No, this is not a critique of science, nor is this post a critique of the need for a “day for science” — this is certainly necessary in these times. We at SPURSE get that. But, earth day should not be conflated with a day for science. Nor should we ever think that science is our primary or best means of engaging with the earth. More than ever we need to multiply the different ways of being alive and engaged with the earth. We do not need a "best" way.
Certainly the sciences are very important modes of engagement with the earth and they are critical to ecology. We have no issue with any of this. That said, science has given us every art of poisoning and eliminating life on this planet. To be “for” the sciences should never become a blank check to the sciences.
But our concern is different than the above line of critique: in “defending” science -- and even more so in “defending” the earth -- we have become reactionary. We are not evolving a creative, experimental or even celebratory position but reacting to a negating force. We are falling into a defensive position that is far too often narrowing and reducing environmentalism to a response to what what it is not. And in being a response it is little more than a negative satellite orbiting what it critiques -- always on the lookout to score points and celebrate some minor victory while never leaving this one comfortable orbit.
Perhaps this is a little harsh. But, this logic was made clear to us a couple of years ago while working on an environmental project: We were walking across a college campus where students were allowed to paint on the outside walls of their dorms and other public spaces. Much of what they had painted concerned the earth and the environment. Being curious we took a few hours and looked at every single painted surface. Not one of them depicted the environment in a positive manner: each and every one of them showed some creature or another under threat or attack. Birds in oil, trees being cut, and factories belching chemicals. Again, we have a pretty good grasp on the magnitude of these treats, and we understand that what they depicted is real and needs to be combated. But, what are the consequences of almost exclusively having only one form of relation to the world around us — and that relation being a negative, critical and almost exclusively reactionary one? It is not that the environment does not need to be defended — of course it does. But far more importantly we need to a creative willingness to come up with new ways of engaging with the world around us that promote new forms of active interdependency — real intra-dependency. Our worry in walking across the campus was that this creative cosmological impetus was simply gone and all that was left was a reaction: “this must stop!”. But how do we stop anything if we are not for something else? Something bigger, different and worth sustaining.
On earth day, and really everyday, we feel the need to actively develop and celebrate new practices, habits, networks, ecosystems, concepts and cosmologies that give rise to many differing ways of being alive with and through our immediate environments. Earth day is a day to celebrate these differing ways of being interdependent and giving thanks for these entanglements that keep us alive. It is day that, to be sure, science has an important place, and equally the cultures and ways of being alive that across the globe had, long before our ecological science began, developed and continue to develop ways of being with this earth. From deep in Amazonia to the high arctic peoples and their cosmologies offer us profound models to emulate in new and creative ways that are sometimes in alignment with our sciences and other times not. For us this is critical. There is no one way. Science cannot banish difference as quaint superstition. We need to support the evolution and multiplication of truly differing cosmologies.
Our experimental hope is that this earth day, this spring, and all through the year, we go beyond our habits of mainly defending a “nature” that is elsewhere and begin to, or continue to co-compose an intra-dependent network and way of being-of-a-world that begins under our feet wherever we are: eat your sidewalk this earth day — we are, as best we can.
A beautiful, creative, different and co-compositionally intra-dependent earth day to all.