May 22, 2020

Our Complicity in the Destruction of the Amazon

Catherine said, “God knows I would rather be cold and hungry than that the poor in Kingstown or elsewhere should be deprived of any consolation in our power to afford.”  For her this meant sharing her generous inheritance with the poor and working to make the spiritual and corporal works of mercy a reality.  Our complicated global reality connects us to the poor and deprived in ways our first sisters would never have known.  Yet, because of our global economy, we are more connected than ever with people and with earth.  The shopping choices we make affect the lives of people around the world and earth herself. The poor and earth cry out to us now with one voice.  

Deforestation endangers the indigenous peoples of the rainforest who live on their ancestral lands.  The Brazilian National Bishops Conference (CNBB) stated that deforestation in the Amazon has increased by 279.9% in March 2020 alone. [1]  Companies cut down the rainforest to gain access for mining, to harvest logs, and to clear land for agribusiness.  The products produced legally and illegally in the Amazon find their way into our homes, often without our knowledge.

Mining causes destruction of the land, forests, and waters as well as  illicit violence in the nearby communities where people are working and living.  Mines pollute land and water, and miners clear-cut the forest to exploit natural resources.  Diamonds are a well-known example of mining characterized by violence and devastation.  We are not all buying diamonds, but our purchases of fertilizer (potash), aluminum, oil, copper and other metals cause the same destruction.  Gold, a commonly mined metal in the Amazon, is an often-overlooked part of our daily lives since it is necessary for smartphones, computers, and most electronics.

Our grocery list is another culprit whereby our unknown complicity can contribute to the destruction of the Amazon and other regions.  Agribusiness cuts down extensive sections of rainforest to make room for plantations, ranches, and mono crops (i.e. pineapples, avocados, corn, and more).  Some products leading to the destruction of the rainforest received significant attention during the 2019 forest fires; namely beef and palm oil.  Other surprising foods include chocolate, coffee, vanilla, bananas, and many more.

We can leverage our complicity in the destruction of the Amazon and transform it into a preserving action for the rainforest and the indigenous peoples living there.  What we buy can send a powerful message to corporations, and avoiding unsustainable products will make the exploitation of the Amazon unprofitable.  Our collective power as consumers can reshape the market and we can use our buying power in favor of our common home.  We can put our energy into making ethical purchases. One way to do this is through buying rainforest certified products. See Rainforest Alliance.  Another buying practice could include avoiding palm oil. Palm oil is pervasive in our foods, but with the support of an app (available from Apple and Google Play) we can take simple steps to make better choices.  We can unite to protect our common home and preserve the Amazon for the people living in it, future generations, and for the sake of God’s creation.

Messages to: Amanda Carrier rsm - MGA Intern

[1] Mayaki SJ, Fr. Benedict. “Brazilian Amazon Bishops Call for Attention for Indigenous Peoples.”  Vatican News. 5 May, 2020.

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