Do we still deserve to continue on Earth?

Di Cavalcanti, Creation of Planet Earth
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By LEONARDO BOFF*

The culture of capital made us individualists, consumers and never close and citizens with rights

Repairing the situation of humanity, of the living Earth, of its ecosystems, of the relations between nations warring militarily or economically, in Africa tribes killing each other, cutting off arms or legs, a superpower like Russia massacring an entire kin people, forests being devastated like in the Amazon and Congo… When I follow the scientific reports of climatologists saying that we have already passed the critical point of warming and that there will be no turning back and that neither science nor technology can save us anymore, only prevent us and finally they say we radicalize the anthropocene (the human being is the great threat to life, we are in the sixth extinction of lives), we went through necrocene (mass death of living organisms) and now we come to the pyrocene (the age of fire on Earth), perhaps the most dangerous phase for our survival.

The soils have lost their moisture, the stones have become overheated and dry leaves and twigs are starting to trigger appalling fires, as happened in 2022 across Europe, even in humid Siberia, Australia, California and especially in the Amazon. And even more, when I see that the heads of state and the leaders of large companies (CEOs) hide such data or do not give importance to them so as not to harm business, they are digging their own grave.

Even worse when OXFAM and other organizations show us that only 1% of the world's population controls practically all the flow of finance and that they have more wealth than more than half of the world's population (4,7 billion) and that in Brazil, according to the magazine Forbes, 318 billionaires own much of their wealth in factories, land, investments, holdings, banks, etc. in a country where 33 million are hungry and 110 million are in need of food (they eat today and don't know what they will eat tomorrow or the day after) and millions of unemployed or in pure informality, the unstoppable question immediately comes to mind: we humans, are we still humans, or we live in the prehistory of ourselves, without having discovered ourselves as co-equals, inhabitants of the same Common House.

With all these misfortunes for which he was largely responsible, does he still deserve to live on this planet? Or the Earth itself, has its own internal strategy, as the coronavirus has revealed: when one species threatens all the others too much, it finds a way to reduce its rage or even eliminate it so that the others can continue to develop on the ground. terrestrial.

It is in this context that I remember the phrase of one of the greatest Brazilians in our history, Betinho, who often said in conferences: the biggest problem is not economic, it is not political, it is not ideological, it is not religious. The biggest problem is the lack of sensitivity of the human being towards his fellow man who is by his side. We have lost the ability to have compassion for those who suffer, to extend a hand to those who ask for a piece of bread or a place to sleep in times of torrential rain.

The capital culture made us individualists, consumers and never close and citizens with rights, much less allows us to feel that we are brothers and sisters in fact for having the same physical-chemical components equal in all living beings, also in humans.

There was someone who spent more than two thousand years among us teaching us to live love, solidarity, compassion, respect and reverence in the face of the Supreme Reality, made of mercy and forgiveness, and, because of these radically human truths, he was considered an enemy of religious traditions, a subversive of the ethical order of the time and ended up murdered and raised on the top of the cross, outside the city that was a symbol of curse and abandonment by God. He endured all this in solidarity with his brothers and sisters.

To this day its message remains, although in large part it was betrayed or spiritualized to devitalize its transformative character and keep the world as it is with its powers and hellish inequalities. But others, a few, followed and still follow his examples, his practice and his unconditional love. Many of those because of this know the same fate as his: slander, contempt and physical elimination. But it is because of these few, I believe, that God still holds back and does not make us disappear.

Even with this belief, in the face of this gloomy picture, the words of the book of Genesis: “The Lord saw how much the wickedness of human beings on earth had grown and how all the projects of their hearts tended only to evil. Then the Lord regretted having created human beings on earth and was heartbroken. Then the Lord said: I will exterminate the human being that I created from the face of the earth, and with him the animals, the creeping things and even the birds of the sky, for I am sorry that I made them” (Gn 6,5-7).

These words, written over 3-4 thousand years ago, seem to describe our reality. Placed in the garden of Eden (the living Earth) to guard and care for it, human beings became its greatest threat. It was not enough to be homicidal like Cain, nor ethnocidal with the extermination of entire peoples in the Americas and Africa. It has become an ecocide, devastating and deserting entire ecosystems. And now it erupts as biocides, endangering the life of the biosphere and human life itself.

Here it is worth mentioning the scientific reports of a great North American journalist, Elzabeth Kolbert. After writing the award-winning book The sixth mass extinction: an unnatural history, just published The white sky: the nature of the future (both by Intrinsic). In it he describes the desperate attempts of scientists to avoid total disaster as an effect of global warming, as it grows day by day; In 2021 alone, 40 billion tons of CO2 were released into the atmosphere. These scientists propose geoengineering to largely block the sun so that it stops heating the planet. The sky will turn white. What would such consequences be, especially for the biosphere, for photosynthesis and for everything that depends on the sun? That is why this technology is questioned. It would create more problems than the one it wants to solve.

I end with the observation of one of the greatest naturalists, Théodore Jacob, who wrote an entire book with exactly this title: And if the human adventure were to fail. The basis of his assumption is the terrifying destructive capacity of human beings, for “they are capable of a senseless and demented conduct; From now on, you can fear everything, everything, including the annihilation of the human race”.

I'm a hopeful pessimist. Pessimistic in the face of the perverse reality under which we live and suffer. Hopeful because I believe that human beings can change based on a new conscience and on the Creator who, from this crisis and eventually from a ruin, can build another type of human beings, more fraternal among themselves and respectful of the Common Home.

*Leonardo Boff is a philosopher and eco-theologian. Author, among other books, of Inhabit the Earth (Vozes).

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