Decolonizing peace with a gender perspective

Úrsula Oswald-Spring (Regional Centre for Multidisciplinary Research, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Cuernavaca, Mexico)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 16 March 2022

Issue publication date: 3 January 2023

125

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to analyze a decolonized peace with gender perspective. Liberal democracies had consolidated on conquest, slavery, racism, sexism, colonialism, raw material extraction and female exploitation. Additional burdens came from neoliberal globalization with the massive burning of fossil oil, changing the Earth's history from the Holocene toward the Anthropocene. Multiple nexus between the human and environmental system requires an epistemology from the Global South. The paper explores alternative peace paradigms enabling poor and exploited people to overcome the destructive outcomes of patriarchal violence and extractivism. Regionally and locally, they are experimenting with just, safe, equal and sustainable alternatives of free societies.

Design/methodology/approach

The nexus approach focuses on system efficiency, internal and external feedbacks and allows decision-making processes with stronger cross-sectoral coordination and multi-level governance. It includes the understanding of the policy agenda and the political actors at different levels, explaining the discrimination of gender from local to global. The analysis establishes complex relations between theory and political actions, due that all actions are inherently mediated by gender. A key focus is a relationship and the outcomes of policies, where communication and collaboration at the local level grant efficient peaceful resource management with gender equity.

Findings

An engendered-sustainable peace approach is culturally decentralized and may offer alternatives to the ongoing destruction process of neoliberal corporatism and violence. Drastic systemic change requires massive changes from bottom-up and top-down before 2030–2050. Global solidarity among all excluded people, especially women and girls, promotes from childhood an engendered-sustainable peace-building process, where positive feedbacks may reduce the tipping points on Earth and among humankind. Engendered-sustainable peace can mitigate the upcoming conflicts and catastrophes, limiting the negative feedbacks from abusive, selfish and destructive corporations. A greater self-regulating sustainable system with a HUGE-security could promote a decolonized, engendered and sustainable peace for everybody.

Research limitations/implications

The interconnected risks are cascading across different domains, where systemic challenges have intensified conflicts and violence, due to uncertainty, instability and fragility. Cascading effects not only demand prevention for sudden disruptions (hurricanes, floods) but also for slow-ongoing processes (drought, sea-level rise, lack of water availability, etc.), which are equally or more disruptive. Women suffer differently from disasters and are prone to greater impacts on their life and livelihood. An engendered peace is limited by the deep engrained patriarchal system. Only a culture of peace with gender recognition may grant future peace and also the sustainable care of ecosystems.

Practical implications

The Global South is exploring alternative ways to overcome the present violent and destructive globalization by promoting deep engrained indigenous values of Aymaras’ living well, the shell model of commanding by obeying of the Zapatistas or Bhutan’s Happiness Index. Globally, critical women and men are promoting subsistence agriculture, solidarity or gift economy, where local efforts are restoring the equilibrium between humans and nature. An engendered-sustainable peace is limiting the destructive impacts of the Anthropocene, climate change and ongoing pandemics.

Social implications

An engendered-sustainable peace is culturally decentralized and offers alternatives to the ongoing destruction process of neoliberal corporatism, climate change and violence. The text explores how to overcome the present hybrid warfare with alternative HUGE security and peace from the bottom-up. Regional reinforcement of food security, safe water management, local jobs and a concordian economy for the most vulnerable may change the present exploitation of nature and humankind. Growing solidarity with people affected by disasters is empowering women and girls and dismantling from the bottom-up, the dominant structures of violence and exploitation.

Originality/value

The military-industrial-scientific corporate complex and the exploitation of women, men and natural resources, based on patriarchy, has produced climate change, poverty and global pandemics with millions of unnecessary deaths and suffering. A doughnut engendered peace looking from the outside and inside of the system of globalization and environmental destruction proposes to overcome the growth addiction by a growth agnostic society. Engendered peace explores alternative and sustainable values that go beyond the dominant technological changes. It includes a culturally, politically and institutionally ingrained model where everybody is a participant, reinforcing an engendered-sustainable peace and security for everybody.

Keywords

Citation

Oswald-Spring, Ú. (2023), "Decolonizing peace with a gender perspective", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 23-38. https://doi.org/10.1108/JACPR-01-2022-0678

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited


1. Introduction

The complex connections among the interacting multiple crises that humanity and Earth face today have produced climate change, disasters, biodiversity loss, inequality, poverty, the COVID-19 pandemic and an extreme social inequality. All these factors are interconnected and require global solutions, but also local responses and resilience from the bottom-up, especially among the people living in a dual socio-environmental vulnerability (Oswald 2013). The complexity at different levels demands responses that addresses the structural dynamics, characterized by shortcomings of governance, economics, finance, health and environment, but not on the root causes of violence. Peace research has focused on negative peace (Czempiel, 1986); democratic peace (Oren, 1995; Paris, 2004); positive peace (Galtung, 1969); interdependent peace (Senghaas, 1973); structural peace (Brauch, 2008); and sustainable peace (Ellen, 1996; Boulding, 1966) or ecological peace (Brown, 2008). All these theorists were Western White men who after the Second World War were beginning to look for less violent alternatives in their societies, but without penetrating into the deep roots of violence engrained in patriarchy. By not questioning these origins of violence, they have become global peace specialists, because they have not fundamentally challenged the dominant military-industrial-scientific complex and the violence rooted in patriarchy and war.

