The San Sebastian disaster

Image: Josh Sorenson


A menacing new normal

We are not going to meet global warming and climate regime change. We're already inside. We broke the Earth's support ("planetary boundaries”) that could lead to the collapse of the life-system. We've passed the tipping point and are on a path of no return. The super-exploited planet Earth by the industrialist voracity that benefits a small portion of humanity, excluding the great majority from the dinner table, has led us to this threatening situation.

Great climatologists and other scientists, collected in Elizabeth Kolbert's severe book, Under a white sky: the nature of the future (intrinsic) and The sixth unnatural extinction (Intrinsic) have become climate-skeptical and resigned: even with science and technology we are late. There is no way to avoid the escalation of the new climate regime. We can only mitigate the harmful effects, prevent and adapt to it. The general consequences for humanity, especially for the underprivileged, will be hellish.

What had been agreed in 2015 at the Paris COP to make efforts to prevent warming by 2030 from reaching 1,5 oC was totally frustrated. The vast majority, dominated by the lobbies of the big mining, oil and energy companies, have not done their homework. At the COP in Egypt in 2023, the three countries that pollute the most do not even appear at the convention: USA, India and China. Faced with the global energy crisis, they returned to the highly polluting technologies of the past such as coal.

The February 2022 IPCC report warned: as too little has been done, global warming will rise to 1,5-2 degrees C by 2027; Other scientists, taking into account the entry of methane from the melting of the polar ice caps and parmafrost, which is 28 times more harmful than CO2, suggest that the aforementioned increase in climate will reach us in 2025. If this is true, we have little time to think about it. prepare and invent adaptation strategies. What is the cost in terms of human lives and financial investments?

The extreme events that have recently taken place signal this change in the climate regime. In this carnival week of 2023, in just 24 hours it rained 686 mm in Bertioga and 627 mm in São Sebastião, cities by the sea in the north of the state of São Paulo with highly disastrous consequences. Simultaneously, a furious typhoon swept across Indonesia, killing more than 800 people.

Let's remember the big fires in 2022 that took over California, all of Europe, including Siberia, Australia and the Amazon. Talk about the new era of pyrocene (of fire), as an effect of global warming that warmed the soil and stones. Sticks and dry leaves ignite and set off large fires. If this is confirmed, we will be able to meet a Armageddon ecological.

Therefore, our future is not promising. Climatologist Carlos Nobre already warned at COP 26 in Glasgow: “The future of humanity will be decided in this decade”. Let's remember the boys of Noah's time who announced the flood and they continued with their parties and weddings, until they were swallowed by the waters. Today there is a general lack of awareness of the threats that weigh on our future.

Most heads of state do not take such changes seriously. CEOs of large corporations don't care. And if they know, they realize that they should change their forms of production. But if they do, they fear losing business and being swallowed up by stronger ones. They playfully prefer to head towards the eventual mass grave than to change the system. The “Titanic” may be sinking, but that doesn't stop them from doing their profitable business. And they will perish like the others to the sound of classical music.

There is no lack of scientists and scholars to warn us, showing the connection between the disasters in São Paulo and last year's floods in Minas Gerais, Bahia and Pernambuco and the change in climate regime. The one who clearly did it on television is one of our best scientists: Antonio Nobre.

We rightly say that the Earth is our mother, as it gives us everything we need. But like all mothers, she can give us severe lessons in learning to treat her like a mother, something we haven't done for centuries. The coronavirus was one of those signs, until now poorly understood, which our best scientist always warns us about, Miguel Nicolelis: the virus is out there and it could know dangerous variants. We have to be vigilant. But we continue as if nothing had happened, as can be seen in the current carnival, assuming that we have already returned to the old normality. This is our greatest illusion, as the new climate regime will be inexorable. It will come with new viruses, bacteria and diseases. It will cost many lives and force us to change our ways of living and consuming.

The new rulers of nations (including ours) must consider this new factor in their projects: the Earth is no longer the same. We cannot do the same things as before. Otherwise, we will know disasters after disasters and frustrations of our undertakings.

Mother Earth presents itself to us as something enigmatic. In the last 570 million years there have been 15 major mass extinctions. Two of them wiped out 50% of Earth's species and completely reorganized ecosystems. Many scientists (Cf. Peter Ward, The End of Evolution: Mass Extinctions and Preserving Biodiversity, Campus) assert that this was due to slow to inexorable climate change. Wouldn't we currently be in a similar situation, this time due to the negligence of powerful human groups? In their hunger to get rich, they exhausted natural goods and services and thus became the Satan of the Earth.

It was usually huge asteroids that produced such disasters, “This asteroid,” comments Ward, “is called homo sapiens. All species evolve until they die. Extinction is the end of evolution” (p. XIX). Is it not our turn? We behave in such a predatory way towards our Mother Earth that, possibly, she doesn't want us here anymore. Thus, the other species would no longer be threatened and would follow their evolutionary course. It is not impossible that, after thousands of years, a more evolved being emerges that can support the spirit and build a way of life, more friendly to all beings and to the Earth.

If it continues as it is, our situation could lead us to the worst. The Earth will continue to revolve around the sun, in all its splendor, but without us.

*Leonardo Boff is a philosopher and eco-theologian. Author, among other books, of Inhabit the Earth (Vozes).


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