This renowned naturalist does not understand the inaction of the political powers to combat climate change.
Confucius argued that there are three ways to achieve wisdom: through imitation, the simplest; by way of reflection, the noblest; and through experience, the most bitter. Joaquín Araújo (Madrid, 1947) combines the last two: the third, among other things, by age, but also and above all by career; the second, by vocation.
A fervent defender of the loneliness sought (he lives in a remote part of Extremadura), this renowned naturalist, writer, director, screenwriter and a long etcetera explains that nature has taught him many things. Among them, to die.
He defines himself as a farmer who dedicates most of his day to day to organic farming. But he has always found time (he still does) to share all his wisdom. He has done so through the 2,500 conferences he has given in Spain, and in a dozen other countries, or through the 340 television programs or the 5,700 radio spots in which he has been, and is, present. He has also written more than 100 books. The last,Laudatio Naturae (In Praise of Nature), just saw the light.
Where does this genuine love for nature come from?
It's complex, there must be some hidden gene in my body that drove me to it [laughs]. I had neither a family background nor any induction or pedagogy that put me in contact with nature, but from a very young age I was extraordinarily attracted to it. I was very attracted to rural culture, life in contact with agriculture and livestock. Even as a child, he played at farming.
And that I was born in the center of a capital, in a middle-class family, with four or five previous generations totally disconnected from the rural world.
And feeling, as you do, that affection for the forest, for the living, how do you digest the inaction of political powers in the face of the challenge of climate change?
With absolute emotional tear, it is the great stumbling block of intelligence, the madness of rationality. We forget something as simple to understand as that the support of any activity that is literally exclusive to human beings is based on nature, which is our own organism. I really like to say that before the first feeling, the first memory, our body was exactly the same as the day after starting to have memories, emotions and thoughts.
I get it.
Without life support there is no possibility even to exclude yourself from nature. Civilization has decided to exclude itself from it, but for that we also need it. And I go further: nature gives us everything, even the means to destroy it.
"Nature gives us everything, even the means to destroy it"
But we are not only facing an intellectual stumbling block, but also an ignorance in which it is militated despite having some knowledge. Knowing politicians, as you know, that climate change puts everything absolutely in danger, doing nothing is like a crime. The world has limits but they play unlimited growth.
It seems reckless, no doubt.
These politicians ignore that they are alive, they ignore that the air needs to breathe, that the water needs to drink, they ignore that we are burning the air. And it is not a vision of someone in love with nature, it is something absolutely confirmed by the scientific community. Politicians must be from another planet, they must live off polluting chemicals, they must communicate only with noise.
"Today's civilization cannot be pardoned for the crime of destroying the climate," you say.
Exact. Climate is the life of life. In the legal system, the climate is not an object of rights, but an absolute atrocity is being carried out that at the moment does not deserve pardon because to make matters worse, knowing what politicians know, I repeat, they do not act. The world of politics is the submission to the laws that have been democratically generated. Well, we have the laws for the defense of the environment, we have international treaties, and we also have a commitment to the whole of humanity to do things that are not done later.
As I am a farmer, for me the fulfillment of the given word is strictly sacred. But politics is the permanent betrayal of one's word. Politicians promise something that they know they are not going to deliver, and if they ever get close to it, they seem to regret it.
"Politics is the permanent betrayal of the word given"
You claim that we are using intelligence to distance ourselves from life.
The main purpose of emotional intelligence should be to bet on living with life, enjoying what is absolutely unbeatable and in the vast majority of cases free. Right now, I just stopped plowing my garden to listen to a dozen species, birds and amphibians. I defy any human being having a better time than me. And who has taught me that? My own intelligence, which serves for all the worst and for all the best.
You are right.
We must try to intelligently incline ourselves for the best, and I don't know anything better than life itself.
"I don't know anything better than life itself"
Are we in time to reverse the damage we are inflicting on the planet?
That nobody knows. And it's almost a relief. The official diagnosis is that it is too late for a long time, but I refuse to accept that. I maintain that we are still on time. And even if the other were true, it would not be necessary to change any of the behaviors that have reconciliation and the enjoyment of life as their purpose.
