The meaning of bioeconomy or ecodevelopment
The current presidential elections have brought to the fore the question of development, a classic theme of the globalized macroeconomy. Either from ignorance or because the candidates realized that they would have to change everything, there was no mention of such crucial themes as the threats to life and our civilization, that could be destroyed by nuclear, chemical and biological processes, or by the planet’s ever increasing, eventually abrupt, warming, that, as many scientists suggest, would destroy much of the life we know, and could endanger the human species itself. As the Earthcharter puts it: «our common destiny calls us to a new beginning». No one has had that type of daring, not even Marina Silva, who brought up –to her great credit– the sustainability paradigm.
What we can say with certainty is that we cannot continue the way we are going. The price of our survival will be a radical change in the way we inhabit the Earth. The proposal of eco-development or a bio-economy, as Ladislau Dowbor and Ignacy Sachs, among others, suggest, encourages us to head in that direction.
One of the first to see the intrinsic relationship between the economy and biology was the Romanian economist and mathematician Nicholas Georgescu Roegen (1906-1994). Contrary to dominant thinking, this author, already in the 1960s, called attention to insustainability of growth, given the limits of Earth’s goods and services. He started talking about «economic reduction, for environmental sustainability and social equity» (www.degrowth.net). That reduction, better called, “growth”, means reducing quantitative growth in favor of the qualitative, in the sense of preserving the goods and services that future generations will require. In reality, the bioeconomy is a subsystem of nature’s system, always limited, and, therefore, it requires constant care by humans. Economics must obey and follow nature’s levels of preservation and regeneration (see Roegen’s theses in the 28/10/2011 IHU interview of Andrei Cechin).
A similar model, called ecodevelopment and bioeconomy is being proposed by, among others, the afore-mentioned PUC-SP professor of economics, Ladislau Dowbor, whose thinking is in line with that of another economist, Ignacy Sachs, a Pole, who for love became a naturalized Frenchman and Brazilian. Sachs came to Brazil in 1941, worked here for several years and now maintains a center for Brazilian studies at the University of Paris. He is an economist who by 1980 awoke to the ecological question, and is possibly the first to frame his reflections in the anthropocene context. That is, in the context of the strong pressure human activities place on the ecosystems and planet Earth as a whole, to the point of causing the Earth to lose her systemic equilibrium, which is manifested in extreme events. The anthropocene, then, would inaugurate a new geological era, with humans as a global risk factor, like a dangerously low and devastating meteor. Sachs takes into account that new data in the ecological-social discourse.
Dowbor’s and Sachs’ analysis combines economics, ecology, justice and social inclusion. Hence is born a concept of possible sustainability, still within the limitations imposed by the dominant mode of production, industrialist, consumerist, individualist, predatorory and polluting.
Both men are convinced that an acceptable sustainability will not be reached absent a sensible lessening of social inequalities, the incorporation of the citizenry as a popular participant in the democratic play, respect for cultural differences, the introduction of ethical values of respect for all life and permanent caring for the environment. If these requirements are fulfilled, the conditions for sustainable eco-development would be created.
Sustainability demands a certain social equity, this is, «a leveling of rich and poor countries» and a more or less homogeneous distribution of the costs and benefits of development. That way, for example, the poorest countries have a greater right to increase their ecological footprint (their need for land, water, nutrients and energy), to fulfill their requirements, while the richer countries must reduce theirs, or bring it under control. It is not about assuming the mistaken thesis of negative growth, but of finding a different path for development, decarbonizing production, reducing environmental impact and encouraging the application of intangible values such as generosity, cooperation, solidarity and compassion. Dowbor and Sachs emphatically repeat that solidarity is an essential aspect of the human condition, and the cruel individualism we are witnessing at present, an expression of the limitless competition and accumulative greed, resulting in a cancer that destroys the bonds of coexistence, making society fatally unsustainable.
They gave us the beautiful expression, «biocivilización», a civilization that gives centrality to life, to the Earth, to the ecosystems and to each and every person. From it arose the lovely saying, «The Earth of the Good Hope» (See, Ecodevelopment: to grow without destroying, [Ecodesarrollo: crecer sin destruir. 1986] and the interview in Carta Maior, 8/29/2011).
This proposal appears to be one of the most sensible and responsible ways of confronting the dangers facing the planet and the future of the human species. Dowbor’s and Sachs’ proposal; (http://dowbor.org) deserves to be considered because it shows great functionality and viability.
Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro, firstname.lastname@example.org,
done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.