nations calls halt these trends, and she
caused by excessive consumption, virtually ‘comprehensive sexuality education’ (CSE), has written and co-edited
monopolizing attention; anxieties over the a pedagogical imperative for every human numerous papers and
possibility of coercive policies implemented being, through all years of schooling, books. Her latest book is
for ‘population control’; and a global surge of containing age-appropriate and age- Abundant Earth: Toward
nationalisms and religious fundamentalisms pertinent material. (Research has shown an ecological civilization
opposed to family planning and indifferent that critical thinking about sexuality issues, (University of Chicago
to global population growth. All these which CSE fosters, along with providing Press, 2018). Eileen lives in
factors, and especially their conjunction, other benefits helps reduce unintended Blacksburg, VA, USA. She is
played into muting the population pregnancies [Kaidbey and Engelman, 2017] – an Associate Editor of the
question in environmental, social justice, a key ingredient in decelerating population Journal.
educational, and international arenas. An growth.) This three-tiered human-rights
additional pivotal contributor motivating framework that must be implemented Citation
silence about population has been the rise worldwide, with enthusiasm, and without Crist E (2019) Decoupling the
of an environmental platform arguing for further delay would result in stabilizing and global population problem
immigration restriction – into the US, the gradually reducing the global population from immigration issues. The
UK, Australia and other rich countries – as with relative alacrity. Ecological Citizen 2: 149–51.
a means of achieving national targets of
population stabilization. On the ground, this framework requires Keywords
international trust and cooperation to
Environmentalist calls for robust move forward. When calls for immigration Overpopulation
immigration caps sparked a backlash, restriction graft themselves onto the
especially within environmental, non- mandate for population stabilization and
governmental organization and social reduction, they vitiate this requirement of
justice circles, that contributed substantially international solidarity. However earnestly
to the avoidance or desertion of scientific immigration-restriction proponents insist
research, activist campaigning, and policy that their intent is progressive – and not
endeavours for addressing population xenophobic or ‘lifeboat ethics’ motivated
growth. As a result, such calls played – their arguments are interpreted as
into unsettling the needed international containing such subtexts (Huang, 2008;
climate for facing a problem that is Gibbs, 2010). The fact that critics of the
eminently solvable within a human-rights immigration-restriction position may be

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 149

Decoupling the global population problem from immigration issues www.ecologicalcitizen.net

misconstruing that position is moot – the academics, activists, and policy-makers
damage to facing the population problem
is done. Acute mistrust ensues, especially becoming more and more engaged in
in social justice circles worldwide, and
the needed conversation about global addressing it. Coupling immigration
population is derailed. At the same time,
when proponents for tightened immigration issues – that deal specifically with the
quotas dismiss their detractors as distorting
their motives, or as merely pandering to movement and distribution of people –
‘political correctness’, they are sticking their
heads in the sand: the cultural, social and with the global trouble of an enormous
political backlash at an international level
“We can stabilize is tangible and enormously consequential. population and continued growth can only
Owing in large part to that backlash, two
and slowly reduce the unfortunate consequences have followed. be detrimental at this delicate moment of a
human population First, many have sweepingly dismissed
through global ‘overpopulation’ as a rich-world fabrication. promising shift. Immigration-restriction
partnerships that Second, and even more important, many
work speedily scientists, intellectuals, activists, and policy- proponents have the right to argue their
to make family makers, who do realize that stabilizing and
planning a cultural eventually reducing the human population case, but they should keep it separate
norm everywhere, is a pressing matter, walk away from a scene
achieve liberation that has become too rancorous to linger in. from the global population problem, lest
and equality for all
If these consequences were the only their divisive messaging contributes to
women, and cultivate drawback of calls for immigration control,
critical thinking it would be problematic enough, since marginalizing that urgent problem yet
advocates for capping migration into
about sexuality issues developed nations – by kindling widespread again. Population growth decelerates and
among all young avoidance of the ‘vexed’ population problem
people in global – have arguably been party to worsening the reverses by securing for every human
very problem they are trying to solve. There
curricula.” is more, however, that is dubious about the being the shared fundamentals of family-
environmentally motivated immigration-
restriction argument. In my view, rich planning services, gender equity, and
nations, because of the global and within-
their-borders ecological mayhem they have education. Amazingly, these ingredients
unleashed, have rescinded any rightful
claim to exclude entry to ‘foreigners’ on the invariably work to lower fertility rates
grounds of protecting the ecosphere and
their national environments. If Bhutan were across very different nations and
to make an immigration-restriction case
for the purposes of protecting its natural cultures (Engelman, 2012; Weisman,
treasures – well, that would at least be
coherent. But when that argument is made 2013; Bongaarts, 2016). In brief, where
on behalf of colonial and neocolonial powers
like the US and the UK – powers that bear the global population problem can be
incontestable responsibility for the current
and coming global refugee crisis – the solved in a unified fashion by procuring
incongruity is abrasively palpable.
needed rights to all people, immigration-
Today, the silence surrounding the
global population juggernaut is finally restriction positions divide people and
being broken, as we are seeing scientists,
tend to incite bitter arguments.

The dismal consequences for Earth

and for humanity of an oversized global

population are indisputable. (Importantly,

the human population size is well over

what an ecologically and ethically virtuous

food system can support.) The political

acrimony and equity grievances that calls

for immigration controls into rich countries

incite dampen the energy for tackling it,

and undermine the real potential for an

international victory. We can stabilize

and slowly reduce the human population

through global partnerships that work

speedily to make family planning a cultural

norm everywhere, achieve liberation and

equality for all women, and cultivate critical

thinking about sexuality issues among all

young people in global curricula. n

References

Bongaarts J (2016) Slow down population growth.
Nature 530: 409–12.

Campbell M (2007) Why the silence on population?
Population & Environment 28: 237–46.

150 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net Decoupling the global population problem from immigration issues

Crist E (2018) Abundant Earth: Toward an ecological Gibbs S (2010) People on the move: Population, migration,
civilization. Chicago, IL, USA: University of Chicago and the environment. In: Mazur L, ed. A Pivotal Moment:
Press. Population, justice and the environmental challenge.
Washington, DC, USA: Island Press, 53–65.
Crist E, Mora C and Engelman R (2017). The interaction
of human population, food production, and Kaidbey M and Engelman R (2017) Our bodies, our future:
biodiversity protection. Science 356: 260–4. Expanding comprehensive sexuality education. In:
EarthEd: Rethinking Education on a Changing Planet
Engelman R (2012) Trusting women to end population (The Worldwatch Institute). Washington, DC, USA:
growth. In: Cafaro P and Crist E, eds. Life on the Brink: Island Press.
Environmentalists confront overpopulation. Atlanta, GA,
USA: University of Georgia Press, 223–9. Potts M (2009) Where next? Philosophical Transactions of
the Royal Society B 364: 3115–24.
Huang P (2008) Anchor babies, over-breeders, and
the population bomb: The reemergence of nativism Weisman A (2013) Countdown: Our last, best hope for a
and population control in anti-immigration policies. future on Earth? New York, NY, USA: Little, Brown and
Harvard Law & Policy Review 2: 385–406. Company.

Photos of
Gatineau Park,
Quebec, Canada

(continued on page 155)

by Tony
Cassils

Higher-resolution versions:
https://is.gd/ecoartwork

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152 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net SPECIAL FEATURE

