What is sex? The release of normal boundaries to share ones self with another. A temporary merger of individuals into ecstatic union. Sharing of the essence of self, each acquiring some of the other, and creating a third thing. The physical enactment of the urge toward union. A mutual, intimate relationship of giving and receiving. Ecosexuality is a philosophy that maps something of these definitions onto the human relationship with (the rest of) nature. Let’s play with some of them, starting with the intimate relationship of giving and receiving.
the primal gratitude of hunter-gatherers in awe of the bounty of nature, which they saw as a gift. How could it be otherwise? We did not earn the soil. We did not earn the water. We did not earn the sun, the air, the trees. Their workings and origins are utterly mysterious. We did not earn them, make them, or design them, so they must have come to us as a gift.
As Lewis Hyde puts it, gifts work as agents of transformation, and gratitude is “the labor the soul undertakes to effect the transformation after the gift has been received… until the gift has truly ripened inside of us and can be passed along.”
Think of the “gushers” in the early days of oil exploration. It was as if the ground were bursting with the desire to pour forth the gift of oil. The raw materials for industry were easily obtained. How different from the violently extractive mining and drilling operations of today: blasting away entire mountaintops to get the coal, forcing huge blasts of water deep underground to break the shale and get the gas, pumping enormous volumes of seawater underground to get the oil. It seems the earth is not giving her gifts so freely anymore. She is being forced, coerced, raped, tortured.
To love Earth, we must see it as a subject not an object. Objectification of women, some say, is a key prerequisite for rape. The same must be true of the planet.
Surrender to dead materialism, or abandon materiality for an otherworldly realm of spirit? Today we have a way out of this dilemma, as the Newtonian universe of deterministic forces operating on generic masses against an objective backdrop falls apart, opening the door to a material world that has the properties once relegated to the spiritual.
Knowing the totality of forces acting on an electron or any other particle, we cannot predict its behavior except probabilistically. One goes here, the next goes there – why? The scientist, trying to preserve matter-as-object, says, “It is random.” The pantheist says, “Because each electron makes its own choice.” She says, in effect, “All the world is a subject, just like I am.” Herein lies the crucial difference in perception underlying any falling in love with the material world.
Society as we know it could not function if very many people lived in the ongoing realization of the subjectivity of all beings, because this realization entails a respect and reverence for all life that is flagrantly incompatible with our political, economic, and social systems. It is incompatible with prisons, with mines, with road-building, with borders, with military strikes, with the whole military-medical-educational-prison-political-industrial complex. From the perspective of reverence for all beings, the whole of modern civilization is intolerable.
the study of complex systems reveals that structure, organization, and even beauty need not originate with a designer, organizer, or artist, but are autochthonous properties of non-linear dynamic systems.
Normally, we make the self primary, and see relationships as links between separate selves. In the ecosexual view though, perhaps it is more as Deleuze would have it: the difference, the relationship, is what generates being. We are not beings having relationships; we are nexi in a matrix of relationships. As much as we form relationships, relationships form us.
Whatever scientific and philosophical awakening might be happening, our civilization is certainly not living accordingly in its practical relationship to the planet. Built on old paradigms, our economy and technology embody and enforce earth-as-object. Immersed in this society, we individuals are nearly helpless in our complicity with the world-destroying machine.
What does ecosexuality mean practically, for technology, economy, politics, and human relationships? Are we merely to walk through the same lives looking out through new eyes? No. Ecosexuality is not just a philosophy; it is a way of relating. , In the realm of technology, for example, ecosexuality entails a metamorphosis of present technological power relationships with the earth into a new, cocreative mode of technology. In a relationship, the narcissist asks, “How can I mine this relationship for my own benefit?” The lover asks, “How can I use my gifts to contribute to us.” Exploitative technology asks, “How can we extract as much as possible from the land, for our own ends?” Ecosexual technology asks, “How can we create greater wealth and harmony for people and land both?”
Therefore another realm to bring into alignment with love of the planet is law: rights of nature and the criminalization of ecocide to translate reverence for nature into practical social systems.
It might seem that Earth has been an over-indulgent parent, giving and giving past its capacity and letting its youngest child trample all over it, to the point where its own survival is in doubt. On the other hand, perhaps Earth is wiser than we know, and this is the normal maturation process for an intelligent species such as ours. Either way, it is clear that we are finally hitting some limits. Our childlike innocence is coming, painfully, to an end, as we face the consequences of our despoliation of the earth and the necessity of no longer taking at will.
What is important is that our society always consider Earth’s well-being in its choices, that our giving and receiving are in balance. And the prerequisite for this is to see the subjectivity of the planet, which industrial civilization is awakening to just as it dawns on a child that other people have feelings too; that they are “selves” just as I am.
Further catalyzing the ecosexual awakening were the first photographs of Earth taken from outer space. First appearing in 1972, they pierced our hearts with our planet’s breathtaking beauty and seeming fragility. For many it was the first time they’d seen the planet without borders drawn on it.
