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University of Chicago Press
The New Ecological Order / Edition 2

The New Ecological Order / Edition 2

by Luc Ferry, Carol Volk
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Is ecology in the process of becoming the object of our contemporary passions, in the same way that Fascism was in the 30s, or Communism under Stalin? In The New Ecological Order, Luc Ferry offers a penetrating critique of the ideological roots of the "Deep Ecology" movement spreading throughout Germany, France, and the United States.

Traditional ecological movements, or "democratic ecology," seek to protect the environment of human societies; they are pragmatic and reformist. But another movement has become the refuge both of nostalgic counterrevolutionaries and of leftist illusions. This is "deep ecology." Its followers go beyond practical critiques of human greed and waste: they call into question the very possibility of human coexistence with nature. The human species is no longer at the center of the world, but subject to a new god called Nature. For these purists, man can only soil the harmony of the universe. In order to secure natural equilibrium, the only solution is to grant rights to animals, to trees, and to rocks.

Ferry launches his critique by examining early European legal cases concerning the status and rights of animals, including a few notorious cases where animals were brought to trial, found guilty, and publicly hanged. He then demonstrates that German Romanticism embraced certain key ideas of the deep ecology movement concerning the protection of animals and the environment. Later adopted by the Nazis, many of these ideas point to a profoundly antihumanistic component of deep ecology that is compatible with totalitarianism.

Ferry shows how deep ecology casts aside all the gains of human autonomy since the Enlightenment. He deciphers the philosophical and political assumptions of a movement that threatens to infantalize human society by preying on the fear of the authority of a new theological-political order. Far from denying our "duty in relation to nature," The New Ecological Order offers a bracing caution—against the dangers of environmental claims and, more important, against the threat to democracy contained in the deep ecology doctrine when pushed to its extreme.

"A book of intellectual power, full of insights, invention, and not without temerity, from one of the best political philosophers today."—Le Figaro

"Few books have analyzed in depth this phenomenon of the ecological movement as the most recent book by Luc Ferry has done. . . . It is a book that absolutely must be read."—Le Point

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226244839
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 08/28/1995
Edition description: 1
Pages: 190
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Luc Ferry has taught at the Sorbonne and at the University of Caen and is the former Minister of Youth, National Education, and Research in the French government. He is the author or coauthor of eight previous books published by the University of Chicago Press, including, most recently, The New Ecological Order and Man Made God.

Read an Excerpt


The Passing of the Humanist Era

Animal Trials

    1587: The inhabitants of the village of Saint-Julien took legal actionagainst a colony of weevils. These "creepers" having invaded thevineyards, where they caused considerable damage, the peasantscalled on their municipal magistrates to compose a petition in theirname addressed to the "Reverend Lord Vicar-General and official ofthe diocese of Maurienne," whom they entreated to prescribe the appropriatemeasures to appease the divine anger and to undertake, "bymeans of excommunication or any other appropriate censor," the lawfuland definitive expulsion of the tiny beasts.

    Forty or so years earlier, in 1545, an identical trial had takenplace against the same creepers (or at least their ancestors). The affairended in victory for the insects, who, it is true, were defended bycounsel chosen for them, as according to procedure, by the episcopaljudge himself. The latter had refused to excommunicate them, arguingthat as creatures of God the animals possessed the same rights asmen to consume plant life; instead he prescribed numerous publicprayers for the unfortunate local residents, who were required, by anordinance of 8 May 1546, to invoke divine misericord and sincerelyrepent for their sins. He also invited them to pay their tithe withoutdelay - it was the perfect occasion - and to make "three processionsaround the infested vineyards on three consecutive days." There followedyet further devotions or penitence of the same order. Whetherdue to the effectof these recommendations or, more prosaically, becauseof the length of the proceedings, the beetles vacated the site,and the matter ended there.

