Outlining the Horizon of Green Democracy: Cosmopolitanism, Sustainability, and Global Epidemiological Security—Global Impacts and Control Strategies of COVID-19


This article aims to examine the relationship between green political theory and contemporary cosmopolitanism. The result would be the analytical horizon of cosmopolitan green democracy. This concept compels us to reconsider the new global order under the view of sustainability and biological security which, in turn, requires theoretical and institutional readjustments to face the challenges of a global system. After contrasting the evidence of pandemic handling with the normative foundations of cosmopolitan green democracy, the findings suggest the weakness of the global governance regime derived from epidemiological security in the face of the state of emergency. This has simultaneously led to an anachronism in a world where prosperity depends on multiple interconnections and the gradual transfer of part of the authority of the nation-states in favor of global powers.

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Pérez, G. and Jáuregui, O. (2021) Outlining the Horizon of Green Democracy: Cosmopolitanism, Sustainability, and Global Epidemiological Security—Global Impacts and Control Strategies of COVID-19. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 9, 110-136. doi: 10.4236/jss.2021.92008.

1. Introduction

Sustainability is the new way of interacting with nature, understood in a broad sense, be it with the rest of the human species, to which we belong, and our attitude towards future generations and towards animal and plant life1. That is why the essential question intends to unravel what role liberal democracy should play from now on, and how efficient its institutions are in guaranteeing the transition towards global sustainability.

The relationship between democracy and the environment is known as “green democracy” or, in a broader sense, “green political theory”. Its position is characterized by the review of classical political concepts of liberal democracy in order to establish its own green democracy model by rethinking fundamental political concepts like representation, sovereignty, political participation, and citizenship. García-Portela (2016) points out that the idea of green democracy complements traditional ideas of democracy with the demand of the expansion of moral and political community limits beyond the jurisdiction of the nation-state, acknowledging that not only the interests of our contemporaries but also those of future generations, and those of animal and natural life in general (which are currently affected by the development of our activities) must be taken into consideration. Hence, green political theory reviews the institutions and principles of liberal democracy, making it both critical and reconstructive.

For green democracy to be viable, it must face the underlying dilemma of the processes of territorialization/deterritorialization implied in the very logic of globalization2. Thus, the project of cosmopolitan democracy brings to the table, an analytical framework capable of examining the efforts of green politics, oriented towards sustainability and global biological security. From this perspective, governance is approached in the context of globalization3 to amplify the understanding of authority beyond nation-states. This is achieved by emphasizing the diversity of new roles that burst into the scene of globalization, as well as the multiplicity of formal and informal channels for interaction that give rise to new ways of global interaction, disrupting the traditional arrangements of the states (López Vallejo, 2016). In this way, the concept of cosmopolitanism in green political theory is a fundamental component to the green democracy’s speed to manifest sustainability and biological security goals.

Cosmopolitanism addresses not only the complexity of new dynamics in the relationships between states, but also how actions, taken at a State level, have not just internal effects, but global consequences as well. States tend to standardize their politics towards common agendas that cannot be equivalent to national interests, reason of state, emergency, or autarchy, but, conversely, should tend to the achievement of global public goods. Can cosmopolitan democracy contribute to a more consolidated and democratic global governance, aimed at achieving the global environmental agenda, and pursuing the planet’s biological and epidemiological security?4 To ensure this, democracy as a regime cannot be subjected to a purely territorial understanding, since self-determination, responsibility, representation, participation, and sovereignty need to be understood taking into account multiple ways of global, national, and local affiliations.

In other words, to ensure that the goals of democracy thrive when it comes to sustainability and biological security, we must use the international framework of governance, which acknowledges that states are no longer the last source of authority and power, but instead, the gradual emergence of a process of transfer of authority from national contexts to supra and transnational entities that represent global power today. Either way, cosmopolitan democracy guarantees that, during these processes, the most suitable transnational structure for the achievement of goals and objectives like global peace, human rights, sustainability, and epidemiological security, takes place. Cosmopolitan democracy attempts to provide channels for direct democratic influence over decision-making on essential international affairs through different institutional levels, in order to deal with distinct issues.

To achieve this, it needs to ensure the participation of the global community not only through the intervention of international organizations or global entities, but also by taking into account civil society groups, and reinforcing the potential of cosmopolitan citizenship expressed through voluntary activism.

This essay aims to examine the communicating vessels between contemporary cosmopolitanism and the institutional framework of green theory to reformulate the meaning of global governance in the direction of the goals that sustainability and epidemiological security outline, and to discuss the scope of theoretical contributions and restrictions of a surfacing concept in political theory such as cosmopolitan green democracy. The starting point of this article is that, while the new order of global governance pursuits the objectives of sustainability and biological security, the viability and success of this project requires theoretical and institutional readjustments to face the challenges of a new global system. David Held (2012) identifies an obstacle to materialize the project of cosmopolitan democracy in order to attain sustainability and human health goals. He calls it the “paradox of our times”: “the common problems we face are increasingly global, and yet the tools we have to tackle them are national or local, weak, and incomplete.” The evidence points towards the weakening of the global governance regime caused by environmental and epidemiological security, which faces a state of emergency in almost every country of the world while trying to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. This creates an anachronism in a world where prosperity depends on multiple interconnections and on the gradual transfer of authority, from nation-states to global powers5.

The essay is organized in the following way: the second section analyzes the institutional scaffolding profile of green democracy, which is the result of a critical inquiry of the typical institutions of liberal democracy, in the face of the green politics project development. Such a critical revision of green democracy's institutions leads us to contemplate the possibility of taking democracy beyond traditional state borders and the establishment of a global environmental agenda, so, in this sense, we could discuss a global or cosmopolitan democracy.

In the third part, we examine the institutional outline of cosmopolitan democracy, from its normative features to its more descriptive elements. This analysis brings to light an interesting connection between the green politics program and the aspiration that democracy might be raised to an international regime which would imply the emergence of an environmental global governance regime where it would be possible to expand the framework for understanding the exercise of authority beyond the nation-state. This would be a result of diverse global interconnections and actors prone to standardize their internal politics towards common agendas. If the goals to reach environmental sustainability and global biological security follow the project of cosmopolitan democracy (as it is outlined in the context of globalization) it is relevant to trace the horizon of the green cosmopolitan politics agenda, since it is evident that this concept needs theoretical and institutional readjustments to face the challenges of a global system. We will deal with this matter in the fourth section. The evidence points towards the weakening of the global governance regime by epidemiological security, and, to attain its objective it has to analyze how the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic. That implies a readjustment of the binomial legitimacy and authority between nation-states and global power structures. In section 5 the evidence on the handling of the pandemic is contrasted and contrasted with the postulates of cosmopolitan green democracy. Finally, in the last section we put into perspective the viability of a cosmopolitan democracy that might contribute to a more consolidated and democratic global governance, aimed at the achievement of the global environmental agenda and the pursuit of the planet’s biological and epidemiological security.

