We know what’s going on with the climate, but we’re still doing very little. Still an intriguing issue. The common explanation is that the problem is too far away from us. In space (“In Spain, sparrows are falling from the roof, but hello”) or in time (“That two degrees of warming is still a long way off, we’ll come up with something by then”).
Psychological research offers no resolution, as a recent interview with an environmental psychologist in the Norwegian Refugee Council. People see that there is a problem, but no action is taken. We have more problems in our minds, our careers, our upbringing, and our personal development for example.
But if there is support and very little happens, it seems to me that there is something wrong with our political organisation. And there is, I think, another fundamental problem of a philosophical nature. It is difficult to understand in a down-to-earth country like the Netherlands, but we cannot ignore it: man has severed his relationship with his living environment. First Western people, and then almost everyone else in the world. Not material, you can still grab a tree branch. Not too spiritual, you can also hug the tree just fine. But conceptually.
At some point, “man” was separated from what became known as “nature.” Historians of science and ideas place this somewhere in seventeenth century Europe. Since the scientific revolution that began at that time, man has come to view the world around him as something outside himself, as something that can be exploited and colonized without hindrance. As something that can be appropriate.
There are voices who put this moment on the back burner, like historian Lynn Townsend White, who shared “The historical roots of our environmental crisis“, a 1967 essay, refers to Christian theology and its articulated human transcendence and man’s legitimate dominion over creation. This appropriation can still be heard in well-meaning phrases like, “We have to save the climate.” But the climate has nothing to fear. We are the ones who need to be saved from the climate. We express our concerns about “biodiversity”, but without considering ourselves a species.
This way of thinking has previously justified many morally dubious situations (from colonialism to irresponsible exploitation to factory farming), but has now morphed into being downright dangerous. If the climatic fluctuations and extinction waves that we in Europe also face teach us anything, it is that “nature” doesn’t care much about us. So the time has come to put an end to the division between man and nature. but how?
It turns out that philosophy can come up with the answer here. Because the concept of counter-revolution is in the making, and it comes – how could it be otherwise – from France, the land of philosophers. First there was Bruno Latour and Philippe d’Escola with “Earthlings” and “Inhumans”. Joining this brilliant duo is Baptiste Morizot, his thriller Manneres d’être vivant It was recently translated into Dutch (living flashing).
According to Morizot, it is important to learn how to relate to our living environment again. How do you show connectedness? And perhaps most importantly: How do you capture it in words? Let’s talk better about le vivant Morizot represents the neighborhood. This connects us to all other life forms on the threatened Earth, to evolution, and to where we came from. It’s not a slogan, it’s a roadmap Morizot in interviews.
I follow him: far from nature; Long live life!
Mary Crook Historian and journalist. Every two weeks he writes a column on politics and climate-age fiction.
A version of this article also appeared in the May 8, 2023 Journal.
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