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"Global Ecology: A New Arena of Global Conflict" Wolfgang Sachs

"Global Ecology: A New Arena of Global Conflict" Wolfgang Sachs

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Published by Sam Panther

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Published by: Sam Panther on Mar 02, 2011
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05/23/2014

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NonCE:THISMATERIALMAYBEPROTECTED,BYCOPYRIGHTLAW(llTLE17U.S.CODE)
1.
GlobalEcologyandtheShadowof'Development'
WolfgangSachs
ThewallsintheTokyosubwayusedtobeplasteredwithadvertisingposters.Theauthorities,awareofJapan'sshortageofwood-pulp,searchedforwaystoreducethiswastageofpaper.Theyquicklyfoundan'environmentalsolution':theymountedvideoscreensonthewallsandthesenowcontinuouslybombardpassengerswithcommercials-paperproblemsolved.ThisanecdoteexemplifiesanapproachtotheenvironmentalcrisiswhichwasalsoverymuchonthemindsofthedelegateswhodescendeduponRiodeJaneiroforthe'EarthSummit'(UNCED),toreconcile'environment'and'development'.ToputtheoutcomeofUNCEDinanutshell:thegovernmentsatRiocameroundtorecognizingthedecliningstateoftheenvironment.butinsistedontherelaunchingofdevelopment.Indeed,
rnost
controversiesarosefromsomeparty'sheateddefenceofits'righttodevelopment';inthatrespect,Malaysia'sresistancetotheforestdeclarationorSaudiArabia'sattempttosabotagetheclimateconventiontrailednotfarbehindPresidentBush'scuttingremarkthatthelifestyleoftheUSwouldnotbeupfordiscussionatRio.
It
isprobablynoexaggerationtosaythattheraindancearound'development'kepttheconflictingpartiestogetherandofferedacommonritualwhichcomfortedthem
forthe
oneorothersacrificemadeinfavouroftheenvironment.Attheend,theRioDeclarationceremoniouslyemphasizedthesacrednessof'development'andinvokeditssignificancethroughoutthedocumentwhereverpossible.Onlyafter'therighttodevelopment'hasbeenenshrined,doesthedocumentproceedtoconsider'thedevelopmentalandenvironmentalneedsofpresentandfuturegenerations'(Principle3).Infact,theUNConferenceinRioinauguratedenvironmentalismasthehigheststateofdeveloprnentalism.Reaffirmingthecentralityof'development'intheinternationaldiscussionontheenvironmentsurelyhelpstosecurethecollaborationofthedominatingactorsingovernment,economyandscience,butitpreventstherupturerequiredtoheadoffthemultifaceteddangersforthefutureofmankind.Itlockstheperceptionoftheecologicalpredicamentintothevery
)
 
