Folha has a long history of attention to the natural sciences. Nobody symbolizes this tradition better than José Reis, who for decades had a column, ran the newspaper and in 1948 created the No Mundo da Ciência section.
He never imagined taking over his pillar room in 2002, 16 years after he’d managed to get into the newsroom. Success didn’t come until the third attempt, after I didn’t divulge the generous idea of Rodrigo Naves, who made me the successor in the issue of the newsletter and was passed over in a competition for a computer author.
It was also through a competition that hiring in the Education and Science Department came about. I later learned that the editor-in-chief Otavio Frias Filho (OFF) had advised the then master’s degree in philosophy, whose text would certainly contain a lot of academic clues, to be very vigilant.
Jürgen Habermas’ master of the theory of truth went into his pocket, squashed under the insane burden of work. 1986 had it all: the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded in January; Comet Halley and Plano Cruzado in February; Meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in April …
Even if computer terminals were attached to a mainframe that would appear clunky today, closing the newspaper was a manual and slow endeavor. The lists of admitted students on the entrance examination and the prices set by President José Sarney were checked on paper, a task for the poor man who was a philosopher who loved science and had experience as a proofreader.
In those days, less than two years after the takeover of OFF, there were management changes almost daily. Before completing 12 months in Education and Science, I became an assistant editor and soon an editor after passing the Universidade em Exame series unscathed, indicating the low productivity of several publicly funded institutions.
The affinities for OFF became just as clear as the differences. Both were born in 1957, the year of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. There was an innate interest, so to speak, in anything related to space conquest. Nobody watches the landing on the moon at the age of 12 with impunity, even with a penchant for literature and the humanities.
What the cosmos united, biology separated. A teenager still awakened to the environmental problem when he battled the airport in the woods of Caucaia do Alto, a passion that was revived during a season in Germany in 1980-81. Folha’s lively coverage of the destruction of the Amazon and climate change was born in the late 1980s.
The board had reservations about the issue and feared journalists would act as militants. Aware of the growing public interest in the matter, however, the numerous messages that began in 1988 with the first warnings from the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) about the explosion of fires gave carte blanche.
There was multiple friction as global warming deniers entered Folha’s sites. Nothing serious enough to prevent massive investments in the nine chapters of the 2018 “Climate Crisis” series.
The precedent was set in 2013 when the newspaper decided that the national press’ landmark multimedia product, A Batalha de Belo Monte, would be devoted to testing the country’s most controversial hydropower plant. In 2015, one day before the Paris conference, the editorial priority for the environment would lead to the “Endless Forest / All About Deforestation” suite.
In parallel with ecology, biological thinking was marked between the decades 1990 and 2010 by the rise of genomics, which culminated in the human genome project in 2000. Deep in Stephen Jay Gould’s anti-terminism, I gave critical coverage of the sociobiological echoes that fascinated OFF.
More recently we have been reunited through the work of mind modifying drugs. It was a forgotten chapter of youth – for me, not for Otavio, who led Folha in the bold defense of decriminalization. I returned to the downtrodden after reporting on the 2017 Psychedelic Science conference in Oakland, California.
OFF then came to me to comment on the report and suggested a book to the newspaper’s publisher, Três Estrelas. Four years later, I regret that I am not here to read it and to point out the problems of “Psiconautas”, which will be released in May by Editora Fósforo, successor to Três Estrelas under the direction of Fernanda Diamant.
In Folha’s 100 years, I have participated in 35 years. She has brought me to the Amazon dozens of times, twice to the Yanomami countries, more than once to the Antarctic, once to the Arctic, as well as to the summit of the Neblina and the Andean glaciers and finally to the unknown land of the spirit, that of science of psychedelics is directed. Not bad for a journal that some consider to be housed.