At the end of a lively question and answer exchange, a college-aged member of the crowd raised his hand and asked me the hardest question I’ve even gotten about my research on Itaipú Dam and renewable energy, “Vos que no sos Paraguay, ¿Qué opinás? ¿Qué debemos hacer?”
You’re not Paraguayan, [but] what do you think? What should we do?
The question was hard not because I didn’t have an answer, but because the answer matters. It’s one thing to give one’s professional opinion about hydroelectricity, sustainable development, and international relations in the world’s largest dam (which the massive Brazilian-Paraguayan dam is) in front of scholars and students in the U.S. or Canada. It’s quite another to be talking about one of the most controversial topics in a country and to be asked, in public, in front of the media, what should be done with the energy resources and the international conflict.
Sharing the results of our research with those communities whom we studied is not only the ethically appropriate thing to do, it shows the real world impact of the work we do. But it can drastically realign research agendas. And the question posed by that young Paraguayan offered both risk and opportunity. If academia is messy, then entering the world of academia + policy is much messier. But the pros outweigh the cons: this issue has real world impact, giving us the chance to show, not just tell the how and what of scholarship.
And so, we have launched Itaipú Post-2023: the Next 50 Years of Sustainable Development, a Duke research team of undergraduates, graduate students, faculty + research collaborators at UNC-Chapel Hill, Princeton, and the National University of Asunción (Polytechnic). For more, read here.
We are in Paraguay this week to meet with partners, to talk with stakeholders in business, research, and the government, and to gather data. We’ll be back in June to present a policy-brief of recommendations for how to leverage Itaipú for sustainable development.
And our Duke and FP-UNA research teams will be giving a joint presentation on Thursday, to showcase the impact of international academic collaboration.
Paraguay 2023: Cooperación Académica Sobre Energía y Desarrollo Sostenible
Jueves, 15 Marzo
17horas – 19 horas
Facultad Politecnica, Universidad Nacional de Asunción (San Lorenzo)
Sala de posgrado 2, Bloque B
Libre y abierto al público
(Photo: a table with yuyos, traditional remedies, to blend with iced-cold yerba mate)