Geo and Politics: Or how to avoid the wrath of the gods

The word Geopolitics is an association of these two terms that are in conflict today: the planet and the system of social relations. This conflict is more evident everyday and demands more political soundness, because Geo’s response, that is mother earth’s, could be terrible and undisputable.

 Since the outermost distant origin of history, human beings have created a wide variety of gods, and then they thought the gods created them, in a useful and characteristic reversal of the sylvan thought. Further on, some believed that there was only one god and that belief gave rise to great imperial expansions and numerous extermination struggles.

From a rational point of view, we cannot assert the divine existence. Only faith, and not reason, ascertains the presence of an almighty: Credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd). But from a scientific point of view, that is sociological, we can assert that societies produce gods and that such belief has essential functions, especially the ability to lay the foundations for solidarity and avoid the havocs of selfishness or arrogance. However, the latter, as much one as the other, stick out from time to time pretending that human will is a good substitute for the divine. Thus, sooner or later, they incur in punishment.

Demographic catastrophes, earthquakes, pestilences, floods and droughts whip peoples and they once again fear their gods. In every narrative of different civilizations nothing is more terrible than the wrath of a vengeful god. In the history of religions, divine wrath long precedes compassion and love.

In literature, god’s rage is a central issue. In the movies, divine wrath is a good resource to load the show. In Lopez de Aguirre saga—a Spanish conquistador who started a series of coup d’état in Latin America—the German filmmaker Werner Herzog put the divine wrath as the subtitle of his movie: he called it Aguirre: Der Zorn Gottes (Aguirre: the wrath of god).

The movie is centered on the two-month expedition in search for El Dorado carried out by the forty men that Pizarro decided to send as the outpost of his mass detachment. An expedition led by Don Pedro de Urzua, with Lopez de Aguirre as second in command, Don Fernando de Guzman in representation of the Spanish crown and the priest Gaspar de Carvajal as maximum ecclesiastic authority (author of the diary on which the movie director is inspired). When Urzua decides to desist from his enterprise and return to Pizarro, Aguirre rebels and takes command of the expedition.

“I am the greatest traitor. There should be no greater one. He who thinks about fleeing will be turned into 190 pieces. And these will be stomped until they can be spread on the walls. He who eats one more grain of corn or drinks one more drop of water will be jailed for 155 years. If I want birds to drop dead from the top of the trees, birds will drop dead from the top of the trees. I am the wrath of God. The land I step on sees me and trembles.”

“I, God’s wrath, will marry my own daughter and with her I will found the most pure dynasty that has ever existed on earth. We will resist. I am the wrath of God. Who is with me?”

The pursuit of profit and power ends in madness. Stalin, Hitler, Kim, Putin, Duterte, Erdogan, Trump? Substituting god by the dictator completes the narrative; in this case, it ends in an insane kingdom of shipwrecks and apes.

In the Brazilian novel Macunaima by Mario Andrade, and in the corresponding Brazilian film, there is a phrase that presents one of the causes of the divine wrath. Such phrase, taken up by another German movie, the Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, says: “Every man for himself and God against all (Jeder für sich und Gott gegen Alle). It is the theological version of the tragedy of the commons, where individual selfishness results in a collective disorder, inverting the optimism of Adam Smith and the Scottish philosophers, fathers of the economic liberalism, for whom individual selfishness, added all together, is good for economic growth. Here, instead, it is about what economists call a negative externality.

It is well known that the worst consequence of the neither coordinated nor regulated pursuit of profit is the depletion of renewable and nonrenewable resources, from fisheries reserves to fossil fuels. The global warming that we experiment today is directly and indirectly associated to an unequal and uncontrolled economic growth. Nature responds in a catastrophic manner.

Global ice-melting is one of the most prominent cases. Recently, satellites have observed iceberg breakups from the Antarctic continent that have an area equivalent to the American state of Delaware[1]. That is, Antarctic ice that was resting in the continent now is floating in the ocean, with a movement already studied since Archimedes’ discovery. If we continue at this speed, a future breakup of the size of not just Delaware but the state of Texas, or that of Buenos Aires province, will produce the elevation of sea level up to five meters. In this case, not only numerous today inhabited islands will be submerged but also large costal metropolises will be flooded. According to Scientific American magazine “Not only is that unprecedented in the 10,000-odd years that human civilization has flourished, but it would doom coastal cities such as New York, Hamburg, Lagos, Shanghai, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro, where more than a billion people currently live.[2].” We can add to this list Buenos Aires and Miami, among many other coastal cities. The question is not if but when will this happen.

Demographic consequences would be catastrophic, with hundreds of millions of people transformed in climate refugees in a short time. If we add large draughts, and other ecological consequences, a large part of populations at risk would seek establishing in more temperate regions with abundant aquifers. Countries sparsely populated inland, as Argentina, will be the objective of invasions, putting at risk their sovereignty and creating violent conflicts.

Some natural resources such as water are indispensable for human survival, reason why there is interest in appropriating them or obtaining a benefit based on their scarcity. Latin America has large reserves of hydro resources, which is why there have been several conflictive situations and social unrest; but, at the same time, interests of diverse conflicting actors have been delimited, as those of international organizations of varied level, transnational enterprises, and developed countries that have depleted or contaminated part of their water reserves.

In this scenario, developed countries—main historical responsible of the use and abuse of natural resources of the planet—will be the ones to produce refugees. Unlike, today’s large migrations of poor people, there will be migrations of the privileged ones as well, the latter with institutional and fire power. Without global agreements as the Paris accord—today completely ignored by the American government—humanity will risk returning to a Middle Age (illustrated by the images of Jeronimo Bosch) but with much larger belligerent power. The relationship between social justice, international coordination, and rational use of science and technology can prevent the catastrophe today. Historians have demonstrated that throughout history economic shocks were associated with inter-ethnic violence, such as with Western anti-Semitism outbreaks[3]. In a paper published last year, Carl-Friedrich Schleussner and other colleagues discovered that 23% of civil wars between 1980 and 2010 coincide with climatic disasters in countries with deep social and ethnic ruptures[4]. Global warming will only exacerbate the problem. History’s lesson is clear: only better political institutions can limit the roughness of such conflicts. It is too late to avoid global warming, but it is not late to mitigate and decelerate its progress.

I will like to end this article with the concept of geo-politics, in the spirit of Macunaima. Grammatically, geo is a prefix of Greek origin meaning “land” and is used in reference to what is related to it. Meanings associated with this prefix are: biosphere, climate, geography, collective and ecosystem.

Geo is nature and its force in the planet. Geo has been offended by the political, national and international, dysfunction in which we live. We have to urgently avoid Geo’s vengeance against the madness and stupidity of Politics, as it is understood by the privileged interests of today and the established systems that benefit them.


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