Modernity Crisis and Ecological Politics

Modernity Crisis and Ecological Politics

The analysis of the modernity crisis requires an accurate historic perspective; a vision not only circumscribed to the “history from historians”, but a history to which archeologists, paleontologists, biologists, geologists and astrophysicists contribute to understand the magnitude of this industrial civilization crisis. Rational thinking reveals concrete data about the social and human future. Scientific investigation not only helps us comprehend the origin of the universe or the evolution of hominids, it is also useful to think about social processes. An un unequivocal trait of the current crisis is the stubbornness of analysts, whose lack of memory, narrow methodology and quick vision of the facts limit current scientific studies.

Modernity is somewhat recent social invention; Enrique Dussel dates back to the discovery of the Americas (1492) to establish its historical origin and distinguishes two stages 1) Early modernity. This is seen in the context of global trade. The main cause of the discovery of the Americas and the Portuguese and the Spanish crown’s expansion as colonial superpowers in the XV century was the universalization of existing subjectivity (cogito ergo sum from Descartes), private property and contract liberty, pillars of modern thinking and capitalism that would materialize in the XVII century. 2) Mature modernity. England replaces Spain as world superpower and the Industrial Revolution places capitalism as the de-facto economical system, that during Imperalism (1870) would reach its peak. Capitalism extends throughout the world and since the XVII century the Illustration had settled modern and rational thinking as axes of human progress. In this stage is where differences start being more noticeable between the center (Europe) and the peripheries (Latin America and Africa mostly). For Dussel, the main characteristics of modernity are its eurocentrism and scientism that hide behind its humanistic, progressive and civil makeup the other face of capitalism and its double exploitation: social and ecological.

It is not possible to determine with precision the exact date that marks the beginning of modernity, although it is possible to mention several events that came together in its beginning: scientific thought, capitalism and industrialism through the exploitation of coal first and of oil, gas and Uranium afterwards. Some indicate the “official” birth of science comprises of the period from 1662 to 1666. These were years in which the first scientific communities were founded in England and France. On the other side, the beginning of industrialization and capitalism is hard to trace back to, although it doesn’t go further than three centuries ago. On the 17th of august of 1859, for example, the first oil well in South-east United States was being inaugurated.

From a historical perspective of species, the longevity of the human being dates back to around 200 000 years; in this sense, the emergence of the modern era (XV century), happened almost yesterday. The XX century was the modern world’s era of consolidation; in a couple of decades the human being went from an organic metabolism to an industrial one. In a time-lapse equivalent to the 0.05% of the homo-sapiens history, capitalism, rational thinking and technocratic policies expanded throughout the world. The main trait of the modernity crisis is its multidimensional and tripartite that gathers the ecological, social and individual crisis in a single one: the crisis of industrial civilization.

It is a mistake to think that this crisis is limited to the economical, technological and ecological aspects, since inside each one of them is a whole spectrum of subdivisions that demands to analyze the crisis with two criteria: an epistemological that is not only limited to rational thinking, and a political one, that proposes alternative solutions to the hegemonic model. Social movements should propose new social paradigm outside of practices based on natural exploitation for the sake of economic growth.

The modernity crisis is the end of an era, the last part of the industrial civilization and its individual, social and ecological contradictions. Dominant scientific models have demonstrated an incapability to overcome the crisis and foresee the increasingly worrying and surprising scenarios. The industrial civilization has severely affected a millennial historical process; the communion between human beings and nature.