Ecological transition into a biocentric society

 

PORTUGUÊS – https://leonardoboff.org/2020/06/19/a-transicao-ecologica-para-uma-sociedade-biocentrada/

ESPAÑOL – http://www.servicioskoinonia.org/boff/articulo.php?num=993

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To understand the meaning of the coronavirus, we have to frame it in its proper context, not see it in isolation from the perspective of science and technique that are always necessary. The coronavirus comes from nature, against which human beings, particularly through global capitalism for centuries, have waged a systematic war against this nature and against the Earth.

Neoliberal capitalism seriously wounded

Let us focus on the main cause which is the capitalist order. We know the logic of capitalism. He is characterized by exploiting the labor force to the limit, by the pillage of the goods and services of nature, in short, by the commodification of all things. We have gone from a market economy to a market society. In it, inalienable things are transformed into merchandise: Karl Marx in his Misery of Philosophy of 1847, has described it well: “Things exchanged, given but never sold … everything has become venal like virtue, love, opinion, science and consciousness … everything has become salable and brought to the market ». He called this the “time of general corruption and universal venality” (ed. Vozes 2019, p. 54-55). This is what has been in place since the end of the Second World War.

We human beings, under the capitalist mode of production, have broken all ties with nature, turning it into a trunk of resources, considered illusively unlimited, based on growth considered also illusually unlimited. It turns out that a limited old planet cannot support unlimited growth.

The living Earth, Gaia, a superorganism that articulates all the factors to continue living and always produce and reproduce all kinds of life, has begun to react and counterattack through global warming, extreme events in nature, and the dispatch of its weapons lethal, which are viruses and bacteria (swine, avian, H1N1, zika, chikungunya, SARS, Ebola and others), and now that of COVID-19, invisible, global and lethal.

This virus has brought everyone to their knees, especially the militaristic powers whose weapons of mass destruction (which could destroy all life several times) are totally superfluous and ridiculous.

With regard to COVID-19, it has become clear that it fell like a low-level meteor on neoliberal capitalism, dismantling its ideology: profit, private accumulation, competition, individualism, consumerism, the minimum state, and the privatization of public affairs. and common goods. He has been seriously injured. It has produced too much human, social and ecological iniquity, to the point of endangering the future of the life-system and the Earth-system.

Meanwhile, he unequivocally raised the choice: is profit or life worth more? Should we save the economy or save human lives?

According to the ideology of capitalism, the choice would be to save the economy first and then human lives. But until today no one has found the magic formula to articulate the two things: produce wealth and avoid contamination of workers. If we had followed the logic of capital, we would all be in danger.

What is saving us is what he lacks: solidarity, cooperation, interdependence among all, generosity and mutual care for each other’s life and for everything that lives and exists.

Possible alternatives for postcoronavirus

The great challenge that is posed to each of us, the big question, especially to the owners of large multinational corporations is: How to continue? Go back to what you were before? Make up for lost time and profits?

Many say: simply going back to what you were before would be suicide, because the Earth could strike back with more violent and deadly viruses. Scientists have already warned that we may soon experience an even fiercer attack if we do not learn the lesson of caring for nature and develop a friendlier relationship with Mother Earth.

I list here some alternatives, since the lords of capital and finance are in a furious struggle among themselves to safeguard their interests and their fortunes.

The first alternative would be to return to the neoliberal capitalist system but now in an extremely radical way. 0.1% of humanity, the billionaires, would be the ones who would use artificial intelligence with the capacity to control every person on the planet, from their intimate lives to private and public. It would be a despotism of another order, cybernetic, under the aegis of the control / total domination of the life of the populations.

This alternative has not learned anything from COVID-19, nor has it incorporated the ecological factor. Under general pressure, it can assume a socio-ecological responsibility so as not to lose benefits or followers.

But whenever there is a dominating power, an anti-power arises even with rebellions caused by hunger and despair.

The second alternative would be green capitalism, which has learned lessons from the coronavirus and has incorporated the ecological fact: reforest the devastated, conserve the existing nature to the fullest. But it would not change the mode of production or the search for profit.

