Maria and I have just returned from a very wonderful weekend at the eco-learning centre Fazenda dos Bambus of Instituto Jatobás. We were guests of Betty Feffer, the president of the institute, along with a small number of other invited guests.
We were all there in order to be able to spend time with both Betty and Sara Parkin, who has been the guest of the institute here in Brazil, for the launch of the Portuguese edition of her book The Positive Deviant: Sustainability Leadership in a Perverse World, and also to help spread her message during many meetings, lectures and conference presentations. I have already written an article and review of her book which you can read here: The launch of the Brazilian edition of Sara Parkin’s ‘Positive Deviant’.
For many years Sara has been one of the UK’s leading activists and teachers of sustainability. She is Founder Director of Forum for the Future, the UK’s foremost sustainable development charity. She established the well regarded Leadership for Sustainable Development Masters at Forum and received an OBE in 2001 for services to education and sustainability.
The fazenda (farm) is situated close to the town of Pardinho, in the state of São Paulo, some two hours drive from the metropolis. As well as the house of Betty, there is a large class room, a dining room and kitchen, and a small number of beautiful guest houses, such as the one in the picture above where Maria and I stayed.
In the afternoon Maria and I were asked to offer a short exercise for everyone, and so we decided to give everyone a glass prism, and explore Goethe’s theory of colours. As there was no projector available, we actually used the entire barn as a canvas, as it had some thick wooden beams interlocking across the white walls of the interior, exploring how both warm and cool colours come into being at the boundary of dark and light. For those of you who are interested, you may wish to read my article Creative conversation: What can a £9 glass prism teach visionaries, design thinkers and game changers?
On Saturday morning, a few of us went for a walk with Francis, who is a member of the team at the fazenda, and an artist and musician, who guided us through what can only be described as an incredibly enchanting forest. Following lunch, Betty gave us a tour of the buildings, art installations, and the very amazing meditative area, a tranquil space next to the stream where large bamboos arc into the air forming a natural open-air cathedral.
The fazenda is a working fazenda which produces bamboo, hence the first photo of myself and Sara which was taken inside an area designed to allow young bamboo saplings to grow in a protected space. It is quite amazing how versatile bamboo can be, and it features extensively throughout the ecocentre. It was even mixed in with the cement on the floor of the dining building, creating a warm organic bronzed-yellow colour.
On Saturday evening we were treated to some guitar playing from Eliseu Pinheiro Lopes, who had hand-made his own guitar out of bamboo. I picked it up, and found that it was surprisingly heavy, or rather, heavier than I had expected. I also strummed a few chords, and the tone was extremely rich. Eliseu works at the fazenda, and on Sunday morning we were shown one of the buildings he has been creating, which has walls built from PET plastic bottles, the bottoms of which created floral patterns, as you can see below.
On Sunday morning Betty took us to visit Centro Max Feffer, which is situated in the centre of Pardinho, the town next to the fazenda. This is a centre for sustainability and education, and I was able to take this photo of the spectacular architecture at night.
The eco-building, which was designed by Leiko Hama Motomura, is visited regularly by architects the world over, receiving recognition for its sustainable construction, including a certificate in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – LEED, from the Green Building Council in the United States.
The innovative design, which includes the spectacular bamboo frame for the roof, has many features such as the use of recycled water, natural lighting and reduced energy consumption. Many of the materials used were reclaimed, including these ornate metal frames for one of the walls, which in fact were reclaimed waste from a factory which had stamped out the holes for use in their manufacturing of machine parts.
Both Maria and I really enjoyed this weekend. It was amazing to learn about the various projects Instituto Jatobás are involved in, and also to be able to spend some quality time engaging in deep discussion in such a richly energising and beautiful location. It is quite incredible what both Betty and her committed team at Instituto Jatobás have achieved, and I hope you have enjoyed this short tour of yet another example of ecological sustainability excellence in practice here in Brazil.