The new cosmological and biological paradigm

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By LEONARDO BOFF*

The ecological transition to a biocentric society

The coronavirus attack against all of humanity has forced us to focus on the virus, the hospital, the patient, the power of science and technology and the unbridled race for an effective vaccine and confinement and social distancing. All this is indispensable.

But to grasp the meaning of the coronavirus, we need to place it in its proper context and not see it in isolation. It expresses the logic of global capitalism which, for centuries, has waged a systematic war against nature and the Earth.

Neoliberal capitalism gravely wounded

Capitalism is characterized by the exacerbated exploitation of the workforce, the use of knowledge produced by technoscience, the plundering of nature's goods and services, the colonization and occupation of all accessible territories. Finally, by the commodification of all things. of a market economy we move to one market society.

In it, inalienable things became merchandise. Karl Marx in his Misery of Philosophy of 1874 well wrote: “Everything that men considered inalienable, things exchanged and given but never sold….everything has become venal like virtue, love, opinion, science and conscience…everything has become venal and taken to the Marketplace". This he called the "time of general corruption and universal venalityl” (Vozes, 2019, p. 54-55). This is what we have been experiencing since the end of World War II.

Capitalism broke all ties with nature, transforming it into a treasure chest of resources, considered illusory unlimited, due to a growth that was also illusory unlimited. It turns out that an already old and limited planet does not support unlimited growth.

Politically, neoliberalism gives centrality to profit, the market, the minimal State, the privatization of public goods and an exacerbation of competition and individualism, to the point that Reagan and Thatcher say that society does not exist, only individuals.

The living Earth, Gaia, a superorganism that articulates all factors to remain alive and always produce and reproduce all kinds of life, began to react and counterattack: due to global warming, biodiversity erosion, increasing desertification, extreme events and for sending its lethal weapons that are viruses and bacteria (swine flu, avian flu, H1N1, Zika, Chikungunya, SARS, Ebola and others) and now Covid-19, invisible and lethal. It brought everyone to their knees, especially the militaristic powers whose weapons of mass destruction (which could destroy all life, again and again) proved utterly superfluous and ridiculous. Now we move from the capitalism of the disaster for the capitalism of chaos, as the critic of the capitalist system Naomi Klein says.

One thing became clear with regard to Covid-19: a meteor fell flat on top of neoliberal capitalism, dismantling its ideals: profit, private accumulation, competition, individualism, consumerism, the minimal state and the privatization of public and of the commons. He was seriously injured. The fact is that it has produced too much human, social and ecological inequity, to the point of jeopardizing the future of the life-system and the Earth-system.

He, however, unequivocally put the disjunctive: Is profit or life worth more? What comes first: saving the economy or saving human lives?

According to the ideals of capitalism, the alternative would be to save the economy in the first place and then human lives. But it is important to recognize that what is saving us is what does not exist in it: solidarity, cooperation, interdependence among all, generosity and mutual care for the lives of both.

Alternatives for the post-coronavirus

The big challenge posed to everyone, the big question mark especially to the owners of large multinational conglomerates is: How to continue? Back to what it was before? Recover lost time and lost profits?

Many say: simply going back to what it was before would be suicide. For Earth could again strike back with more violent and deadly viruses. Scientists have already warned that we could soon suffer from an even more ferocious attack if we have not learned the lesson of caring for nature and developing a friendly relationship with Mother Earth.

I list here some alternatives, as the lords of capital and finance are in a furious articulation among themselves to safeguard their interests, fortunes and power of political pressure.

A first it would be a return to the extremely radical neoliberal capitalist system. It would be 0,1% of humanity, billionaires, who would use artificial intelligence capable of controlling every person on the planet, from their intimate, private and public life. Would be a despotism of another order, cybernetic, under the aegis of total control/domination of the lives of populations.

This one has learned nothing from Covid-19, nor has it incorporated the ecological factor. Due to general pressure, he may assume a social responsibility.organic farming not to lose profits and frequencies. But surely there will be great resistance and even rebellions provoked by hunger and despair.

