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  Number 358 | Mayo 2011
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The ecological crisis goes global: Gaia’s revenge

The unchecked expansion of the Earth’s Second Layer —the urban-agro-industrial system’s dominant areas— is destroying the First Layer—that of Mother Nature. The Third Layer—the info-sphere, cyberspace, virtual reality,— is playing a major role in this ecological destruction by camouflaging the crisis. But it can no longer be hidden: we’re witnessing Gaia’s revenge.

Ramón Fernández Durán

Serious and ever more conspicuous implications of globalized capitalism’s renewed, increasingly disproportionate monetary-financial aspect are adding to the impacts of the urban-agro-industrial system that sustains it.

Mass tourism is a crazy
witness to an exceptional era

The central countries’ financial system helps extend their purchasing power over the rest of the world, far beyond that accorded by their own trade balance. This purchasing power is further enhanced by their worldwide hard currencies (US dollar, euro, pound sterling, yen, etc.) The most obvious case is that of the world’s leading currency, the US dollar or “greenback,” although the pound sterling is also strong, allowing both the United States and Great Britain to financially resolve their growing foreign deficits.

From the 1980s up until the advent of the current global crisis, this dynamic was gradually escalating, and despite the crisis it remains fully in force, conditioning the evolution of the crisis and its “solution.” This dynamic has been a further source of ecological deterioration, not to mention the mainspring for social polarization and the concentration of wealth on a global scale.

Among the many environmental degradation processes this new capitalism is responsible for are those ensuing from the explosion in international tourism, especially long-distance intercontinental tourism. Playing a key role in this is the significant increase in the purchasing power of the central countries’ middle and upper classes, generated by the revaluation of their currencies against those of the peripheral countries since the eighties thanks to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank structural adjustment plans. This escalated even further in the nineties due to the peripheral countries’ monetary-financial crisis caused by aggressive speculation. Coupled with the parallel fall in the price of energy and especially with cut-rate air transport, this revaluation created the conditions for the expansion of long-distance tourism.

International tourism moved from being a limited elitist phenomenon in the first half of the 20th century to the “thirty glorious years” (1945-1975) of mass tourism, which took off vigorously in the central countries (Western Europe and the Mediterranean, North America and the Caribbean, Japan and the Far East). In those years, however, it still had very little trans-continental projection.

The number of international tourists rose from 30 million a year in 1950 to about 300 million in 1980. But not until the eighties was there massive transcontinental tourism, which took off as a result of rising middle-class income in the central countries. International tourism figures jumped from 300 million in 1980 to 700 million in 2000, reaching its historic peak of almost 900 million in 2007.

The invasion of continental tourism by the emerging countries was also instrumental in this increase. Since then, this world peak in world tourism has fallen thanks to the global crisis and will very probably never be exceeded again. It will remain as a crazy indicator of an exceptional era in humanity’s history.

Tourism is a lethal activity

Most international tourists seek sun and beach (Medi¬terranean, Caribbean, Canary Islands, Southeast Asia) or culturally exotic areas of great natural value (the Mayan Riviera, Amazon, Indonesia, Bali, Polynesia). This puts extra pressure—in some cases considerable pressure—on ecologi¬cally valuable but fragile lands.

Advertisements highlight the beauty and idyllic character of tourist destinations to attract ever more visitors. But a massive influx of tourists not only has a direct impact by suddenly altering the terrain and its habitats but also affects the culture of the peoples in those areas who, up till then, have lived in greater balance with their surroundings. Natural parks in the periphery are often reserved for elite tourism (South Africa, Kenya), to the point of expelling the indigenous inhabitants. Commercializing tourist destinations and monetizing local peoples’ lifestyles, as well as making them dependent on tourism, are subjecting their ecosystem management to a predatory activity. Similarly, subordinating the local communities’ lifestyles to sudden modernization involves a loss of autonomy and self-esteem.

All this leads to greater dependence on the market and monetary economy, as well as an increase in the flow of energy and materials and the generation of waste. Tourist metabolism not only has an important direct impact on the habitats where it takes place, but also has a growing global repercussion due to the explosion of international air transport.

By the late 20th century, about 310,600 square miles of the Earth’s surface were sacrificed to the tourist industry and its energy requirements; that’s equivalent to the fossil fuel consumption of Germany and Spain combined. If we add the CO2 emissions of tourist-related air transport—which occur in the atmosphere’s upper layers, creating the very damaging greenhouse effect—we can see that global tourism, far from being an activity that nurtures “cultural alliance,” is actually one of the most lethal activities for the biosphere.

