Pope Francis call to save 'vital lungs' of planet
26 August 2019
VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis called for the “vital lungs” of the planet - the Amazon forest - to be saved, at his Angelus on Sunday.
“We are all worried about the vast fires that have developed in the Amazon,” the pope told the crowd in Saint Peter’s Square at the end of his weekly address. “We pray that, with everyone’s commitment, they will be tamed as soon as possible. That lung of forests is vital for our planet.”
The fires in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest are reportedly the result of illegal forest clearing to make way for farming. Set deliberately, the fires spread easily in the dry season. According to experts, the devastating loss of biodiversity and vegetation reduces rain not only across South America but other regions of the world.
Many believe Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is responsible for the conditions he is now trying to control, and environmental organisation Greenpeace have accused Brazilian authorities of not doing enough.
“At the moment, if you burn the forest, you are backed up by a president and then you do exactly as you want to do because you know nothing will happen to you,” Greenpeace Amazon campaigner Olivier Salge told Al Jazeera.
“We have seen statistically that when there is law enforcement, fires and deforestation go down. When it isn’t there they go up,” he added.
The fires coincide with the G7 summit in Biarritz, where French President Emmanuel Macron is hosting Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and Angela Merkel.
In a twitter post, Macron said the “international crisis” of the Brazilian forest fires would be put on the agenda at the summit, raising the ire of his Brazilian counterpart, Bolsonaro, who accused the French President of giving in to “sensationalism” for “personal political interests,” furthermore demonstrating a “colonial mentality.”
“The Amazon forest is an essential part of our history, of our territory and of what makes us feel Brazilian,” Bolsonaro, who initially accused non-government organisations of setting the fires, said in a short speech broadcast on unified networks.
“We are a government of zero tolerance with crime, and it’s no different in the environmental area.”
At the end of his speech Bolsonaro, who has now authorised armed forces to fight the fires, said forest fires exist all over the world and this cannot serve as a pretext for possible international sanctions,” because “Brazil will continue to be, as it has so far, a country friendly to all and responsible for protection of its Amazon forest.”
The ‘lungs of the world’ are said to be vital in the fight against global climate change.