Green Web Bulletin # 78

My Path to Left Biocentrism: Part VIII

The Left in Left Biocentrism

                                 By David Orton                                       

            “The earth does not belong to humans.” Arne Naess

            “I believe that the ecological crisis will bring about the end of capitalism.” Rudolf Bahro.


            This is the eighth bulletin in the series entitled “My Path to Left Biocentrism.” It deals with my experience of how the left and
            biocentrism came together. Also, there is increasing interest in how left biocentrism conceptualizes the Left, as well as in its
            supportive yet critical relationship to the philosophy of deep ecology, hence this bulletin.

            I am expressing here my own views of what the “Left” means in left biocentrism. The “My Path” Green Web Bulletins, available
            on the internet, are the attempt to outline my view of the theoretical dimensions of left biocentrism. In various articles, book
            reviews and Green Web bulletins, going back to the mid-1980s, I have examined various aspects of the Left and its relationship
            to deep ecology and the green movement. The objective of this particular bulletin is to try to bring together in one article some
            of the main ideas from these writings, plus my current thinking, in defining what makes up an ecocentric Left in this age of ecocide.
            In April 1998, when I wrote the first “My Path” bulletin, concerned with “The Theory”, I said “‘Left’ as used in left biocentrism
             means anti-industrial and anti-capitalist, but not necessarily socialist. Thus some left biocentrists consider themselves socialists,
            as I do myself, while others do not.” Left biocentrism thus made room for those who identified with the work of left biocentrists
            but who, in their current thinking, did not see themselves as socialists, yet shared a basic anti-capitalist perspective.

            The interplay and contradictions between an acceptance of deep ecology and this left consciousness – i.e. the interplay between
             the Green and the Red – has been a focus of much of my writing in articles, book reviews and internet discussions.

            Left biocentrism also contests cultural dimensions that the traditional Left has had nothing to do with in the past, such as spirituality,
            notions of self, biology, wildlife relations and inter-species communication, etc.

            From the beginning of the conceptualization of left biocentrism, “left” was consciously viewed in an inclusive manner. A quote
            from my 1994 essay “Envirosocialism: Contradiction or Promise?” illustrates this:

                    While much of the work is practically focused, theoretically the GW (Green Web) sees itself as part of a left biocentric
                    tendency which is emerging in the green and environmental movements. The deep ecology component draws from the
                    work of the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess. This left biocentric tendency, also represents a left focus within the
                    deep ecology movement. It should be understood that "left" in this biocentric context, means anti-capitalist but not
                    necessarily "socialist". Social, political, and economic questions, as well as wilderness and wildlife and the defense of
                    forests, are part of this left biocentric agenda. There is a major concern with social justice. Other tendencies like social
                    ecology, or ecological Marxism, or eco-feminist approaches, while raising important questions, are not biocentric but
                    remain human-centered in their fundamental orientation. Ecology is not their core value and humans occupy center
                    stage in the ethical universe...Various names and conceptualizations have been formulated by writers to try and
                    encapsulate this emerging left biocentric tendency: "deep green theory" (Richard Sylvan); "socialist biocentrism"
                     (Helga Hoffmann and David Orton); "ecologism" (Andrew Dobson); "radical ecocentrism" (Andrew McLaughlin);
                    and "revolutionary ecology" (Orin Langelle, Anne Petermann, and Judi Bari). The final terminology and content of
                    the left biocentric tendency is yet to be decided. But one sees through the preliminary written work, some of the
                    developing commonalities - as well as some of the problems. The tentativeness of this emerging tendency needs be
                    stressed, and that discussions are ongoing...All left biocentrists, would consider deep ecology a subversive philosophy,
                    which cannot be fulfilled within industrial capitalism. (Annual No.9, Green on Red: Evolving Ecological Socialism,
                    Society for Socialist Studies,
            Richard Sylvan (1935-1996) was an iconoclastic Australian deep ecologist, forest activist, anarchist and philosopher.
            He was an important theoretical influence for left biocentrism. I first initiated contact with him in 1987, when I sent him
            a letter criticizing deep ecology. He pointed out that “Deep ecology, like deep green theory, is not without tenets.” I
            believe the same can now be said to be true for left biocentrism. This bulletin, The Left in Left Biocentrism, outlines
            how I see these “Left” tenets.

            Left biocentrism, as a theoretical perspective, is becoming more well known among green ecocentric activists and in
            academic circles with an interest in ecophilosophy. There are now many articles discussing left biocentrism – on the
            internet (both theoretical and applied to particular issues), and in printed publications, like the US based Synthesis/
            Regeneration: A Magazine of Green Social Thought
and Canadian Dimension. There are also books which
            discuss left biocentrism, such as the  Sustainability: The Challenge, the Encyclopedia Of Religion And Nature,
            and Patrick Curry’s Ecological Ethics. The third and subsequent editions of the undergraduate reader Environmental
            Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology, notes “the emergence of a ‘left biocentrism.’” As well,
            there are a number of people who are activists (some are academics), who identify themselves as left biocentrists
            or “left bios” and who are writing articles as left biocentrists, for example in the new online journal Dandelion Times:
             A Left Biocentric Journal.    

            Although in the past I have been the main theoretical exponent of left biocentrism, others have contributed to my
            understanding and helped shape my ideas. A left bio discussion group on the internet, functioning for over ten years,
            has been one forum for this collective input. Mine has really been a collective intellectual endeavour. (The 1998 ten-point
            Left Biocentrism Primer, was the result of an extended collective discussion, which then became a basis of agreement
            for those joining the discussion group.)

            A personal letter to me about left biocentrism and the above Primer, dated 4/19/1998, from US deep ecologist George
            Sessions (copied also to Arne Naess, Bill Devall, Andrew McLaughlin and Howard Glasser) noted:

                    Personally, I agree with almost everything you say in the Left Biocentric Primer...It’s a real shame that the
                    Green parties came under the influence of Bookchin and not your version of Left Biocentrism – it’s obvious
                    that’s where they need to head. So, I have no necessary bones to pick with your idea of a Left wing of the
                    Deep Ecology movement, more power to you and your colleagues. I wonder if the word ‘Left’ is the
                    appropriate one to use (as opposed to social justice).

            The late German deep green theorist Rudolf Bahro (1935-1997), after reading various documents I had sent him,
            also said, in a letter dated December 20, 1995, that he was in agreement “with the essential points” of the philosophy
            of left biocentrism. Bahro, to my knowledge, had not previously talked about deep ecology in his writings, although
            he was clearly on a similar deep green path and someone steeped in the culture of the European Left.

            Left biocentrism is open to learning from the Left, yet it differentiates itself as a separate theoretical tendency, because
            it has critically embraced deep ecology. I see myself first as an Earthling and all that this implies from an ecocentric
            perspective. So, for example, in opposing the destruction of the natural forest in Nova Scotia where I live, I actively
            oppose my own destruction. I do also see myself, from a social justice perspective, as part of the Canadian Left.
            My main sympathies, concerning human-centered politics, are on the communist/socialist side, not on the side of
            capitalism and its adherents. “Anti-communism” is not acceptable to me, because I believe, in practice, this signals
            an alliance with Capital. (The valid concern with democratic rights and personal freedoms in societies which have
            called themselves “communist” is another discussion, which does not invalidate the alliance with Capital point. Being
            anti-dictatorship should not equate with being anti-communist, as is so often the case.)


