"The Man or the Mollusks". Interview with Leonardo Boff

By Sergio Ferrari

Radical and irreversible climatic changes, reports of almost fatalistic international institutions… Planet earth, “our common home”, according to the Brazilian theologian and militant Leonardo Boff, is confronting a complex moment in its own evolutionary history. "We are responsible for the life or death of our planet"

Radical and irreversible climatic changes, reports of almost fatalistic international institutions… Planet earth, “our common home”, according to the Brazilian theologian and militant Leonardo Boff, is confronting a complex moment in its own evolutionary history. Between catastrophe and threats of disappearance, Boff -member of the International Commission of the Earth Charter and alternative Nobel Prize 2001-, contributes from science, theology and militancy, his critical look, a warning voice and, despite of everything, a cry of hope.

Q: Studies, like the one recently presented on global warming, describe an increasingly alarming situation. How to interpret this worrying moment in the evolutionary history of man and the planet?

Leonardo Boff: We are becoming aware that we can be destroyed. Not by some low-level meteor or by a natural cataclysm of immeasurable proportions. But because of the irresponsible human attitude. Man has built two death machines that can destroy the biosphere: weapons of mass destruction and ecological aggression to the Earth system. Until now there was a certain concern not to exceed the limits that the Earth can support. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in early February, revealed that we have already broken that barrier. The planet is going, inevitably, towards an increase in temperature of between 1.8 and 6 degrees Celsius. The consequences on biodiversity will be devastating. Millions and millions of people are at serious risk due to crop losses, droughts or floods due to the rise in ocean waters that will be between 18 and 59 centimeters at least ...

The logic of self-destruction

Q: A catastrophic outlook ...

LB: The certainty that we are responsible for the life or death of our living planet. The common future depends solely on us, that is, ours as a species and that of our beloved Common Home, the Earth, which we love so dearly.

Q: Although it produces * goose bumps * just imagining it ... could human beings disappear as a result of their self-destructive power and lack of wisdom?

LB: Notable names in science do not exclude that possibility. To name a few, Stephen Hawking ("The Universe is a Nutshell") anticipates that in 2600 the world's population will live side by side and that electricity consumption will leave the earth incandescent. Nobel laureate Christian de Duve claims that biological evolution is accelerating towards a breaking point. Prestigious historians such as Arnold Toynbe and Eric Howsbawn also consider the unfeasibility of the planet if it continues in this logic. James Lovelock, ("The revenge of Gaul") anticipates a brutal scenario: until the end of the century 80% of the human population will disappear. The remaining 20% ​​will live in the Arctic or in a few oases on other continents, where temperatures will be lower or where a little rain will fall. As for the Brazilian territory, it will be too hot and dry to be inhabited.

Q: Unimaginable to think about the disappearance of the species ...

LB: It would be a biological catastrophe of immeasurable magnitude. The work of at least 3.8 billion years would be canceled, the probable date of the appearance of life; and of the last 5-7 million years, since the homo species appeared; and from the last hundred thousand years, since Homo Sapiens broke in ... All that work done by the entire universe of energies, information and different forms of matter would fall ...

It must be remembered that until now other intelligences in the universe have not been scientifically and irrefutably identified. We are, as a homo species, a singularity without comparison in the cosmos. We have a body with thirty trillion cells; a brain with a hundred million neurons in continuous synapse, complex in its psyche and its consciousness, loaded with information gathered since the cosmos burst with the Big Bang. And that was enriched with emotions, dreams, archetypes, symbols. And with a spirit, capable of grasping the whole and feeling part of it, and identifying with the One who unites and re-unites, links and re-links all things, making them not chaotic but orderly and giving meaning and meaning to existence. in this world. And that gives us feelings of deep veneration and respect for the greatness of the cosmos.
In that sense, the history of life and the history of human life would lose something inestimable.

The Universe, before Man

Q: And the man and his instinct to survive in that almost bleak panorama?

LB: Although it appears contradictory in the face of the seriousness of the events, I would say that it is necessary to have patience with the human being. There is much to learn. In relation to cosmic time, what has been traveled so far by man is only one minute of life. In this perspective, the current situation represents a challenge rather than a possible disaster.
On the other hand, even in the perspective of the disappearance of the human being as a species, the principle of intelligibility and * amorousness * (love) would be preserved. That existed in the universe before human beings. It is a principle as ancient as the universe itself ...

Q: To return to the category of "cosmic time" and the current accelerating crisis, will the human species still have time to carry out this learning?

LB: Everything seems to indicate that the clock is running against us. Perhaps we are already too late, and we have passed the point of no return. But since evolution is not linear and knows frequent breaks and jumps up - a product of greater complexity - and since there is an indeterminate and fluctuating nature of all energies and all matter, nothing prevents the emergence of another level of consciousness and human life that safeguards the biosphere and planet earth.

