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First and foremost, environmentalists have focused their attention on the physical environment, on questions regarding the quality of the air, the water, and the soil. As radical as they may appear to be, most environmentalist groups focus on the concrete solutions to solve our environmental problems.
Greens and ecologists, on the other hand, in addition to the physical state of the planet, are interested in larger, more institutional questions. Better known in Europe and particularly in Germany (Hulsberg, 1988), the Greens constitute a political force that has made its political thought (Dobson, 1990)(1) and its parliamentary action felt in several countries.
There are also ecologists who are less easily identifiable in terms of traditional public policy positions. "Ecology" was a term first reserved for the study of natural settings and the interactions found among its components. With time, ecology came to include the study of interactions at the human and institutional level. This article is an attempt to get acquainted with some of the ecologists' views on institutional, organizational, and public policy questions, views which are extremely varied and, sometimes, contradictory.
The institutional and human questions that have interested ecologists range from family, patriarchy, and feminism to decentralization, autoroutes, supermarkets, and world government. Of course, when ecologists venture beyond the questions of air, water, and soil to focus on larger, more immaterial topics, contradictions and controversies are more likely to occur. Recently, for example, a fundamental controversy has raged in the United States between, on the one hand, Murray Bookchin, the main proponent of social ecology, and deep ecologists on the other hand. Bookchin accuses deep ecologists of turning back the clock of social evolution, when they call for a greater respect for nature's fundamental laws (Hinchman and Hinchman, 1989, p. 212; Dobuzinskis, 1989, p. 5). The institutional debates among ecologists, or even among Greens, are by no means limited to die United States. The debates between the fundamentalists and the realists in West Germany are legendary. In France, ecologist Antoine Waechter's application of the concept of bio-region to immigration policy has stirred debate in a country where immigration has been a very sensitive question for at least a decade (Nick, 1991, p. 13).
Of course, not all ecological notions are concrete enough to stimulate debate on public policy. For example, the notion that "governments are needed to provide external controls on behavior only in highly |entropic' societies out of harmony with their environment" (Hinchman and Hinchman, 1989, p. 220) is in interesting thought but policy advisers would be at a loss to start putting it into operation. The same could be said for the idea that "the mature ecosystem is an ensemble of unlike, yet closely integrated parts, (which makes) yeoman agriculture ... unnatural and feudalism natural, since the latter combines unlike classes and occupations" (Hinchman and Hinchman, 1989, p. 219).
In order to illustrate some of the ecology movement's institutional propositions, I will pay special attention to those that pertain to the appropriate level of government intervention. Obviously, whether a given problem requires federal or local government intervention depends largely on the nature of the problem itself. Yet institutional ecologists, if only implicitly, have formulated principles and proposed arrangements in this regard. My goal is to examine some of these principles and propositions.
Before moving into the heart of the topic, it may be helpful to point to some of the general principles of the ecologist movement, especially those that may have some bearing on institutional arrangements. Among those principles on which there is agreement, diversity is first and foremost: diversity exists in nature, and humans should not seek to artificially standardize their creations. There is also consensus on self-regulation, an important principle that would seem to lead to decentralization. Among other principles that form a consensus, albeit a weaker one, are: the wisdom of natural ecosystems, the refusal of simple anthropocentrism, and the paradox principle (for example: think globally, act locally).
Among the principles that have created more controversy than consensus, the principle of hierarchy has created the most debates: Is there hierarchy in nature or is the natural world based on equality (the alternative principle)? Primitive human communities are egalitarian say some, but bee and wolf societies are strictly hierarchical, say others. Similar controversies have erupted over such notions as specialization, competitiveness, and equality. These are, of course, very large questions, and an answer to them would require nothing less than a hermeneutic (or interpretation) of nature, or even of nature's intention; such a task has been properly recognized as an impossible mission (Hinchman and Hinchman, 1989, p. 217). Nevertheless, the principle of equality may require a brief comment, if only because so much of public policy is expressed as a method of achieving it. This principle, cherished by social ecologists, is often criticized by deep ecologists who recognize in it the same homogenizing, levelling, and mechanical spirit they perceive in industrial societies.
When the ecological movement was beginning, consensus on institutional matters was easier to achieve. Bureaucracy has always been a unanimous target, and technocracy also. Some kinds of technologies, such as nuclear technology, can only give rise to secretive, authoritarian and technocratic institutions because of their very nature, as noted by ecologists of all factions. The more theoretically inclined ecologists often referred to Jacques Ellul, Lewis Mumford, Marshall McLuhan, or Lynn White, Jr., to relate the use of certain technologies to specific institutional arrangements.
Once the nuclear enemy had been tamed to a certain extent, consensus on social and institutional policies was more difficult to achieve. As institutional ecology diversified its interests, tensions and debates
increasingly appeared, partly because the reference to nature to explain or criticize such diverse phenomena as family or centralization became itself problematic. Nature, biology, ecology as a science, are very complex matters in themselves, let alone applied to human arrangements. Tensions and debates also increased because the ecological logical movement is nowhere in power, and so the discipline of power, indeed of reality, has not cooled down the ideological fervor. Finally, ecology, whether scientific or institutional, is essentially an applied science and, in such domains, principles cannot be linearly or abstractly maintained without meeting and colliding head on with another principle.
Consequently, some contradictions (or paradoxes) can be found in institutional or organizational arrangements recommended by …