Ecoheroes (III)

If something is evident after reading Carlos Fresneda’s latest book, ‘Ecoheroes…’, it is that the Earth behaves like a living organism and tends to balance, the one that we are stubbornly determined to break. “We have been terrible managers of the planet, altering the ecosystems and the atmosphere to the point of endangering the conditions that make the Earth habitable,” says biologist Paul Elhrich. So much so, that “if we do not find a better way to live in it, combining intellect, compassion towards other species and concern for future generations, we ourselves will be among the extinct species.” These are the words of the primatologist Jane Goodall, of more than proven international solvency and credibility. In the last forty years alone, the Earth has lost 58% of its biodiversity, and of the eight million animal and plant species that exist, one million are in immediate danger of extinction (according to Edward O. Wilson, they will be extinct before the end of the this century). For its part, the great blue heart that makes up seas and oceans welcomes eight million tons of plastic every year (in 2050 they could exceed fish in volume), which in turn causes the death of one hundred million animals. The sea is a great climate regulator, and 70% of the oxygen we breathe comes from it; It is not hard, therefore, to imagine what its destruction can mean for human and animal life. In this context, statements as resounding as those of the Austrian physicist, philosopher and ‘total thinker’ Fritjof Capra take on full dimension: «The economy cannot grow indefinitely in a finite world. The only unlimited growth is that of cancer, which ends up killing the organism…».

Geologists have called our time Anthropocene, due to the impact of man on the planet. At the moment, depending on who you turn to, the first test of the nuclear bomb in 1945 or the sedimentary record of radioactive isotopes in 1952 mark its beginning in a conventional way, but the truth is that that precise moment of the start (stratotype or «nail gold”), one of whose fossils is plastic, remains to be determined scientifically. We have modified 75% of terrestrial ecosystems and 66% of marine ones, and as an alarming symptom of all this, 60% of the diseases that we suffer today are zoonotic, that is, they have been infected by animals (in the case of Ebola , AIDS, or covid-19 itself). All voices agree that climate change is evolving much faster than initially calculated – its impact on the world economy may soon reach between 5 and 20% of GDP, while limiting emissions would be around only 1% – , that the problem is of overwhelming dimensions, and that the practically exclusive responsibility lies with the human being and his aggressive character in relation to nature, for which it is up to him peremptorily to change course and re-naturalize his life if he does not want to perish trying. It is the challenge of the century for our rulers, who are still not up to the task, they do nothing but lurch while they confuse the whole with the part or prioritize ideology over executive capacity, and see no other solution than frying the citizen with taxes, without understanding that a comprehensive and unanimous response is required.

“A building has to be like a tree, capable of producing oxygen and absorbing carbon. And a city has to be like a forest, capable of breathing and nourishing itself from the sun”, states the American architect William McDonough, in a perfect synthesis of urbanism and nature. And, among other points of support, such an arduous task will have to be based preferably on education. This was recognized a few decades ago by the Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai in 1994, the ‘Mother of the Trees’: “If education means anything, it should not distance people from the earth, but instill respect for it” . Hence the success of schools that focus their holistic, ecological and transversal study programs on nature, and explain biology, mathematics, ethics or economics from an intimate contact with the environment.

“As we encroach on forest ecosystems…and manipulate plants and animals for profit, we are creating the conditions for new diseases,” says Vandana Shiva, an Indian activist who is a staunch advocate of traditional seed conservation and free access to them by the farmers of their country. Terrifying… but also a palpable reality that, as the covid crisis has shown, seriously threatens to destroy us. Hence the urgency to recover harmony with nature without further aggression; in an act of rebellion and hope that should strengthen global actions while removing any threat of political manipulation or totalitarianism; because “a place where the birds don’t sing at dawn is a place without a future” (G. Hempton, American ecologist).

*Professor of Archeology at the UCO

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Ecoheroes (III)