You may have saw on the TV and newspapers those fires that are burning in the rainforests of Brazil. There is estimated to be 73,000 different fires burning. Although forest fires are not uncommon in that area, what is significant is that from the same period last year, there has been an 80% increase in the fires. The culprits seem to be the farmers who want to cultivate the land, set it on fire to remove the trees and before you know it you have fires that are out of control. People in the government in Brazil seem to be turning a blind eye, they don’t seem to care and can only see the short-term cash benefits and miss the long-term damage that is being done.
What happens in the Amazon matters to us all. The rainforest is vital to slowing global warming. It is a climate stabiliser, it hold 20% of the air we breathe on the planet and has 20% of the fresh water in the planet. What happens there is important for what happens to the planet. But we are clearly not looking after it. Over the last 50 years 20% of the forest has been cut down or burned down. It is estimated that if something is not done soon, the destruction of the rainforest will be irreversible and the long-term harm to the planet will be catastrophic
The Amazon is a unique place. It is estimated that tribes have lived there for 11,000 years, they live in places carved out if the greenery. There is estimated to be 1 million indigenous people there, split into 400 different tribes dependant completely on the forest, the trees, the animals and the water for their living. Coming in now are logging firms, farmers who are aim to cut down, burn clear and destroy.
Many people in different countries are now speaking about a climate emergency. Its as if people are waking up late to something that they have heard about but which they were persuaded would never happen. Massive floods, seasonal changes, global warming. Its effects have already arrived, its at the door knocking. And in many ways we have contributed to it, all of us. Capitalisms and the systems that we have lived in tell us consume without any thought of the cost, don’t think of the repercussions. Throw away things without any guilt. Don’t ask where it comes from, how it is made, what it took to get to our shelves.
Maybe what is happening in the Amazon, is the same. It is far away. Forest fires in Brazil, what have they to do with us. And yet we know what happens elsewhere truly affects all of us.
In the first reading of Mass people are sent out with a message to the highways and by ways. To different countries. The message is urgent, they are to move swiftly, it is a message from the Lord. In our own times is this not an urgent message? A message to be headed by all. The rainforest on which the planet’s survival depends is burning, should not everyone wake up to the danger, to the moment. Runners have to be sent out, every town, every village and city should know about it.
The Gospel reading also speaks about acting now before it is too late. The question comes in the form of a question: will only a few be saved. The answer that is given is rush to the gate now. Act now, others are coming from everywhere and you might lose your place in the queue. Act now, respond now before its too late. There is an urgency and panic in the air, lest you lose yoiur place, lest you be shut out. Lest that narrow gate suddenly closes.
It has always been a duty to look after the planet. That we are only stewards, given charge over it, has always been the ase. We were never meant to pollute the seas or the air. To poison the land or ravage vast tracts. We were given stewardship over the planet, we were charged to look after, care for living things.
Let’s hope it is not too late to do that.