By Chris Delboni | Column: Direct from Miami (http://colunistas.ig.com.br/diretodemiami)
[An only child, Luiz used to travel frequently with his parents to enjoy the natural wonders of Brazil. But it was in school, in a zoology class, that he discovered his vocation. Everything began when he and his classmates had to dissect a frog.
"I began to develop a deeper understanding about the essence of life, its stages, its creation," he says. "The more I studied, the more fascinated I got."
Rodrigues began his studies in marine biology at Santa Ursula University, Rio de Janeiro but, at 19, an amazing opportunity came up: to continue his bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the United States.
Upon completing his BA with high grades, Luiz was awarded an Organization of American States (United Nations Regional Agency) fellowship to conduct his MA degree, also in California, at the University of California Santa Barbara. During this period he become increasingly passionate about SCUBA diving, coral reef ecology, and reef restoration which is to this day, one of his favorite subjects. Luiz has a vision/plan to restore a near-shore patch reef in Miami Beach, which was destroyed in 2002 by a beach re-nourishment project.
Approximately 10 years ago, while diving in Miami Beach, in the South of Fifth area, he ran into an amazing gift: he had found beautiful patches of corals extending for over two blocks.
"There were corals as far as your eyes could see, butterfly fish, and a lot more," says Luiz. "It was beautiful, like a Garden of Eden right in my backyard."
But not for long.
"When I went diving again in early 2002, I couldn't find anything, all corals were gone."
Luiz learned that a State project to widen the beaches in an area south of this location did not take the corals into consideration. So much sand was brought in, that a large portion of it migrated north, buried the corals, thus killing them. Now, one of ECOMB's main dreams and projects is to rebuild this small group of coral reefs.
However, this new project, as well as the renovation of ECOMB's Environmental Education Center must be accomplished soon.
Luiz is feeling that his "cycle" in the U.S. is coming to an end. He desires to stay closer to his parents in Rio, now aged 80. And, while in Brazil for the UN Sustainable Development Conference, the Rio +20, he also realized he can still do a lot for his native country.
"Then, a different idea started popping up: I started envisioning the creation of a unique partnership - an action group - between NGOs, government and industry to tackle some of Brazil's sustainable challenges."
But first, he wants to complete his projects here, and hopes to get more and more support from local businesses, especially Brazilian companies. Some of ECOMB's "Brazilian-connected" community partners are Vita Coco, VeeV and Leblon Caipirinha.
"We will never know what's on the other side of mountains if you are afraid of climbing them. So I always choose to climb them, with persistence, but with love, care and respect," says the Brazilian environmentalist, today of the greatest supporters of sustainability and of Miami Beach's ecology.]