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An inversion of values

We live in a society that values social status, appearances and professional success. Success in most situations is measured by number of works done, no matter the quality or by the amount of financial resources one accumulates over time, no matter how.

Even saintly beings, like Divaldo Franco, are depicted showing the huge work they have accomplished with very little attention to the content of his endearing messages.

These yardsticks produce a skewed set of values where we make our kids grow and feed a sick society full of social, economical and psychological problems, to mention a few. This conducts us towards more corruption, more crime and less integration with “thy neighbor”.

Here in Brazil the consequences are dear. Destruction of natural habitats, killings for the possession of land, abandoned kids on the streets left to their own luck. A broth that will show its violent face, suddenly at an unexpected corner anywhere, by a human being whose values are so distorted away from humanism that the behavior of not even hunting wild animals could be used as comparison.

A model that values production of “exportable” commodities leaves the exposed human beings involved in a limbo, making them migrate to nearby towns and, if they survive, to  big centers, bloated day by day. A collective murder of local culture, pushed aside by the greed of big and small corporations.

Young souls are then drawn towards drugs that sell the illusion of nirvana within hell, producing a vicious cycle that is swallowing families and good values that allow us to live peacefully in a society, the very definition of civilization. The older souls are also drawn towards drugs, the legal ones, that will lengthen their suffering while destroying families and draining their feeble financial resources. Afterwards they are thrown in the common ditch of oblivion.

Fortunately some enlightened souls have noticed these trends (not hard to do, I must confess) and are creating movements towards enhancing the value of human beings, the environment and life in society. They are fighting this madness of self destruction that has dominated our western culture and hopefully will be able to overcome this suicidal route society has taken.

With proposals that seem a little “cuco” for our distorted values, they are showing that the agricultural model of exporting resources is unsustainable and that it’s possible to produce a healthier model to live by. Smaller scale farming, preservation of the environment and appropriate valuation of resources will eventually start a trend that may save our souls.

Let’s hope it’s not too late!

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Work in Progress

Designing a golf course isn`t a small task, to say the least.

A challenging endeavour we faced a few years ago was to integrate golf and second residence in a paradisiac site in the state of Ceara, Brazil.

This small village, named Aquiraz, already has an 18 hole official golf course built in a Dunes environment. Beautiful setting with wonderful sites of the seashore.

Our effort integrates 99 small 3 stories buildings with a 9 hole, par 3 course, we have written about in another blog.

When work is in progress we visit the site every 45 to 60 days.

This last visit brought us some nice views of a part of the course that has been ready, but not open to players yet, and another part that is being built.

Never enough to emphasize the quality of a hired contractor, their honesty and their capability of reading golf designs, plans and comments. Not paying attention to this can bring undesirable delays to the job as a whole and frustrate everyone.

In any case, results will suffer little if we diligently dedicate efforts towards fidelity to the plans, to design principles and quality.

We include here some photos for record and appreciation.

 

 

Since 2011 a group of landscapers (as a free translation would go here in Brazil for Landscape Architecture – Paisagismo), has started a move towards the legalization of the profession of Landscapers in Brazil. This effort is being commanded by our Associacao Nacional de Paisagismo.

A Bill was drafted and has been in transit at the House of Reps for the last 4-5 years. A couple of Representatives at the lower chamber have adopted this bill and are carrying it from office to office trying to get support for it within the house.

The Brazilian president has just vetoed a similar Bill for the legalization of the profession of Interior Decorators, a sign that unfavorable times are to come in our direction. Not to worry. We`ll keep fighting and hopefully she`ll be out of office before she can veto it.

Support to this initiative has come from many national and international bodies, ASLA, IFLA etc. We`ve got explicit support from the University of New Mexico (thanks Alf) and are hoping to get more from other important schools around the world.

Hopefully in the near future we`ll start promoting specific courses and exchange of professionals, teachers and knowledge will become more intense.

Last week an amendment was made to our proposal. Instead of proving that one has worked for over 2 years to be licensed, the demand has grown to 5 years minimum. Probably a wise move.

Lots of work ahead of us now!

