Environment/Economics: Fire: Individuation

Environmental and economic grounding: the American soul

We now turn from South, East and North to the "West". The "West", conventionally speaking is a far cry from what we perceive to be such. America though, for leading U.S. social philosopher Jacob Needleman (30), based at San Francisco State University, is the fact, the symbol and the promise of new beginning. All that is old and already formed can continue to live only if it allows within itself the conditions of such a new start.

Meanwhile our world, as we see and hear on all sides, is for Needleman drowning in materialism, commercialism, consumerism. But the problem is not really there. What we ordinarily speak of as materialism is a symptom, not a cause. The root of materialism is a poverty of ideas about the inner and outer world. The idea of man's two natures, along with some of its ethical implications, was dramatically expressed in the teaching known as Stoicism, which flourished in the early Roman Empire and which served as inspiration to Washington, Adams, Jefferson and many others of the Founding Fathers of America. Our task, as such, is simultaneously inner freedom and full outer engagement. One of us, Louis Herman, originally South African but now based at the University of Hawai'i West Oahu, picks up from where Needleman leaves off.

Environmental emergence: future primal

Herman is a political thinker (31) with a background that includes medical studies at the University of Cambridge, living on a kibbutz in Israel and research in political philosophy. In his review of nature, culture, politics and economics, he locates human consciousness and the truth quest within its evolutionary context. This allows him to identify an archetypal structure of politics in the San Bushman hunter-gatherers in Southern Africa, his birthplace. He connects this primal template to the Ancient Greeks representing his European heritage, and indeed the kibbutzim representing his Jewish faith.

He presents this template as a mandala made up of four interrelated values and processes: direct democracy, the dialectic of face-to-face discussion, the individual growth in wholeness or individuation, and, ultimately, building a “big picture" or cosmology. This constellation forms the core of a quintessentially human politics which he sees in the early stages of its emergence as a future primal politics.

Herman's Future Primal Politics is roughly congruent with what the French philosopher and scientist Bruno Latour has conceived of as a new kind of natural, political order.

Environmental navigation: politics of nature

For the renowned French sociologist and anthropologist, Bruno Latour (32), political ecology moves the dual arena of nature and politics into the single arena of the collective. He sets such against, for example, social Darwinism, which borrowed its metaphors of "survival of the fittest" from politics, projected them onto nature itself, and then re-imported them into politics. Latour then comes up with another sense of the social, closer to the etymology of the term, as living association and collection. In fact by abandoning the more conventional notion of nature, as separate from man, he leaves intact the two elements that matter the most to him: the multiplicity of nonhumans and the enigma of their association.

Table P.2 The New Constitution

House of Nature

House of Society

First House:



Taking into Account

Second House:



Arranging in Rank Order

If we look at Table P.2, we see that Latour has substituted a new form of bicameralism for the two houses – for example the U.S. Congress and Senate – of the old Constitution. There are still two houses, as in the old Constitution, but they do not have the same characteristics. We now finally and effectively, in "Western" terms, turn to Brazil's Curitiba, recognizing that in our "integral worlds" context, the "West" incorporates the Americas as a whole.

Economic and environmental effect: Brazil's Curitiba

Curitiba (33) is a south-eastern Brazilian city with the population of America's Philadelphia. It shares with hundreds of similar sized cities in the developing world a dangerous combination of scant resources and rapid population growth. Yet it has flourished by treating all its citizens (most of all its children) not as a burden but as the city's most precious resource, that is as creators of its future.

Curitiba has succeeded by combining pragmatic leadership with an integrated design process, strong public and business participation, and an inspiring, widely shared vision. In the restorative process parks have been renewed to revitalize the arts, culture and history of the urban core. The city's rich ethnic heritage has been honoured and preserved, with a ceremonial gate and special centre created for each main culture. The urban core, relieved of commercial pressures, has been returned to pedestrian priority. In addition, the city has built schools, clinics, day-care centres, parks, food distribution centres, and cultural and sports facilities throughout its suburbs, democratizing amenities previously available only to those who journeyed downtown. We now turn, finally, to the Middle East, potentially if not actually, a place of centring.

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