“When I returned to Brazil after my studies in 1998, there was not so much awareness of how to build a sustainable society. We’ve come a long way since then and Curitiba, where I live, is internationally renowned as an ecological capital in Brazil. But living here, I can see for myself how much there is still left to do. We’re still not close to understanding how to deal with these so-called ‘wicked problems’ that affect us all across the globe in many different ways and on many different levels.”
Dr. Libia Patricia Peralta, Federal University of Technology in Paraná (UTFPR) in Curitiba, Brazil. Teacher and Communication Team member in VAMOS.
Dr Libia Patricia Peralta is a post-graduation lecturer at the Federal University of Technology in Paraná (UTFPR) in Curitiba, Brazil in sustainable development. She wears two hats since she also has a consultancy devoted to sustainable architecture & design. Dr Peralta gained her PhD in Landscape Ecology in the UK and has spent 15 years abroad, 10 of which in England.
She embraces the idea of using technology to create a meaningful space where people can come together to begin to discuss these issues and learn from each other. The VAMOS project embodies this concept.
“We have to win in this situation,’ she explains, “it is a matter of our survival at this point. Environmental issues are often perceived locally but have a global impact, so we cannot be isolated in our knowledge and experiences. We must have a broader understanding of our reality and how it impacts elsewhere.”
As a young adolescent in Ecuador and Colombia, Dr Peralta had a passion for the outdoors and the beauty of the Andes mountains. She used to run away to the hills with her friends from the Indian communities and explore caves and climb.
“I was a bit of a rebel and I loved disappearing for days on end into nature and learning everything from them. These people were always aware of the environment and proud of their culture even back then. The Amazon has always been present in our lives. I think that’s where it all started for me.”
In Brazil, she realized that ideas about sustainability were quite forward-thinking for the time. But what was missing was how to relate what she had learned outside in the indigenous communities to her role at the university. Doing her PhD in the UK gave her the tools to understand how to bridge that gap.
“I learned about scientific methodologies, mathematical models and complex research during my studies. I finally realized how to introduce all the multi-faceted aspects of sustainability issues and bring them into my university context. I did a lot of modelling during my PhD and learned what I needed to do to bring it back to the Brazilian context.”
Dr Peralta is married to Eloy Casagrande, the coordinator of the VAMOS project. She says they always shared a dream to do something different in their regular university classes.
“We wanted to set up a kind of ‘open university’ on campus to reach out to others internationally and across geographical boundaries. VAMOS has given us this possibility. It’s ideal for what we want to do. Our students and professors are tired of too many tests and assignments. University as it is, is becoming ever more remote from the reality of what is now a survival issue. Our focus in the VAMOS project is on hands-on education and we want to take the university out into the communities and bring the communities back into the university.”
She firmly believes using the idea of virtual exchange and creative technology is the way forward. People need to be able to relate their subjects to the reality of what is happening in the world.
“We want to explore this international perspective with our students and we want to exchange ideas and be inspired by what people are doing in other countries,’ she says. “We need to communicate and share in creative ways and exchange this international expertise across rural and urban areas.”
Dr Peralta says that already she is seeing high motivation from those involved in VAMOS with meetings well attended and enthusiasm through the roof from the 2 campuses which are 300km apart.
“We have never met physically, but thanks to VAMOS we are meeting regularly in a creative and inspiring online space and exchanging information and ideas. I believe this is only the beginning of a project that will grow beyond Uppsala and Honduras. VAMOS will be a game-changer.”