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The new enemy. By Ricardo Lorenzetti

The enemy has entered in our houses, overwhelming us. On a daily basis, we feel insecure since we can lose our health, income or quality of life in the blink of an eye.

Fear paralyzes us due to the permanent threat of an unrecognizable enemy.

Frustration dominates us because the future seems worse than the past.

Nature, on its hand, seems to have gotten angry with humans and is getting increasingly aggressive.

The pandemic, the insecurity, the fear, the frustration and the current environmental collapse have caused several social explosions, which cannot be resolved by institutions. Hence, the authoritarian temptation to limit individual rights has emerged.

This widespread pessimism has led to believe that with small or large adjustments to the existing status quo, there will be an improvement. History has taught us that this only leads to a prolonged decline that ends in a crisis, producing profound change.

That is why it is necessary to act beforehand, changing the direction in which we are going to and creating a unifying idealism, capable of breaking the vicious circle that this tragedy is generating.

One of those transformations comes from the environmental movement, especially in the field of the pandemic.

The globally accepted approach to deal with the Covid19 pandemic is based on the “health model.” Its justification is that there is a transitory crisis caused by a virus that affects human health in a massive way, generating a contagion curve that rises and falls.

This approach is, first, unilateral. Its preponderant objective is the protection of human life and health. Transitory: since there are drastic measures that imply limiting our freedoms, slowing down the economy and introducing large investments by the State, limited to the duration of the pandemic; Defensive: because there is a danger that requires controlling the demand on health systems to avoid their saturation.

Within the international environmental forums, the uncomfortable questions have arisen: what happens if what we are experiencing is not just a transitory crisis? What would happen if there were new outbreaks or the emergence of another virus next year? What would happen if an environmental disaster occurred, forcing similar measures?

In this context: Will people accept a new quarantine? Will the economy endure another paralysis? Will States be able to continue contributing with social and economic assistance?

This questions are pertinent because this phenomenon is noticeably different.

The scientific data shows a repetition of catastrophic events that indicates that it isn’t just a transitory crisis, but the advent of a systemic collapse. Examples abound: analysis of zoonosis show that they are beginning to recur more frequently because the transmission barriers between animals and humans have deteriorated. Climate change can cause new diseases, or major droughts, or destructive floods or storms, as we have seen recently in Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Siberia, USA.

These events occur in a time and space that neutralize the traditional human response capacity.

Fifty years ago, there were diseases originated by the consumption of wild animals in Amazonia or Asia, but they were ignored by the world. Now, transport systems have enabled them to move from one end of the planet to the other in just a few months.

The level of globalization makes frontier controls ineffective to this situation, creating great difficulties in undertaking an organized response. The best evidence that this is a different type of phenomenon is that it has surprised the scientific community, surpassing our technological abilities. We only used hand sanitization and quarantines to cope with this situation, which seem to be quite medieval instruments, considering the advances we have made in the last decades.

The environmental model, on the other hand, indicates that the course of these processes must be prevented, since there will be no different outcomes if we continue doing the same as in the last hundred years.

The model is different because it is systemic. It is not based on a single factor (health), but on a profound analysis of the system and on the modification of a multiplicity of elements that can lead to a different result.

It is proactive. It is not defensive, but it rather proposes active public policies to prevent the phenomenon from recurring or, if it does recur, it can reappear with less intensity.

It is permanent: it is not a transitory measure, but a constant modification of the course of events.

That is why it isn’t’ accurate to speak of a “post-pandemic” phase, since it is about adjusting to this new paradigm, meaning that we’ll have to deal with phenomena like this on and on. The “environmental paradigm” implies changing the economy and governance to bring the economic, social and environmental systems into coordination. It signifies a change of values, of culture, understanding that there is no human health without nature’s well-being.

The environmental gaze has ceased to be a distant idealistic point of view to become a concrete global governance project. “Let’s take nature seriously” seems to be the 21st century’s lemma.