Senior Advisor to UNDP Brazil, Haroldo Machado Filho adopted two children - and the planet

I’m going to tell a story I hardly ever tell. It wasn’t like I didn’t believe in climate change, in the phenomenon, but when I started working in the area, I thought people were rather dramatic, that they exaggerated the issues. At that time, I used to work with a view on mitigation, to veto the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. So I thought people exaggerated a little. And that was back in 1998. The scary thing was to see that, in 2015, by going back to the scenarios that I could have consulted in 1998, that these scenarios were not only verified, but the worst case scenario hinted at that time has already happened. This was something I experienced, and the climate change is unmistakable. It is something real and I find it troubling that we don’t address this issue seriously in the sense of public policy-development and collaboration so that we can reverse this problem in some way. And I say try to reverse somehow because there is no turning back. What we can do now is to mitigate the escalation and slow down the effects a bit while technology has its breakthroughs.

Today, Haroldo Machado Filho, besides being a senior advisor to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP Brazil), holds a doctorate in international law on climate change. “I am a lawyer and, incredible as it may seem, I joke when I say that this is one of my major shortcomings, but shortly afterwards I enrolled for my Masters in International Relations, because I had this concern about a more integrated view of the world, of globalization. And right away, I was able to put the two things together when I had my doctorate in international law and my climate change specialization,” he says.

Born in Belo Horizonte, Haroldo says one of the most appalling scenarios that he knew of in the 80s was, coincidentally, related to water. “It was said that it was going to rain less and less, and that when the rain fell it would become more and more intense. I don’t even need to comment on that,” he says.

Haroldo began to approach the issue of the environment when he was still in his hometown, at the same time that he stopped practicing law. Today, he lives in Brasília. “I live in Brasilia and also on the road. I often say that Brasilia is where I change clothes,” he jokes.

“My first job was in the office of a fantastic person, who has passed away, Dr. José Henrique Renault. He was a lawyer for the Belvedere district homeowner’s association, which is next to BH Shopping (a shopping mall). This neighborhood mainly consisted of houses, and there was a whole movement from contractors to build high rises. At the time, the homeowner’s wanted to stop the construction because it was the great wind corridor of the city. Unfortunately, and for a number of issues that are not worthy talking about here, this group of contractors won and today you have giant buildings of 20 and so many floors in the Belvedere district. Everyone knows that the temperature in Belo Horizonte has increased by, at least, two to three degrees since then. It seems little when we talk about two, three degrees, but think of your body and of fever. The difference from you have a temperature of 37.5°C and 39.5°C, it is more or less the same. We already see very negative and deleterious effects, because of these microclimate changes. And we are only talking about the microclimate, we are not even talking about climate change as a whole, which is an aggravating factor,” he explains.

Responsible for publicizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Brazil, as a representative of the UN program, Haroldo sees his own career as an example that we never know when we’ll need knowledge that we’d thought we’d would never use again. It’s like learning something to practice throughout a lifetime.

“I was the man who went to law school and threw all the chemistry and physics books away. Then, later, I had to learn in real life. However, to really get a view of the planet, a vision of ecosystems, you need to dig deeper and go beyond the traditional knowledge you learn in college. I find this very important these days: you have a more integrated and more holistic formation, in the broader sense that you are always learning. When we talk about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), there is also the education goal. I think it is very interesting that before, in the Millennium Development Goals agenda, we talked about primary education, and today we are not talking about primary education anymore, but rather about lifelong learning. I find this very significant. We, who are going to live increasingly longer, need to seek new knowledge throughout our lives.”

At 46, Harold has two love-adopted children: Bruno, a 29-year-old designer, who he adopted at the age of 24, and Tiana, a 22-year-old physiotherapist who he saw being born. He says anyone can make a love-adopt at any time since it does not depend on documents. When he is asked about this adoption, Harold talks about the importance of this relationship in his life.

“Love-adoption means caring for the education, providing guidance to people who are already there, who somehow see you as a paternal reference. However, I think the term paternal is not the most appropriate, because of the gender issues, which I also care for. Regardless of whether you are a mother or if you are a father, it is important for you to be able to guide a person who is there in the world to do good, to think about future generations, to do nothing with anyone they wouldn’t want to be done to them. This type of guidance doesn’t depend of any ideological or religious view. We need to have some commitment to the planet and try to do good, to impact others, to generate this positive current,” he says.

Content published in March 28, 2018

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