The IPCC is stern on climate change – but it still underestimates the situation (The Guardian)

UN body’s warning on carbon emissions is hard to ignore, but breaking the power of the fossil fuel industry won’t be easy

The Guardian, Sunday 2 November 2014 10.59 GMT

Bangkok's skyline blanketed in a hazeBangkok’s skyline blanketed in a haze. The IPCC report says climate change has increased the risk of severe heatwaves and other extreme weather. Photograph: Adrees Latif/Reuters

At this point, the scientists who run the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change must feel like it’s time to trade their satellites, their carefully calibrated thermometers and spectrometers, their finely tuned computer models – all of them for a thesaurus. Surely, somewhere, there must be words that will prompt the world’s leaders to act.

This week, with the release of their new synthesis report, they are trying the words “severe, widespread, and irreversible” to describe the effects of climate change – which for scientists, conservative by nature, falls just short of announcing that climate change will produce a zombie apocalypse plus random beheadings plus Ebola. It’s hard to imagine how they will up the language in time for the next big global confab in Paris.

But even with all that, this new document – actually a synthesis of three big working group reports released over the last year – almost certainly underestimates the actual severity of the situation. As the Washington Post pointed out this week, past reports have always tried to err on the side of understatement; it’s a particular problem with sea level rise, since the current IPCC document does not even include the finding in May that the great Antarctic ice sheets have begun to melt. (The studies were published after the IPCC’s cutoff date.)

But when you get right down to it, who cares? The scientists have done their job; no sentient person, including Republican Senate candidates, can any longer believe in their heart of hearts that there’s not a problem here. The scientific method has triumphed: over a quarter of a century, researchers have reached astonishing consensus on a basic problem in chemistry and physics.

And the engineers have done just as well. The price of a solar panel has dropped by more than 90% over the last 25 years, and continues to plummet. In the few places they have actually been deployed at scale, the results are astonishing: there were days this summer when Germany generated 75% of its power from the wind and the sun.

That, of course, is not because Germany is so richly endowed with sunlight (it’s a rare person who books a North Sea beach holiday). It’s because the Germans have produced a remarkable quantity of political will, and put it to good use.

As opposed to the rest of the world, where the fossil fuel industry has produced an enormous amount of fear in the political class, and kept things from changing. Their vast piles of money have so far weighed more in the political balance than the vast piles of data accumulated by the scientists. In fact, the IPCC can calculate the size of the gap with great exactness. To get on the right track, they estimate, the world would have to cut fossil fuel investments annually between now and 2029, and use the money instead to push the pace of renewables.

That is a hard task, but not an impossible one. Indeed, the people’s movement symbolised by September’s mammoth climate march in New York, has begun to make an impact in dollars and cents. A new report this week shows that by delaying the Keystone pipeline in North America protesters have prevented at least $17bn (£10.6bn) in new investments in the tar sands of Canada – investments that would have produced carbon equivalent to 735 coal-fired power plants. That’s pretty good work.

Our political leaders could do much more, of course. If they put a serious price on carbon, we would move quickly out of the fossil fuel age and into the renewable future. But that won’t happen until we break the power of the fossil fuel industry. That’s why it’s very good news that divestment campaigners have been winning victories on one continent after another, as universities from Stanford to Sydney to Glasgow start selling their fossil fuel stocks in protest – hey, even the Rockefeller Brothers fund, heir to the greatest oil fortune ever, have joined in the fight.

Breaking the power of the fossil fuel industry won’t be easy, especially since it has to happen fast. It has to happen, in fact, before the carbon we’ve unleashed into the atmosphere breaks the planet. I’m not certain we’ll win this fight – but, thanks to the IPCC, no one will ever be able to say they weren’t warned.

Projeto da biodiversidade vai à comissão geral com polêmicas em aberto (Agência Câmara)

JC 5061, 7 de novembro de 2014

Agronegócio não aceita fiscalização pelo Ibama. Agricultura familiar quer receber pelo cultivo de sementes crioulas. Cientistas criticam regras sobre royalties

A comissão geral que vai discutir na próxima terça-feira as novas regras para exploração do patrimônio genético da biodiversidade brasileira (PL 7735/14) terá o desafio de buscar uma solução para vários impasses que ainda persistem na negociação do texto. Deputados ambientalistas, ligados ao agronegócio e à pesquisa científica continuarão em rodadas de negociação até a terça-feira na busca do projeto mais consensual.

Parte das polêmicas são demandas dos deputados ligados ao agronegócio, que conseguiram incluir as pesquisas da agropecuária no texto substitutivo. A proposta enviada pelo governo excluía a agricultura, que continuaria sendo regulamentada pela Medida Provisória 2.186-16/01. Agora, o texto em discussão já inclui a pesquisa com produção de sementes e melhoramento de raças e revoga de vez a MP de 2001.

O governo já realizou várias reuniões entre parlamentares e técnicos do governo. Até o momento, foram apresentadas três versões diferentes de relatórios.