    But forty-two years later, when the trial resumed on 13 April1587, the vine growers counted on the judge's severity faced with theresurgence of the scourge. Whereupon the official merely furnishedthe insects with another representative or "procurator," assisted bynew counsel (the one from 1545 having died in the interim). He alsoordered the vicar of Saint-Julien to apply the ordonnance of 8 May1546. This was done with great ceremony on the 20, 21, and 22 ofMay, as attested by the official report duly drafted and signed bythe priest.

    The subsequent events were every bit as complicated as those reportedin the legal chronicles of today. The lawyer for the insectsplayed so extensively and so well on the slightest points of law thaton 18 July - more than three months after the opening of the trial - theaccusation was beginning to waver. Sensing that the defendants'skillful arguments were likely to have a good effect which is to say abad one) on the official's judgment, the municipal magistrates ofSaint-Julien opted for a compromise, calling a general meeting of thelocal residents to propose "leasing the said animals a location ofsufficient pasture, outside of the disputed vineyards of Saint-Julien,from which they can draw sustenance and avoid eating or destroyingthe said vines." So it was: after close consideration, they decided "tooffer a site named Grand-Feisse [there follows a detailed descriptionof the plot in question], within the bounds of which lie between fortyand fifty acres or thereabouts inhabited and appointed with severalspecies of trees, plants, and foliage such as poplar, beech, cherry, oak,and plane trees, shrubs and bushes, in addition to the grass and pasturefound there in fairly good quantity . . ." In short, it was a matterof convincing the adversarial party of the goodwill of the local residentsand of the genuine value of the land. It should be noted thatthese residents did ask permission to retain a right of way to continueto exploit an ocher mine, and to take refuge on the site in case of war,but promised in so doing not to cause any damage to the "pasture ofthe animals" and, for good measure, "to give them a contract on theplot according to the above conditions as will be required, in dueform, and valid in perpetuity . . ."

    This is no doubt the first occurrence of a "natural contract," of apact with beings of nature, but it was not enough to appease thecounsel for the defense. Conscious of the weight of his accusationsand determined to get the best deal for his clients, he took it uponhimself to visit "Grand-Feisse," after which he concluded that, thesite being "sterile and fruitless," his adversaries' claim should immediatelybe dismissed cum expensis (with costs). I do not know theofficial's final decision.(1) We do know, however, that other expertswere called in to evaluate the true value of the land and that on 20December the matter still was not decided ...

    By comparison with similar cases, one may assume the probablevictory of the animals. It was fairly common, in fact, for the episcopaljudge to take their side. The treatise Des exorcismes (1497), written bythe Swiss theologian Felix Hemmerlein,(2) furnishes us with severalsuch examples, including the one of the Laubkafer, which for analogy'ssake is worth relating here:

Near the city of Coire, a sudden irruption occurred of larva with black heads, white bodies wide as a pinky, and six legs; they were well known to the field workers who called them, in German dialect, Laubkafer; they entered the earth at the beginning of winter, plunging their murderous teeth into roots, so that when good weather returned, rather than blooming, the plants dried up ... Now, the local residents brought these destructive insects to trial before their tribunal by means of three consecutive edicts; they provided them with counsel and a procurator in accordance with the forms of the law, then initiated proceedings against them following all the necessary formalities. Finally, the judge, considering that the said larva were creatures of God, that they had the right to live and that it would be unjust to deprive them of subsistence, banished them to a forested, untamed area, so that they would no longer have any excuse for devastating the cultivated lands. And so it was.

    But it is also possible that a curse was placed on the weevils, consideringwhat happened to the leeches of the lake of Berne in 1451.After having given the tiny beasts three days to vacate the infested waters,the bishop of Lausanne, observing that his ultimatum had goneunheeded, ventured forth in person to fulminate the following anathema;"In the name of God almighty, of the heavens, of the divine andHoly Church, I curse you, wherever you go, and you will be damned,you and your descendants, for the rest of your days on this earth."

    This demonstrates that the sentence could vary depending onwhether the animals were considered to be creatures of God merelyfollowing natural law, a scourge sent to men as punishment for theirsins, or instruments of the devil opposing the ecclesiastical authorityhimself. In the first two cases, the imposition of penance and prayerswould suffice, after which compensation might be offered to the animals,who were requested, if need be, to take up residence elsewhere;in the latter, they were "excommunicated" or, at the veryleast, cursed.

