The climate tragedy in Rio Grande do Sul

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By LEONARDO BOFF*

There are deniers in all spheres, especially among CEOs of large companies and those who feel comfortable in a situation of privilege, based on a situation of comfort.

I interrupt my reflection on the vectors of the current systemic crisis and possible ways out of the crisis, due to the environmental tragedy that occurred in Rio Grande do Sul. The intense rains and catastrophic floods, with waters invading entire cities, destroying them in part, displacing hundreds of families, causing thousands of refugees or missing and dead, make us think.

First of all, our deep solidarity with the populations affected by this calamity of biblical proportions. We express our compassion, because as Saint Thomas taught in Summa Theologica “Compassion in itself is the greatest virtue. For it is part of compassion to pour out oneself on others – and what is even more – to help the weakness and pain of others.” The whole country mobilized. The Brazilian people showed the best of themselves, their capacity for solidarity and willingness to help, despite the wicked who exploit the misfortune for private purposes and through lies and slander.

It would be a mistake to think that this is just a natural catastrophe, as similar phenomena occur from time to time. This time the nature of the tragedy has another origin. We have to do with the new phase that planet Earth has entered: the installation of a new stage, characterized by the increase in global warming. All of this is of anthropogenic origin, that is, produced by human beings, but more specifically by Anglo-Saxon capitalism, which devastates natural balances.

There are deniers in all spheres, especially among the CEOS of large companies and those who feel comfortable in a situation of privilege, based on a situation of comfort. But the avalanche of climate disruptions, the outbreak of extreme events, intense heat waves and severe droughts, large fires, tornadoes and terrifying floods, constitute undeniable phenomena. It's touching the skin of the most resistant. They also began to think.

Considering the history of the planet, which has existed for more than four billion years, we see that global warming participates in the evolution and dynamism of the universe; it is always in motion and adapting to the energetic convolutions that occur during the cosmogenic process. Thus, planet Earth has known many phases, some of extreme cold, others of extreme heat, like 14 million years ago. At this time of extreme heat, humans did not yet exist, as they only appeared in Africa 7-8 million years ago, and Homo sapiens current for only 200 thousand years.

Human beings themselves went through several stages in their dialogue with nature: initially, peaceful interaction with it predominated; then he began to actively intervene in its rhythms, diverting river courses for irrigation, cutting territories for roads; it passed into a true aggression of nature, precisely from the industrialist process that took advantage of natural resources for the wealth of a few at the expense of the poverty of the great majority; this aggression was led by efficient technologies to a true destruction of nature, by devastating entire ecosystems, through deforestation due to the production of commodities, due to the misuse of the soil, impregnating it with pesticides, contaminating the water and air.

We are in the midst of a phase of destruction of the natural foundations that support our lives. Let's say the name: it is the mode of production/devastation of the now globalized Anglo-Saxon capitalist system, with its mantras: maximizing profit through the overexploitation of natural goods and services, within the framework of severe competition without any hint of collaboration.

This process had a heavy cost, which was not even taken into account by the operators of this system. Natural and social damages were considered as side effects that were not included in company accounting. It was up to the state and not them to face such rates of inequity.

The living Earth began to react by sending viruses, bacteria, all kinds of diseases, typhoons, severe storms and finally an increase in its natural temperature. She went on a rampage. We started on a path of no return. These are greenhouse gases: CO2, methane (28 times more harmful than CO2), nitrous oxide and sulfur, among others. In 2023 alone, 40,8 million tons of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere, as stated in the COP 28 report, held in Cairo.

Let's look at the growth levels of this gas: in 1950 emissions were 6 billion tons; in 2000 there were already 25 billion; in 2015 it rose to 35,6 billion; in 2022 there were 37,5 billion and finally in 2023, as we mentioned, there were 40,9 billion tons per year. This volume of gases works like a greenhouse, preventing the sun's rays from returning to the universe, creating a hot layer, causing the entire planet to heat up. Furthermore, carbon dioxide, CO2, remains in the atmosphere for about 100 to 110 years.

How can the Earth digest such pollution? The Paris agreement at the 2015 COP established quotas for reducing these gases with the creation of alternative energies (wind, solar, tidal). Nothing substantial was done. Now the bill to be paid by all of humanity has arrived: irreversible warming that will make some regions of the planet in Africa, Asia and, among us, uninhabitable.

What we are witnessing in Rio Grande do Sul is just the beginning of a process that, maintaining the current type of civilization that wastes nature, tends to get worse. Climatologists themselves warn: science and technology woke up too late to this climate change. Now they will not be able to avoid it, only to warn of the arrival of extreme events and mitigate their harmful effects.

Earth and humanity must adapt to this climate change. Elderly people and children and many living organisms will have difficulty adapting and will suffer a lot and even die. From now on, Mother Earth will undergo transformations never seen before. Some can decimate the lives of thousands of people. If we are not careful, the entire planet could be hostile to the life of nature and to our lives. At its end, we may even disappear. It would be the price of our irresponsibility, inhumanity and disregard for the nature that gives us everything to live. We couldn't pay the bill.

*Leonardo Boff He is a philosopher and writer. Author, among other books, of The Earth Option (All time lap record). [https://amzn.to/3WroJkR]


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