jueves, 10 de diciembre de 2009



Abajo la ponencia presentada este 9 de diciembre, por la tarde en el seminario de descrecimiento, en el auditorio verde del Klimaforum09 de Copenhague. Le traduccion al espanol la enviare a mi regreso a Mexico, ya que esta ponencia fue redactada en ingles, con el fin de mejorar su presentacion. Pronto les enviare el lugar para localizar el video de esta conferencia en you tube que incluye la presentacion de Tim Jackson de Inglaterra y de Sophie Banks de Transition Towns.



Speech for the degrowth seminar in Copenhagen:

Let me apologize for possible mistaken words in this text. English is not my native language and I'm not used to write in this language.

Our villages and cities are dying because of intense development

Every where in Mexico, the same force is at work. It weakens our villages, sickens and kills their inhabitants. It destroys our communities and makes a mockery of our traditional commons. Year after year, it causes the loss of support capacities: water tables, streams and lakes, groves, rainforests, seas. It constantly impoverishes our country's fauna and flora. This force is modernization. It is an undeclared war waged against nature and people's commons. In its name, the landscape is tainted with single crops such as: corn, barley, palms and also with urban sprawl, channels, pylons. All towns are more and more invaded by pavement, pipes, autos, noises, advertisements, commercial franchises, Wal Mart stores.  The peasants and town residents observe helplessly how in few months there are built under passes, freeways, big parking lots, huge malls, industrialized housing.  In few hours, they see how their public parks and gardens, sidewalks, squares, are filled with used plastic bottles or bags, aluminium cans, printings, metal and plastic  carcases.  

Mexican towns and cities are rapidly loosing their peasants, artisans and wise men, but, at the same time they are resenting a fast increase in their levels of violence, poverty and unemployment, because of the soaring growth of the huge land monocultures, migration, drug harvest and traffic, sweat shops and new life styles. Our towns are powerless territories subject to powers without territory. World economy now dominates our village's life and economics.  Towns and cities have lost the means to stand on their own.

Confrontation and dissent with globalization in México:  A chronicle of a bloody warfare

 Dissent rises in  the early 90 but, since the beginning of this century, at least 1,500 local movements have been initiated; campesinos, indigenous people, women, workers, neighbours, citizens of all social strata have rejected the construction of airports, large dams, turnpikes, oil facilities, toxic waste confinement, mining operations, water extraction, elevated freeways, Metro lines. The most relevant dissent in México: the Atenco town stopped the construction of  the Mexico Cy new international airport; Ignacio del Valle, the campesino leader of this movement, is now in top security seclusion, convicted for 120 years; Zimapan town halted a toxic confinement; people of San Luis Potosí City succeeded to stop operations of  San Xavier, Canadian mining company; ; campesinos of La Parota stopped a large dam project in Acapulco; people of Cuatro cienegas continuously oppose to water extraction in the desert ecological reserve; 13 towns movement; campesinos against the urbanization of Morelos rice fields; campesinos and people of Tlahuac against the 12th Metro line project on their wetlands in Mexico Cy. In recent years, most local resistance leaders in Mexico have warrants. At least every fortnight a local leader mysteriously disappears or is found tortured and killed by unknown people.

The social imaginary manipulated by development programs and globalization has been a tragedy.

 For decades, the images of new cars, high speed roads, big dams, bridges, towers, underpasses, houses in suburbia, have devastated the mind of the majority of Mexican people; but globalization introduced again new images of world class weapons, cruiser sea travel, contemporary houses, and many others that colonized the mind of part of the low income, middle and well- to- do Mexican classes. The American Dream or the European life style has become now a part of the social imaginary of most Mexicans. But these images drive now the transformations that ravage Mexican towns, villages, and nature's treasures. Derived from the spectacle of wealth, several new creeds or faiths invade not only a great part Mexican people, but I think, of most people in most countries. This new creeds could be summarized in the following ones: faith in progress, development and modernization; faith in science and technology; faith in economic growth; faith in the modern State and democratic institutions. As a result of the emergence of these basic creeds, most people believe that there is no dignified human life on earth without mobile phones, lap tops, bottled water, cars, fast trains, planes... And that world class newspapers, big radio networks and national TV broadcast are essential for a good living. And that society cannot achieve prosperity without abundant school certificates, university degrees and doctoral studies.

With the rise of economic classical thinking, in the 18th century epistemic revolution, these contemporary faiths emerged.

Economic ideas introduced the idea of a world without boundaries and limits, unbridled exploitation of nature and the legitimization of big risk activities; in those days, modern states lost the notions of scale, size, proportion and limit and began to nurture industrial activities, international trade; in that century, the fundamentals of our legal system were created in order to protect pirates, bankers, corporations; and then, science and technology became the most important partners of economy. From this epistemic revolution evolved these creeds and our modern thinking; in our days everybody is now deeply involved in only one dimension of life: the economic dimension. The One Dimensional Man, denounced by Herbert Marcuse in the 60s, is now present everywhere in the world. Techno-scientists presently conduct high risk experiments using nuclear energy, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, robotics, in such a manner  "to make humans an endangered species", according to Bill Joy, the great American computer scientist. Economy has conquered the mind of modern man and commands his life, needs, desires, beliefs; the idea of scarcity, essential to economic thinking, saturates the contemporary thinking. In our days, because economic ideas, multinationals and states face a Shakespearian dilemma "to grow or not to be".   As economy implements the ugliness, gigantism, accelerated change, that now subdue modern world.

Economy operates by means of different systems and instruments designed by techno scientists.

Systems like: states, world organizations, central banks, financial operations, employments, schools, universities, hospitals, media, agribusiness, tourism, transportation. Instruments like autos, planes, internet, mobile phones disturb human behaviour and produce profound changes in values, beliefs, desires, needs: in the process, certain new values emerge deep in human mind that changes social perception of the reality: a estrangement of the individual  from its community, society, or world. Alienated individuals desire to have more, bigger and faster and they are the most influentials.  Systems facilitate, of course, "free choice" but, in a world without people; inculcate love for competition, profitability, technicalities; they stimulate anonymity, conformism, addictions, consumerism, servitude; subordination, up rootedness, disenchantment. Induce parting from nature; squandering life; stingy interchanges between people; scorn for manual work; love for hierarchies; disdain for spontaneity. They turn work as an addiction, consumption as the basis of life. Techno systems empower the dominant system and degrade people's minds. The colonization of the modern social imaginary is systemic.  Evidently, these economic systems are against the natural order and human conviviality; they turn poverty into misery and bring about the awful violence that pervades the world; they drive the destruction of nature.

 Schools teach the great advantages of productivity and how to become a disciplined consumer; teach how to live in permanent servitude and dissatisfaction. Not only Coca Cola or the automobile are addictive, also schools or clinics become a drug. As Ivan Illich said "School opium is more powerful than old time churches". Mass media systematically misinform people thru excessive information; the combination of misinformation with commercial and political advertising produces deformation, propaganda and manipulation. Like VIH virus, schools destroy immunity defences; just as the drug dealers do, advertising creates the new necessities.  Daily work is every day more abstract and takes more hours: it strongly colonizes the imaginary. Unemployment is resented by people as a personal blame, not as a systemic failure, which leads to paralyzed, destroyed persons. In the new consumer society, as Zygmut Bauman says, individuals simultaneously promote a product while they are themselves the product they promote; they are the consumer, the marketing manager, the salesperson and the article for sale.  The exams a person should pass to have access to the most important social recognitions, requires the individual to recycle himself as a precious object or property, as a product capable of catching attention, attract clients, and generate demand.  

Modern systems produce uniformity all over the world; differences are disappearing among  cities, suburbia, towns, dwellings, landscapes, generations, gender; in this uniform environment the human personality looses identity and cultural references to guide his life; individual high risk behaviour proliferate in the world: drugs consumption, crime, extreme sports, certain forms of sexuality, tend to increase; panic, emptiness haunts all human activities; as society malfunctions increase, politicians and capitalists feel more powerful than ever. The tragedy lies today in that too many people in the world want even more jobs created; want ever more investments in infrastructure, housing, hospitals, scientific experiments and technological advances. People trust in the modern systems and in the growing economies; people rely on the very pervasive instruments and institutions that are destroying their life and their future.         

