Pablo Servigne and Philippe Cornu: facing collapse

- through Henry Oudin

Published on

Climate change, erosion of biodiversity, deforestation… As the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says: “The earth is crying”. But the human being, all in his quest for unlimited growth in this world of limited resources, remains deaf. And runs to his loss. To listen to the collapsologist Pablo Servigne, we will thus experience the collapse of our industrial civilization. The Buddhism specialist, Philippe Cornu, echoes this.

The first truth stated by the Buddha is that of impermanence and as Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse writes in Is not a Buddhist who wants "It is because everything is interdependent that everything is subject to change". From a Buddhist point of view, therefore, the collapse would also be inevitable?

Philippe Cornu: Indeed, since it is a cyclical thought, not in the sense of eternal repetition, but in that of process. Every phenomenon is thus composed: it is the product of causes and conditions which converge at a given moment in space and time. In other words, when there is convergence of a certain number of conditions, a phenomenon occurs. Itself contributes to the formation of other phenomena. Then it destroys itself and leads to new phenomena. According to Buddhist thought, you can never catch anything, like with a photograph, because everything is intermittent, transient. They are only moments of a continuous movement. In short, it's more fluid than static. Buddhism offers an extremely modern view of the world, even if it dates back more than 2500 years!

“Death is a principle of life because organisms need to renew themselves, to adapt to a changing environment, to create diversity. »Pablo Servigne

Pablo Servigne: For a contemporary Westerner, it is difficult to think about impermanence. Except for some scientists, right? For example, for me, Buddhism evokes complex thought. It speaks to me. I was thus nourished by the thought of Edgar Morin. Buddhist thought – which I have not studied – seems very porous to me with this thought that I call “horizontal”.

In your works Pablo Servigne, you show that there is "nothing incompatible with living an apocalypse and a happy collapse (…) based on compassion and human capital, for better resilience". How to achieve a “happy ending”?

Pablo Servigne: The “and” implies a paradox: experiencing an apocalypse “and” a happy collapse. Edgar Morin invites us to consider things with their opposites. Like yin and yang. However, our modern Western society is based on the “or”: Are you scientific “or” spiritual? Nature “or” culture? Head “or” spirit? Emotion “or” reason? Individual “or” collective? It is absurd to separate everything like this. We are going to experience bad news, suffering, bereavement, but also joy and excitement. All this at once. It is time to move from an “or” society to an “and” society. Thinking about collapse does not therefore imply being morbid. We can, as the philosopher Patrick Viveret put it, compose with Thanatos and Eros.

“The opposite of death, indeed, is not life, but birth. »Philippe Cornu

Philippe Cornu: The two are friends, they always go together. In Tantric Buddhism or Dzogchen, the death and love are intimately linked. The word apocalypse is interesting, because it does not mean that everything is destroyed, on the contrary: there is a renewal in the apocalypse.

Moreover, impermanence does not mean death, but change. Could the collapse of our industrial civilization be the start of a new cycle of hope, based on compassion towards not only humans, but also all living organisms?

Pablo Servigne: In collapsology (the study of the collapse, editor's note), there is a possibility of bifurcation towards mutual aid. Or not. As a biologist, it is obvious that one evokes rebirth when one speaks of collapse. Death is a principle of life because organisms need to renew themselves, to adapt to a changing environment, to create diversity. And without death, it is impossible. Ecology shows us all these interactions.

Philippe Cornu: The opposite of death, indeed, is not life, but birth.

Pablo Servigne, you often refer to interdependence. Why favor this systemic approach?

Pablo Servigne: Among those who inspired me this holistic thinking, I would cite Joanna Macy, ecopsychologist, professor of systems theory and Buddhist. This woman brought, in a very practical and pedagogical way, in the activist milieu, this mixture that I really like between the way in which the West and the East have understood the theory of systems. It was in his workshops that I experienced this interdependence. I didn't understand it at the time, but it spoke to me.

Buddhists believe that everything in this world is interdependent, in other words, does nothing exist on its own?

Philippe Cornu: The best translation would be " conditioned co-production ". The word interdependence is misleading. For example, one could say that there is an interdependence between billiard balls that telescope on a billiard cloth, but they do not change. Phenomena are co-produced by other phenomena which are conditioned and conditioning. It is a constant renewal. Finally, the phenomena are only appearances since they manifest themselves only when they appear. And this appearance is followed by a disappearance, all in a network. It's not linear.

Pablo Servigne: I find a lot of ecological thought in what you say. Just being interdependent is the basic level of ecology: beings are connected. If you add the temporal dimension of the theory of evolution and the phenomena of self-organization, then a process of conditioned co-production comes into play. And there, I find the complexity of evolution, the biology that I love.

Continuation of the dialogue soon on Buddhist News…

photo of author

Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

Leave comments