Sunday, August 30, 2009


Douglas Ruskoff thinks the answer is. "YES" and his argument is pretty persuasive.

Go to original article

An End to Movements

by Douglas Rushkoff

The national healthcare movement was doomed from the start. TV clips of shouting matches at town halls and fear-mongering by cynical politicians may be lamentable, but we are witnessing something more profound than the collapse of civic discourse. The failure of a movement that could rightly claim over 70 percent public acceptance just a month ago, exposes the inherent failure of movements of any kind to effectively address our society’s ills.

That’s right. Mass organization may just have been a twentieth century thing: collective actions of all sorts—good and bad—were responses to the corporatization of government and industy. As such, they took the form of the entities with whom they sought to do battle. But—like the top-heavy, highly abstracted creatures they were created to counter —they are proving utterly incapable of providing an alternative to what they would replace.

They did work for a time. When a corporation had the power to hire a police force to crush labor unrest, labor created its own collective, virtual structure to fight back: the union. When disenfranchised blacks faced Jim Crow laws, the Civil Rights movement gave them a tent under which to organize, a charismatic leadership to follow, and a clearly articulated cause to promote. It was branded. Marches could be scheduled, buttons could be worn. And it worked.

Between the 1960s and today, however, the mediaspace through which these causes disseminated ideas and gained momentum has changed. The best techniques for galvanizing a movement have long been co-opted and surpassed by public relations and advertising firms. Whether a movement is real or Astroturf has become almost impossible for even discerning viewers to figure out. The question often becomes the new content of the Sunday morning news panel, taking the place of whatever real issue might have been addressed.

But the problem is not simply that we’ve lost the ability to distinguish between real movements and cynically concocted fake ones. It’s that they are functionally indistinguishable. They may as well be the same thing.

In our current position, when disconnection from the real world is itself a cause for concern, movements only serve to disconnect us further from the actionable. They give us content for websites, language for our bumper stickers, and faces to put on our ideals. But they distract us from the matter at hand, and worse, turn our attention upward toward brand mythologies instead of immediately before us to the people and problems that need our time and energy. In the place of real connections to other people, we get the highly charged but ultimately fake connection to an image.

This is why progressives are so disillusioned by President Obama. He was never anything other than a centrist Democrat. But “brand Obama” gave his supporters—a movement in the fullest sense of the word—an abstracted ideal on which to focus. At least until his election. Meanwhile, the real requirements of progressive activists to contribute to their neighborhoods, promote local business and agriculture, invigorate failing public schools, were again left to someone else. This is not the failure of a president, but the flawed functionality of movements themselves.
For while civil rights, suffrage, and many other causes were largely won through traditionally organized, long-fought, top-down movements, the scale on which these great battles were waged is one no longer appropriate to the tasks at hand. In fact, it is the scale itself on which we have been attempting to orchestrate human affairs that is suspect.

Activists would do more to fight Big Agra simply by subscribing to their local Community Supported Agriculture groups. We’d more effectively pull the rug out from under a corrupt financial sector by simply investing in one another’s businesses—our own town restaurants and drug stores—instead of outsourcing our retirement savings to Wall Street. We could more easily re-invent public schools by volunteering our time to them directly, instead of sending our kids to private schools while we sign petitions for government to re-prioritize. And even in health care, we’d end up cutting everyone’s costs by commuting less, smoking less, landscaping less, and, yes, hating less. For each of these actions triggers different responses, undermines industries, requires new legal structures, and so on. It’s tiny, but it’s almost fractal in its impact.

For as the alternative is now teaching us, one size does not fit all. Americans, in particular, have been living under the premise that there’s something to buy, vote for, or believe in that will simply change everything. And it’s certainly still possible that government could develop the single payer system that pretty much everybody knows deep down would bring the best of industrial health care to the most people.

But just as we are learning that industrially produced food is not ultimately nutritious, a top-down, passionately executed, and highly branded movement is not ultimately effective.
In fact, by creating and branding a movement, even the most well-meaning activitsts are disconnecting from terra firma, and instead entering the world of marketing, public opinion, and language selection. Potential participants, meanwhile, are distracted from whatever on-the-ground, constructive and purposeful activity they might do. They get to join an abstracted movement, and participate by belonging instead of doing, or blogging instead of acting.

Douglas Rushkoff is the author, most recently, of Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back.

Check out the lively follow up discussion in the comments

A Child of the Amazon Shakes Up a Nation's Politics

NY Times
Published: August 28, 2009

Madam Candidate Marina Silva
Madam Candidate Marina Silva - photo: Andre Vieira for The New York Times

Go to Original

FOR Marina Silva, life began in the heart of the Amazon. From the age of 11, she walked nine miles a day helping her father collect rubber from trees.

These days, as an icon in the environmental movement, she has dedicated her life to protecting that same rainforest.

Illiterate and seriously ill from hepatitis, Ms. Silva left her home when she was 16 and headed by bus to the city of Rio Branco seeking medical care and an education. There she learned how to read and write, graduated from college and became a teacher and a politician.

She worked closely with her friend Chico Mendes, the rubber tapper and environmental activist, before he was gunned down in 1988 by ranchers opposed to his activism. When Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was elected Brazil’s president in 2002, he picked Ms. Silva to be his environmental minister, and on her watch Brazil devised a national plan to combat deforestation and created an indigenous reserve roughly the size of Texas.

Last week Ms. Silva shook up Brazilian politics by announcing that, after nearly three decades, she was leaving Mr. da Silva’s Workers’ Party to join the Green Party, where she is likely to be its candidate in next year’s presidential election.

Her story — that of a humble woman who overcame extreme poverty and illness to become a force in Brazilian politics — could prove an inspiration to Brazilians in their search for a president to replace the popular Mr. da Silva, himself a product of humble beginnings, political analysts said.

“Marina is a person that earned her own wings, and it is not surprising to discover that those who have wings can fly,” said Jorge Viana, the former governor of Acre, Ms. Silva’s home state.

Her candidacy would pit her against Dilma Rousseff, President da Silva’s chief of staff and his choice to succeed him. Political analysts say the two women have been at odds since 2003 over the country’s economic development policy, including energy projects that Ms. Silva has questioned for environmental reasons.

Ms. Silva has “shaken up the race, mixed up all the cards,” said David Fleischer, a political science professor at the University of Brasília.

If either woman wins, history will be made. Brazil has never had a woman as president. In addition, the country has never had a black president; Ms. Silva is black.

Ms. Silva resigned as environmental minister last year, after expressing concerns that the government might give in to pressure from business interests to ease off emergency measures she put in place to counteract a jump in Amazon deforestation. She returned to the national Senate, where she continued to press her environmental agenda.

IN an interview here, Ms. Silva, 51, said she grew frustrated with the internal struggle to persuade members of the Workers’ Party to pursue a more sustainable economic development strategy.

“With the opportunity to try to construct this new future for Brazil and for the planet, I prefer to put my hopes in this movement,” she said of her switch to the Green Party.

While many admire her, some political analysts say they believe that Ms. Silva’s past serious health problems could become a political liability in a presidential contest. Hepatitis, malaria and heavy metals contamination have caused her to be hospitalized for long stretches.

Concerns about Ms. Rousseff’s chemotherapy treatment for a melanoma have dogged her in recent months and led some supporters of Mr. da Silva to urge him to back a different candidate for his successor. Brazilians still remember the case of Tancredo Neves, a popular president-elect who became severely ill in 1985 and died before taking office.

Still, Ms. Silva has spent a lifetime proving doubters wrong.

BORN in Seringal Bagaço, a small community of rubber tappers in Acre, Ms. Silva was one of 11 children, three of whom died. The family’s nearest neighbor lived about an hour away on foot through the thick forest. Reaching Rio Branco, about 43 miles away, sometimes took a week during the rainy season, when the family car would get stuck in the muddy road, she said.

Disease was common in the Amazon, and it took its toll on her family. Her mother died when Ms. Silva was 11. Two younger sisters later died with measles and malaria.

At 11, she began working with her father as a rubber tapper. They would typically leave the house at 5 a.m. and return about 12 hours later. To increase the family’s productivity, her father would go to one area of the forest and she and her sisters to another.

To keep her from being robbed or tricked by rubber buyers, her father taught her simple mathematics at an early age, she said.

After Ms. Silva became ill with hepatitis, she resolved to head to Rio Branco to find treatment. She wanted to become a nun and study.

She enrolled in a course for illiterate adults, worked as a maid and soon finished primary school. During vacation breaks, she returned to her father’s home and helped him collect rubber.

She dropped her idea of becoming a nun and entered college, graduating at 26 with a history degree.

While at the university, she joined the Revolutionary Communist Party, a clandestine group working to oppose Brazil’s military dictatorship.

During that period, she met Mr. Mendes, a rubber tapper who organized workers to warn about the dangers of burning and clearing the forest and about the displacement of traditional Amazon communities.

Ms. Silva joined Mr. Mendes’s movement, which involved peaceful demonstrations, and it led her into politics. After being elected a town councilwoman in Rio Branco, she went on to become a state legislator and a federal senator.

With her staunch advocacy of the Amazon, Ms. Silva “was clearly the candidate of the Brazilian environmental movement,” said Steve Schwartzman, the director of tropical forest policy at Environmental Defense Fund in Washington and a longtime friend.

“Marina was part of the movement that made the Amazon and deforestation and the possibility of a different development model a national issue in Brazil in a way it had never been before,” he said.

Her advocacy won her acclaim from international environmental groups around the world, which say that clearing of the forest for Brazilian industries could be affecting global climate change. Although deforestation continues, the rate slowed significantly from 2004 to 2007.

But in May 2008 Ms. Silva resigned her position, blaming “stagnation” within the government on its environmental policy. She had become increasingly isolated in Mr. da Silva’s government over her criticism of some proposed hydroelectric dams and of genetically modified crops.

STILL, most of the policies she set in motion have continued, environmentalists said.

She credited Mr. da Silva, whom she considers a “living hero” along with Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama, for Brazil’s progress on protecting the environment. But she said the government must preserve the advances it had made.

“I was fortunate to achieve some things, but they were far short of what Brazil and the world needs us to do,” she said.

Mery Galanternick contributed reporting from Rio de Janeiro.

Friday, August 28, 2009


When I was in school the fashionable theory was that humans (and primates) were different because their opposing thumbs allowed them to hold and use tools. Well now, check out this crow.

In an astonishing set of experiments, a captive female crow, confronted with a task that required a curved tool (retrieving a food-containing bucket from a vertical tube), spontaneously bent a piece of straight wire into a hooked shape -- and then repeated the behavior in nine out of ten subsequent trials.

Thanks to treehugger for the tip.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


The Doctrine od the Santo Daime religion evolves and elaborates as new hymns are received. Here is the latest one from Saturnino, No 50 "Novo Tempo".

Monday, August 24, 2009

Paying Farmers to Let the Trees Stand

Farm and Forest_ Mata Grosso_NY Times

NY Times
Published: August 21, 2009

QUERENCIA, Brazil — José Marcolini, a farmer here, has a permit from the Brazilian government to raze 12,500 acres of rain forest this year to create highly profitable new soy fields.

But he says he is struggling with his conscience. A Brazilian environmental group is offering him a yearly cash payment to leave his forest standing to help combat climate change.

Mr. Marcolini says he cares about the environment. But he also has a family to feed, and he is dubious that the group’s initial offer in the negotiation — $12 per acre, per year — is enough for him to accept.

“For me to resist the pressure, surrounded by soybeans, I’ll have to be paid — a lot,” said Mr. Marcolini, 53, noting that cleared farmland here in the state of Mato Grosso sells for up to $1,300 an acre.

Mato Grosso means thick forests, and the name was once apt. But today, this Brazilian state is a global epicenter of deforestation. Driven by profits derived from fertile soil, the region’s dense forests have been aggressively cleared over the past decade, and Mato Grasso is now Brazil’s leading producer of soy, corn and cattle, exported across the globe by multinational companies.

Deforestation, a critical contributor to climate change, effectively accounts for 20 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions and 70 percent of the emissions in Brazil. Halting new deforestation, experts say, is as powerful a way to combat warming as closing the world’s coal plants.

But until now, there has been no financial reward for keeping forest standing. Which is why a growing number of scientists, politicians and environmentalists argue that cash payments — like that offered to Mr. Marcolini — are the only way to end tropical forest destruction and provide a game-changing strategy in efforts to limit global warming.

Unlike high-tech solutions like capturing and sequestering carbon dioxide or making “green” fuel from algae, preserving a forest yields a strikingly simple environmental payback: a landowner reduces his property’s emissions to zero.

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, said that deforestation “absolutely” needed to be addressed by a new international climate agreement being negotiated this year. “But people cut down trees because there is an economic rationale for doing it, and you need to provide them with a financial alternative,” he said.

Both the most recent draft of the agreement and the climate bill passed by the House in late June in the United States include plans for rich countries and companies to pay the poor to preserve their forests.

The payment strategies may include direct payments to landowners to keep forests standing, as well as indirect subsidies, like higher prices for beef and soy that are produced without resorting to clear-cutting. Deforestation creates carbon emissions through fires and machinery that are used to fell trees, and it also destroys the plant life that helps absorb carbon dioxide emissions from cars and factories around the globe.

