What lies beneath the Bosom of the Sea

Brazil Coast Houses Mountains Rio de Janeiro From above Guanabara Bay Sugarloaf Mountain Cities
When Rio de Janeiro won the right to host the Olympic Games they did it off the back of a promise to clean up the Bay of Rio (Guanabara Bay) translated means "bosom of the sea"? Now they are unable to deliver on its exuberant promise of a “Green Games for a Blue Planet.”

Brazilian officials promised to cut the flow of pollutants into the bay by 80 percent. It was a key part of the city’s Olympic bid document and widely held up as among the most enduring legacies of the games.

As of last year only one sewage treatment plant had been built. Asked about Brazil’s commitment to clean up the water, Rio’s state environmental secretary said, “It’s not going to happen.”

Pollution pours into the bay

Today raw sewage from the Rio metropolitan area’s 12 million people — enough to fill 480 Olympic-size swimming pools — flows into Guanabara Bay every day.

Guanabara Bay’s once rich and diverse ecosystem has suffered extensive damage in recent decades, particularly along its mangrove areas. The bay has been heavily impacted by urbanization, deforestation, and pollution of its waters with sewage, garbage and oil spills. As of 2014, more than 70% of the sewage from 12 million inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro now flows into the bay untreated.

There have been three major oil spills in Guanabara Bay. The most recent was in 2000 when a leaking underwater pipeline released 1,300,000 litres (340,000 US gal) of oil into the bay, destroying large swaths of the mangrove ecosystem.

Kristina Mena, Public Health School of the University of Texas tested the results of virologist and concluded that if you eat just a teaspoon of water Guanabara Bay, you will have a99% chance of being infected.

The hope of a logo to ignite change

The Rio 2016 Olympic logo, designed by Fred Gilli, is inspired by the mountains of Rio and primarily Mt Sugarloaf. The logo is used as a sensuous shape representing the vitality and dynamism of Rio and the diversity of Brazil people. It's also a union of people coming together.

But if you were to look just under the Mountain and at the sea you can see the extent of the pollution and chocking waterways.

I experience the bay in a way that most people don’t.

I have been paddling across the bay for three years, on most days of the week. I come in direct contact with the water and it is so polluted you can smell it. There are often large items floating in the water, all matter of rubbish. Yesterday there were several oil spills. I try to avoid the pollution as much as I can by heading outside the bay where the currents make it a little cleaner.

Nicholas Nelson, Ocean paddler

Being an ocean paddler, I experience the state of the pollution first hand. I feel I have a responsibility to help make people aware and help create a sense of shared responsibility to do something about it.

Looking at the logo and the bay I thought how angry it made me that officials are selling the beauty of Rio de Janeiro and the Bay but are doing nothing to make a meaningful difference to the gigantic pollution problems and years of abuse.

Used as a way to market the city and country

The Olympics Instagram account posted this photo a few weeks ago.

Most photos by tourist are taken at sunrise or sunset when you can’t as easily make out the pollution in the water. It makes for a spectacular tourist image and must be one of the most beautiful cityscapes in the world. If more people discovered what is the reality of the pollution it might prompt action that shames the people responsible to care for the Bay.

Rio city logo features dolphins that disappeared decades ago

Rio City Logo features Dolphins that don’t exist

The logo of the city also uses the environment as a feature on the logo. It shows two dolphins prominently on either side of the city crest. The fact is that the dolphins disappeared decades ago, an inconvenient truth for elected officials.

André Corrêa Rio’s state environmental secretary. During a stunt that invovled him swimming in a cleaner part of the bay to prove it’s safe.

It’s not just the Olympic Games that should warrant cleaning up a waterway, it should be a priority of any community. Leaders have a responsibility as elected officials of people they represent. The problem impacts not just the local community affected but all of us who inhabit this earth, we are all caretakers to some extent, we all have a shared responsibility.


A logo is a powerful symbol of essence

A logo and brand identity is a tangible representation of an idea. It is a focal point that defines an aesthetic which people come in contact with. Via this interaction people form perception leading to opinions and conversations. This in turn manifests associations and actions both positive and negative.

The Olympic brand and logo shows a coming together and unity, it shows diversity through it’s coloured rings. Athletes from all over the world dedicate their lives to a brief few days of glory that will leave a legacy. Can this logo help to drive change?

Rio, a brief few days of glory to leave a legacy to last generations

Fred Gill the Brazilian designer of the Rio 2016 Olympic brand

I had a conversation with Fred Gill the Brazilian designer of the Rio 2016 Olympic brand. He was sad about the non-action of the bay cleanup and other broken promises. He also said how the brand and this Olympic moment was a great opportunity for the diverse people of Brazil to come together and put on a show for the world.

“To celebrate the diversity, strength and ability to overcome, exactly what we need to do in our city and in our great country. I believe we have all the energy to turn this around especially if we do it through the union as the brand itself suggests.”

Having lived here for 3 years, I am reminded daily of how Brazilians love to come together as one. They enjoy each other's company and sure know how to party.

There’s an exuberance for life in Brazil regardless of social class. When combined with such a unifying event like the Olympic Games, the result could be very powerful.

Through the Games, the people of Brazil could find a renewed strength and pride to drive social, environmental and economic change. A country that is still young in democracy terms and that is only just opening its eyes to the world, like a teenager. Being so young in these terms makes it difficult for countries like Brazil to be advanced better environmental policies. Corruption alone can make it feel like an impossible task. It’s not just politicians as they are mostly responding to competing interests. Without leadership coming from the Brazilian people themselves, change is hard if not impossible.

There are huge social problems in the city. On average there are three murders a day. Favelas make up a large portion of the crowded city and lack many basic services. People are just trying to survive so environmental concerns can seem like a luxury.

The environment always seems like it is not a pressing issue and the economy and other social issues should take preference.

When separated and looked at in this way it’s easy to marginalise and neglect. The problem with this approach is that the environment is never separate from our daily experience. The very air we breathe and water we drink is supplied by the environment. It is part of all our lives in a way that can’t be separated and excluded. In addition to how we functionally survive it’s also a deep part of our psychology and how we connect to something greater than ourselves.

The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognise any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves”

“The bosom of sea” is a powerful symbol of the environmental degradation we find our Mother Earth in

Guanabara Bay means “bosom of the sea” Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life. Or a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. Even if you’re not religious you can’t help but be in awe when you see Christ the Redeemer statue, or a beautiful environment.

It is a powerful reminder of our unity of creation, something that binds us all together and provides us moments of beauty with nature wherever we are in the world. The unity symbolised in the Olympic games and Rio 2016 logo represents a brief moment when the world comes together. The spotlight will be on Brazil to not just have a brief moment of Olympic glory but to use it as a catalyst for longer term social and environmental transformation.

It's not just Brazil and the government who's responsible, it's all of us

It’s not just Brazil and the government who’s responsible, it’s all of us It’s easy to point the finger and say it’s their problem and there’s to fix up. Although we all live on this planet and like global warming we all feel the impact. The attitudes and values we place on the environment is something that we all have to take ownership for. Now more then ever we can look at the Olympics for an example of unity and coming together from all walks of life to believe and act in one common love for our earth.