Carrying the Elephants

Carrying the Elephants
Bichler, Shimshon and Nitzan, Jonathan. (2022). Research Note. 6 August. pp. 1-5. (Article - Working Paper; English).

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Abstract or Brief Description

The big picture is unambiguous: humanity is undermining the planetary ecosystem, and the deterioration continues unhindered. According to the 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, since 1970, the capacity of nature to sustain contributions to good quality of life trends downward in 14 out of 18 different categories being analysed, with many species dwindling or becoming extinct. And if this isn’t enough, the burning of fossil fuels is believed to alter the climate, most likely for the worse.

At stake, then, is the survival of planetary life as we know it, humanity included. And in this dire context, it is worthwhile reading Romain Gary’s great 1956 novel, The Roots of Heaven (translated into English in 1958). This Goncourt Prize book is one of the first ‘ecological novels’. It tells the story of a Frenchman, Morel, a former concentration-camp prisoner and decorated war hero on a mission to save the hunted elephants of Africa.

It is a complex, intellectually gripping story, weaving key issues of the time – from postwar global politics and the nuclear arms race to the clash of colonialism and liberation movements to culture, religion and philosophy – and its broad sweep is narrated with the sensitivity, irony and occasional wishful thinking of a great humanitarian.

And it is this emphasis on humanity that makes the book so important.



Publication Type

Article - Working Paper


ecology humanity literature


BN Power
BN Region - Africa
BN Resistance
BN Civilization & Social Systems
BN Conflict & Violence
BN Cooperation & Collective Action
BN Crisis
BN Culture
BN Ecology & Environment
BN Growth

Depositing User

Jonathan Nitzan

Date Deposited

06 Aug 2022 20:18

Last Modified

08 Aug 2022 19:15


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