2. Institutional Analysis of Green Democracy

The relationship between democracy and environment is known as green democracy, or broadly, green political theory. This perspective allows us to expand the entities that can act within democracy to those that lack the self-awareness that characterizes subjectivity, in a way that, if we give some agency to nature, it allows us to ensure respect for natural objects and ecological processes. The concept of green democracy adds to traditional ideas of democracy the demand for expansion of the moral and political community limits, by recognizing that the interests of animals, future generations, and the natural world in general, are affected by the development of our activities, and should be taken into consideration (García-Portela, 2016). Green political theory is characterized by examining traditional political concepts of liberal democracy to establish its own green democracy model, by rethinking essential political notions like representation, sovereignty, political participation, and citizenship.

Sustainability is a way to relate to posterity and acknowledge our responsibility towards future generations, which includes a debate about the options that should remain open for future human beings. Thereby, sustainability is based on democratic procedures while, at the same time, it implements them6. This viewpoint supports democracy because natural resources are prerequisites to the exercise of democracy in conditions of freedom and equality. Thus, from the perspective of green democracy, there is an intrinsic relationship between democracy and ecologism, which is connected, we may say, to what we owe to future generations: equality of opportunities to access vital resources (breathable air, healthy environment, drinking water, etcetera), essential capacities and elements beyond resources to build their own life autonomously according to their perspective of life and to the common welfare (García-Portela, 2016). Therefore, from the outlook of the evolution of ecologism, this is a debate that contributes to the encounter between liberalism and ecologism, that in green political theory leads us to a review of the institutions and principles of liberal democracy, which does not stop being both critical and reconstructive (Valencia, 2005).

The construction of a green democratic model brings green political theory and liberal democracy face to face. Can the latter be the foundation of green democracy? Political environmentalism’s radical critique towards liberal democracy underlines that it cannot become green for reasons concerning its normative basis as well as its institutional functioning (Arias, 1999). The uncomfortable relationship between democracy and environmental sustainability is not entirely new. Within green political theory, this debate has been framed as a means to an end problem between democratic agency and ecological values. In this respect, Goodin (1992) suggests prioritizing these values in such a way that environmental results are ensured. Nevertheless, his standpoint implies taking for granted the primal logic of green political theory within the moral system, meaning that the search for ecological purposes justifies the adoption of any means to its fulfillment. However, such standpoints could damage green democracy by turning it into an authoritarian procedure, like the one called eco-authoritarianism7. These possibilities are far from being attractive from a democratic point of view (Wong, 2016).

For this reason, green political theory revises the institutions and principles of liberal democracy, which is both critical and reconstructive, and along with this, it lays the foundations of a green democracy that itself transcends the liberal one (Arias 1999: p. 187).

In what follows, we offer a revision of the main institutions of green democracy profiles, namely: political representation, autonomy and community, the definition of the political spectrum and environmental objectives, State sovereignty, and ecological citizenship, as a result of a critical review of liberal democratic institutions facing the development of the green political program.

2.1. Liberal Political Representation vs. Green Political Representation

The first institution in green democracy’s framework that we will revise is political representation. As stated by Dobson (1996: p. 124), green political theory redefines liberal political representation. In other words, it implies rethinking the institutional representation spectrum of typical democratic agents to include underrepresented agents, namely: future generations, foreigners affected by the national resolutions in environmental matters, and non-human natural beings like animals and botanical species. Under ecologist purposes, the revision of the organizations and mechanisms of representation, as well as the underrepresented constitutive agents, also involves a rethinking of the moral and political community that gives room to the so-called new environmental constituencies: the natural world.

This orchestration of liberal representative institutions is, undoubtedly, more than an extensive conceptual revision, and it turns into normative postulates that point at the heart of democratic theory by defining the subjects that can function in its political space: demos (Arias, 1999: p. 187).

2.2. Autonomy and Community

A central principle of liberal democracy is autonomy, which is, at the same time, the object of green criticism. That is to say, that in the light of ecologist purposes, the individual autonomy promoted by liberalism can and should be re-examined under the lens of the requisites needed to access a healthy environment, which are “moreover and by definition, a condition for the implementation of individual autonomy” (Arias, 1999: p. 189). In such a way, the green discourse acknowledges that autonomy cannot be separated from social and ecological community bonds. Thus, ecologism takes in the environmental concern and adds to it the ecological sustainability of societies as a normative element of social action. Such a difference has to have implications for its proposed democracy, even in the core of autonomous entities. A good example of how the consequences of the normative principles of ecologism disseminate towards decisions made in private spheres is the ecological proposition of democracy within companies, which is founded on autonomy and sustainability.

The principle of sustainability in the field of production and consumption implies that methods deployed in the production of goods and services for the satisfaction of human needs have to be environmentally sustainable. On the other hand, the principle of autonomy promotes ways of organization that encourage and ensure the free development of individuals. Autonomy, understood as a democratic organization, as well as sustainability is requirements to guarantee the development of human beings. Consequently, giving up one or another, either wagering on unsustainable solutions, violates humanity’s right to choose their destiny. Hence, ecologism promotes the establishment of decision-making spaces within companies so that their members can discuss ways to promote sustainability in the field of production units. If we understand sustainability as a desirable product, it turns into a criterion of efficiency of the production unit. Companies should not only be productively efficient but also eco-efficient, producing goods and services with minimal environmental impact. Thereby, from the ecologist viewpoint, environmental conditions constitute a normative element of the social action that determines the behavior of individuals, even in the private sphere, while material economic conditions are linked to issues related to the sustainable management of natural resources: use, reduce, and reuse are measures that prescribe people’s behavior.

If socialist critique to autonomy emphasizes the real conditions of its exercise, while the communitarian one questions the very notion of self-regulation (its conditions of existence), bearing in mind the insertion of the individual in a community […], the ecologist critique adds, to the material conditions underlined by socialism, the ecological conditions (Arias, 1999: p. 189).

2.3. Plurality vs. Viability: Definition of the Environmental Goals and Spectrum

The next institution of green political theory worthy of analysis has to do with the need to define the spatial spectrum in which decisions concerning environmental goals are taken. Also, it has to analyze how open or plural these communities should be to guarantee democratic inclusion, or how closed or cohesive they should be in order to ensure the quality of public deliberation without having to sacrifice the viability of the consensus. Accordingly, greens wager on the community spectrum to be the locus of politics in a sustainable society. To them, the community is a value itself since it is an ideal space to recreate social relations face to face. Decentralization of decision-making is seen as imperative in terms of the distribution of power as well as in terms of eco-efficiency (Arias, 1999). Nonetheless, relationships between space, democracy, and ecology denote a contingent relation (Kenny, 1996).

Nothing could ensure that the development of democracy and the achievement of sustainability is easier within a communitarian framework. Being a small-scale and closed model in social terms, the community may constitute a repressive and constrictive scenario of diversity, in benefit of harmony and social cohesion (Arias 1999: p. 190).