    Hence the fact that a trial was required to decide their fate. Theforms to be respected in such a case were painstakingly described byGaspard Bally, a lawyer who practiced in Chambery during the latterpart of the seventeenth century and who was an enthusiastic partisanof these trials - which were to continue into the eighteenth century.In the second half of his work, Traite des monitoires avec un plaidoyer contreles insectes, par spectable Gaspard Bally advocat au souverain Senat deSavoye (1668), he argues forcefully that "one must not underestimatemonitories [that is to say, in this case, the arguments 'fulminated' bythe ecclesiastical authority against the animals], seeing that they arehighly important matters, carrying with them the most dangerousglaive of our Mother the Holy Church, namely excommunication,which cleaves the wood both dry and green, sparing neither the livingnor the dead; it strikes not only reasonable creatures, but attachesitself to irrational ones, such as animals."(3) And Bally subsequentlymakes a point of indicating "how to set up one's trial in order to protectoneself from these creatures by, means of the Church's male-diction."

    Let us reflect a moment more on this legal aspect: it is entirely indicativeof a premodern, which is to say a prehumanistic, relationship tothe animal kingdom as well as to nature in general. In most cases, thelawsuit proceeded as follows: the plaintiffs petitioned the episcopaljudge, which led to a careful examination of the facts and ultimatelythe summoning of the animals and the assigning of a procurator(assisted, if need by, by counsel) to defend the cause of the accused.

    Bally describes the following: "First, upon receiving the petitionpresented by the residents of the locale where damages are beingsuffered, we obtain information as to the destruction that such animalshave caused and are in danger of causing, and with this informationthe ecclesiastical judge assigns a curator to stand trial for these creatures,by proxy, who enumerates their arguments and defends themagainst the local residents who wish to force them to vacate the sitethey are occupying. Once the arguments are heard and considered onboth sides, the judge passes sentence." Bally then gives several typicalexamples of petitions, of arguments put forth by local residents as wellas by the counselors for the insects, models of the plaintiffs' replies,conclusions of the episcopal procurator, and finally sentences of thechurch judge. It is a general formula that does not take into accountdetails or local particularities. But the picture can easily be completedin light of a few real cases drawn from the records of these trials.

    Thus, for example, in each suit, aside for specifications regardingthe nature and exact location of the damages, the animals incriminated - insects,reptiles, rats, mice, leeches, or others (in Marseillethere was even an excommunication of dolphins, who clogged theport and made it unnavigable) - had to be described and named withgreat precision so that, summoned to appear before the court, they could notclaim that there had been some confusion. This point is stressed byBarthelemy de Chassanee - a then-famous jurist who assembled inhis Conseils, published in 1531, all that was known at the time abouttrials against animals. Thus we know - and this is confirmed by FelixHemmerlein, who provides examples - that it was common to dispatchto the sites where the accused resided a sergeant or court clerkcharged with loudly and clearly reading them the summons to appear,in person, on such a day, at such an hour, before the court. Thesummons had to be repeated three times at specified intervals, accordingto the custom of Roman law, for a state of nonappearance tobe decreed. On the appointed day, at the appointed hour, the tribunalawaited the accused, the doors of the officiality wide open. Andwhen, oddly enough, they did not appear, it was customary to find aplausible excuse for them in order to be able to assign a procurator - whoChassanee emphasizes held power of attorney, from that pointon, so long as he was not repudiated by his clients! Thus LeonMenabrea relates, according to Thou's L'histoire universelle (1550), thevictorious argument made by Chassanee in person on the occasion ofa trial against the rats of the Autun diocese:

While still young, he was designated to represent these animals. Although the rats had been summoned in due form, he managed to obtained that his clients be again served a writ by the priest of each parish, given, he said, that since the cause concerned all rats, all rats should be notified. Having won this point, he endeavored to show that they had not been given enough time; that it was necessary to take into account not only the distances to be traveled, but the difficulty of the journey, a difficulty made all the greater by the fact that cats were on the alert, present in every alleyway ...(4)

