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Tracing the origins of the current environmental crisis

Tracing the origins of the current environmental crisis


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By Adriana Anzolín

Nature became the great sink for humanity's waste. Pollution derived from the use of fossil fuels, industrial waste and the lack of services in rapidly growing cities, became the inseparable companion of the industrialized world, putting life in general at risk.

Act four: Homo "tecnologus"


Although the title of this act seems to deny it, we continue to tell the story of Homo sapiens in relation to nature. Only, at this point, our species (mired in a series of scientific and technological discoveries) acquires all the whims of a first actor, whom I have taken the license to call Homo "tecnologicus".

And when did it begin to take shape? There is no exact date, but we can say that there are already clear indications in the 15th century, when the Renaissance was already installed in Italy and was spreading to other European countries.

In this time of true intellectual and artistic boiling, the inquisitive gaze of many men eager to know and explain the world around them was breaking down walls of prejudices and superstitions maintained for centuries. The scientific method, as we know it today, was beginning to take shape. Until then, all kinds of speculations could be made without contrasting them with reality. The logic of Aristotle was followed, who, for example, fluently stated that women had fewer teeth than men and, in all his life, it never occurred to him to look into the mouths of his two wives to verify if what he said it was true! It was not the only strange idea of ​​the Greek philosopher. In other things, he also argued that children grew healthier if they were conceived with a North wind.

Until this moment, trying to verify what the teacher was saying would have been unthinkable, since it was to question his unquestionable word.

During the dark medieval centuries, the monasteries had hoarded fragments of the splendid Greek and Roman cultures now defunct, in manuscripts that they had been commissioned to recover here and there. With infinite patience or by force of arms (as happened with the manuscripts left by the Arabs when they were expelled from Spain) they compiled this knowledge that for centuries was the only source of knowledge about nature and that added little to the studies carried out by Aristotle, Pliny, Theophrastus and others. The invention of the printing press in 1493 democratized this knowledge to which only the Church and some monarchs had had access. The men of the Renaissance could then read Greek texts, unleashing a true fever of knowledge that was also spurred by the discovery of new lands. Herbariums and collections of animals, which had not changed much since Greek times, explosively “fatten” with beings brought from the most remote places. Nature was beginning to be ordered and classified.

As expected, certain "truths" held for centuries were revised and scandal appeared around the corner: the Aristotelian idea of ​​a Universe that revolved around the Earth and that was shared by the Church, was put into question . Copernicus first, with his theory that it was the Earth that revolved around the Sun, and later Galileo, with his experimental observations, turned the old belief upside down. When Galileo turned his telescope skyward, he opened up new fields of knowledge that he described in his book Messenger of the Stars. In it he says: "I thank God, who has seen fit to make me the first to observe the hidden wonders of past centuries. I have ascertained that the Moon is a body similar to the Earth ... I have contemplated a multitude of fixed stars that have never been observed before ... But the greatest wonder of them all is the discovery of four new planets (four satellites of Jupiter) ... I have observed that they move around the Sun. "

Galileo made astronomical discoveries, invented the first thermometer and the concept of acceleration used in modern physics, etc. But above all, he established experimentation as the basis of scientific methodology, putting it before unsupported dogmas. As we all know, such contempt for established thinking did not come for free: People without domicile - they told themselves - want to examine and expel Aristotle! The Inquisition banned his last book, forced him to renounce his heliocentric beliefs, and gave him house arrest until the end of his days.
Galileo could not get any inquisitor to simply approach the telescope lens to verify that his discoveries were true, but he was not alone. Sir Francis Bacon, Descartes, Kepler, and many others embarked on the adventure of knowledge. Science had started and discoveries were happening in all areas: from the circulatory system to the orbits of the planets, nothing escaped our insatiable curiosity. The climax came with Newton who devised a unique and general explanation of how the force of gravitation causes the motion of the Moon and the planets. Science became, since then, the highest expression of rationality and brought, without a doubt, extraordinary benefits and progress to humanity.

However, over time, it radically changed our relationship with nature. This began to be seen as a gigantic clockwork mechanism, where each piece had to be studied and its laws of operation unraveled. But no longer with the mere desire for knowledge, but as a way to master it and even "perfect" it. In 1760 an English novelist wrote: "See the fields of England smiling with their crops: the grounds exhibit all the perfection of agriculture, parceled out in beautiful fences, grain fields, forests and meadows." According to the new vision, natural chaos It had to be ordered by man and nature manipulated to make it more productive, in short, it was a mere object of exploitation for our own benefit. Obviously the sacred condition of nature received a mortal blow and the pagan spirits of forests, rivers and mountains, who had resisted the Christian onslaught, vanished. The world had been disenchanted and the hour of its fierce exploitation had begun. The new cathedrals were the laboratories of experimentation and the scientists the "priests of nature", as the scientist Robert Boyle proclaimed.


The next milestone in this history is the Industrial Revolution, which shaped the new conception of the world through concrete instruments such as the new technological inventions: the steam engine, mechanical looms, the telegraph, railways, etc. They will make possible the paradigm of industrial society: get more from nature and in the shortest possible time.

