From Environmentalism To Radical Ecology
This is the second part of the text from a seminar sponsored by CEPIS in Brazil in April 1992. It was published in Cuba by the Martin Luther King Center in 1996 under the title "Political and Theological Dimension of Ecology." The first part was published in the June 1997 issue of envío.
While conservationism protects species and environmentalism creates reserves, other deeper and sounder tendencies of ecology express amazement at the wisdom of native cultures, question capitalist society, advocate a cosmic democracy and seek and find God.
Diverse ecological tendencies are fighting over hegemony in their discourses and in their ability to affect society, influencing decision-making, molding public opinion, characterizing cultural activities and marking culture itself with their ecological vision.
One tendency could be called conservationism. It fundamentally tries to conserve threatened living beings. It's a short-term vision, but it calls humanity's attention to threats to the biosphere--that is, to living beings--above all as a result of the great industrial project, today worldwide, that necessitates dirty technologies that cause atmospheric pollution by poisoning water and soil, and creates exceedingly tense social relations like those produced through accelerated and savage urbanization in the poor squatter settlements and ghettos where people who have no other living option are agglomerated.
Conservationism is especially important in the Nordic countries, where groups form to protect the whales, rent ships and go to the North Pole to defend seals, put pressure on harmful cultural customs--like the Italian custom of setting huge traps to capture the birds that fly by the thousands from the north during bird migration periods so they can prepare their favorite seasonal dishes with them--in order to preserve species.
That is the positive side of conservationism: to help preserve endangered species. But it's a very limited proposal, because everything beyond this concern is valid. The accelerated industrialization process goes on, contaminating the air, poisoning the water and causing other disastrous consequences.
Environmentalism: Nature in "Reserves"A second ecological tendency is environmentalism, typical of England and the Nordic countries. This tendency is accompanied by a sort of anti-humanist perspective. There's a desire to preserve the environment, vegetation, water, air and forests, and the fewer people there are, the better. This tendency does not see human beings as part of the environment, but as aggressors against the environment. There is concern for the preservation of natural resources, for exploitation that doesn't affect the human habitat, and fundamentally for the creation of forest reserves to preserve birds and animals, rare flora and fauna. Ecology is understood as the creation of reserves. A lot of tourism in Europe is designed around this idea: people feed their ecological spirit by visiting the reserves of France or Germany, or traveling to the Amazon to see a virgin forest. This tendency, like the conservationist tendency, has its positive side but it is also very limited, because Ecology is valid only in the spaces reserved for it.
This tendency is the basis of official government policies like Brazil's in the case of indigenous reserves. They are policies that assume a typically Western, Cartesian, white concept of land, according to which land is only a question of geography, of meters. This concept does not take into account, the indigenous vision, in which land is not an object to be occupied and exploited, but a continuation of the body.
When They Lose their Lands, They Commit SuicideThe indigenous need land for their identity. The continuous space of land, the sounds of falling water, the fruit trees, the biological cycles of seeds, winds and rain... That more complex and global dimension of Ecology is fundamental to indigenous peoples. When indigenous reserves are marked off, it is a cutting off of sacred space where their ancestors are buried, where geography is pregnant with symbolic value.
Our official culture does not understand that indigenous people experience that action as a profound aggression. That is the principal motive for suicide among the Tupi-Guaranís from Mato Grosso, Brazil. When they lose their lands, their mental and physical health is affected. And they cannot carry out their great cultural myth that each person can be a hero. For them, a hero is not a person who carries out great actions, who triumphs, who is a successful capitalist or famous intellectual. No, people are heroes insofar as they specialize in their profession, whether that be making arches or baskets or planting yucca. Personal realization lies in the perfection of what is done. When this is frustrated by the invasion of whites, by the obligation to learn Portuguese, to forget the memory of one's ancestors and be unable to carry out the cycle of special days that ritualize their world in chronological time in a way that is significant to them; when all of this disappears, the horizon disappears, along with the meaning of life, the reason to be. And since death is the other side of life, one does not leave life when one dies, but one does leave the bitterness, the persecution, the oppression that the white man subjects one to.
It is ridiculous that the government sends a team of Freudian psychologists to analyze the Indians' typology, when it is the whites and the white culture who have the neurosis, which has nothing to do with the indigenous. It is a case of ethnocentrism, of the inability to understand the other, to leave oneself and meet something different. That is the great vice of the white culture up to today, whether in its technological, political or religious aspects. It reveals our inability to meet the other in its otherness.
This is a non-integrated, non-holistic concept of Ecology. It is necessary to understand that all systems of living beings are systems of interdependence. The environmentalist tendency is unique to Europeans; it reflects the North Atlantic European and US attitudes, and at its center it has an aversion to people. "Down with People." Animals yes, human animals no. It's an anti-humanist version that excludes human beings--which culturally and ethically are the most bulging with reason but biologically are in the same boat as the other living beings on which they depend--from that totality.
