“If someone dies, a library is lost.” Perhaps I don’t know anyone for whom this sentence fits better than Maurício Tuffani. As a reference in science and environmental journalism in Brazil, he was a kind, careful, and fun teacher who trained generations of reporters in these areas – me included.
Tuffani had an amazing memory and a broad education, was self-taught and had a “half encyclopedic” side, as his friend Pablo Nogueira recalled. His knowledge ranged from mathematics to philosophy, from environmental legislation to chess and aikido, which he practiced in his youth. In the pre-1988 period he even worked as a parliamentary advisor to the Chamber and advised politicians, but it wasn’t until he became a journalist that he became a giant.
I met him in this folha when he was a young seal. It was 1997, I was working in the Fovest section, and I had a complicated scientific story to write. My editor did not trust my writing very much and asked me to speak to “the brightest journalist in the office”. It was Tuffani.
“He’ll know if that’s right,” she told me. He was, but so generous, he gave me a physics class and how to better explain that for college entrance exams. We won me and the readers on that day.
I didn’t know then, but Tuffani was already a journalism monster. At the time editor of Ciência da Folha, he was in the newspaper for his second round. In the first, in the late 1980s, he made a bombastic report that shaped him forever and environmental journalism. On May 7, 1989, Folha headlined: “The government invented data about the Amazon”. It could be today.
Tuffani noted that the first official figures on deforestation in the Amazon, recently released by then-President José Sarney, were better than reality. To appease international criticism, especially after the death of Chico Mendes, Sarney announced that the Amazon had lost “only” 251.4 thousand km2 since the discovery of Brazil.
Their denunciations over the course of several reports led to a review of the data. At the end of the year, the Inpe (National Institute for Space Research) corrected: By then, 358,700 km2, 42.6% more, had been devastated. The number would be revised again to 377.6 thousand km2. Tuffani describes this story here, which he was always very proud of and which was passed on to newcomers as a journalism class.
“He pioneered the use of satellite imagery to measure the devastation of the Amazon. Without the support of digital platforms, which would make the job easier for journalists in their search for specialists, he has already maintained sources that enable him to quickly find the best scientists and researchers for any topic, ”recalls José Roberto de Toledo, Editor-in-Chief of the magazine piauí at that time colleague from Tuffani in Folha.
“Decades before the Google Scholar institutions, their information came from academic papers and theses. He mastered the scientific method and, if it was necessary to explain a fact or a phenomenon, he inserted concepts from physics or philosophy into a text without having to copy or even paste it, ”adds the friend.
Tuffani has always been restless and often switched jobs to find the place that would bring him more professional satisfaction and make him fly. So he went through the Galileu magazine and Unesp, where he advised the then rector of the university, Herman Voorwald, who wanted to improve the scientific dissemination of the university, and then founded Unesp Science …
When Voorwald was invited to take on the office of State Secretary for Education, Tuffani accompanied him as an advisor. The report by USP physicist Paulo Nussenzveig dates from this time. “In 2016 he described an article I published in Folha as brave. I replied that I didn’t think it was courage. Maurício said: “A union member from Apeoesp told me that in January 2012, when I was a Voorwald consultant, I was brave to give a presentation by putting firewood at the union in an auditorium in Alesp [Assembleia Legislativa de São Paulo] Overcrowded with union members. I replied that exposing the truth gave me the courage to face this crowd, while that crowd gave him the courage to hide the truth. It is close.’ I promised that one day I would use this quote. What a priceless loss! ”He wrote.
His innovative spirit and his journalistic blood soon screamed louder. From 2014 to 2016 he blogged about Folha, an experience he called “one of the most rewarding activities I’ve done in the press”. In his farewell post, he already announced the creation of the Direto da Ciência website, which he created as a news center for science, the environment and higher education.
Science Direct has long been a one-man army. And what an army. Tuffani brought the news, as we say in journalistic jargon, with the first investigation into the current Environment Minister Ricardo Salles, when he was Environment Minister of São Paulo.
At the beginning of the year he returned to Unesp. The journal no longer exists, but he suggested strengthening the scientific dissemination of the institution that again embraced him. Tuffani was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in late 2019 and has been treating the disease since then. He died suddenly this Monday (31) at the age of 63 while attending a work meeting at Unesp. He leaves behind his wife Lélia Marino and son André.