A second alternative would be the green capitalism which took the lessons of the coronavirus and incorporated the ecological factor: reforest what was devastated and conserve nature as much as possible. But it would not change the mode of production and the pursuit of profit. Green capitalism does not discuss perverse social inequality and would make everything in nature an opportunity for gain. Example: not only earn on honey from bees, but also on their ability to pollinate other flowers. The relationship with nature and the Earth would remain utilitarian and would not recognize rights, as declared by the UN and its intrinsic value, independent of human beings.

A third would be the communismthe third generation that would have nothing with the previous ones, placing the planet's goods and services under plural and global administration to redistribute them equitably to all. It could be possible, but it presupposes a new ecological awareness, in addition to giving centrality to life in all its forms. It would still be anthropocentric. It is little represented by the philosophers Zizek and Badiou beyond the negative charge of previous and unsuccessful experiences.

A fourth, would be the eco-socialism with greater possibilities. It assumes a global social contract with a plural center of governance to solve humanity's global problems. Natural goods and services would be equitably distributed to everyone, in a decent and sober way of consumption that would also include the entire community of life. It also needs the means of life and reproduction such as water, climates and nutrients. This alternative would be within human possibilities, as long as it overcomes sociocentrism and incorporates the data of the new cosmology and biology, which consider the Earth as a moment of the great cosmogenic, biogenic and anthropogenic process.

A farm alternative it would be good to live and coexist tested for centuries by the Andeans. It is profoundly ecological, as it considers all beings as holders of rights. The articulating axis is the harmony that begins with the family, with the community, with nature, with the entire universe, with the ancestors and with the Divinity. This alternative has a high degree of utopia. Perhaps, when humanity discovers itself as a species, living in a single Common House, it would be able to achieve good living and living well together.

It became evident that the center of everything is life, health and livelihoods and not profit and (un)sustainable development. There will be demands for a more State with more health security for all, a State that satisfies collective demands and promotes development that obeys the rhythms and limits of nature. It will not be austerity that will solve the social problems that have benefited the already rich and penalized the poorest. The solution derives from social and distributive justice, where everyone participates in the burden and bonus of the social order.

Because the coronavirus problem has been global, a global social contract is needed to implement global solutions. Such a transformation will require a decolonization of worldviews and concepts, such as voracity for profit and consumerism, which were inculcated by the culture of capital. The post-coronavirus will force us to make nature and the Earth central. Either we save nature and the Earth or join the procession of those heading for the abyss.

How to pursue an ecological transition?

We cannot underestimate the power of the “genius” of neoliberal capitalism: he is capable of incorporating new data, transforming them for his private benefit and for this he uses all the modern means of robotization, artificial intelligence with its billions of algorithms and eventually the hybrid wars. Without pity, they can coexist, indifferent, with the millions and millions of people starving and thrown into misery.

On the other hand, those who seek a paradigmatic transition, within which I myself find myself, must propose another way of inhabiting the Common House, with respectful coexistence with nature and care for all ecosystems. They must generate in the social base another level of conscience and new social subjects, bearers of this alternative. For this, it is worth emphasizing, we must go through a process of decolonization of worldviews and ideas inculcated by the culture of capital. We must be anti-system and alternative.

Assumptions for a successful transition

first assumption: vulnerability of the human condition, exposed to being attacked by diseases, bacteria and viruses. ecosystems and human nutrition.

Fundamentally, two other factors are at the origin of the invasion of lethal microorganisms: the excessive human urbanization that advanced on the spaces of nature, destroying the natural habitats of viruses and bacteria: they jumped to other animals or to the human body. 83% of humanity lives in cities.

The second factor is the deforestation systematic due to the voracity of the capital that seeks wealth with the monoculture of soy, sugarcane, sunflower or with the mining and production of animal proteins (cattle), devastating forests and unbalancing the humidity and rainfall regime of vast regions such as the Amazon case.

second assumption: interdependence among all beings, especially among human beings. We are, by nature, a node of relationship, facing all directions. Bioanthropology and evolutionary psychology have made it clear that the cooperation and relationship of everyone with everyone is a specific essence of human beings. there is no gene selfish, formulated by Dawkins in the late 60s without any empirical basis. All genes interconnect with each other and within cells. All beings are inter-retro-related and no one is outside the relationship. In this sense, individualism, the supreme value of capital culture, is anti-natural and has no biological basis.

