by

Dr. Pamposh Kumar

Nature intends it! The housekeeping, at its best, is for the inhabitants and guests- alike, and they may take turns to reverse the roles. Nature presents multitude of processes, flows and convergence, to suit life. It’s guidance is offered in a flow of meanings mediated by our senses and expressions. (Pamposh Kumar, 2018 )

Environmentalism: Rethinking Nature

The delights and sorrows amidst nature do not get a naturally benevolent shape by force of any ‘ism’ or cult. Environ- mentalism or any other similar bandwagon of thought would not by itself recreate the lost original relations once we had with nature. The environmentalists have made remarkable strides in developing reviews of our relations with nature as also of very obvious dissociative patterns which increasingly afflict the world. It is unconcealed contention of this paper that much of the character of environmental advocacy history is orchestrated by political and economic causes. Also, especially in its organized industrial age forms, it is often very deprecatory of promise of human potential.

Talking first of the practical approaches, Alex Steffen, and proponents of his term Bright Green (Staffen, 2008), have been advocating a positive yet mechanistic view of sustainable futures. It then remains mainly a matter of fulfilling our needs in a sustainable manner using the advances in science and technology, like green energy, electric automobiles, bio or nanotechnologies, etc. The concepts employed are pragmatic, but would not appear organically fulfilling, if the solutions are observed from an angle of natural human existence. The quality of life along with its reduced ecological footprints are the key pragmatic goals which can be supposedly achieved by communities which are behind the adoption of such technology driven sustainable solutions. Very hopefully, the outcome is idealized as One Planet Living! Is it really going to be one planet living? No estimation, of ‘Earth Costs’ of our infinite ways of consumption and impact of the ways which are conflicting nature, is yet available to substantiate this chiefly economic goal and vague construct of valuation of resources.  Infeasibility of precise valuation of ecological burden or even outer limits of consumption versus renewability is the reason that such ‘isms’ would not ensure the aspired and  promising brightness of our existence as integral part of nature. While the absolute estimates are not expected by any practical reason whatsoever, even the relative assessments are not going to determine the relative brightness of possibilities of sustainability.

Timothy Morton, with his case for Dark Ecology,  imagines that 75% of the present level of green house gases in the atmosphere would persist over a cumulative lifetime of 15 generations. (Morton, 2016) This kind of conjecturing postulates that by the time all of these gases are absorbed by the oceans, it would be 750 generations or say about 25000 years! Dark Ecology confers a compelling vision of those outer limits of our ecological footprint, but also presents a very bleak scenario where we all are condemned to live out or perish while sustaining the awareness that we are the chief culprits! The statistical insignificance of our lifestyle acts turns colossal, stirringly significant, when compounded by aggregated mass contribution, behind the current age of traumatic loss of sense of ecological coordinates, the much touted Anthropocene! A hopelessly dark world! More accurately, this quite un-ecological and sentimental representation of our precious, evolving world can simply be called a comic view of a never ending Carnival of Funeral for Humanity! So, in the envisioned scale of morbidity of the model, the approach is not plausible either ecologically, societally, or even politically. What can we do then? Kingsnorth, another Dark Ecologist, however does not believe in apocalypse. He does offer guidelines for making ones life time useful to salvage things. However, in his return to homeland, almost the nationalism, his ecological thinking becomes remote from nature as it is turned into just a ‘place’. He appears out to save Nature from people, making a case for a benevolent green nationalism (Kingsnorth, 2017). Whither an ecological future worthy of living? The self-deprecating tone of the Dark Ecology leads, as if by pre-defined logic, to a paradoxical, anarchic spectre of coexistence. The promised ethical or political solutions do not take a concrete and salvaging form. Going by summation of the case for the layman, Dark Ecology declares that the worst has happened already and we can not salvage it now!

