Climate Change IVLP

The day’s third meeting was lunch with Lunch with an IVLP in “Climate Change Adaptation & Infra Structure Planning,” in 2015)

It was a little poignant for me to hear the praise of the USA leadership in climate change and know that we have to a large extent abdicated that role. He said that he had thought about it during the IVLP visit. Lots of the climate change moves were made by presidential initiative. While he respected the speed that the decision could be taken, he wondered that if one president could do another could undo.

I repeated the mantra that I have repeated every year in my 31 years in the FS – “The American nation is greater than the American government and the American government is greater than the current occupant of the White House.” He understood this. One of the things he noticed and admired about the USA was that we were truly decentralized. States and localities took initiatives. Universities, firms, NGOs and even individuals acted as they felt necessary. Brazil is a federative republic in theory, but in fact there is much more centralization.

We talked about the difference between having one big plan and having lots of little ones, competing, combining and producing lots of options. We agreed the lots of options is usually more useful, since we live in an uncertain world. True diversity is a strength. We learn from failure, maybe more than success, and all success begins with (survivable) failure.

I asked if anything had impressed him about the program itself and he answered that it was the program itself. Even before he left Brazil, he was impressed with a country that would have a program like this, one designed to show various aspects of a pluralistic society.

The poignancy hit me again. Our open and pluralistic values are those of the America I love. Those are the values that should abide and I hope the current divisions are ephemeral.

Since he returned to Brazil only a few years ago, there was not a long term to assess, but even in the short term there are results. He is organizing programs with American NGOs and maintains a strong cooperation with many of those he met during the IVLP visit and his fellow Brazilian participants.

We had just come from our meeting with Harvard and mentioned that. Our contact thought that his organization, Fundação Getúlio Vargas, might be able to have meaningful cooperation with Harvard’s Brazil unit. They are, after all, literally just across the street from each other. You could throw a baseball from one and hit the other. I put our contacts in contact and I hope it is the start of a beautiful friendship.

My pictures are not closely related. I lost my hat and I needed a new one to keep the rain from pounding my bald head. The place selling hats had only Marvel Superheroes. I wanted Thor, but failing that, I got the Hulk. Next is the monorail, under construction. In the evening, I had dinner at KAA with my colleague Mark Pannell and one of our speaker participants. Nice place. Had a couple caipirinhas. They are better in Brazil. I think the limes are different here.

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Harvard in Brazil

Next meeting was at Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center, Office Brazil. We met at the Ling event last week and talked about how ideas spread, so I thought a follow up might be interesting.

Harvard do Brazil

The Harvard Center mostly acts as a facilitator for Harvard professors, researchers and students wanting to interact with Brazil. Brazil is a great place to work because of its size and diversity. We talked about the many, many connections over the years. There were so many, and they were so effective that I finally asked if there was just some sort of compilation. Fortunately, there is. You can follow the link to see Harvard’s Brazil Alumni success.

Much of the Brazil-Harvard research is funded by a grant from the Lemann Foundation. Read about the Lemann grants at the link I will put in comments.

I am not simply trying to avoid writing by linking. The links just explain it better than I can and they will be maintained. As long as I am linking, the link to the Lemann Foundation will also be in comments. .

So Big that we may Overlook

I am afraid that many of my fellow Americans are unaware of the beneficial reach of our nation and how much we benefit from the two-way exchange. It is not only Harvard engaged in this way. We have so many links with Brazil and they go back so far that it is easy to overlook them. It is like the fish does not know he is wet because it has always been. However, it is the task of the current generation to continue to build on what we received. These ties require work and renewal.

The image that kept coming into my mind was Velcro. I do not want to make light of this but our connections with Brazil are not like links in a chain, but like Velcro, with millions of little hooks, little connections. And each time we have an exchange or an interaction, we build another.
What Took Years to Create Should be Protected

That is why I was a distressed in my meetings today, at Harvard and with some of our veteran IVLPs to hear that they think Brazilians have become a little leery of the USA’s immigration policy. They hear about walls and think that it is a wall to keep them out. We can try to explain the nuances, but the overall perception remains. When I hear visitors talk about my country in such grand terms, I just think it is incumbent on us to strive to that ideal and stay open and welcoming of new ideas.

