SÃO PAULO — Any Catholic who has attended mass since Ash Wednesday will have noticed that the Church in Brazil is very concerned about the country's environment.
For the second year in a row, the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil is using its annual pre-Easter fraternity campaign to sound alarm bells over the state of the planet and the destruction, in particular, of Brazil's biomass. And with good reason: After leveling off between 2005 and 2010, the rate at which the rainforest is being destroyed has once again soared.
The relative respite in rainforest destruction served Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016) well in her first campaign for president, in 2010. Later though, when the numbers started telling a different story, she went so far as to prevent the National Institute For Space Research, or INPE, from publishing its deforestation data. Rousseff won reelection in 2014 but was impeached and removed from office in 2016. To this day, no one has been punished for the forced omission of official statistics.
As I've written in several articles over the past six years, journalists have consistently failed to convey the urgency of the threat. With all eyes are turned to and focused on the so-called "Operation Car Wash" corruption probe, Brazil's agribusiness continues to ruin our most precious natural heritage "like never before in the history of this country."
In past centuries, human incursion into the Amazon did of course hurt the environment. But because of its size, the rainforest still showed signs of resilience. Over the past few years, however, the Amazon's climate system is showing signs of failure, as INPE scientist Antonio Nobre warned in one of his most important research papers, published in 2014. By then, more than 40% of the Amazon rainforest had already been irreversibly destroyed.
Among other things, the rainforest's capacity for retaining water and distributing it through the air in the form of rain has been seriously hampered. That explains the unprecedented drought episodes in the region, in 2005 and 2010. Also under threat are the so-called "flying rivers," air currents that carry precipitation to Brazil's southeast. This is what caused the long-lasting water shortage crisis that part of the country has been facing for many years and will continue to face.
Industrial-scale farming is only part of the problem. Huge infrastructure projects pushed through by Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), are also to blame. The massive Belo Monte hydroelectric complex, under construction since 2011, is the most obvious example. But there are many others. Dozens of other dams are also being planned.
The result of all this is clear to see in the official figures: The rainforest has already lost an area equivalent to five times the size of São Paulo, one of the world's largest and sprawling cities. And the curve is pointing upwards, with rainforest destruction advancing faster now than at any point since 2000.
The INPE reports also make it clear that the only areas resisting the devastation are those inhabited by indigenous tribes. But that could soon change. Current President Michel Temer, after all, named a justice minister who — besides criticizing the anti-corruption investigation — attacked the rights of the indigenous peoples he's supposed to be protecting.
Given how the press, the public and politicians have so clearly failed to revert this suicidal destruction, it's little wonder that the Church is trying to do something, anything to help. What's at stake is nothing less than the fate of Brazil, and of the world as a whole — God's miraculous creation, in the eyes of the Church.
A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.
A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."
The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.
Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."
Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021
Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021
Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?
The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.
The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.
The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."
The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."
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