In more positive and ethical contrast, Deep Ecology was founded upon intrinsic value of each and every entity, However, philosophically and  primarily it places the individual only in natural and part of nature context (Naess, 1989). Post-humanism, unlike Deep Ecology, places the humans in relation to evolutionary, ecological or technological coordinates (Wolfe 2010; xvi). But unlike Dark Ecology, Post-humanism is in awe of strangeness of our connections with other life forms. It is based on a sense of difference between humans, the technological beings (or Cyborg), and non human otherness (or Animot). (Wolfe 2003: 193). However, both, are obscure and elusive in suggesting how to transcend the darkness or say strangeness of our current or future state of relations with nature.

Still, the essential merit of these almost contemporary environmentalist thought systems is the radicality by which old ways of thinking about nature are circumvented. Also, they have still been guiding us a bit with the fairly compelling force, though deprecating and elusively organic, of their ecological paradigms which are quite remote from essentials of nature, including humans. These thought currents are clearly bereft of recognition of pervasive and ever evolving eco cultural existence of ours. They mostly operate in pessimistic, or somewhat half pragmatic ─half pessimistic, caverns of human thought including unscientific sentimentalism.

A brighter ecological visioning, must reside in every day ecology of hope, and must find strength and realistic sharpness from scale dependent, multi─agentic realms which can be shaped by more real time, less speculative, representational and referential pathways of creative inquiry and regenerative intelligence nature has bestowed upon us. This would constitute as positive leap from contemporary eco visioning thought systems which were mostly  triggered by Apollonian visions of the late Holocene Earth viz. NASA Apollo Missions Earthrise, 1968 and Blue Marble, 1972. The consequential eco─imagery has been a rich fodder for the western eco visioning rooted in its, half acknowledged, guilt consciousness, and also an arsenal for transposing the guilt to the third worlds contributions to burdening the fragile carrying capacity of the planet. Lazier has another way to question the efficacy of such Eco visioning, in that  whether the visions and vocabularies of the Earthrise era have inadvertently accelerated our planetary emergency as much as they have inspired us to slow it down.(Lazier, 2011). Mc Kibben’s Eaarth had presented a forceful apocalyptic vision of the planet Earth. The Earthrise era of eco visioning was catapulted to apocalyptic heights by the rhetoric of creative representation of limits to growth presented by Apollo Missions’ ‘Blue Marble’ image of the planet. It also catalysed the concerns in Limits to Growth report (1972) and Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock (2006).

Lekan has argued well that the imperialist and Cold War origins of the Earthrise and Blue Planet images make them decidedly anachronistic and unsuitable icons of our current predicament (Lekan, 2014). Indeed, the fixed gaze of the male astronaut from 22,000 nautical miles out seems oddly out of sync with a post-1970s world geared toward postmodern and ecofeminist scepticism toward grand narratives and complexity theories that posit non-linear and fractal topographies at every scale. He extends logically, that the doomsday narratives of human profligacy do lose sight of a kaleidoscopic patchwork of cultural landscapes while fractal topographies, by contrast, serve as more effective indices of the recursive layering found in digital representations such as Google Earth and help us to stretch our historical imagination and cultural criticism in to scale dependent and multi-agentic realms that lie beyond the Apollonian visions of the late Holocene. The finite Earth centric eco imagery, right from Copernican revolution, and rejuvenated by  the Blue Marble impetus at Stockholm in 1972, has not done much for helping regenerate the symbiosis of socio cultural systems with organic coordinates of our natural existence. In fact, such an enlarged scope of rethinking Earth, has constrained us with spatio/temporal dissonance bred by statistically discordant or disaggregating limits of scientific prediction over the scales of millions of years or thousands of miles. The resultant eco visioning in the process, accompanied with inordinately high philosophic rhetoric filling the gaps- infirmities – or insufficiencies of scientific predictions, has therefore effectively reduced and darkened the scope of rethinking at fractal or say even different levels of scales of care, regeneration and maintenance of the planet. The course of dark or deep ecological visioning is reinforced or attested only by simplistic homogenizing or scalar reconciliations of the arguments emerging from the nascent sustainability sciences. There is urgent need to rethink eco visioning and re shape its geo cultural translations for locating the sources of resilience and robustness of earth systems.

Reinventing Hope: Envisioning a Bright Ecology

“Hope is the verb with its sleeves rolled up.”

(The Hope is an Imperative: The Essential David Orr, 2011).

Bewilderment at the seemingly illogical way of how things work, is definitely a recipe for disaster, and so is the romanticism, unscientific sentimentality, dooms day imagination or apocalyptic radicality of rethinking nature. Anthropocentric Gaia ethic and the biocentric Deep Ecology are definitely proactive paradigms which must be rethought and utilised to update, augment or substitute other mainstream environmental approaches.

Powerful and resilient, scientific and organic, creative and motivational approaches are the crying need today. The points of inquisition, where Gaia leaves, in terms of one sided anthropocentric ethics, and the Deep Ecology leaving the individual only in natural and part of nature context, call for more hope by examining our relations with nature further deep within, culturally, within and without.

Deeper Eco cultural approach to

Ecological Crisis

Cultural ecologists like Butzer, have presented interdisciplinary paradigm of cultural ecology blended with human ecology, especially the people-resource-space relationships and the ecological sciences. The culture is the communicative mediation which augments this reflection (Butzer, 1989). Turner established it as specialist-synthesis approach,  a core approach to serve as continuum of the natural sciences and humanities (Turner,1989). The bright, eco creative, and deeper eco cultural approach to ecological crisis has to be rooted in hope and resilience within and without. Strategically, it would centre on rational, scientific, humane and proactive transformational shifts in rethinking nature including us. The growing strides of young eco creatives and eco media practitioners of India in exploration, interpretation, extension and reapplication of Indic Eco Visions, documented in the volume published by EVI, “Exploring Eco Media: Raising Scientific Temper” (2018) and  continued on its website, are demonstrating that the difference between unscientific cultural existence and enlightened eco cultural living is the much awaited brightness in everyday ecology and intelligent redesign for a world having plenty for all. Their hope inspiring and pragmatic pathways are the simple, replicable, eco-scientific & ecocultural models from different parts of India. They champion the cause of what does work, and not of what doesn’t. When there is ecological calamity, it is not any dose of environmentalism which awakens people to come to terms with it and still believe nature is beautiful. It is the innate ecological intelligence heard as inner voice that galvanizes a responsible organically efficient and resourceful action, which is  curative and rehabilitative too.

          Similarly, the extrapolation of such positive endeavours would show that long drawn ecological crises are often rooted in imbalances effected out by our ignorance of simple laws of nature. The imbalances are shown corrected too in several instances, and ecological resources also regenerated, to offer adequate care to current and successor generations. The actual regenerative potential is a factor of our inner transformation and appreciation that other components of nature are already alive with this potential. The outer limits of the catastrophe are then not able to serve as a boundary of extinction, simply because a prediction for 75000 years doesn’t have to be eventless and illogically deprecating of potential of nature, of which we are not awakened yet. This awakening is made possible by much needed eco cultural transformation that shows that it is growth with resilience that comes by our ability to respond creatively and positively to change. Contrasted with Anthropocene of Morton’s Dark Ecology,  the statistically aggregated effector leap of imagination through  our eco creative and positive ecocultural endeavours too must be counted as colossal, astoundingly significant, and regenerative of the lost coordinates!

Eco Media Practitioners & EVI Journey

Evolutions of complex systems of existence of mankind have also been accompanied with the cultural transformations which are fostered by complex systems of media and medializations of ecological meanings. The resulting world views do contribute to the realization today that nature, the ultimate force, can not be left ignored by logic of massive body of approaches behind culture neutral environmental adventurisms. Today, several active advocates of Eco Media, like Stephen Rust, Salma Monani & Sean Cubit, are contributing to eco media studies as a practice of media analysis-  the complex work of deciphering which forms of media-texts in contexts facilitate ecological discussion, and which crush it, praise inaction, or common sensically make invisible not only non-human, but majority of human agents from participation as the essence of how we should live. (Eco Media: Key Issues, 2017)

Although media educators like Antonio Lopez, advocate that sustainability needs to become core value of media pedagogy and contribute to green media literacy, still, till the onset of 21st century, there has not been any media education practice which at the same time infuses ecological mind set and scientific temper. (Lopez, 2008).

