By Timothy Morton
Columbia University Press, 208pp | Buy on Amazon
Dark Ecology is not your average book. It’s not a light read, something you leave on the nightstand and read a few pages to relax. It’s a book that will challenge you, leave you puzzled at times, and overall, give you a greater understanding of the world.
Usually when discussing a book, I like to ignore the author and focus on the work itself, not on who created it. But it’s simply impossible to separate Tim Morton from Dark Ecology. His typical blending of concrete object-oriented analysis alternates with intricate story-telling to create a special mixture of hardcore science and philosophy. It’s a dark, mysterious path, but a rewarding one at that.
The thing is, you can’t really separate Dark Ecology from Morton. In a way, it’s like a Dali painting — bold, charming, and at points, outrageous. If you’ve not read any of his works, be prepared for a Sophocles trip down the science of ecology, where brilliant ideas and complex topics are thrown around with ease, though sometimes without a clear point at the end.
If anything, I wish Morton would capitalize on his ideas more. Often, it feels like he’s about to deliver the finishing blow to and make his final statement, only to wind up in more metaphors and more explanations.
The gist of the book is that we can — nay, we must — rethink ecology. We must bring it down from a pedestal into our midst, where we can properly interact with it. Morton says:
“Nature is a surrounding medium that sustains our being. Due to the properties of the rhetoric that evokes the idea of a surrounding medium, ecological writing can never properly establish that this is nature and thus provide a compelling and consistent aesthetic basis for the new worldview that is meant to change society. It is a small operation, like tipping over a domino…Putting something called Nature on a pedestal and admiring it from afar does for the environment what patriarchy does for the figure of Woman. It is a paradoxical act of sadistic admiration.”
It’s passages of deep insight like the one above that make you just want to close your eyes for a few moments and really turn the wheels in your head. After Dark Ecology, there’s a good chance you’ll never see nature again, and give a lot of thought to things you wouldn’t have even considered. It’s a fatiguing and rewarding experience, like an intensive gym session for your brain. I wouldn’t have it any other way.