Politics of Nature

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What is to be done with political ecology? Nothing.

What is to be done? Political ecology!

All those who have hoped that the politics of nature would bring about a renewal of public life have asked the first question, while noting the stagnation of the so-called “green” movements. They would like very much to know why so promising an endeavor has so often come to naught. Appearances notwithstanding, everyone is bound to answer the second question the same way. We have no choice: politics does not fall neatly on one side of a divide and nature on the other.

From the time the term “politics” was invented, every type of politics has been defined by its relation to nature, whose every feature, property, and function depends on the polemical will to limit, reform, establish, short-circuit, or enlighten public life.

As a result, we cannot choose whether to engage in political ecology or not; but we can choose whether to engage in it surreptitiously, by distinguishing between questions of nature and questions of politics, or explicitly, by treating those two sets of questions as a single issue that arises for all collectives. While the ecology movements tell us that nature is rapidly invading politics, we shall have to imagine most often aligning ourselves with these movements but sometimes against them what a politics finally freed from the sword of Damocles we call nature might be like.

Critics will argue that political ecology already exists. They will tell us that it has countless nuances, from the most profound to the most superficial, including all possible utopian, rational, or free-market forms. Whatever reservations we may have about them, these movements have already woven innumerable bonds between nature and politics.

Indeed, this is just what they all claim to be doing: finally undertaking a politics of nature; finally modifying public life so that it takes nature into account; finally adapting our system of production to nature’s demands; finally preserving nature from human degradation through a sustainable politics.

In short, in many often vague and sometimes contradictory guises, concern for nature has already been introduced into political life.

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