Alternatives to Environmental Neo-Liberalism
Por Enrique Leff
The current globalization process, has imposed an "over-economization" of the world, is tarnishing the prospects for the upcoming Johannesburg Summit.
MEXICO CITY, (Tierramérica).-
With the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the consensus for reorienting development towards sustainability was legitimized, generating a discourse of sustainable development and a geopolitics of economic-ecological globalization. However, the unsustainability and inequality that result from the neo-liberal economic project, the need has arisen to tie the economy to the laws of thermodynamics, the limits and potential of nature, the recognition of the ecological bases upon which the sustainability of all economic processes depend, and to the values of democracy, diversity and difference.
The last decade has been the scenario of resistance movements of peoples and citizen groups who refuse to give up their autonomy, territory, identity and localisms to a globalization governed by the hegemonic logic of the market. But even more tenacious has been the economy's resistance against "ecologizing" itself.
The predominant strategies of sustainable development have advanced towards a capitalization of nature, of culture and of human beings. The globalization process has imposed an over-economization of the world, which dissolves the uniqueness of cultures in order to integrate them into the supreme law of the market.
The result is progress towards ecological destruction and the entropic death of the planet -- the most evident sign being global warming --, along with the globalization of poverty, growing economic and social inequalities, to which we can add the "narco-economy and narco-politics", corruption and simulation, AIDS and terrorism.
This political will conditions sustainability upon an economic growth that is based on fiction, halting the incorporation of the ecological and social costs of development into the calculations of the gross domestic product.
Sustainable development is thus increasingly unsustainable. And the guilty one is not natural evolution, but rather the economic rationality that accelerates the pace and broadens the scale of processes of ecological destruction, degradation of energy and the warming of the planet.
Sustainable development has turned into a political field in which various strategies for the reappropriation of nature have emerged. These are divided into two major currents: on one side is economic reappropriation reducing the value of nature's resources and environmental services to mere monetary values, and on the other, the way is being paved for reappropriation based on the assignment of cultural meanings and social values to nature.
The transition towards sustainability is a debate between the policies of sustainable development driven by the rationality of the market, and a process of social reconstruction based on cultural identities and guided by the principles of an environmental rationality.
To be sustainable in time, development must be ecologically and socially sustainable. This implies a shift in social and productive rationality. The alternative to environmental neo-liberalism based on the market is the building of sustainable societies based on the renewability and productivity of natural resources, on social equality, cultural diversity and direct democracy, on the creativity of peoples and individuals.
In contrast to production contra natura of the market, environmental rationality proposes production in conjunction with nature and culture. In this alternative vision of sustainable development, environment is no longer seen as a cost and an external factor to development, but becomes productive potential that emerges from the positive synergies of productivity and ecosystems, the power of technology and the creativity of cultures.
The sustainable alternative is a new economy founded on the planet's negentropic productivity, beginning with the transformational capacity of life and natural resources.
This breaks down the siegeof economic globalization and opens the way for a diversification of modes of production and lifestyles in accordance with the Earth's variety of ecosystems and cultures. Environmental rationality thus breaks away from the hegemony of the market, recognizing the value of ecological and cultural diversity as the basis for the construction of new existential meanings and a more harmonious coexistence of humanity with nature.
* Enrique Leff is a writer and coordinator of the Environmental Training Network for Latin America and the Caribbean for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).