Sunday, April 17, 2022

Human War and War Against Nature: The latest IPCC Report and the Prospect of a Lost Conflict

Human War and War against Nature: The latest IPCC Report and the Prospect of a Lost Conflict

by Silvia Peppoloni*

This article was published in the magazine "ReWriters"in Italian:

* Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Rome (Italy); Secretary General of the IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics; Councillor of the IUGS - International Union of Geological Sciences; Chair of the Ethical Board of ICOS - Intergrated Carbon Observation System; Coordinator of IAPG-Italy; Member of the Board of Directors of the Italian Geological Society. Email:

Silvia Peppoloni
The horror of war is in our eyes
: its massacres, destruction, annihilation of humanity. War has its rules, law, and strategies. War is a pact, as Michel Serres reminds us in his book "The natural contract", a contract between belligerents to resolve, temporarily or permanently, a conflict that is no longer manageable through dialogue, listening, balanced compromise.

War, it seems absurd, is a sort of social contract governed by laws, an agreement between the parties to establish rules and responsibilities, an attempt to give dignity to unworthiness, to maintain a moral dimension within a frame of immorality. War is declared and carried out, ends with an agreement, or with a frozen state of belligerence. There are losers and winners, but also losers and losers, as well as winners only.

Every war is the same as all wars, not for historians and politicians. There are no wars without civilians being spared: they are on the front line, in the rear, alongside invaders and invaded, they are among them.

If this is the reality of declared and regulated war, there is also a war in which civilians are the deliberate target, the weapon of terror, the target of unregulated ferocity. The pact is broken, there are no more rules to violate, there are no more rules and no possibility of humaneness. There is no judgment, only the nothingness of non-being.

This is the war between human beings.

But every war is also a war between human beings and nature. In this case there are no rules to transgress, there is always a human winner, always a defeated and humiliated nature by senselessness and madness. There is no law, there are no rules. It is a hidden, undeclared, untold war, never quantified, never concluded. Its effects, extended over space and time, are insidious, altering, and irreversible.

Kuwaiti wells in flames from the Gulf War burn oil accumulated over millions of years, release tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, poison desert sand. Symbolic and real image, full of tragicalness, of a dying fossil world inhabited by a human being emptied of their natural essence, a harbinger of future mourning and degradation.

The jungle of Vietnam, scorched by napalm and chemistry, is flooded with rains induced by military geoengineering techniques to bog down enemies and interrupt their invisible movement in the thick vegetation.

The rivers and plains of Ukraine are violated by wrought metals, scattered among the waters and soils. A perfect and changeable balance between human industriousness and natural dynamics is suddenly upset by the technology of death.

Time is not on our side.

The human war on nature and its threats, which for centuries have jeopardized our existence, is a set of battles won, but they are Pyrrhic's victories: this war now seems lost. In human time we are victors, in natural time we are miserably defeated.

The reports of the IPCC - Intergovernamental Panel on Climate Change are war bulletins, engraved in the stone of history. The enemy is at the gates, no doubt. We have tried to win a war without ever having tried conscientiously to find an agreement, to sign a natural contract, as Michel Serres invokes. Our arrogance made us invincible in our eyes, being deluded that science would work to save us, technology would secure us from any unforeseen events, from the possible failures of our most optimistic forecasts. And the Titanic would not have sunk.

Unfortunately, science does not redeem us.

Should we surrender to the enemy? We don't have an enemy to bargain with. Rather we must surrender to our ignorance and become capable of grasping the fragility and partiality of our condition. We have no natural contract to sign except with ourselves, between ourselves. We are already nature.

We just have to recognize the value of knowledge as an act of humility towards complexity. A knowledge that, as the latest IPCC report on climate change recalls, has various forms: it is scientific, local, indigenous, we could add humanistic, it is knowledge of human creativity. It is a set of individual and collective acts that still make us hope that the construction of a new world is possible. Without wars.


Other articles published in the IAPG Blog:

IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics

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