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Reflections on the paradigms of development and environmental conservation

Reflections on the paradigms of development and environmental conservation


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By Rodrigo Arce Rojas

In practice, processes of mutual influence are verified, although in asymmetric power relations where the hegemonic conception and practices carry a lot of weight. Fortunately for humanity and its sustainability, there is still largely a reserve of culture consubstantial with nature, although with worrying processes of erosion and cultural drainage.

There are multiple factors that explain the complexity of this situation. While ignoring that the economic factor plays a very important role in the modeling of development and environmental conservation schemes and that politics from state action often endorse this supremacy, we are no longer facing societies that passively accept this reality.

More and better information, demands for participation and citizen mobilization act as counterweights with different degrees of achievement.

As a result of citizen action, public and private initiatives aimed at improving environmental performance, although also due to different degrees of awareness of the business sector, tools have appeared that seek to regulate the role of economic sectors in their social and environmental impacts. For example, one of these tools is the Global Compact.

The Global Compact asks companies to own, support and put into practice a set of fundamental values ​​in terms of Human Rights, Labor Standards, the Environment and the Fight against Corruption.

With regard to environmental issues, companies must support preventive methods with respect to environmental problems, they must adopt initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility and must promote the development and dissemination of environmentally-friendly technologies. From international organizations such as the World Bank (WB) or the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) there are a series of social and environmental standards that require projects to be respected as a financing condition. Likewise, civil society initiatives such as Fair Trade Certification and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards are mentioned for the case of forest management, among others. Other tools are the Corporate Social Responsibility programs and the environmental performance certification initiatives such as ISO 26000 (Social Responsibility) and ISO 14001 (Environmental).

The issue is that many of these initiatives are voluntary and therefore not widespread, so concerns about environmental impacts remain.

On the other hand, States are increasingly making efforts to improve their environmental control and supervision systems, either because they are signatories of international agreements and commitments, because they want to improve their environmental management systems, or because of the pressures and demands of civil society that demand that States are not left alone in policies of openness and investment facilities, but rather that they fulfill a role of guarantor of rights, including environmental rights. The States remain in the tension of decisively supporting economic growth and ensuring effective environmental management. Environmental entities may have the best will to advance in sustainable environmental management, but they frequently have to deal with the political and economic weight of the productive sectors. They don't always succeed or have to accept compromise situations.

With regard to local communities, not in all cases the premise of the close relationship between human beings and nature is maintained. The processes of transculturation and acculturation resulting from the globalization of the market economy have permeated to varying degrees. But it is not only the immediate deficiencies that explain conservation or environmental degradation, but also historical processes of exclusion and weaknesses in governance and governance systems come into play. Therefore, it can be said that environmental sustainability will not be possible while the expansion of capital increases the ranks of poverty and prevents the poor from accessing the resources necessary for mere survival (Laguardia, 2013). In this context, the “green economy” proposal appears as an option that recognizes that it has covered the shortcomings in environmental and social considerations and therefore seeks to improve its performance.

From a sector of civil society and from some of the large representative organizations of indigenous peoples, they consider that while the assumptions and tools of conventional economics are maintained, they distrust that the so-called green economy will respond to the deficit of attention to these issues and that it would be a new strategy to continue doing the same as always but with a new face and a new discourse. This should lead us to a deep reflection on the development model to follow.

Large economies cannot continue to grow exponentially in a finite world (Esposito and Zandvliet, 2013). However, we cannot fail to recognize that there have been interesting advances in the tensions between development and environmental conservation. The question is whether it is sufficient and the field evidence indicates that it is not. We are no longer talking only about polarized situations because there are relationships in which formality, informality and even illegality are interwoven. It is worrying that in some cases local communities also enter situations of illicit production for which there are no easy answers as they are classified as a “social problem”.


Furthermore, corruption at different levels constitutes an endemic evil that is difficult to combat.

New approaches are required then, such as the role of governability and governance, the dialogue regarding the “new economic ethics” that we need, the intra- and intercultural negotiation processes to define the ecological limits of economic systems, human rights from a multi-stakeholder and sustainability perspective, among others. In order to guarantee sustainable economies and societies, structural changes and novel policies are needed that align human development and climate change objectives with low-emission strategies capable of adapting to each climate, and with innovative public-private financing mechanisms (UNDP , 2013). For example, the experience in Latin America indicates that it is necessary to improve environmental governance if environmental degradation and the unsustainable use of natural resources are to be reversed.

Critical components include multi-stakeholder support, public awareness among all stakeholders, stronger financial sustainability mechanisms, improved institutional capacity, adequate legal frameworks, and stronger compliance mechanisms (UNEP, 2012). The fact that environmental liabilities, rivers, soils and air are maintained contaminated, the processes of deforestation and fragmentation of habitats, the loss of the gene pool, lead us to the need to be more creative in generating alternatives for sustainability.

The fact that environmental legislation is considered "aggressive" from economic sectors is a demonstration that we are still privileging economic growth over sustainability. There is then a need to develop theoretical and methodological approaches that account for the complexity. Dual patterns of thought are limiting us to develop higher impact alternatives.

Revised Bibliography:

Esposito Guevara, Carla A. and Zandvliet, Hans. 2013.

Negotiations on climate change at the United Nations and the reality of emissions. A perspective from the south. In: Socio-environmental crisis and climate change / Carla A. Esposito Guevara [et.al.]; coordinated by Mayra Paula Espina Prieto; Gian Carlo Delgado Ramos; Hector Sejenovich. - 1st ed. - Autonomous City of Buenos Aires: CLACSO, Pp: 23-52

Laguardia Martinez, Jacqueline. 2013. - Autonomous City of Buenos Aires: CLACSO, Pp: 53-76 United Nations Development Program (UNDP). 2013.

Human Development Report 2013 The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World. New York, 216 p.

United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) 2012. GEO 5

Global Environment Outlook.

Environment for the future we want. Panama, 552 p.

Rodrigo Arce Rojas Forest Engineer [email protected]


Video: Dr. Bruce Lipton Explains How to Reprogram Your Mind (June 2022).


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