It was the book of Sexism and the War System by Betty Reardon (1996), who delved into the origins of violence and its relationship to patriarchy. Thus, peace research requires a gender perspective to overcome five thousand years of violent, authoritarian, discriminatory and exploitative patriarchy. Reardon insisted that “patriarchy is a social, political, and economic system of control and domination structured in terms of hierarchy of human relations and value that is based on socially constructed gender differentiation” (Reardon and Snauwart, 2015 a, p xii). To overcome this unequal power and value system, almost universally put in place, constitutes the paradigmatic change for peace research (Reardon and Snauwart, 2015). A systemic approach addresses beside the exploitation of women, youth and elderlies also a historical and decolonial framing of the dominant social relations (Oswald and Brauch, 2021). This new approach would acknowledge the centrality of women’s paid and unpaid care work for global prosperity, and it would recognize also how the corporations of the Global North continues to drain natural and human resources from the Global South, withholding decision-making power on imperialist laws. Today, the natural rich Latin America is the regions with the most corporate demands against governmental actions, who have only protected their populations from destructive and toxic activities (Burbano et al., 2018). Nevertheless, the international arbitrary courts gave the transnationals the reason and charged heavy fines against Southern governments, despite the fact that these corporations have destroyed the environment and the health of the people.

The key argument of this paper is that alternatives to the hothouse Earth and the unjust neoliberal model require the eradication of patriarchal violence within a decolonial structure, where multiple decentralized efforts of discriminated social and ethnic groups may promote sustainable-gender equity to safeguard humankind and nature during the next five decades.

2. Research question and conceptual clarification

2.1 Research question and organization of the article

Why has the military-industrial-scientific corporate complex and the exploitation of human and natural resources, based on patriarchy, produced climate change, extreme poverty among an important group of human beings and recently, the global pandemic of COVID-19 with more than five million unnecessary deaths. Why were the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 unable to reduce the increasing inequity globally and why may the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in 2030 fail to achieve the agreed 17 goals for greater well-being in a sustainable environment for everybody?

The present article starts after these introductory comments with some definitions of patriarchy and neoliberalism; decolonization; Anthropocene; cascading crises of climate change; and a HUGE (human, gender and environmental) security and peace. Part 3 explores the systemic nexus among patriarchy, neoliberalism, climate change, environmental destruction and social inequality, able to increase the existing conflicts. Confronted with thousands of years of patriarchal violence, the Global South is exploring alternative ways to overcome the present violent and destructive globalization by promoting deep engrained indigenous values of Aymaras’ “living well”, the shell model of “commanding by obeying” of the Zapatistas or Bhutan’s Happiness Index. Globally, critical citizens are promoting subsistence agriculture, solidarity or gift economy, where small-scale local efforts are restoring the equilibrium between humans and nature, and limiting the destructive impacts of the Anthropocene and climate change.

2.2 Patriarchy and neoliberalism

The broken relationship between Earth and society has drawn done the ecological capital of a 4.5 billion years of evaluation of our planet. The last 5,000 years of patriarchy-related exploitation have destroyed equity and equality in labor and social control of the subsistence economy. With small-scale irrigation and agricultural technologies, male dominance brought paterfamilias, god-kings, slavery, social stratification and the submission of women to husbands and central male power (Mies, 1985). From feudalism, conquest and mercantile capitalism emerged the nation-state. Later followed empires with labor capitalism. People immigrated to urban centers and production and agriculture were industrialized. Both world wars promoted one superpower that still dominates innovation, economy and the military-research arm trade. Ideologically, one male dominated and small nuclear families with patrilineal patterns that have discriminated women and increased intrafamiliar violence, where civil-right movements and feminists criticized the power-over (Hobbes, 1668; Weber, 1978).

From 1980 on, neoliberalism controlled financial markets with the internationalization of finances. Market forces imposed a privatization process of services and public goods with labor deregulation. Globalization of markets spread a culture of consumerism worldwide with one superpower that controlled the globe thanks to its military-technological-financial empire. Looting social and natural resources (oil, minerals, water, land and genes) by multinational corporations produced resource wars (Burbano et al., 2018). Poverty raised and a small multinational oligarchy accumulated wealth at the cost of nature and the majority of human beings. Feminists, ecologists, youth, social minority, indigenous and sexual discriminated LGBTTTIQ+ promoted first resistance and later power-from-within (Arendt, 1970) against the cultural self-subjugation and the lack of solidarity with humans in need, the destroyed nature and the hegemonic world order.