Human Ecology: Include CulturesA third tendency known as Human Ecology was developed in the 1940s by various North American and European anthropologists. It represents an advance in relation to conservationism and environmentalism, because instead of considering the environment in isolation, its object is the human being immersed in that environment. It sees the importance of defining the type of relationship that human beings establish with their environment, the degree to which human beings dialogue with nature; and of discovering the singularity of our way of relating to nature.
Today, our way of relating is plagued by aggression, because human beings define themselves not only as outside of nature, but also as nature's owner. They degrade nature, they use her as an immense resource for their political projects, their perspective of well-being and their anxieties.
Human Ecology considers human beings within their environment and also within their cultural perspective. For example, Emilio Morán demonstrates that the Amazon is not totally uninhabited, as the government argues so it can carry out immense investment projects, whether agricultural, industrial, hydroelectric, medicinal, or mineral extraction. The anthropologists, who know the indigenous culture, affirm that the entire Amazon jungle is profusely inhabited by indigenous cultures. Existing borders are biological and ecological, not geographic. Each tribe knows where it may or may not go. If it crosses its limits, it will be at war with its neighbor. In its own space, each group elaborates a type of culture that is different for each tribe. Each indigenous culture is an immense environmental synthesis, whether in the preparation of myths or artwork, in diet, or particularly in world vision.
During his visit to Brazil, Prince Charles of England, who specializes in Ecology and has taken specialized courses in Biology, Quantum Physics and Anthropology, inquired about the ways of conversing with the Yanomami, taking into account that we know only 14 species of yucca and they know 40,000. They have developed this knowledge over hundreds, rather thousands, of years, because theirs is a culture with 7,000 years of history, ecological tradition and accumulated cultural habits.
We Are Illiterate before Their WisdomWe possess an alphabetic code with which we read the world. They read it by the code of traditions, knowledge of nature, its cycles, each plant and what it is used for, every noise, every breeze, every movement of animals or trees. They know how to decipher that code, and we are totally illiterate.
Emilio Morán demonstrates that the entire Amazon jungle is inhabited. Whoever knows how to read that jungle can recognize where human groups have been because of the type of plantation, the conglomeration of palms or Brazilian chestnuts due to the wise indigenous custom of developing ecologically appropriate plantations thinking about future generations. When they plant millet or yucca and then emigrate, they don't leave the land abandoned, but rather they plant different-sized fruit trees that can receive enough light to maintain their vitality. They take care that the taller trees shadow the smaller ones so they won't be burned. All these fruit trees will serve future generations which in 60 or 80 years will return to that place. When they pass through, they will find food to eat.
Claude Levi-Strauss, the great anthropologist who primarily studied the Caribeus and who founded structuralism, was a professor in Sao Paulo for 15 years. He formed a whole generation of Brazilian sociologists and historians. He spent his vacations investigating the Brazilian indigenous cultures, and gathered abundant material which formed the basis of his theory about structuralism. In his most famous book, Tristes Trópicos, he shows how a major French scientist, graduated from the Sorbonne, puts himself here in the Third World, and to the degree that he penetrates the ingenious jungle cultures suffers a profound existential crisis, because he realizes that those cultures are anthropologically much wiser, much richer than Western, Cartesian, white, urban, industrial, technological savageness. Faced with this evidence, he has to make a decision: either totally accept his own universe, submerge himself in his world, or decide on our culture, to serve as a bridge between the indigenous world and white culture, to translate the myths and promote the ecological protection attitudes of those indigenous as an expression of possible humanity.
Each Culture is a World VisionLevi-Strauss believed the Bororos' philosophical understanding to be much more complex than Aristotle's metaphysics. The Bororos' world vision, with their myths, is much richer than Greek mythology. However, we have no interest in socializing that experience of humanity, not only in terms of the Bororo culture, but also in that of other indigenous cultures.
It is very important that we preserve those cultures, because a death sentence hangs over them, expressed in the Brazilian government's integration policy according to which they must integrate into our culture, learn our alphabet, our political life, our language. That policy signifies death for the indigenous, because it tears them away from their long history and tradition by obliging them to enter our universe. There were 7 million indigenous in Brazil in 1500; today there are barely 250,000. And each of their languages encompasses a world vision, each is a dictionary of reality. Why were they exterminated? Because the confrontation with white culture is totally unequal.
The fight for the preservation of indigenous cultures is a mystic, spiritual fight. Although we know that they will be destroyed and exterminated by the radical aggression of white culture, it is worth fighting for them, because each culture reveals the capacity of human beings to be different, to organize a new form of human mystery, to synthesize all that surrounds them, to organize the imaginary.
That's why the profoundly ecological Villas Boas brothers left for us this famous idea: "If we want to learn how to be rich, if we want to be economically and technologically successful in the dominant culture's terms, we have nothing to learn from the indigenous. Now, if we want to be humanly happy, if we want to learn how to integrate ourselves with Nature, how to have equilibrium between the generations, young and old, married and single, if we want to combine life and death, articulate work with rest, transform dialogue with divinity into something more evident that belongs to the respiration of the human being, then we must listen to indigenous cultures, because they are wise and have much to teach us. It is important that they exist to demonstrate that we are not condemned to be what we are, that it is possible to be radically human and much happier."
