To human aggression, the Earth responds with flowers
Besides being at the center of a crisis of planetary proportions, we are now confronting an irreversible process. The Earth will never again be the same. Her physical-chemical-ecological base has been transformed in such a profound way that she has lost her internal equilibrium. She has entered into a chaotic process, this is, she has lost her sustainability, affecting the continuation of what she had been doing for millennia: producing and reproducing life.
All chaos has two sides: one destructive and the other creative. The destructive side is the dismantling of a kind of equilibrium, resulting in the erosion of some of the biodiversity and, in the end, of the human species, caused either by its incapacity to adapt to the new situation or its inability to mitigate its lethal effects. At the end of that process of purification, the chaos will start to show its generative face. It will create new orders, stabilize climates, and allow the surviving human beings to build a new type of civilization.
The history of the Earth shows us that she has experienced about fifteen great destructions, such as the Cambrian, 480 million years ago, that destroyed 80-90% of the species. But since she is a generous mother, the Earth slowly rebuilt the diversity of life.
Today, a large majority of the scientific community alerts us to the eventual collapse of the life-system, that could threaten the very future of the human species. We all can perceive the changes that are occurring before our eyes. Great extremes occur: on one side, prolonged summers associated with great water shortages that affect the ecosystems and society as a whole, as is happening in South East Brazil. In other parts of the planet, such as the United States, there are extreme winters, such as had not been seen for decades, or even hundreds of years.
The fact is that we have reached the physical limits of planet Earth. As we push those limits, as is caused by our productivity and consumerist voracity, the Earth responds with hurricanes, tsunamis, devastating floods, earthquakes and an irreversible rise in global warming. If we increase temperature by two degrees centigrade, the situation could still be manageable. But if we do not do what we must, drastically decreasing the emission of greenhouse gasses, and do not re-orient our relationship with nature towards a collective self-restraint, and respect for the limits of endurance of each ecosystem, then a rise of from four to six degrees centigrade is likely. Then we will experience the “tribulation of the desolation”, to use a Biblical expression, and a great part of the forms of life that we know, including portions of humanity, will not be able to subsist.
On January 15, 2015, the well known magazine Science published Planetary Boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing Planet, a work on planetary limits by 18 scientists. These scientists identified nine dimensions that fundamentally challenge the continuity of life and our attempt at civilization. It is worth mentioning them: (1) climate change; (2) changes in the integrity of the biosphere, with the erosion of the bio-diversity and accelerated extinction of species; (3) reduction in the stratospheric ozone layer that protects us from the lethal rays of the sun; (4) the increased acidification of the oceans; (5) the disruption of the bio-geo-chemical flows (the cycles of phosphorous and nitrogen, fundamental for life); (6) such changes in soil usage as the increasing deforestation and desertification; (7) the threatened scarcity of drinking water; (8) the concentration of aerosols in the atmosphere (microscopic particles that affect climate and living beings); and (9) the introduction of synthetic chemical agents, radioactive materials and nano-materials that threaten life.
Of these nine dimensions, the first four have already exceeded their limits, and the others are in an elevated state of degeneration. This systematic war on Gaia can lead her to collapse, such as occurs with people.
And in spite of this dramatic scene, I look around and see, entranced, the forest filled with cuaresmeiras, violet lent trees, yellow casias, and, by the corner of my home, flowering amaryllis belladonnas, toucans on the trees outside my window, and the araras that nest bellow the roof.
Then I realize that Earth really is a generous mother: to our aggressions, she still smiles with flora and fauna. And she gives us hope that it is not the apocalypse, but a new Genesis, that is coming. The Earth will survive. As the Judeo-Christian scriptures assure us: “God is the sovereign lover of life (Sab 11,26). And God will not permit the disappearance of the life that so painfully overcame chaos.
Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia, http://www.servicioskoinonia.org.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.