            For left biocentrists like myself, industrialism, not capitalism, is seen as the main problem. It was Andrew McLaughlin in
            his 1993 book Regarding Nature: Industrialism and Deep Ecology who first conceptualized this position regarding
            industrialism from a deep ecology (and socialist) perspective:

                    Industrialism is the hub of a set of social practices that are destructive to the rest of nature. Expansionary
                    industrialism, in both its variants of capitalism and socialism, requires the destruction of species and
                    ecosystems, and now threatens the whole biosphere. It encourages each of us to engage in the subtly
                    frustrating pursuit of happiness through the consumption of the rest of nature. What is required is a
                    perspective that takes industrialism itself as part of the problem and inspires efforts at its transformation.
                    The development of any non anthropocentric ethic must be part of a much larger project of radical social
                    change. General acceptance of such an ethic requires a new society in which the experience of being
                    related to environments that are not constructed by humans is part of everyday life. (P. 172)

            “Biocentrism” and “ecocentrism” have been used interchangeably as descriptive categories since the first articulations
            of left biocentrism in the mid 1990s. Biocentrism, or life-centered, is the most popular movement expression, even
            though ecocentrism is more theoretically comprehensive, as it includes the Earth itself, plus all its life forms. For those
            who support deep ecology, it would be quite false to make absolute distinctions between the organic and inorganic,
            or between the animate and the inanimate, and hence between biocentrism and ecocentrism. As a personal
            preference, I have come to use mainly left biocentrism, not left ecocentrism, in writing about this theoretical tendency
            and its applications. Arne Naess himself has expressed the relationship between biocentric and ecocentric as follows:

                    In the biocentric movement we are biocentric or ecocentric. For us it is the eco-sphere, the whole planet,
                    Gaia, that is the basic unit, and every living being has an intrinsic value. (The Selected Works,
                    Volume Ten, p. 18.)

            The Left, no matter past myriad forms, has politically always been associated with social justice for the human species.
            This is its universal symbolism. The use of the description “left” as a qualifier to biocentrism is meant to send a signal
            that the future biocentric society will also be socially just for humans, in addition to being just for other species and the
            planet itself. Yet ecological justice must remain primary. There is no justice for people on a dead planet. We are first
            Earthlings in personal and societal consciousness, as the late Canadian ecophilosopher Stan Rowe frequently reminded
            us. But activists who support left biocentrism must also be involved in social justice issues.

            The deep ecology philosophy, within which left biocentrism is embedded, was initially outlined and summarized in the
            early 1970s by the Norwegian philosopher and environmental activist Arne Naess in an widely reprinted article, called
            “The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement: A Summary.” Much has been written on deep
            ecology since then by Naess and others. I myself adopted this philosophy in 1985. Part of this meant to try to follow
            a low consumption lifestyle. One of my favourite quotes from Naess, on this referring to Western consumption, says:

                    We must live at a level that we seriously can wish others to attain, not at a level that requires the bulk of
                    humanity NOT to reach. (Philosophical Dialogues, edited by Witoszek and Brennan, p. 224)

            Looking back at my own environmental actions and writings prior to the adoption of deep ecology, would indicate, not
            to be presumptuous, that I was on a similar path to this thinking, through my involvement in forest and wildlife struggles
            in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, in British Columbia and Nova Scotia, from a non human-centered perspective.
            An example of this would be a presentation I made in 1983 on behalf of the Socialist Environmental Protection and
            Occupational Health Group, at a public meeting held by the Royal Commission of Forestry in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
            (This has become Green Web Bulletin #10.) The presentation was made before I had heard of deep ecology.  It was
            called “Pulpwood Forestry In Nova Scotia.” (Later reprinted by the Gorsebrook Research Institute, Saint Mary’s
            University, under the title “Pulpwood Forestry In Nova Scotia and the Environmental Question.”) The following
            quote taken from this presentation concerns “The Ecological Perspective”:

                    The ecological perspective rejects man’s supposed domination over nature. This domination is referred to
                    as the homocentric or anthropocentric viewpoint which sees the environment primarily in relationship to
                    how it “benefits” human beings... The anthropocentric viewpoint is the basis of all environmental management
                    perspectives where the goal is the exploitation of nature in the most efficient and rational manner possible.
                    Such a viewpoint is fully compatible with the different but existing forms of political economy, e.g. in the
                    United States of America and the Soviet Union... In contrast to anthropocentrism is the ecological
                    perspective, where it is seen as necessary that people be managed so as to live within the constraints of the
                    ecological system of which they are a part. Our existence has to be ecologically as well as socially sustainable.
                    The forest then is a living ecosystem of which we are a part and is not to be seen mainly as a source of low
                    cost wood fibre for the pulp and paper industry.

            Like quite a few others in the environmental movement, finding the ecocentric philosophy of Naess put my own fragmentary
            experiences in a more theoretical context so that it made sense, and I could declare “This is what I believe!” I became a
             “missionary” for the ideas of Naess (although a critical one). Deep ecology outlines a new relationship to Nature which is
            biocentric or ecocentric, not human-centered, and the implications for humans which follow from this. I tried to apply deep
            ecology to the environmental issues with which I was engaged, in order to show that this was a philosophical “tool” which
            activists could use. I brought to this ecological work a left wing self-identity and consciousness, grounded in my social
            background and life experience.

            I was born into a British working class family of four children – mother and father life-long supporters of the British Labour
            Party, leaving school at fifteen and serving a five-year apprenticeship in Portsmouth Dockyard as a shipwright. My father
            who “worked on the bench” in a local aircraft factory in Portsmouth, took his union politics seriously and involved me in
            this during the period of my apprenticeship. As a teenager I rowed with the local rowing club in salt water regattas all
            along the South Coast from Portsmouth. Rowing brought about a love of the sea and also took me out of my immediate
            dockyard environment into other social circles. My nickname in the rowing club – it’s social base was not working class –
            was “Matey,” which was short for “dockyard matey.” I also spent time as a teenager walking the saltwater marshes,
            observing waterfowl and being fascinated by the huge tidal harbour with its acres of mud flats within walking distance
            from our house in Portsmouth.

            In 1957, I immigrated to Canada, basically to escape the then compulsory “National Service” in the armed forces in England.
            In my new country, I took part in social justice and anti-war issues. I entered university in Montreal through “Mature
            Matriculation” and obtained a Bachelor degree. Afterwards I did a Master’s degree in sociology at the New School for
            Social Research in New York. Even though I completed the course work for the doctorate, I never submitted a thesis.

            I was a one-time university teacher, as my initial two-year contract, to teach sociology in Montreal in the turbulent late 1960s,
            was not renewed. There were no additional university teaching job offers. My political background includes having been a
            member of a Marxist-Leninist organization in Canada from 1968 to 1975, and serving a prison sentence of 40 days arising
            out of participation in a Toronto anti-fascist demonstration in the 1970s. I ran twice as a federal ML candidate in elections in

            According to a 1978 book by Lorne and Caroline Brown, An Unauthorized History of the RCMP (pp. 122-123), the
            RCMP tried unsuccessfully to enlist the co-operation of Regina university authorities in preparing a case against me for
            "sedition," based on remarks I had made at a university seminar as a ML spokesperson, in November 1969 on the topic
            "Revolt vs. the Status Quo."

            A general overview of the role of the Canadian political police - the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) – on
            university campuses in Canada, carried out with the full knowledge of the political governing class, can be seen in the
            2002 pedantic book by academic historian Steve Hewitt, Spying 101: The RCMP’s Secret Activities at Canadian
            Universities, 1917-1997. This book, which curiously does not mention the above Unauthorized History, is based on
            Access to Information requests, usually heavily censored by those releasing the requests, plus some interviews with
            ex-RCMP sedition chasers and a few interviews with former students or faculty who were investigated by the security
            services. Hewitt is no radical himself and justifies much of what he writes about: “Nor do I contend that a security service
            has no place on a university campus.” (p. 16) But his book is somewhat revealing for those who claim ignorance about
            Canada having a secret police force concerned with maintaining thought control within a capitalist paradigm and
            targeting those considered as “subversive” who challenge such a paradigm. The fixation for the security services was
            always mainly communism. We are told, “When it came to subversion, Communists received the great bulk of the
            police’s attention.” (p. 11)  Hewitt notes generally about today: “In this new era and the rapid passage of anti-terrorism
            legislation, the likelihood that those who engage in peaceful dissent will be investigated is great.” (p. 211)

            In 1977, I became involved in environmental work in British Columbia and worked with the BC Federation of Naturalists
            on environmental issues. I continued the environmental work in Nova Scotia, where my wife and I moved in 1979. Here
            I took up uranium and forest issues, and have been attempting to define a non-human centered environmentalism. In
            1984 we moved to an old farm that had reverted back to forest.

