Stories written by Leonardo Boff
Leonardo Boff is a writer and theologian.

Q&A: “This Time There Will Be No Noah’s Ark”

"The market is not going to resolve the environmental crisis," says theologian and environmentalist Leonardo Boff, professor at Brazil's State University of Rio de Janeiro. The solution, he says, lies in ethics and in changing our relationship with nature.

There could be 100 million climate refugees in the next five or seven years, warns Boff. - Daniela Pastrana/IPS

“This Time There Will Be No Noah's Ark”

The collective duty of humanity is to seek a balance with nature. Everyone has to do their part; be more with less. The problem is not money, says Brazilian Leonardo Boff in this exclusive Tierramérica interview.


In a providential first, two of the candidates in Brazil's upcoming presidential elections are women: Marina Silva and Dilma Rousseff. The latter is favoured in the polls to win in the vote, set for October 3. Brazil has never had a female president.


There is no political formulation of the interests of humanity or mother earth that protects their nature and cultures. For centuries we have lived under the jurisdiction of nation states and their assorted forms of sovereignty and autonomy. But as all problems become increasingly global, this political model is proving incapable of offering the solutions needed by humanity and the planet as a whole.


Today there are two fundamentally different ways in which people consider the Earth. For many it is simply a vast material object lacking spirit and bequeathed to the human race to exploit as it wills. For others, it is our home, a self-regulating superorganism with a unique community of life.


Today there are two fundamentally different ways in which people consider the Earth. For many it is simply a vast material object lacking spirit and bequeathed to the human race to exploit as it wills. For others, it is our home, a self-regulating superorganism with a unique community of life.


Since its beginnings in the 1960s, Liberation Theology has adopted a global perspective, focusing on the conditions of the poor and oppressed throughout the world, victims of a system that thrives off the exploitation of labour and the plundering of nature. The system exploits the working class and the weakest nations. It also represses those who oppress and thus violate their own humanitarian impulses. In a word, everyone must be freed from this system that has continued for almost three centuries and has been imposed across the planet.


Given the unmistakeable signs that the earth cannot survive the intensified exploitation of her resources, the assault on the dignity of her children, and the exclusion and condemnation to starvation of millions of humans, it is essential that we seek inspiration in other civilisations that offer ecological wisdom, writes Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian writer, liberation theologist, and a comissioner and author of the Earth Charter. In this article for IPS, Boff writes that the Maya believe that the universe is built of and sustained by cosmic energies and that the basic duality between creation and disintegration (we would say between chaos and cosmos) confers dynamism on this universal process. Human well-being derives from our synchronisation with this process and our profound respect for all living beings. Thus human beings feel they are part of Mother Earth and enjoy her beauty and protection. Death is not the enemy but a more profound immersion in the universe. Whereas for us, work is essentially the production of goods and wealth, often disappointing and uncreative, for the Maya, work is helping Mother Earth, who gives us all we need to live, an activity that does not enslave people but allows them to express their abilities and shape their lives. This practical wisdom has great validity for this critical phase of our history. All that helps maintain the equilibrium of the Earth and its vitality should be valued and recognised as a form of regeneration and salvation.

 Credit: Leonardo Boff&#39s blog

LATIN AMERICA: ‘Christians Should Take Poverty and Justice Seriously’

Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff arrived in El Salvador on Easter Sunday, the eve of the 28th anniversary of the assassination of Monsignor Oscar Romero by a sniper on Mar. 24, 1980, while he was celebrating mass.


Given the grim developments of our age, biologists, bioanthropologists, and astrophysicists are weighing the possibility that our species, homo sapiens/demens, may go extinct even in this century, writes Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian theologian and member of the Earth Charter. In this analysis, Boff writes that their arguments should be taken seriously. The most substantial seems to be overpopulation aggravated by the difficulty of adapting to climate change. Population growth has been exponential. It took humanity a million years to reach a population of 1 billion in 1850; at the current ever-increasing rate, this figure is set to reach 10 billion in 2050. Is this a triumph of the species or a danger for all humanity? What could end is not human life but this unthinking human life that loves war and mass destruction. We have to bring about a humane world where true justice is practiced, which respects life, desacralises violence, loves and cares for all beings, and which venerates the mystery of the world we call the Originary Source, or God. Or simply, we must learn to treat all human beings humanely and with compassion and respect for all creation. Everything that exists deserves to exist. Everything that lives deserves to live. Especially the human being.