Dreams Explain it AllSome time ago I participated in a meeting with various indigenous, among them Krenak, of the Indigenous Nations Union. A Yanomami also attended. Everyone was anxious to listen to the Yanomami Indian. He only spoke the final day and then very briefly: "I have spent these days listening to everything that all of you have said. It was difficult for me, and every night I was attentive to my dreams. I did not dream, and so I return to my tribe, where I will dream, and when I dream I will have something to say." All of us were shocked. What was this about the dream?
"All of our knowledge," he explained, "all of the songs recited by the indigenous chiefs, the great festivals, all of the wisdom that I communicate to the tribe comes from a dream. My ancestors explained this to me and so I tell you. While there is no dream I have nothing to say."
Then the Yanomami told us of two dreams:"Two months ago I dreamt that at the end of our Yanomami earth there were materials that if they stayed there were not dangerous. But enormous machines were extracting that material, which radiated light and killed everything around it. And an old man told me to leave the materials there below, in the heart of the earth."
His dream demonstrates his profound intuition with respect to the existence of a project to exploit radioactive materials, especially uranium, in the Yanomami region, based on its detection by a North American satellite.
The other dream he told us was the following: "Years ago I dreamt that there was a huge hole up above, and that the sun was shooting arrows that killed many people here below. And the great old man told me to cover that hole, because it was going to kill many people."
Months later the holes in the ozone layer were discovered, those same holes that allow the sun's ultra-violet rays to attack life. He knew about them before science had discovered them. He knew about them through communion with nature. According to an anthropologist, Indians know about those things because they are so united with the cycle of the totality of the universe that reality's reason combines with human reason in all naturalness, intuition and communion.
This makes them bearers of great wisdom. And we, with our arrogance, consider it magic, obscurantist traditions. But the indigenous possess different forms of synthesizing their world, ascending to the real, understanding reality.
The Fittest Species Do Not SurviveHuman Ecology is aware of cultural diversity, of that wealth. We're not captives of our model, we're not enslaved by our Western and white boxes, we're not condemned to the type of science that we have, the type of miserable medicine we have, which is an immense machinery for making money off the ill with medicines and hospital infrastructures. We don't know how to integrate ourselves into that reality in which illness is a disintegration of the synthesis with totality. Thus, there are no sick organs, only a sick existence.
Human Ecology tries to develop the cultural cycle of the human being, of naturally appropriate technologies. To each human being according to the environment in which he/she lives. That is the vision of Human Ecology that subsumes into the environment what should, from the beginning, have been within it: the human being. When human beings discover themselves within the world, they must lose their arrogance, their pretension of being on top of the world, of being the culmination of evolution. Evolution has many paths and human beings are one of the biological beings, not the totality of life nor the destiny of all life.
There is a simultaneity in living beings in which each one of them possesses a relative autonomy yet is related to others. In a certain way, each one of them is a culmination of the universe, of the multiple forms of life that were advancing, that have been ascending until today. And generally the logic of life is not of the fittest. Darwin's law, laid out in his book, The Origin of the Species, was that: that the fittest species survive and the weakest succumb. A more biological, more ecological vision of the earth does not agree with this postulate. The most related, most articulated being survives. Generally the most fragile is the one that needs others most, the one that is the most flexible. The dinosaurs, which were immense, succumbed because, although they were very big and strong, they could not adapt to great transformations, especially the glaciers, which infallibly occur every 60,000 years.
Therefore, the fundamental ecological law is that the being most capable of relating is the one that survives, the one that has within it the sense of creation. A newborn human abandoned to itself will not even live two days. It needs a long youth to form its brain, its neurons, to be able to incorporate cultural habits that allow it to survive. We human beings have no specialized defense organism, as opposed to animals, each of which has its own, which it is born with. Not us; we need culture to guarantee survival.
Social Ecology: Partners with NatureSocial Ecology emerged in the 1970s, an expression created by Uruguayans and then adopted worldwide. It is a Latin American product that transcends Human Ecology. It emerges from the idea that human beings did not fall from the clouds or emerge in nature by luck. Human beings are organized in society and are profoundly social. They are born in a microsociety that is the family: the father, the mother and the family network formed by grandparents and aunts and uncles, and this applies not only to humans, but also--as in the Totemic cultures--to plants and animals.
A fact that demonstrates this occurred when Carl Gustav Jung visited the Sioux Indians in the United States, possessors of great wealth in economic integration, who are known because of the famous text of the Seattle Indian chief in response to the US president when he asked about buying Indian lands: "How can you propose to me something as absurd as buying land? Who owns the wind? Who owns the rain? Who owns the wisdom of the plants? Who can buy or sell the plants' aroma, the colors of the leaves? What people want to buy all of that? No one owns these things."
