The Making of a Forest – Part 4
An open creative experiment
Remember to start with the first chapter if you don’t know what this story is about. Or be adventurous and start with this chapter, and then try to piece the puzzle together and guess how we ended up in a distant corner of our planet. Of course, it’s only distant if you’re far away. As we’re writing this, we’re waiting for a connecting flight from Macapá back to Belém, so we’re actually as close as we can get to Amapá. Here is a diary from our short but hectic 3-day tour.
13: Getting to Amapá
There are two weekly flights from Miami to Belém in the Northern part of Brazil. We left at midnight from Miami and arrived in Belém the next morning where we were picked up by two gentlemen that will remain nameless for now. There are not many people in the world that have plants named after them, but one of them has. It’s a cactus and it looks like this:
He has spent the last 20-something years living in various regions of Brazil to work and catalogue a huge number of plants, and he knows everything about plants and trees in the Amazon region. He also speaks Portuguese, which is a great skill in a region where nobody speaks English. The other person’s family tree has roots back to Francis of Assisi, so it’s not surprising that he’s trying to do something good for the world.
14: Hard to get lost
After 15 minutes of intense sightseeing in Belém, we went back to the airport and flew to Macapá. The first thing we noticed was the lack of infrastructure.
Amapá is a the size of England but there is only one road. So we decided to take it. On the 3-hour drive, we saw a mix of soy plantations, eucalyptus forests, and rainforest, but there was another thing that caught our attention. Smoke. Almost no matter where we drove, we could either see it or smell it.
We were told that it was from fires that people had started, to prepare the land for cattle grazing or to make hunting easier.
15: Finding land
We spent the night at a small pousada in a local town. The next morning, the owner made breakfast for us. Tapioca wraps with scrambled eggs. So simple, yet so delicious.
We then jumped into the car and drove towards the land where we plan to plant the forest. We took a turn off the main road, and after 10 minutes, we were there. The drone camera helped us get a better overview of the area. This place was once rainforest, but there’s not much left.
Going to Brazil taught us many new things. We realized that it would be naive to only address deforestation, and not consider the bigger picture. It’s almost arrogant to plant an art piece in a poor region of the world. They need the land to survive, so it became clear to us that we needed to think about how we could do both. One solution could be agroforestry.
As an example, the acai palm tree already grows in the rainforest, so by planting acai (and other native species with berries or fruits) we’re replanting the rainforest and creating jobs at the same time. A recent New York Times article stated that capitalism is the driver of climate change because our actions in the world are based on profit rather than on sustainability. If profit is a bigger driver than sustainability, the challenge is to try to find solutions where the two overlap. If it’s profitable to replant the rain forest, there might be a chance of it happening one day. Imagine if one day it became profitable to clean the oceans, prevent animal extinction, choose renewable energy, or prevent climate change…
We recently gave a talk at the KIKK festival in Belgium, where we tried to look at some of our projects through the lens of the UN Global Goals. In general, it’s a healthy exercise for any business or individual to undertake. For this project in particular, it shows us that we have a chance to affect much more than climate change.
With the agroforestry approach, we would be able to address some of these Global Goals. The call for more workers in the area would help us take steps towards No Poverty, No Hunger and Good Jobs and Economic Growth. Through an increase in demand as a result of the new industry, Innovation and Infrastructure could be improved. Through the building of new clinics and health facilities Good Health would naturally follow, and through the reforestation of the area we address Climate Action and Life on Land.
There’s a beautiful quote that says: “don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, ask which problems they want to solve”. The Global Goals are a great starting point for their problem solving.
17: Now what?
We now have a place to plant the forest. And we’re almost done with the design for the art2030.org site that will host this project and many other art and UN Global Goals projects in the future. We’re currently making a short video about the trip to Brazil that will help the artist understand the challenge at hand. The ART2030 team is also very close to finding the right artist for the job. Once the right person is found the creative process will begin, and then we can start to answer some of the really interesting questions: What are we planting? What will it look like? When is the best time to do it?
We’ll be back with more answers in Part 5.