If the Amazon suffers, the world suffers

A record number of wildfires and the increasing rate of deforestation of the Amazon in 2019 have called international attention to Brazil’s failure to protect the world’s biggest rainforest.

Aug 31, 2019

By Eduardo Campos Lima
A record number of wildfires and the increasing rate of deforestation of the Amazon in 2019 have called international attention to Brazil’s failure to protect the world’s biggest rainforest. The far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, refuses to acknowledge the severity of the problem and accuses scientists of sensationalism, even suggesting a conspiracy against him.

Bolsonaro told reporters on Aug 21 that these [NGO people] are carrying out some criminal actions to draw attention against me, against the government of Brazil.”

In the face of this unprecedented catastrophe, the Brazilian Catholic Church is denouncing the destruction and struggling to help communities affected by it.

The Episcopal Conference of Latin America urged international action to save the Amazon rainforest as massive fires continued to burn.

This Amazon rainforest produces 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen, according to scientific measurements. “We urge the governments of the Amazonian countries, especially Brazil and Bolivia, the United Nations and the international community to take serious measures to save the lungs of the world,” said the Aug 22 statement by the Bishops of Latin America, CELAM.

“What happens to the Amazon is not just a local issue, but is of global reach,” the bishops said. “If the Amazon suffers, the world suffers.”

The National Institute of Space Research (INPE) also demonstrated a record number of wildfires in the Amazon in 2019.

The rainforest accounted for more than half of the 72,843 wildfires detected in Brazil through Aug 19; that total represented an increase of 83 per cent over the same period of 2018. It is also the highest number of wildfires ever registered by the agency. According to environmentalists, most of the fires are caused by farmers who want to expand their areas of pasture.

Archbishop Roque Paloschi, who is the archbishop of Porto Velho, in Rondônia — one of the Brazilian states in the Amazonian region most impacted by the wildfires said, “There’s a noticeable increase in the criminal wildfires this year, provoked by big landowners and invaders who seek to expand their farmlands by grabbing indigenous lands and ecological reservations.”

“These landowners are being benefited by the policies of the current administration, which pretends nothing is happening, ” said the Archbishop, who is also the president of the Indigenous Missionary Council, a commission of the National Conference of the Bishops of Brazil that advocates the rights of indigenous peoples On Aug 21, for example, after a few days of protesting at the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of the Brazilian Congress), indigenous organisations — including the bishops’ Indigenous Missionary Council — managed to temporarily block the approval of a bill that would allow non-indigenous farmers and the government’s indigenous agency to use indigenous reservation lands for commercial farming. The measure was considered an attack on the self-determination of the indigenous peoples.

One of the challenges of the Church is to assist and give hope to the major victims of this exploitative model of life.

According to Archbishop Paloschi, the Church learned through working with Amazonian communities that a different economic model, based on the conservation of nature, should be possible for the region. “Many of us tried to be in the shoes of the victims of the disastrous occupation of the Amazon and we learned a lot from it. This is the basis for a prophetic mission of the Church in the rainforest.”

Therefore, “The synod is urgent and very necessary. Many people have been criticising it, saying it’s about politics and that the Church should not meddle in such affairs. Unfortunately, some people are living among smoke and still deny there’s something wrong happening in the Amazon,” said Physicist Ricardo Giovenal former president of INPE. --America

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