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Letter from the editor | 151

Understanding in order to take action

The subject of “climate change” entered the agenda of the main countries in the world at least two decades ago. But almost always as a procedural issue that could be delayed and postponed for discussion in the future. The twenty-first century brought in its wake a greater sense of urgency, inherited from the 1997 Kyoto meeting, when timeframes were established for reducing the polluting greenhouse gases. The fact is that the solutions to the issues surrounding the subject go beyond attempts to pollute the environment less. It is essential to study the world’s climate more as well as its interactions, which are still poorly understood. Also, one cannot overlook the human aspects of all actions that may come to be planned. It is best to understand what is happening ahead of time, to avoid taking action blindly.

In line with its nature, FAPESP did not fail to voice its opinion on the subject. In late August it launched the FAPESP Program of Research into Global Climate Change, to expand knowledge about this and to foster the production of further studies on subjects that are in Brazil’s particular interest. The program will not be limited to just one or two fields of research, such as climatology or oceanography. To the contrary, researchers from the physical and natural sciences, as well as social scientists, will work together to articulate basic and applied studies on the causes of climate change and their impact on the world. There will be at least ten years of studies financed by the FAPESP foundation – part of them also funded by CNPq, Brazil’s National Council for Scientific and Technological Development. To date, this is the greatest multidisciplinary effort ever conducted in Brazil to further the understanding of what is going on with the climate. Fabricio Marques, our scientific and technological policy editor, explains how the São Paulo state program was planned (page 16). And two articles by special editor Carlos Fioravanti show how the problem is already affecting several parts of the world and what solutions have been created so far to reduce it (pages 24 and 28).

From global to local issues. Visceral leishmaniasis, a disease previously limited to Brazil’s countryside, is now reaching the cities. For the researchers who are monitoring this infection, caused by a protozoan, it is just a question of time before it appears in centers such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The destruction of forests, the natural environment of the parasite found in wild dogs and foxes,  has carried the disease to the vicinity of the large urban agglomerations. The science editor, Ricardo Zorzetto, tells us how researchers from São Paulo, Rio, Belo Horizonte and Teresina are working on the development of tests, vaccines and dog collars in an attempt to avoid the forecast epidemic and the ensuing likely deaths, should nothing be done about this (page 46).

Bioengineering, in turn, is helping to save lives at the Clínicas Hospital and at the Incor heart institute, assistant technology editor Dinorah Ereno tells us (page 68). A new tomograph, whose development, involving researchers, physicians and engineers, is well under way, enables precise control of the air injected into the patients lungs in ICUs, without causing any unnecessary lesions. The equipment started off with an English prototype, but it advanced and is now regarded as the most developed of its kind. A private-sector firm is working with the researchers to develop this machine, with good prospects – if the tomograph is commercially sold, as expected, part of the money will be invested in other studies at the Clínicas Hospital and at Incor.

Finally, Pesquisa FAPESP is also celebrating the hundredth anniversary of Japanese immigration, by telling us what the nikkeis (the descendants of Japanese born outside Japan) have contributed to science and technology in Brazil. Our humanities editor, Carlos Haag, plunged into history and has recovered some of the most important collaborations in physics, agriculture, medicine and engineering (page 86). The legacy of the Land of the Rising Sun’s immigrants far exceeds the highly praised Japanese cuisine.