    During the trial of the beetles in Coire, the progress of which isrelated by Hemmerlein, the judge, also noting that his summons toappear for trial had gone unheeded, concluded that it was inappropriateto hold it against the little beasts given their young age andthe diminutiveness of their bodies." Once they were associated withminors, it became possible to assign them a representative, assistedby a counselor, both of whom swore to loyally serve their clients. Atthe trial of the leeches of Berne mentioned earlier, the bishop, notwishing to see the insects evade the court so easily, had several specimensseized in order that they be physically present at the tribunal.Once this was accomplished, he ordered that the "saidleeches, both present and absent," be warned "to abandon the sitesthey had temporarily invaded, and to retreat to where they wouldbe incapable of doing harm, granting them three short delays of oneday each to do so, three full days in all, and this with the understandingthat, once the time was up, they would risk the curse ofGod and of his celestial court."(5) Finally, as evidence of the seriousnessof the formal notice, the ill-fated leeches who were present inthe courtroom were executed at once!

    Let us leave aside for the moment the question of the meaningthis strange theater may have had for its various protagonists. Let usalso avoid - at least for the sake of medieval historians - turningthese enigmatic practices into the truth of an age which we know todaywas more beautiful and more complex than the imagery inheritedfrom the Enlightenment would lead us to believe. The factremains that these trials, which took place by the dozen between thethirteenth and eighteenth centuries throughout Europe, seem undeniablystrange to us. The problem is a classic ethnological one: howto understand that what was a fact of life in one world can be so perfectlyhermetic to another. What kind of breach must have openedwithin humankind for the ritual performed in all seriousness in oneera to turn to high comedy in another?

    The answer is clear to us Moderns, arising out of a concept wetake for granted: that it is insane to treat animals, beings of natureand not of freedom, as legal subjects. We consider it self-evidentthat only the latter are, so to speak, "worthy of a trial." Nature is adead letter for us. Literally: it no longer speaks to us for we havelong ceased - at least since Descartes - to attribute a soul to it orto believe it inhabited by occult forces. To us the notion of crimeimplies responsibility, a voluntary intention - so much so that ourlegal systems grant "attenuating circumstances" in cases when theinfraction of the law was committed in an "altered state," under theinfluence of our unconscious nature, thus separate from the freedomof sovereign will. Is there truth in this or have we simply painted anew picture which, in turn, will cause future generations to smile?Indeed, it may well be that the separation of man and nature bywhich modern humanism came to attribute a moral and legal statusto the former alone was just a brief parenthesis, marking theboundaries of an era that is now coming to a close. Here is oneindication.

Trees on Trial

    In 1972, in the very serious Southern California Law Review, appeareda long article by Professor Christopher D. Stone entitled: "ShouldTrees Have Standing? Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects."Republished two years later in the form of a short book, Stone's articleexperienced great success in a context that is worth relating here.Though it seems light years away from our medieval countryside,contemporary California has nonetheless attempted to reinvent theidea of a law of natural beings, in the course of what turned out to bean extraordinary trial.

    In 1970, the United States Forest Service granted Walt DisneyEnterprises a permit authorizing them to "develop" a wild valley,Mineral King, situated in the Sierra Nevada. A budget of thirty-fivemillion dollars was planned for the construction of hotels, restaurants,and play areas, based on the model of Disneyland. The powerful SierraClub, probably one of the most capable ecological associations in theworld, filed suit, alleging that the protect threatened to destroy theaesthetic and natural equilibrium of Mineral King. The suit was rejectedby the court, not on the grounds that the Forest Service wasright to issue the permit but on the grounds that the Sierra Club hadno claims to support the plea, since its interests were not directly encroachedupon by the project in question let us not forget thatAmerican law rests in principle on the idea that the legal system as awhole exists to protect interests. whatever they may be, and not abstractvalues). When the affair moved into appeals, Professor Stone,who until then had been calmly, defending the ideas of radical ecologyin his university courses, set about to rapidly draft an article proposing,in his own words, "that we give legal rights to forests, oceans,rivers and other so-called natural objects in the environment - indeedto the natural environment as a whole." He had to act quickly so thatthe judges would have a precedent at their disposal, albeit a theoreticalone. As Stone writes in the preface to his book, "Perhaps the injuryto the Sierra Club was tenuous, but the injury to Mineral King - thepark itself - wasn't. If I could get the courts thinking about the parkitself as a jural person - the way corporations are 'persons' - the notionof nature having rights would here make a significant operationaldifference . . ." Conclusion: of the nine judges, four voted againstStone's argument, two abstained, but three voted for it, so that it can besaid the trees lost their trial by one vote ...

