Some Leaderly Measures for Eco-Liberation and


Now that we’ve provided synopses of eco-liberation and eco-preservation, we’re able to identify and explore some leaderly measures that would foster these practices, thereby contributing to the transformation of homocentric situations and the maintenance of ecocentric ones. Once again, the two broad policies of eco-education and population stabilization would facilitate the goals of ecocentric emancipation and conservation. First, the re-education program would create awareness of our eco-colonizing and ecocidal ways, and the countervailing forces of eco-liberation and eco-preservation. The pedagogical campaign would teach us that the emancipation of humans and sentient creatures should be extended to the apparently “unfreeable” - exemplified by manufactured objects and built environments, which have hitherto been neglected as entities requiring or deserving emancipation. (We could suggest here that the teaching materials would include the plastic bag scene from American Beauty and the series Life After People.) After all, the more aware we are of the negative and positive practices, the more likely the prospect of halting the former and fostering the latter. Likewise, the implementation of a sensible demographic policy would likely have a positive impact on eco-centered liberation and preservation. For instance, regulating population numbers would lessen the pressure for us to encroach on uninhabited or relatively uninhabited areas, be they the outskirts of existing cities or wilderness areas. (In this regard, there’s a growing body of work linking population growth with urban sprawl; e.g., Congedo and Macchi 2015; Tena 2015; Fertner and others 2016).

Then there are more specific measures concerning ecocentric liberation and preservation. In the first place, how does Earth-centered leadership envisage emancipation? We may commence by stating that we ecocentrists are inspired by the direct action of groups like the Animal Liberation Front, which have often freed imprisoned animals from farms and labs, and we also understand actions like eco-sabotage by groups like Earth First!, who are driven by compassion for the creatures and frustration with the system (Manes 1990; McLaughlin 1993; Rosebraugh 2004; Braggs 2012). We note, however, that practices involving, for example, the destruction of buildings is problematic from a consistently eco-centered perspective: should buildings wherein barbaric activities are undertaken be themselves disfigured in the name of eco-liberation? On the one hand, drastic action is required, which often entails “collateral damage”; on the other hand, we should ask whether/to what extent these kinds of localized acts are effective, in contrast to examining ways in which the broader contexts or “mega-situations” that foster eco-colonization might be transformed. What kinds of political conditions/systems would be conducive for overcoming eco-colonization and realizing eco-liberation? As noted earlier, this massive question cannot be comprehensively broached in this work, though it’s traversed to some degree in the next section. In any case, one could propose that ecocentric leading favors neither “piecemeal” direct action nor mega-situational transformation but both the one and the other.

We now turn to a brief exposition of some leaderly measures for ecopreservation. To begin with, we note that already-cited measures would contribute to the advancement of this Earth-centered expression; for example, a central aspect of ecocentric education would be fostering the awareness that we need to conserve our natural and built ecologies. In terms of specific strategies drawn from our exploration of eco-preservation, obviously radical conservation would be а/the key measure, whereby Earth-centered leadership would both reinforce and expand the practice. Existing wildlife reserves would be strengthened in terms of providing more defensive/security staff, even mobilizing military forces to protect them from deplorable practices like poaching and the killing of rangers (Joyce 2013; Wilkie 2016; Canney 2017; Nuwer 2018; Losh 2019). Furthermore, wherever possible, existing reserves would be expanded, and new reserves would be established (Noss and others 2012; Wuerthner, Crist and Butler 2015; Wilson 2016). After all, very little of the world is presently protected (15% of land and 4% of oceans; UNEP-WCMC and IUCN 2016; Stuart Pimm in Dell’amore 2014), and we continue to encroach upon more of it at alarmingly rapid rates (McLaughlin 1993: 213-216; Haila and Henle 2014). Eco-centered leading would also seek to extend the coverage of limited-use national parks.

In typical ecocentric fashion, the extension of protection would also apply to built environments. Such a measure would inhibit the incessant march of “re-development.” It would allow houses and warehouses and trees to grow old. Hence, under Earth-centered leadership, current heritage practices would be expanded and intensified. For instance, whenever possible, existing old buildings would be vigilantly protected and restored rather than demolished and replaced (and often replaced with drab new structures). Protection and restoration are urgently required in various places - especially in my hometown, Melbourne. While the original settlement obviously resulted from dubious colonialization, during the gold-rush days of the 1800s, it developed into a remarkably opulent city (“Marvelous Melbourne” rivaled the world’s most prestigious urban centers), but it has now lost hundreds of its heritage buildings (Roe 1974; Davidson 1978, 2004; Chapman and Stillman 2015; Broome and others 2016). It’s becoming - or already has become - a ubiquitous globalized city.