Green does not dispute perverse social inequality and would make all natural assets an occasion for profit. Example: not only earn with honey from bees, but also with its ability to pollinate other plants. The relationship with nature and the Earth is utilitarian and its rights are not recognized, as the UN declares, nor its intrinsic value, independent of the human being. Still anthropocentric.

The third would be third-generation communism, which would have nothing to do with the previous ones, putting the goods and services of the planet under a collective and central administration. It could be possible, but it supposes a new conscience, besides not giving centrality to life in all its forms. It would still be anthropocentric. It is partly represented by the philosophers Zizek and Badiou. Due to the existing damages and the memory of what was the state communism of the Soviet empire, controller and repressor, it has few followers.

The fourth would be eco-socialism, with greater possibilities. It supposes a global social contract with a plural center of government to solve the global problems of humanity. Limited and many non-renewable natural goods and services would be equitably distributed among all, with decent and sober consumption that would also include the entire community of life, which also needs livelihoods and reproduction.

This alternative would be within human possibilities, on the condition of developing a solid ecological conscience, becoming a fact of the whole society with responsibility for the Earth and nature. In my opinion it is still sociocentric. It lacks to incorporate the new cosmology and the data of the life sciences, of complexity, seeing Earth as a moment of the great cosmogenic, biogenic and anthropogenic process: Earth like Gaia, a super-organism that self-regulates and guarantees the life of all living.

The fifth alternative would be good living and living together, tried for centuries by the Andean peoples. It is deeply ecological, because it considers all beings as bearers of rights. The articulating axis is the harmony that begins with the family, with the community, with nature, with the whole universe, with the ancestors and with the Divinity. This alternative has a high degree of utopia, but perhaps humanity, when it discovers itself as a species living in a single Common House, is capable of achieving good living and living together.

Conclusion of this part: It is clear that life, health and livelihoods are at the center of everything, not profit and (in) sustainable development. More State will be demanded with more sanitary security for all, a State that satisfies the collective demands and promotes a development that obeys the limits and reach of nature.

As the coronavirus problem is global, a global social contract, with a plural body of direction and coordination, is necessary to implement a global solution.

Either we save nature and Earth or we will swell the procession of those heading to the abyss.

How to seek an ecological transition, required by the deadly action of COVID-19? Where to start?

We cannot underestimate the power of the “genius” of neoliberal capitalism: he is capable of incorporating new data, transforming it to his private benefit and using all modern means of robotization, artificial intelligence with its billions of algorithms, and eventually hybrid wars. It can live ruthlessly, indifferently, with the millions and millions of hungry and thrown into misery.

On the other hand, those who seek a paradigmatic transition, within which I place myself, must propose another way of inhabiting the Common House, with a respectful coexistence of nature and care for all ecosystems, must generate in the social base another level of consciousness and new subjects carrying this alternative.

For this immense task we have to decolonize ourselves from worldviews and false values such as consumerism instilled by the culture of capital. We have to be antisystem and alternative.

Budgets for a successful transition

The first is the vulnerability of the human condition, exposed to being attacked by diseases, bacteria and viruses.

Two factors are at the origin of the invasion of lethal microorganisms: the excessive human urbanization that has advanced on the spaces of nature, destroying the natural habitats of viruses and bacteria, which jump to another living being or to the human body. 83% of humanity lives in cities.

The second factor is the systematic deforestation due to the voracity of capital, which seeks wealth with monoculture of soybeans, sugar cane, sunflower or with the production of animal proteins (livestock), devastating forests and jungles, and unbalancing the humidity and rain regime in extensive regions such as the Amazon.

Second presupposition: the inter-retro-relationship of everyone with everyone. We are, by nature, a relationship knot oriented in all directions. Bioanthropology and evolutionary psychology have made it clear that the specific essence of the human being is to cooperate and relate to everyone. There is no selfish gene, formulated by Dawkins in the late 60s of the last century without any empirical basis. All genes are interrelated with each other and within cells. No one is out of the relationship. In this sense, individualism, the supreme value of the culture of capital, is unnatural and has no biological support.

