Ecology and community

Ecology: What we’re doing to “the planet” is highly problematic, no doubt.

But this is not what very directly affects the felt experience of our everyday lives.

Community: As in … loss of.

* * * *

Whether you look at our species history since breaking off from the great apes and starting to adapt culture two million years ago or you think in terms of the emergence of homo sapiens 300,000 years ago, almost all of our social reality has been lived in small-scale bands or tribes or villages among a stable group of familiar others.

We’ve been neurotic all along and our cultural expression has been unbelievably diverse, chock full of oppression, inequality, discrimination, injustice, hierarchy, perversity, abuse, brutality, exploitation, psycho- and sociopathology. That will never go away. Neither will our wondrous creativity, generosity, sophistication, altruism, virtue.

We are what we are. Religious and socialist utopians live in their heads.

* * * *

But we’re suffering. It’s due to a wrong turn taken relatively recently in our species history.

* * * *

You can’t get rid of inequality.

The problem is the scale of it.

The wrong turn magnified everything. It has brought us to a point where all is hypertrophy. The scale of “our” governments, institutions, technologies, oppressions, inequalities, injustices, hierarchies, exploitations, population densities, states, cities, corporate empires, militaries, and overall sociopathologies . . . is insane.

These things are not ours. They are manifestations of the Leviathan that we confront every day. Within it we have lost our grounding, our relation to place; lost the human scale, lost community.

That’s what it means to say that “we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” The garden wasn’t Eden. It reflected who we are. Very imperfect. But it was basic and natural.

Our experience was simply sustaining life together in a community in a place.

That’s all there is. Forget about “progress and development.” We need to get back to a basic reality of sustaining life together in community.

It’s a long way down. But it’s the pathway back to sanity.


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Steven Welzer

The editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a movement activist for many years (he was an original co-editor of DSA’s “Ecosocialist Review”).