Wish us luck and, if you`d like to contribute, send me a letter of support. We need them!

Political Turmoil in Brazil

The feeble belief that the Worker`s Party in Brazil (PT) is a leftist one has led many well intentioned people to become their supporters.
Brazilian intellectuals who sympathize with communism are now in a Catch 22 situation. They don`t know where to go.

A great amount of social injustice has survived PT`s 13 years of government showing that only being a leftist isn’t enough to lead a society, based on a  social justice agenda, into a feasible and just economy for all, distributing wealth and providing a better society for all. In many aspects the country is much worse off than it was at the beginning of this adventure.
This term (communism) is so complex that even Marx had a hard time understanding it. He obviously didn’t, which is very unfortunate.
It leaves us “only” with Democracy to deal with. Unfortunately Democracy isn’t just a political direction, it`s also an ever changing process. An ever evolving process. It actually isn’t possible if the people aren’t well educated and institutions aren’t fairly and solidly established. It’s also an utopia if the economic difference between social classes is so big as it is in Brazil. Worse yet, when there is so much distance between socioeconomic groups, not only money wise.

Initial intentions of PT, which they concealed pretty well from the more distracted voters (50% of our population) who have elected them at least twice (there is serious doubt about fraud in the last elections in 2014), were pretty lame.

Just like in Venezuela, PT started to intimidate and persecute the few voices who started to broadcast their opinions and question PT’s real intentions. PT officials were doing anything they could to bring money into their campaigns, especially jeopardizing one of the few companies that were still under our government’s control: Petrobras (the Brazilian Oil Company). They were so incompetent running this company that they ended up telling on themselves. The fact that an Oil Company like Petrobras could swallow losses in a completely favorable market woke our society up. It took long, but finally a federal judge, Sergio Moro, in Parana (a state in the south region of Brazil) decided to act. See the Pasadena Refinery scandal and the Port of Cuba.

Mr. Moro had already worked on another corruption case, where politicians were selling their votes, bought with corruption money (including Petrobras as a source). At that time, about 4 or 5 years ago, he made a few mistakes and the whole process ended up in a huge pizza (a term Brazilians use to denote that no punishment results from certain crimes, usually committed by white-collar criminals).

This time Mr Moro is being very careful and has succeeded in putting in prison top executives from many big contractors’ firms. Even some owners! These companies paid huge bribes (added to over 800 million dollars, perhaps much more) to be able to get government contracts which in turn were overpriced so that they could get the corruption money back. A simple but intricate process that Mr. Moro went to great pains to dismantle, collecting evidence in the quiet of the night for months, until he had enough to line these executives and some politicians into prison.

The pivot of all this mess has been PT, mostly in the person of Brazilian ex-president, Lula. He’s just a few days from getting arrested but many sectors of our society are afraid that there will be a huge turmoil when that eventually happens. I don’t share this fear. There will be some localized paid protests and that will be it.

I myself was very surprised to see that Mr. Moro hasn’t met the same destiny that Mr. Nuzmann did in Argentina (another whole mess in our neighboring country). Recently I found out why that is the case. Wisely counseled, Mr. Moro cut a pact with the former military intelligence agency as well as with the leadership at the Federal Police Dept. As weak as this protection may seem it is still working and Mr. Moro is being regarded as a hero! We do still live in the far west down here.

Needless to say, foreign and Brazilian investors have become very shy and have taken billions of dollars away into safer places (is there such a thing?), leaving our economic activity in a mere inertia, bringing back inflation (over 10% per year so far), unemployment and deterioration of all infrastructure (hospitals, schools, roads, electricity, water, sewage etc.). Once again we are paying for our ignorance and lack of interest in politics.

I’ve come to realize we cannot afford the luxury of not getting involved in politics. As our present history shows it can have dire consequences on everyone’s lives.

Fortunately it seems that we are finally getting the grips of our country again and leaving politicians to their own demise. I’m still not confident it will happen. Even if it does, we are left with a corrupt society whose culture is to not work and get benefits from the government. Perhaps Brazil will continue to be, forever, the country of the future.