    Stone's argument in favor of the rights of objects is not withoutinterest. Its first point, which should delight disciples of Tocqueville,consists in recalling the reasoning - which is standard within thisecologist literature - according to which the day of the right so naturenow come, after that of children, women, blacks, Indians,even of prisoners, the insane, or embryos (within the context of medicalresearch, not to mention abortion legislation ...). In short, Stonesuggests that what seemed "unthinkable" at one time, often not verylong ago, has now become perfectly acceptable. And he cites to felicitouseffect the judgments of a certain court of law which, as late asthe nineteenth century, considered that, to varying degrees, Chinese,women, and blacks could not hold legal rights.

    The requirements for declaring a being a "bearer of legal rights"have naturally yet to be defined. According to Stone, it is necessary,first, that this being be able to bring legal action on its own behalf,second, that in an eventual trial the court be able to consider the ideaof damages or harm brought to this being (and not, for example, tothe being's owner); and third, and last, that the eventual compensationbenefit this being directly. The rest of the work is devoted toshowing, point by point, that trees (and other natural beings) caneasily satisfy these three conditions, provided, of course, that weaccept, as we do in other comparable cases, for other nonreasoningentities, that the subject take legal action by intermediary of itsrepresentatives(ecological associations or others); Stone goes so far as toenvisage a proportional representation for trees on the legislativelevel! An analogous thesis is now being adopted in France by a certainnumber of jurists who are also basing themselves on the principlethat the tradition of modern humanism, according to whichonly humankind has legal standing, should be questioned. Marie-AngeleHermitte, for instance, looks favorably upon the few precedentsby which one "turns a zone, chosen as a function of itsinterest as an ecosystem, into a legal subject, represented by a committeeor an association responsible for asserting that subject's rightto be itself, which is to say its right to remain in the state in whichit stands or to return to a superior state."(6)

Make no mistake about it: these eminent jurists are sane. From a pragmaticor operational standpoint, Stone's argument, even if it can becontested, as we shall see later, is not without coherence: such an argumentwould make it possible to bring suits against large pollutersde facto, in the absence of a direct interest (Stone cites the concreteand indeed problematic case of various enterprises that devastate theenvironment, yet cannot be stopped because the pollution affectszones where no immediate individual interest is being encroachedupon). On a quasi "ontological" level, however, the questions becomemore pressing - the astute legal construction conceals a questionablephilosophical bias in favor of a return to former conceptions of nature.For can it not be said that these thinkers, who claim to be "postmodern"in the literal sense of the word - philosophers of jurists of"posthumanism" - are in communion with a premodern vision of theworld, in which beings of nature recover their status as legal subjects? Is itnot also strange to us, insofar as we are still Moderns, that trees or insectscan win or lose a trial?

    Thus the humanist era is being brought to a close; and this is themain objective for these new zealots of nature. Its oddities aside - andwe would be wrong to think they escape Stone and his friends - thedebate on the rights of trees, islands, or rocks is based on no othergrounds: it is a matter of determining whether the only legal subjectis man, or whether, on the contrary, legal status should extend towhat is today called the "biosphere" or the "ecosphere," formerlyknown as the "cosmos." From every point of view - ethical, legal, orontological - man would be but one element among others, and theleast sympathetic one at that, being the least symbiotic with the harmoniousand orderly universe into which he is constantly, by his excess,by his "hubris," introducing the worst disorder. Is it not time for anew "natural contract" to check this egoism and reestablish the harmonythat has been lost? Is it not in this direction, from a humanisticvision of law to a cosmic one, that this premodern postmodernityinvites us to advance?

