Author

Jovan Ristic

Date of Award

2001

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Individually Designed

Advisor

Edward Laverty

Second Committee Member

James Acheson

Third Committee Member

Lucille Zeph

Abstract

This essay presents an overview of an emergent culture of ecological consciousness and sensitivity for nature within and without humans. The inquiry pertains to the interdisciplinary field of human ecology. The essential methodological approach is eco-systemic, implying the basic interrelatedness of entities and their environment. The essay explores the interconnections at various levels of human-ecological interaction, analyzed from the perspective of the basic components of an ecological culture: sustainability - as an economy of metabolic exchange with the environment and inclusion into natural cycles of renewal; post-domination - as human relations based on individuals' responsibility for their social and natural environment, and on surpassing the authoritarian structures of subordination of humans and nature; and a spirituality of immanent ethic and sensitivity. Individual responsibility is the core of an ecological culture, and the basis of an ecological consciousness - an awareness of the ecological context of the individual's life process - the impact which the ways of satisfying the individual's needs have on the immediate, and also the wider social, biological and physical environment. Ecological culture involves the revitalization of the local community and the household as the levels of immediate human-ecological interactions. The lack of individual responsibility is both caused by and expressed in domination patterns. Domination is based on dualism. Its essential routines are inferiorization and exclusion of mutuality which entail a lack of empathy and harmony - thus hindering a positive relation to the social and natural environment. When domination structures are deconstructed, a possibility of a new integration emerges in the reconsidered sphere of spirituality, involving immanence (re-connection of spirituality and nature), and integrative epistemology (inclusion of other-than-rational modes of comprehension and communication). An essential epistemological component is a sensitivity which links life processes in and around us, thus enabling us to feel that we are part of natural renewal and energy exchange. Such a sensitivity is the basis for individual responsibility which is no longer a matter of reliance on external authority and imposed morality of prescribed rights and duties. Responsibility becomes an individual's inner ethic of joy as an ultimate expression of liveliness

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