Jung spent some two weeks with the Sioux. He could not get the Indians to understand him. One day, when he was going up the stairs to an indigenous house, everyone cried: "He's a bear, he's a bear!" When they saw him going up the stairs slowly, everyone understood. Until that moment, Jung was an unclassified animal. When they identified him, they established his family network. It's another way to be related in the family.
In Africa, the tribal sense of relationships is not the same as for us. Brothers and sisters for Africans are tribal brothers and sisters. They are adopted by the tribe. They don't have the blood relationships that we have. It's a different genealogical line, in which animals and plants are also present. It's a much more all-embracing relationship, which leads us to term them pejoratively "animalists." Because for them plants have souls and trees talk.
Where have we seen this? we ask ourselves. We are the ones who talk, who dominate language. The truth is that we are the fools that we don't manage to understand another alphabet. We're illiterate, victims of our sole alphabet. We don't understand the speech of the plants, the animals, the stones. They do understand them, and that's why they are included in their world, their habitat, with deep respect. That's why the level of aggression and conflict between them is much more diluted, because society is much more interrelated in symmetric and ecological terms, not only with the human environment, but also with the natural environment.
Human society organizes itself primarily around the access it establishes to fundamental goods needed for production and reproduction. Diet is a profoundly ecological reality. When one travels to China it is surprising how the Chinese eat a little bit of many things. A common meal has 10, 12 or 15 dishes. A banquet, a bit more sophisticated, can have almost 40 dishes. They eat a little of a lot of things. And the Chinese know what every food is for. Feeding oneself doesn't only mean getting rid of hunger, but feeding a life principle, an ecological link with nature.
I Need the "Other" Because He/She Complements MeSocial Ecology includes the relationship that human beings establish with nature. All cultures branded ingenous or autochthonous, which we consider primitive, are cultures of integration. They have a profound mystical, spiritual interrelationship with nature.
We have categories in faith that can explain this relationship; the presence of the spirit of life within creation is a form of respect for the changeability of things. Things exist for themselves, have value in themselves, independent of their link to human beings. Based on this, the first attitude should be respect for differences. And the second, that of complementarity.
To proceed from the culture of identity, in which everything had to be the same, everything had to go through white circumcision, everything had to become the white and European culture, we made of our modern culture a culture of difference: women are different than men; whites, blacks, the indigenous and nature are different. This culture expanded throughout the entire world. We disseminated science and technology. Our culture dominated, imposed its identity throughout the world, destructured and eliminated other cultures.
We have advanced far in accepting difference, accepting the other. But it's not enough to accept the other. The other is not there because I haven't managed to eliminate it, but because I need it, because it complements me. This is the discourse of complementarity. Because together, in this interrelation, we are constructing our existence. And not only complementarity. There is a reciprocity, an opening to all beings of creation. We're linked to that reality on all sides: from within, from above and from below.
We Imposed Nature's "Dominion"The more we believe in a culture of complementarity and reciprocity, the more we will reduce levels of social inequity, and the conflicts produced by exclusion. In the culture of exclusion, the subject excludes and monopolizes others, refuses to be enriched, to enrich the other, refuses reciprocity and symbolically kills the other.
The most frustrating thing for a human being is to be excluded. Affectively, it is equivalent to being assassinated, to being cut apart. That is the most destructive human feeling. Because human beings are participating beings. We live from participation and all beings are accomplices in our existence.
Everything works together so that we can breathe, eat, resist, understand each other. It's a conjugation of thousands of factors, with no decipherable mathematical formula. It's an immense complicity of all factors. And those who think in terms of modern biology realize that life is fundamentally a game of living characters that react to acids and chemical elements, and that we're the fruit of that, of the 90 billion cells that make up our living being and the 30 billion neurons that compose our understanding, comprehension, evaluation and feelings. All of this has to function with millimetric precision for human existence to be equilibrated within that immense universal symphony. If we think of all this, we realize that the human being is within that reality not only as an individual, as a person, but also as group, as society.
Societies organize their insertion in the environment in a thousand ways. Ours is a tragic way, because the discourse that we've developed in the last four centuries is the discourse of violence against reality. As Descartes--one of the founders of that thinking--said in The Discourse of Method: "We should treat nature as if it were our slave, decipher its language, appropriate its energy and subject it to our feet as a slave that serves us." Or as Francis Bacon, inventor of the scientific method, affirmed: "All knowledge is power, and power is dominion over nature, over the forces of nature, over oceans, rivers, tempests. We should dominate nature, subject it to our desires." This is the logic underlying our cultural beginnings.
There Can Be No Social Justice Without Ecological JusticeWhen we speak of paradigms we're referring to a combination of ideas, projects, feelings, cultural processes, technology, dialogue with reality. The dominant tonic in our paradigm is always violence, pillage, aggression against nature.
When we speak of Social Ecology we mean that a minimum of ecological justice is critical for social justice. If I treat nature badly, if I pillage it, it is because I have social structures and mechanisms by which I also attack social classes, different races, minorities. The working class is attacked with the same logic as nature is attacked.
