We live a transformation process that is characterized as indicative of the need for a new logic of civilization, based on new models and new patterns of accumulation. To Deléage (1997), with the massive industrialization of the twentieth century, particularly after the Second World War, reached a threshold in the relationship between humans and the biosphere and pollution and environmental degradation have become a true fact of civilization, acquiring global dimensions.
A key feature of this process is called the environmental crisis evidenced from the 1960s, which raises the need for new patterns of relationship with nature and its resources. The environmental crisis has passed on lifestyles and consumption, ethics and culture, politics and social dynamics and organization of space worldwide.
For Leff (2006a), the environmental crisis is not necessarily in an ecological catastrophe, but the changes of thought with which we have built and destroyed the globalized world and our own ways of life. He calls it a “crisis of civilization”, which appears as a limit on the real meaning and redirect the course of history. The environmental crisis is the crisis of Western thought, metaphysics that made the disjunction between “being and the being”, which produced a fragmented world and objectified in the control and domination of nature. And finally, “is expressed as a question of ontology and epistemology with which Western civilization understands being and things; science and technological reason with which dominated the nature and economicizou the modern world “(LEFF, 2006a, p. 288).
In this context, environmental problems crossed national borders and a new category of environmental issues emerged, ie issues whose consequences are global and authors involved transcend a single region or country. Among the most important today are: the destruction of the ozone layer, global climate change, global warming, pollution of the marine environment, the destruction of forests and the threat to biodiversity.
From the 1950s, the so-called developed countries, environmental problems caused by economic growth and industrialization, has become a serious problem. According to Leff (2001, p. 49), “La environmental crisis vino cuestionar them bases conceptuales that han Impelled legitimized y el crecimiento economic, denying a la naturaleza”. The intensity of the environmental crisis began to gestate a new mentality, in which the Earth began to be perceived as a common space for all its inhabitants.
According to Vieira (1992), the spread of an “ecological conscience” worldwide regarding environmental issues has intensified from the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm in 1972. Later, in the decades following, deepened considerably the scientific knowledge of environmental problems, as well as expanded the perception of socio-environmental impacts caused by these problems and even the possibility of threat to the perpetuation of life on the planet.
Aiming to overcome the obvious difficulties of reconciling economic development and environment, the concept of sustainable development tries to establish these two concepts as an inseparable pair, in which social, economic, political, technological and environmental issues are overlapping. This proposal takes on a political and diplomatic significance, as it sets out to establish the general principles which orientate a political commitment on a global scale in order to provide economic growth ensuring the sustainability of natural resources. The notion of sustainable development composes and complicates the broad international debate on environmental issues and new challenges to his theory.
Leff (2006a) considers that the complexity of social problems associated with environmental changes at the global level paves the way for interdisciplinary research methods, seeking to articulate different expertise to address the multiple relationships, causalities and interdependencies that establish processes in various spheres of materiality: physical, biological, cultural, economic and social. For Leff (2006a, p 217.) “The environmental issue emerges from a troubled economic, social, political, ecological, as a new worldview that changes the paradigms of theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge.”
As already mentioned, in the second half of the twentieth century, the environmental issue reached sized global problem, mobilizing civil society organizations, the media and governments of different countries. This move brought an eminently sociological approach to environmental issues, contributing to the discussion about the processes of constitution of conflicts between social groups in the struggle for the use of natural resources, so-called distributive conflicts, or simply socio-environmental conflicts.
Social movements that have arisen in the world from the 1960s were accompanied by intellectual debates which have raised new challenges for the social sciences. In general, we tried to overcome dichotomies as objectivity / subjectivity, individual / society and nature / culture. Efforts to overcome the dichotomy nature / culture-linked to the emergence of an environmental critique of industrial society emanating from both a political and academic movement called political ecology and brought to the academic and intellectual discussion “environmental crisis”, as a result the collapse of economic growth and finite natural resource base.
According to Leff (2006b) the growing discourse on global change incorporates several issues related to greening the global economic order, such as innovation through “clean” technologies, adequate and appropriate for the ecologically sustainable use of natural resources; recovery and improvement of traditional practices (environmentally adapted) use of natural resources carried out by local communities; the legal framework of the new environmental rights for ecological normativity of environmental policies, both at national and international level; the organization of the environmental movement; the internalization of environmental knowledge in the knowledge paradigms in the curricula of educational programs and teaching methods, the use of environmentally friendly products and the emergence of new environmental disciplines.
To the extent that environmental and ecological question is generalized, obtaining global reach, which concerns all areas of social organization, the apparatuses of the state and all social groups and classes, that induces a broad and complex process epistemic transformation in the field of knowledge and knowledge, theoretical ideologies and practices of scientific paradigms. Leff (2006a, p. 282) proposes a methodology to build an environmental rationality in terms of new knowledge that addresses the dialogue of knowledge through interdisciplinary practice.
Therefore, the construction of an environmental rationality implies the need to deconstruct the concepts of various sciences and disciplines of knowledge, as well as the systems of values and beliefs which underpin and promote economic and instrumental rationality on which rests an order social and unsustainable production. In this perspective, environmental problems should not lie only in the field of social and / or natural sciences sciences. Rather, you should note that these systems are dialectically connected and have autonomy and simultaneous interdependencies.