It is true that the viability of green democracy, based on the debate about spatial scales and decision-making, is intrinsically linked to the participation model of democracy and citizenship. The efficiency of public debate between citizens is a requirement that can only be satisfied by spaces delimited by the ethos of trust and proximity that only communities provide, and that serve as natural atmospheres for public discussion and deliberation far from parliaments and conventional bureaucracies. Although diversity indeed needs to be preserved for the sake of real communication (and, nowadays, the return to a place with closed communities is impossible), the solution, consequently, involves a conception of community that fulfills the requirements of plurality and viability (Villarroel Raúl, 2013a, 2013b; Arias, 2007, 1999).

2.4. Ecologism and State Power

Within green theory, there are ideological and demographic reasons in favor of an aprioristic acceptance of the State (Barry, 1994: p. 380). Despite that, greens will not accept the liberal state as legitimate, but a modified liberal state, or a completely new one. In any case, it will be necessary to democratize it and to restructure it ecologically (Arias, 1999: p. 191). Ultimately, the attitude of green political theory towards the State reproduces the rivalry between the most radical tendencies of the green movement and the orthodoxy of its political proposals, and of those who outline the problem of sustainability from a pragmatic viewpoint that considers realism and viability as core elements of a green democracy theory with possibilities of success (Dryzek, 2005). In that way “currently greens seem to have acknowledged the need for the existence of the State, and the debates around the political layout of a green democracy usually end in the acknowledgment of limits within communitarian and decentralizing discourse” (Arias, 1999: p. 191). Thus, for example, State intervention seems obligatory if goals like administrative and bureaucratic management of energy transition or the treatment of transboundary environmental problems are outlined.

2.5. Ecological Citizenship

The attempt to link the matter of citizenship to the problem of environmental crisis has taken different names such as green citizenship, environmental citizenship, or ecological citizenship8. The concept of ecological citizenship is in the middle of a debate; still there is no agreement on what it is and how it relates to the conventional and formal definition of citizenship. However, ecological citizenship is a concept that evolves conceptually, and that can be characterized in two ways: firstly, it is a notion that contributes to the definition of a green democracy model within a critical reconstruction of the liberal tradition, and, secondly, it is an effort to accurately define the concept within the space of citizenship theory affected by the global era where the internationalization of problems requires a theoretical framework to establish both collective obligations and responsibility. Not only does the notion of ecological citizenship is linked to democracy, but it is also bound to the politics of globalization (Valencia, 2005).

Green political theory sees ecological citizenship as the key political institution to re-orient the liberal institutions towards sustainability goals. Citizenship has become, over the years, the most important of democratic institutions. In fact, citizenship, in a traditional sense, is regarded as a contract between the citizen and the State, in which the citizen claims rights vis a vis the State, but, at the same time, commits to contribute to the State’s ends. This contractual view of citizenship is very common, but it is rarely explicitly articulated. In spite of that, the source of the obligations of the ecological citizen does not lie in reciprocity or mutual advantage, but in a non-reciprocal sense of justice, or compassion. The obligations that the ecological citizen has to future generations and to other species cannot be based on reciprocity (Dobson, 2000). This is established on the principles of ecological citizenship and the citizen’s new attitudes towards the environment and future generations.

The contractual view, which is fundamental to a modern conception of citizenship, might be the main obstacle to the recognition and understanding of ecological citizenship in liberal democratic societies. Ecological citizenship is explicitly non-contractual as it has nothing to do with the bonds between citizens and the political community and has a unilateral nature with respect to obligations. In this sense, ecological citizenship makes a significant contribution to its perspective of duties and obligations. Smith (1998) outlines the idea of ecological citizenship when he refers to a “new politics of obligation” according to which, human beings have obligations not only to their fellow men but also to “animals, trees, mountains, oceans, and other members of the biotic community.” This particular conception of citizenship demands a re-orientation towards the balance between rights, duties, and responsibilities where the new obligations of citizens emanate from the very objective of sustainability. In other words, citizens maintain a responsible consciousness towards the environment actively directed to their duties, based on a framework of shared values and practices. This re-orientation of the concept of liberal citizenship brings the discourse of the greens closer to certain proposals in favor of “deep citizenship” (Barry Clarke, 1996).

Moreover, ecological citizenship is a type of cosmopolitan citizenship, since it stands out because its action is not restricted, within a nation-state, for having particular ethical and moral characteristics, for establishing mechanisms of participation through global networks, as well as for acting in the face of different environmental issues that may affect various groups, territories, and species. Thus, the ideal of ecological citizenship is of great value not only because it is linked to a model of green and cosmopolitan democracy, but also because it allows us to contemplate the construction of a global environmental governance regime (Pérez, 2016).

To summarize, the study of the scaffolding of green democracy implies a critical revision of political institutions of the liberal tradition. It is a concept that allows us to reflect on environmental defense within the structure of the democratic system. On the other hand, for democracy to succeed, it needs to deal with the underlying dilemma of the processes of territorialization/deterritorialization implied in the very logic of globalization9. For this reason, the project of cosmopolitan democracy provides an analytical framework to locate the efforts of green politics oriented towards sustainability and environmental security, a matter that we will address in the following section.

3. Cosmopolitan Democracy

The notion of cosmopolitan democracy was developed by David Held (1997) as a commitment between federalism and confederalism. Held highlights the continuous relevance of Kantian arguments against the practicality and desirability of “a simple unified international State structure.” He also points out that a global federation seems to presuppose a homogenous culture and does not allow the value of local diversity10. Nonetheless, confederalism, “a union based in a treatment constantly renewed through voluntary agreements”, would not be enough. Cosmopolitan democracy should be based on initial consent and, thus, people would be compelled by their laws. It would also establish a world in which citizens “enjoy multiple citizenships” within the national, regional, and global contexts that affect them. Therefore, cosmopolitan democracy would be the closest model to the Kantian postulates of cosmopolitanism11.

Held (1997) outlines a commitment to promote and maintain democracy, highlighting that the nation-state is no more the central space for decisions that affect the people living within it. Therefore, citizens cannot establish the responsibilities of the real decision-makers. There is a rupture between the formal political authority that states claim to have, and the reality of global economy, regional and international organizations, international law, environmental problems, and global communications. Thus, it is necessary to reconstruct three of the key concepts that emerge from the Westphalia system: national sovereignty, a national community of citizens, and the definitive role of national territorial delimitations.

For Held, the concept of nation-state sovereignty needs to be replaced with the principle of people’s self-determination. This does not mean that the nation-state does not have some power or stops having an important political role. Nonetheless, Held argues that it is necessary to extend democracy to existing international and supra-national organizations and to come up with new democratic ways to deal with cross-border problems. His specific purposes, inherently controversial, include the possibility of regional representative assemblies, for him, the European Union provides an advanced model on this matter, and the introduction of some kind of direct popular representation within the United Nations. He also suggests the creation of supervisory boards formed by elected representatives of relevant districts for functional bodies. As a way of direct democracy, Held opens the possibility of referendum mechanisms, i.e., on environmental issues, which affect people living in two or more states.

Held’s ideal of cosmopolitan citizenship not only has a set of rights and obligations at multiple levels, and active participation within civil society both locally and globally, but also a “mediator role”. On the basis of deliberative democracy, Held suggests that citizens need to be involved in a “dialogue with traditions and other’s discourses to enlarge the scope of mutual understanding.” However, the concept of cosmopolitan citizenship has some issues and considerations. For example, whether the multiplicity of authorities within decision-making reduces democratic responsibility, and whether it is possible to prevent a certain government level for having more power.

It can be argued that the logic of Held’s proposals, despite his Kantian rejection of a global government, suggests a tendency in favor of eventual federalism. Even though he refers to “overlapped” authorities, his emphasis is on the different levels of government. Furthermore, his ideas come, partially, from the example of the European Union with its increasingly strong supranational elements. Within the European Union, increasing integration creates pressure for a Federal Europe. Moreover, Held’s ideal goal is a world in which an increasing proportion of state military forces are transferred to transnational bodies, “for the ultimate purpose of demilitarization”. But, like federalists, he envisions that the military and police forces would be at the disposal of a global body. The federal implications of cosmopolitan democracy would only be relevant if there were significant movements in favor of achieving it.

Cosmopolitan Citizenship

April Carter (2001: pp. 192-195), highlights that even though Held’s view is correct in pointing out the necessity of facing the problems that transcend borders, he does not seem to pay close attention to the existing discursive contexts within international politics, such as the negotiations about the ozone-layer, biopiracy, or environmental development, and that he does not take into account the communicative power of society to influence the terms of the discourse. To a certain point, there is skepticism about to what extent the regional and global democratic institutions proposed by Held represent advantages for cosmopolitan democracy, and whether it would not be better for cross-border issues to be faced directly by the states involved through various mechanisms. For instance, reciprocal parliamentary representation (in which members of a parliament participating in an adjacent country legislature) could have a vote on environmental and cross-border issues. Other possibilities include Held’s suggestion for cross-border referendums and transnational deliberative forums to recommend political solutions.

Following these arguments, there is skepticism or doubt around to what extent Held’s thesis about the role of globalization in undermining the purpose of “a shared destiny community” within the State is actually taking place, considering that a strong sense of national identity and community within the State still remains. Likewise, doubt remains regarding the extent to which global institutions can be the direct responsibility of individuals, since there are institutions such as the European Parliament in which European citizens are, clearly, uninterested (Carter, 2001: pp. 194-195), following Kymlicka (1996), proposes that international bodies must be the responsibility of state governments and that the role of citizens is to discuss, at a national level, the way they want their governments to act internationally. Hence, “our expectations about transnational citizenship need to be modest, at least in the foreseeable future.”

The difficulty of maintaining efficient democracy within the nation-state, in terms of the citizens’ knowledge and interests in some issues and their political participation, is one of the problems about the possibility of democracy on international organizations. The probability that citizens support their governments in taking responsibility for their actions within international organizations is low. If the objective is to give individuals a direct influence over the global body, then issues would increase. Should a global democratic body be built, “the available opportunities for ordinary citizens to effectively participate in the decisions of a global government, will decrease to the point of fading.” Furthermore, an increasing number of people represented by a significant organization constitutes an enlarged diversity and a conflict of interest, making the concept of the common good even more difficult to reach than that of nationality. These arguments suggest an almost total pessimism about whether the possibility of cosmopolitan citizenship would be exercised at a national or a transnational level (Carter, 2001: pp. 194-195).

It is crucial to take up these critiques about the relationship between the possibility of cosmopolitan citizenship and democracy. However, we should not diminish the importance that transnational movements and pressure groups have, and the scope of influence that a global civil society provides. Similarly, we should not minimize the possibility of the debate about specific cross-border issues that affect people, or the dynamics by which power transfer at a supranational level can stimulate political activity regionally. A key objective of cosmopolitan citizenship is the possibility of imposing democratic controls to international bureaucracies, and to evaluate the difficulties of transferring representative democracy to a global level.

Held’s reasons to establish a form of democracy beyond the territorial State lay in the increasing power and reach of multinational corporations and the impact of global financial markets. His purpose is to restrict economic neoliberalism. The strategy suggested by Held has two main goals: strengthen global legal and political restrictions and promote democratic processes within companies. Likewise, Richard Falk (1999: pp. 67-75) points out that in order for cosmopolitanism to appear plausible to citizens it needs to be merged with criticism to the ethically deficient globalization embodied by the neoliberal thought that has been practiced in such a way that it diminishes the ethical and visionary principle of perceiving the world as a whole.

The structures that regulate regional and global governments take root in different scenarios that include the European Union, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the economic confederations of the Group of Seven, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. The logic of such organizations is governed by economic and market criteria and prioritizes contributions to trade and investment, as well as efficacy in production and distribution and the mechanisms that diminish the relevance of sovereign states, especially concerning its protectionist, social and local activities that help the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the process of economic globalization (Falk: 1999: pp. 70-75).

The criticism of the utopian thought involved in applying cosmopolitan democracy to the economic sphere demonstrates the inherent difficulties of bringing down the entrenched power of global corporations. Similar considerations emerge with the proposal to strengthen international law and to put an end to the danger of a military conflict between states. Maintaining rights often depends on the fact that others accept certain duties, and a concept of cosmopolitan citizenship upheld by international law requires a minimum set of duties. Such duties are still far from been imposed under international law.

The development of an international law that focuses only on individual rights and obligations represents a passive model of cosmopolitan citizenship. In the face of this, a stronger network of agreements between the states and a greater vision to achieve active cosmopolitan citizenship in a surrounding global civil society becomes necessary. The increasing importance of civil society shows a movement in favor of a more cosmopolitan order. Civil society groups operate at a certain number of levels. As Falk (1999: pp. 72-73) points out: “nowadays, the agents and the grassroot and transnational processes, including volunteer citizens organizations, are committed to different ways of action ranging from extremely local activities to global ones, often inspired by an ethical conscience that brings the cosmopolitan perspective to reality.” Therefore, the possibility of active citizenship at a global level is linked to the development of a global civil society12.

Active citizenship could become a transnational form of governance by breaking with the cultural hegemony of the State. A cosmopolitan political community would be based on the overlap of multiple citizenships connecting the population in forms of local, national, regional, and global governance13. Cosmopolitan politics, guided by the principle of autonomy, would seek to achieve new levels of interconnectedness that suit an increasingly global world. Such dimensions exceed old divisions within the democratic tradition between direct and representative democracy, seeking to maximize the principle of autonomy within a range of different levels. Therefore, within this structure, the argument in favor of cosmopolitan democracy is based on the precept that problems like HIV, ecological issues, and poverty are, more and more, shared problems (Stevenson, 2003: pp. 38-41).