4
IntheWakeofRio
world-viewwhichstimulatestheperniciousdynamics,andhandstheactionovertothosesocialforces-governments,agenciesandcorporations-whichhavelargelybeenresponsibleforthepresentstateofaffairs.Thismayturnouttobeself-defeating.Afterall,thedevelopmentdiscourseisdeeplyimbuedwithWesterncertaintieslikeprogress,growth,marketintegration,consumption,anduniversalneeds,allnotionsthatarepartoftheproblem,notofthesolution.Theycannotbutdistractattentionfromtheurgencyofpublicdebateonourrelationshipwithnature,fortheyprecludethesearchforsocietieswhichlivegraciouslywithintheirmeans,andforsocialchangeswhichtaketheirinspirationfromindigenousideasofthegoodandproperlife.TheincapacitytobidfarewelltosomeofthecertaintieswhichhaveshapedthedevelopmenterawasthemajorshortcomingofRio.Thegreatdividebetweendevelopmententhusiastsanddevelopmentdissenterswillbeattherootoffutureconflictsaboutglobalecology.
Trumanandwhatfollowed
Epochsriseslowly,butthedevelopmenteraopenedatacertaindateandhour.On20January1949,itwasPresidentHarryTrumanwho,inhisinaugurationspeechbeforeCongress,drawingtheattentionofhisaudiencetoconditionsinpoorercountries,forthefirsttimedefinedthemas'underdevelopedareas'.
I
Suddenly,aseeminglyindelibleconceptwasestablished,crammingtheimmeasurablediversityoftheSouthintoonesinglecategory-theunderdeveloped.ThatTrumancoinedanewtermwasnotamatter
01
accidentbuttheprecisec
xprcssrou
01"
world-View.lorhunallthepeoplesoftheworldweremovingalongthesametrack,somefaster,someslower,butallinthesamedirection.TheNortherncountries,inparticulartheUS,wererunningahead,whilehesawtherestoftheworld-withitsabsurdlylowpercapitaincome-laggingfarbehind.AnimagethattheeconomicsocietiesoftheNorthhadincreasinglyacquiredaboutthemselveswasthusprojectedupontherestoftheworld:thedegreeofcivilizationinacountryistobeindicatedbythelevelofitsproduction.Startingfromthatpremise,TrumanconceivedoftheworldasaneconomicarenawherenationscompeteforabetterpositionontheGNPscale.NomatterwhatidealsinspiredKikuyus,PeruviansorFilipinos,Trumanrecognizedthemonlyasstragglerswhosehistoricaltaskwastoparticipateinthedevelopmentraceandcatchupwiththeleadrunners.Consequently,itwastheobjectiveofdevelopmentpolicytobringallnationsintothearenaandenablethemtorunintherace.TurningtheSouth'ssocietiesintoeconomiccompetitorsnotonlyrequiredtheinjectionofcapitalandtransferoftechnology,butaculturaltransformation,formany'oldways'oflivingturnedouttobe'obstaclesto
GlobalEcologyandtheShadowof'Development'
5
development'.Theidealsandmentalhabits,patternsofworkandmodesofknowing,websofloyaltiesandrulesofgovernanceinwhichtheSouth'speopleweresteeped,wereusuallyatoddswiththeethosofaneconomicsociety,Intheattempttoovercomethesebarrierstogrowth,thetraditionalsocialfabricwasoftendissectedandreassembledaccordingtothetextbookmodelsofmacro-economics.Tobesure,'development'hadmanyeffects,butoneofitsmostinsidiouswasthedissolutionofcultureswhichwerenotbuiltaroundafrenzyofaccumulation.TheSouthwasthusprecipitatedintoatransformationwhichhadlongbeengoingonintheNorth:thegradualsubordinationofevermoreaspectsofsociallifeundertheruleoftheeconomy.Infact,wheneverdevelopmentexpertssettheirsightsonacountry,theyfellvictimtoaparticularmyopia:theydidnotseeasocietywhich
has
aneconomybutasocietywhich
is
aneconomy.Asaresult,theyendeduprevampingallkindsofinstitutions,suchaswork,schoolsorthelaw,intheserviceofproductivity,degradingtheindigenousstyleofdoingthingsintheprocess.Buttheshifttoapredominantlyeconomicsocietyinvolvesaconsiderablecost:itunderminesasociety'Scapacitytosecurewell-beingwithoutjoiningunconditionallytheeconomicrace.ThefactthattheunfetteredhegemonyofWesternproductivismhasmadeitmoreandmoreimpossibletotakeexitroadsfromtheglobalracetrackdangerouslylimitsthespaceofmanoeuvreforcountriesintimesofuncertainty.Alsointhatrespect,thecountriesoftheNorthprovideanambiguousexample:theyhavebeensohighlytrainedinproductivismthattheyarcincapableofdoinganythingbutrunningtheeconomicrace.After40yearsofdevelopment,thestateofaffairsisdismal.Thegap
between
front-runners
und
stragglershas11111
lurn
hrl(l~'.t:d.llIllllClllllr;,r
Y.
ithaswidenedtotheextentthatithasbecome
inconccrvablc
thatItcouldeverbeclosed.Theaspirationofcatching-uphasended
III
ablunderofplanetaryproportions.Thefiguresspeakforthemselves:duringthe19KOs,thecontributionofdevelopingcountries(wheretwo-thirdsofhumanitylive)totheworld'sGNPshrankto15%,whiletheshareoftheindustrialcountries,with20%oftheworldpopulation,roseto80%.Admittedly,closerexaminationrevealsthatthepictureisfarfromhomogeneous,butneithertheSouth-EastAsianshowcasesnortheoil-producingcountrieschangetheresultthatthedevelopmentracehasendedindisarray.ThetruthofthisismoresharplyhighlightedifthedestinyoflargemajoritiesofpeoplewithinmostSoutherncountriesisconsidered;theylivetodayingreaterhardshipandmiserythanatthetimeofdecolonialization.Thebestonecansayisthatdevelopmenthascreatedaglobalmiddle-classofindividualswithcars,bankaccounts,andcareeraspirations.ItismadeupofthemajorityintheNorthandsmallelitesintheSouthanditssizeroughlyequalsthateightpercentoftheworldpopulationwhichownsacar.Theinternalrivalriesofthatclassmakealotofnoiseinworldpolitics,condemningtosilencethe
)
)
 