Third assumption: a solidarity as a conscious choice. Solidarity is at the base of our humanity. Bioanthropologists have revealed to us that this data is essential for human beings. When our ancestors scavenged for their food, they didn't eat it alone. They took them to the group and served everyone starting with the youngest, then the oldest and finally everyone. Hence came the commensality and the sense of cooperation and solidarity. It was solidarity that allowed us to leap from animality to humanity. What was true yesterday is also true today.

Society lives and subsists because its citizens appear as cooperative and solidary beings, overcoming conflict of interests to have a minimally human and peaceful coexistence and together build the common good. This solidarity does not exist only among humans. It is a cosmological constant: all beings live together, are involved in networks of relationships of reciprocity and solidarity so that everyone helps each other to live and co-evolve. Also the weakest, with the collaboration of others, subsists and has its place in the group of beings and co-evolves.

The capital system does not know solidarity, only competition that produces tensions, rivalries and true destruction of other competitors in terms of greater accumulation and, if possible, establishing a monopoly on a product or a scientific formula.

Today humanity's biggest problem is neither the economic nor the political nor the cultural nor the religious, but it is the lack of solidarity with other human beings who are by our side. In capitalism he is seen as an eventual consumer, not as a human person with his concerns, his joys and sufferings.

It is solidarity that is saving us from the onslaught of the coronavirus, starting with health workers who generously risk their lives to save lives. We are witnessing attitudes of solidarity throughout society, but especially on the outskirts where people are unable to socially isolate and do not have food supplies. Many families who received the basic food baskets shared them with others in need.

Special reference deserves the MST (Movement of the Landless) which provided tons of organic food for the most vulnerable. They do not give what is left over, but what they have. Other NGOs organized solidarity actions to help the most needy. Even large companies have shown solidarity, donating a few million they have left over to face Covid-19.

It is not enough for solidarity to be a one-off gesture. He must be a basic attitude, because it is a fact of our nature. We have to make a conscious choice to be in solidarity with the last and invisible, for those who do not count for the prevailing system and are considered expendable and economic zeros. This is the only way it ceases to be elective and encompasses everyone, as we are all co-equal and unite us with objective bonds of fraternity.

fourth assumption: essential care towards everything that lives and exists, especially among human beings. It belongs to the essence of the human, the care without which no living being would survive. We are alive because we had the infinite care of our mothers. Left in the cradle, we would not know how to get our food and in a short time we would die.

In addition, care is also a cosmological constant, as Stephan Hawking and Brian Swimme have shown, among others: the four forces that sustain the universe (gravitational, electromagnetic, strong and frank nuclear) act synergistically with extreme care, without which we would not be here reflecting on these things.

Care represents a life-friendly relationship, protective of all beings as it sees them as a value in itself, independent of human use. It was the lack of care for nature, devastating it, that viruses lost their habitat, conserved in thousands of years and passed to another animal or human being to be able to survive by devouring our cells. Ecofeminism made a significant contribution to the preservation of life and nature with the ethics of care, developed by them, as care is for all humans, but it gains special density in women

The transition to a biocentric civilization

Every crisis makes us think and design new windows of possibilities. The coronavirus has taught us this lesson: the Earth, nature, life, in all its diversity, interdependence, cooperation and solidarity must be at the center of the new civilization, if we do not want to be attacked by lethal viruses again.

I start from the following interpretation: not only have we attacked nature and Mother Earth for centuries. Now it is the wounded Earth and devastated nature that are fighting back and taking revenge. They are living beings and as living beings they feel and react to aggressions.

The multiplication of signals that the Earth has sent us, starting with global warming, the erosion of biodiversity in the order of 70-100 thousand species per year (we are within the sixth mass extinction in the Anthropocene and Necrocene era) and other extreme events , must be taken absolutely seriously and interpreted. Either we change our relationship with the Earth and nature, in a sense of synergy, care and respect or the Earth may no longer want us on its surface. This time there is no Noah's ark that saves some and leaves others to perish. Either we all save ourselves or we join the procession of those heading for their own grave.

