Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Hour and Time for Mental Ecology

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at LeonardoBoff.com.

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)
1/8/2010

On February 2nd, 2007, in Paris, upon hearing the results of the study on global warming released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), then President Jacques Chirac said: "As never before, we must take the word "revolution" literally. If we don't, we jeopardize the future of Earth and Humanity." Before him, other voices like Gorbachev and Claude Levi-Strauss -- shortly before he died -- warned: "Either we change civilizational values or the Earth could continue without us."

This is the hidden point in the global forums, especially in Copenhagen. If openly acknowledged, it would involve self-condemnation of the type of production and consumption with its current world culture. It's not enough for the IPCC to say that, for the most part, the now irreversible warming is caused by humans. This is a generalization that hides the real culprits: the men and women who formulated, implemented and globalized the mode of production of material goods and consumption styles that involve the depredation of nature, a glaring lack of solidarity between the current and future generations.

There is little point wasting time and words on technical solutions and policies to reduce levels of greenhouse gases if we continue this type of civilization. It is as if a voice were to say: "Stop smoking, or else you will die" and another voice says otherwise: "Continue smoking since it helps production which helps to create jobs that help ensure the wages that help consumption that helps increase the GDP." And so merrily, as in the days of old Noah, we are going towards a pre-announced flood.

We are not so obtuse as to say we do not need policy and technology. We need them a lot, but it is illusory to think that the solution is in them. They must be included in a different paradigm of civilization that does not reproduce the current evils. Therefore, an environmental ecology that sees the problem in the environment and on Earth, is not enough. Earth and the environment are not the problem. We are the problem, the true Satan to the Earth, when we should be its guardian angel. So it's important to create a revolution, as Chirac said. But how to create a revolution without revolutionaries?

They need to be raised. And how we lack an ecological Paulo Freire! He wisely said something that applies to our case: "It is not education that will change the world. Education will change people who are going to change the world." We need revolutionary people, else let us prepare for the worst, because the prevailing system is completely insane, it has become stupid, arrogant and blind to its own shortcomings. It is the darkness and not the light of the tunnel in which we find ourselves.

In this context we invoke one of the four trends of ecology (environmental, social, mental, integral): mental ecology. It works with what's in our mind and heart. What is the worldview that we have? What values guide our lives? Do we cultivate a spiritual dimension? How should we relate to each other and with nature? How do we preserve the vitality and integrity of our shared home, Mother Earth?

A few lines are not enough to outline the main design of mental ecology, something which we have done in several books and videos. The first step is to assume the legacy of the astronauts who saw the Earth from outside and realized that Earth and humanity form a single and inseparable entity, part of a cosmic whole. The second is to know that we are Earth that feels, thinks and loves, which is why homo (man and woman) comes from humus (fertile land). Third, that our mission among all beings is to be the guardians and those responsible for the happy or tragic fate of this Earth, which has become our Common Home. The fourth is that along with the natural capital that ensures our material welfare must come the spiritual capital, which ensures those values without which we do not live humanely, such as goodwill, cooperation, compassion, tolerance, right measure, containment of desire, basic caring and love.

Here are some of the axes supporting a new civilizing attempt, lover of life, nature and Earth. Either we learn these things out of conviction, or we'll do it by suffering. This is the path that history is showing us.

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