Ecosophical Geographies

by Gerry Taylor Aiken

I’m delighted to say that the first special edition, on Ecosophical Geographies, I’ve been behind has been published this week.

Obviously this is nice to see in print, but it’s also a reminder that keeping faith with your ideas and finding interesting conversations is a key precondition to any academic collaboration I want to pursue. Rob Shaw (who co-edited the collection with me) and I would have long late night conversations as we did our PhD’s together. In many ways I feel the special edition brings together both of our joint interests: Rob’s theoretical obsessions, including Deleuze and Guatarri, and my desire for committed thinking, or seeking ideas that can change how we live our lives.

Rob was always really interested in the theory side of things, while I arrived at the PhD fresh from a masters with the Centre for Human Ecology in Glasgow, a much more activist-engaged-embodied form of academia, if you can even call it academia. Somehow we had the feeling that between these two worlds—the environmentalist and the theorist—there was something that could be said of relevance in the world of human geography. Although of course we both were eco and theory inclined: many of these conversations were worked out over tasks in the local Green party, or sharing excitement over our latest reading.

We found that many of the deep green thinkers and permaculture ideas I was reading and chewing over (Johana Macy and others), drew on ideas of ‘ecosophy’ from Arne Naess. Simultaneously this same term was drawn into French poststructuralist thought by Felix Guttarri’s take-up of the term. Both Macy and Guttarri were also influenced by Gregory Bateson and looking back I wonder if it was a trip to see a Gregory Bateson biopic where the penny dropped.

Anyway, we tentatively drew up a proposal for a session at the RGS-IBG 2014 conference and were very pleased with the quality of the papers. Charlie Carlin’s paper in particular seemed exactly the sort of thing we were after: empirically drawing on a ‘vision quest’, the very thing I had had to undergo as part of my MSc (Imagine getting an academic qualification for fasting on the edge of a cliff in Knoydart!); theoretically cutting through some fascinating post-humanist thinkers I’m sure Rob had been trying to explain to me a few months earlier.

The ideas in the room from that session were too good to stay there, so I’m very happy to see them in print now. It’s been a long but rewarding process getting these ideas out in the end. Hopefully too, ecosophy can make a bit of a difference in thinking through human-environment relationships.