Ecophobia Revisited

The summary of the successful ecophobia webinar with Dr. Simon Estok this past spring is finally available on the EASLCE website here. The summary was mostly written by my colleague with whom I coordinated the webinar. I took the liberty of also posting the summary here, so here you go:

On May 22nd 2017 at 2pm (CEST), Dr. Simon C. Estok hosted the 9th EASLCE webinar. Ten participants from five different countries met for a beneficial and lively discussion about “The Ecophobia Hypothesis.” After introducing the webinar’s topic, Dr. Estok opened the discussion by asking questions about the utility of “ecophobia.” He asked about possible reasons for hostilities against theorizing about ecophobia within the ecocritical community, hostilities that have gone beyond mere controversy about the term and have resulted in an infamous stir within the field (the “Estok-Robisch Controversy,” as it has come to be known). One of the things that became very clear in the seminar is that even though “ecophobia” has by now found considerable usage in scholarly citations, there remains great opportunities for critical contributions to the concept itself. Dr. Estok elucidated his understanding of biophilia and ecophobia as hypotheses, criticizing E.O. Wilson’s approach both for its biological prejudice (“ecophilia” being a more viable concept that includes the biotic and nonbiotic [often aslo called abiotic] environments) and for regarding biophilia as a singular point instead of understanding it as being on an ethical spectrum, with ecophobia (which includes biophobia) being on the other end.

In addition to a debate on the initial impulses and queries given by the host (see the webinar announcement [here]), several questions were also posed by the participants: Would it reinforce or lessen ecophobic attitudes if we deepen our understanding and strengthen our control over the human body? What role does (ir)rational fear play? Is there a link between ecophobia and our human attraction toward concepts of otherness and darkness such as monstrosity? Are there any borders to what we understand as ecophobia, and if so, where do we draw the lines? Are there means to overcome ecophobia, or will we pass it on to the next generation? If we are condemned to pass it on, can we locate any hope for the future?

Dr. Estok encouraged the participants to share their views, and thus a vivid exchange of opinions took place, and responses to the questions were presented and debated – often supported with illustrative examples from relatable every-day life experiences. A major part of the discussion revolved around the question about the level of influence through either genetic or social constructions, situational ethics, and ideas of genetic or social materialism. There were also critical responses, taking into consideration that certain views on ecophobia tend to be too essentialist in approach. Finally, there was a consensus about the necessity to continue the scholarly exploration of the topic ecophobia. Towards the end of the webinar, there was also room for a general discussion about (inter)national environmental policies and politics.



I think the above summary gives a reasonable idea of the content of the webinar, so it’s probably not necessary for me to write more on it. When we have our next webinar (hopefully this fall), I have agreed with my co-coordinator that she then chairs the session, and it will then be my turn to focus more on taking notes and writing the summary and transcript. I will advertise the event here when I have more info.

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