2.3 Decolonization

Decolonization refers strictly to the freedom from foreign rule over a distant territory and the control of its people. It is generally associated with the European imperialism that included the political and legal domination of people and their natural resources and has started in the 15th century. However, the power struggles among the former colonial powers and the emancipation movements in the colonial world have influenced and accelerated the decolonization in different continents. The Napoleonic wars (1803–1815) have debilitated the Spanish and Portuguese crowns and allowed in Latin America the spread of independence movements during the 18th century. After the Second World War and the destruction of most European countries, the geopolitical power shifted from the European colonial powers to the USA and Russia and boosted the Cold War between the two superpowers. The loss of influence from the former colonizers allowed that nearly a third of the world's population achieved independence in 1960, sometimes through bloody independence wars (India-Pakistan, Argelia, Vietnam, etc.), sometimes through long, tortuous and violent agreements to achieve the national aspiration for political independence from the former colonizers.

Since the creation of the United Nations (UN) in 1947, 80 former colonies gained their independence and today, fewer than 2 million people live under colonial rule in 17 non-self-governing territories, mostly small islands in the Pacific and the Caribbean. During the past century, the wave of decolonization in Asia and Africa was also result of proxy wars, fought by the two superpowers on all three continents of the Global South. The incipient globalization process accelerated in 1979 the fall of the Berlin wall and, a year later, fast disintegration of the Soviet Union occurred within the 15 independent states. The soviet military Warsaw Pact and the economic Comecon (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) lost importance, and the US consolidated political and economic power as the remaining superpower. However, regional wars, often supported by multinational enterprises and their interest on minerals, land and influence, continue to generate violence in the start of the 21st century.

2.4 Anthropocene

Crutzen (2002) introduced the term Anthropocene as a new epoch of Earth’s history, where human activities are dominating the physical-chemical processes of climate, biota, soil and water with complex destructive interactions. The accumulation of dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG) resulting from the burning of fossil oil is accumulating in the atmosphere. It has produced a systematic increase of CO2e of 420 ppm in May 2021 (NOAA, 2021), catastrophic effects such as temperature and sea-level rise, extreme climate events (drought, storms and hurricanes), plagues and vectors, loss of biodiversity, floods and desertification, affecting humankind and nature (IPCC, 2014). In geological sciences, there is still a discussion about the concept, due that they could not find in the sediments of soils the evidence of this drastic change in the Earth history. They insist that as the Neolithic with a massive extinction of megafauna, humankind has altered the dynamic of the planet. Study identified four phases of global change related to: the colonialism in the Americas in 1542 with a massive exchange of plants and animals and an incipient globalization process; the availability and gigantic use of coal thanks to mining and the emergence of China as a global economic partner (The Economist, 2020); the intensive use of fossil oil in energy production, transportation, industrialization, heating and cooling; and the “Great Acceleration” after the Second World War, thanks to the access to cheap energy sources. An intensive globalization process, based on the laissez-faire principle of neoliberalism, the evolution of the internet and artificial intelligence and the financial-speculative monopoly in multinational enterprises increased the negative outcomes. The military-industrial-scientific-complex and the outcomes of the war in terms of toxics and destruction (Westing, 2013) added additional environmental footprints and produced health impacts on humans and nature.

2.5 Cascading crises of climate change

Lawrencea et al. (2020) reviewed the cascading effects of climate change and insisted that they may propagate across multiple sectors: “Cascades result from interdependencies between systems and sub-systems of coupled natural and socio-economic systems in response to changes and feedback loops. The combined effects of interacting stressors may affect the ability of individuals, governments, and the private sector to adapt in time before widespread damage occurs”. The interconnected risks are cascades across different domains, where systemic challenges have intensified, due to uncertainty, instability and fragility. The pandemic of COVID-19 in 2021 aggravated the existing climate challenges. Cascading effects demand prevention not only for sudden disruptions (hurricanes, floods) but also for slow-ongoing processes (drought, sea-level rise, lack of water availability, etc.), which are equally or more disruptive.

The impacts of increases in temperature, rainfall, sea levels and extreme events will cascade across all sectors of society and affect the crucial ecosystems, society, well-being, the economy, political stability, cultural factors and elevate gender discrimination. Especially disturbed is the Global South, due to its location in the tropic, where the increase of temperature in the oceans is producing more extreme weather events, droughts, changes in average weather patterns, sea-level rise, loss of biodiversity and diseases with negative impacts on food production, poverty alleviation and family well-being.

Willner and Levermann (2018) insisted that cascading effects of flood and drought pose additional economic risks globally, but especially on food availability, producing massive migration, climate refugees, destruction of basic infrastructure and health impacts by vectors and plagues. The World Economic Forum (2021) insisted that cascading impacts produce wide interdependencies with other risks and only a preventive mitigation and adaptation to climate change globally and environmental restoration may reduce catastrophic outcomes.