Another hallmark of the adolescent passage into adulthood is the coming-of-age ordeal. Human beings instinctively understand its necessity, which is why these ordeals are common in societies that do not suppress such instincts. Employing physical isolation, visionary plants, fasting, intense pain, and other methods, the ordeal is designed to rupture the child’s identity and unconscious beliefs, so that he or she might step into a larger identity as a full member of the tribe. Lacking such ceremonies (or left with mere vestiges like Bar Mitzvahs and baptisms, which might have originated in simulated drowning to induce ego death), young people haphazardly create their own hazing rituals, seek to “obliterate” themselves with alcohol and drugs, and challenge the boundaries of the world with senselessly risky behavior. Whether or not such efforts are successful, eventually life itself will provide us the necessary ordeal; until it happens we do not feel like true adults, but only like children playing grown-up, well into our twenties or even our thirties. The more insulated we are from life’s most shattering experiences, the longer this period lasts, which is perhaps why it seems to last longer in the affluent. Until it is complete, mature love is impossible.
On a personal and social level, the crumbling of the outward expression of the old stories is painful: the crumbling of institutions like marriage, education, justice, health care, and money. Beyond the privation this ordeal brings, there is also a bewilderment, an existential crisis. It is a pregnant space to be in, a sacred space.
The ways in which we once related to the world are no longer sufficient to the challenges we face, whether as individuals or as a species. Eventually, a new story is born to guide us, to provide meaning again, to give us a narrative structure that tells us who we are, where we are going, what is important, what is right, and how the world works. The new story follows and reinforces a new state of being.
Could the story of Lover Earth be that new story for civilization? Returned from our journey of separation, we rejoin the tribe – the tribe of all life on Earth, the tribe of the living planet – and seek to contribute to the wellbeing of all.
Ecosexuality appeals, like Rachel Carson did, to love not shame. It does not attempt to force us into acts that simulate what someone who loves this earth might do. Leveraging shame, guilt, fear, and self-interest to induce politicians, corporations, or anyone else to adopt environmentally friendly policies is tantamount to an attempt to turn the rape of the earth back onto its perpetrators.
To force simulated love, you might say, “Adopt sustainable practices and you will get PR benefits that help the bottom line.” You might say, “Stop driving that SUV or you will be partly to blame for the warming of the atmosphere.” You might imply that whoever “goes vegan” has reason to love and approve of themselves as a good person. Not only are these tactics coercive, they are also ineffective in the long run. The long-term result of environmentalist guilting and shaming is either (1) that their targets get defensive, harden their positions, and dismiss the very real dangers that environmentalists describe as the sanctimonious ravings of alarmists with an “agenda,” or (2) that their targets adopt enough green practices to let themselves off the hook, and do nothing more because, after all, “I recycle and I voted for Obama.” When we wield shame as a weapon to coerce change, the result will be people trying to find ways to approve of themselves and alleviate the shame. This, and not genuine love of Earth, will be their primary motive.
What does the ecosexual do instead, to spread love of Earth around the world? She seduces.
We will not be frightened into sustainability. Fear changes nothing very deep; it is still all about me (us). A real change would be a change in perception, a change in relation; a real change would be to fall in love with Earth and everything on it.
Beneath that upwelling of hate and judgment is pain. Next time you feel outraged and appalled at some incomprehensible evil-doer, feel into the quality of the pain underneath it.
feeling of helplessness, of being crushed by enormous, implacable powers; it is a feeling of alienation from the whole universe. It is a kind of loneliness, signaling an need to connect, to unite.
relationships standardized into transactions, laws, job descriptions, grades, and bureaucratic categories. Alienated in a million ways from the livingness, sentience, and sacredness of all beings – alienated, that is, from the qualities of self that unite us with other – of course we hurt and rage, all against something so ubiquitous we cannot know what it is or distinguish it from life itself. We can heal that alienation by making love: by enacting all the ways and means of experiencing the other as self.
To reclaim gift from money, to reclaim matter from commodity, to reclaim eros from patriarchy, to reclaim justice from punishment, to reclaim childhood from schooling, to reclaim nature from “resources” – all are expressions of ecosexuality.
it is the action of fear to create more fear. Believing as we seem to that the problem in the world is evil (or whatever label we give to the Other), no wonder we act as if the solution were to conquer. Every political cause becomes a fight, a campaign, a struggle, a battle – military metaphors all. We seek to win the war against corporate greed. Let’s be wary of this mentality, if for no other reason than its complete congruence with the war against nature, against the wild, against the wolves and the weeds and the mosquitoes and the germs and all the other alienated parts of this living earth that is in truth the extension of our own selves.
The ecosexual seeks to move toward reunion with all the lost and alienated parts of himself, human or otherwise.
The judgementality I was speaking of, whose essence is, “I would not do as you did, were I you” – i.e. you and I are fundamentally different, separate – is not erotic. It does not dissolve boundaries; it enforces them.
None of this is to imply that there is never a time to discriminate, never a time to fight, never a time to enforce boundaries, and never a time to enact what Jung would call the masculine principle of Logos. We are sexual beings, but we are not only sexual beings. In our culture, though, our sexual nature is suppressed, channeled into the margins, or given partial or superficial expression to neuter its revolutionary potential.
communitywhere there is now alienation, wholeness where there is now separation, abundance where there is nowscarcity