Liberating the social imaginary is essential to relocate life and economy

It is impossible to liberate the social imaginary without a severe critique of the dominant system. This liberation implies  studying, investigating, reflecting, working on oneself; implies philosophy endeavours; it entails a desire to be free, a will to change our own life style and the construction of a pertinent personal praxis; it requires detoxification, education in the ways of degrowth.  "Without the abandonment of the drug of growth, says Serge Latouche, we cannot change our own imaginary; least we will be able to change others' imaginary. It is not possible to change the world with laws and decrees...The key is self-transformation.... As our imaginary has been colonized, the enemy hides deep in our minds... nevertheless, because of the systemic character of the dominant values... nobody is responsible; the process is anonymous. .. Thus, the adversary is other people, and we feel impotent of transforming ourselves"... He quotes Zygmut Bauman "there is a common world in the globalized society and this is the unique thought" ... Latouche says "beyond the elite, the ensemble of values and beliefs shared by people is considerable".  To liberate our villages, many people should abandon many ideas, like: having a car, a house in suburbia or a university degree; they must abandon the idea that having an employment is good for his health and his future. We degrowth activists have to demonstrate that we can live much better with much fewer infrastructures, equipments and things, and with minimal dependence from governments, parties and big enterprises.  

But the liberation of the social imaginary also implies the voluntary defence of territories, animals, forests, rivers, seas, peasant cultures, people's commons, traditional knowledge, endangered species, clean air, public space, human rights. It also implies rejection of GMOs harvests, nuclear power development, agribusiness, mining and petroleum operations, toxic waste confinements, dam construction, big farms and stables operations, serial housing, automobile use, "local development". It implies also denouncing the misleading notion of sustainable development; revitalizing the village by producing for local needs and consuming local produce; organizing micro- cooperatives and micro-syndicates; reducing voluntary working time and consumption; constructing new ecological communities with rigorous rules. It also means to grow vegetables in our own dwellings or nearby in the eco-region; to walk and cycle for everyday mobility; to modify toilets and water facilities; to separate residues; to support local money, savings and loans; to use or produce hand made products. To abandon the use of automobile, bottled water and red meat consumption. On the other hand, liberating the social imaginary means also to enhance  political and social  involvement within our village environment; to collaborate with citizen initiatives;  to voluntary work  on environmental and social issues without the support of the governments, foundations or national or multinational companies;  to experiment on ways how to survive the economic crisis, the peak oil and the climate change; to refuse to empower the State and free trade ; to break with the symbolic system of globalization.  Last but not least, to turn art an integral part of our lives.

A cultural revolution emerges when men and women work together for the rebirth of his village, town or community, when they expand the realm of gratuity and solidarity, when they are blessed by the love for nature, altruism, cooperation, ludism, autonomy and beauty.

This cultural revolution begins in our minds, the moment when we become aware, as Baruch Spinoza did, that simple poor life constitutes in itself a source of light to inspire us the understanding of the different dimensions of poverty and our own potency; that the joys of frugal or poor life permits us to liberate a strong desire to live free up to our natural limits and avoid external affections or imaginations that diminish or inhibit this desire and our capacities. An he says let the reality teach us his truth in order to comprehend the world as it is here and now ; in that way we can liberate ourselves form all forms of servitude and acquire a freedom rooted in Need; thus, we can find good responses to very difficult questions. We have to discover and respect essential the link between Desire and Reason, for the good deployment of our own potential, to facilitate the creation of societies based in freedom and respect for everybody's singularity.   Spinoza said that "weakness solely consists in letting external things conduct our lives and decline what demands our nature in itself.  Centuries latter, Gandhi said: "Freedom can be achieved through inner sovereignty"

Climate change, peak oil, high risk technologies can easily bring harsh painful corrective changes in our villages in the coming years, but joyful, pleasant transformations will come only from the discovery of our inner power or potency while we voluntarily adopt a frugal, poor, simple, slow life. 


Miguel Valencia
Red Ecologista Autónoma de la Cuenca de México

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