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Interesante articulo de opinión tomado del periódico New York Times

Our Crime Against the Planet, and Ourselves

Natasha Lennard and Adrian Parr

THE STONE MAY 18, 2016

22.1.2000 (Firenze) by Gerhard Richter

This is the fourth in a series of dialogues with philosophers and critical theorists about violence. This conversation is with Adrian Parr, a professor of environmental politics and cultural criticism at the University of Cincinnati and the director of the Taft Research Center. Her most recent book is “The Wrath of Capital: Neoliberalism and Climate Change Politics.

Natasha Lennard: In your work, you raise the idea of framing climate degradation as a form of violence, and potentially as a crime against humanity. What does it mean to speak of the human destruction of the climate in terms of criminal justice? Is there a distinct guilty party that can be held responsible for this crime?

Adrian Parr: There are three components to the claim that environmental degradation is a crime against humanity. First, it is an appeal to a universal, common humanity that stretches across space and time, and that is oblivious to geographic and historical differences. Second, the crime in question is an existential one that is committed against the very experience of being human, the human élan. Third, it is a crime that calls the established legal order into question, because everyone, and yet no one specifically, can be held responsible.

What is the nature of this crime? The human species is the agent of a terrible injustice being perpetrated against other species, future generations, ecosystems and our fellow human beings. Examples include contaminated waterways, mass species extinction, massive fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and unsustainable rates of deforestation, to name just a few. This is leading to extreme and more frequent weather events, expanding deserts, loss of biodiversity, collapsing ecosystems, water depletion and contamination, and the rise of global sea levels.

However, humans are not all equally guilty of this crime. Some, such as those advancing the interests of the fossil-fuel industry, or those whose high-income lifestyles carry a heavy environmental footprint, are implicated more than those living in poverty. Present and past generations are collectively more at fault than future generations.

At the same time, the human species is an agent of justice, having crafted laws designed to hold criminals accountable. Troubled when we witness violence, discrimination and unnecessary cruelty, we also individually serve as vehicles of justice.

N.L.: Yes, so if we consider our relations with our environment to be criminally violent in nature, we find ourselves in a tension as both potential perpetrators or victims, but also as the vehicles whose obligation it is to deliver justice. Why do you think it’s important or useful to frame climate degradation this way?

A.P.: A crime against humanity is an action that causes severe and unnecessary human suffering, and environmental destruction unquestionably degrades the quality of human life.

The degradation of the environment is a record of past and present human activities. Ours is a landscape that bears the burden of human atrocities waged against other humans through war. The battered and burnt-out environments of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are a few recent examples of this. The more than four million refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria reported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is the horrifying consequence of years of conflict decimating not only that country’s social, cultural, economic, and political systems but its environmental resources as well. Then there is the continual annihilation of numerous habitats which both humanity and other species depend upon for their survival. All of this provides evidence of an environmental crime being committed against humanity.

If this situation continues unabated it will cause extreme harm to future generations and eventually a gratuitous loss of human life. Let me ask: Should we confer greater existential importance upon present generations of human beings than future ones? Environmental degradation, and in particular climate change, denies future generations their agency through no fault of their own, leaving them with a world that could very well reduce what life remains to that of mere survival.

Environmental degradation is the concrete form of late capitalism.

This is a crime against what makes us uniquely human — the creative agency that comes from a combination of reasoning, imagination and emotion. We may all have different capacities and opportunities through which to realize our agency, but we share the same ability to collectively and individually realize our innovative potential.

Because human activities cause this environmental damage, our species is culpable for a crime we are committing against ourselves. But in our defense, humanity is largely trapped by the political form of liberal state power, which facilitates the smooth functioning of global capitalism — the source of the problem.

N.L.: On that point, you suggest that climate change cannot be properly challenged with the tools or “innovations” of the neoliberal, capitalist system that caused it. Can you expand on this?

A.P.: Absolutely. In my view, it is futile to try and solve the harms being inflicted upon the environment using the same mechanisms that produced the problem in the first place. Environmental degradation is the concrete form of late capitalism. The failure to recognize and respond to this situation is in bad faith.

For instance, the idea that we can “green” a capitalist economy without radically rethinking the basic premises at the heart of neoliberal economic theory is truly an example of misplaced politics. The system is premised upon a model of endless growth, competition, private property and consumer citizenship, all of which combine to produce a terribly exploitative, oppressive and violent structure that has come to infuse all aspects of everyday life.

N.L.: Yet, you have worked with Unesco in the past — an example of an organization that I think it’s fair to say is more interested in mainstream climate “solutions” than in radical political change. How do you approach this contrast?

A.P.: It is important to strategically work across a variety of political platforms in order to be effective. I am completely realistic about the limitations of my role as a Unesco water chair, meaning I acknowledge the fact that I am not producing radical change in this context. That said, I maintain a strong and honest position, one that resists being mediated by the institutional power relations that define a large international organization. As a Unesco water chair I am both external and internal to the organization. This allows me to maintain a position of partial autonomy.

