Pope Francis has taken combating the climate crisis our planet is currently enduring into his own hands. Last week, on February 12th to be more specific, Francis released a 94-page exhortation document in which he passionately discussed the importance of protecting the Amazon Rainforest, the multitude of ecosystems it supports, and the indigenous people native to the forest who utilize its vast range of natural resources.
The document is titled Dear Amazon, and comes as a response to the historic Vatican meeting that occurred in the fall of 2019 regarding the destruction of the Amazon during its extreme wildfire outbreaks. It also comes as a response to the massive increase in illegal logging, mining and other deforestation tactics in Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, and Brazil, as well as a surge in murders amongst indigenous activists within the past year alone.
“If the care of people and the care of ecosystems are inseparable, this becomes especially important in places where the forest is not a resource to be exploited…When indigenous peoples remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. We are water, air, earth and life of the environment created by God. For this reason, we demand an end to the mistreatment and destruction of mother Earth. The land has blood, and it is bleeding; the multinationals have cut the veins of our mother Earth,” Francis wrote.
As previously mentioned, the exhortation comes partly as a response to a historic meeting at the Vatican in which, for the first time in history, hundreds of Catholic bishops, environmental activists, and indigenous leaders from nine South American countries came together to discuss preservation of the planet and its relationship to faith, and how both political and religious leaders of the world can join forces to protect what little natural land is left.
The exhortation acts as a public response to an otherwise private three-week meeting period between the groups mentioned above. The “response” was divided into four sections by Francis; societal, cultural, ecclesial, and ecological, all of which were under the general titles of “dreams.” Scientists and conservationists alike have been warning about the catastrophic effects of climate change for decades. Unless true systematic change is implemented throughout the entire world, it’s nearly impossible to reverse the extensive damage that’s already been done.
The Amazon Rainforest
Within the past year, the Amazon Rainforest has lost over 3,400 square miles of forest, which is roughly the size of seven New York Cities, and this is not the first time Pope Francis has expressed his discontent with our governments lack of conservation efforts. In 2015, the Vatican and Francis released an encyclical entitled Laudato Si, On Care For Our Common Home. An “encyclical,” is a Catholic teaching document that’s regarded as the “highest order possessing moral authority,” due to the fact that it comes from the Pope.
In Laudato Si, Francis became a self-proclaimed advocate for environmental protection, and spoke out against the government; placing the blame for global warming on human activity, specifically mentioning “rampant consumerism and unbridled capitalism.” Since then, the Vatican has emphasized climate action as “morally imperative” in the same regard that it’s scientifically imperative for the survival of our planet.
The progressive Pope’s outspoken attitude in regard to climate change has created a major divide amongst those who consider themselves “devoutly” faithful to both their religion and their government. However, most can agree that having a public figure, as major and influential as the Pope, speak out against any issue regarding injustice is major when it comes to reform.
“Protecting rainforests is fundamentally an ethical issue, where care for creation and the realization of social justice for indigenous peoples and forest communities are part of one moral fabric. We are seeing that not only is the leadership of Pope Francis rallying Catholics to act, but [it is] also inspiring religious leaders from other faiths to protect rainforests around the world,” said Joe Corcoran, the UN project manager for the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative (IRI).
Francis is creating a merger of two different worlds through his outspokenness. We have all the facts when it comes to climate change and the action that’s needed to combat it, now it’s just a matter of direct and immediate change.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.