Close encounters with toucans, tapirs and even jaguars in the Pantanal, in Brazil
Many years ago, dreaming my way through schooldays with the help of a world map hanging on the classroom wall, the swamp icons clustered in the middle of Brazil caught my eye, again and again. So did the strange names associated with them: Mato Grosso and, where the icons were thickest, Pantanal.
Perhaps somebody told me something about this region, or perhaps it was just the evocative power of those swamp icons, but the Mato Grosso became the quintessential emblem of wildlands, teeming with strange and wonderful creatures, such as the macaw, tapir and toucan, in my mind’s eye.
The facts on the ground, of course, were rather different, even six decades ago. Most of the Mato Grosso, the “Great Scrubland”, has long been transformed to ranchland. You approach the Pantanal (“Great Marshland”) today past the vast slag heaps of a score of gold mines.
This article was published in The Irish Times on 30 September, 2017
Vast areas of the world are due to be restored under international agreements. Are we ready for the challenge?
"Our planet’s future may depend on the maturation of the young discipline of ecological restoration,” an unusually upbeat editorial in Science declared in 2009. “In its short life it has assumed a major role in sustainable development efforts across the globe.”
Just eight years later that role has again grown exponentially, if – and this is a big ‘if’– we can accept the intentions expressed in several recent international declarations at face value.
With the obvious and troubling exception of the current US administration, governments, corporations and international institutions are increasingly aware of the dire consequences of globalised environmental degradation. They are especially conscious that climate change is driving many of these degraded landscapes towards catastrophe.
This article was published in The Irish Times on September 16, 2017
Articles & Blog
Articles on the environment; Spanish, Catalan and Basque politics; travel; culture; and other subjects; interspersed with personal reflections and images