Fiscalização
O deputado Alceu Moreira (PMDB-RS), que está à frente das negociações, defende que o Ministério da Agricultura seja o responsável pela fiscalização das pesquisas para produção de novas sementes e novas raças. Já o governo quer repassar essa atribuição ao Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Ibama). Esse item deverá ser decidido no voto.

“Não vamos permitir que o Ibama, que tem um distanciamento longo da cadeia produtiva, seja o responsável pela fiscalização das pesquisas com agricultura, pecuária e florestas. Terá de ser o Ministério da Agricultura”, afirmou o deputado.

Royalties
O agronegócio também conseguiu incluir no texto tratamento diferenciado para pesquisas com sementes e raças. O pagamento de repartição de benefícios – uma espécie de cobrança deroyalties – só será aplicado para espécies nativas brasileiras. Ficam de fora da cobrança pesquisa com espécies de outros países que são o foco do agronegócio: soja, cana-de açúcar, café.

E quando houver cobrança de royalties, isso incidirá apenas sobre o material reprodutivo – sementes, talos, animais reprodutores ou sêmen – excluindo a cobrança sobre o produto final. “Não pode ter cobrança na origem, que é a semente, e depois outra cobrança no produto final. Se vai ter no produto final, não pode ter na pesquisa”, disse Alceu.

A limitação do pagamento de royalties na agricultura desagradou integrantes da agricultura familiar, que cobram acesso e remuneração pelo cultivo de sementes crioulas, aquelas em que não há alteração genética.

Conselho paritário
Outra demanda do agronegócio é uma composição paritária do Conselho de Gestão do Patrimônio Genético (Cgen) entre representantes do governo federal, da indústria, da academia e da sociedade civil. A intenção é dar mais voz ao agronegócio nesse conselho, que hoje tem apenas representantes do Ministério da Agricultura e da Embrapa.

Cientistas
Já a comunidade científica, segundo a deputada Luciana Santos (PCdoB-PE), que também tem conduzido as negociações, critica o percentual baixo de royalties que será cobrado do fabricante de produto final oriundo de pesquisa com biodiversidade.

O texto prevê o pagamento de 1% da receita líquida anual com o produto, mas esse valor poderá ser reduzido até 0,1%. Também prevê isenção para microempresas, empresas de pequeno porte e microempreendedores individuais.

Os cientistas discordam, ainda, do fato de o projeto escolher apenas a última etapa da cadeia para a cobrança da repartição de benefícios. “Eles acham que é injusto e precisa ser considerado a repartição de benefícios de etapas do processo porque, às vezes, ao final não se comercializa apenas um produto acabado, mas um intermediário”, disse.

Ambientalistas
Os ambientalistas também não decidiram se apoiarão ou não o texto. A decisão será tomada na semana que vem, mas o líder do partido, deputado Sarney Filho (MA), saiu da reunião da última terça-feira (4) insatisfeito com o texto apresentado.

O líder do governo, deputado Henrique Fontana (PT-RS), disse que a intenção é chegar a um texto de consenso após a comissão geral e colocar o tema em votação na quarta-feira (12). Luciana Santos admitiu que, por mais que os deputados tentem chegar a um acordo, vários dispositivos só serão decididos no voto.

Íntegra da proposta:

(Agência Câmara) 

http://www2.camara.leg.br/camaranoticias/noticias/POLITICA/477144-PROJETO-DA-BIODIVERSIDADE-VAI-A-COMISSAO-GERAL-COM-VARIAS-POLEMICAS-EM-ABERTO.html

Crash and burn: debating accelerationism (3:AM Magazine)

Alexander Galloway in conversation with Benjamin Noys.

Cover image of Malign Velocities, courtesy of Dean Kenning

Accelerationism emerged as the latest theoretical trend with the publication of Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’ #Accelerate Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics in 2013. The book was quickly translated into at least seventeen languages, including German, French, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish and Korean. In 2014 came the publication of #Accelerate: The Accelerationist Reader, edited by Robin Mackay and Arman Avanessian, and during this period a series of public events, seminars and discussions on accelerationism took place, including in Paris, New York, Berlin and London. This appropriately accelerated discussion has often taken place in relation to the art world, including a special issue of the journal e-flux, and has been characterized by heated polemic.

This interview brings together one of the leading critics of accelerationism, Benjamin Noys, who coined the concept as an object of criticism and has just published his critique Malign Velocities (Zero, 2014), with Alexander R. Galloway, an author and programmer working on media theory and contemporary French philosophy. In the discussion they explore the battles over the definition of accelerationism, the role of the negative, questions of abstraction, and the appeal and perils of fantasies of acceleration. The interview was conducted by email and in person between 23 October 2014 and 3 November 2014.

AG: You have a new book titled Malign Velocities: Accelerationism & Capitalism. This is an occasion to celebrate, in any event. And I wonder, even in the spirit of recapitulation, if you might simply define “accelerationism” for us and explain why you decided to return to this concept from your previous book, only now as an “enemy”?

BN: One of the difficult issues in discussing “accelerationism” is that so much of the debate has turned on what exactly that term means. I would say in light of the most recent articulations a simple one-line definition might be: “Accelerationism is the engagement and reworking of forces of abstraction and reason to punch through the limits of an inertial and stagnant capitalism.” Whereas previously much of what I called “accelerationism”, especially in the early 1970s work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Jean-François Lyotard, and Jean Baudrillard, involved a qualified playing with the “accelerated” forces of capitalist production, the current forms stress the need to find new forces that can act against a capitalism that no longer seems to deliver on the “promise” of acceleration. The key figure here is Nick Land, once an academic at the University of Warwick and now a journalist in China. Land’s work in the 1990s provided the most extreme statement of an endorsement of capitalism, or tendencies in capitalism, as mechanisms of acceleration and disintegration. In many ways contemporary accelerationism defines itself against Land, although he still exerts a certain fascination. His recent interest in neo-reactionary thoughtmakes this fascination problematic, to put it mildly.

In terms of my new book I should say I have always been highly skeptical about “accelerationist” strategies, of whatever variety. It was the fact that what I had coined as a term of criticism – although I later found the word occurs in Roger Zelazny’s 1967 novelLord of Light, which I had read – was now being celebrated that was one of the drivers for the new book. The return of interest in strategies of acceleration at a time of capitalist crisis is not surprising, especially when that crisis is taking a long-drawn out and often highly uneven form. In the face of calls for austerity, which almost always fall on the victims of the crisis, signaled in the popularity of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” meme in the UK, a counter-reaction is obvious. While I share the hostility to demands for sacrifice and austerity I think that accelerationist strategies too often feedback into a desire for a return to a, supposedly, productive capitalism. This is what I have called “capitalist Ostalgie.” If “Ostalgie” was nostalgia for the lived experience of “actually-existing socialism”, capitalist Ostalgie is a nostalgia for the images of capitalist dynamism, especially that of the new technologies during the 1990s.

AG: Today’s intellectual current seems to be forking in two distinct directions. The dominant fork is, as you suggest, a kind of technophilic, network affirmationism. But there is an alternative path evident in some of your writings, a path that leads through the negative. Curiously, that erstwhile paragon of progressive theory, Gilles Deleuze, appears now as something of a villain. I recall you use the term “Deleuzian Thatcherism” at a certain point. Can you describe your interest in the negative? Why are you calling for a return to the negative? And what might it offer for the future?

BN: I used “Deleuzian Thatcherism” in the ’90s to describe Nick Land’s work and what I saw as the convergence between his work and certain hyper-Thatcherite currents, which someone referred to at the time as “Thatcherism in its Maoist Phase”. I think, now, a more accurate but inelegant characterization would have been “Lyotardian Thatcherism”, as Land seems to take a lot more from Lyotard’s 1974 book Libidinal Economy, with its argument that there is only one libidinal economy and that this is capitalist. While it’s true that the work of Deleuze, and especially that of Deleuze and Guattari, has never been to my taste, when I wrote on him for my book The Persistence of the Negative I found more appreciation for his work. There is, if we like, a “negative Deleuze”. Also, I think the debate about accelerationism has sharpened positions and I’ve had interesting and supportive responses to my critique from those who are sympathetic both to Deleuze and to Guattari.

In terms of the negative my interest really emerged out of noticing how easily it was being dismissed and how much of contemporary thought defined itself as affirmative or positive, which is what I called, borrowing from Badiou, “Affirmationism”. Obviously we could include accelerationism, with its positive attitude to technology, reason and abstraction, within this broad category. At the same time, despite misunderstandings, this turn to the negative was not simply a matter of miserabilism or “negativity”, in the common use of the word, on my part. I’m not sure whether I qualify as a “happy person”, but my aim wasn’t to celebrate the virtues of depression. Instead, negativity interests me as a way to define a practice of contestation and rupture, and not least to disrupt all the calls to embrace the positive, to embrace “things as they are”, as William Godwin put it. So, a return to the negative is a return to rethinking the negative, not as a “pure” state, but as intertwined with affirmative moments and as a means of thinking change. It is actually the case that “affirmative” thinking is often accompanied by a celebration of hyperbolic and extreme negativity, by a stress on suffering and misery, but only as moment subordinate to a sudden transformation.

Accelerationism stakes a lot on its ability to imagine the future, especially with the acid test of accepting the future need for space travel (with moon gulags, in the joke, for dissidents). Within the provocation and technological utopianism I think there is something to the accelerationists’ stress on not imagining a future communist society as merely ameliorating capitalist barbarism with what Marx called a “barracks communism”. What concerns me, which is another reason I turn to negativity, is not the difficulty in imagining the future, but the difficulty imagining how we might get there. For this reason I have stressed negativity as a form of struggle that operates within a horizon of past struggles, which must be affirmed, in the attempt to decommodify the world, as well as to break with other forms of state power and other forms of oppression and violence.

AG: Along those lines, what is the connection, if any, between negation and nihilism, a philosophical tendency that has rebounded in recent years? I’m thinking of the “wider field” of speculative realism stretching from Ray Brassier to Eugene Thacker. We seem to be in the middle of a kind of Existentialist Revival.

BN: What’s interesting in the recent articulations of nihilism is that they tend to evacuate or even annihilate the subject, unlike classical existentialism. While I have some interest in nihilist thinking, dating back to readings of Re/Search as a teenager and then through my work on Bataille, I think this hyperbolic nihilism often ends up circling back to affirmation – in this case the affirmation of a universe which has no need of subjects. In my terms, thinking of negation, I would like to distinguish negativity from any hyperbolic negativity or nihilism, by stressing that negativity is a practice that engages with points of contradiction and violence. My view of negation is a deflationary one, trying to shift out of the desire to contemplate or even wallow in some collapse of all values, to consider the tensions of negation.

In terms of accelerationism nihilism carries different values. It was obviously crucial to Nick Land, who deployed a nihilism developed from Bataille and Schopenhauer to annihilate the ego. In this vision, we embrace what Nietzsche called “European nihilism”, embodied in the nihilist drive of capital to reduce everything to value, as the means to overcome humanism and to become fully disenchanted. Contemporary accelerationism sometimes tries to weaponize nihilism as almost a therapeutic device, while other currents stress the need to reinvent norms out of an “inhumanism” that can recreate and take the human beyond itself. I’m skeptical of the invocation of a “hard-edged” nihilism, which seems to me to abandon a lot of crucial questions by invoking a “levelling” of values that is, at best, highly uneven. It may even be, ironically, that a radical nihilism is consolatory – giving us a weird sense of security by reaffirming our pointlessness. In this there is a risk of the return of the subject as the one who is able to proclaim the nihilist “bad news” and so remain somehow superior or immune – a kind of cult of non-personality.

AG: One of the classic debates in leftist theory is that of orthodoxy. Lukács famously asked: What is orthodox Marxism? And his unorthodox answer ironically helped solidify a new kind of cultural Marxist orthodoxy in the decades since. Reza Negarestani has labeled this a form of “kitsch” Marxism, suggesting the need for a renewed critique of orthodoxy. How best can we square the necessarily dialectical movement of history with certain foundational categories like justice, democracy, or the people?

BN: I would almost certainly fail any test of Marxist orthodoxy, or even unorthodoxy. This is not because I regard myself as original or dissident, but due to my lack of thorough knowledge of Marx and Marxism and my own formation, which owes something to anarchism, a lot to the Situationists, and more than a little to my maternal grandfather’s straightforward socialism and his stories of his life as a union representative while working on the railways in London (I perhaps also owe something to my paternal grandfather’s ad hoc practice of the “refusal of work”). The result is that my “Marxism” is probably more suspicious of a belief in the productive forces than some of the classical forms and more geared to a suspicion of the category of labor.

In terms of Reza’s characterization there is a truth to the claim that certain forms of postwar Marxism tended to an extreme pessimism, as every undergraduate who does cultural studies usually learns. I have more sympathy for this trend – I think Adorno’s Minima Moralia is a brilliant book. But, of course, a characterization of capitalism as completely dominant, a characterization of all life and culture as completely determined by capital, leaves little to do (and I think very few actually said this). On the other hand, the accelerationists’ critique seems to me to bend the stick too far in the other direction, implying too much acceptance of contemporary technological and cultural forms that does not really consider how they are shaped by capitalism. Presenting capitalism as a parasite (I always think of Futurama’s brain slugs) implies that we simply shrug off the parasite to get back to a neutral technological or cultural possibility. I think capitalism shapes our context and existence in subtler ways than that, although it is always a contradictory social formation. While I would say there is no simple “outside” to capitalism, I don’t think this is a counsel of despair because I’d attend to the contradictions and struggle that always and everywhere exist within this social relation.

AG: Let’s talk in particular about abstraction. Abstraction has always presented something of a problem within critical theory. Yet today many on the left are taking up the question of abstraction again with renewed energy. How do you understand the role of abstraction today? Do you think of abstraction in philosophical terms or in, shall we say, strictly material terms?

BN: I think the crucial category here is Marx’s “real abstraction”, or more precisely Alfred Sohn-Rethel’s formalization of Marx’s comments to define this concept. The paradox of “Real Abstraction” is crucial, in that abstractions, notably “abstract labor”, are very real and very abstract at the same time. In this way abstraction is brutally material in the way, for example, it violently homogenizes all forms of labor into the category of abstract labor, which is geared to value production. Keston Sutherland (pdf here) has written very nicely on how Marx’s German word “Gallerte”, usually translated as “congealed”, refers to boiled down animal products (blood, bone, connective tissue, etc.). When our labor is congealed into abstract labor we become mere “ingredients” and, as Sutherland says, we are processed into abstract “stuff”. I think this usefully expresses how the usual oppositions of abstract and concrete or abstract and material don’t quite capture this process. The abstract is concrete or pseudo-concrete.

This is why, in what’s becoming a theme of this conversation, I think accelerationists are right, but for the wrong reasons. They are right to draw attention to abstraction as a crucial process, but they disengage it too rapidly from this horizon. This is why I think there is a tendency in their work to fetishize abstraction by choosing its most extreme forms to focus on, such as High-Frequency Trading. While this form of algorithmic trading expresses, almost too perfectly, a kind of terminal point of commodity fetishism, in which all we have are ghostly circulations of value, it too requires a brutal series of interventions into “material” forms (as Alberto Toscano has explained). I’d add that this attention to the extreme forms of abstraction also risks missing the more prevalent global forms of real abstraction that, as with abstract labor, dominate and pervade our experience.

