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The shift from a mechanistic to an ecological paradigm

Grierson, D. (2009) The shift from a mechanistic to an ecological paradigm. International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, 5 (5). pp. 197-206. ISSN 1832-2077

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Abstract

Following Kuhn (1962) paradigm shifts are described as discontinuous revolutionary breaks with earlier thoughts and experience. The mechanistic paradigm sees nature as a machine composed of related but discrete components. It helps support the idea that we humans are the crown of creation, the source of all value, the measure of all things. The ecological paradigm offers resistance to the mechanistic way of thinking and a rejection of the assumption of human self-importance in the larger scheme of things. Emphasis is placed on the whole and the view is described as holistic, organic, ecological or systemic. Physicist Fritjof Capra argues that society is embarking on a fundamental paradigm shift towards an ecological view of the world as an integrated network of all living and non-living entities (Capra, 1986). The paper identifies roots of both a mechanistic (or reductionist) and an ecological (or holistic) paradigm and describes significant aspects of a shift from one world view to the other, along with the importance of changing knowledge and values in contemporary and historical sustainability practices.