Friday, July 16, 2010

How to make the transition from the old to the new paradigm

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

We already take the demolition by criticism of the system of capitalist production and consumption along with the materialistic culture that accompanies it, as accomplished. Either we will overcome it historically or it will put humans at great risk.

The solution to the crisis can not come from the very system that has caused it. As Einstein said, "the thinking that created the problem can not be the same one that will solve it." We are forced to think differently if we want a future for ourselves and for the biosphere. As much as the crises worsen, such as in the euro zone, speculative greed doesn't let up.

The dramatic nature of our situation lies in the fact that we have no alternative that is strong and developed enough to replace the current system. We should not therefore abandon the dream of another world that is possible and necessary. The feeling we experience has been well expressed by the Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci: "the old is dying and the new cannot be born."

But everywhere in the world there is a wide seeding of alternatives, new styles of living, different ways of production and consumption. Dreams of another type of geosociety are being projected, putting into action many groups and movements, hoping that something new may emerge from within the old eroded system. This global movement gained visibility in the World Social Forums and recently in the Peoples' Summit for the Rights of Mother Earth, held in April 2010 in Cochabamba (Bolivia).

History is not linear. It is made by ruptures caused by the accumulation of energy, ideas and projects that at a given time introduce a new break and then the new bursts forth with sufficient strength to achieve hegemony over all other forces. A new era is then inaugurated and a new story begins.

Until this happens, we have to be realistic. On the one hand, we must seek alternatives to avoid being held hostage by the old system, and on the other, we are required to be within it, to continue producing, despite the contradictions, to meet human demands. Otherwise, we would not avoid a collective collapse with dramatic effects.

Therefore, we should walk on both legs: one resting on the ground of the old system and the other on new ground, emphasizing the latter. The big challenge is how to process the transition from a consumerist system that puts stress on nature and sacrifices people to a system that sustains all life in harmony with Mother Earth, respecting the limits of each ecosystem and with an equitable distribution of the natural and industrial goods we have produced. Exchanging ideas in Cochabamba with the well-known Belgian sociologist François Houtart, one of the keen observers of the current transformations, we concurred on these points for the transition from old to new.

Our Southern hemisphere countries must first fight, even within the current system, for environmental standards and regulations that preserve the natural goods and services as much as possible, and address their use in a socially responsible manner.

Secondly, the countries of the deep South, especially Brazil, should not accept being reduced to mere exporters of raw materials, but should incorporate technologies that give added value to their products, create technological innovations and orient their economies towards the domestic market.

Third, they should require importing countries to pollute as little as possible and contribute financially to the preservation and environmental regeneration of the natural assets that matter.

Fourth, they should get more rigorous international environmental legislation for those who least respect the precepts of socially just, ecologically sustainable production, those who relax the adaptation and mitigation of global warming and introduce protectionist measures in their economies.
The most important, however, is forming a coalition of forces starting with governments, institutions, churches, centers of research and thought, social movements, NGOs and all kinds of people around collectively shared values and principles, well expressed in the Earth Charter, the Declaration on the Rights of the Mother Earth or in the Universal Declaration of Common Good of the Earth and Humanity (basic text of a beginning project on reinventing the UN) and the Living Well of the original cultures of the Americas.

From these values and principles, one expects the creation of global institutions and, who knows, the organization of global governance which would have as its purpose to preserve the integrity and vitality of Mother Earth, ensuring the conditions of the life-system, eradicating hunger and preventable diseases, and building the conditions for lasting peace among peoples and with Mother Earth.

No comments:

Post a Comment