But getting the cash incentives right is a complex and uncharted business. In much of the developing world, including here, deforestation has been tied to economic progress. Pedro Alves Guimarães, 73, a weathered man sitting at the edge of the region’s River of the Dead, came to Mato Grosso in 1964 in search of free land, pushing into the jungle until he found a site and built a hut as a base for raising cattle. While he regrets the loss of the forest, he has welcomed amenities like the school built a few years ago that his grandchildren attend, or the electricity put in last year that allowed him to buy his first freezer.

Also, environmental groups caution that, designed poorly, programs to pay for forest preservation could merely serve as a cash cow for the very people who are destroying them. For example, one proposed version of the new United Nations plan would allow plantations of trees, like palms grown for palm oil, to count as forest, even though tree plantations do not have nearly the carbon absorption potential of genuine forest and are far less diverse in plant and animal life.

“There is the capacity to get a very perverse outcome,” said Sean Cadman, a spokesman for the Wilderness Society of Australia.

Global as well as local economic forces are driving deforestation — Brazil and Indonesia lead the world in the extent of their rain forests lost each year. The forests are felled to help feed the world’s growing population and meet its growing appetite for meat. Much of Brazil’s soy is bought by American-based companies like Cargill or Archer Daniels Midland and used to feed cows as far away as Europe and China. In Indonesia, rain forests are felled to plant palms for the palm oil, which is a component of biofuels.

Brazil has tried to balance development and conservation.

Last year, with a grant from Norway that could bring the country $1 billion, it created an Amazon Fund to help communities maintain their forest. National laws stipulate that 80 percent of every tract in the upper Amazon — and 50 percent in more developed regions — must remain forested, but it is a vast territory with little law enforcement. Soy exporters officially have a moratorium on using product from newly deforested land.

Here in Mato Grasso, 700 square miles of rain forest was stripped in the last five months of 2007 alone, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, which tracks vanishing forests.

“With so much money to be made, there are no laws that will keep forest standing,” John Carter, a rancher who settled here 15 years ago, said as he flew his Cessna over the denuded land one day this summer.

Until very recently, developing the Amazon was the priority, and some settlers feel betrayed by the new stigma surrounding deforestation. Much as in the 19th-century American West, the Brazilian government encouraged settlement through homesteaders’ benefits like cheap land and housing subsidies, many of which still exist today.

“It was revolting and sad when the world said that deforestation was bad — we were told to come here and that we had to tear it down,” said Mato Grosso’s secretary of agriculture, Neldo Egon Weirich, 56, who moved here in 1978 and noted that to be eligible for loans to buy tractors and seed, a farmer had to clear 80 percent of his land.

He is proud to have turned Mato Grosso from a malarial zone into an agricultural powerhouse. “Mato Grosso is under a microscope — we know we have to do something,” Mr. Weirich said. “But we can’t just stop production.”

Even today, settlers around the globe are buying or claiming cheap “useless” forest and transforming it into farmland.

Clearing away the trees is often the best way to declare and ensure ownership. Land that Mr. Carter has intentionally left forested for its environmental benefit has been intermittently overtaken by squatters — a common problem here. In parts of Southeast Asia, early experiments in paying landowners for preserving forest have been hampered because it is often unclear who owns, or controls, property.

There are various ideas about how to rein in deforestation.

Mr. Carter has started a landowners’ environmental group, called Aliança da Terra, whose members agree to have their properties surveyed for good environmental practices and their forests tracked by satellite by scientists at the Amazon Institute for Environmental Research (IPAM), ensuring that they are not cultivating newly cleared land. Mr. Carter is currently negotiating with companies like McDonalds to purchase only from farms that have been certified.

The United Nations program, called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation or REDD, will reward countries that preserve forests with carbon credits that can be sold and turned into cash for forest owners through the global carbon market. The United Nations already gives such credits for cleaning factories and planting trees. Carbon credits are bought by companies or countries that have exceeded their emissions limits, as a way to balance their emissions budget.

Daniel Nepstad, a scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center, has mapped out large areas of the Amazon “pixel by pixel” to determine the land value if it was converted to raise cattle or grow soy, to help determine how much landowners should be paid to conserve forest. Most experts feel that landowners will accept lower prices as they realize the benefits of saving forest, like conserving water and burnishing their image with buyers.

Mr. Weirich, the agriculture secretary, said he was skeptical about that. But he, too, senses that there may for the first time be money in forest preservation and has recently decided to be certified by Aliança da Terra.

“We want to adopt practices that will put us ahead in the market,” he said.

The initial offer Mr. Marcolini has from the environmental group is perhaps not enough to save the forest here. But, he said, if his land was in a more remote part of the Amazon, with less farming potential, “I’d take that offer and run with it.”

Go to Slideshow

Go to original article

Luiz Mendes and Family Head to Europe for a Grand Tour


Padrinho Luiz, Madrinha Rizelda, Saturnino and Luzirene leave Rio Branco tomorrow (25 September 2009) for a grand European tour.

We wish them Boas Viagems (good journeys) and bom trabalhos (good works).

Here's the schedule of the Europen tour:

*Amsterdam 29 August 2009 Cura work "Os Chamados "
*Amsterdam 30 August 2009 Concentration "Novo Horizonte e Pequenininho "

*London 03 September 2009 Cura Work " Os Chamados "
*London 05 September 2009 Work with "Novo Horizonte and O Pequenininho"

*Belgium 11 September 2009 Cura Work " Os Chamados "
*Belgium 12 September 2009 Star Work " Germano Guilherme and João Pereira "
*Belgium 15 September 2009 Concentration " O Pequenininho "

*Germany (Hamburg ) 18 September 2009 Cura Work " Os Chamados"
*Germany ( Hamburg) 19 September 2009 Star Work " Novo Horizonte and o Pequenininho "

*Italy pierluigi lattuada - monte carmel- VARESE LIGURE 25 September 2009 Cura Work " Os Chamados"

*Italy Stella Azzurra - Vedriano - REGGIO EMILIA 28 September 2009 São Miguel Work - Hin.Caboclo Guerreiro e Novo Horizonte

*Italy Stella Azzurra - Vedriano - REGGIO EMILIA 30 September 2009 - Concentration " O Pequenininho "

*Italy Assis 02 October 2009 Cura Work " Os Chamados"
*Italy Assis 04 October 2009 Trabalho de São Francisco de Assis Hinario Teteu
*Italy Assis 06 October 2009 Trabalho de aniversario do pad Sebastião,hinario do

*Spain Barcelona 10/10/09 Cura Work " os Chamados"
*Spain Barcelona 11/10/09 Star Work " Novo Horizonte and O Pequenininho "

*Spain Madrid 15/10/09 Concentration " Novo Horizonte"
*Spain Madrid 17 October 2009 Star Work " Germano Guilherme and João Pereira"

*Portugal Lisbon 24 October 2009 Cura Work " Os Chamados" *Portugal Lisbon 25/10/09 Mestre Irineu

There's more information HERE.


Here are the latest Amazon posts from

Brazil's 'Obama' weighs presidential bid

(08/20/2009) Marina Silva, the charismatic rubber tapper who went on to become senator and Environment Minister, is weighing a presidential bid in Brazil's 2010 election, according to multiple reports. Political observers say that while her chances are long, Silva's entrance and focus on the environment could spur interest among Brazilians disenchanted by the Workers' Party, the dominant part which has been tarnished lately by corruption scandals.

Photos reveal illegal logging near uncontacted natives in Peru

(08/17/2009) Ariel photos show proof of illegal logging for mahogany occurring in a Peruvian reserve set aside for uncontacted natives. The photos, taken by Chris Fagan from Round River Conservation Studies, show logging camps set-up inside the Murunahua Reserve, meant to protect the uncontacted indigenous group, known as the Murunahua Indians, in the Peruvian Amazon.

Police face murder charges in killing of indigenous protesters in Peru

(08/16/2009) A federal prosecutor in Peru filed murder charges against two police generals and 15 other officers over the deaths of indigenous protesters at a roadblock in June, reports the Associated Press. The Indians were protesting new rules that would have made it easier for foreign developers to exploit oil and gas, timber, and minerals in Peru's Amazon rainforest. The skirmish left 23 police and at least ten protesters dead.

Brazilian beef giant announces moratorium on rainforest beef

(08/13/2009) Brazil's second-largest beef exporter, Bertin, announced it would establish a moratorium on buying cattle from farms involved in Amazon deforestation, reports Greenpeace. The move comes after the World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) withdrew a $90 million loan to Bertin following revelations in a Greenpeace report that the company was buying beef produced on illegally deforested lands. The report, which linked some of the world's most prominent brands to rainforest destruction in the Amazon, had an immediate impact, triggering a cascade of events.

Amazon stores 10 billion tons of carbon in 'dead wood'

(08/12/2009) Old growth forests in the Amazon store nearly 10 billion tons of carbon in dead trees and branches, a total greater than global annual emissions from fossil fuel combustion, according to scientists who have conducted the first pan-Amazon analysis of "necromass."

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Marina Silva

Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro, Wednesday 19 August 2009 17.36 BST
Article history

Brazil's former environment minister, the rainforest defender Marina Silva, has resigned from the ruling Workers' party, paving the way for a 2010 presidential bid, which supporters hope will put the environment back on the political agenda of South America's largest country.

For weeks speculation has been growing that Silva, who resigned from government last May after a dispute over the development of the Amazon region, would defect to the Green party in order to dispute the presidential elections next October.

Speaking at a press conference in Brasilia earlier today, Silva, who has been a Workers' party member for over 30 years, said politicians had failed to give sufficient attention to the environmental cause.

In her resignation letter to the president of the Workers' party, Silva said her decision was an attempt to break with the idea of "development based on material growth at any cost, with huge gains for a few and perverse results for the majority" including "the destruction of natural resources".

She added that "political conditions" had meant that "environmental concerns had not been able to take route at the heart of the government."

Silva, 51, stopped short of formally announcing a presidential bid but few doubt that she will now front the Green Party's 2010 election campaign.

The Brazilian media has been overtaken with Marina mania since earlier this month when rumours about a possible bid for the presidency began spreading. This week one major news magazine stamped Silva's photograph onto its front-page alongside the headline: "President Marina?"

Writing in the O Globo newspaper yesterday, the influential columnist Zuenir Ventura said Silva could bring a touch of Barack Obama to the Brazilian elections.

"Marina excites young people, those who are disenchanted with the current situation [and] with the Workers' Party … in such a way that she could create a spontaneous and contagious movement within society … as innovative as that which occurred in the US with Obama," he wrote.

Born in an impoverished community of rubber tappers in the remote Amazon state of Acre, Silva was orphaned at 16 and was illiterate until her early teens.

In 1994, aged 35, she was elected as Brazil's youngest ever female senator and subsequently became renowned for her staunch defence of the Amazon rainforest and its inhabitants, winning a succession of international awards for her work. The president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has not so far commented on her resignation.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Ana Paula

Why is she an angel? She guided me step-by-step through the labyrinth Brazilian bureaucracy to the final outcome of attaining full resident status in Brazil (the equivalent of getting a "green card" in the US).

Full disclosure: I have been living in Brazil for 3 years beyond the expiration date of my visa. Then, in June, came the miracle that I had been waiting for -- the Lula Administration passed a general amnesty law that gave all "illegals" the right to a 2-year resident visa with full rights and during the final months of the term it can be converted into a permanent resident visa with no further renewal requirements. Not only that but it's design is actually "user-friendly" and client oriented which is most unusual in Brazil.

Nevertheless, getting through the bureaucracy in Rio Branco where few folks speak any English is quite a challenge. It took a week of traveling long bus rides to agency after agency and often being stopped by a Catch-22. That's when Ana Paula, who works in the "foreigner office" of the Federal Police, would be there for me every time with a creative solution. So I'm acknowledging her here with a deep bow of gratitude.

Beyond that, all I can say is, "Eu sou brasileiro."

(Undertow Eyes)

A new very beautiful short film by our friend Petra Coasta recently received two awards in a Brazilian festival and it has been accepted for showing in the VANCOUVER FILM FESTIVAL during October.


Below is a review in a major Brazilian newspaper (in Portuguese).

Abaixo, crítica de Rodrigo Fonseca para ‘O Globo’ sobre a obra:

Festival de Gramado: ‘ressaca’ que dilata os olhos
Do último e mais fraco dia de competição de curtas-metragens do 37º Festival de Gramado só uma produção fez justiça à telona do Palácio dos Festivais: o filme carioca “Olhos de Ressaca”, de Petra Costa. Apoiado na fotografia de Eryk Rocha, o curta de Petra cumpriu a cota de poesia exigida minimamente por cada dia de concurso dos pequenos filmes selecionados para o evento gaúcho. Petra registra, a partir de um fluxo de memória, a história de amor do casal Vera e Gabriel, juntos há seis décadas. A diretora mescla relatos pessoais à percepções sobre o amor, a solidão e as alegrias compartilhadas a dois.

“Olhos de Ressaca” monta um mosaico delicado sobre as possibilidades de se combinar subjetividades variadas sem as castrações convencionais da instituição que o matrimônio representa. O curta é um caminho interessante para se pensar o tipo de cinema de jorro poético que os irmãos Eryk e Ava Rocha (ela é responsável pela montagem), filhos de Gláuber, têm ajudado a construir. Os dois emprestam a assinatura estética ao projeto de reflexão sobre memória e tempo (ou de memória como tempo) realizado com primor por Petra.

