Riccardo Lorenzetti: “We have a duty to put the seriousness of the ecological crisis on the agenda”

Ricardo Lorenzetti, Judge of the Supreme Court of the Nation (Photo: Franco Fafassuli)

The following is the full speech of the nation’s Supreme Court Justice Ricardo Lorenzetti toasted in Rosario at the presentation of the book “The New Enemy. The Ecological Collapse” with the assistance of businessmen, trade unionists, federal and provincial judges, the provincial court, prosecutors, environmental specialists, among others:

When we analyze at a macro level what has happened since the industrial revolution until now, there are trends that are dramatic. That’s why we talk about the end of the cycle, about something that ends. What is ending and why do we say that this path that humanity has evolved in recent years is ending? First, we see that this trend has gone from a time of some purity to increasing pollution. We all see this increasing pollution in all areas: the rivers are polluted, the air is polluted, the landscape is polluted, the culture is polluted. We evolve from purity to pollution. We evolve from balance to imbalance. 50, 60 or 100 years ago we noticed a balance in all systems, in nature, but also in the economic system and in the social and political system.

Now the summers are too hot, the winters too cold. Where there was water, there is drought or desertification. In other words, nature is a very delicate system and due to constant human actions, it has lost its balance. And we reach another very dramatic level of balance, because when nature corrects itself, it generates great damage, and that’s why a pandemic is said to be a systemic correction, that is, it’s a crisis in the system that causes us disease, but also creates storms that are increasingly dramatic. And that has a very direct impact on everything.

For example, when we see that during the European summer there are droughts and the big rivers remain dry, then the navigation companies that make cruises go bankrupt. In Europe there are regulations on water use and citizens are told they can only shower with so much water. It’s not something abstract. These imbalances cause very specific consequences in the economic and social world.

Another trend is that we are moving from diversity to homogeneity. There used to be many more animal and plant species in the natural world than there are now because biodiversity has declined. Our local behavior is also becoming more homogenous because what we think and do in Argentina is more or less the same as what happens in any other country. Notice that an advertisement for a certain product starts worldwide and we will all be consuming it and we are all doing the same thing when before we were doing very different things. This cultural homogeneity is increasingly dangerous and is passed from child to child because children in Argentina play the same games as other countries and behave in the same way. Also urbanism: the historical centers of cities are different, but the modern centers are the same all over the world.

This homogeneity is also related to technology. Today we are in a world where we visit a web page and are presented with other identical web pages; we use the credit card to purchase a product and we receive similar offers; We participate in a Facebook group and the same groups come. Then our way of thinking crystallizes and polarizes. Polarization has a lot to do with technology because we are always looking for confirmation of what we think. The technological system leads us to confirm what we already think, not to a critical spirit. In the past, people met, discussed and exchanged opinions through touch, which created a critical spirit. Today that doesn’t happen. Homogeneity leads to polarization. A technological system with artificial intelligence can produce exactly what we want. And so the information we receive only confirms what we already think.

Institutional reform is the only way to overcome the day-to-day battles and move state policies to address these serious problems. In other words, it is a system where management cannot promise a better future and someone believes it. That is why politics ceases to be a process of change to become a system of occupying spaces of power that is exhausted. 21st century politics is paralyzed in almost all countries and very difficult to manage. Today everyone knows what to do, but cannot do it, because the state is like a huge Gulliver-like giant, trapped by numerous small sectors that paralyze activity These tendencies towards pollution, imbalance, homogeneity, acceleration and vetocracy have a direct impact on the economic, social and political crisis and that is why there is talk of an end to the cycle, a change of direction.

This does not mean giving up development. In fact, the economic system has great potential. The economy could turn upside down because the cost of continuing this way outweighs the benefits. This has been very clear since the pandemic. But all the subsequent problems that we experience, and so they start to spin, spin, change direction.

In terms of energy, there is a big shift towards renewable energy sources, but also with conventional, traditional energies, what there is is a shift towards more efficient use of energy. For example, Argentina has great potential in this regard, as we have renewable energy sources like those that we can use in Patagonia in terms of solar energy, but also in the use of more efficient traditional energies. Our companies can sell them and we have nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, great technological development and also in other areas. I mean the world is moving towards that and we have a huge opportunity. If energy changes, so will cars. The ultimate renewable energy car has yet to be invented. We continue to try to make the best car, as Ford did many years ago, in a losing race where everyone is going in the opposite direction.

