[Chronique d’Aurélie Lanctôt] Learn to take care

It’s a film that immediately invites you to adjust your listening and attention register. From the first minutes of Geographies of Solitudethe snowy and windswept landscapes are suitable for slowness, contemplation.

Cape Breton Island-born, Montreal-based filmmaker Jacquelyn Mills is coming to the end of the year with a cinematic fable shot in 16mm, which continues to garner accolades wherever it is screened. The film takes place on Sable Island, a crescent of land about forty kilometers long and some 500 meters wide flanked by the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Nova Scotia. We follow the patient and attentive work of naturalist Zoe Lucas, who for more than forty years has been documenting and caring for the ecosystems of this tiny island.

List the population of wild horses that inhabit the narrow, sandy meadows of the island as well as the birds that frequent its shores. Clean dunes, water bodies. Observe insects, snails, plants. The film follows the protagonist in her peregrinations, without ever tackling a discourse on loneliness or on the virtues of ecological devotion. It is the attention given to the sounds, to the textures, to the colors, to the sensations produced by the friction with nature, which carries the message.

Zoe Lucas has spent more than 9,000 days caring for her island, probing its every nook and cranny, sorting and documenting the waste that continually washes up there. Rubber balloons, plastic debris, oil-smeared dead birds are all sad reminders of mainland life. In the long run, you end up forgetting the rhythm of the world, losing track, notes Zoe Lucas in one of the rare interview sequences that punctuate the film. It is also the only direct allusion to the social world. Moreover, any explicit and moralizing commentary on consumerism or on the frenetic pace of our societies would have been boring. The mere spectacle of this patient, humble, entire solicitude is enough.

It is however interesting to weave the metaphor, by transposing the care given by Zoe Lucas to nature to the communities in which we live.

2022 will have been, as many have said, the year of difficult post-pandemic resocialization. The pandemic is not over, don’t worry, I’m not fooled. Still, life has more or less resumed its pre-pandemic course since the flashback of confinement last year, on the same date. Social relations have slowly eased, but we are left with the clear impression that the frictions are more numerous, that the encounter between oneself and the outside world is more brutal.

2022 will have been a socially violent year. In our country, we have seen the worsening of the housing crisis and the miseries caused by the high cost of living, the perpetual exploitation of caregivers, the continuous erosion of public services. It was the year of an even heightened virulence towards marginalized populations and a new shift to the right of the political spectrum. This is obvious as soon as you open a newspaper or the radio. The marker of the « centre » is no longer so much the neoliberal pragmatism of recent decades, it is above all a tone, that of condescension, in which we are enjoined to accept a world that is always a little less empathetic and more individualistic.

In December, the New York Times noted this hardening of social relations by qualifying the year 2022 as » tea year we lost it — the year we freaked out. Inexplicable outbursts of rage, aggressive and impulsive behavior in public, limited patience, explosive and insurmountable quarrels: the difficulty of coping with the frustrations induced by the hazards of the pandemic, of combining with the feeling of loss, all of this would have plunged us collectively into a true « emotional dystopia ».

A recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE even indicates that the pandemic would have changed our personality in an accelerated way. More specifically, there is a marked decrease in extroversion, open-mindedness, friendliness and caring among people of all ages, and especially among the youngest.

It’s the change, the fundamental movement, which no one talks about. Our occasional tearing away from social life has caused bitterness and resentment to proliferate, at a time when, however, we urgently need solidarity. It is therefore not surprising that our “human ecosystems” seem to be deteriorating at the same (alarming) rate as natural ecosystems.

Could the year 2023 be the year of healing, of appeasement? Let’s not be naive, there is no indication that we are moving in this direction. Even the numbness of the Holidays was marked by violence: a possible feminicide in Pointe-aux-Trembles, a young man detained in the Bordeaux prison who died during the intervention of a correctional officer. Without giving in to year-end superstitions, let’s say that this sets the tone.

On this penultimate day of the year, I wish us to find within ourselves the patient strength necessary to take care of ourselves.

To see in video

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