Once, in Cubatão, in the early 1970s, a storm of acid rain fell on my head. My body was drenched in liquid pollution.
While I was running for shelter I perceived that all that pollution is what caused acephalus children to be born and that this calamity befell mainly the most miserable in society. There, in that ravaged land, I took my first steps toward understanding what sustainability is. I understood that our lives depend on a healthy earth – and there is no healthy earth without social well-being!
The other day my grandson, by chance, asked me how the future will be. I felt like telling him that we are quickly approaching a climate catastrophe which will spell the extinction of species, the spreading of deserts, decimated forests, devastating fires, cyclones, hurricanes. I wanted to tell all the children – because only they can bring forth a new ethics and planetary awareness – that the earth is really in agony, that it has reached its critical state because of our destructive and selfish behavior. We have extracted without replacing, poisoned the air and polluted the waters – we have destroyed, in seconds, centuries of marvelous construction.
I wanted to tell them that we must make an all-out effort to learn something from the pandemic – a new way of living, perhaps the only possible way from here on: respecting everything that is alive, daily responsibility in each action; the perception that everything is interconnected, that earth and man form a single organism and that there will only be a future if we live in keeping with the wise laws that rule this vast biological complex.
Everything we have done is very little. We navigate between omission and hypocrisy. Just look at what we are allowing to happen with the greatest wealth of this country, the Amazonian forest, an immense green vastness of more than five million square kilometers, of extreme importance for the planet’s climate. We have already allowed the destruction of more than 20% of its area, and even now it is predicted to produce much less rain. The devastation should have been halted more than a decade ago, the scientists say, and the recovery of the forests should have already begun in the same timeframe.
How can we allow the governments to ignore the greed of the landowners, the rapacity of the large sawmills, the illicit enrichment, the farming of soybeans and other monocultures advancing over Amazonia, the charcoal kilns and the large mining companies, the wildcat gold-mining bleeding the earth, the persecuted indigenous people…
It is possible to mitigate the effects of global warming, but for this we must face up to great responsibilities. And we must respect nature as part of ourselves, to consume with awareness, to produce less trash, to recycle as much as possible, to consume little electricity and water, to get around more on foot or by bicycle. From now on we must seek certified raw materials, and this especially goes for wood, which should be obtained from sustainably managed forests and bear a seal of origin. We must demand that the deforestation stop immediately in Amazonia, in the Atlantic Forest areas and in the other ecosystems.
And on a broader scale, it is necessary to raise awareness that fossil fuel must be substituted by safer energy sources; to fight against every aggression against the natural habitats, to combat hunger and misery, to transform this unjust, unequal and predatory social structure that is eroding the country. Because there are very good chances that the earth will continue to be a generous and comfortable home for us, but this depends on the construction of a society that is more just and in harmony with nature. If we teach the children these lessons we will give greater meaning to our lives and perhaps help them to construct a less terrifying future.