Brazil and Brazils in the Anthropocene

Image: Cyrus Saurius


Socio-environmental events impose choices that are commensurate with their gravity, which includes and explains reactions that are also commensurate, such as current denialism and quietism.

For Amnéris Maroni – and his sociocosmic attention

I am grateful to Laymert Garcia dos Santos and Fernando Paixão for their reading and encouragement.


“We need, we need to forget Brazil! / So majestic, so limitless, so unreasonable, / he wants to rest from our terrible affections. / Brazil doesn't want us! He's fed up with us! / Our Brazil is in another world. This is not Brazil. / No Brazil exists. And will there be Brazilians?” (Carlos Drummond de Andrade, “National Anthem”, in swamp of souls).

“Brazil does not know Brazil / […] / Brazil is killing Brazil / […] / From Brazil, SOS to Brazil.” (Aldir Blanc and Maurício Tapajós, “Quarrels in Brazil”).


The Future from the End

I will certainly echo a good part of my generation in remembering having grown up under the promise of a Brazil that would still be, would still come. It was the so-called “country of the future”, which would arrive to overcome its mock and embarrassing existence, which so often, but still today, is qualified, with all the negative charge, as “underdeveloped”, “backward”, “peripheral”. The future redeemer, it was imagined, even in the works of fiction of that time when time seemed to run slower, that such future must be around the year 2000. And behold, these years arrived, when now the ecosystemic collapse of the planet, in full and accelerated course, calls into question the habits and habitats, superstructures and infrastructures, visions of past and future until then minimally stable, as well as the pertinence of the nation-state, such as the imperatives of autonomy and sovereignty in its circumscribed territories. What will become of those pertinences when, from now on, belongings to the world are constrained to radical revisions? As for us, what will become of Brazil, what will become of the Brazils[I]?

The call to reconsider our ties to Earth[ii], through a renewed rooting at the same time local and global, responds to the very emergence of the Anthropocene, the geohistorical epoch that provides the evidence – “human interference that leaves footprints in the earth and in the climate” (TSING, 2019, p. 163)[iii] – on the damage caused by techno-industrial civilization to the climate and ecosystems, also causing damage to habitability (and not only human life, obviously). Or, even more so, the Anthropocene, that time of the “uncommon human disturbance[iv]” (TSING, 2019, p. 246), in turn disturbs the ease of applying, without further ceremony, our usual separations between society and nature, organism and environment, action and setting, biotic and abiotic, animate and inanimate, people and things, local and global, terms there ontologically conceived (by “moderns”, “humans” or “people of Nature”, precisely[v]) as separate from each other, each referring to a supposed domain already aggregated and circumscribed in its own forms and strengths. But the Anthropocene indicates that these aggregations are rapidly disaggregating. From these spoils, new forks in sight.

Facing these fissures (of time, space, imagination…), how to face the earth figured in Gaia (LOVELOCK; EPTON, 1975; LATOUR, 2020), the planet as symbiotic (MARGULIS, 1998), that is all that it is about when, as here, we set ourselves the task of rethinking Brazil, re-illuminating it from its dark future. One of its most important effects is the redrawing, with as much clarity as possible, of the map that redistributes allies and adversaries, friends and enemies (LATOUR, 2014) – and the wars to come. Bifurcations: opening up to the insurgent cosmos, to the “intrusion of Gaia” (STENGERS, 2009), or closing even more in the already old and increasingly inefficient protections? The point is that socio-environmental events impose choices commensurate with their gravity, which includes and explains reactions that are also commensurate, such as current denialism and quietism. Causes and effects become confused and feedback when “an event produces a bifurcation and, conversely, a bifurcation generates an event” (SERRES, 1990, p. 121)[vi]. This is how other political regimes can be inaugurated from the emerging “New Climate Regime” (LATOUR, 2020), object of the no less emerging sciences of the Earth-System, demanding the extremely urgent opening of politics to the cosmos, the epistemological and ontological destabilization of the modernity[vii].

Everything now seems to be bathed in unprecedented uncertainties, the horizon of the future proving to be a pure enigma in the face of bifurcations that are insinuating themselves, taking new forms each time and multiplying before us – summoning us. Will we respond to the many ecosociological constraints with more solidarity and symbiotic strategies or, on the contrary, will we give in to calls for even more competitiveness and parasitism? Grounding in Gaia or escapism (LATOUR, 2017)? What will prevail? Will Brazil continue to reduce the brasis to the generic Brazilian of the State and the Market, people of development and growth, or will it know how to flourish in its thousand particularities, its people of involvement with the Earth and the slowdown of the modernist march of progress? Who and how many will there be? When? As? Will there be time? Clear enigma that renews itself “under the flaming sky”[viii]– such, say, that of a metallic Drummond recovered at the ground floor of the mineral floor, itself now placed in front of Gaia[ix].