Black Earth

A tangential interest was when we talked about cooperation between Harvard and Brazilian scientists in pre-Columbian archaeology. Up-to-date methods and technologies are enabling new discoveries. Working in the remote State of Acre, for example, scientists are finding evidence of much more extensive farming than earlier thought. A big indication is the presence of “terra preta” or black earth. This is found along the rivers and is essentially charcoal mixed with soils. It helps the soils retain water and avoid compaction. It always indicates the presence of farming, as the natural disposition of carbon in that way is almost impossible. It is a human-created soil. Today forests grow better on terra preta.

Rick Roberts – might be interested in this

Our picture of the Americas is based on faulty history. We still think of the Americas as a virgin land, with thick forests as far as the eye could see. In fact, it was not virgin land but widowed land. European diseases often arrived before the Europeans did, decimating populations. The land reverted to thick forests and when settlers arrived, this is what they thought had been there always. In fact, it is more likely that the land was a patchwork of clearing and forest of various ages.

Consider that malaria was introduced into the Americas, as was dengue. Absent those diseases, much of the Amazon had a relatively benign climate that could support garden agriculture. The land was emptied; it was not empty.
Harvard alumni living throughout Brazil play an important role in advancing the University’s engagement with the country. Alumni support members of the Harvard community in numerous ways, such as connecting faculty with worthwhile endeavors in Brazil, providing advice, creating internship opportunit…
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Talking to an IVLP ten years later.

Talking to an IVLP ten years later.

My first meeting of the day was at Renaissance Hotel with a participant in an IVLP on “Conservation of Biodiversity & Promotion of Sustainable Development,” from 2007. We talked about his visit and what had changed for him in the ten years since he returned to São Paulo, but we soon got into the broader topic of standards. His specialty is working with contaminated soil and water and he has lately been working on remediation of “brown field” sites.

Mitigating “Brown Field” Risk
If you want to build a shopping center or a big residential development in São Paulo, you will probably be building on a brown field site, i.e. a site formerly used for some industrial purpose. This does not mean it was a heavy, dirty industry. Even a former gas station is likely a brown field site and so are even places where lots of cars or trucks were parked, since they may have leaked oil or other fluids. (BTW – I am using “brown field” in contrast to a not previously built site, usually called “green field.”) These sites often require remediation, or at least a survey to indicate that they do not need cleanup. W/o this, real estate investors cannot know the true value or maybe the big risk of the site. (I thought maybe our president could understand the value of making real estate investment less uncertain.)

EPA Works Fairly Well Most of the Time
Returning to the question of what he learned in the USA, he praised the American style of practical cooperation. This may come as a surprise to us Americans. Whether or not you support EPA action in general or think that they are a drag on business, you probably think that they are working in opposition. He learned that there is a lot of cooperation. The goal is not clean up pollution, but rather to develop processes that avoid it. This is better all around – less pollution, less damage, less money spent remediating and less strife. Beyond that, pollution is essentially waste. Redesigned processes can not only avoid releasing pollution but maybe a way to make it a valuable input into something else.

Exchanges Useful
I have long been convinced of the value of exchanges in human terms, but when thinking about budgets we must be a little more practically centered. This is good for everybody, but are there specific advantages for the American taxpayer to have helped Brazil in this way? Yes. Consider American investors in Brazil. They face challenges of language and culture, but the environmental regulator regime is more familiar. Investors calculate risk, but uncertainty is reduced. Beyond that, there is a good chance that American investors will meet those affected by exchanges, either in the first order or by connection. He talked about the impact his program had on his co-workers and even his family. Once again, this is a win all around.

A point I just found interesting, i.e. not closely related to the program, was when he talked about the need to reduce water and soil pollution by going to the source, literally. Many of Brazil’s rivers have sources or important tributaries on the high plateau, Goiás, Mato Grosso etc. This is the hydrological heart of Brazil. The rainy season recharges the ground water and the reservoirs.

My first picture is the Renaissance Hotel. I used to stay there every time I went to São Paulo. Unfortunately, it is too expensive for long-term stay. I miss it. I walked from my hotel to Renaissance, a long walk but mostly pleasant. Pictures two to four are along the way. Picture three is an an aruacaria tree. They are common in the hills of southern Brazil and are truly magnificent trees. Don’t see so many in São Paulo. Number four is a little park in Jardins. I was lucky with the weather. It did not rain on my walk to the breakfast meeting. It started to rain hard later in the morning. The last picture is Avenida Paulista on the rainy morning

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Park Ibirapuera

Spent the morning walking around my neighborhood and to the big Park Ibirapuera. It was a cool and drizzly morning, but w/o real rain, so not bad to walk. Lots of people in the park.

