Wild Law: A Manifesto for Earth Justice (Anglais) Broché – 28 avril 2011
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It is true, however, that in the first few chapters Cullinan relies too heavily on acronyms representing international organizations and conferences, and it's easy to forget what each one means after it's been explained with its first appearance. This difficulty is only a minor inconvenience, however, and it pretty well disappears as we get a bit more deeply into the book.
In addition to being an accomplished prose stylist, Cullinan presents original ideas about how to deal with an increasingly fragile planet. Some of the new ideas are fairly well developed, but most are merely mentioned repeatedly, so often in some instances that I found myself mistaking familiarity for understanding when, in truth, I had only been presented with brain-storming repeitions of the same gloss.
Cullinan works as an environmental lawyer with an international clientele. It seems certain, therefore, that he is, as a matter of routine, deeply immersed in the sort of legal-rational conflictual parsing of environmentally sensitive, ideologically charged concepts and rules that provide the intellectual substance of geo-political engagement over ways to minimize environmental damage while avoiding barriers to economic growth.
Nevertheless, Cullinan is also a mystic and a romantic. When indigenous people living in the Amazon River basin tell him that their shaman, after taking traditional narcotics, is able to communicate with the tribe's natural habitat and find out what is best for both their community and their ecosystem, Cullinan believes them. Literally. Callinan's openness to mysticism is emphasized as he makes the claim that the rest of us, in our hyper-rational world, could learn important lessons from the shaman's relationship with nature.
Similarly, Callinan views the earth -- perhaps the entire universe! -- as an organism with a rhythmic heartbeat -- maybe even a consciousness! -- that is discernible if only we are committed to listening carefully enough.
In contrast with what passes for commonsense in our commoditized world, Callinan holds the animistic view that not only humans and perhaps other animals, but trees, tumbleweed-strewn deserts, mountain ranges, all sorts of natural phenomena, should be viewed as subjects rather than objects. Subjects are purposeful, as a river flowing within its banks, rising and falling with rainfall, snow-melt, and drought, sometimes filling a flood plain, and, if healthy, carrying along a rich variety of aquatic life.
Much of Wild Law will seem absurd precisely because of its hopeful, mystical, and romantic character. The rest will seem wildly impractical simply because entrenched international interests that seek to control our world would not stand for the tree-hugging, we're-all-in-this-together constraints that Callinan's proposals and rudimentary ideas would impose on their unfettered ability to make as much short-term profit as possible.
None of this bothers me. I recognize Wild Law's mystical, romantic, and communitarian limitations and, as far as I can tell, Callinan does as well. There remains, however, something else -- maybe more serious, maybe less -- that bothers me about Wild Law. Pick at random any ten-page sequence, read the pages, and then pick another ten-page sequence in the same way. The chances are very good that you'll find little or no difference in the substance of the two sequences. In short, the book is very redundant. Yes, functional redundancy, redundancy with a purpose, as in repeating a difficult idea, has a legitimate place. But Wild Law seems pointlessly redundant, as if it should have been a brief journal article rather than a book.
I readily admit that from chapter to chapter there are occasional, sometimes striking differences in detail, and Callinan's fluid prose style just keeps us reading along, not particularly troubled by the fact that we've read all this before. Still, if Callinan wants to make a really strong case for what he terms "wild law," as I wish he would, he needs a lot more substance. Nevertheless, I have to admit that I liked the book and I learned from it.
What "Wild Law" proposes is that we alter our laws - our very civil structure - to take into account that we are a part of the greater system, and what we do affects that system. Unless we blow the atmosphere off this planet, whether humans are here or not and whether this planet can support human life or not, history has shown that some form of life will likely continue on planet Earth. If we can evolve our civilization to live more in sync with our planet, its ecosystem, and every other living thing, we can enhance our chances of continuing to be a part of that system.
A Guide to my Book Rating System:
1 star = The wood pulp would have been better utilized as toilet paper.
2 stars = Don't bother, clean your bathroom instead.
3 stars = Wasn't a waste of time, but it was time wasted.
4 stars = Good book, but not life altering.
5 stars = This book changed my world in at least some small way.
Cormac Cullinam gives us many pithy quotes. His take on relationships is not new but the truth of it needs to be made clearer. Even Darwin said his "survival of the fittest" was misunderstood and we now know that species survive (especially the human species) not through competition, but through cooperation. Cullinam writes,
"the 'new physics' based on quantum theory revealed that the universe is a single integrated whole composed of a dynamic network of relationships."
He says, "I think that once we recognise that the universe, like a dance, exists by virtue of the cooperative relationships between all involved . . . governance should focus on fostering intimate relationships between members of the Earth Community."
Scientists the world over are rapidly coming to the conclusion that consciousness is all there is, albeit, with different levels of awareness. This is to say that a rock may not have the same level of consciousness as a deer, but it is nonetheless maintained with and in consciousness. Even Lewis Thomas (Lives of a Cell) opined that the Earth was alive and conscious. So when Cullinan tells us that shamans have communicated with their environs and have received word back from their mountains, streams and forests that all is not well, we must listen.
The book's layout is attractive, with insets for quotes every few pages. The writing is utterly clear and easy to read if occasionally repetitive. However, for me, the price alone is worth the "Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth." This Declaration includes, of course, all of Earth's "children." Here are a few of the "Declarations": "Mother Earth is a living being. She has "the right to life and to exist." She has "the right to be respected." She has "the right to continue their vital cycles and processes free from human disruptions." She has "the right to clean air." She has "the right to integral health." Two countries have already adopted this Declaration as part of their constitutions, including Bolivia and it has been debated at the U.N.
What is contained in Wild Law must be the basis for a new age of peace and plenty as has been predicted. But nothing is writ in stone. If we humans continue our profligate, destructive ways, killing our oceans until there are no more fish, destroying the lungs of the Earth, the rainforests, to feed cattle, dumping our nuclear toxic wastes into our precious mountains and consuming more than the Earth can provide, we will be opting for unimaginable suffering, possibly the end of humanity. Do we really want to bequeath this to our children, perhaps even to ourselves, for plant and animal species are disappearing at alarming rates previously unsuspected?
But we can do more than buy, buy, buy or stress ourselves with work, or sit around watching television. We can read this book and enlighten ourselves. We can let it give us new, refreshing ideas that will empower us in a good way. Cullinam concludes, "We must include practices that respect, honour and celebrate Earth and rededicate ourselves to deepening our connection with the whole." Your choice.
His ultimate goal is a new system of Earth governance, with law as the lever. Unfortunately, his justifications for such a transformation are mostly lacking. For example, one might ask why is law the best way to achieve a better relationship between humans and nature? One might consider the ideas of other disciplines as a contrast. Just taking political science, sociology, and economics, to what extent would political reform, environmental social movements or more environmentally-grounded property rights work better or worse than wild law? That's not to advocate any of those, just to say that he needs to take on some alternatives to make his own case.
On this and many other points, Cullinan lacks follow through. For example, he makes a nice point that corporations are a legal fiction that society created to serve particular purposes, so one might just as easily give nature fictive rights - - the right of a river to be a river, the right of a species to exist, the right of natural processes in an ecosystem to continue to function. That's a good enough idea to fill a book, working through the details of how to set up legal rights, and how to resolve conflicts with other rights such as human needs. Unfortunately, Cullinan tosses out the idea and then moves to something else.
All in all, Cullinan is much better calling us to think about an issue than he is at thinking about the issue himself.
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