Pope Affirms Catholic Church’s Duty to Indigenous Amazonians Hurt by Climate Change
Images from Rome show tribal leaders in traditional feather headdresses alongside Vatican officials in their regalia. They are gathered with hundreds of bishops, priests, religious sisters and missionaries to discuss the pastoral, cultural and ecological struggles of the Amazon.
The Amazon meeting is part of Pope Francis's efforts to build a "Church which listens." Since taking office in 2013, Francis has revitalized the Catholic Church's practice of "synods" — a Greek word meaning "council" — expanding decision-making in the church beyond the Vatican bureaucracy to gather input from the entire church, including from lay people.
Voting on synod decisions, however, remains restricted to bishops and some male clergy.
The Amazon synod is the first such meeting to be organized for a specific ecological region. Media coverage of this event has emphasized its more controversial debates — such as the possibility of easing celibacy requirements in the rural Amazon, where priests are in extremely short supply.
But its focus is much broader: listening to the suffering of the Amazon — particularly the environmental challenges facing the region — and discerning how to respond as a global church.
Amazon in Crisis
After more than a decade of environmental policies that successfully slowed deforestation in the Amazon, logging and agricultural clearing have begun to increase rapidly again. The fires in the Brazilian rainforest that captured headlines in early September are symptoms of much broader destruction.
Up to 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has already been eliminated — dangerously close to the 20 percent to 40 percent tipping point that experts say would lead the entire ecosystem to collapse.
Stories of deforestation can seem insignificant against the vastness of the Amazon, a region two-thirds the size of the lower 48 United States.
But for the 390 indigenous ethnic groups who inhabit the region, each burned forest grove, polluted stream or flooded dam site may mark the end of a way of life that's survived for thousands of years.
Deprived of their land, many indigenous Amazonians are forced into an exposed life on the edge of frontier towns, where they are prey to sex trafficking, slave labor and violence. In Brazil alone, at least 1,119 indigenous people have been killed defending their land since 2003.
The Catholic Church recognizes that it still has to address the "open wound" of its own role in the colonial-era violence that first terrorized the indigenous peoples of the Americas, according to the synod's working document. The church legitimated the colonial confiscation of lands occupied by indigenous peoples and its missionaries often suppressed indigenous cultures and religions.
For this reason, according to the Vatican, organizers of the synod have sought input through 260 listening events held in the region that reached nearly 87,000 people over the past two years. Indigenous leaders have been invited as observer participants in the meeting itself.
Learning From Indigenous Peoples
As a theologian who studies religious responses to the environmental crisis, I find the pope's effort to learn from the indigenous people of the Amazon noteworthy.
The Vatican sees that the Amazon's traditional residents know something much of humanity has long forgotten: how to live in ecological harmony with the environment.
"To the aboriginal communities we owe their thousands of years of care and cultivation of the Amazon," the 58-page synod working document reads. "In their ancestral wisdom they have nurtured the conviction that all of creation is connected, and this deserves our respect and responsibility."
Pope Francis has expressed his respect for indigenous peoples before.
At a meeting of indigenous leaders in Peru in January 2018 he said, "Your lives cry out against a style of life that is oblivious to its own real cost. You are a living memory of the mission that God has entrusted to us all: the protection of our common home."
Global Problems, Local Solutions
Environmental destruction isn't the synod's only concern.
Catholicism — long the dominant religion in Latin America — is rapidly losing members to evangelical Protestantism. Evangelicals are projected to eclipse Catholics in Brazil by 2032.
One advantage evangelical churches have in Amazonian countries is that they can appoint local indigenous pastors to minister to their communities. Meanwhile, with less than one priest per 8,000 Catholics in the Amazon, some isolated communities might see a priest only once a year.
The scarcity of priests in rural Latin America is behind a proposal to the synod to ordain older married men as priests in isolated Amazonian communities.
In the the U.S., the celibacy question is easily mapped onto a familiar divide. Progressive Catholics argue that clerical celibacy should be optional, while conservative Catholics insist this discipline is fundamental to the faith.
The issue is far less politicized in the Amazon, where, in the words of one bishop, the Catholic Church remains a "visiting church" with limited day-to-day presence in indigenous communities.
Some might dismiss this synod as just a meeting. But, in my judgment, it is an attempt to apply Francis' vision of a "listening Church" to the environmental crisis. The Synod of the Amazon marks a significant shift from high-minded papal exhortations about taking climate action to a global religious community that gives voice to those living on the front lines of ecological destruction.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
Vincent J. Miller is a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton.
- 56 Million Native American Deaths Caused by European Colonizers ... ›
- 3 Massacres in 12 Days Suspected in Brazilian Amazon - EcoWatch ›
- Gold Miners Murder Indigenous Leader, Force Villagers in Brazil's ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
- Standing Rock Veterans Lead Fight to Shut Down Enbridge Line 5 ... ›
- 2 Women Charged With Conspiracy, Arson Over 2017 Dakota ... ›
- What's Next for the Water Protectors at Standing Rock? - EcoWatch ›
- Protesters Lock Their Bodies to Machines to Stop Dakota Access ... ›
- Stopping a Dakota Access Pipeline Leak in Under 10 Minutes? A ... ›
A herdsman in the Chinese autonomous region of Inner Mongolia was diagnosed with the bubonic plague Sunday, The New York Times reported.
- Plagues Follow Bad Leadership in Ancient Greek Tales - EcoWatch ›
- Black Death Is Back! Two Cases of Plague Confirmed in China ... ›
By Matt Kasson, Brian Lovett and Carolee Bull
Home gardening is having a boom year across the U.S. Whether they're growing their own food in response to pandemic shortages or just looking for a diversion, numerous aspiring gardeners have constructed their first raised beds, and seeds are flying off suppliers' shelves. Now that gardens are largely planted, much of the work for the next several months revolves around keeping them healthy.
Start With Prevention<p>Just as preventive steps like maintaining a balanced diet help keep humans healthy, home growers can take many actions to help their gardens thrive.</p><p>One key step is assessing soil fertility – the ability of soil to sustain plant growth – which can vary widely depending on your location and soil type. Low soil fertility limits food production and predisposes plants to disease and pests. University extension <a href="https://soiltesting.wvu.edu/" target="_blank">soil testing labs</a> can help evaluate the quality of garden soil and identify nutrient deficiencies and acidic soils, often at no charge.</p>
Using weed barrier landscape cloth for planting rows and mulching between rows is an effective way to suppress weeds. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
Diagnosing Problems<p>Common plant pathogens include <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/viral/introduction/Pages/PlantViruses.aspx" target="_blank">viruses</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/prokaryote/intro/Pages/Bacteria.aspx" target="_blank">bacteria</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/nematode/intro/Pages/IntroNematodes.aspx" target="_blank">nematodes</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/oomycete/introduction/Pages/IntroOomycetes.aspx#:%7E:text=The%20oomycetes%2C%20also%20known%20as,foliar%20blights%20and%20downy%20mildews." target="_blank">oomycetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/fungalasco/intro/Pages/IntroFungi.aspx" target="_blank">fungi</a>. All of these microorganisms, especially at an early stage of infection, are too small to see. But when they proliferate, they cause changes in plants that we can recognize.</p><p>Unlike insects, which move around on six legs or on wings through the air, pathogens can move unseen and unchecked from leaf to leaf on the wind, through the soil or in droplets of water. Some microbes have even formed intimate relationships with insects and use them as vehicles to move from plant to plant, which makes these pathogens even more challenging to manage. Unfortunately, by the time some pathogens make their presence known, the damage is already done.</p><p>We recently conducted a <a href="https://twitter.com/kasson_wvu/status/1265989041725624323" target="_blank">Twitter poll</a> of gardeners nationwide to find out which culprits plagued their gardens. People named <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/aphids" target="_blank">aphids</a>, <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/squash-vine-borer" target="_blank">squash vine borers</a>, <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/squash-bug" target="_blank">squash bugs</a> and <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/flea-beetle" target="_blank">flea beetles</a> as the most problematic insect pests. Their most troublesome pathogens included <a href="https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/plant-disease/fruit-vegetable-diseases/powdery-mildew" target="_blank">powdery mildew</a>, <a href="https://plantpath.ifas.ufl.edu/rsol/Trainingmodules/BWTomato_Module.html" target="_blank">tomato bacterial wilt</a> and <a href="https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/plant-disease/fruit-vegetable-diseases/downy-mildew" target="_blank">cucurbit downy mildew</a>.</p><p>To manage such perennial challenges, the first step is to spend time closely looking at your plants. Do you notice any insects consistently hanging around, or molds colonizing leaves or other plant parts? How about symptoms such as blight, stunting, or leaves that are yellowing, browning or wilting?</p>
This white fungal growth is an early sign of powdery mildew on a leaf of susceptible summer squash. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
- 5 Ways to Make Your Garden Regenerative - EcoWatch ›
- How to Make your House and Garden More Tranquil - EcoWatch ›
- Gardening in Hard Times Has Deep History - EcoWatch ›
By Emma Charlton
The effects of climate change may more far-reaching than you think.
Hotter temperatures have been linked to a rise in energy poverty, with more people struggling to meet their energy bills from their household income, according to a new study published on ScienceDirect by researchers from Italy's Ca' Foscari University.
Value of air conditioning imports in selected OECD countries. ScienceDirect
The ‘Golden Thread’<p>The <a href="https://www.endenergypoverty.org/reports" target="_blank">Global Commission to End Energy Poverty</a> calls access to energy the "golden thread" that weaves together economic growth, human development, and environmental sustainability. And one of the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/archive/sdg-07-affordable-and-clean-energy" target="_blank">United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals</a> is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.</p><p>Sustainability also has a large role to play in the future of energy and failing to embed green policies in COVID-19 stimulus packages and underinvesting in green infrastructure are current risks, according to the <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_COVID_19_Risks_Outlook_Special_Edition_Pages.pdf" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</p><p>In its vision for a 'Great Reset' – building a better world after the pandemic – the Forum and the IMF jointly backed the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/end-fossil-fuel-subsidies-economy-imf-georgieva-great-reset-climate/" target="_blank">transition to a green economy</a> and called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies.</p>
As if the surging cases of coronavirus weren't enough for Floridians to handle, now the state's Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed that a person in the Tampa area tested positive for a rare brain-eating amoeba, according to CBS News. The Florida DOH posted a warning to residents to remind them of the dangers of the rare single-celled amoeba that attacks brain tissue.
Scientists are urging the WHO to revisit their coronavirus guidance to focus more on airborne transmission and less on hand sanitizer and hygiene. John Lund / Photodisc / Getty Images
The World Health Organization (WHO) is holding the line on its stance that the respiratory droplets of the coronavirus fall quickly to the floor and are not infectious. Now, a group of 239 scientists is challenging that assertion, arguing that the virus is lingering in the air of indoor environments, infecting people nearby, as The New York Times reported.
- Summer Heat Won't Kill the Coronavirus, New Study Says - EcoWatch ›
- Here's Why COVID-19 Can Spread So Easily at Gyms and Fitness ... ›
- Is the New Coronavirus Airborne? A Study From China Finds Evidence ›
Along the northern shores of the Gulf of Mexico, oysters live in coastal estuaries where saltwater and freshwater meet and mix.
- Hurricanes, Water Wars Threaten New High-End Oyster Industry on ... ›
- 'Dead Zone' Predicted for Gulf of Mexico ›
- The Gulf Oyster Situation Is Very Bad, But There's Hope - EcoWatch ›