Nevertheless, decisive movements in favor of cosmopolitism depend on changes within existent international organizations and the creation of a transnational structure more suited to the achievement of peace, human rights, social justice, and environmental preservation goals. Cosmopolitan democracy attempts to provide channels for the direct influence of democracy over decision-making in key global matters through different institutional levels, to deal with various issues. Because of this, stronger representation is foreseen for civil society groups, reinforcing the potential of cosmopolitan citizenship expressed through voluntary activism.

In summary, the possibility of consolidating democracy as an international regime to deal with transnational problems, faces serious limitations to make its foundations operational. This task could rest on the articulation of a cosmopolitan citizenship, which could well transcend its formal covering and be understood as networks of voluntary groups of civil society supported by transnational networks, agencies that expand the traditional channels of communication and debate, while making possible the application of new democratic controls.

After analyzing the institutional scaffolding of green democracy and justifying the need to deterritorialize this concept and upgrade green cosmopolitan democracy to an international regime, it is appropriate to outline the horizon of cosmopolitan green democracy in pursuing global sustainability and epidemiological security objectives, a matter we deal with in the last section.

4. Facing the Challenges for Cosmopolitan Green Democracy. Sustainability and Epidemiological Security

Although the aspiration of green cosmopolitan democracy consists in the promotion of global sustainability goals applied to all the areas of human and social dimensions, as well as the achievement of public goods that come from the interdependence and globalization of environmental and epidemiological security (actions that transcend the very logic of the nation-state), this is a concept that requires theoretical and institutional adjustments in order to face the challenges of a global system. Thus, there is a possibility to test the viability of the normative claims of the green agenda and cosmopolitan democracy if we pay attention to how nation-states and the international community have been forced to cope with the Coronavirus pandemic. Such analysis is made from a critical perspective by seriously considering David Held’s “paradox of our times”. In other words, although the current collective issues we face are, more and more, global, the ways and instruments to cope with them still rest on a national basis. For the study of the current pandemic, it is worth noting that, even though the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic have an impact on a global scale, which needs a global treatment, the solutions appear incomplete and fragmented, since the responses to it are still in the hands of national governments.

Enrique Leff (2020) states that not only are we connected by a global system that favors economic trade of tangible and financial goods and services, but also in an ecological way, through what he calls “the complex web of life”; meaning that the human species is part of the biosphere’s metabolism (earth, water, and air). To the author, the capitalist model of production and consumption, based on the instrumental rationality that rules modernity, subjected to the empire of reason and scientific progress to manipulate the environment, has led to the planet’s entropic degradation and climate change, which has been, nowadays, linked in “enigmatic but evident ways, with the liberation, mutation, and transmission of viruses invading and altering the behavior of ecosystems, altering the biosphere’s resilience, metabolism, and immunological system.” The COVID-19 pandemic “has come to maximize the confrontation between capitalism’s life and the preservation of the creative evolution of life” (Leff, 2020: p. 2)14.

These reflections have significant implications when thinking about the viability of a global cosmopolitan governance regime that can face one of the biggest challenges that humanity faces today: to achieve sustainability and global epidemiological security. We have to understand this pandemic in the context of the systemic crisis that humanity is going through, the unsustainability of human and non-human life erroneously guided by “thanatic rationality”, where extractive capital, in its dynamics and intervention forms on nature and terrestrial biosphere has been the greatest activating agent of pandemics. If in recent times the slogan “leave the oil underground” has failed as a “strategy to mitigate climate change created by the use of fossil fuels, today we have to come up with a plan for viruses to stay in their shelters within the biosphere’s metabolism” (Leff, 2020: p. 9).

COVID-19’s global impact and its fast spread favored by mass transport and global mobility is something never seen until now. Henry Kissinger (2020) points out that leaders around the world are currently dealing with the pandemic’s emergency at a national level, facing the cost of implementing lockdown and social distancing measures, businesses and school closures, and health ravages. With luck, this could be temporary, but the economic, political, and social turmoil that the virus has unleashed could last years, even generations. The speed and scale of the pandemic evince that no state on its own is capable of solving the crisis, but rather the horizon points to a collaborative vision and program on a global scale.

The solidary foundation of contemporary cosmopolitan democracy derives from the idea that the communicating vessels between nations driven by globalization and the arbitrage of international institutions could establish a new supranational ethical agreement aimed at the development of new technologies and techniques for infection control and the development of mass-scale vaccination. However, if we stick to a more realistic perspective, the nation-states could rather appeal to their interests to promote their own health agenda and condition their commitments to the international community, or provide them for selfish ends. In this scenario, it would be unlikely that countries dare to: “A non-conforming act of economic neoliberalism to adopt a New Deal, an antiviral Keynesianism capable of recovering the economy like in the post-war period, investing in an industry of prevention and care of the viruses to come and making it profitable, as Bill Gates thinks” (Leff, 2020: p. 9).

David Held identifies an obstacle to materialize the project of contemporary cosmopolitan democracy, that might be translated into the mutual help of governments around the world and the decentralization of cognitive and technological resources to achieve sustainability, epidemic control, and human health. This is what he has called “the paradox of our times”: “the common problems we face are increasingly global, and yet the tools we have to tackle them are national or local, weak, and incomplete” (Held, 2012: p. 139). Held also emphasizes that in the face of global emergency scenarios, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, “when what is needed is a global strategy, the power is thoroughly organized on a national basis” (Held & Young, 2011: p. 624).

Following this, the management of the COVID-19 global crisis by governments around the world shows that, rather than the search for a program of cooperation and mutual aid on a global scale aimed at the achievement of sustainability and epidemiological security goals, national governments of all latitudes, regardless of their political regime or ideology, have responded to the sanitary emergency based on their own national logics and the availability of their domestic legal, financial and administrative resources. Their principal goal has been to mitigate the pandemic’s side effects on individuals and their homes. The scope of possibilities that they take into account ranges from direct transmissions to the most vulnerable population (seniors, pregnant women, homeless people, families in extreme poverty) to the implementation of soft credits to small and medium companies or tax delays or exemptions. Under such national efforts, fragmented and incomplete, there is a risk of forgetting sectors of the global population that do not appear within the spectrum of large urban areas. Enrique Leff, (2020: p. 14) refers to them as:

“The wretched of the Earth”: indigenous communities that lived without medical care and far from the insufficient national health care systems [...] those who return to their communities when they have lost their jobs in the service or tourism industry, or those that could emigrate, even recently, defying border walls.

