A different kind of nature writing, for a different kind of landscape.
I went and sat alone where Jimmy has been lying. It is way down in the bush. The light is soft, the air and the earth are cool, and the smell is of leaves and the river. I cannot presume to know what he is doing when he lies here, but it seems that he is taking himself back to an ecology not wrought by the terror of the fires, not fuelled by our violence on the earth. He is letting another earth heal him. Philosopher Danielle Celermajer’s story of Jimmy the pig caught the world’s attention during the Black Summer of 2019-20.
Gathered here is that story and others written in the shadow of the bushfires that ravaged Australia. In the midst of the death and grief of animals, humans, trees and ecologies Celermajer asks us to look around – really look around – to become present to all beings who are living and dying through the loss of our shared home.
At once a howl in the forest and an elegy for a country’s soul, these meditations are lyrical, tender and profound.
I have to be careful with what I read and watch these days. For a variety of reasons, including clinical ones, I simply do not read or watch graphic descriptions of trauma for the most part. There are exceptions where I will because it is wholly necessary for a specific situation, but long gone are the days where I will watch undercover videos from animal farms as they reach the media. As a result, I was a little worried about going into Summertime: Reflections on a Vanishing Future. The last time I read about wildfires and how they affected humans and other animals in the area, it was a story of people abandoning farmed animals in enclosures to burn to death. Their experiences (and the coverage ignoring why they were trapped and what their fate would have been otherwise) dominated my obsessive thoughts to the extent that I could barely function.
I did not have that experience this time. I was truly impressed by Danielle Celemajer's ability to navigate the most horrific of topics in a way that both allows the reader to attend to their seriousness and sadness while also not beating them over the head with some sort of trauma porn. She allowed the reader to see the bigger picture of her life with her family and friends- including Jimmy and Katie.
At one point in the book, the author discusses how impossible it would be for a human being to attend to the life of every animal lost in Australia's wildfires. It would involve multiple lifetimes of doing nothing but thinking about the suffering of animals at all times. The truly unimaginable number can cause us to detach from things. That is part the importance of books like this that allow us to understand the lives of individuals. The author does not allow the reader to run from the situation or to intellectualize the problem. She holds your hand and walks you through it with her in such a way that you do not need to think about what you believe. Reading this book embedded this experience within me and gave me what I assume is the best understanding someone could achieve who wasn't there.
I'm intentionally being somewhat vague in describing the specific characters of this story because the author does this as well in the beginning.
I am frustrated that this book is not being marketed in the USA. I originally thought that people in the USA would not be able to read it, but I just checked and there are some websites selling the ebook internationally I believe. I think this book is of critical importance for us to understand what is happening to this planet and how it affects not just humans but everyone else we share it with. With wildfires raging all over the globe, many of us do not really understand what a wildfire is like. I for instance, did not know that they can envelop a home in moments, traveling so quickly that by the time you see them on the horizon you may be doomed. As this planet burns, as ice caps melt, as indigenous peoples island homelands sink, as countless species disappear forever, and countless more die in nets and in slaughterhouses, it can be difficult even for those intimately connected not to detached from it all. Celemajer manages to tell such difficult stories in ways that allow us to absorb them without denial and without shutting down.
I am a different person after reading this book. I can only hope that others will have similar experiences, if not from this book, from the stories of others. I hope others will be able to understand the lives of the humans and other animals and this story and apply that understanding to the trillions who lose their lives every year so that we may understand what we're responsible for and what needs to change. It's so much bigger than most conversations being had. I leave this review knowing it's insufficient for this topic.
In January of 2020, Danielle Celermajer wrote about Jimmy the Pig and his partner, Katy. The two animals had been left to die on the floor of a factory farm. The story of their protection from the Black Summer’s purgatory of fire was unexpectedly popular with readers. Having been together since birth, the two pigs spent their final days at a property with Celermajer in rural NSW. Sadly, Katy died. Jimmy searched constantly for her. Then, one day, he stopped. He lay down on the ground. He did not get up.
Celermajer’s book is informed by her attempts to care for these and other non-human lives. Her interest in human rights (she is a professor of sociology and social policy at the University of Sydney), as well as our obligations to the non-human – our ability to move toward a more ecological way of being-in-the-world – animates Summertime, her first work for a general readership.
There are odd stylistic tics throughout the book. Clunky prose. Elegant variation. Haphazardly cascading adjectives and adverbs...
Excellent, heartfelt sharing of personal experiences, reflections coping with the devastating Australian wildfires, and the far reaching effects of the fires. Discusses the far reaching, immediate and long term, seldom recognized or spoken about consequences of human behaviors/actions on the planet and the other beings with whom we share this planet. Is there "hope" for a liveable future? Celermajer quotes climate justice essayist Mary Annaise Hegler, "if you want to have hope, go out and earn it." Very touching, beautifully written.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Philosopher Professor Danielle Celermajer’s book centres on the bushfires that ravaged Australia summer 2019 - 2020. In journalist form, this is a learned, intellectual and beautiful elegy for our country, meditations on the enormity of what we lost and how recognising all life as inclusive is of the utmost importance. To be aware of all that is dying through the loss of this country we all call home. A short, but no less profound book, deeply moving.
A personal meditation by philosopher Danielle Celermajer on the omnicide she and all those that share her remote rainforest valley suffered from the devastating Australian bushfires of 2019/20. Reflecting on our failure to understand our place, responsibility and relationship within the natural realm. The role that relating beyond our species and our self focus, our distractions will play if we are to survive the enormity of loss we are implicated in.
This is the story of how Danielle and her associates negotiated their way through the devastating bushfires of 2019/2020. She discusses the stress of having to make decisions in unprecedented times and how humanity needs to wake up and realise that we are not as safe and secure as we think we are.
This is not an easy read but it certainly is thought provoking.
Meditations on the 2019/20 bushfires. Captures well the colossal scale, and the interminable fear. Coins the useful term "omnicide" for the destruction that we are all responsible for, and which permeates everything.