The people whom I have been in dialogue with at Unesco are deeply committed to creating policies and practices that address social and environmental injustices. We may not always agree on how to do this, but it is crucial that different voices, experiences and situations are part of the discussion, even when the outcome falls short of radical change.

It is better to be at the table and contributing to the discussion than not at all. Every now and then, what one brings to the table animates the discussion enough to create small but meaningful changes.

N.L.: During the ’90s, it was common in policy circles to link the causes of conflict and violence to conditions of poverty and underdevelopment. A number of critics challenged this, as it seemed to place the blame for insecurity and vulnerability onto the shoulders of the global poor. Is there a danger that the same is happening today as environmental concerns are increasingly brought into discussions concerning the likelihood of violence and war?

Environmental degradation is also used to justify the privatization of resources we share in common, under the guise of sustainable management.

A.P.: This question raises an important issue concerning displacement: the way in which structural and historical violence is obfuscated by pointing the finger of blame somewhere else. In much the same way that poverty has been identified as the cause of unrest, today environmental degradation is increasingly viewed as causing or having the potential to trigger social conflict, providing justification for the privatization of common pool resources or defensive strategies to secure and gain a monopoly over valuable natural resources.

Whether the conflict in Darfur is blamed on desertification, or water scarcity as underpinning the ongoing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, the problem of the equitable distribution of scarce natural resources and the deeper power relations concerning who reaps the benefits of these and at whose expense remains dormant.

I am not suggesting that environmental degradation is unconnected to social and political unrest — it definitely is. However, to form a neat causal connection between the two disguises the myriad ways in which violence in the contemporary world operates.

For instance, the threat of environmental degradation is used as a weapon of war. Here, I am thinking of ISIS taking control of Mosul Dam in August of 2014, or of Syria, where water supplies were cut off from residents in Aleppo in both government- and opposition-controlled areas of the city..

Environmental degradation is also used to justify the privatization of resources we share in common, under the guise of sustainable management, such as the privatization of water in Bolivia in the late 1990s, which increased the price of water, exacerbated poverty in the country and fueled mass unrest. In this case, entire groups of people, future generations and other species are denied or given limited access to common pool resources. I don’t see much difference between this and the previous example of ISIS seizing Mosul Dam. In varying degrees all are instances of what the social theorist David Harvey might call “‘accumulation by dispossession.”

N.L.: If we maintain that climate degradation is indeed a form of criminal violence, and that neoliberal solutions cannot serve justice, what might a practice toward justice look like?

A.P.: There are two dominant political strategies that currently prevail in response to this problem. Either we try to mediate capitalism (this would be the “greening” of the economy argument) or we work from the outside to resist it (namely, the position of the radical activist). However, we’re now seeing a system of government that responds to environmental degradation by protecting the interests of the corporate sector ahead of civil society. The government is now a corporate actor that works with the private sector to privatize our shared resources. Meanwhile, the radical activist who frees minks from a fur farm, for example, can now be prosecuted under federal terrorism laws. In this way, tactics of working within the system to change it and the alternative approach of radical resistance each, in their own way, end up being absorbed into capitalist society and facilitating its smooth functioning.

I am more interested in connecting conflicting political models, with the aim of creating new political solidarities. I don’t mean solidarity simply based on an issue, for instance when climate- change activists link arms with indigenous-rights activists or the anti-fracking movement. While this is important to do, I think the whole notion of solidarity needs to be deepened and expanded to include solidarities across different political practices, strategically switching between oppositional intervention from the outside and working from the inside to find a more effective path forward.

This would be a bastard solidarity that combines the immanent politics of Spinoza and all its offshoots, which emerge by affirming the current situation differently to produce change, with the dialectics descended from Hegel and Marx, which begin by negating the current state of affairs so that contradiction leads to change. In my view the change in question is only ever a provisional synthesis, not a stable, finished solution. As such, the struggle is necessarily continual and manifold, occurring in multiple ways and across numerous platforms. What unites them is a struggle premised upon love. A love of life, diversity, and openness. A love that works to defy hatred, oppression, and intolerance, and the violence this perpetuates.

An emancipatory politics needs to be quick on its feet and recognize how capital accumulation functions and in turn build its political practices and thinking as a strategic response to this. No one political program is immune to appropriation by capital. Working within the system to change it is always going to involve risks of co-option, just as much as a politics that positions itself outside of the capitalist system would. Recognizing this and developing a critical realism regarding this situation that can switch deftly and quickly between the two positions is the basis for crafting a path forward.

Environmental degradation is calling us to the witness stand of history. It demands we testify against ourselves and mount a case in our defense. Ultimately, we are all agents of history. To reduce ourselves to a role of mere observation is to deny us of our humanity.

Natasha Lennard (@natashalennard) contributes regularly to The Intercept, The Nation and Al Jazeera America. She is an editor at large for The New Inquiry.


January 28, 2021. Centro Nacional de Sanidad Agropecuaria, webmaster@censa.edu.cu .