The Latin American Studies Concentration hosted its first Mate Monday of Fall 2019 on September 16th. Over twenty students and members of faculty gathered to get to know each other, enjoy some yerba mate (served both in the traditional, communal manner as well as in individual tea bags!), and chat about a pressing issue: the current environmental crisis in the Amazon.
Most of the group had already seen the headlines from recent weeks: the Amazon is on fire. These fires, in a tropical rain forest not prone to natural wildfires, have rapidly spread in the last year. Although thousands of miles away, this development is a matter of global significance and so important to our community. The Amazon region is home to both an amazing diversity of flora and fauna as well as hundreds of indigenous communities. The forest also produces oxygen and sequesters atmospheric carbon, giving it an important role in regulating the global environment. The problem is, then, clear and urgent. Yet the cause of the problem and our responsibility to resolve it are complicated.
As a group, we explored the complex economic and political questions that the problem raises. Dr. Peregoy, from the College of Business, and Dr. Muñoz-Solano, from the Modern Languages Department, provided important political, economic, and social context for the crisis. We talked about the role of slash-and-burn agriculture, wildcat mining, the state of Brazilian democracy, and President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies of deregulation. Eventually, we came to the crux of the question: to whom do the lands and resources in the Amazon belong? Who is responsible for them? Who gets to determine how we manage them?
Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, helped to point us toward some interesting discussion of these questions. The principles of the common home, stewardship, subsidiarity, and solidarity challenged the easy dichotomy of national sovereignty and global governance. The group brought in concepts from multiple disciplines to engage these big questions, referring to a range of perspectives, from Lockean theory to the “Carter Doctrine” to Quadragesimo Anno.
Our discussions ran right up to the end of our time together, and conversations continued to flow as we tidied up. We hope that these will continue and expand to other groups on campus, striving to answer Pope Francis’s call for an inclusive conversation on the future of our “common home.”
The next Mate Monday will take place on October 7th from 4-5PM in the Gorman Faculty Lounge. The topic of discussion will be announced shortly. All are welcome to join us – feel free to drop in whenever you can for as long as you can!