Ecology, spirituality and knowledge

Ecology, spirituality and knowledge

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Why is Cuba, the red one, turning green? What made it possible for the Inuit Indians in the largest country in the world to become the rightful owners of a fifth of Canadian territory? How did 130 thousand farms of organic agriculture arise in Europe? Why did poets like Octavio Paz, billionaires like Douglas Tompkins, theologians like Leonardo Boff, politicians like Misael Gorvachov, or artists like Maurice Béjart, recognize the supreme enterprise in defense of the planet? Why are the peasants of Central America or the "landless" of Brazil becoming activists of agroecology? Did anyone anticipate what some 2,000 rural communities in Mexico are doing today, architects of innovative projects of ecological inspiration? What made more than a million Argentines discard the currency and reinstall barter?

These questions do not seem to have the same answer. And yet they are inertias that respond to a common impulse. Today in the world a new force (ideological? Political? Spiritual?) Unfolds as a silent and profound process, as a chain reaction against the degradation of the commodified and dehumanized world. They are the tiny but tangible expressions of a new planetary citizenship, the preludes to a qualitatively different civilization, the hopeful foundations of an "alternative modernity." Their "political philosophies" no longer seem to move within conventional left and right geometry, and since they emerge as primarily civilian experiences they are outside the complicated discussions between the apostles of the state and the market worshipers. They are, basically, reactions of the organized citizenship, in front of the perverse globalization process that the "neoliberal dream" tries to impose on all corners of the planet. It is the rebirth of utopia: the search and construction of a sustainable society.

Very little has been documented about these new social movements, and much less is known about the springs that move them. Despite their enormous heterogeneity and versatility, their main feature is that they are initiatives carried out by actors endowed with a certain “species consciousness”, with a new ethic for solidarity with other human beings, with the planet and with those who inhabit it. . A consciousness that recognizes both the limits of nature and the abuses committed against it, and therefore lives concerned about the survival of humanity and its environment. And it is that today, society can no longer be thought without nature, and nature can no longer be visualized without society. The three centuries of industrialization that have preceded us have subsumed natural processes in social processes and vice versa.

Today, global society is impacting and unbalancing several of the main cycles and processes of nature, and we are already facing what U. Beck (1998) has called the "risk society." The unusual climatic events of the last decade (including hurricanes, floods, droughts and wildfires), the impacts of industrial pollutants on health and food, holes in the atmosphere and new genetically modified organisms introduced into agriculture attest of it. The widening of the gap that separates rich sectors and countries from the world's marginalized and exploited conglomerates and the degradation of the most essential human values ​​are other elements that contribute to increasing the danger of today's world.

But it is not only environmentalism that these new social movements are nourishing. His other great source of inspiration, explicit or not, comes from the least integrated and modern enclaves of the world, from the forgotten civilizational reserves of humanity: the Indian peoples. These indigenous cultures, speaking about 5,000 different languages, not only make up the cultural diversity of the human race, their territories are considered strategic because they coincide with the biologically richest areas of the planet (Toledo, 2000). In many cases, they are also the owners of huge tracts of forests or jungles, or of the water factories that, miles down, are used in cities and industry.

His main contribution, however, is ideological and spiritual. The Indian peoples maintain a vision of the world that the rationalist and utilitarian perception that prevails in industrial spaces no longer has. For indigenous cultures, nature is not only a respectable source of production, it is the center of the universe, the nucleus of culture and the origin of ethnic identity.

And in the essence of this deep bond prevails the perception that all things, living and non-living, are intrinsically linked with the human. Therefore, every day a greater number of indigenous peoples are launched to play the games of political ecology, and reciprocally more and more contingents of environmentalists, conservationists and green consumers, put their efforts in the struggles for the defense of culture , community self-management and their territories. Ecology and Indianness, far from being disparate protest movements, weave and weave the principles of the same utopia, feeding in the process the perspective of a different modernity.

And not only from spirituality and reverence for tradition, memory and the natural world, these new currents are being fed. Also of a new type of scientific, technical and humanistic knowledge, more flexible, less ethereal and more earthly, much more determined by the needs of people, less conditioned by scientific elites, or as A. Koestler (1981) would say, by the "academic cavemen." 66 And it is that in the heat of social struggles, a new army of scientists (natural and social), technicians, humanists, educators, pedagogues and philosophers have burst, sometimes with epistemological violence, in the current scenario of knowledge (see Feyerabend, 1982; Thuillier, 1990; Morin, 2001; Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1993; Leff, 2000). And they are the ones who are breaking the monopoly of culture, subverting the canons of theoretical and methodological orthodoxy, daring to walk along the new paths that common sense marks, denouncing the moral corruption of institutions and scientists at the service of war and the market, dirtying reflective activity in the mud of the pottery construction of a new utopia.

The battle is not only epistemological, it is also one of scientific and technological policy, and ultimately of projects and institutions. If in 1992, during the "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro, the world shook with the parallel presence of about 9,000 social organizations from 167 countries that brought 25,000 militants seeking an "alternative modernity to the beaches of Flamengo ”(This impulse managed to temporarily connect 17,000 organizations around the world through the internet), ten years later the World Social Forum held in Porto Alegre brought together more than 50,000 participants from all over the planet, in the search for a different society, in the construction of a new utopia. And it is that as Tomás R. Villasante (1995) affirms “… all the imperial or global systems that have existed have always incubated in their interior alternative experiences that have led them, sooner or later, to other alternatives of society.”

By Víctor M. Toledo
From the book ECOLOGY, SPIRITUALITY AND KNOWLEDGE -from the risk society to the sustainable society-
Available in PDF format at:

Video: WHY ECOSPIRITUALITY? Vikashananda. #Manokranti. 2018 (June 2022).