I concentrate on the trees in the first batch. I cannot identify many Brazilian trees, but I think that the purple ones in the first picture are pink ipê. In Brasilia they are mostly yellow. The trees in the second picture are Indian banyan trees. I know that because they were marked. Picture #3 I do not know, but if you look closely you will see that all those trees are one tree. Some grew from roots and others from drop down branches. The second last picture is a sidewalk on the way to the park. I like how they just let the trees grow into the walls and walk. Last is just a nice picture of the pond, path and trees.

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Walked down to the hypermarket to get my supply of Coke-Zero and beer. A few pictures to finish the day. First is the view from a footbridge to the hypermarket. Next is the beer section followed by the cachaça section. Cachaça is a sugar cane based spirit. Chrissy still makes caipirinhas with it in the USA. In the USA it costs about $20 a bottle. Here the same stuff is only 7 real. I thought the name of the toilet paper was interesting, as you see in picture #4 and last is the overview of the grocery store. I didn’t buy only beer and Coke-Zero. Got some potato chips too.

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More curiosities

A few other curiosities continuing from my earlier São Paulo posting.First is a picture of some corporate art. Just thought it looked nice. Next is an odd modern building. I do not like the look, but I bet the apartments are nice inside and it is memorable. Picture #3 is one of those rental bikes. IMO, the presence of rental bikes like this indicates the neighborhood is reasonably safe. Penultimate is a jabuticaba tree. They are unique little trees in that the flowers and fruit are directly on the branches, as you can see in the picture. Last is the pool at my hotel. It is actually long enough to swim and if it gets reasonably warm in a couple hours, I will try it out.

First is a picture of some corporate art. Just thought it looked nice. Next is an odd modern building. I do not like the look, but I bet the apartments are nice inside and it is memorable. Picture #3 is one of those rental bikes. IMO, the presence of rental bikes like this indicates the neighborhood is reasonably safe. Penultimate is a jabuticaba tree. They are unique little trees in that the flowers and fruit are directly on the branches, as you can see in the picture. Last is the pool at my hotel. It is actually long enough to swim and if it gets reasonably warm in a couple hours, I will try it out.

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Nice Day

Good luck. It was rainy and dreary for the past five days, but today it is partly sunny, so it was a joy to walk around. Better save the nice days for weekends. As I mentioned in earlier posts, my walk home from the Consulate was not pleasant. Rua Santo Amaro is one of the least attractive major streets in São Paulo. It is my misfortune that it is the most direct route from where I am to where I want to be on weekdays.

However, not far from the ugly street are some very nice ones. Today I walked up and down Avenida Juscelino Kubitschek. Juscelino is the Brazilian president that caused Brasilia to finally be built and in many ways is the father of modern Brazil. If you notice the use of the first name, this is an important convention in Brazil. People are called by their first names. If you go to an event where your name is listed in alphabetical order, you will find it by your first name. If you are taking a taxi to a restaurant on Avenida Juscelino Kubitschek, the driver will more quickly understand you if you say Avenida Juscelino that if you default to the last name, although in the case of so famous a man it would not create confusion. Notice in the picture on the street sign which name is most prominent

I will generally let the pictures of speak for themselves, since I don’t know any more about them than you do by looking at them, but I will point out a couple of things to notice. I have a picture of a bike trail. New major streets feature bike trails. It is a brave rider indeed who rides traffic, but if you are near the trails, you are reasonably safe. I also included a picture of a foot bridge. Notice how they have cut holes in the bride to preserve the trees – a nice touch.

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Taxis in São Paulo

I am just going to take the taxis. Walking is just not pleasant. Look closely at the first picture. Notice the small sign in the first picture. It points to the sidewalk for pedestrians. Of course, I could take a different route and maybe I will find a good one, but for now …

Besides, I like to talk to the taxi drivers. I always ask to sit in the front seat and they always let me. I learn a few things about the area and about what people are talking about.

I made the driver happy tonight when I told him that I decided not to use Uber. Not surprisingly, he did not like Uber, said it was unfair to a guy trying to make a fair living. He complained that he had been searching for a fare for three hours.

