It has finally happened, folks! We are almost there: the ESO membership. Okay, so, if you’re still unaware about this, Brazil is set to be the first non-European country to be part of ESO, the European Southern Observatory, one of the biggest and most prestigious astronomical facilities in the world. You can read more details about this here and here. The bottom-line was that the whole process of membership approval (by Brazilian politicians) was stuck, more specifically in the Plenary, an examining board composed of members of the parliament that analyzes and proposes modifications to the projects of law.
Today, 19 of March, 2015, after more than two years dragging along the project in the Plenary, they have finally reached to a consensus, a positive one, even after being compulsively criticized by many members of the parliament. Here is my translation of the declarations stated by the Chamber of Deputies:
“The 270 mi euros are going to be 1 bi reals.” – Nilson Leitão
As I wrote in a previous post, this amount of money is still less than many investments done by the country to private businesses. There is no reason to privilege business over science endeavors, especially for developing countries (as we see in India and China).
“It’s bad for the government, taking money away from people who deserve it and need it. It’s bad for the country” – Pompeo de Mattos
Again, pure demagogy, the same tactic used by Fábio Garcia. This is not money being taken away from people, it is an investment on science, science that will benefit people. Astronomy might not feed the hungry (PhD astronomers struggling to find a position will beg to differ), but it feeds the curious, it inspires the young, it attracts people to STEM – something that Brazil severely lacks. I could go on and on about this issue.
Just as a reminder, the project was target of criticism by both the opposition and the allied base of the federal government, and there is a running joke on the internet that says the Plenary approved the project just because the president Dilma Rousseff didn’t want it to happen – or rather, just to annoy her. Although I find it hard to believe that Rousseff would do take such a position, I don’t doubt that our conservative parliament would take a stance just because it’s against the president’s will. Oh, politics.
But it’s not time for celebration yet. There are still steps to be taken. Now, the project will have to be appreciated by the Senate. It’s hard to estimate the time that they will take to analyze the project, but we can always be hopeful. It probably won’t take another two years, will it? When that happens, then the Congress will finally be able to promulgate the project and Brazil will be the fifteenth member of ESO. Until then, we wait, and we press, and we lobby in favor of science and astronomy.
Featured image: artistic concept of the asteroid Chariklo, for which the discovery of a ring system had participation of a Brazilian team, using telescopes from ESO. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/M. Kornmesser/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org)