Latours' book, now less than $10 on Kindle, provides an interesting way to think about the ecological situation we find ourselves in. He ends his book with a self-placing. Its important to start with this, since his placement as a European thinker helps me understand how this book may influence eco-literate music pedagogy. In particular, in relation to my project on teaching for eco-literacy, Latour’s theory may provide a useful way to conceive eco-literate music pedagogy for European music educators. “Down to earth” involves 40 short chapters. I’ll begin with some important quotes, including the chapter number; and follow that quote with a personal reflection:
2. “There is no planet suited for globalization” And people today find themselves “deprived of land.” This is an important point, and one that Ivan Illich pointed out half a century ago. If globalization is development, as defined for the Global North, attaining it means destruction of the planet. And the actuality of the history we are looking at, means we are more deprived of land than in previous generations, actual places where we have an extended relationship.
3. “The new universality consists in feeling that the ground is in the process of giving way.” Climate refugees, and those of us who have, in recent generations, arrived in cities for employment, find ourselves in the same places due to the process of globalization, which uproots. Latour concludes, “But then is no one at home any longer? No, as a matter of fact.” In this statement Latour thinks that it is both impossible to attach onself to “a particular patch of soil” or the “global world.” I agree on the second, but disagree on the first since many people are relocalizing, through backyard gardening, urban farming, permaculture practices, ecofeminist actions, etc.
4. “All resistance to globalization will be immediately deemed illegitimate.” And hence, the name Luddite becomes a dirty word, though nobody knows why.
5. “The elites have been so thoroughly convinced that there would be no future life for everyone that they have decided to get rid of all the burdens of solidarity as fast as possible—hence deregulation; they have decided that a sort of gilded fortress would have to be built for those (a small percentage) who would be able to make it through—hence the explosion of inequalities; and they have decided that, to conceal the crass selfishness of such a flight out of the shared world, they would have to reject absolutely the threat at the origin of this headlong flight—hence the denial of climate change.” Here Latour identifies the three parts leading up to the bourgeoisie giving up on participating in global survival.
6. Journalists (and university professors) decry poor Trump voters and their “alternative reality.” “But this is to forget that this ‘people’ has been coldly betrayed by those who have given up the idea of actually pursuing the modernization of the planet with everyone, because they knew, before everyone else, that such modernization was impossible.” There is no reason to be surprised our outraged that uneducated, poor people voted for Trump in the US, or for Brexit in the UK, or for Doug Ford in Canada. They were already being betrayed.
7. Many also decry the poor as unintelligent. “If the key to the current situation cannot be found in a lack of cognitive abilities, it has to be sought in the form of the world to which those very abilities are applied.” “What had to be abandoned in order to modernize was the Local.”
8. Climate denial politics. “This movement defines the first government totally oriented toward the ecological question—but backwards, negatively, through rejection!” In the U.S., the Republicans are the only ones admitting climate change in its fullness—but only admitted to reject keeping the planet inhabitable for all.
9. “Neither the Global nor the Local has any lasting material existence.” In this I disagree with. I recommend a return to the local. But, I can understand, from the perspective of Europe (where Local is misconstrued as National) with the history of movements such as “blood and soil.” When an American thinks “back to the earth,” we think Jimmy Carter and John Denver; and when Europeans think “back to the earth” they think Hitler. A different terminology, here, is likely needed for American and European conceptions of eco-literate music pedagogy. Hence postmodernism.
12. “Ecology is not the name of a party, or even of something to worry about; it is a call for a change of direction: Toward the Terrestrial!” In this Latour conceives of the Terrestrial as Lovelockian—that is the Gaia Hypothesis (which I use to conceive of eco-literate music pedagogy).
14. French Zadists: “We are not defending nature, we are nature defending itself.” This is the basic truth of ecology—we are relationships. It is our species being (even Marx recognized this much!)
17. “Everything that concerns you resides in the miniscule Critical Zone.” In this critique of globalism, Latour points out that much of the globe isn’t related to humans.
20. “If the nation-state has long been the vector of modernization leading away from the old affiliations, it is now nothing more than another name for the Local. It is no longer the name of the inhabitable world.” “Europe knows the fragility of its tenure in global space.” “Smallness is not an option.” And here’s where we disagree. Smallness is not only an option for me, but the best option. I have a certain sphere of influence. It is not in National or Global policy (I know few national or global policymakers), which is out of my agency.