Almost all analyzes of Covid-19 focused on technique, medicine, the saving vaccine, social isolation, distancing and the use of masks to protect ourselves and not contaminate others. Nature was rarely spoken of, because the virus came from nature. Why did he pass from nature to us? We have tried to explain this before.

The transition from one capitalist society of overproduction material goods for a society lifelong support with human-spiritual values ​​such as solidarity, compassion, interdependence, fair measure, respect and care and, not least, love will not happen overnight.

It will be a difficult process that requires, in the words of Pope Francis in the encyclical “On Care for our Common Home” a “radical ecological conversion”. That is to say, we must introduce relationships of care, protection and cooperation. A development made with nature and not against nature.

The prevailing system can know a long agony. But it will have no future. There is a large accumulation of criticism and human practices that have always resisted capitalist exploitation. In my opinion, who will definitely defeat it will not be just us, but the Earth itself, denying it the conditions for its reproduction by the limits of the goods and services of the overpopulated Earth.

The new cosmological and biological paradigm

For a post-Covid-19 society, it is imperative to assume the contributions of the new cosmological paradigm that already has a century of existence. Unfortunately, until now it has not managed to conquer the collective conscience or the academic intelligence, much less the heads of the political “decision makers”, part of which everything originated from the big bang, which occurred 13,7 billion years ago. From its explosion came the big red stars and with their explosion, the galaxies, the stars, the planets, the Earth and and ourselves. We are all made of cosmic dust.

The Earth that is already 4,3 billion years old and life about 3,8 billion years old are alive. The Earth, this is a science fact already accepted by the scientific community, not only has life on it but is alive and produces all sorts of lives.

The human being that appeared about 10 million years ago 100 thousand years ago as sapiens sapiens it is the portion of the Earth that in a moment of high complexity began to feel, think, love and care. That's why man comes from humus, good soil.

Initially, it had a coexistence with nature, then went from intervention through irrigation agriculture and in the last centuries of aggression systematically through technoscience. This aggression was carried out on all fronts to the point of endangering the balance of the Earth and even threatening the self-destruction of the human species with nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

This relationship of aggression underlies the current health crisis. Taken forward, aggression could bring us more acute crises to what biologists fear The Next Big One: that next great, unassailable and fatal virus that could lead the human species to disappear from the face of the Earth.

To avoid this possible ecological Armageddon, it is urgent to renew the natural contract violated with the living Earth: it gives us everything we need and ensures the sustainability of ecosystems. We, contractually, would have to give you back care, respect for your cycles and we give you time to regenerate what we take from you. This natural contract was broken by that stratum of humanity (and we know who it is) that exploits goods and services, deforests, pollutes the waters and seas.

It is decisive to renew the natural contract and articulate it with the social contractl: a society that feels part of the Earth and nature, which collectively assumes the preservation of all life, keeps its forests standing, guarantees the water necessary for all types of life and regenerates what has been degraded and strengthens what already is preserved.

The importance of the region: bioregionalism

The UN recognized Earth as Mother Earth and nature as rights holders. This implies that democracy will have to incorporate forests, mountains, rivers, landscapes as new citizens. Democracy would be socio-ecological.

Life will be the guiding light and politics and the economy will be at the service, not of accumulation and the market, but of life. Consumption, for it to be universalized, will be sober, frugal and solidary. In this way, society would be sufficiently and decently supplied.

The emphasis will not be placed on the economic and financial globalisation, which will follow its course, but on the region. The most advanced point of ecological reflection currently takes place around the bio-regionalism.

Taking the region, not as arbitrarily defined by the geographical administration, but with the configuration that nature has made, with its rivers, mountains, forest, plains, fauna and flora and especially with the inhabitants who live there. In the bioregion, it will be possible to truly create a sustainable development that is not merely rhetorical but real. Companies will preferably be medium and small, preference will be given to agroecology, transport to distant regions will be avoided, culture will be the cement of cohesion: festivals, traditions, the memory of notable people, the presence of churches or religions, the various types of schools and other modern means of spreading knowledge and meeting people.

