Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Environmental Revolution - Global Revolution Today

Dr Abe V Rotor
 Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Miss Grace Velasco
738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday
Global warming, painting by AVR

People think that what the world needs is a revolution.  Three philosophers have three formulas of an environmental revolution. 
  •  Rudolf Bahro, author of The Alternative, claims East Europe’s non-capitalist road to industrialization has been shaped by the same growth ideals and methods as has Western capitalism, and that the working classes of both West and East have the exploitation of nature and the Third World as common. Defending their own societies’ privileged positions on the world market, both camps add to global inequity. For which Bahro calls for a new social movement – the environmental movement, a grand coalition of people’s forces, a rebuilding of society from the bottom upwards. 

  • Ivan Illich on the other hand, criticizes modern society and its failure to cater to human needs. He believes that the privileged today are not those who consume most but those who can escape the negative by-products of industrialization – people who can commute outside the rush hours, be born and die at home, cure themselves when ill, breathe fresh air, and build their own dwellings. People must arm themselves with the self-confidence and the means to run their own lives as far as possible, especially as big institutions like schooling, medical care and transport today are creating more problems than they solve. Politics is no longer a simple Left-Right choice; man must have a choice of energy, technology, education, etc., he calls vernacular values.
  • According to Andre Gorz, the ecology struggle is not as an end in itself but as essential part of the larger struggle against capitalism and technofascism. He champions a civil society shifting power from the State and political parties to local community and the web of social relations that individuals establish amongst themselves. The State’s role is to encourage self-management among the citizens. He envisions a utopian future where “the citizens can do more for less,” and the development of a rich, all-round personality.

 What are we really fighting for?

I remember a student of mine asking me this question, “Is it a sin to cut a tree?” On the surface this question does not touch ethics and morals, or social and economic matters. But it does. It also pertains to legislation, such as the issue whether we should advocate total log ban or selective logging. It even boils down to analyzing a syndrome known as “tragedy of the commons.” Let us analyze it based on the three stages of moral judgment, which according to Dr. Tai is based on the Ten Commandments, the first stage being that of moral judgment (man’s duty to man), the second stage (man’s duty to society), and the third (moral neutrality on the environment). 

The first and second stages of moral judgment were not the issues in the early development of human society because man was governed by the naturalistic concept, such as trees provide many things that support life. Since evolutionary time, plants have been providing the basic needs of man – food, clothing, shelter, medicine and energy. The harvesting of plants and their products has been part of human sustenance, and as such they must be used properly. This ethnic view was also the basis of early agriculture. It is the key to a sustainable relationship between man and nature that lasted for eons of time.

The essence of naturalism began to fade as communities grew, and as people moved and lived in cities. The concept has been taken for granted even as people became learned. Like a gold rush, new lands became the targets of economic exploitation, until the frontiers were pushed to the limits. New lands were placed under agriculture, which included our own Mindanao. Accessibility to forests and the wildlife became more and more feasible. Original forests were replaced with ranches and plantations. Economics was the name of the game. In spurred the second Green Revolution and agriculture spurred the growth of trade and industry of the world. It eroded the ethnic relationship between man and nature. Beliefs about the tree spirit, forest deities and nature worships became regarded as pure superstitious beliefs and legends relegated only to fiction and comics.

The final blow followed – industrialization. It is not only food that preoccupied man. Want over need has incessantly driven man to convert lands into golf courses, human settlements, industrial sites, and all kinds of infrastructures. Imagine how easy, and how short a time it takes to destroy a whole forest which nature built for hundreds if not thousands of years, with giant machines of today. It is said that by the time we finish reading a paragraph of average length, three hectares of forest shall have been destroyed.

We live in post-modernism

It is a paradox to be living tomorrow today. We grope at the forefront of progressive innovation which usually means “violating traditional norms or ideas in all fields if human concern,” quoting Dr. Florentino H. Hornedo. “The human being who has abandoned his essence, nature and origin has also given up purpose and aim of existence. Life then becomes a “free play” of what forces may come which “construct” existence. Neither is there personhood or self to be ethically responsible for one’s action,” - which Dr. Tai called moral neutrality.
I go back to the question, “Is it a sin to cut a tree?” This time the concept of the act has far reaching consequences based on the above-mentioned premises. I would return the question with reference to actual incidents. Who are responsible for the tragedies caused by mudslide from a logged watershed? In many incidents in China, the Philippines and elsewhere, thousands were killed and millions of dollars were lost. Such tragedies have been repeated even on a larger scale. 
Deserts continue to expand as a result of human activities, so with siltation of rivers and lakes, shortening their usefulness and life span. Dams become heavily silted as a result of cutting down of trees on their watershed. All over the world we find similar cases: the shrinking of the Aral Sea in Russia, desertification, and marginalization of farmlands – and the man-made calamities mentioned in Dr. Tai’s paper. The worst result in the endangerment of natural habitats and species, leading to irreversible loss of ecosystems and biodiversity.

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