Hope-Principle

Porto Alegre (RS)/ Photo: Rafa Neddermeyer/ Agência Brasil
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By LEONARDO BOFF*

As we continue to peel the skin off the Earth and worsen climate change, the potential for hope is reaching its limit

The great flood that is ravaging Rio Grande do Sul is one of the most unequivocal signs, given by Mother Earth, of the extremely harmful effects of climate change. We are already inside it. There is no point in denialists refusing to accept this data. The facts speak for themselves. Soon they will reach the lives of all people, rich and poor, as they did in most riverside cities in that state.

There was a surprising acceleration in the global warming process and the decision in the 2015 Paris Agreement was not fulfilled, according to which a drastic reduction in greenhouse gases was expected so as not to increase the temperature by 1,5ºC by 2030. Almost nothing was done : in 2022, 37,5 billion tons of CO² were released into the atmosphere and in 2023 there were 40,8 billion tons. Everything was excessive. Because of this, some climatologists maintain that warming was anticipated – before 2030 as predicted. Around 2026-2028 the Earth's climate would stabilize at around 38-40ºC and in some places with higher numbers.

Our body temperature is around 36,5ºC. Imagine if at night the ambient temperature remained at around 38ºC? Many, including the elderly and children, will not be able to cope and may even die. And for everyone it will be a great agony. Not to mention the loss of biodiversity and food crops, necessary for survival.

The person who saw clearly the state of the Earth was a representative of the original peoples, those who feel they are Earth and part of nature, a Yanomami leader Dário Kopenawa: “The Earth is our mother and has suffered for a long time. As a human being who feels pain, she feels it when invaders, agribusiness, mining and oil companies cut down thousands of trees and dig deep into the ground, into the sea. She is asking for help and giving warnings so that non-indigenous people stop skinning the Earth.”

As we continue to peel the skin off the Earth and worsen climate change, the potential for hope is reaching its limit. Scientists have made it clear that science and technology cannot reverse this situation, only warn of the arrival of extreme events and mitigate their disastrous consequences. We have reached the current global situation simply because a large part of the population is unaware of the real situation on Earth and the majority of heads of state and CEOs of large companies prefer to continue the logic of unlimited production, taken from nature and unlimited consumption, rather than listening to the warnings from Earth and life sciences. The homework was not done. Now the bitter bill has arrived.

 What happened in southern Brazil is just the beginning. Ecological disasters will recur more frequently and in increasingly serious ways in all parts of the planet.

Where do we get the energy to still believe and hope? As it was wisely said: “when there is no longer any reason to believe, then faith begins; When there is no longer any reason to hope, then hope begins.” As the author of the epistle to the Hebrews (around the 80s): “Faith is the foundation of what is hoped for and the conviction of realities that are not seen” (11,1). Faith sees what cannot be seen with simple carnal eyes. Faith sees, with the eyes of the spirit that is our depth, the possibility of a world that is yet to come, but which, seminally but still invisible, is among us. That is why faith opens up to hope, which is always going beyond what is given and verified. Faith and hope found the world of utopias that strive to be realized historically.

The hope principle applies here. The German philosopher Ernst Bloch coined the expression “hope principle”. It represents an inner engine that is always running and fueling the imagination and inexhaustible potential of human existence and history. Pope Francis in Fratelli tutti reassurance: “hope speaks to us of a reality rooted deep within the human being, regardless of the concrete circumstances and historical conditioning in which he or she lives” (n. 55). Assuming this principle-hope today, in this new phase of the Earth, is extremely urgent.

The hope-principle is the niche of all utopias. It allows you to continually project new visions, new paths not yet taken and viable dreams. The meaning of utopia is always to make us move (Eduardo Galeano), to always overcome difficulties and improve reality. As humans, we are utopian beings. It is the hope-principle that can save us and open a new direction for the Earth and its sons and daughters.

What is our minimum, viable and necessary utopia? It implies, first and foremost, the search for the humanization of the human being. He dehumanized himself because he became the exterminating angel of nature. You will only recover your humanity if you begin to live from what is in your nature: a being of love, care, communion, cooperation, compassion, an ethical being and a spiritual being who takes responsibility for his actions to May they be beneficial to everyone. Because we did not create space for these values ​​and principles, we were pushed into the current crisis that could lead us to the abyss.

This viable and necessary utopia always comes to fruition, if we have time, within the contradictions, inevitable in all historical processes. But it will mean a new horizon of hope that will fuel humanity's journey towards the future.

From this perspective, a new ethics is born. Seminal forces are emerging everywhere, seeking and already rehearsing a new pattern of human and ecological behavior. It will represent what Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, since his exile in China in 1933, called noosphere. It would be that sphere in which minds and hearts (noos in Greek) would enter into a new fine tune, characterized by love, care, mutuality between all, the spiritualization of collective intentions. An old aphorism said: “when you don’t know where you’re going, go back to find out where you’re coming from”.

We have to return to our own nature from where we came and which contains the indications to where we are going: to those values ​​stated above that can take us out of this dramatic situation. In the midst of so much despondency and melancholy due to the serious situation in the world, we believe and hope in this.

*Leonardo Boff He is a theologian, philosopher and writer. Author, among other books, of The quest for fair measure: how to balance planet Earth (Nobilis Voices). [https://amzn.to/3SLFBPP]


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