Approaching drastic water rationing in Sao Paulo

One downside of rapid urban growth is illustrated in Brazil where drastic water rationing may start soon:

In São Paulo, the country’s largest city with a metropolitan area of 20 million people, the main reservoir is at just 6 percent of capacity with the peak of the rainy season now past…

After January rains disappointed, and incentives to cut consumption fell short, São Paulo officials warned their next step could be to shut off customers’ water supply for as many as five days a week – a measure that would likely last until the next rainy season starts in October, if not longer.

State officials say they have not yet decided whether or when to implement such rationing, in part because they are still hoping for heavy rains in February and March. Indeed, thunderstorms in recent days have caused lakes to rise a bit.

Still, independent projections suggest that São Paulo’s main Cantareira reservoir could run out of water as soon as April without drastic cuts to consumption.

While this problem may seem far away, I imagine numerous big cities around the world would face major problems in addressing a shortage of certain resources if something “out of the ordinary” – whether weather or changing political conditions – occurred. Wealthier big cities are expected at the most basic level to have water, electricity, sewers, and other features of modern infrastructure but these could be threatened by a variety of factors. And while the article notes that residents and institutions are scrambling to meet the crisis, cities should have some sort of long-term planning for some of these foreseeable issues.

Remembering Henry Ford’s failed suburban utopia in Brazil

Read about Fordlandia, Henry Ford’s town built from scratch in Brazil:

The community was spurred by a problem caused by the incredible success of Ford’s empire. By the early 1900s, America was gobbling up more than 70 percent of the world’s rubber, most of it going to Detroit. These were the days when rubber still came from plants—meaning that most of it had to be shipped from Southeast Asia. Ford, a dude who was pretty into efficiency, was hesitant to keep buying his company’s supply from Asia, where British rubber plantations were churning out most of the global supply. So he set out to establish his own rubber farm. In a fit of creativity, he named it Fordlandia.

In 1928, Ford sent an envoy of supplies and Ford workers to a 6,000-square-mile plot of land on the Amazon. The charter’s mission was to embed American suburbia in the heart of the rainforest. Within a relatively short period of time, they’d set up homes, running water, electricity—plus all kinds of other extras (like swimming pools) that played to Ford’s belief that leisure was an essential part of the economy.

Local workers were expected to adopt a suburban Michigan lifestyle, too—along with a healthy dose of Ford’s own morals, which meant that both booze and ladies were outlawed within the town. According to a terrific podcast from How Things Work, the transplant town even hosted mandatory square dancing. Hamburgers and other American fare featured in the cafeteria…

But it turned out that rubber plants were being cultivated in Southeast Asia instead for a very good reason: There were no natural floral predators there, as there were in Brazil. Production was sluggish, and the Michigan managers had zero botany know-how.

Three things are notable: Ford’s attempt to control production from start to finish, his interest in having a company town, and his idea that he could simply import an American suburb to Brazil. This could be interpreted as a quixotic effort but it also seems to have darker undertones of American imperialism.

Sao Paulo traffic jams can stretch over 100 miles

A massive traffic jam in China last year attracted a lot of attention but it sounds like Sao Paulo has this beat: how about traffic jams over 100 miles long?

This is the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil, where the BBC reports that, in the city of 11 million, traffic jams average 112 miles long on Friday evenings. It can even stretch to 183 miles on particularly bad days. With so much time spent in cars, it’s inevitable that life events like meeting your future spouse occur there too.

IBM’s annual Commuter Pain Survey (which did not include Sao Paulo) awarded Mexico City the ‘most painful’ ranking:

The index is comprised of 10 issues: 1) commuting time, 2) time stuck in traffic, agreement that: 3) price of gas is already too high, 4) traffic has gotten worse, 5) start-stop traffic is a problem, 6) driving causes stress, 7) driving causes anger, 8) traffic affects work, 9) traffic so bad driving stopped, and 10) decided not to make trip due to traffic.

Mexico City scored the worst overall, and Sao Paulo’s traffic jams may cover the longest distance. The record for worst traffic jam ever, though, goes to China.

Any solutions to this problem? The BBC report has some ideas:

Professor Barbieri says Sao Paulo has skilled and experienced traffic engineers that somehow manage to get the city to flow, albeit slowly.

“But the big problem is that we Brazilians are terrible with planning and traffic will only become more manageable if we start looking into real long-term solutions.”

But he is also clear that a “more manageable traffic” environment is the best possible scenario that can be achieved.

“No city in the world will ever manage to end congestion because when traffic flows, people are drawn to their cars. The key is to find a balance, the point at which it is worthwhile for commuters to use public transport because it’s faster then driving,” he says.

“That way Sao Paulo needs urgently to invest more in public transport instead of building new roads and expressways that will only be filled up with more cars.”

While the article suggests the local helicopter industry is thriving, it sounds like an opportunity for an enterprising politician or leader to chart a new course.

Pictures of “uncontacted” Amazon peoples

There are still areas of the planet where people have little contact with the larger world. The country of Brazil has just released photos of some people groups with limited contact in order to draw attention to their condition:

FUNAI has released similar photographs in the past and acknowledged that Peruvian loggers are sending some indigenous people fleeing across the border to less-affected rainforests in Brazil.

The coordinator of Brazil’s Amazon Indian organization COIAB, Marcos Apurina, said he hoped the images would draw attention to the plight of the indigenous peoples and encourage their protection.

“It is necessary to reaffirm that these peoples exist, so we support the use of images that prove these facts. These peoples have had their most fundamental rights, particularly their right to life, ignored — it is therefore crucial that we protect them,” he said.

FUNAI says there are 67 tribes in Brazil that do not have sustained contact with the outside world. Some are often referred to as “uncontacted” tribes even though they have some kind of, albeit limited, contacts.

The future of a number of these groups has been threatened in recent decades primarily by people who want their land, either for its natural resources or who want to convert it into farmland. And there are some interesting discussions about how these cultures can continue to remain fairly distinct from outside influences, even if most now have had some contact with the larger world.

Winning vs. a country’s culture

Brazilian coach Carlos Caetano Bledorn “Dunga” Verri has had a successful World Cup run thus far: four matches and four pretty easy wins. For many national coaches, this would lead to general praise from the media and fans.

But not in Brazil. Dunga has been playing with a more defensive-minded system, particularly compared to the attacking-with-flair Brazilian teams of past decades. A quick description of the battle Dunga has been fighting:

Then there were the fans, who almost always favor the spectacular and revel in the nation’s tradition of breathtaking open-field play.

Brazil has always been about offense, offense, offense. It has the deepest pool of talent in which to select a team. Its players pride themselves on creativity.

Even some of the  country’s former stars, such as Carlos Alberto, captain of Brazil’s 1970 team, have blasted Dunga:

“I am not confident in this group because our national team do not play Brazilian football…I’m talking about movement and use of the ball. We have good defenders, but the midfielders: if you ask Brazilian kids, who are our midfielders, they shrug their shoulders.”

So if Brazil wins a sixth World Cup title, what then? Will the country celebrate in the same way or will it be considered a less-than-great title? Sports fans can be an interesting lot, particularly when they are used to winning.