Friday, August 14, 2009


It is generally agreed that the greatest achievement of the forest protection movement during the the Clinton-Gore era was the roadless area protection rule. The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management has already built over 450,000 miles of logging roads into US Public Forest lands.

The roadless rule said, "NO MORE." But, of course, the Bush Administration tried to open it all up again for their clients in the timber industry.

Federal appeals court reinstates Clinton-era ban on road building in national forests


Associated Press Writer

August 5, 2009

A federal appeals court Wednesday blocked road construction in at least 40 million acres of pristine national forests.

The decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstates most of a 2001 rule put in place by President Bill Clinton just before he left office that prohibited commercial logging, mining and other development on about 58 million acres of national forest in 38 states and Puerto Rico. A subsequent Bush administration rule had cleared the way for more commercial activity there.

The latest ruling, issued in San Francisco, sides with several Western states and environmental groups that sued the Forest Service after it reversed the so-called "Roadless Rule" in 2005.

But it is not the final word on roadless forests.

A separate case is pending in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, where environmental groups are appealing a Wyoming district court decision repealing the Clinton roadless rule.

"It's up and down like a yo-yo," said Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry group. "It seems to be bouncing from one court to the other."

The Obama administration cited that legal uncertainty this spring in ordering a one-year moratorium on most road-building in national forests.

A May 28 directive by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack gives him sole decision-making authority over all proposed forest management or road construction projects in designated roadless areas in all states except Idaho. Idaho was one of two states that developed its own roadless rule under the 2005 Bush policy, which gave states more control over whether and how to block road-building in remote forests.

Lawyers involved in the case said the 9th Circuit ruling reinstated the Clinton era rule everywhere except Idaho and the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Idaho created its own plan for roadless forests and the Tongass was exempted from roadless protection in a separate 2003 decision.

Vilsack said in May that his directive should ensure that oversight of activities in the affected areas can continue while long-term roadless policy is developed and court cases proceed.

Justin DeJong, a spokesman for Vilsack, said Wednesday that "the Obama administration supports conservation of roadless areas in our national forests, and this decision today reaffirms the protection of these resources."

The Obama administration has not said whether it will defend the Clinton rule in the Wyoming court battle, but environmentalists say the administration should step in to protect roadless areas.

"We're not out of the woods yet," said Mike Anderson, a senior resource analyst with The Wilderness Society in Seattle.

The 9th Circuit decision "halts the Bush administration assault on roadless areas, but the Obama administration must now take the next steps necessary to make protection permanent and nationwide," he said.

Even without that step, environmental advocates hailed the ruling, calling it the end of the Bush-era rule on roadless forests.

"This is a huge step. It puts the roadless rule back in place," said Kristen Boyles, a lawyer for the environmental group Earthjustice, which represented a coalition of environmental groups in the case.

Boyles, who has fought for nearly eight years to uphold the 2001 roadless rule, said the 9th Circuit ruling "is what we need to be able to have the protection on the ground for the last wild places and for hikers and campers."

In its 38-page decision, the appeals court said the 2005 Bush rule "had the effect of permanently repealing uniform, nationwide, substantive protections that were afforded to inventoried roadless areas" in national forests, replacing them with a system the Forest Service "had rejected as inadequate a few years earlier."

The court said the 2001 rule offered greater protection to remote forests than the 2005 rule, adding that the 2001 rule has "immeasurable benefits from a conservationist standpoint."

Meanwhile, developments continue on the ground.

Last month, Vilsack approved a timber sale in a roadless area of Alaska's Tongass National Forest. The sale allows Pacific Log and Lumber to clear-cut about 380 acres in the Tongass, the largest federal forest. About nine miles of roads will be constructed to allow the logging.

Timber sales in other roadless areas are pending, including a forest thinning project in Oregon that would allow logging of about 900 acres in the Umpqua National Forest near Diamond Lake. About 25 miles of roads would be built.

"What the Forest Service is proposing on the doorstep of Crater Lake National Park is harmful, unnecessary and illegal," said Doug Heiken of the environmental group Oregon Wild.

Partin, of the timber industry group, countered that the project would reduce the risk of wildfire and insect infestation.

"If we don't treat them before they die (of insect infestation) we will have massive wildfires," Partin said.

The case is state of California et al. v. USDA, 07-15613.


YES, the political struggle is like a Yo-Yo moving up and down. The trouble is that when the trees go down, they don't come up again.


The International Biochar movement took a major step of expansion this week with the first US biochar conference at the University of Colorado. There's a fine update by Bill Hewitt at GRIST on the current status of the biochar movement. Due to slow Internet connections I can't post any of the pics but here are the text and links of this fine update:

Go to original at Grist

Imagine a system that can:
  • (potentially) store billions of tons of carbon in soil for centuries;
  • dramatically reduce agricultural waste, forest debris and some municipal solid waste, thus eliminating the production of greenhouse gases that result from their decomposition;
  • generate energy to both power itself and a surplus for use in surface transportation or electricity generation; and
  • greatly increases the productivity of agricultural soil, thus reducing the need for expensive and polluting fertilizers.

This is the promise of biochar—the carbon-rich remains of “burning” organic matter via an oxygen-free process. According to the International Biochar Initiative (IBI), biochar “has four value streams: waste reduction, energy production, soil fertilization, and carbon sequestration.” This has implications for both developing and developed economies—- and, most importantly, the interrelated problems of global warming and food security.

Based on the work of researchers in the Amazon who discovered the startling properties of terra preta, land that had been improved hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of years ago, soil scientists have been pursuing a way to replicate the success of the Amazonian Indians in producing spectacular fertility in the midst of the relatively infertile rainforest.

One of the key components of terra preta is charcoal. Modern biochar, however, isn’t derived from the same process that agricultural societies have been using for millenia to produce charcoal. Instead, biochar is a product of the breaking down of biomass by a controlled thermal degradation—not burning. The most prevalent method of producing biochar is through pyrolysis.

The first step in biochar production is providing feedstock. This can be agricultural waste that would otherwise sit in the field to decompose or be burned, in both cases generating greenhouse gases. Other sources are forest debris or waste products like the enormous fraction of municipal solid waste comprised of grass cuttings and leaves. The feedstock is placed into a pyrolysis chamber—a nearly airtight device that intensifies heat but limits exposure to oxygen to avoid burning. The chamber can be a small unit processing as little as a few pounds of biomass for a family’s cooking and gardening needs, or a large one with a capacity of as much as a 100 tons per day.

Since pyrolysis is performed with little or no oxygen present, it produces no combustion byproducts such as black carbon (soot), carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide. Instead, gases such as hydrogen and biofuels are produced, which can be used to provide the necessary heat for the pyrolysis process with some left over for other uses.