That fearful new future is nothing like that one cherished day. The already ancient future collides with this terrifying future of the feral land turned terrifying.[X] – or a sky about to collapse[xi]. Facing this future of modern and modernizing civilization in Brazil seems to require the conjugation of the minority's place of speech with, let's say, the speech of the places. It will even require the civilizational gesture of uncovering deaf ears to the “cry of a mistreated world” (STENGERS, 2013, p. 106 – my translation). It is not a responsible option to deny this increasingly deafening cry. Except for those who intend to deny politics and the sciences in a single stroke in the infernal turmoil of post-truth (MARRAS, 2020a). Or that intends, in short, to refuse restarts of the world from the end (MARRAS, 2020b).

In any case, a great historical-geological divide arises to confront any vain continuityist projection based on the conviction that it is just a “crisis”[xii] ecological problem that will pass or that will be solved by “our responsible” (STENGERS, 2013 – my translation) as well as by techno-scientific advances based on a tortuous Promethean hope. Or, they say, it will be resolved by nature itself, by its evolution indifferent to us, as various extracts of climate (and therefore political) denialism that prevail around the world believe. These are the “somnambulists” (STENGERS, 2015), the “escapists” (LATOUR, 2017), practitioners of a tetric “planetarityExit” (CHAKRABARTY; LATOUR, 2020), with their backs to Gaia and facing Mars, rooted in anthropocentric and emancipationist philosophies of history guided by the unilinear arrow of progress, largely reactionary modernists, still incapable of moving from the “first” to the “first” second story” (STENGERS, 2015), from independence to interdependence.

Yes, but everything now and then will not be able to happen as before, not for those awake from forever or now, who are already willing to “dream other dreams” (STENGERS, 2013, p. 125 – my translation), not to cultivators of sociocosmic bonds between respondents, woven in the immanence of “collective co-learning” regimes (STENGERS, 2013, p.70 – my translation), not for those who already refuse to bend nature as a condition to, since then, bend with it, not for those who finally become interested in writing natural contracts against the asphyxiating social contract, against the evidence that “our culture hates the world” (SERRES, 1990, p. 14). For these, the game of dependencies and independence, of pertinence and belonging, of exchanges and participation (MARRAS, 2019b) changes as profoundly as the bottom of the atmosphere and oceans, soils and genomes. Terrans or terrestrials are those willing to recognize that ecological mutations correspond to political mutations. The recalcitrant modern human, on the other hand, dedicates himself to the tenacious effort of ignoring any image of the world that does not replace the human detached from the world.

Gaia, this new sensitivity, induces other ways of belonging to the world and participating in it. It induces, therefore, the emergence of other peoples. Thus, in mega-diverse Brazil, what profiles and names will this “people to come” assume, this “new people” facing a “new land” (DELEUZE; GUATTARI, 1980; 1992), this “missing people”?[xiii] and that is able to tremble the old tongue[xiv], “people of Gaia” (LATOUR, 2020) in contrast to the “people of Nature” (LATOUR, 2020), to the “commodity people” (KOPENAWA; ALBERT, 2015)? With what force, then, will the Brazils, that is, the Gaia-oriented Brazilians, face the inevitable wars between worlds? Clear bifurcation in sight: accepting or rejecting the flaming sky and its threat of collapsing over our heads seems to be the name of the game that begins when the end – or the many ends and their many fears (DANOWSKI; VIVEIROS DE CASTRO, 2014) – comes to occupy, with increasing insistence, any healthy imagination. All that can be foreseen, to the maximum realism, is the multifaceted war between the so diverse non-modern terrans, including the ex-moderns, and the so little diverse modern human – war to be urgently declared with all the letters[xv]. Here's what's to come in a poor world to come. In the sunset of Brazil, will the Brazils come?

What space will correspond to that time that can no longer be captured except by the intimate folds of humans with non-humans? What about territorial barriers? That of health services, powerless, in the face of the growing and uncontrolled emergence of zoonoses[xvi]? Which dyke will be able to contain the advance of the oceans on the human beach? What protective technology will prevent the invasion of climate refugees? With what indifference do you turn your back on human masses huddled behind fences or shipwrecked in the seas? What wall enough to erect against the charred atmosphere[xvii]? Which “fortified enclaves” (CALDEIRA, 1997) will resist intact and impenetrable? At what price? Where, finally, will it be credible and effective to draw lines of separation and containment? It is difficult, if not contrary to all lucidity, for us to still trust in the imagery that so animated the ancient futures, those of the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries. They will not even remotely withstand the XNUMXst century.

