Is it possible to overcome the current systemic crisis?

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By LEONARDO BOFF*

Science and technology can no longer stop climate change, but can only warn its arrival and mitigate its harmful effects.

I return to the topic “Reflections on the causes of the systemic crisis”, which are at the root of the current crisis. We pause to reflect on the clear manifestation of ongoing climate change, causing devastating floods in Rio Grande do Sul. It is one of the signs that Gaia, Mother Earth, is giving us that she no longer supports the capitalist way of inhabiting the planet. Approximately two trillion tons of greenhouse gases hover in the atmosphere, remaining suspended for approximately one hundred years. How can the Earth digest all this filth?

The capitalist mode of production is fundamentally characterized by considering the Earth not as something living and systemic, but as a chest full of resources to be explored for human benefit, especially for those who have possession, knowledge and power over such resources. resources and about the course of history. This system imposes itself without any sense of limits, respect and care for ecosystems. It finds its political expression in neoliberalism, dominant in almost all societies, but not among the original peoples who feel like nature and take care of it.

In addition to the eclipse of ethics and the suffocation of spirituality in today's world, I want to add even more data. The first, in the words of Pope Francis in Laudato Si: “No one can ignore the fact that in recent years we have witnessed extreme meteorological phenomena, frequent periods of abnormal heat, severe droughts.” What happened in May in the south of the country simultaneously occurred phenomenal floods in Germany, France, Belgium and Afghanistan.

Another point is Earth Overload (Earth Overshoot): we need 1,7 Earth to meet consumption, especially for the opulent classes in the Global North. They intend to take from the Earth what it can no longer give. In response, as it is a living Super Organism, it reacts with more heating, sending a range of viruses and with the aforementioned extreme events.

Finally, a group of scientists, at the request of the UN, defined the nine planetary borders (planetary boundaries) that must be maintained to ensure the stability and resilience of the planet (climate change, biosphere integrity, changes in land use, freshwater availability, biogeochemical flows, represented by nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, ocean acidification, aerosols in the atmosphere, depletion of the ozone layer and what were called “new entities” — particles that did not exist in nature — and were introduced by human action — such as microplastics, GMOs and nuclear waste). It was found that six of the new borders were crossed. Because they are systemically articulated, a domino effect can occur: they all fall. Then civilization collapses.

What is certain is what many scientists have attested: science and technology can no longer stop climate change, but can only warn its arrival and mitigate its harmful effects. Even so, the question remains: do we have a chance of getting out of the systemic crisis?

It depends on us whether we accept to change or continue on the same path. As Edgar Morin rightly noted: “History has shown several times that the appearance of the unexpected and the appearance of the improbable are plausible and can change the course of events”. Human beings can become aware and chart a different course. Because it is an infinite project and inhabited by the principle of hope, there are virtualities within it that, unearthed, could establish a saving solution. But first we must emphatically say: we have to make the capitalist project unfeasible, whether through the rebellion of the victims or through nature, as it is suicidal: in its logic of infinite accumulation within a finite planet, it can continue in its insanity until making the Earth a place uninhabitable. If it started one day, it may also disappear one day. Nothing is perpetual.

The grand narratives of the past will not lead us out of the crisis. We have to listen to our own nature. It contains the principles and values ​​that, activated, even under great difficulties, can save us.

Firstly, we have to define the starting point. It is the territory, bioregionalism. It is in the region, just as nature designed it, that we can build sustainable and more egalitarian societies. Let us list the values ​​that are within us.

As bioanthropologists have shown, love belongs in human DNA. Love means establishing a relationship of communion, reciprocity, selfless dedication and self-sacrifice for the sake of the other. Loving the Earth and nature implies creating an emotional bond with them: feeling united with them. Furthermore, we know that all living beings have the same basic genetic code (twenty amino acids and four nitrogenous bases).

We are indeed brothers and sisters, among ourselves and with all other beings. It is not enough to know it, but to feel it and experience the bond of communion. Furthermore, the study of the evolution of the human being (it is 7-8 million years old and how sapiens/ demens some 200 thousand years) revealed that it was solidarity in the search and consumption of food, together creating commensality, that allowed the leap from animality to humanity.

We are naturally supportive beings, as shown in the millions of aid to the homeless and those affected by the floods in the south of the country. We are also beings of compassion: we can put ourselves in someone else's shoes, cry with them, share their anguish and never leave them alone. We are still beings of culture, of the creation of beauty, in the arts, in music, in painting, in architecture.

We can do what nature itself would never do, like a song by Villalobos or a painting by Portinari. As Dostoevsky said: “it will be beauty that saves the world”. Not beauty as mere aesthetics, but beauty as an attitude of being next to a dying person, holding their hand and saying words of consolation: “If your heart accuses you, know that God is greater than your heart”.

We have been, since our earliest ancestry, when the limbic brain emerged 200 million years ago, beings of affection and sensitivity. In the sensitive heart lies tenderness, ethics and the world of excellence. I already wrote it in the previous article: we are, in the depths of our humanity, spiritual beings. We are able to identify that vigorous and loving Energy that hides within each creature and within us (enthusiasm) and makes it continually exist and co-evolve.

As spiritual people we live unconditional love, care for everything that exists and lives and we nourish the hope of a life that goes beyond this life. We are also accompanied by shadows that can turn love into indifference and solidarity into insensitivity. But we have an inner strength, not to deny them but to keep them under control and make them an energy for good.

A biocivilization, founded on such values ​​and principles, can open an initial path, capable of becoming a broad path, marking us milestones on our journey and pointing us to a light at the end of the tunnel. All of this can be achieved with a lot of sweat and a fight against what we once were (enemies of the Earth), in favor of a new way of amicably inhabiting this small and unique planet that we have, our Common Home, the generous Mother Earth.

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


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