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By Julio Alegría Galarreta
The current development style or model, which has been imposed since the last century, has no answers to the environmental crisis. It needs a "consumer society" and therefore materialistic, where the desire for profit and individualism is the fuel.
The Rio + 20 World Conference (June 20-22, 2012) raised not only the global environmental problem. The accumulation of information, analysis, proposals and deliberations that gathered in Rio, put under the magnifying glass the economic, social, political and finally ethical aspects, amalgamated behind the mentioned crisis. Analyzing this will allow a better reading of why the Rio Summit was far from achieving the political and economic commitment of the powerful countries to support the sustainable development of the least favored countries, in the context of the environmental crisis that everyone recognizes (1).
Global and globalized problems, which are the exacerbation of extreme hydrometeorological events, environmental degradation, deterioration and depletion of natural resources, loss of biodiversity and extinction of fragile ecosystems, are over-demanding on nature beyond all possible resilience, and they are producing more poverty and death in environmentally vulnerable populations and countries. The planet is subject to an environmental crisis, which is due to:
i) man-made climate change, which will worsen throughout this century;
ii) non-responsible, formal and informal extractive economic activities that impose negative externalities on the environment and society;
iii) the use and occupation of the territory in a competitive manner with the aptitude and limitations of its natural resources;
iv) the legal framework and governance conditions that neither facilitate nor promote the conservation of natural resources, the preservation of fragile ecosystems, or the reduction of environmental vulnerability.
The enlightening and inspiring dissertation by Mr. José Mujica (2), President of Uruguay, at the Rio + 20 Conference, makes it necessary to remember that if one speaks of the poverty-development dichotomy, one cannot stop reflecting and elaborating on the philosophy of poverty and development. Which refers to speaking of man as subject and object of his individual and collective development, of his reason for being, of his personal fulfillment, in short, of his happiness.
The current development style or model, which has been imposed since the last century, has no answers to the environmental crisis. It needs a "consumer society" and therefore materialistic, where the profit motive and individualism is the fuel (3). The model leads to sharpen the differences between rich and poor, that is, between those who are inside and outside the system (4). According to the World Bank, in the last 40 years the differences between the 20 richest countries and the 20 poorest on the planet have doubled.
The contradiction and suicidal poison that the current model has is that it is unsustainable. The desire for excessive profit and the greed of producers and suppliers, leads to seek to expand the consumer base and to raise more and more consumption levels. It is unsustainable because the planet cannot provide or even maintain natural resources over time so that everyone can access and enjoy the level of consumption that the model promises. In other words, if “emerging” economies and societies achieve the same consumption and opulence as North America and Western Europe, the result is the irreparable degradation of the quality of the environment and ecosystems, and the depletion of natural resources. For this reason there is an "ecological debt" of the developed countries with the rest of the planet.
The promoters and beneficiaries of the model know or intuit that the model is unsustainable; that it is peremptory, and that it will eventually collapse. But they still promote it, out of selfish interest and short-term reasoning. The warning voice of the world scientific community is clear: if the trends of climate change that are being reported persist, catastrophic and irreversible impacts will be produced on water resources, ecosystems, food, coasts and human health (5).
But it is not only unsustainable. The current development model is irresponsible and unfair. In reality, this quality should not be applied to the model per se, since it is a human creation, but to the people who promote it, apologize for it and / or favor it, in an irresponsible and unfair way. More than that, the unjust transitions to perverse to the extent that those who advantageously benefit from the model develop systematic actions to prevent marginal groups from having access to improve their living conditions, as is argued below.
Why irresponsible? There is a ragged and diluted share of responsibility in the consumer consumer who benefits and is favored by the model. This to the extent that it can and must become aware that it lives in the global village and in an environment that is the heritage of all humanity, current and future. Man only uses and manages the environment where he lives. Unfortunately, with his excessive and unrestricted desire to satisfy the appetite for "having more", man is making it difficult, preventing, that others who live now and who will live later (future generations) can aspire to enjoy the "quality of life ”, Or rather, the level of consumption that it now has.