The Opiate of the People or the New Ideal

    The new cosmology emerging from these trials, in which trees are elevatedto the status of legal entities, is seductive in more than one wayto those disappointed by the modern world, which is to say all of usto varying degrees. The truth is it has a bit of everything, of almost,even the most classical elements of the now-defunct "great politicalplans." Set against the idea of a cosmic order, ecology - this form ofecology, that is, for we shall see that there are others - reconnects withthe notion of "systems," which we thought thoroughly discredited. Itis at this price - which may seem too great - that it can call itself atrue "world vision," whereas the decline of political utopias, but alsothe parcelization of knowledge and the growing "jargonization" of individualscientific disciplines, seemed to forever prohibit any plan forthe globalization of thought. This systemic, if not systematic, pretensionis indispensable to the foundation of a political eschatology. At atime when ethical guide marks are more than ever floating and undetermined,it allows the unhoped-for promise of rootedness to form, anobjective rootedness, certain of a new moral ideal: purity recovers itsstanding, but it is no longer founded on a religious or "ideological"belief. Instead it claims to be "proven," "demonstrated" by the incontestablefacts of a new science - ecology - which, though global, aswas philosophy, is nonetheless as beyond question as the positive scienceson which it bases itself. If the health department has shown thatsmoking causes serious illness, if laboratories have determined the disastrouseffects of aerosols, if automobile makers themselves are forcedto recognize a connection between exhaust fumes and deforestation,isn't it senseless, even immoral, to continue along tile path of depredation?And is it not the modern world as a whole - Stone is right toinsist - with its arrogant anthropocentrism in industry as in culture(are the two still separate?), that should be incriminated?

    While strong political ideologies, with the exception of religiousfundamentalisms, are in decline the world over, is there not somethinghere to revive the eternal flames of militantism? Especiallysince the critique of modernity can count not only on the fervent supportof the major religious, which are always quick to reprove thevanity of men, but also on the approbation of neofascists or ex-Stalinists,who, with their antiliberal convictions, past or present, repressedout of necessity more than out of reason, are only too glad toembark on a new adventure in science-based politics.

    "Ecology or barbarism": this may well be the slogan of the nextcentury. It is, therefore, important to distinguish the false debate thatthreatens to emerge and the real question still waiting to be addressed.

    The false debate is simple and already familiar to us: the "vigilantdemocrat" calls the ecologist a "fascist" on the grounds that hislove of nature is too redolent of the fatherland not to be a bit khaki inits green. Another variation: the same vigilant democrat detects areincarnation of leftism in the critique of Western civilization andthe praise of the frugal life led by, say, the American Indians. Let usbe clear: the democrat is not entirely wrong, far from it. He is rightto encourage us to reflect on the two perverse tendencies of contemporaryecologism, both driven by the same disdain for formal socialdemocracy, both connected to a solid tradition that had its peak sometime in the late 1930s. But ultimately, we cannot boil the challengesposed by ecology to the tradition of modern humanism down tonothing - to the mere fantasies of alarmist political ideologies.Especially since the "average" ecologist sensibility, that of the man onthe street, has nothing extremist or antidemocratic about it, but derivesmore from an ethics of authenticity, from a concern for the self,in the name of which one insists - and why not? - on a certain"quality of life."

