If you are concerned about deforestation, species loss, climate change and pollution, and you are looking for a book which offers avenues for thinking differently about our responsibility to the earth, then this publication should certainly be on your reading list. It's probably not for you if you are into social science-type publications with their blueprints for a sustainable future and their practical strategic programmes. Instead, this is very much a work for those who are invested in the humanities, and Morton's book makes a powerful case for the role the arts and culture can and should play in our society, providing a space for us to step back and spend more time thinking about the bigger picture. His ideas are deceptively simple, and they are presented here in an infectiously enthusiastic, conversational prose, which hopefully will make this book appealing to a wide audience. It's also delightfully short: I raced through my copy in a single train ride down from Scotland to London.
Morton has emerged in the past few years as a significant and increasingly influential voice within ecological thought. Like Bruno Latour, he argues that we would be well served to ditch our inherited concepts of `Nature', and although he offers a nice succinct summary of his reasons why in The Ecological Thought, this argument is laid out more fully in his 2007 book Ecology Without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics. But in contrast to Latour, Morton comes from a background in literature - in Romantic thought and ecocriticism - and anyone familiar with this field will appreciate how radically his perspective differs from much other writing in this area. In fact, by the end of this book he's thrown into doubt some pretty substantial shibboleths. Particularly interesting is his argument that environmental degradation is now so global in reach that we need to expand our sense of geography and perception immensely, and this leads him to take issue with the current preoccupation with localism and the strongly felt need to be embedded in a distinct place - attitudes still very prevalent within environmental circles.
Central to Morton's The Ecological Thought is the deceptively simply idea that everything is interconnected, and essentially the book is an account of how this profoundly Darwinian insight alters for good our notions of time, space, history, species and self. His stance is that thinking the meaningless and disorienting openness of interrelatedness should not lead us to fantasies of mass destruction or obsessions with self-preservation, but should make us more willing to embrace the unpredictability of radical interconnection, or, as he calls it `the entanglement of all strangers'. Partly drawing on the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, and partly on Derrida, he invokes the need for a renewed feeling of openness and a sense of our infinite responsibility. Actually, the footnotes in this book are full of references to publications that you wouldn't expect to see immediately associated with ecology, but what's great about Morton is that he makes them seem pertinent in new ways.
This is a very stimulating work: it's a genuine invitation to learn to think differently.
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I read this book whilst studying MA Design Critical Practice at Goldsmiths. The course contained a lot of varied sources by its nature- theory, philosophy, social sciences and encouraged the use of drawing from a range of sources to build context. What I liked about this book is the way that it creates a space for thinking through a combination of creative writing, varied sources, engaging building of narrative and argument.