9 – For a new political ecology

By Teresa 

The words “economy” and “ecology” come from the same Greek root word, oikos, which means household or home. Over the last 500 years, the economy has gotten quite far from home, and today’s economic system is nothing more than a series of death rituals for destroying our true home, the ecology. What would an economy look like that better fits the needs and budgets of our planet’s limited ecology? What would an economics look like that centers ecological and social care at the global scale? 

Social care and ecological care are deeply intertwined. This is something that has been revealed in the work of countless historians. Our present ecocidal regime is rooted in the trauma created by systematized forms of anti-humanism. 

As each new form of systemic oppression arises, we are all retraumatized and rendered numb to the ecocide happening all around us. The crypto-aristocrats of capitalism are always inventing new ways to trick us into oppressing each other — transphobia, homophobia, ableism, Sinophobia, racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, classism (especially against the un-housed), settler colonialism, anti-Indigeneity — the list goes on and on. 

Our economic oppressors trick us into fearing the beautiful diversity of the robust human ecology. They constantly seek to invent new ways for us to traumatize each other, to discount each other’s experiences. When we become numb to each other, we become numb to ourselves, and when we lose touch with ourselves, ecocide becomes easy. What level of self-other care would be needed to make ecocide hard again?

Our differences are taproots that bind us to the planet, that weave us into the social ecology in ways as mysterious as life itself. Life is a deeply anarchist impulse that has propelled us all from a lightning strike in a mud puddle five billion years ago, a lightning strike that organized matter into life, that same spark still pulsing through every living thing on this planet.

Ecological care takes bright eyes and a light spirit, it takes emotional space to be able to be present for the blooming buds, to notice the thirst of taproots, to luxuriate in the smell of luscious, healthy soil rich with microbes. Ecological care takes the ability to be fully present for the living world that cradles us, so that we can hear it when it cries out. When this year’s salmon run is lower than the last, the ecology is crying out. When once damp forests become as dry as tinder, the ecology is crying out. When the swarms of insects that once emerged certain times of year vanish and the birds start falling from the sky, the ecology is crying out.

When we are traumatized, we cannot respond to these cries, even though we feel them in our bodies, bones and cells. Our body-minds know our planet is being killed, that a mass ecocide is underway, that our fates are tied to the fate of all life on Earth.

What level of healing is needed to overcome the trauma that numbs us to the death of our own planet? How do we gain the clarity to perceive the dying animals as our siblings in struggle? How do we re-center the voices of Indigenous people who have deep relationships with the creatures of their ancestral lands? How do we elevate the voices of those who are systemically oppressed so that their beautiful differences can’t be used to make people afraid and cause more trauma?

The ecology is our home. It is time to cast the pretenders from the throne. It is only through deep systemic trauma that a demiurge as feckless as the stock market and other ledger-based death games have been able to stand in for the oikos. It is time to reunite the economy with the ecology, and to rid our societies of the horrific systemic oppressions that make ecocide possible.

Further Reading/Viewing:

  • The Salmon People by Children of the Setting Sun Productions thesalmonpeople.com
  • Racism as Zoological Witchcraft: A Guide to Getting Out by Aph Ko
  • The Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology; especially the chapter “Jahát Jatítotòdom*: Toward an Indigenous Political Ecology” by Beth Rose Middleton
  • The Intersectional Environmentalist: How to Dismantle Systems of Oppression to Protect People + Planet by Leah Thomas
  • Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation by Silvia Federici
  • Racial Capital by Cedric Robinson