The Positive Deviant in Brazil

In Brazil to promote O Divergente Positivo the Portuguese language edition of The Positive Deviant. So far (just over a week) it has been one rather frantic round of talks, seminars, interviews and meetings. More in future posts. First some background.

Looking out from my high rise hotel over the roof tops and sky-scrapers of Sao Paulo it is hard to consider Brazil as a potential leader in matters sustainable. Many helipads but not one solar panel. The Tietê River flowing through the city is moribund, only managing to revive itself 300 miles downstream on its way to the sea via Buenos Aires.

A long drought unrelieved by some torrential rain over last weekend means shortage of water is acute.  Hydropower, which provides about 2/3 of the country’s power, is working with water levels close to record lows. The government will be forced to pay over US$5 billion to rescue utilities, long dependent on the cheap hydropower but now having to replace it with expensive gas, coal and oil. Not least to ready the country for an expected 600,000 visitors for the World Cup.  (And no, despite wide ranging enquiries, there aren’t any tickets to be had!)

Perversely, the view is that the June World Cup and then Brazil’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 may actually jolt the country onto a more sustainable path.  Much disgruntlement from people shocked at the huge amounts of money going into both these events while so much poverty exists, have put the political parties, soon going into crucial elections, on red – or rather – green alert.

Sustainability issues will influence forthcoming elections

On 5th October Brazilian citizens will be electing a new President, a new National Congress as well as State Governors and State Legislators.  The sustainability of not only water and energy supplies, but also inequality and what many see as largely corrupt relationships between government and business, will be high on the agenda.

In September last year, Brazil’s first climate change conference sent worrying evidence to its government.  Convinced by evidence of floods, urban mud slides and heat-damaged crops 90% Brazilians now agree the problem is serious.

In case election candidates have any residual doubts, last week the American Association for the Advancement of Science took the unprecedented step of publishing a report on climate change science called What We Know.

“It is not our custom to tell people what to do. … But we consider it to be our responsibility as professionals to ensure to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know, human-caused climate change is happening.”  The report goes on to say that “the science linking human activities to climate change is analogous to the science linking smoking to lung and cardiovascular disease.”