This month I had it in mind to write something about where our plastic is going – or not going! – to be recycled. But then, a couple of days ago, I heard about the Amazon rain forest on the news. I knew vast portions were being felled. But this really hit home… Every single minute an area of rain forest the size of a football pitch is being cleared by bulldozers.
This is a catastrophe for the climate. The trees of the rain forest store vast amounts of carbon and their leaves also absorb a huge quantity of carbon dioxide. Added to that, though, it’s being done to graze cattle – just about the worst animals for their contribution to global warming.
We are all now in no doubt that we face a Climate Emergency. Our Government has committed us to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, although many would argue that this really isn’t enough. But meanwhile, the President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is encouraging deforestation, robbing the world of its very best resource for slowing down the pace of global warming. He has forbidden his environment staff from talking to the media, but they are so concerned that they have taken the risk of speaking out anonymously. The fact that it’s also a catastrophe for the amazing biodiversity of the Amazon and its indigenous peoples almost seems trivial in comparison. But it is a brutal attack on the earth itself; on God’s creation, which is holy and reveals so much about him.
Some Brazilian farmers argue that the restrictions are too great for a country that needs to create jobs. Jobs are important, of course. But there’s little point in creating jobs if there’s no earth to live on. Sometimes people need different sorts of jobs.
It may seem unfair that one part of the world should have to bear this burden. But that’s how things sometimes work. Each part of the world has precious gifts to treasure for all of humanity. Perhaps other countries should be paying Brazil to preserve the rain forest.
This might make you feel it’s not worth bothering to do anything. Why should we cut down on car journeys, change our bulbs or have meat free days if the rain forest is disappearing at such a rate? All we’re doing is a drop in the ocean. But if we don’t, nobody else will. We have to do it, partly, to make a point. You might call it a prophetic act.
A couple of months ago our church organized a local litter pick. It would, of course, be much better if the litter wasn’t dropped in the first place. Someone said to me, ‘I don’t see why I should have to go around picking up other people’s litter.’ I agree. But if I do go around picking up other people’s litter, perhaps eventually those other people get the message.
In a few years that new farm land in Brazil will be desert. It’s not the right type of land for grazing cattle for generations. What is happening is incredibly sinful – it’s truly selfish, and just for short-term gain. It’s a bit like a modern day version of Jesus’ parable of the Rich Fool, who stores up as much as he can but then dies (Luke 12.13-21). We could apply this to many aspects of life. But, whatever the situation, we have to combat the forces of despair that say ‘why bother?’
Going back to the Amazon, what can little people like you and me, living thousands of miles away, possibly do? Remember that there are people in Brazil who are even more shocked and enraged about this than we are. Add your voice to theirs – there might even be a campaign or two around in the coming months. And never forget the power of prayer. If we can pray for so many other things, we should certainly pray about this. It’s a matter of life and death.
With every blessing