Have we learned the lesson of covid-19?

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By LEONARDO BOFF*

We imagined that we would have understood the profound meaning of the lesson that the pandemic has bequeathed us. It didn't happen. Everything seems to be back to normal

We have largely overcome the threats posed by Covid-19, which for three years has put the lives of a large number of people at risk. It is true that sequels were left: the virus affected the kidneys, lungs, intestines and even the brain. In a way, it has settled in our body and, probably, as with the flu, we should continue to take protective vaccines.

Undoubtedly, the deleterious action of the virus has increased our ecological awareness. Just look at how much has been written on the subject and the hundreds of “lives” on caring for our Common Home, carried out in all countries and ecological groups formed.

However, in social and global terms, we imagined that we would have understood the profound meaning of the lesson that the pandemic bequeathed us. It didn't happen. Everything seems to have returned to the old normality, the one that brought the virus, whether in the forms of production that would imply a more friendly way towards nature; overexploitation of ecosystems continues; deforestation in the Amazon, in the Cerrado and in the Congo continues at a worrying pace, no matter how much the governments make efforts to limit the voracity of world capital.

Especially mining, being exploited in almost all countries, degrades entire ecosystems and harms people's health. The scarcity of potable water will possibly be one of the factors of major conflicts in the near future, as it is increasingly scarce and its flow is decreasing due to climate change.

Perhaps the most serious political vacuum is the failure to create a plural decision-making center to face global problems (such as pandemics, global warming, biodiversity depletion, deterioration of soils and crops, etc.) that require a global solution. Obsolete sovereignties still prevail, whereby each country seeks to defend its advantages without taking into account the systemic nature of the problems.

A Earth Charter (2003) already warned: “Our environmental, economic, political, social and spiritual challenges are interconnected and together we can forge inclusive solutions (Prâmbulo). These inclusive solutions require a plural center of global management, as we are warned by the best science of the serious crises that are at the door.

Even more: we have to inaugurate a new paradigm of how to inhabit the Common House, because the current one, if maintained, could lead us to very serious ecological and social disasters. The 2022 United Nations Development Program (UNDP) which comes under the motto “uncertain times, unstable lives”, makes it clear “that without a drastic change of course, we may be heading towards even more deprivation and injustice”.

Years ago, in 1990, this same world organization showed the ratio between the richest 5% and the poorest 5% that it was in 1960, from 1 to 30; in 1990 it jumped from 1 to 60 and in 1995 from 1 to 74. Currently, the gap between the two must have gotten much worse.

There is another fact that makes us think: the gap between what we produce with our science and technology and what nature produces by itself and that we are deteriorating day after day. Nature's contribution to today's economy is valued at $33 trillion a year. The global gross domestic product reaches around 18 trillion dollars.

If we were forced to replace nature's services because we had fatally degraded it, we would need to add another 33 trillion dollars to the world's GDP, not knowing where to get them from. As can be seen, we have reached the limits of the Earth. We need more than one and a half Earths to meet world consumption, especially that sumptuous one of the wealthy classes.

More and more we are getting closer to the moment when humanity must make a decision, if it still wants to remain on this planet: either we change or we will not survive. This is the lesson that Covid-19 bequeathed us. Time speeds up and we don't keep up with it, busy with our businesses, with our growth projects, without realizing the limits of goods and services on the planet.

Times are increasingly uncertain and lives are increasingly unstable and threatened, particularly with the new unstoppable climate regime to which not all living beings are able to adapt, including a large part of humanity.

The main editor of the UNDP, Pedro Conceição, rightly says: “To navigate uncertainty, we need to double human development and look beyond improving people's wealth or health. These remain important. But we also need to protect the planet and provide people with the tools they need to feel more secure, regain control over their lives and have hope for the future.” That future is in our hands. But he doesn't fall from the sky.

*Leonardo Boff He is a philosopher, theologian and writer. Author, among other books, of The Earth option: The solution to Earth doesn't fall from the sky (All time lap record).


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