Issue #30 April 2020

The Values of the Australian Bushfires

Rebecca Kammer — “Kenton Valley Hillside, Cudlee Creek Fire” — (2019) [detail]

Social values vs. economic values

Our modern responsibility

In the writings of Albert Camus, such as The Myth of Sisyphus (1942), the world is inherently absurd but it is our duty to find meaning and values to hold onto as human beings. Later, in The Rebel (1951), Camus explains that values used to be imposed from the top: religion, tradition and history, but that this is no longer true in our modern age. On the contrary, as the autonomous and capable individuals that we have been since the 18th century’s Enlightenment (and, as such, perfectly aligned with economic theory as we are independent and rational), we now get to choose and design our own values. This historical trend brought us the rights of peoples after WW1, as well as Human Rights after WW2. We can no longer claim that we are not choosing the values we want to live in, and this comes with a responsibility that is even more acute today, as scientific data shows us that this extended bushfire season was partly due to climate change, which is itself caused by human activity. We cannot pretend these fires came from nowhere: the pursuit of economic growth, provided by natural resources like coal and oil, has hurt the very environment upon which we rely. We all take part in this system when we turn the lights on, use cars or watch videos on the internet. And this means we all are accountable in the face of the tragedy that occurred: we cannot escape that we have the power to change this, just as we were powerful enough to trigger it. The freedom of modern age comes with an important responsibility: we know through science our impact on the world, and we cannot hide from it. Camus encourages us to seize the opportunity to completely own our actions and find new solutions to the problems they might cause.

Rebecca Kammer — “Kenton Valley Hillside, Cudlee Creek Fire” — (2019)

Developing new ethics

Diane Delaurens is a French philosopher and former public servant based in Sydney, Australia. She writes about how philosophy can help us shape better policy.


French edition, p. 512. Translation from the author.


See Garrett Hardin’s 1968 article, “The tragedy of the commons”.


April 2020


The Values of the Australian Bushfires

by Diane Delaurens

Beyond the Ruins of Neoliberalism: Diagnosing the Present and Demanding the Future

by Matt Bluemink

Marx and “Anti-Oedipus.” Production, Distribution, Fetishism

by Timofei Gerber

On Antinatalism and Depression

by Sam Woolfe