What changes are needed to face the global crisis?

well-rooted tree

Communication, advocacy, thematic networks, discussions between professionals, specialists and policy-makers, demand respect for scientific data, ethical responsibility, which implies a fundamental change in the treatment of problems related to culture, politics, economy and the environment.

What interests are at stake, who are the actors involved, what rules govern their behavior when they have to deal with the dichotomy between public and private interests? How to deal with the hegemony of technological and technocratic solutions compared with an integrated ecosystem approach?

It is not uncommon to see inconsistencies between data collected by independent researchers and official reports. Do the statements name the real issues? In addition to the legal framework, statutory rules, how to deal with the issue of the loyalty to corporate interests, largely rewarded by favors and benefits?

Scholars and commentators point out that business, financial interests, have a privileged status in public policy debates, in news coverage, in academic curricula, which run the risk of promoting “entrepreneurship” as a magic formula to solve the problems derived from a wicked system of things.

Scientific studies relating to environmental issues generated in the academia rarely reach the highest levels of decision unscathed, and when this happens, decision makers tend to choose other paths, to meet the interests of political and economic groups, disqualifying studies and reports on the contrary.

Capacity-building implies environmental, political, economic, social, cultural and ethical aspects: when an activity threatens human health or the environment, precautionary measures are mandatory, even when cause and effect relationships are not fully established (an issue that is promptly explored by corporate interests).

Instead of dealing with segmented, reduced issues and trying to solve isolated and localized problems, communication, advocacy, public policies, research and teaching programs should be attentive to the general phenomenon, to the problems generated deep inside the “boiling pot”.

Promoting holistic and transformative actions in this important agenda, demands shared values ​​and visions, universal measurement criteria (transparency, results and impact), encompassing new alliances, resilient communities, governance, leadership, the society at large.

The recovery of the values ​​of populations rooted in specific niches, such as indigenous peoples, faces the power of the economic, political and technological system, which imposes its worldview (the “productivity paradigm”), actively threatening their physical and cultural territories and their own survival.

Social, political and economic asymmetries between ordinary people and corporations has led to natural devastation, loss of biodiversity, poor housing, lack of sanitation, fatal epidemics, crime and violence, with serious environmental, political, economic, social and educational impacts.

Values, common heritage, traditions, community ties, are actively dismantled by the globalized world: studies have shown that in contemporary societies, values ​​result mainly from the messages orchestrated by the mass media, by advertising, by the “show business”, by “celebrities” and prestigious people.

Political, economic, social and cultural regeneration is an essential condition for the regeneration of natural and built environments. Philosophical and ethical aspects must be integrated in all areas of knowledge, in educational and research programmes,  in scientific analysis; scientists cannot remain detached from the consequences of their work.

Technological and technocratic solutions prevents an integrated approach to the general phenomenon; an ecosystem approach includes the political, economic, social, cultural and environmental state of the world, the combination of the intimate, interactive, social and biophysical dimensions of being in the world.

Instead of dealing with reduced, segmented issues, object of traditional public policies, academic formats and media headlines, it is necessary to pay attention to the general phenomena, to the profile of decision makers, to the design, formulation and maintenance of institutions (transparency, completeness, credibility).

Changing the paradigms of development, growth, power, wealth and freedom embedded into the political, technological, economic and educational institutions, implies institutional capacity, judicial neutrality, transparency and social spaces for civic engagement and enlightened political participation.

The regeneration of the Earth and the regeneration of people, groups and communities are complementary and must be dealt with simultaneously; problems and contexts in which they occur must be reinterpreted and restructured through an ecosystemic lens, changing the ways of addressing them.

The general phenomenon include the roles, attributions, responsibilities and conduct of the public and private sectors, perceptions and responses to the challenges of the transition, the credibility, effectiveness and transparency of decision clusters, the reaction of governments and companies.

The complexity of global challenges requires creative, comprehensive and long-term approaches, including anticipation (consequences), reflexivity (commitments), inclusion (involvement) and responses (capabilities): public participation, discussion and engagement should precede decisions in all areas.

All dimensions of being in the world (intimate, interactive, social and biophysical) should be combined to elicit the events, deal with the consequences and organize for change. Communication, advocacy, public policies, research and teaching programmes would:

  1. define the problems in the core of the “boiling pot”, instead of reducing them to the bubbles of the surface (fragmented issues, reduced academic formats, segmented public policies);
  2. consider, as donors and recipients, all dimensions being in the world (intimate, interactive, social and biophysical), assessing their deficits and assets, as they combine to elicit the events and organize to change;
  3. promote the singularity (proper characteristics) and reciprocity (mutual support) of all dimensions, considering their complementarity and dynamic equilibrium.


PILON, A. F., Reframing Relationships Between Humans and the Earth: An Ecosystem Approach [ppt presentation], 2019 [online]: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338584804_Reframing_Relationships_Between_Humans_and_the_Earth_An_Ecosystem_Approach

Photo by Jeremy Bishop