How to check "Save the World" off your bucket list?
Welcome to Chapter 15 of Planet Republyk!
This is the second chapter of the third and final part of the Planet Republyk project.
If you were to read only one part, it would be this one.
Chapter 15: This bread that became inedible
The idea of world citizenship, which immediately provoked our adhesion, seems to us to respond, in its widest perspectives, to this need to rediscover a unity of man and life.
I am not a historian; I have said so. I am, in this period of my life, a carpenter, a cook or a landscaper. These jobs, for me, make sense. I work with my hands and can see on a daily basis that my work is useful to my community.
I haven't always done these jobs. I have had several professions. I was, among other things, a print journalist, assigned to cover the environment and politics. I have also worked in provincial and federal politics in Canada. I have seen that these fields, like many others including science[i], are losing legitimacy and meaning. They have ended up allowing themselves to be dictated to by big business when their immutable mission should be to serve the public interest.
However, these jobs have contributed to the refinement of my personal "macroscope", as the researcher Joël de Rosnay, author of an eponymous work, puts it. He defines this "tool" as the development of the ability "to look at the systems that encompass us in order to better understand them before they destroy us. He laments that nothing in the education and labor market system trains us for this. The exacerbation of the compartmentalization of knowledge in our universities as well as the contemporary professional overspecialization are even taking us further and further away from it.
Allegorically, I would say that today's society is composed of citizen-specialists of flour, yeast, salt, water or baking. But civilization is bread. Specialists judge this bread only by the specific ingredient they master. They claim less and less their right to participate in the overall making of bread. To criticize the bread as a "citizen-eater" of bread on a daily basis. In other words, to participate in the democratic debate as a citizen of the city. This is probably due to an impoverishment of the general culture.
Moreover, fewer and fewer intellectuals, philosophers, sociologists, whose task it is to taste this bread, to criticize it, do so according to the palette of possible breads. The overwhelming majority of them confine their criticism to the more holistic factors of its making, such as the quality of its crust or the softness of its crumb, but they almost always limit themselves to the too restrictive yardstick of the breads that have already been made before this last batch.
The few who propose innovative methods of preparation and baking are unfortunately often the same ones who do not progress in the academic and social hierarchies because they are too critical of the established order.
These disturbing voices therefore carry little weight. All the less so, in the tumult of our societies overexposed to information.
However, we must rise collectively in order to obtain a wider perspective of possible breads, otherwise the recipe could end up being simply inedible, no matter how good the ingredients are.
As it is, we might even all starve.
Allegiance to any nation is incompatible with the total loyalty to the human race that present conditions require.
These last years, working in a manual job, I have been able to devote, in my free time, my intellectual energies to a widening of my perspectives on the world. Before, when I finished my working days, spent on the phone, in front of a laptop or reading documents, I used to try to spend my evenings and weekends in my leisure time physically.
To get out of my head, I used to swim, run and cycle. Now, in my free time, after days of nailing, screwing and manipulating materials, since I no longer need to exert myself physically, I can devote my neurons to reading, thinking and writing on subjects that I am passionate about. That make sense to me. With this project, I wanted to do something useful with my free time.
Since my youth, I have been an activist for various social and environmental causes. Over the years, the rare militant victories that we could celebrate ended up leaving a bitter taste in my mouth.
I came to realize that they were never really victories, but a small respite, a reprieve. Nothing more. As if we had finally won, at the price of an insane militant energy, only a few minutes on the inevitable apocalypse.
The race of the neoliberal rhinoceros could never stop, so we sometimes managed to slow it down, to distract it, but only for a brief moment. As I grew older, I realized that the accumulation of these small victories would never be enough to save us collectively.
I spent a lot of energy in my personal and professional life, criticizing, denouncing, getting angry and cynical. To shaking my head and saying, "no, no, no, things shouldn't be this way."
And I'm not the only one. I see, hear, and read many who are in this vein.
When you feel helpless, when you see the stupidity, but nothing is happening, you end up being depressed. I see a lot of people around me who are down, anxious, depressed. They are often the brightest, the most sensitive, the most aware. The American Psychological Association has documented this increase[iii] in mental disorders associated with feared cataclysms.
