By Leonardo Boff,
Theologian, Earthcharter Commission
acknowledge, as the original peoples and many modern scientists
do, that the Earth is Gaia, the generous Mother, generator of
all life, then we should give her the same respect and
veneration we profess for our own mothers. The world
ecological crisis derives in large part from the systematic lack
of respect for nature and for the Earth.
implies recognizing that each being has value in and
of itself, simply because it exists, and, by existing, it
expresses something of the Being and of the originating Source
of energy and potentialities whence all of us come and to which
we all will return (quantum vacuum.) From a religious
perspective, each being is an expression of the very Creator.
see all beings as having intrinsic value, a feeling of caring
and of responsibility towards them arises in us, with the goal
of enabling them to continue to exist and to co-evolve with us.
original cultures give witness to their veneration before the
majesty of the universe, their respect for nature and for each
of her representatives.
Buddhism, which is not so much a faith as it is a form
of wisdom, a life's journey in harmony with the Whole, teaches a
profound respect, especially for those who suffer (compassion).
Buddhism developed the FengShui, the art of
harmonizing the house and oneself with the elements of nature
and with the Tao.
Christianity knows the paradigm of Saint Francis of
Assisi (1181-1226). His earliest biographer, Tomas
deCelano (1229) writes that Francis walked
respectfully on the stones in memory of the one, Christ, who was
called «stone»; he would tenderly pick up the slugs so
that they would not be stepped on, and in winter he would give
sugar water to the bees, so that they would not die of the cold
form of inhabiting the world is exhibited here, by being
together with all things, living together with them, and not
above, dominating them.
Extremely compelling is the figure of the humanist Albert
Schweitzer (1875-1965). He developed a grandiose ethic of
respect for every being and for all forms of life. He was a
great philosopher and a famous concert player of the music of
Bach. At one point, he left everything, studied medicine, and
went to live with the lepers (it is simpler) in Lambarene
letter he explicitly says that «whatwe
arewillingtodowiththepoorwhatneedstobedone, iftheSermonontheMountandthewordsofJesusare to haveanyvalue. IfChristianitydoesnotrealizethis,
hospital in the depths of the tropical jungle, in Lambarene,
between one responsibility and another, between medical visits,
he wrote several books on the ethics of respect, the principal
of them being, ReverenceforLife (Ehrfurcht
vor dem Leben) .
He put it
well: «the key-idea of the good consists in preserving life,
developing and elevating it to its maximum value; the bad
consists in the destruction of life, damaging it and preventing
its development. This is the necessary, universal and absolute
principle of ethics.»
the limitation of the current ethics consisted in concentrating
only on human behavior and forgetting the other forms of life.
In few words: «ethics is the unbounded responsibility for
everything that exists and lives.»
flow behaviors of great compassion and caring. In one of his
sermons he said: «Keep your eyes open so that you do not
miss the opportunity of being a savior. Do not walk by,
unconscious of the small insect that struggles in the water and
is in danger of drowning. Get a little stick and remove it from
the water, dry its little wings and experience the magnificence
of having saved a life and the happiness of having done it for
and in the name of the Almighty. The earthworm lost on the hard
and dry street, who cannot dig her hole, take her and put her in
the middle of the grass. "What you have done for the lesser of
these, you have done for me." These words of Jesus are not only
valid for us humans, but also for the smallest of creatures.»
ethic of respect is unequivocally needed at present, when Mother
Earth is undergoing dangerous stress.