A philosopher puts into words what the industry has known for a while, and maybe others will listen
NOT THAT BP's pathetic bumbling helps the situation any, but when the petrochemical industry refers to hard-line ecologists as ideologists - people who act as if their beliefs were an orthodox religion - the general public usually scoffs, preferring to believe that the protectors of nature would have nothing other than the noblest of intentions.
Recently, though, I discovered that leftist philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Žižek has, in various forums, called ecology the "new opium for the masses." He says, "Ideology addresses real problems, but mystifies them."
At a lecture in Greece, Žižek noted, "The underlying message of this predominant ecological ideology is... any change can only be a change for the worse."
The philosopher argues against the notion that nature would be a perfect, healthy system if it were not for humans' disrupting influence.
This idea of nature as some pristine ideal will keep us from dealing with the problems at hand. "What is wrong I think is the... principal position... that there is something like 'nature,' which we humans... disturbed," he says.
At another point, Žižek expands on his themes: "While one cannot be sure what the ultimate result of humanity's interventions into the geo-sphere will be, one thing is sure: if humanity were to stop abruptly its immense industrial activity and let nature on Earth take its balanced course, the result would have been a total breakdown, an imaginable catastrophe."
He notes, " 'Nature' on Earth is already to such an extent 'adapted' to human interventions; the human 'pollutions' are already to such an extent included into the shaky and fragile balance of the 'natural' reproduction on Earth, that its cessation would cause a catastrophic imbalance."
Because he is a philosopher and not an engineer or technician, Žižek can only offer a philosophical answer: "Indeed, what we need is ecology without nature: the ultimate obstacle to protecting nature is the very notion of nature we rely on."
Žižek may not have an answer - but so far, neither does anyone else - but perhaps a new way of looking at things is a step in the right direction.