Caring for Our Common Home
Environmental protection, being a collective right, is the duty of the state, social organizations and every citizen. This requires attention and care of what happens around us. Only those who develop sensitivity to protect and defend life are able to perceive and fight for life that is threatened in any sphere of life. Proof of this was an experience lived by the Sisters Olga Manosso, Marília Carra, Neusabete Sant'Ana de Freitas along with the Associates in the Itamarati Settlement, Ponta Porã / MS, at the end of 2020.
Itamarati is the largest Agrarian Reform settlement in Brazil. It was allotted to rural workers in 2003. Of the 57 thousand hectares of land that make up the settlement, 800 hectares were distributed in Permanent Preservation Areas (PPAs) and the responsibility for maintenance and care was passed on to the residents of each region. I emphasize that these Permanent Preservation Areas are located in strategic points of the settlement, such as springs, waterfalls, rivers, streams and ponds. The National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) in 2010 launched the Project called “Novos Campos”, guaranteeing a resource of Rs 2 million for all settlements in the State with the objective of recovering PPAs. Residents say they have managed to buy many native tree seedlings for environmental reforestation.
Everything was going on well until the second half of 2020. Some Permanent Preservation Areas were invaded by unknown people who arrived and set fire to the vegetation, built shacks to shelter and started preparing the soil for soybean planting. Residents reacted and started a conflict with the use of firearms. As the situation became untenable, they sought the competent organizations to denounce, but was of no use. The electoral period was approaching and everything stopped only in the denunciation, and this revolt of the residents put their lives at risk.
How the Sisters were involved in this conflict
One of the Associates is part of the residents responsible for the care of one of the invaded Permanent Preservation Areas. She shared this problem with the Sisters. It was in this process of dialogue and exchange of information that the idea of ??looking for a press agency and asking them to make a report to denounce what was happening in all the APPs of the Itamarati Settlement, came up. Even finding a journalist willing to do the story was difficult. The fact that the settlement is located in a border region and has many groups involved, including people from Paraguay, people did not want to take this case due to tremendous fear of their life.
After the matter was published, they continued to make contact with the public organizations responsible for the inspection and punishment for environmental crimes but the action was taken by the environmental police only after the election. On Monday, after the elections, search and seizure warrants took place throughout the Settlement. Several people were fined, shacks were removed, machinery seized and investigations are underway to punish those responsible for this criminal action. The hope is that from now on the authorities will commit themselves to the permanent protection of PPAs, otherwise residents will be exposed to criminal actions by groups involved in the crime against public property.
In the Federal Constitution of 1988, in Art. 225 it says: “Everyone has the right to an ecologically balanced environment, a common use of the people and essential to a healthy quality of life, imposing on the public power and the community the duty to defend it and preserve it for present and future generations”. For the first time in the history of the Constitutions of Brazil, an article is presented guaranteeing to the Brazilian people the RIGHT to an ecologically balanced environment. Are all Brazilians aware of this right? Why does society as a whole passively watch large-scale deforestation, burning, ore exploitation and the overuse of pesticides?
May this experience inspire us to remain increasingly committed to defending life and protecting our common home. Gratitude to the Sisters of the Itamarati Community and to the Associates for their courage and determination for defending the Permanent Preservation Areas. Mother nature thanks you!
May God bless them, the Holy Spirit enlighten them, Saint Joseph and Fr. Médaille protect them. Amen
Sr. Anari Felipe Nantes - Caarapó / MS