Matt Pearl

The Amazon Rainforest is burning at a disturbing rate.

How did that statement make you feel? Are you upset that a world treasure of plant and wildlife is disappearing at an alarming pace? Or are you wondering what the political leanings are of the various new agencies reporting the incident?

Or do you not believe it’s happening – or at least that reports have been exaggerated of the burn?

Even the burning of the world’s largest rainforest cannot escape the political snares that trap every major issue of our age.

In my memory, easily 30 years ago, everyone would have agreed that it’s bad when rainforests burn. The political climate was different, and our perceptions were not so sharpened regarding the manipulation of news and information by various sources. We would have been horrified to learn that the ‘lungs of the earth’ are filling with smoke, and our frustrations would have been directed toward the event itself, and toward its origins. The solution to the problem would have been foremost in our minds.

Now, we argue over whether the agencies reporting the blaze are liberal or conservative.

It’s a fire. The vast wealth of the world’s most impressive tropical forest area is in jeopardy. It’s a difficult problem without a clear immediate solution. But we’re going to play TV network tug-of-war over its coverage, its seriousness and even its existence.

How did we get here?

How did half of us grow so resentful of the other half that we’re willing to watch the world burn to make a point?

You know I’m conservative. I can hide it in moderate rhetoric and with my willingness to criticize both major parties. But I lean to the right.

This isn’t a right-left issue. The coverage and reaction to this event is our world being shown to us in a nutshell.

This planet is better when the Amazon Rainforest is healthy and full. We breathe better. Our wildlife is more diverse and our medicines more plentiful when the forest is not burning to the ground. Why are these politically charged topics?

Why do other conservatives roll their eyes at me when I say rainforests are worth preserving – or should at least enter into our concerns when they are being destroyed by fire? Am I such a traitor to the cause to remind everyone that a few decades back, keeping the world heathy was generally regarded to be a nonpartisan endeavor?

Go ahead. Start telling people that the Amazon is in trouble and see the reactions you get. Half of them will voice their concerns about the situation – maybe even quote a statistic or two from the news. The other half will tell you that, by the science their television station quoted, this fire won’t amount to any real changes with which you and I will have to deal.

And yet all those people breathe the same air as the rest.

Never have I advocated that everyone stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow, or that jungles and dolphins and polar icecaps are more important than everything else. But is it so crazy that I want the Amazon Rainforest to make it through the next few weeks? I guess if you think I’m not being conservative enough about the issue, then that’s your business. I’m a God-fearing fellow who has great trust in the Almighty – but I also believe that stewardship of the natural world belongs in no small part to mankind. Whatever bed we make, we’re going to end up lying in it.

For my kids, I’d prefer there be a little of that good old-fashion clean oxygen for them to breathe. If that sounds to MSNBC for you, then I hate to step on your toes. We can agree on a lot of things, but if you ask me not to care about a burning rainforest in our hemisphere – full of trees and plants that breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen all day long – the I cannot oblige.

Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.