Letter from the editor | 122

Production, potency and beauty

There is something in the microcosm of the production of alcohol in Brazil that evokes, in a rather uncomfortable manner, the country itself, as if there it were portrayed in miniature and in a privileged way, with its flagrant contradictions, extreme inequalities and visible complexities. Just look: there is, in this sector, cutting edge research with the genes of sugarcane, for example, which may create ways for increasing the concentration of sugar in each plant and make it more resistant to pests – effects that would without a doubt result in a noteworthy increase in this crop’s productivity. At the same time, unacceptable archaisms, offensive to human dignity, like the work of the so-called ‘cold-lunchers’, persist in a sector with a turnover of 2% of the Brazilian GDP, is modernizing itself apace in technical terms and becoming multinational. Between 2004 and 2005, as found by a survey done at USP, 13 brown-baggers died from excess of work in the productive area of São Paulo.

This is the environment in which today an important challenge for the country is being set up: to quickly increase its supply of ethanol , a product that besides having its consumption today overtly stimulated in the domestic market, is more and more desired in the international market. This is how what businesspersons call a window of opportunity is opening, in this case a window that in the medium term can offer juicy results for the Brazilian GDP.

But how to increase the supply of fuel alcohol in the country? Guided by this question, the fine cover story of this issue, prepared by the technology editor, Marcos de Oliveira, and by reporter Yuri Vasconcelos, outlines an extensive technological panorama, but also an economic and social one, with some snips from history about the question of fuel alcohol in the country. It is reading not to be missed, for us to have a good notion of the terrain we are treading on when we observe on the street inventions like the bi-fuel or flex-fuel cars.

From the potency of the engines to an uncomfortable form of impotence that sometimes, more than one supposes, affects men: the article that opens the science section on page 38 deals with so-called erectile dysfunction and reveals, amongst other things, how it may be the first sign of coronary diseases. Based on the most recent researches on the theme, the report from the science editor, Carlos Fioravanti, informs that in Brazil one out of every two men over 40 years old is subject, to a more or less intense degree, to the situation that they find so embarrassing of the so-called sexual impotence. Actually, almost half of these cases ought not to cause any bother nor merit any greater considerations by whoever finds himself in the midst of the embarrassment of erectile dysfunction when he wanted everything to work very well. It goes away. The problem lies with the other half, the moderate or even severe cases, with signs that something is not faring well in other points of the organism. It is worth checking it out.

Sometimes, human potency for creation in the field of art and culture is maintained for far beyond the physical vigor of youth that in some way all men and women would like to preserve until the end. And there is something extremely beautiful in this creative force when the face is now marked with many wrinkles and the upright body no longer appears so upright. It is this that in some way, in summary, with its multiple stories, says the interview by Penha Rocha of Nelson Pereira dos Santos, the creator of a masterpiece of the Brazilian cinema, Vidas secas [Barren Lives], and of s many other fine films, who arrived at the Brazilian Academy of Literature. Let us remember: he is the first filmmaker in the House of Machado de Assis. And this means a recognition due to the Brazilian cinema, which at many moments talks to us about the potency of the Brazilian people – in spite of everything.