Theology professor and environmental activist Leonardo Boff. Wikimedia photo.
Coronavirus: Gaia’s reaction and revenge?
by Leonardo Boff
Everything relates to everything: that is now a data point in the collective consciousness of those who develop an integral ecology, such as Brian Swimme, many other scientists, and Pope Francis, in his Encyclical Letter, “On the Caring for the Common Home”. All beings of the universe and of the Earth, including us, human beings, are part of the intricate web of relationships, spun in all directions, in such a way that nothing exists outside of those relationships. That is also the basic thesis of the quantum physics of Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr.
It was well known by the original peoples, as expressed in 1856 by the wise words of Duwamish Grandfather Seattle: “Of one thing we are certain: the Earth does not belong to man. Man belongs to the Earth. All thing are interrelated like the blood that unites a family; everything is interrelated with everything. That which wounds the Earth also wounds the sons and daughters of the Earth. It was not man who knit the web of life: man is merely a tread of the web of life. Everything that man does against that web, is also done to man himself”. This is to say, there is an intimate connection between the Earth and the human being. If we hurt the Earth, we also hurt ourselves, and vice versa.
This is the same perception the astronauts enjoyed from their spacecraft and the Moon: The Earth and humanity are a single and unique entity. Isaac Asimov said it well in 1982 when, at the request of The New York Times, he summarized the 25 years of the Space age: “Its legacy is the verification that, from the perspective of the spacecraft, the Earth and humanity form a sole entity (New York Times, October 9, 1982)”. We are Earth. Man, Hombre, comes from húmus, fertile earth, the Biblical Adam means son and daughter of the fertile Earth. After this verification, never again have we lost consciousness of the fact that the destiny of the Earth and of humanity are inseparably united.
Unfortunately, we are seeing that which Pope Francis laments in his ecological Encyclical Letter: “we have never mistreated and wounded so much our Common Home as we have done in the last two centuries” (nº 53). The voracity of the form of accumulation of wealth is so devastating that some scientists say that we have inaugurated a new geologic era: the anthropocenic era. Namely, it is the human being himself who threatens life and accelerates the sixth massive extinction, which we already are experiencing. The aggression is so violent that more than a thousand species of living beings disappear each year, giving way to something worse than the anthropocene, the necrocene: the era of mass production of death. Since the Earth and humanity are interconnected, massive death is produced not only in nature but also in humanity itself. Millions of people die of starvation, thirst, victims of war or of the social violence everywhere in the world. And uncaring, we do nothing.
James Lovelock, who offered the theory of the Earth as a self regulating super living organism, Gaia, wrote a book titled, Gaia’s Revenge, (La venganza de Gaia, Planeta 2006). He suggested that the current diseases, such as dengue, chikungunya, the zica virus, sars, ebola, measles, the current coronavirus and the generalized degradation in human relationships, marked by a profound social inequality/injustice and the lack of a minimal solidarity, are the reaction of Gaia for the offenses that we continually inflict on her. I would not say, as Lovelock does, that it is all “the revenge of Gaia”, because she, as the Great Mother she is, does not take revenge, but gives us great signals that she is ill, (typhoons, melting of the polar ice, droughts and flooding, etc.); and, in the end, because we do not learn the lesson, she takes reprisals, such as the aforementioned diseases .
I remember the book-testament by Theodore Monod, perhaps the only great contemporary naturalist, And if the human adventure should fail (Y si la aventura humana fallase, Paris, Grasset 2000): “we are capable of senseless and demented behavior, from now on anything could happen, really, anything, including the annihilation of the human race; that could be the just price for our madness and cruelty” (p.246).
This does not mean that all the governments of the world, resigned, will stop struggling against the coronavirus and protecting the people, or of urgently searching for a vaccine to combat it, in spite of its constant mutations. Besides an economic-financial disaster, it could mean a human tragedy, with an incalculable number of victims. But the Earth will not be satisfied with these small compensations. She pleads for a different attitude towards her: of respect for her rhythms and limits, of caring for her sustainability, and of us feeling more like the sons and daughters of Mother Earth, the Earth herself who feels, thinks, loves, venerates and cares. In the same way that we care for ourselves, we must care for her. The Earth does not need us. We need the Earth. Perhaps she does not want us in her face anymore, and would keep on gyrating on the sidereal space, but without us, because we were ecocidal and geocidal..
Since we are intelligent beings and lovers of life, we can change the course of our destiny. May the Spirit Creator strengthen us in this purpose.
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