Go and Make Disciples: Five Reasons to Care for the Amazon and Five Things You Can Do to Help
July 27, 2013
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
WWF feels privileged to be partnering with World Youth Day and the Catholic Church, highlighting the very important link between faith and conservation and promoting the environmental protection of the Amazon. His Holiness, Pope Francis’ respect for nature and his strong call for sustainable and equitable development have been early hallmarks of his pontificate. We are grateful for his leadership and his wisdom in teaching that Catholics have a moral obligation to care for the poor and all of Creation. We hope his inspiration will motivate Catholic youth around the world to want to protect the Amazon, which is the basis of life for its inhabitants, for the population of all Latin America, and impacts people in all corners of the Earth. For those Catholic pilgrims attending WYD, these suggestions can help reduce the environmental footprint of their long journey to Rio de Janeiro.
The Amazon is at risk. Its local communities and Indigenous Peoples are threatened by change in climate patterns, and are in desperate need of strong national policies to deal with these threats. They are also suffering from the results of deforestation of the Amazon forests and disruption of river flow by large scale activities, such as cattle ranching and the building of dams and roads that carve through the region and fragment the forest. The Amazon forests play a vital role in stabilizing the global climate, through holding trapped carbon and defining weather patterns. The Amazon is also responsible for the circulation of moisture and humidity; the world’s largest ‘flying rivers’ that supply the continent with life-giving rainfall.
Inspired by Pope Francis’s words, and our partnership with World Youth Day, WWF offers five reasons to care for the Amazon and five things young Catholics can do to help:.
Be a follower of Francis. The Amazon is rich in wildlife diversity – the richest in the world; it is home to 10% of the known species on Earth. God’s love for his creation sings from all corners with creatures as diverse as giant river otters, pink river dolphins, macaws and jaguars. The Amazon is home to 40,000 plant species. Some of these may provide the next cure for cancer, or for other diseases. The greatest threats to these species are deforestation and habitat fragmentation.
Solidarity with the poor. 33 million people live in the Amazon and depend on its natural resources for their survival through ecosystem services such as water availability, clean air, food, building materials, and income generation. When ecological services break down, say when a river becomes polluted or its flow is restricted, there is an immediate effect – we have fewer fish and unsafe drinking water. Who is most likely to suffer in such a scenario? The poor are made most vulnerable by environmental degradation and climate change impacts, unable to recover from floods and landslides, and driven to even deeper levels of poverty.
Breathe for the world. The Amazon forests are majestic, rich and diverse, and help to provide the oxygen that we need to breathe and survive. The Amazon is also the most important dense forest area for the global good, containing 90-140 billion tons of carbon. If the forests were cut down, they would release the equivalent of 10-15 years of global man-made emissions into the atmosphere. We need the forests of the Amazon to remain standing, not only to regulate the air we breathe, but to make sure that their destruction does not move us towards even greater crisis, and ensure that they remain intact for future generations.
Waters of Life. The Amazon River is 6,600 Km long; it is the largest river basin on the planet; Amazon River flow into the ocean is more than that of the Congo, Ganges, Orinoco, Yangtze, Parana/Plata, Mississippi and Mekong rivers combined. The entire river basin 15-16% of world’s freshwater flow into the ocean. The entire Amazon basin is under pressure from hydropower production. We need to make sure that it keeps healthy and flowing, to provide services for human populations and to support biodiversity.
Blessed are the Peacemakers. The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. That includes making peace with nature in the order it was created. The Amazon spans 9 countries whose governments and people need to work together to protect their shared responsibility. It is important for Amazon countries to have a long term vision for sustainable development that ensures the protection of nature, biodiversity and ecosystem services while trying to alleviate poverty for its peoples.
Tapajós River, in the Brazilian Amazon. The free-flowing river is ...
Five Things You Can Do
Early in his pontificate, the Pope said "Let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment." We can all protect nature, protect the environment, and take care of each other in small ways in our everyday life. For the WYD pilgrims, you can take action to reduce the environmental impact of your travel to the gathering. We can also work together in larger ways by supporting campaigns and calls to action. Here are five things you can do as you go forth.
Become a discerning consumer. Ask how your food and other purchases have been produced. Are the wood products you use sustainably harvested? Can you find more sustainable, environmentally safe, locally sourced and organic alternatives for daily products? Can you buy consistent to your values?
Reduce your footprint on the planet. Think about where your energy comes from, reduce your use of fossil fuels, turn off electric appliances when you are not using them, reduce your consumption of meat, choose green energy providers for your household, consider how your actions might have an impact on the environment. Your individual decision makes a difference; as an example, to yourself, and to God.
Be part of one human family. We are one human family, regardless of where we are, and we must join our hands together across the earth. Participate in Earth Hour, learn about how to mitigate climate change, become engaged wherever you are on sharing information about the causes of climate change. We are one human family and even the teaching that we love our neighbour has global dimensions in today’s world. Therefore, you should advocate for sustainable and equitable development – it will safeguard your future and your neighbours.
Speak up for the Amazon peoples. The Amazon is home to an extraordinary diversity of peoples, with different languages, cultures, faiths, world views. Many people living in the Amazon are witnessing environmental destruction which impacts their lives and their wellbeing, through no fault of their own, and they often lack the means and support to speak out against this. We can help them to lend them our voices in solidarity with them, share their stories, speak out about environmental concerns, and through this, contribute in our own way to the protection of the Amazon. You can find out more here: http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/where_we_work/amazon/about_the_amazon/people_amazon/
More information about the Amazon, Faith and Conservation, World Youth Day and WWF: