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Fostering environment-focused collaboration between the University of Washington and Brazil

July 29, 2019


Patrick Christie

Dr. Patrick Christie is a professor in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs (SMEA) at the University of Washington. Dr. Christie works on marine conservation, ecology, and marine resource management. In this blog post he describes a fall 2019 trip to Brazil, where he traveled with support from the International Policy Institute. In Brazil Dr. Christie worked to advance connections with colleagues in an emerging learning network focused on marine conservation and management. 

Brazil is facing many complex environmental and policy challenges with serious consequences for coastal communities. While the situation is dire—with millions of Brazilians dependent on dwindling marine resources—I was recently inspired by the vision and commitment of Brazilian academics and activists working to protect vulnerable environments and human communities. 

Through support from the Carnegie Opportunity Fund managed by the Jackson School’s International Policy Institute, I recently returned from a trip to Brazil where I was hosted by Dr. Leopoldo Gerhardinger, the São Paulo State University, and Henrique Callori Kefalás of the Linea d’Agua Foundation. There we visited Indigenous Colombola and Caiçara coastal communities that are setting up community-based livelihood projects including eco-tourism boating operations, agro-ecology tours, and Indigenous-food restaurants. In the name of science, I fully enjoyed their seemingly endless hospitality! Their commitment to protecting their rights, culture, and marine resources was inspirational.

I did manage to give a public lecture at the São Paulo State University Oceanographic Institute regarding the use of learning networks to foster sustainable ocean management in other parts of the world. Such learning networks bring together community leaders, scientists, activists and other key actors into dynamic peer-to-peer educational networks with the intention of sharing experiences and fostering collaboration. Such ocean-focused learning networks are being created in Brazil through Dr. Gerhardinger’s leadership. 

An ambitious initiative co-led by Dr. Gerhardinger named the Brazilian Oceanic Horizon is enabling leadership by early career ocean professionals to improve ocean policy.  Learning networks will serve to link early career leaders to lead working groups focused on Marine Spatial Planning, Sustainable Fisheries, International Ocean Governance and Politics, Social-Environmental Justice and Marine Ecosystem Stressors and Scenarios. 

This nascent collaboration between UW and Brazilian institutions has already engaged Jackson School Masters student, Benjamin Kantner, and four UW School of Marine and Environmental Affairs (SMEA) graduate students. Kantner is currently in Brazil conducting field work related to Indigenous rights. SMEA students will be conducting a literature review and interviews focused on learning network best practices as a means to support the Brazilian Oceanic Horizon project. 

Brazil is a dynamic context where the environmental and human rights stakes are high. I look forward to continued collaboration and fostering student opportunities. 

This publication was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.