Friday, January 7, 2011

The Planet will continue to have a fever

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)

COP 16 ended at dawn on December 11 in Cancun with erroneous conclusions, almost drawn out with forceps. These are known and therefore we shall not deal with them here. Due to the general atmosphere of disillusionment, they were even more than expected, but less than they should have been, given the gravity of the increasing degradation of the Earth-system. The spirit of Copenhagen of addressing the problem of global warming with measures structured around the economy, predominated. And this is the big mistake, because the economic system that created the crisis can not be the same one to get us out of it. Using an expression that we have used on other occasions: by trying to file down the teeth of the wolf, they believe they will take away the ferocity, in the illusion that it resides in the teeth and not in the nature of the wolf itself. The logic of the mainstream economy, which aims at growth and increasing the GDP implies the domination of nature, disregard of social equity (hence the growing concentration of wealth and the rapid appropriation of common goods) and lack of solidarity with future generations. And they want us to believe that this dynamic will get us out of the many crises, especially global warming.

But we must insist: we have reached a point where it's urgent to rethink and reorient our whole way of being in the world. Just a change of will is not enough, we need above all to transform the imagination. Imagination is the ability to design other ways of being, acting, producing, consuming and interacting with each other and with the Earth. The Earth Charter went to the heart of the problem and its possible solution when it said: "As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning...This requires a change of mind and heart. It requires a new sense of global interdependence and universal responsibility. We must imaginatively develop and apply the vision of a sustainable way of life locally, nationally, regionally, and globally."

This proposal was not present in any of the 16 COPs. What predominated in them was the conviction that the crisis of the Earth is cyclical, not structural, and that it can be addressed with the arsenal of means available to the system, with agreements between heads of state and businessmen, when all the world community should be involved. The basic reference is not the Earth as a whole, but nation-states, each with their own interests, governed by the logic of individualism and not by cooperation and interconnection of all with all, as required by global nature of the problem. In the collective consciousness, it has still not been affirmed that the planet is small, that it has limited resources, that it's overcrowded, polluted, depleted and sick. There's no mention of the ecological debt. The widespread ecological crisis, which is more than global warming, is not taken seriously. Adaptation and mitigation are not enough without giving centrality to the serious global social injustices, the massive migration flows that have already reached 60 million people, the destruction of fragile economies with the increase in the poor and hungry by many millions, the violation of the right to food security and health. There's a need to join social justice with environmental justice.

A new perspective on the Earth is imperative indeed. It can not continue to be a bottomless chest of resources to be exploited for purely human benefit, without regard for other living beings that also need the biosphere. Mother Earth is Gaia -- a thesis unsuccessfully sustained by the Bolivian delegation -- and therefore subject to rights and deserving of respect and veneration. The crisis is not in the geophysics of the Earth, but in our relationship of aggression to it. We have become a highly destructive geophysical force, inaugurating, as is now being stated, the Anthropocene era, a new geological era marked by intensive careless and irresponsible intervention by human beings.

If humanity does not rally around some minimum values such as sustainability, caring, collective responsibility, cooperation and compassion, we may be approaching an open chasm before us.

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