The Rhino, the Amazon and the Blue Sky over the Ruhr: Ecology and Politics in the Current Global Context
The past half century has witnessed major socio-political transformations across the globe. The end of formal European colonialism, basically achieved except for small pockets in the aftermath of the Carnation Revolution in Portugal in 1974, was followed by the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 in parallel to the one of Keynesian organized capitalism in the Northwest and of “state-led development” in much of the South, but also the rise of Asian economies, starting with Japan and now featuring China. The subsequent era of globalization and individualization was short-lived
and has given way to the notion of a “multi-polar” globe marked by the at best half-intended withdrawal of the US from hegemony and the loose association of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa under the name of BRICS. What has not changed across this half century is the depletion of the earth’s resources and the pollution of the environment. This article retraces the rise of ecological issues to become a global concern, and it does so by relating shifting interpretations of the issue to assignments of political responsibility in the changing global context. Emerging from a comparative research project on Brazil, South Africa and Europe, it draws its examples from these regions, but aims at developing a more general argument about the current impact of historical power asymmetries on ways of dealing with the ecological crisis.
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