At the beginning of his volume decrying environmental alarm, Gregg Easterbrook derides "those daffy 1950s Popular Mechanics articles" depicting futures of technological wonderworlds, where "we'd all be flying personal helicopters." (xix) He brings up the matter as an example of how his proposed outlook of ecorealism is not an endorsement of the technological lifestyle." (xix) By the end of the book, in Chapter 36, after attempting to defuse worry about ecological problems coming to pass in almost every area of concern --ozone depletion, habitat destruction, greenhouse warming, and 18 other areas-- he is confident enough in ecorealism to let it guide his own brushstrokes of the future. But this future, or "New Nature," lo and behold, is completely intertwined with sophisticated hi-tech fixes: wolves cured of their carnivorism through genetic engineering, humans eating meat grown not in animals but in vast biotechnological vats, all diseases throughout nature extirpated, earth-threatening asteroids vaporized, aging ended and people living to 125, murder made obsolete by gene insertions, and in the end, death overcome through a machine that keeps one's consciousness alive in perpetuity after the body has gone to dust.
It would appear either the author forgot what he wrote on p. xix about daffy futuristic projections and the ecorealist nonendorsement of technological lifestyles, or his daffy projection is, by some stretch of reason, not technological as it appears. Enigmatically, the latter explanation seems to be the author's thinking. Just before outlining his "New Nature," Easterbrook describes human intellect as nature's way of overthrowing nature's own inability to act by design. Overlooking the question-begging in this proposition and considering the author's thrust throughout the book that our human activities are just as "natural" as nature's, we understand that what in English is "technology" is in Easterbrook's tongue just a manifestation of nature, merely like wasp nests and ant hills. Though he never bothers to put his pieces together in the following way, we might deduce that he is saying there is no need to endorse a technological lifestyle any more than there is a need for bees to endorse hive-building: Nature ordains us to control nature --we do not have the choice to endorse anything-- in order to put the stamp of conscious design upon nature. Our apparent wills to conquer and order are just more spills and eruptions in the blind thrashings about of natural forces, analogous to the formations of biomolecules out of the void.
This scenario is Baconism to the extreme, with a perverse twist of sociobiology: It is not simply in our best interests to perfect nature; our intellect is the blossom through which nature gives birth to its own dexterity and reaches around and pumps itself to perfection, correcting its flaws it made during its nonconscious stage. At the same time, Easterbrook reminds us all the way through, nature's destructive forces are so gigantic compared to our own destructive potential, our civilization can be pulverized any year now by an ice age or asteroid: Nature is posed to suddenly stomp this poor flower perfection, this frivolity, any moment.
Such unwieldy sophistry can be explained only by one thing: ideology. Easterbrook is possessed by a planet-sized ideology, which he does not admit or is unaware of but which informs every word of his supposedly disinterested critique of environmentalism. After 650 pages of well-researched and documented commentary on environmental programs and philosophies --sober while witty and amiable-- in Chapter 35 (Part Three), Easterbrook turns and inadvertently reveals the ghoulish spirit, the freakish vision of hyperbiotech/bionic future, that energizes all the previous show of best intentions and ecological optimism. This watered-down Mephistopheles speaks smoothly as an East Coast-educated gentleman. Yet his turn into a hi-tech monster at the end is regrettable, for he might have had something valuable to teach.
o address how the earth should be used puts one in an immediate bind: It would seem that directing how the large social forces that use this planet should operate must in turn master these forces and so necessitate an ideology. This inevitability poses a quandary because, in defending the Earth from depredation, one is usually fighting an ideology so overwhelming and all-encompassing that ideologies --philosophical systems that position humanity's purpose and motivation for action within the universe, usually as the basis for a political or economic unit-- themselves seem to be the culprit. Nonhuman animals function perfectly well without ideologies. If we could shrug off these onerous mental constructs and simply live, the feeling seems to go, we might carry on like the rest of nature and halt its demise. Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature (hereafter Ecofeminism) struggles to shirk ideologies while deriving an ethic for interweaving (to borrow one of its favorite clichés) all human behavior within nature's fabric, though leaving the question whether it has truly purged all ideology. The Case Against the Global Economy/And for a Turn Toward the Local (hereafter Case) vilifies the current predominant ideology --just as the title proclaims. But as the subtitle whispers, the volume also substitutes a new ideology-- one of small, localized, even bioregionally oriented economies that prevent oligarchical buildup and, through traditional means tempered by new research, maintain a balance between resource use and renewal. The Frankenstein Syndrome (hereafter Syndrome), though addressing only a fragment of natural resource use --animals for genetic engineering-- seems to offer a critique of such use and develop ethical guidelines without resorting to ideology-construction; however, an ecofeminist critique, for example, might show that this book nevertheless works within an ideological framework. And The Chicago Gangster Theory of Life takes an objection to environmental politics and theory in general, including bioregionalism and ecofeminism, because of their ideologies, particularly the ramifications of their "austerity" programs. In turn, the author has implicitly asserted another ideology.
If this sampling of works is any indication, it would seem that not only can no one no sooner rip down an ideology than one sprouts in its place, but also, enabling the force that tears down requires an ideology. Unlike flowers and bacteria, does the human condition dictate the development of ideologies? Could it be that the complexities of our peculiar, language-based social interaction are energized by the intellectual representation of our species' operational function upon this planet? If so, is there any way to construct ideologies that both optimally soften our tread upon the Earth and upon each other, that is, maintain both ecological soundness and human liberty? Although none of the volumes address the first two (preliminary) questions, the problem posed by the last one reverberates throughout all five works.
