The three ecologies

CLIMATE / What connects the city of Siracusa with the UN and a French philosopher?

This summer, I was exactly where Europe got its new heat record of 48,8 degrees, in Siracusa, Sicily. I have an old sailboat lying there.

Around Siracusa, we constantly saw smoke from fires – and helicopters flew seawater to put out the flames. The Italian who worked at the local cafe told how the family farm with its old nice olive trees had burned down. I asked if the farm was insured, but he shook his head.

Siracusa is the city Plato traveled to several times from Athens. The philosopher is supposed to have gotten the idea for the cave parable from those nearby. So, are we still blinded by the shadows on the cave wall – and today’s media public – as many politicians and climate deniers are blind to the environmental crisis?

are we still blinded by the shadows on the cave wall…

UN’s climate panel

The UN’s climate panel (IPCC) reported that this summer has, once again, presented clear research facts on how bad it has become. We should be out of the dark of the cave now. The UN’s 6th report has been prepared by 750 researchers and commented on by as many as 78 professional experts and government representatives. It should hold. And the extreme weather experienced this summer – more frequent floods, heavy rainfall, droughts, and fires – shows the consequences of greenhouse gases in full daylight.

The CO2 concentration in 2019 is the highest in 2 million years – similar to the acidity of the oceans. The temperature in the last decade is higher than the last longer warm period 6500 years ago.

We emit 40 billion tonnes of CO2 annually. CO2 is known to originate from heavy transport, industry, construction, and exhaust – but perhaps less well known is that ocean-going trawlers create more polluting CO2 than global air traffic.

The «CO2 budget» is approximately 400 billion tons before we will pass 1,5 degrees increased warming – that is around 2030. If we continue as now, the journal Nature estimates that 4,1 degrees will be reached in 2100 and that 83 million people will die of climate-related causes in the period from there.

The other greenhouse gas is methane, from, among other things, meat production and poorly performed gas extraction, such as from shale sources. According to the IPCC, the concentration of methane is the highest in 800 years. The point is that methane pollutes 1000 times more than CO2 – even if it decreases down to CO2 over a decade. Should one prioritise which pollution must be taken first, methane comes before coal. Why? The carbon particles in the atmosphere paradoxically dampen global warming. I have also experienced volcanic dust all over the sailboat in Sicily (Etna’s «black rain») and experienced the dampening of the sun – historically, volcanoes are known to create cold periods.

The IPCC report also discusses the melting of glaciers and possible changes in ocean currents – with self-reinforcing «tipping points», with irreversible effects on the biosphere for centuries. The Arctic is mentioned for its smallest summer area of ​​6000 years. And a change in the Gulf Stream is probably Norway’s worst future scenario.

We emit 40 billion tonnes of CO2 annually.

Norwegian blindness

But, how many people here in the West are interested in changing their too-high climatic footprints?

In January, before the IPCC’s report and this year’s extreme summer, The Ipsos Mori Survey pointed out that four out of five are willing to stand up and do something about the colossal risks we face. An average of 66 percent supports global cooperation for a better climate – in China as much as 81 percent, while in France only 50 percent. And according to the global survey, three quarters will give the UN greater power to deal with the climate crisis – they also answered that protecting nature is more important than securing both jobs and profits. (See The Guardian, Humans Pushing Earth to Tipping Points)

But does such a study show an ongoing change in mentality? No, we see which policies are supported, these figures are probably not real. And if we are to believe the Norwegian parties’ programmes for the parliamentary elections this autumn, it does not seem that way – jobs and economic growth count more. Perhaps with the exception of MDG, SV, and Rødt, the established parties show themselves as populists who appeal to Norwegians’ «security» or greed. So where are the visions of relocating the 200 in the oil industry to new, more sustainable jobs in one of the world’s richest countries?


A real change of mentality was already demanded and described by the French philosopher Félix Guattari (1930–92) in his book The three écologies (1989, published in English under the title The Three Ecologies in 2008). He already imagined how devastating climate change would be. But Guattari could also criticise environmental activists for being too short-sighted, nostalgic, or religious. For him, ecology is not only the natural environment, but also the interpersonal, and the subjectivity of the individual. All three «ecologies» are closely linked.

As Guattari wrote about molecular revolutions five years earlier (together with the Italian, Toni Negri#), he demanded art and activism to create change – that is, small events, small shifts from below. Unlike Marxist totalitarian revolutionary ideas, he envisioned emotional changes in us humans – initiated by experiences, cultural expressions, and activism. Let me, therefore, mention the film Grief, as you can see, made by Czech Andrea Culkova. It’s about eco-care, where, for example, twenty protesting young people from Extinction Rebellion suddenly dance in the center of Prague (to Norwegian Aurora‘s music!) – and create other theatrical scenes for the climate.

Green challenges find telling ways and awareness through art prints. Guattari believes that the affective or emotional power behind aesthetic experiences is necessary. As he warns in The Three Ecologies in 1989: «The earth is going through a period of intense techno-scientific transformation. If no cure is found, the ecological imbalance this has caused will ultimately threaten the continuation of life on this planet» [my translation]. But social relations and your subjectivity are also part of modern pollution – not just rainforests and oceans. Guattari at the time described the consumption of mass media images and character production as similar to industrial mass production of plastic products. When it came to social relations, he referred to the capitalist mogul Donald Trump in the 80s as «[a] nother species of algae, taking over entire districts of New York and Atlantic City». People were driven out of apartment blocks that were refurbished, became homeless, like dead fish floating on the surface of polluted water.

Let me repeat Guattari’s perhaps the most engaging concern of his career as a psychoanalyst and philosopher (he died just 62 years old): «How can we recreate social practices that will give us our humanity back – if it has ever had such a sense of responsibility? – not only for our own survival but just as much for the future of life on the planet, for animal species and plants. But also non-bodily species such as music, art, film – and the relationship to both time, love and care for others, the feeling of merging into the heart of the cosmos?

«The earth is going through a period of intense techno-scientific transformation. If no cure is found, the ecological imbalance this has caused will ultimately threaten the continuation of life on this planet»


Guattari’s philosophy is – in addition to being an environmental philosophy – transversal and includes, as mentioned, the environment, the interpersonal, and the individual.

But unlike other French philosophers such as Jean Baudrillard and Jean-François Lyotard, Guattari was largely in favor of technological solutions. Although he acknowledged that technology can be homogenizing or the problem itself, technology can also solve problems – for example, the Internet can enable radical «molecular» revolutionary expressions and connections between people. And a sailboat that uses the wind is also a technology.

But if anyone thinks I’m too optimistic here, call me a pessimistic optimist.

Truls Lie
Truls Liehttp:/
Editor-in-chief, Modern Times Review.

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