Radicality, whether or not it concerns ecology, is understood in two ways: it concerns firstly the degree of understanding of a domain of reality; secondly, it affects the means adopted to achieve an objective relating to that area. The demanding understanding of a domain that pushes to its fundamental springs, without which it could not be understood, is thus meant to be radical. Understanding a domain embraces it and sheds light on its evolution.
Radicality in terms of means, on the other hand, appeals to the register of action. It then relates to the means mobilized in favor of a given action. The means adopted can go as far as violence. The essence of ecology today is to link these two senses of radicality, a desperate situation calling for radical changes.
The disappearance of the state of the Earth system
What then of the “ecological crisis”? First of all, it is not a crisis but a physical shift, the disappearance of the state of the Earth system that had prevailed since the beginning of the Holocene, roughly twelve thousand years ago, for the benefit of a new state of the system, never experienced by any human being whatsoever. Consequently, it is also a question of a moral shift, of civilization, the conditions having enabled contemporary societies rapidly disappearing. Impossible to understand this double seesaw without the simultaneous recourse to natural sciences on one side, human and social sciences on the other.
Concerning the physical shift, the habitability of the Earth deteriorates first with an accumulation of extreme events, highly weakening our capacities to produce our food. Today, in Spain, on immense surfaces the cereal cultures are already destroyed there; returns will be nil. The Earth’s habitability is still being spatially reduced by rising sea levels, but even more so by rising average temperature.
The most densely populated lands, then as now, are the tropical areas. From 28°C of average annual territorial temperature, the human population drops then, from 29°C, disappears. However, these inhabited territories are becoming warmer. Added to this is humid heat, the degree of humidity from which we can no longer regulate our temperature through the evaporation of our perspiration. The number of these days is bound to increase massively in tropical areas.
Get out of capitalism?
The mantra of optimistic donkeys. We have always adapted. Certainly, we were only a few tens of thousands on Earth during the previous ice age, in animal skins, without the same comfort requirements. No human species, let us repeat it, has had to know a planet of more than 2 degrees. Technology will save us. Of course, it is enough to see where we are! Nuclear fusion? Bad pick ! It wouldn’t change anything! Energy is abundant and constant in the universe. The bottleneck is not the sources but the energy converters that allow us to use it when and where it is useful to us. However, they require metals which are becoming rare and expensive, the extraction of which is a major cause of destruction of the habitability of the planet. Added to this is the pollution and waste resulting from the manufacture of these converters.
Get out of capitalism! Certainly after you. Soviet Russia and Mao’s China were highly ecologically destructive countries, with widespread poverty on top of that! No pesticides, never mind, the Chinese peasants had to go to the fields by the hundreds of millions to destroy the birds that eat crops by noise. In the following season, a proliferation of insect pests, then famines. Chairman Mao’s legendary subtlety.
The indefinite accumulation of capital is certainly not the remedy, but neither is it the only reason for our misfortunes. Humanity’s destructive imagination is richer than capital. As for the genealogy of the impasse in which we sink, it has its roots in the depths of metaphysics, in the way in which we understand what surrounds us, in the ideal of realization of our humanity that we assign to ourselves, and this from the baptismal fonts of modernity. This is not the place to develop it.
Change our civilization
What to do ? Certainly not continue to build highways, to pump water from the groundwater with mega-basins for a few large farmers, to authorize the destruction of the seabed of protected areas, to extend the authorization of pesticides diagnosed as dangerous, to authorize swimming pools and watering golf courses under water stress, to tolerate private jets in the name of capital urgency, to fail to meet our own national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, to slip into a coma or seriously injure ecologists, to dissolve their associations, etc. ! Impossible to do otherwise? What a prank. Are they, for example, leftists who are organizing the reduction of air traffic at Amsterdam airport or who are legislating to reduce the volume of Batavian industrial agriculture and its carbon emissions?
Mortiferous, our civilization is promised to self-destruction, by incompatibility with the future state of the Earth system. It is therefore better to change it – by modifying our ways of producing, developing, conceiving and distributing wealth, our lifestyles, our values – before seeing it imposed on us, without any possible margin, neither physical nor mental. The violence of the means? Which ? It will never equal that of the system. It is nonetheless a machine for selecting the pangs and the bad guys. The best way not to favor it would be to have a government that does not behave in a stupid and mean way. That’s probably a lot to ask.