Pocket (Forests) Full of More Change

Five years of urban forest transformation in real time

B. Lorraine Smith
5 min readAug 10, 2022


Five years ago the Bosque da Batata (“Potato Grove”) was an abandoned urban gas station; now it is a swatch of Atlantic Forest, bringing shade and shelter for a range of urban species — humans included.

Trees have a way of connecting people

I was standing in the crowd at Sustainable Brands Rio in 2016 — an annual convergence sparked by visionary Koann — surrounded by Brazil’s most innovative leaders. I had just said to a local colleague:

“These stories about business in the Amazon are interesting, but I would dearly love to hear more about forests in cities.”

Most people live in cities, and in Brazil that is the territory of the Atlantic Forest, not the Amazon, much as the rest of the world has its eyes on that (admittedly huge, important and beautiful) rainforest. And in my own home country of Canada, many of our urban spaces are built where forests once thrived, from Coastal Rainforests to the Boreal. I have a strong feeling deep in my belly that to get the future economy right, we need to heal our urban spaces.

“You need to meet Ricardo Cardim,” she said. “I can introduce you — he’s here.”

She led me to a youthful, dark-haired gentleman chatting with a small group, and proceeded to introduce me to this person who might just be the most important human the Atlantic Forest has ever known.

On hearing I was a Canadian living in New York City, Ricardo’s face lit up. He welcomed me with a warm greeting and a big laugh as if I’d just delivered the punchline of a great joke. Then he glanced knowingly at the woman beside him, who turned out to be Alessandra Caiada Cardim, his wife and partner in all things landscape architecture at their firm, Cardim Arquitectura Paisagística. Little did we know, he had just said to her, “If only what we’re doing in São Paulo was noticed by people outside of Brazil…” And then we showed up.

Ricardo speaks Mata Atlântica

Since then Ricardo and Alessandra have become friends as well as inspirational guides. I have been honoured to visit their São Paulo home and office, and I have been truly amazed during visits to several florestas de bolso (pocket forests) that they have created.

In 2018, I conducted an interview with Ricardo, in my quest to reveal evidence of the healing…



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/