Our only hope is to invest heavily in education, research and technology. But this is a long road and I don’t know if I’m willing to give up my life before I see something good happening around me. I don’t have Trotsky’s selflessness and I’m sure no hero. All I want is a good future for our children!

Nuclear warfare

I’m wondering if Iran is going to start a nuclear war in the near future.

Fundamentalists are stupid enough… first, to be fundamentalist and second to find stupid excuses to do whatever they find fit!

Should Israel do what it did with Iraq? Execrated at the time and congratulated a few years later…

This nuclear toys are not toys at all, but are seen as such by inconsequent people who believe in the beauty of death for a “just” cause…

Are we heading towards the Middle Ages 2.0?

Since coming back to Brazil plenty of things have happened. Mostly in the golfing arena.
Trying to stay afloat in a wild market isn’t an easy task.
One needs to wear many “hats”… so our company is producing landscaping plans, selling inputs and managing installations.
Here are some images that illustrate what we’re up to.

Green Hole# 5 - Imperial Golf Club

This is a green in grow-in phase in an 18 hole golf course we designed and built.

Unique Garden Golfe

Practice Facility with Driving Range over water: Unique Garden Hotel – Brazil

We are also supervising the construction of a small 9 hole facility that we designed right on the beach in the State of Ceará, Brazil.

Our design was followed by our Landscaping Plans, considering the local Dunes environment, using mostly local plants adapted to high salinity and the local dry environment.

Dunes are an amazing Biome and worth studying. Composed of very tough and resistant plants, with a natural topography formed by the wind over centuries it offers so many possibilities that we became overwhelmed by the endless options for its landscaping.

The image below shows an initial construction phase, with some shaping, green filling and windmills (power source) in the background.

Construction under way in Ceara, Brazil

Construction under way in Ceará, Brazil

The World Cup is taking a lot of attention and unfortunately we were not involved in any of it. We are not corrupt enough! There are certain prices for what is called “success” that we are not willing to pay (or make the Brazilian people pay…).

Besides that, being in a Concrete Jungle motivates us to search for including more green into the human space. We started installing Green Wall Gardens, produced by Elmich from Singapore. An amazing technology, full of little secrets with results that leave everyone a fan.

The image belows shows one of our gardens:

A Sample of what a Green Wall with good choices of plants can yield.

A Sample of what a Green Wall with good choices of plants can yield.

Social Turmoil

To those who have any interest in foreign events, Brazil has been going through some social unrest.

Present government has its base of support in the usually corrupt Unions who promote noisy protests whenever government asks them to.

The present turmoil and street demonstrations are not originated from these “purchased” Unions. They are a genuine indignation of the middle class that got tired of watching helplessly to the slow and steady destruction of our economy, infrastructure and morality.

What we see in the streets is a big contingent of young people who lost hope in government, political parties and Brazilian style democracy, that doesn’t actually work as one with such a huge percentage of its population being illiterate and ignorant.

Voting is mandatory here, so previous governments buy these votes providing an official monthly financial help to families who ask for it and can prove that are poor and in need. Needless to say this serves as a perpetuation of the parties in power and the deterioration of the production base.

The inefficient government has gone from 12 Ministries to 40, from Fernando Henrique’s government, through Lula (a deeply corrupt politician turned into Myth) up to the incompetent Dilma government that has grown tax collection to unbearable levels.

Capitalism in itself is prone to corruption and the modern democracies have been able to reduce this aspect to a livable minimum. According to philosophers it will never end.

In Brazil corruption is a way of life and it’s very unlikely to become successful if one is not involved in some type of mischievous scheme.

Brazilian economy isn’t going anywhere, since investment in security, health and education is much less than what it should be. Public schools are not a possibility for someone like me who demands a good level of education for kids. Even USP, the famed University of São Paulo, has suffered from several years of negligence… not only from government but also from its own ranks. No education, no future! As simple as that! Just look at the old Soviet Union. They had very bad quality education and that will cost them decades to pick up, before they can be called a world power again.

Our judiciary system also sucks and is overloaded with useless processes. Judges are overwhelmed and cannot get anywhere near meeting the needs of society. Even if they wanted to, which they don’t. Really!

