Pocket (Forests) Full of Change

B. Lorraine Smith
8 min readJan 20, 2018
Ricardo Cardim (left) stands with a volunteer planter among a rich array of biodiversity in the Potato Grove pocket forest. (Source: Ricardo Cardim)

There are amazing things going on around the world to restore urban forests. Knowledgeable people are making it possible for thousands of locals to participate in regenerating ecosystems in their own backyard, not just for a fun day of tree-planting, but to create better, safer and more productive spaces to enjoy within the city.

Ricardo Cardim of São Paulo, Brazil is an example of this movement. He has a Masters in Botany, and he heads up the landscape design firm, Cardim Arquitetura Paisagística. While his company delivers landscape architecture projects for corporate and private clients, he has reached near celebrity status in São Paulo for his work to bring back the native forests of Brazil’s southeastern region, the Mata Atlântica or the Atlantic Forest. This highly biodiverse biome spans parts of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina and has been significantly deforested, as illustrated in this map (see below) that shows the boundaries of the natural forest before European settlement.

Area map of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. (Source: Google)

The Atlantic Forest has been deforested by as much as 85%, and significantly more within the city of São Paulo. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, this rich natural landscape has a hope of significant regeneration in one of the world’s megacities thanks to the efforts of knowledgeable and dedicated defenders of the forest such as Ricardo Cardim, as well as dedicated funders and volunteers.

I had a chance to interview Ricardo recently about his unique approach, which includes planting what have become known as Florestas de bolso (“pocket forests”), to understand the impact this initiative is having, and to inspire others to get involved in São Paulo and beyond.

Following are highlights of our shared conversation.

B. Lorraine Smith: You have created quite a lot of excitement about planting pocket forests in São Paulo. What is a pocket forest and approximately how many have you planted so far?

Ricardo Cardim: The pocket forest is an urban reforestation technique used to reintroduce native biodiversity by reproducing the natural dynamic of a forest, including a high degree of species competition…

B. Lorraine Smith

Recovering ESG "expert"; yarn spinner; distance runner; magical realist. Sensing a path to an economy serving life. also at https://blorrainesmith.substack.com/