Green Nation Fest

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Thanks to heavy traffic and our confusion in the subway, we missed Amy Miller , who is the director of the documentary The Carbon Rush and was the first speaker yesterday at the Museu Nacional. In Quinta Boa Vista, zona norte Rio de Janeiro, the Museu Nacional is hosting seminars as a part of the ongoing Green Nation Fest. It’s actually easy to find if you take the subway and get off at the São Cristóvão stop.
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When we finally arrived, we were two hours early for the second seminar of the day so we walked around the exhibits set up in another section.

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Museu Nacional
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I unfortunately can’t say much about that part of the Green Nation Fest. This is due mostly to the fact the I didn’t really get to see/experience most of the more exciting sounding exhibits. They all had extremely long lines and we didn’t have that much time. What I did see included the shops tent, the bathrooms and the pastel and espetinhos/ yakisoba tent (both were good). Even though I didn’t see the exhibits, long lines are a great sign and all of the people exiting seemed pleased.

In the shop tent, hung on the walls, I saw these:
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The people are made of recycled/reused materials

When it was time, we headed back to the Museu National and found our seats in the auditorium.

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First we saw Kevin Bone and his lecture on Deep Water Drilling and Fossil Fuel Extraction. Among other things, he warned about the possible dangers of deep water drilling for pre-sal in Brazil and unreported oil spills that are occurring in the Campos and Santos basins.

As the oil industry booms in Brazil and more and more deep water drilling sites are springing up, the statistics rise for possible accidents. The depth of the drilling for pre-sal (some estimates place it at upwards of 17,000 feet deep) also make a future cleanup, should there be a massive deep spill, a very difficult endeavor. You can see more about pre-sal and offshore drilling in my post, A Bubblin Crude…Oil that is .

My opinion…

As I mentioned in my previous post, oil and oil exploration is booming in Brazil. From our brief time in Angra, I had a chance to see this phenomena up close. I mingled with and befriended (or they befriended me really) foreign workers. Among other nationalities, they were, American, Canadian, British, Norwegian, Dutch and Mexican. They worked as engineers, technicians, various types of specialists, naval architects, project mangers, quality control managers and translators.

It seemed to take a lot of people to merely get a rig into the water, much less run the ports, drill, filter and then finally transport the oil. These are major operations that require thousands of people for the overall production, including the people who operate the port, translators, human resource mangers and environmental technicians. That’s a lot of jobs and a lot of people working, at least for a short time.

From talking to the English speaking workers, especially the higher ups, I learned that they were earning for the most part, quite a bit of money. Actually it was so much money in some cases that they didn’t know what to with it all. This isn’t necessarily true for those lower on the chain of command, but it is still employment. They are jobs (something a lot of Americians these days would love to have) and a lot of these people are working very hard. Most people that I met (including the higher ups) worked 12 hour shifts, seven days a week. How they managed to still go out and mingle at night amazed me.

It is a boom.

I asked one of the American workers, who had become my friend in Angra, if Brazil was the new Texas and without blinking an eye he responded, “Yes”.

Brazilians also know this. The news is full of new places where oil is being discovered offshore and the bright future of the oil industry. They theorize what this could mean for Brazil. As an emerging economy, this boom could be a possible game changer for the country. Brazil, is as many have argued, a country that wants to be taken seriously. As threats of possible global oil shortages mount, by producing more and more oil themselves, Brazil could leverage the power they need to become an even more prominent and influential global power…a serious country.

It is also very important to take into account that even though Brazil has made tremendous strides in the production and use of sugar cane ethanol, a bio and not fossil fuel, US tariffs (which were lifted only in December) did much to hamper the growing enterprise in terms of export. Brazil was in some ways forced to look elsewhere to finds fuels to export globally for profit.

They haven’t only been looking to oil and natural gas. WIND AND SOLAR ENERGY IN BRAZIL: UNDERSTANDING THE HOW AND WHY (BY ERIC LONSTEIN AND TODD WINTNER) (a post on the wonderfully informative Rio Matters that I have mentioned before) discusses Brazil’s use of hydroelectric power and growing wind industry in the country.

Brazil seems to historically be on the lookout for things to use, sell, export and at times exploit. It seemed however in the last several decades that Brazil had taken a more sustainable path, without being told to do so. During the oil crisis in the 70s, Brazil made a concentrated effort to become a more energy independent nation. This lead to the building of dams, use of hydroelectric energy and the development and use of sugarcane ethanol.

The new surge in drilling and the recent changes to the Forest code appear to possibly be backward steps but should not overshadow all of the remarkable progress Brazil has made in terms of environmental stewardship.

Getting back to the lecture…

Mr. Bone was very careful to walk the fine line of warning about what could happen in Brazil, by using the BP spill in the Gulf as an example, without attempting to tell the Brazilians what to do. He was a good speaker and if he should come to a conference/fest your way, I recommend him and Joseph Levine.

In terms of oil and drilling in Brazil, I believe it’s a very difficult situation with the worldwide demand as the biggest part of the problem. Without demand there would be no boom to eventually bust.

Hydraulic Fracturing

Speaking of boom and bust, that leads me to the second speaker we saw yesterday, Joseph Levine. His lecture focused on the environmental hazards of Hydraulic fracturing, also know as fracking.

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Hydraulic fracturing is an extraction method for natural gas, that is on the rise in the United States. By using massive amounts of natural water reserves and pumping back out chemical filled waste that can only be dumped and never used again, fracking appears to be the opposite of a sustainable process. Natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel but the means of it’s extraction seem to totally negate it’s benefits of use. The water and the waste aren’t the only problems with fracking. Read more at the website for the film Gasland’s Hydraulic Fracturing FAQs.

Josh Fox, the director of the film Gasland was supposed to be a speaker at Green Nation yesterday but sadly it was not meant to be for us. It’s okay. We were told he couldn’t make it because he’s busy working on Gasland 2, which the world needs. If you haven’t seen the first Gasland, I highly recommend it.

There is fracking now is Brazil. It doesn’t seem to be on the scale of the American companies yet, but, as Mr. Levine’s aerial before and after shots showed, these things tend to multiply like bunny rabbits (think Night of the Lepus type bunnies). They start out in remote areas and before you know it they’re everywhere and the water supply is depleted and tainted. We can’t live without water. Seriously, if you’re interested or alarmed by this, please watch Gasland.

Okay, so that’s my long-winded (as usual) wrap-up of our day yesterday at Green Nation Fest. I am really glad that I got the opportunity to attend and am eagerly awaiting Gasland 2’s release.

My Recommendation to the Rio+20 Dialogues

I had mentioned the Rio+20 Dialogues in a previous post and today I want to share with you all my personal recommendation to the Dialogues:
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Agroforestry in combination with education to local farmers, incentivizing and monitoring governmental systems like REDD and a strengthened, regulated or overseen network of information for consumers to be better informed about products they are buying/ consuming and how they were grown.

Meat (beef) consumption is on the raise globally. I believe that it will continue to increase as the global population grows. Instead of fighting the consumption or ignoring it, I purpose that we as a global community should work with the raise in demand by teaching and incentivizing more holistic practices of agriculture, specifically in this case, Agroforestry with a focus on Silvopasture.

This I believe should be from the ground level up, insuring first that local communities are feed before their crops are exported to other communities, which, I believe, could also, in the long run, help to significantly decrease world hunger.

First with the help of locally based NGOs (who best know the needs, abilities of and issues facing the communities they are serving) and second with the help a larger more cohesive, noncompetitive properly networked group of global NGOs, possible global agriculture teaching and education programs (ATEPs) could be established by the UN with teachers like peacekeepers being sent worldwide to educate communities as to how best use their land by implementing more sustainable practices. They would teach things along the lines of how to build wells, how to harvest rainfall, how to grow produce using organic methods, how to properly filter water, what crops grow best on their particular lands, agroforestry practices, how to get their government’s assistance once governments have assistance in place and finally how to sell surplus crops to others.

I also believe that technology and a global effort to attempt to connect every region to a faster internet is crucial. This in combination with better literacy education worldwide could help communities in areas, where no UN teachers could be sent, gain access to information concerning implementation of more sustainable agriculture practices. Also they would have access to information on how to apply for government incentives/assistance, once they are in place and how to sell their surplus crops to other communities. While consumers would easily be able to access information concerning how what they are consuming is grown.

Please feel free to add to, correct or expound any of this recommendation and resubmit. I see this as an open source frame for a possible long term sustainable structure. This is not my idea. Hopefully it is ours.
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If you like/agree with my recommendation, you can support it here, Agroforestry in combination with education to local farmers, incentivizing and monitoring governmental systems like REDD and a strengthened, regulated or overseen network of information for consumers to be better informed about products they are buying/ consuming and how they were grown. – Chesney H..

If you don’t like my recommendation, I still urge you to sign up and participate in the Rio+20 Dialogues. I believe that dissemination of ideas and civil discourse combined with local action are very important ingredients to a more sustainable future for us all.

Events: Rio+20

With so many exciting and possibly world changing events coming to Rio in the next several weeks…and years, today I want to talk about:

Rio+20

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development is better known as Rio+20 . In 27 days, the Riocentro in Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro will host this latest Earth summit that will include world leaders (among which may or may not be US President Obama), NGOs, government participants, scientists and various groups. Promising to be an historic meeting that will attempt to, among other things, draft and agree upon a plan to bring the world together to help reduce poverty and increase and improve the use of sustainable practices and clean energy.

Dubbed Rio+20 because this summit marks the twentieth anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit, where Agenda 21 was adopted by more than 178 governments. A blueprint for actions to be implanted by organizations of the UN, Agenda 21 challenged governments to act locally, nationally, regionally and internationally to help reduce poverty,change consumption patterns, develop better conservation and management of global resources and strengthen the role of women,indigenous people, farmers and children in the hopes of developing a future more sustainable global environment.

Agenda 21 was debated, negotiated and finalized at the 1992 Earth Summit similar to what is happening (or will ideally happen) with Rio+20’s Zero draft of the outcome document. The Zero draft currently includes a challenge to reaffirm principles and past action plans from set forth in Agenda 21. The Zero draft document will be debated, negotiated and hopefully finalized at this year’s summit in Rio.

“Rio+20 is a chance to move away from business-as-usual and to act to end poverty, address environmental destruction and build a bridge to the future.”, the UN’s site for the summit proclaims.
Hopefully a more sustainable bridge at that.

There are still ways for you to participate

Groups

If you are a member of a group and have not registered yet, do not worry, hotel rates have been cut by up to 60% and registrations and accreditations have been extended for major groups until 27 May 2012. That’s a small window but you still have time to get through it.

Others

A great way to participate is online through theSustainable Development Dialogues. Separated into ten dialogues (Oceans, Water, Food and Nutrition Safety, Sustainable Development for Fighting Poverty, Sustainable Development as an answer to the economic and financial crises, Sustainable energy for all, The economics of sustainable development for all including sustainable patterns for production and consumption, Sustainable cities and innovation, Unemployment, decent work and migrations and Forests) you can join and participate in one or all of the dialogues. Most of which are still in the accepting recommendations phase. This is where you can be involved!
After recommendations have been voted on (more involvement for you) and chosen they will be “conveyed directly to the Heads of State and Government present at the Summit”.

Or, if you would just like to know more…

The discussions and the recommendations alone are very interesting to read and worth a visit to the Dialogues in and of themselves.

There is also the Rio+20 Resource Page with issue briefs, notes, documents and reports.

The unfolding events and talks at Rio+20 could have a major impact on all of our futures. The discussions alone might bring changes or could possibly shine lights on different countries’ current agendas. Whatever happens, it should be very interesting.

