Climate change could only be solved by changing the social model

Biodiversity loss, consumerism, famines and wars are all symptoms of the same disease: our social model. This essay discusses the relationships between climate change and conventional agriculture and argues that both are consequences of the same cause.

A long time ago, my friend Luis taught me that to weed you have to remove the root and just cutting off the stem is not enough. This reasoning applies to everything: to find real and lasting solutions, one must look for the causes; it is not enough to alleviate the consequences.

There is currently a lot of talk about greenhouse gases, irrational energy use, deforestation, ocean acidification, climate migration, polar melt, polluting agriculture and a long list of other issues related to climate change.

These issues are considered so important that numerous world leaders met in Copenhagen to discuss them. But are you targeting the root or the shoot? We could ask ourselves: Are the release of greenhouse gases, deforestation and dependence on oil causes or consequences?

The roots of climate change

The La Patilla collective (among others) has denounced that these are consequences. The causes are other, very deep ones, invisible to many. The roots of climate change lie in our way of life, they are inherent in our model of civilization. They lie in our way of life, they are inherent in our model of civilization.

It is part of this model to take externalities of all relevant costs into account. In this logic, it makes sense to produce grain in poor countries and fatten cows in rich countries. This is regardless of fuel waste, methane emissions or the dignity of the hungry farmer.

This system is capable of extending to all areas of human activity. It has even been possible to privatize the air through emissions credits. The underlying problem is the model based on money and growth.

The driving force behind this entelechy is increased capital accumulation. One can only hope that this accumulation does not stop like a perpetual motion machine. But let us ask ourselves: Is a social model that assumes infinite growth real in a world with finite resources?

The short-sightedness of this system leaves us without a future

This blindness is also evident in the way we approach possible solutions. To say the least, it is naive to try to solve climate change using the tools of the system that caused it.

For example, it is well known that conventional agriculture bears a major responsibility for climate change. Let’s remember that this type of agriculture is responsible for a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. In the agricultural sector, many proposals have been made to stop climate change: expanded use of genetically modified crops, green revolution for Africa, intensification of production systems, precision agriculture, agrofuels, etc.

All proposals so far aim to prolong or incentivize the agricultural system responsible for the problem. Climate change is not a simple problem; we cannot solve it using traditional schemes. A radical change in approach is essential. We must rethink our societies, their standards, values ​​and principles.

In this sense, food production can no longer be considered a marginal activity. A small number of companies cannot be allowed to hold the planet’s food security in their hands. It is crazy to promote a model that has led to the extinction of the vast majority of species, varieties and breeds that we feed on (Griffon, 2009).

A system that reduces food to a commodity is unprofitable

In short, it is not possible to continue with the current agricultural model. This is not a policy statement, but rather the final conclusion reached by the IAASTD Expert Group in its assessment of the global agricultural system (IAASTD, 2008). This work, carried out by 400 researchers over four years (using data from around the world), shows that it is imperative to change the dominant agricultural model (Green Revolution) with another that allows the development of sustainable agricultural systems (Agroecology).

Traditional approaches are unable to deliver solutions, no matter how they try to sell them to us. For example, we were told that part of the solution lay in the use of agrofuels. However, it is known that the energy balance in producing these fuels is very precarious; In some cases it is even necessary to use more energy to produce them than is required at the end of the process.

The green deserts created by soybean, oil palm and jathropha monocultures are well known. Agrofuels have increased land concentration, displaced the peasantry, impoverished rural communities, poisoned workers with their agrochemicals, distorted the world food market, and severely weakened the agricultural and food sovereignty of countries in the Global South. However, there are numerous lobby groups for agrofuels. So will this supposed solution benefit the planet or a group of unscrupulous businessmen?

We cannot continue to afford the luxury of listening to and evaluating the alternatives proposed by greedy corporations that serve only their own gain. Politicians focused on staying in power have not and will not offer real and selfless solutions. We should not waste time on futile efforts aimed at changing the current political-economic system. Maybe it’s time to listen to those who have never been able to speak.

A new social model

Given the current state of affairs, we can only consider options aimed at building a sustainable social model. The economic system must undergo a profound change in its values ​​and principles. There is no place for extreme environmentalism that ignores people’s rights. It makes no sense to address the problem without questioning the hierarchical and exclusive structure of current societies. This means we need to consider (at least) the social, environmental and economic aspects of the current problem and possible alternatives.

Part of the solution to the problem lies in the agricultural system. We have to completely rethink it. Grassroots movements have shown the way. Small-scale farming has been shown to be more productive (Rosset, 1999) and we know that agroecological farming can produce equal or greater quantities of food than conventional farming (Bradley, 2007). There is no scientific reason to adhere to an agricultural rationality that has been shown to be harmful to the planet.

Agriculture cannot continue to be a weapon of colonialism and ignore people’s ancestral values. Agricultural activity must be liberating. Without this success and the abolition of domination and exploitation relationships, there can be no successful agriculture. In fact, some of the real solutions to climate change lie in agriculture. In the current state of affairs, as has already been said, we must be realistic and dream the impossible. Let’s dream of a new world… not a changed world. www.

Diego Griffon


Badgley C., Moghtader, J., Quintero, E., Zakem, E., Chappell, J., Avilés-Vázquez, K., Samulon, A & Perfecto, I. 2007. Organic farming and the global food supply. Renewable agriculture and food systems.

Griffon, D. 2009. Invasive species: the usual suspects.

La Patilla Collective

IAASTD. 2008.

Rosset, S. 1999. Small is beautiful. The ecologist, no. 29, pp. 452-456.

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