    And herein lies the real question. Our entire democratic culture,our entire economic, industrial, intellectual, and artistic history sincethe French Revolution has been marked, for basic Philosophical reasons,by the glorification of uprootedness. or innovation, which amountsto the same thing - a glorification which romanticism, followedby fascism and Nazism, have continually denounced as ruinous tonational identity, even to local particularities and customs. Theantihumanism of these movements, which was explicit on a culturallevel, was accompanied by a concern for rootedness that lent itself tothe development of a great attraction to ecology. To parody MarcelGauchet's felicitous phrase, "the love of nature" (poorly) concealed"the hatred of men."(7)

    It is not by chance, then, that the Nazi regime, and Hitler personally,are responsible for the two most detailed legislations regardingthe protection of nature and animals in the history of humanity.(8)And yet, we cannot deny that the "hatred of men," understood in anothersense, as the Cartesian disdain for nature, and particularly forliving beings, is also a very real question. We cannot help but recognizethat metaphysical humanism was essentially at the origin of anunprecedented colonization of nature - whether we take this tomean territories or living beings, animals or "naturals," as the "indigenous"used to be called.

    Is a nontyrannical, nonmetaphysical humanism possible?Would it have something other to say than Cartesianism, so concernedwith making man the "master and possessor of nature" - oris the only solution to get "down to earth," to return to old-timefrugality, to the wilderness in which American cinema and Germanphilosophy constantly immerse us? Would such a move signal theend of all that we may love about modern culture, artificial and unnaturalthough it may be? The question here is whether the civilizationof uprootedness and innovation is utterly irreconcilablewith a concern for nature, as appears, initially. to be the case. And,conversely, whether the latter implies a renunciation of artifice. I donot believe so. All the same, if we wish to outline the conditions fora reconciliation, we must realize that we can no longer speak ofecology in the singular. The philosophies that implicitly or explicitlyunderlie the various sensibilities on questions of the environmentare so varied, even so opposed to one another, that no onestatement applies to all, The time has come to take stock of thiscomplexity.

The Three Ecologies

    In France, home of Descartes, but also in most of the Catholic countriesof Southern Europe, ecology has yet to find theoreticians comparableto those of the Anglo-Saxon or Germanic world. The reasons forthis are unclear; the hypothesis that proposes a link between religionand the concern for nature no doubt merits further investigation.Generally, it may be observed that wherever theoretical debates onecology have taken coherent philosophical form they have been structuredinto three currents that are distinct from or even entirely opposedto one another with respect to the seminal question: that of therelationship between man and nature.

    The first is no doubt the most ordinary, but it is also the leastdoctrinaire and, therefore, the least dogmatic; it is based on the ideathat, by protecting nature, man is still first and foremost protectinghimself, even if it is from himself in his capacity as mad scientist.The environment is endowed with no intrinsic value here. Ratherthis scenario stems from an awareness that by destroying the milieuthat surrounds him, man may be endangering his own existence or,at the very least, depriving himself of the conditions for a good lifeon this earth. Thus nature is taken only indirectly, into consideration,based on a position that may be classified as "humanist," even anthropocentrist;it is considered merely, to be the human environment, literallythat which surrounds him - the periphery, then, and not thecenter. As such, it cannot be considered a legal subject, an entity possessingabsolute value in and of itself.

    The second current takes a step in the direction of attributingmoral significance to certain nonhuman beings. It consists in givingserious consideration to the "utilitarian" principle according towhich one must not only look out for man's best interests, but, moregenerally, try to both diminish the total suffering in the world asmuch as possible and increase the quantity of well-being. Fromthis perspective, which is quire common in the Anglo-Saxonworld, where it is the basis for the enormous animal liberationmovement, all beings capable of feeling pleasure and pain must beconsidered legal subjects and treated as Such. The anthropocentristpoint of view is thus discredited within this frame work, sinceanimals are included, by the same token as men, within the sphereof moral considerations.

