"We intend to expand in the Chaco as much as the law allows. Not just physically but by making the land more productive," said Heinrich Dyck, finance director of the Neuland co-operative of Mennonite farmers based in Filadelfia, the largest Mennonite community, of 4,000 people. The co-operative is one of Paraguay's largest meat and milk exporters and owns the country's biggest slaughterhouse.
Dyck added: "Religion is at the heart of everything we do. The Christian faith is fundamental to us. God made it clear in the bible that we should take care of the land and use it as a source of sustainability and production."
People can twist the Bible to justify whatever they want (recently I found out, for example, that it can actually justify abortion): "Genesis 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." can be a rallying call for further conservation efforts, or, as in this case, justifying destroying what's there for biofuel and burgers. When that religious fervour is coupled with turning a fast buck, there’s no stopping someone.
The impact would be devastating, for the wildlife, and with religious witch hunts of the indiginous people, the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode, the only uncontacted tribe in South America outside Amazonia, it’s just horrific.
What can we do?
I’ve not seen any calls to action, or specific appeals, but you could support the Natural History Museum who are funding an expedition there. Other conservation charities I like include the World Wildlife Fund and Zoological Society of London. I'll be emailing these organisations to see what their suggestions are, and will let you know.
Sadly, human nature is bad enough, but with religious zeal it can be worse. There’s something about the arrogance that comes from believing the creator of the entire universe is on your side, backing you, and encouraging your actions. Religion is poison.