The responsibility is greater in decision makers and opinion formers. They must know - if at least they gave a fraction of their intelligence and time to investigate it - that the planet cannot stand this mad race. There are no excuses in this globalized world, with its formidable advance in communications, computing and the great development of scientific research.
The legitimate aspirations of millions of people to access the benefits of decent work, which allows them to meet the needs and aspirations of their families for progress, are out of the question. Food, health, shelter, education, transportation, communications. However, when does a need turn into a want? Are not companies and suppliers, in complicity with communicators and advertisers, competing fiercely to increase their sales, seducing consumers to stretch their pockets? They are millions of dissatisfied and frustrated consumers, looking for the opportunity to acquire what even their pocket prohibits them, or to go into debt to get it. After 20 centuries, how valid are the wise words of the philosopher Seneca “Poor is not he who has little, but he who desires much”.
Allow yourself to pay for the unfair nature of the model. It is unfair when those who benefit from this model do so knowing that the implementation of the model is almost irreversibly affecting the environment and ecosystems. They do so, knowing that the model cannot be accessible to everyone, not now, and even less so to everyone who has not yet been born. These actors promote and apologize for the model because it favors them and favors their plans, and to promote it they make use of their power resources: communicational, economic, financial and political. These actors want the model to spread its benefits among an exclusive number of "users", who pay for their membership with the purchasing power of their pocket.
Aware of the narrow limits of the model in space and time, the "stakeholders" of the model, the key and influential actors of affluent societies, since the dawn of the industrial revolution (6), have acted to safeguard their interests , and they continue to do so. They are thinkers, ideologues, academics, politicians, policy makers, and business billionaires. The common objective is to try to reduce the number of possible and future oxygen “competitors”, or claimants of natural resources and environmental quality, so that they do not exacerbate the unsustainable conditions of the model. For them, the poor waste natural resources and degrade the environment blandly. Therefore, the solution is to minimize the number of poor people by preventing them from being born. Thus, the proposals and policies for birth control were born, with a later euphemism for “family planning”.
The scientific justification for birth control is neo-Malthusian theory. Behind the thesis that the reduction of the birth rate is a necessary condition to achieve the development of poor countries, is the other: poverty will be solved when the poor are eliminated. Likewise, neo-Malthusian thought has as allies and objectives related to eugenics and euthanasia, social philosophies that seek to eliminate the weak, the sick, the poor, anyone who represents a social burden or burden on the economy (7). Eugenics proposes to intervene to eliminate individuals who do not meet certain genetic, intellectual and racial standards. Euthanasia is the intervention to cause the death of a person whose life does not have the minimum quality to be considered worthy.
The "pragmatic" Malthusian thought is based on the "ethics of the lifeboat" (8), of great influence on the decision makers of the rich countries. Inhabitants of rich countries are compared to the occupants of a crowded lifeboat drifting through rough seas, drowning many people begging to be put on board. These represent the people of poor nations. The response of the occupants of the boat must be to let the others drown. Since the planet's resources are not sufficient for the development of the entire population, economic aid to poor populations does not make sense, but rather to let them die.
Birth control policies have been strongly promoted by rich countries and their related organizations since the second half of the last century. A key role is played by the organizations affiliated to the United Nations, multilateral banks, international cooperation organizations, foundations of large transnational companies. Policies are implemented through various mechanisms: legal compulsion, coercion, intimidation, blackmail, conditioning. Each “developing” country has its own history in this regard, the more tragic and horrendous the poorer and more populous the country, bordering on genocide (9).
