Earth in birth pangs

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By LEONARDO BOFF*

Will the great saving leap come?

Nobody can deny that our common home, the living Earth, is preparing for a great transition. What has been experienced in recent centuries, as a paradigm of civilization, that is to say, the way in which we inhabit and organize the common house, based on the unlimited exploitation of its natural resources, can no longer continue. This paradigm has exhausted its potential for achievement. He went into agony. But this could go on for quite some time.

He set himself, unwittingly, a great trap: he started with the biggest terrorist act committed by the US, launching two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, devastating all kinds of life. Soon, Jean-Paul Sartre reacted by saying: “we have appropriated our own death and we can put an end to our species”. Severo, was one of the greatest modern historians Arnold Toynbee when he observed, dismayed: “it fell to our generation to watch the way of our self-destruction; it will not be the work of God but of ourselves”. We invented the principle of self-destruction in the most different ways. Modern techno-science, which has brought so many benefits to us, has become irrational and maddened as it is suicidal.

The multiple crises the entire planet is going through represent a kind of birth pangs. The biggest one was and is the intrusion of the coronavirus. It hit only human beings. It did not respect the limits of sovereignty of the countries and made the death machine of the militaristic powers ridiculous. For those who not only observe facts but seek to discern the hidden message in them, they must ask themselves: what thing does Gaia, the living Earth, want to communicate with Covid-19, which has already claimed millions of victims?

It is certainly a counterattack by Mother Earth against the systematic violence that her sons and daughters have been waging against her for centuries, a real war, with no chance of winning it. We have exceeded the Earth-system's bearable limits to such an extent that we need more than one and a half planets (1,7) to support our consumerist lifestyle. It is the so-called “Earth overload” (earth overshoot). All the signs went into the red and we are in the overdraft. In other words: the goods and services necessary to guarantee life are running out. A little more, a little more, there could be a collapse of the foundations that sustain life on the planet ecologically.

Which of the heads of state and top managers (CEOs) of megacorporations reflect and make decisions in the face of such an extreme situation in our Common Home? Perhaps they become aware of the real situation. But they don't care about it because, otherwise, they would have to completely change the mode of production, renounce the fabulous economic gains, change their relationship with nature and get used to a more frugal and more solidary consumption.

Because this does not happen, we understand the words of the UN Secretary General, António Guterrez, not long ago, at a meeting on climate change in Berlin: “We have only one choice: collective action or collective suicide”. Earlier, in Glasgow on the occasion of COP 26 on climate change, he peremptorily asserted: “either we change or we are digging our own grave”.

Perhaps the most imminent risk of a change in the situation of our common home is the alarming global warming that has recently been observed. As of the 2015 Paris Agreement, it had been agreed to avoid a rise of 2030 degrees Celsius by 1,5, to avoid major damage to the biosphere. With the massive entry of methane, due to the melting of the polar ice caps and parmafrost (which runs from Canada to the confines of Siberia), millions of tons of methane were released. This is 28 times more harmful than CO2. As a result of these changes, the ICLL admitted that no longer in 2030 but even in 2027 there would be an increase in temperature beyond 1,5 to 2,7 degrees Celsius.

The extreme events that are currently taking place in Europe, India and elsewhere, with huge fires and levels of heat never experienced before, and at the same time, the unusual cold in the South of the world are showing that the Earth has lost its balance and is looking for another.

Summing up the speech: following this trend what future will await us? Could the human species have reached its climax, like all species in time, and then disappear? Or could it happen, through human ingenuity or through the very forces of planet Earth combined with the energies of the universe, to take a leap in quality and thus inaugurate a new order and give continuity to the human species? If this happens, which we hope for, it will not happen without heavy sacrifices of the lives of nature and of humanity itself.

67 million years ago, an almost 10 km long meteor fell in the Caribbean that wiped out all dinosaurs and 75% of all life forms, sparing our ancestor. Could something similar happen to our planet Earth? Probably not a low-flying meteor, but any other immeasurable ecological-social disaster.

If we survive, Earth will have taken the saving leap and delivered the long-awaited birth. The birth pangs will have passed and, finally, the biocene and ecocene will be generated. Life (bio) and the ecological factor (eco) will gain centrality, compromising our care and our whole heart. May this desideratum be a viable utopia that will allow us to continue on this beautiful and smiling planet.

*Leonardo Boff He is a philosopher and theologian. Author, among other books, of The painful birth of Mother Earth (Vozes).

 

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