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Leonardo Boff at the Copenhagen Climate Conference - Interview

Leonardo Boff at the Copenhagen Climate Conference - Interview


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By Sergio Ferrari

The FAO (UN Food Organization) has warned that in the coming years there will be between 150 and 200 million climate refugees. That is the new paradigm of civilization.


Leonardo Boff at the Copenhagen Climate Conference

"The Earth can't take it anymore"

* Three crises in one: sustainability, social and climate
* The drama of eco-myopia
* The current chaos is creative and generative
* Only international civil society can save the planet

Interview with Leonardo Boff

Sergio Ferrari

The environmental crisis comes to the fore in the media ahead of the Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, to be held next December. Prospects are not optimistic due to lack of prior consensus to reach a final agreement. "Despite the gloomy prognoses, I am confident that hope will conquer fear and that life is stronger than death," assures Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff as he began this exclusive interview during his recent visit to Switzerland. Boff, one of the founding fathers of liberation theology, received the Doctorate Honoris Causa from the University of Neuchâtel on November 7. Previously, the same week, he animated a public debate organized by the solidarity cooperation NGO E-CHANGER, and Misión de Belém Immensee at the Romero Solidarity House (RomeroHaus) in Lucerne where 200 people participated.

Q: Today everyone talks about the ecological problems that the planet is experiencing. You were one of the first, already in the eighties, to raise awareness about this issue. What is your analysis of the current environmental situation?

Leonardo Boff: There are many scientific indicators that point to the outbreak of an ecological and humanitarian tragedy. Nothing essential has changed since the drafting of the Earth Charter in 2003, which we produced by a group of personalities from around the world. We said in that wonderful document: “We are at a critical moment on Earth in which humanity must choose its future. And the choice is this: either a global alliance is promoted to care for others and the Earth or we risk our destruction and the devastation of the diversity of life ”.

"It consumes more than the Earth supports"

Q: A blunt statement that does not accept middle terms. How is it supported?

Boff: At the current confluence of three structural crises. The crisis due to the lack of sustainability of planet Earth; the world social crisis; and the growing warming crisis.

Q: Can you exemplify that statement?

Boff: At the social level, almost half of humanity today lives below the level of misery. The figures are terrifying. The richest 20% consume 82.49% of all the wealth on Earth and the poorest 20% have to be content with a tiny 1.6%.

As for global warming, the FAO (UN Food Organization) has warned that in the coming years there will be between 150 and 200 million climate refugees. Regarding the sustainability crisis, I give an illustrative example: humanity is today consuming 30% more than replacement capacity. That is, 30% more than the Earth itself can replace.


Q: However, this consumerist trend on the planet is not new ...

Boff: No. But what is new is the accelerating levels of that deterioration. According to studies of all credit, in 1961 we needed half of the Earth to respond to human demands. In 1981 there was a draw, that is, we already needed the entire Earth. In 1995, we exceeded replacement capacity by 10%, although it was still bearable. In 2008, we exceeded 30%. The Earth is giving unmistakable signals that it can't take it anymore.

"In some years two Earths would be needed"

Q: With future prospects even more worrying?

Boff: If the growth of the world Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is maintained between 2-3% per year, as expected, in 2050 we would need two planets Earth to respond to consumption, which is impossible because we have only one.

Q: Does that force you to start thinking about another paradigm of civilization?

Boff: Indeed. We cannot produce as we have been doing so far. The current production model, the capitalist one, starts from the false assumption that the land is like a large trunk from which resources can be drawn indefinitely to obtain benefits with the least possible investment in the shortest time. Today it is clear that the Earth is a small, old and limited planet that does not support unlimited exploitation. That is the new paradigm of civilization.

Copenhagen: the influence of economic power

Q: To go back to today and here… In a few weeks the Climate Conference will take place in Copenhagen. Are there prospects for an agreement?

Boff: There is a key premise. We must do everything possible to stabilize the climate by preventing the global warming from being greater than 2 or 3 degrees and that life can continue. Understanding that this warming would already imply a devastation of biodiversity and the holocaust of millions of people, whose territories will no longer be habitable, especially in Africa and Southeast Asia. In this scenario, I am concerned about the irresponsibility of many governments, especially rich countries, who do not want to set consistent goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save the climate. A true ecomiopia!

Q: Does that come from a lack of political will to reach agreements?

Boff: Especially a conflict of interest. Big companies, for example the oil companies, do not want to change because they would lose their enormous current profits. One must understand the interdependence of political and economic power. The great power is economic. The political is a derivation of the economic. The States, in many cases, do not represent the interests of the peoples but of the great economic actors.

Q: In the event of a Copenhagen failure, what would the downstream scenario be in terms of the already dire climate situation?

Boff: In my understanding, if there is political frustration, that can be a huge challenge for civil society. To mobilize, press and promote the changes that always come from below. I trust in that: reason, prudence, wisdom will come from civil society. It will also be the main historical subject in terms of climate. No real change comes from above, but from below.

And despite the difficulties of the present, I am confident that it is not a tragedy that will end badly but rather a crisis that purifies and allows us to take a leap in the direction of a better future.

Q: With a common program to save the Earth?

Boff: Promoting a bio-civilization that should promote four essential axes. The sustainable, responsible and supportive use of the limited resources and services of nature. Democratic control of social relations, especially over the markets and speculative capital. A minimum global ethos that must be born from multicultural exchange, emphasizing compassion, cooperation and universal responsibility. And spirituality, as an anthropological dimension and not as a monopoly of religions. It must develop as an expression of a consciousness that feels part of a greater Whole, that perceives a powerful Energy and that represents the supreme meaning of everything.

Sergio Ferrari, from the UN / Geneva, Switzerland - Press collaboration of E-CHANGER, Swiss NGO for solidarity cooperation

Commitment life

Leonardo Boff was born in Concordia, Brazilian state of Santa Catarina.

In December 2008 he turned 70 (he was born on December 14, 1938).

On that occasion the book was published in Switzerland: "Leonardo Boff: Advocate for the Poor", in homage to his pastoral work and accompaniment of popular and social movements in Latin America. And in recognition of his literary production. He has written 82 books so far, many of them translated into dozens of languages.

In the 1970s, he was one of the founding "fathers" of Liberation Theology. Which earned him a first sanction from the Vatican in 1985. Faced with a new threat of sanction, Boff resigned from his priestly activities in 1992 and proclaimed himself to the secular state.

In addition to the Doctorate Honoris Causa that he received in November of this year from the University of Neuchâtel, he obtained the same honorary degree, among others, from the universities of Lund (Sweden); London (Great Britain); Turin (Italy) and San Leopoldo (Brazil).

In December 2001 he received the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to the fight for the defense of the climate and his social commitment.

At present, he continues his theological contributions, with a particular accent on ecological issues. He is an advisor to the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) and the Ecclesial Base Communities (CEBs) of Brazil.


Video: Coming together to tackle climate change: COP26 (May 2022).