lethal signs

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By Leonardo Boff*

Human beings are the greatest threat to life on Earth. It accumulates means of destruction in which, in 2019 alone, one trillion and 822 billion dollars were invested: lethal weapons, totally ineffective in the face of the invisible coronavirus

More and more awareness grows that the Earth and humanity have a common destiny, as they form a single and complex unit. This is what astronauts on the moon or their spacecraft have witnessed to us. A portion of it is intelligent and conscious: it is human beings. From the highest ancestry the Earth was seen as the Great Mother living and generating all kinds of life.

Modernly, scientists from the sciences of life and the universe have empirically proven that it not only has life, but is itself alive. It emerges as a living entity, a superorganism that behaves like a system that combines all the cosmic factors and energies in such a way that it always remains alive and permanently produces the most diverse forms of life. It was named Gaia, the Greek name for the Earth as a living being.

Throughout its history, human beings have entertained, summarily, three types of relationship with the Earth and nature. The first was “interaction”: he interacted harmoniously and took what was necessary to live. The second was the “intervention” when, about two million years ago, the homo habilis who used instruments to intervene in nature and better guarantee their sustenance. It all culminated in the Neolithic, 10-12 thousand years ago, when agriculture was implanted with the management of seeds and species of animals as well.

The third was the typical “aggression” of modern times. Using all sorts of machinery, even robots and artificial intelligence, human beings systematically attacked nature in order to extract from it all the resources for their comfort and also for the accumulation of material wealth. This war of aggression was waged on all fronts: on the ground, underground, in the air and in the oceans. It also happened among human beings who are the part of Earth with intelligence and consciousness.

Michel Serres, a French philosopher who frequented several areas of knowledge, wrote in 2008 a book with the title World War (Bertrand Brazil). It describes the dramatic history of human attacks on all ecosystems and especially the wars between human beings themselves. According to the data provided, from three thousand years before our era to the present, three billion eight hundred million human beings have been killed in conflicts. In the 200th century alone there were XNUMX million.

We have inaugurated, according to some scientists, a new geological era, the “Anthropocene” and the “Necrocene”: human beings are the greatest threat to life on Earth; with the means of destruction he handles, he has shown himself to be a death machine (necrocene). As a result, in 2019, a trillion and 822 billion dollars were invested in lethal weapons, totally ineffective and ridiculous in the face of the invisible coronavirus.

The Earth felt the blows and did not stop reacting: due to global warming, tsunamis, extreme events, long droughts or prolonged snowfalls, thaws and climatic chaos.

The reaction, a true retaliation from Earth, comes from viruses (there are around 200) that are increasingly frequent and violent, such as zika, chikungunya, ebola, SARS, swine and avian flu, and others. They were quiet in their habitats. But, the ferocious deforestation, the erosion of biodiversity and the increasing urbanization of the planet, made them lose their habitats and seek others, passing from animals to human beings. They don't live by themselves; need host cells to reproduce. So it is with the current coronavirus.

The hypothesis I propose is that, at this moment, the roles were reversed. Being a living superorganism, the Earth reacts, counterattacks and makes its revenge against Humanity. Rightly so, as the Pope says in his ecological encyclical “we have never mistreated and hurt our Common Home as in the last two centuries” (n, 53).

Now, in a rage, Gaia cries out, “Enough! I am a generous mother, but I have insurmountable vital limits. I need to give severe lessons to these rebellious and violent sons and daughters of mine. And if they don't learn to interpret the signs I sent them and don't respect and take care of me as their Mother, I may no longer want them on my soil”.

I think that Covid-19 is one of those signs, not yet final, but lethal enough to shake the foundations of our type of civilization. Biologists fear that we could fall victim to the so-called Next Big One (NBO), the last one so lethal and unassailable, capable of putting an end to the human species.

The coronavirus sends us an alert. As sociologist and ecologist Bellamy Fosters put it: “Society will have to be reconstituted on a radically new basis. The choice before us is naked and raw: ruin or revolution”.

In the same line of thought, Indian nuclear physicist and ecologist Vandana Shiva states: “A small virus can help us take a big step forward to found a new ecological planetary civilization, based on harmony with nature. Or, we can continue living the fantasy of dominance over the planet and keep moving forward until the next pandemic. And finally, to extinction. Earth will go on, with or without us.”

*Leonardo Boff is an ecologist. Author, among other books, of Caring for the Earth - Protecting Life: How to Escape the End of the World (Record).

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