2.6 Transition toward an engendered-sustainable, a HUGE-security and peace

The leading multilateral organizations of UN, Bretton Woods (FMI, World Bank), WTO, OECD, NATO, etc. are still protecting the neoliberal governments and their multinational enterprises in industrialized countries. These enterprises are extracting labor, resources and money from nature and humankind, despite the fact that their ideological discourse is about social, economic and environmental protection. Thus, societal, economic, environmental and human securities are shrinking globally, while climate change still threatening the survival of poor people. These top-down efforts to reinforce the dominant system of patriarchal neoliberalism are further increasing the global threats of climate change, where Latin America, Africa and Asia are at greater risks. Oswald (2007) proposed an integrated HUGE (human, gender and environmental) security and peace approach that addresses the cascading effects of violence, inequity, exploitation, discrimination and the systematic destruction of nature and ecosystem services. The concept represents a scientific tool for interdisciplinary analysis addressing equity, equality and sustainability (Brundtland, 1987) with cultural diversity (UNESCO, 2013). At the same time, the reflections offer governments, humanitarian and social organizations contemplations for actions to manage disasters, migration, refugees, food, water and energy crises.

Separating the three security approaches, the concept of human security evolved with five pillars: freedom from fear (public security; UNDP, 1994); freedom from needs (structural inequality; UNDP, 2003); freedom from disasters (climate impacts; Brauch, 2005); living within a state of law and with respect of human rights (Annan, 2005); and living within a culturally diverse society (UNESCO, 2013). Oswald (2020) merged crucial feminist approaches in her gender security concept, including empiric, epistemic, postmodern and viewpoint feminism with identity building, social representations and the organization of social movements to unveil the deep roots of violent, exploitive, and discriminative patriarchy. The conceptualization of environmental security (Dalby et al., 2009) evolved from the threats of the military-industrial-scientific complex understanding, related to the realist military and political security (Hobbes, 1668) toward conflicts and wars related to resource scarcity and even abundance (regions with irrigation). Environmental security analyzed further the complex interrelated cascading effects and its negative interaction between the human and the environmental system, such as loss of ecosystem services and biodiversity (CBD, 1992), climate change (IPCC, 2013, 2014; 2019) and global environmental change (Brauch et al., 2009). A fourth phase dug deeper in the potential of transition processes (Brauch et al., 2016), including peacebuilding to prevent or reduce existent and potential resource conflicts (Homer-Dixon, 1999).

3. Nexus among patriarchy, neoliberalism, climate change, environmental destruction and social inequality

The nexus approach focuses on system efficiency, internal and external feedbacks rather than isolated sectors of the economy, environment or specific social impacts. The nexus methodology allows decision-making processes with stronger cross-sectorial coordination and multi-level governance. The nexus approach includes the understanding of the policy agenda and the political actors at different levels, where a WEF-nexus (water, energy and food security) allows explaining the interactions from local to global (Pahl-Wostl, 2019). One concern of nexus analysis establishes complex relations between theory and political actions, due that all actions are inherently mediated by society. WEF-nexus posits efficient communication as a prerequisite for efficient resource allocation. For this reason, a key focus of nexus analysis is not only the policy itself but also the relationship and the outcomes of policies (Östman and Verschueren, 2014). White et al. (2017) insisted that the lack of communication and the collaboration at the local level generate one of the crucial impediments for successful decision-making in a WEF-nexus. Water security is in climate threatened regions, especially in regions with a temporary delimited monsoon season, one of the most conflictive processes. The need for efficient natural resource management and temporary irrigation can improve context-specific mitigation processes. Preventive nexus understanding may reduce the upcoming political opposition at the local and regional levels. The above-mentioned articles insist that at a national and local level, the involvement of human rights commissions and social organizations play an important role in mediating conflicts. On the contrary, a greater understanding of the impacts may also raise broader concerns about the potential conflicts related to the WEF-nexus at several levels.

The nexus approach also links the management of natural resources, conflict management with the principles of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). This agenda needs to develop context-specific responses to natural resource management for social improvement, including both quantitative and qualitative analyses. Allen et al. (2018) offered a useful framework for discussing the regional and national progress in SDG. The authors developed an indicator-based assessment that combine system thinking, nexus analysis and scenario development. This complex approach allows understanding the often-contradictory processes not only among the WEF-nexus but also the key necessities of the affected people, often further exposed to climate disasters and sometimes even forced migration.

Nexus analysis integrates the discourse with the action cycles and establishes concrete interrelations among daily practices, national development agenda and international SDG, where passed – often fail experiences – intervene negatively in the decision-making process. Thus, an efficient nexus approach should prospectively take into account these past experiences, the present demands of the population, the global development plans and the potential outcomes of the proposed development policy. This includes a systemic understanding of the political arena, the role of positive and negative actors, and activities in favor or against the proposed development activities. A sensible governmental agenda should be able to integrate a socially constructed well-being for the involved people. Peace and conflict resolution processes are crucial in the phase of planning. Conviction is necessary for the affected population, and the execution of the project should improve the well-being of the local population. In all these phases, potential conflicts can be anticipated and mitigated, before they achieve an unmanageable and complex conflict scenario.

Confronted with these systemic, interrelated and often self-reinforcing conflicts, most of the governments in the Global South lack preventive governance tools to deal with these complex nexuses. Nonetheless, people are increasingly exposed to greater disasters related to past policy mismanagement, lack of anticipating actions and climate change impacts. The nexus agenda is therefore highly complex and systemic feedbacks often are deteriorating further the existing precarious conditions of life of rural and urban poor people. Therefore, among critical social groups, committed academics, and some local governments, multiple bottom-up nexus activities have emerged to deal with climate change, poverty alleviation, disaster risk reduction and local solidarity.

