A Look at Dominator Ecology
from Knowing the Land is Resistance
Over the past few years, we’ve learned we’re not alone in being fed-up with the type of ecological knowledge and discourse in the dominant culture. Lots of people question the perspectives towards the land that are spread through the mass media, upheld in the academy, and are readily funded. Though the intention of this series is to offer some starting points for an anarchist ecology, we would like to take some time to describe what it is that we seek to avoid.
The study of ecology in this society is, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a deeply colonial and oppressive practice that has and continues to serve the interests of the powerful, usually at the expense of Indigenous communities. We call this ‘dominator ecology’. This is the ecology of management from a distance, and of remote expertise, that sees itself as fundamentally separate from the land, inhabiting a present without a past or future.
One of our collective members refers to herself light-heartedly as a “recovering academic biologist” and recalls how she and her fellow classmates worked in that field with the intention of doing good, of helping the environment and healing the earth. However, as many of you probably know, there are few professional paths into that work, and even those require ethical compromises.
We don’t want to dismiss the knowledge that comes out of the mainstream, or deny that it has motivated and supported some really good projects at certain moments. We want to dismiss the practice of dominator ecology, how and why it does what it does, without dismissing many of its insights and findings. Most settlers do not have access to traditional knowledge, so we’d rather learn about things like pollinator associations or bird migration through dominator ecology than not know them at all. We also want to speak honestly about the role dominator ecology plays in the destruction of the wild and in ongoing colonization.
We want to offer a clear critique so that we can better cultivate other ways of knowing. How does dominator ecology uphold power? How does it contribute to ongoing colonialism? How does it keep us alienated from the land? How is it motivated and funded?