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The Fanaticism Of The Apocalypse By Pascal Bruckner

Dominic Lawson, The Sunday Times

Preaching catastrophe is not the way forward for the planet, says the controversial author of this acute analysis

Pascal Bruckner: can sound portentous rather than rigorous

Pascal Bruckner is the sort of public intellectual who does not exist in this country. An academic philosopher who concerns himself with the most central questions of political life; a novelist whose work has been made into a film (Bitter Moon); and married to an extraordinarily beautiful woman many years his junior. Yes, he could only be French.

Fortunately, his latest work has been translated into English, as The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse, though its rhetorical grand gestures and declamatory force lose a little in that process; or rather, can at times sound more portentous than rigorous — the perennial complaint of the British about the French ­intellectual.

Bruckner’s latest theme — the way the ecology movement has, in his view, supplanted both Christianity and Marxism as the most fashionable ideology of those who wish to change the world — is well suited to his visionary style. Bruckner sees the greens as something akin to the Jesuits who educated him: obsessed with the idea of salvation through penance and asceticism. Yet as he points out, Christian warnings about the prospect of the “end of the world” envisaged a form of higher existence when that eventually happened: a transformative post-physical experience.

By contrast, the prophets of the green movement have a sterile faith in the earth itself, absolutely distinct from the existence of mankind, which is even seen as a blight. As Bruckner notes, this is not just anti-human but also absurd, since the planet has no moral content in itself and in any case is in no danger of being made redundant by man: it pre-existed us by billions of years and doubtless will be orbiting the sun for aeons after the human species has been succeeded by other life-forms, or none at all.

Although Bruckner is a man of the left who made enemiesof the Marxists by denouncing their ideology’s malign influence in academia (a big deal in France), he finds profoundly depressing the progressives’ embrace of dark-green ecologism. For all its enslavement of humans when in political power, Marxism is profoundly optimistic about the capacity of man to transcend the bonds of nature and to use science to ­harness those resources to improve the lot of all — completely antithetical to the grim population-­controller Thomas Malthus, the Englishman whose (erroneous) forecasts of man’s extinction by starvation through overbreeding still captivate the present generation of greens. As Karl Marx aptly put it, Malthus was guilty of “a libel against the human race”.

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