Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The book of the month: Straw Dogs

John Gray's book is not an easy one. Or better, the prose is fairly straight forward and unassuming but contents are quite harsh and often, a little bit too negative for anyone to enjoy. For what matters, I did enjoy it. But that perhaps is because I am free of religious beliefs and prejudices and have no problems in contemplating the idea that maybe, after all, we are limited and meaningless creatures.

Gray's bottom line is: humans are like any other animal on this planet. They spend their lives searching for food, looking for a partner and fighting for their own territory. There is nothing philosophical about us – what is this book about then?

The ideas that Grey puts forward are very challenging in their total nihilism. Having said so, Gray's pessimism, in places, is lugubriously laughable as he fails to acknowledge any human value and ultimately, refuses point blank to see any motivation for getting out of bed.

Read it. But remember, it takes an open minded person to appreciate the ground Gray adventures in. Whether you agree with him or not, that is another matter altogether.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Cape Farewell and the climate change struggle

Here is my letter to this year's Cape Farewell voyagers:

Dear everyone,

I have been following your adventures since day one (and before) mainly because I know my good friend Francesca (ciao Fra!) was going to be part of it. I must admit I find it very entertaining and interesting and I am genuinely very jealous of you all! No many people in this world have had and will have the chance to see what you are seeing right now, also because for its very nature, the Artic is a ever-changing environment.

As a distant follower of your expedition, I would like to bring my contribution to the climate change debate and maybe trigger some further interesting discussions on board and on this blog. The reason why I am writing this is because I feel quite pessimistic about this project and about climate change in general.

In my opinion, the mistake many scientists (and most humanists) seem to make when it comes to discussing global warming is to consider mankind as the ultimate master of its own destiny. That is clearly wrong. We don't need to mention Darwin to understand that we are like any other animal on this planet – i.e. just another specie. Unfortunately for Earth, the dominant specie happens also to be the most rapacious, destructive and predatory one. There is no room for environmental control or behavioural change here. If Darwin has taught us anything, it is that species are a mere assembly of genes that interact randomly with the each other and with changing environments. Human settlements, even with their advanced technology, are no different from anthills or bee hives. The exploitation and destruction of our planet has nothing to do with capitalism, global economy, progress, etc. It is the logical consequence of the evolution of an exceptionally destructive and rapacious specie: ours.

Some say that modifying our behaviour, changing the way we live is possible. I think they are wrong as they misplace their trust on a specie that has always acted for its own sake. Mankind behaviour has always been moved by greediness and primal urges. Though our needs may have changed, we haven't.

As for progress and technology, they are something that human kind cannot control. They highlight the weakness and fragility of our nature. Changing the way we live is possible but not in the direction scientists are indicating. Human history proves that we tend to get accustomed to commodities and ultimately, we use them to satisfy our (greedy) needs; whatever it takes, whatever shamble we leave behind. Even Cape Farewell is highly dependent on technology as it relies on GPS, cameras, recorders, computers, etc. These things pollute. We all know that every attempt to change our lifestyle would be deeply unsuccessful. In Darwin’s words: no species can control their own faith.

Before leaving you to your beautiful experience, I would like to say one more thing. I often read headlines or mottos such as "Save the planet”. The truth is...we are not trying to save the planet here. The planet will outlive us all just as it has outlived dinosaurs, meteorites, ice ages, etc. It will may change shape, look different, have different inhabitants but it will not perish. What we are really trying to do here is saving OUR planet - i.e. our habitat. Not for the sake of polar bears, tigers, pandas or else. We are doing this for us. And that’s because we know that in a less hospitable environment mankind is doomed to extinction. Well, I think we signed up for our extinction a long time ago, perhaps when we were first created. Our "dinosaurization" is well underway...

I look forward to hear the outcomes of your debates on the blog.

Best luck to everyone – a special best wish to Francesca.

Vanessa Bellardinelli

Thursday, October 02, 2008


E’ un momentaccio. L’America è una nave che affonda, l'Europa (come sempre) è a bordo senza scialuppa di salvataggio, i ghiacciai in Groenlandia recedono di 38m al giorno, la speculazione impazza, i prezzi delle case precipitano, la disoccupazione aumenta, l'Alitalia non ha né più ali né tanto meno l'Italia, l’Inter di Mourinho non vince e Berlusconi ha il mal di schiena. Robe da far fregare le mani a Nostradamus. Gli italiani sono sempre italiani: insensiti (per troppa propaganda), imbambolati (per troppa tv) pessimisti (per vocazione), creduloni (per comodità) ed ignoranti (per convenienza). Il mondo affonda ma la gente preferisce guardare l'Isola dei Famosi (dove la gente naufraga ma non affoga). A volte mi dico che ci sarà pure un motivo se attivisti, ribelli e rivoluzionari non ne siano mai nati molti in questo Paese. L'Italia ha sempre e solo prodotto santi o criminali - spesso le figure coincidono. Persino i poeti ed i navigatori hanno tirato i remi in barca. Ma tanto a noi che ce frega? Come dice Orietta Berti: finché la barca va (a fondo), lasciala andare...