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EAP Publication - 9



Macdonald Campus of McGill University Montreal, Canada

We are not going to be saved by nuclear power, not even by solar power; nor by any religious or political doctrine~he only thing that can save us is to become perfectly connected with our inner most feelings his is our fundamental responsibility us human beings.

1. Problems and Solutions

Humanity now faces the following interrelated problems: pollution of the environment, over-population, overkill of renewable resources and accelerated consumption of non-renewable resources (with which many people in industrialized countries have an addictive relationship), various maldistribulion problems (money, food, housing, education, work, recreational opportunities and facilities, etc.), prejudice (race, class, culture, religion, etc.), war and the non-peaceful use of power (Ehrlich et al. 1977).

These all result from things that we, as individuals, do, and for which only we, as individuals, are responsible. Consequently, one could argue that our current ethical system is not functioning adequately, and that we need to re-examine our values and the ways in which they influence our lives (Satin 1978, Skolimowski 1979).

There are three quite different approaches that are currently being applied to, or proposed for, the above problems (Benson 1977). Firstly, there is the technological fix or magical bullet approach. l think that we are, at last, beginning to realize that there are limitations to these narrow, or specialist, approaches (Farvar & Milton 1972, Dixon 1978). We see this, for example, in the dominant approaches to disease and pest control in agriculture (Hill 1978). Thus, while we do not suffer from diseases and pests because of a deficiency of antibiotics or of pesticides in the environment, these remain the dominant solutions. Such approaches tend to be short-term in their benefits, long-term in their disbenefits, some of which may even be irreversible, such as the loss of a species; and, in my opinion, they are generally irresponsible. Confronting the causes of a problem requires, not a simplistic magical bullet approach, but a more complex multi- and transdisciplinary management approach (Dasmann et al. 1973). This is where I believe that ecology has much to offer, particularly because of its concern for all of the influencing variables and their interrelationships (Odum 1977). The second major approach emphasizes controls, and the establishment of regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S.A. exemplifies this. I think that this approach is also limited. I certainly would not want to be a member of a society in which everything was controlled; indeed, l do not enjoy the present level of controls. Space Colonies represent the kind of product of such thinking (Co-Evolution Quarterly 1976-7). Spaceship Earth, an interesting, but limited, concept, is also part of this scenario (Boulding 1966, Fuller 1970). The third approach, which I believe we must all consider sooner or later, involves the examination of our values and redesigning of our life-styles (Miller 1977, Schumacher 1977, Science Council of Canada 1977). This will undoubtedly involve giving up some things and doing some new things (Centre for Science in the Public Interest 1976).

We want to act in a responsible way, yet many of the problems seem to be getting worse; and the technological fix and control approaches still dominate. There seem to be at least three reasons for this. Firstly, we have great difficulty viewing ourselves objectively, of really experiencing, or feeling completely, what we are doing. Secondly, we suffer from the closely associated problems of information explosion and specialization. Simply put, it is difficult for somebody who has spent his/her life in a very narrow area to appreciate the broader ramifications of his/her activities. Thirdly, the fact that we no longer live within the natural environment makes it very difficult for us to relate to it responsibly; we have become detached. For example, the relationships between environment, soil, agricultural practices, food quality, and health are not widely appreciated. Academically, those involved with the various parts of this environment-food-health chain rarely cooperate with one another in their research (Fig. l). In Government we find the same isolation between Departments. In Canada, for example, the 1977 Federal food policy paper was authored by Agriculture, and Consumer and Corporate Affairs, but not by Health and Welfare (Hill 1978a). How has this situation come about?

Prior to the development of agriculture our species was very much at the mercy of the support environment; now, particularly through industrialization, we appear to have gained the dominant position (Fig. 2).1 believe that our future is dependent on our developing in partnership with the support environment, moving to what some people have called the post industrial era. If we do not do this our future will undoubtedly be marred by a building series of crises, some of which are already with us, as indicated above. We need to make a greater effort to study the workings of nature, spend time in the natural environment, sensing the way things work and, ultimately learn how to imitate, and work with, the processes that operate, to our long-term advantage.