n one of the more infamous versions of the Gaia hypothesis, the Earth is an organism (not merely like one) and has its own immunelike correction mechanism to ward off microscopic predations by germs such as human beings. So we can stomp, holler, make hay, have our jollies till our sores bleed, and Gaia will burp and go on living. Easterbrook tacitly takes this view in his take on ecorealism. It would be too easy to dismiss his pollyannaish optimism about the --believe it or not-- improving condition of the environment as so much "Wise" Use denial of reality, and his own self-labeling as "liberal" and "environmentalist" as something akin to "Wise" Use organizations calling themselves "Environmental Conservation Coalition" (an actual "Wise" Use group) and other deceptive misnomers. In fact, his denial of a real threat in ozone depletion, wetland loss, radiation from nuclear power generation and its wastes, the population explosion, man-made toxics, acid rain, energy resource depletion, water pollution, and deforestation all square with the "Wise" Use denials. His statement that "Amazonia is so expansive and so lightly if clumsily touched by the human hand that stretches of the region dozens of miles in length remain nearly uncharted," (594) despite its tentativeness (how can an acre or square mile be "nearly" uncharted?) has the same pooh-poohing sound about human presence on the planet as any good antienvironmentalist's. But there is good reason to grant that Easterbrook is an environmentalist and not a sham trying to sneak inside the movement and sabotage it. He does start off with the handicap of a laudatory blurb by Bush EPA-honcho William Reilley on the book jacket. Significantly, Easterbrook grants the soundness and effectiveness of such monumental laws as the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Clean Air Acts of 1970 and 1990, and the Endangered Species Acts (ESA), declares what good things they have done, and specifies that some of these laws, such as the ESA, should be strengthened (xx). Throughout the book, one of his mantras is the good that strict regulation can bring, as in California's regulations on automobile fuel-efficiency (305): "Ultimately, all environmental protection is in everybody's self-interest" (306) (though he also hints his ideology). He contends that 500 million or so acres of land in some form of government-protected status in the United States "is not enough": "Land preservation is a bequest from the present to the future." (434) He deplores and decries "Wise" Use heroes Ann Burford and James Watt, Reagan's EPA and Interior managers, respectively. To dismiss Easterbrook as an antienvironmentalist because parts of his argument resemble that of such persuasion would only work against the environmental movement by both risking insufficient characterization of the real traits and intentions of the antienvironmentalists and by forfeiting the possibility of and overreacting to constructive criticism. Easterbrook does not deny, for example, that greenhouse gases lead to global warming nor that efforts should be spent to investigate this prospect and potential control over their emissions. Instead, he stresses throughout the book that one of his major goals is to dampen the alarmism he alleges is endemic in the environmental movement and damages the movement because, in his view, the public is turned off when so much doom and gloom is predicted and, worse, the doom never arrives as promised. So he enjoins us to restrain the hew and outcry about global warming and sealevel rise (supporters' projections of which have been coming down over the last decade, he argues), given the inadequacy of computer models and unclearness of data --and not because he fears the costs of greenhouse-gas reduction of $100 billion to $3.6 trillion, as some estimates hold. Indeed, he feels that, as countries such as Japan and Germany that have undergone energy austerity have experienced, reducing carbon-gas emissions demands efficiency and thus can only boost an economy. He takes issue with the notion that the scientific uncertainty should lead us to action rather than delay, since "after all, there was, in the 1970s, a great deal of scientific uncertainty regarding that decade's fashionable notion that an ice age was beginning." (303) Though Easterbrook applauds Clinton's intention to curb greenhouse emissions so "Society may start learning the art of carbon reduction" (312), he warns that the politics of earmarking vast funds for a fashionable and poorly understood cause can detract us, as happened at the 1992 Rio Summit, from "confirmed [environmental] emergencies, such as... 7.8 million children dead each year from drinking infected water and breathing dense smoke." (315)
This blend of denial of the problems' significance, praise for attempts to solve the problems, and rosiness in spite of any potential problems, does --despite its inanity-- have its method. Easterbrook's Part One of three puts humanity and its usual overblown egoistical view of itself and its problems into the perspective of the natural universe. Of course, we are nothing --as we have known at least since The Preacher in Ecclesiastes-- but Easterbrook takes this truism beyond common wisdom. He employs a couple of opposing images or metaphors toward the same end: One is to portray nature as a dumb, dead, but lethal force that could hardly have a care what little mess humans might add to the vastly larger chaos:
Environmental destruction is axiomatic. Even if humanity should magically vanish from the globe tomorrow, the environment would not be preserved. Forests would continue to rise and fall; creatures to disappear to extinction; the climate to change; lush lands to blow away into deserts... (42)
For all the fashionably correct guilt many environmentalists attach to the human presence on Earth, I have no doubt nature looks on men and women with lasting affection, because we do what nature asks: We live. We honor the Earth's most basic injunction: Take of the inanimate, the vapid drone of vibrating atoms, take ye and show me life... (47)
(The Biblical Elizabethanisms are not lost on the reader.) These two opposing ways of viewing nature --as something plain dead and as something dead that we should imagine as having eyes that peer on our living selves as the ultimate end of this dead thing-- run into trouble when asked to do too much:
If you were nature, which would worry you more: killer [asteroids] that can destroy the biosphere of entire continents; or parts per quadrillion of toxics that might cause a few additional cancer deaths per decade? (30)
Dead nature can go smash up species by the millions as it "pleases," but somehow, when we are to think like nature, it suddenly "cares" that human destruction pales beside nature's own. On the other hand, when nature does care for anything, that thing turns out to be homo sapiens --Easterbrook does not think too much of bugs (37)-- the species that appears best equipped to "take of the animate... and show me life," whatever exactly that means --apparently, to manipulate matter into highly ordered structures, which are the unique domains and signs of life, as if such fashioning is what this dead chaotic nature wants to have done to itself. Easterbrook has stacked his metaphors so that humanity is obliged to the universe to assemble as many human-styled artifices as possible and must not worry that the entropy it generates in the process is infinitesimally small compared to nature's throughout the universe.
This interpretation of Easterbrook's meaning represents the benign treatment; it would be too easy to dismiss his argument as utterly incoherent. After all, an inanimate, indifferent nature that could send an asteroid into Earth and explode the planet beyond habitability cannot care if we fulfill any mission about fashioning this dead matter into signs of life, so we do not have to feel at all obliged to thus fashion. Instead of dismissing his entire book because of its bizarre reasoning for putting human environmental depredation into perspective against the universe, one might grant him this perspective and see where it leads. In Part Two, "The Short View: Thinking Like People," he focuses his perspective of our moment on earth onto the depths of geohistory and spacetime to assess just how badly or permanently we have hurt our home. Such a critical assessment of the environmental movement can have value, as any criticism can. Given the feisty political arena, the movement is understandably insular and defensive, and steady reevaluation of cherished tenets can only strengthen the movement by giving it the authority of increased perspicacity. For example, evidence is mounting that plants and other organisms, made wise by several billion years' of developing intricate biochemical machinery, can assemble chemicals that more precisely and ingeniously fit the DNA and other structures of their predators, such as us, thus making better poisons than most any random process within a humanmade chemical reactor, which does not design substances to lock with jigsaw-puzzle snugness onto our biochemicals. Thus, aflatoxins from Aspergillus spp. molds, found in many human foods, are among the most potent carcinogens known. Admission that humanmade chemicals do not always signal "bad" nor natural ones "good" can open the way to more careful assessment of the relative risks of toxins, so efforts toward environmental protection can be optimally relegated. Easterbrook never asserts, as some conservatives have, that such findings about natural chemicals' toxicity mean the artificial are good; he uses them as a way to demonstrate the relative risks of all kinds of toxins. Similarly, he later describes the relative cost-effectiveness of certain toxin cleanup campaigns, which range from $200,000 per life saved for cleaning trihalomethane from drinking water, to $92 billion per life saved for cleaning atrazine from drinking water (449) --a cost of over 1% of our GNP per life saved. The idea is not that we can ever put a cost on a life; rather that, given the fact there is only so much money in the world, how can we spend it to save the most lives? Easterbrook makes similar effective arguments about radon and asbestos. He shows how monster-laden fears about genetic engineering are misinformed. He paints how nature quickly repaired itself just a few years after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound regardless of the millions spent on human efforts at cleanup ($80,000 per otter saved). One of Easterbrook's major themes is that misinformation or skewed environmental data, too easily fanned by the movement's doomsday attitude, can lead to the sort of mass hysteria that leads to chemical cleanup laws requiring $92 billion per life saved, when a more rational attitude toward toxins could be directed to more effective lifesaving campaigns.
