Pope Francis called for the Amazon rainforest to be rescued from destructive industrial interests and returned to its exuberant natural state in a 94-page “exhortation.”
The religious leader lamented the disastrous effects of mining, logging, and agriculture on the Amazon rainforest and warned that fragile ecological systems are being greatly disrupted.
“Our dream is that of an Amazon region that can integrate and promote all its inhabitants, enabling them to enjoy ‘good living,’” he wrote.
Since the early 1900s, the Amazon has lost 20% of its mass. In recent years, the Amazon’s destruction has accelerated under the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro, who came to office vowing to open the forest up to industrial activity.
In 2019, 3,475 miles of forest were lost in the Brazilian Amazon, an increase of 85% compared to the year before.
The pope emphasized how the forest’s decline is as much political and cultural, as it is biological. As the rainforest gets razed, Indigenous communities are being displaced, attacked, subjected to heavy pollution, and killed.
“The businesses, national or international, which harm the Amazon and fail to respect the right of the original peoples to the land and its boundaries, and to self-determination and prior consent, should be called for what they are: injustice and crime,” Pope Francis wrote.
He called on people worldwide to feel a sense of outrage over what’s happening in the Amazon, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, and then to turn that outrage into “networks of solidarity and development.”
He said that a sustainable transition beyond the status quo must involve Indigenous voices and wisdom who have, for centuries and millennia, lived harmoniously with the forest. After all, Indigenous people are widely considered to be the best land guardians in the world.
Pope Francis has long championed the United Nations’ Global Goals. In particular, he calls for the eradication of poverty and climate action. In 2015, he wrote an influential book on the threat of climate change and the possibility for societal transformation.
Other world leaders have urged Bolsonaro to protect the Amazon, but to no avail. French President Emmanuel Macron, for example, was insulted by Bolsonaro after pledging $20 million to the forest.
While Pope Francis’ message may face similar resistance, his call for global solidarity has already taken root. As the Amazon experienced a surge in man-made fires last year, people from around the world donated to conservation and Indigenous rights groups in the area.