The Story of the Giant Trees of the Brazilian Rainforests

Edited by Anna Popper

The Embassy of Brazil in Budapest, in collaboration with the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library (MESZL), proudly presented a captivating photo exhibition entitled “Our Treasures: the Araucaria” in honour of Earth Day and Sustainability Theme Week. The exhibition took place in the impressive Round Hall of the Central Library, a distinguished venue perfectly suited to showcase such exotic treasures of nature, and attracted esteemed guests including members of the diplomatic corps, Hungarian officials, Brazilian nationals and friends of Brazil, as well as spontaneous visitors to the library.

The welcome speech was graciously delivered by Dr. Ágnes Koreny, General Director of the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library, hosting the event:

“I extend a warm welcome to everyone gathered here today for the opening of the Araucarias: Our Treasure exhibition, organised as part of the Sustainability Theme Week at the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library in collaboration with the Embassy of Brazil in Hungary.

As we come together on 22 April to commemorate Earth Day, it is important to reflect on its origins. On the first Earth Day in 1970, 20 million Americans united in a resounding call for environmental action, spearheaded by Denis Hayes, then a university student. This movement gained global momentum, culminating in the establishment of the Earth Day International News Centre in California in 1989. Hungary was quick to embrace this cause, joining the initiative in 1990, and since then, numerous communities and institutions have championed nature conservation and sustainability efforts through various events and initiatives.

Each passing year underscores the pressing need to address the adverse effects of human activities on our planet’s delicate ecosystem. When we discuss the importance of breathable air, our minds often turn to primeval forests, which are essential for purifying the earth’s atmosphere. It’s impossible in this conversation to overlook the significance of South America, particularly Brazil, given its vast expanses of rainforests.

I express my sincere gratitude to Ms. Susan Kleebank, Ambassador of Brazil to Hungary, for being instrumental in bringing this exhibition to our library. By showcasing our shared values of environmental stewardship and tree preservation, this exhibition serves as a poignant reminder of the imperative to safeguard our natural heritage.

Earth Day is more than just a single day of observance; it serves as a constant call to action. We must prioritize environmental protection, sustainable development and a green ethos in all our endeavours. Our strategic goal at the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library is to cultivate modern, inclusive spaces that not only foster literacy but also contribute to societal well-being of our capital’s population through sustainable practices and green initiatives.

Central to our mission is educating younger generations by equipping them with books that illuminate the wonders and life-sustaining power of the natural world. Through these resources we highlight both the beauty of nature and its vulnerability in the absence of diligent stewardship.

Together, with the Araucarias: Our Treasure exhibition, we take a collective step towards securing a brighter future for generations to come.”

The General Director’s speech was followed by the opening remarks of Her Excellency Susan Kleebank, Ambassador of Brazil, delivered to the attentive audience:

“Dear Dr. Ágnes Koreny, General Director of the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library,

Dear Mrs. Anna Gáti, Event Organiser,

Dear Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you all very much for your kind presence here today. It is a great pleasure to open this exhibition on this Earth Day 2024 as part of the UNGA Sustainability Week.

I am honoured to be here and to continue our cooperation with this library, which started in 2022 with the exhibition on European refugees in Brazil during World War II, including a special section dedicated to Hungarian refugees. Two further exhibitions followed in 2023-2024: “Secret Prints” and “Social Entrepreneurship: Local Identity and Knowledge” (

Now, coming to today’s event: “Araucarias: Our Treasure” is a follow up to a broader exhibition, “The Great Forest”, held in Geneva in 2018, when I was the Brazilian Consul General, which displayed nine creative projects that combine economic opportunities with the preservation of forests in the six Brazilian biomes.

The exhibition “Araucarias: Our Treasure” has a more specific focus, adding an important element to conservation efforts: the central role of education, illustrated by the successful experience of the Araucaria School in the city of Camanducaia, in the southern part of the state of Minas Gerais. The araucaria tree, an endangered species, is one of the treasures of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. At Araucaria School, students are passionate about protecting this tree. I had the privilege of being in contact with the school. It was an amazing experience to see the enthusiasm of the students and teachers involved in making this exhibition. They were all proud to express their love of araucarias and their ecosystem. We wish you can appreciate these beautiful images and maybe even visit Brazil and get in contact with Araucaria School.

Last but not least, I would like to mention that the exhibition was already presented in the Budapest Zoo and Botanical Garden in 2022 as well as in the Waldorf schools of Óbuda, Solymár and Debrecen. In 2023 it was appreciated by the students of Nagy Sándor József High School in Budakeszi. We are truly grateful to the Hungarian students who helped translate the texts of the exhibition and wrote about their reactions regarding the project and the araucarias.

As you can see, we brought you texts and images about the Atlantic Forest and its rich flora and fauna, the biome in which we can find the araucarias. Above all, you can feel the passion of the students who are committed to protecting the forest. Their comments about the protection of the various animals and plants that belong to the araucarias environment are truly inspiring. I hope you appreciate the exhibition.

Thank you for your attention! Köszönöm!”

Photo by Zig Koch

The araucária tree, the Brazilian pine, also called candelabra tree, is a genus of evergreen conifers of the family Araucariaceae, a critically endangered native species and one of the treasures of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. Native to the cooler and higher regions of southern Brazil, this giant tree can grow up to 50 meters high and have a trunk diameter of 2.5 meters. It also has a distinctive canopy that makes it look like a huge living candelabra. The species has existed for more than 200 million years, outliving the dinosaurs, but could face its own extinction within the next five decades due to human-driven climate change.

The Brazilian rainforest is a vital cornerstone of the Earth’s natural systems, offering invaluable benefits to humanity. Safeguarding this irreplaceable ecosystem is paramount for the health and well-being of present and future generations. Achieving this goal requires unified action at local, national and international levels, emphasizing the urgent need for collective conservation efforts.

On Earth Day and every day we have to remember: as we have only one planet, it is imperative that we prioritize efforts to protect and preserve it for current and future generations. This underscores the urgency of promoting climate and environmental literacy, which is indispensable for comprehending the pressing challenges of our era and making informed decisions that can shape a sustainable future for our planet.

Education plays a pivotal role in nurturing climate and environmental literacy, encompassing a deep understanding of the scientific principles underlying climate change, including its causes, effects and potential remedies, as well as a holistic perspective on the intricate interactions between human activities and the environment.

For Earth Day 2024, the theme focuses on Planet vs. Plastic.

Source: Embassy of Brazil in Budapest

Photos by the Embassy of Brazil, Metropolitan Szabó Ervin Library (MSZEL), DPA