Hunger, science and political ecology

Hunger, science and political ecology

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By Claudio Luis Tomás

1. Introduction

In the history of humanity, the current level of technological evolution had never been reached to provide a solution to all, absolutely all the material deficiencies that human beings suffer.

The technocratic solutions, obviously, do not constitute the expected ones because, and in Heidegger's words, Science does not think and will never reach the stage of consciousness.

By virtue of them, long conjunctures are rationally and intuitively appreciated that put the most indifferent to shame: the global development model, at the gazelle's flight, advances to other worlds, where technology is on its way to becoming an autonomous entity while man returns to their steps, taking into account the dissatisfaction of their vital needs.

Understanding it as the historical form that the capitalist system is acquiring in the extensive sequence of extraction-production-distribution-consumption and waste, the multidimensional consequences of its implacable dynamics are corroborated daily, from lay knowledge as well as from expert knowledge; widely known and fleetingly metabolized by the global social body, wars are provoked, hunger is decided, pollution is designed, extreme natural phenomena are induced and above all, the central gear of the system has been installed, albeit pyrrhically: pandemic of consumerism.

Here is the great paradox: the more specific and effective scientific research is, the more forbidden access to the satisfaction of basic needs is, because Science, in its dominant currents, is oriented to the solution of material questions rather than promoting the scarcest medicines, that is, to reposition Man.

And one of the essential conditions is to satisfy their needs and basic rights such as the right to food, water, energy, human rights as elementary as they are postponed, despite being supported and legitimized in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of its General Assembly: therefore, we are witnessing a crisis of civilizing values, which restricts our access to those basic human rights and threatens our planetary home, and even more, questioning the survival of the human being himself.

Of all the denials that denote the most miserable human condition, it is the indolence of hunger, empirically quantified by Science and viscerally suffered by almost 900 billion, which is slightly painful for the majority and revulsive for the few. The global development model can be as efficient as it is perverse.

So, is there a more perverse problematic situation than one that has all the conditions of possibility of a solution and is not effective?

Is there a scientific approach that defines an object of study called hunger?

What is the point of approaching it scientifically if Science itself ominously fails to promote its solution? As Chalmers (2000) would say, what is this thing called science that fails to make explicit the solutions to that “object of study”? Don't want to, can't, won't you? Who? From what epistemologies should it be approached to exterminate it? Is the field of normal Science the appropriate one to tackle it effectively? From the so-called dialogue of knowledge? Or is it the field from environmental epistemology within the framework of Latin American political ecology, for example?

And science, how does it act to contribute to the elimination of the scourge?

Therefore, the objective of the work tries to approach Science from the notion of scientific field understood “as a system of objective relationships between positions acquired (in previous struggles), it is the place (that is, the playing space) of a competitive struggle whose specific challenge is the monopoly of scientific authority inseparably defined as technical capacity and as social power, or, if you prefer, the monopoly of scientific competence that is socially recognized for a specific agent, understood in the sense of the ability to speak and intervene legitimately (that is, in an authorized and authoritative manner) in matters of science ”(Bourdieu, 2012, 12); This conceptualization would give rise to the understanding of why the problem of hunger in the world is not solved, at least from science.

By virtue of seeking genuine alternatives to the problem in question, we will present Latin American environmental epistemology as a possible theoretical framework from which to begin to solve the problem at least, starting from its visibility and its "scientific" discussion.

We are going for the epistemological challenge of giving sustenance to the ignominy of hunger.

2- Statistics that reveal and rebel

These are some of the data, compiled by the United Nations World Food Program, that help shape the picture. Clarify that according to the cited source, today there is enough food in the world for each human being to lead a healthy and productive life, which makes the need to challenge Science even more urgent so that it can give answers to what is presented then.


- Around 805 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy and active life. That is about one in nine people on earth.

- The vast majority of hungry people in the world live in developing countries, where 13.5% of the population suffers from malnutrition.

- Asia is the continent with the highest number of hungry people in the world - two thirds of the total. The percentage in South Asia has decreased in recent years, but in Western Asia it has increased slightly.

- Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of the population) with hunger. One person in four suffers from malnutrition.

- Poor nutrition is the cause of almost half (45%) of deaths in children under the age of five - 3.1 million children each year.

- One in six children, approximately 100 million, in developing countries are underweight.

- One in four of the world's children is stunted. In developing countries the proportion may rise to one in three.

- If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry people in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.

- 66 million children of primary school age attend classes hungry in developing countries. In Africa alone there are 23 million.

3- The really existing Science

To begin to try to understand the ostensibly insufficient answers of Science regarding the problem raised, we open the reflection by pointing out that “Science enjoys a high value. There seems to be a general belief that there is something special about science and the methods it uses. When any statement, reasoning, or investigation is labeled "scientific," it is intended to imply that it has some kind of merit or a special kind of reliability. But what is special about science, if anything? What is this "scientific method" that is claimed to lead to particularly creditable or reliable results? " (Chalmers, 2000, Introduction).

A priori, we are pointing out that by virtue of the results obtained in the decision to eradicate hunger, “official” Science has failed in its attempt to generate genuine tools oriented to the humiliating purpose in question.

The dream of objective, neutral and a-evaluative Science fades quickly (at least in the attempt to commit to the fight against global hunger) since it results from the struggle between different agents with conflicting interests where the objective refers to achieving the positions of power necessary to define what science is, what its methods are and the legitimacy of all social devices to be recognized as such. Therefore, when we are speaking from this perspective, we must understand that "epistemological conflicts are always, inseparably, political conflicts" (Bordieu, 2012, 15).

In relation to the problem analyzed, we can point out that research related to the eradication of hunger in the world proliferate through the circuits of “unofficial” Science, since if we talk about Agroecology, for example, we do it from a perspective that is both at the scientific and socio-political level, as revealed by the research of Maria Monique Robin (2013), about the viability that Agroecology can feed the world.

The galvanization of the practices of these interests is carried out by the fundamental role of discourses, of the word, in short, of logos, which is constituted as the legitimizing instance of the entire scientific edifice built by the West, monolithic, intransigent, the time to start "some" dialogue of knowledge.

The deliberate strategy of denying what is not scientific according to normal Science, would be included in what De Souza Santos calls the epistemology of blindness that, concatenated with the sociology of absences, aspires that another Science is possible, that other knowledge be recognized, that other epistemologies emerge, and when we historically situate this decision, which, as Bordieu pointed out, is still political, the geographical-cultural space is the Global South; about the marriage between Science and politics: in the name of this scientific program of knowledge, turned into a political program of action, an immense political work is carried out (denied because it is, apparently, purely negative) that seeks to create the conditions of realization and of functioning of the "theory" (Bordieu, 2004)

Therefore, the problem of hunger is alien to the neoliberal scientist conception whose logic is constitutively mercantilist; what results beyond the cost-benefit equation will be considered as undesired consequences

Digression: how can we not agree with Bourdieu when he states that epistemological problems are political problems? To paraphrase Weber, the scientist must be more political than ever.

Complementing, we could say that hunger in the world, ignominy of the human condition, which should embarrass everyone who boasts of being human and ... scientist; therefore, the cleavages to be explored between pure science and slavish science may be polychromatic, but their essence should be oriented by a human Science destined to satisfy the visceral needs of man, such as basic access to food.

4- New epistemologies emerge from the South

And we arrived here, not because of the adventure of thought itself, which would be a morbid and perversion act to disintegrate on the most visceral of human needs, but because we contribute from our academic place, epistemological and political field, to such an urgent objective.

Therefore, is it impossible to think of advancing towards the eradication of hunger under the conditions of capitalism, since according to the author scientific knowledge has intrinsic limits in relation to the types of intervention in the real world that it makes possible?

Epistemologically, “all knowledge has internal and external limits. The internal limits are related to the restrictions on the interventions of the real world imposed by each form of knowledge, while the external limits result from the recognition of alternative interventions made possible by other forms of knowledge. By definition, hegemonic forms of knowledge only recognize internal limits; therefore, the exploration of both the inner and outer limits of modern science can only be achieved as part of a counter-hegemonic conception of science. This is why the counter-hegemonic use of science cannot be restricted to science alone. It only makes sense within an ecology of knowledge ”(De Souza Santos, 2010, 53)

And we could add that the social use of Science as a device that hides or at least avoids, avoids and is indifferent to the needs of intervention and transformation of reality would be exposed, especially in the case of the most basic access to food, with which becomes an ineluctable concern: what is Science for if it does not contribute to the resolution of social needs? What types of problems do you rank above the visceral needs of the human being? As the popular poet would say. "What do you see, what do you see when you see me, when the lie is the truth"

We resume and deepen the role of Science and inquire, what is its meaning of existence if not it emancipates man in perspective of helping him satisfy his survival instinct based on food? Marx would say that everything solid vanishes into thin air, Bourdieu would say again, every epistemological problem is a political problem. And therefore, absolutely ethical. Science said Heidegger does not think. Nor does he feel, like the almost 1000 million that every night go to bed with screams of violence that emerge from their jaws, deliberately silenced, "produced" silenced.

Paraphrasing the game that the children of yesterday made that referred to the big bad wolf, from this supposedly challenging place of reflection, we say: Is science there? The official one, surely not.

5- Can Latin American environmental thought?

We begin this section by reproducing the question that introduces it and even more so: can Latin American environmental thinking contribute knowledge to eradicate hunger?

Can rationality and environmental complexity, the construction of situated knowledge, the reappropriation of nature, the decolonization of knowledge, initiate a genuine dialogue between them, build a synthetic knowledge that recovers the best of critical traditions and challenges the Normal science that has given ample evidence of having been bureaucratized when it comes to solving the most visceral of human rights, the right-obligation of daily food?

The answer would not go through the possibility of constructing epistemology from voluntarism, but rather to do so in order to effectively present an alternative that involves all knowledge and reaches eradication. It's possible? It is possible within the framework of the Bourdieuian premise that maintains that every epistemological conflict (or how to build knowledge to address hunger) is a political conflict (or how to distribute resources to mitigate the scourge)

And in the company of eliminating hunger an ethic for life is embodied, with which science / epistemologies / knowledge must allow themselves to be traversed by that ethic, since for Science to carry its condition with dignity it must be ethical and direct its investigations to the most precious thing: life. Or at least, prioritize the issues to be addressed.

Because first of all, it is a question of ethics. Of ethics of life.

And for all this to be thought, it is essential, to have the most vital needs satisfied, such as food.

The question to be answered would be the following: Why could Latin American environmental thinking become a viable answer?

Let's see: “however, the solution does not lie in an ethic of frugality and free time, but in a reorientation of the desire to generate new emancipatory processes and the construction of a new productive paradigm based on ecological productivity, cultural values, subjective meanings and human creativity. The construction of a new productive paradigm based on principles and bases of environmental rationality implies a strategy of deconstruction of economic rationality through social actors capable of mobilizing political processes that lead to productive and knowledge transformations to achieve the purposes of sustainability. , rather than through rules that can be imposed on capital and consumers to reform the economy ”(Leff, 2004, 191)

And here the answer would be based: the construction of new rationalities that incorporate what naturally must be, that is, that rationality that has as its first purpose the satisfaction of basic food needs. Instrumental rationality, hegemonic in the tasks of chrematistics and productivism deliberately bypasses the solution to hunger, and on the contrary, captivates markets to continue "maximizing profits." Perverse.

And all that paradigm that arises from the de-construction of the dominant paradigm cannot have a higher end than the initial emancipation of the human being, that is, the satisfaction of their visceral needs.

As the first men used mother nature symmetrically and harmoniously, she will be again and redefining the type of relationship, the one that allows us to take its fruits to re-appropriate our being, in terms of cultural and subjective construction based on food drives .

The problem of hunger is the emergence of the civilizational, environmental and epistemological crisis, energized by the aforementioned asymmetric relationship with nature; the other, the others, the indolent logocentric reason, the invisible knowledge, all of them, dialoguing to reach the essence of being: their satisfied stomachs. This is emancipation.

6- To begin to re-epistemologize

Because we are witnessing an environmental crisis, a perfect synthesis of the crisis of the capitalist mode of production, the knowledge that could provide a solution to the most varied problems is intentionally ignored, so it is temporarily concluded that what is known is not reality or reality. less, it is a part of it, which does not include ignominious problems such as hunger.

“The environmental crisis is a crisis of civilization produced by ignorance of knowledge. Knowledge no longer represents reality; on the contrary, it builds a hyper-reality in which it is reflected. (Leff, 2006, 59); So how do you “include” knowledge in reality? How? Accepting that the interests that support Science are not the interests of the majority but of corporations that use it to enhance their voracity for new markets. Again, we recall the Bourdieu maxim that epistemological problems are political; the environment, far from being understood as the oikos, becomes the political field where interests are settled in conflicts that constitute the dominant mode of production.

“Environmental knowledge revives the issue of social struggles for the appropriation of nature and the management of their ways of life; of being in time and knowing in history; of power in knowledge and the will to power that is wanting to know ”. (Leff, 2006, 62)

And the alternative paths could come from Latin American environmental thought as from any of the epistemologies of the South, since hunger constitutes the most miserable imprint of the dialectical North-South relationship; Of course, your condition of situated thought

allows identifying the South as a geocultural group that strives to achieve epistemological construction as part of the sequence of its food emancipation.

If sustainability does not begin by silencing the screams caused by hunger, it would have no reason to be, like Science that, by striving to prolong life expectancy, omits to consolidate the basic satisfaction in the tender and forgotten beginnings of it, here in the geographies from South; geographies with transformative epistemologies and vocation and with voices ready to shout loud enough to be heard.

- BOURDIEU, Pierre (2012) The social uses of science, First edition, fourth reprint, Buenos Aires, New Vision. Argentinian republic.
————————— (2004) The Essence of Neoliberalism, Rebellion [Online], Published on March 01, 2004, accessed on May 05, 2015. URL: economy / 040301boudieu.htm
- CHALMERS, Alan (2000) What that thing called Science? Third edition corrected and enlarged, Madrid, Siglo XXI de España Editores.
- DE SOUZA SANTOS, Boaventura (2009) An epistemology of the south, México DF, Siglo XXI - CLACSO. Mexico.
——————————————— (2010) Decolonize knowledge, reinvent power, Montevideo, Trilce Ediciones, República Oriental del Uruguay.
- DÍAZ, Cristina and SPIAGGI, Eduardo (2011) Rural development, sovereignty and food security, 1st ed. Rosario, UNR Editora. Editorial of the National University of Rosario; FODEPAL - FAO / RALC Public Policies Training Nucleus - Southern Observatory - UNR.
- FEINMANN, José Pablo (2004) Philosophy and the mud of history, 4th edition, Buenos Aires, Editorial Planeta. Argentinian republic.
- GALEANO, Eduardo (2012) The children of the days, Buenos Aires, Siglo XXI Editores, República Argentina.
- LEFF, Enrique (2010) Sustainable Discourses, 2nd revised and enlarged edition, Mexico DF, Siglo XXI de México, Editores.
———————— (2006), Adventures of environmental epistemology, Mexico DF, Siglo XXI de México Editores.
———————— (2006b), Ethics for Life, Polis [Online], 13 | 2006, Posted on August 13, 2012, consulted on May 5, 2015. URL:
———————— (2004) Rationalidad Ambiental, México DF, Siglo XXI de México Editores.
- ROBIN, Marie Monique (2013) The harvests of the future, 1st edition in Spanish, Barcelona, ​​Península Editores, Spain.
- TOMAS, Claudio Luis (2011) South, upside down sky, in II Annals of the Ibero-American Universities Network for the strengthening of regional economic, political and social relations. 1st Ed. Buenos Aires: UAI 2011.CD-ROM. ISBN 978-987-1550-21-0

Video: Critical political ecology (June 2022).


  1. Turan


  2. Vugal

    And so everything is not bad, just very good!

  3. Reynold

    Bravo what a great message

  4. Daitaxe


  5. Hieronim

    I am sorry, that I interfere, but I suggest to go another by.

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