|Amélia, Clóvis, Cecília e Luciana|
|Abertura Oficial da conferência|
|Participantes presentes na abertura ouvindo o discurso de Clóvis:|
Statement at the opening of the 2012 Meeting of the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE). Rio de Janeiro, June 16 2012
Entropy and Affection:
An Ecological Economics Perspective of Sustainability
(Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife, PE, Brazil)
Dear Colleagues and Friends:
It is a great honor to chair this opening session of ISEE 2012. I thank the organizers for giving me this rare opportunity. In fact, once again, I have to thank them, to thank Amélia Rodrigues, Paulo Mibieli, Peter May, and the whole membership of EcoEco, for graciously bestowing upon me, last October, the title of EcoEco’s Honorary President. As I told them when to my surprise I knew of the laurel, I consider their decision, first of all, a sign of affection. And affection, dear Colleagues and Friends, seems to me the great strength, the cement of Ecological Economics (and of an ecological economy): affection for our fellow human beings, affection for the beauty of Nature, love for life. This is why we challenge so strongly the prevailing concept of development which puts continuous economic growth – a biophysical impossibility in the first place – before anything else. The inspiring contribution of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen introducing the entropy law in the conventional vision of the economic process has shown conclusively that to speak of infinite growth in a finite planet, to use his expression, is “a graceless tautology”. Herman Daly, one of ISEE’s pillars – if not its symbol – has spoken wisely and frequently about the impossibility of an ever-increasing economy in a fuller, dramatically-changed world. Of course, we want development. But growth is another thing – a beast that its worshippers want to camouflage with a green dye. As Ashok Khosla, a former director of the UNEP, stated this week in Rio, “People from the ‘brown economy’ are very powerful. It is they who finance governments, who get votes, who manage political parties, so it is not easy to ignore them”. This “brown economy” is the force that has been overtaking and modifying the original green economy proposal of the UNEP in 2010, whose traits addressed a basic need for sustainable development. This is another sad case of the wolf assuming Little Red Riding Hood’s disguise.
I owe Herman Daly my discovery of Ecological Economics. We met for the first time in March 1970 at Yale where he was staying as a research fellow. I went there to visit James Tobin who had been my teacher. Some friends had the good idea to take me to see Herman. Ten years later he read a newspaper article I wrote for Jornal do Brasil, an important Brazilian daily from Rio (now only online). It dealt with the entropy law and critiqued development. Herman wrote me a letter and sent some of his publications. I had already met Georgescu, here in Rio, in July 1964, when he gave a couple of lectures at the Vargas Foundation, where I was studying, and presented his thermodynamic approach to economics. In the first quarter of 1970, I was a visiting scholar at Vanderbilt, where Georgescu taught. My office was next to his. This allowed me to see him very often. Once he invited me and my wife to his house. I had a splendid time (I still remember his comment that Portuguese seemed Latin spoken with a Polish accent). With this background, and being myself for some time already entirely uncomfortable with traditional economic theory, it was easy to become an ecological economist. But in 1967, when my friend Senator Cristovam Buarque was my student of microeconomics in the master’s program of economics in Recife, I still reproduced as a tape recorder what I had learned from books and conventional economics lectures. This had changed in July 1983, when I organized a mini-course called “The Economics of the Eighties” at the annual meeting of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science in Belém. Both Cristovam and Herman, besides my good friend Dirceu Pessoa, who died in 1987 in a strange plane crash, were invited to share with me the responsibility of conveying the principles of economics with a new perspective. Amélia Rodrigues Enríquez, a brilliant past president of EcoEco, who is present here, was a student at that time in Belém, took part in the mini-course, and also worked as a volunteer worker for the conference.
I know some of our fellow members of ISEE give importance, perhaps too much, to economic growth. However, after having the opportunity to learn something from Georgescu-Roegen, after reading Kenneth Boulding (and participating with him in ISEE’s Wye Island workshop in 1990), after having read and listened to E.F. Schumacher, Daly, Joan Martínez Alier, Ignacy Sachs, Armando Mendes, José Eli da Veiga, and others, after having enjoyed the company on several occasions (and read the important contributions) of the great Brazilian political economist Celso Furtado, who was also my teacher at Yale, I am fully convinced of Furtado’s 1974 explanation of growth as a myth. Our affection for humanity should lead us to think on improving the human condition. This is the task I conceive for Ecological Economics following the advice of Alfred North Whitehead that we are here, first, to live well and, secondly, to live better. We are not here to own more and more gadgets – some plainly stupid. Five hundred years of Western civilization in Brazil shows that insatiable greed in the face of the vegetal opulence that existed here led to what the environmental historian Warren Dean classified as the enthronement of entropy. To avoid this fate is why we need sustainable development or prosperity. As a matter of fact, we need simply development, for there does not exist such a thing as unsustainable development. For, if it did exist, it would lead – as an unsustainable bridge or fishery – to collapse.
We do not want to see our world collapsing. We love life. We want to preserve nature for our descendants. This takes me back to affection as a basis of sustainability and of ISEE. Herman Daly sent me recently the instructive text of a lecture that Wendell Berry, the admirable American poet, essayist, novelist, and farmer (I also own a farm), gave this year at the National Endowment for Humanities in Washington, DC. In it he says that “it is in affection that we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind, and conserving economy”. This plus the fact that land abuse cannot brighten the human prospect and leads instead to the destruction of communities, families, small businesses, and so on, impose the need to conserve “the wealth and health of nature”. The concept of sustainability requires, according to Berry, that “the fertility cycle of birth, growth, maturity, death, and decay … should turn continuously in place … so that nothing is wasted”. Berry explains that “For this to happen in the stewardship of humans, there must be a cultural cycle in harmony with the fertility cycle”. The cultural cycle would then be what is meant by sustainability. Berry concludes: “The fertility cycle turns by the law of nature. The cultural cycle turns on affection”.
Let us make ISEE a humane enterprise turning on affection. And let us not forget that, as Cecília Meireles, a Brazilian poet I like, wrote, “Above and below the earth/ one day the gold must run dry”.
I now have the pleasure to give the floor to Yolanda Kakabadse, president of WWF, whom I met in Ecuador – although she certainly does not remember it – a few years ago.
Obrigado. Thank you.
|Clóvis com o professor Dessarda da Índia e Joshua Farley|
|Com Sunita Narain da ìndia|
|Um nordestino, uma iraniana e um indiano|