Gustavo Fernández Colón

Paper for the II International Seminar 'Africa, Caribbean and Latin America' St. Vincent and the Grenadines 3 and 4 December 2010.

The most serious aspect of the crisis the global capitalist system currently faces is not the bankruptcy of financial corporations, or the global economic downturn, or the discrediting of its institutions of political control. The greatest threat to the continuity of the capitalist mode of production is the environmental crisis caused by the irrational destruction of nature, to the point of jeopardizing the ability of self-regeneration of the ecosystems on which our survival depends.

For many analysts, a new long cycle of economic growth would be able to take off thanks to the efforts of countries like China and India, now converted into more desirable markets for transnational capital because of their abundant cheap labour. However, the high rate of growth of China and India is misleading if one takes into account that economic statistics do not usually include the serious environmental and social liabilities generated by the development model implanted in these countries.

Indeed, sooner or later the world economy will be forced to include in its accounting the huge economic losses caused by global warming and climate disasters, water depletion and pollution, deforestation and the desertification of soils, the chemical pollution of food, declining wild fish stocks, mass extinction of vegetable and animal species, depletion and scarcity of renewable energies, overpopulation and pollution in cities, migrations and pandemics. On time, humanity as a whole will have to pay for all of these environmental liabilities.

Located in a peripheral and dependent position within the global capitalist system, the Caribbean Basin and all of its island territories make up an ecologically fragile and vulnerable region, having the highest population density of the continent and being of great importance for humanity because of its biodiversity and its high proportion of endemic species per unit surface area. Since, as is known, following the European conquest a colonial economy based on plantation system with slave labour was introduced for growing agricultural products for export to metropolitan markets, the Greater and Lesser Antilles preserve today only 10% of their original vegetation. Henceforth deforestation has become a general practice for the extension of monocultures such as sugarcane, coffee, cocoa and snuff, among other items, with devastating consequences for the environment—as evidenced by the severe desertification of soils Haiti currently faces as a consequence of its having been the world's largest producer of sugar in the eighteenth century.

The intensification of climate disruption caused by global warming and its increasing ecological, economic and social effects over the Greater Caribbean; deforestation; pesticide poisoning of the soil, water and foodstuffs as a result of dependence on fossil fuels; structural poverty—as well as the struggles for vindication of Afro-Caribbean identities and resistance against European colonialism and U.S. hegemony through new integration projects such as the ALBA—can all be interpreted as symptoms of an eco-socio-systemic bifurcation, which could well lead to increased levels of chaotification or trigger a process of long-range socio-political changes.

All of these factors foretell an exacerbation of imperialist intervention and of the exploitation of human beings and nature with the aim of guaranteeing the reproduction of capital in a context of growing instability and unsustainability. Against this backdrop, the survival of biodiversity and ethnodiversity in the Caribbean will only be feasible if presently prevailing social, economic, political and cultural structures undergo a radical transformation aimed at achieving four key objectives:

a) The harmonious coupling of economic dynamics and ecological systems, primarily through the prompt replacement of agro-industrial monocultures by organic polycultures, and of fossil fuels by clean and renewable energy sources.

b) An economic model that emphasizes community well-being over individual profit, cooperation over competition, sovereignty over subordination.

c) A horizontal and dialogical political organization of society, based on the deliberative processes of participatory democracy and direct democracy.

d) Interculturalism as a framework for free and peaceful coexistence of ethnic, cultural, religious and gender differences.

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