(Originally posted at http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/groups/edinburgh/blog/letter-brazil-greenpeace-wyd-2013-rio-de-janeiro)
Right now, I'm in Rio de Janeiro, and have spent most of the last week helping Greenpeace Brazil with our presence at the World Youth Day (WYD) 2013, a Catholic event which has brought hundreds of thousands of pílgrims to the city from across Brazil and from around the world. Despite the name, it actually lasts for a week rather than just a day, and has a diverse programme of events which includes music, debates, religious observance and more.
So why are we here? Well, firstly, in Brazil, Greenpeace is currently focusing on growing theZero Deforestation movement, a campaign which is seeking to bring in a "law by popular initiative" which would bring the current problem of continuing deforestation in the Amazon region to a complete halt within five years once passed. In order to get this law discussed by the Brazilian Congress, we need to get the Zero Deforestation petition signed by more than 1% of the entire Brazilian electorate, which comes to about 1.4 million people. Thousands of Brazilians have already signed the petition, but we need a lot more just to get this law considered by Congress, and a huge number more to show enough support to get it passed.
Collecting this volume of signatures is a huge task, and this is where the WYD comes in. The Catholic Church here in Brazil is able to reach a huge proportion of the population of the country, so as well as collecting signatures from pilgrims, we are also asking that people take home with them some petition sheets that they can get their friends, colleagues and fellow church-goers to sign, so that they can become part of the Zero Deforestation movement too. With the help of Catholic youth groups and churches across Brazil, we hope to be able to gain the support we need to make this law happen.
At the WYD, we have tents in two spaces which are being used for the event: one enormous tent in a conference centre called Riocentro (which you can see in the photo above) and also a smaller structure at the Parish of Saint Bernadette in the neighbourhood of Higienópolis. We've been talking to people there about Greenpeace, collecting signatures for the Zero Deforestation campaign, collecting donations from the public, taking part in debates and much more besides.
I've only been in Brazil for about a week, but I'm already feeling inspired by the things I've seen and the people I've met here in Rio. Once I'm back in Edinburgh in September, I'll definitely be sharing some of the things I've seen and learned here with the rest of the local Greenpeace group, so please do come along to our meetings to learn more. In the meantime, I'll be blogging here occasionally about what I'm up to here, so keep an eye out for more posts soon.