amazon deforestation Werner Rudhart/ZumaPress

Francis of the Forest

During his recent visit to Latin America, Pope Francis called for the protection of the Amazon rainforest and the people who live there. When world leaders meet in Paris later this year to craft a global agreement on climate change, they should heed his appeal.

WASHINGTON, DC – When Pope Francis visited Latin America in July, he made an impassioned plea for the protection of the Amazon rainforest and the people who live there. “Our common home is being pillaged, laid waste and harmed with impunity,” he told activists gathered in Bolivia for the World Meeting of Popular Movements. “Cowardice in defending it is a grave sin.”

Heeding Francis’s call for action is not only a moral issue; it is a practical one. When world leaders meet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year to craft a response to the challenges of global warming, they should put in place policies to protect tropical forests and the people who make them their home.

Francis is hardly the first missionary to have visited the Amazon. Franciscan, Jesuit, and Dominican priests have been spreading the gospel in the region for centuries. What makes Francis’s appeal different is that his words were directed not so much at the local population, but at the residents of North America and Europe, where demand for timber, biofuels, and agricultural products drives the destruction of the rainforests and imperils the lives of indigenous populations.

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