The Earth will be like a mosaic made of different pieces in different colors: they are the different regions and ecosystems, diverse and unique, but all composing a single mosaic, the Earth.

The transition will take place through processes that are growing and being articulated at national, regional and global levels, raising awareness of our collective responsibility to save our Common Home and everything that belongs to it.

The accumulation of new consciousness will allow a leap to another level in which we will be friends with life, we will embrace each being because we all have the same basic genetic code, from the original bacteria, passing through the great forests, dinosaurs, horses, hummingbirds -flowers and ourselves. We are built by 20 amino acids and 4 nitrogenous or phosphate bases. I mean, we are all related to each other in a real earthly brotherhood.

It will be the civilization of “possible happiness” and “the joyous celebration of life”.

Brazil, our good dream: its refoundation

Brazil, due to its ecological, geographical and population riches, has all the conditions to start laying the foundations of a biocentric civilization.

To this day, we live on the premises of other hegemonic centers. The idea of ​​refounding another Brazil is maturing, especially at the grassroots level.

Three pillars can embody this dream, which I explain in more detail in the book: Brazil: complete refoundation or extend dependency(Voices 2019). Without going into details I will say:

The nature, one of the richest on the planet in terms of biodiversity, humid forests and water. We can be the table set for the hungers and thirsts of the whole world.

A culture that configures the relationship of human beings with nature and with other human beings, diverse, rich in creativity in the arts, music, architecture, dances and certain branches of science, despite visceral racism and threats to original cultures and other social exclusions, reinforced by the current ultra-right and fascist-biased politics.

The Brazilian people still in the making, shaped by people who came from 60 different countries. The multiethnic and multireligious culture, the relational culture, the ludic sense, the hospitality, the joy of living and its creativity are characteristics, among others, of our people.

Brazil is the largest neo-Latin nation in the world and we have everything to be the greatest civilization in the tropics. For this viable utopia, we have to rework, in the collective conscious and unconscious, the shadows that weigh heavily on us: indigenous ethnocide, colonization, slavery and the domination of the oligarchies, heirs of Casa Grande and a current anti-Brazil government, anti-life and anti-people with clear traces of despotism that intends to lead the country to stages overcome by humanity, to the anti-enlightenment, to the world of backwardness, averse to knowledge and civilizing values ​​that are already common goods of world societies.

Finally, I take as a reference the proposal of Pope Francis, perhaps the greatest ethical-political leader of humanity. At the meeting with dozens of popular social movements in 2015 when visiting Bolivia. In the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra he said:

You have to ensure the three Ts: Terra to live there and work. Ceiling to live in because they are not animals that live out in the open. Jobs with which you self-realize and conquer everything you need.

Then he continued: “Do not expect anything from above. For always comes more of the same and usually even worse. Be yourselves the protagonists of a new type of world, of a new participatory and popular democracy, with a solidary economy, with an agroecology with healthy products and free of transgenics. Be the poets of the new society.

fight for the scienceserve it to Life and not the market. strive for social justice without which there is no peace. Finally, take care of Mother Terra without which no project will be possible.

Here we are before a minimum program for a new type of society and humanity.

The future tells us that we will not meet neoliberal capitalism, although it insists on imposing itself. It didn't work: it accumulated too much wealth in a few hands at the cost of the sacrifice of millions and millions living in sub-human conditions and along with that it devastated most of the ecosystems and put the Earth in an ecological emergency.

The journey towards an ecologically sustainable society with a compatible culture, politics and economy is the great viable utopia of humanity and progressive groups in Brazil.

We believe and hope that this dream is not a phantasmagoria, but a possible reality that fits the logic of the universe, made not by the sum of its celestial bodies, but by the set of networks of its relationships within which we are also involved. To quote Paulo Freire, I would say: we need to build an eco-society in which love is not so difficult.

Brazil, freed from its historical shadows, can be an embryo of the new society, one, diverse within the only Common Home, Mother Earth.

*Leonardo Boff is an ecologist, philosopher and writer. Author, among other books by Ecology: the cry of the Earth, the cry of the poor (Voices).

 

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