Research study: summary

For each chapter of this study, I have asked specific questions in order to guide the chapter, and in each of the sub-sections of each chapter, I explore themes, critiques, analyses, ideas, theories, information and issues that are most relevant in light of the guiding questions.

In Chapter 1, I collate information and themes from a wide array of sources in order to ‘paint the backdrop’ of the contemporary[1] ecological crisis.

In Chapter 2, I again collate information and themes from a wide array of sources, this time to show that some specific human industries and practices are direct causes of the ecological crisis.

In Chapter 3, I focus on the non-physical, ‘attitudinal’[2] factors that historically played central roles in ‘steering’ human actions towards ecologically-problematic ends. Lynn White Junior, Pierre Hadot, Thomas Berry, Arne Vetlesen, Max Horkheimer, Martin Heidegger, and Joel Kovel all feature as the main supporting critical voices in this chapter.

In Chapter 4, I identify various ‘mechanisms’ at play in the perpetuation of the dispensation driving the ecological crisis. In other words, these mechanisms are ones at play in the process whereby socio-political and economic change is prevented. The main featured critical voices in this chapter are J.S. Mill, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, Robert McChesney, James Speth, Manfred Steger, Herbert Marcuse, Gilles Deleuze, and Thomas Princen.

In Chapter 5, I take something of a daring dive (daring mainly in the arena of orthodox academia) into the realm of ‘alternative ideas’. These alternative focal areas are incorporated into my academic purview in this study because they each offer examples of attitudes, ideas, models, or approaches that are notably alternative to the attitudes, ideas, models, or approaches of the ecologically-problematic focal areas looked at in previous chapters. Central areas of focus in this chapter are ‘older cultures’, Paul Hawken’s ‘unnamed social movement’, Rupert Sheldrake’s ‘morphic resonance’, Graham Hancock’s ‘lost civilisation’, Charles Eisenstein’s ‘sacred economics’, the Occupy Movement, the Zeitgeist Movement, and to a lesser degree deep ecology. Various other supporting voices will be included in this chapter as well.

In Chapter 6, I identify and elaborate on the details of the twelve permaculture principles with a view to exploring the relevance of these principles in light of aspects of the broad context established in Chapters 1 to 5 of the study. I do this reflectively in two senses – first in the sense that I consistently refer to information, themes or focal areas raised in previous chapters of the study; and second in the sense that for each permaculture principle I offer information based on my own experiences from the ‘rustic permaculture journey’ my partner and I embarked on in 2012, a journey that turned into a lifestyle she and I still practice at the time of submitting the final version of this study[3]. The main ‘voices’ in this chapter are Bill Mollison’s (the official founder of permaculture), the Permaculture Association[4] (where condensed information about permaculture is available), and my own, but other commentators are incorporated into the chapter as well.

In Chapter 7, I focus on what Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek have to say about the role of philosophy ‘in the present’, and thereafter on the insights provided by Pierre Hadot on the much older notion of philosophy as a way of life. In both cases I outline what I consider to be the main features of the role of philosophy as argued by the different thinkers, and then identify the relevance of their ideas in the light of various issues, themes, ideas, information, and focal areas that arise in previous chapters.

In the final section of the study, I offer suggestions that arise from reflection of some of the issues, themes, ideas, information, focal areas, theories, and arguments in the main chapters. For the purposes of this summary section, I offer the following general suggestion, one that encapsulates a variety of themes and issues that arise in the study:

Nothing needs to be done in the light of the ecological crisis, its physical causes, its attitudinal causes, its perpetuation mechanisms, and its alternatives. Nor does anything need to be done in the light of permaculture principles and the role of philosophy as they are explored in this study. Human beings can continue their current Promethean[5] trajectory, with a very likely collapse[6] of contemporary civilisation and a variety of other support systems that hold together the fragile collective ecology[7] of this planet. But in the context of this study it is clear that this is only one direction offered to human beings; a different direction is one characterised by carefully-considered, ‘Orphic’[8], alternative, ecologically-sensitive ways of thinking and being. If, however, human beings wish to avert the collapse of contemporary civilisation, and instead transition socio-political and economic systems towards ones ‘in tune’ with the requirements of nature (on which human beings inherently depend), then options are afforded to us. Everything that people do, or organisations do, or institutions do, or corporations do, and so on – everything that is done can be placed on a very broad, flexible, context-bound spectrum, which for the purposes of this study can be called the Orpheus-Prometheus spectrum. When this name is used for the spectrum, all that I have taken into consideration in this study is implied in the background of the consideration process, but at a more basic level, one could call it a spectrum of ecological-sensitivity, demarcating at one end ecologically-harmonious attitudes and actions, and at the other end ecologically-destructive attitudes and actions. In this manner I recommend widespread discussions at all levels of the socio-political and economic spectrum in which possibilities are considered regarding how to go about nurturing the Orphic arena wherever possible – I provide numerous examples of such possibilities in Chapters 5 and 6. Philosophy ‘in the present’, as depicted by Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek on the one hand, and ‘philosophy as a way of life’ as detailed by Pierre Hadot on the other, resonate with the general Orphic attitude, with a negative upshot, insofar as ‘the established model of humanity’ or ‘habitual perception’ (both of which are Promethean and heavily inculcated in causing the ecological crisis, as I show in the first four chapters, and to lesser extents in Chapters 5 and 6 as well) are the subject of extensive scrutiny across the board here. The practice of philosophy in the specific formats on which I focus therefore immediately halts ‘Promethean’ ‘Business as usual’, and provides guidance in approaching various complex issues associated with the ecological crisis. This halting of Promethean Business as usual is unavoidable as an urgent, necessary step if a movement towards a sustainable set of socio-political and economic systems[9] is to be actualised, as agreed by Foster, Clark and York (2010:14): “If business as usual continues, the world is headed within the next few decades for major tipping points along with irreversible environmental degradation, threatening much of humanity”.

[1] I say ‘contemporary’ because there have been ecological crises in the past, for example the extinction event that ended the reign of the dinosaurs approximately 65 million years ago. The causes of the two crises, i.e. the contemporary one and the one of 65 million years ago, could not, however, be further removed from each other – I address the causes for the contemporary crisis later on in this study.

[2] I address my use of the word ‘attitudinal’ in the sections called ‘Comments on some central terms’ and ‘Aims and methodology’.

[3] I.e. late in the year 2017. The duration of living this rustic lifestyle, at the aforementioned point in time, is over five years.

[4] accessed 12 April 2017.

[5] See the section called ‘Comments on some central terms’ for a clearer initial idea of what is meant by ‘Promethean’.

[6] A deliberate reference to Jared Diamond’s Collapse, in which he concludes that contemporary civilisation is likely to collapse if current Promethean trends continue (though he does not employ the term ‘Promethean’). Consider this from him (2005:498): “Our world society is presently on a non-sustainable course, and any [one] of our… problems of non-sustainability… would suffice to limit our lifestyle within the next several decades. They are like time bombs with fuses of less than 50 years”.

[7] …of which human beings are a part, albeit a very influential part.

[8] See the section called ‘Comments on some central terms’ for a clearer initial idea of what is meant by ‘Orphic’.

[9] An immediate objection to this notion of halting Promethean ‘Business as usual’ might be that such action would be bad for the economy. However, such an objection would highlight the faulty assumption that nothing that is currently being done under the banner of ‘Business as usual’ is bad for the economy. I address this point in Chapter 4, in the section called ‘Princen’s traffic control measures’.