Monday, June 11, 2012

Wet and Dry

From North to South, Brazil spans a little over thirty-nine degrees of latitude, more than four-thousand-three-hundred kilometers, (greater than the distance between New York and Los Angeles). 

From East to West it's not quite that big -- by about fifteen kilometers.
No wonder, then, that Mother Nature subjects this country to great variations in climate.
But this year the Old Lady has been unusually capricious.
To begin with, rainfall has been at record levels. This sign showed the high-water mark of the worst flood ever to hit the city of Manaus on the day the record was broken.
There, not far above the point where the Rio Negro becomes the Amazon, many people build their homes on stilts.
This year, for the first time, they’ve been forced to add extra floors - or suffer the invasion of their homes by water, rats and snakes.
And while the people in the Amazon region have a surfeit of water, the farmers in Bahia can’t get enough of it.
As a result of which, their crops and their cattle are dying.
Their rivers have run dry.
Their reservoirs have emptied.
And the little water that remains has become largely undrinkable due to the concentration of ground salt.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the country, the scenario is much the same.
In Rio Grande do Sul two hundred and seventy-nine communities have declared a state of emergency for lack of water.
More ruined crops.
More dying cattle.
And yet twelve other communities in the same state have been forced to ask for federal aid to solve a different kind of problem.
Yet, despite it all, Brazil’s economy continues to grow, and São Paulo continues to be one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in. 
Please don’t ask me to explain this, because I can’t.
And most Brazilian economists can't either.
And all I know is that, in this town, poverty and great wealth have always lived side-by-side - no matter what Mother Nature keeps doing to us.
Leighton - Monday


  1. And I thought Greece was confusing. With all that wealth you'd think the country would invest in an overall water management plan...but that might change the balance of power.

    Ahh, there's the rub.

  2. Sometimes when reading your posts I wonder how, in previous centuries, before the advent of modern communications and Brazil's current prosperity, a place as vast and as physically, ecologically, economically, and socially diverse didn't break up into smaller countries.

    And I wonder if being the only Portuguese-speaking country on the continent was the glue which prevented that from happening.

  3. Lenny, I also think the language difference played a part in keeping Brazil together as a unit. Language and culture are tied and perhaps some of Brazil's success comes from the language difference. Sometimes people (Americans) forget Spain and Portugal are not the same country.

  4. I have often wondered why we don't have more aqueducts in the United States, since we seem to have the same problem that Brazil. Too much water in some places, and far too little in others. i was told that it was too expensive. But it did happen to some degree in California. If Brazil is becoming so wealthy, why not invest in water management solutions? As Jeffrey said, there is the balance of power to be concerned about, and the ordinary worker and farmer is left by the wayside. Sad.

  5. I keep being amazed about Brazil, a country that has fascinated me for years. Is there any phenomenon -- governmental, legal, societal, cultural, environmental, artistic, cultural -- that does not exist in Brazil?

    I fear that the powers that be don't wish to spend the funds on creating an egalitarian water system that would benefit everyone.