The Ecological Citizen: A peer-reviewed ecocentric journal

Long article

Ecological civilization: A premise, a promise and perhaps a prospect

Freya Mathews

The Ecological Citizen Vol 3 Suppl C 2020: 47–54

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First published: 4 March 2020  |  Permanent URL  |  Download citation in RIS format


Two broad approaches to ecological civilization are here distinguished: the reformational and the transformational. The reformational approach seeks to limit the ecological impact of modern industrial civilization without changing its underlying human/nature dualism. The transformational approach seeks to change that premise by instituting entirely new modes of praxis that integrate economic production with ecological functionality: forms of economic production are proposed which do not merely limit the impact of production on the biosphere but contribute positively to its ecological health and functionality. Biomimicry, understood as a principle of design, is considered as an operating principle for such an economy but is rejected in favour of biosynergy, understood as a protocol for engagement. Defined in terms of the twin principles of conativity and accommodation and least resistance, biosynergy is proposed as a fundamental protocol of living systems. Modes of production guided by biosynergy would not seek to create artificial systems modelled on the design features of living systems; rather, they would engage collaboratively with living systems in ways that encouraged them to provide for human needs while simultaneously enhancing the functionality of those systems. Crucially, this would require us as humans to adapt our ends to those of such systems; in a word, to desire what our ecological-others need us to desire.