Home Science Self-restraint: an ecological virtue to save the planet

Self-restraint: an ecological virtue to save the planet

Self-restraint: an ecological virtue to save the planet

The fear caused by the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hirosima and Nagasaki in 1945 was so devastating that it changed the state of humanity’s consciousness. The prospect of mass destruction was introduced and later reinforced by the production of chemical and biological weapons that can threaten the biosphere and the future of the human species.

Previously, humans could wage conventional wars, explore natural resources, cut down forests, throw garbage into rivers and gases into the atmosphere, and this did not result in major environmental changes. A clear conscience assured us that the earth was inexhaustible and invulnerable and that life would remain the same forever.

This budget no longer exists. We are becoming more and more aware of what the Earth Charter testifies:

«We are facing a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must decide its future: either form a global alliance to care for the Earth and each other, or risk the destruction of ourselves and others. The biodiversity of life».

This document, already adopted by UNESCO, represents humanity’s new planetary, ethical and ecological perspective. The facts that support the alarm are irrefutable: we have only this one common house in which to live; Its resources are limited, many of which are non-renewable; Fresh water is nature’s scarcest resource (only 0.7% can be used by humans); The days of fossil energy, the engine of modern development, are numbered; and population growth is threatening. We have already exceeded the endurance and renewal capacity of the biosphere by 20%.

In order to generalize the type of development that prevails today for all humanity, three more planets equivalent to ours would be required. The vast majority of people don’t think about it because they find it unbearable to grapple with the idea of ​​limits or eventual collective catastrophe, which is possible even in our generation.

Self-restraint in the face of a consumer culture

If these problems are serious, there is an even bigger one: the logic of the global production system and the consumer culture it creates. The system says: We must produce more and more without setting limits to growth so that we can consume more and more without setting limits to the supply basket. The immediate consequence of this option is a double injustice: an ecological injustice due to the overexploitation of nature and a social injustice due to the creation of inequalities between those who eat their fill and those who eat inadequately and end up marginalized and excluded .

If we want to guarantee a common future for the Earth and humanity, two virtues are imposed: self-restraint and fair measure, both expressions of the culture of care. But how can we demand these virtues when the entire system is based on their rejection? Well, despite everything, there is no other way out this time: either we change and move towards caring, we limit our greed by living the right mode in all things, or we will fall victim to a collective tragedy.

Self-restraint is a necessary sacrifice that protects the planet, protects collective interests, and establishes a culture of voluntary simplicity. It is not about not consuming, but rather consuming responsibly and in solidarity with the living beings of today and those who will come after us. They also have the right to the earth and a quality life.

By Leonardo Boff

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