The remaining solid material—the biochar—can be used as a soil additive that, according to most of the research to date, has a remarkable ability to enhance agricultural or horticultural productivity.

One key international governmental organization, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), believes “the role of the soil in capturing and storing carbon dioxide is often one missing information layer in taking into consideration the importance of the land in mitigating climate change.”

The UNCCD, along with the IBI, pushed hard to include biochar in the draft negotiating text for the upcoming Copenhagen climate talks. This means that biochar and other methods of employing agriculture to mitigate carbon emissions may well lead to the issuing of offset credits for these methods. This is the big prize that could lead to the massive deployment of biochar production worldwide.

Biochar has been embraced by worthies such as Chris Goodall and James Lovelock. Tim Flannery, in his foreword to Biochar for Environmental Management, says: “The biochar approach provides a uniquely powerful solution, for it allows us to address food security, the fuel crisis and the climate problem, and all in an immensely practical manner. With its careful evaluation of every aspect of biochar, this book represents a cornerstone of our future global sustainability.”

Dr. Johannes Lehmann—co-editor of Biochar for Environmental Management, chairman of the IBI, and a professor at Cornell University—is one of the driving forces behind the growing recognition of biochar’s value. Like any good scientist, however, he’s conservative in his prognostications. His current work focuses on generating and evaluating research on biochar production and use. His group at Cornell, for instance, is evaluating scores of different chars from around the world.

Lehmann does not endorse growing biomass on a massive scale as biochar feedstock—something George Monbiot accused biochar boosters of advocating in a somewhat infamous Guardian column from March.

“It doesn’t make any sense to grow biomass on land specifically and solely for the purpose of generating energy or biochar or a combination,” Lehmann said. “It makes the most sense to talk about agricultural waste.”

Lehmann considers forest debris and yard waste to be prime candidates for biochar production. But he is circumspect about which wastes might be most cost-effective. Collecting corn stover from fields for the purpose of generating char and energy might be ineffective, but the massive amounts of waste generated by sugar cane production could work very well. Similarly, if money and effort must be expended to collect forest debris for biochar production, then it might not be worthwhile. However, it could be cost-effective if the debris is being collected anyway for fire prevention.

Biomass is often left on the ground to decompose, creating huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, or is burned in the fields or in forest fires, creating carbon dioxide. Biomass, usually scrub wood or animal dung, is also burned in open cooking fires throughout the developing world, a practice that has drastic dire health impacts for the people routinely exposed to the smoke, mostly women and children. It also generates black carbon (or soot), increasingly being identified as a powerful driver of climate change second only to carbon dioxide.

Among the many projects in which Lehmann is involved is comprehensive research and development on pyrolyzing cookstoves that produce both clean heat and biochar for use by farmers. “You can dramatically expand your feedstock options when you switch from burning to charring,” he said. What matters in all of this, Lehmann emphasizes, is looking carefully at the costs and benefits in each situation, performing “whole systems analysis, from cradle to grave.”

Biochar could get a big boost in the United States if the Waxman-Markey bill is passed. The legislation would allow agricultural and forestry projects to qualify as carbon offsets, a move that sparked outcry from some environmental groups concerned that Congress would prevent regulators from measuring the full carbon footprint of U.S. farming practices.

Nevertheless, offsets retain considerable support in Congress. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is a biochar booster. “As part of the overall effort to lessen the effects of global warming, biochar is an exciting method for sequestering carbon,” he said in a statement for this article. “It is a truly innovative option not only because it sequesters carbon, but also because it improves soil condition and reduces the amount of water and fertilizer required on farms.”

William Hohenstein, the director of USDA’s Office of Global Climate Change, sees biochar in the context of a comprehensive policy construct, along with conservation tillage, tree planting, and other mitigation methods. He envisions the inclusion of these methods in a system of offsets, both domestically and internationally. The Agricultural Research Service, meanwhile, concluded in a recent report that the costs of processing crop residue into biochar and incorporating it into farmland soils could be offset by giving farmers the ability to sell credits for the carbon sequestered by the biochar.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


NY Times
August 5, 2009, 9:45 pm
Clunker Class War
by Tim Egan

My clunker was a ’64 Ford Galaxie, logging maybe eight miles to the gallon on level ground, the back seat burned to the coils by a knucklehead friend who left a cigarette to smolder. When it died, just short of 140,000 miles, everything went. Sold it for scrap and $50 — with the tow.

Today, I’d trade that dog on wheels in a New York minute for the upgrade, some smart mileage car that is one of the autos zooming off my neighborhood lot as part of the Cash for Clunkers program.

But according to a barnacled cluster of senators, this program must be sunk, now. It’s been far too successful — dealers have been swamped, people are lining up to buy cars that burn less gas and bring instant cash to crippled local economies.

This is old fashioned stimulus of a sort that Republicans have always advocated, using financial incentives to change behavior. Representative Candice Miller, a G.O.P. lawmaker — albeit from the car-dependent state of Michigan — called it “the best $1 billion of economic stimulus the government has ever spent.”

But look where the rest of Miller’s party is. Last week, Senator John McCain threatened to lead a filibuster rather than let Cash for Clunkers continue to September, as the House has agreed to do with an additional $2 billion from money already approved in the stimulus law.

He backed off this week, though he and other critics continued to treat Cash for Clunkers like swine flu with a steering wheel.

They hate it, many of these Republicans, because it’s a huge hit. It’s working as planned, and this cannot stand. America must fail in order for President Obama to fail. Don’t be surprised if the tea party goons now being dispatched to shout down town hall forums on health care start showing up at your car dealers, megaphones in hand.

But there’s another reason, less spoken of, for why some people get so incensed over little old Cash for Clunkers: it helps average people, and it’s easily understood — a rare combination in a town where the big money deals usually go down with packaged obfuscation.

The overall amount of money is paltry, to the government. But to a typical family, a $4,500 break on a new car with greater gas mileage is a big deal. Consider the extraordinary giveaways of your tax dollars that happened without serious filibuster threats by the protectors of free enterprise.

The granddaddy of them all, of course, was President George W. Bush’s $700 billion bailout of banks, insurance companies and Wall Street miscreants who helped to run the economy into the ground. As presented initially, remember, the bailout had to pass in a day or two, with minimal debate. Or else.

“The goal isn’t to control markets, but to revive them,” the Wall Street Journal editorialized at the time, backing perhaps the greatest reward for bad behavior in the history of capitalism.

Yet, when a tiny fraction of that amount went to strapped consumers this summer for their revival, The Journal jumped back on their Adam Smith pedestal, calling Cash for Clunkers “crackpot economics.”

Then there is the American International Group, the pariah A.I.G., now being kept afloat by the taxpayers to the tune of nearly $180 billion. This money from us to them didn’t sell any cars. It didn’t improve gas mileage. It didn’t help neighborhood businesses. It went to fortify an insurance giant that made terrible bets on complex securities and then threatened to bring us all down with them. McCain was there for A.I.G., no filibuster in his quiver.

And when it came out that some of those same corporate welfare titans would still be giving each other bonuses, former Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani rode to the rescue. Bonuses, he argued, trickle down to waiters, limo drivers, cafes that sell donuts to cops — cash for dunkers.

But try to give struggling families a one-time boost to buy a more fuel-efficient car, with an amount that wouldn’t pay for paper clips at A.I.G., and it’s … outrageous!

Reports from car dealers show that clunker stimulus has boosted show room traffic up to 200 percent. The most common vehicles being traded in, they said, are pickups and S.U.V.’s; the most popular replacements will save drivers more than $1,000 a year in gas costs.

Those who oppose this program on principle argue that government should not be choosing winners and losers in the marketplace, even in a down economy. But both parties have long used federal money for precisely that, intending to change society, in ways big and small. What was the G.I. Bill but the greatest escalator to the middle class for returning war veterans? Home mortgage subsidies allow millions of families to own their own house, benefiting realtors, drywallers, roofers and assorted contractors.

I don’t like that big agriculture gets rewarded for monopolizing rural economies while stuffing nearly every processed food with the dreaded high-fructose corn syrup. I was against giving $35 billion in federal help for oil and gas companies over the next five years, as Republicans advocated during last year’s campaign.

For that matter, I hate to see small independent book stores disappear from the landscape.

But Cash for Clunkers is a bare slight against free market chastity. It’s simple stimulus, caught up in a much larger system that’s always been there for the big money players, but holds a much higher standard for anyone else.

Go to original article and comments

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


(AP: 4 August 2009) RIO DE JANEIRO — New TV ads are encouraging Brazilians to save water — by urinating in the shower. Brazilian environmental group SOS Mata Atlantica says the campaign, running on several television stations, uses humor to persuade people to reduce flushes. The group says if a household avoids one flush a day, it can save up to 4,380 liters (1,157 gallons) of water annually.

SOS spokeswoman Adriana Kfouri said Tuesday that the ad is "a way to be playful about a serious subject."

The spot features cartoon drawings of people from all walks of life — a trapeze artist, a basketball player, even an alien — urinating in the shower.

Narrated by children's voices, the ad ends with: "Pee in the shower! Save the Atlantic rainforest!"

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


It's a great family weekend coming up at Fortaleza. Friday is the birthday of Madrinha Rizelda who is the matriarch of the Luiz Mendes family clan.

There are no words that can adequately describe the love, power and firmness that this little woman brings to family and friends. Whether in the solemnity of a spiritual ceremony or working in the field or kitchen or cutting it up on the dance floor this woman is a true inspiration. We wish her a long life of good health and great happiness and we are grateful for the way she models what a life living in the Doctrine of the Santo Daime can mean.

It will be a great party weekend beginning with a spiritual work on Saturday night with the singing of Pequeninho (the hymns of her son Saturnino) and the hymns of her mother.

Here's what singing Pequeninho was like at Bujari last Easter...

And Sunday -- Father's Day in Brazil -- will put both Padrinho Luiz and Madrinha Rizelda in the center. Here's the fun that this couple shared with our dear friends at Ceu da Fatima (in São Paulo state) last year on her birthday.

I'm sure if you asked her what her greatest joys of the moment are, very high on her list would be her new great granddaughter Maria Flor who begins the fourth generation of this dear family.








by Hambone Littletail

Barely six weeks after dozens of Amazon natives were gunned down in cold blood by the Peruvian Army in the oil town of Bagua for protesting the cozy relationship between Big Oil and the government of President Alan Garcia, I find myself on the banks of the Mother of God River in Salvacion, Peru, wondering if all those folks died in vain.

Any day now, the bulldozers will be moving in as Texas-based Hunt Oil Company – with the full go-ahead of the Peruvian government -- fires its first salvo in its assault against the million-acre pristine rainforest wilderness of the little-known and largely unexplored Amarakaeri Communal Reserve. By the time you read this, the choppers will probably already be here, womp-womping their way along the very edge of Manu National Park to supply the seismic survey crews whacking their way through the jungle and blowing off explosives to see what riches lie below the surface. The local natives that the “reserve” was created to protect, like so many before them, are getting ready to have their lives irrevocably altered, and are wondering how to react to this invasion.

In other words, it’s business as usual for the Planet Eaters in the Amazon jungle, as if Bagua never existed at all. I could write a book – indeed, I am writing a book – about the carnage going on down here in the heart of the Mother of God. Here is just a taste of what I’ve found so far in my first two months in Peru:

If you carefully read all the reports from the massacre at Bagua, you will notice that those protesters (and other natives from all over the Peruvian Amazon, including those here in Amarakaeri) are saying that, by and large, modern-day Amazon natives are not categorically opposed to all oil and gas drilling (or logging, or mining, or ranching) on their ancestral lands – no matter how much the tree-hugging environmentalists in the U.S. with their “noble savage” fantasies don’t want to hear it.

As a rule, what modern-day Amazon natives are opposed to – and rightfully so – is a bunch of foreign Planet Eaters, in cahoots with their cronies in Lima, storming into the natives’ ancestral forest homes yet again to do what they please without consulting – or, more importantly, without financially rewarding – the folks who have lived there for 50,000 years. It’s just not the right thing to do. To be blunt but honest about it, what the natives are demanding – and rightfully so, after getting pushed out of the way and screwed over by the Planet Eaters for 500 years – is their rightful piece of the economic pie. What a concept! These guys actually want to get paid – and they’re not talking about some lousy beads and fish hooks, they’re talking about some good old American greenbacks. What gall, the greedy bastards!

I can already hear the howls of derision from the deluded tree-huggers reading these callous conclusions because – until I came down here to Peru and looked around with my own two eyes, and talked to a bunch of Amazon natives, and took the time to read the research and listen to the educated opinions of a lot of folks who know a helluvalot more about the subject than you and I will ever know – I was one of those deluded tree-huggers myself. After only two months in Peru – where I sit writing these words beside a waterfall on the banks of the Mother of God River in a ravaged rainforest cut down by the local natives themselves – I am still, more than ever, a tree-hugger… it’s just that I’m not quite so deluded as I was a couple of months ago.

