An Environmental Ethics Manifesto
By María Isabel García and Yadira Ferrer
Latin America and the Caribbean will present a call for a new environmental ethic at the Rio+10 Summit in August. The manifesto highlights the importance of education and urges a new moral, ecological and cultural economy.
BOGOTA, (Tierramérica).- Individuals, communities, companies and governments must imbue themselves with a new environmental ethic with which to approach economic and social development, says a manifesto proposed by 35 representatives from Latin America and the Caribbean.
The document was signed in the context of the Forum of Latin American and Caribbean Environment Ministers, held May 15-17 in Sao Paulo, after a prior debate in the Colombian capital that included the participation of politicians, entrepreneurs, youth leaders, academics, indigenous peoples and African Americans.
The manifesto, which is to be presented at the Rio+10 Summit in South Africa in August, maintains that education is the instrument for creating an environmental ethic that permits one to value "simplicity in the midst of complexity, local knowledge in relation to global matters, diversity in relation to unity and uniqueness in relation to universality."
This rationality must be based on a "new economy - moral, ecological and cultural - as a condition for its sustainability," states the document.
It further proposes "production for life", based on taking advantage of renewable energy sources and recognizing the inalienable right "of the indigenous and Afro-descendant communities to their own cultural manifestations."
The declaration urges the United Nations to press governments, international organizations "and all human beings that inhabit the planet" to comply with a code of principles and behaviors that protect life and are aimed at building sustainable societies.
Ricardo Sánchez, regional director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), told Tierramérica that in spite of the differences of opinion, the manifesto reflects consensus about "the need to encourage a movement that 'domesticates' the inevitable process of globalization, with the criteria that it is human beings who direct and control the economic and market processes."
"The discussion was very beneficial because it involved those who believe we should improve the existing dominant economic policies and those who propose a total change of economic system."
"From the economic perspective, one can allege that income or national product will grow indefinitely, but there are no good arguments to prove that equality will increase along with it," stated Julio Carrizosa, a professor at the National University of Colombia's Environmental Studies Institute.
"The true obstacles to sustainability will not be seen in the global order," but rather in the countries, regions and towns, said the expert, who called on governments and political leaders "to take time to reflect, before corrupting, eroding and denigrating" the world.
Beatriz Paredes, president of the Latin American Parliament and of Mexico's legislative Congress, told Tierramérica that in the process of humanizing development, Latin America and contribute "the recovery of knowledge of pre-Hispanic cultures and the aptitude for recognizing harmony."
According to the lawmaker, the existing process of globalization "does not benefit the region" because it does not address high-priority issues like "respect for human rights and the elimination of poverty."
* María Isabel García and Yadira Ferrer are IPS correspondents.