The concentration of wealth
translates into the appropriation of land

This increasingly globalized, largely financial capitalism has promoted a tremendous concentration of wealth, especially by its main business and financial players in the central areas and by the elites in the periphery. The huge fortunes these players have amassed has given them enormous purchasing power for land and natural resources throughout the world over the last thirty years. That in turn has facilitated the gradual commercialization of land and its resources, even in the Eastern European countries, until recently on the margin of this maelstrom.

In these years we’ve seen the purchase of immense tracts of land in many parts of the world, boosted by the depreciation of peripheral currencies, which has devalued properties and resources, opening the way to their acquisition. By expelling the people who inhabited these areas, the gradual concentration of the world’s natural riches isn’t resulting in better conservation of areas of great natural value.

What it is doing is intensifying the exploitation of increasingly scarce natural resources (water, biodiversity, energy and mineral resources). And the exiled people, deprived of basic natural resources for their subsistence, are putting pressure on new habitats even more marginal than those where they were, intensifying ecological deterioration and enlarging the slums in the South’s depressed megacities.

This dynamic has intensified even further in the 21st century, as major government players intervene in the land acquisition processes seeking to ensure their peoples’ food supply or access to new bio-fuels.

The dark side
of electronic “gadgetry”

In the last decades of the 20th century, along with the unstoppable expansion of the Image and Information Society, the message that flourished, especially in central countries, was that the new post-industrial society accompanying these novel processes was gradually dematerializing. Nothing is further from the truth. The Image and Information Society, presented to us as environmentally innocuous, is playing an important role in the environmental destruction.

The Earth has witnessed a spectacular development of the Info-sphere. Every computer we use extracts and processes many thousand times its own weight in materials through the transport of the products needed to manufacture it and the ecological impacts involved in its production. Just thirty years ago, in the early eighties, there were hardly any computers in the world. The PC was just emerging. Today there are about two billion computers worldwide. Something similar could be said of the televisions and mobile phones populating the Earth. There are several billion televisions, as more than 80% of the world’s population has them, and over four billion cell phones.

It’s not hard to imagine the amount of materials, especially of a strategic nature, required by these artifacts and all the other electronic gadgetry (I-pods, I-pads, MP3s, digital cameras, play-stations, kindles…), although normally the dark side of these technologies is hidden. Furthermore, electronic gadgets are systematically underused and become obsolete ever more rapidly; in order to function they require highly polluting batteries whose production and recycling also generate serious environmental problems.

The manufacture of all electronic products also requires a lot of water, a complex international division of labor and considerable transportation of materials, electronic devices and manufactured products. Something as “simple” as a cell phone requires an enormously sophisticated design network; the extraction of strategic minerals, including the coveted coltan (the industrialized name for columbite-tantalite used to make electronic capacitors) which has caused bloody conflicts in the Congo; a decentralized production of components and the marketing of the final product.

Internet: environmentally friendly?

Cyberspace and the Information Society require a considerable amount of electricity to function. In the United States, 15% of all electricity used goes directly to the operation of the computer world. Activities we consider “environmentally friendly” (reading a newspaper on line, sending large amounts of information via e-mail, posting videos on YouTube) have energy and environmental costs in addition to an economic cost. It was assumed that some of these activities would reduce paper consumption but wasting paper on a global scale has inexorably increased in the Information Society era.

In short, Internet and the so-called New Economy’s environment impacts, both in the manufacture of infrastructure (cables, satellites, antennas) and products of the new information and communication technologies, as well as in the “rebound effects” they generate, which transform the efficiency and savings that some theoretically promote into a greater subsequent consumption of resources, cancels out the so-called efficiency and generates considerable ecological footprints. These realities clash with the “everything for nothing” culture promoted by the Internet and manipulated and magnified by many; in energy and environmental terms, no human activity is “free.”

“Third Layer” problems

The Image and Information Society helps conceal even further the grave ecological crisis we’re facing, especially as it lures attention away from the biosphere and towards the Info-sphere (cyberspace, virtual reality), making the deterioration of the First Layer, that of Mother Nature, even more invisible.

So it’s not just the expansion of the Second Layer—that area built or altered by the urban-agro-industrial system—that’s directly assaulting the biosphere; the Third Layer, or Info-sphere, is also significantly contributing to the Earth’s ecological deterioration, all the while that it’s helping camouflage it through the tremendously seductive and stunning capability of the Image Society.

Furthermore the Information Society seems able to process an enormous amount of information, although it’s fairly limited if we compare it to what Gaia (the ancient Greek word for Mother Earth) can process: the ability to retain the Sun’s energy, promote all forms of life on Earth and sustainably regulate the cycles of all matter. Gaia generates order, as opposed to the urban-agro-industrial system’s tremendous capacity to generate ecological chaos (entropy).

“Obscuring lost information, both genetic and cultural, helps maintain the idea of improvement. And while information degrades in the biosphere, centralized (artificial) knowledge increases and this has led to the belief that information is increased, but the best storehouses for information about sustainability, located in the genetic codes of interacting species, are disappearing under the asphalt, urbanization and monoculture of the Industrial Society.” (Cembranos, 2009)

Something’s wrong when they decide
in Brussels what to plant in Galicia...

The urban-agro-industrial system knows about extracting materials; it doesn’t know how to live without doing it. But it also doesn’t know how to nor can it close life cycles by converting waste into resources, as Gaia does. It can affect the biosphere’s equilibrium, but has neither the talent nor the power to reset the balance. The enormous concentration of power reduces even further its ability to regulate and close the material and energy cycles.

The consequences of decisions made from afar, in distance and time, increases irresponsible and anti-ecological behavior because appropriate feedback becomes less likely. The power structures’ distance from local problems and the logic of the global market often cause a loss of systematic and complex information. If they decide in Brussels what to plant in Galicia, the possibilities of producing biological and social chaos increase.

Most decisions causing major environmental impacts are based on purely monetary considerations. It’s hard to keep in mind all the relevant biophysical dimensions needed to sustain the biosphere when all the complexity is reduced to a single dimension.

Who listens to party poopers?

By the late 20th century, the environmental problems had gone from being limited and local to being global in scope. But even though biological imbalances and geophysical impacts had become more profound than ever before in humanity’s history, to the point where our present geological period is being called the Anthropocene, there was only a residual perception that we had already started entering a world ecological crisis decades before.

This paradox can be explained in different ways: in the first place, through the feeling of “bonanza,” especially in the central countries, due to the seemingly unbridled growth of the capitalist economic world moving into the new millennium. That growth was mainly based on the indiscriminate expansion of credit, industrial globalization, the emergence of new information and communication technologies and, most of all, the low prices of fossil fuels and raw materials, which relatively speaking were the lowest in over 200 years of industrial revolution. This scenario was also facilitated by the existence of supposedly cost-free “environmental services,” especially access to fresh water and use of the biosphere as a sinkhole for urban-agro-industrial metabolic waste.

But, above all, it was the Global Village’s tremendous ability for concealment and the institutional and corporate message that, despite everything, we were heading towards “environmental sustainability.” That message created an unusual complacency in the new global capitalism, additionally greased by the middle-class consumption capacity, particularly those in the central countries but most particularly by the world’s elites. The world population was beguiled by the life styles and consumption patterns of these privileged classes, which the advertising industry used as a decoy projected over the entire planet.

In this context, who dared say that it was all just an illusion that couldn’t last? Where could a message like that be said and who would listen? Even so, various minority voices proclaimed it, although these Cassandras, these “party poopers,” were kept at bay and marginalized by the Global Village’s cone of silence.

All smoke and mirrors

The ability to create virtual reality separated from its material substratum concealed the urban-agro-industrial system’s increasingly extractive nature, its growing impacts and the absolute impossibility of unlimited economic growth on a finite planet. The Image Society covers up the fact that today’s global capitalism has increasingly diverged from the biosphere’s functioning, abandoning the idea of using minimum materials and the recovery and recycling mechanisms that characterized past human societies. Waste production has escalated while motorized transport has erupted as never before in world history, facilitated by low-priced fossil fuels and raw materials, as well as the free availability of essential “environmental services” and planetary sinkholes.

Ultimately, the availability of cheap and abundant energy was what made it all possible. Fossil energy, specifically oil, allowed this illusion to work, including the “unstoppable” expansion of global capitalism’s financial dimension, which would have been impossible without this material base.

