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TEDxSP 2009 - Osvaldo Stella

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Good afternoon to all. First, before I start talking a warning, to all of you: If one day the telephone rings and it happens to be Helder beware, he may ask you to be here. And it's no picnic. All this mass, this influence, this huge opportunity to see so many people dreaming so many people pursuing and realizing their dreams, this is a transforming energy and no technology or Internet can replace it. So, since I can't even remember what's in this presentation I'd like to apologize to the guys who made it cause I'm not using it. So... The only way I can stand here and not make a fool of myself is to tell my story. Or else I'll stand here dehydrating as I told Helder earlier. And my story is very common: I was born in small town in the state of Sao Paulo, Sao Carlos. When it was time to go to college, I looked for the Mechanical Engineering course that was the furthest from home, because I liked cars and I wanted escape the family control at once, I left to study Mechanical Engineering in Florianopolis. Three years later I realized that nothing was gonna happen for me, academically because I couldn't conciliate studying with natural beauty. I had to go somewhere bad, environmentally, in order to develop intellectually. So I took the admission test again, got into Unicamp, and I took the basics on Mechanical Engineering which is equivalent to the entire Inquisition. I went for Mechanical Engineering because I was a fan of Da Vinci I don't think he ever had to take calculus. So there I was, in that zodiacal misery, reading comics by Robert Crumb during calculus class, hoping it would be over soon. Then one day I said: "Dude, I'm gonna melt away, what am I doing here? Five years in engineering taking physics 3 for the 4th time I'm gonna be here forever, I'm gonna turn into one of these guys next to me." There I was kicking cans at the Unicamp campus, walking up and down... Then I went to the swimming pool, where everything's better and there I was by the pool and these two guys were talking. They were planning a bike trip through the Amazon. And I was like: "Whoa, for a desperate soul the only possible salvation is a bike trip on the Transamazonic road". So I turn to them and said: "Look, I don't know you guys, but I'm coming with". And they said: "What do you mean you're coming with?" And I said: "Look, it's a lot to explain right now... We're gonna spend so much time together, we can talk on the road". Long story short, we left to the Transamazonic road by bike and at that time, even with all those behavioral disorders I thought of myself as a fucking cool guy. Cause I'd been to several countries, I had lived abroad, so I said: "I'm only waiting for it to happen, cause I know everything." "I got it all figured out", I'd been to Disneyland twice. A week after I was on the Transamazonic road by bike, it was the town of Brasil Novo or Medicilandia, I don't quite remember where... But was in the very heart of the jungle that I understood that I knew nothing. Calculus and physics were not enough to explain all of that. And, for real, at that moment, my life was transformed, I was able to meet people in a different way. We'd watch the forest burning on TV. There was no smell, no heat, the image is a very limited summary of reality. So then and there I understood I had to do something, do something for those people who, without even knowing me, in the late afternoon... Nowadays, a lot has changed in that region. But in the early 90s, the Transamazonic was like the Brazilian wild west: it was no man's land. And those people, without even knowing me, without any interest in Osvaldo, without knowing my name, they opened their homes and -- there was often three of us, and we could noticed the embarrassment -- and there was a father, a mother and their son we'd come inside and there'd be a plate with plain flour and half an egg. That is... They had nothing. They had split each of their eggs to share it with a stranger. So this is the mass of people who live in the forest, Who live in Amazon. The information we get is often, as in most situations, a very summarized image of the forest. There's more to the forest than just wood, just trees, just animals. Today, there are practically 25 million people living in the Amazon biome. And when I came back from that trip it took me three more years to recover; to go back to wearing shoes, things like that... To go back to accepting myself within the society I had left. At the time I couldn't accept I had lived my entire life like that. Now I've lived even more of that life, but that's okay. So I said: "Wow, I gotta do something". And many times we know it and we have the desire to do it, but we don't know how to... So I began to say: "Look, I can't gamble, I'm not taking the admission test again". One thing I was sure of was that I'd had enough of that. I mean, twice? That's more than enough. I'm not taking calculus 3 again, that's it. So there were some things I was sure I wasn't gonna do, but I didn't know how. But then I also noticed that, from the moment you have that inspiration, that enlightenment, I don't know the exact term to describe that sensation, but suddenly you have that "click" and you say: "Look, this is the way". I've been following on that path for a long time now, and it still hasn't led me anywhere. But I'm on the path. So I went on to pursue a Masters in Energy