Two or three things we understood about ecology

Nature doesn’t exist, and it’s a product of our thought. Or, our thought is shaped by nature, as we are embedded in it. In each case, ecology is not anymore an ecology of nature, but it is an ecology of everything: environment, mind, society.

Human activities can be described with ecological models, and human activities have ecological consequences.
If there is no “nature”, no original “equilibrium” to be restored then GMOs, nuclear power, Geo Engineering, etc, are not intrinsically wrong. Paradoxically, they’re also functional to lowering CO2 emissions.

The wrong fact is that GMOs, nuclear power, Geo Engineering, etc, are a product of a not ecological vision of the world. The laws of Market are inherently anti-ecological

  1. the only lasting connection between things is the cash nexus
  2. it doesn’t matter where something goes as long as it doesn’t enter the circuit of capital
  3. the self-regulating market knows best
  4. nature’s bounty is a free gift to the property owner

So, we should be able to design our actions – or inactions – coping with the laws of ecology

  1. Everything is connected to everything else
  2. Everything must go somewhere – no matter what you do, and no matter what you use, it has
    to go somewhere
  3. Nature knows best
  4. There is no such thing as a free lunch

There is lots of literature of the 60s and 70s on utopian design

Books like Progress As If Survival Mattered, Small Is Beautiful, Muddling Toward Frugality, The Integral Urban House, Design for the Real World, A Pattern Language, and so on. I had a whole shelf of those books. Their tech is now mostly obsolete, superceded by more sophisticated tech, but the ideas behind them, and the idea of appropriate technology and alternative design: that needs to come back big time. And I think it is

The term ‘permaculture‘ in a broad sense can describe well this approach. A practical, process-based design strategy on the use of proper technologies to engineer our ecologies.

Volume 16 was about Engineering Society. “Instead of reviving old school high modernist social engineering or claiming the need for an intellectual junta, we solicit new forms of social engineering”. Can we also imagine bottom-up, practice based activities of ecological engineering, going beyond frankenstein technologies and apocaliptic geo-engineering?


  1. I’m giving a lecture in Portland, Oregon, on April 21 on sustainability. You can go to the Portland Humanities Sustainability Research Project to find out more.

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