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Social Organization and Environmental Emergency

Social Organization and Environmental Emergency

By Federico García Morales

The current situation of the Social Organization with its inertia proves tremendously ineffective in the face of new environmental emergencies. The threat of global warming does not find in it resistance or response capacities, but rather stimuli.

The Social Organization in the face of the Environmental Emergency

The current situation of the Social Organization with its inertia proves tremendously ineffective in the face of new environmental emergencies. The threat of global warming does not find in it resistance or response capacities, but rather stimuli. The reversal of trends in the global environment would require a gigantic recomposition of the Social Organization, which would have as a guiding principle the life of the populations and not the rules of the market.


Anthropologists define Social Organization as all that set of links between social groups that make a social life possible. It includes everything that can be designated as social structure, social relationship, and even cultural life. Its components range from families and tribes to classes, companies and states, insertions and management of spaces and environments, and their interrelationships are subject to guidelines, rules, which are not always ordered in the traffic of such diverse situations. The Social Organization tends to be systematic, dominated by strong determinations.

Thus, social systems contain too many reproductive devices that condition strong inertia and make them resistant to novelty.

And today the novelty is environmental change. Serious conflicts are being dropped that confront societies with a readjusting nature, and that inevitably, as things are going - with the forms of production and social organization, and in this block, the dynamics of groups and classes and of the state — we will see how, doped by their inertia, rather than being a solution to the problem, they are part of the problem.

In the past year, the Caribbean cyclones and the Asian tsunami are paradigmatic examples of everything we have been saying: For cyclones, the threatened area was affected by the configuration of classes and state inertia. There were places, like Granada and Jamaica, where the Government only called to pray. Others, like the Cayman Islands where the big businessmen took flight in forty c harters hours before the arrival of the cyclone, leaving the people the chance to tie themselves to the roofs or hide in a bat cave. In Miami, what was said by Brother Jeff prevailed: “whoever can, let him be saved” —that is, the richest and the armed forces. Curiously, the only place that did not have casualties, and that due to its maligned social organization, was Cuba.

In the case of the Asian tsunami, we already have 300 thousand dead and millions of people in despair, due to the unpredictability of the system, the inadequacy or sometimes deliberate silence of the alarms, and the insufficient, late and then fundamentally militaristic response of the great powers, with the US at the fore. How can it be possible that the Social Organization considered that to rescue the victims, aircraft carriers with nuclear weapons, fighter bombers and landing forces had to move? To all this nonsense, when some help began to arrive, corruption soon appeared, which nests so naturally in all economic and political systems that we know.

The stockings are also part of the Organization, and after the spectacular reports, they turned the page, and the world - minus the victims - begins to forget.

These examples necessarily produce some reflections:

  • The environmental emergency cannot be faced with the warlike means available to the Organization. The discourse on Security here is obsolete, in the face of unimaginably superior forces. Faced with these situations, the soldier flees or arrives later.
  • The lack of foresight, which manifests itself in a lack of link between the scientific community and the government or decision-making apparatus, puts ordinary people at serious risk.
  • The hierarchical orders in the face of the emergency are more concerned with sustaining and extending their dominance than with protecting the lower classes.
  • The serial nature with which growing environmental conflicts are taking place casts doubt on the stability - not to say the sustainability - of economic systems.
  • The Organization that society has been giving itself is inert in the face of events of greater magnitude that come to subvert the environment.
  • On the other hand, the human being does not have a more effective force than its Social and Knowledge Organization (its technology involved there), and this Organization is proving inadequate for the challenges that come.

But this, in relation to some specific examples. Now we get to the point, to what is strategic, and not only for this article.

After some years of discussions, partial discoveries and the raising of fears, it emerged in three recent scientific congresses, one in France, another in England and another in Germany, that we are already in an accelerated process of global warming, and that in a short time less of ten yearsIf we do not take very energetic actions to reverse it, we will have reached a point of no return.

This forecast contains several effects that would result: in a first erratic variation of the global climate and of the distribution of the rains and the seasons with high temperatures; a more sustained rise in sea levels; the disappearance of permanent ice; the possible arrest of the strip of salty Atlantic current that regulates continental temperatures, and the possible arrest of seasonal successions as we knew them, with the arrival of a winter that would not end. The outcome would be a new Ice Age. These phenomena have already been encased in parade, being verified in the "great heatwave" of a year ago in the European summer, in the cyclones of this year in the Caribbean and in the current spring advances. It is not difficult to observe how this landslide will induce problems for life on the planet. What to say to our form of civilization.

The congresses do not say anything about the Organization's ability to face these tasks, which would imply: abandoning the extraction and use of hydrocarbons as the main source of energy, immediate removal of polluting industrial establishments, application of a more drastic version of the relative Kyoto Pact to the non-emission of greenhouse gases. The recessionary capitalist world economy would hardly tolerate these recommendations. In fact, the polluting machinery is working at full force. Forests are being cut down to reduce them to a minimum in a few years, the production of cars is increasing, urban infrastructures are being extended, the pollution of fields and seas is accelerating. When some complain about the disappearance of the polar caps, the members of the Organization celebrate, since gas and oil will be more easily extracted from there. In the colonial states, agrarian areas are rapidly paved to create roads that lead to "industrial cities" where international capital "that brings work" also arrives.