As for the “country of the future” in the Anthropocene and in the presence of Gaia, which supposedly already formed and unifying unit, allegedly capable of totalizing in itself (Brazil) its differences (the Brazils), will it succeed? Still the utopia of mestizo civilization in the happy pacified tropics? But Brazil with “z”, this one from planting Sustained by the great rich nations of the globe, Brazil transcendent to the Brazils, Brazil “above all”, this unity is proving to be progressively toxic the more it is appropriated by the mechanics of reducing, once and for all, the Brazils to the Brazilian. Yes, but unity always comes up against resistant or resurgent differences. To the current vibrant calls for resuming and rearticulating the differences called class, genre e breed add up now, no less vibrant and rebellious, the differences called ecological, new terrain of otherness. Gaia and her thousand names[xviii], its thousand peoples and its thousand soils, signal these differences in an explosive state. In reaction, the unifying rage, such as that of unity-Brazil, is dedicated to denying any so-called ecological appeals to other ways of making the world com the world, not against the world. It is well known that in the name of generic and unitarian Brazil, before and no less now, Brazils, particular and multiple, were and are suffocated, systematically disarticulated and weakened throughout their history of deliberate withering[xx].To which State, united by origin and vocation, should the (re)flourishing of diversities correspond? With what currencies do we know how to unify and divide each time?

Other currencies and divisions

The country of the Amazon and the Cerrado, of the Atlantic Forest and the Caatinga, of the Pampas and the Pantanal, had everything (how much more will it have?) to lead the due passage from modernization to counter-modernization of the world and of life. All to, like few others, know how to face Gaia, bring her as a great political ally and, thus, be able to aspire to a distribution of virtues that are both social and natural at the same time by pacing humans and non-humans in rhythms and scales, speeds and volumes , qualities and quantities that honor both, honoring life under the sign of symbiosis. The Brazil of high biodiversity combined with its high sociodiversity was (will it still be?) the key to overcome the misleading contradictions between economy and ecology, social and environmental, human rights and the rights of non-humans, well-being and the good living[xx].

It seems clear that this passage will not happen simply by alternating politics – from right to left or vice versa. But neither, or simply, eliminating the difference between one and the other. And yes, I suggest, renewing both, their differences[xxx]. Otherwise, and likely, both the left and the right of the modernist political tradition will remain adhered to the dictates of development, growth and progress, each one defending what they understand to be the best for the individual and for human society. But what about the world? Will the culture continue to harbor horror of it (SERRES, 1990)? Well, as Davi Kopenawa, Yanomami shamanic leader, “without forest, there is no history” (DIAS JR.; MARRAS, 2019). We will also say the same about the growing loss of meaning in promoting human rights without this honorable and secular effort being accompanied by the promotion of non-human rights in this millennium initiated under the sign of the end. No social right without environmental right. The point is that we are learning, the hard way, this ethical (or better, geoethical) imperative that can be derived from the Anthropocene era: the ineluctably joint consideration of both rights.

Everything happens as if we were quickly and progressively constrained to use much more modesty and scruples, caution and attention when evoking Brazil-unity, that figure so committed to consecrated ideals of State and nation, promoter of the identical (such as the Brazilian) not rarely working against differences (such as those of Brazils). Or so it will be for those who accept Gaia's shock. As for the elites, here or elsewhere, who reject this shock and the evidence of the Anthropocene, denying their face, they will be left, who knows, in an already foreseeable apocalypse that approaches, some highly disputed bunkers underground, as in Silicon Valley, dug for protection against the revolting Earth and the displaced rebels, such as climate refugees.

Which insurgent and resurgent Brazils could emerge from these clashes? With what currencies and divisions? Will a multifaceted, say, Gaia Brasilis flourish around here? Let it be asked insistently: such Gaia-oriented Brazilians, the Brazils, will they come? With what forces and forms, what weapons and allies, against whom? Since the “war of the worlds” (LATOUR, 2002) is inevitable, such as opposes humans and terrans, “people of Nature” and “people of Gaia”, we will continue to be asked: with what magnitude and expression will these wars be assumed in the Amazonian country that becomes central to the planet's climate regulation, central to the Earth-System sciences? The country on the periphery of economic development comes to occupy the center of the challenge of ecological involvement – ​​the challenge of finding freedom and emancipation in ecologically instructed bonds.

The imbalances that we thought were still out there – like what economists call “negative externalities” – are furiously approaching the most intimate of human habitats. They are even becoming ontologically too rebellious to excesses both in relation to domestication practices and those that advance on the wild according to imperatives guided by the scale of productivity that disciplines and amalgamates, in a single purpose, the forces of the State, the Market and the Technoscience. But, well, everything is disarranged under the force of the “intrusion of Gaia” (STENGERS, 2009), of what, before likely to be taken as an object of our free manipulation and control, now reveals itself as a subject – something that never happened before. it was something else, but which, before, we, the moderns, could control and neglect. Let the destabilizing time of viral pandemics say so again, those that, yesterday and today (and certainly tomorrow) account for the disproportionate and globalized advances in the high domestication of confined species and for the no less dangerous approach, shameless and unimpeded, together to wild species. The emergence of prions Anomalous events, in the case of “mad cow disease” (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), and the emergence of the new coronavirus, in the case of covid-19, bear witness, each in its extremes, to both dangers.