This Revolution developed with great force in the 18th century in England, then it spread to Europe and imposed itself on the European colonies in Asia and Africa, which were organized according to the location of their strategic resources. From now on, the story accelerates like a movie passed in fast motion and change will be the only constant. Our lifestyle and perceptions will be transformed and the environment will also change profoundly.

Several are the characteristics of these changes:

1- The urbanization process was accentuated because the incipient industries created numerous jobs that attracted people from the countryside to the cities.

2- We began to use energy intensively, without which this Revolution would have been impossible. England, the forerunner of industrialization, had repeated the old story of cutting down its forests (which had recovered from the Roman attack centuries before) to sustain some activities that were voracious consumers of wood such as iron smelting, glass making, building buildings and building your mighty fleet. One button is enough to show this: a warship, which had to carry heavy guns, required around 2,000 centenary oaks (the young ones were useless), that is, a minimum of 25 hectares of forest. In certain regions, there were even popular revolts because the wood became so scarce that it was not enough to warm up in the inclement winters and the poorest died of cold. Where did the energy that fueled industrialization come from? From a discovery that made it possible to replace charcoal (obtained from the forests) with that extracted from the abundant mines that the country had. Abraham Darby and his son were able to purify this coal, until then unusable in the iron industry due to its high content of impurities, obtaining coke. Such was the success, that from its discovery in the middle of the 18th century until the end of the same century, the production of coal tripled and allowed to obtain iron to make a huge variety of elements: from railways and ships, through nails, to machines. steam. These last ones, true stars of industrialization, were fed with coal and began to replace the old sources of energy such as hydraulic, animal and human. The amount of goods generated grew at the same time as costs fell, notably increasing productivity, as happened with textile manufactures, a true “boom”.

3- Nature became the great sink for humanity's waste. Pollution derived from the use of fossil fuels, industrial waste and the lack of services in rapidly growing cities, became the inseparable companion of the industrialized world, putting life in general at risk.

4- The growth curve of our species makes a jump: we began to reproduce at a speed never seen before, as the gradual improvement in living standards and scientific discoveries reduced mortality rates. This increased the demand for goods and services, ergo, increased pressures on the environment to obtain them and also the pollution derived from their manufacture and use.

5- The international division of labor was produced and, according to this, each ecosystem in the world was "rearranged" to orient it to the production of certain elements necessary for the international market. The new world order established: this country will produce coffee, that meat and that of other minerals. Obviously Argentina acquired the role of exporter of agricultural products and the nickname of "granary of the world". Super-specialization was underway, the variety of crops or forests being replaced by intensive monocultures, cattle ranching or mining operations, which with the passage of time will bring soil degradation.

The super-specialization that we apply to nature also had its mirror in us. The factories began to fragment the work into simpler and more routine individual tasks, to the point that a visitor to an English metallurgical company said: “Instead of applying the same hand to finish a button or any other task, it is subdivided into as many hands as possible possible, assuming no doubt that human faculties, limited to the repetition of the same gesture, become faster and more reliable than if one has to go from one to another. Thus a button passes through fifty hands, each of which performs the same operation perhaps a thousand times a day… ”. The tedious and fast repetition of tasks created a new way of life where man is almost another cog, as Charles Chaplin masterfully captured it in his film "Modern Times".

Knowledge was also fragmented into increasingly isolated disciplines and increasingly complex jargon. Nature, under the gaze of "specialists", became a mere result of the sum of its parts and not as a whole, which would give us many headaches in the future.

The "Homo tecnologicus", with an unshakable faith in science and technology, was already among us.

Reasons for professing that faith were not lacking: in the last 2 centuries they have shown an enormous capacity to transform our material reality and solve problems of famine and disease that plagued us for millennia. But so much fervor has made him believe that Technology has an unlimited capacity to solve any type of problem; that everything is a matter of the time required to find the solution.

But the situation is not so simple, as we will see ...

Fragment of Chapter Nº 1 of the book “Green Laces. Our relationship with nature ”, by Adriana Anzolín where the man-nature relationship is narrated through history.

Albert Einstein said "we are all ignorant, we just ignore different things." Never again true when we talk about environmental issues. To address the complexity of the man-nature relationship, it is not enough that each discipline of knowledge contributes its specific knowledge, but it is necessary that it be impregnated with the gazes of others. Only then will we understand the richness of this relationship in its entirety.

Green ties constitutes a contribution to correct that fragmentation that exists in terms of environmental knowledge. It addresses each aspect in depth, holistically and with simple language. This is how knowledge is integrated and the essential interdisciplinarity required by the subject is made effective.

A book for the biologist to learn about environmental history, the geographer to understand the chemistry of pollution, the chemist to learn about the socio-environmental problems of monoculture ...

Green ties is aimed at all those who believe that environmental education is the compass that will guide us to better ports. Therefore, it will be of interest to the general public as well as to teachers and high school students.

The book can be found in the main bookstores or request the order directly from our publisher on the websitewww.maipue.com.ar


Video: How COVID-19 u0026 the environmental crisis are linked. All Hail The Lockdown (July 2022).


Comments:

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  3. Yigil

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  4. Gardasida

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