Ways to avoid the end of the world

Image: Adam Krypel


We can destroy all visible life as we know it; but we can also be bearers of a future of hope, guaranteeing a new way of living in our Common Home

In all eras, from ancient times, such as the invention of fire, images of the end of the world appear. Suddenly, fire could burn everything. But humans managed to tame the risks and avoid or postpone the end of the world. Currently it is no different. But our situation has a uniqueness: in fact, not in imagination, we can effectively destroy all visible life as we know it. We build the principle of self-destruction with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons that, when activated, can in fact eliminate visible life on Earth, safeguarding the micro-organisms that quintillions of quintillions are hidden under the soil.

What can we do in the face of this possible ecological Armageddon? We know that every year, thousands of species of living beings, reaching their climax, disappear forever after having lived millions and millions of years on this planet. The disappearance of many of them is caused by the voracious behavior of a portion of humanity that lives in super-consumerism and shrugs off eventual ecological disasters.

Could it be that our turn has come to be eliminated from the face of the Earth, either because of our irresponsibility or because we occupy almost all of Earth's space in an unfriendly but aggressive way? Wouldn't we have, in this way, created the conditions for a non-return and hence for our disappearance?

The entire planet, say some microbiologists (Lynn Margulis/Dorion Sagan), would be a kind of “Petri dish”: there are two plates containing bacteria and nutrients. When they realize their exhaustion, they multiply furiously and, suddenly, they all die. Is not Earth a petri dish with our fate similar to these bacteria?

Indeed, humans occupy 83% of the planet, we have exhausted almost all non-renewable nutrients (the Earth Overshoot), the population has grown, in the last century and a half, exponentially and thus we would enter the logic of bacteria in the “Petri dish”. Would we inevitably meet a similar end?

As we are carriers of intelligence and technical means, in addition to values ​​related to the care of life and its preservation, we would not be able to “delay the end of the world” (in the expression of the indigenous leader Ailton Krenak) or to “escape the end of the world ”, expression used by me? Let us not forget Pope Francis' stern warning in his encyclical Fratelli tutti (2021): “we are all in the same boat: either we all save ourselves or nobody is saved”. We have to change, otherwise we will face an unprecedented ecological and social disaster.

I add some reflections that point us to a possible safeguard of our destiny, of life and of our civilization. Edgar Morin's recent statement seems hopeful:

“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 plausiblel – are possible. Humanity has gone through several crises of great magnitude and has always managed to come out better. Why would it be any different now?

Moreover, there is in us what was used by the Pope in the aforementioned encyclical: “I invite you to the hope that speaks to us of a reality rooted in the depths of the human being, regardless of the concrete circumstances and historical conditioning in which he lives”(n.55 ). This principle of hope (Ernst Bloch) is the source of innovations, new utopias and saving practices.

The human being is moved by hope and appears as a utopian being, that is to say, an infinite project. He will always be able to choose a path of salvation, because the desire for more and better life prevails over the desire for death.

Generally, this new one has the nature of a seed: it starts in small groups, but it carries the vitality and future of every seed. The new slowly sprouts from it until it gains sustainability and inaugurates a new stage of the human experiment.

The new Noahs are at work everywhere in the world, building their savior arks, that is, rehearsing a new ecological economy, organic production, solidary forms of production and consumption and a new type of popular, participatory and ecological-social democracy. .

These are seeds, bearers of a future of hope. They are the ones who will be able to guarantee a new way of inhabiting the Common House, taking care of it, all the ecosystems included, living, who knows, the Andean dream of good living and coexistence.

*Leonardo Boff is an ecologist, philosopher and writer. Author, among other books, of Caring for the Earth – Protecting Life: How to Escape the End of the World (Record).


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