Since the question on everyone’s lips is, obviously: “What do the natives who live inside the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve think about Hunt Oil’s plans to turn their ancestral home into an oilfield?,” that is the question I have spent the last six weeks asking people who know a lot more about the issue than I do, and have gotten a dozen different answers. I’m going to take the risk of oversimplifying this complicated issue by summarizing all these diverse opinions into one overview:

Continue this great on-the-ground report

I like this Hambone Littletail guy and can really relate to his personal journey. I've never met him but you sorta know when you've found a brother on the path. He is a former real estate agent who, following a directive from Spirit, quit his job and headed to the Peruvian Amazon, where he is presently writing a book of his adventures. If you would like to receive a free copy of his on-line book, “Peruvian Plunge: The Unfolding Story of What Happened When a Middle-Aged Realtor from Texas Headed to the Peruvian Amazon to Kick Big Oil’s Ass Out of the Jungle,” you may contact Littletail at hambone78704@

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Food, Energy and Environment ‘Trilemma’

Energy Cane
Michael Stravato for The New York Times
A farmer stands near a patch of energy cane near New Iberia, La.

At the 2009 Bio World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology, held in Montreal last week, industry players and scientists found themselves pondering two seemingly contradictory concerns.

One focused on how rapid advances in genetic engineering and biotechnology can expand the market for cellulosic ethanol and other “second-generation biofuels,” which are touted as low-emission substitutes for corn ethanol (itself a partial substitute for gasoline).

The other involved the problem of ensuring that exponential growth in the global biofuel market — which is projected to grow 12.3 percent a year through 2017, according to one recent study of the industry — will not hurt the environment and divert vast tracks of arable land needed for food or grain production.

A paper published in Science earlier this month, referred to the triple challenges of energy, environment and food as the biofuel “trilemma.” The authors identified five “beneficial” sources of biomass: perennial plants grown on abandoned farm fields, crop residue, sustainably harvested wood residue, double or mixed crops, and industrial/municipal waste.

“In a world seeking solutions to its energy, environmental, and food challenges, society cannot afford to miss out on the global greenhouse-gas emission reductions and the local environmental and societal benefits when biofuels are done right,” the authors state. “However, society also cannot accept the undesirable impacts of biofuels done wrong.”

Another assessment, from a biofuels study group established by Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment, part of an international science body, discusses the challenge of dedicated energy crops:

A small number of food-crop species like corn, sugarcane, oil palm and rapeseed are currently used globally to produce biofuels. Their continued use as biofuel feedstocks in light of increasing food demand, limited land resources, and stagnant agricultural yields is problematic. Dedicated energy crops like switchgrass in temperate areas and jatropha in the tropics have been proposed as a way to produce energy without impacting food security or the environment. However, such special energy crops require land, water, nutrients, and other inputs, and therefore compete with food crop for these resources. This competition contributes to conversion of grasslands, to deforestation, to and other land-use changes, with the associated adverse environmental effects.

The paper, which was published last year, estimates that if biofuels account for 10 percent of transportation fuels, as some governments hope, production could eventually account for at least 8 percent of the world’s supply of arable land and perhaps much more, as well as consume large quantities of water.

For the comments go to the original post at The NY Times.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


Our good friend Débora Carvahlo posing with one of the landmark graffiti walls in Rio Brano. Prinçesa Débora is also quite a Ninja Princess when it come to defending the forest. We hope that she will be able to spend a lot more time with us at Fortaleza.

Débora's blog Casmerim (in Portuguese) is worth checking out.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


(and all of them with NO TEETH -- hehehehehe)

Face Sculptures from Toilet Paper Rolls

What a great art. There's more to check out...

via Accidental Mysteries

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Face Sculptures

(Above) An ordinary cardboard toilet paper roll.

WHAT TO DO WITH LEFT OVER TOILET PAPER ROLLS? JUNIOR JACQUET of France has an answer that works for him. He recycles and reuses these cardboard rolls into a legion of odd characters with contorted faces. His process is simple: Jacquet paints—then pushes and pulls the cardboard roll, slowly revealing his next character.

Learn more about the artist at Village of Joy.


photo via Carbon Gold

This is a MAJOR step for biochar which is destined to become a global technology for reducing global warming AND feeding more people AND protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.

Carbon Gold Promote Strict Regulations With World's First Biochar Methodology
by Leonora Oppenheim, London, UK on 07.31.09

Today the world's first biochar methodology has been published for public consultation by the Voluntary Carbon Standard. This ground breaking paper has been submitted by the UK based biochar project developers Carbon Gold. They are confident that their methodology will help create an ethical and sustainable structure for a potential biochar offsetting industry. This method of turning waste biomass into charcoal has been lauded as a miracle solution to rising CO2 emissions, but skeptics have also warned that there is plenty of room for error and exploitation.

Organic Farming + Carbon Offsets = Carbon Gold
Carbon Gold may not ring any bells for you, but the big names behind this new company certainly will. Two very successful UK eco-entrepreneurs are now selling the biochar dream, one being Craig Sams, founder of Green + Blacks chocolate and the other being Dan Morrel founder of Future Forests, now The Carbon Neutral Company. Together they are uniting their experience and skills, in organic farming and carbon offsetting respectively, to commercialise the use of biochar as a Clean Development Mechanism.

Monbiot's Warning
Both Sams and Morrell, whilst evangelical about the benefits of biochar as a way to sequester carbon and enrich soil fertility, are well aware of the potential pitfalls an unregulated market could fall into. George Monbiot's polemical article on biochar in The Guardian a few months ago painted an alarming image of biochar enthusiasts turning 1.4 billion hectares of the planet's surface into charcoal, taking over valuable crop fields and exploiting indigenous people's land .

Sustainable + Ethical Methodology
Naturally Monbiot is deeply skeptical of any silver bullet solution to climate change and so should we be, but Carbon Gold is stepping into the ring on the right foot with a methodology and a statement of principles which aims to create a "sustainable, social and environmental policy under which any biochar project should be developed." If the Voluntary Carbon Standard approves the Methodology then all future biochar projects can be independently verified and certified.

Assessing Carbon Emissions
Carbon Gold's Biochar Methodology has been developed in collaboration with greenhouse house gas emissions assessors Ecometrica and claims to "set out the carbon accounting methods and detailed instructions on how to calculate the reduced or avoided emissions from a biochar project." The accompanying Statement of Principles adds that all projects will only use "biomass feedstocks derived from surplus biomass that is a by-product of agricultural or forestry activities and which would otherwise be burned or left to decay."

Respecting Indigenous Land Rights
We are also impressed by the stated social principles which guarantee local employment and training, health and safety, and land rights, paying "due regard to the principles enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Indigenous People." We look forward to hearing more from Carbon Gold about the potentials uses of appropriate technologies and community supported implementation of biochar projects. It looks like Carbon Gold are setting off in the right direction, but will this methodology be enough to allay Monbiot's fears of ending up being surrounded by a famine struck blackened charcoal landscape?

Carbon Gold