To all Latin Americans: How do we see ourselves as theorists and aspractitioners of the transition(s)? The convergence of climate, energy, and food crises requires a revolution of our civilizational model, and our region is a fertile ground for these drastic changes. In The Great Work, Thomas Berry argues that the fundamental task of humanity is to ”transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner” (1999, 3). Likewise, Joanna Macy urges a transition from an industrial growth society to a life-enhancing civilization. She presents three scenarios, one of ‘business as usual’, which results in the ‘great unraveling’ of our global civilization, culminating in a hopeful ‘Great Turning.’ Charles Eisenstein also calls for us to restructure and rethink of our role on the planet, from an ‘Age of Separation’ to a period of interbeing and reunion; it is a ‘Great Transition’. Furthermore, Vandana Shiva calls for a transition towards ‘Earth democracy’; this calls for living economies, living democracies, and living cultures, in partnership with nature. As Latin Americans, we must lead the way for these transitions.
“We need to move beyond oil; we need to reinvent society, technology, and the economy” (Shiva 2007; 2). Instead of assuming an industrial model of agriculture, we should consider a steady increase of agroecological farming. The region must embrace the re-localization of food from small and medium-sized farms, with production geared towards local consumption. The roots of our food crisis emerge from our industrialization of agriculture and depeasantization. We must reevaluate neoliberal globalization and the effect of trade liberalization on food security. This transition requires a paradigm shift in our conception of progress, towards a nature and people centered transition, rather than a ‘business as usual’ and market-centered approach.
We must reevaluate our adoration of economic growth, which results in rising carbon emissions and inequality, and consider the notions of degrowth and postcapitalism. To survive we must downscale production with an emphasis on living otherwise; capitalism cannot degrow it must be compelled to degrow. These changes require individual and national transformations, and they foment a harmonious society that abides by conviviality, dematerialization, and simplicity, resulting in a new, democratic society. The transition to a post-extractivist framework is also crucial. Latin America must embrace postdevelopment and Buen Vivir as alternatives to development.
Governments can enable Buen Vivir by incorporating the role of nature into the political process, expanding the ‘polis’ to living and non-living entities. Ecuador and Bolivia have enshrined the rights of nature in their constitutions, but they have not altered their extractivist, economic approaches. These governments are predetermined with development policies predicated on economic growth and the extraction of natural resources. National constitutions and governments must now transform and empower nature with protected rights. Buen Vivir encourages the disbanding of the Society-Nature dualism- a major ontological turn.
Ultimately, we are confronting intertwined crises that threaten our own existence. The predicament of anthropogenic climate change urges Latin American and Caribbean societies to cooperate. To succeed, there must be revolutionary changes in society along with governments that will encourage sustainable and memorable livelihoods. After a troubled past, the definitive independence of Latin America is in the making, but our regional integration must lead to something much greater. Sustainability and interbeing with nature are the keys to our survival. We will reject the age of environmental destruction towards an epoch of sustainable living. We must guide the great transition(s) of our time.