Monday 30 November 2015

In search of a new concept of development

Article by Ivo Lesbaupin, Abong, first published in Spanish here

We have to overcome the current model of predatory development, destroyer of the living conditions of humanity. To do this, we need to build a new concept of development that allows people to live well, in harmony with nature and in collaboration with other human beings.

“In my opinion, in this new stage, the crisis will develop in such a way that the first and really brutal manifestations of global climate crisis will combine with the crisis of capital. We are entering a phase that really establishes a crisis of humanity, in the midst of complex relationships that also include war, but more importantly (…) this is a new type of crisis, with a combination economic crisis, which began with a situation where nature, treated without the slightest contemplation and attacked by the man in the framework of capitalism, reacts now in such a brutal. This is something almost completely excluded from our discussions, but is imposed as a central fact “(François Chesnais, article about the 2008 crisis:” Capitalism tried to break their historical limitations and created a new 1929 or worse ” p. 2 – – 09/10/2008).

Today, mankind is heading in the direction of unsustainability and is walking fast towards make Earth uninhabitable: its being deforested at an incredible speed, our fresh water is being used in an amount well above its reserve capacity ( see the recent water crisis in Sao Paulo) and is contaminated by poor sanitation, herbicides and pesticides, as well as by mining. On the other hand, global warming is melting * freshwater sources such as glaciers and ice caps, which will make life very difficult in many parts of the world.

Our food is becoming increasingly poisoned by pesticides – * Brazil is, since 2008, the world’s largest consumer of these substances, ahead of the United States. We eat them in small quantities, but day by day, year after year, continually, these poisons cause disease.
The main source of energy used by humans over two hundred years ago are fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas). They are the cause of global warming, are highly polluting and harmful to human health. To the extent that the car has become the main measure of economic development, and cities began to be built on the basis of this single vehicle.

Our economic system to generate money, must constantly produce and sell: our societies were transformed into a “consumer society”, because it is necessary that people consume incessantly. The products are not made to last, but to become obsolete (“planned obsolescence”), so you have to buy a new product. All this requires a permanent consumption of natural resources and generate a huge amount of trash discarded in excess of the capacity the environment has to absorb.
As a result, the planet’s natural resources are disappearing. Some of these assets are not renewable and, at some point, cease to exist, due to excessive consumption. Others are renewable, but because of the speed with which they are used and the unsustainability of use, theres is no regeneration time.

Capitalism is suicidal because it can not be maintained without destroying the conditions that mankind needs to survive: a balanced climate, available natural resources and long-term food security. The society disintegrates as it tends to produce large inequalities.
Now, more than ever, is the time to think of a concept of development based on human needs, to ensure the reproduction of nature, avoid waste and not deplete the products we need to live. A development for life and not for profit maximization.

Development is not synonymous with economic growth as the dominant economic theory spread by the mainstream media says, as it is not synonymous with “productivism-consumerism.” Development is to increase the existing potential in individuals and within the society where they may live, and to live well.

“In essence, the conceptual challenges in order to initiate a paradigm so different from those prevailing today are:
The first is to redefine development as a process of conscious evolution of the inherent potential within each and every human being, the individual, family, community, nation and the entire human race. Integral human development, not just material development. Convert economic development to a mean – and not having as a goal – to serve the human and social development, to make it truly possible and sustainable. Distinguishing growth from development, rejecting the productivist and consumerist wave and “take power” to define our own needs and desires. Deliberately limit the demand and consumption of material goods. Restore a harmonious and loving relationship with forests, seas and rivers, soil, air, mother earth, it only because it is from her that we draw our sustenance, nutrition and life “(Arruda, 2006: 216).

This is also the concern of the economist Joan Martinez Allier (1998). According to this author, whose starting point is the thought of Georgescu Roegen – the green economy “is an economy that uses renewable resources (…) at a rate not exceeding the rate of renewal, and using exhaustible resources ( …) with a rate that does not exceed its replacement by renewable (…) resources (1998:. 268).

