Brazil is known for producing more clean energy than the average country. In 2019, 46% of its electricity came from low-carbon sources, compared to 16% worldwide (and 26% in Europe). The majority of this renewable, nonpolluting energy is produced by more than 200 hydroelectric power plants that generate two-thirds of the electricity consumed nationwide.
The 2021 water crisis, however, highlighted Brazil’s dependence on a source that is facing obstacles on several fronts. While the country has increasingly made use of its hydroelectric potential, building plants in ever more remote locations, more rigorous methods have been developed to measure their environmental and social impacts, increasing their political costs. Hydrographic basins in Brazil have been suffering the effects of climate change, exacerbated by deforestation. Reservoirs in the Southeast/Midwest subsystem, where some of the country’s biggest plants are located, dropped to 20% of capacity.
Although the country’s electricity capacity has more than doubled since the last major crisis in 2001, with a significant expansion of other renewable sources such as wind, solar, and biomass, the government turned to traditional thermoelectric plants to mitigate the impacts of the energy shortage—a more expensive and pollutive source. This issue’s cover story gives an overview of the vulnerabilities of Brazil’s electricity system (page 30) and the prospects for diversifying its energy mix (page 36), with an emphasis on the potential of solar and wind energy.
Interpreting Brazil is not simply about its grand panoramas, says sociologist Gabriel Cohn. You have to capture the subtleties. Initially dedicated to research on communication and later focusing on the theory of justice, Cohn talks about the challenges of analyzing the country, whose pattern of civilization is characterized by a pendular movement between punishment and impunity (page 24). “It is not enough to denounce the horrors of slavery over and over again, even though the phenomenon is obviously fundamental to understanding the country. The cruder the society, the finer its analysis needs to be.”
One possible example of this need for closer examination is studies on violence in Brazilian society. Researchers have been studying the subject for decades, but only recently have they begun to look at the organizations that train police officers and implement public safety policies. Formed by and operating within structures that emphasize the repressive and punitive aspects of criminal law, marked by a combative posture derived from military culture, many police officers are killed or wounded by firearms and suffer from depression or insomnia, conditions aggravated by a lack of psychological and social aid.
In a converging movement, these organizations have begun to open up to a dialogue with academia based on research that includes police officers among the victims of this violence. Some public security professionals have invested in education to help in their search for solutions to their problems. The article on page 76 presents some of the bridges being developed to overcome these obstacles, such as urban violence, police brutality and the death of police officers, through policies that encourage conflict mediation and the preservation of life.Republish