by Timothy Elphick
"WE want to see an end to pollution, we want clean air and to stop the poisoning of the soil but the people in the Third World must not be portrayed as an environmental nuisance," a Brazilian bishop visiting Britain ahead of the international Earth Summit warned this week.
Bishop Aloisio Senesio Bohn of Santa Cruz do Sul, president of the ecumenical Brazilian Council of Churches, said at a meeting organised by the development agency Christian Aid in London that blame for the environmental catastrophe threatening the survival of the planet should not be laid at the door of countries such as his own.
"1 implore the developed nations to stop the pollution which is destroying the earth's ozone layer," Bishop Bohn stressed. The developed world should put its own house in order by reversing the damage it has already done to the environment before pointing to population growth in poorer countries as the key to the crisis facing the earth, he said.
But Bishop Bohn said the Church had to recognise that population growth in Brazil and other countries was a topic of valid concern to the international community.
"We cannot ignore this debate and we must accept that the Church has not done all within its power to help educate couples. But the answer to the problem is first to improve people's living standards," Bishop Bohn said.
Population control has been left off the agenda of the Earth Summit for the 150 world leaders in Rio de Janeiro next week at the insistence of the Vatican, which is sending a delegation of its own to
the conference. The move was condemned this week by the director of the United Nations Population Fund, Nafis Sadik, who said the absence of proper debate on the subject would flaw the summit proceedings.
Dr Sadik said that the world population would top six billion by 1998. two years earlier than previously predicted.
Bishop Bohn criticised the West for pressing for the creation of what he described as "ecological sanctuaries" in the virgin forests of Amazonia.
"Our people are starving and . need to occupy areas such as this but not in a predatory way," said the bishop. The destruction of Amazonia was being spearheaded by multi-national mining and logging concerns, not poor farmers. he said.