This blog is written by Leonardo Boff. A brief biographical note from Wikipedia tells us he is a Brazilian theologian and writer, know for his active support for the rights of the poor and excluded. He currently serves as Professor Emeritus of Ethics, Philosophy of Religion and Ecology at the Rio de Janeiro State University. He is 75 years of age.
I have chosen to share this because it is in tune with what I have been thinking about for months. Since Idle No More made its inspiring entry into the consciousness of Canadians (notable for Harper’s stunning ignoring of it) I’ve been clear that we must learn what First Nations peoples have to teach us if the earth and livable societies upon it are to survive.
Then today I received this article written by Boff, the sender asking for wide distribution. Because I think he’s spot-on in his thinking I’m happy to aid the effort. In the last few paragraphs of the piece, he describes the Earth Charter, developed over eight years of international study, approved by UNESCO. The Charter presents an image of a world becoming aware of the necessity of working together, recognizing the need for interdependent efforts, for grace and cooperation as tools and as goals. This has elements of the First Nations view of the earth. David Suzuki speaks this language. Is it possible that such a realization is emerging from many corners of the earth? Might we be moving toward the possibility of a critical mass of people who get it?
First comes the imagining – then we’ll become clear about what to do to get there. That’s the hope.
[Note: My mind and heart have been filled with the wonder of our grandson’s entry into the world. Writing has escaped me. But I doubt if I’ll stay silent for much longer.]
We are flying blind: where are we going?
Those who read my previous articles, “The deadly corporate world empire” and“The worst form of global government: that of businessmen”, surely would have concluded that passengers in this spacecraft-Earth travel under totally different conditions. A small group of the super-rich occupy first class, with scandalous luxury; other lucky ones travel in economy class, and are served reasonable food and drinks. The rest of humanity, and there are millions, travel in the cargo hold, where the temperature is many degrees below zero, almost dying of hunger, thirst and desperation. They bang on the walls of those above them screaming: “either we share what we have in this unique spacecraft or at some point the resources will be exhausted and regardless of social class, we will all die”. But who will listen to them? The comfortable ones sleep undisturbed after a very generous banquet.
This is, metaphorically, humanity’s real situation. We are truly lost and flying blind. How have we reached this threatening situation?
We have experimented with two models of production and of utilization of natural goods and services to fulfill human demands: socialism and capitalism. Both have failed. There is no need to go into detail of how that happened. In practice, the socialist system was one of a centralized state planned economy. It reached reasonable levels of equality-equity in the fields of education, health, and housing, but due to internal and external reasons, especially its dictatorial character, it was unable to resolve its contradictions, and it collapsed.
The neo-liberal capitalist system of free markets with scant control by the State also failed due to its internal logic, that of accumulating material goods without limit or any other considerations. It produced two grave injustices: social injustice, where the wealthiest 20% controls 82.4% of the riches of the Earth, and the poorest 20% must make do with only 1.6%; and an ecological injustice, devastating whole ecosystems and eliminating species of living beings at the rate of 70-100 thousand per year. This system collapsed in 2008, precisely in the heart of the central countries.
Chinese communism is sui generis: it pragmatically combines all modes of production, from the use of the physical labor of people and animals, to the highest technology, joining state, private or mixed properties, so that the final result is better production with only a minimal sense of social or ecological justice.
But is important to recognize that there is a growing certainty that the system-Earth, limited in goods and services, small and over-populated, no longer can support unlimited growth. She has lost the conditions necessary to replenish that which we take away, and therefore the Earth-system is becoming more and more unsustainable. But as a living super-entity, the Earth reacts ever more violently: with sudden climate changes, hurricanes, tsunamis, thaws, terrifying depopulations, erosion of biodiversity and an ever increasing global warming. When will this process stop? If it continues, where will it take us?
It is urgent that we change course, this is, that we adopt new principles and values, capable of organizing in an amicable form our relations with nature and with our Common Home. The most inspiring document certainly is The Earth Charter, born of a world consultation that lasted eight years, inspired by Mikhail Gorbachev and approved in 2003 by UNESCO. The Charter incorporates the best data of the new cosmology, that shows the Earth as a moment in a vast universe in evolution, alive and endowed with a complex community of life. All living beings are carriers of the same basic genetic code, making all of us relatives.
Four fundamental principles structure The Charter: (1) respect and caring for the community of life; (2) ecological integrity; (3) social and economic justice; (4) democracy, non-violence and peace. The document warns severely: “either we form a global alliance to care for the Earth and for one another, or we risk our own destruction and that of the community of life” (preamble).
The final words of The Charter call on us to retake humanity: “as never before in history, the common destiny calls on us to search for a new beginning. This requires a change of mind and heart. It calls for a new sense of global interdependence and universal responsibility. Only in this way will we reach a way of living sustainably, at the local, regional, national and global levels”. (conclusion).
Let us note that it does not speak of reforms, but of a new beginning. It is about about re-inventing humanity. Such a purpose demands a new way of looking at the Earth (mind), seen as a living entity, Gaia, and a new relationship of caring and love (heart), obeying the universal logic of interdependency of all with all and of a collective responsibility for the common future.
This is the path to follow that will serve as the navigation map so that the vessel-Earth lands safely in a different type of world.
Leonardo Boff 01-17-2014