Pope says Amazon forest vital for our Earth

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Francis said yesterday that the Amazon forest is vital for our Earth and is urging that fires there are quickly controlled.

Francis added his voice to the chorus of international concern that the blazes in Brazil will have grave repercussions on the world’s environmental health.

The pontiff, who is from the neighbouring South American nation of Argentina, told the public in St Peter’s Square that “we’re all worried” about the vast Amazon fires. He warned that that green “lung of forest is vital for our planet.”

The blazes have sparked anti-government protests in Brazil and became a pressing issue for leaders at the Group of Seven summit in France.

Backed by military aircraft, Brazilian troops last Saturday deployed in the Amazon to fight the fires. Brazilian President Jair Bolso-naro also tried to temper global concern, saying that previously deforested areas had burned and that intact rainforest was spared.

Even so, the fires were likely to be urgently discussed at the G-7 summit.

About 44,000 troops will be available for “unprecedented” operations to put out the fires, and forces are heading to six Brazilian states that asked for federal help, Defence Minister Fernando Azevedo said. The states are Roraima, Rondonia, Tocantins, Para, Acre and Mato Grosso.

The Brazilian military operations came after widespread criticism of Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis.

Last Friday, the President authorised the armed forces to put out fires, saying he is committed to protecting the Amazon region.