Just now we had, for example, to decide if we rented a house for commercial purposes. It has some legal issues, from bad management in the past. To fix this we’ll need to go through city officials (who will ask for money), judiciary system (that doesn’t work) and fixing stuff we didn’t even brake. So, property owners are in the hands of corrupt regulators. Even with the PT government having become the leading party in Sao Paulo city, things didn’t get any better. If anything, they got worse! A political party who is in power just to be in power and whose moves denounce that all they want is to stay in power… bribing the people with false propaganda and tax money they collect from the economy.

Doing charity with tax money will slowly bring inflation back, jeopardize infrastructure and produce a society of lazy people.

Labor laws are another huge problem here. A business owner needs lots of cash if he wants to fire someone for whatever reason. He cannot lower wages to save jobs and the business itself. A Labor Law system benefits perfidious employees who lie to a senseless judge and many times produce decisions that break the company, leaving no hope of recuperation or further employment.

We are living a Chavism in Brazil, where there is a Myth built around one person who has been armored by its accomplices with the objective of keeping them in power.

The traditional formula of bread and circus is being taken to its maximum here. They give soccer to the people, with athletes being paid hundreds of times more than the common worker who actually carries this country on their backs. A common worker gets a 1,000 Real pay per month, while an average soccer player gets paid 100k Real, going up to 5 million!

This craziness and stupidity also happens in the USA and Europe, so we are merely importing it, but even then, it’s an outrage to have a woman put in prison for stealing a butter bar while our previous president has enriched his son thousands of times and isn’t even being prosecuted!!!

Professional sports, in my opinion, have become a cancer to our society. Nothing morally justifies the money involved in these activities. No one will convince me that Tiger Woods can get a check of 1 million dollars while there are children dying of cancer, unattended for lack of conditions, in a public hospital somewhere in the world and even somewhere in the USA… a country of contrasts… and more and more unjust.

Corporations are governing this world and, allied to corrupt politicians, morally dysfunctional, have unlimited power.

A lawyer that saves millions from tax benefits for his client, receives millions as pay while the person who plants the corn that he eats cannot afford to put his kids in a decent school.

Where have we gone wrong?

Downtown São Paulo

Summer in São Paulo, my home town.
I love it. I hate it!
Walking through a popular gallery, as we call small groups of cheap shops, in old downtown… very close to where kings and princes used to come listen to Opera we trip on culture.
This beautiful mosaic panel was done by the artist himself: Portinari… an Italian born painter/sculptor who lived here.

It is about 7 m tall by around 18 m wide. A non contained element mix… an attempt to modernity…

Art amidst caos

Art amidst caos

Walking further in the old downtown mess, cars and buses buzzing and screaming around you, popular fairs, burglars, old derelict buildings we come by another beautiful intervention. This time by Di Cavalcanti another imported artist who adopted this once beautiful land, now covered by populist and corrupt polititians.

Take in this marvel, free for show at the corner of Rua Augusta and Avenida São Luis. This one is about 2 x 8 m and was an order from the building owner who ran a newspaper print in it.

Colorful Cubist Modernist Wonderful

Colorful Cubist Modernist Wonderful

Travels…

We came home for a quick visit.
Sao Paulo is a jungle of concrete! Ugly and beautiful…
Now I have four places to miss… with Baton Rouge entering the roster… and hopefully many more.
New Zealand and Israel live deeply in my heart. Great memories…
A trend of older folks… and this makes me feel “experienced” and knowledgeable.
This last year has been a huge change in my life, approach to work and understanding of my own mission. Great and not so great work companions… like everything in life!
Don’t be a stranger…

PhosphorusRetentionStructures

Check this out!
There is this great source of management practices for golf courses, that are good for any type of landscape site, not only golf.
This attached article talks about Phosphorus (P) transportation by water flowing out of a garden, golf course or any structure that utilizes P for plants in general.
There are two types of P and leaching (loss) to water is one of the main causes of Eutrophication (basically pollution). Several techniques can be adopted to avoid this loss, but this one I found very interesting, cheap and applicabble to any type of site.
I hope you like it!
Keep blogging!