Eat, Act, Pray - November
The glimmering lights and tall skyscrapers of Sao Paulo, tower over seemingly endless miles of agricultural heartland. The city of Sao Paulo boasts the highest number of private helicopter ownership in the world and yet, for all the eye-watering amount of wealth on display, Brazil is still home to 16 million people who live in abject poverty.
The Quilombolas (Kil-om-bo-las) are descendants of escaped slaves - people who fled Brazil’s early colonial plantations and sought safety in the most remote parts of the Amazon rainforest.
Here, they were free to found communities which they called quilombos and they learned the ways of life in the forest from the indigenous communities they encountered. No one knows how many quilombola people there are but it’s estimated that there are around 3000-5000 communities in Brazil.
These communities are on the front line of the battle against climate change. Their way of life, one which is sustainable and respects the rainforests they call home, is under threat from external forces.
Raimundo Printes do Carmo is a community organiser for a quilombola community in the northern state of Para.
‘We cut down the foliage and trees and burn them. The ashes provide nutrients for the soil. But we only cultivate an area for four or five years or so and then we leave it so that the forest can grow back. If you don’t rest the land after a few years, nothing will grow there.’
In 1988 a change in Brazil’s constitution allowed Quilombolas communities to apply for collective ownership of their land, but as of 2012 only 192 communities had taken advantage of this ruling. This is largely down to their lack of access to legal support or knowledge of life outside their rainforest communities.
Throughout the whole of human history prior to 1970, only 1% of the Amazon had been deforested. But in 41 years between 1970 and 2011, a staggering 18.2% of the rainforest was deforested. An area roughly the size of Zambia (that’s larger than France or Afghanistan) was lost forever - 745,289 km² of forest destroyed.
In contrast to the rate of deforestation across the Amazon, in territories that are under the control of quilombola or indigenous people’s control, just 1% of forest cover has been lost.
Raimundo coordinates meetings and helps bring the community together to make collective decisions on critical issues such as whether to sign contracts with external companies wanting logging or fishing rights. He also talks eloquently about how quilombolas live in harmony with the land and the forest:
‘We are not greedy, we only cultivate a small patch to meet our needs.. We understand the forest.’
As you sit down to share food think about what it might mean if Quilombolas communities weren't there to fight for the rainforest.
Talk It Over
- How do you know what rights you have? Who told you? Would you know who to go to or what to do if your rights were called into question?
- Climate change is about much more than recycling and using renewable energies. How can we better support those communities who stand guard on the fringes of our world's most precious ecosystems?
- Who's causing climate change? Is it us? Is it who we buy our energy from? Maybe it's who we bank with...?
Financing coal, oil and gas fuels climate change.
The biggest banks in the UK, the ones that most of us rely upon to look after our money, are not using that money to look after our earth, our shared home.
Instead they continue to finance the extraction and burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, all of which produce carbon pollution. This in turn fuels climate change, threatening the lives of our sisters and brothers around the world and putting all of our futures at risk.
If we’re going to build a better world and prevent irreversible damage to God’s abundant creation, we need to make the big shift away from fossil fuels and into clean energy.
Money is key. And your bank could be part of the solution.
This is a Brazilian classic!
Thank you that we live in a country with rights to speak against those who would threaten to take them from us.
We thank you for the Quilombolas communities of Brazil, for their sustainability and their boldness to protect their home.
Help us be as brave, to stand up for our friends, our communities and our shared world,