The problem that many environmentalists may have in getting this far in listening to Easterbrook's argument is that it is so deeply embedded amid statements that sound very presumptuous, given the tenuous nature of the science. Industrial forests (tree farms), he says, "teem with life. In the commercial woodlands of the Northwest, nearly all native plants and animals flourish. Almost everything that happens in the industrial forest is driven by nature."(396) In trying to show that human management of woodlands can be just as natural as nature's own management --apparently so we might feel less guilty about getting our use from these biomes as long as other species get theirs (as humans have truly done in some forests in some form for thousands of years)-- he glosses over research that shows tree farms do not sustain the species diversity of natural woodlands. In discussing general land use, he favorably notes that the "dikes, dams, and channels [that] now exert control over the Everglades" help save lives now, unlike those 1500 lost when a hurricane caused Lake Okeechobee to overflow (439), neglecting the fact that after such a hurricane, people wisely would have settled outside such a disaster zone, and ignoring the fact that making the mouth of this monster-zone liveable for humans has created perhaps the greatest wetlands disaster in the country. He dismisses the humanmade greenhouse effect, then says, "mild warming is probably in society's interest... higher crop yields and lower energy consumption are powerful pluses." (301) He denies that the aridity of the Southwest should be a reason to limit development because plentiful solar energy can provide loads of energy (apparently, carting in millions of acres feet of water thousands of miles to the region will pose no ecological problem). Easterbrook shows either a lapse in his biology or a bioregion-centrism, with statements like, "If you're going to ruin something in the ecology the best choice is deserts, as total life in these places is low" (364); and distinct speciesism in "[the world] is full of living things that are better than bugs --a lot better" (37), although life on Earth could survive without us but not without bugs. About the population problem, he says inscrutably, "the whole notion that there is a proper level of population for Home sapiens, or for any species, would be nonsensical to nature" (475) --overlooking research on, say top-predator carrying capacities. Completely twisting the population control argument beyond recognition, he says, "In the end, the desire to control human numbers so that areas of the Earth might be bereft of people is not a modest urge, but a self-centered one." (481)
Easterbrook must overcome at least two problems in his reasoning before he might begin to fill in the presumption-ridden holes in his ecorealism. One is a flaw in his metaphor about thinking like nature (besides the fact that the notion is utter nonsense); the other is an oversight in his reasoning about recent environmental upswings as a cause for misty-eyed optimism. His metaphor goes beyond common wisdom about humanity's relationship to nature because of the very universe-wide and transchronic scale he employs. The few seconds that humanity has lived and the handful of atoms Earth and its lifeforms represent against the billions of years and 1080 or so atoms of the cosmos are certainly minuscule, but outside of astrophysicist circles, we do not deal in this framework. If we muck up a river, surely in 100 million years, that river will not only be long cleaned but long gone. Most current species, maybe we, too, will be gone in that timeframe. What matters --to people who have the moral and aesthetic capability to see-- is the quality of the physical world we know and how our actions affect the sustainability of life as we know it. Likely, some kind of bacteria would survive our worst depredations, and life would keep evolving. At the other extreme, few people are fool enough to think preserving Yosemite Valley in a park will keep those vistas fit for a Kodak moment for the next several trillion years. Ecologists realize species come and go, but keeping a vast wetlands free of dams, dikes, and malls will at least free up some territory for nonpigeon, nonrat species to evolve. Easterbrook understands this viewpoint to some extent, as he reiterates the importance of land preservation, of air-emissions controls, of maintaining good stewardship. But his concern seems to stop at the level of the idea that stewardship is just a sort of good thing in itself, a nice moral habit, like being tidy and combing your hair and making your bed. It makes you a model citizen. He lets his universal timespace metaphor get the better of him. Through his immense inverted telescope pointed at the Earth, indeed deserts look lifeless, bugs uninteresting, greenhouse warming possibly the only another blip in geologic climate shift, ozone loss only temporary, and tree farms only another kind of woods.
The other flaw in reasoning also helps inform his rosy optimism of the ecological future. Perhaps the major theme of the book is: Environmentalists are so gloomy, their doomsday pronouncements will turn people off; indeed, look at all the environmental improvement in the last 25 years --we should uphold these successes and win converts through hope, not despair. As a lemma to this theorem, he points out, over and over, how the doomsayers, such as Rachel Carson and Barry Commoner, have continually seen their dire predictions disproven by events that transpire. But at least some of the "silent spring" Carson cautioned about was averted because she brought the public's attention to the threat of DDT, and regulatory action was taken (though the substance is still causing mischief a quarter of a century later). Similarly, other environmental predictions (which, more accurately, are usually warnings) do not come to pass due to the opposite of a self-fulfilling prophecy --call it a "self-defeating" prophecy: The warning causes people to take action and avert catastrophe. Easterbrook upbraids the woman who yells "Fire! You'll burn to death!" and who thus clears everyone out of the theater before the conflagration: No one burned to death, though she said they would. Certainly, environmentalist doomsday rhetoric is tiresome, but so far it has gotten us off our bums --establishing the clean water acts and other legislation that have reversed enough fatal trends to fuel Easterbrook's rosy-cheeked optimism in humanity's ability to keep the planet tidy, as he projects, while we expand technology throughout the galaxy cluster and take the helm in every niche of the natural world and turn nature into one vast hydroponic farm. We should indeed acknowledge and promulgate the environmental movement's successes --to show that public improvement is possible. But Easterbrook is too eager to sever the hand that nurtured these triumphs and neutralize cautionary rhetoric before he has proof whether such a strategy is the best way to scare people out of their complacency.
What drives Easterbrook into these two critical lapses in his argument, in turn motivating his brash statement about Earth's population carrying-capacity, the relative insignificance of Everglades degradation, the benefits of greenhouse warming, the primacy of the "lifeless" desert Southwest to accommodate the population explosion? In Part Three, "The Green Future: People and Nature Learning to Think Together," when he finally unbuttons his overcoat and inadvertently reveals in his program for our species' future the true soul luring us through these pages, he still does not confess his colors. We have to coax them out ourselves. And once we see what he is made of, we realize he has been dropping spoor all along. In Part Three, he tells us "people, machines, and nature can learn to work together for each other's mutual benefit, achieving plateaus each alone would not be capable of." (658) The curious thing here is that the three prongs of his people/machines/nature triad are given equal weight, so it is as much of a concern that we and nature work for machines' benefit and lift them to ever-higher plateaus. Though appalling on its own, such a program should not be too surprising in light of Easterbrook's earlier proposal that "perhaps one purpose of humankind is to expand complexity in defiance of the second law" of thermodynamics (86), which might be done only through machines; and by page 668, he is outlining nature's five basic restrictions on life (such as life being limited to plants), which nature is depending upon us to overthrow. We are the medium by which nature is reaching to overthrow its own inability to act by design (the old question-begging again), and the means or tool we shall use is machinery. In this ontology, the divine trinity is nature, humanity, machines --and who is to ordain who is head? Each supports and is supported by the others. This "New Nature" is coming into being right now with the birth of humanity's Technological Age. Through us and our machines, nature will perfect itself, will end meat-eating and murder --and ultimately, will rid consciousness of filthy flesh, death, sex, and excrement that this self-proclaimed Presbyterian author seems to abhor as he reaches toward angelic incorporeality and apotheosis with a flourish of heavenly Cecil B. de Mille chorus: "a person's patterns of consciousness could be transcribed to an electronic support apparatus. The part that matters about you might then exist a very long time, possibly an infinite time." (695)
Disregarding the experience of anyone who has worked within a computer network and has had to be logged off for a glitch-clearing and what it might be like to have yourself logged off in the middle of contemplating the ether, here no more prime replica of Baconism can be found. God or Cosmic Force has given us the Covenant to seek by our hands and minds the way to reestablish paradise on Earth (or in the galaxy cluster), which paradise, in our even more idealized Baconism affordable by digitization, is of one-to-one correspondence with the New Testament heaven of old. What is more, this Baconian paradise is now inevitable. The New Nature is a Newer Historicism: "A New Nature, modified by men and women, is coming. It cannot be stopped, nor should it." (668) (It is interesting that whenever technophiles and technomegalomaniacs get out of breath gabbing about their glorious future, it is always inevitable.) In this sociobiological Baconism, evolution is forcing us to use our intellect to become disembodied.
But what kind of society does this biological/cosmological/spiritual destiny create? Apparently, a historicism in social phenomena is not the question: The last great historicist social movement, Marxism, has fallen: "Following the collapse of the Soviet monolith, there is no doubt capitalism has been shown dramatically superior to communism." (677) Easterbrook otherwise remains unclear about the sort of society his Baconian utopia would yield. On the one hand, he has an Ayn Randish love of selfishness: "The strongest conservation policy will always be that which appeals first to self-interest" (101) --while he abhors the evolutionary view of competition, preferring a definition of nature involving lots of diverse things trying to get along. (681) In parallel, he views capitalism as "a transitional phase between a feudal human past and some future social ordering that combines the productive efficiency of free markets with the equity and community capitalism lacks." (677) The clincher is, "for capitalism to be modified, materialism must first decline." (677) Somehow, when our souls are all transplanted into computers, we will be less materialistic and start contemplating God.
The problem that Easterbrook never faces is the same one Baconism has had for four and a half centuries and has gotten us into our environmental fixes: Can we ever really know enough to be complete masters of all the universe's quarks? In blithely assuming we have the omniscience and the moral sanctity to act correctly with such knowledge, Easterbrook, in his massive, contradictory, incoherent gobbledegook, in the end has stumbled onto environmental science fiction, without the benefit of a plot.
The first goal of this book is to help clarify the form of what is being called the global economy and to show how the rush toward globalization is likely to affect our lives. The second goal is to suggest that the process must be brought to a halt as soon as possible and reversed (3).
The volume contributors virtually form a list of Nobel Laureates in Environmental and Consumer Actitivism, including Kirkpatrick Sale, Vandana Shiva, Ralph Nader, Jeremy Rifkin, and Wendell Berry. All 43 articles develop and elaborate the theme exactly as Mander states it, varying some in their own philosophies and concerns. The central daemon is the agenda of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Uraguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), besides other institutions of the global economy, such as the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The volume contends that GATT has established a world governing body, the World Trade Organization (WTO), composed of appointees of leading transnational corporations (TNCs; interestingly, when things get spookier, the acronyms start multiplying), endowed by law with the capability of overturning national laws that it finds conflict with interests of international trade and thus posing essentially the most potent social threat ever to environmental protection. Disputes with WTO rules can be brought to a WTO tribunal, which meets in complete secrecy and must decide unanimously to overturn a WTO rule. Thus, democratic national institutions and sovereignty around the world are neutralized. Apparently, this treaty passed the U.S. Congress without one member reading the 500-page document. Nader offered $10,000 to the charity of choice for any congressperson who would sign an affidavit swearing he or she had read the document and would answer ten basic questions about it; no one accepted. A few months later, before final vote, Sen. Hank Brown (R-CO) accepted the challenge and read the text, then held a news conference stating that, aghast, he was changing his vote to against the treaty. It passed both houses and now is law.
Though lacking such a central governing body, NAFTA overrides the sovereignty of Canada, the United States, and Mexico to enable TNCs "`to make [foreign] investments without being required to take a local partner, to export a given percentage of their output, to use local parts, or to meet a dozen other restrictions,'" (300) as U.S. GATT and NAFTA negotiator Carla Hills stated. While GATT and NAFTA ensure that "the rights of TNCs take precedence over the rights of citizens in their respective nation-states," the WB and IMF use debt renegotiations with developing countries of the South to ensure that the North can manipulate their economies as needed, through structural adjustment programs (SAPs). Through such SAPs as large-scale deregulation, privatization, expansion of natural resource, and agricultural exports, developing countries have become monocultural producers of commodities for export to the North, while growing dependent upon the North for imports of goods and services that the local economies once provided. Production costs are artificially kept low by the concentration of infrastructure in certain niches, such as logging roads or ports for export of timber; monoculture keeps the economies from developing beyond a certain level, so the countries remain impoverished, giving yet another reason for keeping costs low so TNC manufacturing facilities may move to these areas and increase their profit margins while product prices remain high worldwide. Deregulation of already slender environmental rules means that the ruination due to monoculture, such as timber harvesting or cattle ranching, is heightened --not to speak of the social devastation of poverty and, as the Harvard Working Group on New and Resurgent Diseases assert, poor health.
This scenario of the new global economy does not sound like what even most of its supporters envisioned. As Herman E. Daly in "Free Trade: The Perils of Deregulation," Davis Morris in "Free Trade: The Great Destroyer," and David C. Korten in "The Mythic Victory of Market Capitalism" present compositely, contemporary conditions preclude the materialization of benefits that nineteenth-century British economist David Ricardo predicted. Ricardo observed that countries have different technologies, customs, and resources and so incur different costs in making the same product, so if "nations specialize in products for which they have comparative advantage and trade freely to obtain others, everyone benefits." (230) Daly writes that one problem is "Ricardo's critical but often forgotten assumption that factors of production (especially capital) are internationally immobile. In today's world, where billions of dollars can be transferred between nations at the speed of light, that essential condition is not met." (230-231) As can be gathered from several of the articles, other factors in the global economy undermine Ricardo's reasoning: TNCs tend toward monopolies and thus undercut competition; production is shifted toward regions with lower standards of cost internalization, undercutting efficiency; there is worldwide leveling of standards, so product price is not reflecting cost; and national sovereignty is undermined, thus regions lose the very identity and comparative advantage that free trade is supposed to utilize, and so borders lose impermeability. As Haly points out,
In short, the free traders are using an argument that hinges on the impermeability of national boundaries to capital to support policy aimed at making those same boundaries increasingly permeable to both capital and goods. (231) In effect, unrestricted trade imposes lower standards. (233)
f globalization is not doing what even its supporters say they want, then why does it exist? As Mander describes in "The Rules of Corporate Behavior," the diffuseness of personal responsibility within corporate structure allows the individuals within a corporation to behave (as a group) in ways they individually may not, in regards to morals --a situation partly accounting for the spread of corporate misbehavior beyond most people's desires. Certainly, pundits still propagandize the concept of globalization, so the process does not arise solely out of blind institutions that inadvertently permit unchecked corporate rapaciousness. But unless these pundits are abettors of an evil conspiracy, there seems to be a discontinuity between their concept that unchecked global corporate culture can bring the most good to all communities and the reality of institutional structures that, by definition, as Mander describes, must put profit first, grow at all costs, exploit resources, act immorally, dehumanize and quantify all actions and values, have no ties or regards to community (corporations do not exist anywhere), oppose nature, and homogenize their market --human culture-- to best exploit that market. The behavior that corporations by definition must exhibit does not, when unrestrained, hold significant promise for the ultimate good for all.
