Paradoxes

For many commentators what is happening at OVP is paradoxical. Managers aim to undo domestication and modernization using its key political, economic, and scientific technologies. Pre-agricultural wildness is to be returned through rational, ecological planning, cutting-edge biotechnology and commodified ‘nature development’.

wilderness in Europe book coverSimultaneously, their interventions invoke the language and iconography of wilderness; the agency of wild animals will return authentic ecologies, while contact with wild animals and places will tackle alienation and engender spiritual transformation. These appeals for rewilding thus draw on and seek to reconcile the romantic and rationalist understandings of Nature that underpin Western environmentalism.

For Bruno Latour and Bill Cronon (in these different analyses) such paradoxes are characteristic of the modern condition in which nature and society must be held apart, defined in relation to each other to have any integrity. While this analysis is useful, we should attend to the twin meaning of paradox: both a proposition that, despite sound reasoning, leads to a conclusion that seems logically unacceptable and a seemingly self-contradictory proposition that when investigated may prove to be well founded or true. Rewilding through modern technologies may seem senseless – but only if we accept the modern criteria that establish the grounds for sense.

It we start from a different philosophical premise – i.e. that there is no fundamental opposition between society/technology and nature – we can derive a proposition that is sensible. In place of a paradox some (writing close to where this is happening) might claim rewilding as evidence of ecological modernisation – the successful reform of modern capitalism to incorporate the importance of the environment and its ecosystem services. Other accounts might offer us a narrative of contradiction. The commodification of nature in an advanced capitalist economy like the Netherlands is inevitably crisis prone. The markets will not deliver what they promise, the system is inherently ecologically irrational.

Konik horses crossing a road at OVP (photo: Hans Kampf)

We are still trying to find our way through this material but are not yet convinced by the merits of framing this problem as one of paradox, resolution or contradiction. Instead we want to explore the potential of musicology. An unlikely source perhaps, but one that links many of the theorists we are engaging with here.

What happens if – after Latour – we think of OVP as a composition comprising many humans and nonhumans? Developing Latour we might connect to von Uexkull’s compositionalist theory of nature. Challenging the harmony of von Uexkull we could look to Deleuze and Guattari’s reading of his work where they present an ecology characterised by multiple discordant rhythms operating above and below the level of the organism. This would bring us nicely to ecological work on discordant harmonies.

There is no pure nature here, nor one omnipresent (scientific) conductor. What there is is a commitment to difference and nourishing the processes through which it is actualised. Nature is not the judge of authenticity, technology is not abhorrent, nor is Natural Science necessarily the arbitrator of politics.

Responses

  1. [...] and other political motives threaten to interfere in the ecological processes. Thanks to WildExperiments.com for bringing in the post-modern readings and invoking Deleuze and Guattari, Bruno Latour, Bill [...]


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