Neptune’s Navy:
A global initiative

M arine conservationists have also installed an automatic identification Captain Paul
most of the laws, treaties system to monitor all marine traffic Watson
and regulations needed to in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. This
protect and defend oceanic ecosystems partnership has yielded numerous arrests About the author
and aquatic biodiversity. The ongoing and boat seizures and, most importantly, Captain Paul Watson
problem, however, has been a lack of both has served as a substantial deterrent to is a Canadian marine
political will and economic motivation to poaching. conservation activist,
uphold these laws. I established the Sea who founded the
Shepherd Conservation Society in 1977 as Using our partnership with Ecuador as direct-action group Sea
an anti-poaching, interventionist, non- a model, Sea Shepherd today has official Shepherd in 1977. He has
government organization to act when and partnerships with a number of nations been described as “the
where governments refused to uphold their including, in Africa, São Tomé and world’s most aggressive,
responsibilities under these laws. Príncipe, Gabon, Liberia and Tanzania – most determined, most
as well as with Mexico and Peru. For the active and most effective
Sea Shepherd has been effective in many past four years, for example, our Operation defender of wildlife.”
ways over the years, especially in stopping Milagro campaign in the Mexican Sea of Citation
illegal whaling operations. However, our Cortez has prevented the extinction of Watson P (2019) Neptune’s
effectiveness was often misrepresented as the highly endangered Vaquita porpoise Navy: A global initiative. The
vigilantism and we have frequently been with over 650 illegal poaching nets located Ecological Citizen 2: 153–4.
labelled ‘pirates’ (e.g., see Yuhas [2013]) and confiscated. It has been a dangerous
despite the fact that we were opposing campaign. We have had three drones shot Keywords
and shutting down illegal operations. In down and our crew have been fired upon Conservation;
response to the criticism, I embraced the despite having armed Mexican military direct action; water
pirate image for the simple reason that onboard. We will be returning once again,
pirates get things done, unencumbered by for our fifth year of patrols in November Donate to Sea Shepherd
bureaucratic red tape – that and the fact 2018. In Peru in 2018, Sea Shepherd will be
that young people love the image. patrolling offshore to observe and report www.seashepherd.org/support-us
on the activities of the Chinese anchovy
In 1999 Sea Shepherd began an initiative fleets. Volunteer with Sea Shepherd
that had not been attempted before, an
initiative that has evolved into something Over the last three years, Sea Shepherd www.seashepherd.org/get-involved
highly effective. With Sea Shepherd we has had numerous victories on the high
had the passion, the courage and the seas. With our ships Bob Barker and Steve
imagination of volunteers from around Irwin, we shut down the Southern Ocean
the world. What we lacked was authority. toothfish poaching fleet. This campaign
This changed when we officially partnered saw the longest pursuit of a poaching
with the Galapagos National Park and the vessel in maritime history with the 110-
government of Ecuador with a program to day chase of the outlaw vessel Thunder
patrol and defend the Galapagos Marine (Ross and Arnold, 2018). This chase ended
Reserve. Over the last eighteen years, Sea with the captain of the Thunder scuttling
Shepherd has provided boats, volunteers, his own ship in an unsuccessful attempt
lawyers and technology in a partnership to destroy the evidence of his illegal
with the park rangers. We have trained fishing operations – unsuccessful because
and deployed a canine unit to detect a Sea Shepherd crew boarded the sinking
shark fins and other wildlife species. We ship to collect that evidence. This brave

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 153

Neptune’s Navy: A global initiative www.ecologicalcitizen.net

act assisted the São Tomé and Príncipe Peru; the Santa Andrea in the Gulf of Maine;
court in sentencing the captain of the
Thunder to three years in prison and fining the Emmanuel Bronner in the Baltic Sea; the
the company seventeen million euros.
This campaign also allowed us to pull, White Holly being prepared for Caribbean
confiscate and destroy some 72 kilometres
(70 tons) of illegal gill net. patrols; the Alchemy in the waters off

