Amazon fires are a shameful indictment of our lust for excess

(The Guardian, 6 Sep 2019) The flames engulfing the world’s biggest rainforest are a human tragedy as well as an environmental one. We are all to blame.

The scale of the devastation caused by the wildfires still raging in the Amazon is hard to comprehend. This is a rainforest that provides one-fifth of the world’s oxygen; it is hard not to feel powerless and despairing in the face of the disaster overtaking the region.

But however strong – and bitter – the feeling about this as an environmental catastrophe, we must never lose sight of the fact that it is also a human tragedy.

We need to listen with intensified attention to the voices of those who call the rainforest home, voices all too often sidelined or deliberately silenced, their stories a mere footnote in global news headlines. We have no excuse for not listening now.

The survival and wellbeing of these communities should take precedence over the drive for “development” that serves only a lust for consumption and convenience. The fact that this does not seem to be an obvious moral priority should make us all ashamed.

For generations, the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin have been the stewards of the forests. Some have literally paid for this with their lives, long before this summer’s fires. These communities have for years been subject to attacks, illegal invasions and deforestation. Their rights have been overridden in the face of the greed of various powerful economic interests, and theirs is a story that speaks of the stark economic inequality blighting and corrupting so much of our world, including countries like Brazil.

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The Guardian, 6 Sep 2019: Amazon fires are a shameful indictment of our lust for excess