Brazil moves forward: Three steps forward, two steps back

Photo by Rabiem 22, cropped, , CC licence, some rights reserved.

When I moved to Rio de Janeiro about two years ago, I was dazzled by its beauty: the beaches and lagoons, the blue see, the green hills and small islands dispersed along the coast. Three months later I found myself disillusioned: I saw how the sea was polluted by sewages and oil winning activities, how the fish in the lagoon were dying because of poor water quality and how most of the people working in my area in this city are only focused on compliance, working to arrange the necessary licences for companies to operate within the cities’ main industries: oil and gas. It made me sad, but because being negative is not my thing, I started to look for the positive signs. I found them. By the bucket! I came to realize that Rio de Janeiro, and Brazil in general, is not perfect, but that there is a lot of movement. A good law passes, bad law passes. A good initiative starts, the money disappears. Nothing is simple here. I’d like to believe we’re still moving forward, just not in a straight line. We take three steps forward, two steps back.

That environmental development in Rio is a dynamic field is also shown by the amount of conferences and seminars that take place; in the last two months only there were at least 6 big events from which to choose from. Hot topics are: (I) Efficient use of Brazil’s water resources and response to this years’ water crisis; (II) Climate change and preparation of the COP21 in Paris; (III) Environmental legislation such as the much debated ne Forest law, and (IV) Renewable energy in Brazil.

I always enjoy going to these conferences, but one thing I found striking is that the organizing bodies of the conference rarely include and integrate more than one sector. I was for example at a 2-day seminar organized by Firjan about efficient water use and climate change. The focus was very much on Brazil’s industry, and there was an overwhelming amount of people from the private sector present, and speakers included representatives of big construction companies such as Braskem and Odebrecht. On the other end, I attended a presentation of a matrix by Forest Trends that maps and contextualizes the current initiatives in Brazil that profit from the Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) mechanism. During the discussion and round table after the talks we realized the private sector was completely absent. During another few symposia organised by universities, both speakers and audience seemed to all be linked to the university, as lecturer or student. It would be so much interesting to have conferences and symposia with a true mixed crowd and speakers from different sectors. Only then we can have true discussions, dialogues, and knowledge-sharing.

I believe the awareness of environmental issues is growing in Rio de Janeiro and I think these dialogues about how to move forward are essential. I would like to encourage organisers of events, symposia and conferences to broaden their view and engage the private, public and third sector so true discussions can start. Maybe Brazil will not walk straight lines in near future, but we can at least guide it in the right direction.

I am also starting my own event! In cooperation with the local environmental consultancy Padma, I am starting up what is going to be a monthly happy hour with short lectures and a discussion about a topic related to Sustainability in Rio de Janeiro. Nothing utopic, we will focus on finding ways to put sustainability in practice in this city. You can already check out the Facebook page for more info, and stay tuned, the first edition is at hand!


What do you think about this, do you think Brazil is moving forward? Do you know any nice upcoming events in Rio de Janeiro? Share it with us!

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