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The sweet and bitter sides of the sugarcane: an integrated sustainability assessment for the Brazilian ethanol context

Abstract

The growing international discussion on the role of global warming and renewable energy boosts up once again the interest for bio-fuels. But there is, yet, a significant anxiety of the society about the present patterns of sugarcane cultivation and ethanol production impact balance. The current modus operandi of public policy formulation and implementation, based on punctual and setorized socioenvironmental impact assessment, limits and hides complex productive system functioning essential factors, as observed for the sugarcane ethanol context, enlarging ethanol production sustainability compromising risks. One of the knowlegde gaps is exactly in the methodology design, that will make it possible to integrate the various sustainability elements, following principles of sustainability tailored to the sugarcane ethanol. The challenge is exactly in the concept validation process with the stakeholders and the methodology proposal in a way that it will be incorporated by institutions and society in their management and decision making process. It is part of this challenge the study of the existing methodologies and the possibilities of interlinkage and integration among them, what means, turn them more powerful and pragmatic to face the inherent complexity of the sustainability of the sugarcane ethanol context. Therefore, this research has the general aim of developing and applying an IS A (Integrated Sustainability Assessment) Methodology for sugarcane ethanol to the state of São Paulo, Brazil. The AISe group includes researchers from several institutions: University of São Paulo (USP): São Carlos Engineering School (EESC/USP), School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities (EACH/USP), Luiz de Queiroz Agriculture School (ESALQ/USP) and Ribeirão Preto School of Philosophy, Sciences and Literature (FFCLR P/ USP); Institute of Agriculture Economics (IEA); Institute for Agricultural and Forest Management and Certification (IMAFLO RA); Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA); Michigan University. (AU)