THE PINK DOLPHIN: Pope Francis calls for Amazon protection

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Pope Francis chastises Ecuador’s president in call for environmental protection

 

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Ecuador is rich in natural resources and Pope Francis encouraged the country’s residents to keep it that way. Calling for the protection of the Amazon rain forest and indigenous people, Pope Francis said resisting short-term gain was essential. In so doing, he rebuked the current plans of Ecuador president Rafael Correa.

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Francis invoked a biblical statute that protecting creation is crucial and he further praised the indigenous people of the region who have been fighting Correa’s plan to expand oil exploration in Ecuador. “As stewards of these riches which we have received,” Francis said, “we have an obligation to society as a whole, and toward future generations.”

After releasing the “Laudato Si” last month, his environmental encyclical, it was expected the Pope would address the exploitation of the Amazon in his speeches. The encyclical calls on governments around the world to save our “common home” and makes it particularly the responsibility of Catholics to take up the cause of fighting against climate change. He also highlighted the “link between environmental destruction and the plight of the poor, including indigenous groups in South America,” according to the New York Times.

RELATED: Ecuador approves drilling in the Amazon rainforest

Ecuador uses revenue from oil to run the government. President Correa has approved requests for expansion of oil exploration into the Ecuadorean Amazon — including inside Yasuni National Park, one of the most extreme examples of true biodiversity in the world. Correa hasn’t been without ideas to help protect the rainforest; in 2007, he suggested Ecuador would leave the oil in the ground if other governments around the world would contribute to a $3.6 billion “trust fund” that would protect the 4,000 square miles of rainforest. When other governments would not contribute, Mr. Correa ended the moratorium on exploration and started to approve applications for new oil production.

Activists in Ecuador have asked for Pope Francis to intervene directly with President Correa. Without specifically calling the president out, Francis cited his own work and asked Ecuador to work with other countries bordering the Amazon to protect this precious resource.

Source:The New York Times

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Pope Francis, in Ecuador, Calls for More Protection of Rain Forest and Its People

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QUITO, Ecuador — Pope Francis on Tuesday called for increased protection of the Amazon rain forest and the indigenous people who live there, declaring that Ecuador must resist exploiting natural riches for “short-term benefits,” an implicit rebuke of the policies of President Rafael Correa.

In his final stops of a busy day, Francis made environmental protection a central theme, invoking the biblical tenet for humans to be guardians of creation, while praising the way of life of indigenous peoples living in the rain forests. Several indigenous leaders attending Francis’ final event of the day have been fighting the policies of Mr. Correa to expand oil exploration in the Ecuadorean Amazon.

“The tapping of natural resources, which are so abundant in Ecuador, must not be concerned with short-term benefits,” Francis told a group of civil society leaders at his final stop of the day. “As stewards of these riches which we have received, we have an obligation toward society as a whole, and toward future generations.”

Francis had been expected to address the exploitation of the Amazon, after specifically including the issue in “Laudato Si’,” the environmental encyclical he released to worldwide attention last month. In the document, Francis warned against the perils of climate change but also highlighted the link between environmental destruction and the plight of the poor, including indigenous groups in South America.

Beginning his Latin American tour in Ecuador meant the issue would inevitably arise, and would present political complications, since Mr. Correa is expanding oil production in the Amazon. After weeks of middle-class protests against his proposals to redistribute wealth, Mr. Correa has unabashedly sought to be seen in public with the popular pope.

Environmentalists in Ecuador have embraced the pope’s encyclical, yet Francis has bruised some feelings. Leaders of one association of indigenous peoples have complained that Francis declined a request to meet with them privately about their efforts to fight oil production. And it was too soon to know if the pope’s message — which did not include a direct mention of oil exploration — would have an influence on Mr. Correa.

Ecuador’s government depends on oil royalties for revenues, and Mr. Correa has granted approvals for a major expansion of oil exploration in the Ecuadorean Amazon, including in Yasuní National Park, considered one of the richest sources of biodiversity in the world. In 2007, Mr. Correa proposed leaving oil in the ground if other governments would contribute $3.6 billion to a global trust fund intended to protect 4,000 square miles of pristine rain forest.

But when the government contributions did not arrive, Mr. Correa reversed himself. Two years ago, he ended the moratorium on new exploration and set in motion an approvals process that has cleared the way for new oil production to begin next year.

Oil pollution in Ecuadorean jungles has brought two decades of litigation. Among the civil society activists who attended Francis’s last meeting on Tuesday were leaders of seven different indigenous groups living inside Yasuní National Park. (Two other nomadic indigenous groups inside the Yasuní live removed from any contact with civilization.)

Last weekend, activists also published an online open letter to the pope, seeking his direct intervention in protecting the jungle homeland of Ecuador’s indigenous people. Franco Viteri, one of the activists, planned to present the letter to the pope on Tuesday.

“We ask you to intercede and call upon the Ecuadorean government to not expand the oil frontier and mega-mining in indigenous territories, especially in Yasuní,” the letter concluded. “We ask you to call upon them to respect the constitution and international treaties and agreements on the environment and human rights.”

Kevin Koenig, Ecuador program coordinator of the nonprofit group Amazon Watch, said Francis’ encyclical had heartened environmentalists and indigenous leaders in Ecuador, who fear that Mr. Correa’s expansion plans could be devastating.

“President Correa’s environmental policies are at odds with the message of the pope’s encyclical,” said Mr. Koenig, whose group works with indigenous peoples to protect the Amazon. He said oil exploration was “the major indigenous rights environmental battle in the Amazon right now.”

In his remarks on Tuesday, Francis cited his own encyclical, stating that the Amazon required “greater protection because of its immense importance for the global ecosystem.” He also cited his principle of integral ecology, a balance of economic development and environmental protection, and returned to that theme in his remarks on Tuesday.

“Ecuador — together with other countries bordering the Amazon — has an opportunity to become a teacher of integral ecology,” he said. “We received this world as an inheritance from past generations, but also as a loan from future generations, to whom we will have to return it.”

Source: The New York Times

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Editorial Committee

David Dunham

Arno Ambrosius

Gustavo López Ospina

Mariana Almeida

Pieter Jan Brouwer

Assistant: Emilia Romero

The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice is associated with the International Environmental Mission, a grass roots citizens movement created by Chilean Senator Juan Pablo Letelier.

SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer. 

 

~ by SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras on 27 June, 2016.

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