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A scientific look at the complexity of São Paulo

by Richard Meckien - published Jul 18, 2016 10:55 AM - - last modified Jun 04, 2019 11:29 AM
Rights: Original version in Portuguese by Sylvia Miguel.

São Paulo - Copan

The USP Global Cities Program has the support from the rectory of the University and will seek support for public policies for the quality of life of São Paulo

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Global cities influence the world. Regardless of their population size, they centralize global decisions. They are places where the best business deals are made and where the best art is located. One can also find the best orchestras, the best universities and the best food there. Their importance even transcends the countries where they are located. They not only attract more investment but also hold the top positions in quality of life. The criteria for a city to become a global city, which have been created by A.T. Kearney management consulting, give São Paulo the 34th place in the overall ranking. But the USP Global Cities Program, launched on July 13 at the Oscar Freire Institute of USP's School of Medicine (FM-USP), intends to make São Paulo enter the group of the so-called elite cities, according to Marcos Buckeridge, a professor at USP's Institute of Biosciences (IB) and coordinator of the program.

Global Cities - Elite group

2016 Ranking of the elite cities by A.T. Kerney management consulting

The event has brought together representatives of the civil society and non-governmental organizations, as well as researchers, politicians, and public and academic managers. Fernando Haddad, the mayor of São Paulo, has also attended the meeting in the company of his wife, Ana Estela Haddad, a professor at USP's School of Dentistry.

"The initiative is essential to the future of São Paulo. We will offer our databases, our intelligence and our public servants to contribute to the success of the program," said Haddad.

The project has been conceived by the director of the IEA, Paulo Saldiva, and meets a request from the rectory of USP, which plans to support the program "for years", said the vice-president of the University, Professor Vahan Agopyan.

According to Buckeridge, activities and research should be a base to public policies on quality of life in large cities, especially São Paulo. The idea is to systematize and deepen studies that are already carried out at the University, with a view to planning in areas such as mobility, pollution, waste, health, education, leisure, and land use and occupation. In short, the numerous aspects that involve life in large cities, he said.

"The IEA is already a crucial interlocutor, a sort of 'think tank' able to interact more freely with society with regard to academic rules. The program heads one of the priority themes of USP and I am sure that we will have benefits for the population in a few years," said Agopyan.

Lançamento Cidades Globais - 1

Vahan, Haddad and Saldiva: constructive partnerships with society and dialogue between various fields of knowledge for the success of the program

"We will seek to promote a dialogue between various fields of knowledge from constructive partnerships and common agendas. The University must learn to listen to society and the IEA will be a platform to make this happen. The idea is to link research networks and interested civil society groups to work in the light of scientific knowledge," said Saldiva.

Lawyer and environmentalist Fabio Feldmann has attended the opening session and gave a concrete example of how research at the University can become a base to public policy and bring effective results for the quality of life in cities. He recalled the traffic restriction program in São Paulo, which was introduced in 1995, when he was Secretary of State for the Environment. "We created the program based on the studies of Professor Saldiva. I often say that Saldiva designed the project and I carried the can," he joked.

He explained that the comment was made to remember the importance of involving politics and knowledge. "What we have seen in Brazil recently is a radical loss of contents in politics. As we associate politics to content we will have chance to rescue the country. The presence of Saldiva at the IEA is an incredible possibility of a realignment of various social actors. Anyone who has worked in public administration knows that the biggest challenge is how to make this joint," he said.

Professor Wilson Jacob Filho, from the FM-USP's Department of Pathology, has represented the unit's director and recalled the importance of the program to, among other goals, work in health and prevention of diseases of different population groups, particularly the elderly.

Lançamento Cidades Globais - 2

Buckeridge: "We have failed to produce databases and information that may support the diagnosis"

Population ageing, as well as physical and social inclusion of people with functional limitations, are issues that are increasingly becoming priorities in the context of large cities. "The USP Global Cities Program inteds to improve the quality of life of this population profile," said Professor Jacob Filho.

Urban planet

Urbanization is present on the worldwide agenda. If today 54% of the population live in urban areas, by 2050 this share will reach two-thirds. In Latin America the proportion will reach 89%, according to the UN report.

In the May issue of Science Magazine, 12 papers present diagnostics and revisions to the cities of the future. One of the studies shows that building knowledge-based societies is now a key strategy for the best use of innovative technologies. Knowledge societies will be better prepared to maximize the advances of science, technology and innovation (ST&I), according to the text.

"There is nothing more complex than a city. It is the only environment where man is wolf to man. We have been raised in a city concept where car ownership was an alienable right, such as the cigarette was a symbol of success or virility. Tinkering with values is not easy and so the cities are already being studied within the concept of complexity," said Saldiva.

Global Cities Ranking

"Unfortunately, none of the 12 articles of Science Magazine mentions the city of São Paulo, showing that we have failed to produce databases and information that may support the diagnosis," said Buckeridge.

Another paper, published in U.S.News, shows how the perception or image that people have of a given city can help or hinder their growth. This is because the way cities are seen can or not attract investment and skilled labor, which will influence the prosperity of the place.

Buckeridge showed some details of the ranking of global cities produced by A.T. Kearney. São Paulo ranks #34 in 2016. In 2008, the city held the 31st position.

"To create the ranking, the consulting firm has used existing data produced by cities, what we are still unable to do. This shows that have we also failed to gather data. We need to also produce information and new knowledge to give subsidy to public policy. "

However, the improvement of the indicators in São Paulo is not only to meet the first world's criteria, but mainly to improve the life quality of its inhabitants, pointed out the professor.

"We will seek those international standards, but always with Carmen Miranda's hat on our head. We will not stop being Brazilian. We should not abandon Modern Art Week or Mário de Andrade. We must remember that we can always be innovative. We are able to get those rates while creating new things," said  Buckeridge.

An analysis produced in 2014 by A.T. Kearney created the indicator of global cities of the future, that is, those who would have a chance to approach the position held by the currently called elite cities. In this ranking, São Paulo holds the 4th position and the biggest challenges for the city to actually reach this place in the future are related to education and innovation, showed Buckeridge. "Education and innovation are precisely the contribution that the University can give. Therefore I believe that the outlook is positive," said the professor.

Images: Andre Deak/Flicker and Leonor Calasans