My 1st Article on The Guardian: Why I Chose Brazil’s Cerrado
As of Wednesday, I now contribute articles to Guardian Sustainable Business, a division of the leading UK newspaper The Guardian. This is a great step for me personally and professionally, and the past few weeks have been exciting and rewarding--the staff, especially Caroline Holtum, has been a terrific group to which I am now providing analysis of sustainability trends around the globe. To my delight, the first article the Guardian’s staff chose to run was on Brazil’s cerrado, about which I wrote over a year ago. The cerrado, a huge swath of savannah-like vegetation that is a buffer between the Amazon and Brazil’s populous coast areas, is an ecological jewel. While activists often focus on the Amazonian rain forest, Brazil’s cerrado is arguably just as important, if not even more critical. Rich in flora and fauna, and crucial for the headwaters that feed Brazil’s abundant sources of fresh water, the cerrado is now threatened. Meanwhile at least half to two-thirds of the original cerrado has been lost as the area is now important economically because of farming. Once seen as a dull and worthless stretch of land, the cerrado’s landscape has transformed dramatically since the mid-1990s. The huge subtropical region’s soil had always been nutrient-poor, but large agricultural firms figured out that farms here could thrive if the land was infused with lime and nitrogen. The result has been a huge economic shot in the arm for Brazil: once a food importer, Brazil now feeds much of the world. Nevertheless, threats loom: while the cerrado receives plentiful rainfall, farms will still endure a buildup of phosphates, nitrates, and other elements that could damage farmland in the long run--analogous to the damage my beloved San Joaquin Valley has suffered for at least two decades. Hope endures, however: organizations like Conservation International do great work in this region, and others including the World Wildlife Fund keep their eyes on the situation. Meanwhile, technology, specifically nano-technology, could have a role in ameliorating the impact that agribusiness has on the cerrado, crucial because the reality is that Brazilian farmers will continue to feed the world. The cerrado is a compelling case of how we balance a world’s growing population with the need to preserve precious land. I predict the debate will only heighten in intensity as more people learn about this complex ecosystem. Please read my article on the cerrado’s water issues and potential for the future and share your thoughts. More articles on various topics are on the way.