Photo: Leonardo Boff. Credit: - Photo: 2018

The Earth’s Future Will Not Come from Heaven

Viewpoint by Leonardo Boff

The author is a Brazilian liberation theologian, author and campaigner for the rights of the poor and disadvantaged. He is a professor of theology, ethics and philosophy at universities all over the world and a member of the Earth Charter Commission. This article is a slightly modified version of an article that first appeared in Other News.

RIO DE JANEIRO (IDN) – Most readers will find it difficult to accept what I am going to express here. Even though it is based on the best scientific minds that have been studying the universe, for almost a century the situation of planet Earth and her eventual collapse – or qualitative leap to another level of reality – has not penetrated into either the collective consciousness or the major academic centres.

The old atomic, mechanistic and deterministic paradigm that arose in the 16th century with Newton, Francis Bacon and Kepler, continues in force, as if Einstein, Hubble, Planck, Heisenberg, Reeves, Hawking, Prigogine, Wilson, Swimme, Lovelock, Capra or so many others who have elaborated a new vision of the Universe and of the Earth had never existed.

For starters, I quote Christian de Duve, 1974 Biology Nobel Laureate, who wrote Vital Dust: Life as a Cosmic Imperative, one of the best books about the history of life: “Biological evolution moves with an accelerated rhythm towards grave instability. Our time reminds us of the important ruptures in evolution, marked by massive extinctions.”

This time it will not come from a massive meteor that eliminates almost all life, as in past eras, but from the human being itself, who can be not only suicidal and homicidal, but also ecocidal, biocidal and even geocidal. The human being can put an end to most life on our planet, leaving only underground microorganisms; bacteria, fungi and viruses that number quadrillions of quadrillions.

Given this threat, which is the result of the death machine created by the irrationality of modernity, the term “anthropocentric” was introduced to refer to the present as a new geological era, in which the greatest threat of devastation comes from humanity itself (anthropos). The human being has intervened and continues to intervene in the rhythms of nature and Earth in a profound manner, affecting the very ecological basis that supports us.

According to biologists Wilson and Ehrlich, between 70 to 100 thousand species of living beings will disappear annually, due to the hostile relationship that the human being maintains with nature. The consequence is clear: the extreme events we are witnessing irrefutably show that the Earth has lost her equilibrium. Only the ignorant, such as [US President] Donald Trump, deny the empirical evidence.

On the contrary, well known cosmologist Brian Swimme, who coordinates a dozen scientists in California studying the history of the Universe, struggles to offer a saving path out. We should note in passing that Swimme and cultural anthropologist Thomas Berry, published a history of the universe, based on the best scientific data, from the Big Bang to the present (The Universe Story”). The authors created the concept of the “Ecozoic era”, or “ecocene”, a fourth biological era that follows the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and our Neozoic eras.

The Ecozoic era starts with a vision of the universe as cosmogenic. Permanence is not its hallmark, but evolution, expansion and auto-creation of ever more complex “emergences”, thus allowing for the birth of new galaxies, new stars and forms of life on Earth, including our conscious and spiritual life.

The authors are not afraid of the word “spiritual” because they understand that the spirit is part of the Universe itself, always present, which in an advanced phase of evolution has become self aware, where we see ourselves as part of the Whole.

This Ecozoic era represents a restoration of the planet through a relationship of caring, respect and reverence towards the magnificent gift of the living Earth. The economy should not seek accumulation, but what is enough for everyone, so that the Earth may replace her nutrients. The future of the Earth does not come from heaven, but from the decisions we take to remain in consonance with the rhythms of nature and the Universe.

According to Swimme, the future will be decided either by those who are committed to the Technozoic – a future of increasing exploitation of the Earth as a resource, all for the benefit of humans – or by those committed to the Ecozoic, a new mode of relating with the Earth, where the well-being of the Earth and the entire community of terrestrial life is the principal interest.

If the Ecozoic does not triumph, we will probably experience a catastrophe, this time produced by the Earth herself, to liberate herself from one of her creatures that has violently occupied everything, threatening all other species, species that, because they have the same origins and the same genetic building blocks, are her brothers and sisters, which is not acknowledged, resulting in their abuse, and even murder.

We must deserve our survival on this planet … but that depends on having an amicable relationship with nature and life; and on a profound transformation of our forms of living. Swimme adds: “We will be unable to live without the special intuition (insight) that women have had in all phases of human existence.”

This is the crossroads of our time: either change or disappear. But, who believes it?  We will continue to raise our voices high. [IDN-InDepthNews – 20 January 2018]

Photo: Leonardo Boff. Credit:

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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