Third assumption is essential care: Care without which we would not subsist belongs to the essence of the human. Care is also a cosmological constant: the four forces that sustain the universe (gravitational, electromagnetic, weak nuclear and strong nuclear) act synergistically with extreme care without which we would not be here reflecting on these things.

Care is a life-friendly relationship, protector of all beings because it sees them as a value in themselves, independent of human use. It was the lack of care for nature, devastating it, that caused the viruses to lose their habitat, preserved for thousands of years and passed to another animal or human being. Ecofeminism has made a significant contribution to the preservation of life and nature with the care ethic developed by them, because care belongs to the human being, but acquires a special density in women.

Fourth presupposition: solidarity as a conscious option. Solidarity is at the heart of our humanity. Bioanthropologists have revealed to us that this data is essential to the human being. When our ancestors looked for their food, they did not eat it in isolation. They took them to the group and served everyone starting with the youngest, then the oldest, and then everyone else. From this emerged the commensality and the sense of cooperation and solidarity. It was solidarity that allowed us to make the leap from animality to humanity. What was valid yesterday is also valid for today.

This solidarity does not exist only among humans. It is another cosmological constant: all beings coexist, they are involved in networks of relationships of reciprocity and solidarity so that everyone can help each other live and co-evolve. Even the weakest, with the collaboration of others subsists, has its place in the set of beings and coevolution.

The capital system does not know solidarity, only the competition that produces tensions, rivalries and true destruction of other competitors based on greater accumulation.

Today the greatest problem of humanity is neither the economic, nor the political, nor the cultural, nor the religious, but the lack of solidarity with other human beings who are at our side. Capitalism sees everyone as an eventual consumer, not as a human person with their worries, joys and sufferings.

It is solidarity that is saving us from the attack of the coronavirus, starting with health personnel who selflessly risk their lives to save other lives. We see solidarity attitudes throughout society, but especially in the peripheries, where people cannot isolate themselves socially and have no food reserves. Many families who received food baskets distributed them to others in need.

But it is not enough that solidarity is a punctual gesture. It must be a basic attitude, because it is in the essence of our nature. We have to make the conscious option of being solidary from the last and invisible, of those who do not count for the prevailing system and are considered as economic zeros, expendable. Only in this way does it cease to be selective and encompasses everyone, because we are all equal and we are united by objective ties of fraternity.

Transition to a bio-centered civilization

Every crisis makes one think and project new windows of possibilities. The coronavirus has taught us this lesson: Earth, nature, life in all its diversity, interdependence, cooperation and solidarity must be central to the new civilization if we want to survive.

I start from the following interpretation: that we were the first to attack nature and Mother Earth for centuries, but now the reaction of the wounded Earth and the devastated nature is turning against us.

Earth-Gaia and nature are alive and as long as they feel and react to aggression. The multiplication of signals that the Earth has sent us, starting with global warming, the erosion of biodiversity of the order of 70-100 thousand species per year (we are within the sixth mass extinction in the anthropocene and necrocene era) and other extreme events must be captured and interpreted.

It is decisive to renew the natural contract and articulate it with the social contract: a society that feels part of the Earth and of nature, that collectively assumes the preservation of all life, maintains its forests that guarantee the necessary water for all kinds of life, regenerates what has been degraded and strengthens what is already preserved.

The relevance of the region: bioregionalism

Since the UN has recognized Earth as Mother Earth and the rights of nature, democracy will have to incorporate new citizens, such as forests, mountains, rivers, and landscapes. Democracy would be socio-ecological. Only Bolivia and Ecuador have inaugurated ecological constitutionalism by recognizing the rights of the Pacha Mama and other beings in nature.

Life will be the guiding beacon and politics and the economy will be at the service not of accumulation but of life. Consumption, to be universal, must be sober, frugal, and supportive. And society will be sufficiently and decently supplied.

Finally, a word about bioregionalism. The spearhead of ecological reflection is currently concentrated around the region. Taking the region, not as it has been arbitrarily defined by the administration, but with the configuration that nature has made, with its rivers, mountains, forests, plains, fauna and flora and especially with the inhabitants who live there. In the bioregion you can really create sustainable development that is not merely rhetorical but real.

Businesses will be preferably medium and small, preference will be given to agroecology, transportation to distant regions will be avoided, culture will be an important element of cohesion: festivals, traditions, the memory of notable people, the presence of churches or religions , the various types of schools and other modern means of dissemination, knowledge and meeting with people.

Thinking of a possible future with the introduction of bioregionalism, the Earth would be like a mosaic made with different pieces of different colors: they are the different regions and ecosystems, diverse and unique, but all composing a single mosaic, the Earth. The transition will be made through processes that are growing and articulating at the national, regional and global levels, increasing awareness of our collective responsibility to save the Common House and everything that belongs to it.

The accumulation of new consciousness will allow us to jump to another level where we will be friends with life, we will embrace each being because everyone, from the original bacteria, through the great forests, dinosaurs, horses, hummingbirds and we, have the same genetic code, the same 20 amino acids and the 4 nitrogenous or phosphate bases. In other words, we are all related to each other with a real earthly fraternity as stated in the Earth Charter and the encyclical Laudato Si on the care of the Common House of Pope Francis.

It will be the civilization of “possible happiness” and of the “joyous celebration of life”.

Either we change our relationship with Earth and nature in the sense of synergy, care and respect, or the Earth may no longer love us on its surface. And this time there is no Noah’s ark that saves some and leaves others to perish. Either we are all saved or we will all perish.

Almost all COVID-19 analyzes focused on technique, medicine, life-saving vaccine, social isolation, and the use of face masks to protect ourselves and not contaminate others. All this must be done and is essential.

Nature is rarely spoken of, although the virus came from nature. We have forgotten that.

The transition from a capitalist society of overproduction of material goods to a society that sustains all life with human-spiritual values such as love, solidarity, compassion, interdependence, just measure, respect and care will not take place in overnight.

It will be a difficult process that requires, in the words of Pope Francis in his encyclical “On the care of the Common House”, a “radical ecological conversion”, which will lead us to incorporate relationships of care, protection and cooperation: a development made with the nature and not against nature.

The prevailing system may experience a long agony, but it will have no future. In my opinion, it will not be us who will defeat it forever, but the Earth itself, denying it the conditions for its reproduction, having exceeded the limits of the goods and services of the overpopulated Earth. This collapse will be reinforced by the accumulation of criticism and human practices that have always resisted capitalist exploitation.

The incorporation of the new cosmological, biological and anthropological paradigm

For a new post-COVID-19 society, it is necessary to assume the data of the new paradigm, which has already existed for a century but has so far failed to conquer collective consciousness or academic intelligence, much less the head of the “decision makers” politicians.

This paradigm is cosmological. Part of the fact that everything originated from the big bang that occurred 13.7 billion years ago. Giant red stars came out of its explosion and with its explosion, galaxies, stars, planets, Earth and ourselves. We are all made of cosmic dust.

The Earth which is already 4.3 billion years old and life about 3.8 billion years old is alive. The Earth, and this is a science datum already accepted by the scientific community, not only has life on it but is alive and produces all kinds of lives.

The human being that appeared about 10 million years ago is the portion of the Earth that in a moment of high complexity began to feel, think, love and care. So man comes from humus, from good soil.

Initially it maintained a coexistence relationship with nature, then it came to intervention in it through agriculture and in recent centuries it has reached systematic aggression through technoscience. This aggression has been carried out on all fronts to the point of endangering the balance of the Earth and even being a threat of self-destruction of the human species with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

This relationship of aggression is behind the current health crisis. If we go ahead, the aggression could bring us stronger crises to what biologists fear: The Next Big One, that next great, unassailable and fatal virus that will lead to the disappearance of the human species from the face of the Earth.

To avoid this possible ecological armageddon, it is urgent to renew with the living Earth the violated natural contract: it gives us everything we need and guarantees the sustainability of ecosystems. And we, according to the contract, give you care, respect your cycles and we give you time to regenerate what we take from you. This natural contract has been broken by that stratum of humanity that exploits goods and services, deforests, pollutes the waters and the seas.

Translated with ❤️ by @lang_translate_bot