Binka Le Breton Adresses Sustainable Living From a Brazilian Perspective

Binka Le Breton, Wednesday’s All-School Meeting speaker, believes that everyone has a role to fulfill in the movement towards global sustainability. Born in Andover, England, Le Breton moved to Brazil in 1989 with her husband. Originally a concert pianist, she became interested in writing about human rights and the environment. She and her husband chose to live in Brazil because they wanted to live in a place where immigrants were welcomed. In 2000, she founded the Amigos de Iracambi, a non-profit organization that maps changes in uses of the Atlantic rainforest and works with local farmers to educate them on ways to conserve the rainforest. According to Le Breton, the Atlantic rainforest is disappearing at an alarming rate. Since the first Europeans came to Brazil 500 years ago, 93 percent of the rainforest has been destroyed. Large companies are tearing down the forest for its lumber and then clearing the land for cattle grazing and sugar planting, she said. In addition, individual farmers are cutting down the trees for agricultural purposes. In a society where land equals power, there is a strong incentive to clear the rainforest. Iracambi’s mission is to work with the community to make the conservation of the rainforests more attractive than destroying it. The organization encourages farmers to look into harvesting things from the forest that will not damage the ecosystem, such as medicinal plants or passionflower for making tea. Another way that Iracambi motivates farmers to protect the rainforest is by raising trees in a nursery and then giving them to farmers who plant them around natural springs. Not only does this prevent the spring from drying up, but it also prevents soil erosion into the water. The water companies that use the water from these springs pay the farmers a certain amount per gallon, thus motivating the farmers to continue to plant trees and protect the springs. Le Breton said that Andover students are very distanced from the issues facing the Brazilian rainforest, but she added that there are many ways in which students can make a difference in helping the environment in general. Le Breton encouraged students to plant trees wherever possible to reduce their carbon footprints. She said that bottled water isn’t of a higher quality than tap water, but it takes much more energy to bottle and transport water. She pointed out that it is not necessary to take 30-minute showers or wash cars every week. If humans continue to consume water at their current rate, Le Breton predicted that there could be a war over water, a limited resource. Another solution Le Breton proposed for conservation was voicing opinions. When asked more specifically how this can be done, she said, “Through the power of the press, one person can move mountains.”