Other recent victories include the Sea California; the Farley Mowat and Sharpie
Shepherd ship Steve Irwin catching and
chasing a Chinese fleet using illegal drift working with the Mexican government; the
nets back to China, where the ships were
arrested and fined by Chinese authorities John Paul DeJoria patrolling the Caribbean;
(Heaver, 2016). And, in 2017, the Sea
Shepherd ship Ocean Warrior assisted the and the Jules Verne in the Coral Sea.
East Timor authorities in the arrest and
detention of fifteen Chinese vessels caught But as important and as useful as our ships
in the act of illegally fishing (BBC, 2017).
Sea Shepherd anti-poaching patrols have are, the real strength of Sea Shepherd lies
also been working successfully to protect
“I could not pay sea-turtle nests in Barbuda, Costa Rica, in our global network of volunteers. At any
Guatemala and the Indian Ocean island of
professionals to do Mayotte. given moment there are some 200 people,
what these incredibly
devoted volunteers do Sea Shepherd is also partnered with from over three dozen nations, crewing
for no pay, with their Parley for the Oceans to address the
great threat of plastic pollution in the the ships. In addition, there are many
only reward being sea (http://www.parley.tv/#fortheoceans).
the satisfaction of Every year Sea Shepherd chapters sponsor hundreds of shore volunteers working to
saving aquatic lives beach clean-ups worldwide to remove
and protecting the thousands of tons of plastic debris from help to finance and supply these ships. It
integrity of threatened the oceans.
is the passion, the courage, the resolve,
ecosystems.” Our partnership programmes have been
enormously successful and Sea Shepherd the resourcefulness and the imagination
now hosts the largest non-governmental
navy in the world. We have fourteen ships of these dedicated volunteers that drive
deployed around the globe – with the
Ocean Warrior patrolling off East Africa; the our successful campaigns. The simple fact
Bob Barker and the Sam Simon patrolling off
West Africa; the Steve Irwin off Australia’s is that I could not pay professionals to do
Great Barrier Reef; the Martin Sheen doing
research in the waters of British Columbia; what these incredibly devoted volunteers
the Brigitte Bardot patrolling offshore of
do for no pay, with their only reward being

the satisfaction of saving aquatic lives

and protecting the integrity of threatened

ecosystems. n

References

BBC (2017) Sea Shepherd intercepts ‘shark boats’ in
East Timor. BBC News, 15 September. Available at
https://is.gd/CvCvof (accessed August 2018).

Heaver S (2016) Sea Shepherd takes fight to Chinese
fleets fishing illegally. South China Morning Post, 20
May. Available at https://is.gd/z2sM8o (accessed
August 2018).

Ross M and Arnold A (2018) Thunder versus Sea
Shepherd: The true story of the world’s longest ship
chase. ABC News, 19 August. Available at https://
is.gd/4rneVt (accessed August 2018).

Yuhas A (2013) Sea Shepherd conservation group
declared ‘pirates’ in US court ruling. The Guardian,
28 February. Available at https://is.gd/WRo5FO
(accessed August 2018).

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154 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019



PHOTO FEATURE www.ecologicalcitizen.net

Photo feature – The devastating
scale of waste in the oceans

Caroline Power This feature presents a series of photos taken on and under the sea surrounding Roatán,
an island in the Caribbean Sea off Honduras, as well as shots taken on the island itself. The
About the photographer photos dramatically highlight the scale of the problem of waste in the oceans. This, Caroline
Caroline has lived on Roatán, notes, is a universal problem for which every country on the planet has some responsibility.
the largest of Honduras’s Bay
Islands, for over a decade. As Citation
well as being a photographer, Power S (2019) Photo feature – The devastating scale of waste in the oceans. The Ecological Citizen 2: 156–62.
she is a long-time volunteer
with the Roatán Marine Park. Keywords
Sustainability; water

“The trash collects The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

on tide and current
lines. Typically, these
lines are where mats

of sargassum form.
This is a type of

open-ocean seaweed
that provides a crucial

habitat for juvenile

fish and turtles…”

156

www.ecologicalcitizen.net PHOTO FEATURE

“… Much of the trash is made up of small pieces of plastic and 157
styrofoam that has been broken up by wind and waves…”

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

PHOTO FEATURE www.ecologicalcitizen.net

“… There is also a

seemingly infinite
amount of plastic
cutlery, plates and
drinks bottles. I’ve
seen old soccer balls,
countless shoes and

even a TV…”

158 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net PHOTO FEATURE

“… Municipal dumps on Roatán are overflowing. There was an ordinance passed over

a decade ago banning plastic bags and limiting the import of plastic bottles, but the

current administration refuses to enforce it. Much of the trash we see comes out of the

Motagua River and other rivers in Guatemala and Honduras; however, they are not the

only source. Every country on the planet has responsibility for this global crisis…”

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 159

PHOTO FEATURE www.ecologicalcitizen.net

“… Trash

accumulates not
just in the ocean but

in creek beds and

mangroves too…”

160 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net PHOTO FEATURE

“… This is so much more than just Plastic among squid eggs

a human issue. For me, it’s about 161
wanting to protect aquatic ecosystems

for the benefit of all life.”

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

PHOTO FEATURE www.ecologicalcitizen.net

Thoughts from Caroline on the role …And on what else can be done…
of individuals’ choices in helping
solve the crisis… 1 Improved environmental education in schools,
community centres, businesses and places of worship.
A key part of the solution to this global crisis is for
individuals to make changes to reduce consumption and 2 The passing of laws by governments that ban the sale
waste production. There are lots of things that are simple of single-use plastic and styrofoam products.
to do. I keep a fork and a reusable container in my bag
if I think I might go out to eat. I drink from a reusable 3 Improved waste-management infrastructure (many
water bottle and have cut out all drinks that come in countries and cities have experienced such massive
plastic bottles. I always tell bartenders, “No straw.” I population growth, they cannot cope with their waste).
bring my own bags for shopping and avoid zip-locks bags
and plastic wrap. Instead, I keep glass jars and use them 4 An increase in the ‘eco-friendliness’ of businesses and
for everything. I also love shopping at thrift stores. And corporations (this is something we can encourage in
before I buy something, I always stop and think whether choosing which businesses we support).
I really need it.
5 Increased financial support for local charities and non-
For the things I have to buy, I look for options which have governmental organizations that are working to solve
the least packaging (e.g. shampoo in bar form) and are the crisis.­
from ethically responsible companies. Finally, I’m aware
that recycling is far from a perfect solution. Instead, I …And on that note
refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle – in that order.
Caroline kindly waived the fee for us to use her photos but
is always encouraging donations to Roatán Marine Park.
You can read about the work of this organization here:
https://www.roatanmarinepark.org/our-work. And you can
donate here: https://www.roatanmarinepark.org/donate.

162 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net LONG ARTICLE

Against enlightened inaction:
Edification from Thoreau

This essay describes and critiques a phenomenon it terms ‘enlightened inaction’. Despite Luke Philip
abundant information regarding the human causes and ultimate consequences of ecological Plotica
devastation, many individuals act as if they were ignorant of these facts. This essay argues
that knowledge puts individuals on notice of their ethical responsibilities and binds them About the author
more closely to ecological obligations. To advance this claim, and to explore how individuals Luke is an Assistant
might act upon these obligations in their own lives, the essay turns to the ethical and Professor in the Department
ecological thought of Henry David Thoreau (1817–62). Thoreau’s practices of self-accounting, of Political Science, Virginia
deliberate living and simplicity supply individual tactics that might complement, rather Polytechnic Institute and
than undermine, institutional thinking and collective action on ecological issues. In light of State University, Blacksburg,
Thoreau’s example, the essay also suggests that while all individuals have basic obligations VA, USA.
in respect of their awareness of the ecological effects of their actions and ways of life,
academics have special obligations in their capacity as public intellectuals. Citation
Plotica LP (2019) Against
“The actual alternative to deliberate acts know it is a problem and enough to know enlightened inaction:
of individuals is not action by the public; it what are at least some of its human causes Edification from Thoreau.
is routine, impulsive and other unreflected (even when there may also be non-human The Ecological Citizen 2:
acts also performed by individuals.” causes), and yet despite this awareness, 163–71.
(Dewey, 1954: 18) we do not act in ways that our knowledge
patently recommends. I will call this Keywords
T here may have been a time, perhaps phenomenon enlightened inaction: we see Ecological ethics;
not that long ago, when most the problem, and our role in causing it, ecological living
individuals in developed countries and yet we live as if we remained ignorant
could plausibly claim ignorance about of these connections, thereby evading or
most of the ecological effects of their ways denying responsible ecological citizenship.
of life. If ever such was the case, it clearly
is no longer. Rather, information about A considerable portion of humanity is
the consequences of human activities implicated in this phenomenon, though
upon the ecosphere is now so plentiful, so certainly not all who are implicated are
robust and so emphatic as to be, at times, equally so.1 Human beings are parts of
confounding and overwhelming. We – by nature, even as we are separated from
which I especially mean residents of the one another by various human artefacts
global north – know what at times feels and practices (e.g. languages, built
like too much. Surely this contributes environments and patterns of production
to many of the forms of scepticism and and consumption) and even as the collected
recalcitrance regarding our individual and uses of our cognitive and practical capacities
collective implication in various ecological have ostensibly distinguished humans
problems, and about the ethical as well as from other parts of the natural world. To
causal responsibilities thereby entailed. My live on Earth is to contribute every moment
aim in this essay is to sketch and critique of one’s life to its condition, and thus to
a phenomenon that arises under just such bear an unsought and ineluctable share of
circumstances: when we know a great deal responsibility – both causal and ethical –
about an ecological problem, enough to for the same. Enlightened inaction is thus
one of our truly common problems, and
overcoming it is one of our truly common

