When we awaken the soul, we regain the ability to be dazzled and we can see the bees, the flowers, space and time smile.
We are at a critical moment in human history and one with great paradoxes. On the one hand, we have gigantic advances in terms of technologies of all kinds and, on the other hand, serious problems that reveal to us that we are facing a crisis of civilization.
Thus, according to the Stockholm Resilience Institute, we have surpassed 4 of the 9 ecological thresholds. They are: the climate catastrophe, the extermination of biodiversity, the change in land use and the alteration of the biochemical fluxes of phosphorus and nitrogen. Likewise, we have surpassed the earth’s biocapacity and are taking the Amazon to the point of no return from which a savannization process awaits us.
The underlying problem is that for sectors that are only concerned with achieving economic growth at all costs (in all the mountains, in all the jungles, in the entire Amazon, on the entire planet) these issues do not concern them or concern them superficially. .
The great forums for economic growth and development
This is how the development recipes are heard in the great economic growth and development forums, mainly in terms of markets, investments, competitiveness, management, perspectives, technological challenges, among others, but they underestimate the serious “environmental” crisis in which we live in the meet. I put the environmental dimension in quotation marks because, strictly speaking, there is no isolated environmental dimension, but interrelated with other dimensions of complex reality.
We would say that optimism prevails, but we must recognize types of optimism: naive optimism, arrogant optimism and energizing optimism, the latter characterized by recognizing the scope of the crisis and at the same time deploying efforts, knowledge and courage to try to overcome difficulties.
The other problem is that the hegemonic economic system, which is part of an exacerbated anthropocentrism, has led us to individualism, materialism, consumerism and in this modernizing process we arrive at the commodification of nature, nature is valued as long as it is useful, it is appropriable, it is producible, it can be valued and it has markets.
The ultimate expression of this attitude of monetary reductionism is that everything boils down to capital and capital can be replaced. Under this consideration there are useful species and ecosystems for business and “useless” species and ecosystems, therefore subject to being modified or transformed as best suits the purposes of accumulation. It is then that we see small or large processes of deforestation for the purposes of agro-industrial production, infrastructure, roads or unplanned urban expansion.
In the name of modernization, deforestation
In this way, deforestation is carried out in the name of modernization, of civilization. Forests appear, in this reductionist perspective, as frontiers of economic expansion, legally or illegally, as spaces that must be conquered, dominated, subjugated in order to contribute to economic growth, an essential condition for its development proposal. When only the gaze of economic growth prevails, all of nature is reduced to things, to raw materials, to inputs, to business opportunities with or without forests.
According to the MINAM GEOBOSQUES portal, between 2001 and 2021, 2,754,562 ha were lost in the country. In 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, 203,272 ha were deforested and in 2021, 137,976 were deforestedGeoforests (minam.gob.pe)> Among the main factors that cause deforestation are: agriculture and livestock, mining, illegal logging, infrastructure and other illegal activities.
But it is important to keep in mind that deforestation is not only caused by direct factors, but also structural and underlying factors where policies, programs, projects, narratives and corruption are found. Indifference is an indirect factor because we mistakenly think that this situation does not affect us. It is enough to bring up the great biogeochemical cycles or hydrological cycles to remember that the future of forests is also directly related to us, regardless of where we are.
Affective detachment from nature, recovering the capacity for wonder
But beyond the utilitarian aspects, the important thing is to recognize that, to a large extent, the current situation of forests is also due to the loss of environmental affectivity to which the hegemonic system has led us. The consistency and persistence of the dominant economic model is based on an affective disconnection with nature, so it is easier not to see life but to see things, raw materials or commodities.
We value the useful or the beautiful, but here beauty is also relative because it alludes to visible forms, colors, and what is not visible goes unnoticed, what does not fit into our conventional aesthetics. Although important, attention to emblematic or charismatic species is not enough, because the beauty of life is revealed beyond our senses or our economic value.
The Loss of Admiration
Given the primacy of materialism and utilitarianism, we as humanity have lost the ability to marvel at the magnificent expressions of life, living beings and living systems, which were generated as a product of millions of years of evolution and co-evolution.
We are not surprised by the magnificent vital processes that occur from the micro and macro levels, the interrelationships that occur in the web of life, the collaborative and competitive relationships, the great capacity for adaptation, the multiple strategies of living beings to resisting environmental changes and being able to reproduce, communication between plants, the role each organism plays in an ecosystem, mutual relationships between people, animals and plants, mutual biocultural modeling.
It is incredibly enriching when you review the evolutionary process of plants and go back to LUCA (last universal common ancestor) and we recognize each other with all expressions of life as one big family. We lose all that when we cling to anthropocentrism and speciesism.
A biocultural reconnection is necessary to recover the capacity for wonder
For all these reasons, one of the conditions for the biocultural reconnection (human being-nature) involves recovering our capacities to marvel, to marvel at the prodigious phenomenon of life in all its expressions. Admire and respect to recover environmental affectivity. There is no formula possible if we do not go through this process that leads to affectivity, a link that unites, that compromises (Giraldo and Toro, 2020).
There is a lot of knowledge that is lost because the connection with affectivity is not made. Hence the importance, first of being keenly interested in the phenomenon of life in all its expressions, and second of deepening and disseminating research carried out in all fields of life and living systems. But there is also a lot of room for new research for those who want to open their eyes and heart to the beauty of life.
Giraldo, OF & Toro, I. (2020). Environmental affectivity: sensitivity, empathy, aesthetics of living. Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico: Southern Frontier College: Universidad Veracruzana. (99+) Environmental Affectivity | Omar Felipe Giraldo – Academia.edu