“God is dead, Marx is dead, and I don’t feel very well myself,” said Woody Allen. Today, it is what we commonly call “the planet” that is not doing very well: climate disruption, rising temperatures and water levels, collapse of biodiversity, increase in zoonotic diseases, of which Covid-19 is the devastating incarnation.

By 2050, planet Earth could be unliveable for a large part of the world’s population, which would then be forced to migrate to countries whose economies, if they continued on their current trajectory, would have little chance of being able to absorb such a migratory shock.

All the more so since the very capacity of the Earth to continue to feed us is being called into question, not only by enlightened collapsologists with apocalyptic visions, but by renowned scientists, including Dennis Meadows, author of the famous ‘Club of Rome report’ which, in the early 1970s, had already modelled the biospheric disruption that we are experiencing today.

This future is not written. It will only happen if we do not act; if we continue with ‘business as usual’. The solutions to bring about a different future are known: they can be summed up in what most people call the ‘ecological transition’, or in what some pioneers have already initiated: the regenerative economy, i.e. economic activities that produce value while regenerating the ecosystems on which life on Earth – our life – depends.

And yet, we are forced to admit that we are not able, collectively, to take this step, which is nevertheless beneficial. Why is this so?

The first level of explanation lies in our economic model itself. It would be too hard to transform it, or even to get out of it, because we have become so ‘addicted’ to growth that an ecological transition would threaten to plunge us into a major economic depression.

These arguments are now outdated, not only because of the scientific studies and financial modelling of the last ten years, but above all because of the revolution in dogma that the Covid crisis has triggered: if the stakes were really worth it, we could do it, “whatever it takes”.

Hence the importance of exploring a second level of explanation: our relationship with Nature, or more precisely our disconnection, our disunification with it. Over the centuries, Man has extracted himself from Nature, has repressed the inalienable links that inscribe him in this ‘web of Life’. He has turned it into an object, external to him; an object to be controlled, dominated and exploited for his own development. What is the point of ‘saving the planet’ if it is a commodity like any other?

Today, most political discourses remain anchored in this utilitarian vision of nature. At one extreme end, there are the bellicose discourses, which see climate change and its consequences as phenomena foreign to us; as enemies to our good life that we should fight by waging “war on climate”.

But even in the more measured, and equally voluntarist, discourses, it is the utilitarian vision that predominates: we are urged to commit ourselves to this ecological transition in order to preserve the conditions for the viability of the human species on the planet for centuries to come; to leave our children a viable, liveable and sustainable world; to revive the economy thanks to a green growth that respects the ecosystems on which we depend.

Even if all this is undoubtedly true, and commendable, let us note a great absence in these speeches: the meaning of our life on Earth, and our place in the great narrative of creation. Well, not completely absent, because on 8th November 2020, for his inaugural speech, the new vice-president of Bolivia, Mr David Choquehuanca, did not go for half measures. His speech, which went largely unnoticed by the Western media, set out a political project that explicitly draws its source and legitimacy from Bolivia’s indigenous stories of the creation of life on Earth, and the unbreakable bonds that unite us with Nature.

After a long opening in which he anchors his authority by asking permission from ‘the gods, the elders, the Pachamama (Mother Earth), the Achachilas (protective spirits)’, Choquehuanca presents his vision of a Bolivia that finds its unity and vitality by reconnecting to the principles of life, and in so doing, ensures that all Bolivians are included in this prosperity, and that no one is left behind.

This is a speech by a head of state that is different from those we usually hear, full of figures, indicators and complicated acronyms. A speech that challenges us at another level of our humanity: that of the meaning of life, of its sacred dimension, and of our belonging to the heart of this web of life. It reminds us why Man, on Earth, is invited to leave it in a better state than the one in which he found it – not because of some moral imperative, but, on the contrary, to live fully his ontological nature as a human Being.

David Choquehuanca is not the first head of state to make such a speech. Pope Francis (yes, the Vatican is a state!) did it before him, in his encyclical Laudato Si in 2015. There too we heard very strong economic and social proposals, anchored in a spirit of justice, solidarity and, of course, respect for the Earth; and all of them stemmed from a grand narrative of creation, and of the place of Man in this narrative. While there are of course differences in theological perspectives between these two statesmen, their convergences are far greater than these differences.

Is this what our secularised Western societies are lacking in order to make the transition to ecology with both body and soul? Has the time for grand narratives come again? No doubt. And stories that unite us more than they separate us, the other great thirst that our societies are experiencing at the moment.