Rebirth After Death in Doha and Rio+20 Earth Summit  – Reinventing our way into the future

*Michele Maynard


In the race to the bottom at international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban and Doha we have once again witnessed the paralysis of the political nation state multilateral system and how powerful the fossil fuel guzzling capital-industrial-war complex remains. The outcomes from Doha include the locking in of low ambition with global temperatures set to rise between 4-8 °C well before the end of the century, the continuation of the failed derivatives carbon markets, no future legally binding, compliant system based on equity, and no definite public finance or technology transfers for the most vulnerable to deal with adaptation, loss and damage or for a just transition of labor to a post fossil fuel dependent society. These multilateral climate meetings, the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Brazil and the Convention on Biological Diversity in India earlier this year only served the interests of the one percent through the further expansion of new market mechanisms to include biodiversity and environmental services with a technological approach to sustainability and life through synthetic biology and geoengineering techniques.


Whilst negotiators, political leaders, bankers, corporations, carbon traders, hedge funders and market speculators have narrowly focused on measuring GDP growth and the illusionary ‘green growth’ in these multilateral arenas the proposals and real solutions offered by social movements who met throughout the year at the various World Social Forums, Alternative Peoples Summits/Cupula dos Povos[i] and Climate Forums have never been reflected in any of the negotiating texts. Moreover, both Edward Wilson and Paul Ehrlich over the years have written warning us of the mass extinction of species caused by humans. This year the journal Nature[ii] carried the article that the world is facing the sixth mass extinction of species brought about this time not by changes in the earth but directly caused by humans. Mass extinctions, increased numbers of deaths caused by hurricanes (Sandy off Haiti and the US) and typhoons (earlier flooding in Manila, Philippines and again Bhopa), increased climate refugees, starvation and millions of deaths across Africa as communities are unable to produce food and sustain livestock due to climate change are all adding to a new phenomenon for the 21st century.


The ‘archetypal sacrifice’ of mass extinctions of species, increased climate related deaths caused by hurricanes, typhoons, flooding and drought are the equivalent in significance and meaning for us today as was the ‘archetypal sacrifice’ of Socrates for the Ancient Greeks, the crucifixion of Jesus for the Christian movement and the assassination of Martin Luther King for the civil rights movement.



The Scientific Priesthood


Materialism, the belief that all of reality is only material or physical, has been the dominant mindset since the late nineteenth century. We do not have a separation of ‘science and state’. Scientists represent our newly established order of priesthood with unprecedented influence in every sphere of life. They exert undue control over political and economic policies, how we run our education and health systems, how we manage our food and water systems and on where research monies are allocated. Materialist philosophy and mechanistic science has spread globally through European ideologies such as Marxism, socialism and free-market capitalism.


This scientific priesthood, upholding their material philosophy, religiously performs their duties particularly via the globally dominant free market capitalist system with catastrophic results to both humans and the earth systems. Over production and consumption patterns; increased dependence on oil, gas, coal and dirty energy; mega projects and extractives industries displacing communities and sucking in cheap migrant labor; depletion of forests, soil, fish, safe water and clean air; increased hunger due to food speculation; land grabbing for agro-fuels and agri-business; financial speculation and free reign by transnational corporations; cuts in social spending; escalation of ethnic tensions and wars; male dominance and violence over women; climate refugees, arctic ice collapse and mass extinction of species due to climate change.


But is the material realm the only reality? Is Nature Mechanical? Is the Total Amount of Matter and Energy Always the Same? Are the Laws of Nature Fixed? Is Matter Unconscious? Is Nature Purposeless? Is All Biological Inheritance Material? Are Minds Confined to Brains? Rupert Sheldrake, one of the most innovative scientists of our time, in his latest book ‘Science Set Free’[iii] takes the core beliefs of the scientific creed and turns them into questions and demonstrates how each opens up new possibilities for discovery.


This outdated scientific priesthood needs to be defrocked and simply leave. Their mechanistic, atomistic, dualistic, reductionist, deterministic, purposeless and dominant view of the world is completely disenchanting and no longer valid. They have sullied all of life bringing only death and destruction. They cannot lead us into a life enhancing future.



Reinventing Our Way Into The Future


Some of the more inspirational paths presented for moving forward have been the work done on the Earth Charter[iv], The Peoples World Conference on Climate Change and Mother Earth Rights held in Cochabamba, Bolivia 2010[v], the Journey of the Universe,[vi] Cosmos and Psyche.[vii] These open up a new cosmic horizon that reunites science and religion, intellect and soul, modern reason and ancient wisdom.


As I referenced in the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) policy document 2010[viii] we need to shift away from the corporate-capitalist-industrial-militarized growth paradigm towards a bioregional model (see table below).  



Bioregional Model

Corporate Capitalism/ Industrial Growth





Conservation/Restoration Stability/Evolution/Adaptation Local/Self-sufficiency

Co-operation Primary


Growth/Progress Global/Specialization & Trade

Competition Primary








Uniformity/Majority rule




Evolution/Qualitative Growth



Violence/Quantitative Growth


Source: Hathaway & Boff 2009[ix]


This requires us reinventing our identity not at citizens of a particular anthropocentric man made political nation state but rather as sons and daughters of mother earth in the 13.7 billion year journey and story of our universe.  The African ‘ubuntu’ expression ‘I am because we are’ recognizes the holistic community of all beings in an earth democracy whereby as humans we are offspring of the earth connected spiritually through our ancestors, and emotionally and psychologically in a participatory relationship to all planets, stars, animals, plants, land and beings.


Our psyche is set up in accord with the structure of the universe, and what happens in the macrocosm likewise happens in the infinitesimal and most subjective reaches of the psyche     

                                        (C.G Jung – Memories, Dreams, Reflections)[x]


Our economy, politics and culture must reflect the same patterns of sustainability that have carried and expanded our planet earth for billions of years, even before the late birth of the human species.  


I would echo the sentiments and statements made by Pablo Solon[xi] for climate and social movements to re-think, re-imagine and re-analyze alternatives and strategies out of their traditional boxes. Two opportunities for this include the “Alternative Summit” alongside the meeting of the BRICS in Durban, South Africa (23-27 March 2013) and a “Climate Space” inside the next World Social Forum (WSF) in Tunisia (26-30 March 2013).


*Michele Maynard is an activist having worked with climate and environmental justice movements, trade and labor, faith-based and indigenous groups, farmers, pastoralists, women, youth and social movements. Former policy and advocacy advisor to the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) – an alliance of 300 networks/organizations operating in 45 African countries


 21 December 2012


Literature cited

[iii] Sheldrake, R. 2012. Science Set Free 10 Paths to New Discovery. Deepak Chopra Books, New York.

[vi] Swimme, B. and Tucker, M. 2011. Journey of the Universe. Yale University Press.

[vii] Tarnas, R. 1991. The Passion of the Western Mind Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View. Ballantine Books, New York.

Tarnas, R. 2006. Cosmos and Psyche Intimations of a New World View. A Plume Book.

[viii] The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Carbon Trading in Africa PACJA Policy Document 2010

[ix] Hathaway, M. and Boff, L. 2009. The Tao of Liberation Exploring the Ecology of Transformation. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York.

[x] Cited in Tarnas, R. 2006. Cosmos and Psyche Intimations of a New World View. A Plume Book.



  1. Pingback: What are some of the roots of the climate and multiple crises we face? A Tree Analysis | Climate Space

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