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Ecology Politics And Haeckel's Tree Of Meaning

Politics / France Sep 21, 2014 - 09:36 PM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


Shattered Ecology Politics
The desperately unpopular Parti Socialiste (PS) government of Francois Hollande in France stumbles forward with the uncertain support of a few Ecology party deputies, and even more uncertain and fewer French Communist party supporters, who collectively now have a key role in either saving or destroying Hollande's power. They can abstain or even vote against the PS in key votes such as the early-September confidence motion of the parliament, won by the PS without an absolute majority. But this also signs a death warrant for Ecology-and-Communist party influence in national politics because both parties, as well as the PS, are so unpopular. For the moment, Hollande refuses to recognize this, and especially courts the Ecology party called EELV, itself a coalition of now “historical” French ecology and environment parties and movements.

Totally unlike the German Die Grune ecology party coalition which is also 'historical' but large and organized, the French equivalent has destroyed its electoral base and like the PS has drifted across a range of confused 'special issues' in an existential quest for political survival. French ecology deputies now wage a political struggle for themes from gender equality and the gender theory of society to promoting diesel-fueled cars and bicycles to save the climate while they demand that Hollande's PS government runs an even bigger budget deficit than the present 4% to 4.5% of national GDP. 

The results are often extreme. The government-controlled meteorology service, for example, continues to publish lurid “scientific scenarios” of coming heat waves in almost all regions of France, which PS party stalwarts use to defend France's huge nuclear power system while Ecology party members of the PS-led coalition in parliament call for shutting down nuclear power plants “on an accelerated basis”. Consequently the state-owned EDF monopoly producer and supplier of electricity is committed to building more power plants of all kinds, whether nuclear or windfarms and solar PV to meet national power demand that is at best very slowly growing, or even declining!

Hollande bet on the Ecology horse in the electoral race, and his own PS party was already infiltrated by “new themes” like the gender theory of education and society, and gay marriage, resulting in a drift to extremes in all directions. Political ecology, at least in France is now in its death throes with a near total divorce from the public and its opinion, who “can't understand” what is going on. Hollande's paradigm was that ecology plus French socialism equals political supremacy, but today his only real support is the rout of the totally exploded UMP party of his rival Nicolas Sarkozy – who most recently did not even mention the UMP when he theatrically announced he was now “setting out to save France”.

Blame It on Darwin
Among the troubled ambiguous paradigms of western society today, the Darwinian paradigm of an endless struggle for life – and the winner takes all superiority of survivors – has played a key role in ecology politics. However, the definition of life, sometimes equated with “existence”, faces fundamental problems due to the reality that there is no threshold at which a collection of atoms suddenly becomes alive. Viruses, very specifically, can and do replicate but can also be entirely inert for extremely long periods, in fact forever unless they are able to parasite the RNA of a living cell. The basic problem is there is no categorical distinction between the living and inanimate. The 'Frankenstein spark' does not exist. The cozy definition of “life” used for example by the USA's NASA in its Exobiology research program to detect life on other planets, or rather in other solar systems, is that this “life” would satisfy a range of criteria – “including its ability to operate as a self sustaining system capable of Darwinian evolution”. 

Darwinian political ecology evolution in France is a special example of what happens when the virus of doubt takes full control of the RNA of public opinion.

This is accelerated by the increasingly eccentric theories of French ecologists and even their “host organism” the PS party.  In French school curriculums, today, it is completely forbidden to criticize Darwinism – but at the same time gender theory, now also included in ciurriculums says that male and female children of  5 years of age “should have a choice” regarding their sexuality. If a boy wants to grow up to become a girl, and vice versa, this is natural and good! Critics say this is entirely pointless because upstream of anything like sexuality, Darwin's theory has first and foremost failed to define life – due to there being nothing to define in the first place. This criticism goes on to say that trying to pollute the minds of little children on their sexual “orientation” is as stupid as firstly believing in “orthodox Darwinism”.

