Chapter 2 – The Flora and Fauna of the Serra do Cipó and Diamantina

If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed;
if in terms of ten years, plant trees;
if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.

I visited the Serra do Cipó and Diamantina in 2005. A lovely trip to the tranquility of the old ways. Kind people, no rush and food was delicious. Never have I felt intimidated, though travelling by car on deserted roads. Colonial architecture is preserved but the environment, however, is visibly in danger. Deforestation and man-made fires are still a reality which is, more than ever, becoming a nightmare for society. Economic pressures and corruption are corroding what is left to a point of no return, that is, with irrevocable loss of species and habitats. A human heritage that will soon be lost forever. This seems to be a trend all over the planet.

The new “Red Lists of the Flora and Fauna Threatened of Extinction” for Minas Gerais shows the alarming number of 1,400 animals and 1,127 plants under the risk of disappearing from the state, a historical record according to a new study led by Biodiversitas, a Brazilian organization. There are 30 bromeliads listed, some of which are shown in this presentation! Look for Flora Ameaçada BR and Consulta.

For me this is disturbing information, because I know that the extinction of numerous species of the flora will also affect species of the fauna, triggering a chainsaw reaction of unpredictable consequences. But what can I do about it? Well, I figured that learning about the subject would be a good start, so I did just that by spending some time on the Internet reading scientific magazines and visiting sites dedicated to the conservation of the environment. That´s when I read about a VERY disturbing report which generated lots of controversy when released in 2006.

“The Stern Report, commissioned by the British government to assess likely economic and social impacts of climate change, states that deforestation currently accounts for around 18 percent of global CO2 emissions, more than the entire transport sector. It clearly makes sense to stop cutting trees down.”

That Sinking Feeling by Nick Atkinson – Conservation Magazine April-June 2007 (Vol. 8, No. 2).

Lord Stern´s report received all sort of unfavorable critical responses.

“Some critics, particularly economists, argued that Stern had the present value of the costs of climate change, and underestimated the costs of emission reduction. Others, particularly associated with business, argued that the economic cost of the proposals put forward by Stern would be severe, or that the scientific consensus view on global warming, on which Stern relied, was incorrect. By contrast, a number of critics, particularly natural scientists, criticised Stern from the opposite direction, arguing that he had underestimated the costs of damage to natural environments from climate change, and that more aggressive action to stabilise climate was needed.

“In April 2008 Stern said that the severity of his findings were vindicated by the 2007 IPCC report (which gives stronger warnings than their 2001 report) and admitted that in the Stern Review: “We underestimated the risks … we underestimated the damage associated with temperature increases … and we underestimated the probabilities of temperature increases.

“In June 2008 Stern said that because global warming is happening faster than predicted the cost to reduce carbon would be even sharper, or about 2% of GDP instead of the 1% in the original report.” (Source: Wikipedia)

In short, what was labeled as drastically pessimistic ended up being optimistic! But if not all is good news, at least we now have better information about where we stand. What to do next since we share the same planet? I suggest we start spreading the information to friends and acquaintances. I also believe in good examples, meaning we should behave accordingly, that is, acting responsibly. We should also propose and participate in the restoration projects of wild ecosystems, among other initiatives.

Please don´t fail to do your part!

Life in the wild is a continuous struggle for survival and the creatures – animals and plants – you are about to see are the survivors, that is, the winners of this life and death contest. They deserve all our respect, admiration and gratitude, however ugly or small they are. They contribute to our well being in many ways. A final reminder: we should never forget that we are a recent species on this planet. Not the other way around.

I hope you enjoy this work. May it help you value the necessity of diversity and tolerance in all circumstances of life. In the wild I often see plants of different species sharing basically the same space. A good example is Cacti and Bromeliads. They form a life partnership immune to the challenges which lie ahead. Good or bad. A touching example to us, intolerable creatures by nature.

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Oscar Ribeiro – Rio, September 2008

More info:

Bromeliads – Bromeliad Society International, Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies

The Nature Conservancy – World Statistics Updated In Real Time