Social justice must go hand in hand with ecological justice. The earth must be respected. Forest fires devastate populations of micro-organisms that are fundamental for soil fertility. The soil is alive, just as the mountains are alive, as they grow and shrink. According to Quantum Mechanics, a mountain is a very intense crystallization of energy. Seen in atomic terms, it is extreme atom movement, a density of energy that remains crystallized.
At its core, it is Einstein's formula about matter/energy and mass/energy reversibility, according to which a gram of matter transformed into pure energy can evaporate 28 billion grams of water, equivalent to 24 million liters. A gram of matter transformed into energy can do that much. These are not categories of classic physics, that measures, weighs, looks at sizes, but rather the physics of atomic and subatomic elements, that states that matter does not exist in reality, or rather that it exists as a tendency. According to Einstein, matter is simply crystallized energy. Matter/energy obtains its equilibrium, which can take thousands or millions of years. The universe is composed of that matter/energy, that immense charge of energy that goes through its immensity.
Part of Four Great EnergiesSocial Ecology tries to capture those dimensions, considering that we are in a society that is not limited to human society. Democracy should be a cosmic democracy. The stars are also citizens, the sun and moon live with us.
Four great energies emanate from the universe.
*Gravitational energy: not just the sun or neighboring planets, but the whole universe lives with gravitational energy.
*Electromagnetic energy: the rays that travel, the luminosity of the sun and all the stars, which feed the principle/beginning of life, cross the whole universe. Neutrons aren't attracted by anything, but they cross through the earth with the same velocity with which they come from cosmic space and continue on their path, traveling at the speed of light.
*Strong nuclear energy: maintains the nucleus--with its neutrons and protons internally related--and impedes its explosion.
*Weak nuclear energy: maintains protons circulating around the nucleus.
Those are the four great energies that make up the universe. We are within them, traversed by them. We are their fruit. Every human being, every object of nature--a stone, the most distant star--is linked to us and all of us make up that enormous symphony of energy.
For a Cosmic DemocracyWhen we talk about Social Ecology we begin with human society and discover the society outside of ourselves. If human society is democratic in the sense that all can participate, then all universal beings must participate. We may not be conscious of that, but Ecology is a culture of the consciousness of all those relations. We are here conversing and we don't feel the blood running through our veins, don't feel the neurons, don't feel our lymphatic structure. Nonetheless, it is all functioning so that we can have this moment of lucidity, of attention, of learning, of insertion in the cosmos.
Social Ecology attempts to capture that and seeks equilibrium, at the same time that it denounces the way the society that we have organized under the hegemony of capital is profoundly aggressive and the cause of the destruction of ecosystems. It begins by breaking apart the human family system, by distinguishing between those who have capital and those who don't, those who have power and those who don't, those who order and those who obey, dividing society into classes, and creating oppressed underclasses. It breaks ecology at the human level and takes that same rupturing structure to nature's interior. It breaks down all ecosystems that way in its voracity to carry out a project of unhappiness consisting of a superabundance of more and more consumer goods.
What Kind of Society Have We Created?It can be verified in any shopping mall that 99% of what is offered there is not necessary for human life, but is destined to satisfy the market. The market, not life, dictates what must be produced, consumed, circulated. Human life doesn't have great requirements: rice, beans, water, a little bit of meat, acceptable human relationships. But the market profoundly wastes the energies. As Gandhi said: "The earth can satisfy human hunger, because it is generous, but it cannot satisfy human voracity."
We produce an excess of goods, an immense accumulation of trash. What most impresses Latin Americans when they go to the United States is to see the amount of trash that is accumulated in every house and restaurant. North Americans, who are only 6% of humanity, consume a third of all world energy. And the North Atlantic culture, which encompasses 13% of humanity, consumes and wastes two thirds of world energy. A child born today in Europe will consume 50 times more than an African. That's why it's a good thing the European birth rate is low, because Europeans unbalance the universe.
These are problems faced by Ecology today. It's not enough merely to say, "The energy sources are being used up and aren't renewable. We must use what nature renews." It is critical to verify day by day who is accumulating that imbalance, where the greatest quantity of trash is produced. The North produces it. Not us. The North imposes a type of technology upon us, a type of development that is highly disruptive to ecological relationships, and exports dirty technologies to us. It produces clean and ecological technology and exports the rest to us. It buries its atomic wastes around here. The English and the French work on forgetting where they have buried that plutonium which for 128 thousand years will be a horrendous danger for the whole earth if it explodes some day in the concrete and lead deposits submerged in the south Atlantic.
Social Ecology begins by analyzing the type of society we have created, one which for the poor translates into a low quality of life and for the rich into unhappiness. A society with a culture centered on the individual, which excludes the other. A culture whose wealth is built on an extremely unjust and unequal international system.