It’s for this reason that I also suggest we need to traverse abstraction and can’t simply leap out of abstraction into some “good” alternative. The very search for such alternatives, such as the valorization of the concept of “life” as an excessive force, seems to me to create another abstraction. My problem with accelerationism is that it embraces and then abandons this ground of abstraction. Certainly it does not seek an outside point, a cozy “warm abstraction”, but in its embrace of “cold abstraction” as a global force it neglects these effects of “processing” and the material becomes disembodied in the fantasy of full integration with the abstract.

AG: From abstraction to culture: you also have a keen interest in art and culture. But culture is so unfashionable today! The Linguistic Turn, with its focus on culture and ideology, has been targeted by a number of new schools of thought, including speculative realism and new materialism. Hermeneutics and other interpretive methods, once so dominant, are suffering in the academy at the hands of “distant reading” and other positivistic approaches. What is your relationship to those once stalwart critical methods? I’m thinking of allegory in particular, which you also deploy.

BN: I think this is also a question about the abstract and the material. It seems to me that the general “turn” in the humanities to the material – and my day job is teaching literature – is part of a longer historicist turn that goes back to the 1980s. While everyone tends to think of the humanities as dominated by a “linguistic” post-structuralism (a false image, in fact), the reality I find is a common historicism that constantly invokes the density of “materiality”. This I call a “pop Burkeanism”, as it repeats Edmund Burke’s counter-revolutionary stress on the social as a “dense medium”, but now translated into the form of material artefacts – everything from book covers to letters, from publisher’s offices to architecture, to “material culture”.

This drift is not only politically problematic, but also the general invocation of the “material” often seems fatally abstract. It seems to me that the new materialisms and the various forms of “distant reading” share a paradoxical structure in which the attention to material specificity is coupled with the capacity to skim over or pick and choose between “objects” treated as equal. In what is perhaps a crass allegory I see this as symptomatic of the omission of the commodity-form, which is a form that at once equalizes all commodities as measurable by value and insists on their specific value within this frame. That’s why I have generally tried to explore the continuing possibilities of critique and question this turn to a “post-critical” way of thinking. Critique, I hope, can attend better to the constant processes of transformation of the material to the abstract and vice versa.

In terms of accelerationism I think culture is a central element, which can’t simply be wished away. I often say I think we should have all debates about accelerationism in terms of dance music, and this isn’t a (probably bad) joke. The role of dance music and electronic music in shaping accelerationism goes back to the work of Nick Land and the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU) at Warwick, which drew heavily on jungle and drum and bass. These forms of post-rave dance music, which deployed sped-up breakbeats, were taken as aesthetic examples of the power of accelerationism. I was also an avid follower of this music, combined with my ongoing interest in Techno. I belong to the same generation as many of the original accelerationists and so we share, to some degree, a common cultural formation. The crucial role of music in the formation of accelerationism, along with a related visual culture, means that the “aesthetic” reception of accelerationism isn’t simply a category error. In my work, while I don’t deny the energy and acceleration of these forms I’m also interested in how they reflect on elements of friction, both to generate this sense of acceleration and in the way this friction incarnates attempts to transcend or leave behind the body and its labors. The body on the dance floor is both detached from labor, but also experiences a new form of labor, or the repetitions that at once mimic and take to an extreme the repetitions of work.

The logo of the “Metalheads” music label

To treat accelerationism aesthetically is often seen as dismissive, but I think it has to be placed in the context of various avant-garde attempts to instantiate what Badiou calls “the passion for the real”: this is the attempt to not only represent social forms, but to intervene or create something by cutting into those forms. The modernist impulses of accelerationism make it heir to this task. The problem I find, again!, is this misplacing of this problem and a collapsing of the difficulty of representation. This is why I also think the psychoanalytic category of fantasy is crucial, as a social or ideological fantasy, to grasping the accelerationist desire. In terms of accelerationism this is a fantasy we could have done with fantasy, which I think is the final fantasy.

Accelerationism turns on fantasies of integration and immersion, with capitalism, with the machinic, and with the abstract. While these fantasies register our experience of the pains of labor and the threats of unemployment, they also transform them into the dream of ecstatic enjoyment – jouissance. I think the task today is to resist this sort of pleasure, which also involves pain, in a kind of masochism, but not through the dismissal of enjoyment. Instead of a new asceticism I think the task is to articulate and politicize pleasures that resist and interrupt our immersion in contemporary capitalism. This requires neither the appeal to a “pure” outside nor the demand for complete immersion, but a practice that engages with the contradictions and violence we confront.

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWEE
Benjamin Noys teaches at the University of Chichester and his recent publications includeThe Persistence of the Negative: A Critique of Contemporary Theory (Edinburgh, 2010) and Malign Velocities: Accelerationism & Capitalism (Zero Books, 2014). He is currently writing a critique of vitalism in contemporary theory.

