The Sun also Rises

 

 

The sun also arises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to its place where it arose.

It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;

nothing is deprived of its warmth.

 

I’m not much for reading the Bible but I love the odd aphorism. And lately, Ecclesiastes’ “the sun also rises” and Psalm 19 have been ringing in my head.


So I thought I’d better unpack what it meant to me.


Recently, the Beloved and I sold our rural property.


What? I hear you gasp? After all these years of struggle as owner builders?


Yes, that’s true. After all those years of struggle. Being a niche, green, feminist, left-wing, activist consultant was a difficult balancing act – especially throughout the Global Financial Crisis.


I blogged about that in January 2014:


https://sarkissian.com.au/activism-planning-australia-delicate-balancing-act/


Work was hard to find and debts mounted as the house was still not finished. All our savings and super went into the building project.

 


We love it. But professional work did not come as expected.


A loving friend has bought the house and we stay on as renters.


Now we are engaged in another project: renovating the shed as a secondary dwelling. Living on a building site again. Muddy boots in the hall. Again.



Many friends and family were aghast to hear that we’d sold the farm.


But what else could we do? It was either a loving friend or the bank. And we did not want to lose everything we had worked for.

 


So I say back to my incredulous friends, “The sun also rises.”

 


What I mean is – through the same trees  – with the same birds singing – the same sun still rises and sets– whether your name is on the title or not.

 


If you do not own a property and are a renter, the same breeze blows, the same kookaburra arrives for a peek at life around dinner time. His or her same family members laugh in unison from the neighbouring tree. The same rainbow lorikeet dreams in the same bottle brush.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA




The same joey suckles with his same wallaby mother.


I am not saying that housing security is not important. It’s everything to everyone and a constant worry to anyone who is a renter. It’s everything to us, which is why we bless our generous friend.


I am simply saying that life goes on.


The Earth continues to flourish – offering hope and opportunity in response to our caring (Go, Bentley!).


The same sun rises and sets.


Our human dramas are but a small and ephemeral part of a much larger world.


We come and go and the Earth remains.


Capitalism, finance, banks, mortgages, investments, interest, valuations and property – they are all made up – and they can’t hold a candle to the same sun.


The same sun that also rises.

 

sunset nimbin

 

 

 

 



Update 23 July 2015: The sun is still rising over the hills and melting the fog in the valley.   And we have experienced even more love and care with a new friend taking over when the old friend could not continue.

 

And other generous folk helping out in numerous ways. We have learned more about generosity, caring, home, attachment, territory, resilience and fear than we bargained for.

 

And a bit about betrayal along the way, as well, just to keep the mix interesting!

 

 

 

Reflecting on EcoEnco, Environmental Ethics and Deep Ecology

Happy campers Photo: David Deeley 2013

Happy campers                           Photo: David Deeley 2013

 

EcoEnco

Recently I spent a wonderful week at the EcoEnco retreat in south-western Western Australia with an intergenerational group of passionate, green, committed, like-minded people.

See: https://ecoenco.com


 

The forest Photo: David Deeley 2013

The forest                     Photo: David Deeley 2013

 

The focus of our work for that week was Deep Ecology.

 




As our work deepened and our friendships strengthened, I realised that not all of us had had the luxury of a full-time PhD  in environmental ethics. I did mine back in the early 1990s at Murdoch University in the “salad days” when interdisciplinary teaching and learning still existed there. I was blessed with the supervisors from heaven: Patsy Hallen and Peter Newman. What a beautiful and heart-warming experience it was.

 

Thinking about the EcoEnco retreat made me want to dust off some of my writing on environmental ethics. So here it is, for all to ponder and enjoy.

 

 

Walk in the forest   Photo: David Deeley 2013

Walk in the forest           Photo: David Deeley 2013

 

Environmental ethics

In our attempt to make conservation easy, we have made it trivial.

Human beings are not prepared intellectually for the extension of the social conscience from people to land.

 

Roderick Nash, The Rights of Nature, 1989.

