On the edge of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, there’s a small city called Alta Floresta. It was settled four decades ago when people came in to ranch cattle. They cut down big tracts of the rainforest and set fire to the trees in an environmentally destructive process known as slashing and burning.
This land would quickly degrade, forcing ranchers to slash and burn more land. And the cattle they brought in compounded the environmental problems by farting and burping out methane — a greenhouse gas that’s especially bad for our planet.
It’s a tragedy that’s played out along huge tracts of the Amazon. In Brazil alone, 450,000 square kilometers of rainforest have been cleared for beef. Given how important the rainforest is for the Earth’s health — it’s sometimes known as “the lungs of the planet” — this phenomenon is a dangerous driver of climate change.
Vando Telles grew up in Alta Floresta. His father is a cattle rancher. So are many of his neighbors. And he watched them go through economic difficulties as their land degraded. So he decided to look for alternatives.
He went to university to study agriculture, and he learned a range of sustainable ranching techniques that he believed could turn things around for the ranchers back at home. He realized that he could help the environment by working with the ranchers, not against them, and that this would help the ranchers, too. It’s a win-win.
On this episode of the Future Perfect podcast, we talk to Vando Telles about his uphill battle to bring those alternatives to his community. And we speak with Christina Selby, a freelance reporter who traveled to Brazil to write about Vando Telles’s company, Pecsa, which has had some dramatic success: It has brought down greenhouse gas emissions on its ranches by a whopping 85 percent.
Together, Telles and Selby help us understand how Pecsa’s success might be scaled to other places, and what that might mean for the environment.
- Christina Selby’s story about Vando Telles’s company can be found at Scientific American
- Vox video has an in-depth explainer on deforestation in the Amazon and on the invasion of indigenous land in Brazil
- Vox video also has an explainer on why eating beef speeds up climate change
- Vox’s Umair Irfan traveled to Brazil last year to report on deforestation and climate change
- Want to fight climate change effectively? Sigal Samuel recommends donating to these high-impact organizations.
This podcast is made possible thanks to support from Animal Charity Evaluators. They research and promote the most effective ways to help animals.
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