Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 16, No. 9, September 2020
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
Home Page


A Political Ecology for an Integral Ecology

Political ecology "studies the complex interaction between economics, politics, technology, social tradition and the biological environment." Integral ecology recognizes that "nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live" because social and ecological issues are interdependent, and seeks "an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature." A political ecology for an integral ecology can be built on the tripod of solidarity, subsidiarity, and sustainability.





From Domination to Partnership
Asoka Bandarage

Ten Principles to Guide Ecological Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion
Gary Wockner

Ecological Justice and Social Transformation
John Foran

Four Ways to Redesign Democracy for Future Generations
Roman Krznaric

Pandemic Solidarity: Care, Love, and Mutual Aid
Marina Sitrin

Biden, Trump, and a Steady-State Soul of America
Brian Czech

Despair is a Reality, Inaction is Not an Option
Maddalena Bearzi

How the Coronavirus is Forcing us to Think Beyond Market and State
Silke Helfrich

Those Lazy Workers Who Are Gaming The System
Carmine Gorga

The Corona Crisis: Fighting the Authoritarian Response
Ugo Bardi

American Christianity in Trump's America
Kyle Haden

Issues that Citizens Should Take into Account When Voting in Elections
Lorenzo L. Perez

Alternative Truths and Consequences
Keith Zeff

What Does the Destruction of Biodiversity Mean?
Sean McDonagh

A Visual Artist's Perspective on Reimagining a New Social Order
James Sparks

Eco-Stalinism: A Tongue-in-Cheek Manifesto
Part 1: The Barking Madness

Giorgio Baruchello

Bridging Social Justice & Community Resilience
Marissa Mommaerts

Solidarity Forever: Essential Workers, Public Goods, and How We Are in This Together
Cynthia Kaufman

Eternal Recurrence ~ The Complex Dynamics of Collapse
João L. R. Abegão

Taking Care of our Common Home through an Ecological Agriculture
Vandana Shiva

Reviving Agroecology and Solidarity in Building a New Normal
Maria Raiza Javier

Gender Equality as a Family Planning and Sustainability Strategy
Geoffrey Holland & Ndola Prata

What is Really Radical in Sex/Gender Politics?
Robert Jensen

A Path of Transformation from Patriarchal Ecology to Integral Ecology
Luis Gutiérrez

From Domination to Partnership

Asoka Bandarage

This article was originally published by
Great Transition Initiative, September 2020
under a Creative Commons License

The COVID-19 pandemic can be an opportunity to redirect the trajectory of human social evolution from domination to partnership and to actualize a Great Transition future. Doing so requires us to question the values, unsustainability, and inequality of the world in which we live. Prioritizing economic growth over environmental sustainability and human well-being has contributed to the emergence and spread of the current pandemic. But such priorities are only inevitable if we let them be.


The contemporary world economy disrupts the natural integration of planetary life, seeking instead to manage and control society and the environment through modern science, technology, and the market. The extremism of this approach is evident in efforts to redesign life and to create what some scientists call a post-nature, post-human world. The conventional response to the pandemic likewise seeks a quick-fix vaccine over systemic changes to public health and economic justice.

Technology and the market per se are not the ultimate problem: the underlying consciousness and intention that drive them are. At the root of the crisis we face is the disconnect between the exponential growth of the profit-driven economy and the equivalent development in compassion and wisdom. Indeed, our challenge today is not merely political, but human and ethical—how we see and conduct ourselves individually and collectively toward both the environment and each other. Without an intentional effort to change, individualism, competition, and domination will remain the driving force at the personal, national, and ethno-religious levels.

Both the US and China hope to return to “normalcy” by jumpstarting their economies. Trump has claimed that in the post-pandemic world, US economic growth will be bigger than ever. China will move forward with its massive Belt and Road Initiative despite social and environmental concerns. The pandemic has already led to increased corporate deregulation and bailouts, consolidating corporate and elite control in the US. The increasing shift to life online is widening and deepening surveillance and social control by large tech companies.


The alternative is to nurture a universal consciousness grounded in the truth of unity within diversity. This higher consciousness sees “ego consciousness” as privileging the individualistic self, rather than the self as inherently interdependent. It weakens dualism and contributes to interdependence and partnership.

The environment encompasses human society and the economy within its fold. The economy is only one subsystem of society. The pandemic has revealed that the natural world does not need humanity for its survival: it is being rejuvenated amidst reduced human activity. However, humanity cannot survive without the natural environment—the air, soil, water, sunlight, etc. The central idea of the ecological approach (subscribed to by indigenous thinking, Eastern spirituality, and fields of Western science like evolutionary biology and ecology) is that we are part of the Earth, not apart and separate from it.

We have to stop letting the economy dominate and subsume society and the environment within the logic of exploitative economic growth. The components of the economy—technology, property relations, the market, and finance—must be redesigned to serve the needs of environmental sustainability and human well-being. The exploitation of people and plunder of the Earth must be replaced by systems that honor environmental sustainability and social justice.

It is time to transition to a more balanced, ecological civilization that respects the environment and upholds bioregionalism and local communities. The unprecedented global crisis brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic is making people more sensitive to the fragility and insecurity of life and our physical and emotional interconnectedness to each other and all of nature. The crisis can teach us to open our hearts and minds, to overcome excessive greed and individualism, and to see the common suffering across cultural and ideological boundaries. It offers an opportunity to overcome despair and powerlessness and to collectively challenge oppressive social structures.


Many groups around the world are already actively engaged in the systemic shift away from economic globalization towards localization, encouraging local renewal through education and community building. One inspiring movement with a plan for transitioning to smaller, local self- reliant economies and communities is Transition Towns, a network that has spread to more than fifty countries since 2005. The strength of the Transition approach is its principles of respect for resource limits and resilience, inclusivity and social justice, sharing ideas and power, and positive visioning and creativity.

As human beings, we have the capacity to make the inner transition needed to move to a balanced path of environmental and social sustainability. We can do so from our diverse cultural, class, and other social and professional positions. We can do so in the here and now without waiting for others to take leadership in transitioning to a more harmonious post-pandemic world. The future lies in deepening and acting on our connectedness to each other as a species in nature and in applying our human ethical intelligence to policymaking and problem-solving.


Asoka Bandarage is a Sri Lankan scholar specializing in international development, political economy, women and gender studies, multiculturalism, conflict analysis and resolution, and ecology. She has served on the faculties of Brandeis University, Georgetown University, and Mount Holyoke College. She is the author of Colonialism in Sri Lanka, Women, Population and Global Crisis, The Separatist Conflict in Sri Lanka, and Sustainability and Well-Being: The Middle Path to Environment, Society and the Economy, among other books. She has written columns in the Huffington Post and Asia Times and serves on the boards of Critical Asian Studies and Interfaith Moral Action on Climate. She holds a PhD from Yale University.


"In politics, being deceived is no excuse."

Leszek Kolakowski (1927-2009)


Write to the Editor
Send email to Subscribe
Send email to Unsubscribe
Link to the Google Groups Website
Link to the PelicanWeb Home Page

Creative Commons License
ISSN 2165-9672

Page 1      



Subscribe to the
Mother Pelican Journal
via the Solidarity-Sustainability Group

Enter your email address: