There is something terrible, nature’s systemic attack on humanity, through a microscopic and invisible virus that is causing great concern and killing thousands of people. Faced with this true human tragedy we need to understand our reaction to the pandemic. What is the pandemic’s effect on us? What lesson does it teach us? What cosmology (vision of the world) and what type of ethics (values and principles) does it call on us to develop? Surely we now must learn everything that we should have learned but didn’t learn before. We should have learned that we are part of nature and not its “lords and owners” (Descartes). There is an umbilical connection between the human being and nature. We come from the same cosmic dust, as all other beings did. We are the conscious link of the chain of life.
The erosion of the image, “little god of the Earth”
The modern myth has been destroyed that we are “the little god” of Earth and that we can dispose of her at our whim because she is an inert object without purpose. One of the fathers of the modern scientific method, Francis Bacon, said that we must treat nature as the henchmen of the inquisition treated their victims, torturing them until they gave up all their secrets.
Through techno science we have carried this method to the extreme, reaching the heart of matter and of life. This has been done with unprecedented furor, to the point of destroying the sustainability of nature and consequently of the planet and of life. We have broken the natural pact that exists with the living Earth: she gives all everything we need to live, and in exchange we must care for her, preserving her goods and services and affording her rest, in order to replenish what we have taken for our lives and progress. We have done none of this.
For failing to observe the Biblical precept of “protecting and caring for the Garden of Eden, The Earth (Genesis 2,15)” and for threatening the ecological bases that sustain all life, she has counterattacked with a powerful weapon, the corona virus 19. Facing it, we have returned to the methodology of the Middle Ages, that overcame its pandemics with strict social isolation. So that the frightened people would get out of the streets, an ingenious clock was built in the Munich municipal council (Marienplatz), with dancers and cuckoos so that everyone would come to appreciate it, something that is still being done today.
The pandemic, that more than than a crisis is a demand for a change of cosmology (the vision of the world) and of the incorporation of an ethics with new values, posits us this question: do we really want to avoid nature sending us even more lethal viruses that could even decimate the human species? We would be one of the ten species that disappear forever each day. Do we want to run that risk?
Generalized lack of awareness of the ecological factor
Already in 1962, North American biologist and writer Rachel Carson, author of The Silent Spring, warned: “It is not likely that future generations will forgive our lack of prudent concern for the integrity of the natural world that sustains all life… The question is whether any civilization can continue a relentless war against life without destroying itself and without losing the right to be called a civilization“.
It seems like a prophesy of the situation we are experiencing all around the world. It appears that the majority of humanity, including the political leaders, do not show enough awareness of the dangers we face with global warming, with the excessive density of our cities and, especially, of the massive agro-business that advances over the virgin lands into the jungles that are being deforested. We are destroying the habitats of millions of viruses and bacteria that wind up being transferred to human beings. According to serious scientists, the corona virus did not have to come though a bat from a market in China, but, simply, from nature.
In the best hypothesis, corona virus will force us to re-invent ourselves as humanity, and to remodel in a sustainable and inclusive form the unique Common Home that we share. If what dominated before prevails, exacerbated to the extreme, then we must prepare for the worst.
Many are predicting a new, destructive, austerity in the post-corona virus era. The vultures of the past are already gathering to return to the same perspective of the past, and to impede significant change. The interests of financial capital and the lack of consciousness on the part of those in power, and even in much of academia, about the gravity of the degradation of nature, does not allow them learn anything from the thousands and thousands of dead human beings all over the world, caused by the corona vírus.
They want to return to the austerity that is the politics of opportunists, carried out by opportunists, for the benefit of opportunists. CEPAL has calculated that because of covid-19, the politics of austerity, worse than before, will leave 215 million new poor people in Latin America. (cf. Carta Maior 13/05/2020) However, it is worth remembering that the life system has gone though several major extinctions (we are in the sixth) but it has always survived.
Life seems like –allow me a singular metaphor– a “plague” that no one until now has managed to exterminate. That is because life is a blessed “plague”, linked to the mystery of the cosmogenesis and to that mysterious and loving Basic Energy that presides over all the cosmic processes and also over ours.
ThIs is imperative that we abandon the old paradigm of the will to power and domination over everything (the closed fist). in favor of a paradigm of caring for everything that exists and lives (the extended hand) and of the collective co-responsibility.
Eric Hobsbawn wrote in the last paragraph of his 1995 book, The Era of the Extremes: “One thing is clear. If humanity wants to have a recognizable future, it cannot be prolonging the past or the present. We will fail if we try to build the third millennia on that basis. In other words, the price of failure, the alternative to the change of society, is obscurity.” (p.506).
That means we cannot simply return to the situation before corona virus. Nor we can think of returning to the pre-enlightenment past, as the present Brazilian government and others of the extreme right want.
(To be continued).
Leonardo Boff is an ecotheologian and philosopher who has written Option Earth: the solution for the Earth does not come from heaven, Record 2009.