Timothy Morton


On his book The Ecological Thought

Cover Interview of April 29, 2010

In a nutshell

All life forms are interconnected.  We share our DNA with chimps (98%) but also with daffodils (35%).  We drive cars that burn crushed dinosaurs.  The oxygen we breathe is the excretion of the most ancient bacteria.  We humans hardly allow ourselves to know the half of this.  We are even less clear on what it all means.

Global warming and mass extinction (the sixth one to hit this planet) are happening around us, and we are directly responsible for both.  Humans are currently on a very, very steep learning curve about how interconnected everything is—about how our actions affect every other life form on this planet.  It’s a very disorienting time.

With great crises comes great opportunity, and one great opportunity is to reflect, to hesitate, to stay stuck in the headlights of an oncoming train, open our minds, and think.  The name of the oncoming train is the ecological thought.

We can only catch glimpses of the ecological thought from where we are.  But its disturbing presence is all around us, like a shadow looming from the future over our time.  Think of all those conversations you can’t have anymore about the weather with just any old stranger.  One of you, at least, is thinking about global warming.  So your conversation trails off into an awkward silence, or one of you brings it up.  The familiar coordinates of our world are dissolving.

Before the opening snaps closed again and we find ourselves caught in another historical pattern, it would be good for us to see just how open the ecological thought can make us.

One disturbing conclusion we can already draw is that the concept “nature” has had its day and no longer serves us well.  The main reason is that nature is a kind of backdrop—and we are living in a world where the backdrop has dissolved: it’s all in the foreground now.  When we replace nature with the ecological thought, we discover a much stranger, more intimate, more jaw-dropping world.