4. Alternatives from the global South

Confronted with these complex nexuses among the old consolidated male violence of patriarchy and the five decades of neoliberalism with a brutal concentration of wealth (Oxfam, 2021), the Global South and especially women have learned to resist the destruction caused by these global destructive processes. There are some interesting processes offering alternatives of an engendered, peaceful, equal and sustainable transition process. Indigenous population globally represents only 5% of the world population, but have conserved about 80% of the remaining biodiversity on Earth. After more than 500 years of colonial resistance and careful management of their societies and nature, they are coming up with bottom-up alternatives to safe Mother Earth and humankind. Globally, there are thousands of efforts also in the north (Greta Thunberg) confronting the threats of climate change. The following subchapter will focus of three indigenous and popular efforts, and later link them to the HUGE-security approach and the transition process in the Global South.

4.1 Living well

Different indigenous communities in the Andean-Amazonian region approached life from their holistic Cosmovision. They understood that the violent impacts of the dominant economic paradigm of neoliberalism, where only money counts, are the key processes of the destruction of Mother Earth and human social tissue. These Aymara people proposed an alternative understanding of life with complementarity between humans and nature. Their “living well” sumak qamaña and suamk kaway (good living) include happiness as a guiding principle of life. It embraces personal and family spheres as well as work, diversion and care about nature. Social integration, living in a biodiverse environment with moderation in eating, drinking, dancing and working is creating a happy life with deep social links. The respect for and care of the elderly and children is in the center of their social interactions, where the younger learn from the elderly myths, experiences and identity of belonging to an indigenous community, including their commitments, their pleasure and their social security. Living well restores the broken ecological capital and reduce the patriarchal impositions of ecospaces and human spaces.

Living well represents a telluric approach with a socio-political and ecological content, where Bolivia and Ecuador included in their constitution the right of nature to survive. This approach comprises a personal and social commitment, where household consumption in the mountains regions is promoting their natural organic food. People recycle their waste by composting and enrich the fragile soil. This behavior is very different from a middle-class family in the USA or Europe, which are producing enormous amounts of garbage, mostly not recyclable. Living well is an organized way of indigenous life, based on values, norms, beliefs, institutions and productive processes, including the development of science, knowledge, wisdom and technology.

However, the metabolic patterns of consumption have co-evolved with changes in the income of households and the urbanization process, where subsistence agriculture is limited. Migration into urban contexts has transformed extensive families into nuclear households, living in small urban departments, where the man is primary the food provider and the woman an unpaid caregiver, reinforcing the patriarchal social organization of violent capitalism and intrafamiliar violence. Therefore, subsistence production and food sovereignty (Via Campesina, 2016) at the household level with integrated recycling, household gardens and sometimes animals in the orchards, reduces in the Andes the impacts of environmental footprints. In urban areas globally, the new way of life increases waste and destroys a former healthy food culture, where transnational junk food produces obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

4.2 Shell model of zapatistas: leading by obeying

The EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional), several Mayan indigenous groups in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, took up arms in 1994 against the signature of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by the USA, Canada and Mexico. From this moment on, they fought against the predatory capitalism. This radical model of indigenous delinking from the capitalist system has regionally consolidated since 1994 in the mountains of Chiapas. Leading by obeying (mandando obedeciendo) was a key call of the Zapatistas during and after the indigenous uprising, understanding that only gender equity and different models of governance may be able to change the values of greed and violence. Their struggle was about the “disease called capitalism”, including every family in the whole world that is suffering from capitalist exploitation. “We only want to live in peace without exploitation of man by man, with equality between men and women, with respect for what is different, and to decide together what we want in the countryside and in the city”. They denied any support from the Mexican Government, suffered during the last three decades from a low-ongoing war by the Mexican military, reinforced by paramilitaries controlled by regional landlords. Their social organization, the care of their exceptional biodiversity, subsistence agriculture and the equality among young men and women allowed them to develop self-reliance in food, political organization, health and justice.

The integration of different generations facilitated to understand the truth about daily life and Cosmovision that occur in extended families, but is harassed by the capitalistic behavior. The dominant model of neoliberalism has produced climate change, resource exploitation, poverty, hunger and diseases. The governance understanding of the Zapatistas differs from the occidental imposed electoral democracy. They understood that the representative UN system has consolidated globally the unequal access to natural and human resources, promoting and protecting the extraction by multinational enterprises. Their decision-making processes through consensual agreements includes collective discussions. To avoid internal social stratification, in a caracol (shell) organization, the local leadership rotates yearly and is without payment, while the whole community cares about the well-being of the family of their momentary leader. The key principles of the Zapatistas are equity, sustainability and equality, which means that women and youth are involved in all the existing activities, leadership and decision-making processes. The story telling of historical experiences of parents and grandparents is enriched by the narratives of myths and constitutes their collective memory.

