Lack of Oxygen for the “lungs of our planet”

Sophia White is a Gap year student with CAFOD. Based in the diocese of Southwark she has decided to raise our awareness about some issues the poorest community in the world are facing.

Lack of Oxygen in Brazil’s Hospitals

This post and it’s call is shaped by a staff and volunteer briefing in which informed us of the lack of oxygen in Brazil’s hospitals, with a new strain of the virus spreading rapidly. This can seem like something of a cruel twist of fate when we consider that 40 percent of Brazil is covered by the Amazon rainforest, “the lungs of our planet.” 

The Amazon forest set on fire by loggers and farmers

Prior to the call, the news item that had been most shaping my consciousness about Brazil (except reports about Jair Bolsonaro’s policies and soundbites) was the Amazon rainforest fires and their lasting impacts. An area roughly the size of a football pitch is cleared in the Amazon every minute. We were told that these fires were caused by a mixture of climate change and the deliberate use of fire for agricultural reasons, which raises various questions about governance. 

Find out more about Climate Change and its lasting effects here

CAFOD’s Partners Working for Resilience and Hope

CAFOD’s partners in Brazil work in urban, agricultural and Amazon regions. While the geography is diverse, I was struck by the similarities in the projects, problems, and people – while we are all indeed one human family, my biggest take-away about the human condition this past year is that we are a far more resilient, creative and hopeful bunch than I had ever realized. 

Delivering food and hygiene kits to indigenous communities

The urban projects are largely concentrated in the favelas (low-income, informal settlements). These areas are poorly planned and have little in terms of public facilities. They are also cramped, and the infrastructure makes it challenging to adhere to public health guidance. Domestic violence has also been on the rise. One of CAFOD’s partners has supported nearly 8,000 families during the pandemic, with the help of many young volunteers from the local area.  

Find out more about how CAFOD works with partners to support Brazil

The Impact on São Paulo’s Favelas

One-third of the residents in one São Paulo favela have been left with no income. As a result, there has been a rise in street homelessness in the city (which has a total population of 16 million) from 24,000 before the pandemic to 1.2 million at the end of 2020. CAFOD’s partners have been lobbying the government to provide basic welfare for the poorest. 

This all served to paint quite a bleak picture of the city; any idea of a rural idyll was also to be shattered, though differently. 

Land Pastoral Commission Helps Landless Farmers

CAFOD’s partners work with many landless farmers, who are legally considered squatters and have very limited rights – and who are disincentive from investing in the land due to their lack tenure. CAFOD’s partners help them to access legal routes in order to get land titles, and to accompany them in getting to know their rights. 

Miners Out, COVID-19 Out: Brazilian Communities Launch a Global Campaign

Partners also work to help farmers develop environmentally-friendly agriculture and improve their yields and quality of their produce, and have established numerous farmers markets in the area. When COVID hit, the governor announced a strict lockdown which meant that farmers couldn’t sell their produce, and that harvest was affected. This also proved to be a time of inspiration and work for the common good. When the Land Pastoral Commission saw that they had a lot of produce that they couldn’t sell and there were a lot of people going hungry, so the farmers donated their produce. 

Finally, to the Amazon, where mining, deforestation and land grabbing are rapidly altering the life and culture of the rainforest (and planet).  

Signs from activists read “illegal miners out, COVID out.”  

Help up support Brazil through our Coronavirus Appeal

Coronavirus Impacting the Lungs of Our Planet

Deforestation in Brazil has surged to its highest levels

Per capita, the indigenous community is most affected by the coronavirus in the country. CAFOD’s partners distribute basic food to indigenous communities, and educate them about coronavirus measures. They are also supporting farmers to plant fruit trees, and to stay on the land in order to restore the ecosystem. This is made more difficult with the arrival of illegal miners who, among other things, can infect rivers with mercury. In this year’s Lent campaign we have been reflecting on the importance of water in our lives, yet here we again see how greed is taking away this most basic right from communities. Speaking about the taking of indigenous land will send me down a rabbit hole that is better left to someone else. 

Brazil is one of the world’s richest countries in natural resources, yet in the city, the countryside and the forest the people are really suffering. We were shown many glimmers of hope during the call, but it is a long way from the Carnival and Copacabana beach which shapes many of our imaginations about Brazil. 

Help up save Brazil and the “Lungs of Our Planet” today

Nature is filled with the words of love

CAFOD campaigner and volunteer, Julie Cox, shares her passionate solidarity with the Yanomami indigenous community in Brazil and how, after meeting Davi and Dario Kopenawa (leaders of the Yanomami community) when they visited CAFOD in February 2020, she has been inspired take on a personal pilgrimage and challenge to fundraise, raise awareness and share the story of this incredible community.

The Terrible Plight of the Yanomami Community in Brazil

Let us take time to stop and breathe a moment…and when you’re ready to reflect:

Welcome to one of the most diverse forests on the planet – envisage the river, the lush foliage, all the sounds, colours, feel the humidity, see the Yanomami living in harmony with their land, the river, the wildlife.  Take as long as you like.

