The era of the great transformations
We live in the Era of the Great Transformations. There are many, but I will mention just two: the first relating to the economy and the second, to the realm of the conscience.
First, the economy: It began in 1834 when the industrial revolution was consolidated in England. It consists of moving from a market economy to a market society. The market has always existed throughout the history of humanity, but never before has there been a society consisting only of the market. In other words, the only thing that counts is the economy. Everything else must serve the economy.
The market that predominates is ruled by competition rather than cooperation. What is sought is individual or corporative economic benefit, not the common good of the entire society. The cost of attaining this benefit is usually the devastation of nature, and creation of perverse social inequalities.
It is said that the market must be free, and the state is seen as its great obstacle. The mission of the state, in reality, is to order society and the economy through laws and norms, and to coordinate the search for the common good. The Great Transformation presupposes a minimal State, practically limited to issues involving society’s infrastructure, the treasury and security. Everything else belongs to and is regulated by the market.
Everything can be relegated to the market: drinking water, seeds, food and even human organs. This commercialization has penetrated all sectors of society: health, education, sports, the world of the arts and entertainment, and even important types of religions and churches, with their TV and radio programs.
Organizing society only around the economic interests of the market has split humanity from top to bottom: an enormous gulf has been created between the few rich and the many poor. A perverse social injustice predominates.
Simultaneously, a horrible ecological injustice has been created. In the eagerness to accumulate, goods and natural resources have been exploited in a predatory manner, with no limitations and a total lack of respect. The goal is to become ever richer to be able to consume more intensely.
This voracity has surpassed the limits of the Earth herself. The goods and services of the Earth are no longer fully sufficient and renewable. The Earth’s resources are not limitless. That fact makes it difficult if not impossible for the capitalist/productive system to constantly regenerate. That is its crisis.
Given its internal logic, that Transformation, is causing biocide, ecocide and geocide. Life itself is endangered, and the Earth may not want us with her, because we are too destructive.
The second Great Transformation is occurring in the field of consciousness. As the damage to nature that affects the quality of life increases, the awareness also grows that 90% of this damage is due to the irresponsible and irrational attitude of humans, more specifically to the attitude of those economic, political, cultural and media power elites that comprise the great multilateral corporations and have assumed control over the destiny of the world.
It is urgent that we interrupt this trajectory towards the precipice. The first global study of the state of the Earth was done in 1972. It revealed that the Earth is not well. The principal cause is the type of development undertaken by society, that has surpassed the limits of nature and the Earth’s endurance. We must produce, yes, to feed humanity, but in a manner that respects the rhythms of nature and her limits, allowing her to rest and to renew herself. It was called sustainable development, as opposed to just material growth, as measured by the GNP.
In the name of this awareness and its urgency, there arose the responsibility principle (Hans Jonas), the caring principle (Boff and others), the sustainability principle (Brundland Report), the cooperation principle (Heisenberg/Wilson/ Swimme), the prevention/precaution principle (1992 Letter of Rio de Janeiro from the United Nations), the compassion principle (Schoppenhauer/Dalai Lama) and the Earth principle (Lovelock and Evo Morales), where the Earth is understood as a living super organism, always ready to produce life.
The ecological reflection has become complex. It cannot be reduced only to environmental preservation. The totality of the world system is at stake. Thus there has emerged an environmental ecology that has as its end the quality of life; a social ecology that seeks a sustainable mode of living (production, distribution, consumption and disposal of waste); a mental ecology that criticizes prejudices and visions of the world that are hostile to life, and proposes to formulate a new design for civilization, based on the principles and values for a new form of inhabiting the Common Home; and finally, an integral ecology that recognizes that the Earth is part of a universe in evolution, and that we must live in harmony with the Whole, one that is complex and purposeful. From this comes peace.
Then it becomes clear that ecology is an art, a new way of relating to nature and the Earth, more than a technique for administering scarce goods and services.
Everywhere in the world, movements, institutions, organisms, NGOs, and research centers have arisen that propose to care for the Earth, especially for all living beings.
If the awareness of caring, and of our collective responsibility for the Earth and for our civilization, triumph, surely we will still have a future.
Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia, http://www.servicioskoinonia.org.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU..