FAPESP Week Munich

FAPESP Week Munich will take place from October 15th to 17th, 2014 at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany.

The FAPESP Week symposia connect leading scientists from the State of São Paulo, Brazil with colleagues from other countries. In 2014, FAPESP Week will happen in Germany for the first time, taking advantage of the regional partnership between the State of São Paulo and the Free State of Bavaria.

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Relationship between society and the environment is topic of FAPESP Week Munich

Scientists discuss topics such as garbage, pesticides, greenhouse gas emissions and land use changes during the final panel of the symposium in Germany

By Karina Toledo, in Munich

Agência FAPESP – Access to cheap energy is considered a key factor in a country’s industrialization and transition to an information society, and for this reason, developing nations have fought to expand their right to emit greenhouse gases, despite growing evidence about the negative impact this decision has on the global climate.

An example of this reality is the investment that has been made in Brazil’s pre-salt oil exploration and Argentina’s shale gas exploration.

But according to Ricardo Abramovay, professor in the School of Economics, Business Administration and Accounting (FEA) at the University of São Paulo (USP), this attitude needs to change because the apparatuses related to the production of fossil fuels are beginning to create a path of dependence for the societies.

“A society dependent on oil tends to be a society that places huge value on cars powered by internal combustion engines and this is not an innovative path,” he said during a lecture presented on Friday (10/17/14) during FAPESP Week Munich.

“Our main goal should not be to expand our right to a bigger carbon footprint, but rather to promote international cooperation in order to share knowledge related to energy innovation and technologies that allow decentralization of energy production. This knowledge belongs to the human race as a whole.”

According to Abramovay, the cost of oil production has increased in recent years, while that of renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar power, has decreased.

“This drop is much more the result of technological advances than of government policies that provide subsidies. Renewable sources of energy are drivers of innovation and patent generation,” he said.

As part of the same panel devoted to the relationship between humanity and the environment, professor Gilberto Camara Neto, licensed researcher from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and occupant of the Brazil Chair at the University of Münster, Germany, talked about how satellite remote sensing can help nations on issues such as deforestation and land use change, while creating models that allow predictions of what will happen in the future.

“An isolated satellite image does not tell us much. There needs to be a time series and a dynamic assessment of the landscape. The big challenge for scientists today is in finding solutions to handle the enormous volume of data generated by the observation methods. To that end, we need to appeal to the power of abstraction and to the tools available through mathematics and computer science,” he said.

Under the scope of the FAPESP Research Program on Global Climate Change (RPGCC), Camara is using some open access software to assemble a computer environment that, in addition to observing the Earth, can also be used to analyze other types of data.

“We did not develop everything ourselves because the programs are very complex, but the engineering involved in putting things together, and the idea of using it for real problems, in my case, mapping land use in Brazil and the rest of the world, are ours,” he said.

Residues and contaminants

Also taking part in the panel was Social and Cultural Anthropology Professor Eveline Dürr, of the Ludwig Maximilian University München (LMU), who described a project that has been carried out with garbage collectors in Mexico, which investigates how these workers perceive themselves, their work, and their relationship with visiting tourists and with garbage.

“Garbage collectors have achieved the status of veritable ecologist to the extent that recycling is now seen as a sustainable, positive and modern activity,” said Dürr.

Pesticide management by farmers in Colombia was the topic of the lecture by Claudia Binder, another professor from LMU. She defended the use of a transdisciplinary approach that considers such things as social, economic, and cultural factors in understanding what influences the way agrotoxins are used, in order to reduce the risks to health and the environment.