Radical Human Ecology: A Path of Hope

Edmund O'Sullivan reviews a selection of readings on inter-cultural and transdisciplinary approaches to human ecology.

"This Book has a clear and compelling aim. The underlying message resonates in the voice of every contributor and throughout the entire volume - from beginning to end. Hope is always about the future. But the path that we are on points increasingly toward a future of peril. If the world is to reclaim a path of hope - and a future that is hope-full - truly fundamental changes are needed."

The paragraph above is the opening of the foreword to this book of readings by Richard Borden. For the reader it gives a sense of deep structural concerns that will occupy the authors of the 20 chapters that have been compiled for this richly textured book of readings.

The readers of this review must be appraised in advance that this offering of readings on the topic of radical ecology is a very sophisticated text that operates at the paradigm level. It is not a work for the fainthearted. This is a text that will find its readers at a university level and beyond.

There are three editors involved in this work. Lewis Williams, who defines herself as an eco-activist, social innovator and academic is the Founding Director of the Koru International Network, an emerging community of practice which aims to address ecological issues through the revitalisation of indigenous worldviews within all cultures.

Born in New Zealand, she is of Scottish and Ngai Te Rangi descent. Rose Roberts is a Woodland Cree Women from the Lac La Ronge Indian Band in Saskatchewan, Canada. She is Assistant Professor at the College of Nursing, University of Saskatchewan, who at present is Executive Director, Northern Intertribal Health Authority, Saskatchewan. Her research interests include cancer among aboriginal peoples, residential school survivorship, and indigenous ways of healing.

Finally, Alastair McIntoch the former Director and current Fellow of Scotland's Centre for Human Ecology, is the author of several books including "Soil and Soul and Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition".

It is the intention of the editors of this book to (1) bring about a radical reintegration of indigenous ways of knowing, (2) to locate greater onto-epistemological agency within the human ecology researcher and scholar, (3) to provide a number of practical interdisciplinary and intercultural applications of human ecology praxis throughout the world and finally, (4) to provoke conversations on how one might engage with human ecology not simply as a theoretical enterprise; more so as a living, breathing, post-colonial activist movement. A tall order indeed and well worth the effort.

With the above intentions in mind, the text is organised into three sections under the levels of Head, Heart and Hand;

Part I Head: Theories of Human Ecology: The attitude of human ecology, Ulrich Loening; The challenge of radical human ecology to the academy, Alastair McIntosh; Being from and coming to: outline of an ethno-ecological framework, Ullrich Kockel; Returning the sacred: indigenous ontologies in perilous times, Makere Stewart-Harawira.

Part II Heart: Radical Epistemologies of Relationship: The human ecologist as alchemist: an inquiry into Ngai Te Rangi cosmology, human agency and well-being in a time of ecological peril, Lewis Williams; Exploring identity, belonging and place-making as a transition activist, Gerri Smyth; Education for life: human ecology pedagogy as a bridge to indigenous knowing, Iain McKinnon; Sufi path: possibilities of transcending limited and limiting identity, Nayyar Javed; The promise of Orthodox Christianity for sustainable community development, Keith Morrison; North American Indians, connectivity and human ecology, Lewis Mehl-Madrona and Barbara J. Mainguy; Living in respect: traditional knowledge of the Woodland Cree in Northern Saskatchewan, Rose Roberts.

Part III Hand: Human Ecology in Practice: Teaching radical human ecology in the academy, Alastair McIntosh; Human ecology as peacebuilding, Anne Goodman; Migration, aboriginality and acculturation, Ben-Zion Weiss; The immigration experience: losses and gains for immigrant and refugee women, Judy White; Rebuilding China's economy on gendered rural family labour: a case study of generational migration stasia and ecological degradation, Yongmei Zhang and Marie Lovrod; Human ecology: from conceptual exercise to militant practice in Maranhão, István van Deursen Varga and Cristina Moreno; The place of creation: transformation, trauma and re-rooting creative praxis, Eimear O'Neill; Experiments in action research and human ecology: developing a community of practice for rural resilience pioneers, Nick Wilding; He whanaunga tera: the politics and practice of an indigenous and intercultural approach to ecological well-being.

At its present pricing in hardback, this book will be mostly within the range of university libraries and advanced university courses. To make it more available to the ordinary reader, it is hoped that this work could be offered as a paperback or in eBook form to garnish a more popular market. Because of its depth and range I would wish for it a wide audience.

Edmund O'Sullivan is Professor Emeritus at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Radical Human Ecology: Intercultural and indigenous Approaches

Lewis Williams, Rose Roberts and Alastair McIntoch (Editors)

Available from Ashgate Publishing Company £72