I found The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse by Pascal Bruckner to be a difficult read, not only in the sense of it being full of dense, philosophical texts but also in my internal struggle while processing Bruckner’s ideas. I had a “love-hate” relationship with the text as I was trying to wrap my head around the themes. While I agreed with some points logistically, I could not emotionally.
This can best be exemplified by the continuing theme that Bruckner proposed that it is too little, too late and that we cannot save our planet. He also ridicules the environmentalism movement for using fear of the future as leverage to make change, stating that this is not how change can be made and why so few have trust in this movement.
“What is at stake here is the pleasure of living together on this planet that will survive us, whatever we do for it. We need trailblazers and stimulator, not killjoys disguised as prophets. We need new frontiers in order to cross them, not new prisons where we can stagnate.” (186) Why do people commit themselves to environmentalism?
“The enormity of the diagnosis, the absurd inadequacy of the remedies.” (32) Here, Bruckner is dissatisfied with the ways in which we are told to fix the human impacts – that we can avoid these earth-shattering predictions by simple acts of changing lightbulbs and becoming vegetarian. He states that these acts are not legitimate actions at all; they are only things that make us feel as if we can make a difference when we are feeling distressed about the environment.
He concludes the book with a distaste in environmentalists (in the traditional sense) because of the way in which they approach the need for change. He says “The friends of the Earth have far too long been enemies of humanity; it is time for an ecology of admiration to replace an ecology of accusation.” (185) I felt that this quote was particularly thought-provoking as it led me to ask, is there anybody to blame but humanity? Who else? Can we actually make progress if we keep these thoughts? This is another point that I hated to entertain Bruckner’s ideas but felt as if I had to question.
“Save the world, we hear everywhere: save it from capitalism, from science, from consumerism, from its self-proclaimed saviours who brandish the threat of great chaos in order to impose their lethal impulses.” (185)
“Environmental concern is universal, but the disease of the end of the world is purely Western.” (181) This quote made me evaluate what it means to be Western and look at the environment as apocalyptic. Is this because we have the knowledge to do so or is it only a culturally derived pessimism?
Finally, I go back to one of Bruckner’s earliest claims where he remarks on the claims of ocean ecosystems collapsing without intervention, “This news prohibits any reaction other than distress and passivity.” (31) This led to my lasting question from the book; Are there ways to make people believe in environmentalism without instilling fear? Is simply telling them facts without context enough to persuade change?