FAPESP and the Sustainable Development Goals

FAPESP assembles experts to discuss the Amazon during UN Science Summit in New York

FAPESP assembles experts to discuss the Amazon during UN Science Summit in New York

Carlos Américo Pacheco, CEO of FAPESP, opened the event and mediated the first session (photo), which featured presentations by Thelma Krug, Ima Vieira and Clarissa Gandour (image: still from video of the event)

Published on 10/02/2023

Agência FAPESP – “Amazon Day: Science for the Amazon”, a seminar organized by FAPESP, took place on September 15 in New York as part of the Science Summit at the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA78), held under the watchword “Peace, Prosperity, Progress and Sustainability”.

The seminar featured researchers, specialists and Indigenous community leaders in a discussion of how science, technology and innovation can contribute to the transition to a sustainable development model in the Amazon.

“FAPESP, alongside other researcher funders in Brazil, has continuously supported a great deal of research on the Amazon, especially regarding climate change and the role of the tropical forest in absorbing and emitting CO2 [carbon dioxide], alongside all the region’s other influences on the climate in Brazil, South America and the entire world,” said Carlos Américo Pacheco, CEO of FAPESP, in his opening remarks.

“What’s new is that we’re no longer just looking at the ecosystem services provided by the forest: we’re also trying to address issues relating to the people who live there, especially in search of employment opportunities and sources of income compatible with the goal of leaving the forest intact.”

Pacheco cited the example of the Amazon+10 Initiative, led by Brazil’s National Council of State Research Foundations (CONFAP), which represents 25 research funders, including FAPESP.

The seminar was divided into four panel sessions. The first, mediated by Pacheco, focused on satellite usage and geospatial analysis as tools for research and deforestation monitoring in the Amazon, based on Brazil’s experience with the PRODES and DETER systems.

“The first teams were trained at INPE [the National Space Research Institute] to understand satellite imaging, what can be done with it and how it should be analyzed. A remote sensing culture was created at INPE and spread around the world,” said Thelma Krug, a member of FAPESP’s Board of Trustees, Chair of the Terrestrial Observation Panel for Climate of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), and former Vice Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Ima Vieira, an advisor to the Presidency of FINEP, the Brazilian Innovation Agency, and a titular researcher at the Goeldi Museum in Belém, Pará state, which she led in 2005-09, stressed the importance of monitoring programs in the region. “They have been very important, especially for public policy implementation,” she said. “Thanks to these programs, we have been able to track annual deforestation rates. INPE has gone further and shown how selective logging destroys the Amazon, albeit less obviously – many trees are left standing but the forest is being steadily degraded.”

For Clarissa Gandour, a professor at Getúlio Vargas Foundation’s São Paulo School of Economics (FGV-EESP) and a former senior researcher and head appraiser of public policies for conservation at the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI/PUC-Rio), the main bottleneck is not monitoring but response capacity. “We can already see what’s happening in very high definition. Command and control remain essential, but we must ensure enforcement of the law, and recover and strengthen the state’s capabilities,” she said.

Several Amazons

The second panel comprised representatives of the private, public and third sectors in a discussion about the use of the mission-oriented innovation paradigm to structure funding for research and development (R&D) in the Amazon so that innovation efforts focus on addressing the region’s complex social and environmental challenges.

“The idea of missions and mission-oriented research is an old one, inspired by the Apollo 11 moonshot. It’s an approach that focuses on solving complex problems involving not just one knowledge area but an integrated set of actions. Many efforts to address global challenges are now organized in this way. In the case of Brazil, the Amazon is a very clear challenge for the future agenda because of its complexity,” Pacheco said.

For Lívia Pagotto, Executive Secretary of the Amazon Concertation network, and Senior Knowledge Manager of Arapyaú Institute, the first step in planning an economic alternative for the region is recognizing that the Amazon is diverse. “There are several Amazons. It’s fundamental to valorize local knowledge. Plenty of local knowledge exists, of course, but resources are scarce. This is a vast field for us to work together,” she said.

Patrícia Ellen, Head of Systemiq’s Brazil office, and former São Paulo State Secretary of Economic Development, Science and Technology, underscored the urgency of joint action. “Brazil is a country that has aged as much as Sweden, but where the death rate is comparable to that of South Africa and as many people are murdered as in Syria. These comparisons are shocking to many, but they’re true,” she said. “We have a duty to integrate the agendas for health, climate, economics and people. Our biggest challenge is our best solution: there’s no other way out but to join forces. The mission-oriented approach will enable us to reach these objectives.”

The potential of the bioeconomy

The bioeconomy as an economic development policy was the focus for the third session. “This is a unique opportunity for us to advance discussion of the topic by highlighting the region’s extraordinary biodiversity as well as its economic and social development. We’re going to discuss how we can forge policy for the region via the bioeconomy and above all with science, technology and innovation,” said the mediator, Marcio de Castro Silva Filho, FAPESP’s Scientific Director.

“It’s very important that academia is holding discussions like this, and bringing people from the Territories, Indigenous people, to take part,” said Raquel Tupinambá, Chair of the Tupinambá Indigenous Council of the Lower Tapajós (CITupi), located in the Tapajós-Arapiuns Extraction Reservation, where there are 23 villages. “As Amazonians, we have suffered genocide and inferiorization. For the longest time, we were called savages, and they said the Amazon was a space that should be occupied, integrated. We’ve lived in the Amazon for at least 12,000 years. Science and technology have always developed there.”

For Salo Coslovsky, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Public Service at New York University (NYU) in the United States, Coordinator of Infloresta, and a researcher with Amazon 2030, the Amazon has always been the periphery of the global periphery. “For ages, Brazil has developed with its back to the Amazon. Much of what you see in the region was brought in from outside, not developed locally, in terms of interests, products, techniques and economic models. The locals have always been aware of this contrast. Now, however, with the Amazon at the epicenter of the battle against climate change, everyone is suddenly talking about the need for a new model, the need to learn from the people who live there, and the importance of traditional knowledge,” he said, adding that the potential of the bioeconomy in the region is unlimited. “It’s hard to measure in money terms. It could be astronomic.”

Francisco Costa Assis, a professor at the Federal University of Pará’s Amazon Research Center (NAEA-UFPA) teaching Graduate Studies in Sustainable Development of the Humid Tropics, stressed the need for a new vision of the local economy, especially with regard to the region’s exports. “Given the nature of this economy, strategies should have a different starting point. The destination for exports of all this sociobiodiversity isn’t the world, but Brazil. The main market for açaí [Euterpe oleracea], for example, is local, followed in second place by the rest of Brazil. The fruit has grown in scale and power, yet the international market accounts for only 2%. The same is true for Brazil nuts [Bertholletia excelsa]. The challenge for science is formulating strategies at this level, taking the region’s characteristics into account,” he said.

For André Baniwa, Director of Demarcation at the Ministry for Indigenous Peoples, a leader of the Baniwa and, since January 2005, Vice President of the Federation of Indigenous Organizations of the Negro River (FOIRN), economics is not a priority for the bioeconomy as far as the Indigenous community is concerned. “Earning millions, billions, trillions doesn’t come first in Indigenous thinking. We’re still fighting for acceptance by society, much of which doesn’t accept our existence. When someone recognizes Baniwa pepper or Baniwa basketry, they start respecting you, they recognize you,” he said.

The several Amazons returned in a remark by Silva Filho. “We’ve been shown such an extraordinarily diverse picture of the region that it’s obvious we shouldn’t be looking for a single solution, a silver bullet that can solve all the region’s problems,” he said.

Three interconnected crises

The focus for the fourth and last session was sociobiodiversity and climate change. The mediator was biologist Adalberto Luís Val, a researcher and professor at the National Institute for Research in the Amazon (INPA), an arm of the Ministry for Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI). Val is a Commander of the National Order of Scientific Merit and has been a titular member of the Brazilian Academy of Science since 2005.

“We face three crises that are now in progress: the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis, and the extremely pronounced social crisis. Two of these crises, paradoxically, are treated independently, including by the United Nations. It’s time we began to think about integrating this. All three crises are interconnected,” he said.

Patrícia Pinho, Deputy Science Director of the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) and a lead author of the IPCC’s latest report on the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, biodiversity and human communities, offered an overview of the region. “The Amazon is the first of five reasons to worry about climate change listed by the IPCC. The region is highly susceptible to rising global temperatures. About 20% of its forest has been destroyed, and 38% of what remains is degraded and has lost its functionality. Brazil has forgotten the region’s social fabric and economy, which are also vulnerable to these crises. We’ve forgotten these points of no return, which are social as well as ecological,” she said.

Vanda Witoto, an Indigenous leader, educator, activist, consultant on Indigenous culture to Amazonas state and member of Amazon Concertation, spoke about defending the territories of the original peoples. “Guaranteeing the territories is still a major battle for Indigenous communities. These territories, as your research has shown, are fundamental to coping with climate change, because the largest amount of standing forest and diversity is found there,” she said. “Society doesn’t recognize itself as nature, and so we don’t see how sacred these elements are. We should care for and protect them, not destroy them or dig down to mine them. My body says, ‘We need to go back to the land.’ That’s where we learn the values of this relationship. The Amazon was originally planted by the Indigenous peoples. Seeds were and continue to be sown by all our generations. But we’re leaving, too, because of all these impacts on our territories.”

Eduardo Neves, Director of the University of São Paulo’s Museum of Archeology and Ethnology (MAE-USP), a member of Princeton University’s Brazil Lab (USA), and a researcher on the Amazon since 1999, wanted to make a confession. “I deluded myself that we’d achieved some civilizatory advances in Brazil and the world and that they were here to stay. This is a naïve and linear view of history. In fact, we’ve lost a great deal in recent years,” he said. “Despite these very heavy defeats, however, it’s impressive to see how institutions like MAE-USP, INPA and the Federal University of Pará [UFPA] have survived, reflecting the strength of Brazil’s Amazonian science. We must seize this moment to strengthen and invest in the region’s education and research institutions, as well as those of the rest of Brazil, repopulate these universities, create critical mass,” he said.

A recording of all four sessions can be watched at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXfr13epWkc.


Source: https://agencia.fapesp.br/49883