But there is more: very recently scientific societies (for all intents and purposes an insignificant handful of people) have come to the conclusion that we have problems with water. The weak availability of drinking water is already counted, an issue that can be aggravated by climate change and its novel distribution of rains as well as the disappearance of mountain glaciers. Severe alternations of some very rainy years followed by long droughts are not excluded. The great rivers that have irrigated millennial agrarian civilizations are about to enter a severe food crisis.


Faced with the new situations posed by the scarcity of water, a failure that may soon reach a critical phase, what does the Social Organization do? What is the behavior of the groups? And the state? Inertia leads them, in general, to consume more water, or to use their resources in tasks other than hydraulic ones. In Mexico, state governments prefer to build monstrous highways that may never lead anywhere, to invest in large works that allow water to be retained and purified. Rivers — in the case of the Balsas, are dumps of filth. On the other hand, spaces for investment thirsty for water are enabled, and to finish off, Latin American economies are opening up to the ugly practice of privatizing water resources, which inevitably leads to planning by “the wisest and most powerful sectors. of the Organization, of the export of water.

In its inertia, the Social Organization does not seriously perceive the water crisis, which hangs like the sword of Damocles. Of course, there are sectors in the Organization that are "more clairvoyant", who in these corrupt and neoliberal times will take advantage of that circumstantially.

Then, it can be concluded that the Social Organization is looking back. It does not elaborate on future emergencies, and in its inertia it even contributes to causing them.

How late are initiatives to agriculture, industry or education, to find weak ecological babbling! Do you know what percentage of Mexico's agricultural total is Organic Agriculture? No more than 6%, despite the fact that of that organic agriculture, 86% is export production. And what portion of school programs - in class hours - is dedicated to generating environmental awareness?

To decorate themselves with “sustainability,” some universities have master's or doctorates in environment, where candidates wander between the abstractions of systems theory and theories of risk. But there are almost no bachelor's degrees. So these interests touch at most a few dozen students and a handful of teachers. When Universities are opened, almost usually, the emphasis is placed on professions such as Accounting, Administration and Law. For reasons of tradition, there is still the tendency to hang environmental studies in some corner of Biologies.

As for the state governments, and so many that were inaugurated recently in the Gulf basin, where is their predisposition to anticipate and wait with the capacity to resist the occurrence of a major climate disaster in a few more years?

Surely there are Secretaries of Ecology, and that in some states - and what do they worry about? What effective links do they have with society and its development? What financing do they have? Are they responding to the challenge that begins to rise on the horizon? Or do they say amen to inertia? Issues that seem to dominate: solid waste management, what to do with urban garbage, some information gathering on aquifer management and forest and biodiversity inventories, and timid advances naturally in solidarity with the eco-efficiency of private industry . But there is no future projection of the growing difficulties posed by this matter, let alone a warning about what is to come.

Faced with this highly serious situation, some ecologists suggest certain proposals:

  • As a general principle: in productive, agricultural, forestry, mining, fishing, industrial activities, environmental sustainability and life should be set as a central objective, not profit. Reversing this equation would open the way to disaster.
  • Our confrontation with new scenarios in the relationship between society and the environment must begin to be planned.
  • The planning capacity provided by the current experience of the State and scientific organizations must be available for this.
  • At the State level, it will be necessary to feed with environmental reflection and decision the links between powers (eg Legislative, executive) and within the Development Programs important issues such as climate change and aquatic resources must be considered as outstanding way and with effects.

What planning ideas affect the current economic model? What limits the action of private initiative? Bad luck. And they say: "these are minimum requirements."

But the Social Organization then shows its other facets with sharpness: the power of the State that is invoked coincides in being a closed system of defense of those who have no interest in this matter. The economies of the Social Organization, globally, are now articulated around the interests of the Transnational Corporations that are constituted with their activities in the main accelerator of environmental decline, and that without exploiting the resources of the planet and of each piece of work, they would fall into depression. And the State and Corporations concentrate an enormous decision-making capacity in a short time, just this time when everything is at stake.

But the era of catastrophes that scientists predict may have other aggravations, marked this time by the trends shown by the Social Organization in the century that passed, when great catastrophes, this time world wars and economic crises, cornered various societies on the bends of extreme hierarchization, irrational command discipline and the extermination of difference or exorcised as "dangerous". In our days we already have the main world power initiating those same paths, those that lead to mobilizing its combat fleet in the face of tidal waves. Instead of the humanistic reason, to face calamities, the Social Organization puts us the madness. Faced with the obvious signs of global warming, which could still be reversed, does the "Empire" make sense? Does “the market economy” make sense? Does "private property" make sense? Does “the fight against terrorism” make sense? That rise up as fetishes that will prevent us from surviving. However, these are the positions of the real and still living Organization, which thus becomes part of the disaster.

If we remain in inertia, and do not rise up in the face of such disturbing developments, properly structured foresight capabilities, forces of resistance and protection of populations, humanity will be surrendering without a fight. And perhaps she will be giving up betrayed.

* Federico García Morales


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