Representatives of the Catholic Church, in the spirit of Pope Francis’ environmental message to the Church and the World, Laudate Si - On care for our Common Home (LS), will meet in Rome during the month of October 2019 to reflect on “Amazonia: New paths for the Church and for an integral Ecology”. In many ways, the Church will continue to reflect on her ecological responsibility together with all humanity, through Amazonian eyes. Peoples everywhere hope for inspiration that will lead to a major shift in relations towards, and within, our Common Home.
Many preparatory meetings, conversations, conferences and working documents precede the October event. PLANT (Partners for the Land & Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples) wants to call attention to merely one issue which was briefly raised in the section of LS concerning dialogue on the environment in the international community:
“The strategy of buying and selling “carbon credits” can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require. Rather, it may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.” LS 171
During several years of engagement in the Amazonian region, we have witnessed the devastating effects of enforcing the carbon trade approach to climate change on traditional peoples. The mechanism is a neo-colonial tool, masquerading as an international answer to global warming, while facilitating subtle forms of “Green Grabs”. Not only is the complicated jargon around cap and trade programs part of the shifting and invisible hand of a market force which wants to quantify Nature, thereby reducing eco-systems to money value; it is above all an invasive, disruptive and unintelligible proposal to indigenous communities. Case after case illustrates the cultural breakdown, corruption and militarization of “conservation” which ensue. Naïve and well-intentioned donors to carbon trade and biodiversity offsetting are constantly being scammed by fake websites and the illusionary promises of carbon crooks about the impact of their investments. Back in 2007, even the Vatican State itself was conned into funding one such false scheme.
At a wider global level, and after more than a decade of pushing carbon trade/offsetting schemes onto poorer populations and their lands, which are expected to clean up the mess of polluting businesses and lifestyles in affluent regions, global warming continues to increase with the consequent and already felt signs of ecological collapse. Such approaches reveal the economic and social inequality magnified by climate change proposals, which perpetuate prevailing power relations and a “development model” that fails to address the inherent ecocide cost to already endangered biospheres.
This certainly is not at all the biosphere integrity which an “Integral Ecology” aims to articulate and promote. It is not accountability within our borderless global community which is itself an integral part of a delicate interconnected web of life. No more time remains for continuing with schemes that displace responsibility and distract attention from the real issue before us and our common home, that is: halting pollution at the source and where the problems originate and are perpetuated.
Even though spurious carbon trading has made inroads into most Amazonian dioceses and prelacies, by making claims on millions of hectares of traditional peoples’ habitat through a capitalism of Nature, there is little local awareness or effort to confront its implications for traditional peoples. When causes of Amazonian devastation are named, there is seldom mention of “carbon” marketeering because it is invisible and bewildering to the extreme. By re-locating climate burdens onto vulnerable peoples and habitats through money payments, commercial power overrides ecological relationships where the last frontiers are coveted as mere commodities. (See the reports on 24 REDD projects, Resource no.2, from Amazonia and around the world)
Traditional communities themselves lament that their world is being torn apart and turned upside down by arrangements foreign to them. They try to expose the injustices and cultural disorder they suffer from alien backroom deals which affect their lands, waterways, livelihoods and their unique stewardship of a unique biosphere. In a recent letter from one group of leaders, their predicament is obvious:
“We, chiefs and leaders of our Peoples: Apurinã, Apolima-Arara, Jamamadi, Jaminawa, Huni Kui, Madihá, Manshineri and Nukini, gathered in the second meeting of peoples with no territory demarcated, want to inform that the government of Acre is receiving millions in the name of Indigenous Peoples for the REDD program and for Payment of Environmental Services by way of contracts with the governments of Germany and California/USA. Few peoples have benefited. The policy implemented with this money has got to a few communities through third parties, reaching out to a minority of the population and creating conflicts between the Peoples and the Indigenous Movement.” (Letter of the Indigenous Peoples with no territory demarcated from the Acre State and the South of Amazonas State, May 09, 2019)
Together with them, we and our partners plead that the conversations next October address LS 171 more directly. This would allow that the harsh experiences of traditional peoples with the neo-colonial solutions to climate change and their world, might inform the reflections of the Synod, as well as the forthcoming COP25 to be hosted by Chile next December.
For more information, please review the five useful resources at the bottom of this page.
PLANT (Partners for the Land & Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples)