What Buffon and Yanomami Bolsonaro can teach about natural beauty – 08/28/2021 – Marcelo Leite

Two extraordinary books on nature, very different and yet related, fall into the hands of the Brazilians. Almost three centuries separate the educational projects from which they emerged, but their encounter in this dark year of 2021 emits a spark that should be kindled.

The first is “Natural History” by Georges-Louis Leclerc, Count of Buffon (1707-1788). Excerpts from the 36 volumes published from 1749 onwards were collected on 758 pages of this exquisite Unesp edition, which was compiled and translated by Isabel Coelho Fragelli, Pedro Paulo Pimenta and Ana Carolina Soliva Soria.

The full title is “Natural history, general and particular, with description of the royal office”. It began as a catalog of the Luís 15 collection and became an encyclopedia of the knowledge about nature that had been gathered up to that point.

It is read as a declaration of love for the methodical work of the natural scientist: “It takes a strength and a certain courage of the spirit typical of genius, without being overwhelmed by amazement, to look at the innumerable creations of nature and to be able to understand and compare” .

“It can be said that the love of studying nature in the spirit presupposes two seemingly opposing qualities: the great visions of an ardent genius that embraces everything at a glance, and the meticulous attention of an arduous instinct that applies at one point.”

The ideal time to awaken such a passion is in youth. “Young people (…) have to be guided and advised; they should even be encouraged, with what is most inciting in science, to let them notice the most peculiar things without explaining them in detail, ”writes the count.

“At this age, mystery arouses curiosity, while in adulthood it only arouses disgust.”

That disgust is an integral part of Jair Bolsonaro’s rotten and burial personality. How else would his devastating disdain for education, science, and nature be understood?

The president deplored indigenous peoples, but could learn about wisdom and autonomy from Davi Kopenawa’s relatives. I should start by leafing through the second extraordinary book in this column: “Puu Naki Thëã Oni – The Yanomami Knowledge of Bees”.

It is the new volume in the Saberes da Floresta series by Hutukara Associação Yanomami and Instituto Socioambiental. In this case, bringing together the knowledge of elders and shamans with methodological research by young local naturalists into the life of 32 species of these insects – so useful and threatened elsewhere – in the Toototobi (RR) region.

Young men and women with their feet up in the 21st century, not the 1964 timeframe in which Bolsonaro is fading. Threatened by genocide by harassing miners who are viewed as heroes by the president, they build a post-naturalism that combines the passionate genius of shamanic knowledge with Buffon’s passionate method.

A few more words to wipe out for a moment the infamous government that puts us to shame. Let’s stick with the pages Buffon dedicated to the dog to capture a dignity that surpasses that of some people:

“… your affection is more faithful and constant than his; it is devoid of ambition, interest, vindictiveness, and is not afraid except to be dissatisfied; it consists of zeal, zeal, and obedience; more receptive to the memory of rewards than to punishments, insults cannot be put up with, tolerated, forgotten or, if one remembers them, the point is to become more faithful ”.

The more I know about Bolsonaro, the more I like Tita, Coca, Lola, Pumba, and Rufus.

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