The Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ciências Ambientais (PPGCA, Postgraduate Program in Environmental Sciences), Master’s level, Environmental Sciences assessment area, was approved by CAPES and recommended by the National Education Council in 2017 (Opinion CNE/CES 228/2017). On July 31, 2017, PPGCA activities began.
The creation of the PPGCA follows Unisul’s mission – “comprehensive training of citizens committed to the development of science, technology and innovation, contributing to the improvement of life in society”. In addition, in line with the Institutional Development Plan (PDI), the PPGCA contributed to Unisul Visão@2030 of “being a university recognized for expanding access to quality education and for contributing to sustainable development in Santa Catarina and in Brazil”.
The PPGCA objective fully fits the socio-environmental development domain of the Center-South region of Santa Catarina; that region can be identified from its geographical mesoregions. The center-south of Santa Catarina is made up of two mesoregions, the Greater Florianópolis and the South. In Greater Florianópolis, Unisul’s Pedra Branca Campus, in the municipality of Palhoça, hosts the PPGCA. Grande Florianópolis is a faithful portrait of the profound changes that Santa Catarina has undergone in recent decades. The economic activity, previously restricted to artisanal fishing and family farming, got disrupted and the area suffered a strong urbanization process. The rapid and disorganized population growth turned the region the most urbanized in the State, with urbanization rates above 92%, with predominance of the tertiary sector. Despite the drastic changes, the region has sought a new balance, standing out as a technological hub and, at the same time, giving rise to a series of federal, state and municipal conservation units (CSs) (e.g., Reserva Extrativista do Pirajubaé, Parque Estadual do Rio Vermelho, Parque Municipal da Lagoa do Peri).
In the southern region of Santa Catarina, where the Tubarão Campus is located, in the homonymous municipality, being also the focus area of the PPGCA, farming was the basic economic activity until the 1960s. After this period, coal mining and energy generation in thermoelectric plants dominated the economic scenario. Expensive and environmentally unsustainable, the coal industry generated an immense environmental liability, which is still evident today. This liability led the federal government to declare the region critical for the control of pollution (federal decree 85.206/1980). Coal exploration reached its peak in the mid-1980s, declining sharply in later decades. In the early 2010s, however, the lack of energy planning and the high demand for energy gave a new boost to mining and coal-fired thermoelectric plants, but at lower levels than years before. The decline in coal mining activity, however, led to productive diversification and greater balance in the economy. The southern region of Santa Catarina has recently become a hub for alternative energy, such as solar and wind energy. The region also stands out for its Lagunar Sul Catarinense Complex, one of the largest estuarine formations in Brazil, and a large federal conservation unit, the Área de Proteção Ambiental da Baleia Franca (APABF, Right Whale Environmental Protection Area). Both the Lagoon Complex and a large part of the APABF are permeated by different groups of traditional populations, whether fishermen, farmers or extractivists. In parallel, large areas of the coastal plain have been occupied by farming, especially rice cultivation, while more coastal areas experience an increase in population. Conflicts in the use and appropriation have brought enormous challenges to coastal planning and management, as they put pressure on the availability of environmental assets, hampering territorial planning and putting traditional populations and the sustainability of coastal tourism at risk, primarily considering sandy beaches.
All these transformations that have taken place in recent decades, despite their particularities, largely reflect the reality of Brazilian socio-environmental development, as a rule unequal, chaotic, and without medium and long-term planning. Thus, the PPGCA purpose ends up embracing, in addition to specific regional issues, larger scale challenges in other regions of Brazil and even abroad. This can be seen in both the academic production of professors and students, as well as in research projects. It is noteworthy that Unisul is a signatory member of the National Movement for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), established by the United Nations (UN). Among the Movement objectives, Unisul should: i) contribute to the incorporation of the SDGs; ii) encourage studies and research on the evaluation of the implementation of the SDGs and on the performance of their indicators and targets; iii) publicize the SDGs and their goals, in order to make them known to the largest possible part of society. In this connection, PPGCA professors have been leading Unisul’s internal and external actions.
It is exactly in this complex and heterogeneous scenario that the PPGCA operates, seeking to understand the processes of past and present changes, and to plan new development routes, harmoniously integrating environment, technology and society. To face these challenges, the PPGCA’s strategy is to train and qualify professionals who share the vision of integrating environmental and social responsibility into their daily lives, whether in a company, office, industry or university. In addition to training in an interdisciplinary perspective and focusing on environmental sustainability, PPGCA seeks to produce knowledge, integrate traditional and academic knowledge, and develop technologies useful to society. In other words, PPGCA seeks to transform the process of natural assets appropriation, developing integrating technologies and expanding social inclusion thus working towards the progressive construction of governance viable systems.