    The third tendency is the one we have seen at work in the call forthe rights of trees, which is to say of nature in and of itself, includingin its vegetable and mineral forms. Let us beware of dismissing thiscurrent too quickly. Not only is it tending to become the dominantideology of "alternative" movements in Germany and the UnitedStates, it is also the one that raises the matter of the need to throw humanisminto question in the most radical terms. It has, of course,found its own intellectuals. Included among these are Aldo Leopold inthe United States, Hans Jonas in Germany, whose 1979 The Imperativeof Responsibility {Das Prinzip Verantwortung} has sold over a hundredand fifty thousand copies and become the bible of a certain GermanLeft and beyond, and Michel Serres, author of Le contrat naturel (TheNatural Contract), whose theses are probably not truly understood inFrance for what they are: an authentic American-style crusade againstanthropocentrism (Serres has been leaching in California for manyyears and is well-acquainted with this literature) in the name ofthe rights of nature. For this is the primary issue in this third versionof ecology - that the old "social contract" devised by politicalthinkers must give way to a "natural contract," in which the entireuniverse becomes a subject of law: it is no longer a matter of defendingman, considered as the center of the world, from himself, butrather of defending the cosmos from him. The ecosystem or "biosphere"is endowed with an intrinsic value far superior to that of this species - thisgenerally quite destructive species that is the human race.

    According to a terminology now classic in American universities,a distinction must be made between "deep ecology," which is"ecocentric" or "biocentric," and "shallow" or "environmentalist ecology,"which is based on the old anthropocentrism. For more thantwenty years now, without creating the slightest ripple in France beforethe publication of the book by Serres (who remains highly discreetas to his sources), a wealth of literature has been contributing tothe construction of a coherent doctrine of nature as a new legal subject.It is now necessary to take stock of these developments.

    But it is appropriate to consider the tensions that make ecologymovements so complex from yet another perspective. For the renaissanceof feelings of compassion for natural beings is always accompanied by acritique of modernity - designated, depending on the frame of reference,as "capitalist," "Western," "technological," or, more generally,"consumerist." The different critiques of the modern world can takehighly varied forms, thus offering a baseline for a new typology of thefaces of ecology.


Table of Contents

Preface. The Passing of the Humanist Era
Pt. 1: Animals, or The Confusion of Genres
1: Antinatural Man
2: "Animal Liberation," or The Rights of Creatures
3: Neither Man nor Stone: The Enigmatic Being
Pt. 2: The Shadows of the Earth
4: "Think Like a Mountain": The Master Plan of "Deep Ecology"
5: Nazi Ecology: The November 1933, July 1934, and June 1935 Legislations
6: In Praise of Difference, or The Incarnations of Leftism: The Case of Ecofeminism
7: Democratic Ecology and the Question of the Rights of Nature
Epilogue. Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism: The Three Cultures

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The New Ecological Order 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lest anyone take the other review posted here as a fair and accurate reading of Ferry's book, I would like to offer my own reading. Ferry is one of a loosely allied group of French philosophers who, beginning in the mid-1980s, initiated an intellectual revolt against the dominant trends of French thought of that time. (See Ferry and Renaut's 'Why we are not Nietzscheans' for a sample of his and others' contributions to this 'revolution'.) In contrast to the pronounced antihumanism of Foucault, Lacan, et al., Ferry and his associates have called for a renewed commitment to humanism and moderate liberal democracy. To that end, in this book Ferry offers a critique of what has become known as 'deep ecology' in English-speaking countries: the belief that humankind is fundamentally at odds with the natural world, and that we should seek a reconciliation. Deep ecology presents an idealized vision of humans living in a pre-industrial harmony with nature (to the extent that some have even suggested allowing the world's population to decline to only 500 million). In Ferry's view, deep ecology is fundamentally anti-democratic (although this is not true of all environmental movements). He identifies the paralles of deep ecology with ideologies both of the left (utopianism) and the right (Nazism). This is a well-written and quite interesting book, providing a unique insight into the history of environmental ideas. It is fairly easy to read - Ferry is not the stereotypical French philosophy - and I have used it in introductory classes without any difficulty.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book simply whined and moaned and gave no credit to the millions of advancements of medicine that save millions of lievs and technology which made this book possible. Men have made the world in which we live barable to live in to which we owe them an enormous amount of gratitude. And without all of Men's advances we would all be dying with AIDS in Africa. This book is a waste of time and money, we should know whatwe have and be grateful. And we should care for nature but NOT at the expense of any human life!