Damned Project

Judge Sets Back Push to Halt
Newest Power Plant in Brazil

Brazil’s energy needs have pit the administration of President Dilma Rousseff against environmentalists and indigenous populations. Smack in the middle of this struggle sits the estimated $13 billion Monte Belo project, which is to become the world’s third largest dam.
The dispute has had its share of victories for each side, and the latest ruling, by a Supreme Court judge, has gone the government’s way, as it allowed the controversial project to resume construction. That may be far from settling the matter, however, as even Hollywood celebrities have joined in the fray.
The vision of Brazil as a self-reliant energy powerhouse has been a national theme even before it restored its democratic rule in the 1980s. To take advantage of an abundance of river basins to meet growing consumption needs has been an integral component of every president’s agenda ever since.
But most of this vision implies the construction of mega dams in areas surrounding the Amazon, and the impact on the environment and indigenous communities could be damaging and irreversible. Instead, critics say, Brazil should build a series of smaller and less costly projects, that wouldn’t be so disruptive.
Behind the apparent clash of two different views about how Brazil should tackle its energy needs, there’s also the charge, commonly leveled against the Rousseff administration, of playing favors with Brazil’s cultural and geographic differences. While the wealthier south usually sees its energy demands met, vast extensions of the north remain underserved and lawless.
This time around, what particularly distinguishes the dispute over Belo Monte is the reenergized activism of native Brazilians, the Continue reading

Green Myopia

A Hard Time Seeing
Forest for the Trees

Five months after the brutal assassination of yet another defender of the Amazon forest, Brazil still struggles to control its destruction.
Last week, the country’s Environmental Ministry actually revised upwards the area lost to illegal burning and logging: 2,703 square miles were destroyed between August 2009 and July 2010.
In yet another piece of bad news, researchers of the Prodes Project, Continue reading

Amazon News

Tiny Monkey, An Under River
& the 121-Year Young Woman

Pardon the cliché, but the Amazon never ceases to amaze us.
Be it because of the river that names the region, one of the world’s biggest basin systems. Or the variety of new species that turn out regularly, to speechless researchers.
The fact is, despite all threats to its survival, the Amazon and its indigenous peoples are very much alive and vibrant, including the world’s likely oldest person who still thrives, along with everything else around her.
No wonder Google is trying to get in the action there too, as it slowly maps the Rainforest for its StreetView (sic) service.
A RIVER RUNS UNDER IT
Let’s start by the river system, which irrigates a seven million square area and annually rises high enough to flood the forest.
But guess what? That’s, at the most, just half the story. Continue reading

Feral Children

Wild Boys of Europe &
Brazilian Child Brides

Apparently, children and cats share a common trait: both easily revert to a feral state, when left on their own.
That’s hard but still better than what happens to kids in certain countries: they’ve got jobs and marry early.
Two weeks ago, an English-speaking teenager showed up at Berlin’s City Hall claiming to have been living in a nearby forest with his father for five years.
Ray, as he identified himself, seems articulate enough and his story, including his father’s death and burial, if it hasn’t been confirmed yet, does make sense. So far, he has refused to offer other details about it though.
Meanwhile, census figures for 2010 revealed that Brazil has a staggering number of children, in fact over 40 thousand, who are married or living with a partner.
FERAL CHILD VS. RAPE VICTIM
What’s somewhat ironic is that one child found living without parents in a jungle would generate so many news stories, while thousands of children living in abusive conditions within society can’t get a meaningful coverage by the media.
One, the myth of “l’enfant sauvage,” has a profound resonance in our collective awareness, and the few cases reported ignited a rich literature of ideas society holds dear since way before the Enlightened era.
The other extreme, though, is a much more prevalent phenomenon, and with much deeper impact on how we perceive ourselves as a civilization, and yet, can hardly muster Continue reading

One if By Land, Two if By Sea

Rats Against Mines &
Piranhas at the Beach

Without scientific research, we’d be probably living in Revolutionary War conditions. But no matter how far we’ve advanced, we still count on animals to do our own heavy lifting.
Take the technology developed for war, for example. Since immemorial times, we’ve been perfecting the art of killing each other and who has been our unwilling partner on such a devilish enterprise?
An animal, of course. The same being that we alternately treat as company, food, and deity representation, according to the mood that suits us best at any given moment.
Let’s no mention when we combine two or all of these Continue reading

Hello, Goodbye

Amazon Tribes: Still Uncontacted
and Already Facing Mortal Danger

The latest wave of heavily armed criminal groups operating in the Amazon may eliminate your chance to get to know some of the tribes that dwell in the region.
In 2008, aerial photographs showed a group of a previously unknown indigenous community pointing arrows and bows at the aircraft. Now, disturbing reports about the sight of armed gangs nearby their dwellings may represent the biggest threat yet to the survival of some of those recluse native Brazilians.
For the record, the threat affects all indians living in the area, not just those who were photographed for the first time Continue reading

Global Favela

Shantytowns With Natural
Light and Striking Views

The other day we showed you how Rio de Janeiro is trying different ways to cope and do away with its favelas, as the city and Brazil prepare for two major global sports events, the World Cup in 2014, and the Olympic Games two years later.
We also told you about the criticism over such projects, because of their perceived aim at only covering up cosmetically the eye sores that Rio’s shantytowns represent to the city, rather than addressing the deeper causes that make them exist in the first place.
In the past few weeks, though, two other neighborhoods, as impoverished and miserable as any found in Rio de Janeiro but both outside Brazil, made the world news cycle, and not for the depressing reasons such stories usually convey.
Liter of Light, an idea that seems to have originated in Brazil Continue reading

Favela Carioca

Rio de Janeiro Struggles to
Live Up to its Beauty Billing

For a city of such a staggering natural beauty, Rio de Janeiro is surprisingly picky when it comes to its public image.
The point was underlined yet again, a few months ago, when city officials complained to Google that it was giving too much prominence to its 600 or so favelas. The search engine giant obliged and its map of the Rio now displays more wealthier neighborhoods than before.
Now, in anticipation of Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup and Continue reading

Spoiled Pageant

Miss Brazil Robbed, Forced
to Surrender Car at Gunpoint

Deborah Lyra has had a great run as Miss Brazil. For a year, the 21-year old beauty queen got the royal treatment, in exchange for a shining smile and the fulfillment of a busy agenda of appearances. Her term as the most beautiful woman in a country known for its beauties Continue reading

One-Note Samba

João Gilberto, the Voice of
Brazilian Music, Is 80 Today

João Gilberto Prado Pereira de Oliveira, the singer whose delicate voice and masterful use of silence led a revolution in Brazilian music, has already etched his name as one of the world’s most expressive performers. Without dancing, without three-octave Cs, without even writing his own material, he still managed to record some of the definitive songs of the 20th century.
The fact that he has outlived his partner and co-architect of Bossa Nova, Antonio Carlos Jobim, has absolute no relevance to his own position at the top of Brazil’s rich musical tradition. That is mostly because since the late 1970s, João Gilberto made a point in rerecord and reinterpret the same group of songs over and over again. And Continue reading

Rain Check

Dams, Killing of Activists Undermine
Brazil’s Vow to Protect Amazon Forest

The approval, by the Brazilian Congress’ lower house, of a bill to change the country’s 1965 Forest Code, has caused a public outcry within and outside the borders of South America’s largest economy.
Seen as a victory for powerful agribusiness interests, the bill that now heads to the Senate may undermine decades-long efforts to protect the Amazon rainforest, according to environment organizations, ecology activists and community leaders.
One of the changes proposed to the code would be to allow farmers and ranchers to clear vast swaths of the rainforest to Continue reading

Three Strikes

A Stolen Body Part, Haircut
& Your Own Personal Thief

Maybe it’s the times we live in. No wonder even the Apocalypse gets postponed these days. But when it comes to stealing, there seems to be no shortage of ideas.
Take the Body Works exhibition, for example. Most of us are familiar with that show, a display of human bodies in various states of vivisection, all covered with a layer of plastic for your discerning enlightenment. Bodies, by the way, said to be of summarily-executed Chinese prisoners, purchased on the cheap (a steal?) by the show’s creator, who denies the charge.
But never mind that. A few years ago, someone managed to top Continue reading

X-Rated Fruit

When a Passion Fruit
Has a Suggestive Shape

These penis-shaped passion fruits are the current favorite conversation topic in São José de Ribamar, Brazil. No one can explain how come the fruits of a tree Maria Rodrigues de Aguiar Farias planted two years ago came out so suggestively formatted. But everyone seems eager to taste it.
Dona Maria, as she is locally known, wasn’t even sure whether Continue reading

EconoViews

Brazilian Economists Concerned
About Inflation, Real Appreciation

A group of analysts focused on Brazil has expressed concerns about an increase in inflationary pressures, the appreciation of the country’s currency, and impact of foreign investments on the outlook for Latin America’s largest economy.
Eurasia’s Christopher Garman, TCW’s Marcela Meirelles, Citigroup’s Marcelo Kfoury and Citi Investment’s Jason Press debated their views in a panel discussion sponsored by the Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Continue reading

EcoViews

Brazil Central Bank Tombini
Sees Risk in Capital Inflows

Brazilian Central Bank Alexandre Tombini said the bank is “proactive” to prevent increased capital flows to affect the country’s financial stability. He spoke in New York at a conference sponsored by the Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce and the Americas Society.
Tombini defended the bank’s measures to moderate foreign Continue reading

Made in Brazil

Jailbirds or Party Goers,
Brazilians Do it Their Way

Would you buy a coffin for your best friend?
You would, if you were Zelli Rossi, who long ago made a strange pact with a buddy of his in São Paulo: when one of the two would die, the other would buy himself a coffin.
Not exactly to be buried in it, mind you, but to use it every Friday as his bed. As it happens, things didn’t exactly go according to the plan.
His friend, whose name hasn’t been disclosed, was the first one to buy a coffin, when he was mistakenly informed that Rossi Continue reading