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Challenges of the Great Transformation (II)


In the previous article we analyzed the challenges brought us by the transformation of the market economy to a market society, with its accompanying twin injustices: social and ecological. We will expand now on its impact on the ecological field, considered in its broader environmental, social, mental and physical meaning.

We observe a singular fact: to the degree that the damage to nature grows, affecting ever more societies and the quality of life, there simultaneously grows an awareness that 90% of these injuries are attributable to the irresponsible and irrational activity of human beings, more specifically, of the elite economic, political, cultural and media forces that have organized themselves into great multilateral corporations and have taken unto themselves the destiny of the world. It is urgent that we do something to interrupt their path to the precipice. As the Earthcharter warns: «either we create a global alliance to care for the Earth and for one another, or we could be enabling the destruction of our species and the diversity of life» (Introduction).

The ecological question, especially after the 1972 Report of the Club of Rome, titled The Limits of Growth, has become a central theme of politics, and of the concerns of the world scientific community and the groups that are more aware of and concerned with our common future.

The focus of the question moved from sustainable growth/development (impossible in the free market economy), to the sustainability of all life. First we must guarantee the sustainability of planet Earth, of her eco-systems, and the natural conditions that make possible the continuity of life. Only when these conditions are guaranteed is it possible to talk of sustainable societies and sustainable development, or of any other activity that may be subsumed by this characterization.

The vision of the astronauts reinforced this new consciousness. From their spacecrafts or the Moon, they realized that the Earth and humanity form a single entity. They are neither separate nor parallel realities. Humanity is an expression of the Earth, of that aspect that is conscious, intelligent, and responsible for conserving the conditions that continuously produce and reproduce life. In the name of this awareness and urgency arose the responsibility principle (Hans Jonas), the caring principle, (Boff and others), the sustainability principle, (Brundtland Report), the principle of interdependence-cooperation (Heisenberg/Wilson/Swimme), the prevention/precaution principle, (1992 Charter of Rio de Janeiro of the UNO), the compassion principle, (Schopenhauer/Dalai Lama), and the Earth principle (Lovelock and Evo Morales).

The ecological reflection has turned out to be very complex. It cannot be reduced merely to the preservation of the environment. The entire world-system is at risk. Thus an environmental ecology has arisen, whose main goal is the quality of life; a social ecology that searches for a sustainable form of living (production, distribution, consumerism and the treatment of waste); a mental ecology that proposes to criticize prejudices and world visions that are hostile to life, and to formulate a new design for civilization, based on principles and values, for a new way of inhabiting the Common House; and finally, an integral ecology that understands that the Earth is part of an evolving universe, and that we must live in harmony with the Whole; unitary, complex and filled with purpose.

Thus a theoretical framework has been created, one capable of guiding thought and practices friendly to life. It became evident that, more than a technique for handling scarce goods and services, ecology is an art, a new form of relating with nature and the Earth, and the discovery of the mission of the human being in the cosmological process and in the collection of beings: to care for and to preserve.

Throughout the world there have appeared movements, institutions, organisms, NGOs, centers of investigation, each with its singular focus: some are concerned with the forests, others with the oceans, with the preservation of bio-diversity, endangered species, the hugely diverse ecosystems, the water, the soil, or of the seeds and organic production. Of all these movements, Greenpeace deserves mention, for its persistence and the courage to confront, with all the risks, those who threaten life and the equilibrium of Mother Earth.

The UN itself has created a series of institutions whose objectives include monitoring the situation of the Earth. The principal ones are the United Nations Environment Program, UNEP, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO, the World Health Organization, WHO, the Convention on Bio-Diversity, CBD, and especially the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPPC, among others.

This Great Transformation of consciousness has embarked on a complicated journey, one that is necessary to create a new paradigm, capable of transforming the eventual ecological-social tragedy into a crisis of passage that will enable a qualitative leap towards a higher level of a friendly, harmonious, and cooperative relationship between the Earth and humanity. If we do not undertake this task, the common future will be threatened.

Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia,

One Comment leave one →
  1. Sam permalink
    20/08/2014 12:32

    Mr. Boff, where does the Sumak Kawsay fit within this Great Transformation?


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