 

Assaults on the rational comprehensive model of planning mirrored wider societal changes. By the middle of the Twentieth Century, it became clear – to philosophers and environmentalists alike – that the main approaches of traditional Western moral thinking failed to recognise the intrinsic value of the nonhuman world or Nature. Many identified a need for a significant overhaul of the philosophical tradition. The dominant Western view, they argued, unjustifiably discriminated against those who were outside the privileged class of humans. This Workbook’s contents to this point reveal that most mainstream ethical thought is primarily anthropocentric, that is, it focuses on ethical relationships between human beings and ignores the nonhuman or greater than human natural world. By the early 1970s, environmentalists and philosophers began to identify the entrenched human-centredness (or human chauvinism) of mainstream Western ethical thought.

 

Environmental ethics seeks to redress this omission. According to Timothy Beatley, author of Ethical Land Use (1993), environmental ethics is the most fundamental aspects of the relationship between humanity, other life forms and the Environment or   Nature, as well as the moral obligations of humanity to the Earth community. It is the discipline in philosophy that addresses the moral relationships of human beings to and the value and moral status of the environment or Nature. It is a set of principles, values or norms relating to the ways we interact with our physical or `natural’ environment that should not be seen as a set of invariant moral principles for all dilemmas.

 

Because anthropocentrism is the default ethic in traditional Western ethical thought, it has been a challenge for environmental ethics to carve out a distinct discipline within philosophy. And, as environmental ethics has progressed, it has developed many sub-disciplines with distinctive characteristics and views.

 
Emergence of the field of environmental ethics

Environmental ethics has been around for a long time. It is not a new development in the history of philosophy. There has been sustained philosophic reflection since the 1970s, with some important influences decades earlier. Early influences were scientists like Rachel Carson, who called for a restraining device on `technological man’, claiming that Nature does not exist for the convenience of `man’. From the first Earth Day in 1970, environmentalists continued to urge philosophers to consider philosophical aspects of environmental problems. Two seminal papers encouraged the development of environmental ethics: Lynn White, Jr.’s `The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis’ (1967) and Garrett Hardin’s `Tragedy of the Commons’ (1968). However, one highly influential early book, Aldo Leopold’s classic, Sand County Almanac (1949), is credited with bringing the philosophy of environmental ethics into the modern world. That book explicitly claimed that the roots of the ecological crisis were philosophical (1949). This was a radical departure – both for philosophers and for environmentalists.

 

Aldo Leopold: father of recent environmental ethics

Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) was just the type of man who could tackle the project of building a bridge between environmentalism and philosophy. He was an American author, scientist, ecologist, forester and environmentalist, as well as a professor. The Land Ethic (1949), a highly popular book, examined in a holistic way the inadequacy of moral individualism in light of ecological interdependence. It also confronted the inadequacy of sentientism.18 Leopold’s clear views were expressed in deontological terms. An action is right if it preserves integrity and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong if it tends otherwise.

 

These views were strongly linked to Leopold’s view of interdependence. He argued that, `All ethics rest on a single premise: the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts’. Further, `A moral being respects a living thing’.

 

Approaches to environmental ethics: different philosophical and political stances

Over time, environmental ethics has developed diverse philosophical and activist qualities. Radical environmental ethicists seek to reinvent and change our perceptions of our relationships with and responsibilities to Nature. Those of a more Reformist bent seek to adapt and extend conventional ethical frameworks. Many other views comprise the philosophy of environmental ethics, including Deep Ecology discussed later in these materials. One philosophical position unites all, however: humans are not simply individuals but are connected to, embedded in and in relationship with Nature.


Fundamental principles of environmental ethics

American planning academic, Timothy Beatley, captured the essence of the new field of environmental ethics from a planning perspective when he contended that, `all land-use decisions invariably involve ethical choices’. His work is an examination of the ethical dimensions of land-use decisions and policy, on the premise is that all land-use decisions invariably involve ethical choices. Decisions about land use raise fundamental and complex moral and ethical issues. Yet, claims Beatley, the existing normative ethical framework traditionally used to guide such decisions is narrowly economic and utilitarian. Further, the deeply anthropocentric underpinnings of planning make ethical decision making difficult. His work, as educator and activist, seeks to expand the ethical foundation for land-use decisions by proposing a set of tentative principles for ethical land use.

