Self-limitation: an ecological virtue to save the planet

The fear aroused by the dropping of atomic bombs on Hirosima and Nagasaki in 1945 was so devastating that it changed the state of humanity's consciousness. The perspective of mass destruction was introduced, later increased with the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons, capable of threatening the biosphere and the future of the human species.

Before, human beings could wage conventional wars, explore natural resources, deforest, throw garbage into rivers and gases into the atmosphere, and this did not produce major environmental changes. A clear conscience assured us that the Earth was inexhaustible and invulnerable and that life would continue to be the same forever into the future.

That budget no longer exists. We are increasingly becoming more aware of what the Earth Charter attests to:

«We are facing a critical moment in the history of the Earth, a time in which Humanity must choose 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 the new planetary, ethical and ecological perspective of Humanity. The facts that support the alarm are irrefutable: we only have this one Common House to inhabit; Its resources are limited, many of them are not renewable; Fresh water is nature's scarcest good (only 0% is susceptible to human use); Fossil energy, the engine of modern development, has its days numbered; and population growth is threatening. We have already exceeded the endurance and renewal capacity of the biosphere by 7%.

Wanting to generalize the type of development prevailing today for all of Humanity would require three other planets equal to ours. The vast majority of people do not think about all this, because they find it unbearable to face the idea of ​​limits or, eventually, of a collective disaster, which is possible even in our generation.

Self-limitation in the face of a consumerist culture

If these problems are serious, there is an even bigger one: the logic of the global production system and the consumerist culture it has created. The system says: we must produce more and more, without putting limits on growth, so that we can consume more and more, without putting limits on the basket of offers. The immediate consequence of this option is a double injustice: an ecological injustice, due to the predation of nature, and a social injustice, due to the creation of inequalities between those who eat their fill, and those who eat insufficiently and fall into marginality and in exclusion.

If we wanted to guarantee a common future for the Earth and Humanity, two virtues are imposed: self-limitation and fair measure, both expressions of the culture of care. But how can we ask for these virtues if the entire system is based on their denial? Well, despite everything, this time there is no other way out: either we change and move towards care, we limit ourselves in our voracity by living the right measure in all things, or we will be doomed to a collective tragedy.

Self-limitation means a necessary sacrifice that safeguard the planet, protects collective interests and founds 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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