The Abstract Ecology of Modern Life: Re-imagining Environments as Public Spheres
Greear, Jake P.
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Many discourses within environmental political theory center on reconfiguring political structures to empower geographically situated populations to become public stewards of their local environments. However, in the developed world the hope for ecological self-government is doubly challenged by the atrophy of the civic spirit and the general apathy of most citizens in the face of environmental destruction. In a search for an explanation of these cultural circumstances this essay gathers the sociological critiques of the techno-scientific epistemology and the public management of risk offered by Ulrich Beck with some social studies of the production and use of space. These critiques reveal aspects of everyday life that comprise a distinctly disengaged mode of person-world interaction. This mode of subjective worldly interaction frustrates any decentralist environmental politics because it distills in consciousness a depressed conception of personal agency, and constructs local environments as realms of imperceptible significances and hopelessly complex â scientificâ processes, which must be ascertained by external knowledge and judgment producers. Communal, political stewardship of local environments requires trusting humanly scaled faculties of perception and engaging in the work of producing local knowledge and judgments. It therefore entails refocusing attentive faculties on the local landscapes that bind publics together and re-appropriating these environments as realms of participatory civic agency. This politicization of the immediate environment may be the best hope for instilling ecologically sustainable values and for reintegrating, and therefore reviving, currently dysfunctional public spheres.
- Masters Theses