Among the most effective birth control measures is abortion. Millions of human lives truncated, who were denied the right to be born (10). This is simply implemented as part of government demographic policies, or it is made viable in a veiled and intelligent way, either packaged within what is promoted as the "reproductive rights of women" and the "human right to abortion." It is an overwhelming but unnoticed quadruple alliance:
i) the political interests of the governments of rich countries,
ii) the feminist ideology that sees motherhood as a tie against the liberation of women;
iii) Malthusian and eugenic thinking behind multimillion-dollar foundations for social aid;
iv) the profit motive of the companies that manufacture pharmaceutical and contraceptive products and service providers, required to massify the birth control measures (11).
Birth control is an important component in North-South international relations, being incorporated into public policies and the legal frameworks of the States. They are legitimized and then legalized based on political pressure and through advocacy and social communication strategies. Altruism in the service of the poor? Lawyers seeking to empower women? Compassionate efforts to prevent a life of deprivation for the unborn child or the elderly of unworthy life? Or Machiavellian and orchestrated intelligence aligned with the goal of eliminating oxygen consumers and ensuring good business? Many political, ideological and economic interests at stake. The unjust borders on the perverse.
The effectiveness of birth control policies in poor regions will not prevent the current development model from collapsing. The model is not sustainable because the poor are a threat to the economic system, but because the expansive number of consumers is associated with the degrading, predatory and exhausting nature of the environment and natural resources. Thus, a child from an industrialized country will consume in his entire life what 50 children from a poor country consume. In other words, while the hamburger of a city consumer requires 2,400 liters of water to be produced; the potato that a farmer eats requires 25 liters.
It should be emphasized that eradicating poverty in the world is technically and financially possible, without the need for disastrous birth control policies. There is sufficient technology and resources in the countries to ensure this objective comfortably and in a sustainable way over time. This has long been argued by academics along the lines of Jeffrey Sachs (12). The achievement of this requires two necessarily complementary conditions, today regrettably distant:
- Foreign policy of rich countries of financial and technical assistance to developing countries to design and implement massive food programs, access to education and public health, provision of water and sanitation services, construction of infrastructure to support the production, research capacity in strategic issues for development. The key is to prioritize aid to regions in extreme conditions. The only condition of the aid must be its exclusive use in the established objective.
- Public policies in poor countries to promote authentic education, food security, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, land use planning, basic public services, job creation and technology transfer, research on strategic issues for development; all of this oriented to the interests of the poor and vulnerable population and of future generations. This requires national governments free from corruption and authorities with a genuine commitment to their people.
It must be reiterated, however, that efforts to end poverty throughout the world must necessarily be accompanied by a change in the development model. Otherwise, seven billion dealers would have aligned consumers in a globalized world, exerting unsustainable pressure on natural resources, exacerbating environmental degradation.
Economic growth and per capita increase in the level of consumption cannot necessarily be seen as positive. Having more is not always better. What should be sought is not "to have more" but "to be more." To have more, but more capabilities, more freedom of opportunities, and more opportunities for fulfillment, as proposed by Amartya Sen. Winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics, Sen laid the groundwork for a new development paradigm by defining it as “the process of expanding the true freedoms that people enjoy” (13).
Having more is not - should not be - an end but a means. Development must have man as its end. Development must be anthropocentric. Hence, the object of development must be happiness, as Don José Mujica well emphasizes. But happiness for man is not having more, but being more, in accordance with his vocation and in the search for his personal fulfillment. The question arises: Can a development model that considers the human being as a mere consumer, that has no answer for the needs of the poor, that ignores the rights of the following generations, can it have man as its end?
Where is the origin of the problem? It is not simply about ecological or environmental problems, but rather, a fundamental problem with ecological and environmental effects. The problem is not fundamentally economic either, because in general terms the agents are increasingly efficient, and on average the economies of nations have been growing. So is it a political problem? Is the problem solved with the redistribution of wealth? What is the difference for ecosystems and the environment if they are degraded not by the intervention of 10 subjects but by the action of 1000, if they will be degraded anyway? It is a political crisis, but who generates it?
