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My Manifesto: Toward a Politics for Life
Victor Toledo on a way forward for a planet under siege
By Victor M. Toledo Jane K. Brundage Posted in Politics on January 27, 2022
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We are now entering a stage in which a vision of the world is being defined with greater clarity — one that requires dealing with a supreme dilemma between collapse or civilizational transformation, between extinction or survival. It is about confronting the forces of destruction that today mark the future of the modern world and whose original source is a suicidal and entropic civilization that unleashes chaos, human misery, the most extreme injustice and the depredation of our Common Home. This means that a civilizing rebellion must be carried out, a total change in the ways of conceiving and practicing existence, and primarily politics. We now need a politics from, by, for and with life.

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The most recent events tell us that the time has come for us to assume our responsibility as human beings who share a common destiny, and that implies the end of ideologies, not one or the other, but all of them, those of the left, center and right, and their replacement by the eco-political, generic and planetary consciousness of women and men.“Idolaters by instinct,” stated E. M. Cioran, “we make the objects of our dreams and interests unconditional. History is nothing more than a parade of false absolutes, a succession of temples elevated to pretexts, a debasing of the spirit in the face of the improbable”.

Because as Morris Berman (1992) well demonstrated in his book Coming to Our Senses: Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West, “isms” arise in human beings when they lack a true bodily anchor, when they no longer sing or dance, when they are no longer tied to the movement of life, which is what makes the human heart beat (yin/yang). And in this, the great teachers are the 7,000 indigenous peoples of the world with their “buen vivir” (good living) and their “communalities”.

The human species survived and persisted for 300,000 years because it learned to listen and interpret the messages of nature. Of nature made sacred. From that sacred ecology where each mountain, spring, river, rock, plant or animal possesses the capacity for dialogue, humans derived a certain “natural ethic”. From reading or interpreting the messages, human beings learned to adjust, adapt and modify their behavior, and above all their ways of organizing themselves, in a true game for survival.

The domestication of nature (not its domination or subjugation) has always been an act of domesticating the human being. The civilizing process was reciprocal, that is, co-evolutionary. By domesticating species, landscapes, watercourses, humans were domesticated by nature. It made us more human. This process lasted until about 4,000 years ago, when the first coercive relationships appeared, first the manors or chiefdoms and later the increasingly complex state societies.

With the advent of modernity — urban, industrial and rational — that relationship ended up being annulled. In the eyes of moderns, nature became a system, a machine, which had to be analyzed and scrutinized through science to extract its riches. Nature as a sacred entity was reduced to nature as a resource to be exploited, as natural capital. Nature became the slave of humanity. This phenomenon that Morris Berman (1987) called the “disenchantment of the world,” is found in the essence of the so-called catastrophes or natural disasters.

Today, fortunately, after more than five decades of a countercurrent knowledge that has split academia in two, nature has regained its voice through science. Not just any science, but a science committed to social emancipation and the environmental rescue of the world. It is this science that we have documented in great detail about the ecological crisis on a global scale, about global warming, and that is also setting new guidelines for social liberation and civilizational transformation (Toledo, 2019).

The time has come to expel the irrational and monstrous temptations of the elites, who base their governments on hatred of others, on exclusion, on extermination and on war, on the denial of reasoned knowledge, on the “barbarism of purity” (Ospina, 1994) and especially on the destruction of nature. The ecocides are classist, racist and finally fascist.

They are the final death throes of a caste or class that has dominated the world for the last 4,000 years, changing its name, costume, gestures, masks, manners, but maintaining the same attitude of pride and contempt for others. They are the lords, satraps, pharaohs, dictators, kings, emperors and tycoons of always, often in collusion with bureaucrats and worshipers of the State. The irrational and unjust world has hit bottom.

Never has a minority of minorities had so much wealth and power to crush the rest. Organized citizens must attack, surround and defeat those minorities who seek to hide behind walls of ignominy or live backed by gigantic armies and millions of soldiers. The secret formula to achieve this is cooperation, solidarity and organization of the indestructible force that means social, popular or citizen power. This means recovering the memory of the species, today protected by the original and traditional peoples of the world. World peace will only come fully and irreversibly when the last of the exploiters is eliminated by a society based on equilibrium, equity and the strict application of the universal rights of men, which is the true great legacy of the modern world.

The time has come to break the fictitious limits of the borders that have been marked by the Nation-States, in order to build a single world that is both biologically and culturally diverse and sexually polychrome, and where the role of women must be recognized, dignified and valued in its true dimension. Where immigration will have been diluted because there will be free transit. Human beings will be able to walk the entire planet and there will be no passports other than their own existence and their dignity as human beings, because “you have to feel with the core of humanity”, as José Martí pointed out. The time has come to practice a sensible radicalism, because as we said in 1968, “to give in a little is to capitulate too much”.

Today is the time for the kiln, for a return to the art of delicate agriculture, for the social and solidarity economy, for the expansion of all forms of cooperatives, for a science for the people and not for corporations, and for humanized and democratic technologies. Let’s enter the time when a free and libertarian education will begin to be practiced, without rationalist schools that suppress creativity. A school of sentient-thinking beings, not a factory of obedient industrial soldiers or robots that call themselves scientists.

The time has come to close the car factories, the industrial ogre that kills a million human beings every year, to leave the oil and gas underground, to close the banks and corporations forever and replace them with cooperatives for savings from work and family businesses, to ban concentration camps where millions of animals (pigs, chickens, cattle) perish, to return to diversified landscapes and lush forests, to green the cities and convert parks and vacant lots into neighborhood food production areas, and to put an end to the extensive golf courses and the huge plantations of genetically modified crops.

Now we need an ecopolitics, a biopolitics, a politics by, for and with life.

Photo: ZayacSK/Shutterstock

Translation by Jane K. Brundage. This article appeared in Spanish in la Revista de la Universidad Iberoamericana, IBERO 66: 16-19, febrero del 2020.


Berman, M., 1987, El reencantamiento del mundo, Editorial Cuatro Vientos, 343 pp.

Berman, M., 1992, Cuerpo y Espíritu, la historia oculta de Occidente, Editorial Cuatro Vientos, 418 pp.

Cioran, E. M., 1991, Breviario de podredumbre, Taurus Ediciones, 195 pp.

Ospina, W., 1994, Es tarde para el hombre, Literatura Random House, 116 pp.

Toledo, V. M., 2019, Los civilizionarios. Repensar la modernidad desde la ecología política, UNAM/Juan Pablos Editores, 187 pp.

Victor M. Toledo, research scientist at the Institute for Ecosystem and Sustainability Research (Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad), Morelia Campus UNAM, is a Mexican biologist with PhD from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Dr. Toledo has combined his scientific training with studies in economic policies, agrarian cultures and rural sociology. An expert in ethnoecology (the cross-cultural study of how people perceive and manipulate their environments), his studies and theoretical contributions regarding the relations between indigenous cultures and the natural world are recognized internationally. Dr. Toledo served as head of the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) in the administration of Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador from May 2019 to September 2020. See also: Victor M. Toledo, Biologist, Ethnoecologist: “Passionate for Life”.

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