Friday, December 17, 2010

We are the change we want in the world

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

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

This statement, which seems arrogant, is actually testimony of the meaning of the "Cultivating Good Water" project launched by the big Itaipú Binacional hydroelectric plant on the border between Brazil and Paraguay, that involves about one million people. The directors of the company, Jorge Samek and Nelton Friedrich, with their teams, wisely understood the global challenge that comes to us from global warming and decided to give the most inclusive and holistic local response possible. It was so successful that it has become an international reference.

Its director-inspirers spell it out: "The Itaipú hydroelectric plant adopted for itself the role of inducing a true cultural movement towards sustainability, linking, sharing, joining forces with the various actors in the Paraná Basin 3 around a series of programs and projects systemically interconnected and holistic, that make up 'Cultivating Good Water'. They were created in light of planetary documents such as the Earth Charter, the Treaty on Environmental Education for Sustainable Societies, Agenda 21 and the Millennium Development Goals."

They have accomplished something that is truly difficult: a cultural revolution, that is, they have introduced a set of principles, values, habits, styles of education, ways of relating to society and nature, modes of production and consumption that justify the slogan, written on all the shirts of the four thousand participants of the last major meeting in mid-November, "We are the change we want in the world."

Indeed, the severity of the crisis of the Life-system and Earth-system is such that governmental initiatives, usually late and ineffective, no longer suffice. Humanity, all the sciences, social institutions and individuals must make their contribution and take the common destiny into their hands. Otherwise, it will be difficult for us to survive collectively.

Christian de Duve, Nobel Prize in Physiology winner in 1974, warns us in his famous book, Vital Dust: Life as a cosmic imperative (1995), that "our time reminds us of one of those major breaks in evolution, marked by mass extinctions." Indeed, the human being has become a destructive geophysical force. In earlier times, it was levelling meteors that threatened the Earth; now the devastating levelling meteor is called the human being sapiens and demens, doubly demens.

Hence the importance of the "Cultivating Good Water" project: to show that the tragedy is not fatal. We can make changes that go from the organization of hundreds of courses in environmental education and training, through the outcrop of a collective consciousness of co-responsibility and care for the environment, the shared management of watersheds, incentivizing family farming, the creation of a biological refuge for regional species, biodiversity corridors linking several forest reserves, over 800 km of fencing to protect riparian vegetation, the recovery of all rivers, cultivation of medicinal plants, power generation through pig and poultry wastes, construction of a 10 km canal to overcome a height difference of 120 meters and allow fish to swim upstream, to the creation of a Technology Center, the Center for Environmental Knowledge and Care and the University of Latin American Integration, among others which we haven't cited.

Sustainability, caring and the participation/cooperation of civil society are the pillars that make this project possible. Sustainability introduces a rationality responsible for the supportive use of scarce resources. Caring founded on an ethic of a respectful relationship with nature, healing past wounds and preventing future ones, and the participation of society create the collective subject that carries out all the initiatives. Such values are always reviewed and agreed upon. The end result is the birth of a new type of society, integrated with the environment, a culture of valuing all of life, with clean production within the limits of the ecosystem, and strong solidarity among all. A benevolent spiritual aura runs through the meetings as if everyone felt as one heart and one soul.

Isn't that how the recovery of nature and the birth of a new paradigm of civilization start?

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