The Case for an Authentic 'Spiritual' Ecology
Leading thinkers have long acknowledged that our transition to an ecological society will require a paradigm shift. Yet, the popular view seems to profess that we can reach such a society simply by adjusting our consumption habits to the latest sustainably-produced material goods. This is a dangerous oversimplification. In fact, when we dive deeper into this 'mainstream environmentalism', we come to see that it is just another rationalist utopian ideology with its predictable traps leading astray. In this short essay, I apply the Canadian school of thought to outline how we can achieve the paradigm shift needed to realize a truly sustainable world.
To reach a true ecological society, we are called to realize a much more noble and challenging feat than simply adjusting our consumption habits―each man needs to develop an altogether new and radical standpoint for themselves. A little known reality is that there are in fact two enlightenments that emerged from our culture, and it is our duty to transition from the 'mainstream version' to its cryptic counterpart. To be more specific, we need to individually 'recreate' the world in our minds by reinterpreting keywords in the popular discourse in order to reflect nature instead of our immediate surroundings. In doing so, we move away from viewing the world simply as object and begin analyzing it in relation to the human condition. Once we understand reality through this alternative enlightenment, things take on very different meanings and we come the see the world in a very different light. It is through this optic that we achieve the paradigm shift that leads to a sustainable outlook.
These ideas get really interesting once we consider the interplay between the two enlightenments: The 'mainstream version' deals with managing collective development whereas it's cryptic counterpart deals with individual development. The former is orchestrated by central planners whereas the latter is lead by agentic citizens. Both of these offer 'a solution' via similar language and keywords, but they are inherently contrary forces aiming for strikingly different outcomes.
The two forces act in opposition—the 'environmental movement' works to subdue and homogenize and the 'ecological movement' works to transcend and differentiate. The former adheres to 'public' opinion and goes with what is generally accepted and prescribed, whereas the latter owns a ‘private perspective’ in concord with our deepest, immutable nature—much to the chagrin of those who harbor totalitarian tendencies.
In a way, these two views continue the classic struggle between science and conscience―except instead of science exhorting the religious to join their ranks, it demands that science falls in line with the religious.