Menu Close

We only have hope: a tree that bends but doesn’t break

Add to my bookmarks
ClosePlease login

No account yet? Register

Share This Article:

Image: Reproduction via Brasil de Fato – An indigenous Paiter Surui boy, Brazi. We must firmly reject this type of world that imposes so much suffering on Mother Earth, the writer says

By Leonardo Boff

In the year 2023, facts occurred that haunt us and force us to think: there was a failed coup attempt in Brazil , two frightening extreme events: major floods in the South and devastating droughts in the North , followed by immense fires. Everything indicates that this situation will repeat itself frequently.

At the international level, the prolongation of the Russia-Ukraine war , the terrorist attack by the Hamas military faction that provoked a very violent setback by the far-right Israeli government and its allies on the entire population of the Gaza Strip , with a genocide bias. And the most serious with the unrestricted support of Catholic President Joe Biden.

Perhaps a fact that cannot be ignored at all is the Earth Overshoot , announced by the UN at the end of August. In other words, all those natural goods and services that the Earth offers for the continuity of life have reached their limit. We need more than one and a half Earths to meet human consumption, but especially in rich and consumerist countries.

As it is alive, the Earth reacts in its own way, sending us more viral illnesses , more extreme events and warming up more and more. This last fact has unpredictable consequences, as we have passed the critical point. The year 2023 was the hottest in thousands of years. Science and technology only help us prevent and mitigate harmful effects, but they can no longer avoid them.

This climate change is the responsibility of industrialist and consumerist countries and very few of the world’s poor majority. Therefore, it is a serious ethical problem. There is also the risk of a nuclear conflict, as the US does not give up being the only pole to control all spaces on the planet, not accepting multipolarity . If this widespread nuclear war occurs, it will be the end of the human species and much of the biosphere. Some analysts think it will be inevitable; It will happen, we don’t know when or how, but the conditions are already given.

Furthermore, it is important to recognise that we are at the height of the crisis in the way of inhabiting the planet (devastating it) and of organising societies, in which inhumane injustices reign. Pope Francis has warned us countless times: we have to change, otherwise, with everyone in the same boat, no one will be saved.

These dark scenarios have led many people in humanity to helplessness and to the awareness of the failure of the human species, particularly with the complete decline of the ethical and humanistic sense that allows us to watch, in the open and in everyone’s view, the extermination of a people in In the Gaza Strip, mainly, thousands of children were murdered under the uninterrupted bombardment of the Israeli war forces.

There are many who ask themselves: do we still deserve to be on the face of the Earth that we have systematically decimated and unscrupulously violated its human sons and daughters and the natural organisms that sustain us? Or is this not the harbinger of our end as a species? It is worth remembering that we are entering the last moments of the long process of evolution, endowed with great aggressiveness. Have we entered to tragically destroy our world?

In this context, great utopias fall silent. Modern reason proved to be irrational when constructing the principle of self-destruction. Religions themselves, natural sources of meaning, participate in the crisis of our civilisational paradigm and, in many of them, violent fundamentalism prevails.

What to hold on to? The human spirit refuses the absurd and always seeks a meaning that makes life enjoyable. We have only one support left: hope. She is like a tree: she bends but does not break. As we have been shown anthropologically, hope is more than just a virtue alongside the others. It represents, regardless of historical space and time, that inner engine that constantly makes us project dreams of better days, viable utopias, paths not yet taken that could mean a way out to another type of world.

The following statement is attributed to Saint Augustine, the greatest intellectual and Christian genius of the West, an African from the 5th century of the Christian era:

Every human being is inhabited by three virtues: faith, love and hope. The wise man says: if we lose faith, we don’t die. If we fail in love, we can always find another. What we cannot do is lose hope. Because the alternative to hope is suicide due to an absolute lack of meaning in living.

However, hope has two beautiful sisters: indignation and courage. Through indignation we reject everything that seems bad and perverse to us. By courage, we exert all our strength to change what is bad into good and what is evil into beneficial.

We have no alternative but to fall in love with these two beautiful sisters of hope: to be indignant and firmly reject this type of world that imposes so much suffering on Mother Earth, on all of humanity and nature.

If we cannot overcome it, at least resist it and unmask its inhumanity. And have the courage to open paths, suffer through the birth of something new and alternative. And believe that life has meaning, and it is up to us to write the last page of our pilgrimage on this Earth.

*Leonardo Boff is a theologian, philosopher and writer. He is the author of Mature Earth a theology of life (Editora Planeta, 2023) and Caring for the Earth-protecting life: how to avoid the end of the world (Record 2010). This is an opinion article and does not necessarily express the editorial line of the Brasil de Fato newspaper .