Who makes the Earth habitable? From a metaphysics of production to a metaphysics of alliance

Friday, March 03, 2023

Among the founding myths of modern Western cosmology, there is one that would almost go unnoticed, so much has it shaped our ways of thinking and acting. It is the dominant philosophical belief that we humans produce our own sustenance and make the Earth habitable. We have invented a civilization built on the belief that it is human activity, whether in the form of agricultural practices or land management and development, that feeds and shelters us. This is what I call the metaphysics of production, a world-view according to which we humans are those who make the Earth nourishing and habitable.

But this self-fulfilling myth is now cracking on all sides: this is what the disappearance of wild insects, which are undergoing an unprecedented phenomenon of defaunation, is telling us, revealing themselves to us as irreplaceable nourishing actors who make agricultural production possible; this is what we are learning from the multiplication of droughts, mega-fires and floods, which are making us rediscover the beaver as the initiator of ecological dynamics that are essential for defending the habitability of the living environments.

If we are to imagine a society that does not undermine the conditions of its own sustenance and the myriad wild life forms that contribute to it, it is important to radically reject this metaphysics of production, in order to foster and spread a metaphysics of alliance: a world-view that acknowledges non-human life forms and the wild dynamics they create, as irreplaceable producers of the earth's habitability for all life forms of which we are a part.

An in-depth analysis of the contemporary ecological crisis makes it clear that it is not only human societies that are in crisis on the one hand, and the living world that is in crisis on the other, but that it is fundamentally a crisis of our relations to the living. It is these relationships that must be rethought and transformed: this calls for imagining politics of interdependence, supported by local-based concrete alliances, which work for the good of the mutualistic and constitutive relationship between humans and the rest of life on Earth.