The sole illustration in Charles Darwin's 1859 publication “On The Origin of Species” showed a tree-like dendritic diagram of how he saw evolution. His tree diagram was very pessimistic. It purported to show that nearly all forms of life had become extinct since the start of life on this planet and their traces can only be found as fossils. He said: “As we here and there see a thin, straggling branch springing from a fork low down in the tree [has] by some chance been favoured and is still alive on its summit”. Darwin many times opined that all his studies tended to show the extreme fragility of life. Like French ecology politics!

The German Solution
Hollande can be justifiably jealous not only of Germany's economy, but also the strong hold of ecology politics in the country. The German scientist, philosopher and artist Ernst Haeckel became an immediate and life-long supporter of Darwin and Darwinism. By 1866, developed from Darwin's tree-diagram, Haeckel imagined the evolution of a single hypothetical species into a genus of 8 species across 14 000 generations. His 'Tree of Life for Man' diagram was also the first, in 1874, to depict the human species branching off from the primates.  

More often denounced as a fraud than Darwin – for example because Haeckel claimed that any existing species is automatically superior to any extinct and supposed forbear – his Tree of Life and Tree of Meaning artworks were key elements in the foundation of what later became ecology and then, from the 1970s, ecology politics. Haeckel was an active polemicist, for example by both arguing for “intelligent design”, and teleology or programmed and intended evolution. Despite this, he also promoted Darwinist random natural selection, with its huge losses of species through a process where “only the eternal iron laws of nature” apply, that is 99.9% loss of all living things.

One of Haeckel's books was titled “The Riddle of the Universe” and in this and other books he developed the theory of acquired human racial characteristics by interaction with the environment, originally suggested by German philosopher Kant, and summarized this process by saying that ontology (being and existence) depend on phylogeny, with racial type determined by environment. Haeckel is sometimes called “the father of scientific racism” and either deliberately or accidentally indulged in ambiguity on this subject. Also, and at one and the same time, he promoted a man-centered anthropocentric view of human relations with the biosphere, and the exact opposite where man is subsumed to and dependent on nature.

In other words he confused what is defined by the Oxford dictionary as the “dominant social paradigm of western society”, the view that humans are superior to other all other species and that the Earth provides unlimited resources for humans, with its complete and total opposite. This, since about the 1970s, is defined as the “new environmental paradigm”. Progress is neither certain nor sure. Resources are limited or declining. Human beings may only be “unfinished primates”, and so on.

German political ecology like Haeckel is highly ambiguous – with religious connotations that French ecologists made a point of not integrating or exploiting. For Haeckel, Darwinism meant a constant struggle for life, but also means that a Supreme being planned and set the goals and methods of evolution and selected the Master Race of humans to execute His plan. Human beings therefore have responsibilities towards Nature but also dominate the planet. Haeckel's decades of popularizing Darwinism in Germany led to completely opposing political ideas about Darwinism and almost inevitably, the Nazi party carefully selected or “cherry-picked” writings of Haeckel..

The Cult Role of Ecology
In France at least, this cult role is winding down as Hollande is finding out. The science of ecology, which for many historians is closely dependent on both Darwin and Haeckel for its origins, has too many opposing strands. It is hard-wired for confusion and generates either implied or openly stated antinomic ideological and moral values and beliefs. This makes it an ideal target for dumbing down “the message” of ecology, due to it offering the possibility of “all things for all men” and the total confusion of Mr Everyman. This has happened in France.

From the 1970s, ecology-and-environment were firstly twinned as a new social theme with a “new paradigm”, then massively popularized, and then politicized. By the 1980s we can say that ecology was a mature and ripe fruit for the architects of the New Economy to cherry pick and consume. It had become all things to all men – with an on-board stock of ambiguities. 

Extremes of the new environmental paradigm soon emerged, notably the theory or concept of ecological restoration, also called the Carbon Copy Myth. In brief this argues that society has so damaged the environment that we have to, and can select restoration goals and start-end points for the restoration, like system restore applications on a PC. Ecological restoration says we can entirely restore an ecosystem, or create a (low) carbon copy of it, thus obtaining an “ideal state”. This myth draws on teleology as well as the myth of Supreme power – of Man - and in a totally arbitrary fashion maintains that any existing threatened ecosystem is close to perfection, that is “ecosystem climax”. A variant of this restoration doctrine is that only “climax ecosystems” should be restored.

