In the preface to a new book published ahead of the October Pan-Amazonian Synod of Bishops, Brazilian Cardinal Cláudio Hummes reflects on “New models of development”, and on the dangers facing the whole of the Amazon region.
The Pan-Amazonian Synod of Bishops opens in the Vatican on Sunday 6 October. In the preparatory document, an entire section is dedicated to the “ecological dimension” of Amazonia. “From an environmental point of view”, reads the document, “the Amazon…is a lung of the planet and one of the sites of greatest biodiversity in the world”.
Colonial models of development
Cardinal Cláudio Hummes develops that theme in his reflections, denouncing what he calls a development model “imposed by public authorities and the interests of private companies” and that “expresses itself as a re-edition of colonialism”.
“The Amazon forest is conceived in terms of an immense reserve that can be exploited by industries of all kinds”, he writes. The Cardinal describes these as “predatory activities” and warns how “with deforestation and pollution, the immense, rich and complex biodiversity of this living environment is lost”.
New models of development
These disastrous effects are not limited to the immediate environment either: “as a direct consequence of these actions, thousands of Indios are forced to migrate to the cities”, says Cardinal Hummes. Once they arrive there, the great majority of them “are reduced to poverty…They are discarded, thrown into the trash, in the name of progress”.
The Cardinal goes on to explain how the Synod on the Amazon “will face the challenge of formulating and promoting new models of development”. While the Church does not have the competence to formulate such models, he adds, it can denounce “the evils that the current model causes, and can indicate principles that shed light on the formulation of new models and can stimulate their implementation and functioning”.
When Pope Francis addressed the Brazilian Bishops in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, he described the current model of predation in terms of people “who have their bags ready to go, after exploiting all they have been able to exploit”, and leaving behind them a trail of destruction.
One thing is certain, concludes Cardinal Hummes: “if the current model of development of the Amazon persists, the whole region will end up being destroyed, with all the foreseeable disastrous consequences”.