From the forests of Yellowstone to the steppes of the Haut-Var, the French philosopher and environmentalist Baptiste Morizot invites us to develop a different relationship to nature: to become detectives of nature and to follow the footprints of the many wonderful and extraordinary animals with which we share the Earth. By deciphering and interpreting an animal's footprints and other signs, we gradually discover not only which animal it is, but the animal's motives too. Through this kind of `philosophical tracking', we come to see the world from the animal's point of view, to learn to live in this world from the perspective of another species. We begin to let go of our anthropocentric point of view and to recapture the kind of perspective that our ancestors once had when they had no choice but to adopt an animal point of view if they wanted to survive. In short, by following animal trails, we learn how to pay increased attention to the living world around us and how to cohabit this world with others, thereby enriching our understanding of other species, of the world we share with them and of ourselves.
The ecological crisis is a very real crisis for the many species that face extinction, but it is also a crisis of sensibility - that is, a crisis in our relationships with other living beings. We have grown accustomed to treating other living beings as the material backdrop for the drama of human life: the animal world is regarded as part of `nature', juxtaposed to the world of human beings who pursue their aims independently of other species.Baptiste Morizot argues that the time has come for us to jettison this nature-human dualism and rethink our relationships with other living beings. Animals are not part of a separate, natural world: they are cohabitants of the Earth, with whom we share a common ancestry, the enigma of being alive and the responsibility of living decent lives together. By accepting our identity as living beings and reconnecting with our own animal nature, we can begin to change our relationships with other animals, seeing them not as inferior lifeforms but as living creatures who have different ways of being alive.This powerful plea for a new understanding of our relationships with other animals will be of great interest to anyone concerned about the ecological crisis and the future of different species, including our own.
As the environmental crisis accelerates, we can easily feel overwhelmed, but our feeling of powerlessness is partly due to a misunderstanding of the natural world. 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. 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 – rather, it is how to defend and rekindle the embers of life that are all around us.
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 prodigality 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.