 

 

Timothy Beatley

Timothy Beatley

Environmental ethics addresses the ethical issues covered poorly by traditional ethical approaches. It explicitly addresses the value of Nature, the rights of the nonhuman (or greater-than-human) world and our relationships with and responsibilities for Nature. Among environmental ethics’ important contributions is a recasting of the `value’ of Nature, especially with respect to other people and cultures.

 

Different kinds of value

Understanding value is very important in environmental ethics. Its Latin meaning is `to be worthy, to be strong’. Thus, environmental ethicists ask what something is worth to us. Does it have intrinsic value – the value of an object independent of the presence of the valuer? Alternatively, does it have inherent value, which requires the presence of a valuer who can appreciate object or experience? On the other hand, is its value (as with most anthropocentric approaches) instrumental: the value of object or experience serving as means to accomplish a goal? Appreciating the nonhuman world in terms of its intrinsic value is a radical shift from the deeply anthropocentric philosophical formulations of mainstream ethical thinking discussed above.

 

Moral or ethical considerability

Another aspect of environmental ethics, related to the ethic of caring is the subject of considerability. Moral or ethical considerability asks the radical question, Who or what deserves consideration? Who or what should be `counted’?

 

Further, it proceeds to define the criteria of deservability. This approach invites us to see the scope of our moral relationships as greatly broadened to include the following categories of beings:

  • Fellow human beings throughout the world;
  • Future generations; and
  • Nonhuman or greater-than-human life or beings.


At one end of the considerability spectrum, you could argue that only people deserve consideration. At the other end, you could argue that any organism with an interest in its own preservation and which makes plans for the future is deserving of consideration. Environmental ethicists ask how far we can defend moral or ethical considerability. Should ethics be only human-centred, animal-centred, life-centred, everything-centred, or should it extend to the biosphere as a whole (ecological holism)?

 

The considerability spectrum, shown below in the table below, is one way of depicting who or what could be worth of moral or ethical consideration as part of our moral or ethical `community’.

 

Only Humans

Human beings at the centre of one’s worldview (anthropocentrism)
All sentient Beings

Who have the capacity to suffer(feel pleasure or pain)
All biotic entities

Who are alive

Inanimate entities

“¢Air

“¢Water

“¢Soil

“¢Mountains

“¢Beauty in

landscapes

All entities

“¢ Wildness

“¢ Aesthetics

“¢ Ecosystems and species

The Considerability Spectrum:

Who or what is worthy of consideration as part of our moral or ethical community?


Deep Ecology

 

Deep Ecology is one of the principal schools of contemporary environmental philosophy. Its founder, Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess, intended it to be a call for a fundamental rethinking of environmental thought that would go far beyond anthropocentric (human-centred) and reform environmentalism. Instead of limiting itself to the mitigation of environmental degradation and sustainability in the use of natural resources, Deep Ecology is self-consciously a radical philosophy that seeks to create profound changes in the way we conceive of and relate to Nature.

 
Three meanings of the term `Deep Ecology’

The term `Deep Ecology’ has three distinct meanings:

Meaning 1: A deep questioning about environmental issues, probing the fundamental causes of environmental problems and the underlying worldview of environmental policies. It reflects critically on those fundamental assumptions and refers to any environmental philosophy that critiques deep-seated worldviews and proposes a radical alternative.

 

Meaning 2: A platform, first formulated as eight principles by Arne Naess and George Sessions in 1984:

 

  1. The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have value in themselves (synonyms: intrinsic value, inherent value). These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes.
  2. Richness and diversity of life forms contribute to the realization of these values and are also values in themselves.
  3. Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs.
  4. The flourishing of human life and cultures is compatible with a substantial decrease of the human population. The flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease.
  5. Present human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive, and the situation is rapidly worsening.
  6. Policies must therefore be changed. These policies affect basic economic, technological, and ideological structures. The resulting state of affairs will be deeply different from the present.
  7. The ideological change is mainly that of appreciating life quality (dwelling in situations of inherent value) rather than adhering to an increasingly higher standard of living. There will be a profound awareness of the difference between big and great.
  8. Those who subscribe to the foregoing points have an obligation directly or indirectly to try to implement the necessary changes.

