The great floods that occurred in Germany and Belgium in July, the summer month of Europe, causing hundreds of victims, associated with an abrupt warming that in some places reached more than 50 degrees, forces us to think and make decisions in view of the Earth’s balance. Some analysts have gone so far as to say: the Earth has not warmed up; it has become, in some places, a furnace.
This means that dozens of living organisms cannot adapt and end up dying. Today, with the current warming that has grown by more than one degree Celsius in the last century, and if it reaches, as predicted, two degrees, about a million living species will be on the verge of disappearing after millions of years of living on this planet.
We understand the resignation and skepticism of many meteorologists and cosmologists who claim that we are too late in combating global warming. We are not meeting it. We are seriously in it. They argue, bleakly, that we have little to do, because carbon dioxide is already excessively accumulated, since it stays in the atmosphere for 100 to 120 years, aggravated by methane, 20 times more toxic, although it stays in the air for a short time. By general surprise, it has erupted, due to the melting of the polar ice caps and the parmafrost that runs from Canada through all of Siberia, and has increased global warming.
The intrusion of Covid-19, being planetary. forces us to think and act differently. It is clear that the pandemic is a consequence of the Anthropocene, that is, of the overly aggressive advance of the prevailing system, based on unlimited profit. It has exceeded the Earth’s bearable limits. Through deforestation à la Ricardo Salles/Bolsonaro, the cultivation of monocultures, and the general pollution of the environment, the virus’ habitat was destroyed. Not knowing where to go, they jumped to other animals, immune to the viruses, and from them they passed to us, who do not have this immunity.
It is worth thinking about the meaning of the fact that the entire planet has been affected, on the one hand making everyone equal, and on the other increasing inequalities because the vast majority cannot live in social isolation, avoiding conglomerations, especially in public transportation and in stores. It did not affect the other living beings, our domestic animals.
We must recognize: we humans were the ones targeted. Mother Earth, since the 70s of the last century, recognized as a living organism, Gaia, and by the UN (on April 22, 2009) truly approved as Mother Earth, has sent us a sign and a warning: “stop attacking all the ecosystems that make me up; I no longer have enough time to replenish what you take from me for a year and regenerate myself.
Since the current paradigm still considers the Earth as a mere means of production, in a utilitarian sense, they are not paying attention to her warnings. She, as a living super-orgnism, gives us unmistakable signs, as now, with the great floods in Europe, the excessive cold in the southern hemisphere, and the range of viruses already being sent (zica, ebola, chikungunya, and others).
Since we are hard-headed and there is a glaring absence of ecological awareness, we may find ourselves on a path of no return.
Curiously, as others have commented, “the prophets of neoliberalism are turning into promoters of the social economy because they realize, in the face of the current catastrophe, that it will no longer be possible to do the same as before, and that it will be necessary to return to social imperatives. The worst that could happen to us is to go back to the way things were before, full of perverse contradictions, enemy of the life of nature and indifferent to the fate of the great majority of the poor, and arming itself to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction, absolutely useless in the face of viruses.
We must necessarily change, overcome the old sovereignties that made other countries even hostile or subject to fierce competition. The virus has shown that the limits of nations do not count for anything. What really counts is the solidarity among all, and the care that we have for each other and for nature, so that, preserved, it does not send us even worse viruses. Now is the new era of the Common Home, within which the nations will be.
David Quamen, the great virus expert, left this warning: either we change our relationship with nature by being respectful, synergetic, and careful, or she will send us other viruses, perhaps one so lethal that our vaccines will not be able to attack them and will take a large part of humanity.
If we do not stop global warming and if we do not change our paradigm towards nature, we will see worse days ahead. If we can no longer stop the increase in global warming, with the science and technology that we possess, we can at least mitigate its deleterious effects and save as much of the planet’s immense biodiversity as possible.
As never before in history, our common destiny is in our hands: we must choose between following the same route that leads us to an abyss or change it and guarantee a future for all, more frugal, more supportive, and more caring for nature and our Common Home.
I have been repeating this lesson for 30 years now, and I feel like a prophet in the desert. But I fulfill my duty, which is that of all those who awakened one day.
Leonardo Boff is an ecophilosopher and has written Inhabit the Earth: the way to universal brotherhood coming out soon from Vozes; Covid-19, Mother Earth Strikes Back against Humanity, Vozes, 2020