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Alexander R. Galloway teaches at New York University. His latest book is Laruelle: Against the Digital (Minnesota, 2014).

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, November 4th, 2014.

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JC 5060, 6 de novembro de 2014

Acelerar inovação é urgente, afirma CNI (Valor Econômico)

Fórum sobre o tema reuniu 250 empresários, representantes do setor público e pesquisadores ontem em Porto Alegre

Acelerar o passo da inovação é uma necessidade urgente, caso contrário o Brasil ficará para trás no contexto internacional. O alerta é da diretora de Inovação da Confederação Nacional da Indústria (CNI), Gianna Sagazio, uma das palestrantes do Fórum Inovação Social, Eficiência e Produtividade Empresarial, realizado ontem pelo Valor na capital gaúcha.

Leia a matéria na íntegra em: http://www.valor.com.br/empresas/3768914/acelerar-inovacao-e-urgente-afirma-cni

(Dauro Veras / Valor Econômico)

Metade da riqueza mundial pertence a 1% da população, diz relatório (Portal do Meio Ambiente)

PUBLICADO 27 OUTUBRO 2014

9586

O 1% mais rico da população detém mais de 48% da riqueza mundial, que cresceu 8,3% de meados do ano passado a meados deste ano.

De acordo com relatório do Credit Suisse sobre o assunto, em 2014 o total da riqueza no mundo bateu um novo recorde, alcançando US$ 263 trilhões.

No documento, o banco diz que o valor já é o dobro do registrado em 2000, “apesar do ambiente econômico desafiador”, marcado pela crise econômica e pela lenta recuperação dos países.

A criação de recursos foi particularmente forte na América do Norte, com um crescimento de 11,4% entre meados de 2013 e meados de 2014, e na Europa, onde a alta foi de 10,6%. Nas duas regiões, o mercado de capitais foi o principal impulsionador.

Nos mercados emergentes, a Ásia –com destaque para a China– foi a principal responsável pelo aumento de riquezas, assim como no ano passado.

“No entanto, achamos que o crescimento das riquezas no mercados emergentes não foi capaz de manter o seu momento pré-crise, entre 2000 e 2008. Isso não deve nos distrair do fato de que a riqueza pessoal na Índia e na China cresceu pelo fator de 3,1 e 4,6 desde 2000.”

DESIGUALDADE

Segundo o relatório, uma pessoa precisa de US$ 3.650 para estar na metade mais rica do mundo. Para ser membro dos 10% mais ricos são necessários US$ 77 mil. Já para fazer parte do 1% mais rico é preciso ter US$ 798 mil.

O mínimo de recursos para pertencer ao 1% mais rico cresceu desde a crise de 2008. Naquele ano, eram necessários US$ 635 mil, contra US$ 798 mil hoje.
Por sua vez, a riqueza média global tem diminuído desde 2010.

“Esses achados indicam um aumento da desigualdade global nos anos recentes. No entanto, nossos resultados sugerem que a tendência inversa ocorreu no período que antecedeu à crise financeira.”

Coping with water scarcity: Effectiveness of water policies aimed at reducing consumption evaluated (Science Daily)

Date: October 23, 2014

Source: University of California, Riverside

Summary: Southern California water agencies have turned to new pricing structures, expanded rebate programs and implemented other means to encourage their customers to reduce consumption. Some of those policies have greatly reduced per capita consumption, while others have produced mixed results.


As California enters its fourth year of severe drought, Southern California water agencies have turned to new pricing structures, expanded rebate programs and implemented other means to encourage their customers to reduce consumption.

Some of those policies have greatly reduced per capita consumption, while others have produced mixed results, according to a report published in the UC Riverside School of Public Policy journal Policy Matters. The journal is published quarterly by the School of Public Policy, and provides timely research and guidance on issues that are of concern to policymakers at the local, state, and national levels.

Water policy experts Kurt Schwabe, Ken Baerenklau and Ariel Dinar reviewed some of their recent research that was presented at a UCR workshop on urban water management in June 2014. Schwabe and Baerenklau are associate professors and Dinar is professor of environmental economics and policy. The workshop highlighted efforts by Southern California water agencies to promote water conservation, relevant research findings by UC faculty, and challenges that remain to further reduce water demand.

“California is a water-scarce state and needs to have policy tools to deal with scarcity whether in drought years or otherwise,” Dinar said. Water policy research in the School of Public Policy focuses on strategies that agencies and California can take to help reduce vulnerability to drought.

Water utilities throughout California are working to satisfy a 2010 state mandate to reduce per capita urban water demand 20 percent by 2020. Reducing residential water demand is an appealing response to water scarcity as approaches such as building more storage and conveyance systems have become increasingly expensive, the authors wrote in “Coping with Water Scarcity: The Effectiveness of Allocation-Based Pricing and Conservation Rebate Programs in California’s Urban Sector.”

“Reducing residential water demand is also attractive given it is a local solution to relieving water stress with seemingly much recent success,” they wrote.

Efforts to reduce water demand by changing behavior fall into two categories: price and non-price, the researchers said. Price-based approaches focus on adjusting the price of water while non-price approaches include other demand-management strategies such as the use of water-conserving technologies and conversion of lawns to drought-tolerant landscape, often promoted with rebates, and mandatory restrictions.