Covid-19, due to its virulence and lethality, confronts us with consequences, excesses, escapes and overflows in relationships with what we call nature. It is therefore appropriate to designate spillovers evolutionary jumps from animal pathogens to humans, zoonoses. And since the origin of zoonotic pandemics can only be explained by the intersection of human and non-human agencies in a situation of uncoordinated disturbance, it becomes plausible to assume, in this Brazil-plantation that relentlessly deteriorates its great biomes, such as the Amazon, the Atlantic Forest and the Cerrado, “the growing probability that the country will become the focus of the next zoonotic pandemics” (MARQUES, 2020, without pagination), new Hotspot of known or unknown viral or non-viral infections. It is an analogue of the sky falling over our heads. or as a deus ex machina that unexpectedly, or not so much, erupts in the most ordinary part of our daily life, without, however, determining the outcome of our dramatic socio-environmental plots.

Inevitably, it will be necessary to relearn how to feel and think based on forests undergoing deforestation, the diversity of fauna and flora at risk of mass extinction, soil erosion and desertification, the terrible and already incalculable effects of landscapes taken over by monocultures under pesticides and all sorts of pesticides controlled by large world corporations, the tropical “aerial rivers” that regulate climate and rain, the unbridled contamination of rivers, lakes and oceans, the disruption of the atmospheric fabric, the accelerated melting, in some cases already irreversible, of the polar ice caps[xxiii], as well as emerging zoonoses, super-resistant bacteria, ecosystem devastation wherever you look, in short, those “strayed from the earth” and “raised from the ground”[xxiii] –from this ground that, responding to the no less threatening sky, opens up under our feet. What minimally lucid and responsible path can be traced without centrally considering these non-humans without whom humans have never sustained themselves? Other pacts with the responding cosmos ask for passage (MARRAS, 2014). Other contracts from other contacts. Other “co-respondences” (MARRAS, 2018). Other modesty for other powers. Finally, other currencies in the ruined world. The earth dies, long live the Earth! Brazil dies, long live the Brazils!

Candor and strength of the vulnerable

Also common for my generation was always hearing – more positively than negatively, and across the entire political spectrum – that Brazil was the world's breadbasket. From the 1970s onwards, the so-called primary products began to be called, by various sectors, including the press, commodities, since they have been growing on an industrial scale, fast and voluminous, focused even more on foreign trade. To grains, cereals and ores, livestock production also began to be added, with a strong presence. The productive orientation of the type planting, operating in Brazil since the first century of colonization, first with enslaved labor and then with cheap and largely precarious labor, would not be another, in its general sense, in relation to animal meat. The so-called Brazilian agribusiness reaches the verge of large-scale production – with Brazil today, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), having more cattle than people. Everything that, in its path, is interposed as an alternative, imposing deceleration and restraint, everything there is a candidate for the enemy of progress, of that born repellent of alternatives. Such enemies, orphans of land and work, of their vital and creative ecologies and sociologies, then become vulnerable. Will it only remain to succumb?

As things and people tend to go hand in hand, both sides win, in the production of the type planting, similarly scalable figuration. It is difficult to ignore, therefore, that the reduction of people to individuals and populations plays a decisive role in reducing the existing ones to the scalable. It is the generic Brazilian thus reduced by Brasil uno. This is what is seen in the fields and bodies profiled by the monoculture of beings and ideas (SHIVA, 2003), human and non-human.[xxv]. In a market compass, everything there must be fast, unimpeded, homogeneous, uniform, replicable, replaceable, little diverse. The advertised big Brazil, that “so majestic, so limitless, so unreasonable”, according to the poet from Minas Gerais, this Brazil that “wants to rest from our terrible affections” (ANDRADE, 1951), he nevertheless intends that its strength lies in this speed and type scale planting. And yet, as this thinker of scalability, Anna Tsing (2019), shows us, there is no force of scale that reaches total completeness.

Yes, something always escapes, surpasses, multiplies and differentiates itself – as we can derive from the notion of nature by the pragmatist philosopher William James, according to which “nature is nothing but the name of excess”[xxiv]. Everywhere, one sees that the same thing also happens in human group ordering: overflows, escapes, mutations, differences that do not cease to differentiate (TARDE, [1895] 2007), excesses threatening to break forms and frameworks. From the fixed identity of the General Registry, so tied to the State, can one expect plethoric resurgences of mobile identities between the Brazils inside? From those equal to themselves, can creative becomings sprout that retrace connections between past and future, no longer dictated by the primacy of unilinear progress that so easily distinguishes backward from advanced, underdeveloped from developed, peripheral from central? From the generic Brazilian, we will finally ask, will the original, that is, re-originated, Brazils escape?

It can be expected (and for this to work) that the escapes come from within even the “simplified ecologies” of the planting (TSING, 2019, p. 226), as from within capitalism itself, in its own way in the center or on the periphery. Bring on – in response to toxic industrial monocultures – polycultures and symbiotic multi-species regimes. It seems more than evident that the way planting of human and non-human reproduction is defined by the abstraction of particular ecologies, abstraction of their local socio-environmental constraints, such as a condition for industrialization and the fast exportation and in scalar quantity of commodities to all over the world[xxv].Yes, but also everywhere, the common(DARDOT; LAVAL, 2014), responding to the scalability planting, tries to emerge from the commodity, the non-scalable commons rebelling against appropriation, dismantling themselves, standing out from it, like Nature transfiguring itself into Gaia, goods and resources becoming ecologically enchanted, human vulnerabilities gaining unprecedented strength and figuration when they are combined with non-human vulnerabilities[xxviii]. It is necessary to invest a lot in deafness and blindness, in misinformation and post-truth to continue avoiding the pressing “need for a collective ethics in the face of the fragility of the world” (SERRES, 1990, p. 124).

Will the Brazils come out of the Brazilian? On this depends the flourishing of other notions and practices of independence and emancipation – woven com, and not against, living and world. Yes, there is a way, since the Brazils, manifest or potential, can still display so many particularities that, by themselves, already threaten to run against the grain of accelerated, homogeneous, serial, linear production, reduced to a large scale planting-oriented. It's just that where such and irreducible differences prevail, even there the abstraction of monetization encounters serious difficulties in imposing itself and developing. Differences (in terms of the term, not those that are soon converted into the measurement of the same) can prove to be responsive and resistant, they can become impediments, even if always fought with fire and iron, to the monetary pricing of entities and beings, to the continuous effort to abstract them from their origins and consequences, effort to erase production traces and ignore ecological footprints.

Differences in the ways of making the world are the stumbling block in this path that intends to be fast, self-evident, uncontested. But how can one deny, in the full Anthropocene recorded in the stratigraphies, in the face of Gaia and the demands of the “New Climate Regime”, that now the path can no longer be found, let's say, through the middle of the stone (MARRAS, 2015)? Now we moderns can come across, as never before, the most factual evidence that the common (common, commons, common goods) has always given the community a bond and condition for existence. The human community was never just a community of humans. Never autonomous, self-regulated, closed in on itself, answering only to itself. It was necessary that non-human mediators be taken as “mere intermediaries” (LATOUR, 1991, p. 189 – our translation) – that is, mute carriers of technical and natural forces already ready and composed, domesticated once and for all, utilitarian impassive and predictable behavior – to sustain modernist anthropocentrism, its image of autonomy and autocracy. But behold, now such forces and forms begin to exhibit unpredictable, complex, non-linear behaviors and features, bifurcation multipliers, animated and highly dangerous, moving and vulnerable. If the Terrans (no longer modern), if the Brazils (no longer the Brazilian) accept such new properties of this cosmos particularly disturbed by the activities of human-techno-capitalists-of-the-type-planting, then the strength of vulnerabilities is anchored in the already civilizational challenge of making gardens sprout from ruins[xxviii].

If Brazil is for scalability, the Brazils, people to come, will be for non-scalability. Where else to deposit our best bets? Nothing is more dangerous to the barbaric and unfettered proliferation of capital than the differences that resist standardization, this mode of reproduction that depends on the cloning of physiognomy and consciousness, this monoculture of forms and meanings, this discipline that aligns humans and non-humans, cultivators and cultivated under the sign of production based on a few varieties – such as Brazilian in Brazil, such as soy in the Cerrado, such as cattle in Mato Grosso. But the historical sense that the Anthropocene epoch instructs turns upside down what was previously accepted as indisputably strong and weak, robust and fragile, protected and vulnerable. Fissured imagination.

Opposing political ecologies clash. What was so easy to depreciate as folklorism, barriers to development, an image of lack and poverty, backwardness and underdevelopment, can gain another line of force by connecting to the consequences of planetary capitalist modernization. What were just cultures before Nature became potent agents of response to that time, the Anthropocene, which by definition implodes the ontological difference between culture and nature. New alliances in sight. Once human vulnerabilities combine with non-human vulnerabilities, food security and ecological security start to be formulated together, since then the combined concreteness is strengthened, abstractionist alienation is weakened, vulnerability becomes an active, purposeful agent, a source of other possible sciences and politics, other worlds and humans. Other Brazils around here.