Globalism is globalization that is controlled, regulated and monitored. It is the only way to put the economy at the service of mankind and not at the service of a privileged few.
It is easy to understand why more and more of us are sinking into a neurasthenic state when we come across scientific articles depicting what the future holds, such as the one by Jem Bendell, from the University of Cumbria, entitled Deep Adaptation: a plan for navigating the climate tragedy[iv] .
Or this 1500-page report[v] from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform On Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) (the equivalent of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) but for biodiversity) where more than 500 scientists from about 50 countries have compiled data on the state of life on the globe for nearly 3 years The conclusions are without appeal.
Our climate change problems pale in comparison to the risk to the biosphere from the sixth extinction of species; from insects (40% of which are in decline[vi]) to large marine mammals to amphibians.
Between 1970 and 2014, Canadian studies[vii] cataloguing the abundance of 903 species in the territory selected from among mammals, fish, birds, amphibians and reptiles revealed that half of the species monitored were in a state of decline and that the average decline was 83%!
In fact, not only have millions of living species become extinct in recent decades all over the world, but more than a million species are currently at risk of extinction and the majority of species that are still healthy are in constant decline. Life is melting away. And not only in diversity, but in total net mass. Since the beginning of the 1970s, 60% of the world's animal population has disappeared[viii]... And recent scientific studies tend to show that the phenomenon is accelerating[ix]. At the beginning of this millennium, homo sapiens sapiens is one of the few living species that are flourishing on the planet.
But perhaps not for much longer, because of course we are part of the biosphere, part of the food chain, even if we tend to forget it too often because we are at the top, as summarized by the president of IPBES, Robert Watson: "the health of the ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating faster than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life around the world[x]."
In the dock: habitat loss due to unbridled human activity causing overexploitation, pollution, soil depletion and the proliferation of invasive alien species. The way we use nature far exceeds its capacity to renew itself and greatly threatens the ability of future generations to sustain themselves.
In light of this data alone, it seems only healthy to experience some anxiety. Glenn Albrecht, an environmental philosopher from Murdoch University in Australia, even coined a concept[xi] to describe it in 2003: solastalgia, a form of anxiety linked to the feeling of irreversible loss of an idealized environment. Support groups have recently appeared in various cities around the world to help those who suffer from what we now call eco-anxiety.
That's it for chapter 15!
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[i]Jean-Marie Vigoureux, Détournement de science, Écosociété, Montréal, 2020, 216 p.
[ii] Joël de Rosnay, Le macroscope, Vers une vision globale, Paris, Édition du Seuil, Collection Points Essais, 1977, p.10-11.
[iii] American Psychological Association and EcoAmerica report, "Mental health and our changing climate: impacts, implications, and guidance," 2017, 70 p.
[iv] Jem Bendell, "Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy," Occasional Papers, Institute of Leadership and Sustainability, University of Cumbria, Carlisle, 2018, 36 pp. https://www.lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf
[v] Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), Press Release, "Nature's Dangerous Decline: 'Unprecedented' and Accelerating Species Extinction Rate," IPBES, May 2019. https://ipbes.net/news/Media-Release-Global-Assessment-Fr
[vi] Ibid, Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, Kris A.G. Wyckhuys, "Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers Biological Conservation".
[vii] World Wildlife Fund Canada's "Living Planet Canada 2017, A National Perspective on Biodiversity Loss" report: http://assets.wwf.ca/downloads/LPRC_ES_French_web.pdf?_ga=2.146586804.1234931660.1586731829-354924941.1586638455
[viii] Harry Cockburn, "Earth accelerating towards sixth mass extinction event that could see 'disintegration of civilisation', scientists warn", The Independent, June 3, 2020.
[ix] Alexander McNamara, "Extinction of land-based vertebrate species risks 'catastrophic ecosystem collapse'," BBC Science Focus, June 2, 2020.
[x] Harry Cockburn, ibid, p.2.
[xi] Isabelle Paré, "Do you suffer from solastagia?", Le Devoir, April 18, 2015.