Human Rights and a bit of political economy in times of pandemic

By Eugenio Bisama*
Photo by Carlos Candia Ayala

The two words in the concept of human rights never cease to attract my attention. Rights. Humans. The concept of rights is human: other than humans, no species, mountain, forest, or planet has developed a rights code. Rights belong to humans, no one else. Even those in the fifth generation.

At a time when a pandemic affects the planet, and we hear how for years scientists, and even politicians, have warned about how human presence “displace” other species and how, therefore, we could expect, for some time now “events” like this, rights continue to be human. We don’t even accept the possibility of “rights” of other species … or the planet.

How could we. For the dominant way of thinking, nature is a resource. We speak of “natural resources”. We speak of “development”, of “civilisation”, but in fact, we speak of human interests.

Those who govern in Brazil defend their right to burn forests to allow the development of agriculture. European citizens, who burned their own centuries ago,  speak of protecting them for the good of humanity. The native who lives in the forests migrates. Living beings of the forests die.
Not only in the forests, also in the sky and the sea.

More than a decade ago, the owners of capital found that they were paying workers in Europe and the U.S. too much and began moving their companies to Southeast Asia and, to a much lesser extent, to Latin America. The consequences were devastating for the workers of the North, their surroundings, and their families. To a lesser extent, the environmental movement managed to eradicate the most polluting industries from these countries… which likewise moved south. The generated waste was also exported to the south.

Logistics was developed. Displacement of goods and services grew exponentially. The price of the final product had and has, increasingly, lower production costs and more investment, distribution, and marketing costs. Maintaining growth requires, increasingly, more investment and more consumption. Those who lend money are those who earn the most. Things are made for one, two, or five years of shelf life. The debt remains. Those who lend money are those who earn the most.

Environmental studies indicate that CO2 began to increase exponentially after the industrial revolution. Subsequently, the horizontal and vertical displacements made it increase even more. The relocation of factories to the south (East Asia and Latin America) takes pollution to unprecedented levels, and traffic disrupts – increasingly -ecosystems which had not been affected.
The current pandemic has reduced this traffic to some extent, but still,
Those who lend money are those who earn the most.
Those who lend money are those who earn the most.
Those who lend money are those who earn the most.

* Eugenio Bisama is an academic at the Universidad Andrés Bello. Ph.D. in Economics and Business Management from the Universidad de Deusto (Spain), MBA from Tulane University (USA) and the Universidad de Chile, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.