Our future is threatened

Image: Adi K.
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By LEONARDO BOFF*

We would be in a scenario of a civilizational paradigm crisis and not a tragedy. But will there be time for some learning to save the Planet?

A fact that has provoked many scientists, especially biologists and astrophysicists, to talk about the eventual collapse of the human species is the exponential character of the population. Humanity needed a million years to reach a billion people in 1850. The time gaps between one growth and another are getting smaller and smaller. From 75 years – from 1850 to 1925 – became every five years today. It is predicted that by 2050 there will be ten billion people. It is the undeniable triumph of our species.

Lynn Margulis and Dorian Sagan in the well-known book Microcosmos (1990) state with data from fossil records and from evolutionary biology itself that one of the signs of the near collapse of a species is its rapid overpopulation. This can be seen with microorganisms placed in the petri dish (round glass plates with colonies of bacteria and nutrients). Just before reaching the edges of the plate and running out of nutrients, they multiply exponentially. And suddenly they all die.

For mankind, they comment, the Earth may appear identical to a petri dish. In fact, we occupy almost the entire earth's surface, leaving only 17% free, as it is inhospitable like deserts and high snowy or rocky mountains. Regrettably, from homicides, genocides and ecocides we have become biocides.

The eminent biologist Edward Wilson testifies in his thought-provoking book the future of life (2002, 121): “Man until today has played the role of planetary killer…the ethic of conservation, in the form of taboo, totemism or science, has almost always arrived too late; maybe there is still time to act”.

It is also worth mentioning two names in science that have great respectability: James Lovelock who elaborated the theory of the Earth as a living Superorganism, Gaia, with a strong title Gaia's Revenge (2006) He is blunt: “by the end of the century 80% of the human population will disappear. The remaining 20% ​​will live in the Arctic and in a few oases on other continents, where temperatures are lower and there is a little rain…almost all of Brazil will be too hot and dry to be inhabited” (Veja, October 25, 2006). The other notable is the English astrophysicist Martin Rees, who occupies Newton's chair (Final hour, 2005), which predicts the end of the species before the end of the XNUMXst century.

Carl Sagan, now deceased, saw in the human attempt to go to the Moon and send spacecraft like the Travel out of the solar system as a manifestation of the collective unconscious that senses the risk of our next extinction. The will to live leads us to consider forms of survival beyond Earth.

Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking talks about possible extrasolar colonization with ships, a kind of space sailboats, propelled by laser beams that would give them a speed of thirty thousand kilometers per second. But to reach other planetary systems we would have to travel billions and billions of kilometers away, needing many, many years of time. It so happens that we are prisoners of light, whose speed of three hundred thousand kilometers per second is still unsurpassed. Even so, just to reach the nearest star – Alpha Centauri – we would need forty-three years, without even knowing how to stop this ship at this very high speed.

Naturally, we need to be patient with humans. He's not ready yet. He has a lot to learn. Relative to cosmic time, he has less than a minute to live. But with him, evolution took a leap, from unconscious to conscious. And with conscience you can decide what destiny you want for yourself. In this perspective, the current situation represents a challenge rather than an inevitable disaster, the crossing to a higher level and not fatally a plunge into self-destruction. We would therefore be in a scenario of a civilizational paradigm crisis and not a tragedy.

But will there be time for such learning? Everything seems to indicate that the clock is running against us. Wouldn't we be arriving too late, having already passed the point of no return? But as evolution is not linear and undergoes frequent ruptures and leaps upwards as an expression of greater complexity and as there is an indeterminate and fluctuating character of all energies and of all evolution, according to the quantum physics of W. Heisenberg and N. Bohr, nothing prevents the emergence of another level of consciousness and human life that safeguards the biosphere and planet Earth.

This transmutation would be, according to Saint Augustine in his Confessions, the fruit of two great forces: great love and great pain. It is love and pain that have the ability to completely transform us. This time we will change out of immense love for Earth, our Mother, and out of great pain for the pain she is suffering and in which all of humanity participates.

*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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