Amazon Rainforest

Let us now awake and consider reality: let’s look at what is actually happening to our earth family members in the Yanomami indigenous community in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest.  They are exposed to severe threats of our making – our consumerist lifestyles fuelling much of what is going on there.

Time is running out for the largest indigenous community of Amazonia, numbering 27,000 people, whose ancestral homeland covers over 200 villages in an area of 2.3 million acres on the Brazilian-Venezuelan border.  The Yanomami are true custodians of their Amazon rainforest reservation.  But their future and the future of the magnificent rainforest now hang on a knife-edge.

Both the elders, the Yanomami shamans, the ones with traditional knowledge of medicinal uses of plants etc. and the youngest are most at risk and tragically succumbing to the new Corona virus epidemic.  Rachel Bunyan for Mailonline, 20 November 2020, publicised figures from a report compiled by Yanomami leaders:  “Confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the reservation have risen some 260% between August and October – from 335-1,202 cases.  So far, there have been 23 confirmed deaths.”  An estimated 10,000 have been exposed, as it is impossible for the Yanomami community to self-isolate.  They have confined themselves to their individual village compounds, having gone deeper into the forest but the disease is spreading.

In addition malarial cases are rising and contributing further, particularly to child-deaths. 

Medical support including provision of ventilators is non-existent for such marginalised communities – chloroquine which can treat malaria and Covid to some degree, has not been distributed and the Brazilian Government is not doing anything.

No food is available at medical points and this situation causes further spread of the virus.

Mercury poisoning is on the increase due to the proliferation of gold mining activities.

Learn more about Davi Kopenawa and how CAFOD and the Yanomami Indigenous Community work together

Why we are implicated in these tragic circumstances

We create the demand which encourages corrupt multi nationals and governments to plunder the earth, unhindered.  The price of gold has sky-rocketed and there are now 200,000 illegal gold miners in the Yanomami territory –another gold-rush is on, with planes, boats, barges transporting tons of equipment, taking advantage of President Bolsonaro’s complicity.

Davi Kopenawa visiting CAFOD in 2020 and meeting our young supporters

Mines are scarring previously pristine rainforest which has taken thousands of years to develop.

The miners are infiltrating, drinking strong alcohol and forcefully having their way with Yanomami women, so clearly this is exacerbating Covid-19 spread.

The loss of elders is tragic for the future of the Yanomami.  Their oral tradition means that their knowledge dies with them.  Since previous malaria epidemics, the loss of elders has weakened the resilience of the indigenous community as a whole.

Gold mining pollutes river water and the land.  The life-span of the Yanomami people is being further diminished as a result through mercury poisoning.  Also, we can ascertain what this is doing to the food chain – poisons being transferred and concentrated upward towards the top predators like the Jaguar.

Scientists have shown that due to our demand for timber, beef and soya (feed for our livestock and poultry to support our meat industry including the UK), the Amazon biome is reaching a tipping point beyond which it will convert to drier savanna vegetation – this will have a massive impact on global weather patterns since evapotranspiration from the tropical Amazon rainforest canopy generates rainfall as far away as Texas, in the key agricultural area of Midwest US. (R S Butler, 2020)   This means production will suffer, which will have a knock on effect to our food imports.

Check out CAFOD’s website for ideas on how to live more simply and sustainably

How can we stop this disaster unfolding?

Let us remind ourselves,

“Nature is filled with the words of love.” Pope Francis in Laudato Si’ para 225    

We all like to think we love nature – and we do, if we take time to appreciate it in our local surroundings and learn from our mother earth and become aware of global connectivity.  Lessening our impact and living gently upon the earth is our natural and authentically loving response.  This involves a certain amount of sacrifice.

If you would like to support the Yanomami as they fight for their lives – please sign their ‘Miners out Covid out’ campaign:   

Please watch the video The Shaman’s Message

My Amazon Pilgrimage

My challenge is to cover the 6,400 Km distance of the R. Amazon by 2027, through combined country-walking and swimming.  I’m considering open-water swimming as leisure centres/pools are still closed.  In addition I’m raising funds from crafting hats, headbands and scarfs.

I invite you to look at my JustGiving Fundraising page.

Please be assured that all your donations will go directly to the Hutukara Yanomami Association, led by Davi Kopenawa, himself.  CAFOD will send the initial target sum as soon as it’s raised.  Fundraising will continue for the duration of my virtual pilgrimage challenge of the length of the Amazon. I very much hope to encourage others to begin their own fund-raising initiatives – our Earth cries out as do the Best Keepers of the Earth, our indigenous peoples of the rainforest.

Let’s take time to hear the cry of the Yanomami, of future generations and that of the Earth.  Lets, together, do whatever we can in order to help ensure their future survival.

My sincere thanks to all supporters.  We can make a difference, together with CAFOD’s fantastic encouragement and outreach support.

You made a difference to the Maua Community: Thank-you

Moses Allen - Southwark Diocese

Moses Allen volunteers in the Southwark Volunteer Centre

For many months the Maua community in Brasil have faced eviction from their home in San Paulo, Brazil. Just under a 1000 people were potentially going to be made homeless and end up on the streets, but thanks to over 4000 CAFOD supporters who signed petitions, wrote emails and shared photos on twitter the eviction has been stopped.