You may have noticed a few viral images going around comparing how humans raised 835M to rebuild Notre-dame in a short period of time, but nobody seems to care that the Amazon is burning. I was hurt to consider how and why we might respond so differently to these two situations and want to look at a few layers behind this statement which are deeply reflective of the human experience.
1. Culturally we hold significance to the things we personally spend a long time building relationships with, things that involve us using our hands, places we’re we celebrate our love, where we morn our loss of loved ones, use our money to build and places that provide community and spiritual nourishment. If this was a specific community farm that we personally helped grow, nurture and eat from every Sunday our response to this burning would be just as profound. I understand we may receive some of our food from this area, but it’s still an abstraction. It’s not directly connected to the fabric of our lives in a way we can comprehend like we can a local community garden or church burning.
2. The identity and responsibility of a specific, well known church is easier to raise money for than multiple different organisations who each care for the large scale protection area of the Amazon. People feel less likely to raise money for multiple broad blanket funds they don’t have an existing relationship with vs. specific let’s rebuild the church from the religion that “I already trust” funds.
3. Religious status and involvement is deeply interwoven into the fabric of our society, news and identity. The rainforest is far more removed from the personal and direct involvement of the church. The forest does not have a central human voice representing it and a community of devotees who all identify as part of the same organisation like the church does. This makes “listening to the wishes of the forest” more fuzzy, even though it’s cry for help is obvious.
4. I’m pretty sure in the past we held the majesty of nature as our churches, but those days are far behind many of us. The abstraction and disconnection from our earth is mighty and enables us to not feel the need to connect to such atrocities. The majority of us are no longer farmers, we are no longer custodians of large areas not our own. All of this makes it easier to let something like this slip past us like it’s not our responsibility to care. Our personal identity as humans often doesn’t encompass the earth as a whole. It generally encompasses our cultural identity as a country, a region, a city, a family, a religion.
5. We are basic biological primates living in futuristic societies, we are intellectually unable to fully comprehend the situation we’ve got ourselves into, we tend to respond most quickly to things that we can either directly empathise with or affect our lives personally. The idea of our place of worship being destroyed is something we can all identify with, the challenge here is that our place of worship is no longer a forest region in someone else’s country, our places of worship are now often established doctrines within our own towns, perpetuated from within concrete buildings.
If you feel like supporting the rainforest there are a number of ways you can get involved. There is currently a partition with over 4 million signatures asking Brazilian politicians to put a complete ban on illegal burning of the forrest. –> https://www.change.org/p/stop-the-burning-of-the-amazon-rainforest
You can also make a certified, and not for profit checked donation here https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-help-amazon-rainforest-what-charities-to-donate-to-2019?r=AU&IR=T#2-reduce-reuse-recycle-2