Unpleasant surprises

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By LEONARDO BOFF*

We have reached a point where if we do not change the devastating nature of ecosystems, we may face our extermination as a human species.

Since ancient times, the Earth has always been considered a Mother, who, together with other cosmic energies, provides us with everything that life on the planet needs. The Greeks called her Gaia or Demeter, the Romans Magna mater, the eastern Nana, the Andeans of Pachamama. All cultures considered it to be a super living being that, because it is alive, produces and reproduces life.

Only in European modernity, from the XNUMXth century onwards, was the Earth considered a “mere extensive thing”, without purpose. The nature that covers it has no value in itself, only when it is useful to human beings. This does not consider itself part of nature, but its “lord and owner”. They did everything to her, without any respect, some good and others lethal. This bold modernity created the principle of its own self-destruction with weapons that can totally destroy itself and life.

Let us put aside this funereal way of inhabiting the ecocidal and geocidal Earth, however threatening it may be at any moment. Let us challenge ourselves (without the intention of explaining) the latest extreme events that have occurred: major floods in the south of the country and in Libya, a devastating earthquake in Morocco, untamed fires in Canada, the Philippines and elsewhere.

To a large extent, a consensus is being created among the scientific community (except in politics and the large dominant economic oligopolies) that the main cause, not the only one, is due to the change in the Earth's climate regime and the limits of the planet's unsustainability. It's the famous Earth Overload (Earth Overshoot Day): we consume more than it can offer us. And he can't take it anymore.

As it is a super living entity, it reacts, sending us global warming, waves of extreme events, earthquakes, hurricanes, lethal viruses, etc. We have reached a point where if we do not change the devastating nature of ecosystems, we may face our extermination as a human species. The latest facts are foreshadowing.

Lessons must be learned from everything. Today we know, what was denied to previous generations, how the tectonic plates that make up the Earth's soil work. We know its dangerous cracks, which plates might be moving. The consequence is that if we build our cities and houses on these cracks, there may come a day when a displacement or clash of cracks occurs, producing an earthquake with incalculable human and cultural sacrifices. There go works of human genius. The consequence we must draw today: we cannot build our homes and cities on these places. Or should we develop technologies, as the Japanese did, that build buildings based on metals that balance the entire building to the point of withstanding earthquake movements.

Something similar applies to large floods of overwhelming magnitude. We know that every river has its bed where the water flows. But nature has predicted that there must be large enough spaces at its edges to withstand flooding. These spaces are part of the extended bed. Buildings and entire cities are built on them in vain. When the flood arrives, the waters claim the space where they flow. Then great calamities occur. Aware of this data, containment measures are imposed or simply not allowing houses, factories and neighborhoods to be built in these places. In more radical terms, these parts of the city must find another safe place to avoid being damaged or destroyed.

This is knowledge that government officials and public authorities must take into account. Otherwise, due to a lack of knowledge that borders on irresponsibility, they will have to, from time to time, face catastrophes that kill people, destroy homes and make a certain region uninhabitable.

These catastrophes belong to Earth's history. We have come to know of 15 major mass extinctions. One of the most important occurred 245 million years ago when the continents were formed (from the single Pangea). 90% of species of animal life, marine and terrestrial, disappeared there. The Earth needed a few million years to rebuild its biodiversity. The second largest mass extinction occurred 65 million years ago when an asteroid almost 10 km long fell in Yucatan, in southern Mexico. This caused an immense tidal wave, with a large volume of poisonous gas and an immense darkness that obscured the sun and thus prevented photosynthesis and 50% of all species perished. The dinosaurs that roamed part of the Earth for 130 million years were the main victims.

Interestingly, after each mass extinction, Earth has experienced a fantastic flowering of new species. After the last one, mammals appeared especially, from which we ourselves descended. But, mysteriously, a third mass extinction also began. The current one is not like the previous two that occurred as a result of a coup. It happens slowly, through several phases, starting with the ice age 2,5 million years ago. In recent times, an acceleration of this extinction has been observed. The climate regime is increasing day by day and extreme events are multiplying as we have described. We have entered an ecological alarm, because, as the Pope sternly said in Brothers All: “We are in the same boat, either we are all saved or no one is saved.”

As Peter Ward says in his book The end of evolution (Campus): “100 thousand years ago, another large asteroid hit Earth, this time in Africa. This asteroid is called homo sapiens”. In other words, it is the modern human being who inaugurated the Anthropocene, the Necrocene and the Pyrocene. If the risk is great, said a German poet, the chance of salvation is also great. It is in this that I hope and trust, despite the calamities described above.

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


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