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What is the crux of the ecological question? (II)


In the previous article of the same title, we dealt with the objective aspect of the ecological question, trying to rise above mere environmentalism with a new vision of the planet, nature, and the human being as the thinking portion of the Earth.

But that view is insufficient if not complemented with a subjective vision, one that deals with the mental structures and habits of human beings. It is not enough to see and think differently. We cannot just change the world. But we can always start to change the part of the world that is each of us. And if the majority adopted this process, it would provide the necessary quantum leap towards a new paradigm for inhabiting the only Common Home we have.

The Earthcharter inspires us. I had the honor of participating in its drafting, under the coordination of Mikhail Gorbachev, among others. Dissatisfied with the final results of Rio+20, a group, including heads of State, decided to undertake a consultation with the bases of humanity, in order to lift up the principles and values that look towards a new relationship with the Earth, and our coexistence on her. I will quote the final part of The Earthcharter that sums it up:

«As never before in history, the common destiny invites us to search for a new beginning… This calls for a change of mind and heart. It requires a new feeling of global interdependency and universal responsibility. As the Earthcharter concludes, “we must develop and apply imaginatively the perspective of a model of sustainable living at the local, regional, national and global levels.”» (n. 16 f).

Note that it is about a new beginning and not just some reform or a simple modification. Two dimensions are essential: a change of mind and of heart. The change of mind was addressed in the previous article: the new systemic vision, involving Earth and humanity as a unique entity. One could also include the entire universe in a cosmogenic process within which we move and of which we are a product.

We can now deepen, if succinctly, this change of heart. To me, this is one of the essential keys to the ecological problem that must be solved if we really want to make the great journey towards a new paradigm.

It is about exploring the rights of the heart. In scientific-philosophic language, it is important to incorporate, along with rational and instrumental intelligence, the cordial or sensible intelligence (see Muniz Sodre, Adela Cortina, Michel Maffesoli).

Our entire modern culture has accentuated the rational intelligence to the point of making it irrational, by creating the instruments of our own destruction, and the devastation of our Earth-system. This exacerbation has defamed and repressed the sensible intelligence under the pretext that it hindered the objectivity of reason. Thanks to the new epistemology and principally quantum physic, we now know that all knowledge, no matter how objective, is impregnated with emotion and interests.

The sensible and cordial intelligence that resides in the limbic brain began more than 200 million years ago, when the mammals flourished. It is the site of emotions, feelings, love, caring, values, and their opposites. Our most profound reality (the reptile brain, from 313 million years ago, existed previously), is affection, caring, love or hate, the basic feelings of life. The neo-cortex, site of intellectual reason, began to form about 5 million years ago. It was perfected as homo sapiens some 200,000 years ago, culminatjng as homo sapiens sapiens, endowed with full rational intelligence, only 100,000 years ago. Therefore, we are fundamentally beings of emotions and affections, the basis of all psychoanalytic discourse.

We must enrich intellectual and instrumental intelligence, which we cannot do without, if we want to explain humanity’s problems. But this intelligence alone can transform itself into a fundamentalism of reason, which is madness, capable of creating the Islamic State that beheads all those who are different, or the shoah, the so-called final solution for the Jews. Philosopher Patrick Viveret says: «We can only use the positive side of modern rationality if we use it in combination with the sensibility of the heart» (For a happy sobriety, 2012, 41).

Without the union of reason and the heart we will never be moved to truly love Mother Earth, to recognize and respect the intrinsic value of every being and to be compelled to save our civilization. Pope Francis put it well: our civilization is cynical because it has lost the capacity to feel the pain of the other. Our civilization no longer knows how to cry when faced with the tragedy of thousands of refugees.

The central category of this vision is caring as ethics and a humanistic culture. If we do not take care of life, the Earth, and ourselves, all of which are ill, we will end up neither guaranteeing sustainability nor rescuing what E. Wilson calls, biofilia, the love for life. All that we care for we also love. All that we love we also care for.

To me, the nucleus of the instrumental, analytical, reason that techno-science gave us, with its benefits and threats, must be complemented by the essential cordial and sensible reason. Together they form the crux of an integral ecology.

Then we will be fully human. We will sense ourselves as that part of nature, and truly of the Earth herself, that thinks, loves and cares. Then we could believe and hope that we can be saved, without needing to believe like Martin Heidegger, that «only a God can save us». Yes. We can.

Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro,,

One Comment leave one →
  1. joseseverianoneto permalink
    26/12/2014 20:26

    Caro LB

    Figuei muito contente por esta notícia : “O papa Francisco consultou o teólogo e escritor brasileiro Leonardo Boff para escrever sua nova encíclica, a qual terá o meio ambiente como tema principal.

    Segundo a ANSA apurou, Boff esteve entre os especialistas contatados durante a idealização e a gestão da exortação apostólica, a primeiro com autoria exclusiva de Jorge Mario Bergoglio.”, nada mais do que merecido, sei que sois capaz (apesar de termos algumas divergências, quanto à questão ecológica). Creio que terás uma oportunidade de ouro de levar ao papa a voz e os pensamentos de todos, pois sois muito aberto quanto a isso e consequentemente a todos que de alguma maneira venham a acompanhar este trabalho.
    Se me permitir (não sei se você sabe que participo de um grupo fechado no qual o homenageado é Stephen Hawking), gostaria de postar aqui um texto que escrevi para o grupo, mais como uma mensagem de fim de ano :
    As a participant of this group I feel myself very honnored, and I love it indeed, at the same time I would like to let here a message to anybody who wants to read it. We as human beings are still using diappers, we are still in the childhood of civiIization, we are acquiring, more and more, knowledge, creating new technologies, but instead of that we are forgeting that we must be more wiser.
    Stephen Hawkings in his interview where he shows his fear of AI, he is right, and I endorse each single word he says. We must, or have the obligation to do and practice “good science”.
    But there is a technology he forgot that may mean the oppening from the “Pandora´s box”, nanotechnology ? Why nanotechnology worries me more that AI, it may mean our doom, for its use or misuse, just think. We just don´t have to go further, Flemming who discovered penicilin, for example, gave a step to what seemed, at the time, the solution to several diseases, and it worked well, for a time. But by the misuse of his discovery, today we are having serious problems, as everybody knows. The same can happen with nanotechnology, it may fire deaper problems, including the extinction from any bio-system. So we must be wiser and start to walk up on ours feet and at least do “good science”. Science and technology are nothing without “Philosophy” and “Humanism”.
    We are in the 21st century, but still we report our thoughts, or the way we think, to hundreds and even thousands years ago. From the last century to this, we, certainlly didn´t had new philosophers, enough great to fight shoulders to shoulders with those at hundreds or thousands years ago. I know that we had several persons that tried to do this, they didn´t fail, but they didn´t change ours paradigms of thought.
    Finally, I would like and love to see the day our “humanity” will overcome our “technology”, then I tell you, we are going to start, really, to grow. So we must do the difference !!!

    Não preciso dizer mais nada, acho que o texto espelha o que penso.


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