Earth defends herself by slowing down growth
idea of a living Earth is widely accepted, and has been incorporated
into the most recent manuals of ecology (cf. R. Barbault, Ecologia
Geral, Vozes, Petropolis 2011.) It was first proposed by Russian
geochemist W. Vernadsky in the 1920's, and was retaken with great
depth in the 1970s by James Lovelock, and among us, by J.
Lutzenberger, where she was called Gaia. This name tries to convey
the fact that the Earth is a gigantic, self regulating,
super-organism, that makes all beings interconnect and cooperate with
each other. Nothing is omitted, because everything is an expression
of the life of Gaia, including human societies, their cultural
projects, and their forms of production and consumption. But by
creating the conscious and free human being, Gaia has endangered
herself. Human beings are called upon to live in harmony with her,
but they can also break the bonds of belonging. She is tolerant, but
when the rupture damages the whole, she teaches us bitter lessons. We
can already feel them now.
the world is lamenting the slow world growth, especially in the
developed countries. Many reasons are given, but from a radical
ecological perspective, it is a reaction of the Earth herself to
excessive exploitation by the producing and consumerist system of the
industrialized countries. The aggression against Earth's systems has
been carried too far, to the point that, as some scientists note, we
have inaugurated a new ecological era: the anthropocene, where the
human being, as a destructive geologic force, is accelerating the
sixth mass extinction, that has been underway for millennia. Gaia is
defending herself, undermining the conditions of the myth of all
present-day societies, including the Brazilian: that of growth, the
bigger the better, with unlimited consumption.
in 1972, the Club of Rome took note of the limits of growth, that the
Earth can no longer sustain it. It takes a year and a half to restore
what we extract from her in a year. Therefore, growth is hostile to
life and hurts the resilience of Mother Earth. But we do not
understand, nor do we want to recognize, the signs she gives. We want
more and more growth, and consequently we want to consume recklessly.
The World Economic Perspectives report of the International Monetary
Fund, foresees a 4.3 percent rate of worldwide growth in 2012. This
is to say, we will extract more wealth from the Earth, throwing her
off balance, as is shown by global warming.
Systemic Evaluation of the Millennium carried out between 2001 and
2005 by the UN to ascertain the degradation of the principal factors
that sustain life, warned: either we change our ways, or we endanger
the future of our civilization.
2008 economic-financial crisis, that has returned now in 2011,
refutes the myth of growth. There is a generalized blindness, from
which not even the 17 Nobel laureates for economics escape, as was
seen in their recent meeting in Lindau Lake, South Germany. Except
for Joseph Stiglitz, they all agreed that the structure of the
present economy bears no responsibility for the present crisis (Page
12, Buenos Aires, 8/28/2011). Therefore, they simply propose
continuing down the same path of growth, with some corrections,
without realizing that they have become bad advisors.
is important to recognize the dilemma inherent in finding a solution:
there are regions of the planet that need to grow to meet the demands
of the poor, obviously while caring for nature and avoiding
incorporation into the consumerist culture. And other highly
developed regions have to be solidarian with the poor, control their
own growth, take only what is natural and renewable, restore that
which they have devastated and return more of what they have taken,
so that future generations may also live with dignity as part of the
community of life.
reduction of growth is a wise reaction on the part of the Earth. It
sends us this message: "Forget the outrageous idea of growth,
for it is like a cancer that will erode all the sources of life. Seek
human development of those intangible goods that can grow without
limit, such as love, caring, solidarity, compassion, artistic and
do not think I am wrong in believing that there are ears attentive to
this message, and that together we will make the longed-for journey.
Boff is a theologian and member of the Earthcharter Commission