Last March we published Timothy Morton's Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics, in which the author argues that the chief stumbling block to environmental thinking is the idea of nature itself. It's an intriguing thesis, and Morton's book marshals an eclectic range of sources to put together an argument for what he calls "dark ecology."
Well, it turns out that none other than world-renowned theorist Slavoj Zizek has gotten his hands on a copy of Ecology without Nature. Presumably he read it and liked it, because he decided to give a lecture on it in Athens that, fortunately for us internet users, has been posted on YouTube for our viewing enjoyment. We've embedded part one below and will provide links to the other five parts, but here's a quick précis transcribed from the talk:
The underlying message of this predominant ecological ideology is a deeply conservative one: any change can only be a change for the worse. So what is wrong here? What is wrong I think is the … principal position … that there is something like “nature,” which we humans, with our hubris, with our will to dominate, disturbed … [W]e know Jacques Lacan's motto, “The big Other doesn't exist.” I think we should extend this to nature. The first premise of a truly radical ecology should be, “Nature doesn't exist.” … So again what we need is ecology without nature, ecology that accepts this open, imbalanced, denaturalized, if you want, character of nature itself. [I]t is … all too easy to attribute our disbelief in the catastrophe to the impregnation of our minds by scientific ideology. [The] standard thesis of the predominant ecology … says something like this: “The ultimate cause of our ecological problems is modern technology, Cartesian subjectivity, within which we are abstract beings somehow outside nature, who can manipulate nature, dominate nature … what we should rediscover is that nature is not out there, an object of our manipulation. Nature is our very background, we are wired to nature, embedded in nature. You should go out, feel, breathe nature. You should accept that your abstract scientific reification … is just an alienating effect of being embedded in the life world.” I think that far from offering a solution, this kind of reference to our immediate living experience is the cause of the problem.
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