Connect with us

Featured

We Will Survive the Coronavirus. Will We Survive Ourselves?

Published

on

People everywhere have shown extraordinary innovation in forging practical, socially and ecologically sensitive solutions to everyday needs, across the world. Now it’s up to the rest of us to heed the warnings, resist injustice, undermine the systems of oppression, and learn from the pluriverse of alternatives already available. The coronavirus has handed us a great opportunity to move towards such a radical ecological democracy.

 by Ashish Kothari, Courtesy, Local Futures

What an astonishing slap in humanity’s face, this coronavirus. But the silver lining is that it is also a rude wake up call. I say ‘silver lining’, for at the centre of this is a massive humanitarian crisis of illnesses and deaths –  and for working classes who cannot switch to ‘online’ work, whose workplaces are shut and who unlike their bosses do not have wealth to fall back on. The COVID-19 pandemic has generated historically unprecedented global action, partly because it has hit the rich and brought the global economy to its knees, but like always, the ‘poor’ are paying a higher price.

And yet, we have been handed an incredible opportunity to right many historic wrongs. These relate to how we have treated our earthly home, and each other as humans … and the two are connected.

Images of cleaner, less crowded cities, and news of the drop in pollution and carbon emission levels are being flashed worldwide, as ground and air mobility plummets. Likewise wildlife must be breathing a bit easier as industrial-scale fishing and hunting reduce. In The Swarm by Frank Schätzing, deep sea micro-organisms with collective intelligence wreak mass scale revenge on humanity for its complete ecological disregard. Who knows if viruses are not doing precisely the same thing? Why should we think only human beings have agency, and the rest of nature is a mute bystander?

But even if the message of the viruses is not consciously generated, we should  heed it: the earth cannot take any more abuse. Massive extraction of minerals and oil, humongous infrastructure slashing across landscapes, and industrial levels of natural resource use (hunting for the global market, monocultural commercial agriculture and fisheries), have disrupted natural systems irreversibly. The fatal consequences for the livelihoods of billions people, for humanity as a whole, and for countless other species, is starkly visible; but also clear now is how this is unleashing micro-organisms that were not earlier affecting human beings, but now are latching on to us as new hosts.

We have let the forces of capitalism, state-domination and patriarchy run amok. The ever-growing chasm between the rich and the poor allows the elite to run for their well-stocked nuclear bunkers, hoping they can escape the virus, while half of humanity wonders how it will get its next meal if it can’t earn its daily wage to buy it.

The lack of accessible healthcare for millions in so-called ‘developed’ countries like the United States, where the pharmaceutical and medical industry has been profiting shamelessly, and the impunity of the fossil fuel and military-industrial complex (the Pentagon alone being the world’s biggest carbon emitter), is clearer than ever before. As an immediate response, we need urgent governmental and civil society steps for the most vulnerable, such as what the Working Peoples Charter has demanded of the Indian government. But simultaneously, we have to demand more fundamental, long-term change.

And so, here is the opportunity. We have the means to refashion the economy and polity, local to global, to be ecologically respectful and socially just. But this requires not simply some cosmetic managerial fixes, like bank bailouts after the 2008 economic collapse, nor technological fixes such as giant screens that will supposedly reduce global warming. These will not stop the periodic global crises that patriarchal capitalism and statism set us up for. No, it means systemic transformations that replace these structures with more equal political, economic, and social relations. We need a dramatic transformation towards genuine democracy, a swaraj that encompasses all of life.

From globalisation to open localisation

This means, firstly, a focus on reversing economic globalisation. This neo-liberal panacea promised to bring prosperity to all peoples, but instead brought enormous distress, growing inequality and ecological devastation. The integration of production, consumption and trade into complex global relations, has meant that no community or country is able to strive for self-reliance or to protect its own livelihoods and environment from damage by multinational corporations and unfair trade.

Along with this is the domination of one way of being and knowing (‘western’) over all others, colonialism onwards, and in an increasingly precarious world affecting even previously secure middle classes, an easy fallback to convenient scapegoats and rigid religiosity (‘those refugees and minorities are to blame’). Which partly explains the electoral swing to the right in so many countries.

