A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability
Vol. 11, No. 4, April 2015|
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
Integral Ecology in the Anthropocene
The ecological crisis is now recognized as a cultural issue that transcends the narrow boundaries of economics, engineering, and the biophysical sciences. As the author of the image to the right pointed out in giving permission to use it, "global warming" has now been replaced by "climate change" as a focus of concern. The causes of climate variations/dislocations may be natural, or anthropogenic, or some combination of both. What is certain is that a significant cultural evolution will be required to mitigate adverse impacts and adapt to new realities. Such cultural evolution will be global, pervasive, and preferably voluntary, but inevitable as the absurdity of infinite material growth in a finite planet is recognized and new modes of human agency emerge pursuant to a sustainable civilization. Whether or not natural climate fluctuations are happening, the patriarchal mindset of domination/exploitation is killing the planet. A new civilization of peace and solidarity is the only way forward.
Editorial: Integral Ecology in the Anthropocene
When the Dream Becomes a Nightmare, by Francis McDonagh
Patriarchy is killing our planet - women alone can save her, by Nafeez Ahmed
Economics of Morality: Economics of Moses, Economics of Jesus, by Carmine Gorga
Economics of Sentimentality: From Aristotelian Economic Justice to Social Justice, by Carmine Gorga
Paradigm Junction - Paradigm Flaws:
Money-Corporations-Politics, by Don Chisholm
Blueprint for Change Part 1: Change, by Carlos Cuellar Brown
Blueprint for Change Part 2: Energy Self-Reliance, by Carlos Cuellar Brown
Economics for the Anthropocene, by Peter Barnes
From Theory to Practice: Enhancing the Potential Policy Impact of Industrial Ecology, by Pauline Deutz and Giuseppe Ioppolo
From basic income to social dividends: sharing the value of common resources, by Rajesh Makwana
Advances in Sustainable Development (news, pubs, tools, data)
Directory of Sustainable Development Resources (1000+ links)
Strategies for Solidarity and Sustainability (mitigation/adaptation)
Best Practices for Solidarity and Sustainability (business/governance)
Fostering Gender Balance in Society (peace, food, health, energy)
Fostering Gender Balance in Religion (religious traditions, spirituality)
EDITORIAL: Integral Ecology in the Anthropocene
Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot, a recently published book, reiterates the absurdity of infinite material growth in a finite planet. How many reminders are we going to need? Silent Spring was published in 1962, Limits to Growth and the I = PAT equation in the 1970s, the Brundtland Report in the 1980s, Centesimus Annos and other admonitions by various religious and humanitarian leaders in the 1990s and 2000s, and a human ecology encyclical by Pope Francis is reportedly in preparation, but most people remain indifferent to the increasing evidence of ecological deterioration and climate change. Even after the 2008 financial crisis, which should have served as a wakeup call, "growth" remains as the "politically correct" idol worshipped by most people because "growth" generates money here and now, and this is the name of the game. Is there a way to help people understand and adapt, or must we simply wait for each person to react when they experience the consequences in their own flesh?
Sustainable Development in the Anthropocene
What is "sustainable development"? The sustainable development paradox is that unlimited material growth is impossible but limiting such growth is also impossible within the current cultural paradigm. Indeed, "even as a waste disposal site, the world is finite", but the latest Footprint National Accounts map still shows "green" regions of "biocapacity reserve" that could provide some room for further expansion, notably in Africa and South America. The question is what happens when those are also exhausted?
Source: 2015 National Footprint Accounts
Anthropocene is the era in which human activity can significantly alter the ecology of the planet, it follows that human activity must become ecologically wise; and it will, since we belong to the Homo sapiens sapiens species. The issue is how to bring about the required behavioral adaptations before it is too late, and how to do it in the most peaceful way possible. The concept of integral ecology, whereby humanity and all dimensions of human life are understood as part of the planetary ecosystem, is crucial for the conscientization of humans as global citizens.
Integral Theory, Integral Ecology, and Human Ecology
Integral theory "is a school of philosophy that seeks to integrate all of human wisdom into a new, emergent worldview that is able to accommodate the gifts of all previous worldviews, including those which have been historically at odds: science and religion, eastern and western, and pre-modern, modern and post-modern." It transcends the system sciences by taking into account all dimensions of human life via the AQAL model of objective and subjective factors. This model is instrumental for understanding issues at all levels in terms of subjective, intersubjective, objective, and interobjective perspectives. The principal reference for the application of integral theory to ecological systems is the book Integral Ecology: Uniting Multiple Perspectives on the Natural World. There is also a Theory and Practice of Integral Sustainable Development that is useful for sustainability leadership training. For purposes of human ecology and sustainable development, the basic idea is that humans, and both basic bodily and inner human needs, cannot be viewed in isolation from nature. Humans are utterly dependent on nature, and antiquated notions about a master-slave relationship between humanity and the human habitat constitute a significant obstacle that must be overcome, and sooner rather than later.
