(Source: Leonardo Boff, Brazilian ecotheologian; translation: Novena)

Since the two atomic bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, humanity has created for itself a nightmare from which it has been unable to free itself. Humanity has become a reality that threatens life on this planet and the destruction of much of the life-system. Far more destructive nuclear, chemical and biological weapons have been created that can wipe out our civilisation and profoundly affect the living Earth.

Even worse, we have designed autonomous artificial intelligence. With its algorithm that combines billions of pieces of information collected in every country, it can make decisions without our knowledge. In a demented combination, eventually it will be able to penetrate the arsenals of nuclear weapons or others of equal or greater lethal power and launch a total war of destruction on everything that exists, including itself. This is the principle of self-destruction.

That is, it is in the hands of human beings to put an end to the visible life that we know (which is only 5% of all life; 95% of all life forms are invisible and microscopic).

We must dominate death. It could happen at any time.

An expression has already been created to name this new phase of human history, a true geological era: the anthropocene, that is, the human being as the great threat to the life-system and to the Earth-system.

The human being is the great Satan of the Earth, who can decimate, like an antichrist, himself and others, his fellow humans, and liquidate the foundations that sustain life.

The intensity of this lethal process is so great that we are already talking about the age of the necrocene, that is, the age of the mass production of death.

We are already within the sixth mass extinction. Now it has accelerated irrevocably, given mankind’s will to dominate nature and its mechanisms of direct aggression against life and Gaia, the living Earth, in search of an unlimited growth, of an absurd accumulation of material goods to the point of overloading the Earth.

In other words, we have reached a point where the Earth cannot replace the natural goods and services that were extracted from it and begins to show an advanced process of degeneration through tsunamis, typhoons, thawing of the polar caps and permafrost, prolonged droughts, frightening snowstorms and the emergence of bacteria and viruses that are difficult to control. Some of these, like today’s coronavirus, can lead to the death of millions of people.

Such events are reactions from – and maybe retaliation by – the Earth to the war we wage against it on all its fronts.

The mass murder is occurring in nature, with thousands of living species disappearing permanently each year, and in human societies, where millions suffer hunger, thirst and all manner of deadly diseases.

There is a growing general perception that the situation of humanity is not sustainable. If this perverse logic continues, we will build a path that leads to our own graves.

Let us give an example: in Brazil we live under the dictatorship of the ultra-neoliberal economy, with extreme right-wing policies that are violent and cruel to the great poor majorities. Bewildered, we have seen the evils that have been done, nullifying the rights of the workers and internationalising the national wealth that sustains our sovereignty as a people.

Those who, in 2016, carried out the coup d’état against President Dilma Rousseff accepted the re-colonisation of the country, now converted into a vassal of the dominant power, the United States, and condemned to be only an exporter of commodities and a minor and subordinate ally of the imperialist project.

What is being done in Europe against the refugees, rejecting their presence in Italy and England and even worse in Hungary and in very Catholic Poland, reaches levels of inhumanity of great cruelty.

The measures of the President of the United States, Trump, taking away the children of immigrant parents and placing them in cages are a show of barbarism and reflect the absence of any sense of humanity.

It has already been said, “No human being is an island… never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for you, me, for all of humankind”. If great is the darkness that overcomes our spirits, even greater are our desires for light. Let us not let the aforementioned dementia have the last word.

The greatest and last word that cries out in us and unites us with all of humanity is that of solidarity and compassion for the victims, that of peace and good sense in relations between peoples.

Tragedies show us the extent of the inhumanity of which we are capable, but they also allow the truly human in us to emerge, beyond the differences of ethnicity, ideology and religion.

The human in us makes us care for each other together, show solidarity for each other together, cry together, wipe our tears together, pray together, seek together for world social justice, build peace together and renounce together revenge and all kinds of violence and war.

The wisdom of the peoples and the voices of our hearts confirm this: it is not the State that has become a terrorist, like the United States under President Bush, that which will defeat terrorism. Nor is it the hatred of Latino immigrants, spread by Trump, that which will bring peace. Tireless dialogue, open negotiation and fair dealings will eliminate the basis for any terrorism and found peace.

The tragedies that have struck us in the depths of our hearts, particularly the viral pandemic that has affected the entire planet, invite us to rethink the foundations of human coexistence in this new planetary phase and how to care for the Common Home, the Earth, as Pope Francis asks in his encyclical on integral ecology “on the care of the Common Home” (2015).

Time is running out. And this time there’s no ‘Plan B’ that can save us. We all have to save each one of us, for we form an Earth-Humanity community of destiny.

For that we need to abolish the word enemy. Fear creates enemies. We exorcise fear when we turn the far-away one into our neighbour, and our neighbour into a brother and sister.

We drive away fear and the enemy when we begin to dialogue, to get to know each other, to accept each other, to respect each other, to love each other, in a word, to care for each other.

To take care of our ways of living together in peace, solidarity and justice; to take care of our environment so that it is a complete environment, without destroying the habitats of the viruses that come from animals or the arboviruses that are found in the forests; an environment in which it is possible to recognise the intrinsic value of each being; to take care of our dear and generous Mother Earth.

If we care for each other as brothers and sisters, the causes of fear disappear. No one needs to threaten anyone. We can walk our streets at night without fear of being robbed and assaulted. This care will only be effective if it is accompanied by the justice necessary to satisfy the needs of the most vulnerable; if the State is present with health measures (the important thing was the SUS in the face of COVID-19), with schools, with security and with spaces of coexistence, culture and leisure.

Only in this way will we enjoy a peace that can only be reached when there is a minimum of general good will and a sense of solidarity and benevolence in human relations. This is the unwavering desire of most humans.

This is the lesson that the intrusion of COVID-19 into our lives is giving us and that we have to incorporate into our habits in post-coronavirus times.

More by Boff, on Novena:

Ecotheologian Boff: “Capitalism, the Satan of the Earth, is destroying the planet”

Ecotheologian Boff: “Today humanity’s greatest problem isn’t economic, political, cultural or religious, but a lack of solidarity”

Theologian Boff: “With Laudato si’, Pope Francis placed himself at the cutting edge of world ecology”

Ecotheologian Boff: “Capitalism is leading humanity to a fatal dead end”

Ecotheologian Boff: “If what prevailed before COVID-19 prevails again, we should prepare for the worst”

Liberation theologian Boff, on COVID-19: “To return to ‘business as usual’ could mean our self-destruction”


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.