Former President of the Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences, Enrique Forero, explains how basic sciences foster sustainable development
The period between July 2022 and October 2023 has been designated by UNESCO as the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development.
It is a celebration that is closely linked to the Sustainable Development Goals. The 2030 Agenda for sustainable development is an ambitious program that the Member States of the United Nations have signed to ensure a balanced, sustainable and inclusive development of the planet.
The Agenda was adopted in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly, as an integrated vision for the sustainable development of all the world’s populations, and is articulated in 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) towards which we should all work collectively.
Several of the SDGs are explicitly linked to scientific advances: Health and well-being (SDG 3), Quality education (SDG 4), Clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), Clean and affordable energy (SDG 7), Climate action (SDG 13), life below water (SDG 14), and life on land (SDG 15). But, in fact, all the SDGs require the contribution of science and technology: No poverty (SDG 1), Zero hunger (SDG 2), Gender equality (SDG 5), Decent work and economic growth (SDG 8). ), Industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9), Reduction of inequalities (SDG 10), Sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), Responsible production and consumption (SDG 12).
Basic sciences essential
Basic sciences are essential for sustainable development. In order to meet the SDGs thus stated, a basic understanding of natural phenomena and how to interact with them, as well as those generated by human imagination and organization, is essential.
It is here where the basic sciences come to play a fundamental role, since they are the basis of the greatest technological advances that drive innovation and at the same time are essential during the preparation of future professionals and in the development of capacities on the part of the population to make decisions that affect your future.
For this reason, the concept of “applicable science” has gained some acceptance as a synonym for “basic science”, since sooner or later the discoveries made by scientists based on curiosity can become pillars of important technological contributions. It is clear that the technological contributions are easy to recognize and we are all amazed by them, while the contributions of the basic sciences are not sufficiently recognized.
Basic Sciences provide the essential means to face crucial challenges such as universal access to food, energy, health coverage and communication technologies. Likewise, they allow us to understand the impact of the more than 8,000 million current inhabitants of the planet, for example, on climate change, the depletion of natural resources and the extinction of living species, and provide the tools that allow us to act to limit and even reduce that impact.
Contributions of basic sciences
The best and most recent example of the contributions of basic sciences to the solution of a global problem is the speed in the production of vaccines to control the Covid-19 virus. Without the results of all the previous basic research existing in numerous laboratories in various countries, such an achievement would have been much more difficult.
A collateral aspect of these important contributions was the increase in the financing of basic research in the most developed countries of the world (something that had little or no impact on our environment).
In Colombia there are many examples of health research. Universities and national research centers are devoting great efforts to studying diseases such as Alzheimer’s, chikungunya, dengue fever and leishmaniasis, to name just a few.
We must also not forget that our country is one of the richest in biological diversity, being recognized as one of the megadiverse countries in the world, and it is also worth remembering that Colombia has 2000 species of birds, which makes us the country with the most rich in this group and which is also in the first places in number of species of plants, amphibians, butterflies, etc.
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