Jim McGarry
Director, The Sr. Dorothy Stang Center NDNU
Pacifica, California, United States

Amazon Rainforest Settlers Fulfill Paris Promise

“Your great trees, their canopies full of life, they are our heroes and they sing to the clouds the song of enduring life.”

To the People of Para State, Brazil:

You led the way. You pioneered a system of sustainable use that was truly responsive to the needs of the earth in your time and into the future of your descendants. You were held up as an example at the Paris Conference of 2015 and you stayed the course. You meant what you said: eighty percent of each of the parcels in the Amazon, granted to you by the Sustainable Development Project of your national government, were left untouched. The twenty percent you did farm was dominated by methods involving minimal plowing: by native fruits, by coffee, by black pepper. You left desperate poverty in the arid regions or teeming cities of your country and you came to the rainforest. You did not slash and burn as many desperate settlers before you had done, nor did you deforest and graze cattle as so many reckless speculators had done for decades. You farmed sustainably and you sent your children to agronomy training to do it even better. You sent delegations to Indonesia to show them how it could be done, helping to dismantle the dominant palm oil plantation economy there. You formed a breathtaking union of People of the Rainforest around the girdle of the globe who acted as one healer to stabilize the respiration of the earth.

Your elders have told you that Sr. Dorothy Stang was with them in the founding days of sustainable living, from 1966 to her death by hire in 2005. She taught from in their midst, she stayed in their homes, she shared their meals. She shared what you taught her, as you lived together the kinship of the earth. Her cruel death at the hands of those with money, who lusted after the last ounce of the life of the land, only intensified her witness to your worth. The Sisters of Notre Dame that have continued there and are at your service, as they always have been. They advocate for you as you advocate for the earth, as you feed your families in ways that leave the great forest to grace our earth with the oxygen we need, keeping the carbon safely within the biomass in which we make our homes. Your great trees, their canopies full of life, they are our heroes and they sing to the clouds the song of enduring life.