2. Ecological Ethics

Talk of the need for an environmental, ecological or land ethic is not new (Barbour 1973, Miller 1975). In 1949 Aldo Leopold wrote:

An ethic, ecologically is a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for existence First ethics dealt with the relation between individuals. . .later . . . with the relation between individual and society. The extension of ethics to land is. . tan evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity. All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. . this instincts prompt him to compete for a place in the community, but his ethics prompt him to cooperate (perhaps in order that there may be a place to compete for).... The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.

In 1977 Roderick Nash revived this discussion in a paper entitled, "Do Rocks Have Rights?". He argued that we must evolve an ethical framework that broadens our concern from the self down, through the evolutionary and organizational hierarchy, eventually to all components of the environment, even to rocks (Fig. 3). There are only two (Fig. 4) or three (Fig. 5) sources of information that we can turn to: externally there is the environment and the data that we have accumulated (the functional relationships between its physical, chemical, and biological components), the domain of ecology; and internal/y, our individual and collective wisdom (intuition, feelings, experience). Thus, the degree to which our relationship with the environment is supportive or stressful is determined by our external and internal access. These are the immediate sources of our moral and ethical imperatives.

Ecology has recently developed dramatically in three areas: 1) its application to such endeavors as pest control and fisheries, 2) mathematical systems modelling and computer simulation and 3) through developments in theoretical ecology (Holling & Clark 1975). Thus, we are no longer dealing with old fashioned natural history, although its value remains. My concern is not whether ecology can meet the challenges confronting it, but rather that our present population is not very fertile ground for the dissemination of ecological ideas. To pursue this further we must turn to psychology.

3. Feelings

A number of psychologists have noticed that their clients have become more able to extend their ethical framework from the se j to the support environment as they cleared their neuroses. Janov (1975), for example. states that:

Morality [ethics] does not exist on the deeper [feeling] levels of human existence...only what is.... It is an extraneous concept...based on a basic distrust of human intentions.... Morality is what fills the gap when people leave their feelings behind.... The only meaningful discipline IS feelings.

Janov finds that when his clients gain contact with their inner being, or, what he calls their feelings, they naturally impose internal controls on their behaviour without feeling stressed

Feeling people [those who have resolved their primal pain] cannot harm others or even...animals.... They experience the impact of their every act.... They have no need to be immoral.... They don't want more than they need.

In our society there is a tendency to try to achieve the same ends by the imposition of external controls (laws and regulations). Janov argues that as feelings, or being in touch with oneself) increase so do the internal controls of one's actions, and the need for laws and external controls diminishes. Thus, in an environment that emphasises external controls, individuals might be expected to be more insensitive, neurotic, insecure and manipulative: whereas if internal controls are emphasized they might be more sensitive, balanced, secure and respecting (Fig. 6). These seem to me to comprise some of the prerequisites for the development of an ecological ethic. A similar comparison can be made at the societal level (Fig. 7). Janov's thesis is that unresolved or unexpressed pain leads, through an adaptive process, to loss of access to our feelings (wisdom), and manifests itself as neurotic (unethical) behaviors, which cause internal and external harm (Fig. 8); only by expressing that pain can we eliminate unethical behaviors and become fully sensitive to the environmental and biological imperatives that both surround us and exist within us.

In a previous presentation I discussed four such imperatives: recognition of needs vs wants, biochemical constraints, and the complex and cyclical nature of natural ecosystems (Hill 1977). Others have been listed by Commoner (1970) and Dansereau (1966).

I would like to close by quoting a poem by Elizabeth Odell. I hope that the beauty of her verse will help to convey to your hearts the essence of what I have been trying to discuss in this presentation.

Flat outstretched upon a mound Of earth I lie; I press my ear Against its surface and I hear Far off and deep, the measured sound Of heart that beats within the ground. And with it pounds in harmony The swift, familiar heart in me. They pulse as one, together swell, Together fall; I cannot tell My sound from earth's, for I am part Of rhythmic, universal heart.


I would like to thank Toni Bird for transforming my ideas and scribbles into an organized format. I am grateful to Eric Mountjoy and Maureen Hill for introducing me to Nash and Janov respectively, to Peggy Nickels for editing and Elizabeth Grundy for preparing the visuals.