ReUse Connection

With the upcoming Rio +20 summit and Rio+Social convention, I’m reminded of a group that got in contact with me a month or so ago on Facebook. ReUse Connection, leveraging the power of social media, found me through a local chapter of Freecycle that I had been involved with back home in Virginia. They messaged me to say that I might also be interested in their group….they were right! Their mission, according to their Facebook page is, “ReUse Connection aims to reduce waste and improve environmental health by: 1. providing knowledge sharing about ReUse, and 2. creating economic opportunity (with individuals, entrepreneurs, and corporations) by seeing value at the back end of the material stream.” What you’ll find on their Facebook page are posts from around the world of people repurposing things once bound for the landfills into new, sometimes beautiful, sometimes kitschy but always thought provoking items. There are coffee table ends made into shelving, plastic bottles being tied together to make a boat, a bottle cap wind chime and much more. They seem to be a pretty active network worldwide and I get ideas for ways to reuse things just by looking at their page. Maybe some of you will like it as well.
See it here-ReUse Connection Facebook page
And they’re also on Twitter

Rio+Social: Attention Bloggers and local Journalists!

Rio+Social, a one day global convention featuring leaders of social media and technology, is coming to Rio de Janeiro on June 19th, the day before the official Rio +20 summit is set to begin. Speakers are set to include Pete Cashmore (founder and CEO of Mashable), Fabian Cousteau and Fabio Barbosa (CEO of Abril Group, big publishers here in Brazil). The talks will focus on how technology and social media can help with the global issues that will take center stage during the Rio +20 summit. To see more information, check out Rio+Social’s fact sheet here- Rio+Social.
Everyone including bloggers and journalists are invited to attend. If you’re interested, you can register here- Rio+Social Registration . If you can’t attend in person don’t worry, the event will be streamed live on their website.
For even more information see-
Rio+Social Website
The Rio+Social Facebook Page

Pleas for Dilma’s Veto and Why International Involvement Could Do More Harm than Good

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-From http://www.facebook.com/VetaDilma

Recently, a lot of posts like this are appearing in my Facebook feed.

One from today:

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-From http://www.facebook.com/VetaDilma

I think it’s time to explore what’s going on…

So…Who’s Dilma?

Dilma is Dilma Rouseff, the current (36th) and first woman President of Brazil. As a member of the Worker’s Party (PT) and a former Chief of Staff to her predecessor, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (better known as Lula), she has, as president, continued to expand and launch social programs while helping business growth including aiding in the privatization of several companies.

What’s all this about veta?

Last month the Brazilian legislative branch passed changes to the Forest Code (Código Florestal).As President, Dilma can use her powers to veta- which means veto- the passing of the new code.

Ok…so what’s the new Forest Code?

According to John Vidal in his May 11th article for The Guardian, Petition calls on Brazilian president to veto ‘catastrophic’ forest code:

“The proposed new Brazilian forest code, pushed through parliament by the powerful farming lobby in the face of national opposition, would provide an amnesty for landowners who have illegally cleared forests in the past and will allow deforestation in previously protected areas like mountain tops and beside rivers. According to environment groups, it could allow loggers to chop down more of the Amazon than has been possible in the last 50 years.”

Enter #vetatudodilma

The power of social media is showing as #vetadilma floods twitter and Facebook with links to petitions already signed by more than a million and a half people globally with Vital adding,”This number is expected to rise dramatically in the next few days as Greenpeace, Avaaz and WWF International ask their 22 million supporters to sign up.”

See Greenpeace International’s The Brazilian President can stop this hatchet job . It’s complete with petition and video. Both are in English.

But, could increased involvement and attention from groups like Greenpeace, Avaaz and WWF actually be more harmful than helpful to the cause?