Yet, despite this grim prospect and contrary to Easterbrook's accusation of environmentalist pessimism, this anthology does not succumb to despair. The whole thrust of the volume is to exhort the reader to nurture hopeful prospects fully within our grasp. In "Exercising Power over Corporations Through State Charters," Grossman and Adams describe how corporations --including foreign ones-- monstrous as they are, still depend for their existence upon state charters, which grant them rights and limits. Through state legislatures, the fates of corporations can be determined, their rights to life revoked, and their plugs pulled if they act in irresponsible ways toward the environment and peoples throughout the world. The entire last (fourth) part of the book details ways that citizens can counteract globalization through relo-calization: by enacting Gandhi's principle of swadeshi, or local self-sufficiency; molding ecologies by bioregional principles; supporting community agriculture; strengthening local communities' authority and responsibility; organizing communities politically across borders; calling for new local protectionist measures; and even introducing homegrown currencies, as has been done in some parts of the United States.
It is difficult to say how Easterbrook would react to this version of environmental optimism, to which his brand creates stark, almost misanthropic and cynical contrast. But the fact he never points out that what he calls gloom-and-doom despair of environmentalists is usually a prelude to activism --which often circumvents and makes him feel the world is rosy-- is indicative of his buried ideology. Mander and Goldsmith's optimism is based on the fact humanity's hope rests in its working to change current ill-advised practices, while Easterbrook's Panglossian humor relies on the notion that all will simply turn out fine because it has in the past if we are all still alive and breathing. Easterbrook's ideology oozes at the seams with his contentment with the powers-that-be on Earth; though he never outright praises or criticizes their existence (in keeping with hiding his ideology), he lauds their fruits; gushes at the technological marvels of the globally unified economy, such as the Green Revolution; and eagerly awaits the future in which these forces have so thoroughly saturated our lives that our very consciousnesses are deposited into a machine of these forces' manufacture and that would require an immense and hegemonized economic infrastructure. Further exemplifying the ideological split between the two volumes, Mander and Goldsmith deplore the Green Revolution; Easterbrook upholds NAFTA and GATT as if they will increase, not lower, international environmental standards (while he grants there may be some erosion of U.S. laws in "harmonizing" clauses in both agreements); Easterbrook sees that growth should only be encouraged, not limited, as if wealth will spread to all countries and peoples and make them want to be more environmentally conscious like the United States; and the two volumes differ on the "NIMBY" ("not in my backyard) attitude --Easterbrook feeling it is an excuse for communities to shirk responsibility for wastes we all generate, Mander and Goldsmith maintaining it represents local self-determination against imperial. hegemonic trends.
Of course, being an anthology of independent thinkers' work, the Mander and Goldsmith volume is not so monolithic in its outlooks and ideologies as Easterbrook's but, within limits, has some diversions in thought. Notwithstanding this reasonable diversity, the work suffers from overkill and repetition, as one article toils once again over some basic concepts it previous has covered. Instead of 43 essays and about as many authors, the editors might best have selected fewer, longer essays that cover a complete area and circumvent some redundancy.
cofeminism sets out with many of the same concerns as Case --the rise of the technocracy at the expense of nature and community, displacement of self-reliance in Third World countries by a consumer economy, the disasters wreaked by aid and development programs in these countries, and of course, general ecological ruin throughout the globe due to the culture of domination. But not only does the volume quickly diverge (in Birkeland's essay, "Ecofeminism: Linking Theory and Practice") from solutions like those in Case as still too enmeshed with the thinking and assumptions of the mainstream society to ever affect substantial change; Ecofeminism proceeds to dismiss the validity of the Western rationalist tradition that abstracts reason as an autonomous process and that engendered both the nature-dominating scientific/technological culture and the environmentalist movement. The faulted tradition is part of a worldwide historical development called "Patriarchy, an ideology whose fundamental self/other distinction is based on a sense of self that is separate, atomistic." (2) All nonecofeminist environmental movements, whatever their merits, "have been embedded in a Patriarchal construction of reality." (30) Critiquing animal liberation philosophers Tom Regan and Peter Singer, Donovan in "Animal Rights and Feminist Theory" points out "they expose the inherent bias in contemporary animal rights theory toward rationalism, which, paradoxically, in the form of Cartesian objectivism, established a major theoretical justification for animal abuse." (168) In sum, no other current theories for countering the mess that rationalist imperialism has done to the planet can really accomplish anything because they are mired in the same assumptions and philosophies of the offending culture.
Although none of the essays in the anthology explicitly sets forth the program of rescinding the notion of ideology, there is a pervasive assumption that ideologies, being grounded in ideas and concepts, are bound up with the rationalist tradition of Western culture and serve to justify its exercise of power over nature and "otherness," including the feminine, animals, and other cultures. Indeed, the volume never addresses whether all ideology is inherently ideational, rationalist, and power-wielding and therefore whether what it proposes in its place is nonetheless ideological. But the book's proposal does seek to shed the "power-based social relations" (17) of patriarchal culture, shifting the focus "from a morality based on 'power over' to one based on reciprocity and responsibility (`power to')." (19) (Birkeland does propose to transcend the "Power Paradigm," which encompasses ideology ; Adams' article subtitle is also telling: "Ideology: Hiding the Social Construction of the Natural".) Ecofeminism posits that such a goal can be achieved through a subsumption of the self to all humans, animals, and nature --not through an expansion of the self, as the Deep Ecologists propose, which involves expanding self-interest and does not obliterate dualistic thinking and power relationships; but through "a reverence for, and empathy with, nature and all life" (20) or identification with the intrinsic value in nature. By granting such intrinsic value, one circumvents the problem of self-centeredness inherent in expanding selfinterest to all nature, which only becomes valuable because it is self. Thus, the otherness of animals and other people and nature itself is lost --in the same way that gives rise to the problems of dominance and exploitation. Ecofeminism's type of universalism embraces rationalism as well as irrationalism in its attempt to break down dualistic barriers --male/female, "thought versus action, the spiritual versus the natural, art versus science, experience versus knowledge" (20)-- and to find a holism or unity in all experience, both animate and inanimate.
The problem with such an ambitious system, which has been constructed ad hoc in answer to the characteristics its founders deemed distasteful in earlier, offending systems, such as Enlightenment philosophy and almost all Western thought, is that, despite its good intentions, it is incoherent and internally inconsistent. The direst internal inconsistency is that, in seeking to erase the barriers between dualisms, ecofeminism has itself established a rigid dualism: ecofeminism versus patriarchy (and just about anything else nonecofeminist) --rather than patriarchy versus nonpatriarchy. (The system also confuses patriarchy as an ideology: Ideology means a deliberate system of values for determining action, whereas patriarchy was never constructed as such one day by a set of people but instead is a post hoc academic device for analyzing history; but this confusion is not intrinsic to the ecofeminist system, only peripheral.) Ecofeminism also fails in its attempt to obliterate the dualism between animals and humans: It establishes "distinctions between people's carnivorism and carnivorous animals' predation" (200). Animals must not be forbidden their carnivorism because they cannot help it: "under patriarchy... we [are not] told that predatory animals generally kill other animals only for survival reasons; that, unlike humans, these animals would not survive without eating meat," (258) whereas humans operate within moral/social constructs, which can be altered by persuasion. So we are quite distinct kinds of beings from animals. There is also a distinct ecofeminist dualism between plants and animals: In arguing why it is all right to eat plants but not animals, Gaard notes that "the needs that plants may be said to have cannot be compared to the needs animals may be said to have, because the two kinds of beings are not alike." (298)
Furthermore, related to the "patriarchy/ecofeminism" dualism, in seeking to incorporate gender-consciousness into all social discourse, ecofeminism sets itself up as an authority to adjudicate which human attitudinal and behavioral characteristics are "feminine" --which are, for the most most, encouraged-- and which "masculine." The alleged purpose of such division is to make us aware that such division originally was done by the patriarchal culture tacitly, so by becoming aware, we can obliterate the dualism. The problem is that for some unexplained reason, corrupt patriarchy by bizarre serendipity made all behaviors and attitudes which it labeled "feminine" turn out to be good and something we should nonetheless (despite the fact it was created by patriarchy) carry with us into the postpatriarchical era. In other words, ecofeminists aim to institutionalize the patriarchal dualism --not lift the barriers between the two halves-- by declaring "feminine" concepts, such as "caring for another who demands preservation and growth," (or "holding") (183), "attentive love," (183) "a caring, respectful attitude," (184) and the "morality of responsibility" (184) as the ones to preserve, while pushing out such "masculine" behaviors as aggression, competition, autonomy, and scientific impersonality. There is no discussion of androgynous fusing of characteristics. There is, instead, only the implicit assertion of the superiority of one set of traits or way of thinking over another --at complete odds with Gruen's statement that "the maintenance of such dualisms allows for the continued conceptualization of hierarchies in which a theoretically privileged group or way of thinking is superior," (81) illustrating another internal inconsistency in the system. While asserting they want to bring down dualist distinctions and promote diversity and interconnectedness, most of the writers go out of their way to label people by dualistic (or greater pluralistic) distinctions and emphasizing the partitioned nature of their own experience. For example, Vance proudly breaks herself down into the very nonuniversal, patriarchally dualist labels, as a "white academic, as an Anglo, as a lesbian, as an immigrant, as a woman who moved from the working class to the middle class." (126) Lastly, though we are asked to desexualize the Earth and nature and humanity, several ecofeminists, including Kheel and Vance, insist on sexualizing the Earth as feminine, which naming thus gives them power.
These inconsistencies cannot be attributed to the fact this volume is an anthology and so the writers may not all agree on certain concepts, because the inconsistencies either reflect tenets the writers generally hold or appear within one writers work. There are also internal inconsistencies which appear within one writer's work but not not necessarily apply to the whole ecofeminist system. Chais Heller, in "For the Love of Nature," deplores the medievally rooted romanticization of woman, nature, and Mother Earth --which actually oppresses these entities-- then turns and romanticizes the mother-role-oriented kind of love with which women have been inculcated, without seeing she herself is romanticizing:
Many women develop a relational way of loving and knowing informed by their direct experience in caring for people of different ages, needs, and abilities. Women's love for those in their care does not emerge from an abstract sentiment. Instead, it emerges from an appreciation and knowledge of the particular needs, experiences, and level of development of their loved ones (233).
The ecofeminist system is also incoherent. Vance even celebrates and encourages obscurantism and inscrutability by insisting on "conjectural history" recreating the past, based on whatever you want to say about it --"oral traditions, remnants of earlier cultures, intuitive readings of myth and ritual, and sheer speculation" (130)-- this in defiance of patriarchal attempts to "portray the past 'objectively.'" (130) Overall, the ecofeminists' ambitious program to embrace everything in the universe to counter the oppressors who scratch out only a tiny fraction for themselves and those they oppress --such tininess accounting for part of their oppression-- may be a little too broad. Not only is such an ambition bound to internal inconsistency, but like a person who has grown about as fat as the universe, it is a little too unwieldy to pick itself up and go and has nowhere to go. None of the authors bothers much describing what postpatriarchal society would look like nor how we get there. (Kheel does project a half-page future scenario, telling her great-grandniece how people once ate meat.) There is much discussion about activism; we learn meat and fur and vivisection are bad, as is pollution; but little is said about what the activism should establish. Birkeland deplores environmentalists who believe in working with legislatures and making incremental changes. (44) One can only surmise that a platform for change could be described as seeking "power over" others. The major activism thus appears to be critiquing the culture; perhaps the gentle art of persuasion is the way to give people "power to" --but power to do what? Leave the by-definition environmentally destructive cities for a more tribal, simpler life in the country? We are given no clue. There is not even much coherence in how we should critique our culture, except to feel that what most of Western thought has fed anyone is destructive. There are even horribly mixed signals about how a white American should respond to less oppressive cultures. As Gaard writes:
Native American spirituality is inseparable from Native American cultures, a unity little understood by white Euro-Americans. "A message a white woman would be more likely to hear from a medicine woman," writes [Andrea] Smith, "is to look into your own culture and find what is liberating in it."... Implicit in ecofeminist theory is the importance of being "grounded" in a particular context, while respecting cultural difference. An ecofeminist spirituality must evolve naturally from a specific geographic and cultural location. (308)
Nonetheless, as an anthology, Ecofeminism works better than Case in presenting the different angles of its field within minimal redundancy: only twelve essays by eleven writers. There is even one essay, "A Cross-Cultural Critique of Ecofeminism," by Huey-li Li, that points out some of the shortcomings of ecofeminism not brought up here. Granted, it is a young discipline that has not had a chance to work out its kinks. As it is, in what amounts to an attempt to eschew ideology, Ecofeminism has only displaced it with an overly ambitious yet vastly incomplete ideology that does little more than encourage one to despise Western cultural tradition, which gave rise to democracy and in turn feminism and ecofeminism. So, ironically, the volume does not give "power to" individuals but only has "power over" them --to make Westerners disgusted by their own culture, while giving them nothing to replace it.