Mental Ecology: The Forgotten AncestorsMental Ecology, proposed by a wise, now deceased North American anthropologist, Gregory Paterson, sustains that Ecology is not only an external problem of our relationship with nature, but is within us, because our psychological structure is not composed only of the conscience with its concepts and prejudices. That structure also includes all of our ancestors, the accumulated experience in the human psyche over millions and millions of years of that is responsible for many of our feelings of aggression, exclusion and fear.
Our primate ancestors, now virtually disappeared, were herbivores, lived in the jungle like the simians and were attacked by larger animals. They thus had to defend themselves, climb up mountains and trees and create self-defense communities with their young. Many of our ancestral dreams, nightmares and fears are not a result of the Oedipus complex or because our mother stopped nursing us. That's a limited, not very ecological vision that considers that human beings begin to exist when conceived by their mother, and forgets the relationship with the universe that is millions of years old.
According to Mental Ecology, a good part of our aggression toward nature does not just come from the culture of the last 400 years, during which we have invented science and technology as forms of enrichment.
Today technology is the great weapon to make peoples submit. The weakness of the Latin American people is that they have no control over the technological cycle, do not produce knowledge. To fabricate any object we must pay royalties on the patents. Science and technology are the product of the will to dominate, and have activated the dimensions of the brain most linked to self-defense and aggression.
A great French biologist who worked with US biologists and anthropologists for years says that in the last 150 years, with the urbanization process and the growth of socialization, the dimensions of the human brain--the neurons--in which solidarity, control of aggression and sociability are elaborated are beginning to develop. That implies that, since we are ecological beings, we are adapting to a new human situation. With much greater population growth, human beings are adapting, slowly, activating dimensions that were hidden.
The "Ecological" Glory of SocialismIn my opinion, the great glory of socialism, and the reason it should not die, is the attempt to rescue ancestral energies that lean toward solidarity, collaboration, putting a priority on the social and collective, not the individual. To rescue not the affirmation of one against another, but rather of one together with another. Socialism is a tentative attempt to animate that dimension that is present in human beings. We aren't condemned to be wolves although the wolf lives in us; a wolf that capitalists have overfed. Capitalist voracity develops all that is aggression in us. The capitalist system is profoundly aggressive and whoever is not in the market doesn't exist. The market has that logic, it is excluding.
Mental Ecology wants to demonstrate that we possess structures that lead us to greater solidarity and greater collaboration. We should recreate our subjectivity in that global ecology, in opposition to the collective subjectivity created by the capitalist machine. In the classic discussion, Marx spoke to us in ideological terms which today seem to us to be too logocentric and rationalist. I prefer to speak of collective subjectivity created by both the capitalist and socialist systems, as well as by the Catholic church.
The capitalist subjectivity is a way of feeling capitalist, of relating to private goods, of buying, falling in love, loving, living, organizing the family, playing sports. It's a whole way of being that the capitalist organizes and that has more to do with deep human feelings than with ideas.
In capitalism, the great "priestesses" are Xuxas or Angelica, stars of children's programs. By dancing from morning until noon on the television screen they are creating children's collective subjectivity, linked to commercial products. They are conquering children's imaginations, their fantasies, and channeling them to consumerism. They work the whole symbolic universe and win us over to the capitalist system. This enters our pores and not only through ideas. Where there is a mode of capitalist production there is a mode of production of ideas and feelings; a mode of production of capitalist subjectivity. That's why we should attack this system on all fronts, deny all that it proposes, even if it be alternative or exotic, refuse to penetrate into the subjectivity that it imposes on us.
For the capitalist system, being poor is a pathology, a dysfunction. The poor are excluded. In the capitalist system there's no salvation for the worker. And the key to maintaining that system is the creation of a mental anti-ecology linked to it, to that universe of values, of sensibility, of subjectivity, that makes us feel that we're part of the capitalist system.
Masculine and Feminine Are in EverythingMental Ecology considers all these questions. We should deeply explore our ancestry. And, as Jung said, we have in us the demons that help us, the tenebrous demons and the great ancient one that lives within us--the wise man who accumulates humanity's ancestral experience, fortifies life, solidarity, the ability to forgive, to fix what is broken. We discover that the sun, the moon, all of nature, are not outside of ourselves, but in us, as valor and brilliance. We are enchanted to find that nature, because it is in us as archetype, as irradiation of the "soul."
The masculine/feminine relationship, which is fundamentally ecological, is very important in Mental Ecology. Masculine and feminine exist in each person as dimensions of profundity. The feminine is linked to the mystery of life and intuition; the masculine to the opening to the world, the building of a project, the overcoming of obstacles. Every woman must develop her masculine dimension: be brave, have her project. Every man must have his feminine dimension: attention to life, veneration, the possibility of seeing the mysterious, the profound, the vital. To integrate those two dimensions is to form part of human equilibrium, to overcome the extreme fragility that over-emphasizes the feminine, as well as the patriarchal violence and rigidity in relationships overemphasized by the masculine. We have to combine tenderness with vigor, with the human project.
