EDITORIAL: IN SEARCH OF A NEW BENCHMARK, IN SEARCH OF ECOPOIESIS
A BUTTERFLY VISITS THE ROOF GARDEN AT TAKISHIMAYA
An old gardener sprays the roof grass back and forth across his body.
A butterfly trembles with pleasure under droplets from above,
his glistening black wings inset with sails of turquoise.
Like the cicadas calling all night in this city paved smooth
over the ruins of the last Great War, surprises emerge.
How did he get here? the delighted child wants to know.
The butterfly? The gardener? Me?
– James P. Lenfestey (Poiesis, vol. 11, 2009)
Can we read this editorial as a manifesto of Ecopoiesis between these lines of James Lenfestey?
Perhaps this editorial was brought by the same butterfly with his glistening black wings inset with sails of turquoise and like the cicadas calling all night? Or by a gardener? Or someone else, like us, climbing in search of a new reference point onto the roof of the global department store, Takishimaya?
Do we need a new benchmark to assess where we have arrived and where our path can go next? And most importantly, what will our view be from this place - romantic or pragmatic? Or can it become ecopoietic, able to comprehend the poetry and prose of our way to the future, if this is possible at all? Will it enable us to see a way of “healing beauty,” which Rollo May encountered amidst a deep crisis at the age of 21, capturing the heads of poppies in his notebook?
The global environmental crisis has become a reality. The transition of the crisis into an ecological catastrophe is only a matter of time, during which humankind can either take steps to prevent it, or remain on the same track of uncontrolled exploitation of the earth's natural resources. Attempts are being made to solve this global environmental crisis in various ways, in particular, by implementing a sustainable development model, which, among other things, assumes the need for technological reorganization, as well as introducing environmental education to support the development of environmental awareness.
The environmental crisis is taking place against the backdrop of many complex societal issues, demonstrating the fragility of the existing order in which, due to globalization, everything is dependent upon everything else. From the perspective of ecological theory, this is a relatively stable system but a system without resilience. The crisis in the humanities appears to be at the core of the current global situation.
What could be a solution? We believe that we need a form of civilization that is more resilient and viable simply because it doesn’t put humans above all, in which humans can co-exist with the millions of other species, a civilization that is socially just and does not equate human well-being with the endless consumption of material resources. We need to create new ways of living that are more sensitive to the global web of life. We need to build an ecological civilization. We need a form of civilization that respects and supports the intrinsic value of all life and of all human beings as having value and meaning that is far more than their being mere instruments or objects of commodification.
It is only possible to build an ecological civilization when proper technological and economic reorganization goes hand in hand with radical changes in our understanding of ourselves and our relationship with the ecosphere. We believe that an ecological civilization can be built on the foundation of poietic ecology, or ecopoiesis, based on the understanding of human beings as possessing an eco-poietic capacity. This means that we are capable of creative acts and of shaping the world in harmony with nature when our creative behavior relies on aesthesis, our experience of the world and its embodied beauty.
Aldo Leopold speaks about beauty as a fundamental basis for the ecological worldview. According to Sandra Lubarsky, beauty is a quality of vitality, a significant life-affirming principle, a part of our experience of being alive and encountering the aliveness of other beings. Beauty is a core quality of life and one of the key definitions associated with ecopoiesis, the eco-poietic attitude to the environment, to the world of nature and of nature to itself.
Beauty in its environmental significance expresses the ability of various life forms and ecosystems to continue to exist, adapt, cope with various challenges, and to flourish and multiply. However, beauty as a property of nature and culture is not limited to the states of childhood, youth, and maturity, but it characterizes the entire lifespan of any organism. The ecological idea of beauty is also connected to the idea of the limitations that are inherent in any living organism. Our sense of beauty implies our ability to meet with the boundaries of our existence and our capacities, and to respond to them with a mixture of trepidation, delight and humility.
A poietic conception of beauty has some of the quality traditionally ascribed to the sublime, a source of life – that which surpasses our finite capacity to grasp it. This form of beauty could thus be said to be the apprehension of “Earth” and all living creatures who dwell upon it.
The vision of beauty provided by the arts can serve as a guideline for all our actions in our relationship with both culture and nature. This vision is embedded in poietic ecology, or ecopoiesis as the third way between the utilitarianism of anthropocentrism, which puts human interests at the centre of the world, and the romanticism of nature-centrism, with its idealized perception of "pure" nature, free from human influence.
Ecopoiesis is a term, a concept, that denotes human and nature’s propensity for creative acts and behavior. It refers to a generative process whereby human beings together with nature shape the world and themselves, bring new forms and meanings of life from the mode of possibility into the mode of existence. It is an eco-human propensity for biological and cultural creation and a factor in the co-evolution of human beings and nature.
Ecopoiesis also means the potential for changing the way people think about almost everything: about themselves, earth, life, society, politics and ethics, although the most important aspect of the concept is to link all these diverse ideas together. The term denotes an ecological way of being in both the natural and cultural realms, implying the interaction and co-creation that takes place between different forms and systems of life and between communities.
The mission of the journal, Ecopoiesis, is to build sustainable, just, and beautiful human and “green” communities and create an ecological civilization based on the human propensity to respond to and shape the world around ourselves together with nature.
This mission of Ecopoiesis thus lies in revealing the intrinsic human ability to love and appreciate life in all its myriad forms. In doing so, it aims to support beauty, health and resilience, providing the conditions for life to flourish and for human exploration and creativity to move into the future.
Stephen K. Levine