But what will economic globalisation be replaced with? Open localisation, a process of striving for self-reliance in meeting basic needs (food, water, shelter, learning, health, governance, dignity, livelihoods) from within a certain human-scale local region, while continuing socio-cultural and some material relations across regions (especially global exchanges of cultures and knowledges on an equal plane).

In such a system, each of us in our local communities has a level of control over decision-making, and localised feedback loops bring ecological and social damage immediately to our notice. This is unlike in a globalised economy in which the damage of my over-consumption is borne by someone a thousand kilometres away. Such a system will significantly reduce the necessity of global movement of products and people, with much less chances of global pathogen spread. If this could revitalise the rural economy and society, it will also reduce – even reverse – the mass migration of people from rural areas into cities, which has resulted in densely packed populations where disease can spread so easily.

But is local self-reliance, and such revitalisation at community level, possible? Thousands of initiatives at food, energy, water, and other forms of community sovereignty across the world show that it indeed is. Most of these have succeeded despite adverse macro-economic and political contexts (e.g. organic farming within a system that promotes chemical agriculture), so imagine how much more they could spread if there were positive policy environments (e.g. in India, shifting billions of rupees of subsidy for chemical fertilisers to organic inputs).

Crucially, this would also entail a shift back to the real economy, focused on actual products and services, and not the crazy roller-coaster virtual economy of shares and derivatives on which a tiny minority of people have become immensely rich. It will bring back the importance of biocultural regions, defined by close, tangible social and ecological relationships. It will emphasise once again that instead of the privatisation of nature and natural resources (including land, water, forests, and even knowledge and ideas), we need to place these in the public domain, with democratic custodianship, as vividly demonstrated by the global commons movement. It will also have to press for a significant reduction in elite material and energy use, as argued convincingly by Europe’s degrowth movement.

This has to be accompanied by radical democracy, where people take political control in place-based collectives, rather than putting all their faith in elected parties; and by struggles for social justice and equity (on gender, caste, ethnicity and other fronts). This means there will be no place for the xenophobic ‘shut the borders’ call of racist and religiously bigoted right-wing forces. Civil society initiatives in many European countries have shown the possibility of localisation while welcoming refugees from war-torn areas. In the long run, of course, such conflict zones themselves need to become areas of peaceful localisation, as in the brave autonomy movement of Kurdish people (led by women) in the Syria-Iran-Iraq-Turkey border area. Both this and the Zapatista autonomy movement in Mexico show how communities can address multiple issues through local radical democracy. These also show the potential of redrawing political boundaries to be more sensitive to ecological and cultural contiguity, identity, and relations.

The Green New Deal of Bernie Sanders in the US and the Labour Party in the UK, despite some serious flaws, and the worker-led ‘one million climate jobs’ campaign in South Africa, demonstrate in earthy details how society can move towards justice and ecological sustainability.

The transformation also needs to encompass spiritual or ethical reconnection with the earth. Indigenous peoples and other communities who still live amidst natural ecosystems have long warned of the consequences of thinking that human beings are outside of nature, not bound by the limits and norms of the earth. In their movements, they have brought back a diversity of ways of being and knowing … buen vivir, ubuntu, sumac kawsay, kyosei, country, minobimaatasiiwin, swaraj, and many others … that speak of living with the earth and each other in harmony.

‘Ordinary’ people have shown extraordinary innovation in forging practical, socially and ecologically sensitive solutions to everyday needs, across the world. Now it’s up to the rest of us to heed the warnings, resist injustice, undermine the systems of oppression, and learn from the pluriverse of alternatives already available. The coronavirus has handed us a great opportunity to move towards such a radical ecological democracy.

This post originally appeared in The Wire.

 

 

Continue Reading

The Daily Do It

 

 

The News without the Noise

The Great Transition4 days ago

Understanding the Great Transition

The Great Transition4 days ago

Information, Communications, Media

The Great Transition4 days ago

Consumption, Materials and Resources

The Great Transition4 days ago

Food and Agriculture

The Great Transition4 days ago

Transforming Health

The Great Transition4 days ago

Education for a New World

Featured4 days ago

The Transformation of Energy and Transportation Systems

The Great Transition2 weeks ago

Going forward: A realistic action plan

Rethink X4 weeks ago

Understanding where we’re at and how to get to where we are going

Video: Rethink4 weeks ago

0:00 / 20:59 Rethinking Energy 2020-2030: 100% Solar, Wind, and Batteries is Just the Beginning

