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Ecology Corner

"The Anthopocene: A New Geologic Era"
September 24, 2020

By Leonardo Boff
21 January 2011


The well-known classic crises, as for example the one of 1929, profoundly affected all societies. The present crisis is more radical, because it attacks our modus essendi: the bases of life, and our civilization. Previously, it was assumed that the Earth would always be there, intact and with inexhaustible resources. Now we no longer can count on a healthy Earth with abundant resources. That ended: degraded and experiencing a fever, she no longer supports a trajectory of unlimited progress.

The present crisis lays bare the dominant, and misleading, understanding of history, nature and the Earth, that puts the human being outside of and above nature, with an exceptional mission, namely, to dominate her. We have lost the concept of all the original peoples, that we belong to nature. Today we say that we are part of the solar system, and of our galaxy, that herself is part of the universe. We arose during an immense evolutionary process. Everything is nourished by the background energies and by the four interactions that are always operative: the forces of gravity, electromagnetism, and the weak and strong nuclear forces. Life and consciousness resulted from this process. We the humans represent the conscious and intelligent part of the Milky Way and of Earth itself, not with the mission of dominating, but of caring for her, so as to maintain the ecological conditions that will allow us to carry on with our lives and civilizations.

Those conditions are currently being undermined by the present processes of production and consumption. It is no longer a question of saving our well being, but of saving human life and civilization. If we do not moderate our voracity and enter into a synergetic relationship with nature, it will be difficult to overcome the present situation. Either we replace our erroneous premises with more accurate ones, or we risk self-destruction. Awareness of the danger has not yet reached a collective level.

It is important to recognize a fact of the evolutionary process that perturbs us: great harmony coexists with extreme violence. During her 4,500 thousand million years of existence, the Earth herself has experienced several devastating events. In some of them, she lost almost 90% of her biologic capital, but life always remained, and remade itself with renewed vigor.

The last great devastation, a true environmental Armageddon, happened 67 million years ago when an almost 10 kilometer wide meteor fell in the Caribbean, near the Yucatan, Mexico. It caused a tsunami with waves as high as skyscrapers, and an earthquake that shook the whole planet, activating the majority of its volcanoes. An immense cloud of dust and gasses was sent to the skies, altering the Earth's weather for decades. The dinosaurs, that had reigned sovereign on the Earth for more than one hundred million years, totally disappeared. The Mesozoic era, of the reptiles, came to an end and the Cenozoic era began, the era of the mammals. As if for revenge, the Earth produced a flowering of life as never before. Our primate ancestors arose during this epoch. We are a genus belonging to the class of the mammals.

But, over the last three hundred years, the homo sapiens/demens has carried out a powerful onslaught against all the eco-systemic communities of the planet, exploiting them and channeling a large part of the gross production of the Earth towards human systems of consumption. The result is equivalent to a devastation such as those of yesteryear. Biologist E. Wilson says that humanity is the first species in the history of life on Earth that has become a destructive geophysic force. The extinction rate of species caused by human activity is fifty times greater than before human intervention. With the present acceleration, in the near future --Wilson continues-- we could reach the level of ten thousand times more species exterminated by voracious consumerist process. The present climatic chaos in one of its effects.

The 1995 Nobel Laureate in chemistry, Paul J. Crutzen, from Holland, terrified by the magnitude of the present ecocide, affirmed that we have inaugurated a new geologic era: the Anthropocene. It is the age of great devastations perpetrated by the irrationality of the human being (antropos, in Greek.) Sadly, the adventure of 66 million years of history of the Cenozoic era is ending. A time of darkness has begun.

Source: www.leonardoboff.com
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Melina Alfaro, volar@fibertel.com.ar,