It was during a luncheon in New York last year prior to the Rio+20 conference that Rodney Cook Jr. and Leonardo Barrionuevo met.
Mr. Cook, Atlanta’s champion of classical architecture, and Mr. Barrionuevo, president of a forest conservation group in Manaus, Brazil, shared common interests concerning sustainable development.
But it was their shared vision for how modern technologies could help preserve the Brazilian rainforest that sparked their conversation.
The accounting and consulting firm KPMG had invited Mr. Cook to the New York pre-Rio+20 conference meeting more on the basis of his involvement in the development of new virtual 3-D technologies than for his reputation as president of the National Monuments Foundation.
Meanwhile, Mr. Barrionuevo was drawn to New York to hear former President Clinton’s preview of the sustainable development conference to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 20 years after the United Nation’s first Earth Summit, and to meet fellow enthusiasts.
During an interview with Global Atlanta Oct. 1 at Mr. Cook’s Millennium Gate in Atlanta’s Atlantic Station development, Mr. Barrionuevo described his involvement.
“The unique thing about us,” he said referring to his family’s business Empresa Brasileira de Conservação de Florestas, “is that we were licensed by the government to detimber, to deforest part of the rain forest, but we decided not to.”
Instead, the family petitioned the government to develop private reserves that would preserve the forest while still generating revenues.
Mr. Barrionuevo’s family owns a holding company that invests in extracting green renewable energy from landfills. It also owns a consulting company that advises projects on the United Nation’s Kyoto protocol that sets internationally binding pollution reduction targets.
Although the government supports the project, he said that it insisted on certain conditions.
“The government has obligations to guarantee the forest’s sustainability as well as improving the life of the villages surrounding the preserves,” he added.
As an alternative to exploiting the trees, Mr. Barrionueva said his group develops non-timber forest products for the beverage, cosmetic and pharmaceutical sectors of Brazil’s economy while also providing food.
His group also seeks out partnerships with companies that want “to do good and to be seen doing good,” he said, especially at a time when Brazil will have the eyes of the world looking at the 2014 Fifa World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The family group also can benefit from trading carbon credits, he said, saying that based on carbon credit sharing the group already has been able to pay for the largest medical expedition ever to come to the region. This delegation included 15 doctors with diverse specialties to examine the villagers in communities around the 50,000-acre preserve.
While Mr Barrionuevo’s reasons for attending the pre-Rio+20 in New York were obvious, those for Mr. Cook’s were less so.
Their conversation flourished, however, especially once Mr. Barrionuevo learned about Vimtrek LLC, the company Mr. Cook co-founded that marries cutting-edge computer aided design drawing with gaming technology.
The offspring of this marriage has launched Mr. Cook’s interests from architectural classicism and urban design into the virtual world where the company’s visual information modeling is being used in a multitude of applications.
Architects like it because they can provide their clients with visual representations of the interiors and exteriors of their projects. It’s like strapping on a jet pack and rocketing through the project’s landscaping and interiors.
Mr. Cook liked meeting Mr. Barrionuevo because of the potential collaboration for showing the magnificence of the Amazon rainforest virtually and pursuing his sustainability goals.
Mr. Barrionuevo imagined how the lives of the traditional communities living near his family’s reserve could be illustrated with representations of their living quarters and the surrounding environment.
Additionally, he saw how Vimtrek software would help him promote the initiative around the world. “We feel that the private sector must be part of the solution for forest preservation and biodiversity preservation,” he said.
Mr. Cook’s software enables him to show virtually the biodiversity of the 50,000-acre preserve and describe his family’s efforts to provide satellite and on-site monitoring.
Now that the Mr Barrionuevo and Mr. Cook have joined forces, the software is complete and Mr. Barrionuevo met with Georgia-based companies and universities in search of partners.
By the time that Global Atlanta caught up with him, Mr. Barrionuevo already had visited the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia where he started discussions for how its PhDs could begin conducting biodiversity surveys and a wide variety of research.
Mr. Barrionuevo suggested that the school consider the preserve an “open lab” where research into climate change, soil composition, eco system and other services could be conducted.
He also visited the Mother Nature Network, the website that focuses on environmental issues, and Sterling Planet Inc. that provides renewable energy, carbon offsets and other environmental attributes to residential and business customers.
For Global Atlanta coverage of Rio+20, click here.