Integrating the human being with nature assumes a harmony with it and a capacity for compassion, because the earth is not outside of ourselves, but within each of us, the Great Mother. By attacking nature we're attacking the archetype of ourselves. That's why every oppressor oppresses himself. To oppose the other, to reduce the other to the condition of thing, the oppressor must crush in him/herself the dimension of humanity, must act as the slave owners did. They did not speak of the slave as a human being, but as an object, because only an object can be mistreated and bought and sold.
Radical Ecology: In Relationship to AllThere is also Radical Ecology or Holistic Ecology, which attempts to articulate all the previous tendencies: environmental, mental, social, conservationist. Each of them has its grain of truth, and one must learn how to relate them. Human beings have that chain of significance, of values, of concepts, within themselves.
Radical Ecology is a proposal for how to read the world; it is a new cosmology, a cosmovision, a new way for human beings to relate to themselves, to the other, to nature, but always with an inclusive relationship, not excluding nature, but considering links, systems, interweavings.
The Austrian atomic physicist Fritjof Capra, who participated in the 1968 Youth Movement and went through a great spiritual process in contact with mysticism from both East and West, wrote three basic books: The Tao of Physics, The Point of Mutation and The Wisdom of the World. In this last book he describes how he wrote the first two, attempting to work ecologically, and how he tried to integrate the gamut of knowledge that comes from Physics, Biology, Medicine, Psychology and Theology. Well-versed in Eastern and Western mysticism, he tries to live the new ecological paradigm, analyzing the culture of integration, of inclusion, as the condition for survival and the guarantee of a minimally human life for human beings.
In the last chapter of his book titled New Vision of Reality, he talks about a systematic concept of the universe, about a great interconnected system, where everything is linked, self-regulated, where everything is holistic and driven by the capacity of human beings to move into that dimension. Today everything depends on human beings, because they have developed a death machinery that can destructure everything. But science and technology, which can bring death, can also bring the antidote to death. It is impossible to say that we must reject science and technology; we must take on the challenge of changing their path.
We must listen with the same veneration to the corner salesman as to the university professor, because both are conveyers of wisdom. That's why human beings have two ears and only one mouth, to listen much more than they speak. Nature thereby demonstrates that the structures of hearing, digestion, assimilation, symbiosis, obey a great law of the universe; that of retribution and interchange.
Everything is related to everything else everywhere, because that is the Law of the Universe. We all must rediscover our path back again to that which we naturally are.
We don't live in a world that threatens us, but in a world that is an accomplice of our life. We should make a revolution to rescue the lost links that connect us to the cobblestone and to the snail that humbly crawls along, to the flowers and the most distant stars.
We must listen, capture, digest and elaborate an image, a cosmovision, a weaving of the totality where everything fits. We get sick when we lose that totality. We are healthy when we integrate ourselves into it, whether through mysticism, soccer, religion, science or any other reality from which we build our totality.
Ecology: Sacred SpaceHuman beings are not only integrated into the global context of the universe as a link in a cosmic orientation, but we have a specificity; we can manage our relations with the universe, our responsibility for it, based on our subjectivity. We can give sense to the whole network of relations and develop in ourselves a more radical experience, with consciousness and self-identity, and can also develop an experience of mystery that we, the religious, call God.
Ecology's reality constitutes today one of the privileged fields of spiritual renovation of human beings and a privileged place to experience God; perhaps the most global and synthesized experience in all historic cultures, with the interchange of perspectives and elements. The result of all of this is the enrichment of our human experience.
Religion is not currently being developed only in its sacred spaces, but as a datum of anthropology, of human beings, their depth, the definition of destiny and the ultimate goal of life. Today we are witnessing a worldwide return to religion by the children of atheist, agnostic, critical modernity. The children of Freud, Marx, Marcuse, of structuralism, are those who today are the vehicle to religion in the name of radical human experience. This fact is even more surprising because it totally contradicts the prognosis of rationality that was considered more sure and irrefutable. We exorcised the world in the name of science and put the world at the disposition of human beings; we exorcised magic and installed the discourse of reason and rationality.
Today there is a return to religion, not through the churches or religions --sometimes in opposition to them--because their structures became rigid and their doctrines dogmatic, and human beings no longer found their identity defined within institutions when seeking spirituality and God. All those men testify to what Job affirms at the end of his book, in Chapter 34: "Until now I have only heard of you with my ears, but now I see you with my own eyes." That's the current discourse. If one wants to talk about God based on an experience of God, that experience goes against science, what science says, what academic wisdom has said in keen, logical presentations full of meaning, of solutions to existential and cultural crises.
