literary walk “in bear country” and in the footsteps of our shortcomings

Jean-Jacques Camarra spent his life observing plantigrades. First around the world, then in the Pyrenees on behalf of the National Office for Hunting and Wildlife. Based on this experience and a life “outside”, he now gives his vision on the evolution of our mountains, of nature but also of our society.

The collection “Walking with” from the Salamander editions takes the readers to nature, but also to the inner journeys the authors want to take them with. Jean-Jacques Camarra takes us to his home in the Pyrenees, both an intimate retreat and a workplace for his bear sightings.

We find him there at the time of incarceration, a volunteer prisoner. At this moment out of time, which may be akin to science fiction, it mixes with the description of everyday gestures (walks, observation of fauna and flora, lighting the fire, refurbishing the building… ) its reflection on what is our world and thus become our planet.

Often the scenarios start with chaos that plunges men into virtual and impoverished social relationships. At this stage, men are always reinventing themselves with good intentions that revive love, compassion and respect for life. But this resurrection is nothing but a preparation of the world for a new round…

Jean Jacques Camarra

In Bearland

He also makes comparisons by immersing himself in his “butterfly notebook”, written a few years ago. We discover, through his observations of nature, the monitoring of bears, before reintroduction, but also theories such as the very unpopular, of the improvement of the food conditions of the plantigrade: in other words the deposition of food in certain zones ( smoked meats , corn).

Around his “cabanotte des anges”, Jean-Jacques Camarra, for his part, has planted several varieties of apple trees that the neighboring plantigrades love, droppings filled with pips testifying to this. But anyone who recognizes that the plantigrade move in Béarn has avoided leaving the forest alone for 4x4s and chainsaws only regrets being cataloged as “bear lovers” and refuses labels.

Because the problem may also be there, in the Pyrenees, as in the debate on ecology: just to name “for” and “against”. The author also denounces our ‘entertainment society’ which has always been pushed towards more individualism. He invites us to “listen instead to what ancient civilizations say about old age and death, when they were but tight-knit groups, devoid of any consciousness of the individual and of free will.”

As for the lessons to be learned from the pandemic, he is not expecting much:

We have arrived at the crossroads of a world in full doubt, but as always, the Grand Soir born of the teenage years will not be. Unfortunately, I see no other way than that of a stubborn rush, like the post-crisis of 2008.

Jean Jacques Camarra

In bear country

In April 2020, questioned by a journalist about the discovery of a dead bear cub, the former technician of the ONCFS monitoring team said he is “rediscovering his treasured freedom of expression, which predates his existence as a small-time soldier of public service”. Not letting his experts talk about it the way they’d like also cuts down the debate about the bear.

Today, the man who gave his life to the study of nature denounces civil society and its denial in the face of the destruction of our planet. “It relegates this disturbing phenomenon to the catalog of incidental risks, far below those, more concretely, of smoking and alcohol, as if the fear were disproportionate to the seriousness of the threat”.

Jean-Jacques Camarra says that he “belongs to this great outdoor area” that makes up these beautiful landscapes that he regularly beholds from his window in his book. A work that ends with the construction of a stone garden wall, symbol of ancestral practices, of a generous nature but perhaps also of his rock of Sisyphus.

He eventually finds his “four-room kitchen” in the urban plain where the pandemic is still raging. The naturalist tells us that in ancient Chinese the word ‘crisis’ means both ‘disaster’ and ‘opportunity’. He does not despair of the arrival of “a modern society that finally reconciles man and nature”.

“In bear country” by Jean-Jacques Camarra, Salamander.

Jean-Jacques Camarra will be our guest on Friday 13 May at 6.30 pm.

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