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Beside an endless sea

Journalist travels the length of the Brazilian coast and portrays its sore spots

ReproductionAldeia Manga river, in Oiapoque, AmapáReproduction

“God wishes, man dreams, the work is born/God wanted the earth to be one/The sea to join, to separate no more”, wrote Fernando Pessoa, a poet from one of the world’s most sea-faring nations. This passion for the sea arrived in Brazil with the Portuguese sailing ships, to the point that an entire nation was constructed on the shore. Unfortunately, however, this is a platonic love affair: “People know very little about the Brazilian coast. We’re the descendants of navigators but we’ve somewhat lost this. There wasn’t a single navigator in the 18th and 19th centuries who didn’t go crazy when he arrived here, but this beauty is being destroyed deliberately”, says journalist and musician João Lara Mesquita, who has just launched “O Brasil visto do Mar sem Fim” (Brazil as seen from Mar sem Fim), a beautiful work with more than 600 photos and the full text of the diary of his travels along the Brazilian coast, from April 2005 to 2007, aboard his yacht Mar Sem Fim [Endless Sea], to produce a series of 90 documentaries for the Cultura television channel. He traveled 11,000 km between the Oiapoque [the country’s northernmost waterway] and Chuí [the southernmost waterway]. Transferring  images from the small screen to the book merely added flavor to the adventure.

João Lara, director of the Eldorado radio stations and of the Eldorado Studio, the creator of the Eldorado Music Prize and the MPB Visa Prize, and one of the União Pro-Tietê Center founders, linked to the SOS Mata Atlantica Foundation, comes from a long line of journalists from the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper and did not venture onto the high seas merely for pleasure. In fact, he mixed his feeling for news with the nautical experience of someone who had already sailed 30,000 miles, almost the distance around the world, to show the sore spots on the Brazilian coastline and to warn society before it is too late for the sea to unite us. “People show great concern about the environment, children learn about this in school, many fight for the River Tietê, for the Cerrado brush lands and for the Amazon region, but they all go the beach and throw their cigarettes into the sea, with no idea of the sea’s importance as a key ecosystem for human life”, he explains. For João Lara, “it’s necessary to show people that it’s no good saving the continent and leaving the sea to die, given that 71% of the planet consists of oceans”.

The two volumes, besides being beautiful, are a warning that if we continue using the sea as a large garbage can we are doomed to be shipwrecked in the future, “especially because of the disorganized way in which the Brazilian coastline is being taken over.” The work also has an unexpected twist in that it shows the Brazilian coast from the sea-to-land perspective, rather than the other way around. “This inverted viewpoint reveals beaches, coves and bays that are normally seen from the point of view of someone who is on dry land, where sparse green areas coexist alongside buildings, avenues and huge tourist complexes”, observes the author, for whom it is time for children to study the oceans more, particularly when the issue of the global climate is being discussed so much, and in such terrifying terms. “The scientific community already knows how important this is. Now we just have to tell the layman. I’m optimistic. We’re on the right track.” Let the sea, therefore, bring us together rather than keep us apart.