Covid-19, environment and alternative social movements

Covid-19, environment and alternative social movements

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“There is no progress. What is gained on one side is lost on the other. Since we don't know what we lost, we think we won ”Jaques Lacan

The virus that afflicts humanity today has completely transformed the world. For better and / or for worse, what is coming will be different from what we knew….

We realize that in just over 4 months of a slowdown in human activity, a surprising amount of news about environmental resilience begins to appear.

We have seen ducks and shoals return to the clean waters of Venice, dolphins exploring Cagliari, a bear snooping the empty streets of Asturias, wild boars venturing into both Barcelona and Rome, the curious puma in Santiago de Chile, a rhino patrolling the streets of Nepal, the totemic jaguar and the hocofaisán in the Mexican Caribbean; And in my personal experience, in Bogotá, I had an encounter with a majestic animal, the most sublime of all, whose design defies the laws of physics, awarded as the most important animal in the entire ecosystem: a quiet little bee in its work .

On the other hand, with the reduction of air and land transport, and the closure of factories, the impure air loaded with suspended particles of the most polluting cities, the emissions of CO, NO2 and other greenhouse gases, have had a unprecedented radical decline.

This same atmospheric pollution is what kills more than 7 million people a year, 1 in 8 deaths annually. So far it has proven to be much more lethal than covid-19. In addition to this, it currently increases the chances of death from coronavirus by 15% for people who have lived, for a long period of time, in a polluted city.

We are told that it is justifiable to paralyze the system to prevent the expansion of an invisible enemy, however, at no time was it thought of taking any radical measure to mitigate the extremely more lethal effects of the threat that was already well installed, and is so visible , that he smog it does not allow you to admire the landscapes and sunsets of the main most populated cities in the world.

In the same panorama of environmental resilience and capitalist latency, human beings find themselves caught in the middle, bearing the weight of medical-health, economic, family and political uncertainty. However, the biggest concern, which always appears during times of crisis, is directly focused on food.

I think that food distress can be outlined in the following way, based on the definitions and explanations of FAO:

Food safety: What not there is sufficient production, supply and access to food products, in terms of quantity and quality, for adequate nutrition for the entire population.

Food sovereignty: What a territory not have its own agricultural policies and local production that prioritizes supplying the domestic population and, therefore, depends on food from other regions.

Food purity: What not food is guaranteed to be free of toxic substances and contain sufficient nutritional density for proper biological use.

It is pertinent to delve into the issue of food security. Here's a catch that turns this term into a genuine hoax. I call it the paradox of food security. In the urgency of guaranteeing the supply of the demand for food, they resort to practices that massively accelerate and industrialize agricultural exploitation. And these in turn generate serious damage to the main sources of food.

For example: glyphosate sprays have generated a radical impact on the population of bees, which are responsible for the pollination of 70% of the food we consume. Trawling, which does not respect reproduction cycles or discriminate species, destroys marine ecosystems. The excessive deforestation for livestock and monoculture generates desertification of the soils, among others.

It is precisely the "secondary effects" of these irresponsible practices that make "food safety" become one of the greatest risks for "food safety".

On the other hand, the current coronavirus situation exposes how dangerous it is that a few companies run a monopoly on basic and vital supplies. As markets and borders close, isolation generates crises in countries dependent on these supply chains.

Therefore, the more food security it is intended to have, the less food sovereignty and purity consumers will have.

On the contrary, the more food sovereignty, the higher purity and true security, are guaranteed.

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I allow myself to express some axioms:

  • Hoarding, speculation, looting, opportunism, greed, hunger, conflict, etc. In itself, everything that is unleashed during the crisis ... however, cooperation and empathy are, without a doubt, the most revolutionary of the reactions.
  • The environment shows a great capacity for regeneration that can be studied, supported and optimized to alleviate the critical condition of the planet, generated by the interests of the current system, which are based on principles of overexploitation, alteration, pollution, destruction, invasion. etc.
  • The illusory stability of money and the system can easily falter and succumb to any threat. It is understood, at the level of society, empirically, the absolute relevance of fundamental and vital services such as water supply, production and distribution of food products, physical and psychological health, art, among others; and we are invited to rethink the absurd and overflowing consumerism, the mismanagement of priorities and resources, and how superficial and expendable many industries are.
  • It is necessary to implement alternative and sustainable solutions to global and environmental problems so as not to return to reckless accelerationism, much more urgent, destructive and deadly than any pandemic, which is going to be put in place to reactivate the machinery and recover lost time (money) devastating with what has to devastate, regardless of consequences. Faced with this chaotic panorama, there is an opportunity to use this truce to the environment and excess time, to dare to deconstruct, and in collaboration, to venture to create new and different styles of life, types of economy, way of relating and organizing ourselves, philosophies, customs, paradigms, practices etc.

Let's work with nature, not against it

When there is a crisis, there is no free market, no ethics, no diplomacy. Politics is exercised, and that is only understood in terms of survival, the same law as that of the jungle. A clear example is to see the management that the United States has given to the supply situation of hospital and sanitary implements. Without having taken preventive measures, now that it is the country most affected by the virus, it resorts not only to competition but also to gross hoarding, confiscation and diversion of cargo destined for other countries.

Now that ventilators are rare devices, countries are turning to their own engineers to design functional prototypes to assist critically ill patients. A good example is the University of Costa Rica, which already has a low-cost ventilator made available to the health authorities to be used if required.

What this suggests to us is that, in times of instability, each region depends solely on its own means, resources and people to survive. Autarky has always been thought of as something radical and far-fetched, but current reality shows, not only that it is feasible, but that it is the royal road to sustainability.

A good example is Cuba, which is betting more than ever on food sovereignty. Given the current situation and together with the historical commercial blockade, it is clear that it is not possible to depend on the import of food. They have chosen to implement a territorial strategy for food production that prioritizes agriculture as the main source and aims to guarantee local self-sufficiency.

There are several social movements around the globe that are adopting both ecological philosophies and methodologies for designing functional, sustainable and comprehensive production systems that are based on the patterns, dynamics and relationships of natural ecosystems. Some examples are permaculture eco-villages and self-sufficient integral farms, urban community gardens and peri-urban agriculture, clean soilless production technologies such as organic hydroponics and aquaponics, among others.

Another country that is beginning to become aware of this is Paraguay, which set up a channel where the most vulnerable families are located and a family garden is installed for them with the aim that they have direct access to their own food to face the effects of the quarantine.

This is the right time to invest human, physical, monetary and academic resources in alternatives, some that already exist, but are not taken seriously enough and the situation deserves it more than ever. These alternatives have the giant potential of transforming, from their field of action, in the first measure, the traditional agricultural system with its bad practices, genetically modified organisms, its pesticides, heavy metals, hormones, excess antibiotics and its tendency towards the synthetic.

Secondly, it has the ability to make people's mentality and actions more flexible towards plants, animals, the environment, life and, in particular, the community, since it has the quality of transfiguration, as Bellido explains:

“This interconnected socio-human group that interacts in multiple dimensions on the basis of a physical, geographical and cultural space with a history that is not made, is being made, with an identity not immobile but constantly facing new needs and problems. Thus the community is not something given in advance, nor something that can be given or imposed on someone, it is a social relationship to live, to continually recreate. " (2009, p. 53)

What is proposed in this article does not have the scope to even contemplate the totality, much less propose a solution, to the gigantic political, psychosocial, cultural and ecological issues. economic and, if you like, even spiritual that encompasses this overwhelming crisis, understanding that the pandemic is only a fragment of it. However, try to give a little shine to the subject so that it becomes a motive or a stimulus to eventually solve bigger problems as well. The first and foremost thing is to return to the earth, to the roots, to the archaic, to the harmonic, to the simple and even to the primitive if you like. The important thing is working with nature, and not against it.

Nicolas Peñarenas Gil


Bellido, Rolando. (2009) Memory of the fruits. Havana Cuba. Editorial Paths.

Video: How COVID-19 Can Accelerate a Green New Deal. The One Tree Planted Show CLIPS (January 2023).