            In 1983, at an anti-cruise missile rally, I publicly declared myself as a “Green”: “We need a new kind of politics and we
            believe the green movement, which stresses a new type of environmentally conscious society, is the way ahead.”

            Then, in 1985, I came in contact with the philosophy of deep ecology and adopted it.

            I wrote for Canadian Dimension, the national left social democratic magazine, over a period from 1989 until 2006 (about
            25 articles), trying to bring a deep green perspective to its readership. In the July/August 2006 issue, I was one of six people
            listed as “Environmental Activists who are Changing the World.” (I only wish it were true!)

            In 2006 I ran as a Green Party candidate in the riding of Central Nova, where we live, and made available on the internet the
            campaign material which combined a deep ecology and an anti-capitalist perspective. (See: Election Campaign Press Releases)

            As I noted in the first “My Path” bulletin, Arne Naess comes through as sympathetic to socialism in his key book Ecology,
            Community and Lifestyle
. He considers class restrictions as limitations to the possibility of Self-realization for individuals
            and also points out that Green politics wants the elimination of class differences locally, regionally, nationally and globally.
            But Naess has not explored in any consistent way the relationship of deep ecology to the Left. This work has been taken up
            by people like Andrew McLaughlin, Rudolf Bahro, Fred Bender, myself, and several other supporters of left biocentrism, like
            David Greenfield. (See his recent fine, inclusive essay in Dandelion Times also titled “The Left in Left Biocentrism)

            The present bulletin focuses on “The Left in Left Biocentrism”. It should perhaps have been written a long time ago, although
            the second bulletin in the My Path series (#64), dated April 1998 and devoted to “Actual Issues”, does contain an
            extensive section called “Relationship To The Left.” In it I outlined four positive and ten negative ideas for how I saw the
            relationship to the Left for left biocentrism. I said at that time the positive ideas from the Left tradition have to be part of any
            left biocentric synthesis. The initial ideas about this attempted synthesis were outlined using the conceptual formulation of
            “socialist biocentrism”, in a paper “Green Marginality in Canada” by Orton and Hoffmann. This paper was presented
            in June 1989 at the Learned Societies’ Conference at Laval University, in Quebec City. Looking back, I see this concern
            with socialist biocentrism as an attempt to combine deep ecology and socialism, but the contradictions eventually
            overwhelmed any possible synthesis. In hindsight, the concern with articulating a socialist biocentrism has turned out to be
            part of the theoretical evolution of the left biocentric tendency within deep ecology. A quote from the “Green Marginality”
            paper illustrates this:

                    We believe that the socialist/communist movement, being human-centered, has difficulty in seeing what the
                    green movement is all about in Canada and the United States. We have come to adopt the basic perspective of
                    biocentrism or deep ecology. Biocentrism provides the ideological counter to ‘resourcism’, the dominant view
                    that the non-human world exists solely as raw material for the human purpose. The essence of biocentrism is,
                    for us, what it means to be green.

            We also pointed out that “The green movement has replaced the socialist movement as the center of innovative debate and
            utopian thinking.”

            In September of 1988, I took the basic analysis from the “Green Marginality” paper and presented a talk “Socialist Biocentrism:
            What Is It?”
at a workshop at a Vermont deep ecology conference. I travelled to this conference with another environmental
            activist from Nova Scotia. It was in Vermont that I first met Andrew McLaughlin, author of the 1993 book, Regarding Nature:
            Industrialism and Deep Ecology who led a Council of All Beings gathering at the conference. This was my first exposure to
            such a Council and it made a big impression on me, as a mechanism for transforming consciousness away from anthropocentrism.
            It was also the first time I became aware that there were other deep ecology supporters, like McLaughlin, who were openly
            socialist, and that I was not alone with my ideas of trying to bring together deep ecology and socialism. I attended a talk
            McLaughlin gave at the conference and remember intervening against one of the participants who was attempting to red-bait him.
            (Andy and I became friends and a mutual collaboration, which has been helpful for shaping my ideas, exists to this day.)

            In the talk notes for the Socialist Biocentrism workshop, I said that socialist biocentrism was “at a very preliminary stage of
            explanation, but the perspective is meant to provide a theoretical home for greens who support, in principle, a
            biocentric position and who consider themselves socialists of some kind.”
I pointed out that “biocentrism in green
            thinking draws its roots from the philosophy of deep ecology”
and our experience showed that “by focusing on the
            actual work, people with marked ideological differences can fruitfully cooperate for the sake of the Earth.”

            I also noted:
                    Much of deep ecology writing we find obscure and not relevant to practical green work. We note the lack of
                    any real political, economic, social analysis, or class perspective, by most deep ecology writers...We believe
                    that socialist greens, who have a biocentric position, must be concerned about population. If humans share
                    the planet on a basis of equality with other forms of life, then as human numbers expand, other life forms
                    and their habitats suffer. We do not believe this position makes us ‘Malthusians.’

            Attempting to define a socialist biocentrism, that is, a merging of deep ecology and socialism, was not just a theoretical
            exercise but had to be seen in the context of the proposal to form “A Left Green Network” in Canada in 1988. This was
            really a carbon copy of the 1988 “draft” proposal for a “Left Green Network in North America”, which was very much
            influenced by the ideas of Murray Bookchin and social ecology. This proposal, which had minimal ecological content but
            was high on social justice, was explicitly directed against deep ecology and aimed at influencing Greens in the United
            States. The underlying automatic assumption by these “leftists”, which really bothered me at that time, was that, to be a
            Green and also on the Left, meant to be a supporter of social ecology. There was no other option open for discussion.
             The biocentric socialist path I was struggling to find, was not even up for discussion. The call for a Left Green Network
            was quite sectarian. Deep ecology was equated in a circulated document with “‘deep-ecological’ misanthropy.”
            There was also strong opposition to population reduction. One of the “Principles of the Left Green Network”, in a
            very detailed document that new people were just asked to sign on to, clearly stated the adoption of social ecology as its
            primary orientation:

                    Left Greens are social ecologists. We root the ecological crisis in its systemic social causes - capitalism
                    in particular and hierarchy and domination in general...Left greens oppose the misanthropic
                    orientations that blame human nature, human rationality, or ‘overpopulation’ for the ecological

            The call was also imperial, in that it assumed that Canada was just an appendage of the United States.

            I circulated a document among our green and environmental contacts in Canada (which I now cannot find a copy of)
            called “A Preliminary Response to the ‘Call For a Left Green Network.’” The following is taken from a reply,
            dated November 15, 1988, by a Nedjo Rogers which serves to bring out some of the orientation of my Preliminary
            Response and also how it was arrogantly received by some social ecology supporters of the Left Green Network in

                    Dear David,
                    ...I and some of the other Vancouver signatories of the Call are members of an informal collective
                    called Red and Green. I am a green and a socialist, and a supporter of social ecology.

                    If I understand your ‘preliminary response’ correctly, you support the formation of a Canadian
                    Left Green (or Green Left) Network, but oppose the Call which has been issued on the basis that it
                    seems to support social ecology over deep ecology. I agree that it does so, but do not find this

                    That a socialist green network should be consistent with the aims and principles of social ecology
                    seems to me entirely appropriate. Social ecology, for purposes of clarification, is not entirely
                    synonymous with ‘Murray Bookchinism,’ although Murray is its prominent exponent. As its name
                    implies, social ecology is derived largely from the socialist/anarchist tradition. Social ecology sees
                    the elimination of capitalism and the achievement of social justice, as well as the preservation and
                    protection of wilderness, as essential to the creation of a truly ecological world.

                    Deep ecology, in contrast, does not genuinely incorporate the left tradition, and is indeed inconsistent
                    with socialism...

                    I conclude, therefore, that it is entirely natural that the principles of a left (or socialist) green network
                    should be consistent with social ecology, and inconsistent with deep ecology...