Obviously a Jurassic Park-type restoration attempt on the Global Green PC's hard disc would need to fix a start date of well before 65 million years ago.

Restorative-type New Ecology projects are now funded for research in France, the US and Germany and can be called the myth of Fast-Forwarding nature, the idea that we can accelerate ecosystem development by controlling pathways, such as the dispersal, colonization and assembly of plant and animal communities to reduce the time required to create a “fully functional” climax ecosystem. The new ecosystem can therefore be an “improved and enhanced” version of the previous. Making this idea more “market friendly”, the Fast Forwarded ecosystem can for example be designed to have higher and faster carbon uptake, supposedly aiding the struggle against global warming and enabling the project's owners to receive carbon credits – while they continue to exist!

Some ecologists (Holling and Meffe 1996) call the idea of Fast Forwarding a blatant example of the Sisyphus complex, where on the one hand Man has the knowledge, abilities, and foresight to command and control ecosystem structure and function and manage it indefinitely into the future. But on the other hand our action will decrease system resilience by fixing the gene stock, reducing the range of natural variation and adaptive capacity of the system when it faces disturbances, making us lose control and forcing us to restart the process. In the Greek myth of Sisyphus he is compelled by Zeus and the “God Squad” to forever push a heavy boulder up hill but just as he nears the top he becomes exhausted, and the boulder rolls back down to the plain below, and Sisyphus must start again.

Fast Forward to Oblivion for Political Ecology
The Sisyphus Complex, more generally and as implied by ecological restoration is a fixation with treating symptoms rather than the root of the problem. The “restoration hypothesis” avoids answering the question of why did a supposed climax ecosystem die out or die back?  Why  “enhanced ecology” failed in western politics – if not in Germany - is also clearly due to the purely political goal of “doing something” to repair damage to the biosphere and the world, but not knowing what to do. Whether it is scientifically credible or not, disappears in a fog of confused narrative.

The December 2009 Copenhagen conference was with no possible doubt the high point for ecology politics. Over 130 Heads of State flew into the chilly Danish capital in their low-carbon presidential planes and motorcades (none came by bicycle) to worry in public about “climate catastrophe”. Outside the venue, hundreds of Climate Crazies, paid by unidentified entities, danced round with paint on their faces in gay printed T-shirts to dramatize the urgency of the situation. They said that “Al Gore's 350ppm” must be fixed and set as the global limit for CO2 levels “for all time” – that is 0.035%. In the geological past, without a single coal-fired power plant (or humans including Al Gore) on the planet CO2 levels in the atmosphere sometimes exceeded 1000ppm.

For the “new ecology politics” bringing scientific proof of firstly “runaway” warming of the planet, and secondly proving its direct link with human CO2 emissions was totally unnecessary. It was what professor Les Woodcock, doyen of Chemical Thermodynamics at Manchester University, UK calls the “orbital teapot syndrome”. He said that certain persons came to affirm they were sure a giant but invisible teapot was orbiting between the Moon and Earth, causing all manner of perturbations, for example of climate. But as professor Woodcock says, it is not up to science to disprove the existence of the giant teapot – but of its promoters to prove that the thing really exists.

In France and Germany, political ecology recovered from the Copenhagen shock but in the French case it had already peaked out, for a large number of easily described reasons. France's Hollande may today soldier along with Ban-ki Moon's UN climate conferences, but there will certainly never again be 130 Heads of State at these get-togethers. Political ecology of the western developed country model is now sharply criticized for a number of reasons and on many bases by the leaderships of China, India, Brazil, Russia and other powers. In some cases, as in the Indian case, western ecology politics is now accused of being “covert racism” and an attempt to sabotage the economy of India.

The Sisyphus boulder for ecology hopefuls, looking for their main chance to find a new political meal ticket has rolled back down to the bottom of the hill. In the French case, due also to the extreme unpopularity of Hollande and his PS, ecology may be the final straw which breaks the camel's back.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2014 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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