Bioethics and Environment: A Hermeneutic Approach
Junges, José Roque
Journal International de Bioéthique = International Journal of Bioethics 2008 March-June; 19(1-2): 105-119
This article presents the discussion about environmental bioethics in Brazil. Brazil's naturally environmentalist vocation is due to the wealth of its biodiversity and to the possible contribution it can offer, in international forums, to defining the close relation between the protection of the environment and social justice--a challenge that Brazil has to face. A first important aspect is the discussion on natural and cultural biodiversity. The loss of natural biodiversity corresponds to a loss of cultural diversity in the way human beings relate to nature. Brazilian culture presents rich and diversified traditional uses of natural resources, in harmony with the corresponding natural ecosystem. This cultural biodiversity is being lost due to the introduction of technology-based, extensive agriculture by agro-business, which does not construct agricultural models in interaction with the local ecosystem, imposing homogeneous production modes for completely different regions. This issue makes us rethink the meaning of sustainable development. Due to its vagueness, this concept has been identified with material and measurable progress based on economic criteria. The impossibility of determining the price of common, permanent goods from nature, as well as the adoption of the Index of Human Development, have represented an effort toward the correction of this economicist reductionism and an attempt to understand sustainability in more comprehensive ecological terms. This concern points to a social movement known as Environmental Justice, which denounces the environmental burden that invariably affects marginalized groups within society, representing a risk to their life and health; that represents an environmental injustice. Understanding how Environmental Justice defines those hazards compels us to adopt an ecosystemic vision of health, in which the life conditions of the environment are part of the understanding of health itself. This integral vision is part of the movement's proposals to promote health and to fight for healthful urban environments.
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