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TEDxSP 2009 - Paulo Saldiva: exclusão e racismo ambiental

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Good morning, everyone. I'm very pleased to be here, I appreciate the invitation. And it's really cool to come up after Denis, because I have a motto that I guess pretty much defines what he said: "In Brazil, you can die of a heart attack, but of boredom...never." And that's more or less a synthetic version of what he said. And what am I going to discuss with you here? An idea that may come across as strange but I'd like to share it with you. The man as central point of the environmental issue. If you look at it... let me give an example: Let's think about the beltway. We're building a huge avenue around a highway that surrounds Sao Paulo, and that required environmental impact assessments. Many of them, so we don't harm the fauna and flora. And what about building an avenue in a residential region? And what about placing some road cones on a street to detour traffic? What is the is the environmental impact assessment required for that? Is it possible that the guilt we feel for contaminating the environment prevents us from thinking of ourselves as victims? That is a question I think we should think about a bit, the way we are. Let us think... As a doctor -- I am a doctor, however incredible that may seem. Yesterday I missed the TED dinner party because I was overseeing a lung transplant at Incor. But I have this other life as environmental researcher. So, let's think of the planet as an individual. Each country is an organ and we're the billions of cells that make up that organ. So let's describe the planetary disease: We are looking at patient who has a fever; (it's getting hot, isn't it?) who suffers from an addiction to a drug called oil; who suffers from peripheral arterial disease, because there are clogs obstructing the flow in our arteries; the respiratory system is also obstructed, from the poor air quality; diabetes, because its use of energy is not efficient; renal failure, because it cannot secrete waste; some tremors of the earth; a certain flatulence, in the form of tornadoes and hurricanes; a case of of impotency, let's admit, in the bedroom department, because we can't seem to take action; and a cognitive dysfunction, like an early Alzheimer, because the ruling neurons believe the planet will not be more than a few hundredths of degree warmer until the next elections. That is the patient's clinical picture. And if the organism is ill, its cells are ill. In the city of Sao Paulo, 4,000 people die due to air pollution every year. AIDS kills a little under 1,000. Tuberculosis kills 500. Why don't we consider pollution as a public health issue? Environmental laws are created by the Ministry of Environment, who don't know the first thing about health. And healthcare, in turn, does not see the environment as a part of it. And at this time, man is fully unprepared. So, going back to our patient. When the planet gets warmer, according to climate change models, if they are right, where will there be desertification? In the semi-arid places. And then there will be no rain in our cistern. And if there is, the rain will come a lot sooner, so that the storage capacity will not be enough, as it happened this year in the Northeast. The cisterns couldn't take it, the dams couldn't take it. Thirty percent of the world's population live by rivers that spring from the Himalayan glaciers. When there is no more water for those people, where will they go? If there is shortage of food and water, we could imagine a new fundamentalism. We have political fundamentalism, religious fundamentalism, and we'll have environmental fundamentalism. The poverty belt will expand around the cities, there'll be an outburst of malaria and dengue fever, taking over temperate climate regions. All mosquito-borne diseases will affect man, will all men be equally affected? Will men be homogeneously affected? Who will be more affected by a 40cm increase in the sea level: the Netherlands or Samoa? That is a central question which must be posed, because there is the aggressor man, but there is also the impacted man, and that is who we're talking about. I'm a pathologist and I have a themed office at med school, with a view to the Araca cemetery. And med school is located exactly between Hospital das Clinicas and the Araca cemetery; we are the link between these two compartments. So, I have a view to the final product of our actions. And I noticed the latest car fad for the med school faculty is the Cayenne. Isn't that great? Everyone has bought one to be like everyone else. Everyone pissing in each other's lamp post. So there we are, and I can see the pollution clock is marking a certain degree of pollution at Dr. Arnaldo street... But is the pollution dose of the person inside the Cayenne with the air-conditioner set on air recycling mode the same dose as that of the person standing at the bus stop, waiting? For less privileged people, the time of permanence in the traffic corridor is much worse, much longer. The dose is much higher. That old bus, which is not allowed on 9 de Julho street, does it disappear into thin air? No, it is sent to the outskirts, or to smaller cities. The Sao Joao sanitary landfill, which is running out of space, is making Sao Paulo export its waste to other cities, which are paid for it. So, England is not the only one packing their dirty diapers and mailing it to us in shipping containers. We do that as well. That is what I call "environmental racism". So just as there is a new fundamentalism, there's a response to that, which is called-- The prevailing model in the world today is is "order by force", not "order by sharing". And according to the order by force model, economic force determines this power. And that explains why we're practicing a form of racism that, to me, is no more ethically justifiable than any other form of racism. A truck sold in Brazil is 90% more polluting than the same model marketed