Eco Comment – World Rainforest Day 2024

21 June 2024

Were you aware that June 22 is World Rainforest Day? I didn’t know either but discovered an informative website with easy to access pages and a clear message:

This is a relatively new group, founded in 2017 by Rainforest Partners but the partnership celebrates the importance of healthy, standing rainforests for climate, biodiversity, culture and livelihoods – and has convened a global movement to protect them.

This resonated as I had seen an almost full page article in the i newspaper last weekend by Graham Keeley about ‘A new breed of Amazon Warriors’. These new warriors are the Yuturi Warmi and as a group they have vowed to protect Ecuador’s rainforest from miners and loggers. What makes them different from other groups is that the group is made up of indigenous women who now mount patrols to stop mining and logging companies from destroying the biodiversity of this rich habitat.

‘The group are part of the Serena community, one of about 50 indigenous groups that live in this part of the Amazon. They speak Kichwa, a language shared by approximately 500,000 people who live in Ecuador and Columbia. The group, numbering around 35 women, ranging in age from 18 to 75 patrol a small portion of land which is about 3.9 square miles.’

In the greater scheme of things this appears to be a very small patch of land but as we so often hear, ‘from small acorns… ‘. The women initially faced opposition from the men in their community but now, a few years on they are most supportive (the article says). The reason behind their patrols is to ensure that the river remains pure so that the women can fish. “The threat of the mining companies is terrible because they are contaminating our rivers, our forests and our lifestyle and the place where the Kichwas live.”

As ever, this fight is down to money. The government has ‘at times disregarded the indigenous rights to prior consultation, enshrined in the country’s constitution, and put large tracts of the rainforest up for sale for oil concessions.’ Their argument no doubt is that mining produces jobs in an area with sparse state services and 59 percent of the population living in poverty. Many Ecuadorians have opposed oil drilling and last year 60% voted to end the practice in the Yasuni National Park, but elsewhere drilling goes on and the government has granted 153 legal mining concessions since 2007, so the industry continues to threaten the rainforest.

We tend to take an interest in the Amazon rainforest because we learnt about it at school, it is so vast and there have been so many films made about it. However, another ‘did you know?’ is that rainforests actually grow on every continent in the world except Antarctica and in Europe, two primeval forests still exist – Perucica and Bialowieza, which stretch across Poland and Belarus.

I have heard about these because like so many of us I get asked to sign petitions about a variety of things. I’m never quite sure whether they are genuine or a form of phishing but that’s another story. These forests in Europe are also being threatened. Although they are part of the Sutjeska National Park in Bosnia and Herzegovina near the border with Montenegro, they are a prime target for ‘tourism’. The Times in January ran an article with the headline ‘Welcome to Europe’s affordable rainforest island – with sun all year’. This forest is also a UNESCO site, but you can imagine people seeing it in terms of ‘money’.

We even have temperate rainforest in the UK and the Woodland Trust keep a very close eye on the sites. The reason these places are so important is that because humans don’t venture that much into them, nature takes its own journey. So many species of plants and wildlife flourish because of the lack of human intervention. I caught part of an interview on Woman’s Hour yesterday where a farmer was talking about going for a dawn walk every day and because they had changed their way of farming so had the sounds and sights of their land changed. Now her morning walk was in a place where she was so much more aware of the sounds of insects and birds not to mention the plants that had previously been almost excluded from their true natural path.

So, although we can’t be Eco Warriors in the way of the Yuturi Warmi, we can do our bit to protect our native species in our own gardens and nearby woodland.

Susan Morgan
Eco Group

Want to know more about the Eco Group?

Wakefield Cathedral’s Eco Group brings together members of the congregation, volunteers and staff to work towards making the cathedral a greener place to work and worship.

The Eco Group achieves its goals through a variety of activities, including partnerships with local community groups.

We invite anyone and everyone to reach out if they are interested in joining the eco group, or simply finding out more about what we do.

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