                    I would be surprised if any deep ecologist wished to join a socialist green network. It would imply to
                    me that he or she were confused, either ideologically or semantically. If the Call for a Left Green Network
                    is seen as objectionable by deep ecologists, this is perhaps only to be expected. In short, I do not see a place
                    for deep ecology within the Left Green Network...

                    You make an important point in your ‘preliminary response’ with which I agree: that it is important that
                    we as Canadian socialist greens organize ‘independently of the U.S.’...Any Canadian reading the Call in
                    its present form will note a definite American slant, and a lack of discussion of issues of particular
                    concern to contains nothing inherently objectionable to Canadians...I will send a copy of
                    this letter, and of yours, to other individuals and green organizations whom this matter concerns.

                    Yours in social and ecological struggle,
                    Nadjo Rogers

            Another theoretical struggle where a left biocentric position was outlined in opposition to that influenced by social ecology
            and Murray Bookchin, was around the issue of ecofascism. Bookchin himself attempted to associate deep ecology with
            ecofascism and Hitler’s national socialist movement. Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier, both social ecology supporters,
            pursued this line of thinking and also tried to link Rudolf Bahro to national socialism. I felt it important to oppose this attack
            on deep ecology and wrote a reply in 2000 called Ecofascism: What is It? A Left Biocentric Analysis.” My reply
            examined what could be considered a legitimate use of the term ecofascism.

            MARX AND MARXISM
            In the 1989 presentation at the Learned Societies’ Conference, we outlined our changing attitude towards Marx and
            Marxism, based on our experience working as environmentalists and socialists:

                    Through our experience in the Nova Scotia environmental movement, we gained some understanding of questions
                    which socialist greens have to face. We ourselves had to change. While our experience is that many environmentalists
                    see the capitalist aspect of various environmental issues, it is much harder for such people to see themselves as
                    socialists. This because they do not see socialism as different. For ourselves, we came, reluctantly, to the view that
                    if Marx/Marxism viewed the natural world as a ‘resource’ – in a similar manner to capitalism – then it was not
                    possible to be ‘green’ and a Marxist, however much one shared the basic Marxist critique of capitalist society.

            A good example of how I defined socialist biocentrism using struggles against industrial forestry in Nova Scotia as context, is
            shown in the article Discussion: Socialist Biocentrism, which provided an exchange between James O’Connor, the
            then editor of the Marxist journal Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, and myself. (At that time I was on the editorial board of
            CNS, but I later resigned from the board.) The discussion shows a fundamental clash of values between O’Connor’s
            Marxist perspective on the environment and my views as a supporter of deep ecology who was also on the Left. O’Connor’s
            comments, “I don’t understand what Orton’s biocentrist perspective has to do with his ecological/political practice”,
            show an incomprehension for understanding a proposed socialist biocentric perspective. He is a person who, by anyone’s
            account, would be considered at the forefront of Marxist scholarship, particularly pursuing that more recent line of inquiry
            which claims an ecological role for Marx and Marxism. My reply in the exchange addressed four questions:
                    1) The relationship of theory to practice in biocentrism;
                    2) Why nature is ultimately more important than society;
                    3) What does socialist biocentrism mean, from a socialist perspective; and
                    4) Can a pulpwood forestry be supported?

            In retrospect, some Marxists have reproached me saying that recent scholarship e.g. John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett
            (authors I have not read) have shown that, for Marx, Nature was of crucial importance, as was an ecological understanding.
            I am now prepared to accept this, but it does not change the overall left biocentric critique of those using Marx and Marxism
            to write about ecology and the environmental movement. To claim Marx was a deep Green seems rather exaggerated. The
            proof of the pudding is in the eating and in this case it must ultimately be how Marxism has been applied. (See next section
            of this paper on relations to the Left.) I also dislike that current in many Marxist discussions, which claims “all is foretold” in
            Marx, if we only really understood him. Joel Kovel’s 2002 book The Enemy of Nature, was written from a hybrid Marxist
            and social ecology viewpoint. He noted, “Almost the entire socialist tradition...has largely been unable to appropriate an
            ecological attitude.” (p.206) (See my critique of Kovel’s book, Ecological_Marxism)

            The environmental legacies of “actually existing” socialist and communist societies are quite negative. (The possible exception
            here would be Cuba, which has shown leadership by example in small plot intensive urban gardens and in developing
            alternatives to fossil fuel based rural agriculture, and in the protection of the island’s natural biodiversity.) It seems to me that
            “socialism” or “ecosocialism”, as a description of a future deep ecology inspired and socially just post capitalist society, is not
            adequate or inspirational, given the actual historical record. Also, the use of the term “socialist” or “ecosocialist” seems to shut
            out options, implying that post-industrial societal models of sustainability from the socialist/communist tradition already exist
            and could just be adopted. This is foolishness and also Left arrogance. The type of the future ecocentric and socially just social
            formations are up for discussions. There are no worked-out social models that can be simply adopted, all is on the table for
            discussion. Socialism is in many ways an expression of the industrial proletariat, and while its legacy of social justice remains
            valid, and indeed needed for a future ecocentric society, it is not correct in my view to say that “ecosocialism” will describe the
            future post industrial ecocentric society. The features of such a society are a work in progress for all of us to engage with.

            I first tried to outline this relationship in point form in the April 1998 My Path bulletin Part II, “Actual Issues.” This was later
            repeated (with one additional point) as part of a talk I gave in August 2000 to the federal convention of the Green Party of
            Canada, called Is Left Biocentrism Relevant to Green Parties?  I said the needed theoretical path must be from Red to
            Green but that the positive ideas from the Left tradition have to be part of any left biocentric synthesis of ideas. The
            following points are the ones taken from that talk concerning the “positive” and “negative” ideas concerning the relationship
            to the Left for left biocentrism:

            Positive ideas
            1. A basic idea within the socialist and communist tradition is that society should control the economy, and not the economy
                control the society, as is the situation under industrial capitalism. If the economy is controlling the society, is it not possible
                to have an economy which accepts operating within general ecological limits, as each corporation maximizes its own
                economic interests. It is easier to visualize an economy operating within ecological limits, if it is controlled by society.
                Social control of the economy does not have to be centralized, it could be decentralized in a bioregional economy.

            2. Sense of collective responsibility for all members of a society. It is not acceptable that a few live in luxury and others in
                poverty. This is the social justice contribution of the Left. It means income redistribution nationally and internationally.
                A radical ecological politics must take account of the interests of the human species for political success.

            3. Class awareness, being aware that not all are equal, although all may vote; that the press is "free" to those who own it
                in a capitalist democracy. Environmental, economic and social issues always have a class dimension, if one looks
                beneath the surface of industrial capitalist society.

            4. The Left has a concern for others and accepts the self-sacrifice of the individual interest for the collective well-being
                of the society. This is in opposition to the cult of  individualism/selfishness under capitalism.

            Negative ideas
            1. The Left has a human-centered world view, and cannot accept a biocentric/ecocentric outlook, that says animals and
                plants and the general ecosystem have to be treated on the same moral plane as humans. In any conflict situation,
                animals and plants and the physical Earth are defeated. Social justice is for humans, and is predominantly at the expense
                of the ecology.

            2. The Left says that capitalism, not industrialism, is the problem. Implicit in this view is that it is the ownership of wealth,
                which is fundamental. Left biocentrism sees industrial society as the main problem. It can have a capitalist or socialist
                face. This industrial view also accepts a class analysis.

            3. The labour theory of value from Marxism implies that Nature has no value or worth unless humans transform it through
                their labour. For deep ecology, Nature has value in itself. Greens see Nature as the principal source of human wealth
                not labour power. [I would say that this has been in the recent past the situation on the ground about Nature
                essentially having no value, for many of those influenced by Marx and Marxism. But recent Marxist scholarship which
                I accept, has argued that this was not Marx’s original intent.]

            4. The assumption that humans can "own" Nature, and that collective ownership is best. Yet human "ownership" of Nature
                is irrelevant, whether individual, communal or state, if Nature is being destroyed.