Untying the Patriarchal Knot for Integral Human Development
The master-slave mentality that has guided human use (and abuse) of natural resources is tightly coupled with the patriarchal mindset of male domination and female subjugation that has corrupted human relations since time immemorial. In terms of biblical tradition, it goes back to Genesis 3:16, indicative of the first and most pervasive consequence of "original sin." This abusive patriarchal "knot" needs to be loosened and untied, for integral human development, objectively and subjectively, cannot go far unless the human person reclaims, to the extent that this is possible, inner peace and peace with others and with nature. In this regard, now that slavery and racism are (at least in principle) recognized as social evils, it may be time to seek peace and solidarity in gender relations, with the two halves of humanity, male and female, helping each other rather than struggling for hegemony, physically or psychologically. This in turn requires careful reconsideration of the patriarchal "binary" whereby "anatomy is destiny." Current advances in the human sciences point in this direction. The signs of the times point in this direction: "human development that is not engendered is endangered." All human institutions, secular and religious, must collaborate in the great transition from patriarchy to a new civilization of peace and solidarity where human development, in harmony with nature, is given top priority.
Integral Ecology for Solidarity and Sustainability
Even in the most patriarchal cultures, patriarchy is dying. And yet, in the entire world,
patriarchy is killing the planet. It is also killing, or at least obstructing, many initiatives of human development. An integral human ecology must be an ecology of humans living in community and acting in solidarity, not simply a collection of individuals competing for hegemony; and it must be an ecology of humans in nature, not humans over nature. Attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, 2000-2015) has been inhibited by the patriarchal mindset. Attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, 2015-2030) will not be possible either as long as the cultural evolution from patriarchy to solidarity is impeded by the perverse version of the Golden Rule ("those with the gold get to rule"). It is the same everywhere, at all levels. Effective global governance, structured according to the principle of subsidiarity, is certainly needed, but nothing will be sufficient for a peaceful transition unless patriarchy is mercifully put to rest.
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When the Dream Becomes a Nightmare
This article was originally published by
The Tablet, 26 February 2015
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION OF THE PUBLISHER
It was ranked alongside Russia, India and China as an emerging global economic powerhouse but now the pillaging of Brazil’s natural resources, corruption at the highest levels and a crippling drought is threatening that status.
The year in Brazil only really begins after Carnival. But as Brazilians took down the bunting and put away the carnival costumes on Ash Wednesday this year, the country’s mood was more than usually Lenten. |
A drought and power cuts during the past few months of the southern hemisphere summer, together with an apparently never-ending corruption crisis surrounding the state oil company, Petrobras, point to an underlying doubt: is the Brazilian model, the economy and government, sustainable?
As south-east Brazil, the populous and productive states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, went into summer in November, the taps ran dry. The situation was worst in the city of São Paulo, home to 20 million people and the country’s business capital. In January, which should be the rainy season, tankers trundled through the streets to supply schools and health facilities, restaurants cut their hours, and desperate politicians blamed St Peter, who in Brazilian folklore is responsible for rain. Local media provided daily measurements of the level of the city’s main reservoir, Cantareira. Through most of January it was at 5 per cent.
The water shortage has had a drastic effect on Brazil’s energy supplies, since 70 per cent of the country’s electricity comes from hydroelectric plants, and in January a power cut left 12 of Brazil’s 27 states without electricity. There are reports that electricity charges will increase by 40 per cent in 2015.
Subsequently, the São Paulo region has reported the heaviest February rain for nine years, but it exposed the precarious state of Brazil’s infrastructure, as poor communities in São Paulo found their homes flooded by the polluted waters of the River Tietê. The level of the Cantareira reservoir rose to 10 per cent in the third week of February, but experts warned that it would require heavy rain in March and April to avoid “drastic water rationing”. Over the long-term, the prospect of water shortages and power cuts is expected to deepen the slow-down in the Brazilian economy produced by falling demand from China for exports and the drop in oil prices. Finance Minister Joaquim Levy admitted to United States investors in New York on 18 February that the economy probably did not grow in 2014, and promised a tighter fiscal policy to reduce the record public-sector deficit.
Inflation, too, is showing signs of rising, while the Brazilian real is falling close to the psychological barrier of R$3 to US$1 (£0.65). Although this could help exports, it will hit popular middle-class shopping trips to the US and add to discontent with the Government among this influential segment of voters. “Miami just got further away,” one satirist commented.
Politicians talk about “the water crisis” as though it had come out of the blue, but critics point out that signs of a water shortage have been visible for some time. António Nobre, a distinguished Brazilian climatologist and member of the United Nations climate change panel (IPCC), says that there is a link between the Amazon rainforest and rainfall in São Paulo and the south-east of Brazil.
“The region is on the same latitude as the Kalahari desert. It should be desert, but it’s irrigated; it has moisture. Where does the rain come from? Amazonia exports moisture. For various months of the year, by means of ‘airborne rivers’, this region receives the water vapour that is the source of its rainfall,” said Nobre, adding that in the past 40 years “three Germanies, three Japans, have been cleared in the Amazon rainforest. That’s 184 million football pitches.”
Another forest, the Atlantic forest, that used to cover much of the eastern side of Brazil, has also now largely gone. This used to protect the rivers and streams supplying the reservoirs in São Paulo and neighbouring Minas Gerais. Urban development has been unrestricted, the ground has been made impermeable and water does not flow down to replenish the underground aquifers. Leakages in the system are estimated at 30 per cent.
Most grotesquely, São Paulo’s two rivers, the Tietê and the Pinheiros, as well as a second, huge reservoir, the Billings, have become so polluted as to be unusable for domestic purposes. The São Paulo state government is talking about cleaning up the Pinheiros and diverting water from a river on the border with the state of Rio de Janeiro, but these projects will take time.
“2015-16 is likely to be catastrophic,” warned a group of scientists, who wrote an open letter to politicians during last year’s election campaign but were ignored. The leader of the group, Professor José Galizia Tundisi, even invoked Winston Churchill. Brazilian political leaders, said Tundisi, should follow the example of Churchill in 1940 “and tell the population brutally that the crisis is very serious”.
Why is no one listening to the scientists? There is an attitude deep-rooted in Brazilian society that Brazil has unlimited resources. But it has led to a predatory attitude to those resources: cut it down, dig it up and ship it out. From redwood in the sixteenth century, gold in the eighteenth, to timber, iron ore, coffee and soya today, Brazil’s economy has been an extractive one, and thanks above all to what seemed an insatiable demand from China for minerals, soya and beef products, in recent years the economy has tilted even more in that direction.
Today it looks as though the PT or Workers’ Party, in government at national level since 2003, has inherited a variant of this attitude, perhaps from its roots in the industrial unions of Greater São Paulo or because of the funding it receives from large construction companies. Accordingly, despite Brazil’s enormous potential for alternative energy production, from solar, wind and wave power, no serious move in this direction has been suggested.
The Brazilian government has said it will scale back its expansion of its hydroelectric plants in the Amazon, which have been criticised on both environmental and social grounds, since all are in the Amazon region and displace indigenous and other riverside communities. However, this may mean a greater reliance on oil and gas, with negative consequences for global warming.
Critical economists, such as Guilherme Delgado, formerly of the Government’s economic research organisation, Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada, argue that economic grounds, as well as ecological ones, make this an opportunity to “rethink Brazil”. Unfortunately new thinking is unlikely to come from the Government of President Dilma Rousseff. She is assailed by a constant stream of plausible allegations that bribes and “commissions” from construction companies to Petrobras channelled around US$115 million (£75m) into party election funds last year, with about a third to her own party.
Particularly damaging for Rousseff is that this process goes back many years and includes a period when she had responsibility for Petrobras as “energy czar” under her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The President has lost control of Congress, which is widely described as the most right-wing for many years. The Right is also muttering about impeaching the President, but it is probably simply a tactic to destabilise her.
The Catholic Church has an honourable record of campaigning for sustainability, through its defence of family agriculture and indigenous peoples, not only in words but at the cost of the lives of priests, Religious and lay activists. This year its Lenten Campaign on Church and Society gives it the perfect platform to address corruption, which it describes as a “systemic problem” of Brazilian politics. Launching the campaign on Ash Wednesday, the Archbishop of São Paulo, Odilo Scherer, reiterated the Church’s demand for a ban on the funding of political parties by businesses.
Among São Paulo’s poor, a church-linked organisation, the Favela Residents Defence Movement, is pressing local authorities to look at ways of creating a “sustainable city” in the face of climate change, and its system of water-collection tanks and cisterns has already been adopted by two São Paulo boroughs for inclusion in new public-housing schemes. There are undoubtedly many other local initiatives across this huge country, but unless government scales this up into a vision for a sustainable Brazil, the current economic model will, sooner or later, like the reservoirs, run dry.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Francis McDonagh writes for The Tablet from Brazil.
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