The pursuit of national and planetary well-being

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By LEONARDO BOFF*

For the 730 million people who go hungry every day, the desire for well-being is continually frustrated

Even within the gloomy situation in which humanity currently lives, the question must always be asked: to what extent humanity, all countries and people can and should collaborate towards a minimally possible and desirable well-being. For the vast majority of humanity, with 730 million people going hungry every day, this desire is continually frustrated. This represents inhumanity as we have the economic and political conditions to allow everyone to live decently. But we lack heart and sensitivity towards those who suffer.

It is worth the warning of Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Sì: on caring for our Common Home (2015), addressed to all humanity and not just Christians: “we must all make a global ecological conversion” (n. 5). Without this willingness to change, we will not overcome the threats that affect the Earth, such as climate change and the tragedies that are already happening.

We may even reach a tipping point, of no return. We would be facing the collapse of our civilization and even our existence on this planet. In the encyclical Fratelli tutti (2021) the same pontiff was emphatic when saying: “we are in the same boat; Either we are all saved or no one is saved” (n. 34).

We feed, however, the hope of Earth Charter (2003) that “our environmental, economic, political, social and spiritual challenges are interconnected and together we can forge inclusive solutions” (Preamble). This is the challenge to be faced courageously.

Let us first clarify what is meant by “national and planetary well-being”. The answer cannot be anthropocentric, as if the human being were the center of everything and the only one with an end in itself. On the contrary, he is a link in the chain of life and an intelligent part of nature. It is worth what the Earth Charter: we have to “recognize that all beings are interconnected and each form of life has value, regardless of its usefulness to human beings” (I,1.a).

At the infrastructural level, well-being is fair access for all to basic goods such as food, health, housing, energy, security, education, communication and leisure. On a social level, it is the possibility of leading a satisfactory material and human life, in dignity and freedom in an environment without violence, cooperation, solidarity and peaceful coexistence. This would be the great ideal for all humanity and people.

This type of well-being, which is equivalent to what we call the common good, applies to all countries and peoples. But as we are part of nature and without it we could not live, well-being includes the biotic community, ecosystems and all representatives of different species who have the right to exist, to be respected as bearers of rights.

Well-being also includes respect for the abiotic world, such as landscapes, mountains, rivers, lakes and oceans, as we form a great earthly community with them all.

Given the reconnection of everyone with everyone, cooperation between everyone is the secret sap that nourishes national and planetary well-being as a whole. The entire planet, understood as a super-being that systemically articulates the physical, the chemical and the biological, achieves well-being on condition that the entire planet becomes sustainable, maintains the balance of all the elements that compose it and permanently achieves maintain and self-reproduce. This is what the sustainability category means.

A Earth Charter wisely placed the pillars that support common well-being: a change in mind and heart. That is, having a vision of the Earth really as our Mother that we must love, respect and care for. A change of heart towards establishing an emotional bond with all beings, as they are our brothers and sisters with whom we will live in harmony. The common good results from a sense of global interdependence between humans and nature. It also requires a sense of universal responsibility for the common good valid for all humanity and nature.

Only in this way can a sustainable way of life be achieved, which is more than sustainable economic development, at local, national, regional and global levels, an expression of well-being that is possible and achievable for all of us. Perhaps the greatest humanistic and ethical challenge is to create conditions that enable this much-desired national and planetary well-being. This invaluable asset must be sought and built day by day, moment by moment to ensure its possible realization.

*Leonardo Boff is an ecologist, philosopher and writer. Author, among other books, of The fair measure – Earth’s balance factor (Voices). [https://amzn.to/464Nipp]


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