The analysis and reflections that these notes propose allow us to argue that the underlying problem, the origin of the crisis, is not ecological-environmental, it is not economic or political. The problem is not the development model per se. The problem in its genesis is not in the unsustainability of the model. The problem then lies in man, who has devised, set in motion, has expanded an inappropriate development model: unsustainable, irresponsible and unfair. It is a human responsibility that is shared individually and socially, in the past and in the present. For this reason, the crisis is essentially ethical.
There will be no lasting or valid solution to the problem and environmental crisis of the planet as long as man does not change and replace the current development model. This starts from a mea culpa and personal change, and then moves on to awareness, education and political advocacy work. The task is great, the challenge immense, but you should not be daunted: be an agent of change to rebuild the current development model. Replace it with another model where the engine of development is not profit motive and individualism, but happiness, individual and collective. Happiness based on the realization of the person in the responsible exercise of their freedom. There, the consumer and materialistic society will be replaced by a fraternal and supportive society, in harmony with the environment.
The obstacles to advancing in this challenge come from both the individual and the social level. At the individual level, because eventually the selfishness immersed in man will be a temptation to forget his environmental awareness, his solidarity and altruism with the needs and shortcomings of the less favored. At the social level, because the consumer society, its laws and its powerful and influential economic agents, oppose any attempt at radical change. Therefore they attack in many ways individuals and institutions that claim to question the status quo.
How much evidence to reaffirm the need and justification to bring the poverty-development issue to a philosophical and ethical analysis, beyond the economic and political planes. In the eye of the storm is the man who has built a development model that does not promote development. The planet's environmental crisis, expressed in the depletion of natural resources, the severe impacts on ecosystems and vulnerable populations, is only an effect, a consequence. The world's crisis is ethical. Beating it is the challenge of the millennium. Let's start now.
Julio Alegría Galarreta - July 2012
1. See Final Document of the Rio +20 Conference: http://rio20.net/…
2. At: http://www.aporrea.org/…
3. Paradoxically, the countries of Europe, North America, Japan and South Korea have the highest suicide rates in the world. Almost coincidentally, these countries have negative rates of population growth, which generates an aging population and a lack of generational replacement.
4. "The richest 10% have 85% of the world's capital, half of the entire population of the planet only 1%." (Sen, A. and Kliks Berg, B. . “Primero la Gente”, Barcelona: Deusto).
5. Intergovernmental Panel of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC). "Climate Change 2007 - Synthesis Report". WMO / UNEP, Geneva.
6. "We feel compelled by justice and honor to formally deny that the poor have the right to be helped" (Thomas Malthus, 1766-1834, "An Essay of the Principle of the Population").
7. Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) founded the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the most important affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation IPPF, with a presence in 172 countries, the most important global organization that provides “reproductive health” services (promoter of sterilization and abortion), and channel of millionaire donations. Sanger wrote "The Pivot of the Civilization" (1922): "The attention given to the working class should be regulated, since they are benign morons, who stimulate the defective and sick elements of humanity to be more irresponsible, spread and reproduce. We must eliminate human weeds, isolate the idiots, the maladjusted, and the unfit, and sterilize the genetically inferior race. "
8. Proposed by Hardin, Garrett (1974). "Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor." In: Psychology Today 8, p.38-43.
9. China's compulsive one-child policy has resulted in the deaths of 400 million children. It is the longest lasting and most far-reaching violation of human rights. www.lapop.org (Bulletin 158).
10. As a scientific fact, a new human life begins at the moment of conception. http://www.sanjosearticles.com/
11. The recent “London Summit on Family Planning” (12 July 2012), Organized by the UK Department for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has brought together donor groups, international agencies, the private sector and NGOs to mobilize political and financial commitments for birth control, for a total of US $ 4.6 billion.
12. Sachs, Jeffrey D. (2005). "The End of Poverty." The Penguin Press, New York, 2005.
13. Sen, Amartya K. (1999). "Development as Freedom". First Anchor Books Edition. New York. August, 2000.