Friday, February 18, 2011

The difficult step from the Technozoic to the Ecozoic era

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)

Major crises involve major decisions. There are decisions that mean life or death for certain societies, institutions or individuals. The current situation is that of a patient to whom the doctor says: "Either you control your high cholesterol levels and your blood pressure, or you will have to face the worst. You choose."

The human race as a whole has a fever and is ill. It must decide whether to continue with its delusional rate of production and consumption, always guaranteeing national and global GDP growth at a rate that is highly hostile to life, or deal shortly with the reactions of the Earth-system that has shown clear signs of global stress. We don't fear a nuclear cataclysm -- not impossible, but unlikely -- that would mean the end of the human species. We are wary, yes, as many scientists warn, of a sudden, abrupt and drastic climate change that would quickly decimate many species and would seriously threaten our civilization.

This is not a sinister fantasy. The IPCC report of 2001 already indicated this eventuality. The report of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2002 stated: "Recent scientific evidence shows that major and widespread climate changes have occurred with startling speed...The new paradigm of an abruptly changing climatic system has been well established by research over the last decade, but this new thinking is little known and scarcely appreciated [by social analysts]." Richard Alley, president of U.S. National Academy of Sciences Committee on Abrupt Climate Change found with his group that, when emerging from the last ice age 11,000 years ago, the Earth's climate rose 9 degrees in just 10 years (data from R.W. Miller, Global Climate Disruption Social Justice, N.Y., 2010). If that were to happen to us, we would have to deal with an environmental and social catastrophe of dramatic consequences.

What is at stake in the climate issue? At stake are two practices in relation to the Earth and its limited resources, that found two eras of our history: the Technozoic one and the Ecozoic one.

In the Technozoic one, a powerful instrument is being used, one invented in the last centuries, technoscience, with which all resources are exploited in a systematic and ever more rapid way, especially for the benefit of the world minorities, leaving much of humankind on the margin. Virtually the entire Earth has been occupied and exploited. It has become saturated with toxins, chemicals and greenhouse gases to the point of losing its ability to metabolize them. The clearest symptom of this inability is the fever that has been present on Earth.

In the Ecozoic one, Earth is considered within the evolutionary process. For more than 13.7 billion years, the universe has existed and is expanding, driven by the unfathomable background energy and the four interactions that support and nourish each thing. It's a unitary, diverse, and complex process that produced the red stars, the galaxies, our Sun, the planets and our Earth. It also generated the first living cells, multicellular organisms, the proliferation of fauna and flora, human self-consciousness through which we feel part of the Whole and responsible for the Planet. All this process envelops the Earth up to now. Respected in its dynamic, it allows the Earth to maintain its vitality and balance.

The future is being played out between those who are committed to the Technozoic era with the risks involved and those who, assuming the Ecozoic one, struggle to maintain the rhythms of the Earth, produce and consume within its limits and put their main interest in self-perpetuation and in human welfare and the earthly community.

If we don't take this step, it will be hard to escape the abyss that lies ahead of us.

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