The immediate and primary cause of human-induced climate change is an unprecedented emission of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) into the atmosphere originating from the increasing burning of fossil fuels for industrial, commercial, transportation and military purposes, to mention a few but significant sources. Other important drivers of climate change are forest degradation – excluding indigenous people’s sustainable practice of shifting cultivations – deforestation, extractive industries, disturbance of the water cycle, expansion of industrial agriculture areas through land grabbing, increased industrial meat production, and other types of unsustainable use of natural resources.
Uneven control and ownership over resources
These immediate causes are the results of an unsustainable global economic system built on unequal access to and control over the planet’s limited resources and the benefits that accrue from their use. This system is premised on the appropriation of local, national, and planetary commons by local and global elites. What has been praised as great strides in technology, production, and human progress has in fact precipitated global ecological and development disasters. Still, a privileged global elite engages in reckless profit-driven production and grossly excessive consumption while a very large proportion of humanity is mired in poverty with mere survival-and-subsistence consumption, or even less. This is the situation not only in countries of the South but also in the North. The world’s largest transnational corporations (TNCs), based mainly in the northern countries and tax-havens, but with expanding operations, have long been at the forefront of these excesses.
The competition among global corporations and rich nations for resources and greater market shares, as well as trade agreements and treaties, have led to a neo-colonial suppression of southern peoples, denying them rightful ownership and control of their resources. The World Trade Organization (WTO) and international financial institutions, as well as the European Union (EU) and United States (US), using bilateral trade agreements, are increasing the privatization and commoditization of public resources, intensifying the plunder of natural resources of underdeveloped countries, and imposing conditions that increase their dependence.
Prevailing patterns of thought and alternatives
The development model promoted by these institutions is not only a question of “economics.” The prevailing economic paradigm is strongly related to a system of thought that is based on an imagination conception of the human being as “economic man.” This ideology is reinforced by corporate media and marketing firms that promote egoism, competition, material consumption, and boundless accumulation of private wealth in utter disregard of the social and ecological consequences of such behaviour. This system of thought is intimately intertwined with patterns of patriarchy and paternalism.
If we really want to address this crisis, we need to recognize that the human species is part of both nature and society and cannot exist without either. Therefore if humanity is to survive, we need to respect the integrity of Mother Earth and strive for harmony with nature and for peace within and between cultures. We are at once citizens of different nations and of one world. Everyone shares responsibility for the present and future well-being of the human family and the larger living world. The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live according to the principle of “One among many.”