            5. Hostility to population reduction as a priority for an ecocentric world. This is because for the Left, humans are
                essentially the only species to have value. The habitat needs of other life forms are not important, particularly when this
                means impacting on the human species.

            6. The assumption from Marxism that "freedom" comes from the development of the productive forces, i.e. the industrial
                base, which will generate the needed wealth for communist society. Consumerism becomes part of this. Left Biocentrism
                opposes more economic growth and, following Rudolf Bahro, popularizes that industrialized nations need to reduce their
                 impact upon the Earth to one tenth of what it presently is, for long term sustainability.
[Bahro wrote this view in the
                1980s, so the economic expansion situation and its impact upon the natural world is much worse today.]

            7. The Marxist position that capitalism "fetters" the forces of production was wrong. Capitalism massively expands these
                forces of production and destroys Nature in the process. There is no conception within Marxism of limits to growth, or
                the necessity for a contracting economy for an ecological sustainable society.

            8. The Left has a materialist outlook and a culture which is quite hostile to expressions of spirituality, religion being the
                "opium" of the people, etc. Left biocentrism holds that individual and collective spiritual/psychological transformation,
                is important to bring about major social change, and to break with industrial society. We need inward spiritual/
                psychological transformation, so that the interests of all species overrides the self-interest of the individual, the family,
                the community, and the nation. Animism from indigenous societies has much to teach us.

            9. The Left promotes the "working class" as the instrument for social transformation to a more egalitarian society.
               Left biocentrism, like Bahro, sees the trade unions as united with their employers in defending industrial society and
                privilege. Environmental and green politics recruits across class, although there is a class component to such politics.
                It has been my  experience, for example in issues such as uranium exploration/mining and open pit coal mining,
                the killing of seals, pulpmill pollution, the spraying of biocides and destruction of forests, and the Sable Island
                gas project, that the unions involved or which stand to economically benefit, have had the same anti-ecological
                positions as their employers. This is the same in many other industries. Both unions and employers have an
                economic interest in the continuation of industrial society and speak with similar anti-ecological voices. In the
                main, of course there are exceptions, trade unions are generally environmental enemies, not allies, of the
                 environmental and green movements.

            10. The Left has no alternative economic model to that of the global, market economy. For example, the social
                democratic Left in Canada (the New Democratic Party) and in other countries, ends up adapting to the capitalist
                economic growth model, with its endless consumerism and the environmental destruction by trans-national
                corporations. A bioregional economic model not based on continuous growth, which will respect ecological
                limits and which serves social justice, could be an alternative model.
[This “no alternative economic model” is
                certainly true for social democratic parties. However ecological models that try to integrate sustainable economies
                which are not capitalist are being discussed by some socialists influenced by Marx and Marxism.]

            11. The Left minimizes individual responsibility for destructive social or ecological actions. For example, the
                logger is "forced" to clearcut to feed his family, pay the mortgage, make the truck payments, etc. Although
                the primary locus of blame is the destructiveness of industrial capitalist society, this position is a denial of
                personal responsibility. Individuals must take responsibility for their actions and be socially accountable.
                Part of being individually responsible is to practice voluntary simplicity, so as to minimize one's own impact
                upon the Earth.

            I believe the above “Relationship to the Left” analysis is basically accurate from a left biocentric perspective. There is one
            additional “positive” idea which left biocentrists need to incorporate from the Left, and that is adopting a conflict model of
            social change as opposed to a “harmony” model. The harmony viewpoint seems to be the approach of Arne Naess and
            is perhaps the dominant view in deep ecology. This was first discussed in my 2005 review of Wisdom In the Open Air:
            The Norwegian Roots Of Deep Ecology
and more fully in My Path bulletin Part VII, “Notions of Self in the Age
            of Ecology”
, in the section “A Conflict Model of Social Change.”  The Norwegian book review was undertaken mainly
            to examine the ideas of Sigmund Kvaløy, someone highly influenced by Buddhism, Marx and Gandhi. He advocates a
            conflict model of social change and says that we should prepare for social strife in working for fundamental ecological and
            social change. The following quote is from my review:

                    Left biocentrists like myself, who believe that much in Marx is valuable, have not tended to see Marxism
                    as a strong contributing current to the ecological synthesis which we are trying to orient towards. I personally
                    have welcomed the ongoing historical materialist critique of capitalist society, the human social justice
                    contributions coming out of the socialist and communist social movements, and the focus on changing this
                    world. However, it seems that most previous discussions have focused, perhaps rightly, around how Marx and
                    Marxists view Nature – did Marx recognize the intrinsic value of the natural world or did he view this world
                    instrumentally, etc. By this focus, I believe we have neglected the force driving SOCIAL change in Marx,
                    that is the class struggle, or more generally social conflict within society. According to Sigmund Kvaløy, the
                    conflict model of social change should guide ecocentric greens and environmentalists. As he says, ‘I’m all
                    for polarization. That’s the only way we get deeper discussions.’
(Wisdom, p. 150)

            This relates to point 4 in the list of “negative” ideas from the Left, which left biocentrists need to reject. Perhaps it is fair to
            say that the Left stresses collective ownership, as opposed to individual ownership, but what is not normally challenged is
            the idea of “ownership” itself. That is the human-centered idea that the human species can “own” nature itself and other
            species. Yet nature can be destroyed whether under state, collective, private, or indigenous “ownership.” For deep
            ecology, as Naess has said, “The earth does not belong to humans.” Left biocentrism has a non-human centered view,
            where it would be more accurate to say that the Earth owns us.  For left biocentrists, community has to include not just
            humans but other animals, plants and the Earth itself. With such a community, there is a sense of Earth spirituality, as in
            past animistic indigenous societies. This spirituality acted in the past as a restraint upon human exploitation of nature,
            and it has to be brought back for sustainability to be achieved. Left biocentric theory advocates “usufruct” as opposed
            to private ownership of the natural world. With usufruct, there is the right of responsible use of the natural world but
            not ownership of any part of Gaia. We are also subject to ecocentric governance, which is much wider and more
            demanding than the governance by human society. There is no “right” to destroy or despoil the natural world for
            narrow human self-interest. Nature remains a commons and should not be privatized and subject to individual or
            collective ownership.

            I puzzle over the basic Naess/deep ecology position, which I fully support – that one cannot own the Earth – and the
            promotion in the U.S., South and Central America, and in Canada, of what has been called “private land philanthropy.”
            This means using private property laws to buy up land for conservation purposes. There are a number of foundations
            doing this, e.g. the Foundation for Deep Ecology (Doug Tompkins), Friends of Nature (Martin Haase), the Nature
            Conservancy, and others, who have been doing this as a counter to the industrialization of the planet. I worry about
            reinforcing property beliefs, while buying land up for “good” purposes. Society has to change its basic thinking
            regarding human “ownership” of nature and other life forms, if we are to chart a new ecocentric course. Conservation
            activities also have to undermine the existing paradigm of values, not reinforce the laws upholding so-called property
            rights of societies created by humans.

            In Canada, as in the United States, so-called land owners have often been vocal voices asserting their “rights” and
            demanding compensation against those promoting ecological and wildlife interests. Industrial capitalism has commodified
            Nature and de-spiritualized the world around us. Changing consciousness, not paying so-called compensation to those
            working the land, even in a good cause such as buying private land for conservation purposes, is the path we should be
            embarking on. Wildlife and plant life have no place or intrinsic value within a monetary nexus devised solely by humans.
            As the Deep Ecology Platform puts it, "The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman life on Earth have
            value in themselves...These values are independent of the usefulness of the nonhuman world for human purposes."
            For those of us striving to be deeper Greens, we need to change, not reinforce, the basic value system which presently
            governs us.

