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Fire and politics create a tragedy

F eventThursday, 21 January 2021

Regina Cavalcanti, religiosa de la Asunción.Brasil 3 de septiembre de 2019 

The great Amazonian forest extends over a vast area of South America. It affects several countries, located in the north and west of the continent, but most of its territory is located on Brazilian soil. Amazonia is therefore a region that includes northern Brazil, and the regions of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, Suriname and Ecuador.  

Every year, during the dry season, there are fires, but forest monitoring agencies and organizations in Amazonian states are able to control and extinguish fires. This year, however, these outbreaks have reached a number and extent that has made them almost uncontrollable. The number of households in the forest has increased by about 80% compared to 2018.  

And the forest is burning....  

Why, one wonders, is there a huge difference between previous years and this year 2019? It seems to me, unfortunately, that the answer to this question lies in the irresponsible policy of our current President.  Elected in a moment of great national emotion, during which the people were deceived by an avalanche of "fake news" and by his promises to fight corruption, he showed his true face when he started using the same methods he condemned during his election campaign.  

For him, the care of "our common home", the ecological concern, is not a priority. It is no longer a priority in front of what is the real objective of his government: the country's economic growth, whatever the cost. To this end, it has taken many measures that are anti-ecological. Among them, we can mention  

➢ Remove the country from the Paris Agreement;  ➢ Reduce by 95% the funds available for the organization that monitors the Amazon forest;  ➢ Promote deforestation for grazing purposes;  ➢ Reduce fines to be paid as compensation for environmental crimes, thus facilitating the action of illegal wood exploiters; etc.  

However, deforestation and arson go hand in hand...  

It is true that the document signed by the G7 members, which offered Brazil a large sum of money to help control and extinguish the fire raging in the Amazon forest, reappeared a theory that was already being discussed years ago, but no longer seems to be under discussion: the issue of the internationalization of the Amazon. Even though the G7 document says that this is not the theory, it is understandable that the president stood up in defence of the country's sovereignty. But if it were to accept such an offer, it would then be a question of demanding, through a clear, objective and genuine dialogue, what the counterparts of the countries that unconditionally, but others understand the issue better and move away from him. Among the ministers, there are also differences of opinion. During a television program, the day before the government's decision to refuse financial assistance from G7 members, the Minister of Environmental Affairs expressed his thoughts in favour of accepting this assistance. The next day, the president announced, in a rather harsh way, that the country would refuse this help... There is a misunderstanding between the President of France and the President of Brazil who, unfortunately, slipped up by attacking him on a personal level, including insulting him....   

Meanwhile, the forest is burning....  

The whole world is going through a time when populism is gaining ground. Because of this, government actions in many countries around the world are not aimed at the common good of society and the country, but only at the good of a certain social class that supports them.  That is why the title of this article suggests that, when we unite a political orientation that does not target the common good and the destructive force of fire, a great tragedy unfolds before our eyes.  And the forest continues to burn....  

Yes, the destruction of much of the Amazonian forest is an international tragedy. Indeed, the great forest of the Amazon, long called "the lung of the world", brings considerable benefits not only in the places where it is located, but also to many other countries and regions around the world:  

a. The water cycle: If the Amazonian forest did not exist, much of what is now Brazil would be a desert area, as there are in countries of the same latitude (see the Atacama Desert in Chile and Namibia).  b. The carbon cycle: The forest retains billions of tonnes of carbon (carbon monoxide and also carbon dioxide), by purifying the atmosphere.  c. Climate regulation: By producing humidity and oxygen, forests contribute to climate regulation in several regions of the world, particularly in Latin America. Biodiversity: The Amazon basin is the largest biodiversity reserve on the planet. 3 million species of plants and animals live there. Some of them remain unknown or not yet sufficiently examined by science.   e. Socio-diversity: There are about 1 million indigenous peoples in the forest. For thousands of years, people have lived off the forest without destroying it. They have a wisdom that would be very useful for us - who consider ourselves "civilized" - to learn new ways of living without destroying nature.  A woman of indigenous origin, Nará Baré, who became the first woman to lead the "Coordenação das organizações indígenas da Amazônia brasileira" (Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon) writes: "The UN Climate Conference recognizes our traditional way of life as a great example for curbing climate change. Unfortunately, with our President's speech promoting "garimpo" (open mining) and deforestation in the Amazon, we feel an even greater responsibility. Not only for us, but for the world (...) Now, deforestation has increased and we see that the government's objective is not to preserve the Amazonia’s forest. 

This increase in deforestation is easily perceptible. It is not just statistics. We see it! We can see it! And when the whole world realizes it, the President of Brazil carries on with an empty speech."     

Indeed, the government's political decisions have triggered a large number of counter-protests. In several cities across the country, the people, aware of the importance of the tragedy that is taking place in the Amazon these days, have taken to the streets to make their voices heard, contrary to those of the government. The governors of the states in the region that host parts of the forest have had a meeting with the president to tell him that they are in favour of the country receiving the assistance that has been offered to it by the richer and more developed countries of the world.   

A few days ago, the 20th anniversary of the death of Bishop Helder Câmara, the holy bishop of the poor, was celebrated (27/08/1999). He said: "Christians are no better than anyone else, but they should at least be more responsible"...   As this article ends, and the forest continues to burn, events are still unfolding. The environmental and political crisis has not yet been resolved. But let us hope that those who must lead it, and who call themselves Christians, are aware of their responsibility.