Another author, Lester Brown, published in 2001, the Eco-economy work: for an economy to the extent of the land, and in 2009, launched Plan B 4.0 – Ecology for a world in danger. Works in which he proposes another type of economy: from the change of the energy matrix to the type of industry that we should have, agriculture, transport and so on.

How to overcome the productivist and consumerist model
What is necessary for these products? How to get what we need without destroying the conditions that allow us to live on Earth, like water, fish, animals, farmland, forests, as well as cultural, social and biological diversity? How to organize society in such a way that there is work for everyone?

Changing the energy matrix
According to many authors, the first thing we have to do to change the energy matrix is: to replace fossil fuels and nuclear energy sources for renewable energy. One of them, Jeremy Rifkin, says this is the first pillar of the third industrial revolution.
We have studies that demonstrate the technical feasibility of obtaining all the energy we need with wind, solar (photovoltaic and thermal), ocean, geothermal and hydropower.
Renewables have a big advantage over the sectors of energy based on fossil fuels: fossil fuels only exist in large quantities in some countries, while the sun, wind and underground power generation capacity – virtually all countries have those, to some extent. And the biggest advantage is that these are inexhaustible.
Jeremy Rifkin, we have to move from electricity produced centrally, towards energy based on the exploitation of local sources * based on decentralized production. Rifkin shows that residential, commercial and public buildings can become micro power plants generating energy from renewable energy sources (solar, wind and even geothermal).
It can produce power generating equipment * small-scale residential – to ensure the supply of family needs. Photovoltaic energy for household appliances, solar energy oven / hob, tanks to collect rainwater for secondary use, etc. Each building can have its own “generator” of energy for lighting and air conditioning, its own water collection system.
Internet technology can be used to transform the power grid of an entire continent in a power distribution network just as the Internet works. When millions of buildings are generating a small amount of power on location, they can be transferred over a network and share power with its continental neighbors
“In addition to solving a problem of power supply, these networks give rise to a new form of power, not hierarchical, but based on distribution, network and collaboration. It’s not just a matter of replacing the centralization of fossil fuels , nuclear and large hydro units by gigantic sun or wind energy. * Most importantly, it’s about sharing and promoting decentralized energy supply “(Ricardo Abramovay,” O power and do partilhado na revolução século XXI “. Jornal Valor, 24/01/2012).
A study by the American Academy of Sciences indicates that the potential for wind energy production on Earth is 40 times current electricity needs. In China, it could provide 16 times the country’s needs.
In this country, biult-in solar panels on the roofs of houses provide hot water to 120 million households (2009 figures). About 5,000 Chinese companies manufacture these devices: it is a simple, inexpensive and widespread technology in places where theres is no electricity. The advantage of solar energy is that it requires a network to work: each residence can have its independent power source, which is in one region. In Germany, two million people live in homes where hot water and electricity is provided by solar thermal panels.
The potential measured by the Brazilian Wind Atlas is that wind power can increase tenfold the energy generated by Itaipu (apud Greenpeace, 2010). According to the Atlas Solarimetric Brazil: If 0.3% of the Sahara was a concentrated solar plant it would generate enough power for the whole of Europe. And in Brazil, if only 5% of the energy from the sun was seized, all national electricity demand could be answered (ditto). Brazil may still be one of the first in the field of research and technology in solar energy. You just need that governments put in place policies in order to invest resources in this fields.

For the agricultural sector
For the agricultural sector, rural social movements and the academic field have very coherent proposals. They defend the policy of “zero deforestation”. Propose a radically different model of agriculture from the dominant model, they oppose the domination of multinational companies, agrobusiness companies, dependence on fertilizers and pesticides, GMOs. They demand land reform, that all workers have land and planting conditions; and also propose a model based on agroecology, to diversify production (as opposed to monoculture), on family farms producing mainly for the supply of the population.
This is not just a theoretical proposition, it is already practiced in many parts of the country. And they have had excellent results, both in terms of production and in terms of healthy and sufficient food for the population. The reason it doesn’t seem to is the priority given by governments to agribusiness, export commodities and lack of attention to this type of agriculture. If we consider that 70% of food consumed in Brazil is produced in family farms, it is clear that the country imported more food we were self-sufficient in less than 20 years ago, (beans, rice, to cite just two examples).

