Dec 8, 2023

Brazil Gateway Forum on Climate Change explored agriculture, sustainability

Rattan Lal (photo credit Ken Chamberlain)

“The green revolution of the 21st century must be soil based,” said Rattan Lal, distinguished university professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources. Lal delivered a keynote address at the Brazil Gateway Forum on Climate Change, sharing his research-backed paradigm that healthy soil leads to healthier people and ecosystems.

Lal’s talk explored how Brazil has turned into an “agricultural powerhouse,” tracking the country’s rise to becoming a top five world producer of more than 30 agricultural products with an output that has quadrupled since 1960. But “everything has a price,” said Lal, “and the ecological price can be very high.” Lal explained how agriculture can be part of a climate solution by sequestering atmospheric carbon back into the soil. By using techniques like crop rotation, no-till methods and providing nourishment for macro-, meso- and micro-biota, agriculture can build more resilient systems for feeding humanity while also ushering in a much-needed paradigm shift to better protect the Earth. “We need to think about more than human need,” he said. “We need to think about the needs of nature.”

Lal was joined at the forum by Daniel Abreu, a professor at the Federal University of Mato Grosso and Ana Rosa, the founder of Meli Bees, a non-profit focused on protecting the Amazon and fostering sustainability in Brazil to help both land and people flourish. “The meeting brought together different actors with different perspectives to build a better future,” said Rosa, noting that it provided “a great environment to start new partnerships.”

Jane Aparecido, senior director of the Brazil Gateway, explained that “Brazil is a major international player in climate change and a dialogue with its institutions is paramount.” This event built on the successes of the 2022 Amazon Journey conference which connected students, faculty and partners to share insights about regenerative agriculture in the country. The 2022 event and this year’s forum “connect to Ohio State’s sustainability goals, including the need to magnify sustainability, scholarly output and impact to create new knowledge and solve real world problems,” said Aparecido.

The forum is part of the Brazil Gateway’s larger mission of helping Ohio State foster connections and opportunities for researchers, students, alumni and partners in the region, working out of a base of operations in São Paulo.

In addition to a panel discussion and keynote remarks, PhD candidate in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, Wanderson Novais, facilitated a Q&A with the more than 50 Ohio State and Brazilian faculty, staff, students and alumni in the virtual audience. Jennifer Eaglin, associate professor in the Department of History and core faculty member of the Sustainability Institute, provided opening remarks. “As the world looks to solutions for our climate crisis,” she said, “addressing the growing levels of carbon emissions is critical to any path forward.”

Leila Vieira, assistant director of the Center for Latin American Studies, offered closing remarks that emphasized the positive impact of the ideas and solutions shared in the forum. “I really want to thank you for giving me hope,” she said. Though climate challenges in Brazil and the world remain significant, Lal, Abreu, Rosa and many others are working together to sow the seeds of a better world.

The forum was facilitated by the Brazil Gateway with support from The Ohio Program and collaboration from the Sustainability Institute, the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental SciencesCenter for Latin American Studies and Office of International Affairs.