Recently, while visiting the Tunisian immigrants impeded from entering France, presidential candidate Marine Le Pen told them frankly that France has no room for them. Some years ago, such a declaration would have been repudiated as illogical and immoral. Today it is accepted as electorally logical and positive.
What has changed since then is the observation that there is no room for everyone to enjoy the same standard of consumption as the rich, be it in France, Brazil or even Tunisia itself.
By the way, the flight of the Tunisians and the other immigrants from the poor countries is occurring because the rich of their countries, sharing Ms. Le Pen’s opinion, push their poor towards the world of the rich outside their borders.
Two hundred years ago our civilization was based upon the confluence of three propositions: economic growth, social justice and political democracy. Suddenly, the perception of the ecological crisis, global warming, and scarcity of resources – of the limits to economic growth, in other words – is threatening this confluence.
The continuation of growth for all will render unfeasible the future towards which Our Boat Called Earth has been navigating for 200 years under the aegis of industrial civilization. There is no room for everyone to consume the goods directed towards the high- and medium-income consumers. Projections show that this course will lead to the shipwreck of the Boat.
One can perceive this from the current crises, not only the ecological ones, but also the financial and fiscal ones impeding the maintenance of well-being acquired through financing and through depredating nature. That course will lead inevitably to the shipwreck of the boat of industrial civilization.
There are two other alternatives to save this course. We can continue along the same route, while excluding two-thirds of humanity from the boat. That alternative is represented in the film “2012,” in which, faced with an ecological catastrophe, those who can buy passage for the limited number of spaces board boats to save themselves. The film is a metaphor for the French presidential candidate’s speech.
Yet another alternative exists: changing the course of the Boat. What is necessary for this are structural, ideological and even mental changes in the concepts, sentiments, and desires already implanted in the population’s imagination.
It would be necessary to redefine progress, reorienting the economic growth from private short-term material goods without ecological consideration towards growth based upon public long-term cultural goods with a commitment to ecological balance.
It would also be necessary to redefine social justice because, in this new course, the dishonest illusion of unlimited income and consumption growth for everyone cannot be maintained. Some of the benefits won by salaried employees, such as the private automobile and early retirement will no longer be viable in the long term for everyone.
Democracy itself will have to be redefined: its local and short-term practice will have to be limited by international decisions. Democracy is not made through the individual will and sovereignty of the voters of each country without taking into consideration the will of their neighbors in all Our Boat Earth.
In June of 2012, during the “Rio+20” meeting, the world will have a rare chance to chart the course for the New Boat. This will depend upon the representation of the Chiefs of States and other leaders who take part, upon the agenda that will be discussed and upon the commitments that will be signed.
No one has more responsibility for the success or failure of this meeting than President Dilma. She must use her political leadership to convince world leaders to come to Brazil.
She must also offer efficient infrastructure and lead in the creation of a Letter from Rio to the World, reaffirming that Our Boat is for everyone and defining the lines for the course to be followed – the construction of alternative development.
Unfortunately, this may be no more than a dream since the population does not appear to believe in the risks of progress nor does it demonstrate any desire to change the course of the Boat.
In addition, Brazil appears to be more concerned with the two other international events it will be hosting. Knowing how to score more goals in the 2014 World Cup and who will jump the highest in the 2016 Olympics seems to be considered more important than how many people will survive thanks to the decisions made in 2012 at “Rio+20.”
Cristovam Buarque is a professor at the University of Brasília and a PDT senator for the Federal District. You can visit his website at www.cristovam.org.br/portal2/, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SEN_CRISTOVAM in Portuguese and http://twitter.com/cbbrazilianview in English and write to him at email@example.com.
New translations of his works of fiction The Subterranean Gods and Astricia are now available on Amazon.com.
Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome (LinJerome@cs.com).