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Eternal recovery

The politics of the sun
ENVIRONMENTAL PHILOSOPHY / In this book, a collision between economics and ecology is suggested. According to Oksana Timofejeva, the use of solar energy must be different from the domination of the industrial paradigm.


O sole mio!” I felt like bursting into Luciano Pavarotti's song in praise of the sun as I stood on top of Japan's sacred mountain, Fuji. The sun rose above the horizon and was reborn. I wasn't alone at the top. Far from it. The most colorful among us were Japanese Shinto monks. They held up the Japanese flag and chanted low. We were 3770 meters above sea level, and we were bathed in magical light.

Climbing to the top of Fuji is a privilege. The mountain is great, it is sacred, and Japan is exciting. I did this for approx. 15 years ago and became aware of both the magic of the sunrise and Japanese mythology. The flag of Japan consists of a red circle in the middle of a white rectangular background. The red disc represents the sun goddess Amaterasu, founder of Japan and ancestress of that country's emperors. The first emperor of Japan, known as Jimmu, is considered to be the son of the sun.

Modern man does not mind a little magic, and a little enlightenment. Early in the history of our species, the sun became a source our ancestors worshipped. No wonder given its life-giving power, strength and ability to enrich nature with plants and other resources.

In antiquity, the sun was considered a pure deity. In Egypt it was named Ra, among the Aztecs Tonatiuh, Surya in Hinduism and Sol Invictius under the Roman Empire. There were many other sun gods with different names, and they corresponded to different seasons. Helios in ancient Greece rode across the sky in a golden chariot. Some of these gods grew old and died during the day, but they were reborn the next morning. In other cultural circles, the god dies in December and is reborn after the winter solstice.

A higher principle

The author of the long essay The politics of the sun, on just under 100 pages, Oksana Timofejeva is a professor of philosophy at the European University in St. Petersburg. Timofejeva has written books about the philosophy of animals, which challenge established distinctions between animals and humans, and another about love for homeland and homeland in light of Russia's political development in recent years. She is also a member of the group Chto delat? ('What must be done?'), which combines art, activism and philosophy.

The politics of the sun is a philosophical essay about the sun. It is based on Georges Bataille's theories on the solar economy and what he calls 'solar violence'. The sun is the ultimate source of energy, both productive and destructive. According to Bataille, its infinite generosity can be seen as a model for human societies. This can be an alternative to the capitalist economy, with its endless expansion and colonization of other peoples and forms of life.

According to Bataille, the infinite generosity of the sun can be seen as a model for human societies.

The author is looking for a new understanding of our place in the world, and in the cosmos. She wants more solidarity with nature. The sun should be seen neither as a 'master' nor as a 'slave', but as a 'companion'.

Recognizing the sun as a higher principle we are all subject to and influenced by can, according to Timofejeva, open up a different way of thinking about the political, which is in line with the growing ecological challenges we face in the 21st century: "Every progressive protest movement, every general strike and every real revolution is full of this – the divine, luxurious and magnificent element of the sun, which Plato associated with the highest good."

The use of solar energy

Our problem is that we as a species are infinitely expansive and ambitious, writes Timofejeva. Now we want to colonize space. The capitalist system has growth as its pivot point, and this compulsion to grow requires more and more resources and more energy. Colonizing other countries, both their population and natural resources, as well as colonizing other planets, is part of modern politics based on greed, usurpation and exploitation, according to Timofejeva. Our fossil model has led technological development into a collision between economy and ecology. With disastrous side effects.

We must come to our senses. We must not be blinded by our technological wonders and suffer the same fate as an Icarus, who thought he could fly higher and higher towards the sun without being burned by the flames. Humans can conquer the sun and use all its energy, and then move on to other suns, but how do we avoid destroying the earth and ourselves along with it along the way, asks Timofejeva. Perhaps we can learn solutions that are based on a clean and renewable energy sector? The use of solar must become different from the domination of the industrial paradigm, claims Timofejeva, and writes: "It promises decentralized, democratic and individual use, borne out by the idea of ​​zero emissions. With today's economic model of ownership, global inequality and forms of production – even in the most sustainable economic projects – there is still a danger that the sun will remain trapped in the eternity of extraction that is indistinguishable from destruction.”

Quality philosophical literature

Timofejeva's book is narrow. And demanding. It requires a certain overview of philosophical literature. 100 pages therefore take more time to digest than usual, and I have had to read large parts of the book twice to manage to get into the material. And I also don't think the author writes very clearly. But thanks and praise for the fact that we have publishers who dare to bet on difficult themes, texts and concepts. The philosopher Lars Holm-Hansen runs the one-man publishing house Existenz, a publishing house for "quality philosophical literature in all genres", and has already published several interesting titles.

This must have been demanding material to translate. Author Anders Dunker has shown many times that he has a good command of the topics of environment and environmental philosophy. But I am puzzled by parts of his translation in this book. Is it the translation or the original that is poorly written? There are passages like this in several places: "In this sense, the difference between 'dirty' and 'clean' ways of devouring the sun is not as radical as it might seem, and further, cosmic expansion does not promise us anything entirely new, but rather points in the direction of the limited violence as a malignant infinity, which makes the word 'colonization' cease to be politically neutral – and moreover in the direction of a violent solar response to what we call climate change."

After passages like this, I'm not in the same mood for Pavarotti's "O sole mio", and I feel as short of breath as after being on top of , yeah. But I still get to rise above it and praise the gospel of the sun.

Andrew P. Kroglund
Andrew P. Kroglund
Kroglund is a critic and writer. Also Secretary General of BKA (Grandparents' Climate Action).

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