Myerson, G. (2001)
Ecology and the End of Postmodernity
Postmodern Encounters, Icon Books UK (review)
The emergence of global warming as a serious and recognised threat has seen a corresponding shift in the level at which ecological disasters are registering on the global consciousness. The book argues that the mainstream media has adopted Ecology as a kind of weapon to beat us into submission. Ecology, this book indicates, is a new Grand Narrative that is being used to structure society and as a justification for the doings of governments and industry. Only through collaboration between Science, Technology and Government will we cope. We are returning to the Modern in which the good of the planet is the underlying principle for making decisions. This Grand Narrative ties everything together. Every event (a natural disaster, a run of hot days allowing people to sit outside at cafes, rising petrol prices) is viewed at some level as a symbol of climate change or imminent ecological disaster. Protests against the party line are depicted as irresponsible and illegitimate as all sides play the "we are on the side of the healthy Earth" game.
Overall I understand what this book is getting at. I just didn't find it particularly insightful. I am not (never have been) a Postmodernist. So a lot of the "changes" in ways of thinking that the author notes I haven't felt.
I do like Myerson's use of the term eco-pathology. Its an analogue of Freud's psycho-pathology in which (Myerson tells me) the distinctions between normal and pathological psychology are collapsed. Every action of every person somehow becomes a symptom of the sickness they harbour inside. Eco-pathology is obsessive link-forging between everyday details and global ecological problems. No natural event (e.g. Hurricane Katrina, SARS outbreak, drought in Australia, floods in UK) is free of meaning relating it to the global climate crisis, loss of bio-diversity, poisoning of ecosystems etc. Every little event is an omen of worse to come, and only expert ecologists and governments can save us from certain disaster. Only experts in fact, have the ability to forge the hidden links between a blocked drain and rising sea levels.
However, I note: The study of biological, physical, human, and economic causal elements of disease in livestock is called ecopathology. Did Myerson not do a Google search before he coined the term? Or did he derive his own interpretation of the term from what he read? How very Postmodern :-(
Overall the book was easy to read for a piece of Postmodern (?) literature. The addition to my vocabulary and the idea(s) of eco-pathology were worth the price of admission, whoever came up with them.
Alan Dorin, 6 Mar 08