On the other hand, the beautiful EVI journey, chose well since beginning to be above the convenient modes of Eco Media ‘Analysis’ which often dissolve into immobility or remain at theoretical or imagination level only. This unique march of ecological and eco cultural visioning has accompanying resolve to advance the practices in eco media, and eco cultural or actionable visioning. There are growing reasons to celebrate the intense evolution of this modest eco visioning approach to help every day life and foster new culture for every day ecology. It calls for the rise of proactive eco media practitioners and their investigative, eco visioning pursuits and celebrations of images of people’s ecology for kindling pragmatic ecological consciousness! The mostly experimental and experiential endeavours of the EVI co-travelers in practice of eco media are worthy of kindling hope, as David Orr would say,

“The most important discovery of the past two centuries is that we are joined in one fragile experiment, vulnerable to bad judgment, short-sightedness, greed, and malice. Though divided by nation, tribe, religion, ethnicity, language, culture, and politics, we are co-members of one enterprise stretching back through time beyond memory, but forward no further than our ability to recognize that we are, as Aldo Leopold once put it, plain members and citizens of the biotic community……. Still, I think H. G. Wells had itright when he said that we are in a race between education and catastrophe. This race will be decided in all of the places, including classrooms, that foster ecological imagination, critical thinking, awareness of connections, independent thought, and good heart.” (David W Orr: The Intelligence of Ecological Design, www.ecoliteracy.earth/ article/intelligence-ecological design).

Today, media educators and practitioners alike have a challenge to answer as to why Eco Media practice needs to be much more than a representational art? Why should it also not be a source of fostering life skills and eco literacy, and force of transformation and not just an informative path? The framing of ecological information and its communication has to negotiate our perceptions and lend efficacy to media which is a prey to its own un-ecological designs on nature-human existential relations. The transformational capacity of eco media lies in its capacity of being informed by transdisciplinary knowledge from different sciences, technology, engineering, humanities, management and culture studies, arts and so on! Its huge potential to awaken ecological talents lies in its versatility to breed trans cultural competencies, foster the regenerative skills rooted in eco-innovation, solution finding & new age eco-literacies like ecological design and eco -sci- fi prototyping and green fantasy, and finds immense scope for its enrichment by interactivity of community based & community bred Eco Media.

Brightness Unleashed:

Eco cultural transformation within

Deeper seeds of hope wait within us more than they lie outside. The ever evolving genetic intelligence of us should also carry imprints of cosmic or ecological intelligence in varying degrees. These seeds lurk within us as our intelligent inner voice. This voice needs to be activated by actively listening to it. It needs to be deepened further by heeding to its pure form and appreciating unequivocally its connection to nature. The self-reflection, when introduced at the upmost point of stream of consciousness, is likely to help us negotiate better the connect/disconnect with nature.

This is because the disconnect mostly grows as life advances. Evolving in stages, the process of inner transformation would create increasing role of inner cosmic (eco) voice in responding to questions arising inside us, reflecting on the conflicts, resolving them to restore harmony with nature, developing creative power to find solutions to disruption of natural systems, restoring faith in nature, and helping develop engagement as source of more robust eco cultures. This internal source of harmony with nature can be tapped by allowing it to manifest itself in several cultural ways ( Pamposh Kumar, Antah Kranti, The Process for Inner Eco Transformation: A Praxis for Eco Theatre, in ‘Exploring Eco Media: Raising Scientific Temper’, 2018)

Indian traditions of self reflection and communion with nature are profound. Today’s ecological dilemmas have much to benefit from India’s profound eco cultural legacy and vision which needs to be rejuvenated and made timely with scientific inputs. The living nature would not find more holistic ecological representation than in Indian cultural ethos and ethics. Taking a summative view of this profound legacy, the Seven Platform Principles of Eco cultural Transformation have been outlined as under:

S.no Seven Platform Principles of Eco cultural Transformation
1 We exist in relations cradled by our eco systems and respective cultural worlds.
2 Law of eco-cultural selection ensures that any life form can be alive at its best only in its own Eco cultural world.
3 Eco cultural diversity is necessary for co-existence and fullest development of all life forms.
4 Eco-cultural resources, richness and diversity shape and strengthen our inner voice with the support of eco-rhythms of universe.
5 The ultimate value obtained this way, if nurtured and adhered to earnestly, can transform us and our relationship with other elements of natural world.
6 Nurturing increasingly empowered community architecture based on this ultimate value can make our natural oneness with nature and our divine nature an another form of protecting ecological integrity.
7 Only the eco-rhythmic development, not valueless consumption, and sensitive realization of eco- cultural relations is inexhaustible source of inner strength, sustainable prosperity, and empowerment for an ecologically just world and world peace.

Propounded & Lectured by:
Dr. Pamposh Kumar
Adopted by: Eco-cultural Transformation Lab
Bundi School of Eco Arts & Media
Eco Visioning Forum, Madurai, & Eco Vision Indica
www.ecovisionindica.earth


“Therefore, it is a not so grandiose plan, but I think it is one whose golden hour has just come. Of course, I rooted it in the swift progress made by Eco Visioning Forum, Madurai, also my experiments with Antah Kranti Eco Theatre, Eco Sanjeevani, and also in the deficiency I felt with world movements like Deep Ecology by Naess A. I find that those thought currents are clearly bereft of recognition of eco cultural existence of ours, not to speak of divine eco creative potential of ours. India has had profound world dominating eco cultural vision which needs to be rejuvenated and made timely with scientific inputs. Hence the coining of the banner, Eco Vision Indica“. (Pamposh Kumar, www.ecovisionindica.earth)

EVI practitioners, Fellows & Volunteers, with expertise in scientific, cultural & media studies, are contributing to eco cultural approaches of communication, and enriching eco media practices with scholastic research background. EVI Fellows, in the Change maker’s mould are also active in generating a youth voice and policy support, and advisory level articulation of eco media practices. The endeavours also help foster a different and unique transformative vision to develop policy support guidelines for conservation of natural heritage, re-patterning of eco-cultural heritage, making of eco cultural heritage by our youth, and so on. The Madurai Declaration of Young Eco Creatives proclaims,

“We the enlightened young creatives are ushering on the path of re-building eco faith by putting our trust in eco-talents all around us and fostering them with expressions of our genuine humanity. As active eco creative practitioners, we kindle hope and joy of meeting and surpassing sustainable development goals and creating enduring ecological value for humanity.” (Young Eco Creatives Madurai Declaration, 2018).

The journeys of EVI partners have shown that the genesis of workable ecological hopes lies in inclusive processes of collective eco cultural intelligence and eco literacy which are borne of evolving knowledge, real-time understanding and effectiveness of capacity building for all of the community, manifest by Every- Day Ecology.

Growth of a future ready society would concern its conscious evolution, not by shying away from understanding and respecting nature, rather rethinking it organically- meaning ‘eco culturally’. As a work in progress, building and rebuilding eco cultural intelligence of society must respond to distinct learning needs of this generation of educators and leaders which are largely unmet or unaddressed by the existing educational programmes.  It should promote skills of eco creative inquiry, research, and communication. As everyday context and matter of public guidance, a cultural rethink of eco-literacy & related functional competencies is overdue and calls for novel ecocultural routes and means of actionable learning in synergy with the power of Eco Media, Eco Design & Eco Innovation corresponding with diverse eco-cultural contexts of the country.