in Sweden and made in Brazil. What's the health reason to explain that Brazilian lungs are 90% more resistant than Swedish lungs? What about hearts, and babies, and elderly citizens? That is a central theme in this matter. What I think we should incorporate here, as a proposal, maybe, is to include the costs of externalities for certain economic choices into the product matrix. See, if you talk to an oil company-- I once gave a conference at the National Academy of Sciences, in the USA, to discuss this very theme I'm proposing here, and it wasn't exactly a hit, since it was 2007 and even now that's not in the agenda, but the chairman of Exxon said this: "Look, we extract oil for 3 dollars a barrel in Saudi Arabia and sell it for 80 dollars a barrel in the London Stock Market. Nothing else can make this kind of profit." So, although everyone claims to be sustainable, and all the oil companies put on green make-up and carry out sustainability campaigns, they protect the wildlife, they polish the shells of sea turtles and give the golden marmoset a nice perm, they don't do anything that interferes with their business strategy. Because the cost, the life cycle of the fuel is calculated from pump-to-wheel. So let's apply that reasoning to the pharmaceutical industry. "I take responsibility for the side effects of drugs, but only until they hit the shelves." After it's been sold, it's not their problem. Car manufacturers, in turn, are also mostly sustainable. They say this... well, in the USA, the chairman of GM said that in the US they can't sell any more cars because they have 760 vehicles per 1,000 people. Of course, since babies can't drive, and sick people can't drive, it's a tie at more or less one car per person. And strollers were not computed. So, what happened? They can't expand anymore, they can only expand by cannibalizing one another or by investing, by taking different strategies... The Asians have invested in quality, and the Americans have invested in price: the Asians won. So, to will these guys go? In India, they have about 30 to 40 cars per 1,000 people. So let's sell cars in India. The cost of roads, the cost of bridges, and the warming... that's not their problem. "I don't care if the seals roast dry, we're selling cars in India!" In Brazil, since we have 300 cars per 1,000 people, there's a chance this will double, even a bit more than double. But in a scenario like this. Our mobility has reached 12km/h in the city of Sao Paulo. If the bandeirantes pioneers were teleported in a time machine, riding on the back of mules, they would outrun us. So what we have is a model that that kills people, warms the planet and pretty much runs it over, environmentally speaking, and it doesn't have any advantage in terms of mobility. And that's the main issue, and it mostly affects the poor. Healthcare professionals, for a long time they didn't think of it as an issue, but they are beginning to wake up. The World Medical Association has put toether a group, which I participated in, to present an agenda for Copenhagen, which was just voted at a meeting in Delhi. This presented some topics for action guidelines. The first one is education. which is what we're discussing here, this paradox; the second is leadership, for example: all healthcare institutions and healthcare professionals, as individuals, should also lead by example, I mean, you go to the doctor and he says: "Quit smoking", and then lights two cigarettes. So driving a Cayenne is not okay either, is it? If you operated yourself, you have got to actually adopt more sustainable methods. Partnerships with society, to propose measures such as the cisterns and other things. We can't just stick to healing, stick to treating, to mitigating. Or better, to adapting. We should be openly discussing the ethical aspects of this matter. The fact that those who are gonna foot the bill are the ones who have contributed the least, and this can't be morally or ethically justified in any way. We have to work with the notion of limits, just like we have limits for cholesterol, for how much trans fat I can eat, for how much I can drink... We need to work on the concept of limits. Limits which are very obvious, really. For instance, on this watch it says it can resist 100m underwater. I never went below 1m. So, that is the point... You look at that SUV, 4x4, turbo, maxi V6... You buy into the dream of climbing the cliff they put on the billboard, but you have never found a cliff to climb. And that is a problem that must be addressed, I mean, underneath every car part it should say: "This model contributes to global warming" like they do with cigarettes. "It contributes to polluting emmissions and it contributes to clog the city arteries". Because it takes up much more space than the others. If I sell a spring-powered eggmobile, a spring-powered thing, a tricycle that moved at 20km/h, no one would buy it. Even though they would be moving faster than inside a car that can reach 200km/h but moves at a much lower speed. We should get ready to explain that in litigation. And I would like to finish by saying one thing. I really like the radio. I listen to the radio and it has many functions, such as to inform and, in my opinion there's no greater psychotherapy for the masses than the listeners' road report. One guy goes "I'm in a traffic jam here in the radial", and the other also goes: "Me too, here at the..." So you feel like you are part of a whole... And that gives you personal comfort. But I've never heard someone say: "Don't take that line of bus, it's crammed with people!" or "Don't take the subway East, it's too crowded." I think that's it is our job to open a space to these guys. Thank you very much.

Video Details

Duration: 16 minutes and 7 seconds
Year: 2009
Country: Brazil
License: All rights reserved
Genre: None
Producer: TEDxSP + colmeia
Director: Julio Taubkin
Views: 254
Posted by: tedxsp on Nov 25, 2009

Paulo Saldiva`a speech at TEDx São Paulo 2009, November 14th.

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