 

This platform aims to articulate Deep Ecology’s central views and values, based on a common philosophical core while remaining open to a plurality of worldviews and policies.

 

Meaning 3: A philosophy of Nature.


Deep Ecology and shallow ecology

Arne Naess distinguished between two forms of environmentalism: (1) the `long-range deep ecology movement’ and (2) the `shallow ecology movement’. Philosophically, `deep’ referred to the level of questioning of our purposes and values; it involves deep questioning, right down to fundamental root causes. The short-term, shallow approach stops before fundamental change, often promoting technological fixes based on the consumption-oriented values and methods of the industrial economy. The long-range deep approach involves redesigning our whole systems based on  values  and  methods  that  truly preserve  the  ecological  and  cultural  diversity of  natural systems.

Officeworks and Reflex Paper: “I have to pay my mortgage and feed my dogs”

September 12, 2011 – 5:34 pm

 

Officeworks Lismore: a Bulletin

 

 

On Saturday I drove 72 kms. round-trip to my local Officeworks store in Lismore, NSW in the vain hope that they might have stopped stocking Reflex paper. I signed the pledge and the petition (with 11,000 others!) months ago and so far my boycott has meant that I have taken my business to others.

 

But operating a small business in a tiny village means I am reliant on some companies. And Officeworks until recently has been one of them.

 

Why is this boycott important?

 

Officeworks buys paper that is made from native forest timber. Simple as that! is well aware of the environmental costs of native forest logging – and that ready alternatives exist – but they continue to support this by stocking the Reflex range. They do this despite their own Corporate Social Responsibility policy, which states that Our goal is to fully integrate environmental responsibility into every facet of our operations by select[ing] better products for the environment.

 

Hmmm.

 

Greenwash? I wonder?

 

With the Wilderness Society, I believe that it is well past time for Officeworks to start taking their own policies seriously and to refuse to stock Reflex Paper until its producer, Australian Paper, no longer sources wood fibre from the logging of native forests.

 

So this matter was in my mind when I went into the store.

 

I was told by an embarrassed young man (who told me that he had to pay his mortgage and feed his dogs and therefore could not speak out against a policy he clearly did not agree with) that the stock of Reflex paper was new and that they were still stocking it.

 

So I asked to speak to the Duty Manager.

 

I think that Richard, who arrived after some time, had probably had enough of North Coast activists by the time I arrived.

 

But if he traced my stationery purchases over the past ten years, he’d see that not listening is not going to be good for business.

 

“Officeworks: Clean up your act” National Day of Action, 13 September 2011

 

Hopefully the day of action tomorrow (www.ethicalpaper.com.au) will help him see the error of his ways. Richard has no point of view. native forests from becoming copy paper.

 

To give Officeworks the extra motivation it needs to continue its role as a leader in paper retailing, the Wilderness Society, in partnership with environment groups across the country, are holding a National Day of Action to name and shame Reflex and Officeworks for their hand in forest destruction in Australia.

 

On the morning of 13 September, stores across the nation will be visited by troops of “janitors” telling Officeworks to clean up its act! Armed with vacuums, dustpans, sponges, and rubber gloves, volunteers will descend on Officeworks, scrubbing Reflex from their shelves. On the day, the TWS aim is to show Australian Paper and Officeworks that Australians will not stand for our precious forests being turned into office paper.

 

The “Company Man”

 

As I looked into Richard’s face, his cold eyes and unsmiling, trembling lips and listened to his hard `company’ line, I was reminded of a comic character, Twimble, “The Company Man” in a movie of my young adulthood: How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (1961):

 

Twimble: I play it the company way;
Wherever the company puts me
There I stay.

Finch: But what is your point of view?