The EZLN fight also against the global capitalism. In May 2021, a group of Zapatistas (4 women and 2 men) sailed on a raft called “Montaña que cruzó el océano” (mountain crossing the ocean) to Europe and disembarked 14 June 2021 in Vigo, Galicia, Spain. The crossing was interpreted as a metaphor of the Mayan indigenous, extending to all the excluded people. “Crossing the Atlantic Ocean in their long journey through life becomes an opportunity to tell the capitalist world that another world is possible and that never again there will be a world without us”. A multitude from different countries received the Zapatistas, who plan to visit 20 European countries, discussing with other social groups their model of political, social and economic alternative organization. They renamed the land where they arrived as an unsubmissive land, a land that does not resign itself and fight for greater equity and respect. The Zapatistas hope that their social construction of an alternative transition process represents a model that is transmitted from generation to generation by formal and informal processes, similar to the efforts of the Aymara communities in the Andes. It includes learning from daily life through acculturation and enculturation that focus on basic indigenous values of nonviolence and respect to humans and nature. It is transforming the toxic masculinity model with equity, equality, local economy, well-being, care and democracy for everybody.

4.3 Bhutan’s happiness index

Bhutan is the sole country that ranks Gyalyong Gakid Palzom or Gross National Happiness (GNH) above the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Dorji Penjore is an anthropologist at the Centre for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies in Thimphu. As Bhutanis he is not only a bureaucrat working for the government but also a poet at heart. He insisted that peace and happiness together with quality time within the family are the key factors of life. Good governance is a balance between the care of nature and economic activities. The pleasure at work is crucial for personal well-being.

The origin of Bhutan goes “some hundreds of years before the birth of the Buddha, an Indian prince locally known as Drime Kunden (Skt. Vesantara) [who] was exiled to Duri Hashang (Black Mountain) in central Bhutan, and a few places still bear the names named after the events of the exiled prince’s journey through the valley” (Penjore, 2017, p. 41). He proposed a life based on values, norms, beliefs, institution and productive processes, where he promoted the development of technology, knowledge and science with traditional wisdom for these difficult natural conditions of high mountains and frequent disasters such as earthquakes, glacier outbreaks and droughts. In these difficult conditions, people promoted a careful agriculture and combined it with the development of arts, craft, and stones to husk paddy into rice. “Bhutan celebrated 2015 as the sixtieth birth anniversary of the fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, whose 34-year reign (1972–2006) brought Bhutan happiness, prosperity, and a peaceful transition to democracy” (p. 214).

The Buddhist religious background is stimulating the GNH at a personal and family level, promoting traditional areas of socio-economic development, health and education, psychological well-being of the persona and the family, and the recovery of traditional aspects of the ancestral culture. As a holistic reflection of the general well-being of the Bhutanese population, it is not oriented on occidental subjective psychological happiness, but an integrated cultural understanding of the complex conditions of the country as a whole. On behalf of the structural and physical-difficult conditions of Bhutan (high mountains), the country is promoting a participative model of education, stimulating the students to explore proper ways to achieve happiness.

The Government of Bhutan has developed 33 indicators to measure the GNH. Their GNH indicates that 10.4% of the population is unhappy. “A total of 48.7% of people have sufficiency in 50%–65% of domains and are called ‘narrowly happy’. A group of 32.6%, called ‘extensively happy’, have achieved sufficiency in 66%–76% – in between 6 and 7 domains. And in the last group, 8.3% of people are identified as ‘deeply happy’ because they enjoy sufficiency in 77% or more of weighted indicators – which is the equivalent of 7 or more of the nine domains” (OPHI, 2007). The governmental tool is to improve the 33 variables, and all together, they should increase the GNH and well-being among their people.

In economic terms, the estimated GDP per capita in Bhutan 2020 is estimated around 3,358.96 US dollars. The growth rate during the past decade (Figure 1) indicates changes from 11.8% to 3.1% in 2018 and 3.2% in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the affectation of the high-quality tourism and the agriculture, while most of the foreign devises provide from the exportation of hydroelectricity to India.

The king of Bhutan, on behalf of the economic restrictions, expressed its solidarity after the destructive earthquake in Nepal in 2015. He sent a million dollars for relief and reconstruction work, together with medical teams that were helping the victims. However, high unemployment, precarious living conditions, and the lack of ways of communication (roads, railways) with the exterior are limiting the future of the development. Bhutan is geographically located between the two giant Asian powers: China and India. China invited Bhutan to participate in the One Belt, One Road Initiative (BRI) and some Chinese investments are trying to promote a socialist market economy. Nevertheless, Bhutan is still very careful with the BRI and China insisted in 2018 that the independent foreign policy of peace in Bhutan explains the traditional friendship between a large and a small country (Syed and Ying, 2018).

From India, the West Bengalian Prime Minister has offered the construction of a railway from Hashimara to Bhutan. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank explored further several common development projects. The approach to GNH may allow the poor Bhutanese country temporally ways out of the complex nexus among the global financial system, food and water insecurity, climate impacts, disasters, geopolitical interests and population growth. All these factors may decrease most of the crucial variables of the GNH, and especially affecting the harmony between society and nature related to adverse socio-environmental conditions. At the same time, it offers Bhutan a way to find alternative ways to deal against the adverse globalization and promote natural processes from bottom-up. The political effort to stop exploitation, center the values in familiar and communitarian support with decentralization. Stable social contract may allow this socioenvironmentally fragile country to face the gigantic challenges of destructive globalization and climate change impacts.