4.1. Moral Law and Health Justice

The second controversial aspect of the viability of the project of cosmopolitan democracy has to do with the creation of a universal charter or moral law based on the principle of justice understood as the ideal distribution of global public goods such as the right to health and biological security. In this sense, it is not about a global legal framework that imposes itself to other moral positions, but rather about “a specific subset of considerations which establishes that there are some fundamental universal rules, norms, and principles that should be considered and weighed against the ones derived of established societies and other human groups” (Held, 2005: p. 141). The author warns that his concept of cosmopolitanism “tries to reveal the jurisdictional, cultural and ethical basis of the political order in a world in which political communities and states matter a lot, but not solely and exclusively” (Held, 2005: p. 133).

During the management of a pandemic, how much is the life of one or another person worth? Is there any possibility to count on global observance health justice codes as cosmopolitan democracy proposes? In this respect, bioethics offers a path to untangle the complex relationship between justice, medicine, and moral. That is to say, illness is not just biological, it is also social, and the spread of COVID-19 is not only the testimony of the virus power itself but an indicator of society and people’s values. Especially the values of the ones that have decision-making power. This virus has unveiled criteria and values disparities based on race, class, and gender, roughly and disturbingly.

MacCoun (2020) offers a way to comprehend the social aspect of this illness, from the governor’s decisions to emit lockdown orders (or not) to why some hospitals are better equipped than others to treat coronavirus patients, or why medical care providers lack personal protection equipment and how doctors decide who deserves to use the few available ventilators. On each level, people are taking moral and legal decisions with deep implications for people’s lives, which are influenced by larger cultural commitments that prioritize some people over others. So, this pandemic has revealed that sanitary justice is segmented because of the framework of values that a given society has; in other words, because of the social conditions in which the virus morbidity happens and the possibilities of being treated by an insufficient health system. This type of evidence calls into question the possibility of establishing, at least in the short term, a universal moral law that sets up the structure within which the bodies and entities dedicated to global sustainability and health have to act in specific situations.

4.2. Authority and Legitimacy Binomial

Finally, the last controversial aspect that we will examine in this section, which concerns the viability of the cosmopolitan democracy’s project to achieve environmental and epidemiological security, has to do with the redefinition of the authority’s basis with which national governments face the pandemic in a globalized, interdependent, and increasingly transnational world. We are talking about how we will have to rethink the binomial of legitimacy and power between nation-states and global corporations in the face of the sanitary crisis. The new ethical arrangement of cosmopolitan democracy derives from the assumption that the once-powerful nation-states are no longer the only source of authority and legitimacy, which gives them a significant role within the system of global responsibility. The COVID-19 sanitary emergency reveals that the decisions made at a national or regional level, the efficacy of the social isolation measures and the border closures for commerce and terrestrial or aerial mobility, have repercussions on a global scale. “Therefore, interdependency will not only justify the ethical turn of international politics because of the nature of the economic and financial relationships between countries, but because the consequences of any statal action are, now more than ever, global consequences” (Ochoa & Prado, 2017: p. 279).

Patrick Wintour (2020) claims that, derived from the emergence of COVID-19, two narratives about the future of globalization are currently at odds. “One states that countries should work together to defeat COVID-19, and the other says that countries should keep their distance to protect themselves from the virus.” In the face of a global society divided by opposed ideologies, geopolitical blocs, and leaderships, the role of an efficient government able to handle the crisis and with a forward-looking to overcome the sequels of the pandemic, unprecedented in magnitude and global reach, seems urgent. In this vein, and according to Kissinger (2020), the maintenance of public trust is crucial for social solidarity, for the relationships between societies, and international peace and stability.

Conversely, the inhabitants of a country are coherent and put their trust in their governments to prevent disasters, manage crises, and restore stability. The moment the crisis caused by COVID-19 ends, the feeling of several people will be that their governments failed. The world will not be the same after coronavirus, now more than ever, the legitimacy of national governments is being judged by how they have handled the pandemic. On the other hand, the credibility of the information given by international organisms, symbols of globalization, and the validity of its dictates, have been subjected to worldwide public scrutiny through social media, independent surveys conducted by various groups of civil society, NGOs, and think-tanks. The critiques emerging from these surveys point out the need to reconsider the viability and re-design of global institutions inherited from the 20th Century, such as the World Health Organization or the World Bank, to ensure sustainability and biosecurity goals.

The world has indeed become interdependent, which obliges the states to search communication channels to reach basic understandings that “cannot be the same as the ‘national interest’ or the ‘State reason’ ones, autarchy, isolation, or emergence” (Ochoa & Prado 2017). That is to say, the management and eradication of the coronavirus pandemic should be a global task that demands commitment and unconditional adherence from the international community to the same cause that implies the duty of focusing on the reconstruction of the world after the havoc that the virus will leave behind. But, on the other hand, the reality is that the states must protect their citizens from the coronavirus. In this scenario, Kissinger envisions a withdraw of the global power structures in favor of the vindication of the authority of the nation-states drawing on the national instruments at their disposal to overcome the plague of COVID-19. That calls into question the legitimacy of the power and structures of global corporations, which entails rethinking the balance or social agreement between authority and legitimacy, between nation-states and global power.

Thus, in the boom of the world-system, the pandemic has triggered an anachronism, a rebirth of the walled city in a time where progress depends on world trade and people’s mobility. A setback in the balance between authority and legitimacy will cause the turn of the social pact both nationally and internationally:

The foundation myth of modern government is a walled city protected by a powerful leader, sometimes despotic, other times benevolent, but always strong enough to protect people from the outside enemy. Age of Enlightenment thinkers revised this concept, claiming that the purpose of the legitimate State is to fulfill the needs of the people: security, order, economic welfare, and justice. People cannot secure such benefits for themselves (Kissinger, 2020).

The argument according to which we are experiencing a setback, an anachronism in the face of the global paradigm based on the interdependency and interconnection of political, social, and environmental phenomena world-wide, becomes evident in the normalization of the state of emergency that has been implemented in the majority of countries across the world, regardless of their political regime, financial wealth, or human development, to face the epidemiological and global health crisis. Actions like border closures to people and merchandise trade, flight suspensions, safety measures, and social distancing started in France, Italy, and Spain, and today are part of the set of measures implemented by the governments, lately increased by cybersecurity ones, which invade the citizen’s private life, in countries and cities like China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and Israel.

4.3. Epidemiological Cyber Surveillance

Alfredo Hualde (2020) warns about the efficacy of cybersecurity, in the case of China, based on the accumulation and management of peoples’ data and the surveillance of their actions through technological companies, such as Google, that have been asked to respect people’s anonymity and privacy. That constitutes the basis of an immense surveillance system that has been effective for monitoring and controlling the virus transmission, but that could be used for any matter.

The social and political surveillance that implies the use of cybersecurity techniques over peoples’ privacy to control the transmission of COVID-19 has a double meaning. The first one is that, given the efficacy that the use of these digital cyber vigilance techniques has shown to track sick people and contain the spread of the virus, the trust, and legitimacy of public institutions and its professional bureaucracies, has increased. The Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han (2020) considers that the success of Asian countries to implement cybersecurity is not only due to the political regime of authoritarian tradition, neither a product of its cultural inheritance-based on Confucianism, but also because of other aspects that facilitate the implementation of a police state that has to do with the lack of critical consciousness, which is the result of a culture founded on submission that ensures the voluntary obedience, contrary to the European context.

