The urgency of care and self-restraint

Image: Eugene Liashchevskyi


The culture of consumption of opulent, ego-centered and heartless portions is already charging more than one and a half Earths to satisfy their voracity

I side with those scientists described by the ecological-scientific journalist Elizabeth Kolbert in her two famous books the sixth extinction and the other Under the white sky: the nature of the future (Intrinsic). While harboring some hope, Elizabeth Kolbert outlines what the sky would look like after a devastating nuclear war: white, blocking the passage of the sun's rays on which almost everything on Earth depends.

It is an experimental fact, although there are a large number of deniers, particularly among the CEOs of the great oligopolies who deny the degraded state of the Earth that has now, possibly, ushered in a new era: the pyrocene.

The consumption culture of those opulent, ego-centered and soulless portions is already charging more than an Earth and a half (1,7) to satisfy their voracity. This year's Earth overload was observed on July 22. This means that its renewable goods and services, indispensable for our survival, have been exhausted. All the signs turned on. Even so, they do violence to him, taking away what he can no longer give them. As it is a living super-entity that works systemically, the Earth reacts by sending extreme events such as great droughts on one hand, appalling snowfalls on the other, decreasing the volume of water, increasing deserts, destroying entire regions with typhoons, sacrificing biodiversity, sending more viruses and other illnesses. The expected temperature rise for the year 2030, a rise of 1,5 degrees C, is rapidly advancing over the next 3-5 years.

It is understandable that many climatologists are skeptical and even fatalistic when they realize that science and technology are late. We don't have much to do but prevent catastrophes and lessen their harmful effects. The Earth is changing, day by day, in an irreversible way, looking for a new balance whose center of gravity is not known to us. We assume that climatically it stabilizes between 38-40 degrees C. Those who can adapt to this temperature will survive but many people, children and the elderly and especially countless living organisms will not have enough time to adapt and will be condemned to disappear after millions of years of life on this planet.

The warnings of the wise are serious. A Earth Charter (document assumed by the UN) or the two encyclicals of Pope Francis:How to take care of the Common Home and the other All brothers and sisters peremptorily denounce the ecological alarm. A Earth Charter warns: “Humanity must choose its future…either form a global alliance to care for Earth and each other or risk the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life”. The Pope is more severe: “We are all in the same boat; either we all save ourselves or nobody is saved”.

The vast majority do not think about such things, as it seems unbearable to deal with limits and eventually with the collective disaster, still possible within our generation. Alienated, they will end up joining the procession of those who will head towards the common grave.

We are left with a glimmer of hope always raised by the 102-year-old sage Edgar Morin: “History has repeatedly shown that the emergence of the unexpected and the appearance of the improbable are plausible and can change the course of events”. We believe that both – the unexpected and the plausible – are possible. It would be our salvation.

However, we have to do our part. If we want to guarantee a common future, for Earth and humanity, two virtues are essential: self-restraint and fair measure, both expressions of the culture of care.

But how to posit these virtues if the whole system is built on their negation? This time, however, there is no choice: either we change and guide ourselves with care, imitating ourselves in our voracity and living the right measure in all things, or we will face a collective tragedy. Care leads us to establish an affective bond with all beings so that they remain among us.

Self-limitation means a necessary sacrifice that safeguards the Planet, protects collective interests and establishes a culture of voluntary simplicity. It is not about not consuming, but consuming responsibly and in solidarity with those who come after us. They also have the right to the Earth and a quality of life.

*Leonardo Boff is an ecologist, philosopher and writer. Author, among other books, of Inhabit the Earth (Vozes) (

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