[Le Devoir de philo] Nature and human achievements

twice a month, Position invites lovers of philosophy and the history of ideas to decipher the current issue based on the theses of a prominent thinker.

On November 18, the COP27 conference on global warming ended in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. From December 7 to 19, it’s the turn of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, COP15 Conference of the Parties. The fact that these two UN conferences are very close to each other highlights the fact that we can no longer deal with their respective issues separately.

The first lecture tells us that today no one can deny the climate violations the world is suffering from. The second case shows us that the destruction and degradation of ecosystems, although less spectacular, is no less real and catastrophic. If we knew better that these devastations can directly affect us, especially zoonoses, these infectious diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans and are part of pandemics, we would care about it as much as global warming. it’s on everyone’s lips.

While it is true that humans are not the primary carriers of COVID-19, the disease is linked to our relationship with nature. As the number and strength of tornadoes and hurricanes increase, so too are floods and droughts the result of so-called events.anthropocene : this period is marked by an inadequate connection between human reality and planetary reality.

Since the end of the Paleolithic period, this relationship with the natural world has become more abstract and lost its harmony. Heavy technologies, monotheisms, tyrannical political powers, brutal capitalism and so on are just a few of the human inventions that sanctify our dominance and alienate us from natural reality in the same breath. Unwilling or unable to return to the Stone Age, this abstracted loop is a fact that needs re-weaving.

deep ecology

What does Norwegian philosopher, climber and resistance fighter Arne Naess tell us? We are uprooted and need to consider how organic and spiritual connection can reconnect us to our natural environment. “If the ecological question is not firmly anchored in the human brain, it is because we do not give it the moral dimension it deserves. »

This profound ecological thinker (deep ecology) sees ecology as an “intellectual and cultural issue like the Copernican revolution” capable of changing the paradigm of civilization in our relationship to nature.

But the road is likely to be long and difficult because our economy is based on capitalization and externalities: these hidden costs, these negative externalities, not counting the damage to nature and people in the process of doing business. increasing consumer spending and making easy profits. business as usual thereby becoming the motto of the consumer society.

However, taking these costs into account and reintroducing them into the causal chain leading to profit will automatically trigger a process of adaptation to environmental and social realities. But this will require a radical change in our lifestyle. It will not only be a question of seeing the harmful effects of industrialization, overconsumption and the financialization of the economy in a reformative sense, but it will be necessary to review our way of thinking and approach the problem in a more fundamental, even philosophical way. .

Civilization dysfunction

Arne Naess speaks of ecosophy to distinguish it from serious environmental ecology, which treats the symptoms of an ecological crisis without seeking in any way to change the cultural structures that cause it. The ecological idea is that we are fully and irreducibly part of this world, and ecological philosophy considers that this crisis is actually only a “shadow of civilizational dysfunction”. »

Not the least of these dysfunctions is infinite economic growth in a limited world. Its consequences, driven by the globalization of markets, allow the worst abuses of mining, the destruction of ecosystems, the domestication of everything, the alienation of people, the ugliness of the world, overconsumption and human excess. And one of these slippages is a distorted view of our natural world. We see nature as a collection of resources to be exploited, which leads us to this bias of understanding things in our world in terms of utilities.

This way of seeing has been ingrained in us for so long that we wonder what it is for, what birds, bugs, clouds and stars are for. For example, wood is not just a wood resource, and we need to stop using reductive management and utilitarian terms in order to find ethics in our relationship with nature. Naming things is the first step towards their alienation and unfair exploitation. Arne Naess suggests “the expansion of individual anxiety, the need to break free from the social constraints that drive self-reflection and action. Today, a pragmatic approach to environmental problems requires convincing or touching people before discussing the behavior of social groups. Heavily influenced by Heidegger, Gandhi, and Rachel Carson, Naess coined the term “self-awareness” to mean that nature is not at odds with us. For him, environmental activism means more than wanting to avoid disasters: it means asking, deep within ourselves, for the richness and diversity of life, and why to want, see and love the beauty of the world.

In 1963, the Bronx Zoo in New York had a special cage among the great apes. It was empty, but on the back was a mirror and “You are looking at the most dangerous animal in the world.” It is the only animal in existence that is capable of completely destroying other animal species and has the power to destroy all life on earth. »

For the first time in human history, our way of life is judged based on scientific observations rather than political or religious ideologies. Thus, it may be that ecology causes the first planetary paradigm shift, creates science, or should create a universal consensus. Ecology is primarily a science that can be explained by the contributions of other sciences such as physics, biology, chemistry, mathematics and geology. Moreover, through the learning methods that underlie this new science, it is the first to be compatible with disciplines in a diverse register of human sciences such as philosophy, psychology, geography, sociology, and economics. It is ultimately about a global view based on the scientific method, which can be transformed into a new way of thinking about the world and which includes all of humanity.

Therefore, despite the market’s claims to adapt to it and its commands to “save the planet, one small gesture at a time,” the future may or may not be ecological. We need to take a critical look at the green paint we apply to things as an incentive, freed from the guilt we will have, and finally consume as much as before. If small gestures matter, redefining our lifestyles in terms of the real costs to ecosystems and societies should be at the top of the list.

Thinking within nature

Recently, our planet has shown us its limits for transgression. Our response must go beyond ideological, political and religious dogma: we must rally behind this ecological imperative and strive to live in symbiosis with the planet we live on. If we continue the way we live in this world, we will continue to get bogged down in the quagmire we have created before us. And this is not even a metaphor anymore.

Arne Naess saw these problems as “symptoms of our culture’s lack of a fundamental stance on the vital importance of the natural world to human achievement.” In contrast to strictly quantitative methods and language, the ecosophic approach is to treat the ecological problem as a crisis of sensibility, an impoverished view of the world. This view “will contribute to the strengthening of a deep ecological mindset in terms of Gestalt, humanity’s place in nature.”

But we find it increasingly difficult to think of ourselves within nature; we are far from it. A form of ultra-humanism led to a nature/culture division in the minds of people, such as body/soul. The result is an impoverishment of our world view and dependence on increasingly attractive and addictive objects, the belief that this way of life is the absolute progress for existence.

Our wonder and faith in nature has withered in a culture obsessed with consumerism, artificiality, and entertainment. Therefore, before we want to change the world, we must first change our worldview. Looking at the beauty of nature, this personal power, wanting to see its beauty would stop us from loving it, protecting it, and destroying it.

Offers ? Write to Robert Dutrisac: rdutrisac@ledevoir.com. Visit our website to read or reread older texts of Le Devoir de philo.

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