Friday, June 29, 2012

Terms of the current ecological debate

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

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

Rio +20 has provoked widespread debate on environmental issues. Since not everyone understands the technical terms of the issue, we are publishing here an article by the best known environmentalist of the State of Rio, Arthur Soffiati, from Campos de Goytacazes, RJ, founder of the Centro Norte Fluminense para la Conservación de la Naturaleza, published on May 14, 2012 in Folha da Manhã in that city. These are the key words: Sustainable eco-development, green economy, ecological footprint, Anthropocene.

About 11,000 years ago, the Earth's temperature began to rise naturally, causing the progressive melting of the last ice age. Much of the water, going from solid to liquid, raised the sea levels, separated the lands of the continents, formed islands, encouraged the formation of forests and other environments. The scientists gave this new phase the name Holocene.

In the last 11,000 years, of the Hominids, only Homo sapiens remains, who became king over all the planet. With a well-developed brain, he was challenged by the new climatic conditions and domesticated plants and animals, invented farming, created technology to polish stone, invented the wheel, weaving and metallurgy. Then he created cities, empires, dams, drainage systems and irrigation. Several civilizations went beyond the limits of the ecosystems in which they arose, generating environmental crises that contributed to their end.

So the concept of the ecological footprint comes in. It refers to the degree of ecological impact produced by an individual, activity, economy, society. The ecological footprint of civilizations prior to Western civilization was always regional in nature, being reversible sometimes and other times, not. Western civilization is the one that has trod the heaviest so far. The weight started with capitalism, which changed the world.

Since the 15th century, Western civilization (read European) made deep marks with maritime expansion. It imposed its culture on other parts of the world. The world was westernized and also went on to tread heavily on the environment.

Then came another major transformation with the industrial revolution, which originated in England in the 18th century and spread throughout the world, dividing it into industrialized countries and countries that exported raw materials. From it, another global situation began to be created, with emissions of warming gases, devastation of forests, loss of biodiversity, land abuse, strong urbanization, major alterations in the cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus, pollution of fresh water, thinning of the ozone layer, and excessive extraction of nonrenewable natural resources, which, in turn, produce unprecedented amounts of garbage.

Scientists are proving that during the Holocene (holos = whole + koinos = new) era, collective human action in capitalism and socialism has caused an environmental crisis unprecedented in the history of the Earth because it has been generated by a single species. They have named the post-industrial revolution period of the 18th century, Anthropocene, or, a geological phase created by the collective action of man (anthropos = man + koinos = new).

Because of this great crisis and this new era, the United Nations has been promoting major international conferences such as the Stockholm Conference (1972), Rio-92 and now, Rio+20. The aim is to solve the problems of the Anthropocene era, be it reconciling economic development and environmental protection, be it looking for other forms of development. Rio-92 adopted the formula of sustainable development, which has acquired different meanings, even ones that are antagonistic to the original one.

Rio+20 aims to put the environmental, social and economic dimensions on an equal footing. The magic word, now, is green economy, the substance of which isn't unclear. It's assumed that, at least, it means the gradual replacement of carbon-intensive energy sources with renewable energy, and the replacement of nonrenewable resources with renewable ones.

Rio+20 showed that the industrialized countries don't want to abdicate their position, the emerging countries want to reach the industrialized ones, and the poor countries want to be emerging. As long as there is no understanding about the limits of the planet, it is useless to think of social justice and economic development. Consequently, the environment is more important than social and economic issues, because without it one can't find a solution to the other two. On the other hand, the concept of eco-development seems to be the most correct as a tactic and strategy.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The woman's faith

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Eclesalia Informativo
June 27, 2012

Mark 5:21-43

The scene is surprising. The gospel writer Mark presents an unknown woman as a model of faith for the Christian communities. From her, they will be able to learn how to seek Jesus with faith, how to get to a healing contact with Him and how to find in Him the strength to start a new life, full of peace and health.

Unlike Jairus, who is identified as a "head of the synagogue" and an important man in Capharnaum, this woman is a nobody. We only know that she has a secret illness, a typically female one, that keeps her from living her life in a healthy way as a woman, wife, and mother.

She is suffering a lot, physically and morally. She has gone into ruin seeking the help of doctors, but no one has been able to cure her. Nonetheless, she refuses to live as a sick woman forever. She is alone. Nobody helps her get near to Jesus but she knows how to meet Him.

She doesn't wait passively for Jesus to approach and lay His hands on her. She herself seeks Him out. She overcomes all the obstacles. She does everything she knows and can do. Jesus will understand her wish for a healthier life. She fully trusts His healing power.

The woman isn't satisfied to just see Jesus from afar. She looks for more direct and personal contact. She acts with determination, but not recklessly. She doesn't want to disturb anyone. She approaches from behind, in the crowd, and touches his cloak. Her complete confidence in Jesus is expressed and fulfilled in this delicate gesture.

Everything has happened secretly, but Jesus wants everyone to know that woman's great faith. When she confesses what she has done, fearful and trembling, Jesus says to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and health." That woman, with her ability to seek and receive the salvation offered to us in Jesus, is a model of faith for all of us.

Who is helping the women of our time encounter Jesus? Who is trying to understand the obstacles they find in the current Church to living their faith in Christ "in peace and health"? Who values the faith and efforts of the women theologians who, with hardly any support and overcoming all sorts of resistance and rejection, are working tirelessly to make a way for women to live with more dignity in the Church of Jesus?

Women don't find among us the welcome, appreciation, and understanding that they found in Jesus. We don't know how to look at them as He looked at them. However, today too, they are often the ones who sustain the life of our Christian communities with their faith in Jesus and evangelical spirit.