- Series: Integral Books
- Hardcover: 832 pages
- Publisher: Integral Books; 1st Edition edition (March 10, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1590304667
- ISBN-13: 978-1590304662
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 2.4 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,855,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Integral Ecology: Uniting Multiple Perspectives on the Natural World (Integral Books) Hardcover – March 10, 2009
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“Integral Ecology is a forward-looking book that invites compassionate proactive activism when dealing with the messes we’ve made. Time isn’t on our side, but my optimism leads me to believe that if we embrace the authors’ messages and put them into action using humility, compassion, heart, and love, we still have a chance to pull ourselves out of the many deep holes we’re digging for ourselves, other animals, and ecosystems.”—Marc Bekoff, PhD, University of Colorado, author of Animals Matter and The Emotional Lives of Animals
“This is the finest book on ecology bar none. Highest recommendation!”—Ken Wilber, author of Sex, Ecology, Spirituality and The Integral Vision
“This book offers a promising approach for making sense of the diverse perspectives on the environment, including the many ways of understanding the complexities and challenges of global environmental change. The integral ecology framework provides a valuable roadmap for responding to contemporary problems such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and land use change. Given the widespread and often heated debates about environmental issues, the publication of Integral Ecology is timely and appreciated.”—Karen O’Brien, PhD, University of Oslo, coauthor of Environmental Change and Globalization and member of the Nobel Peace Prize–winning team of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
“In Integral Ecology Esbjörn-Hargens and Zimmerman have produced a complex framework (rooted in a hierarchy of integrative levels proposed by philosopher Ken Wilber) for the multidisciplinary interrogation of ecological problems. This framework provides an intelligent basis for discovering what questions need to be posed in our de facto postmodern era, and how to formulate them most effectively.”—Stanley N. Salthe, PhD, Brooklyn College, author of Evolving Hierarchical Systems and Development and Evolution
“Integral Ecology is a remarkable work, indeed a tour de force. Like all path-breaking books it will provoke lively discussion and inevitable debate. It may even shift the course of our understanding of ecology. This is a book that invites us to read, enjoy, reflect, and act. And the time is now.”—Mary Evelyn Tucker, PhD, Yale University, co-editor of the ten-volume World Religions and Ecology Encyclopedia and author of Worldly Wonder
“Deeper than deep ecology, integral ecology completes the century-long struggle to overcome the unfortunate legacy of Logical Positivism in the natural sciences and Behaviorism in the social sciences. Both blinkered and trammeled the human mind and spirit. At the the heart and soul of Integral Ecology is the frank recognition of interiority and subjectivity, as well as exteriority and objectivity, in the larger-than-human world. That's what Integral Ecology is all about. In addition to theoretical integral ecology, the authors, both gifted writers as well as thinkers, provide case studies applying integral ecology to real-world environmental conundrums.”—J. Baird Callicott, PhD, University of North Texas, co-editor of Encyclopedia of Environmental Ethics and Philosophy and The Wilderness Debate Rages On
About the Author
Michael E. Zimmerman, PhD, is professor of philosophy and director of the Center for Humanities and the Arts at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He spent more than thirty years at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he was chair of the Department of Philosophy and co-director of Environmental Studies. He is co-editor of the popular textbook Environmental Philosophy and the author of Contesting Earth’s Future. In addition, Michael has published nearly one hundred academic articles on philosophy and ecology. He lives in Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and daughter.
Top customer reviews
This book would get 5 stars if it were titled, "Integral Ecology: Applying Ken Wilber's Theory to an Ecological Worldview." I have searched the book and cannot find a single critique of Wilber even though he is referred to as an authority on every page. I find the approach very useful and in many ways eye-opening. But the lack of multiple-perspectives when it comes to Wilber feels disingenuous. I know then Hargens has written elsewhere about the need for many approaches to integral ecology. But that makes the fact that the uniform emphasis on Wilber is unmentioned in the title feel even more disingenuous. Moreover, it makes the work academic unreliable and invalid unless Hargen and Zimmerman or someone else undertakes the effort to go through this book and add in a critical lens on Wilber.
This is great for a read on Wilderian ecology, but fell short as a full integration of an Integral Ecology into a wider audience and effort. I look forward to a work that includes a fuller history of integral approaches and applications, or at least one that devotes a section to naming and acknowledging that history before 800 pages dedicated to a single perspective on taking multiple perspectives.
I had high hopes for this book. Both authors have impeccable credentials. Sean Esbjorn-Hargens has written some excellent articles introducing Wilber's multi-perspectival paradigm into mainstream academia. And Michael Zimmerman is an important environmental philosopher in his own right. Therefore, as someone who supports and contributes to the integral project, I was looking forward to reading this 800 page opus, which from the reviews seemed fascinating. I expected to find many perspectives here and many interdisciplinary thinkers and visionaries discussed, and their insights drawn upon. What I didn't expect to find, but perhaps should have expected, was such an unquestioning reliance on Wilberian theory alone. The two authors seem to have no presence of their own.