Nonetheless, in Asian countries, technology has become a powerful instrument for the participation of civil society in data management and the forecasts of public nature that derive from the handling of the pandemic. That is to say that virologists and epidemiologists do not have the last word on the subject, but rather computer scientists and specialists in massive data management, regulated by the government but in collaboration with the companies, participate in the construction of the public debate alongside citizens. Besides, the so-called YouTubers or influencers provide another way to interpret statistics, figures, forecasts, and hard data about the management of the pandemic, which paradoxically creates a democratic atmosphere in countries with an autocratic tradition15.

Under this perspective, it could be said that even in the West, voters, lured by ideas related to the security of citizens, could be willing to sacrifice their civil liberties and accept measures characteristic of the police state. This does not sound crazy if we consider the fact that Western Europe countries that better faced the pandemic were the so-called “prosperous”, namely the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, that even with a military parliamentary tradition against the ministerial cabinet, their population was willing to accept some of the exceptional measures in exchange for protection and security. The governments led by female prime ministers have been the best ranked, word wide, for their excellent management of the pandemic.

A second view about the implications of the implementation of cybersecurity to monitor the progress of the pandemic is related to a Foucauldian perspective16. A state of emergency like the one we are experiencing intensifies the surveillance and control over health and body movements, what this theory calls biopolitics, not only through architectonical designs but also through digital vigilance provided by a colossal police state that has at its disposal an immense amount of data, but which management is handed to private technological companies. Put another way, there are reasons for concern that health and location data of infected people leads to a matter of epidemiological security, but we must take into account that they are in the hands of private companies that have to commit to respect people’s privacy. In addition to these concerns, there is a warning that the dangers of the state of emergency that we are going through should not normalize this situation in future similar events to justify the intervention of the sovereign power to dictate new rules of coexistence between humanity and nature (Leff, 2020).

5. Analysis and Findings

COVID-19 has shown the fragility of a globalized world, since the pandemic has tested the capacities of liberal democracies to manage social tensions, and has questioned the viability of global corporations, symbols of the world-system. That is to say, this pandemic calls into question the legitimacy and the core values and beliefs of liberal democracy and globalization in the face of the inability to solve the crisis. The world’s state of emergency to face the sanitary contingency implies, somehow, a withdraw of the global power structure in favor of the full vindication of the power of nation-states, making use of the domestic tools at their disposal to overcome the COVID-19 plague, which implies a rearrangement of the balance between authority and legitimacy between nation-states and global corporations. In other words, in the boom of the world-system, the pandemic has triggered an anachronism, a rebirth of the walled city in a time where progress depends on world trade and people’s mobility.

In this sense, the revisionist tendency of the tenets of cosmopolitanism succeeds in pointing out the difficulties that are facing the processes in favor of global development under the nationalist inertias, that in various countries slow down long-term cooperative actions, giving preference to short term national and patriotic affairs. These aspects support Held’s postulate regarding the “paradox of our times” in which political, economic, and national security matters, are still placed before a “shared” international agenda. Thereby, the current debate around the world is not about cooperation, but rather about who is going to take global leadership after the virus, meaning that the countries that can handle the crisis better, will be triumphant. In this vein, it is appropriate to ask about the future of the symbols of political and economic globalization, such as the European Union. Also, the inherent advantages of authoritarianism to manage the health crisis through epidemiological surveillance loom disturbingly.

Institutional readjustments are needed to face the global challenges. One way in which green democracy could explain the dynamics associated with the social conflicts that arise during the processes of deterritorialization and territorialization, and the possibility of generating global consensus to address the problems as how sustainability and epidemiological safety, rest on the horizon of ecological citizenship. Here we find a concept that speaks of social constructions and collective identity. A concept deeply concerned with the relational character, not only in front of our compatriots, but in front of the rest of humanity and in front of the rest of the living beings, human and non-human, hence its cosmopolitan character and its commitment to global environmental governance. As a result, ecological citizenship is a concept through which we can recognize our own humanity as constituted not only in relation to ourselves and others, but also in relation to our environmental identities and the change, evolution and unstable environmental circumstances that we face now, and we will face in the future.

That is to say, that ecological citizenship develops a new political conception of the constructed space based on moral foundations and not with historical arguments. In this sense, for ecological citizenship there is a specific ecological conception of the political space in which the obligations of the citizen are situated. In this way, the space of ecological citizenship is not given by the limits of the organization of the Nation State but is a product of the metabolic and material relationship of individuals with their environment. The importance of ecological citizenship in this sense is paramount for green democracy because it allows the liberal state to transform itself, be it gradually or radically, but which in any case will have to be democratized and ecologically restructured by freeing the individual from a reciprocal and vertical relationship to the jurisdiction of the Nation State in favor of a more horizontal, non-territorial relationship, of responsibility in relation to the world and the human species, characteristic of the cosmopolitan citizen.

On the other hand, in the face of the international problem that environmental challenges represent, one of the characteristics of ecological citizenship is the connection of the local and the global for a collective ecological defense. This means that the activities of ecological citizenship can be carried out anywhere. The idea of a “citizen of the world or cosmopolitan” seemed to go against political reality, a reality that was founded in the nation-state, and in which the senses of duty and obligation rarely extended beyond it. However, the environmental movements of the last decades have led to a situation in which the idea of a global civil society is no longer absurd. In the same way that a world public sphere has been formed as a political reality, thanks to the new relationships of global communication, so can the actions of NGO activists be conceived as producing a new orientation towards political identity and community, which can be cumulatively described as global civil society.

This trans-territorial dynamic of ecological citizenship implies significant changes in human assumptions, behavior and institutional structures. Given the non-reciprocal, non-territorial nature of the rights oriented to ecological citizenship, we find that one of the most important of these changes is the resurgence of the idea of a politics of virtue (Dobson, 2000). The politics virtue of the ecological citizenship focuses its participation primarily on activity within the public sphere. Ecological citizenship pays little attention to normative political participation, such as voting or elections, although it does not dismiss it completely. So, the procedural virtues of liberal democracy and political participation are not fundamental to ecological citizenship. This renaissance is connected to the contemporary “remoralization” of politics, which is a characteristic of ecological politics. Ecological citizenship generally tries to take care of others, therefore, far from being an obstacle to the exercise of freedom, it needs attention and public deliberation as constitutive elements of it, and this may well be considered a key virtue.

6. Conclusion

After untangling how cosmopolitan democracy can contribute to a more democratic and consolidated global governance oriented to attain the global environmental agenda, and to ensure the planet’s biological and epidemiological security, the evidence highlights the weakness of the global governance regime to comply with such goals in the face of circumstances that show a systemic crisis, as the coronavirus pandemic has done. In other words, we are talking about a global, environmental, moral, economic, and ontological crisis that calls into question the viability of the enlightenment modernity project.

