Unwinding the Spool of Civilization in Ponting's The Green History of the World and Quinn's Ishmael
Clive Ponting's The Green History of the World and Daniel Quinn's Ishmael both critique the dominant paradigms of modern human civilization-especially where its relationship with environment is concerned. Both feel strongly that we are in trouble. Neither are quite willing to make final connections and present us with a systematic method for getting out of our impending ecological crisis, but they both do spell out what has been wrong, what is wrong now, and what will happen should we choose not to take evasive action.
In the absence of similar works "in the canon" it is hard not to feel as though, (as the character Ishmael promised), if you accept their premises you are doomed to isolation for, those who see the future most clearly are usually outcasts, lost as to what power they may have to change minds and directions.
Enlightenment almost always comes at a price, often steep.
In the interest of exploring the necessity of dissent, let's follow that line of environmental thought a little further. Ponting presents us with the scientific/cultural evidence that backs up what Quinn is saying: that we as a species are destroying our foundations even as we proclaim our creation-Civilization-a success. If this massive breakdown and foreboding future are certainties, then we must ask-as Quinn does-who or what is telling us lies to make us believe otherwise? His character Ishmael calls it "Mother Culture" and insists that its pervasive voice acts to keep us on course even when large portions of the population have every reason to lose hope in Her tenets. This all-powerful entity would, presumably, include most educational establishments and media outlets, and so information to the contrary would rarely be funded or reported, and probably never directly emphasized.
Which leaves us with a challenge: using Thomas Kuhn's model for change in the social...