The example of the semiarid
The ASA (Articulação do Semi-Arido) has proposed how to live and produce in the region. The proposals are summarized in the term “coexistence in the semiarid” (cf. Malvezzi, 2007). It’s not just ideas, they are actually being carried out in much of the region, with positive results for the people. There are countless social technologies that allow you to have water throughout the year, even with little rainfall. The “Atlas of the Northeast”, prepared by the ANA (National Water Agency) is supported by many of these proposals, and provides the conditions that would allow to meet in the Northeastern region 34 million people, three times higher than that promised by the government project Transposition of the Rio São Francisco – and half the value of the transposition.

Rethinking the city
We must rethink the city: the city for the welfare of the people (not for cars). Thinking about building homes for the materials used is a way to save –as well as power generators. Install building systems to collect rainwater. According to Lester Brown, we need to rethink urban transport, by investing in a mixed system of transportation, diversified, public transport, primarily on rails (rail, metro, trams) – as well as preferential routes for buses, bike lanes and pedestrian streets. Encourage the use of bicycles, creating installations and providing security conditions – such as already exists in some countries.

According to Lester Brown, replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps or LED lamps (light-emitting diode) is one of the fastest ways to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and save money at the same time. This could reduce by more than half the electricity consumption for lighting, besides the fact that these lamps last much longer (LED lasts on average 25 years). It would be possible, for example, to close 705 of about 2800 coal power plants operating in the world. In some cities in the world, public authorities are replacing headlights and traffic signals by LED lamps, 
achieving a good economy.

The manufacture of goods: durability / repairability / recovery
In this new design, we need to rethink our own production of goods and clearing. Construction of buildings should be in materials that allow us, in the future, that the materials can be reused and recycled. The devices must be made so that they can be dismantled in parts and reused. They must be made in such a way that can be repaired instead of tossed, be able to replace only a part when this part fails. They should be built to last and not to be replaced in a short period of time. There are products that could have been guaranteed for ten, twenty or more years, rather than one or two years.
For the production of any new product, Lester Brown is favorable to the use of recycling. He shows that in the US, the rate of recycling the conctent of steel appliances is 90%.

New Professions
New industries and services will emerge with this reorientation of the economy: the production of wind turbines, solar panels, fish, bike maintenance, production trains, subways, trams, buses, reforestation, environmental architects – to design buildings of low energy , etc. -, The entire production field of recyclables – the recycled paper to steel, glass, etc. (Cf. Brown, 2011).
Redirect public subsidies
One of the arguments against the use of wind power or solar power is that its cost is very expensive. Now, for the use of oil, the annual investment between 1 trillion and 700 billion dollars. The future of the planet depends on the redirection of subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy to renewable sources (Rifkin, 2012).
Between 2002 and 2008, federal subsidies in the United States for the fossil fuel industry * reached more than 72 billion dollars; for renewable energy they were lower than the 27 billion * (ditto).
Over time, the cost of generating electricity from alternative sources will be the same or less than the cost of generating conventional energy from fossil fuels and nuclear energy sources.
To democratize the production and distribution of energy, creating millions of households and small agricultural sites (near cities or isolated), buildings, businesses, self-sufficient in energy.
Sufficiency and collaboration: the distributed nature of renewable energy should be based on partnership, network participation – rather than relying on mechanisms and hierarchical command control (ditto).

End of advertising products
The main factor that causes people to consume more and more is advertising. We do not need advertising to convince us to buy a new product, often superfluous. To find what you need, only information about its purpose and the substances they contain. Citizens, with this information, they will be able to decide for themselves the products they want. Not to consume more and more unnecessary products, we have to control advertising. Brazil banned advertising aimed at children. We need to move on banning advertising of medicines – as a matter of public health – and alcoholic beverages. And gradually move forward.

We have to overcome the current model of predatory development, destroyer of the living conditions of humanity. To do this, we need to build a new concept of development that allows people to live well, in harmony with nature and in collaboration with other human beings.

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