The environmental crisis is accelerating all around us, threatening many forms of life including our own, and yet we can easily feel overwhelmed by the scale of the threat and feel powerless to avert the impending catastrophe. But the feeling of powerlessness is partly due to a misunderstanding of the natural world and a failure to think through the kinds of actions that are available to us. We tend to think of nature as a cathedral on fire, like Notre Dame engulfed in flames. But the living world is not a cathedral on fire – if it were, the battle would already be lost. Rather, the living world is itself a fire that reconstitutes itself continuously and creates countless forms of life as soon as we leave it the space and time to do so. So the problem we face today is not to stop the fire and rebuild a ruined cathedral: rather, it is how to defend and rekindle the embers of life that are all around us. And this way of understanding the living world opens up many avenues for action.
Drawing lessons from conservationist initiatives aimed at allowing the natural forces of forests to take over again through a process of free evolution and from agro-ecological farming initiatives which make lands hospitable for wildlife, Baptiste Morizot shows how specific actions can release the prodigiality of life, its jungle-like power to regenerate itself. Actions like these are possible because the power of the living world lies in its abundance and creativity: the biosphere is a living fire that covers the earth, and it can always start up again if we know how to defend and kindle its embers.
Chapter One: Give us a lever and a fulcrum
Chapter Two: Anatomy of a lever, a case study: hearths of free evolution
Chapter Three: The embers of life
Chapter Four: Realigning alliances
Chapter Five: Making maps differently: dealing with disagreements
Chapter Six: Conclusion: the living world defends itself
Baptiste Morizot teaches philosophy at Aix-Marseille University.
"Metaphysics used to be the search for unifying principles carried out by armchair philosophers. What happens when the definition of what the world is made up of is practically disputed by endless numbers of ordinary citizens? That's when you need a field philosopher like Baptiste Morizot, who uses the skills of his trade to mediate between controversies, and who attempts to invent new diplomatic tools. The common world is still very far away, but this is a decisive starting point."
– Bruno Latour