The “real economy” also grew, based on growing social and environmental imbalances, all the while commemorating The End of History and the Last Man (Francis Fukuyama, 1992) and the gradual global triumph of the market and liberal democracy. It was a time when government seemed to take second place, stripped of its social dimension, to allow for the greater growth and concentration of wealth and increased insecurity, poverty and planetary exclusion. It was a virtually “perfect” circle, as no social or natural force appeared with sufficient ability to stop it.

But it was all a pure and enormously deceptive illusion, as the biophysical material base on which it was founded was actually exhausted, although “nobody” noticed, just as they didn’t notice the ascending political-social conflicts.

Why worry?

By the end of the 20th century, without warning from market mechanisms and prices, the availability of cheap and abundant fossil fuels, specifically oil, was coming to an end. The massive failing of the theoretical neoclassic economic framework was that it claimed exactly the opposite. So-called conventional oil reached its peak at the beginning of the 21st century, although the growing flow of non-conventional oil was able to maintain the continually rising consumption, albeit at a higher price.

We could say the same about some of the minerals (copper, phosphates, etc) so crucial to the urban-agro-industrial system’s further expansion, which already began to show the first signs of future shortage without warnings from the market mechanisms, at least at the time. The low energy prices also explained this, because they allowed for their continued “problem free” extraction. In any case, the best deposits and mines were running out. The same could be said of the “environmental services” and planetary sinkholes, whose growing use and abuse caused uncontrolled deterioration. Even so, the economic bill for this complete disaster was still quite residual and, in any case, financial capital continued to “endlessly” expand while “natural capital” diminished and deteriorated.

Why worry? Who cared? The ironclad law of constant and “endless” growth and economic accumulation didn’t shift. Even those who had warned about “the limits to growth” in the seventies pointed out two decades later that perhaps we could enter a new stage “beyond the limits of growth” through technological development, a better use of resources and a gradual “dematerialization” of the economy. In their latest report, thirty years after the first, they were back to their initial theories concerning the different overshoots the Industrial Society was already reaching.

Why did they make the crisis invisible?

With strong media support, all kinds of naysayers from the New Right, including converts like Denmark’s Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Ecologist (1998) and introduced as a former Greenpeace member transformed into one of the New Right’s greatest exponents on environmental issues, encouraged us to forget about bio¬physical limits and problems arising from the urban-agro-industrial metabolism’s outputs because they were either false or irrelevant. They warned that dealing with them was “unnecessary” and would generate more poverty than they create. They claimed that economic growth using appropriate technology would make possible a slow but sure move toward greater environmental sustainability, ending world poverty at the same time.

We were told that economic growth is not a threat but the real solution to all our problems, especially the two central ones: poverty and the environment. In a kind of neo-Malthusianism, world over-population was assigned the lion’s share of the blame for the environmental problems, especially in the South, while faith in technology was again extolled as the savior of the Earth and humanity.

Making the whole set of environmental problems “invisible” has also decisively contributed to the expansion of Planet Metropolis, due to the acute and growing concentration of the world’s population (some 50%) in “cities” and the predominance of urban-metropolitan values and their projection over the Earth’s rural worlds via the Global Village’s media. It wasn’t for nothing that the urban population multiplied by 12 and the number of cities with millions of inhabitants by 40 over the last century. Booming post-modern metropolises, the central global cities with their grandiose and dazzling buildings, have also helped conceal the ecological chaos that the creation of these apparent islands of order was generating in the world.

The explosion of peripheral mega-slum-cities is also helping to intensify global ecological chaos, even when a small part of them are islands of glittering image and apparent order, because the social and environmental chaos is inundating them. Thus, the uncontrolled expansion of the anthropic Second Layer’s metropolises has largely camou¬flaged the shrinkage, deterioration, tearing and poisoning of the First Layer, because environmental problems can’t be seen from urban areas and even less from huge metropolises. Even in many rural worlds—particularly the most modernized ones—contact with reality is through the Third Layer, dominated by simulation and spectacle through the nefarious force of the electronic image.

Western thinking is responsible

“Progress” is essentially urban-metropolitan and whatever is required for its compulsory and inescapable expansion has to be sacrificed to it. This is why the Second and Third Layers have joined together in an incessant fight against the First Layer, Mother Nature, commercializing it and making it artificial.

