the green fuse/glossary

Our glossary can help explain some of the terms used in environmental philosophy. Whenever something technical crops up on the green fuse site, it'll be given a definition here. Meanwhile, why not just explore...

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The view that humans are the most important beings on Earth. Typical of Western Judeo-Christian culture.



A natural region defined by its ecological coherence. Each bioregion has a distinct geological formations, climatic conditions and ecology.

The belief that human communities should be fully integrated with the particular bioregion they occupy. A good example is the Ozark Area Community Congress (OACC). The OACC is founded on the principle of 'political economy', which means that political decisions must be bioregionally orientated, and so operate according to ecological laws.






Philosophical belief that reality is essentially divided into two distinct kinds of stuff. Typically mind and body or the related pair, spirit and matter. One concept in each pair is often deemed superior to the other. See Patriarchal dualism in the Ecofeminism section.



is the view advocated by Aldo Leopold in his highly influential essay "The Land Ethic" (1949).

Originally the scientific study of the relationship between living organisms and their environment. The term now has a wider range of meanings. Often used to describe the holistic interconnectedness of all existence on Earth.

Embodied Knowledge:
Knowledge held within the tissue of the body. It is a somatic, physical knowing which comes from direct experience. Familiar to sports people and performers. Adrian Harris claims that such knowledge is also found in spiritual contexts and can bring an experience of a wholeness and greater ecological awareness. (Harris treats the term 'Somatic Knowing' as equivalent).
See Adrian Harris.

See Embodied Knowledge Links

Enlightenment, Continental:
Also known as 'The Age Of Reason'. An intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th Centuries. A humanist movement which emphasized the power of reason above all else. Tended to emphasize empirical science as source of truth. Promoted notion of human 'progress'.

The belief that people and/or phenomenon have properties that are essential to what they are. In a feminist context, the belief in a unique and unchanging feminine essence existing above and beyond cultural conditioning.

See The question of Essentialism in Ecofeminism.
For an more extended discussion see 'What is Essentialism? '

a philosophical doctrine, mode of speech, designed for or intelligible to outsiders





Gaia Theory:
The Gaia Hypothesis, proposed by Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock, is the theory is that the earth is a self-regulating environment. All the living organisms and the inorganic material of the planet are part of a dynamic system that regulates conditions to support life.

Lynn Margulis descibes this single, unified, cooperating and living system as a 'super organismic system'. This super-organism is called 'Gaia' (after the name for the ancient Greek Goddess of the Earth).

"The entire range of living matter on Earth from whales to viruses and from oaks to algae could be regarded as constituting a single living entity capable of maintaining the Earth's atmosphere to suit its overall needs and endowed with faculties and powers far beyond those of its constituent parts...[Gaia can be defined] as a complex entity involving the Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback of cybernetic systems which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet."

Dr James Lovelock, Gaia - A New Look at Life on Earth

The Gaia Hypothesis

Grey culture:
Also called 'terminal grey culture'. Term used by Colin Johnson in his 'Green Dictionary' to describe the modern West. A culture based on the ethos of growth, environmental destruction and increasing consumerism. 'Derived from the reductionist philosophical tradition and the homocentic view of the planet as being at man's disposal'. ('Green Dictionary', page 131.)




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A complex concept with several highly contested meanings.
Murray Bookchin points out that because many aboriginal peoples lives are so integrated with it, words that mean what we call 'Nature', are not easy to find, if they exist at all, in their languages.
(Bookchin, in Environmental Philosophy: From Animal Rights to Radical Ecology, edited by M.E. Zimmerman, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993. See
Anarchy Archives)






Phenomenology is essentially the study of phenomena, that is things as they appear in our lived experience. Allen lists five characteristics; descriptive nature, antireductionism, intentionality, bracketing and eidetic vision (Allen, 2005: 188). Antireductionism emerges from phenomenology's concern with the richness of phenomena as experienced, while intentionality refers to the way that all consciousness is "consciousness of something" (Allen, 2005: 189). If we are to attend to the phenomena itself, we must recognise our assumptions and the "natural attitude" of everyday life (Moran, 2002: 15), so that we can bracket them out of our understanding. Such bracketing enables us to clarify our immediate intuition of a phenomena - our eidetic vision (Moran, 2002: 11-17).

A linear movement forward. To advance or develop. A key drive behind Western industrial culture. In the Modern world more people have greater material wealth but more people starve and suffer from malnutrition than ever before. Many philosophers claim that these two facts are directly related, and the Western notion of 'progress' is morally flawed.





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Somatic Knowing:
See Embodied Knowledge

The notion that human animals are superior to other animals

Systems Theory:
Systems Theory sees our world in terms of 'systems', where each system is a 'whole' that is more than the sum of its parts, but also itself a 'part' of larger systems. For example, a cell is more than just a pile of molecules and itself is a part of larger systems eg. an organ. An organ is on one level a whole in itself, but on another, it is a part of a system at the level of an individual person. A family and a community can both be seen as 'systems' where the 'parts' are people.
(Taken from What is Deep Ecology?
by Chris Johnstone

Tragedy of the Commons:
Thought experiment in which demonstrates that any ethics is mistaken if it allows a growing population to steadily increase its exploitation of the ecosystem which supports it.
An Abstract of "A General Statement of Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons"




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Wicca, Wiccan:
Wicca is a modern Western interpretation of witchcraft, and a Wiccan is one who practices Wicca. Wiccans often call themselves witches. Wicca is one belief system within what is called Neo-Paganism. Wicca is generally described as a Nature Religion.

Wilderness effect:
The wilderness effect describes the psychological effects of being in wilderness for a period of a week or more. There are several aspects to the effect, but fundamentally it involves “feelings of expansion or reconnection” which many researchers describe as spiritual (Greenway, 1995: 128). Although it usually associated with extended trips in the US wilderness, recent reseach shows that the effect also occurs on some UK protest sites. See: On Crossing and Not Crossing the Wilderness Boundary by Robert Greenway.


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