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(en) France, Union Communiste Libertaire AL #305 - Ecology, Pandemic: No, "nature" does not take revenge (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Sun, 24 May 2020 07:34:50 +0300

The idea of ​​a struggle between "nature" and "humanity" opens three doors to eco-fascism: the social order would be "natural"; mass deaths in natural disasters are said to be a matter of legitimate regulation; an authoritarian regime would be necessary to respond to the ecological crisis. ---- The absence of ecological virtues of the coronavirus is no longer to be demonstrated. However, despite the evidence, ecological discourses on the pandemic are multiplying: it would be a " revenge of nature " to warn us, the " defense of Gaia ", or even, the simple reflection of the decadence of our society since " we [humans] are the virus " . These representations of the epidemic constitute the ideological basis of what must be called eco-fascism. Such readings of the pandemic are based on two concepts: " nature " on the one hand and " humanity"  " the other. These two sets are said to be in perpetual struggle, the second seeking to escape from the first. In other words, humans and humans would set themselves the permanent goal of no longer undergoing the laws of nature, or rather certain myths considered as such. This great narrative structures more or less explicitly a number of ideologies, from the so-called " progressivism " of the ruling classes to the most reactionary conservatism. In the first case, this wrenching from nature would be positive, because " progressive ", in the second it would be negative, because " decadent ".

Humanity is not homogeneous
Leaving the schema of a struggle between nature and humanity is essential to build a libertarian political ecology. Because this scheme is not only simplistic, but essentialist. First of all, it is based on an understanding of these two sets as being homogeneous. This is not the case: humanity is the abstract grouping of all humans in the same entity, but all are far from having the same social position. If fighting against " nature " there were all humans would not be equally responsible. Certain discourses, despite their recognition of structural social inequalities, moreover, reproduce this homogenization by assimilating the whole of society to a " virus  " " The workers would then be as responsible as the employers for the destruction of " nature " by participating in the functioning of society. But ecology does not supplant the class struggle: recalling it is absolutely necessary.

The environment is not immutable
" Nature " is not a homogeneous whole either. Despite its polysemy, the latter most often means " everything that is not of human origin ". Everything that humans and humans would not have made would therefore be part of it: living beings, minerals ... even humans and their social structures ! It is their physical and mental fabrications that would be excluded: objects, buildings, art, etc. A whole grouping together such different things, which have in common only that they are not " human ", cannot be considered relevant (nor homogeneous). But this understanding of " nature " as a vast grouping of beings and things subject to a set of " laws  Remains widely shared. It is the basis of a number of common representations of the social hierarchy, of the ecological crisis or, in this case, of the pandemic - of its causes and of its consequences.

In the collective imagination, " nature " is generally considered to be immutable, eternal, because it is distinct from humanity and its history. When it comes to social situations, mobilizing their " natural " character is never neutral: it serves the interests of the dominant. Making this observation, political ecology joins here the materialist feminists in their criticism of the political uses of " nature ". Rejecting such arguments is a prerequisite to avoid the many gateways to eco-fascism offered by " nature " used in this way. Three of them can be distinguished:

the presentation of a given social order as being " natural " to legitimize it. The immutable nature ofdelegitimizing “ nature  ” or even prohibits any attempt to change it. This submission to a transcendent nature prefers mysticism to social criticism;
the legitimacy of the mass death of human beings in natural disasters, seen as a revenge in the context of the permanent struggle between " humanity " and " nature ". This reasoning also presents overpopulation as a fundamental ecological problem which would be regulated by natural hazards (or pandemics);
the need for an authoritarian regime imposing rationing and eugenics to protect " nature " against " humanity ".
Far from being distinct, these three ideas reinforce each other and are a breeding ground for eco-fascism. Many people use one or the other without always measuring their dangerousness. Fighting ecofascism also involves deconstructing reactionary representations of the world that nourish it. All the people who mobilize " nature " in their political speeches are of course not eco-fascists - otherwise, the great recurrence of this notion would be extremely worrying. But, despite its sometimes harmless uses, the idea of ​​" nature " is part of the slippery slopes.

An ecofascist solution to the ecological crisis? An authoritarian regime establishing rationing (of the dominated classes), even eugenics.
Extract political ecology from the influence of " Nature"
If it seems difficult to completely do without " nature " in everyday language, removing political ecology from its influence remains a fundamental objective to pursue. Developing a libertarian political ecology can quite be done outside the idea of ​​" nature ". Getting out is not an easy task, but a multitude of alternative concepts exist which can accompany it: environment, environments, non-humans, etc. This may seem to be only an intellectual complexification: in reality it is a question of extracting political ecology from the reactionary biases which found the common conception of ecology.


This article is adapted from a longer article on the author's blog, Spring Outlook .

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