It is interesting, for example, that Théodore Monod, who died in 2000 and perhaps the last great naturalist in the world, who was a Christian - Protestant -, already suggests as a possible candidate for cephalopods - a species of mollusks - that they possess perfection remarkable anatomical. With their head with a cartilaginous capsule, which functions as a skull, and they have eyes like vertebrates. With a highly developed psyche with double memory, while we have only one.

Obviously, it will not be tomorrow that they would leave the sea to enter the interior of the continent. They would need millions of years of evolution. But they already have a biological basis to make a leap towards consciousness. In any case, we are urged to choose: the human being and his future or the mollusks.

Q: In the choice of the future is there a decision of current, daily, immediate practice?

LB: Yes. It is important right now to show love for life in its majestic diversity, have compassion for all those who suffer, quickly realize the necessary social justice and love the Great Mother Earth. Let's fast forward because we don't have much time to waste. For this, the four “r's” would have to be radically brought together: reduce, reuse, recycle and re-tree. This way we would adapt to changes and reduce the current harmful effects.

I bet on optimism. In the same way that man domesticated other means of destruction, the first of which was fire, so now he will domesticate the means that can destroy it. Here, for example, it would be possible to analyze the possibilities given by nanotechnology (which works with atoms, genes and molecules) that can, eventually, offer technical means to reduce global warming and purify the biosphere of greenhouse gases.

However, we must think about these questions in terms of quantum physics and the new cosmology. Evolution is not linear. Build up energy and jump. This is also suggested to us by the theories of Niels Bohr and Werner Haisenberg: hidden virtues can emerge, coming from the quantum vacuum, from that indecipherable ocean of energy that underlies the universe and thus modify the line of evolution.

The bet on another world

Q: Apart from fatalistic omens and dramatic realism, what is Leonardo Boff's deep conviction about the future of the human species?

LB: I am opposed to the idea that our destiny, after millions of years of evolution, ends like this, miserably, in the next generations. There will be a leap, who knows, in the direction of what Pierre Theilhard de Chardin announced already in 1933: the irruption of the noosphere, that is, that state of consciousness and relationship with nature that will inaugurate a new convergence of minds and hearts as well. as a new level of human evolution and the history of the earth.

In that perspective, the current scenario would not be a tragedy but a crisis. The crisis regenerates, purifies and matures. It announces a new beginning, a pain and a promising delivery and not the pains of an end to the human adventure. We are still going to shine.
And perhaps, in closing, it is important to say that the world will not end, but this kind of foolish world that loves war and mass destruction can end. We are going to inaugurate a human world that loves life, desecrates violence, protects and has mercy on all beings, does true justice and allows us to be on the Mount of Beatitudes. Or simply that he will have learned to treat all human beings humanely, with care, respect, compassion for all other beings. Everything that exists deserves to exist. Everything that lives deserves to live. Especially us human beings.

* E-CHANGER collaboration, a Swiss NGO for solidarity cooperation of which Leonardo Boff is an honorary member and a signatory of its Charter of Principles

The end of the species

On the fatalistic rhetoric of the end of the world, Leonardo Boff reflects: “It is not the first time that human beings ask themselves the question of the end of the species. Whenever a culture goes into crisis, like ours, myths about the end of the world and the destruction of the species arise. Pathetic stories appear ... In the New Testament this genre gained body in the Apocalypse and in some passages of the Gospels that place predictions of the end of the world in the mouth of Jesus.
Today a vast esoteric literature proliferates that uses different codes as communications with extraterrestrials. But the message is the same: the end is imminent and you have to be prepared.
It is important not to be invaded by that type of message. This is a time of crisis message and not an advance report of what is going to happen. However, there is a difference between the ancients and today. For the ancients the end of the world was in their imagination and it did not exist as a really possible process. For us it is a real process, because we have in fact created the principle of self-destruction ”. (Sergio Ferrari)

Leonardo Boff

He was born in Concordia, Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, on December 14, 1938. In 1970 he graduated as a Doctor of Theology and Philosophy at the University of Munich, Germany. For years he served as a professor at various Brazilian universities. As well as visiting professor at the universities of Lisbon (Portugal), Salamanca (Spain), Basel (Switzerland) and Heidelberg (Germany). He is the author of more than 60 books, many of which have been translated into various languages.
He was one of the founding "fathers" of Liberation Theology. This earned him a first sanction from the Roman Catholic authorities in 1985. Faced with a new threat of sanction by the Vatican, Leonardo Boff resigned from his priestly activities in 1992 and proclaimed himself to the secular state.
At present, he continues his theological contributions, with a particular accent on ecological issues. He is an advisor to the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) and the Ecclesial Base Communities (CEBs) of Brazil. (Sergio Ferrari)

Video: Interview with Liberation Theology pioneer, Leonardo Boff (July 2021).