Even so, there are many good things about this work:
o For me the most valuable element in this book is the emphasise (as part of ist multi-perspectival methodology) on "interiors", that is, on the fact, always obvious to me but denied by mainstream science, that animals are not "objects" but have a rich inner life just as humans do. This then opens the way to many revolutionary insights involving inetrsubjectivity and cross-species communication. For its ground breaking contributions in this field alone, Integral Ecology is extremely important.
o And the multiperspectival approach to ecology is itself worth presentingm, and in this respect Integral Ecology constitutes the beginning of an important "paradigm shift" in science, moving away from an obsession with externals and objectivity only, to realization that objective reality and objective methodology is one of a number of perspectives. Within the context of pragmatic ecology, the multiperspectival theory means rejecting of limited approaches of development only, preservation only, and so on, while including the insights of each.
o One of the most intersting parts of the book is an all too short appendix which gives a brief listing of 200 different ecological perspectives, everything from Acoustic Ecology to Zoosemiotics. I would have preferred this section to have been several times longer then its 40-odd pages.
o As to be expected with the Integral community and the high standard they place on learning and on citations, the book is comprehensively and impressively researched, with 134 pages of footnotes as reference, very appealing to academic "geeks" like myself!
o I know this is rather trite, but I love the graphic showing the four aspects (quadrants) of the frog on the cover and the inside frontpiece.
o Finally, for anyone who is intersted in a synoptic overview of Wilber's increasingly elaborate and complex Integral Theory, but cannot be bothered reading the thousands of pages in print and online, this book can serve as an excellent primer, with clear text and useful diagrams.
But if I give this book four stars rather than the five it would certainly deserves from the above points, it is because of the following:
o as mentioned, an excessively uncritical tone as regards Mr Wilber himself. His name seems to appear on every second page, and you won't find a single challenge to even one of his ideas. This would be fine if this was a religious or hagiographic work, but it is an academic text. And even within the Wilber community itself those like Mark Edwards who, while sympathetic to Wilber, have positively critiqued his work, and suggested where his theory can be improved (and Wilber somewhere even praises Edwards' critiques). Michael Zimmerman has elsewhere (the Integral World website) provided a very readable synopsis of Edwards, so there is no reason that some of these critiques can't get at least a passing mention, considering how many pages are devoted to Wilber's ideas otherwise.
o Associated with the above is the fact that no one else but Wilber is considered in establishing the foundations for such an important field as integral ecology. The result is that integral ecology is reduced to nothing but a subset of Wilber's integral theory found in Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World and many other books. But I could think of Vladimir Vernadsky (The Biosphere: Complete Annotated Edition), James Lovelock (Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth and other books) and Erich Jantsch (Self Organizing Universe: Scientific and Human Implications (Systems Science and World Order Library. Innovations in Systems Science)) as examples of interdisciplinary scientists, and Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo's Teaching & Method of Practice in philosophy and spirituality, and Oliver Reiser (Cosmic Humanism, sadly long out of print) in both science and philosophy.
o One thing I felt in reading this book is a certain cognitive disjunction. In some places it reads as a primer on Wilber's philosophy, in others as a textbook on Ecology. Both are equally referred to, but they are not integrated. It is like two totally unrelated books that somewhow became slpiced together.
o A poor understanding of hard science seems to be a problem with much of the Wilberian movement, which comes instead from a postmodern philosophical, transpersonal psychological, and Eastern spiritual perspective. Take Darwinian evolution. As it is well known that Wilber prefers Intelligent Design (see his A Brief History of Everything p.20 (2nd edition, Shambhala, 2000), and also Frank Visser's Integral World website), I was curious to see how Esbjorn-Hargens and Zimmerman would handle this touchy (for Wilberians) subject. Sure enough, Darwinian science gets a curt and dismissive coverage, e.g. "No one has any idea how such an enormously complex code [as DNA] could have arisen by chance encounters of amino acids. So daunting is the task of explaining DNA that the world-famous defender of atheism, Antony Flew, recently became a theist who now believes in the existence of a God..." (p.79) Now, mind you, the authors (like Wilber himself) are not denying the development of life itself, only the scientific explanation of how life evolves. Again, were this a religious or philosophical book there would be no problem. But for me at least the value of the book is diminished because of this. Integral Ecology has to include many things, and among those things is real science.
o Finally (and this is admittedly a small thing, but is I believe symptomatic of problems with this work as a whole, and of the whole Integral initiative established by Wilber), I found it rather surprising that on the top of the inside front flap there is a recommendation by Wilber "This is the finest book on ecology bar none". Well, he would recommend it, because it is so uncritically about his ideas! But one wonders at the culture of narcissism of the Integral Institute, that it is considered necessary to have the master recommend a book about himself.
In the end, what can I say about this book? Would I recommend it?
Yes I would, because despite its flaws (which reflect in microcosm the flaws of the Wilber Integral community as a whole), it still does constitute an important and groundbreaking work. If you are a fan of Wilber, it serves as a masterful if uncritical application of his ideas to the field of ecology. If you are interested in different approaches to ecology, I would also recommend it, as it does make a very good case for the value of multiple but equally valid perspectives, if you are not bothered by the excessive overburden of Wilber theory. Certainly it serves as a useful reference in either field.
But at the same time, a truely comprehensive Integral Ecology will have to wait until there is a wider synthesis of many different insights. It cannot be limited to just the theories of one man alone.
The book applies Ken Wilber's integral framework (the most inclusive and integrative conceptual framework currently available) to the field of ecology. It thereby manages to incorporate ideas and perspectives from more than 200 approaches to ecology. It does this by incorporating the contributions of each approach, while also identifying the partiality of each, and then going beyond them all to offer an inclusive, multidisciplinary (or actually transdisciplinary), multiperspectival synthesis. The result is an extremely impressive yet readable text that offers a superb, uniquely encompassing and synthetic overview of ecology.