6Inthe
Wakl'
ofRio
overwhelmingmajorityofthepeople.Attheendofdevelopment.thequestionofjusticeloomslargerthanever.Asecondresultofthedevelopmenterahascomedramaticallytotheforeinrecentyears:ithasbecomeevidentthattheracetrackleadsinthewrongdirection.WhileTrumancouldstilltakeforgrantedthattheNorthwasattheheadofsocialevolution.thispremiseofsuperiorityhastodaybeenfullyandfinallyshatteredbytheecologicalpredicament.Forinstance.muchofthegloriousriseinproductivityisfuelledbyagiganticthroughputoffossilenergy,whichrequiresminingtheearthontheonesideandcoveringitwithwasteontheother.Bynow.however.theglobaleconomyhasoutgrowntheearth'scapacitytoserveasmineanddumpingground.Afterall.theworldeconomyincreaseseverytwoyearsbyaboutthesize($60billion)ithadreachedby1900,aftercenturiesofgrowth.Althoughonlyasmallpartoftheworld'sregionshasexperiencedlarge-scaleeconomicexpansion,theworldeconomyalreadyweighsdownnaturetoanextentthatshehasinparttogivein.Ifallcountriesfollowedtheindustrialexample,fiveorsixplanetswouldbeneededtoserveas'sources'fortheinputsand'sinks'forthewasteofeconomicprogress.Therefore.asituationhasemergedwherethecertaintywhichruledtwocenturiesofgrowtheconomyhasbeenexposedasalife-lie:growthisbynomeans.open-ended.Economicexpansionhasalreadycomeupagainstitsbio-physicallimits;recognizingtheearth'sfinitenessisafatalblowtotheideaofdevelopmentasenvisagedbyTruman.
Ambiguousclaimsforjustice
TheUNCEDprocessunfoldedagainstthisbackgroundof40yearsofpost-warhistory.AsimpliedinthetitleoftheConference,anyconsiderationofglobalecologyhastorespondtoboththecrisisofjusticeandthecrisisofnature.WhiletheNortherncountries'mainconcernwasaboutnature,theSouth,intherunuptotheConference,managedtohighlightthequestionofjustice.Infact,duringthedebatesleadinguptoUNCED,attentivespectatorswonderediftheyhadnotseenitallbefore.Slogans,whichhadanimatedthe1970sdiscussionsonthe'NewInternationalEconomicOrder',keptcreepingbacktotheforefront.Suddenly,callsforbettertermsoftrade,debtrelief,entrytoNorthernmarkets,technologytransferandaid,aid,andmoreaid,drownedtheenvironmentalistdiscussion.Indeed,itwasdifficulttooverlooktheregressivetendenciesinthecontroversywhichopenedup.TheSouth,deeplyhurtbythebreakdownofdevelopmentillusions,launcheddemandsforfurtherroundsofdevelopment.Already,intheJune1991BeijingDeclarationoftheGroupof77.thepointwasmadeclearlyandbluntly:
)
)
GlobalEcologvandtheShadowo]'Development'
7
Environmentalproblemscannotbedealtwithseparately;theymustbelinkedtothedevelopmentprocess,bringingtheenvironmentalconcernsinlinewiththeimperativesofeconomicgrowthanddevelopment.Inthiscontext,therighttodevelopmentforthedevelopingcountries'mustbefullyrecognized.'AftertheSouth'syearsofuneasinessindealingwiththeenvironmentalconcernsraisedbytheNorth,theplotforRiohadfinallythickened.SincetheNorthexpectsenvironmentallygoodbehaviourworldwide,theSouth,graspingthisopportunity,discoveredenvironmentalconcessionsasdiplomaticweapons.Consequently,theSouthreiteratedtheunfulfilleddemandsofthe1970sandopposedthemtotheNorth'secologicalimpositions.Ifmatterslookbadwithrespecttotheenvironment.accordingtoSoutherncountries,theylookworsewithrespecttodevelopment.
It
wasalongtheselinesthattheysucceeded,afterthe'lostdecade'ofthe1980s.inputtingbacktheNorth-Southdivisionsquarelyontheinternationalagenda.ThespotlightwasthuslargelyfocusedontheNorth'swillingnesstocomeupwith$125billionofyearlyassistance.tofulfilitslongoverduepromiseofallocating0.7%ofitsGNPtodevelopmentaid,toprovidecleantechnologies,oraccesstobio-industrialpatents.Onthediplomaticlevel.thiswashardlysurprising,formostoftheThirdWorld,trappedbythefailureofthepoliticsofcatching-up,fearsthattheworldwilleternallybesplitbetweentheNorth'ssuper-economyandtheSouth'swretched
cconuuucs.
BUI011
il
deeperlevel,
IIll'l'OIlIIlIlIIIl~~(,0111111111111'11110filiIIll<'
developmentraceleavestheSoutherncouruncs
If1
anuntenable
posruon.
Infact,theRiodocumentsmakeclearthattheSouthhasnouucnuouofabandoningtheNorthernmodeloflivingasitsimplicitutopia.Inusingthelanguageofdevelopment,theSouthcontinuestosubscribetothenotionthattheNorthshowsthewayfortherestoftheworld.Asaconsequence.however,theSouthisincapableofescapingtheNorth'sculturalhegemony;fordevelopmentwithouthegemonyislikearacewithoutadirection.Apartfromalltheeconomicpressures,adherenceto'development'putstheSouth,culturallyandpolitically,inapositionofstructuralweakness,leadingtotheabsurdsituationinwhichtheNorthcanpresentitselfasthebenevolentproviderofsolutionstotheecologicalcrisis.NeedlesstosaythatthisconstellationplaysintothehandsoftheNortherncountries.Withtheblessingof'development'.thegrowthfatalistsintheNorthareimplicitlyjustifiedinrushingaheadontheeconomicrace-track.Theculturalhelplessnessoftheindustrialcountriesinrespondingadequatelytotheecologicalpredicamentthusturnsintoanecessaryvirtue.Afterall,themainconcernoftheNorthernelitesistogetaheadinthecompetitivestrugglebetweenUSA.Europe.andJapan.
)

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