5. Conclusion: engendered-sustainable transition in a decolonized anthropocene

The last exploration of alternatives proposes an engendered-sustainable transition in the complex globalization process threatened by climate change impacts. Latin America is the most biodiverse region in the world, and together with Asia, both have an important indigenous population caring about nature. However, corporate interests have accelerated deforestation processes for industrial agriculture (sorgo, soya, sugar cane) and livestock. They have promoted massive land-use changes, where climate change impacts are further affecting abundant but fragile natural resources. Big landlords and mining companies are further expelling indigenous communities from their traditional sacred land (Oswald, 2020), affecting their livelihood and survival, but also destroying the existing ecosystem services. Both processes are creating greater risks to floods and drought, which are further accelerating climate change (Marengo et al., 2018). They have affected the well-being of the most vulnerable and poverty is rising in the region due to the high inequality and the pandemic. CEPAL (2020) estimates that in Latin America about 215 million people are poor, of which 35% or 83 million are living in deprivation. However, after a year of the pandemic COVID-19, this number has increased by another 28 million persons, affecting especially women, girls, indigenous and urban dwellers.

The present conditions express a broken relationship between Earth and society, where 10,000 years drawing down the ecological capital and patriarchal violence is interwoven in all types of activities from family to global capital. Without any doubt, colonialism has not only changed the economic independence of the conquered countries and increased the economic reliance on the colonial power but also let an ideological feeling of inferiority and dependency, widely exploited by multinational corporations. When we include patriarchy as part of the larger human failure, feminism has explored multiple ways to stop the exploitation of women, children and vulnerable men. Environmental stewardship advocates renouncing the hierarchy of money and continued economic growth. Further, the present toxic masculinity inspires only loyalty and violence but consolidates the present inequity globally.

Climate change impacts may represent the ultimate wake-up call with multiple and cascading crises, where the Global South is especially affected. Additionally, the corporate consumption patterns have not only degraded severely the planet but have increased obesity and chronic diseases among an important group of people, while still a billion humans have not enough to eat. After the economic crises of 2008 and the pandemic from 2019 on, the global financial system is printing another trillion dollars. It has given this money to the rapacious corporations and financiers, while the global poverty rate has grown dramatically. Similar processes are occurring with the availability of vaccines against COVID-19, where the industrialized countries apply inoculations to their entire population, while limiting it to poor countries. Nevertheless, a pandemic can only be resolved with a global effort that includes each national, and the most marginal countries and urban neighborhoods. The present pandemic and vaccine campaign exposes an incoherent global public-health system and lack of solidarity. It is an expression of the dominant neoliberal system that is unable and unwilling to promote collaboration. The existing UN organisms, especially WHO, cannot exercise enough pressure to overcome the greed from pharmaceutical enterprises and benefit everybody by eliminating globally the virus SARS-COV-2.

Without any doubt, perverse incentives have weakened the systemic interactions and cannot continue to be endlessly looted at the cost of the whole society. The wasteful growth and galloping inequality are getting to limits when the world’s richest 1% have more than twice as much wealth as 6.9 billion people and the number of billionaires has doubled over the past decade (Oxfam, 2021). Thus, money and the financial organisms associated cannot be trusted. Further, the almost US$2tn a year expenditure of the military-scientific-industrial complex offers more efficient ways to kill each other, but does not save lives. The globalization process masks also environmental protection with a new green deal that produces an entire ecological makeover of human life and may affect non-carbon-based energy. The present concentration of wealth and power impedes a sustainable institutional democratic system, but the fragile socioenvironmental Earth is increasingly exposed to potential tipping points (Steffen et al., 2004), due to the lack of sustainable function, accountability and transparency. The fictitious market commodities are converting global goods (clean air, safe water, education, health care, security and livelihood) into private commodities (Polany, 1944) pushed by profit at any cost. These privatization processes have destroyed the principles of reciprocity, redistribution and interchange.

Ehrlich et al. (2012) insisted further that the future environmental conditions would be far more dangerous than experts currently believe, and the vegetation biomass was halved since the agricultural revolution 11,000 years ago. Humans have altered almost 2/3 of Earth’s land surface, deviated rivers, dried out the Aral Sea, increased global temperature by 1.2°C, etc. The human population has reached 7.8 billion, double that of 1970, and may extend to 10 billion by 2050. Ehrlich and Harte (2015) insisted further that feeding these 10 billion people might require a revolution in all sectors and a dramatic change in the economic system. Thus, we need to abolish the goal of perpetual economic growth, rapidly eliminate the use of fossil fuels in energy and transportation, regulating the monopolization of markets and controlling the corporate lobby and their profits with sustainable taxes allowing a redistribution of wealth. Without any doubt, in this complex socioenvironmental conditions, the empowering of women through education, control over family planning, political participation and improvement of their economy may increase the participative, distributive and consumerist justice in terms of a concordian ontology (Gorga, 2021).

