When we awaken the soul, we recover the ability to wonder and we can see bees, flowers, space and time smiling.
We find ourselves at a critical moment in the history of humanity and with great paradoxes. On the one hand we have gigantic advances in terms of technologies of all kinds and on the other hand serious problems which reveal to us that we are facing a crisis of civilisation.
Thus, according to the Stockholm Resilience Institute, we have exceeded 4 of the 9 ecological thresholds. These are: climatic catastrophe, extermination of biodiversity, land use change and alteration of biochemical fluxes of phosphorus and nitrogen. Likewise, we have exceeded the biocapacity of the earth and we are taking the Amazon to the point of no return from where a process of savannization awaits us.
The fundamental problem is that for the sectors that are only concerned with achieving economic growth at all costs (in all the mountains, in all the jungles, in all of the Amazon, on the whole planet) these issues do not concern them not or superficially concern them.
The major forums for economic growth and development
This is how the recipes for development are heard in the major arenas of economic growth and development, mainly in terms of markets, investments, competitiveness, management, forecasting, technological issues, among others, but they underestimate the serious “environmental” crisis in which we find ourselves. I put environmental in quotation marks because, strictly speaking, there is no isolated environmental dimension, but rather it is interrelated with other dimensions of a complex reality.
We would say that optimism prevails, but we must recognize types of optimism: naïve optimism, arrogant optimism and energizing optimism, the latter characterized by recognizing the magnitude of the crisis and deploying in at the same time effort, knowledge and courage to try to overcome the difficulties. .
The other problem is that the hegemonic economic system, which is part of an exacerbated anthropocentrism, has led us to individualism, materialism, consumerism and in this process of modernization we have arrived at the commodification of nature, the nature is appreciated as long as it is useful, it can be appropriated, it can be produced, it can be valued and it has markets.
The maximum expression of this attitude of monetary reductionism is that everything is reduced to capital and that capital can be replaced. Under this consideration, there are useful species and ecosystems for companies and “useless” species and ecosystems, therefore likely to be modified or transformed at best for the purpose of accumulation. It is then that we witness small or large processes of deforestation for the purposes of agro-industrial production, infrastructure, roads or unplanned urban expansion.
In the name of modernization, deforestation
Thus, deforestation is done in the name of modernization, of civilization. Forests appear, in this reductionist perspective, as frontiers of economic expansion, legally or illegally, as spaces that must be conquered, dominated, tamed to contribute to economic growth, an essential condition of their development proposal. When only the aspect of economic growth prevails, all nature is reduced to things, to raw materials, to inputs, to business opportunities with or without forests.
According to the MINAM GEOBOSQUES portal, between 2001 and 2021, 2,754,562 ha have been lost in the country. In 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, 203,272 ha were deforested and in 2021 137,976 were deforested
But it is important to keep in mind that deforestation is not only caused by direct drivers but also by structural and underlying factors where there are policies, programs, projects, narratives and corruption . Indifference is an indirect factor because we mistakenly think that this situation does not affect us. It suffices to mention the major biogeochemical or hydrological cycles to remember that the future of forests also has a direct relationship with us, wherever we are.
Affective disconnection from nature, recovery of the capacity for wonder
But beyond the utilitarian aspects, what is important is to recognize that the current situation of forests is also largely due to the loss of environmental affectivity to which the hegemonic system has led us. The coherence and persistence of the dominant economic model relies on an affective disconnection with nature, so it is easier not to see life and rather to see things, raw materials or goods.
We value what is useful or beautiful, but here what is beautiful is also relative because it alludes to visible shapes, colors, and what is not visible falls under the radar, to what does not fit into our conventional aesthetic. While important, attention to iconic or charismatic species is not enough, as the beauty of life unfolds beyond our senses or economic value.
The loss of wonder
Given the primacy of materialism and utilitarianism, as humanity we have lost our ability to marvel at the magnificent expressions of life, living beings and living systems, which have been generated as a product millions of years of evolution and co-evolution.
We are not surprised by the magnificent life processes that occur at the micro and macro levels, the interrelationships that occur in the web of life, the collaborative relationships and the competitive relationships, the great adaptability, the multiple strategies of living beings to resist environmental changes and ability to reproduce, communication between plants, role that each organism plays in an ecosystem, mutual relationships between humans, animals and plants, mutual biocultural modeling.
It’s incredibly rewarding when you review the evolutionary process of plants and go back to LUCA (Last universal common ancestor) and recognize us with all the expressions of life as one big family. We lose all of that when we cling to anthropocentrism and speciesism.
A biocultural reconnection is necessary to regain the capacity for wonder
For all these reasons, one of the conditions of the biocultural reconnection (human being-nature) consists in rediscovering our capacities to marvel, to marvel at the prodigious phenomenon of life in all its expressions. Admiring and respecting to rediscover environmental affectivity. There is no possible formula if we do not go through this process leading to affectivity, a link that unites, that engages (Giraldo and Toro, 2020).
There is a lot of knowledge that is lost because the link with affectivity is not made. Hence the importance, on the one hand, of taking a keen interest in the phenomenon of life in all its expressions, and on the other hand of deepening and disseminating research carried out in all areas of living organisms and living systems. But there are also plenty of possibilities for new research for those who want to open their eyes and their hearts to the beauty of life.
Giraldo, OF & Toro, I. (2020). Environmental affectivity: sensitivity, empathy, aesthetics of living. Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico: The College of the Southern Frontier: Universidad Veracruzana. (99+) Environmental affectivity | Omar Felipe Giraldo – Academia.edu