My View by Robyn Sassen

Robyn Sassen
12/29/2007 11:45:54

© 1997-2008

My View: The War Against Ourselves

EM Forster summed up human interaction: “only connect”. Jacklyn Cock is as eloquent, in “The War Against Ourselves”. Only her message is devastating.

Cock, Jacklyn (2007) "The War Against Ourselves: Nature, Power and Justice" Johannesburg, Wits University Press.

The War Against Ourselves“The War Against Ourselves” is a publication that should soar to the non-fiction best-selling list within the first quarter of 2008. The best yardstick to measure any piece of original material is the way it shifts your thinking. This book is an intelligent, rigorous and unapologetic examination of the status of our world.

This book will make you rethink the lifestyle conveniences which embody devastation that we’re deaf to. And when I speak of ‘us’, I speak of a level of moneyed, educated, basically privileged individuals. Look at the dying cockroach on the ad for a product designed to destroy it. Look at the kid gleefully chowing his beef. Look at your neighbours watering their lawn or filling their pool, even in rainy weather. Our world is replete with a lack of understanding of where things come and this will be our demise, according to Cock.

Her field is Sociology, and she uses this as a tool rather than an excuse to write about environmental activism. The kicker is that as a tract of sociological consequence, the book has huge social relevance to the average reader. You, me, the next guy, are people who touch and are touched by issues that inform our lives, our daily physical well-being. This is an environmental book but not a set of rules and not a discourse that shouts “green or bust!”

Divided into ten chapters, this extremely lucidly written publication is not densely academic, yet Cock refers to the primary writers in the fields related to environmental sensitivity. The book never patronises in its complex, detailed and bone-chilling explanation of the possible and, dare I say it, probable consequences our lifestyles will have on our planet, in the foreseeable future. From wasting water to eliminating insects with poison, Cock argues that we as a race are irrevocably doomed unless we affect radical paradigm shifts in our thinking.

She’s diverse in her critique, carefully evaluating the political relevance of a ‘green’ mentality in relation to ‘brown’ or urban issues. Money plays an unmitigated role in perceptions and realities, and politics is a lot of the glue that binds us. Apartheid not only segregated people on arbitrary physicality, and attempted to break their spirits, but it pushed the poor down so far that it is unlikely that democracy will even tables out for them. These are people still reliant on the bucket system for toilets, people whose very water is metered. These are people traditionally swept under the green carpets of projects informing nature reserves in the past. Cock doesn’t leave a stone unturned in casting her eye toward all the different ways in which the natural world is something we are warring with to the death.

This is not a fundamentalist tree- or bunny-hugging book, but one which doesn’t shy from presenting the bottom line to many worst case scenarios within the environmental, and by implication, the urban sphere. It’s meaty and exceptionally well organised. Cock’s carefully researched, hard-hitting facts, juxtaposed with interjections that draw from her own experience, offer a narrative compelling in its relevance, without ever stooping toward sensationalism. The facts speak for themselves, and they are simply terrifying.

Her chapters are meticulously stitched together against the framework of the thinking of Rachel Carson, an environmentalist active in the 1960s, who unpopularly perceived and wrote of the incontrovertible connection between man and his world, and the irrevocable death man was offering his world and by implication, himself, through his arrogance and technology. Sadly, Carson’s predictions are manifesting, with many creatures already extinct and others promising to become so within the next decade. Cock’s focuses range from ignoring nature, to privatising it, abusing it, and rethinking it. This is truly a must read.

Picture: Yes
Submitted by Robyn Sassen

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