I come from Manaus, a hot and rainy city located in the heart of the Amazonian jungle. I decided to move, looking for a more sustainable life. This might sound a little paradoxical at first, but it is not. Since studying in environmental sciences, I’ve known Vancouver to be referred to as a benchmark in environmental issues. This is something really important to me, but was really tough to do back there in my hometown.
The environmental situation in Brazil is not ideal. Fires in Amazon increased by 42% in 2019 compared to the previous year. Moreover, the far-right populist government does not make environmental issues a priority on its agenda. Permissions for mining in once protected indigenous lands, less strict rules regarding pesticides, climate change denial and inaction to Brazil’s environmental disasters last year (oil spill in northeast and Brumadinho dam collapse) are just some examples of the heinous environmental policies of the current government. Investments in preservation were also cut, and as a rule, public transportation in cities is really poor, so we have to rely on our own cars in order to have decent mobility. This political situation was the last straw that resulted in our journey to a new country.
So we decided to move here, to Vancouver; me, my wife and our rescued dog Tupi (named after a of Brazilians First Nations). We arrived here about three months ago we found a good place to live, with a warm reception – despite the cold weather at the time of our landing! We’ve surely had some difficulties, and in fact we still have some; after all, changing countries and leaving family and friends behind is a challenging task. We have met some lovely people and had some experiences that are making this process easier. So far we are finding what we are searching for: a life with less environmental impact. We have enjoyed the environmental events in our community and the increased awareness about sustainability here. We also found it easier here to partake in those small actions we face in our daily life to reduce our impact, such as using public transport, recycling, buying second hand items, among others. Vancouver has several parks, such as Elizabeth Queen and Stanley Park, where we can feel closer to nature despite living in an urban center.
We also enjoy the diversity of people from different origins and we have found locals who really care about others and do what they can to make a newcomer feel comfortable. For example, the gentleman who comes to talk while we are walking Tupi, the woman from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who learned some Portuguese words to greet us, and the Chinese fellow who doesn’t speak English but always smiles and waves. Even the driving instructor was kind and extremely calm when the car we were driving was hit by an SUV (thankfully no one was hurt). There are so many anonymous people, who, with their very small actions, have made the process of adapting to a totally different environment much less difficult.
Of course, Canada and Vancouver have their own environmental and social problems. This is evident with the issues around pipelines and First Nations. We know there is still room for improvement, both at the municipal and federal levels, but Vancouver is one step ahead of most cities in the world in this regard. This is surely one of the aspects that attracts people from all over the world to settle in Vancouver, a city which, in spite of its problems, has a unique diversity and a real environmental conscience. We are grateful for all the lovely people here and how they treat newcomers so well, especially when you are being followed by a friendly and playful rescue dog.