The most important issue facing mankind
A week in Brazil – an emotional roller coaster of an experience. Life in the shanty favellas is so completely deprived of the mod cons we in the North take for granted yet when people emerge from the side alleys onto the built up streets of Sao Paulo, they are meticulously dressed in beautifully laundered skirts, blouses, jeans and T-shirts.
I visited Vuilmer who has a husband and five of her 11 children living with her in her 10-foot-by-10-foot dank room beneath a muddy Favella path. There’s a loo in an alcove at the back and an oven and basin under the crumbling stairs up to the street.
Amilcare Dalevo’s helicopter, which he pilots himself, lands from his condominium home, on his downtown office block. He’s one of hundreds of executives here who commute by helicopter (there are over 200 helipads in Sao Paulo). I took a flight with him to his suburban condominium.
My sense of direction couldn’t quite locate Vuilmer’s favella shack but the contrast between the Italian-built helicopter, the omnipotent corporate magnate at the controls, and her wretched life below took me to the core of the cavernous ravine that exists between Brazil’s rich and her poor.
It’s here that I have come to understand Brazil’s President Lula’s belief that you cannot combat global climate change without combating global poverty, that the two are inextricably linked. That in a globalised world, you simply cannot have the rich (be they countries or persons) consuming wanton quantities of everything, to the exclusion and pollution of the poor.
I’ll be blogging tomorrow on Lula but for now I have one last observation before our Brazil Week kicks off on Channel 4 News, that as a reporter I have been dispatched all my life to sudden natural disaster, to summits, to wars, and to pestilence, political and physiological.
I have rarely been sent to report so tangible yet abstract a subject as global warming. Being here ahead of the climate change conference in Copenhagen, looking North, is an extraordinary experience.
For Brazil has no border war, no civil war..though it has gangs and numerous killings.
Brazil is booming, rendering the poor slightly less poor and rich even richer, the country has masses of agricultarual land and potential for more.
Its burden in a sense, is the precious Amazon rain forest size of the EU’s territory and preventing the logging, tree clearances, cattle ranching, and soya cropping that threaten to destroy it (18 per cent of it is already gone forever).
Is it news? Of course it is, it is happening and is largely unreported both as a crisis and, in Brazil, as a country.
Coming here I am more convinced than ever, that this is the most important story mankind needs to know. Above war, above swine flu, above the tittle-tattle of celebrity.
We are confronted by an historic choice. If we fail now our own children grandchildren will pay the price and their children may not live their full span to see its eventual consequence.