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The deforestation of the Amazon and the extinction of numerous species of animals and plants, two of the hot topics in science in 2019. Via El Intransigente.
The deforestation of the Amazon and the extinction of numerous species of animals and plants, two of the hot topics in science in 2019. Via El Intransigente.

Two Latinos among the 10 scientific celebrities of the year

The annual "Nature" list explores the most important moments for science in 2019 and the people who have been key — and yes, Greta Thunberg is among them.

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Brazilian physicist Ricardo Galvao stood up to nature's enemy, President Jair Bolsonaro, when his institution, the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), published a revealing report that contradicted the Brazilian government's climate denial.

Nearly 9,700 square kilometers of the jungle, the equivalent of the size of Puerto Rico, has been deforested in the last 12 months, increasing by 30% the rate of Amazon destruction from the previous year.

Likewise, INPE warned that Brazilian policies, which prioritize the agricultural industry over the protection of the environment, were leading not only the country but the world, to a catastrophe without turning back.

Bolsonaro's response was not long in coming: he fired Galvao as director of the institution and accused him of damaging the country's reputation abroad. That reaction ended up elevating the physicist as one of the most prominent and daring defenders of the Brazilian Amazon and, for Nature, one of the best scientific celebrities of the year.

Winner of the Prince of Asturias Research 2019, Argentine biologist Sandra Díaz is also one of the heroines of biodiversity on Earth.

As co-chair of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) panel, Díaz published a report in which she denounced that a million species of animals and plants are on the verge of extinction.

The document revealed shocking facts.

From the beginning of the last century to the present, 20% of native species in most terrestrial habitats, 40% of amphibians and 33% of corals have declined. In addition, more than a third of marine mammals are at serious risk.

"We are part of a tapestry, we can no longer think that nature, society, and development are independent compartments," said the biologist.

A year of great progress

Other science personalities included are: climate activist Greta Thunberg, "Person of the Year," according to Times magazine; U.S.-Canadian astrophysicist Victoria Kaspi, a contributor to the CHIME telescope that searches for very distant radio signals in the galaxy; neuroscientist Nenad Sestan, who has managed to restore circulation and preserve the biological functions of brains of animals that had been dead for hours; or African microbiologist Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, for his advances on the Ebola virus. 

Also included in the list were: bioethicist Wendy Rogers; paleontologist Yohannes Haile-Selassie, who shook the theories about the origins of humanity; physicist in charge of Google's quantum hardware team, John Martins; and stem cell biologist Hongkui Deng.

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