Policy4 weeks ago

NO TO NUKES: Non-proliferation treaty conference ends in failure, ban treaty shows the way forward

Innovation without borders1 month ago

Innovation without Borders

Innovation without borders1 month ago

Information without Borders

Innovation without borders1 month ago

Affordable and Renewable Clean Energy

Innovation without borders1 month ago

Resources and Materials

Innovation without borders1 month ago

Improved Food Systems

Build for Change1 month ago

Why Endless Consumption of Our Finite Planet Will Take Us to Our Cliff of Doom and How We Can Prevent It

Featured1 month ago

Indigenous rice out-performs commercial varieties in nutrition value and tolerance to drought, flood, extreme weather

FOOD + AG.1 month ago

Reviving Jordan’s community, resilience and food sovereignty through urban wheat cultivation

FOOD + AG.1 month ago

An organic farming revolution in Thailand

Mobilized TV1 month ago

Heart Attacks Are Not Worth Dying For

Mobilized TV1 month ago

Rethink: Humanity’s Next Operating System

Mobilized TV1 month ago

Find out how your community could take on big business to serve the health of all.

Food and Land1 month ago

Understanding the Roots of the Food Crises and Preventing Future Crises: Resilience and a Deep Dive

Editorials2 months ago

Another Conference is not going to save us:

A web of Life for ALL Life2 months ago

Truths or Consequences

Build for Change2 months ago

The launch of “Rights of the Atlantic Ocean” campaign in Newfoundland

Build for Change2 months ago

What’s really going on in the Brazilian Rainforests?

Editorials2 months ago

To Save the Planet, Forget About the Globe (And Act Locally)

Weekly Exchanges2 months ago

A global information commons

Build for Change2 months ago

We are One

Build for Change2 months ago

The Power of us

Build for Change2 months ago

When Stars Collide

Build for Change2 months ago

Heal the World

People Planet Purpose2 months ago

A NEW STORY FOR A NEW WORLD

Rethink X4 weeks ago

Understanding where we’re at and how to get to where we are going

Video: Rethink4 weeks ago

0:00 / 20:59 Rethinking Energy 2020-2030: 100% Solar, Wind, and Batteries is Just the Beginning

Rethink X4 months ago

Out of Chaos Comes Creation: Understanding Transformation of Civilizations

Rethink X4 months ago

Understanding the Repeating Patterns of History: Growth / Collapse / Transformation

Mobilized News Network7 months ago

Clarity Above all Else

Paradigm Change7 months ago

Nuremberg Prosecutor at 102: Make Law, Not War.

INTERVIEWS8 months ago

GAIA TALKS: The Earth Speaks: Mohamed Ismail from Egyptians Abroad For Democracy Worldwide

Paradigm Change8 months ago

An Empowered World: People, we are Ready!

Paradigm Change8 months ago

Conscious capitalism and Raising the Bar of Human Possibility

Paradigm Change8 months ago

Open Collaboration on an Epic Scale: The Future is Cooperatively Decentralized

Paradigm Change8 months ago

Transforming Energy and Transportation

Paradigm Change8 months ago

Transforming agriculture and food systems for optimal planetary and personal health

Arts9 months ago

How The Pentagon and CIA Have Shaped Thousands of Hollywood Movies into Super Effective Propaganda

A web of Life for ALL Life10 months ago

We are One

Mobilized TV10 months ago

How we can eradicate heart Disease

Mobilized TV10 months ago

Howard Bloom: Imagination Takes You Everywhere

Featured10 months ago

From Punk to Planet: Slam Dunk the Junk with Dave Street

Mobilized TV11 months ago

A Moral Responsibility: Jean Su, Ctr. for Biological Diversity

Mobilized TV11 months ago

On Free Speech TV: Rethinking Humanity with James Arbib of RethinkX

Mobilized TV11 months ago

Sustainable Architecture, Design and Building for a Sustainable Planet

Mobilized TV11 months ago

A better understanding of lawn care for Climate Care featuring Dr. Rob Moir of the Ocean River Institute

Mobilized TV11 months ago

Stories from the Reservation: Davidica Little Spotted Horse

Translate »