Some weeks ago, The Guardian revealed that the world’s biggest fossil fuel firms are quietly planning vast projects of what apparently are called “carbon bombs”. Defined as oil and gas projects that would each result in at least a billion tons of CO2 emissions in the course of their lifetimes, these ‘bombs’ would irreversibly drive the climate past internationally agreed temperature limits, resulting in catastrophic global impacts; 195 such projects are in the pipeline – no pun intended[1]. Four days later, Le Monde announced that researchers have identified 425 “climate bombs” in 48 countries, already in operation or still at the project stage, that could completely nullify the efforts against climate change[2].

While the scientific community states that, in order to stay within the objective of an 1.5C increase, we need an immediate halt to 80% of the extraction of fossil fuels, the fossil industry prepares a huge jump that will leave the 100% mark far behind. By taking this jump, we will be faced with a climatic Dresden that knows no armistice and whose bombs will not stop falling, from an increasingly infernal sky, on the heads of children for generations to come. Appalling as the colonization by yesterday’s masters may have been, its horrors pale before the colonization of the future that is already unfolding.

But when we look at the prescription of limiting our fossil consumption to 20% of today’s standard, we cannot but discern the same smell of an impossible. The amount of conditions to be fulfilled to arrive at a global reduction of 80% is hardly imaginable, and it is not at all sure that the consequences of its unlikely implementation will not expel us, in other ways, surely, but not less radically, from the ‘habitability’ of the earth; even the slightest of restrictions unleash passionate revolts.

Faced with a situation so difficult and maddening to conceive of, and considering “a crisis can really put the question of knowledge to the test in such a way that we won’t want to know anything anymore”[3], the wheel of common discourse will probably keep turning until the gong of a final freeze signals the encounter of a limit in the real. Whatever shape this encounter will take, it will signal the moment that Lacan dared to address: “the human species will be done with this thing it has never cared about, namely the earth”[4]. Whether we have our eyes open or closed, looking up or down, we are all somehow blinded by a fire that we know is approaching.

Psychoanalysts can no longer remain silent in light of what is coming. The message locked in the term ‘Anthropocene’ is that there’s an Other of climate, and that it is no longer the hand of God that strikes us in nature, but the productive hand of man. The message of the imminent recognition of this Anthropocene as a geological time unit by the International Union of Geological Sciences and its Commissions of Stratigraphy, a recognition implying a scientific procedure as tortuous as promoting the beatification of a saint through Vatican diplomacy[5], is that we are not going through a crisis, and that we should not expect that we will soon be able to close the parenthesis. The message is that our modes of production and enjoyment have pushed the earth towards an unpredictable state, which will last for tens of thousands of years. It is not in the nature and aims of psychoanalysis to call for or propose ‘solutions’, let alone global ones, but we must have the courage to address this real, and work towards an update of Civilization and its Discontents, which in 1990 Jacques-Alain Miller invited us to take up[6].



[3] “une crise peut vraiment mettre la question du savoir sur la sellette d’une façon telle qu’on ne voudrait plus rien savoir”, Lacan J., Alla ‘Scuola freudiana’”, Lacan in Italia 1953-1978. En Italie, Lacan, Milan, La Salamandra, 1978, p. 121.

[4] Lacan J., Alla ‘Scuola freudiana’”, Lacan in Italia 1953-1978. En Italie, Lacan, Milan, La Salamandra, 1978, p. 121.

[5] Latour B., Face à Gaïa, La Découverte, Paris, 2015, p. 150.

[6] Miller, J.-A., Jouer la partie, La cause du désir 105, p. 26.