Ross takes issue with the ideologies --whether explicit or implicit-- of the sort in Case or Ecofeminism (though he addresses neither volume). Like Easterbrook, he demonstrates concern for many environmentalist goals --for "an ecological society," (16) "the ancient claims of the indigenous," (230) and against "the insolent propriety of agribusinesspeople, realtors, and developers." (230) And like Easterbrook, Ross can sometimes sound anti-environmentalist in his disdain for the forms the movement sometimes takes. While Case and Ecofeminism take the degraded landscape as their given, their catalyst, and then seek what in society has led to this condition so we might change it, Ross goes the opposite way, takes the environmental theory as his point of departure and asks how will this shape society. Indeed, he says, "ideas that draw upon the authority of nature nearly always have their origins in ideas about society." (15)
[This book's] origins lay in the perception that environmentalist discourse about scarcity and limitations in the natural world was beginning to reinforce, if not translate into, calls for a reduction in rights and freedoms in our civil society. (12)
He feels that environmentalists make a connection between libertarian culture and the global rise of materialism as if, to have materialism, you must first have civil liberties (notwithstanding Singapore or Pinochet's Chile). He shivers with the idea that "aestheticism, self-denial, and guilt are the order of the day." (13)
Yet Ross never makes explicit exactly whether there is any inherent connection between a call for self-restraint in our use of natural resources and the restriction of basic human rights. The closest he comes is in his chapter on ecofeminism, "Eco-Man Evolves from Eco-Woman," when he deplores one ecofeminist's --Andrea Collard's-- call for us to subsume our needs to those of nature:
Survivalist "needs" of nature are strictly opposed to the realm of human "choice." Rather than seeing these as claims in conflict (i.e., should feminists be allowed to eat meat to demonstrate diversity and plurality), Collard demands that we choose to subordinate our freedom of choice to some relation of solidarity with nature's ways. (232)
Ross' only example of rights is that of freedom of choice in consumables. The ethical question for him is never whether a particular item should be consumable (human flesh?); his priority is that we should have the choice to consume whatever. In his final chapter, he does reveal that his concern for freedom of consumable choice is tied up with environmentalism's best interests:
People respond better to a call for social fulfillment than to a summons to physical deprivation, and that is why any social movement that uses self-denial as a vehicle for social change is as pathetic as one that uses apocalyptic threats or appeals to Mother Nature's vengeance. (261)
He refrains form telling why a complete line of consumables makes for social fulfillment, why going without, say, a Volvo is physical deprivation, and why apocalyptic threats, if pathetic, have been effective tools in mustering the populace to act. He almost states his ideological position when he says, "The 'False needs' of consumer capitalism are cited as the reasons for the inauthentic economy of our desires --no matter what the ads tell us, you're never going to get it, so get used to going without." (260) Apparently, Ross is so worldly wise as to not only know Marcusian critique but to have nurtured his sophistication far beyond it.
Unfortunately, most of Ross' volume is not dedicated to justifying his provocative thesis that self-control will lead to deprivation of human rights. As he confesses, "this book is not a theoretical tract." (18) Most of the innards is spent in what he calls, in the Derridian lingo, "narratives" or "stories" --"cultural studies," one about a Hawaiian tourist attraction, others about New York's urban ecology and about "the ecology of images" and how media images shape our idea of the environment. These sections ramble like homages to Barthes, either enthralled by a philosophy that eschews clarity as a form of oppression or subjected to simple indolence when it comes to developing theses. Despite themselves, these "narratives" (hardly stories in the sense average English speakers use the word) still unleash their tacit ideology-- which sounds as strange in the cadence of neomarxist French social analysis as fundamentalist Christian lyrics do set to heavy metal --and it is very similar to Easterbrook's: Global mass-consumer society is environmentalism's hope. "Getting rid of the concept of scarcity is part of the cultural work that is necessary in order to make a world in which hunger and poverty no longer prevail." (270-271)
o is it possible to save the planet without an ideology? The relation of author to ideology seems to be a pivotal question when facing the soul-withering, daunting task of cleaning up the environment. The ecofeminists' greatest contribution may lie in making us aware of just how tightly ideology is twined with how the land and life are used and that we may not get anywhere in harmonizing the way we live with the place we live until we set our ideological assumptions on the table. Easterbrook is the best example of how failing to disclose one's ideology fails the Earth, and he and his argument come crumbling down with his gelatinous ideology spewing out the cracks, revealing that his teutonically tidy planet remains in the hands of titans. Ross' equal apparent unawareness of his ideologies leads him to an almost farcical notion that feeding the masses all the consumerism that it can eat will somehow make them satiated enough to establish national parks and feed the hungry. Even the ecofeminists, for all their self-proclaimed self-awareness of where they fit into history and their desire to take the planet out of anyone's hands, end up either in a morass of pusillanimity or in the ironic situation of having to actually invest power in themselves ("power over") to go and yank that planet out of the oligarchs' hands --and so they end up with the potato. With respect to ideology, the environmentalist program may seem stuck in that same old quandary Marxism faces: The power of the rulers is bound up with their ideology, but to take away their power requires a power that in turn requires a new ideology of power.
Rollin, though, shows that a critique of at least one aspect of planetary ethics without ideological ax-sharpening is possible. Although Syndrome takes on only a fragment of a fragment of planetary ethics --genetic engineering of animals, a subfield of the animal rights/welfare arena --it does so within the broader context. Rollin first addresses the issue of animal genetic engineering as it has been framed by other environmental philosophers and advocates, such as environmental ethicist Holmes Rolston and activist Jeremy Rifkin. Rollin finds Rifkin's case against all genetic engineering founded on several fallacies: Rifkin faults the reductionism behind genetic engineering with desacralizing life, while Rollin notes reductionism itself is neutral on that matter; and Rifkin commits himself to two "incompatible philosophical positions --nominalism and realism," by asserting the inviolability of the individual and of the species, respectively. Rollin notes that individuals within a species can be harmed, but it makes no sense to say a species can be harmed, even by extinction. He then argues that Rifkin's case against genetic engineering's intrinsic wrongness cannot hold up; instead, the science can be consequentially wrong.
Rollin turns against Rolston's arguments for basing an environmental ethic on the implied inherent or intrinsic value in nature, including nonsentient entities like mountains, a value Rolston says exists without our anthropogenic bestowal. Rollin finds faults in all of Ralston's supports for an ethic based on intrinsic value. Rollin points out that two kinds of things have intrinsic value: those that are set forth by an agent as having value for their own sake rather than instrumentally, e.g., piano playing; and those that do not depend upon a relationship, e.g., conscious beings that have value intrinsic to themselves. The first sense has no moral dimension; only the second does, and it applies only to the being itself, not to mountains. Thus, Rolston's idea that because something has aesthetic value, it has moral value, does not hold up. Rollin further finds that Rolston's idea that nature, being able to produce intrinsically valued things like humans, must itself be of intrinsic value, commits the genetic fallacy of saying that whatever produces something good must be good itself. Finally, Rolston apparently uses analogy to say that the creative, self-preserving, self-repairing, dynamic, and adaptable characteristics in life to which we ascribe moral value are all found in nonsentient nature, which is thus worthy of similar moral valuing, while Rollin notes it is sentience that gives the moral valuing in the first place, and without it, the similarities between sentience and nonsentience are irrelevant. Again, Rollin says that the possible wrongs against nature are not intrinsic to our alterations of it but consequential.
