Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
This paper is based on long-term ethnographic work among biologist or, more accurately, ‘biodiversitists’ in Aarhus, Denmark, who not only share a concern with the blatantly decreasing liveliness of the world, but also a feeling of profound ”ecological impotence” in the face of a current politics of nature that is, to them, wildly inadequate and detrimental to living sensibly on a damaged planet.
Through a raft of talks, walks, and confrontations with the living world among such biodiversitists, I have come to see that they attempt to counteract such moods of despair with little reference to ethical concepts of duty or utility. Rather, bursting with fascination, infatuation even, of the natural world, they continuously submit themselves to embodied engagement – with “ugly trees” that are dead, yet brimming with life, lichens and mosses, parasitic ants, and minotaur beetles – to cultivate a reverential view of all that lives in unconditional entitlement to exist.
Drawing on theories on moral exemplars (Humphrey 1997, Zagzebski 2013), I treat the biodiversitists’ paying and on- and offline directing of attention to the “fairy-tale” qualities – the “sanctity”, and “majesty” – of the living world as ecological exemplarity, a kind of seeing and being-in the world to be imitated and emulated. I suggest that as a as a form of eco-pedagogy these biodiversitists promulgate to friends and family an admiration of alternate aesthetics qualities that, in turn, seeks to insert an ethically, indeed politically, significant appreciation for being-in-the-the-world-with-others.