Team Funbio has been in Rio de Janeiro for over 2 weeks working with an environmental NGO to find ways to reduce pollution in the Guanabara Bay.
Rio is one of the most breathtaking cities any of us have every seen. Forest-covered mountains jut straight out of beautiful beaches, and somehow buildings that house 11M people fit in between. It is no wonder that the city is hosting the World Cup in 2014 and the Summer Olympics in 2016, the first time ever the two events will be back-to-back in the same city.
We are fortunate to live near one of the nicest beaches in the area called Ipanema. Before work we can catch the sunrise while running beside this beach, and can catch the last rays of sunshine after work playing volleyball. Team Vale is only a mile away on the famous Copacabana beach.
One of first things we learned is beach towels are only for tourists. Tony, our only Portuguese speaker who lived in Rio for two years , Tony told us that you only need a sarong that the locals call a canga to lay on on the beach. So of course we all got cangas as soon as we could.
During our first full weekend here, we hiked all the way up to the world famous Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer statue) on top of the Corcovado mountain. The hike was deceptively tough; we gained 700M in elevation, essentially climbing straight up the roots of the rainforest trees. On the way we saw two different species of monkeys and met other outdoorsy Brazilians. The view from the top was well worth the two-hour climb. With the benefit of a perfectly clear day we could see the star of our project, Guanabara Bay, and most the city of Rio de Janeiro.
Our IBD project is to determine the feasibility of a cap and trade program to reduce industrial pollution in Guanabara Bay. We criss-crossed the city every day interviewing over 30 experts from the State government, private industry and academia. Our client also took us on a kayak tour of the Bay so we could see the pollution first-hand; it’s difficult to paddle when there is floating trash in every direction!
We are learning that hidden behind Rio’s extreme natural beauty is also a huge amount of raw sewage and industrial pollution being dumped into the bay. This picture shows it well;
all the Brazilians hang out at the man-made pool dug in the sand with fresh water, and none are at the real beach right next to it because the water is so polluted. There are very wealthy neighborhoods like Ipanema but there are also huge Favelas that are very poor illegal settlements with no access to public utilities. This is a big problem for the city especially when it is trying to get ready for the World Cup and the Olympics. Thankfully there is the political will to improve the pollution in the Bay. The State is going to unveil a carbon cap and trade market during the global summit Rio+20 in a few weeks. We are hoping to capitalize on this momentum for a liquid pollution cap and trade system as well.
For the second weekend we wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and went to visit one of the most beautiful islands in Brazil, Ilha Grande. It is a federally preserved island that has no roads or cars. There is a tiny town with a few guest houses and shops, and the rest is just natural beaches, lagoons, and rainforests.
Team Vale and Team Funbio together hiked along the beautiful cliffs to visit one beautiful beach after another. We ended our trek at the prize jewel beach of the island, Lopez Mendez. The beach is a mile of powdery white sand and perfectly blue water, and not a single building in sight.
After swimming, lounging, and a few forays into surfing, we decided to have a competition across international boundaries in the best way possible: sumo wresting. The reigning and still undefeated champion: Hongwei!
We ended a perfect weekend by partying and dancing with the locals at a street block party.Brazil is an amazing country and continues to marvel us. No wonder Brazilians call Rio the marvelous city – Cidade Maravilhosa!