Theater of Cruelty

Thinking about the planet

Thinking about the planet
Forfatter: Anders Dunkers
Forlag: Existenz forlag, (Oslo)
ECOLOGY / With the planet as an anchor point, various themes are highlighted here – growth and non-growth, the anthropocene and our understanding of nature, tipping points, disasters and possible futures, geoengineering, fabulous animals and biopolitics.


It's time to act, not to think, said many green engaged three or four years ago. It was time for Greta Thunberg, climate striker and Extinction Rebellion, with significant use of outspokenness.

The critical wave created vibrations, but the changes were not as great as many had hoped. Maybe they were a little too one-sided, those who suggested that balanced thinking was the wrong use of time? If the goal is to mobilize both broader and more permanently, it is necessary to develop a "space of thought", where different people can meet to clarify the paths to a green future.

Those who see the truth in this will find much of value in Anders Dunker's recent book Å think about which. The book consists of 17 essays, previously published in the years 2015-2021, in the Scandinavian edition of Le Monde diplomatique.

I have enjoyed reading some of the texts in the past. It still gives a different whole to have them served on one tray. There will be some repetitions, naturally enough, but each essay constitutes its own universe, characterized by a multitude of varied voices that are allowed to challenge each other. Together, a mosaic of themes, viewpoints and thoughts is created that invites reflection and increased wisdom.

"The Planetary"

Through the texts, we become aware of the differences between the solution machinery of the green shift and more radical green thoughts. Today, most people agree that we must go through a change, but the road is nowhere near as clear as some give the impression.

The book's title is an elegant play on words. We think about the planet, and are on the planet when we think. This is how people and nature are woven together, both in reality and through the essays' view of the world. An important conceptual distinction becomes clear, between "the global" (humanity as a whole) and "the planetary" (people, nature and the planet in interaction).

With the planet as an anchor point, the essays illuminate varied themes – growth and non-growth, the Anthropocene and our understanding of nature, tipping points, disasters and possible futures, geoengineering, mythical animals and biopolitics, and so on.

The fences, dams, motorways, high-voltage power lines and pipelines break up the whole of natural landscapes.

The overarching theme is that we should open ourselves to new lines of thought. In the face of the weathering of natural diversity, Dunker recognizes that more than nature conservation is necessary. The most vulnerable species will only survive if they are woven into our human ideas, feelings, values ​​and legal concepts. This requires effort in multiple ways.

Perhaps we should open ourselves to the fact that the natural systems and habitats we share with other species should be written into the concept of civilization itself? In this way, we can release a profound cultural transformation, where our own life is woven together with the life of nature. If we manage to take the step into it, we may be better able to master the dual role we have brought ourselves into, as a threat to and at the same time guardian of the planet.

Regenerative techniques

One of the more recent essays, "Wild Plans for the Planet," delves into themes such as rewilding og regeneration. The terms are important. They challenge the idea that the most important thing is that we humans withdraw. Instead, we can see ourselves as doctors and stewards, who actively contribute to nature's healing and bringing out its potential.

rewilding is about making nature wild again, i.e. restoring selected areas so that they are brought back to a lost state. A tool chest is needed for this regenerative techniques, which helps us to play on a team with and strengthen nature's own vitality. This is how we can step by step expand our art of survival, through active efforts to improve the interaction between nature and people.

In today's world, life unfolds in a sphere shaped by us. Just think of all the fences, dams, highways, power lines and pipelines that break up the integrity of natural landscapes, with the effect of encapsulating, cutting through and fragmenting the life of nature.

Faced with this reality, we should seek greater understanding of what nature needs to flourish. Only in this way can we form the basis for a genuine nature policy, where our political measures are shaped with the aim of playing on and increasing nature's own vitality.

The small glimpse into an essay illustrates how rich the book is. Our small review does not leave room for more deep dives. Instead, we can round off with a few words about considering the various essays as forsøk, written with the aim of pondering a sincere ambivalence.

Wholeness and diversity

A premise for the essays, says Anders Dunker, is that the challenges of our time lead towards "a universal future, understood as the future of humanity, nature and the planet". At the same time (and here lies the ambivalence) we are warned against our modern, technological tendency to want to unify the world. A greener future will need a holistic narrative, but the whole should not become so all-encompassing that we weed out the diversity of life worlds in varied landscapes. The fabric between nature and people is best maintained through processes that allow for both regulation from above and impulses from below. A wise point of view from a wise writer.

Svein Hammer
Svein Hammer
Hammer is a dr.polit. in sociology and regular reviewer in Ny Tid.

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