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The Green Life: How to Travel to Brazil, Without Fossil Fuels

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October 07, 2013

How to Travel to Brazil, Without Fossil Fuels

Map of Latin America with Brazil in aqua green, fun fact--this is an oblique orthographic projection mapWith Rio de Janeiro's Carnival in February, and the 2014 FIFA World Cup a few months after that, dozens of tourists are starting to book flights. Despite the excitement, there's a giant eco-nomic cost to taking these transcontinental Co2 confetti poppers. Every flight to Brazil sends 3,000 to 5,000 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere (departing from the U.S. or Europe). Some travelers might displace the eco-guilt of airplanes with carbon offsets, but how much fun is that? We found "tourists" making their way to South America without using fossil fuels. As we often say here at Sierra, "it's not easy being green." But whether walking, sailing, or biking, Brazil is just a hop, skipper, and a pedal away.


John Francis boycotted motorized vehicles after witnessing the 1971 oil spill in the San Francisco Bay. He walked for all of his needs, from attending university in Montana, to working in Washington, D.C. John wanted to travel to Latin America to see the rainforest. Instead of walking all that way, he worked on a sailboat, visiting Venezuela and other areas of the Caribbean without draining a drop of oil. 

Sailing is also the fastest way to get to Brazil without fossil fuels. Some claim to have sailed from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Brazil in just 23 days, and it can probably be done even faster. For sailors on the West Coast, crossing the Panama Canal with their sail boat is an option, though we assume that the hydraulic locks used to lift ships across the canal do create carbon emissions. 

Walk (or Run)

The 30,000 miles of the Pan-American highway have plenty of rough spots, but there's one stretch that might dissuade the average walker more than most. The Darién Gap, actually a break in the highway, is a 99-mile wall of jungle between Panama and Colombia. Its dirt roads are easily flooded and overgrown, and exploration of the Gap has claimed many lives. Today, it's a haven for drug smugglers and bandits. However, the gap is crossable. In his run from the North Pole to the South Pole, ultra marathoner Pat Farmer decided to cross it on foot, but not without the escort of 17 armed Panamanian soldiers. Running most of the way, Farmer finished the journey in only nine months. Don't think you can keep up that pace? Extrapolating from the journey of this man who walked across six continents, we estimate that walking from the United States to Brazil would take about two years. 


Mestre (Portugese for "master") Acordion is a capoeira martial arts instructor. At 69 years old, he left his current residence in Berkeley, California, to return to his birthplace, Bahia Brazil. He decided to travel by bike to raise money for capoeira students in Brazil. There's no word yet on how he'll cross the Darién Gap. We hope he hitches a ride in a sailboat. He left just this month, and hopes to reach Brazil by his 70th birthday, next August 10th. 

Too late to plan a low-carbon trip for the 2014 World Cup? Start walking or biking next year and you might make it in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro. In all seriousness, we predict that most Sierra readers will watch Brazil from their laptops, a much, much easier way to enjoy the events and keep a low carbon footprint. But if you do decide to make the trek, be sure to drop us a line. 

--Image via iStockphoto

Headshot_Cedar_BlogCedar Attanasio is an editorial intern at Sierra. He has blogged for National Geographic's Daily NewsPeter Greenberg Worldwide, and others. A graduate of Middlebury College and a 2012 K. Davis Language Fellow, Cedar is a perpetual student of Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, and all things Latin America. You can follow him on twitter @cedarattanasio.


Green Soccer Ball

Recycled World Cup Jerseys

Soccer Star Kicks Trash

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