In the Depths of Human BeingsIt can be said that religion is much more than religious institutions, and that the Church is not the owner of Christianity, that it has no monopoly on religious experience. Christian religious experience is in the depths of human beings. The individual is a vehicle for that experience and articulates it; the human being is the place for meeting with God. The sacred is not at the altar, in the sacred host. The sacred is in the depths of human beings. Institutions that organize around the sacred have the function of feeding the sacred, activating it, preserving it and commenting on it. If there is currently an excess of aggression and violence against human rights at the world level it's because the sacred is being violated, because it doesn't have enough vigor to establish limits to an abusive power that assassinates children, runs over entire classes, eliminates ethnic groups like the indigenous. The sacred does not now flower, but it undoubtedly is in the depths of human beings.
We must redefine the sacred, and we must ask ourselves to what point our churches help human beings. What saves is not doctrine about Jesus. It is Jesus who saves, and that is being lived as a great experience; the greatest framework of that experience is the ecological articulation. Speaking in theological terms, ecology is God's great place. Ecology is a fundamentally integrating space for human experiences, an integrator of the great historic route of our planet and of the universe.
Who Made all of This?What is at risk in humanity's consciousness is not only our planet, but the solar system, the cosmic system, because we are cosmic beings. To the extent that humans enter into that new cosmology, that new vision of the world, they will acquire that consciousness. We are made up of universal energies, some of which are older than the earth and sun, but which crystallized here at a certain moment. We are 15 billion years old, because we are the product of the immense initial explosion, followed by the process of expansion that distended the primitive reality and constituted the universe of things.
The mystery continues: who decided that this primitive nucleus of energy and matter should exist? Science investigates the cosmos, but lacks the conditions to respond to where it all came from, because it doesn't have instruments to know what existed. Time doesn't exist before time. And the same can be said for reason. Reasons begins with reason, but reason itself has no reason, it is simply there. The reasons come later. It's like the eye that sees everything but doesn't see itself. In the same way, the primitive reality that gives origin to everything constitutes a great question. All religions, among them Christianity, affirm it: in the beginning, God created the sky and the earth. God is present. God created it.
More and more religious questions emerge as we progress in the ontological debate. That's why all the great physicists and astrophysicists, all the great biologists, offer ethical and religious reflections at the end of their presentations. What is our responsibility to all that exists, and what is the common denominator of that immense variety of manifestations, beings, life, movements, energies? What is the common denominator that it all rests on?
In the diverse meetings of ecological groups that I have participated in, both in Brazil and in other countries, spiritual and theological questions are always raised at the end. This is when the greatest consensus, curiosity and interest is found. And for a very simple reason: there are only two discourses in our culture--philosophy and religion--that address globality, universality. Philosophy attempts to capture all of reality as something organic and carries out the discourse of being; religion takes on the discourse of meaning, of the global, ultimate meaning of things. Both are discourses on universalization.
No human being rests in the search until finding a response to the whole. Human beings don't live in a fragment, but in the dimension of totality. Theological tradition says that the human being is the being of transcendence. The human being breaks limits, crosses barriers, accepts no taboo, because transgression is ours. Our humanization resides in the transgression. A discourse of this type can irritate many, but it expresses reality; human beings always want to go beyond what is given. That's why the religious discourse talks about the human thirst for the infinite, the vocation of communion with God. A discourse of our culture, coming from psychoanalysis, psychology, speaks in precise form about human uniqueness; the being that is always doing. Whether man or woman, there is an infinite desire, structurally insatiable, unsatisfied and always protesting, because the thirst transcends what the world can offer.
We Want a God Greater than the WorldThis reality leads us to a question: what's the point of that human anguish? Are human beings called to remain in that anguish, that open question, or is it that way because a pole is attracting, calling, to which we tune in, and in which, until we rest, we will go on being the captive of an eternal unrest? Within that experience it makes sense to talk of God not as a defined being that is up there, and is infinite, eternal, etc. Faced with an answer like that, no one gets excited, no one falls to his/her knees or cries or laughs. That's not the answer that the religions give. Because Pascal said, God isn't an affair of reason, but of the heart. God is value, before which we are moved, we struggle, we get enthused.
In a reflection of this kind it is worth speaking of God as something really significant, as the pole that fills the human heart and makes our set of cultural paradigms function. Such paradigms always work with values, with luminous things that attract, in whose name it is worth risking an adventure, losing time, and even, occasionally, giving ones life. It is within that reflection that the most radical discourse of Ecology is situated today, as the discourse of the whole set of relations among all beings, each with the others, and all of them based on where they live; in other words, based on the environment from which we obtain air, food, space for our communion, our space-realization. Ecology is that universe of relations, each of which exists for the other, with the other, through the other and never without the other, but living always in relationship with the other. No being exists outside of relationships. For that reason, human beings are defined ecologically--as Antoine de Saint Exupery, in his book The Citadel, already intuited--outwardly, upwardly, towards the sides and inwardly: in all directions.
If we want to understand the ecological discourse, we must understand the discourse of relations. Everything is interlinked in the Universe. But who sustains all that as a common denominator, who unifies it?
That is the reality that we call God. God is that. It is the other side of that totality, a presence in that totality that, at the same time overflows it on all sides, because however great the world is, we don't want a God the size of the world; that would be too small. We want a God greater than the world.