Bringing the Mountain to the Prophet: Marshall McLuhan’s Mythology in the Anthropocene
Marshall McLuhan, prophet of the information age, did not anticipate the continuity and two-way commerce between nature and culture highlighted by climate change and captured in the concept of the Anthropocene. McLuhan’s approach to understanding is visionary and nonmodern in the sense suggested by Bruno Latour, emphasizing continuity between form and content and—potentially at least—nature and culture. Yet the content of McLuhan’s vision is modern because it ignores more-than-human nature, reinforcing the modern “great divide” between nature and culture. By bringing a mountain to the prophet, this essay illustrates both the absence of nature in McLuhan’s media ecology vision and the ease with which his approach can be adjusted to a “deep media ecology” perspective acknowledging more-than-human nature. McLuhan’s mythological approach is salutary for environmental communication. Although it does not produce rational-empirical knowledge, it can help integrate such knowledge into culture and policy.