I have heard him say that "we are too many and too ignorant" ...
Yes, we are blatantly too many. The debate on overpopulation was very booming in the 80s. If at this time we need a planet and a half to maintain what humanity needs, when we are 9,000 million we will need two planets. This world would work infinitely better with far fewer.
"This world would work infinitely better being much less"
And more cultivated ...
If we were all morally like Saint Francis of Assisi, intellectually like Goethe and economically like Joan Martínez Alier, an ecological economist who has been for many years as a professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, we could be 10,000 million perfectly. But there are too many Trumps in the world, too many ignorant, ambitious, hoarders, slaves of greed and ambition, that's the problem.
Nobody is freer than the one who is aware that he has little and knows how to enjoy it, nobody is more intelligent than the one who does not waste a minute accumulating.
"Nobody is smarter than he who does not waste a minute accumulating"
How many trees are destroyed every day in the world?
According to experts, about 40 million.
Yes it is. We plant about half. In our country we even have more trees than at any other time in the last two centuries, but this is due to the fact that almost six million hectares have been abandoned for agriculture. In Spain there are more than 2,000 initiatives related to tree planting.
"The forest is the absolute exclusion of xenophobia"
I want to understand that this daily massive destruction hurts ordinary mortals, but especially someone like you who has planted 25,000.
Yes, I have planted 25,000 with my own hands, but I have directly promoted the planting of more than two million with my projects, but those were planted by others [laughs].
You rate the trees "as the best occurrence in the history of life."
So is. I have written 8 or 9 books about trees and forests. For me, the forest is the absolute exclusion of xenophobia, it is the model of participation in the most public, forests are always for the whole of life, they are the ones that make the greatest amount of differences from a biological point of view, They are the most nurturing and friendly home in the world, they let us eat, breathe, have fun and investigate, it is the place where we continue to nurture wonder and fascination, and it also does it for free.
"Nature has taught me to die"
What has nature taught you?
To live. And something very important, it has also taught me to die, which is the most difficult thing in this world for the human condition. But when you understand the language of nature and live with her ... she is an extraordinary doctor of her own death, she is unsurpassed in that regard. On the other hand, this civilization of haste and greed is the one that distances you the most from knowing how to die, it is the total antithesis of what nature, wise doctor, teaches you.
You live in a remote part of Extremadura, ambushed as you like to say. To what extent do you appreciate loneliness?
A lot. I have spent thousands of days of my life alone in nature. But that loneliness is absolutely nourishing, pedagogical, soothing. Ignorance is based on not using our own intellectual and physical endowment to understand the world, but when you are alone the eyes see more, the ears hear more, the skin feels more, the smell smells more ...
"Loneliness is one of the best companies"
You say that if one does not know how to be alone, he will never be completely free.
Loneliness imposes a maximum risk, but the prize is the greatest possible freedom from the moment you are not forced to do anything by legal imperative, order, civility or simply by good education. Coexistence is essential but requires thousands of obediences to make it possible. The freedom that solitude gives you, in any case, is plagued by a permanent exercise of your individual responsibility. You cannot delegate to anyone.
Everything you achieve depends on your unique decisions and even your survival skills without going to the supermarket. In solitude it is not uncommon to get to perform a couple of dozen different jobs. Moreover, it impels you to think more and better about the consequences of your actions that you carry out when it seems good to you and not when someone else orders, suggests or manipulates you to do this or that. Loneliness reveals yourself as you are the only mirror available. Loneliness is one of the best company.
"I combat that kind of absolute and delusional torture that is crowding"
Above all I fight that kind of absolute and delusional torture that is crowding, because it turns into noise, dirt and ugliness. But for most people it turns out that this is irreplaceable. Well no, look at you. What is irreplaceable is nature. Everything we humans do can be done infinitely better without noise and clutter. I am a social being, and although I have a magnificent relationship with loneliness, I am not a hermit or anything like that at all.
By Josep Fita