Facing the crisis: four principles and four virtues, Leonardo Boff

Einstein’s phrase is so actual today, “the thought that created the crisis cannot be the same that will make us go beyond it.” It’s too late to do only reforms. These reforms do not change the thought. We need another thought, based on principles and values ​​that can sustain a further test of civilization. Or we have to accept a path that leads to a cliff. Dinosaurs have already traveled.

My feeling tells me that the world’s four principles and four virtues will be able to ensure a good future for the Earth and life. Here, I can only mention them, but I have developed them  in several publications in recent years.

The first is care. It is a non-aggression relationship and love for the Earth and any other being. Care opposes the domination that characterized the old paradigm. Care regenerates the past wounds and prevent future ones. It slows down the unstoppable force of entropy and allows all to live and endure more. For the Eastern equivalent care is compassion, and compassion never leaves the others who suffer abandoned, but walk with the other, and rejoices in solidarity with him/her.

The second is respect. Each being has an intrinsic value, irrespective of their human use. Every being expresses some potentiality that the universe has something to tell us and deserves to live. Respect recognizes and accepts the other as other and intends to live peacefully with it. Ethics is an unlimited respect for everything that exists and lives.

The third is a universal responsibility. By it, human beings and society are aware of the beneficial or disastrous consequences of their actions. Both need to take care of the quality of relationships with others and with nature that is not hostile but friendly to life. With the means of destruction already built and in place, humanity can, for lack of responsibility, destroy itself and damage the biosphere.

The fourth principle is the wholehearted cooperation. The universal law of evolution is not competition with the victory of  the stronger but rather, the interdependence of all with all. All evolved together to cooperate and to ensure biodiversity. It was through cooperation with each other that our ancestors became human. The global market is governed by stricter competition, no room for cooperation. So rampant individualism and selfishness that underlie the current crisis and so far has  prevented any consensus to address climate change.

The four principles must come together with four essential virtues to consolidate the new order.

The first is the hospitality, primordial virtue according to Kant for the world republic. Everyone has the right to be welcomed that corresponds to the duty to accommodate others. This result will be crucial against the flow of people and millions of climate refugees that will emerge in coming years. There shouldn’t be, as there are, outsiders.

The second is the coexistence with the different. The globalization of the man experiment does not eliminate cultural differences that we must learn to live together, to complement and enrich us with mutual exchanges.

The third is tolerance. Not all values ​​and cultural mores are converging and easy acceptance. Thus, an active tolerance is needed to recognize the other’s right to exist as different and guarantee their full expression.

The fourth is commensalism. All human beings must have access to supportive and sufficient means of livelihood and food security. They should be able to feel that they are the same family members who eat and drink together. More than the necessary nutrition, it is a rite of solidarity.

Every effort will be wasted if the Rio +20 in 2012 limit the discussion only of practical measures to mitigate global warming, without discussing other principles and values ​​that can generate a minimum consensus among all and so give sustainability to our civilization. Otherwise, the crisis will continue its corrosion up to be a tragedy. We have the means and knowledge to do so. We need the will and love of life, our life and our lives of our children and grandchildren. May the Spirit who presides over history, do not go away from us.

Leonardo Boff, Theologian and writer.

* Free (and bad) translation from


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