Most readers will find it difficult to accept what I am going to express here. Even though it is based on the best scientific minds that have been studying the universe, the situation of planet Earth and her eventual collapse, or qualitative leap to another level of reality, for almost a century, it has not penetrated into either the collective consciousness or the major academic centers. The old atomic, mechanistic and deterministic paradigm that arose in the XVI century with Newton, Francis Bacon and Kepler, continues in force, as if Einstein, Hubble, Planck, Heisenberg, Reeves, Hawking, Prigogine, Wilson, Swimme, Lovelock, Capra or so many others who have elaborated a new vision of the Universe and of the Earth had never existed.
For starters, I would quote Christian de Duve, 1974 Biology Nobel Laureate, who wrote one of the best books about the history of life: Vital Dust: life as a Cosmic imperative, (Polvo vital: la vida como imperativo cósmico, editorial Norma, 1999): «Biological evolution moves with an accelerated rhythm towards grave instability. Our time reminds us of the important ruptures in evolution, marked by massive extinctions» (p. 355). This time it will not come from a massive meteor that eliminated almost all life, as in past eras, but from the human being itself, that not only can be suicidal and homicidal, but also ecocidal, biocidal and even geocidal. The human being can put an end to most life on our planet, leaving only the underground microorganisms; bacteria, fungi and viruses, that number in the quadrillions of quadrillions.
Given this threat, the result of the death machine created by the irrationality of modernity, the term «anthropocentric» was introduced to refer to the present as a new geological era, in which the great threat of devastation comes from humanity itself (anthropos). The human being has intervened and continues to intervene in the rhythms of nature and the Earth in a profound manner that affects the very ecological basis that supports us.
According to biologists Wilson and Ehrlich, between 70 to 100 thousand species of living beings will disappear annually, due to the hostile relationship the human being maintains with nature. The consequence is clear: the extreme events we are witnessing irrefutably show that the Earth has lost her equilibrium. Only the ignorant, such as Donald Trump, deny the empirical evidence.
To the contrary, the well known cosmologist, Brian Swimme, who coordinates a dozen scientists in California who study the history of the Universe, struggles to offer a saving path out. We should note in passing that cosmologist Swimme and cultural anthropologist Thomas Berry, published a history of the universe, based on the best scientific data, from the big bang to the present, (The Universe Story, San Francisco, Harper 1992), which is known as the most brilliant work realized to date. (The translation to Portuguese has been done, but the Brazilian editors were too foolish, and until today it has not been published. The Spanish translation has been devalued because the book devotes too much space to the concrete situation of the United States). The authors created the concept, «the Ecozoic era», or «the ecocene», a fourth biologic era that would follow the Paleozoic, the Mesozoic and our Neozoic.
The Ecozoic starts with a vision of the universe as cosmogenic. Permanence is not its hallmark, but evolution, expansion and auto-creation of ever more complex «emergences», thus allowing for the birth of new galaxies, new stars and forms of life on Earth, including our conscious and spiritual life.
The authors are not afraid of the word «spiritual» because they understand that the spirit is part of the Universe itself, always present, which in an advanced phase of evolution has become self aware, seeing ourselves as part of the Whole.
This Ecozoic era represents a restoration of the planet through a relationship of caring, respect and reverence, towards the magnificent gift of the living Earth. The economy should not seek accumulation, but what is enough for everyone, so that the Earth may replace her nutrients. The future of the Earth does not come from heaven, but from the decisions we take to remain in consonance with the rhythms of nature and the Universe. I quote Swimme:
The future will be decided either by those who are committed to the Technozoic –a future of increasing exploitation of the Earth as a resource, all for the benefit of humans– or by those committed to the Ecozoic, a new mode of relating with the Earth, where the well being of the Earth and the entire community of terrestrial life is the principal interest (p. 502)
If the Ecozoic does not triumph, we will probably experience a catastrophe, this time produced by the Earth herself, to liberate herself from one of her creatures, that violently occupied everything, threatening all other species, species that, because they have the same origins and the same genetic building blocks, are her brothers and sisters, which is not acknowledged, resulting in their abuse, and even murder.
We must deserve our survival on this planet. But that depends on having an amicable relationship with nature and life; and on a profound transformation of our forms of living. Swimme adds: «We will be unable to live without the special intuition (insight) that women have had in all phases of human existence» (p. 501).
This is the crossroads of our time: either to change or to disappear. But, who believes it? We will continue to raise high our voices.
Leonardo Boff is a Brazilian theologian, ecologist, writer and university professor exponent of the Liberation Theology. He is a former friar, member of the Franciscan Order, respected for his advocacy of social causes and environmental issues. Boff is a founding member of the Earthcharter Commission.