The hope in globalization rests in the possibility of building a supra and transnational scaffolding that ensures the democratic participation of all the agents that participate in the global development project. Nevertheless, during this pandemic, the principal multilateral organisms inherited from the 20th century, the United Nations and its subsidiary bodies, the World Health Organization and the World Bank, lack appropriate structures to assert their voice and promote the interests of the majority of the world population, especially in developing countries, which have been the most affected by the pandemic. Thus, there is an urgent need to redesign this kind of global organisms, on which the global development agenda depends to a great extent, and to expand the access channels to civil society organizations that are currently underrepresented. In this sense, there is an urgent need to open communication channels not only for professional and expert organizations, but also to expand their membership, that is, to pave the way towards the building of an authentic global society.

The task of building a new social contract with nature remains pending for a future and the study of ecological citizenship could be the key to understanding our environmental impacts and duties, and it would allow us to rethink our relationship with democracy and environment. This broadens our understanding of our own humanity.


1The concept of sustainability or sustainable development gains international recognition in “our common future” defining it as “[…] ensuring that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own” (UN, 1987: p. 29).

2There is evidence that local community self-organization can better manage its resources according to the criteria of rationality and sustainability than centralized forms of management. For example, Ostrom (1990) proposed the evolutionary idea of cooperation to deal with situations of environmental degradation and exploitation of natural resources in common use that are at risk of being depleted.

3An ambiguous and imprecise process, Zygmunt Bauman (1999) approaches globalization, not as the fashionable term that is invoked to account for any contemporary event, but as a comprehensive and complex phenomenon that brings consequences that are often forgotten or ignored. The author understands that “time/space compression” is one of the processes that allows us to explain more accurately the continuous transformations that globalization produces in its human consequences and that are clearly reflected in the tensions, contradictions and antinomic effects that govern the globalization.

4Setting the global environmental agenda is a new way of dealing with biological systems that lie entirely or largely outside the jurisdiction of any one State, but that are of interest to two or more of them as valuable resources. Examples include deep-sea fishing, minerals in deep seabeds, the ozone layer, and climate change. The global environmental agenda also deals with shared resources, such as renewable resources (migratory reserves of wild animals), non-renewable resources (oil fields that underlie two jurisdictions) or ecosystems that transcend national borders (a shared river or lake basins).

5The concept of “global power” refers to the extension of politics in a time and space beyond the territorial national state. Political decisions and actions in one part of the world can quickly have global ramifications. The focus of political action and/or decision-making can be linked through rapid communications in complex networks of political interaction. Accompanying this “stretching” of politics is the intensification or deepening of global processes to such an extent that “action at a distance” penetrates the social conditions and cognitive worlds of specific places or communities (Held & McGrew, 2003: p. 29).

6On the one hand, the validity of liberal democracy and human rights seems to adhere to the aims posed by environmentalism. In this situation, the realization of individual rights and freedoms promoted by democracy depends on an adequate quality of the environment that does not threaten our rights, for example. But on the other hand, it could be argued that in order to guarantee the sustainability of life and protect the environment, it is often necessary to first make use of the scaffolding and devices of liberal democracy. For example, guaranteeing environmentally rational decision-making requires adequate processes for the generation of information, transparency, political participation, and, where appropriate, the impartiality of the judicial tribunals and the validity of the rule of law, requirements that are fundamental for prevent unsustainable and harmful environmental practices.

7 Robert Heilbroner (1974) suggests that in the face of environmental crises, like climate change, we need to implement any measures that maintain transformation and adaptation schemes that ensure human survival. Enforcing these changes requires widespread action and a central and unidirectional authority. William Ophuls (1977) argues that there is no other way (not authoritarian) for controlling the overexploitation of resources or its irrational management of a complex society.

8The interest in the relationship between citizenship and environment is linked to the concept of green political theory. The first stage of this relationship dates from the late eighties to the early nineties and was guided by ideological and political aspects of ecologism. The second stage that goes from mid-nineties to the present focuses on the relationship between ecologism and the matters and concepts of political theory, such as democracy, justice, and citizenship (Valencia, 2005).

9 Scot (2012) presents how the bioregional approach to economics can help restructure and reconnect economies within the “home” or “place”. The author suggests that capitalism has caused a loss of connection with the place, so that identity is generated through what people do in their place of origin.

10 Kant (2002) opposed to a “global state” formation (such as the Leviathan) similar to intra-societies that, from his point of view, would be the deceit of a unique power that could become a “universal despotism” and a “freedom graveyard”. The institutional outlook that he embraced was one of a national federation based on cooperation and voluntary consent between a plurality of independent states.

11Cosmopolitarians are divided in two groups: on the one hand, political cosmopolitarians that stand for the creation of universal political institutions at a global level, on the other hand, moral cosmopolitarians, promoting universal principles that not necessarily justify global institutions but the basis in which institutions should be justified and criticized. Both moral and political cosmopolitanism, seek to provide the political infrastructure of a universal political community and a democratic system that delimits the State radically (Slaughter, 2007: pp. 86-89).

12The process of building a global civil society would require a new “educated citizenship” that allows negotiation with others, the discovery of cultural diversity and difference, the opening of more cosmopolitan horizons, and interconnections with nature. For a genuinely cosmopolitan citizenry to emerge, this would have to have intellectual and emotional capacities to be able to engage in a plural dialogue within new public spaces (Stevenson, 2003: pp. 42-44). See also (Waldron, 2003: pp. 23-55).

13Multi-level cosmopolitan governance would provide new opportunities for dialogue through different civil society actors and government levels. Revitalized local and transnational political structures would seek to promote the institutional basis for the conversation that would break ancient divisions between citizens and foreigners. Thus, time, space, and cultural differences would be more flexible, and such dialogues would provide the basis for a new global society (Stevenson, 2003: pp. 38-41).

14The author refers to the confrontation between the economy as a means to produce livelihoods and the intrinsic right to life.

15During the pandemic, different governments have resorted to blocking online information about COVID-19. However, transparency about which URLs are specifically blocked (especially when they involve vulnerable community sites) and why/how they are considered “fake news” is essential to ensure freedom of the press, particularly in the midst of a global pandemic when the access to information is crucial. For example, in Venezuela, the state Internet access provider (CANTV) prevented access to a site with information on the coronavirus. For their part, Myanmar authorities have advocated blocking “fake news” as part of efforts to address misinformation around COVID-19 (R3D, 2020).

16 Bauman (1999) thinks that Cities Panopticon model become a space of intolerance and indifference, in orderto deal with the COVID pandemic-19, both for natives and foreigners, where fear grows while security systems increase. The enemy moves from the outside to the inside, there is no concern for security in the entire city, but a greater concern for individual or individualized security; avoiding the encounter with the other becomes the best strategy to survive the pandemic in modern megalopolises.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper.


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