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 163

Against enlightened inaction: Edification from Thoreau www.ecologicalcitizen.net

“Our ecological tasks. Yet I suggest that there is somewhat environment – possessed of knowledge,
of a sliding scale of ethical responsibility yet acting as if ignorant.
ills are not rooted generated by ecological knowledge,
merely or primarily according to which, all else being equal, It is important to distinguish such
those with more extensive and privileged enlightened inaction from the related but
in hypocrisy. access to such knowledge bear greater distinct phenomenon of hypocrisy. The
Perhaps the more ecological obligation. Thus, for instance, latter is manifest when one professes that
common source is academics (as both researchers and a norm or principle should be followed and
inaction and non- educators) bear special obligations to serve yet does not follow it in one’s own action –
commitment in the as exemplars.2 As those whose vocation it for instance, if I maintain that one ought
face of experiential, is to amass and disseminate knowledge never to lie and yet I proceed to lie when I
about the ecosphere and how humans find it convenient. No doubt the state of the
testimonial belong to and affect it, we bear a higher ecosphere today may be traced, in some
and scientific burden of demonstrating practically the part, to such behaviour, and even when
consequences of that knowledge. the worldly effects of ecological hypocrisy
knowledge.” are comparatively mild, its ethical effects
To make my case, and to suggest general are significant. Over time we condition
ways in which one might live up to such ourselves to live as exceptions to rules that
obligations, I shall look to Henry David we (profess to) recognize as valid, thereby
Thoreau (1817–62). Long recognized as indulging in a kind of freeriding.
one of the first truly ecological thinkers
(Hyman, 1962), he furnishes a valuable But our ecological ills are not rooted
image of ecological citizenship in action. merely or primarily in hypocrisy. Perhaps
By way of his example, I shall make some the more common source is inaction
tentative suggestions of how we might and non-commitment in the face of
turn towards ways of life that are more experiential, testimonial and scientific
aware and responsible. knowledge – and I suggest that this
phenomenon is more entrenched and more
Enlightened inaction dangerous than hypocrisy. The hypocrite
might be persuaded to live up to her
Optimism about the efficacy of knowledge own principles; she at least recognizes
as a spur to action has deep roots in an obligation, even if she does not fulfil
Western thought. Whether or not the it. Whereas the sort of inaction I have in
views were strictly his own, several of mind is partly a problem of knowledge,
Plato’s dialogues, for instance, express and of the ethical consequences of what
confidence that knowledge of the good is might appear to be dispassionate, neutral
a sufficient condition of action in accord facts. Although social and political history
with it, that once we attain knowledge, furnishes countless examples of people
action takes care of itself (Plato, 1997: 37b, knowing better than they act,3 ecological
87c and 509e). Yet millennia of experience examples are especially present, urgent and
refutes this optimism, and humanity troubling. Despite steadily accumulating
today witnesses daily the environmental evidence and a strengthening scientific
degradation wrought by anthropocentric consensus regarding the human causes of
practices of commodification, exploitation ecological devastation and its import, most
and consumption, and yet continues in individuals and societies do little to curtail
these very same practices. Whenever these causes and much to contribute to
opinion leaders and policymakers around them. For instance, few people today are
the globe recognize the urgency of nature’s unaware that the extraction and use of
plight, the common response is to promise fossil fuels directly and indirectly damages
newer and more sophisticated modes of the ecosphere in a host of potentially
technological intervention and exploitation irrevocable ways, emitting pollutants
to solve the problem (Crist, 2017). We expect (including greenhouse gases), destroying
to invent, extract, build, buy and consume natural habitats and decimating
our way out of the consequences of a dying biodiversity. Yet, possessed of this