Twimble: I have no point of view.

Finch: Supposing the company thinks . . .

Twimble: I think so too.

Finch: Now, what would you say . . .?

Twimble: I wouldn’t say.

Finch: Your face is a company face.

Twimble: It smiles at executives
Then goes back in place. “¦

Finch: So you play it the company way?

Twimble: All company policy is by me OK.
“¦

Whoever the company fires,

I will still be here.

Finch: You will still be here.

Both: Year after year after fiscal,

Never take a risk-al year!

 

Shame, Richard. You can do better than that: But what is your point of view? I have no point of view.

 

Officeworks has already shown us they are willing to take action in this important issue when it comes to paper from overseas. Now is the time for Officeworks to keep this high standard they have set for themselves and suspend the sale of Reflex paper while it is made from the critically endangered Leadbeater’s Possum Habitat.

 

Day of Action!

 

If you believe that in this International Year of the Forests that it is simply unacceptable to woodchip and sell our native forests as Reflex paper, please join us.

 

To RSVP and for more action details please contact TWS Community Campaigner, Tri�r Murphy, on 0433010390 or by email [email protected]

 

For more information

 

https://www.wilderness.org.au/campaigns/forests/officeworks-clean-up-your-act

 

Do you need to buy office copy paper and do you also care about Australia’s forests?

 

Don’t buy any Reflex copy paper and don’t buy any copy paper from Officeworks.

 

Buy these copy paper brands (recommended by the Wilderness Society):

  • Evolve
  • Vision
  • Fuji Xerox Recycled

 

And try, as a supplier, EcoOffice (great Australian-owned company who does care about Australia’s native forests)

 

Why bother with community engagement, anyway?

question
April 11, 2010 – 9:43 pm

 

In the past couple of weeks I have been confronted by many aspects of the community engagement debate. Angry residents questioning my integrity as I try to help them with a local environmental problem I’d say qualifies as a “wicked problem” in their neighbourhood.

 

Then I experience my own neighbours resisting the changes that dual occupancy (or accessory units) might bring to their subdivision of half-acre lots.

 

And then, finally, a wealthy developer with a large site asking why we needed to bother with community engagement at all – when there are (apparently) no activists or “greenies” in this (a large country town) community and there are no frogs or anything that could be considered endangered.

 

Or that anyone would get in a lather about or go to the press about”¦

 

In a (somewhat) small voice I was muttering to myself about an “engaged citizenry” being a value in its own right.

 

Who would do community engagement for a living?

 

I would.

 

I keep at it, trying to help where I can, accepting that to some I am a “mercenary”, or the hired gun of the developers who are paving over paradise.

 

And to others, I am a hopeless, naive optimist who does not understand the “bottom line”.

 

All these personae.

 

The same me.

 

The best part of this very challenging period was an unexpected phone call last night from an old friend – a prominent developer – encouraging me and bolstering my spirits. We’ve been friends for nearly thirty years. He had the same thing to say about his profession, recounting a conversation over lunch last week with a fellow developer: who could be a developer?

 

Vale Arne Naess

 

 

Last year we mourned the death of the great Norwegian environmental philosopher, Arne Naess, father of Deep Ecology and the first Chairman of Greenpeace Norway when it was founded in 1988.

 

See: https://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jan/15/obituary-arne-naess

 

I was blessed to have heard him speak on two occasions: once in Melbourne and once in Killarney, Ireland.

 

The frontier is long

 

Naess, who was 96 when he died in January, 2009, reminded us that “the frontier is long”.

 

The community engagement frontier is long, too. There’s a place for all of us working for reform and seeking to empower communities.

 

Naess’s birthday was the day before mine. He was my hero.

 

I want to be working for reform when I am 96, too.

 

I may not have the wealth of the greedy developer with his cynical and opportunistic views of community engagement.

 

Hopefully, my ethical self will be alive.

 

And hopefully, I will still be having provocative weeks like the last few – to remind me what my life is for.

 

And why, like Arne, I am here on Earth!

 

Why bother with community engagement, anyway? Because it’s important!