There are no evils or setbacks that prevent, on the contrary, the imagination of this other politically ecologized Brazil, at the exact height of its magnitude and ecological and social diversity. What would become of Brazil if its so diverse socio-environment Brazils erupted? Oppose the Brazilian of “Plantationocene” (HARAWAY, 2016) to the Anthropocene Brazils is to discern an ongoing war of the worlds. This war has, in this country, full of differences, the most propitious soil where it can be enacted and deployed, because here the contradictions are wide open in plain sight, such is the gap of social inequality structured in centuries of human slavery, such is the modernization with forceps, the tractor and chainsaws, boosted by a barbaric, deregulated, violent capitalism. Everything here brings together the elements that, together, threaten the stability of this great world granary, under which all sorts of abuses, exploitations, iniquities, social and natural added value are maintained.

It will not be exaggerated, in short, to imagine Brazil – of the Brazilian and of the Brazils – as a human-and-non-human landscape particularly suited to developing plots of ends and restarts of the world. Or, finally, of worlds, in the plural. “Such a leading role here?” – the unbelievers will ask –,“in this peripheral country destined to the export of primary products?”. Yes – I would say, taking inspiration from Anna Tsing –, precisely here, right here where from high scalability, never concluded once and for all, a constellation of non-scalable activities can burst as an answer. Novelty is the offspring of tensions. All gigantism creates and brings with it its own weaknesses and vulnerabilities, the communal being able to unfurl itself from the colossal[xxix], like food commodities, the agroecology of the pesticide, the polyculture of the monoculture, the diversity of the uniform, the smallholdings of the large estates, the cooperatives of the conglomerates, the care of negligence, the slowdown of the productive acceleration. So-called “developing” countries, ecologically and economically positioned like Brazil, can open other forks there where only “infernal alternatives” would remain (PIGNARRE; STENGERS, 2005 – my translation), there where there would only be all or nothing of growth, of progress as an imperial narrative, without opposition, and without which, as the motto of the flag intends, there can be no order. But it is in Brazil's particularly inconclusive character that its greatest luck may lie. It is not historically given that collective ills always produce new authoritarianisms, new fascist faces, reactionaries of the worst kind.

From the social and ecological hell, all its opposite can emerge[xxx]. Will the Brazils come to exorcise the Brazilian? Ecopolitical vanguards in sight? Can speech places be virtually associated with the speeches of places? Both speeches, connected in infinite ways, will they assert their vulnerabilities in new ways of thinking, feeling, responding, acting? Will the Brazils survive Brazil? Time will tell, because that's what time is all about – its conspired meteorological and historical, geological and anthropological meanings.

*Stelio Marras Professor of Anthropology at the Institute of Brazilian Studies at the University of São Paulo (IEB/USP).


Originally published on IEB magazine, No 77.


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[I] Perrone-Moisés (2009, p. 58) observes that “'brasis' is a common expression, in Portuguese documents from the XNUMXth century, to refer to the natives of the South American colony. As colonial expansion reached new territories and different indigenous populations, the expression gave way to different ethnonyms. The expression was recovered by the Brazilian authors called Indianists of the XNUMXth century”. I am inspired by Renato Sztutman (to whom I am very grateful) for a broader use of “brasis” (personal communication), in order to cover, as I intend here, vast groups spread throughout the national territory, whether they already exist or have come, whether or not they see themselves as mestizos. I understand that the unity of the “Brazils” is found in the diversity they cultivate. Such diversity, in the strength of the term, points to alternative ways of making a world with the world (and not against it). I suggest that the unitarian figuration of the “Brazilian” be opposed to that of the “brasis” – both, from now on, spelled without quotation marks. It will be up to the reading public to assess the intended heuristic reach of this pair of opposites in the economy of this text.

[ii] I make use here of Latour's (2017, p. 140) distinction between “Earth” and “earth”: “By convention, 'earth', in lower case, corresponds to the traditional framework of human action (humans in nature), and 'earth' Terra”, in capital letters, to a power of acting in which something like a political function is recognized”.

[iii] “The habitability crisis of our times is something different – ​​and it is this difference that is signaled in the term Anthropocene. The Anthropocene does not mark the dawn of human disturbance. As I have been showing, human disturbance can be part of resilient Holocene ecosystems, such as peasant forests. The Anthropocene marks, instead, a breakdown in coordinations, something that is much more difficult to correct. We are pushed into new ecologies of death proliferation” (TSING, 2019, p. 112).

[iv]It would be prudent to point out that the definition of the Anthropocene as, let's say, the geological footprint of humans does not seem quite correct, since these humans (like the moderns, in particular, but any other, in general) have never acted except in close association with technological humans of all kinds. The modernist particularity takes place, rather, in the scale and speed of its actions. The Anthropocene does not, therefore, tell us about the interference of the species in a supposedly pure and untouched nature, deriving by itself. He tells us of imbroglios.