One important aspect that explains this invisibility of the ecological crisis is the very perception of nature in dominant Western thinking, which became globalized in the 20th century, although taking many contemporary forms by the end of that period. It’s a rationale based on the idea of constant progress and the myths of production and growth, which have ended up being imposed throughout the world. It’s based on strong hierarchical dualisms: Culture-Nature, Mind-Body, Reason-Emotion, Scientific Knowledge-Traditional Wisdom, Public-Private, Man-Woman… And in all these dichotomies, the first mentioned is clearly dominant in the relationship, the second clearly subordinate to it. This is why modern Western thought is absolutely unable to see, understand or feel the deterioration of Mother Nature, or Pachamama as the Incas called her, especially when from the outset it was a construct developed to dominate her.

If to this we add the analytical-plot focus of conventional economics that dominates modern scientific knowledge and the absence or undervaluing of more holistic and qualitative thought, we can easily observe that the real world is deteriorating at breakneck speed due to the very powerful economic-financial interests that drive capital’s blind logic. Despite the increasingly sophisticated technical knowledge available to measure actual events, that logic doesn’t see what it doesn’t want to or could see because doing so would go against its very essence.

Thirty lost years

The last three decades since the energy crisis of the seventies have been precious time lost in the move toward a more just and sustainable world in harmony with the planet. It’s much harder today to make that transition as the urban-agro-industrial system is much more unjust, rigid and unsustain¬able and we’re less able to react.

In these three decades the carousel of industrialized production and consumption was activated and globalized as never before in the history of humanity. We seemed to be entering into the mythical dynamic of perpetual motion and unlimited growth. The world’s gross domestic product almost quadrupled in those years while the financial world grew at twice that rate, not including the products “derived” from that world, which grew even more.

But this capitalist growth was being sustained by the progressive pillaging and integration of non-capitalist societies and an intensified and globalized exploitation of already capitalist societies: commercializing more areas of our existence and intensifying the silent war against the biosphere. The global urban-agro-industrial system’s metabolism has taken over, demanding ever more environ¬mental space to the increasing detriment of life on Earth itself.

That metabolism’s growing demand for inputs can only be met at the cost of the gradual collapse and deterioration of renewable resources, transcending their regenerative capacity, and the progressive depletion of non-renewable resources, both recyclable and partially recyclable ones (minerals) and those that are irreversibly exhausted once they are used (fossil fuels).

Even with that, a rising flow of one or the other could always be maintained thanks to a constantly rising energy flow and at the cost of the unstoppable deterioration of Mother Earth. Without it becoming public knowledge, even the major powers secretly began to explore the deep seas, the ocean depths, going nearly 20,000 feet below sea level with boundless energy and technological optimism to try to persevere in a 21st-century “gold rush” for minerals, as they recognized that those on the Earth’s crust were beginning to dwindle.

But the metabolism’s outputs were also reaching increasingly uncontrolled and threatening proportions, calling into question the regular functioning of the biosphere itself and its capacity to act as global capitalism’s planetary sinkhole without critical damage. The inexorable consequences of the urban-agro-industrial metabolism already affect two-thirds of the Earth’s ecosystems and are seriously altering the planet’s climate. Nonetheless, business as usual continued unabated, albeit with local and global fluctuations, until the advent of the current global crisis.

Cooperation and competition: Who wins?

Global capitalism isn’t like an ecosystem that grows until it reaches maturity, then evolves and becomes more complex in a process of unstable equilibrium. Nor is it like human beings who grow physically from childhood to youth, then develop qualitatively in adulthood. The global urban-agro-industrial system is incapable of reaching maturity, as it can’t stop growing, because if it does, it will collapse.

Of the two forces operating in the biosphere, cooperation and competition, cooperation predominates over competition in the natural world. If competition prevailed, it would produce a very serious dynamic: species would decrease and evolve towards simpler and more specialized ecosystems, gradually degrading the complexity of life. As opposed to what occurs in the biosphere, competition predominates ever more decisively in the expansion of global capitalism in order to ensure its “endless” growth. The predator-prey model reigns.

It’s crucial to remember, however, that the model can’t function without cooperation, although in an invisible arena: the home. We must also bear in mind, however, that expansion and competition even increasingly degrade that vital area for human reproduction, largely maintained by women’s unpaid work. In order to continue growing, capitalist expansion depends on two critical areas: the natural world and the domestic arena, both hitherto free but, by the turn of the new millennium, both virtually at the limit of their endurance given the ecological crisis and the unending domestic and reproductive tasks essential to perpetuate both human and non-human life.