With Earth-centered leading, whatever exists has precedence over the (ill-) conceived, no matter how much more “profitable” the latter may be for property developers and the politicians who work in concert with them (Lorimer 1978; Richmond 2009; Rainford 2015). Of course, ecocentric leadership would not fanatically protect every old dwelling: as noted earlier, some structures may not be salvageable or restorable, while others may need to be demolished due to hazardous construction materials. Earth-centeredness is not a “hyper-conservationism-at-any-cost,” where human safety and other needs are compromised. Further, eco-preservation certainly allows old buildings such as schools and hospitals to be renovated to modernize their facilities (to expand their carrying capacity, to become more energy efficient, and so on): we repeat Mathews’ imperative to “maintain them, since we shall need to continue to use and inhabit them” (1999a: 124). But, of course, any maintenance or alterations would need to be kept to a minimum in order to retain much/most of the original structure and character.

Eco-centered leadership would also seek to implement policies that encourage and enforce the preservation of other constructed things - and not just those objects that have traditionally received the most attention, such as cars, artworks, and furniture. But how do we become enchanted by mundane objects so that we restore them (or allow them to be) rather than trash them and destroy them? Certainly, the re-education program would seek to instill in all of us not just a fascination and concern over more exotic and aesthetically pronounced items but also for the overlooked and underwhelming by, for example, drawing our attention to enchantment-inducing scientific and other discourses like those recalled in the previous chapter. But, certainly, one of the challenges of ecocentric leading would be to find ways of facilitating the re-enchantment of the unenchanted.

Like the other measures foregrounded here, recycling would also be encouraged and intensified - intensified because, despite appearances, there’s less recycling occurring than might be assumed by consumer-citizens. For instance, it’s estimated that over 90% of plastics ever produced - over 8 billion metric tons -hasn’t been recycled (Geyer, Jambeck and Law 2017; Parker 2018). Hence, the need for the intensification of recycling efforts. However, Earth-centered leading would seek to alter the individual-centered recycling discourse, thereby relieving citizen-consumers of the anxieties and neuroses generated by the existing recycling paradigm. We note that measures relating to other eco-expressions would also be influential for restoration and recycling processes. For instance, producers would be obliged to create long-lasting items rather than short-“lived” ones, which means there would be less recycling and restoration required.

I end my discussion of ecocentric expressions and eco-leaderly measures on the following important note: some of the proposed measures identified and briefly discussed earlier - especially population stabilization and production control - are quite radical and confronting in nature. This is unsurprising from the perspective of my basic model, which contends that true leading involves the transformation and maintenance of situations. At both the mundane and societal levels, this will often necessitate bold action. Hence, genuine environmental leading will often require courage - a dimension that has been underresearched but increasingly recognized by leadership scholars (e.g., Moore 1994; Chaleff 1995; ILA 2019).

Now that we’ve completed outlines of the five key eco-centered expressions and discussed some of the core leaderly measures associated with them, we’re at the stage of offering some concluding remarks in relation to them. First, it has become apparent that Earth-centered leading (together with the eco-philosophical ethos that drives it) would condition and permeate all fundamental aspects of society, just as homocentrism and homocentric leading condition and permeate all fundamental aspects of Western and increasingly Westernized cultures. Just as human chauvinism informs our contemporary modes of instru-mentalization, consumption, and production, and drives eco-colonization and ecocide, Earth-centered leading would contribute to profoundly altering how we Westerners instrumentalize, consume, and produce, and it would seek to eradicate eco-colonization and ecocide by promoting ecocentric liberation and restoration. Given the preliminary and synoptic nature of the outline, a number of questions remain: the subsequent sections seek to cursorily address two important inquiries, the one concerning the political (i.e., what is the politics of ecocentric leadership?), the other concerning ethical justification (i.e., why is Earth-centered leading ethically preferable?).

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