[v] On the political ecology that informs the meaning of these terms, see Latour (2020). Note here the synonymy I am forcing between “moderns”, “humans”, “people of nature”, “people of merchandise”. That is, taking “humans” and “nature” as categories native to the moderns.

[vi] I should note, in time, that this effort to point out the emergence of bifurcations in opposing pairs is inspired, in large part, by what Antonio Candido (1995, p.12-13) recognized in Sérgio Buarque de Holanda's mode of argumentation in Brazil roots: the “methodology of opposites”, in turn inspired by “Max Weber's typological criterion”. It is, in Holanda via Candido, the “exploration of polar concepts”, so that “the vision of a certain aspect of historical reality is obtained, in the strong sense of the term, by the simultaneous approach of the two; one raises the other, both interpenetrate and the result has a great power of clarification” (CANDIDO, 1995, p. 13). Here I project this methodology for a history based on a fearsome future that is approaching so quickly and that for this very reason calls us to review our most deeply rooted bases of thought and sensibility. The aim is to provide some collaboration to the urgent task of repopulating our imagination with the innumerable possible worlds mobilized by polar types, between they and beyond from them. Its characterization responds to a methodological strategy rather than an ontological foundation. They are dualities at the service of multiplicities.

[vii] On the concept of moderns (modernity, modernization, modernism) and its inescapable relationship with the escalation of ecological destruction on the planet, cf. Latour (1991, 1999 and 2017).

[viii]And if “everything is sad under the blazing sky [...], let us lower our eyes to the design of ambiguous and reticent nature: it weaves, doubling its bitterness, another way of loving in bitter love” (ANDRADE, 1951). In an effort to make the poetry of a Drummond blow new meanings, today, to readers sensitive to the dramatic ecosystem of the planet, we will say that love too, beyond the similar and beyond or below the humans-among-them, asks that “we download our eyes” to Earth; it asks to be open to the world, no longer vaster the more it is being devastated by the ardor of conquest and control, of selective well-being at the expense of the common good.

[ix] Cf. Wisnik (2018) and, as a footnote, Marras (2019a).

[X] Let us consider here, from the outset, the two meanings assumed by the terrifying character of Gaia: that which terrifies and that which summons us to return to the earth. Everything happens as if the ways of conjugating these senses will determine destinies and outcomes of the future.

[xi] One can come across the insistent theme of the collapse of the sky in Michel Serres (1990, p. 80), with his effort to twist the white tongue: “What diligent shoulders will support, now, that immense and fissured sky that, we fear for the second time? time in a long story, could come crashing down on our heads?” Or, of course, in the monumental book by Kopenawa and Albert (2015), already reverberating heaven and world, spirits and forest in the Yanomami language directed back at white people.

[xii] Unlike any other crisis, says Stengers (2015, p. 41), the so-called ecological crisis “is not a bad moment that will pass”. I note, by the way, that crises, worthy of the name, have the gift of blurring borders or accentuating them. Bifurcations!

[xiii] Before concluding the book with an excerpt from “Gilles Deleuze, this uterine nephew of Oswald de Andrade”, Danowski and Viveiros de Castro (2014, p. 159) write in Deleuze's language: “Speaking in the end of the world is to talk about the need to imagine, before a new world in place of this present world of ours, a new people; the missing people. A people who believe in the world they will have to create with what we leave them of the world”.

[xiv] “The writer uses words, but creating a syntax that introduces them into sensation, and that makes current language stutter, or tremble, or scream, or even sing: it is the style, the 'tone', the language of sensations or the foreign language in the language, the one that requests a people to come, oh! people of old Catawba, oh! people of Yoknapatawpha! The writer twists language, makes it vibrate, embraces it, splits it, in order to rip the percept from perceptions, the affect from affections, the sensation from opinion – aiming, we hope, at this people that does not yet exist” (DELEUZE; GUATTARI, 1992, p. 228). The theme of the language to come, so to speak, is frequent in Deleuze, as in his ABC (DELEUZE, 1994-1995): “Sometimes we need to invent a barbaric word to account for a notion with new pretensions”. It is unnecessary, at this point, to note how essential the invention of new words for new peoples and new worlds is.

[xv] Wars, I would say, not against individuals or groups, but against, breathes Stengers (2015, p. 44), “what gives them authority”.

[xvi] On the intimate and very dangerous relationships between the deterioration of ecosystems and the emergence of zoonoses, there is already a wealth of literature. See, for example, Wallace (2020).

[xvii] Bifurcation: “Will we live within the walls of our cities or under the dome of the constellations? Which one? In which of them, one or the other, do we find ourselves?” (SERRES, 1990, p. 100).