The world is suffering from a clear crisis of meaning caused by the irrationality of world economics and politics and the general crisis of religion, which is the natural source of hope and ethics. Today almost all religions are contaminated by the evil of fundamentalism, which is frequently the basis of terrorism, Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian theologian and environmentalist, is a member of the Commission of the Earth Charter. In this article Boff writes that the search for religious peace has not been joined by the Roman Catholic Church which has exhibited an increasingly closed attitude that has lead to positions that are clearly fundamentalist and exclusionary and are reflected in the speeches of the current Pope. The doctrinal strategy of Benedict XVI consists of a direct confrontation with modernity guided by a cultural pessimism that is unacceptable in someone who should know that the Spirit is in humanity and is not a monopoly of the Church, and that salvation is open to all. Its principal social base now lies in lay movements characterised by mediocre thought, submission to the authorities, obedience to the laws of the market, and a preference for big media spectacles over the confrontation of poverty, injustice, and threats to the environment.


Pope Benedict XVI\'s statements during his visit to Brazil were mined with significant silences: only once did he refer to the grassroots ecclesiastical communities, to choices for the poor, and to liberation, and never to liberation theology and social ministry or to the grave problem of global warming, writes Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian writer and theologian. In this article Boff writes that instead the Pope went back in time 50 years with the traditional and ambiguous language of charity and helping the poor. These silences are a way to obscure and deny. Such lazy reason, particularly that of major institutions like the Catholic Church, is myopic and harmful, always returning to the old ways (more catechism, more celibacy, more obedience, more adhesion to Church teachings). If Brazilian and Latin American Catholicism is to rise to the challenges of this age, it needs the courage that the first Christians had to leave behind the terrain of Judeo Christianity and enter the land of pagan Hellenism. It was from this encounter that today\'s Christianity emerged. What we need is a Catholicism with an Indian-black-Latin American face that is not against but in communion with Roman Catholicism.


Anyone who thinks that President Bush\'s current tour of Latin America, and especially to Brazil, was inspired by the urgent warnings in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is dead wrong, writes Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian liberation theologian and member of the International Committee of the Earth Charter. In this article, Boff writes that there are two motivations driving Bush: one is geopolitics, the other is energy, specifically the extraordinary abundance of biomass in Latin America and the Amazon. The US and Brazil see themselves as the major players in this biofuel market. But there is a major unanswered question that probably does not trouble these two presidents: Isn\'t there an urgent need to change the current model of civilisation? The solution adopted by Bush and Lula only dulls the teeth of the wolf but leaves its ferocity intact.


Those who call water scarcity the challenge of the century are not exaggerating. The recent debate over a proposal to recycle waste water for drinking purposes in Australia, the drying of large portions of massive river basins like Lake Chad in Africa and the Aral Sea in Central Asia, the millions of people who struggle to grow crops on drought-stricken farms in Asia, Africa and in the Americas, all reflect the importance of conserving and making more productive use of our water resources, writes Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Improving the food situation is fundamental to fighting hunger and improving lives on every continent. This means that to turn the tide against water scarcity, farmers must find ways to produce more food with proportionally less water. It takes 1000-2000 litres of water to produce one kilo of wheat and 13 000-15000 litres to produce the same quantity of grain-fed beef. By comparison, the amount of daily drinking water required by one person is estimated at a mere two to five litres. And yet each day, we \"eat\" an average of 2000 litres of water. Thus the effective daily consumption of water per person is 1000 times more than the apparent consumption through drinking. Without water, we can not produce; and without it we simply cannot eat. The planet is thirsty because it is hungry.


Brazil today is being pulled between the need for economic growth and the need to preserve its natural resources, which is especially critical with regard to the Amazon, writes Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian theologian and writer. In this article, Boff writes that the Amazon contains the majority of the world\'s rain forests, fresh water reserves, and the richest trove of biodiversity. The ecological future of the earth and life upon it depends largely on how the Amazon is treated. When he took office in 2003, President Lula named as minister of the environment Marina da Silva, a former rubber tapper and collaborator of Chico Mendes, martyr to the preservation of the Amazon. Da Silva walked into a grim situation. In the 2000/2001 period, the area deforested was 18,165 square kilometres, increasing to 23,143 the following year. To address this situation the government approved in 2004 the Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Amazon Deforestation, which affects the action of 13 ministries. The results have been positive. In 2004/2005, the rate of deforestation was reduced by 31 percent, and even better results are expected for 2006. The Lula government is generating awareness of the strategic importance of the Amazon for Brazil and for the world. This is happening in a muddle of contradictions left from a past of neglect, but the course is clear. If it can be maintained, this patrimony can be saved for humanity.


It is already evident that the planet cannot support the violence and voraciousness of the current mode of production and consumption, writes Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian theologian and writer and member of the International Commission of the Earth Charter. In this analysis, the author argues that what is needed is a new paradigm of co-existence between nature, earth, and humanity which puts life at the centre and maintains natural and cultural diversity. The foundation of this new ethics has been set out in two documents: the Earth Charter, an international initiative adopted by UNESCO in 2000; and the Manifesto for Life, approved in 2002 by the environment ministers of Latin America. Both have much in common with the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The mission of the human being, as the bearer of consciousness, intelligence, will, and love, is to take care of the earth, to be the gardener of this splendid garden of Eden. This mission must be urgently undertaken, because the earth, life, and humanity are sick and threatened in their entirety.


Pope Benedict XVI\'s unfortunate citation of the statement of a 14th Century Byzantine emperor is a cause of scandal and shame for Christians as well as Muslims, writes Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian theologian and writer. In this article, Boff writes that the Pope knows that there is a confrontation underway between Muslims and the West, which has brought war to Afghanistan and Iraq and openly backs the Israeli cause against the Palestinians. Thus Benedict XVI\'s quotation has created an association between the papacy and the military strategies of the West. How could this not give rise to irritation? It must be pointed out that this is not an isolated incident for this Pope. As Cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger opposed letting Turkey join the European Union because it is has a Muslim majority. Not long ago, he suppressed an initiative in the Vatican to promote dialogue between Christianity and Islam. For him dialogue with other religions makes no sense given that \'\'it is contrary to the Catholic faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation equal to others\'\'.


The fundamental characteristic of the long and complex pontificate of John Paul II was a restoration of traditional conservative values and a return to internal Church discipline, writes Leonardo Boff, a liberation theologian who was punished by the Vatican doctrinal authorities in 1985 with \'\'obsequious silence\'\'. In this analysis, Boff writes that the pontificate of John Paul II was not a reformation but a counter-reformation, an attempt to halt a process of modernisation that erupted in the church in the 1960s . A major contradiction lay between his actions and teachings. To the outside, he presented himself as a champion of dialogue, of liberty, tolerance, peace, and ecumenism, but within the Church he shuttered the right of expression, banned dialogue, and created a theology with powerful fundamentalist overtones. In John Paul II it was the religious mission of the church and not its social mission that was dominant. He had a limited and simplistic understanding of the liberation theology prevalent in Latin America when he became Pope. He saw it as a Trojan horse for marxism, which he was obliged to denounce because of his experience of communism in his native Poland. He convinced himself that the danger in Latin America was marxism, when the real danger has always been savage and colonialist capitalism and its anti-populist and retrograde elites.


As the Vatican Conclave meets to select a new Pope, the overriding question is whether the cardinals will elect a man who will return to the path of Vatican II, or one who will prolong the Catholic Counterreformation. In other words, who will prevail: John XXIII, or John Paul II? asks Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian theologian and writer. Pope John XXIII convened all of the bishops in the Vatican II Council (1962-1965) in order to undertake the Catholic Reform, which with great hope and new life swept the world. Like all processes of change, this also aroused resistance and opposition, which predominated in churches that suffered persecution --like the Polish church-- and in important sectors of the notoriously conservative Vatican Curia. It is from this area of resistance that John Paul II emerged, setting in motion a Counterreformation of the Catholic Church. For this reason, the challenge today is whether the cardinals will chose a Pope who returns to the path of Vatican II with the contributions of the Third World churches that will restore the centrality of justice and the poor, or whether they will chose a Pope who prolongs the Counterreformation using media dramatisation, the strengthening of the figure of the Pope and the Curia, and a merely moralising discourse on the poor and justice.


Throughout the recently concluded US presidential campaign, the world has looked on in fear as violence raged in Iraq and President Bush responded with bellicose declarations, with his adversary Kerry not far behind, perhaps a shade less warlike. This violence is an integral part of the imperial spirit deeply rooted in western culture, which has always shown itself to be imperialist, imposing itself on all \'\'others\'\', those who are \'\'different\'\'. The re-election of Bush assures the continuity of this tragic policy if not an intensification of it, writes Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian theologian and environmentalist. In the name of national security, constitutional rights that were an integral element of the US are being suppressed. Those accused of terrorism are arrested and kept in secret locations, sometimes outside of their own countries, without access to family, lawyers, or even the International Red Cross. And as if this weren\'t enough, the superpower now practices pre-emptive military actions and cooperates with only those international organisations that serve its ends. This is the return of the-state-as-Leviathan envisioned by Hobbes, visceral enemy of any strategy for peace. His logic admits no future either for peace or for humanity.


The atrocious massacres of innocent people in Iraq, Palestine, and Rusia bring to mind two Biblical expressions that Christians use when confronted by staggering injustice or a degree of perversity that stuns reason and obliterates human sensibility: \'\'the abomination of desolation\'\' and the \'\'second coming of the Anti-Christ\'\', writes Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian theologian and writer. There are times, like the present, in which the Anti-Christ seems to prevail. It erupts so fearfully that it paralyses us and almost strips the just of any hope. The category of Anti-Christ has been wielded throughout history by those who would demonise their adversaries. For this reason we must be cautious in using it and avoid facile labelling. But today, when the perversity at work in the world is so great, we must use it both to denounce and to give warning. The Anti-Christ is among us and is active on both fronts, politics and religion. Both have in common a disregard for human life and a lack of pity for the innocent. And both are cold-blooded killers.

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