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