[xviii] Reference to the international colloquium called “The thousand names of Gaia – from the Anthropocene to the age of the Earth”, held at the Casa de Rui Barbosa Foundation, Rio de Janeiro, between 15 and 19/9/2014, held by the Department of Philosophy of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) and by the Graduate Program in Social Anthropology of the National Museum (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro – UFRJ) and conceived by Deborah Danowski, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro and Bruno Latour. Cf. The Thousand Names of Gaia (2014).

[xx] An overview of this long history of popular rebellions in Brazil can be seen in Dantas (2011).

[xx] Studies have multiplied, such as post-colonial ethnographic ones, which point out, as in the Andean countries, vigorous alter-globalist local-global responses, both conceptual and practical, such as those of “good living" It's from "live good”, which confront “infernal alternatives” (PIGNARRE; STENGERS, 2005 – my translation), such as “capitalist sorcery”, which opposes development and poverty, progress or death. To indicate some of these studies, see: De La Cadena (2015), Schavelzon (2015) and Medina (2011).

[xxx] I understand the political reorientation envisaged by Latour (2017), for whom both the right and the left, once faced with Gaia, are equally unprepared. But I disagree with your recipe, which provides for the summary abandonment, as obsolete, of this opposition. It would be, as they say, getting rid of the baby with the dirty bath water. How can we not recognize, I ask, that it is on the side of the political left that the main intellectual matrices and historical practices are located, inspired by principles and feelings of solidarity, symbiosis, empathy for others, mutual help, cooperativism? Where else to expect, if not from this long and flowing tradition of resistance and the assertion of rights, that these principles, previously forged for the promotion of fair social exchanges, can now spill over to the world and found, at the same pace, fair cosmic exchanges? Hence, the very notion of exchange calls for broadening (MARRAS, 2019b)

[xxiii] It is notable that the bifurcations are posed by the turning points in the deforestation of the Amazon (from which the forest runs the risk of savannizing indefinitely), as yet, in another example, in the melting of Greenland (the advance of which makes it impossible to recompose of the ice). These and many other similar pieces of evidence have been heralded on a daily basis by scientists and specialized journalists (to mention only these) in all sorts of academic and non-academic vehicles around the world. Indeed, it is well understood why modernist reactionaryism attacks the sciences, which are, for us, phonation devices for ecologies, climates and environments.

[xxiii] Cf. “Levantados do piso”, song by Milton Nascimento and Chico Buarque for the book Terra (SALGADO, 1997).

[xxv] to savings of planting correspond mentalities of planting, scalable things to scalable people The way planting to which we subject other species ends up subjecting us. We are all beings of planting.

[xxiv] The phrase gained the status of an epigraph in Latour's book (2020), from which I withdraw it to quote here.

[xxv] "At plantations they discipline organisms as resources, removing them from their lifeworlds. Investors simplify ecologies to standardize their products and maximize replication speed and efficiency. Organisms are removed from their native ecologies to prevent them from interacting with companion species; they are made to coordinate only with replicas – and with market timing” (TSING, 2019, p. 235)

[xxviii] This is the case, for example, of the vigorous agroecological production, throughout Brazil, of the Movimento dos Sem Terra.

[xxviii]"Ruins are now our gardens”, writes Tsing (2014, p. 87)

[xxix] Suddenly, what is considered invulnerable can have all its strength ruined in a very short time by invisible pathogens that devastate transgenic plantations and overdomesticated cattle with their genomic profiles that are much more vulnerable as they are less biodiverse. Since then, the food security of entire populations has shifted to ecologies previously seen as vulnerable, poor, backward, underdeveloped, peripheral. It seems clear that the eco-social disasters of production planting-oriented – such as the well-known historical cases of potatoes in England and rubber in the Amazon – tend to repeat themselves at such a frequency that it will make civilization as we know it unsustainable. It is to be asked whether the market will learn that income can only continue from now on if it is accompanied by restraint. Or if you will know how to escape, for example, the “soybean trap” (SILVA et al., 2020). None of the scalability of soybean outside of the non-scalability of multispecies networks that can sustain it in the medium and long term. In other words, no more economic sustainability without ecological sustainability.

[xxx] Or as the dialectician Buarque de Holanda (1995, p. 180) points out in his classic book that has been rewritten since 1936: “history has never given us an example of a social movement that did not contain the germs of its denial”. In the same sense, Pelbart (2013) seeks to use the reverse side of nihilism as a source of resistance. Let's say: if nihilism is hostage to the mechanical drift of the probable, its reverse points to the living creation of the possible. There are two registers: one goes hand in hand with the inconsequential, the other devotes attention to the art of care. One follows resolutely and swiftly, another hesitates and slows down.

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