Barbour, I.G. ed. 1973. Western Man and Environmental Ethics. 276 pp. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA.

Benson, J.W. 1977. Energy and reality: three perceptions. 38 pp. Inst. Ecol. Policies, Fairfax, VA.

Boulding, K. E. 1966. The economics of the coming spaceship earth. Pp. 3- 14 in H. Jarrett ed. Environmental Quality in a Growing Economy. 173 pp. Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD.

Centre for Science in the Public Interest, 1976. 99 Ways to a Simple Lifestyle. 317 pp. C.S.RI., Washington, DC.

Co-Evolution Quarterly. 1976-7 See various articles for and against space colonies. Sausalito, CA. (e.g., Winter '76-7, pp. 96-7).

Commoner, B. 1970. The ecological facts of life. Pp. 18-35 in H.D. Johnson ed. No Deposit-No Return. 351 pp. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA.

Dansereau, R 1966. Ecological impact and human ecology. Pp. 425-462 in EE Darling & J.R Milton eds. Future Environments of North America. 769 pp. Natural History, Garden City, NY. (Pp. 459-60).

Dasmann, R.F., J.R Milton & RH. Freeman. 1973. Ecological Principles for Economic Development. 252 pp. Wiley, Lond.

Dixon, B. 1978. Beyond the Magic Bullet. Allen & Unwin, Lond.

Ehrlich, RR., A.H. Ehrlich & J.P Holdren. 1977. Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment. 1053 pp. W.H. Freeman, San Francisco, CA.

Farvar, M.T. & J. P Milton, eds. 1972. The Careless Technology: Ecology and International Development. 1030 pp. Natural History, Garden City, NY

Fuller, R.B. 1970. Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth. 143 pp. Simon & Schuster, NY.

Hill, S.B. 1977. Natural laws in relation lo population growth and the ecosystem. Pp. 747-757 in The Search for Absolute Values: Harmony Among the Sciences. Vol. 1. 1032 pp. International Cultural Foundation, NY.

------------. 1978. Agricultural chemicals and the soil. Pp. 18-53 in Chemicals and Agriculture: Problems and Alternatives. Canadian Plains Proceedings 5, 190 pp. University of Regina, Saskatchewan.

-------------. 1978a. The energy situation and its implications for food policy. Pp. 170- 183 in J. M. Besson and H. Vogtmann eds. Towards a Sustainable Agriculture, 243 pp. Verlag Wirz Aarau. Switzerland.

Holling, C.S. & W.C. Clark. 1975. Notes towards a science of ecological management. Pp. 247-51 in W.H. van Dobben & R.H. Lowe-McConnell eds. Unifying Concepts in Ecology. 302 pp. W. Junk, The Hague.

Janov, A. 1975. Further implications of levels of consciousness: on morality. Pp. 269-273 in A. Janov & E.M. Holden: Primal Man: The New Consciousness. 532 pp. Thomas Y. Crowell, NY.

Leopold, A. 1949. A Sand County Almanac. 226 pp. Ballantine, NY. (Pp. 238-9).

Miller, G.T. 1975. Living In The Environment: Concepts, Problems, and Alternatives. 593 pp. Wadsworth, Belmont, CA. (Pp. 365-80).

Nash, R. 1977. Do rocks have rights? Centre Mag., Nov./Dec., 2-12.

Odum, E.P. 1977. The emergence of ecology as a new integrative discipline. Science 195: 1289-93.

Satin, M. 1978. New Age Politics. 240 pp. Whitecap, Vancouver (2nd edn. 1979 Dell Books, NY.).

Schumacher, E.E 1977 A Guide For The Perplexed. 147 pp. Harper & Row, NY.

Science Council of Canada. 1977. Canada as a Conserver Society. 108 pp. Supply & Services Canada, Ottawa.

Skolimowski, H. 1979. A twenty first century philosophy. Pp. 3-32 in H. Skolimowski ed. Eco-Philosophy: Designing New Tactics for Living. Marion Boyers, Lond

Copyright 1978

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