Monday 2 December 2019

Picture Post #51: Nobody Excluded

'Because things don’t appear to be the known thing; they aren’t what they seemed to be neither will they become what they might appear to become.' 

Paris, October 2019.
Picture credit: Olivia Galisson

Posted by Tessa den Uyl

Activists draw attention to global ecological devastation in front of the fountain of Place du Châtelet. This monument was ordered by Napoleon in 1806, and built by the sculptor Boizet. It pays tribute to the victories achieved in battle, and reminds us of Napoleon’s decision to provide free drinking water to all Parisians.

Victories bring along statues, which serve historical commemoration -- though foremost, symbolically, they are built upon the idea of a future. A future that, seen from a once-upon-a-time perspective, might not have been that imaginable, as to how it would turn out.

The beginning of the world alike the end is not new to our imagination. But things have changed. We have interfered too much in the flux of ecology, for profit. We might think we are smart, but how smart we truly are will have to be proven. For neither rage nor love might provide a statue to remember.

This planet does not care about our extinction. Though we are this planet -- for without it, we simply wouldn’t be. This is not new to our imagination. More recent, instead, is the question whether our extinction is truly a problem, or do we make it a problem because we have created a mess? This time, what is foreseen is that nobody is excluded.


Keith said...

This planet does not care about our extinction’. A remark of existential import, Tessa. Might it have cascading consequences?

Let’s follow the thread: If you’re right that this planet ‘doesn’t care’ about our extinction, then might the solar system not care about our extinction? If the solar system doesn’t care about our extinction, then might the galaxy not care about our extinction? If the galaxy doesn’t care about our extinction, then might the universe not care about our extinction?

So in the course time, Tessa, might the planet’s speculative sixth extinction — whose occurrence is implied by your observation — threaten erasure of all memory of our species?

To those several questions, perhaps we matter — to the planet, to the solar system, to the galaxy, to the universe — if, ultimately, we beat the odds and endure. At the moment, we’re lurching our way closer to some critical tipping points. Made clear by United Nations reports, the Paris climate accord, last year’s Katowice, Poland, conference … and other red flags, in anticipation of next month’s Madrid conference.

Spoiler alert: There’s not a lot of time to dawdle.

If, as you propose, ‘this planet does not care about our extinction’, our species has to care enough on its own behalf. Including doing a whole lot better job of mitigating accelerating global climate change and its increasingly extreme effects, as well as responsibly partnering with the ecosystem.

I’d like to imagine people of the 22nd century looking fondly back to the 21st century, gratefully knowing we put Earth’s climate trajectory back on course, in the nick of time. That we cared about the planet, even if unrequited.

Tessa den Uyl said...

Dear Keith, thank you for your optimism that I have difficulty to agree to. I cannot imagine that the universe cares about the erasure of planet earth, not to speak of us. Energetically yes, I think everything is connected together, though this doesn’t mean that it cares.

Now we can care, or think to care, which we usually don’t. We knew what mess would be created by choices taken almost a century ago, but the hunger for power did so anyway. To turn things straight for nature, at this point, I am not very optimistic. We are late, although alerts run back many decades, capitalism cannot have that kind of sensitivity, will it have that sensitivity tomorrow?

docmartincohen said...

"Activists draw attention to global ecological devastation in front of the fountain of Place du Châtelet. This monument was ordered by Napoleon.. and reminds us of Napoleon’s decision to provide free drinking water to all Parisians"

Okay, is the contrast between municiple water supplies and 'nature' here? (I have to say, it's not a very good picture of the fountain, if so.) Certainly providing clean water to city dwellers in not very natural... (nor is it necessarily 'profitable' - in its time it represented public-minded capitalism) and surely underlying the 'extinction rebellion' is that old and to my mind insincere, plea to turn the clock back and return to some imagined harmonious relationship with nature. I think it is insincere as, for example, those older times were built on populations a tiny fraction of those today AND a human impact on the environment greater than we tend to realise.

Add to which.. who is really advocating the 'mass extinction' of human beings? So we need to manage the resources we have and protect the dwindling space for nature as well we can. People living in cities and having water piped in reduces their imapct on nature, if anything.

There is much that can be done - today! - to promote biodiversity and protect species, but grand plans to control the world's climate must be one way of never achieve any of them. Public water supplies are not exciting or fashionable, but it is in such practical steps that the future will be found.

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

I had an exchange with Holmes Rolston last week. He took the line that 'humans are the stewards of creation', and 'we are quite capable
of understanding enough of the significance of this [the environmental crisis) to see that we ought to change our lifestyles'. I took the line, 'Leave nature to nature,' since nature represents complexity far, far beyond anything we dare to touch. Then there is Edward Wilson, who advocates the protection of half the land and sea, as a ‘first, emergency solution’ while we figure things out. He assumes thereby that we have the ability, over time, to master the problem, if we just have a little room to start. I propose that it is impossible to solve the problems through human cosseting and monitoring. We need to leave nature completely alone, to the extent that it regains a self-sustaining equilibrium. I am not optimistic about that, though, and I think that environmental movements are starry-eyed. There will be no Place du Châtelet to commemorate our success with nature.

docmartincohen said...

I'm quite a fan of Holmes Rolston! Quoted him at length in my book on 'Ethical Dilemmas' - regarding things like environmental rights. And yes, I think humans have to accept that they are more than observers, they need to play an active role in managing the environment.

Tessa den Uyl said...

I liked this picture because the ‘victory’ of the fountain rises up above the trees, though when we mention to leave nature alone, would that not also mean: leave men alone?

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