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The actual nature

55 shades of green.
Forfatter: Ove Jacobsen
Forlag: New Deal Publishing, (Norge)
ECOLOGY / Ove Jacobsen has created an overview of 55 different green thinkers. In the book we can read that we must move from an anthropocentric to an ecocentric perspective – so that solidarity, cooperation and compassion include all forms of life.


When your glasses have green lenses, the world looks green. When your glasses have blue lenses, the world looks blue. But what does it look like regardless of your visual impressions? In Arne Ness' definitely most important book, Ecology, society and lifestyle (Bokklubben 1999), the problem is taken up for further investigation. He asks the question: "Can one distinguish primary, secondary and tertiary qualities in our perception of nature?"

Næss would rather talk about the material field of relationships.

If everything just depends on our subjective sensory impressions, nature itself is really a boring affair, odorless, silent and tasteless. This means that only the primary, geometric-mechanical qualities such as size, shape and movement have objective existence, since they are in the object itself. The secondary sensory qualities, such as colour, shape, heat and taste, are just names for the sensations we have in our own heads, and which are projected onto nature. The tertiary sensory qualities are the sensory complex qualities, which we can call the soul qualities of the world. This is what we call 'the sad', 'the beautiful', 'the menacing', 'the loud' and so on. These exist exclusively in the world of human imagination, we are to believe people like Galileo, Descartes and Newton, who set authoritative standards for this kind of perception of reality.

Arne Næs

Arne Næss, who is one of the 55 mentioned in the book 55 Shades of Green. Why a new financial practice is both necessary and possible, sums up this view aptly in this way in the book from 1999: "This is a point of view that causes human reality to be cut off from true nature." And as he writes further: "Reality becomes terrifying vortices of elementary particles. That is the actual reality. Everything else is just romantic fiction.”

That no one can directly live in such a world almost goes without saying. But that we indirectly live in one reality, has major consequences for how we see ourselves and our role in natureone. So why do we even view reality in such a way? Yes, because, like the scientist Alfred North Whitehead writes (quote from Arne Næss's book): "Because we confuse our abstractions with concrete realities."

Arne Næss suggests that we should rather see the secondary sensory qualities as real properties of matter itself. In other words: When we experience an object as cold or hot, it is because the thing actually is as we perceive it.

Instead of matter, Næss would rather talk about the material relation fieldone, where material things are material relational fields. As he writes in his most important book: "The same thing appears differently to us, with different characteristics at different times, but it is nevertheless the same thing."

Another more ecological point is in the new book 55 Shades of Green, where Næss is mentioned for his criticism of the growth ideology: "According to Næss, increased gross national product does not provide any guarantee that what is produced leads to a higher quality of life."

This became very much Arne Næss, but since he went so deeply into these central problem areas that we must call the basic problems of science, he shows what consequences the traditional division of primary and secondary sensory qualities can have for our view of reality.

Manfred Max Neef

This book contains 55 presentations by thinkers who have thought and think alternatively about nature and the role of humans in it. There are many people here who are probably unknown to most, and many surprising perspectives.

How many have heard of Edward Freeman, Noreena Hertz and Hazel Henderson? The presentations have all appeared in the Norwegian magazine Pengevirke, which is a collaborative project between Cultura Bank and the Danish co-operative society Merkur.

As this is a purely overview book, it does not give us the opportunity to go into depth. But it can perhaps spur us on to do more deep dives on our own?

Let me mention Manfred Max Neef, which is one of many interesting names. He was born in Chile in 1932. His opinion is that current economic theory and practice are unable to capture the most central issues we face today. As it says in his presentation: "For the first time in history, the problems are so intertwined that they cannot be solved from a limited perspective."

Is there a solution to the problems? According to this thinker, the cause of the problems is due to "[a] fundamental imbalance with such serious consequences that they cannot be resolved within the established economy".

Christian mystics, transpersonal psychology and of meetings with clairvoyant and religious people…

And what is the solution? "Jo: That we must move from an anthropocentric to a ecocentric perspective so that solidarity, cooperation and compassion include all forms of life."

They are nice words, but it is unclear what they really mean. The book can rightly be accused of containing many typically nice words that we are used to hearing from the politically correct left. But the book is, after all, not intended as anything more than an overview of 55 green thinkers, so we can rather forgive its somewhat superficial presentations.

Ross Jackson

Another interesting thinker that can be mentioned is the Canadian Ross Jackson, which launches a new economic model based on a combination of experiences from the international financial world and from spiritual experiences with Indian gurus and Western mystics. He is "on the search for alternative explanations for the increasingly serious conflict between the economy and the environment".

He has also been inspired by Christian mystics, transpersonal psychology and by meetings with clairvoyant and religious people in the eco-village of Findhorn in Scotland.

In other words: In this book, there is a lot of interesting things to learn and be inspired by for those who have an open mind and have not yet let themselves be drugged by descriptions of this world's misery and discouragement.

Henning Næs
Henning Næss
Literary critic in MODERN TIMES.

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