            Left biocentrists have a different view of the economy than the Left. For us, the economy does not just include the long term
            welfare of humans and their habitats, but it also includes preserving and not significantly altering conditions for the long term
            welfare of all the other species of life inhabiting the planet. We humans must share a fixed amount of physical habitat, whether
            land or marine, with other species on an equality basis. A population reduction strategy must therefore be part of any green
            economic policy. And, given lifestyle patterns in high consumption societies like Canada and the United State, consumption
            must also be sharply reduced. The existing expansionary industrial capitalist economic model is destructive and has to be
            replaced. While we are concerned about social justice for humans, left biocentrists understand that ecological justice for all
            species will normally be primary in the ecocentric society. For the ecocentric Left informed by deep ecology, there is the
            primacy of ecocentric consciousness – of “thinking like a mountain” as Aldo Leopold instructed us. Social justice, while
            important, is secondary to such a consciousness. The left-right distinction is therefore subordinate to the anthropocentric-
            deep ecology divide. Coming into a new relationship with the natural world is primary for left biocentrists, and social justice
            for humans must keep this basic orientation in mind.

            This was one of the key themes I pursued, from a left biocentric perspective, as a federal Green Party candidate in the 2006
            election, and as a writer trying to influence the green movement. Canada’s energy policy is all about supplying U.S. energy
            needs. (See Change Canada's Energy Policy)

            I also wrote an article “Reclaiming the Commons: Responding to Climate Change and Peak Oil” which was picked
            up by Canadian Dimension,  and also published in the Spring 2007 issue, No. 43, of Synthesis/Regeneration as the lead
            article in the “Reducing Energy” issue.

            I critically reviewed George Monbiot’s Heat: How To stop The Planet From Burning  published in Synthesis/
            Regeneration 45, Winter 2008. The overall thesis of this book, taking the case of the United Kingdom, is that the
            existing high-consumption industrial lifestyle can be kept and climate change held under control if certain tough carbon
             reducing changes are made. I believe this to be fantasy.
            The “Reclaiming the Commons” article was a critique of the reformist or ecocapitalist approach of a marketplace
            incrementalism to global warming and climate change, promoted by the federal Green Party of Canada. The following
            quotes from this article give a sense of the position being advocated:

                    Deeper greens must not take part in climate change discussions which focus on soft energy paths to replace
                    fossil fuels, but which keep the existing high energy consumption lifestyle in our country, thus basically turning
                    our backs on the world’s dispossessed. This does not mean that we are unconcerned about softer technologies
                    like solar or wind power, but it does mean that electoral Greens cannot replace the larger issue of the basic
                    unsustainability of industrial capitalist society with the pretense that, by some kind of retrofitting agenda led by
                    electoral Greens, we can painlessly evolve in some fundamentally new direction.
                    One such example, as advocated in the 2006 Election Platform, was carbon emissions trading. As Greens, we
                    must see the atmosphere as part of the global commons. Carbon emissions trading is just a continuation of the
                    ongoing enclosure movement, an attempt to assert so-called private property rights over the commons by the
                    rich and the powerful.

            The above article concluded by declaring:

                    Greens must advocate taking back into communal ownership the energy sector of our economy. As greenhouse
                    gas emissions must be cut 50-70% if the atmosphere of our planet is to remain hospitable to all life forms,
                    including humans, then boldness is called for from those who call themselves Greens... Greens must convey the
                    electoral message that climate change and peak oil are calling the fossil fuel-based industrial capitalist society
                    into question and that a new ecologically conscious and socially just society is on the agenda for all of us.

            This has been one area where the ideas of left biocentrism, as elaborated by myself, have clashed strongly with “traditional”
            Left views, which have focused pretty exclusively on social justice for aboriginals, not Earth justice first and then considering
            social justice. One of the My Path bulletins (Part IV), is concerned with “Aboriginal Issues and Left Biocentrism”. 
            There is also the two-part Green Web Bulletin #67,Unfashionable Ideas: A Left Biocentric Critique of the Report
            of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples
. And there are a number of other articles and book reviews written
            on the topic of aboriginals and the environment, which preoccupied me for several years in the 1990s. One of the articles
            was called “Deep Left Dilemmas” and was printed in the July-August 1996 edition of Canadian Dimension magazine.
            (Reprinted as Green Web Bulletin #51) I wrote this article as an Earth defender and left biocentrist/ecocentrist for readers
            of this social democratic magazine. I outlined a critique of what I called the “social environmentalism” world view in a nine-
            point form. For social environmentalism, social justice is upheld over environmental justice, as opposed to a left biocentric
            view that environmental issues are more fundamental than social issues. The article stirred up a lot of controversy. The nine
            points regarding environmental-aboriginal relations for social environmentalists, both native and non-native, are summarized

            1. Aboriginals in Canada communally “owned” the country before the arrival of the European colonizers and therefore
                must be compensated. With this position, ownership of non-human Nature becomes accepted.
            2. Because of support for past treaties (“treaty fundamentalism”), feudal/bourgeois legalities are upheld and a class view
                of history is denied. This is expressed by upholding as valid treaties of oppressor convenience signed 200-300 years ago...
                Why should British colonial treaties signed with indigenous peoples be taken as sacrosanct today?
            3. The “unceded” land concept or “beyond the treaty frontier” language, such as promulgated by sovereigntists in British
                Columbia, accepts the past legitimacy of the whole treaty process in Canada. Implied is that if a treaty was signed by
                the British colonial powers dispossessing the native peoples, then everything is okay! Revolutionary movements have
                ‘traditionally’ had contempt for, and disregarded past feudal and bourgeois legalities.
            4. Treaties are seen as frozen-in-time, yet paradoxically they are guides to the assertion of contemporary land, hunting and
                fishing ‘rights’, when everything has ecologically changed for the worse.
            5. Social environmentalists support the traditional hereditary chief system, as opposed to the elected band councils.
                Traditional indigenous cultures are held up as social and ecological models. While there are many corruptions to the
                band council system, at least there are elections. There exists a social critique of indigenous peoples and cultural
                traditionalism – but one would not know it from the social environmentalists.
            6. Social environmentalists will not oppose aboriginals commercially hunting, fishing and trapping in provincial and federal
                parks, wildlife refuges and other protected areas. Aboriginals retain a human-centered ‘use’ orientation towards wildlife...
                in the past animism provided a buffering or mitigating context for such a human-use orientation towards wildlife. But
                this is not the situation today under the impact of industrial culture and modern destructive killing technologies. By their
                practice, as well as giving support to the fur industry and use of the leg hold trap, commercial hunting by natives of polar
                bears, walrus, seals and soon to be grey whales, etc., social environmentalists are in head-on opposition to the vitally
                important animal rights component of the environmental movement.   
            7. An acceptance without public questioning of aboriginal claims, statements and demands and that natives define the terms
                of reference of any alliance with environmentalists.
            8. An acceptance that only aboriginals can define the appropriate use of land in aboriginal areas.
            9. An acceptance of the existing industrial system through support for ‘sustainable development’ or ‘integrated resource
                management’, provided aboriginals are partners with governments and industry.

            The article concluded with the plea that environmentalists “must seek to ally with natives who have biocentric and
            anti-capitalist sentiment.”
Social justice for native peoples in Canada has to be fought for by left biocentrists, but not at the
            expense of the Earth.

            An article by Canadian anthropologist Peter Harries-Jones called “Bargaining The Sacred: The Approach from
            ‘Immanent Holism’”
in the previously referred 1998 book Sustainability: The Challenge, discusses left biocentrism
            and its view on aboriginal issues. Jones was part of a panel responding to my presentation on environmental-aboriginal
            relationships at a 1995 Learned Societies’ Conference in Montreal. Jones outlines many of my positions in his essay,
            including my characterization of aboriginal views of land use as “deep stewardship.” I have given the position that deep
            ecology goes beyond deep stewardship, although building on this. Here are two quotes from this essay:

                    The central tenet of left biocentrism is a required dismantling of our present industrial society by abrogating
                    free trade capitalism, and its corollaries: endless economic growth, consumerism, progressive privatization
                    of property rights. Left biocentrism can only have one agenda for industrial economy and that is to put it
                    into reverse.
P. 45
                    Orton made the case that the generally depleted nature of biodiversity and all wildlife resources have created
                    a new set of ecological circumstances, a totally changed ecological context for traditional practices which
                    overrides claims made in the name of the sacred. For Left biocentrists, the well-being of Earth remains the
                    ultimate yardstick for all environmentalists, native and non-native alike. Thus, given the choice between being
                    green or being red, the former must prevail. The primary claim, where any fundamental choices have to be
                    made, ‘must come down on the side of wild nature. Humans have options. Animals, plants and the physical
                    environment do not have options.’
P. 46

            I have been a Green since the early 1980s. I opposed the call for the forming of a paper federal Green Party in November
            of 1983 in Ottawa, because a green movement had to exist before an electoral party could be formed. In a letter from me to
            the designated representative for Nova Scotia, Phil Burpee, I wrote: “It is a movement that has to be built at this time, not a
            federal political party.” This letter was the follow-up to a meeting held in Truro concerning the founding convention of the
            federal Green Party. According to Jim Harding’s undated pamphlet “The Founding Of The Canadian Greens”, 174
            people registered for that Ottawa convention and of these, 125 were from Ontario. I only joined the Canadian federal Green
            Party in May of 2006.

            There is a lot of ambivalence in my views around Green electoral politics. On one hand, I think that Rudolf Bahro, by his
            withdrawal from the German Green Party in the mid 1980s, and the reasons he gave for this, basically express my own
            sentiments. He considered that such electoral politics are only "brushing the teeth of the dragon," i.e. industrial society. In
            other words, electoral politics are inherently programmed for tokenism and hence ultimate irrelevancy, given the present
            ecological crisis. Yet in a Canadian context, many people have turned to the federal Green Party, which has become a
            recognized political force, polling around ten per cent in popular support. There is also significant electoral support for some
            of the provincial Green parties, as in British Columbia and Ontario. Such support seems to mean that there is a belief that
            such parties are places where serious discussions and ultimately actions can be undertaken in a political context, to oppose
            the ecocidal course that Canadian society has embarked upon. My own electoral commitments have been of a token nature,
            with my main activities directed outside electoral politics. I do see this federal Green Party, with all its flaws and its main
            focus on the belief that there is an ecocapitalist step-by-step path to sustainability within industrial society, as part of an
            international movement calling for a shift in consciousness in how we humans relate to the Earth. As well as being asked to
            be a candidate in the federal election of 2006 in the riding where I live – the overall campaign slogan I used in my riding was
            “Make Peace With Nature – Vote Green”, I became a member of the “shadow cabinet.” This made me ostensibly the
            national Green Party spokesperson for deep ecology. This was perhaps a first for any green party, that is, having someone
            representing deep ecology as a spokesperson for this philosophy in a shadow cabinet position. I was in the cabinet for
            about a year. All of us in the shadow cabinet were asked to hand in our resignations before a party convention which was to
            elect a new leader for the federal party. This turned out to be Elizabeth May. My Green Party experience bears upon the
            ongoing quest to arrive at some mutually acceptable “tenets” for left biocentrism and where we should work or direct our

            My pre-convention resignation letter to the shadow cabinet of August 25th, 2006 noted in part:
                    Personally, I continue to believe that support for a basic deep ecology orientation and its application to the
                    everyday world around us needs to be a founding pillar for any Green Party. However, based on my own
                    experience within the shadow cabinet, I believe that there has to be some shared basic fundamental values
                    between members, in order to have fruitful policy discussions with all their necessary compromises within the
                    shadow cabinet. I do not believe that these shared values existed for me with most members of the cabinet.

            There is a left bio internet discussion group, which has functioned now for over ten years. It has served as an electronic
            community, linking supporters of left biocentrism and deep ecology in several countries, although the main base is Canadian.
            It has been a ‘group’ which provided a welcome sense of community for like-minded people and a place where ideas
            could be exchanged and tested, and yet remain within the group.

            A My Path bulletin (Part III) written in May of 2000, called “Handling Contradictions”, dealt with internal contradictions
            and how to resolve them among those who supported deep ecology and left biocentrism, e.g. vegetarianism and non-violence.

            The bulletin made a distinction between primary and secondary contradictions. This was partly based on working with the left
            bio discussion group:
                    Left biocentrism supporters see some contradictions as primary, and others as secondary. From this perspective,
                    the primary contradiction is with industrial capitalist society and its Earth-destructive anthropocentric world
                    view and practices. Secondary contradictions are differences which are firmly held beliefs on various other issues.

            It has become clear to me since then, that the primary unity for left biocentrists is support for deep ecology or ecocentrism in
            theory and practice. A Left unity is more difficult to obtain and exploring this is one of the reasons for writing this particular
            bulletin “The Left in Left Biocentrism.” Political or left differences, if lifted into consciousness for discussion and potential
            policy perspectives, can lead to heated discussions which sometimes cannot be resolved. One example of this would be non-
            bridgeable differences concerning Palestine and Israel and its supporters. While there are some Zionist sympathizers among
            the supporters of left biocentrism, this is far from my own view. The continuing occupation of the West Bank and the blockade
            of Gaza by land and sea by the armed forces of the state of Israel is personally very disturbing to me. But this is something
            hard to discuss, let alone resolve in the left bio internet discussion group. So this must be considered a secondary
            The bulletin on “Handling Contradictions” also gave my critique of ecofeminism: “The fundamental left biocentric critique
            of ecofeminism, which has a number of faces, is its human, female gender exclusiveness, and hence splitting character
            for a general philosophical theory.”
For eco-feminists, it seems the main problem holding back the progressive evolution
            of society is androcentrism – male-centeredness and hence male chauvinism – and not deep ecology’s anthropocentrism.
            Fred Bender’s 2003 book, The Culture Of Extinction, which generally I am very supportive of, notes in its discussion of
            ecofeminism: “Radical eco-feminism’s primary affiliation, like that of social ecology, is with the Left, not with ecology.”
            (p. 364) I agree with this characterization. (See also on the internet the Dialogue on ecofeminism between Fred Bender and
            ecofeminist Wendy Lynne Lee.) However, Patrick Curry’s 2006 book, Ecological Ethics: An Introduction does not
            support this position. For Curry, “The effects of genuine eco-feminism are ecocentric and invaluably so.” (p. 95) So his
            position would be one example of variance in this theoretical tendency. But I consider this a secondary contradiction. Curry
            also has his own view of Self-realization, expressed in his book, (pp. 76-78) which differs from that of Arne Naess and myself,
            and from some other left bios who have expressed themselves on this concept. This then would be another example of a
            secondary contradiction.

            In an industrial capitalist society, the SOCIAL collective changes we are seeking, alongside and as part of the ecocentric
            transformation, are more associated with the Left than the Right, although "individual" – as opposed to a collective sense of
            identity – responsibility and accountability for how one lives (part of left biocentrism as I understand it), is normally more
            associated with the Right. I have resisted defining the left in Left Biocentrism as "socialist", believing that this was sectarian.
            I opposed many on the Left who said that we had to choose between two options for the future: either capitalism or
            ecosocialism, believing that this closed off other venues, while being open about my own pro-communist and pro-socialist
            sentiment on the social justice side.
            What constitutes the “left” part of left biocentrism has become of some urgency to resolve. A number of ecocentric activists
            and writers are aligning with the left biocentric theoretical tendency and sometimes have trouble leaving behind “left” conflicts
            and internal battles from the past with which they have previously identified e.g. as Trotskyists, as Anarchists, or as ‘Democratic’
            Socialists, or if non-Left, with a residual anti-communism and anti-Marxism, part of being socialized in North America. This
            residual anti-communism and anti-Marxism has manifested itself in uninformed and intellectually embarrassing comments from
            my perspective. The reality about Marx is that he was an intellectual giant, whose ideas continue to influence social change
            activists today. Marx combined scholarship – remember all those hours spent in the British Museum? – and political activism.
            Is not the United States government proposed bail out of Wall Street at the taxpayers’ expense in September of 2008, an
            illustration of Marx’s point made so long ago that “The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing
            the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie”

            I cannot accept that Stalin and Mao are equated with Hitler, and that nothing positive has occurred in China or the former
            Soviet Union after the communist revolutions in those two countries. This is neo-conservative thinking and language, as far as
            I am concerned, and totally divorced from reality. Today left biocentrists need to see themselves as part of an inclusive
            ecocentric Left which is non-communist but not anti-communist. We must put the often bloody disunities of the old Left
            behind us and not bring them into contemporary eco-politics.

