Good friend facing a serious health challenge in coming months found relief in a quote attributed to French existentialist philosopher Albert Camus (1913-1960). It included this:
No matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.
Provincial ministers and senior bureaucrats may be highly skilled at submitting expense account claims but they are inept at managing emergency responses. Meanwhile, local first-responders and concerned citizens, including many not directly affected by flooding, risk their lives to help.
The words of Camus struck me as useful for brave men and women damaged by British Columbia’s current climate disaster.
The sentence quoted above was attached to a longer piece that seems not to have been written entirely by the Nobel Prize laureate. That led me to reexplore Camus, a prolific writer. His 1957 speech at the Nobel Banquet has lessons for us sixty-four years later.
Camus spoke in a time when a nuclear holocaust was the greatest fear. Until then, people had regularly faced dangers of warfare but never did they worry that humankind could be erased. Today, there is a certain threat to our way of life and place in the natural world. Unchecked climate change poses a literal threat to humanity’s existence.
Journalists should pay close attention to Camus. They have a responsibility to raise strong warnings of a potential climate-induced collapse of civilization.
…the writer’s role is not free from difficult duties. By definition he cannot put himself today in the service of those who make history; he is at the service of those who suffer it… Not all the armies of tyranny with their millions of men will free him from his isolation, even and particularly if he falls into step with them.
…the writer can win the heart of a living community that will justify him, on the one condition that he will accept to the limit of his abilities the two tasks that constitute the greatness of his craft: the service of truth and the service of liberty. Because his task is to unite the greatest possible number of people, his art must not compromise with lies and servitude which, wherever they rule, breed solitude.
Whatever our personal weaknesses may be, the nobility of our craft will always be rooted in two commitments, difficult to maintain: the refusal to lie about what one knows and the resistance to oppression.
…we should understand – without ceasing to fight it – the error of those who in an excess of despair have asserted their right to dishonour and have rushed into the nihilism of the era. But the fact remains that most of us, in my country and in Europe, have refused this nihilism and have engaged upon a quest for legitimacy. They have had to forge for themselves an art of living in times of catastrophe in order to be born a second time and to fight openly against the instinct of death at work in our history.
Categories: Climate Change