"This economized version of" sustainability "also causes that the guard of social and environmental considerations is lowered in the name of the necessary economic growth that according to its promoters will allow to bring development to the populations. The naive questions at this point are Development for whom? Development at the expense of what? "
Although in hegemonic thought there is only one way of conceiving the relationship between society and nature in our highly diverse world, we can find a diversity of ontologies or ways of conceiving this relationship. Figure 1 shows, in a simplified way, the various ways of conceiving the society / humanity-nature relationship.
A first conception refers to the recognition that nature and society / humanity are totally different and separate realities. Some attributes that would make us different, from this perspective, is that human beings are the only ones who have dignity, conscience, judgment, among others. In that look, nature has been made for our domain and use. Under this objectifying and instrumental conception of nature, we justify its value to the extent that it is useful to us (natural resource) and there are no problems with exploiting it because that is its reason for being. If there is pain and suffering among animals and sensitivity in plants are issues that are irrelevant. Sentience is only applicable to human beings (of those with the most power).
A second perspective recognizes that human beings are actually holobionts, which means we live in a symbiotic community with bacteria that make up the human microbiome and that make life possible (Basurto, 2019; Maldonado, 2018). In other words, we are walking ecosystems where life is made possible thanks to human-bacteria interactions.
The third perspective can be found in indigenous peoples where they point out that human beings can turn into plants or animals and these into humans and return to their original form. The healers who are the intermediaries between the human world and the non-human world are capable of this transformation. But the explanation is not reduced to plants and animals because it can also involve mountains with the ability to become human beings and kidnap people.
The fourth perspective tells us that there is no nature because it is a category invented for human beings and there is a continuity between nature and culture, between nature and society. The term nature would then be used as a way of denying the socioecosystemic reality and the need to formulate socio-natural alternatives where there is room for discussions that go beyond even conventional policies (Swyngedouw, 2011).
A fifth perspective points to the fact of recognizing that being nature and human at the same time, sometimes our humanity is fully manifested, and other times our condition of nature. We are made up of the same elements of the cosmos and therefore of nature, we are part of the great biogeochemical cycles, we are dependent on plants for oxygen, we are dependent on seas and forests for the necessary water supply of our vital cycles but at the same time we have the ability to think about ourselves, to review the impacts of our decisions.
As we have been able to appreciate, there is no single way of conceiving the relations between society and nature and it is not a question of imposing one ontological worldview on the other but of recognizing the interrelationality of ontologies and not thinking that only the one that the West has institutionalized with its logic should prevail disjunctive and reductive.
We would have to ask ourselves then what have been and are the impacts of a conception of anthropocentric arrogance that has led us to a global crisis, where the climate crisis is one of the manifestations, others have to do with soil, water and air pollution. and even contamination of values that has led to institutionalized corruption. We cannot deny that even within an instrumentalizing conception of nature, great advances have been made to protect ecosystems, but beyond economic justifications, the important thing is to recognize the importance of the intrinsic values of life in any of its manifestations.
The prevalence of economistic conceptions of nature has led us to declare war on good account so that the civilization of iron, cement, production, productivity, competitiveness prevails. From this perspective, forests are seen either as an area of exploitation of their resources or as an area for the expansion of "civilizational" investments that will lead to the idle and unproductive areas of the Amazon being incorporated into the machinery of progress.
This economized version of "sustainability" also causes the guard of social and environmental considerations to be lowered in the name of the necessary economic growth that, according to its promoters, will allow to bring development to the populations. The naive questions at this point are Development for whom? Development at the expense of what? From this perspective, it is not surprising then that critical movements of the current development model seek alternatives that are more consistent with the recognition of our close interrelation with nature.
We can somehow reverse the current situation of aggression against nature if we recover the ethics of mutual care between humans and non-humans. It is here where the proposal to recover, incorporate, strengthen and institutionalize the love of nature as a condition of life and sustainability takes on real meaning and significance. To speak of compassion, tenderness and empathy in our society-nature relationships is not to remain in romanticism, utopia, idealistic reverie or even ridiculousness as some will surely think. It is going to the very essence of our existence and the existence of present and future human and non-human beings.
Loving nature is not denying rationality, information, science, or research, but rather resignifying it to learn to register its results in the sustainable management of the great socio-ecosystem that is the earth, to learn to live in the territories recognizing the close interrelation between the tangible and intangible, past, present and future that will make it possible to recover the dignity of all living beings on earth. It is not an anthropocentrism or an exacerbated biocentrism, it is simply a matter of putting life at the center of reflection and transformative action. We are paying very dearly for the fact of having placed the market and economic growth as the center of civilization. It's time for the great transformation. Before it is too late.
Basurto, Oswaldo. Does the individual organism exist? The symbiosis and the emergence of new individuals. In: Villegas, Moisés; Lorena, Knight; Vizcaya, Eduardo. (Editors). 2019. Biocomplexity: facets and trends. Mexico: CopIt-arXives, 221-238.
Maldonado, Carlos. 2018. Politics + Time = Biopolitics Complexing politics. Bogotá: Editions From Below.
Swyngedouw, Erick. 2011. Nature does not exist! Sustainability as a symptom of depoliticized planning. Urban. 41-66.
By Rodrigo Arce Rojas