Planning to understand how energy works. At that time, in the University of Sao Paulo, we installed photovoltaic pannels in Amazonic communities. And in some places, local public authority or local "NGOs" came to us and said: "No, installing solar panels will destroy the local culture. You are interfering with the caboclo culture". What they were calling culture was having to read using a kerosene lamp at night when they get home. The children often couldn't go to school because they had to work during the day and at night there was no light. And the local landowner would often go: "No, don't install photovoltaic panels because I have power over them only trough diesel. If I take the diesel from them, they will be in the dark. If they have their own electricity they won't need me anymore." So, you keep walking, and you begin to understand things better and to perceive how your knowledge, the tools you have gathered, can help you build whatever you desire, although what we desire also changes. And then you need new tools that is, the more you move forward, the further you are from the beginning, the harder it is to turn back. That is the true one-way road, that is why this event is so fantastic. Everyone here has got a different tool. One has brought the chisel, another the hammer, the screwdriver, and we put all of that together. After 10 years in the University of Sao Paulo, that thing I had in calculus class hit me again. "Bah" I said, "bunch of papers, gotta keep publishing, that sucks." I hate PowerPoint. I had to do these PowerPoint presentations all the time, it sucked for me. So I said: "Let's take another step forward." So I got together... I think that getting together is an important part of this process, of implement things. We get a group of people together and we set up the first emission compensation NGO in Brazil, Iniciativa Verde. What is emission compensation? We now know that greenhouse effect is a global-scale environmental problem. This problem is caused by the build-up of CO2 on the atmosphere. Where does this build-up mostly comes from? Our society is an industrial market society, based on energy consumption and on the transformation of raw-materials into consumer goods. Just to give you an idea of that process, when we lived in caves, there wasn't even fire, we didn't have any energy consumption. We cowered in the corner, praying the saber-toothed lion would not have us for dinner. We weren't even at the top of the food chain, we were food, at that time. Back then, our energy consumption was restricted to our vital energy. That is, how much food, or energy, we needed in order to keep our body working. That's more or less 3,000 kilocalories per day. If you go on the Internet now and use any of the tools shown here today, or even regular Google, for example, you can calculate all the energy consumed on the planet divided by the entire population of the planet. I calculated that on Thursday, and it was more or less 400,000 kcal per person/day. This means we went from 3,000 to 400,000; each of us. Obviously, an American consumes four or five times more energy than the average South-American. There's a direct relationship between economic power and energy consumption. Just to give you an idea, the impact from the economic crisis over greenhouse gas emissions was greater than that of the Kyoto Protocol. The greatest international agreement to fight climate change was less effective than the time when, I'll say it in French, to be chic, "la maison tombee", the house came down. When the house came down for real, consumption dropped, energy consumption dropped, and has greenhouse gas emmissions dropped considerably. So, there's a direct relationship between the model of society which we've created, (and which we enjoy) and the environmental issue. As long as we have a society based solely on consumption and trade; as long as we measure the GDP health by its growth rate; you are being deceived. Because that is not replicable, the future is not there. We need to "dematerialize" our society. And a typical example of that is the mp3. Record companies hate mp3. Why? They're even reinventing themselves, releasing vinyls records in the market. Because of the nosedive in CD sales, year after year. For the environment, for culture, for citizens, that's the best thing in the world. The music I've collected over the last 5 years is 50 times more than my entire vynil collection plus my CD collection plus the cassette tapes, those yellowish Basf tapes which lost in the middle. For the market, that's a problem. Today, the great catch is how the market will put a harness on mp3 in order to take its toll. I can see two zeroes blinking here on my left, I believe that means I'm out of time. So, to conclude, I'd like to say that, with Iniciativa Verde, we've managed to plant hundreds of thousands of trees per year. As they grow, these trees absorb CO2 from atmosphere and restore degraded riparian forest areas. But since I've got my mind set on this thing, I said "Wait, these are hundreds of thousands of trees, hundreds of hectares, deforestation in Amazon is about millions of hectares. I need to go work with the Amazon, pursuing my dream. Thank you.

Video Details

Duration: 16 minutes and 30 seconds
Country: Brazil
License: All rights reserved
Producer: TEDxSP + colmeia
Director: Julio Taubkin
Views: 210
Posted by: tedxvideo on Nov 28, 2009

Osvaldo Stella's speech at TEDx São Paulo 2009 November 14th.

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