we need to recall... as Plato stressed, that those wishing to criticize or advance ethical positions cannot teach, they can only remind.... I, as a moralist, cannot walk in and give you a list of what is right and wrong and expect you to accept it. The natural response to such a move is, "Says who?"... To be plausible, I must extract (or have you extract) my conclusions from ethical premises you already accept as true, but which extraction you have hither not done. The moral philosopher, says Socrates, is a midwife. (50)
Rollin then turns to us readers and what we as a society already hold true to get us to go through an "ethical recollection regarding the ignored consequences of our accepted social ethic" (146) concerning genetic engineering of animals. Throughout, he refers to "the Greshem's Law for ethics" --bad moral thinking driving out the good on the matter of use of science and technology. People in general are too busy to reflect properly on the questions; opportunists come in; and he is here to help guide the people in their own thinking. The problem has arisen because of a split between society at large and the subset of scientific enterprise that has developed its own ideology. People have come to regard genetic engineering as another "Frankenstein thing:" "Frankenstein created new life with potentially hellish consequences," (12) and so might genetic engineering. But to turn our heads away in fright of the development is the worst thing we could do, for then the technology would develop without our input and truly become a monster. (134) Rollin describes three versions or aspects of the "Frankenstein thing" as it concerns genetic engineering: It is wrong inherently; because of unknown but inevitable dangers it entails (68); and because of the plight of the creatures it creates. Each aspect he answers in each of the book's three chapters, the first through answering Rifkin and Rolston's ojections to the technology's inherent wrongness, and the second and third through "reminding" us of our own beliefs.
Rollin grants that the "experts" --the scientists themselves-- because of both their ideology and their inurement to the dangers of their daily scientific operations, tend to overlook risk. Scientific ideology pretends to be objective and valueless, but in so being, when its operations rub up against society, it necessarily establishes a value for itself and so is hardly valueless in its outlook on the world. Rollin contends that the experts from the fray of genetic engineering are not to be trusted with regulating themselves and the potential dangers they may create; in fact, that community has already balked at outside control. As a model of regulation, Rollin proposes something similar to what both citizens and scientists have accepted for animal experimentation: committees composed mostly of citizens, who assess whether a prospective genetic engineering experiment would pose a threat to them and the community. Rollin's case becomes more subtle concerning whether the technology can harm animals and if so, should we allow it. As he has determined that genetic engineering cannot be deemed intrinsically wrong, we must look at what sort of wrongs its abuse might bring about. Again, we can turn to what we have done in the past and what we now believe about animal welfare. Our criteria, enacted in recent laws, for animal use has come to dictate that the animal's telos --e.g., the dog's dogness-- and its interests not be infringed. "Social animals need to be with others of their kind; animals built to run need to run." (159) All animals have the interest of food, water, and avoiding pain. An artificially introduced gene may change the animal's telos, but if it does not harm the animal, then it is not necessarily unethical. Rollin feels that society may have to weigh carefully whether it would tolerate, say, a manufactured chicken that is perfectly happy spending its life in a cage, growing to a quick slaughter; he feels society would likely vote against such a prospect as both aesthetically repulsive and jarring to its sense of what is happening to itself:
Some of the reluctance would probably stem from slippery slope concerns --what next?... Do we really want to encourage a mind-set willing to change venerable and tested aspects of nature at the drop of a hat for the sake of a few pennies? (176)
Again, he finds that a citizen-involved approach with oversight committees is the best way to keep research from causing the animals undue suffering. "While genetic engineering of animals does not compel the creation of animal suffering, it is likely to lead to it in the current exploitative business context." (182-182)
In this bright and clear-as-a-brook volume, Rollin is thus able to analyze a certain nature-use problem and propose a solution without pushing a particular ideology. He has noted that society in general has come to the point of concern for animals' welfare when subject to human use --believing that animals have some rights more important than just anyone's fast buck-- and that genetic engineering really proposes nothing new in light of our belief of what animals and their rights and integrities are. His approach, of course, has some possible objections. Sometimes it sounds like morality by market research: "Eight out of ten readers poled by Parents magazine affirmed their belief that animals have rights," (149) "though 84 percent also believes that it is permissible to use animals for human benefit." (157) By some perspectives, morality by survey could be suspect as wide-eyed delusion about modern democracy --because who may sway public opinion? What if public opinion, fickle thing, were to drastically fluctuate year-to-year-- so shall animals' plights? Or shall, one year, horrible genetic hosts be unleashed, then we go back to distrusting the scientists? Rollin is confident, with an almost Hegelian historicism, that society is progressing toward greater sympathy with animal rights. Of course, only time will prove. But is there no role for ethical leadership?
Related to this question of the sociohistorical relation between public-citizen regulators and the regulated is a harsh inconsistency in the book. On the one hand, Rollin paints a boding inevitability to the development of genetic engineering --as if such a science is almost in our genetic natures themselves:
We cannot abandon or bury the science and technology we find unintelligible and frightening --though at various times most of us feel that urge. Rifkin notwithstanding, it will not go away or be abandoned. (32)... One may indeed affirm that it is natural for humans to effect conventional changes in nature. (46)... Genetic engineering of animals, indeed all of biotechnology, is a tool, like all tools humans have deployed, from clay pots to nuclear reactors. (213)
On the other hand, he asserts that genetic engineers are starting to understand they must mend their ways or the public that allows their existence and enterprise will pull the plugs. "Plainly, biotechnology will stand or fall with public acceptance or rejection, not with the progress of the science." (102) So which is it --inevitable no matter what we want, or dependent upon whether we want it? Similarly to Rolston, Rollin grasps for two incompatible schools of philosophy: determinism and free will. Is genetic engineering going to happen anyway, and is the best we can do is temper it? Or do we really hold the reins and we can halt its whole existence if it does not trot out what we want? The answer to these questions can make the whole difference in what a policy on genetic engineering can do and whether citizens can be mustered to implement it.
Pointing out that the thrust of the argument is nonideological does not deny Rollin has his own ideologies --which he does not hide: He states that he believes our society has devised "the best answer to" balancing conflict between individual and public welfare with the "moral notions" of rights. (155-156) He definitely believes in the democratic method to solving ethical dilemmas. But his entire analysis and solution does not consist of a program for the way our species should or should not use the planet; there is thus no power-over-Earth ideology. Perhaps the ecofeminists would object that he is inevitably ideological just by his remorseless position within the Western philosophical tradition and the fact he critiques environmental philosophies and policies without bringing to the fore the gender dualisms that reputedly underlie all power relations, and so he is implicitly complying with patriarchal ideology. But such an objection would not arise from a system that itself has freed itself of ideologies and dualisms. This excellent book, steeped in the author's Scottish Commonsense School, provides a round if incomplete example of how we might begin to think about discussing human relations to the environment, the planet, and its resources, without an ideological agenda.
But the central problem remains: We are not just social creatures, but without society, we are not even human. We are ideational. To act, to do, we require an idea. Our particular relation to the planet is an idea, and to act in relation to the Earth --since each individual is necessarily only a peg of society-- seems to necessitate an ideology. How can we possibly exist without turning our planet and all life on it into commodities? If we must use some ideology, what is the best one, and how can we determine it? Here, no one has yet even tiptoed.