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Moralism, mysticism or strategy

I was raised in a materialist tradition, and so have been deeply suspicious of mystical or spiritual explanations of reality. I was also taught to ground political actions in strategy rather than morality, that is, based upon their impact rather than upon bearing personal witness. Recently, however, I’ve been told I’m taking moralistic political stances and grounding my activism on a spiritual, even mystical, embrace of our planet’s biosphere. I’m only slightly guilty as charged.

I’ve been charged with demanding purity for refusing to vote for “lesser-evil democrats.” I voted for the Green Party candidate in 2012, not because Obama was already guaranteed Massachusetts’ electoral votes, but because his support of increased fossil fuel extraction and the military industrial complex was pushing us to the brink of ecological disaster. I was told that because Mitt Romney’s policies were worse, it was “moralistic” to advocate voting for the Green Party, even in hotly contested Ohio.

I reject this claim. While my position is fueled in part by moral outrage, its primary basis was and is strategic. Both major political parties’ policies increase the likelihood of environmental catastrophe; therefore we must not vote their standard bearers into office. We should not waste our time, energy and money, on electing candidates who are more likely to impede rather than aid our efforts to save life on our planet.

It will not be easy, and it isn’t even certain that it is possible, but the only way to save ourselves is to build a mass movement outside of both major political parties. You may disagree with me, but my position is strategically based.

And I haven’t become a mystic either, but it is true that I believe now that the needs of the biosphere trump the needs of humanity. This puts me at odds with those who espouse a green socialist distribution of resources while placing human beings at the center of the ecosystem (even though I do believe such a redistribution is a giant step in the right direction). I fear that our species, both self-aware and uniquely capable of environmental manipulation, retains an almost adolescent sense of self-importance, leading even green socialist solutions to maximize our biospheric footprint at the expense of other species. I doubt our ability to manage in a truly sustainable manner earth’s awesome web of animals, plants and minerals as long as the ultimate aim of such management is to meet human needs. If we fail to understand that people are not the pinnacle of evolution, that we are not more deserving or better than other species, we will revert to exploiting our planet unsustainably.

There may be a spiritual component to my gut-felt sense that our species must come to accept a humbler place in a greater whole. However, I also see this as strategically necessary to prevent us from distorting the biosphere in a manner that could destroy it. You may disagree with me, but my position also has a material basis.

Perhaps at this point in our struggle it is premature to focus on the issue of understanding our place in the biosphere. Maybe, but I can’t figure out a good strategic route until I know the destination. Read More 
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