In the book Brazil on the Rise, Larry Rother delves into the troubled history of the Amazon and Brazilian attitudes towards it. He writes, ” ‘The Amazon is ours’ That slogan is drilled into the minds of Brazilians from the time they enter kindergarden, repeated throughout their lives with such frequency that is has become a sort of mantra.” This attitude is understandable to me as a citizen of the United States who was raised from kindergarden with the ideas of American pride but just like the idea American Exceptionalism, Rother suggests that Brazilian pride can be a double edged sword with a sharp side of protectionism and downright paranoia. In reference to a 2007 military intelligence report he obtained he writes, “The report went on to argue that groups such as Greenpeace, Conservation International, the Rainforest Action Network , and the World Wildlife Fund are tools that ‘hegemonic powers” like the United States manipulate in order to maintain and augment their domination”

Wait. Did you see Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund in that list of tools of the hegemonic powers? I did and that’s the problem with their possible involvement. You might say that that is just one groups paranoid rantings but the ranchers, farm lobbyists and construction companies (some of the same groups whose powerful lobbying helped the Forrest Code pass in the first place) are known to use the same arguments to tip the balances in their favor.

International action and petitions can be used and seen as interference and fuel Nationlistic talking points.

Let’s return to John Vidal’s article in The Guardian where he quotes Katia Abreu and she says, “Brazil is the only country that has the moral authority to discuss [Brazilian] environmental issues.” Valid point but who exactly is Katia Abreu? Well, she’s a senator who also happens to be President of the Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock in Brazil.

The part of the Amazon that is Brazil’s is theirs.

Whether it’s paranoia, protectionism or political posturing isn’t for me to say. What I can tell you, for sure is that these attitudes do exist in Brazil and are driving policies. The truth is that the part of the Amazon that is in Brazil is Brazil’s. They are a sovereign nation and can choose to use or not use their land however their citizen’s see fit. Even if from outside it might appear to be a mistake.

Nobody likes to be told what to do.

Lula, Dilma’s predecessor, put it well when he said, “What we cannot accept is that those who failed to take care of their own forests, who did not preserve what they had and deforested everything and are responsible for most of the gasses poured into the air and for the greenhouse effect, they shouldn’t be sticking their noses into Brazil’s business and giving their two cents worth.”

There is a strong environmental movement within Brazil itself.

Take environmentalist, Maria Osmarina Marina Silva Vaz de Lima (better known as Marina Silva) for example. Silva, was born in the state of Acre and became the first rubber tapper ever elected to the Brazilian senate. A campaigner for sustainable development in the Amazon, her work was noticed by the Lula administration and she was appointed Environment Minister in 2003. After differences with the administration, at times including disputes with agribusiness, Silva left. She has gone on to join the Green Party and in 2010 made a failed bid for presidency. On her blog she recently posted 13 Reasons to Veto all of the Forest Code (in Portuguese)

It’s Not Over Yet.

With the upcoming Rio +20 summit there is a little riding appearance wise on a possible veto but other’s may argue that Brazil’s future economy is also at stake if the veto is given.
Dilma has until May 25 to “veta” but even if she does the congress can still vote to override that. We will see what happens the days to come.

It’s in Brazil’s hands…

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-From http://www.facebook.com/VetaDilma

Outside Reading: Will Upcoming UN Rio +20 Summit Be Successful

Today on Huffington Post under the GREEN section, you’ll find Jenny Barchfield’s,
United Nations Rio+20 Summit: Concerns Raised Over Lack Of ‘Transformational Change’.

The future of the Rio +20 summit, which will be held in Barra, Rio de Janeiro later next month, isn’t looking so good. With the recent announcements of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s and British Prime Minister David Cameron’s decisions not attend, President Obama still not saying whether he’ll stay or go yet , a lack of interest in the summit from traditional American green groups and the UN itself still bracketing and not doing on the zero draft document, Barchfield’s article highlights many more bumps, if not downright sinkholes, in the road to Rio. Most upsetting are the exorbitant hotel fees and lack of hotels which could gouge unsuspecting gringos in the first place. When I spoke with MGFI she said, “That’s the way of the Brazilian businessman. Sell for few people with the highest price instead of selling for all with the lowest price.” Well, fewer and fewer people might be buying during occasions like this in the future. I hope not.

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