“The canvas is limitless- Print Media, Electronic Media, Social Media, Folk Media, Co creative Mixed Media, Interactive Installations, Walls, Digital Interfaces for Social Media, Folk Media, Mixed Media, Art, Design &Technology Interfaces, Gaming, Gamification, Role play, Co-authoring, Data logging, Crowd sourcing, Creative commons, etc. The thrust should be on engaging people and offering creative & integrative solutions to society, with interactive & media- genic communications, experience, expressions & shared languages, and exchange of information.”(Pamposh Kumar, 2018)

This also calls for high degree of relevance with ability to situate research and practice in the cultural contexts and respond to community needs. The outcome, unique and productive, a rare and often immeasurable capacity, would serve more resourcefully and optimistically, say brightly, to alter choices and behaviour long entrenched in un-informed decision making, myths, blind beliefs, and controversies. The commitment to raise scientific temper should also be accompanied with raising the resourcefulness in terms of ability to cultivate social, economic and natural capital and hand holding of young change makers, difference creators, eco-innovators or eco media practitioners, and the likes.

References:

Butzer, Karl W, Cultural Ecology: Geography in America, (Eds Gaile, Gary L., Willmott, Court J.) Columbus, OH: Merrill, 1989, 192–208.

Eco Vision Indica, www.ecovisionindica.earth

Kingsnorth, Paul, Confessions of A Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essays, Graywolf Press, 2017

Kumar, Pamposh Eco Media in Practice─Paradigms for Ecological Futures & Antah Kranti, The Process for inner Eco Transformation: A Praxis for Eco Theatre, in ‘Exploring Eco Media: Raising Scientific Temper’ (eds Dr Pamposh Kumar & Dr S. Nagarathinam, published by Department of Communication & Linguistics, Madurai Kamraj University, 2018

Lazier, Benjamin, Earthrise; Or, The Globalization of the World Picture, The American Historical Review 116, no. 3, (2011); 602=630

Lekan, Thomas M., Fractal Earth: Visualising the Global Environment in the Anthropocene, in: Environmental Humanities 5 (2014) pp. 171-201

Lopez, Antonio, Mediacology: A Multiculturalist Approach to Media Literacy in the 21 Century, Peter Lang, 2008

Lovelock, James, The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate in Crisis and the Fate of Humanity, New York: Basic Books, 2006

Mc Kibben, Bill, Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet, Melbourne: Penguin Books Australia, 2010

Morton, Timothy, Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence, New York: Columbia University Press, 2016

Naess A, Ecology, (Transl. David Rothenberg) Community and Lifestyle: Outline of an Ecosophy, Cambridge University Press, 1989

Orr, David, The Hope is an Imperative, in The Essential David Orr, 2011

Orr, David, The Intelligence of Ecological Design, www.ecoliteracy.earth/article/intelligence-ecological design

Rust, Stephen, Monani, Salma, Cubit, Sean, Eco Media: Key Issues, Routledge, 2015

Steffen, Alex, Gore, Albert, Worldchanging: A Users Guide for the 21st Century, 2008

Turner, B.L. II., The Specialist Synthesis Approach to Revival of Geography: The Case of Cultural Ecology, Annals of the

Association of American Geographers 79.1 (1989): 88–100

Wolfe, Cary, Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory, Univ. of Chicago Press, 2003

Wolfe, Cary, 2003 What is Post Humanism? University of Minnesota Press, 2010

Young Eco Creatives Madurai Declaration, Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, 2018

Copy Right – 2020 Author – Dr. Pamposh Kumar
Published by
Eco-Vision Indica (EVI)
A National Level Group of Experts for Protection of
Ecology and Nature & Ecological Restoration
Madurai – New Delhi
ISBN: 978-81-948865-0-1
Printed by:
Shanlax Publishers
Madurai 2020
Dr. Pamposh Kumar, Chief Advising Mentor, Eco Vision Indica, is working as Scientist F/Director, Mission Eco Next, National Council for Science and Technology Communication, Dept. of Science and Technology, New Delhi – 110 016.


This publication is reflection of the views of  Eco Vision Indica on eco media-based approaches and processes of assisting the recovery and conservation of ecosystems that have been degraded, damaged or destroyed and has no association with policy, views or activities of the organization, where the Author is working i.e. Department of Science & Technology, New Delhi or its programme Mission Eco Next.

The publication shall be freely available and encouraged for wider sharing with different sections of Local Administrations and Ministries/Departments of Govt. of Tamilnadu or Govt. of India, Development Institutions, UN organizations like UNEP, UNESCO, UNDP,etc.