“Price-based instruments for water management … have proven to be very effective when compared to non-price instruments,” the researchers found.

One such instrument is the “water budget,” which has been adopted by more than 25 Southern California water agencies in recent years. Water budgets typically are defined as an indoor allocation based on the number of people in the house and an outdoor allocation based on the amount of irrigable land, special needs, and local weather conditions, according to the report. The sum of the indoor and outdoor allocations is a household’s water budget. Staying within that budget is deemed efficient use. Water use that exceeds a household’s budget is considered inefficient, and is priced at a higher rate to encourage conservation.

“Recent empirical evidence within southern California suggests that this sort of pricing structure can be very effective for reducing residential water demand while securing the financial cash-flow of the water utility,” the researchers reported.

Non-price efforts to reduce water consumption have not been as effective, however. For example, the researchers refer to a study of 13 groundwater-dependent California cities in which modest water price increases were more effective and more cost-effective than promoting technology standards to curb water consumption.

Some studies have found that rebate programs, in particular, have shown smaller-than-expected water savings, the researchers said in the report. For example, studies show that low-flow showerheads tend to result in longer showers and frontloading washing machines result in more cycles.

“This does not mean that such measures should be abandoned, but rather suggests that achieving real water savings in a cost-effective manner requires more research and partnerships between agencies and the research community to find an optimal mix between these two approaches,” the researchers said.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kurt Schwabe, Ben Baerenklau, and Ariel Dinar. Coping With Water Scarcity: The Effectiveness of Allocation-Based Pricing and Conservation Rebate Program in California’s Urban Sector.. Policy Matters, Volume 6, Issue 1, 2014 [link]

What were they thinking? Study examines federal reserve prior to 2008 financial crisis (Science Daily)

Date: September 15, 2014

Source: Swarthmore College

Summary: A new study illustrates how the Federal Reserve was aware of potential problems in the financial markets prior to 2008, but did not take the threats seriously.


Six years after the start of the Great Recession, a new study from three Swarthmore College professors illustrates how the Federal Reserve was aware of potential problems in the financial markets, but did not take the threats seriously.

Published in the Review of International Political Economy, the study is the result of a collaboration between Swarthmore College economist Stephen Golub, political scientist Ayse Kaya, and sociologist Michael Reay.

The team looked at pre-crisis Federal Reserve documents to come to its conclusion, focusing particularly on the transcripts of meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee. The meeting transcripts indicate that policymakers and staff were aware of troubling developments but remained largely unconcerned.

Drawing on literatures in economics, political science and sociology, the study demonstrates that the Federal Reserve’s intellectual paradigm in the years before the crisis focused on ‘post hoc interventionism’ — the institution’s ability to limit the fallout should a problem arise. Additionally, the study argues that institutional routines and a “silo mentality” contributed to the Federal Reserve’s lack of attention to the serious warning signals in the pre-crisis period.

To speak with Professors Golub, Kaya, or Reay, please contact Mark Anskis (manskis1@swarthmore.edu / 570-274-0471) in the Swarthmore College communications office.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stephen Golub, Ayse Kaya, Michael Reay. What were they thinking? The Federal Reserve in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis. Review of International Political Economy, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1080/09692290.2014.932829

Once a Symbol of Power, Farming Now an Economic Drag in China (New York Times)

 

Li Haiwen, 47, grows medicinal plants, rather than grain, on the plot of land he rents from the local government in Yangling. “The more grain you plant,” he said, “the poorer you get.” Credit Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times

YANGLING, China — For about 4,000 years, farming in this region has been a touchstone of Chinese civilization. It was here that the mythic hero Hou Ji is said to have taught Chinese how to grow grain, and the area’s rich harvests underpinned China’s first dynasties, feeding officials and soldiers in the nearby imperial capital.

But nowadays, Yangling’s fields are in disarray. Frustrated by how little they earn, the ablest farmers have migrated to cities, hollowing out this rural district in the Chinese heartland. Left behind are people like Hui Zongchang, 74, who grows wheat and corn on a half-acre plot while his son works as a day laborer in the metropolis of Xi’an to the east.

Mr. Hui, still vigorous despite a stoop, said he makes next to no money from farming. He tills the earth as a kind of insurance. “What land will they farm if I don’t keep this going?” he said of his children. “Not everyone makes it in the city.”

Farm output remains high. But rural living standards have stagnated compared with the cities, and few in the countryside see their future there.The most recent figures show a threefold gap between urban and rural incomes, fueling discontent and helping to make China one of the most unequal societies in the world.

The nation’s Communist leaders have declared that fixing the countryside is crucial to maintaining social stability. Last year, they unveiled a new blueprint for economic reform with agricultural policy as a centerpiece. But the challenge confronting them resembles a tangled knot.

It begins with the fact that farms in China are too small to generate large profits, about 1.6 acres on average, compared with 400 acres in the United States. Yet it is difficult to consolidate these farms into larger, more efficient operations because Chinese farmers do not own their plots — they lease them from the government.