Sometimes the stories are inspiring. I talked to a guy yesterday who told me that he starting driving taxis thirty years ago after he suffered injuries on his construction job. He put his two kids through school with the money he earned and now they have good jobs that do not require such punishing physical work. His son is an engineer and his daughter a teacher. You can count this man’s life a success.

I recognized one driver’s Northeast accent and when he talked about growing up in the country, we found a shared an interest in “Globo Rural.” He said that he had long dreamed of returning to his native land, but his family had grown up in São Paulo and now that was their native land. He would never go back.

I find it surprising that the drivers do not immediately guess where I am from. Of course, they know that I am some kind of outsider. We Americans think that others think about us more than they really do. Taxi drivers are aware of the USA. How could they not be? But it is not top of their mind. They have plenty of other problems, hopes and dreams. I have not asked any of them what they think of the USA and none have volunteered any general attitudes, although many have a friend or relative who has been to the USA. Some of their questions, however, illustrate their impression. One driver asked me if we had homeless in the USA. Another asked if we had traffic that requires a rodizio (where different license numbers cannot enter town during rush hour on different days). I talked to one guy about relative prices. Food is generally cheaper in Brazil than in the USA, but not in relation to salaries, and electronics are more expensive.

The world is rapidly changing and so is the relationship between the USA and Brazil. I am talking about a deeper level here, not one based on current politics. São Paulo is bigger than New York. I don’t think many people in the USA or in Brazil realize that. And China is Brazil’s biggest trading partner.

Below are some pictures from around São Paulo. They are self-explanatory, except maybe the last one. That is a bar in the Fundação FHC. It used to be an exclusive club and the bar is left over from those times.

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Renewable Energy

Got some useful appointments in today.   Our first visit was with a couple of guys at the São Paulo Secretariat of Energy – renewable energy.  We were following up on a successful speaker visit and hoping to strengthen connections and contacts.  Our Brazilian friends were more than eager to do this to our mutual benefit.

Brazil is a leader in various sorts of renewable energy and they have a lot to share, especially in areas like biogas, ethanol, biomass & biodiesel.  Of course, the USA has a lot to share too in some of the same areas, but in addition in areas of storage and energy net coordination.  Mutual sharing means mutual benefit, since more brains are better and when we solve problems in diverse ways, we learn more than if we just have a few options.

Brazil, like the USA, is a continental country.  When talking about renewable power, this brings challenges and opportunity.  Brazil has a lot of wind power potential, for example, but it is poorly distributed, with the best wind power sites in the less populated areas of the Northeast.  Wind (and solar) are also inconsistent.  They need some sort of backup.

Hydroelectric power has been one of the best backups.  Energy can be brought on line (or taken off) easily. There are two developments that have been creating complications. One is that droughts have made hydropower less reliable, even has the capacity of hydropower is being reached.  A related problem is how dams have changed.  In the interests of protecting local ecology, new hydro projects tend to be “run of the river” rather than reservoir based.  A run of the river system, as the name implies, depends on the water running through the river.  River flow varies with the seasons and the weather and more importantly for power storage, it cannot be turned off and on.  The river flows as it wants.

A possible solution is natural gas.  São Paulo currently has no facilities to receive liquified natural gas, but there are three terminals in Brazil (Pecém, State of Ceará; Bahia LNG Regasification Terminal, Bay of All Saints, State of Bahia and Guanabara Bay, State of Rio de Janeiro). Brazil is potentially a big market for America LNG.  We are currently the Brazil’s third largest source of LNG, with great potential for more.  Natural gas is clean burning and gas fired plants can be turned on and off relatively easily.  Most natural gas is currently not renewable.  However, there is great potential for biogas, so building out a natural gas distribution network can transition seamlessly to carry biogas as that develops.

Another “storage” mechanism is the grid itself. A big grid means that power can be moved from places suffering shortages to those with surplus.  The wind may be inconsistent locally, but over a large area it tends to even out.  Couple that with a natural gas/hydro backup, and you have a fairly reliable “battery.”

Energy is something I have been interested in since I was in college.  This discussion was especially interesting for me and it was a joy to take part. It was very easy to see in this an area of mutually benefit. There is something even for those interested only in short term profit, since American LNG will find a good market in Brazil in the short term.  I am more interested in the exchange of ideas.

And I am constantly recalling what Thomas Jefferson said – “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”  If it is not too disrespectful to add to Jefferson, that light travels in both directions.

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Protected: Back in Brazil July 30

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