            From personal experience in Canada, I have known many very dedicated and self-sacrificing people who gave up a lot,
            like careers for example, to come forward to work as “communists.” Their motivation was to better society, like Norman
            Bethune in the 1930s and so many others who are not in the history books. Fascists I have not known personally, but
            their ideals are hatred, not human betterment. I have confronted fascists, as in the 1970s, when, in opposing the holding
            of a “Keep Canada White” meeting in Toronto, it resulted in jail time and a criminal record for myself.

            Another source of anti-communism, among those sympathetic to deep ecology and left biocentrism, seems to be some kind
            of engagement with Tibetan Buddhism, which is often wrapped in anti-communist packaging. For example, Joanna Macy, in
            her autobiography Widening Circles: A Memoir, does not repudiate her past work with the CIA or her frequently
            expressed anti-communism. (See my 2001 review “Joanna Macy and the CIA”.)

            From what I can see, as a non-Buddhist, there is a total discrepancy between the spiritual role of Buddhism, as it has influenced,
            say, supporters in the West, and its socially oppressive role in Tibet and its institutionalized role in other countries. The US
            strategy towards China is one of global encirclement and attempted internal de-stabilization within China, including Tibet.
            Have a look at the US military bases in various countries around China, and try and match this with Chinese bases around
            the United States! The CIA has financed the Dalai Lama with direct economic subsidies, as well as financed and trained
            opposition groups inside and outside of Tibet. The name of The National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA front organization,
            comes up as source through which US government funding was funnelled. CIA assistance in the past has included training
            Tibetan cadres in the United States at a known military training camp, Camp Hale, near Leadville, in the Rocky Mountains
            of Colorado. Trained cadre were assisted by the CIA into re-entering Tibet to carry out armed activities. The majority of
            Tibetans, prior to the arrival of the Chinese army into Tibet, had a serf-like, extremely oppressive existence and Buddhism
            was used to rationalize this in the interests of a land-owning aristocratic class of Tibetans, including Buddhist lamas. It was
            no Shangri-La. The Chinese revolution, despite various mistakes and set-backs, ended feudalism in Tibet and vastly
            improved the life conditions of the majority.

            My idea of spirituality for post-industrial society is not linked to a defined religion but is Earth-centered. This is a kind of
            animism, or worldly ecological spirituality, or pantheism, as opposed to the inner and other-worldly spirituality of the socially
            recognized religions.

            An ecocentric revolutionary Left must include not only socially progressive humans committed to social justice for all and not
            be determined in its thinking by various past political flavours – it must also be a Left which has learned the lessons of deep
            ecology. This includes, most importantly, the non-subordinate interests of species other than humans and the planet itself.

            In a July 2008 book review essay on the recent text by Michael Petrou Renegades: Canadians in The Spanish Civil War
I sought to learn any lessons from this past struggle of relevance to the ecocentric Left today. The lesson was that the
            disunities among the Left in Civil War Spain seriously undermined the Republican side and must be left behind today and not
            brought into contemporary eco-politics. The Earth’s seeming terminal distress has no time for Left self-indulgence and the
            fracturing of our ranks. In my review, I also looked at the negative role of Trotskyism in the Spanish Civil War.

                    From my perspective, the ecocentric left is non-communist but open, where appropriate, to learning from societies
                    like the former Soviet Union, China or Cuba. The biocentric or ecocentric left has to see itself as a being a
                    revolutionary left, as the late Australian deep ecologist Richard Sylvan urged in his 1996 book, The Greening
of Ethics: From Human Chauvinism to Deep-Green Theory: "Deep environmental groups should begin to
                    prepare, carefully and thoroughly, for revolutionary action." (p. 220) I personally think it quite necessary to
                    retain the word "revolution" because it conveys the enormity of the social changes that are needed to move to
                    an ecocentric society... Anti-communism fits a basic position of maintaining the dominance of Capital. This is
                    why it has no place in my own view of the basic tenets for a viable left biocentrism. Furthermore, the fundamental
                    redistribution of human-created wealth globally, a central appeal of communism, is something which is absolutely
                    needed for a post-capitalist sustainable, ecocentric and socially just society.
(See The Spanish_Civil_War and the
                    Canadian Left.)

            Another reason for opposing anti-communism has to do with maintaining one’s personal integrity. Prior to the emergence of
            Islamic fundamentalism, serious opposition to capitalism was usually seen by the security agencies, whose first task is to secure or
            maintain the bourgeois state, as linked in some way to support for communism. This has certainly been true for the involvement of
            the RCMP on university campuses in Canada. There is something humiliating, if one is viewed as a social change agent, to have to
            declare oneself publically as non- or anti-communist, in order to be given a hearing and be taken seriously.

            Anyone socialized in the West has to understand that, since the 1917 Russian Revolution, capitalist societies have considered
            themselves as engaged in deadly ideological warfare with the communist ‘other.’ Al Gore reminded us, if we needed a reminder,
            in his 1993 book Earth in the Balance: “Opposition to communism was the principle underlying almost all of the
            geopolitical strategies and social policies designed by the West after World War II.”
(p. 271) Frances Stonor Saunders
            in her 1999 book The CIA  And The World Of Arts And Letters, a work of quite impressive research, shows the involvement
            of the CIA in shaping Western culture in an anti-communist direction. The Agency used major writers, poets, musicians and
            painters, who let their talents be mobilized for US foreign policy goals, under the banner of “artistic freedom”, as opposed to
            following a “party line” inside and outside of the Soviet Union.

            Obviously, to be on the Left in the West means defining oneself within a culture of anti-communist negativity. This has often
            impacted those who see themselves as part of an ecocentric Left, but it is important to shed this residual anti-communism.
            Personal integrity means rejecting an anti-communist self-definition. It should also mean rejecting those who, from a former
            Trotskyist, social democratic, or anarchist background, declare themselves part of the Left and yet try to bring past battles
            on the Left, plus a strident anti-communism – as in a hatred of all things communist – into left biocentrism. Perhaps there is
            a need for an addition to the Left Biocentrism Primer, which makes it clear that anti-communism (and anti-Marxism) has
            no place within the left biocentric theoretical tendency of deep ecology.

            Left biocentrism is open to learning from the Left, yet it differentiates itself as a separate theoretical tendency, with a number
            of criticisms of the traditional Left. I continue to see myself first as Earth-centered and all that which this implies from an
            ecocentric priority perspective, but I also see myself as part of the Canadian Left. My main sympathies, concerning human-
            centered politics, are on the communist/socialist side, not on the side of capitalism and its adherents.

            This long bulletin – My Path to The Left in Left Biocentrism – has attempted to show some of the historical evolution of this
            theoretical tendency and my own experience in trying to help this tendency unfold. It is necessary to document this evolution,
            because of the growing interest in left biocentrism. A number of new left biocentric writers are expressing their views on this
            tendency, and it is good to have a sense of the ‘orthodoxy’ as a backdrop to fresh voices. As I have shown, my own
            conceptualization is one to which others have contributed in significant ways, as they joined the task of trying to bring a left
            focus into deep ecology. I have also tried to show how my initial concern was to outline a “socialist biocentrism” and why
            eventually I considered it necessary to discard this term and adopt the terminology of left biocentrism. I have shown how
            the traditional Left and the social ecology Left were not at all sympathetic to attempts of trying to link deep ecology and a
            Left perspective. I would argue that this hostility towards deep ecology persists in many Left quarters, as well as ignorance
            about the work of left biocentrists.

            At this time of ecocide, left biocentrism has a lot to offer a Left which is open to its message. I believe this theoretical tendency,
            which has evolved to merge deep ecology and social justice, is part of the path forward to an ecocentric and socially just
            post-industrial society.

            September, 2008

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