"Liberation Ecology" calls for stewardship and fair sharing
Latin America's Surprising New Eco-Warriors
We excerpt from an article passed on by Alternet (of Independent Media Institute) August 29 from Sierra Magazine. Both villagers and priests resist the razing of forests and hills by needy neighbors and greedy investors. More than just oppose development, their leaders call for both sharing nature's value and husbanding nature herself.
by Marilyn Berlin Snell, Sierra Magazine, posted at AlterNetAt a wedding, Father Jose Andres Tamayo Cortez warns a young groom that in the 21st century it is not OK to come home drunk and abuse his new wife. At the chapel door and windows, the priest's camouflage-clad bodyguards stand armed with M-16s. Tamayo confronts loggers, legal and illegal, who have been chainsawing their way through mountains rich in pine and tropical hardwoods of Olancho, a lawless region known as the Texas of Honduras.
Since 1998, six environmentalists have been killed. In 2005, three snipers shot at Tamayo but killed his passenger. Last year, 280 local loggers surrounded Tamayo's church and tried to get at him. The Honduran army dispersed the mob, and President Zelaya assigned soldiers to protect Tamayo around the clock. The priest’s hands tremble as he speaks. "Sometimes I get so scared I can't think at all," he says. "I get paralyzed. I just wait for death to come."
Tamayo and a growing number of Catholic clergy throughout Latin America have come to see protection of the land and water as God's work, their duty to the region's 500 million Catholics. This "liberation ecology" movement, with the church at its spiritual heart, has been taking shape from Chile to Mexico.
The liberation theology movement that began to gain strength in the 1970s sided with the poor during a time when military regimes, supported by the region's oligarchs, ruthlessly suppressed social reform -- killing more than 200,000 people in Guatemala alone, most of them indigenous.
The Vatican assigned Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to rein in what it saw as renegade priests and bishops. Ratzinger's policy helped derail the movement and gave his career a boost. In 2005, the Roman Catholic Church elected him its Supreme Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI.
On New Year's Day Pope Benedict said in a speech that “The destruction of the environment, its improper or selfish use, and the violent hoarding of the earth's resources cause grievances, conflicts, and wars precisely because they are the consequences of an inhumane concept of development."
Central Americans have always mined and logged. Mayans adorned themselves in gold and silver jewelry and used the precious metals to decorate their temples.
The transnational companies that now have a corner on Central American timber and metals -- most of them from Canada and the United States -- are part of a lineage dating back to the 16th century, when conquistadors began sending ships loaded with New World gold and silver back to Spain's Catholic rulers. "Our wealth," Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galleano writes, "has always generated our poverty by nourishing the prosperity of others."
Unregulated forestry production in Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, is worth an estimated $55 million to $70 million per year.
The Honduran Congress passed a law so generous it may have been written by the transnational mining operations' lawyers. The law requires only a one percent tax on mines' profits and allows companies to seize homes and move inhabitants. Environmental regulations are exceedingly lax.
Guatemala's Bishop Álvaro Ramazzini calls for much higher taxes and safer mining methods. Unheeded so far, Ramazzini still pushes for reform. It isn't a middle-class movement as it is in the United States. It's in the villages, in the highlands; it's life or death. (http://www.alternet.org/environment/61019/?page=1)
JJS: More than decry the grab for resources by the rich and powerful and bemoan the resultant destruction of the environment, people who care need to articulate the moral principle that the worth of Earth is for all of us to share. Not just ore and timber in rural regions but also the land, the locations, in metropolitan regions as well. As green activists voice these rights to both a healthy Earth and to a share of her worth -- and begin to recover and share the value of land in developed nations -- then it will become easier, and much safer, to both utilize and steward resources in countries hoping to develop.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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