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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE WAR AGAINST OURSELVES (article first published : 2008-04-14)

God’s in his heaven –-- All’s right with the world. Thus the nineteenth century poet Robert Browning.

Writing in the twenty-first century, Jacklyn Cock takes a rather different view in The War Against Ourselves. I’m not sure about her opinions on God and heaven but she certainly has a melancholy eye as she surveys modern life and comes to the conclusion that a great deal is wrong with the world today.

Jacklyn Cock has taught at the University of the Witwatersrand for the past 25 years and is now professor emeritus in the department of sociology. She is an environmentalist of great conviction and knowledge. The title of this book comes from the celebrated Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring was a pioneering study of threats to the environment. Forty-five years ago Rachel Carson said in a broadcast: “Man is part of nature and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself”.

An uncompromising statement, and that is the tenor of Professor Cock’s book. She covers a big field, from animal rights to water supplies with, predictably enough, much attention paid to global warming.

She is highly critical of many big business undertakings, such as the steel company Mittal, the paper firm Sappi and the oil producer Sasol. She does not like golf courses (they use too much water) and pesticides. She does not like “motorised tourists”. She regards the motor car, that most cherished possession of so many people, as a polluter of the atmosphere.

What is one to do about all this? Professor Cock believes that “the need to debate ways to promote more mindful, appreciative awareness of our place in nature is urgent. This is the starting point for the redistribution of power and resources that is necessary to create a more just and sustainable world”.

Well, yes. It sounds like a good idea. Alas, it’s easier said than done. But at least this book may stimulate some of the necessary discussion.

War Against Ourselves by Jacklyn Cock is published by Wits University Press. - Michael Green




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