All human beings are interdependent and eco-dependent. Competitive and independent Homo Economicus is an absolute fiction. As a result of the global ecological crisis, this being, in its mad headlong rush forward, is only accentuating and intensifying the Earth’s social and territorial differences even further.

The frontier:
2,400,000,000 holdouts

Corporate, financial and governmental power structures, the past and present beneficiaries of global capitalism, have become enormously stronger over the last 30 years, especially in the central countries but also recently in the emerging ones. US economist Jeffrey Sachs, who directs Columbia University’s Earth Institute, has defined power from the ecological point of view as the ability to internalize the environmental advantages and externalize the environ¬mental costs. The most impoverished and weakest people are the ones most burdened with the costs, the ecological impacts.

The central and, now, some of the emerging areas have been able to increase their territories’ “standard of living” based on increasing their load capacity and importing sustainability, or bio-capacity, from the rest of the world. But this ruthless struggle to appropriate the Earth’s bio-capacity is reaching its socio-political as well as ecological limits, especially because there are peasant and indigenous domains that still maintain a more balanced relationship with their surroundings, consuming less energy and refusing to succumb to capital’s logic of expansion and destruction.

These domains aren’t insignificant, they’re actually quite considerable: about two billion people live in autochthonous peasant or scarcely modernized worlds and about 400 million in purely indigenous worlds. Many live in the tropics, where there’s a greater diversity of languages and communitarian cultures. This is the main frontier to the current urban-agro-industrial system’s expansion: peasant and indigenous domains with lifestyles they are determined to defend. And curiously enough, that’s precisely where the Earth’s principal—untapped—reserves of biodiversity and the last non-renewable resources (minerals and fuels) are located.

Both the Earth’s resources and the social and ecological buffers to global capitalism’s expansion are disappearing. And we know what happened in other civilizations when their material bases became exhausted and the socio-political structures, which were their operational base, were stressed: they succumbed or collapsed, although these processes took decades or even centuries.

R for Revenge: Gaia’s

Biophysical analysis shows that we are beginning to witness Gaia’s revenge. By the late 20th century this revenge was still in its early stages but already underway, as the global urban-agro-industrial system was already coming into conflict with global biophysical limits and, although largely “invisible,” the ecological crisis was already palpable to those who wanted to see it.

But in this century the “invisible” will become patently apparent, dazzling us with its luminosity. It’s doing so already, as biophysical limits are determinant in understanding the outbreak of the current global crisis. The Earth’s ecological crisis was further intensified after global capitalism’s brief but intense expansion period, resulting from the across-the-board debt explosion, and especially the unprecedented expansion in urban-metropolitan development as a result of an almost worldwide real estate bubble.

Who will be the
21st-century dinosaurs?

The routes being taken to “get out” of the global crisis will further exacerbate the resource crisis and the ecological disaster. And, as the new movement for environmental and climatic justice pointed out in its demand in the failed 2009 Copenhagen Summit, there’s no Planet B for us to continue business as usual. They’ve been able to temporarily “fix” the financial crisis with a massive injection of public money, which has the richest governments on Earth indebted to their eyeballs and making all kinds of social cuts. But the collapse of the biosphere is irreversible, at least within the human time scale.

Global capitalism’s expansion is already in conflict with the biosphere and with a whole host of socio-political limits, which will lead to a profound collapse in the 21st century: a collapse that will impact civilization. Possible scenarios in the short, medium and long term will depend on many factors, among them the different human societies’ capacity for resistance and social change in the face of power structures that will also very probably succumb in the medium and long term, as a manifestation of an exhausted civilization.

These processes of forced change could take many forms, including perhaps unprecedented barbarity. In the end, they must light the way to new socio-political and cultural structures that will, perforce, establish new relationships with the environment and within themselves if they’re to survive.

The worlds best prepared to get through the profound crisis awaiting us in these processes will be the least urbanized and modernized ones: the frontiers that global capitalism’s expansion and its urban-agro-industrial system is in conflict with today. The “dinosaurs” least adapted to survive will be the world metropolises: those that today dazzle us with their power and brilliance.

Ramón Fernández Dúran, a Spanish engineer and urban activist, died on May 10 in Madrid, after a long struggle for his health. This text is the last of five we have published in separate issues that together make up the nucleus of a book he wrote on the crisis of global capitalism and the foreseeable collapse of civilization titled El Antropoceno: la crisis ecológica se hace mundial (The Anthropocene: The Ecological Crisis Goes Global.).

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