Riccardo Lorenzetti at the presentation of the book The New Enemy
Riccardo Lorenzetti at the presentation of the book The New Enemy

Management intelligence is to change the economic dimension and encourage these new opportunities. The best renewable energy car, the best airplane, food, sustainable tourism and many other areas. But public policies must change. An example is the food industry sector: policies are largely based on a single variable designed to collect and generate speculative behaviour. On the other hand, a serious government policy would mean taking advantage of this huge potential that exists, which has many technologies and many opportunities for the development of healthy foods in the world.

What is happening in Argentina?: If we continue to do what we have been doing until now, we will be left out of the world because the world is already changing.

For example, Europe has a green pact that will not accept products that come from deforested areas. So if we don’t change, we won’t be able to export.

An agreement was presented at the Ottawa conference for first-time buyers not to buy products that are not sustainable. So who are we going to sell to? Major global financiers require environmental clauses in loans.

The economic system needs to change direction because it is a huge opportunity, not a contradiction between environment and development. It is the intelligence of the current administration to establish the appropriate incentives for this change. We need a change of direction in political governance, because so far the ecological system has been on one side, nature, the economy on the other, politics on the other and society on the other. We are disconnected. So what you need to do is integrate systems. Systems integration means taking a more holistic view of everything we do. And what we do is always compartmentalize and not integrate that analytical model. This is why we fail in all public policies.

The governance of the 21st century is fundamentally based on history, on a narrative that is from the past and looks to the past, that is what needs to change. Whether or not these stories, which are based on theories from the past, are useful is much debated. The clearest evidence that they are already sold out is that this is a stage that has been left without an audience. Because you don’t see the population of today’s world getting excited about what is being said in public discourse. What you see are discussions, fights, obstacles. But there is no hope, no development. What is seen is contention because political governance has ceased to be a process of change to be a process of occupying spaces. When a government comes, what it does is occupy spaces because it has an underlying idea based on history.

This foundational idea suggests that it should occupy the executive branch, then the legislature, the central bank, the judiciary. What is the problem with the judicial system? Judges are always appointed from one sector or another. It is a space of political occupation. And then it comes to cover all the associations: of the companies and the trade unions that are from the same sector. And when one comes to occupy all this, the mandate ends and another comes and we go in the opposite direction. This cyclical behavior, which has been our story for many years, means that problems are not solved, they are transferred. That is why the agenda of Argentina’s problems is unchanged. what worries us today? And more or less the same as 50 years ago. Inflation, uncertainty, lack of public policies, polarization. We cannot avoid conflicts. Conflicts are natural in social, political and economic life. In nature there are conflicts, animals fight; there is life and death, but within a system.

Conflicts must be within the system. What is happening to us is that the conflicts are systemic; when a sector arrives and wins, it changes the entire system.

It’s like the myth of Sisyphus in Camus’ version: we go forward until we reach a place, everything falls and we start again. Every five or ten years we lose not only the future but also the present. That’s why we need to understand that we are at the end of the cycle and that we need to change direction. And the change of direction also implies an understanding that there is something else. Beyond yourself. And this is not difficult for us to understand, because if you see that we fight all day long. The problem of going right or left is within a system.

What is happening to us now is whether we are going up or down, that is, the whole system. Decay is a common problem. That is why it is a common enemy. If we continue on this path, in addition to decline, ecological collapse awaits us. That’s why we talk about a new enemy, because there is something that transcends everyday polarization. So, the role in society is to generate movement. Movement implies that everyone is doing something and changing.

We must be ready to respond and generate a movement based on hope. One of the great themes of global environmentalism is the right to hope. We are obliged to put the seriousness of the ecological crisis on the agenda. That is why we have to change, which also means that the economy, society and political system are changing. The state needs a Republic, it needs a separation of powers. We cannot always discuss the same thing. This is already decided by the Constitution. Separation of powers, independent judiciary. Basic things that are never clear in Argentina.

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