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  • Writer's pictureRoberto Alexandre Levy

Transdisciplinary Biocentrism to overcome the ineffectiveness of mechanistic Anthropocentrism

Author: Roberto Alexandre Levy

Translated by: Ligia Payão Chizolini


It is no longer possible to engage in any debate without considering the environment and its interaction with the legal framework, as it constitutes the foundation of all life on the planet, a concept we will refer to as Systemic Life. The relationship between humanity and the environment has been intricate and often characterized by intensive and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources. Over the past few decades, this intense interaction, primarily driven by industrial and economic interests, has resulted in significant and often devastating consequences for the planet. According to Passos (2009):


'During the recent history of humanity, countless serious events have occurred, unprecedented, some so significant that they have altered the course of life on Earth. As a consequence of human intervention in the pursuit of uncontrolled industrial development, these events served as a warning to global society about the potential impacts of attacks on the environment. However, this state of alertness only manifested when alterations in the global environment became noticeable, such as the occurrence of acid rain, the greenhouse effect, and the depletion of the ozone layer. (...) Thus, concern arose regarding the implementation of specific legal norms to safeguard the environment, necessitating international cooperation between nations.' (Passos, 2009, p.4-7).

The mention of critical events illustrates the direct and often irreversible impact of human actions on the environment. Therefore, there is an imminent need for a collective global action, in the form of regulations and international cooperation, to ensure the protection of our planet for future generations.


Anthropocentrism vs. Biocentrism


Pádua (2004) discusses the devastating consequences of the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, particularly in the Brazilian context. The author highlights a troubling trend of neglect towards native ecosystems, while unregulated exotic monocultures advance. He emphasizes that the cost of this approach has been exorbitant, measured in terms of ecological damage and the unsustainability of the economic systems that promote it. In this sense, Pádua argues that the price being paid for this approach to territorial occupation far surpasses any short-term gains it may provide [1].


Modernity still adheres to Cartesian thinking, while anthropocentrism underpins environmental and urban planning law, as they continue to be guided by human-centric relations. From this perspective, the 'Environment' becomes the product of what humans have separated from themselves.


In this context, Ferrajoli (2011, p. 59-61) draws attention to the transformation of certain natural elements, such as water and the atmosphere, into common goods. These elements, previously perceived as mere commodities, have acquired a new legal and social status due to their increasing scarcity and their significance for human survival. Similarly, products from the pharmaceutical and food industries, such as medicines and food, are increasingly viewed as essential social goods accessible to all.


The author contends that these shifts in status necessitate legal intervention. Unlike mere economic valuation, which may lead to the privatization of these goods, Ferrajoli argues that ensuring their status as fundamental goods demands a societal decision to subject market relations to the law. According to the author, this is crucial for ensuring the survival and well-being of all.


In this vein, Ferrajoli proposes incorporating 'fundamental goods' into the discourse on fundamental rights, asserting that the language of rights is inadequate for addressing the protective measures required for each of these goods. He suggests that the focus should be on safeguarding the good itself, given its vitality and significance, rather than solely the human rights associated with it.

Therefore, the concept of anthropocentrism gives way to that of biocentrism, signifying an understanding of the environment in its broadest conceptualization. An environmental state emerges—a democratic state governed by ecological principles, in essence, the 'ecologization' of law."


Transdisciplinary Environmental Law


The transdisciplinarity of environmental law is a central issue in the shift from anthropocentrism to biocentrism. In Environmental Law, it is essential, indispensable, and fundamental that its participants are transdisciplinary scholars, representing a wide array of fields of activity, including graduates from the humanities - lawyers, philosophers, sociologists, historians - as well as other areas of knowledge - natural and exact sciences - each contributing its intrinsic value necessary for a holistic vision, all working in synergy. According to Silva (2000, p. 11-12), the presence of a transdisciplinary researcher or specialist is crucial for navigating the complexity of today's world, as this individual possesses the ability to recognize their own disciplinary specialization while also being able to interact seamlessly with knowledge from other disciplines. In the context of environmental law, this researcher could traverse disciplines such as environmental sciences, politics, rural and urban sociology, economics, among others.