Privatizing farmland would allow market forces to create bigger farms. But that would be a political minefield for the Communist Party. It would also risk exacerbating inequality, by concentrating land ownership in the hands of a few while leaving many rural families without farms to fall back on if they hit hard times in the cities.

“All of these issues are interlocked and require a series of reforms to be solved,” said Luo Jianchao, a professor at Northwest A & F University in Yangling, and a government adviser. “There’s no magic bullet.”

In late September, President Xi Jinping endorsed an experiment underway in Yangling and other parts of China to untangle this knot. The measure, called liuzhuan, stops short of privatization but gives farmers land-use rights that they can transfer to others in exchange for a rental fee.

The goal is to simulate a private land market and allow China’s family-run, labor-intensive farms to change hands and be amalgamated into large-scale, industrialized businesses. In theory, liuzhuan allows this to happen without cutting ties between rural families and the land, because they collect rental fees as a safety net.

Mr. Xi has presented the policy as critical to China’s next phase of economic reform. Skeptics, however, say it shows the government remains unwilling to consider a bold measure that has worked in many countries: giving farmers full ownership of their land.

“Privatization of land is a key issue but it’s completely taboo,” said Tao Ran, an agricultural expert at Renmin University in Beijing. The party leadership, he said, “cannot countenance it.”

More is at stake than the socialist credentials of the Communist Party, which came to power in a peasant revolution in 1949 and immediately collectivized farmland. State ownership of land is also a major source of government revenue. In areas near cities, local officials often rezone agricultural land and flip it to developers at a huge premium, sometimes setting off violent protests by residents who are left out.

Others see the system of political control of the countryside at stake. “The rural system they’ve had since the 1950s is based on the state ownership of land,” said Fred Gale, who writes an influential blog on China’s agricultural sector called Dim Sums. “If this unravels, then the bureaucrats would be at a loss as to how to manage the countryside.”

In Yangling, a district of 155,000 people that has been a center for agricultural sciences since the 1930s, several problems with the government’s attempt to sidestep privatization are apparent.

Because farmers do not own their land, they cannot sell it and get a large, lump sum payment that could be used to make a new start. Nor can they mortgage land for funds that could be reinvested in their farms or in other businesses.

Yang Tewang, a branch manager of the state-run Yangling Rural Commercial Bank, said he has made about $3 million in mortgage-style loans since the liuzhuan experiment began. But he said they were not true mortgages since the banks cannot repossess land if the farmer defaults — the state owns the land, not the farmer. As a result, Mr. Yang said he minimizes risk by lending only to large-scale vegetable and fruit farmers.

“The rest don’t pay,” he said. A grain farmer, for example, could never get a loan, he said.

Another problem has been figuring out how to set the rental fees that rural families collect if they transfer their land-use rights.

Yangling set up a land bank that took over land-use rights in an area of 36 square miles, then set an annual rental fee of at least $750 per acre of land. Farmers could choose between giving up their land and collecting that rent, or leasing their land back from the state and continuing to farm.

But the fees can distort the market. For example, they have discouraged production of grain, which does not sell for enough of a margin over the cost of renting the land. Grain pays only about $1,250 per acre, for an annual profit of about $500, said one resident, Li Haiwen.

“The more grain you plant,” he said, “the poorer you get.”

Mr. Li grows magnolia bushes used in traditional Chinese medicine instead. But he said farming is just a sideline for him. His main source of income is in professional landscaping. “I think our minds are opening up and we realize there are other ways to make money,” he said.

Exactly why rental prices are so high is open to debate. In some parts of China, rents are even higher than in Yangling, topping $1,200 per acre. By contrast, the average acre of farmland in the United States rented for $136 in 2013, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Some experts say the rental fees have been driven up by the same sort of speculation that has made apartments so exorbitantly expensive in Chinese cities. Even in a remote area like Yangling, an apartment of 1,000 square feet sells for $50,000, and in cities like Beijing the price can easily be 10 times that.

In recent months, banks like the China International Trust and Investment Corporation have been buying rural land-use rights at high prices. Li Ping, an agricultural expert at Landesa, a nongovernmental organization focused on rural issues, said he believed the purchases have been made with an eye toward rezoning land for housing or industrial use.

“It’s like the housing prices here being higher than in most parts of the U.S.,” Mr. Li said. “It’s not sustainable.”

One of the success stories in Yangling has been the case of Zhang Hongli, who took over 197 acres once farmed by three villages and pays about $150,000 per year in rental fees.

Mr. Yang, the banker, described it as a win-win exchange. Mr. Zhang uses the land to grow watermelons, which sell for a nice profit in Xi’an. Meanwhile, the families who gave up their land are collecting about $500 per year on average, and almost all received free apartments from the government as well.

Government planners hope that more farmers will be moved to the cities so the countryside gradually depopulates and ever-larger-scale farming takes over. For farmers with a job already lined up in the city, this system is attractive. But for people still wanting to work the land, like Zhou Yuansheng, 66, it is an example of how little say he has.

“The big decisions are made by the government,” he said. “No one asked me what I wanted to do with my land.”