"Água É Vida" (Water is Life) Seminar.
Andrew R.M. Balanda
Several months ago I wrote a letter to the local Petrópolis newspaper, the Tribuna de Petrópolis, which it has to be said was a little aggressive, in which I mocked the plans of the City Hall and Riosoft (an organization which aims at developing and attracting new technology companies to the state of Rio de Janeiro), to create a Tecnopolis here in our fair City, mainly because we lacked a very basic ingredient for any business other than pig farming, namely an adequate telephone system ! Fortunately, this problem is being resolved and PetrópolisTecnopolis is well on its way to becoming a reality, with MIT of Boston among others, interested in working with our City on High Tech projects.
Anyhow, this article led Riosoft's man in Petrópolis, Fernando Varella, to call me, and far from giving me a hard time, he was in fact very pleased that someone else was willing to stand up and complain about the problems of infrastructure, and was additionally interested in the fact that a foreigner had come to the City and set up an Internet company.
A few days later, he called me again and invited me to a meeting at which I would be able to meet a fellow Anglo Saxon and ex US consul to Brazil, who had also eccentrically settled in this City. I turned up at the meeting, like a sheep to the slaughter, only to find that I was suddenly drawn into something called the Instituto Itaipava, which was organising a seminar on Water and the Environment in general, here in Petrópolis. So began a marathon of work and anxiety which culminated in a very, and amazingly successful, considering our unconvincing attempts at being organized, seminar on the 27th of October at the LNCC (National Laboratory for Scientific Computing) here in Petrópolis.
The seminar was an all day event with lunch and coffee breaks (sponsored by among others, US multinational, Nabisco), and even the local beer company's product (Cerveija Itaipava) helped to show what can be done with good water, and sent all the delegates home in a happy frame of mind! The event attracted nearly 300 people, from all sections of society (despite the invitations going out only five days before the event!), and included the newly elected mayor of the City, Rubens Bomtempo, Sérgio Braga (Secretary of the Ministry of the Environment in Brasilia), Lucio Bandeira (Sub-Secretary for water resources at the State Secretariat for Sanitation and Water Resources), and a host of other notables, and was covered by local and national media, including the Gazeta Mercantil. The event discussed four basic topics, Public Health, Water and Basic Sanitation, Environmental Policy and Environmental Education, and its aims were, firstly to instill awareness in the local population as to the need to preserve the environment, particularly water, and secondly to show the local government that the population are in favour of a new environment secretariat being set up in the municipality to oversee all that has to be done to preserve our environment.
The highlight of the event was the participation of the children, who not only contributed by giving us a quick presentation showing how much water we waste at home (courtesy of the Colégio Espaço Ativo), but also gave us a closing recital of Brazilian songs (Colégio de Aplicação).
Thanks go to; Jacques de Botton (President of the Itaipava Institute), Saul Gefter (Ex-US consul), Henrique Galvão, Fernando Varella, Danielle Soares, Sergio Guarino, Julieta Paiva, Bruno do Nascimento, Andres and Patricia Van Kuyk, wives and husbands of the above, UCP (the catholic university of Petrópolis), Nabisco, Cerveija Itaipava and a host of others who participated, sponsored (incl this site), helped and supported the event, and who showed that the environment and its preservation is not just the domain of long haired hippy types, but is a concern for all sections of society.
I would particularly like to thank all these people for having adopted a foreigner with such warmth and made me feel 100% part of the community. For this alone I owe them and the community all that I can give in terms of supporting environmental protection.
"Treat Nature with contempt and it will have its revenge. Treat it with respect, and it will reward you "!
We can see innumerable nature programs on TV which show us the beauties of the Fauna and Flora that Nature creates in the wild environment. Yet when we look at what human environments manage to create, all we see, are rats and cockroaches ! Is this not a reflection on us ? When you consider that a single tree can be used to build our home, to heat our home, to furnish our home, produce paper for us to write on, feed us, store our water for us and above all, clean our air and provide the oxygen we need to breath, then its incredible value is surely above that of Microsoft shares, diamonds, gold or any of the silly things that we seem to give more value to. Water is no less important, helping to wash us, produce the food we eat and water our bodies which without it, would shrivel up and die. Yet we happily lay waste to forests and waste and pollute water with no regard for its importance. It is now time to stand up and give value to the things that give us life, one and all, because the world is shrinking, we are increasing and unless we not only talk but also do, then the future for mankind is bleak indeed !
It should also be noted abroad that, despite being classed as an emerging market, and therefore by definition a country with no regard for environmental issues (in addition to being considered the 'slayer' of the Amazon), Brazil has a host of groups and NGO's, and indeed people in general, who not only worry about the destruction of the environment, but are trying to do something about it. Let us also not forget that the US, despite its well advertised protection programs in all areas of the environment and condemnation of other country's policies (Brazil included), continues to be the world's leading contributor to the greenhouse effect ! All of us have a lot of work to do and we must do it !