Friday, 20 January 2012

The illusion of a "Green Economy" -- Leonardo Boff

Reprinted from the Rio+20 People's Portal (which is worth checking regularly) Boff's critique of the UN Green Economy proposal to sell the world's commons to raise money for climate action and MDGs (because rich countries have for decades denied direct aid), comes from Brazil's leading liberation theologian. Similar protests from poor countries and ecojustice NGOs will be heard at next week's World Social Forum Thematic Social Forum preparing for Rio+20, in Porto Alegre, Brazil and the New York City Global Civil Society Workshop on the Rio+20 “Zero Draft” and Rights for Sustainability. Meanwhile, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at Davos, and UNCSD in its pre-Rio meetings, have aligned themselves with the Business Action for Sustainable Development corporate lobby for public-private partnerships, carbon finance and corporate offsets.

Boff, The Tao of Liberati
Everything we do to protect our living planet, Earth, against forces that upset her equilibrium and therefore cause global warming, is valid and must be supported. But the very expression "global warming" masks phenomena such as the extended droughts that decimate the grain harvests, the great floods and hurricanes, water shortages, soil erosion, hunger, impoverishment of 15 of the 24 services numbered in the Evaluation of Ecosystems of the Earth (UNO) and which are responsible for the sustainability of the planet (water, energy, soil, seeds, fibers, etc..) The central question is not even that of saving the Earth. The Earth takes care of herself and, if necessary, she will do so by expelling us from her womb. But how are we to save ourselves and our civilization? That is the real question, to which the majority responds by shrugging their shoulders.

Lower carbon emissions, organic products, solar and wind power, reducing our intervention in nature’s rhythms, seeking to replace the resources used, recycling, everything that falls under the rubric of green economy is sought after and disseminated. And this mode of production should prevail. 

Even so, we must not be deluded and lose our critical awareness. Green economy is discussed to avoid the issue of sustainability, because it is contrary to the present mode of production and consumption. But deep down, the green economy utilizes measures within the paradigm of dominating nature. The green and the not-green do not exist. There are elements that are toxic to the health of the Earth and society in various phases of the production of all products. Through the Analysis of the Cycle of Life we can demonstrate and monitor the complex interrelations between the different phases: extraction, transportation, production, use and discharge of each product, and its environmental impact. It is clear that the so-called green is not as green as it sounds. The green only represents a phase of processing. Production is never eco-friendly.

Take as an example ethanol, considered to be clean energy, and an alternative to fossil fuels and dirty energy from oil. Ethanol is clean only at the mouth of the fuel pump. All the processes of its production are highly polluting: the chemical products applied to the soil, the burnings, the transportation in big trucks that release gasses, the affluent liquids and the chaff. The pesticides kill bacteria and expel the earthworms that are fundamental to the regeneration of the soil; they only return after five years.

To ensure production of the goods necessary for life, in a way which neither stresses nor degrades nature, something more than the search for the green is required. The crisis is conceptual, not economic. Our relationship with the Earth has to change. We are part of Gaia, and through our careful actions we can help her become more conscious, and create a greater opportunity for assuring her vitality.

The Earth Charter
I see no path to saving ourselves other than that defined by the Earth Charter [final section]: "Our common destiny calls us to search for a new beginning; this requires a change in the mind and in the heart; it demands a new awareness of global interdependency and of universal responsibility".

Change of mind: adopt a new concept of the Earth as Gaia. She does not belong to us, but to the [web] of eco-systems that serve the totality of life, regulating her biophysical base and the climates. She created the entire community of life, not just us. We are her conscious and responsible segment. The hardest work is done by our invisible partners, a true natural proletariat, the microorganisms, the bacteria and the fungi, of which there are thousands of millions in each tablespoon of Earth. They have effectively sustained life for 3.8 thousand million years already. Our relationship with the Earth should be like our relationship with our mothers: one of respect and gratitude. We should gratefully restore that which she gives us, and maintain her vital capacity.
-- Leonardo Boff

See also the post-Durban Proposal of Bolivia to Rio+20 on the PWCCC website, Federico Fuentes' Bolivia Rising, and the Andean Buen Vivir and Minga movements; Asian reactions in Preliminary comments by Third World Network on the Zero Draft of Rio+20 and subsequent updates on

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