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Integral ecology as applied to environmental policy, politics and democracy

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Arkell, BT ORCID: 0000-0002-1298-5658 2018 , 'Integral ecology as applied to environmental policy, politics and democracy', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

The thesis examines the application of the metatheoretical discipline of integral theory to environmental policy, personal and collective politics, and democracy. It reconsiders a range of questions environmentalists continue to pose around who or what is responsible for our environmental problems and how challenges can best be met. It demonstrates broad agreement between some environmental scholars on some matters, but shows, using the insights of integral theory and integral ecology, that until relatively recently there has been no robust theoretical framework for integrating ecological approaches and perspectives, each of which have some applicability to environmental problem-solving. It is posited that integral theory and its environmental cousin, integral ecology, can integrate seemingly disparate approaches in environmental policy development and democratic governance, and that an integrative approach is also the key to the development of any kind of green or ecological state. The type of integral ecology used in the thesis - that of Sean Esbjörn-Hargens and Michael Zimmerman (‘EZI’) – is placed within the field of other emerging integral ecologies; integrative ecological frameworks developed by Leonardo Boff, Mark Hathaway, Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme, Félix Guattari, Edgar Morin, and Pope Francis. Wilberian integral theory, upon which EZI is based, is shown to be part of a long tradition of scientific and philosophical thought aimed at developing integrative models and methods.
A proposed new integral framework for policy, politics and democracy known as the Integral Policy Tryptic (IPT) is then briefly presented. To supply additional methodological rigour, the use of Wilberian integral theory, EZI, and the IPT model, is framed by Mark Edwards' methodological approach for metatheorising. This requires the "four involvements of method, data, interpretation and theory" and also a researcher’s explicit acknowledgement of their metatheorising intentions. Metatheorising uses other theories - from subjective, relational and objective sources - as ‘data’, and the IPT model and method is premised on Wilber’s integral framework, EZI, and the use of Edwards’ injunctions. The proposed ‘case study’ for the IPT model – Antarctic policy and politics – is then briefly discussed. The development of Wilberian integral theory is charted in some detail and a substantial background on integral theory and integral ecology is presented. Particular areas to which prominence is given include: Wilber’s Quadrants or main four perspectives (objective, interobjective, subjective and intersubjective); levels and lines of development; Integral Methodological Pluralism; moral and cognitive development; and the Terrains, Niches and Ecoselves of integral ecology. In the introductory method chapters, a number of the tensions between integral theory and other key environmental critiques, such as ecofeminism and deep ecology, are explored, and, in the spirit of integral ecology, some tentative bridge-building is attempted. Some practical examples of how an integral approach could be used as a framework for Antarctic policy are then provided. The tendency of green theorists to throw the baby of modernism out with the modern bathwater is also discussed. Integral theory, it is shown, could salvage the “dignities” of modernism, for example the differentiation of arts, morals and science, while also dealing with its “disasters”, these being disassociation and the consequent perspectival hegemonies that reduced subjective and intersubjective interiors to external objective and interobjective correlates.
The IPT model is then presented in full. It gives an ecological patina to Wilber's "I", "We" and "Its" by labelling the pronouns as "Person", "Polity" and "Planet" respectively. The Person represents the subjective perspective (EZI’s Terrain of Experiences), and focuses on the adoption of a personal integral praxis. The Polity is the intersubjective (EZI’s Terrain of Cultures), and focuses on the communications within and between sub-jurisdictions and individuals in the Polity; and the values shared and agreed upon through these communications. The Planet is the combined Terrain of Behaviours and Terrain of Systems, and focuses on objective and interobjective policy approaches, such as the hard sciences, economic and ecological modelling, legislation and regulation. The IPT model is presented as both the method for the thesis and a potential new integral model for the review and analysis of middle-range theory relevant to policy, politics and democracy. This is followed by an explanation of the Planet aspect of the Integral Policy Tryptic, focusing on the use of objective and interobjective disciplines and perspectives such as chemistry, biology, international relations, political analysis, system sciences and behavioural policy development. In this case the subject of many of the disciplines used is Antarctica. In particular, it is demonstrated that the future policies and politics of Antarctica will not just be the result of objective structural or material effects - for example the potential exploitation of mineral resources – but also a result of the intersubjective framing of Antarctica. Hence, the importance of the normative discourses underlying this framing, and the need for an integral ethic to underpin national and global institutions, are emphasised. Discussion of the Polity aspect, which fleshes out such an ethic, follows, focusing on the intersubjective - in this case the distinctively Habermasian, albeit ecological, critique and practice of Robyn Eckersley's critical political ecology, her “Green State” and her more recent work with others on the environment and globalisation. This critical yet real-world approach is complemented by a view of integral democracy based on John Keane’s ‘monitory democracy’.
The Habermasian principles underlying Eckersley's' approach are explored. In particular, Habermas’s unconstrained dialogue and communicative action are shown to be the keys to influencing normative discourses on environmental, policy, political and democratic issues. Finally, the Person, or the subjective, is explored. This was done through an interpretation of the author’s ecoselves and other interior aspects of a personal Antarctic experience, notes on how each ecoself can be best communicated to in political communications, and a brief exploration of two iconic Antarctic explorers and their ecoselves. The Person is also examined using a transpersonal research approach known as organic inquiry and through proposing a hypothetical individual called the Integral Policy Adviser, who, as well as having a good grounding in practical political skilful means, enacts an integral model through the use of the Integral Policy Tryptic. The discussion and conclusion reiterate how the use of an integral framework by environmental policy practitioners, political advisers and political parties would enable the honouring and inclusion of a diverse range of environmental or broader policy approaches and views in proposed solutions. They show how the constituent theories of the IPT model (integral theory, EZI, Habermas’s critical theory, Eckersley's critical political ecology, and a wide range of other theories, disciplines and studies used to 'populate' the IPT) have been used according to Edward’s metatheorising injunctions to create a new overarching model that successfully applies integral ecology to policy, politics and democracy, at least at a broad but robust conceptual level. The thesis thus answers the question of what or who is responsible for the environmental challenges by answering it is many "whats" and many "whos". To create solutions to environmental problems therefore requires the mapping and understanding of complex policy and political landscapes, and for this an integral approach is recommended.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Arkell, BT
Keywords: Integral theory, integral ecology, environment, policy, politics, democracy, Antarctica, Antarctic policy
DOI / ID Number: 10.25959/100.00028412
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2016 the author

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