As COVID-19 indicated, our system was in a very short time dangerously disrupted. Alternatives emerge asking for basic income, poverty alleviation, recovery of biodiversity and sustainable energy. Kate Rawoth (2017) explored a doughnut economy looking from the outside and inside of the system of globalization and environmental destruction. Her proposal includes “from growth addicted to growth agnostic”, including degrowth and alternative sustainable values that go beyond the ongoing technological changes. It includes a culturally, politically and institutionally ingrained growth where everybody is a participant. Alternatives are emerging in different parts of the world, but especially in the Global South, reinforcing an engendered-sustainable peace and security for everybody.

At the local level, the complexity is easier to contrast and starts generally with the production and supply chain of local food. These sustainable options are deeply and systemic interrelated, limiting negative cascading effects in the Anthropocene. Different local food patterns with more grains, fruits, legumes and raw materials are also creating a stronger basis for greater biodiversity. Sustainable management of water, soils and crops also has positive feedback with climate, our greatest urgent challenge. The local food culture offers additional feedback options between producers and consumers with social contacts, contracts and solidarity. Circular economy (Akenji et al., 2019) and the recycling of organic waste are reducing the minerals and nutrients cycle and the generation of global waste flows. Less traffic and less use of fossil energy produce fewer emissions of various harmful GHG, reduce carcinogenic particulate matters and improve mental health through greater links among local society.

Regionalization of productive and supply chains gives people and authorities more control over planning and production, which increases our resilience in the uncertain times ahead, especially after disasters. Local sustainable agriculture reduces also transport, infrastructure, accidents, noise, nitrogen and CO2 emissions, and therefore produces less dangerous climate disruption. With the reduction of our global ecological footprint, regional economy strengthens varied employment options and human rights are better enforceable compared with distant shareholder and corporate enterprises. Local production and regional prices can be fairer and reduce the dependency on world market speculation, especially when external socio-environmental costs are included. This global social economy (Collin, 2014) allows people together with authorities to participate in political decision-making, reinforcing the local democracy, where zoning plans, nature policy, social improvements, the reinforcement of environmental laws and the energy transition may improve local well-being, health and economy. Society, policy makers and international organizations should eliminate all root causes of violence promoting gender discrimination and structural inequity. Sustainable Goal 5 should improve gender empowerment for greater equity and align all the national and local policies for achieving timely and with quality the multiple interlinks with the other SGDs.

To conclude and answer the research question, the data analyzed explain the domination by the military-industrial-scientific corporate complex and the exploitation of human and natural resources related to patriarchy and the present neoliberal system. Ten thousand years of this irrational exploitation and the recent concentration of wealth by the global corporations during the only five decades of the Anthropocene have accelerated climate change, extreme poverty among an important group of human beings. Recently, it has also limited the solidarity during the global pandemic of COVID-19 with probably at least five million unnecessary deaths. The text has also concerns about the success of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2030 to achieve the agreed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG, 2015), due that the UN and the participating governments are weakly questioning the root causes of violence and discrimination based on patriarchy and the dominant military-industrial-scientific-corporation-complex.

As a potential alternative, the text explores how to overcome the present hybrid warfare with a HUGE-security and peace from bottom up. Regional reinforcement of food security, safe water management, local jobs and a concordian economy with the solidarity of the most vulnerable may change the present exploitation of nature and humankind. Energy transition beyond an economic green deal of corporations involves systemic changes in production, consumption, recycling (dematerialization), decarbonization (renewables and energy efficiency) and growing solidarity with people affected by disasters. A key way to achieve these goals is empowering women and girls, and dismantle from bottom-up the dominant structures of violence and exploitation. Solidarity or gift economy (Vaughan, 1997, 2004), living well, leading by obeying, Bhutan’s Happiness Index, circular economy, regional food sovereignty, and multiple other decentralized efforts are offering decentralized bottom-up alternatives to the destructive system of the patriarchal Anthropocene. They include also environmental recovery and improvement of human well-being, basically in the hand of indigenous populations.

However, the period for a drastic systemic change with all its nexuses involved is very short. It requires massive changes from bottom-up and top-down before 2030–2050. Only considerable global solidarity on all continents and among all excluded people, the eradication of the present neoliberal system, the promotion from childhood on of an engendered-sustainable peace-building process (Oswald, 2020) and positive feedbacks may reduce the ongoing tipping-points on Earth and among humankind. Precisely, peace research and negotiation will play a central role to mitigate the upcoming conflicts and catastrophes and alleviate the negative feedbacks from abusive, selfish, and destructive corporations and their global interlinks. A greater self-regulating sustainable system with flexibility and adaptation to unexpected feedback structures may integrate the potential of the HUGE-security concept together with a decolonized, engendered, and sustainable peace approach.

Figures

Annual growth rate of GDP in Bhutan

Figure 1

Annual growth rate of GDP in Bhutan

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Corresponding author

Úrsula Oswald-Spring can be contacted at: uoswald@gmail.com

About the author

Úrsula Oswald-Spring is based at the Regional Centre for Multidisciplinary Research, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Cuernavaca, Mexico

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