164 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019

www.ecologicalcitizen.net Against enlightened inaction: Edification from Thoreau

knowledge, the vast majority of humanity high crisis of his place and time – chattel
– especially, though not only, in the slavery and the violence used to maintain
industrialized countries of the global north and expand it – he lamented that there were
– systematically continues staggering “nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of
consumption of fossil fuels, acting as if virtue to one virtuous [person]” (Thoreau,
we did not know what we most certainly 1992: 230). All around him were those who
do know. Despite the lack of attention this knew, but did not act on that knowledge
phenomenon seems to receive, enlightened – not even hypocrites, for few of these
inaction is thus one essential aspect of our patrons of virtue insisted that individuals
global environmental crisis. should act beyond their nominal support
for the cause of abolition. Thoreau was
Thoreau as exemplar also acutely aware of the ecological effects
of industrialization and the materialist
Few individuals grappled as self- culture in which it was embedded. Indeed,
consciously and extensively with the few topics exercised him so. He railed
phenomenon I have just identified as did against the logic of the market, which
Henry David Thoreau. With regard to the

The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019 Artwork

by Anna
Sebastian

About the artwork:
The four paintings that
appear in this article have
Walden Pond as their
subject. Henry David
Thoreau lived in a cabin on
the shores of this pond for
around two years as what
could be considered an
experiment in ecological
citizenship. The paintings
were created using gouache
on paper.

Higher-resolution versions:
https://is.gd/ecoartwork

165

Against enlightened inaction: Edification from Thoreau www.ecologicalcitizen.net

converted nature into a reserve of resources gap between knowing and doing (Thoreau
to be exploited (e.g. stripping ice from 1992: 9).
New England ponds to chill the drinks of
industrialists and slave masters), and which In his most famous work, Thoreau
treated human beings (both enslaved and recounts roughly two years that he spent
‘free’) as mere machines meant to serve “liv[ing] low and far[ing] hard” in the woods
the unquestioned goods of production and near Walden Pond (Thoreau, 1992: 143–4).
consumption. Though his understanding It was, as he describes it, an experiment in
was well ahead of that of his neighbours, living – specifically, “to live deliberately,
the signs of ecological and ethical decline to to front only the essential facts of life,
which he pointed were anything but hidden. and see if I could not learn what it had to
Describing the mass of society as caught in teach” (Thoreau, 1992: 61). Seeking these
a waking slumber, he styled his philosophy facts in nature, his experiment was one of
as a practice of awakening oneself and ecological citizenship, of accommodating
others, of bringing one’s way of life in line his way of life to the rhythms, offerings
with one’s knowledge and what it intimates. and demands of his environs. Though
This ethic of self-cultivation partakes of his activities and reflections were varied,
a classical tradition according to which Thoreau’s experiment exemplifies three
philosophy means “so to love wisdom as to practices that are needful given our current
live according to its dictates,” closing the ecological crisis: self-accounting, deliberate
living and simplicity.

166 The Ecological Citizen Vol 2 No 2 2019


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