Is the end of the human adventure near?

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By LEONARDO BOFF*

The Earth will continue to peacefully revolve around the sun. But without us

If we reduce the cosmogenic process of 13,7 billion years to one year, as did the cosmologist Brian Swimme and before him Carl Sagan, we come to the conclusion that our primitive ancestor appeared on December 31st, at 22 pm. The current one that is us, the sapiens sapiens, on December 31st, 58 minutes and 10 seconds. Therefore, we are the last of the larger beings to enter the scene in the process of evolution, less than two minutes before midnight. We at this moment – ​​comments Brian Swimme – appeared “10 seconds before midnight and we are the nouveaux riche of life".

This being, possessing intelligence, will and purpose, as he did not have any specialized organ, was forced to interfere with nature to guarantee his subsistence. But from the beginning he did so using his strength to the point of unbalancing the various ecosystems. As the Hungarian economist-ecologist Georgescu-Roegen (1906-1994), one of the first to raise the question of the limits of the Earth system, observed, this being, the human, is highly creative, agitated, aggressive and not very good at measuring things. For this reason, he says, it will change the face of the planet, but it is destined to have a short life on Earth.

Lyn Margulis, in her Microcosms: four billion years of microbial evolution (1990) go so far as to state that our species is “a kind of mammalian weed, notwithstanding our personality and achievements” (p. 213). Wherever it arrives, it threatens other species, to the point that in modern times we have inaugurated, according to some scientists, a new geological era, the Anthropocene, that is, human beings would be the greatest threat to life on the planet.

A phenomenon occurs that made us ask the question above: are we not approaching our own end? Some notable biologists, such as A. Meredith and Lyn Margulis herself, think that the recent and fantastic success of human beings in populating the planet would be nothing more than “a sunset phenomenon”, that is, the great play of lights before the inevitable end of the world. Show. Population expansion really makes us think.

Only in 1800 did we reach a billion people; in 1930 we were already two billion; in 1974 we reached the figure of four billion; in 1987 we were five billion; in 1999 we emerged as seven billion and in 2022, we finally reached eight billion people.

If we look closely, there is exponential growth. Comments Lyn Margulis, one of the greatest experts in microbiology: “According to historical data, it is known that species often reproduce with considerable profusion moments before becoming extinct” (Microcosmos, p.213). Another great scientist, John R. Plat comments: “We are frightened when we observe these examples of evolutionary acceleration” (The Acceleration of EvolutionOn The Futurist.

The argument that most convinces me and supports my hypothesis (it is nothing more than a hypothesis) that our end is not far away is provided by Lyn Margulis herself. She uses the example of what happens to microorganisms placed inside the Petri dish. I quote: “The Petri dish is a round dish filled with transparent food, which allows the researcher to see the bacterial colonies in the form of dots even with the naked eye. Fed with nutrients, microbes almost always prove to be very prolific... When they exhaust all the nutritional substances and reach the edges of the Petri dish, the multiple billions of bacteria stop developing and suddenly die due to lack of food and living space . For humanity, the world may appear identical to a Petri dish” (p. 214).

UN bodies have annually shown Earth Overload (The Earth Overshoot). We reach it this year 2023, on July 22nd. This means: the essential nutrients that the Earth provides us with to guarantee the continuity of life have been depleted. As rich countries, particularly, do not reduce their sumptuous consumption, the living Earth can no longer give what it does not have. Then it responds with more global warming, more extreme events, more lethal viruses and other phenomena that could put the future of human life and nature in a situation of dissolution and even disappearance. The aforementioned scientist John R. Plat estimates that life on Earth is approaching its biggest turning point after four billion years of existence. There is no collective awareness about this risk in the population or in “decision makers” nor in heads of state.

Every year thousands of living species disappear after remaining on our planet for millions of years. Reaching their climax, they disappear to make way for others. I ask: has it not been our turn to disappear from this planet? The Earth will continue to peacefully revolve around the sun. But without us.

I would not want the prognosis of one of the last great naturalists, Jacob Monod, to come true. In your book What if the human adventure were to fail (2000) observes: “we are capable of senseless and demented conduct. From now on you can fear everything, really everything, including the annihilation of the human species. It would be the fair price for our madness and our cruelties” (p. 246).

With hope we trust that we will make a leap in our consciousness, awaken, change course and thus save life, our cultures and our future. It is the waiting hope.

*Leonardo Boff is an ecologist, philosopher and writer. Author, among other books, of Inhabit the Earth (Vozes). [https://amzn.to/45TOT1c]


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