On Monday, the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life hosted the first event in what will be a multi-year series exploring the theme of religion and climate change. 

Monday’s talk, entitled “The Devouring of the World and the Climate Crisis,” featured Brazilian indigenous leader, writer, and philosopher Ailton Krenak. The event consisted of a pre-recorded lecture in Portuguese with English subtitles and a live Q&A with a translator. Krenak began by asserting that humans are living in a “cognitive abyss,” which leads us to believe that the planet, and its resources, are infinite. 

Even when we know the facts about climate change, the cognitive abyss we live in makes it more difficult to see the evidence. As a result, we continue to find ways to justify maintaining our current rate of consumption, even though it is irresponsible and unsustainable. This mindset–which Krenak referred to as a logic of the devouring of worlds–has permeated every part of the globe, and treating Earth’s resources as infinite is putting the future of humanity at risk. Krenak said that humans act as if we think that future generations will have another Earth to consume once this one has been stripped of its raw materials. “It surprises us,” Krenak said, “when, underneath our feet, the Earth cracks.”

He also spoke about how, in Brazil, this ideology about consumption has grown stronger in recent years due to the government’s denial of the effects of the pandemic and the state of the country’s economy. Furthermore, while Brazil provides many essential exports for the rest of the world, tens of millions of its people live below the poverty line. Krenak said that this situation was brought about by extractivism in the service of world capitalism and the way in which humans treat everything that is not human as raw material to be devoured. 

Krenak also explained that, since the 1980s, we have been told to think globally but act locally. However, climate issues and the financial system transcend the local level, and we now have to make a shift to thinking in terms of humanity. This means, when it comes to the climate crisis, we need to think locally, regionally, and globally. 

Most people don’t understand that when they use electricity, eat processed food, and buy new clothes, they are devouring the world. All communities need to engage in what Krenak calls a “global environmental consciousness” to gain an understanding that the planet’s natural resources are finite. 

Throughout the lecture, Krenak emphasized that the belief that human beings are sovereign on the planet, which motivates us to consume more and more of Earth’s resources, could be what leads to the downfall of the centrality of the human. Humans, Krenak said, view our planet “as a birthday cake to be eaten until the end.”

devouring the world via ircpl