A Hail Mary for the Amazon

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A Hail Mary for the Amazon

Deforestation in the Amazon is accelerating. (Photo: WWF)

In what might be called a desperate hail mary pass to save the beleaguered Amazon rainforest, a Colombian court gave the region region rights, a bit similar to a person.

The concept is great. After all, Colombian is suffering a terrible – and accelerating – loss of forest. Between the years 2015 and 2016 deforestation rose 44%, destroying close to 200,000 hectares of forest in 2016 and accompanying biodiversity, much of it in the Amazon. And deforestation apparently has speeded up since then.

The acceleration may result in part from the peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas, who

controlled a lot of territory in Colombia’s remote regions and its jungle south. By threatening miners, farmers and cattleraisers in remote regions with robbery, extortion and kidnapping, the guerrillas involuntarily protected those areas. Today, the FARC are demobilizing, leaving Colombia’s natural diversity open for business – and exploitation.

But the basic motives underlying deforestation are capitalistic: A jungle, tragically, is worth more dead and gone than it is living and dynamic – at leat in the short term. Loggers, soybean farmers, coca leaf growers, mahogany loggers and others feed their families next month and next year by destroying forest, although all of us will pay much more in the long run.

The court’s ruling is very admirable – and very idealistic.

But unfortunately, the illegal miners, ranchers and loggers who are clearing Colombia’s jungles are not likely to respect a judge’s opinion. The fundamental problem is that the jungle contains immense resources waiting to be stolen, with almost no protection. In some regions, just a few rangers are charged with protecting tens of thousands of square kilometers of wildlands, leaving them unprotected at all. It’s a depressing situation with no solution in sight.

However, while courts and park rangers aren’t likely to do much, each of us can reduce pressure on the Amazon a bit by minimizing our own consumption of Amazon products, such as hardwoods, beef and soybeans produced by deforesting jungle.

A bus pollutes central Bogotá. Don’t kids have a
right to be protected from this?

This lawsuit was filed in the name of Colombian children’s right to a healthy environment and protection from the impacts of global warming. The right to a healthy environment is in Colombia’s Constitution. That begs the question why courts don’t protect urban kids’ rights to a clean environment with healthy, breathable air?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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