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The victory of the improbable

While everybody in Brazil was paying close attention to the second round of the presidential elections, an astonishing agreement was being signed on October 29 in Nagoya, Japan, by the delegations of the 193 countries attending the 10th Conference of Parties on the Convention on Biological Diversity called by the United Nations. The agreement provides for the protection of the diversity of species and the generic resources of plants, animals and microorganisms. This amazing achievement did not get much exposure in the Brazilian media at the time, probably because date coincided with the elections. Brazil, at the forefront of a group of 17 hugely diverse countries, played a major role in the end result of the conference.

The consensus, reached with the help of Brazil, on highly controversial issues for international diplomacy, such as the sovereignty of each country in relation to the genetic resources of its biodiversity or the need for the explicit consent of each country in order to gain access to that biodiversity, was justification enough to choose this theme as the cover story of this issue of FAPESP. The justification was reinforced by the fact that a scientific conference was scheduled to be held in the city of Bragança Paulista, State of São Paulo, from December 11 to December 15. The conference had been organized by the Biota-FAPESP program, by the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, and by the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science with the objective of discussing, among other issues, the targets established in Nagoya and the means for Brazil to achieve them. The other objective was to discuss these targets with several of the negotiators of the agreement signed in Japan. Thus, the cover story of this issue, by Fabricio Marques, editor of scientific and technological policy, details and explains from Page 16 onwards the results of the Conference of the Parties and describes how the stalemates that had dragged on for nearly two decades were finally overcome.

In relation to science, I would like to highlight an article by one of our collaborators, journalist Francisco Bicudo, on a topic that is rarely discussed: the incidence of systemic lupus erythematosus among adolescents and the effects that this disease has on their lives, including the sex lives of the boys and girls afflicted by this condition (page 42). This group accounts for some 20 percent of lupus patients. I also suggest careful reading of the article by assistant editor Dinorah Ereno on the potential of seaweed to clean up contaminated areas, and its use in sunscreen creams and new pharmaceutical products (page 66). In the humanities section, it is worth drawing attention to the article by our editor, Carlos Haag, on the historical research that describes how the erudite knowledge of technicians and government authorities was responsible not only for the urban changes in São Paulo from 1890 to 1950, but also had a huge effect on the relation between the public authorities and the interests of private capital, a leading item in the configuration of the city’s urban space. Finally, I would like to recommend the interview with artist Regina Silveira, which provides an extraordinary glimpse into her life, the many lights and shadows she has dealt with along the way, and her aesthetic research and courage in deconstructing traditional codes to create new codes and to devote herself to radical curiosities.