Silva (2000) also argues that reality cannot be captured in a one-dimensional manner, as this would always be a simplification of the ontological complexity of reality. In this sense, the transdisciplinary object is formed from the understanding that reality is intricate and cannot be fully comprehended within a single disciplinary domain. The environmental issue, inherently complex and interdisciplinary, certainly aligns with this description.


The author also highlights that to bring balance and consistency to the transdisciplinary paradigm, a third element is necessary, one that cannot be rationalized but allows the transdisciplinary subject and object to coexist. He refers to this element as a vertical of cognitive access, describing it as a sacred space that imparts meaning to the dialectic between subject and object in the transdisciplinary representation of reality.


Silva (2000) also emphasizes the importance of avoiding detours on the transdisciplinary path, particularly avoiding confusion between different levels of reality and perception. He argues that each level is unique and should not be explained based on the language of another level. In the context of environmental law, this means that the legal perspective should not attempt to impose its logic on other disciplines or realities, such as environmental science, urban geography, or politics.


In fact, there are three essential characteristics of the transdisciplinary attitude: rigor, openness, and tolerance. In the field of environmental law, rigor refers to precision and clarity in the use of legal language; openness refers to the potential for discovering new solutions and ideas at the intersection between disciplines; and tolerance signifies recognition and respect for opposing opinions.


Therefore, transdisciplinarity encompasses: (i) using language appropriately and respectfully as the primary means of mediating transdisciplinary relationships, ensuring the value of coexistence between subjects in a contextualized manner; (ii) being prepared for the unexpected that arises from subject-object relationships; (iii) acknowledging favorable or unfavorable opposing positions that aid in understanding the relationships between the individual and the environment in which they exist. In the words of Silva (2000, p.12), "the future, from a transdisciplinary point of view, is neither determined nor built a priori. It has to be decided in the present".


Conclusions for the Path of Intergenerational Solidarity

Based on the importance and necessity of a transdisciplinary approach to environmental law, a crucial question arises: is contemporary capitalist society on the path to intergenerational solidarity? Highlighting the inevitability of a transdisciplinary biocentrism in environmental law, several studies have shown the ineffectiveness of environmental liability, whether for legal entities or the state. Notable incidents like Brumadinho and Mariana underscore the limitations of the current legal framework (Serra, 2020; Stolf et al, 2016). We must not overlook the progress achieved through the law. However, as analyzed, the world no longer revolves solely around human beings, and life is independent of the existence of humanity, as we can now perceive it as Systemic Life.


Contemporary society empowers us to elevate law beyond mediating the rules of social coexistence. It allows us to take it to a higher level of action, capable of safeguarding beyond the intra-species, treating the Environment as an entirety in which we are embedded, a confluence of lives, a Systemic Life. A Law founded on the tenets of biocentrism and the principles of transdisciplinarity, expanding as an instrument for the preservation and perpetuation of human species in harmony with all biodiversity.


The fragility of life when observed universally, reveals how easily it can be extinguished. To ensure an "ecologically balanced environment, a common asset of the people, essential to a healthy quality of life," as stated in Article 225 of the Brazil´s Constitution, the object protected by Environmental Law must be life. We must lead it towards an Environmental Law of Systemic Life. However, the paths adopted today accumulate evidence that seem to point in the opposite direction to these ideas.


"It may be that none of us will see the world as we hope it will be, but this cannot matter (...) we have to create the conditions for the people who will come after us, so that they can have a better world than the one handed over to us" (Almeida, 2020).


Notes


[1] "What is being criticized here, as a highly negative element in the formation of the Brazilian territory, is this combination of disdain for native ecosystems and the uncontrolled advance of exotic monocultures. The price that has been paid for this model is very high in terms of ecological destruction and the unsustainability of economic systems" (Pádua, 2004, p. 9)."


References


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FERRAJOLI, Luigi. Por uma teoria dos direitos e dos bens fundamentais. Coleção Estado e Constituição, n. 11, trad. Alexandre Salim, et. al., Porto Alegre: Livraria do Advogado, 2011.

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PASSOS, P. N. C. A conferência de Estocolmo como ponto de partida para a proteção internacional do meio ambiente. Revista direitos fundamentais & democracia (UniBrasil), v. 6, p. 1-25, 2009. Avaiable at: https://revistaeletronicardfd.unibrasil.com.br/index.php/rdfd/article/view/18/17. Accessed on 1 September. 2023.

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