Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Acre and environmentalism II: Sometimes a tree is just a tree

Antônio "Toinho" Alves has been one of the principal articulators of Acre's "Forest Government" philosophy, elaborating (if not actually coining) the neologism "Florestania" and creating the tree logo I pasted in the last post. (A Portuguese text of Alves discussing the concept of Florestania is here.) Today, Alves posted this "old" text on his blog, Espírito da Coisa, explaining that it was originally written as a deposition for use in politically motivated suits. (Yes, people in Acre actually sued over the tree.)

That Tree

In the beginning of 1999, when we took over the governorship of the state, we started to discuss the visual agenda of the government: slogan, brand, etc. Every government does this, creates a brand to characterize its purpose, to mark the basic character of its tenure. If there is no abuse, if the official symbols of the state are not disrespected, I don’t see any problem.

In our case, it was necessary to symbolize a new orientation for Acre, a change of direction for the economy, politics, and society. Besides the complete dismantling of the public administration, of organized crime, of “sucateamento,” of corruption, etc., there was a completely inadequate direction to the economy that affected the state’s identity itself. The forest was considered an impediment and the communities within it were treated with disdain. The slogan, created by Binho [Arnóbio Marques, the Liberal Front’s candidate in the current governor’s race], tried to invert this mentality and reestablish an Acrean identity. The government pointed toward a new direction, where the state would reencounter its true nature, valorizing its history and its environmental patrimony. Correctly used, this slogan would have an educational, didactic effect, and impact positively the recuperation of the Acrean people’s self-esteem.

We needed, therefore, a visual brand. We tried various proposals suggested by designers and publicists. We eventually held a kind of informal contest, asking the main designers and publicists in Rio Branco to submit their proposals for the government’s visual brand. Several of them did it, free, just to help out. But the proposals were very limited, they only captured partial aspects of the government’s action, like social programs or general concepts of democracy and participation, but they didn’t communicate the valorization of history and of Acrean identity that we wanted.

Then I remembered a drawing that I’d made a year before that might work. A tree, with simple lines, as if drawn by a child. I remember that a colleague looked at the drawing and said, “but that’s simplistic.” I replied, “it’s not simplistic, it’s simple.” The idea was exactly this: to have a simple, basic symbol, with which everyone could identify. The tree is a symbol of life around the world. But it is, at the same time, a quite regional symbol.

I am disgusted by some foolishness that politicians have been saying about this drawing. There are people who see the shape of a “13” [the Workers Party official numerical designation], with the tree trunk being the 1 and the boughs the 3. There are others who say that the tree represents Jorge Viana, who is a forestry engineer. I understand that politicians, when they are in opposition, do anything they can to find fault with those in the government. But certain associations of ideas, frankly, are ridiculous. I consider myself personally offended, as a profession, when I hear and read such foolishness.

Another thing I don’t understand is calling that little tree a “castanheira” [Brazil nut tree]. It was never a castanheira, it doesn’t even look like it. When I was experimenting with the brand, I actually drew some castanheiras, which have, in fact, a very strong symbolism. But in the Juruá valley there are no castanheiras, and this would leave half of the state out of the symbol. I also tried putting some scratches on the tree trunk to make it a seringueira [rubber tree]. But that made it really restricted and characterized a very restricted economic prospect. So the tree is just a tree. Symbol of a general orientation, a very regional government proposal, very Acrean. To see in it something beyond this is to look for horns on a horse’s head.


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