Green Or Gone

World On Fire: The Amazon Is Only Part Of The Problem

It's easy to fault Jair Bolsonaro for his apparent indifference to the unfolding environmental disaster in Brazil. But there's plenty of blame to go around.

Firefighter in Santa Rosa de Tucabaca, Bolivia, on Aug. 29
Claudio Campagna*

-OpEd-

BUENOS AIRES — Millions of Notre Dames have burned to the ground due to a sovereign state's appalling inability to contain the destructive imagination of a ruthless minority. That is what the Amazon fires are about: people. They're about men who wanted this, still want it, and will continue to do so, because it's a situation that keeps paying ever higher dividends.

If we think of the damage done to a single, marvelous cathedral in Paris as being incalculable, how can we hope to comprehend the significance of degrading the last bastion of glorious nature left to the battered planet? It is a disaster that strikes at the head and the heart, almost inducing an emotional coma.

And in the meantime, other disasters proceed unchecked. Industrial fishing scorches the seas, industrial farming burns the plains, livestock farming incinerates the forests, and the plastics industry adds even more ashes to the pile. All life is now floating in a broth that simmers on the slow fire of climate change. It is happening everywhere, as we deal with one fire at a time.

People have been torching the Amazon for at least 50 years. And yet it's only now that humanity, alarmed by the blackened skies, is saying "enough!" Where were we before? Let the governments keep dosing off, because it doesn't really affect them. Fires create economic opportunities, after all. Let the environmentalists hug their trees, because it's too late: They're already burned.

All of this is part of what we call sustainable development, and these fires are its showcase. It's a conceptual smokescreen that has confused conservationists as well as the general population, who accept irreparable loss as long as it comes progressively.

Let the environmentalists hug their trees, because it's too late: They're already burned.

In case it wasn't clear: The forests are not burning by accident, or because of lightning strikes. This isn't bad luck. It's human volition in all its splendor. The Amazon is being hauled away by people who are demanding far more than their fair share from governments, which are handing over what is not theirs to give. Each tree bears more life than the poor little devil felling it could imagine, and yet we let him proceed.

Today the blame falls on Jair Bolsonaro. But it's not like the Brazilian leader's predecessors, Dilma and Lula, did all that much to protect the Amazon. The same can be said for Evo Morales, in neighboring Bolivia. Likewise, looking at the United States, we deride Donald Trump, as if Barack Obama left an indelible mark on the race against carbon emissions.

Anti-Bolsonaro protest on Aug. 29 — Photo: Avijit Ghosh/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Governments hostile to nature pepper the continents, and their global strategy of destruction is despicable. The harm they do is profound. They don't deserve this planet. But who threw the first stone? To former U.S. president Bill Clinton, I'd say: It's not the economy, stupid! It's nature. But of course the Clintonian message has come to stay.

I repeat: The burning of the Amazon is not a milestone event. It is not even an event. It's as if, before the fire ever broke out in Notre Dame, the great cathedral was already being dismantled stone by stone. This is what's happening in our world. This is how climate change works: little by little. Species die one after another. There are peaks in the process, moments that seem particularly dramatic — but the invisible, everyday destruction is just as harmful.

I am reluctant to propose solutions. I don't want to speak of resilience, or "re-naturalizing," reforestation or reparations. These are palliative measures taken in desperation. All I can do is speak from a point of sadness. Conservationists always think about ways to go beyond status quo. But politicians, led by economists who have become the magi of our time, keep dragging us back. And so, as a result, we go nowhere, which is exactly what's happening with the Amazon and its deeply rooted problems that no one wants to acknowledge.

This is how climate change works, little by little.

In the meantime, the show must go on. Bolsonaro and his ilk, the Napoleons of our time, talk bombastically about sovereignty over species! That is nonsense that beggars belief and defies biology, and yet we follow along with the misguided belief that our institutions will prevail and eventually right the ship. All the while, analysts prattle on about "eco-systemic services' or wasted "natural capital." But the words don't help. They're just more fuel for the fire.

Oh, and one more thing: The satellite images and the pictures of burning forests aren't what best express the disaster. The drama is starkest in the sound of crackling bark, and of the terrified squeals of animals.


*The author is a biologist and physician

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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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