“A healthy civilisation can only be one that harmonises with and integrates into the totality of life, enhancing not demolishing it.”
Today, 14th May 2020, marks 18 year since we said goodbye to our remarkable friend and ecological trailblazer, Jose ‘Lutz’ Lutzenberger.
Lutz, a father of Brazilian Environmentalism, was an early and vocal proponent of regenerative agriculture. A Right Livelihood Award Winner, he became Brazil’s Secretary for the Environment in 1990, having defended Nature and Indigenous Peoples’ rights throughout the nation’s 30-year military junta.
Most of all, Lutz was an ecological visionary who recognised the need for a systemic and holistic transformation of human societies from an anthropocentric to ecocentric mode of living. This perspective permeated all of Lutz’s work and is as relevant now as it was during his lifetime.
As societies around the world struggle to re-imagine and re-build themselves after the Covid19 pandemic– torn between a return to catastrophic ‘business as usual’ and the transformations necessary to meet the challenges of climate change, ecological collapse and social justice – we need the kind of inspiration and vision that Lutz offered more than ever, says Gaia’s Director, Liz Hosken.
Since the day we met Lutz in 1987 he has been a mentor, adviser and associate of Gaia and a dear friend. After leaving the agrochemical company BASF, when he realised he was ‘peddling poisons to farmers,’ he became a ferocious opponent of industrial agriculture and advocate for regenerative agriculture and food sovereignty. As an orator, interdisciplinary scientist and philosopher he would hold audiences spell bound as he explained the awesome beauty of our living Planet Earth in the cosmos, the only one that has sustained the narrow conditions for complex life as we know it. This, he said, is what the industrial growth society is brutally destroying – the very conditions that nurture life, including our own. His capacity to see holistically, penetrate to the root causes, and develop practical alternatives that comply with the laws that govern life, was an inspiration for many people across the world. His voice rings in my ears as we face the opportunities and challenges COVID has brought us, and we will be sharing more of his wisdom as an elder and ancestor of our movement for justice for all life, in the months ahead.
To celebrate Lutz’s life and work, below we have compiled some of his most powerful quotes on key issues facing the community of life today.
Celebrate Lutz’s wisdom and legacy with us- pass your favourite quote on via email, social media or commit it to heart!
Gaia: Philosophy, Science and Ethics
“True ethics, the most profound spirituality, is to feel one with the unique, mysterious, process that distinguishes our living planet, Gaia, from all the others in our solar system, all dead; it is to feel responsible and to shun no sacrifice for the preservation and continuing unfolding of the great symphony of organic evolution that put us here, together with millions of other species.”
“A wise person may risk learning from mistakes, but will avoid experiments where, if things go wrong, the consequences are unacceptable and irreversible. How can we make the powerful understand, that modern Industrial Society is engaged in just this kind of experiment?”
Agriculture: Big vs Small
“We need a new form of economic accounting that, when it adds up what is called ‘productivity’ or ‘progress’ in farming, also deducts all the costs: the human calamities, the environmental devastation, the loss of biological diversity in the landscape and the even more tremendous loss of biodiversity in our cultivars.”
“The modern farmer is only a little cog in an enormous techno-bureaucratic infrastructure that requires special legislation and heavy subsidies. Compared to his predecessors who did almost everything that was related to production, processing and distribution of food, he is not much more than a tractor driver and a poison spreader.”
Capitalism, growth and progress
“We separate the world into rich countries and poor countries. Few realise that the poor were not poor. Their present misery is a consequence of what we call ‘development’.”
“GDP is only of interest to the banker, the government and large transnational corporations, it has nothing to do with the wellbeing of the people.”
Find out more
Since Lutz passed on, his daughter Lara has done remarkable work to sustain his legacy. Together with Lara and Fundacion Gaia, the organisation Lutz founded, we are determined to keep sharing Lutz’s wisdom with the growing global movement for social and ecological justice.
We have gathered a choice selection of Lutz’s English-language essays for those who wish to learn more: