Arquivo mensal: março 2011

>A dor da rejeição (Fapesp)

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Divulgação Científica
29/3/2011

Estudo indica que o sentimento de rejeição após o fim de um relacionamento amoroso e a dor física ao se machucar ativam as mesmas regiões no cérebro (reprodução)

Agência FAPESP – A dor da rejeição não é apenas uma figura de expressão ou de linguagem, mas algo tão real como a dor física. Segundo uma nova pesquisa, experiências intensas de rejeição social ativam as mesmas áreas no cérebro que atuam na resposta a experiências sensoriais dolorosas.

“Os resultados dão novo sentido à ideia de que a rejeição social ‘machuca’”, disse Ethan Kross, da Universidade de Michigan, que coordenou a pesquisa.

Os resultados do estudo serão publicados esta semana no site e em breve na edição impressa da revista Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“A princípio, derramar uma xícara de café quente em você mesmo ou pensar em uma pessoa com quem experimentou recentemente um rompimento inesperado parece que provocam tipos diferentes de dor, mas nosso estudo mostra que são mais semelhantes do que se pensava”, disse Kross.

Estudos anteriores indicaram que as mesmas regiões no cérebro apoiam os sentimentos emocionalmente estressantes que acompanham a experiência tando da dor física como da rejeição social.

A nova pesquisa destaca que há uma interrelação neural entre esses dois tipos de experiências em áreas do cérebro, uma parte em comum que se torna ativa quando uma pessoa experimenta sensações dolorosas, físicas ou não. Kross e colegas identificaram essas regiões: o córtex somatossensorial e a ínsula dorsal posterior.

Participaram do estudo 40 voluntários que haviam passado por um fim inesperado de relacionamento amoroso nos últimos seis meses e que disseram se sentir rejeitados por causa do ocorrido.

Cada participante completou duas tarefas, uma relacionada à sensação de rejeição e outra com respostas à dor física, enquanto tinham seus cérebros examinados por ressonância magnética funcional.

“Verificamos que fortes sensações induzidas de rejeição social ativam as mesmas regiões cerebrais envolvidas com a sensação de dor física, áreas que são raramente ativadas em estudos de neuroimagens de emoções”, disse Kross.

O artigo Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain (doi/10.1073/pnas.1102693108), de Ethan Kross e outros, poderá ser lido em breve por assinantes da PNAS em http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1102693108.

Anúncios

Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says (BBC)

2 March 2011 Last updated at 07:31 GMT

By Jason PalmerScience and technology reporter, BBC News, Dallas

A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.

The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.

The team’s mathematical model attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one.

The result, reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, indicates that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries.

The team took census data stretching back as far as a century from countries in which the census queried religious affiliation: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Their means of analysing the data invokes what is known as nonlinear dynamics – a mathematical approach that has been used to explain a wide range of physical phenomena in which a number of factors play a part.

One of the team, Daniel Abrams of Northwestern University, put forth a similar model in 2003 to put a numerical basis behind the decline of lesser-spoken world languages.

At its heart is the competition between speakers of different languages, and the “utility” of speaking one instead of another.

“The idea is pretty simple,” said Richard Wiener of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, and the University of Arizona.

“It posits that social groups that have more members are going to be more attractive to join, and it posits that social groups have a social status or utility.

“For example in languages, there can be greater utility or status in speaking Spanish instead of [the dying language] Quechuan in Peru, and similarly there’s some kind of status or utility in being a member of a religion or not.”

Dr Wiener continued: “In a large number of modern secular democracies, there’s been a trend that folk are identifying themselves as non-affiliated with religion; in the Netherlands the number was 40%, and the highest we saw was in the Czech Republic, where the number was 60%.”

The team then applied their nonlinear dynamics model, adjusting parameters for the relative social and utilitarian merits of membership of the “non-religious” category.

They found, in a study published online, that those parameters were similar across all the countries studied, suggesting that similar behaviour drives the mathematics in all of them.

And in all the countries, the indications were that religion was headed toward extinction.

However, Dr Wiener told the conference that the team was working to update the model with a “network structure” more representative of the one at work in the world.

“Obviously we don’t really believe this is the network structure of a modern society, where each person is influenced equally by all the other people in society,” he said.

However, he told BBC News that he thought it was “a suggestive result”.

“It’s interesting that a fairly simple model captures the data, and if those simple ideas are correct, it suggests where this might be going.

“Obviously much more complicated things are going on with any one individual, but maybe a lot of that averages out.”

 

21 March 2011 Last updated at 03:59 GMT

Two-thirds of Britons not religious, suggests survey

By John McManusBBC News

Nearly two-thirds of people do not regard themselves as “religious”, a new survey carried out to coincide with the 2011 Census suggests.

The British Humanist Association (BHA), which commissioned the poll, said people often identified themselves as religious for cultural reasons.

The online poll asked 1,900 adults in England and Wales a question which is on this month’s census form.

The Office for National Statistics has defended the wording of the census.

While 61% of the poll’s respondents said they did belong to a religion, 65% of those surveyed answered “no” to the further question: “Are you religious?”

Two surveys were commissioned, one covering England and Wales, and the other for Scotland. The Scottish survey was commissioned by the Humanist Society of Scotland.

South of the border, 61% of respondents said they did have a religion.

But only 29% also said they were religious, while 65% said they were not.

This poll is further evidence… that the data produced by the census, used by local and national government as if it indicates religious belief and belonging, is in fact highly misleading”

Andrew CopsonBritish Humanist Association

Among respondents who identified themselves as Christian, fewer than half said they believed Jesus Christ was a real person who died, came back to life and was the son of God.

Another 27% said they did not believe that at all, while 25% were unsure.

In Scotland, 42% of respondents said they did not belong to a religion, yet in a further question “Are you religious?” 56% answered “no”.

The BHA has complained the wording of the optional census question about religion encourages people to wrongly identify themselves as believers.

In the last census in 2001, 72% of people were classed as Christians – a figure which is much higher than other surveys.

The BHA believes people might tick “yes” to the census question on religion for reasons of cultural identity.

The chief executive of the BHA, Andrew Copson, is running a national campaign encouraging non-religious people to state their unbelief clearly on their census forms.

He said: “This poll is further evidence for a key message of the Census Campaign – that the data produced by the census, used by local and national government as if it indicates religious belief and belonging, is in fact highly misleading.

Religious affiliation

The humanists say data which might indicate a greater amount of religious belief than actually exists, is being used to justify faith schools, and the continuing presence of Anglican bishops in the House of Lords.

The Office for National Statistics has defended the wording of the religion question.

A spokesman told the BBC: “The religion question measures the number of people who self-identify an affiliation with a religion, irrespective of the extent of their religious belief or practice.”

The think tank Theos, which undertakes research into religious matters, says attempting to measure cultural affiliation to religion – rather than actual, regular practice – is a good idea, as it shows the broad values society shares.

It also disputes the BHA’s assertion that the collected data is used for political purposes.

 

Singularidade brasileira (Fapesp)

Especiais

24/3/2011

Por Fábio de CastroAgência FAPESP – O português falado no Brasil tem certas propriedades sintáticas que não se encontram no português europeu, nem em outros idiomas. Durante mais de quatro anos, um grupo de pesquisadores se dedicou a analisar o conhecimento já reunido sobre essas propriedades, a fim de discuti-lo sob a perspectiva do mais novo paradigma da pesquisa linguística: o chamado Programa Minimalista.

Concluído no fim de fevereiro, o Projeto Temático Sintaxe gerativa do português brasileiro na entrada do século 21: Minimalismo e Interfaces, financiado pela FAPESP, foi coordenado por Jairo Nunes, professor da Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH) da Universidade de São Paulo (USP).

De acordo com Nunes, o principal resultado do projeto foi o livro Minimalist Essays on Brazilian Portuguese Syntax (“Ensaios minimalistas sobre a sintaxe do português brasileiro”), lançado em 2009, que reúne dez artigos produzidos por seus participantes.

“O objetivo central do projeto consistiu em capitalizar o conhecimento já adquirido sobre as propriedades sintáticas distintivas do português brasileiro e discuti-lo à luz do Programa Minimalista, descobrindo em que medida essas propriedades podiam ser explicadas na sua interface com outros componentes da gramática”, disse à Agência FAPESP.

O Programa Minimalista foi estabelecido a partir de 1995 pelo linguista Noam Chomsky, do Instituto de Tecnologia de Massachusetts (MIT), nos Estados Unidos, derivado da Teoria de Princípios e Parâmetros, formulada pelo mesmo autor na década de 1980 a partir de uma tradição linguística iniciada em meados do século 20.

A Teoria de Princípios e Parâmetros estabeleceu a ideia de que há um componente inato, biologicamente fundamentado, na predisposição humana a aprender uma língua, e que todas as produções linguísticas seguiriam uma “gramática universal”, comum a todos os seres humanos.

“Descobriu-se então que o conhecimento linguístico se organiza em termos de princípios – propriedades invariáveis de todas as línguas – e parâmetros, que são os padrões e opções que codificam feixes dessas propriedades. A tarefa de uma criança que aprende uma língua seria, portanto, estabelecer os valores desses parâmetros”, explicou Nunes.

O Programa Minimalista tem a proposta de não apenas investigar quais são as propriedades da faculdade da linguagem e seu papel na aquisição de uma língua natural, mas também tentar explicar por que a faculdade da linguagem tem exatamente essas e não outras propriedades.

Por estabelecer um fundo comum entre todos os idiomas, o novo paradigma da Teoria de Princípios e Parâmetros, de acordo com Nunes, possibilitou a comparação detalhada entre as línguas mais variadas, em diversos estágios de desenvolvimento.

“Isso desencadeou uma gigantesca explosão de conhecimento no domínio da linguística. Não é nenhum exagero dizer que, a partir da década de 1980, aprendemos mais sobre a língua humana que em todos os séculos anteriores”, afirmou.

De acordo com Nunes, desde então houve uma grande profusão de trabalhos sobre o português brasileiro, que mostraram que a língua falada no Brasil possui uma gramática muito especial em relação ao português europeu e às outras línguas românicas.

“A partir da década de 1980, a pergunta que orientava as pesquisas era: quais são e como se organizam as propriedades das línguas humanas? No Projeto Temático, procuramos redimensionar esse conhecimento acumulado à luz dos novos avanços conquistados pelo Programa Minimalista. A pergunta central passou então a ser: por que as propriedades se organizam da maneira que se observa?”, disse.

Sujeito nulo

Um dos tópicos centrais na discussão feita sobre o português brasileiro, segundo Nunes, é a questão do chamado “sujeito nulo”, conhecido na gramática tradicional como “sujeito oculto”.

“Quando comparado ao sujeito nulo do português europeu, ou das outras línguas românicas, o sujeito nulo do português brasileiro é muito singular. O uso que fazemos do sujeito nulo é mais parecido com as construções infinitivas do inglês, ou as formas subjuntivas das línguas balcânicas, por exemplo”, disse.

O impacto dessa característica singular é muito grande, já que o tipo de sujeito nulo encontrado no português brasileiro simplesmente não deveria existir.

“Na medida em que as nossas pesquisas demonstraram que essa possibilidade teórica existe, propusemos que boa parte do modelo de análise linguística deverá ser reformulada, a fim de incorporar esses dados relativos ao português brasileiro”, disse o professor da FFLCH-USP.

A proposta de reformulação foi reportada no livro Control as movement, publicado em 2010 pela Cambridge Press University, de autoria de Nunes, Cedric Boeckx, da Universidade Autônoma de Barcelona (Espanha), e Norbert Hornstein, da Universidade de Maryland (Estados Unidos).

“Boa parte da discussão procura retomar os dados sobre o sujeito nulo. Mostramos como o modelo teórico terá que ser modificado em função das novas descobertas nesse campo”, afirmou.

Tanto o português brasileiro como o lusitano permitem o sujeito nulo, segundo Nunes. Mas, quando se observam os usos específicos, percebe-se que essa estrutura recebe um sentido bem diferente na língua falada no Brasil. “Uma das hipóteses que levantamos para explicar isso se relaciona com o enfraquecimento da concordância verbal e nominal no português brasileiro”, disse.

A previsão que se fazia antes das descobertas era de que não deveria haver línguas com o sujeito nulo em orações indicativas, com uma série de propriedades associadas com o que chamamos de movimento sintático.

“Imaginava-se que essa seria uma das propriedades universais: nenhuma língua teria esse tipo de sujeito. Mas mostramos que ele é encontrado no português brasileiro. Portanto, não é uma propriedade universal. O novo modelo terá que explicar não apenas a característica do nosso português, mas também precisará explicar por que essa ocorrência é tão rara”, afirmou.

A interpretação da frase “o João acha que a mãe do Pedro disse que vai viajar”, segundo Nunes, é clara para o brasileiro: a mãe é o sujeito de “vai viajar”, que está oculto. “Mas, para as outras línguas, se a frase for construída dessa forma, não fica claro se quem vai viajar é a mãe, o Pedro, ou o João. A interpretação nesse caso é muito difícil para quem não é brasileiro”, apontou.

Por outro lado, na frase “Maria disse que a médica acha que está grávida”, a interpretação para os brasileiros é que se torna difícil. “Soa muito estranho para nós. Dá a impressão de que a médica está grávida. Para o português europeu, não há nenhuma dúvida: quem está grávida é a Maria”, explicou.

Para uma sentença como “o João é difícil de elogiar”, o português brasileiro admite dois significados. Mas no português europeu, o significado está claro: “é difícil elogiar o João”. “Em alguns casos vamos ter mais possibilidades interpretativas no português brasileiro, em outros, no português europeu”, disse Nunes.

Outro tópico explorado no Projeto Temático no tema do sujeito nulo se refere a frases comuns no português brasileiro coloquial, como “eles parecem que vão viajar”.

“Isso é completamente impossível no português europeu. É algo que só se explica pelo que chamamos de ‘movimento’. Mas basta um deslocamento do pronome para que a frase se torne compreensível em Portugal: ‘parece que eles vão viajar’”, disse.

O movimento pode envolver expressões idiomáticas do português brasileiro, configurando um tipo de sentença que se tornaria ainda mais incompreensível em outras línguas.

“Podemos dizer ‘a vaca parece que foi para o brejo’. Isso é impossível em outra língua, ou no português europeu. O sujeito nulo só pode ser usado dessa forma no português brasileiro graças à ação de um feixe de propriedades diferentes”, disse Nunes.

 

>Risco de falta de água em 55% dos municípios (O Globo, JC)

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JC e-mail 4222, de 22 de Março de 2011.

Segundo estudo da Agência Nacional das Águas (ANA), País precisa investir R$ 22,2 bilhões em captação e coleta até 2015.

Um dos países com a maior quantidade de água do mundo – dono da maior bacia hidrográfica do planeta -, o Brasil pode enfrentar problemas de abastecimento, segundo diagnóstico inédito da Agência Nacional das Águas (ANA) no Atlas Brasil, documento divulgado hoje (22). Trata-se de mais um gargalo ao desenvolvimento econômico que vai se formando sem fazer estardalhaço.

Se o País não investir R$ 22,2 bilhões nos sistemas de captação e coleta de água até 2015, pode faltar água em 55% dos municípios, ou 3.059 do total. O Rio está entre os grandes centros metropolitanos mais afetados se nada for feito.

Especialistas da ANA garantem que a ameaça pode prejudicar os investimentos para a organização da Copa em 2014 e para os Jogos Olímpicos em 2016.

– A indústria aduz água diretamente do rio. Hotéis e serviços em geral precisam de água da torneira, assim como empresas de menor porte pelas companhias de saneamento – disse um integrante do governo.

Cidades em risco são 73% da demanda de água do País

A abundância de água no País – o Brasil detém, hoje, 12% da água doce do planeta – acaba por mascarar uma situação grave que vai se desenhando para o futuro próximo.

Segundo o estudo, os municípios que correm o risco de desabastecimento até 2015 representam nada menos que 73% da demanda de água do País inteiro. Desse universo, 84% das chamadas sedes urbanas precisam de investimentos para adequar seus sistemas produtores e 16% apresentam déficits decorrentes dos mananciais utilizados.

O estudo da ANA confirma as disparidades nacional e mostra que, embora o País tenha água, é preciso levá-la a todos. Segundo dados do IBGE, o abastecimento não chega a 21,5% das casas brasileiras ou 12,4 milhões de residências.

– O País tem água, os mananciais estão identificados. Só 16% não dão conta do recado. É preciso explorar as potencialidades do País e reduzir as deficiências – disse uma fonte da ANA.

O Norte e o Nordeste são as regiões com as maiores necessidades de recursos em sistemas produtores de água (mais de 59% das cidades). O relatório da ANA destaca a precariedade dos pequenos sistemas de abastecimento do Norte – onde há uma população menor, mas infraestrutura hídrica deficiente -, a escassez hídrica da porção semiárida e a baixa disponibilidade de água das bacias hidrográficas litorâneas do Nordeste.

Na região Sudeste, os maiores problemas estão relacionados à forte concentração urbana e à complexidade dos sistemas produtores de abastecimento. Isso acaba provocando disputas pelas mesmas fontes hídricas. A capacidade total dos sistemas produtores instalados e em operação no País é de cerca de 587m3/s. O valor está bem próximo das demandas máximas atuais (em torno de 543m3/s), o que significa que grande parte das unidades já está no limite da capacidade operacional.

Para 2025, a demanda está prevista em 630m3/s. O Atlas Brasil indica que o Sudeste
detém 51% da capacidade instalada de produção de água do País. Em seguida, vem Nordeste (21%), Sul (15%), Norte (7%) e Centro-Oeste (6%).

A maior parcela dos investimentos (R$ 16,5 bilhões ou 74% do montante) deve ser destinada a 2.076 municípios de Sudeste e Nordeste, em função do maior número de aglomerados urbanos e da existência da região semiárida. Os estados de São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Bahia e Pernambuco, juntos, reúnem aproximadamente 51% dos investimentos previstos no Atlas em apenas 730 cidades.

Nos grandes centros urbanos, a necessidade de buscar mananciais cada vez mais distantes e os investimentos em obras de regularização evidenciam a pressão sobre os recursos hídricos locais, como é o caso de São Paulo, Curitiba, Goiânia, Distrito Federal e Fortaleza.

A diminuição gradativa do aproveitamento de águas subterrâneas também é responsável por grandes investimentos em novos mananciais, principalmente em capitais do Nordeste e do Norte.
(O Globo)

>Seminário comemora o Dia Meteorológico Mundial

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JC e-mail 4222, de 22 de Março de 2011.

Palestras abordam mudanças climáticas, avanços tecnológicos na meteorologia e gerenciamento de risco de desastres.

O Instituto Nacional de Meteorologia (Inmet) realizará amanhã (23), em sua sede, em Brasília, o seminário Clima para Você, tema definido na 61ª Seção do Conselho Executivo da Organização Meteorológica Mundial (OMM) para as celebrações do Dia Meteorológico Mundial. Cinco palestras tratarão de temas da maior relevância no momento atual como mudanças climáticas, avanços tecnológicos na meteorologia e gerenciamento de risco de desastres naturais.

A data comemora a criação da OMM, em 1950, como uma agência especializada das Nações Unidas (ONU) que trata de três elementos fundamentais para o homem: o Clima, o Tempo e a Água.

O secretário geral da OMM, Michel Jarraud, em mensagem dirigida aos 189 países membros da Organização pelo Dia Meteorológico Mundial, disse que as atividades da OMM relacionadas ao clima são vistas hoje como fundamentais à segurança e bem-estar humanos e à consecução de benefícios econômicos para todas as nações.

Antonio Divino Moura, diretor do Inmet e terceiro vice-presidente da OMM, diz que o “o tema Clima e o Homem estão profundamente interligados. Há uma relação de reciprocidade entre eles: um afeta o outro. O modo de viver do homem tropical e do homem de latitudes médias e polares está diretamente relacionado ao clima. Por outro lado, o homem pode alterar o clima com ações que mudam elementos da natureza, como a queima de combustíveis fósseis; consequentemente, o clima reage. Hoje, com certo domínio tecnológico em escala planetária, o homem altera seu clima e sofre suas consequências.”
(Ascom Inmet)

>Comitê debate recursos para Sistema de Alerta de Desastres Naturais (JC, FSP, VE, MCT)

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JC e-mail 4220, de 18 de Março de 2011

Fundo do clima vai bancar nova rede contra catástrofe natural

Neste ano, sistema de alerta receberá R$ 10 milhões dessa fonte de financiamento.

O sistema nacional de alerta contra catástrofes naturais será bancado neste ano por R$ 10 milhões do Fundo Nacional sobre Mudança do Clima. A decisão foi anunciada ontem em Brasília.

Principal anúncio do início da gestão de Aloizio Mercadante no Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia, a criação de um sistema que possa evitar tragédias como a de janeiro na região serrana do Rio esbarrou nos cortes orçamentários do governo.

A saída foi pedir financiamento para o início da montagem do sistema ao fundo gerenciado pelo MMA (Ministério do Meio Ambiente). Afinal, raciocina o ministério, trata-se de uma ação de adaptação às mudanças climáticas, uma das linhas principais do fundo.

Neste ano, o Fundo Clima deverá investir R$ 229 milhões em ações como combate à desertificação e redução de emissões de carbono. Desse total, R$ 200 milhões serão disponibilizados pelo BNDES na forma de empréstimos com juros mais baixos que a inflação.

Na mira do secretário nacional de Mudança Climática, Eduardo Assad, estão linhas de crédito para substituição de ônibus a diesel por biodiesel e a expansão das placas solares para aquecimento de água, além do estímulo ao desenvolvimento de paineis fotovoltaicos. “A gente sempre ouve o argumento de que é muito caro, então vamos dar dinheiro para pesquisa, para ficar barato”, afirmou Assad.
(Folha de São Paulo)

Sistema antidesastres começa a operar este ano com verba de R$ 11 milhões

A operação integral do sistema, prevista para ocorrer em quatro anos, exigirá investimentos muito superiores ao inicial.

O Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia (MCT) prevê um investimento de R$ 10,9 milhões este ano para dar início, em novembro, à operação do Sistema de Monitoramento e Alertas de Desastres Naturais, lançado em janeiro pelo governo federal. A operação integral do sistema, prevista para ocorrer em quatro anos, exigirá investimentos muito superiores ao inicial, mas que ainda se encontram em fase de detalhamento, segundo informou o climatologista Carlos Nobre, secretário de Políticas e Programas de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento do MCT.

A expectativa do governo, segundo Nobre, é que as melhorias, que serão implementadas na capacidade de observação e de monitoramento de fenômenos climáticos e meteorológicos extremos e, principalmente, na capacidade de dar alertas sobre riscos de deslizamentos e de inundações, contribuam para uma redução de 80% do número de vítimas dos desastres naturais para áreas cobertas pelo sistema e com levantamentos detalhados de vulnerabilidades. “Para o restante do Brasil, estima-se uma redução de 50% do número de vítimas e, em dez anos, para menos de 20% em relação aos números atuais”, explicou Nobre.

O aprimoramento da rede de observação existente hoje, de acordo com o secretário do MCT, contempla a expansão da rede de Plataformas de Coleta de Dados Ambientais (PCDs). Atualmente, existe um total de 854 PCDs espalhadas pelo território nacional, mas 271 estão sem transmissão e outras 22 foram desativadas. O sistema utilizará todas as redes de dados meteorológicos existentes, como as quase 500 estações automáticas do Instituto Nacional de Meteorologia (Inmet).

As PCDs fazem a coleta diária de informações meteorológicas (temperatura, pressão, direção e velocidade do vento, umidades) em territórios de difícil acesso e no mar. Essas informações são utilizadas nos modelos computacionais de previsão do tempo e permitem o acompanhamento, em tempo quase real, das condições ambientais.

Também está prevista a instalação de cerca de 700 pluviômetros em áreas de risco, escolas, igrejas e órgãos públicos, para serem operados pelas comunidades e com informações enviadas para centros de controle, via telefonia celular.

A rede de radares meteorológicos existente hoje também será ampliada, segundo Nobre, com a aquisição de 15 equipamentos em parcerias com Estados, que estarão integrados com os atuais radares, permitindo um monitoramento mais adequado de chuvas, em tempo real, para áreas de risco.

O novo sistema de alerta propõe ainda a instalação de um radar meteorológico no Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe), de Cachoeira Paulista, onde já está operando o novo supercomputador Tupã.

“Além de complementar a rede nacional de radares, este equipamento permitirá o avanço de pesquisas sobre meteorologia por radares. Essa capacitação poderá ser usada nos cursos de pós-graduação do Inpe e no treinamento de pesquisadores e técnicos em meteorologia por radares”, disse.

O governo também pretende, no curto prazo, fazer um levantamento dos municípios com mapeamento geomorfológico detalhado de áreas de risco em encostas e de áreas sujeitas a inundações. O secretário do MCT ressalta que a confiabilidade dos alertas de risco e de ações de prevenção de desastres naturais dependem da existência de sistemas e de tecnologias de observação e monitoramento em tempo real.

“As previsões atuais de riscos de deslizamentos em encostas e de vazões em bacias hidrológicas ainda se encontram na infância, a não ser para poucos municípios como Rio de Janeiro e São Paulo, por exemplo”, diz o meteorologista.

A sede do sistema que, provavelmente, será instalada no campus do Inpe, em Cachoeira Paulista (SP), vai abrigar, até novembro deste ano, uma equipe de 30 profissionais, que vão trabalhar 24 horas por dia, todos os dias do ano. A vantagem de a sede ficar no Inpe, segundo já havia explicado o ministro da Ciência e Tecnologia, Aloizio Mercadante, é que ali já existe toda uma infraestrutura logística, com supercomputadores de última geração, sistema de fibra óptica e técnicos altamente qualificados, o que reduziria grande parte dos custos de montagem do sistema.

Além de uma rede integrada de radares meteorológicos e pluviômetros, o MCT também coloca como prioridade para o novo sistema, o lançamento de uma constelação de satélites de monitoramento de precipitações, que está sendo feita com a Nasa e a Agência Espacial Japonesa.

A médio prazo, diz o secretário Carlos Nobre, o objetivo do governo é contar com um satélite geoestacionário próprio para monitoramento ambiental e meteorológico. Também está prevista a modernização dos componentes do sistema de coleta de dados das PCDs, que recebe informações do satélite SCD-1 e SCD-2, ambos com vida útil vencida há mais de dez anos e operando de forma degradada.

O MCT avalia ainda a possibilidade de desenvolvimento de um sistema de coleta de dados novo, pela indústria nacional, para ser embarcado no satélite científico Lattes. O satélite está sendo desenvolvido pelo Inpe e tem lançamento previsto entre os anos de 2014 e 2015.
(Valor Econômico)

Comitê debate recursos para Sistema de Alerta de Desastres Naturais

Estão previstos R$ 238 milhões de investimentos em projetos para a redução dos impactos consequentes das alterações da temperatura global, em linhas de crédito para projetos do setor público e privado.

O secretário de Políticas e Programas de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento do Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia (Seped/MCT), Carlos Nobre, participou nesta quinta-feira (17) da 2ª Reunião Ordinária do Fundo Nacional sobre Mudança do Clima (Fundo Clima), na sede da Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Embrapa), em Brasília.

No encontro, foram discutidos o plano anual para aplicação de recursos e o regimento interno do fundo. Estão previstos R$ 238 milhões de investimentos em projetos para a redução dos impactos consequentes das alterações da temperatura global, em linhas de crédito para projetos do setor público e privado. Participaram da reunião o secretário-executivo do Ministério do Meio Ambiente (MMA), Francisco Gaetani, que é o presidente do comitê gestor do Fundo, e o secretário de Mudanças Climáticas e Qualidade Ambiental do MMA, Eduardo Assad.

Entre os recursos, está previsto um financiamento inicial de R$ 10 milhões para o Sistema Nacional de Prevenção e Alerta de Desastres Naturais, programa do Governo Federal que tem coordenação do MCT. A previsão é de que o sistema funcionará plenamente em quatro anos. O sistema antecipará informações sobre possíveis desastres naturais relacionados à seca e outras catástrofes, como deslizamentos de terra e inundações. Os dados das áreas de risco mais críticas já devem estar disponíveis no próximo verão.

O Fundo Clima é um dos principais instrumentos de promoção e financiamento de atividades vinculadas à Política Nacional sobre Mudança do Clima. O Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES) vai dispor R$ 204 milhões em linhas de crédito para projetos do setor público e privado. Também serão destinados R$ 34 milhões pelo MMA para iniciativas públicas, com recursos não-reembolsáveis.

A destinação dos recursos terá foco na educação, ciência, adaptação da sociedade aos impactos, redução de gases do efeito estufa, redução das emissões de carbono por desmatamento, difusão de tecnologias para diminuir os gases na atmosfera, formulação de políticas públicas e apoio a cadeias produtivas sustentáveis. O MMA é responsável pela formulação da proposta orçamentária anual e do plano anual de aplicação financeira.
(Assessoria de Comunicação do MCT)

>Palocci tentará melhorar o clima (JC, O Globo)

>
Ministro assume comando da política de mudanças climáticas para pôr fim a divergências.

JC e-mail 4218, de 16 de Março de 2011.

O chefe da Casa Civil, Antonio Palocci, assumiu o comando da pauta que vem ganhando mais destaque na área ambiental do governo: a política de mudanças climáticas, que, desde 2009, com a cúpula de Copenhague, rende ao Brasil prestígio internacional. A mudança de rumo no governo gerou inquietação nos dois principais ministérios que cuidam do tema: Meio Ambiente (MMA) e Ciência e Tecnologia (MCT). Ontem, foi efetivada a primeira baixa no Meio Ambiente, com a saída da secretária nacional de Mudanças Climáticas, Branca Americano, a ser substituída pelo pesquisador Eduardo Assad, da Embrapa.

Segundo a ministra do Meio Ambiente, Izabella Teixeira, que falou ontem a empresários e técnicos de governos estaduais, a ideia é acabar com as constantes divergências que a agenda climática causava entre os ministérios e obter sintonia. Visões conflitantes na Esplanada já causaram brigas e constrangimentos.

– Com a Rio+20, temos que tratar questões ambientais de forma diferente da que vínhamos tratando. Temos que ter uma estrutura de governança diferente. A mudança climática é o carro-chefe dessa discussão. Estamos trabalhando o melhor formato com o
MCT e a Casa Civil sob um novo modelo de governança da agenda de clima, a pedido da Casa Civil e do ministro Palocci. A Casa Civil, sendo o maestro, e o MCT e o MMA, os outros dois pés. Queremos acabar com as ilhas, para que haja convergência com a
agenda nacional – disse Izabella.

Departamento agregará temas

No MMA, a secretaria será transformada num super departamento, que deverá se chamar Secretaria do Clima, que agregará novos temas, como políticas de combate ao desmatamento, conservação de biodiversidade e gestão de florestas e recursos hídricos.

Na gestão do ministro do Meio Ambiente Carlos Minc, em 2009, o MMA teve problemas com o Itamaraty e o MCT. Minc pressionava para que o Brasil tivesse metas de redução de gases, e as outras duas pastas defendiam posição mais conservadora. Nas áreas que serão incorporadas pela nova secretaria, funcionários reclamam que Izabella não consultou os principais afetados sobre os novos rumos que seus trabalhos devem tomar.

Na Ciência e Tecnologia, técnicos que trabalham com mudança do clima resistem à proposta de reestruturação promovida com a nomeação do pesquisador Carlos Nobre para a Secretaria de Políticas e Programas de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento. Para a conferência que acontecerá em Bangcoc, em abril, uma das preparatórias para o encontro anual da ONU, o MCT ainda não tem uma equipe formada para enviar. Uma das mudanças já anunciadas por Nobre atinge a menina dos olhos do ministério nesse setor: o Mecanismo de Desenvolvimento Limpo (MDL), que credencia projetos que reduzem emissões a receber créditos que podem ser negociados no mercado de carbono.

A guinada responde a uma das principais críticas feitas por elaboradores de projetos que reduzem emissões: a de que o processo de aceitação dessas propostas é excessivamente
burocrático.

– Vamos ter um novo olhar sobre o MDL. Vamos flexibilizar regras e torná-lo mais ágil. O Brasil tem condições de liderar, junto com a Escandinávia e a Alemanha, a transição para uma economia de baixo carbono – apontou o secretário.

Para o pesquisador do Instituto do Homem e Meio Ambiente da Amazônia (Imazon) Adalberto Veríssimo, a decisão do governo de pôr a Casa Civil na coordenação da política climática do governo é uma boa notícia. Ele argumenta que o aquecimento global é um problema que atravessa diferentes áreas temáticas e, por isso, deve estar no topo da hierarquia do Executivo.

– A coordenação de Palocci sobre as mudanças climáticas está correta. Esse é um assunto transversal, que interessa a várias áreas, como Minas e Energia, Transporte e Agricultura. É uma tarefa que vai precisar de equilíbrio. O aquecimento global é um dos pilares da discussão desta década. Colocá-lo na Casa Civil é sinal de que o Brasil quer continuar avançando na área – disse.

Sobre as mudanças nos ministérios, Veríssimo disse que a entrada de Nobre “oxigena” o debate dentro do MCT, que, segundo ele, contava com quadros retrógrados.

– Senti o MCT e o MMA falando a mesma língua. Foi a primeira vez que vi isso acontecer – disse Veríssimo.

Marina faz críticas a licenciamentos

A ex-senadora Marina Silva (PV) criticou ontem a ideia do governo federal de flexibilizar a concessão de licenciamentos ambientais para acelerar obras de infraestrutura. Ela falou antes de saber que Palocci cuidará da agenda climática.

– Vejo com preocupação essa história de mudar o processo de licenciamento ambiental. Acho que qualquer mudança dessa natureza, no sentido de flexibilizar, só vai agravar os problemas que estamos vivendo. O licenciamento tem um papel importante para reduzir e minimizar o impacto ambiental de uma obra – disse a candidata derrotada a presidente, após participar de aula magna do curso de pós-graduação do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe), em São José dos Campos.

As propostas do governo serão implementadas por decretos que regularão o licenciamento de rodovias, portos, linhas de transmissão de energia elétrica, hidrovias e obras de exploração de petróleo do pré-sal.
(O Globo)

>Um novo furacão no Brasil (JC, O Globo)

>
Inmet, Marinha e Inpe divergem sobre tempestade Arani, que atinge litoral.

JC e-mail 4218, de 16 de Março de 2011.

Um fenômeno climático que tem provocado chuva intensa do Norte Fluminense ao sul da Bahia divide os principais órgãos meteorológicos do país. O Instituto Nacional de Meteorologia (Inmet) chama o Arani, como foi batizado, de furacão. Em um alerta especial, ressaltou a ocorrência de ventos de até 120 km/h sobre o Oceano Atlântico.

O diagnóstico, porém, não é compartilhado pela Marinha do Brasil, que define o mesmo fenômeno como tempestade subtropical – uma escala de gravidade abaixo -, nem pelo Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe), que afirma tratar-se de uma depressão tropical – outro degrau abaixo no nível de periculosidade.

Fenômeno se afasta da costa brasileira

O Arani (“tempo furioso”, em tupi) se formou pela conjunção de água e ar quentes em uma área de forte instabilidade próxima à costa do Espírito Santo. Esse sistema provocou uma circulação ciclônica de ventos, além de grandes volumes de chuva naquele estado. O perigo não foi maior porque a formação está sobre alto-mar e, nos próximos dois dias, deve se dirigir para sudeste, afastando-se ainda mais do litoral brasileiro.

De acordo com o Inmet, o Arani ganhou mais força quando se afastou do litoral, adquirindo as características de um furacão híbrido. Trata-se de uma formação diferente das que costumam devastar o Caribe e o Atlântico Norte, pois, em vez de um sistema independente, que se alimenta do aquecimento das águas do mar, está associado a um ciclone, originado de uma frente fria.

O furacão está a 110 quilômetros da costa brasileira e só representa ameaça a embarcações e aviões que sobrevoem a região do Cabo de São Tomé, litoral do Rio, que está em sua rota para o oceano. Nos próximos dias, o Arani deve atingir águas internacionais, e o monitoramento caberá à África do Sul.

O Inmet classificou o fenômeno com a ajuda de órgãos americanos de monitoramento de furacões. De acordo com a meteorologista Morgana Almeida, da equipe do instituto, não há risco de o movimento atual do fenômeno se inverter, trazendo prejuízos ao continente. O instituto alertou autoridades da Marinha, que tomaram providências para evitar o tráfego na área atingida pelos fortes ventos.

Mas o próprio Serviço Meteorológico da Marinha classifica o Arani de outra forma. O órgão identificou rajadas de, no máximo, 80 km/h. Há grande precipitação em alto-mar, mas as ondas provocadas por elas, de 3 a 4 metros, têm o mesmo tamanho daquelas formadas por uma frente fria.

– Formações como essa não são comuns, mas podem ocorrer no verão – ressalta a meteorologista Caroline Vidal Ferreira da Guia, do Inpe. – O Arani tem força para provocar transtornos à população, mas, segundo nossas medições, não chega a ser um furacão.
(O Globo)

>The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy

>The following is an excerpt from The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy, by Lisa Dodson (Copyright © 2009 by Lisa Dodson). Published by The New Press. Reprinted here with permission.

Roots of Disobedience

On the surface, the people I met who practiced economic disobedience would seem quite diverse. They included middle-aged, white Bea, managing that big-box store in rural New England and thinking that after years of hard work, you should be able to buy a prom dress for your daughter. They included Ned, white and in his thirties, the chain grocery store manager who thought working families should have enough to eat. And also Ray, in his fifties and the son of immigrants, a community-center director for a small city, who doesn’t ask for a “pedigree” before signing people up for desperately needed services. They included Aida, a Latina in her thirties, the director of a child care center, who misplaced paperwork so that children wouldn’t lose child care and parents wouldn’t lose jobs. And they included urban teacher Lenora, in her twenties and African American, who broke school rules all the time to help out a student in her class.

These and dozens of other disobedient people identified themselves as all over the nation’s social map. They were younger and older; from the West, Midwest, and East; they were Latino, black, and white; religious and not; and ranged from barely middle-income to quite wealthy. And they did not—for the most part—use words like “resistance” or “civil disobedience.” Yet they took action based on a belief in their responsibility for what was happening to people around them.

The most common explanation given for breaking institutional rules was an identification with the plight of others. As Dr. Leticia put it, “There was something… that haunted me… maybe reminded me of me.” It was particularly common for women to talk about putting themselves in other mothers’ shoes and reflect on what it would be like to have to leave their children all alone. But this was also said by numerous men who described their feelings of protectiveness and concern for children. What would it be like to be unable to keep their children safe or fed? Employers, doctors, job supervisors, executives, teachers, small business owners, and others—over and above their work identity—reflected that as a parent, you know that you put your children before anything, before regulations or laws. Protecting children from harm trumps everything else.

Intriguingly, this idea was also shared by childless people who expressed a sense of responsibility for children’s vulnerability that reached beyond genetic ties. They included childless Cora, who allowed children into the workplace, tried to get them homework help, and wrote up fantasy work schedules each week—all against the rules of the large franchise she ran—to help mothers take care of their kids. Hospital VP Linda treated people working for her like fictive kin and, from that angle, treated breaking rules as morally obligatory, worth risking her job to do.

These moral choices reflect the idea that concern about the well-being of other people is hardwired into humanity. Steven Pinker, an evolutionary neurobiologist, describes “moral instincts” as shared human senses that include an aversion to harming others and also a universal belief in basic fairness. Deborah Stone, a political science ethicist, examines how altruism is an essential, if invisible, part of daily life found in families, in community life, and at work.

Sarah Hardy, an evolutionary anthropologist focusing on maternal care, argues that the survival of offspring in human evolution required “extra” parents—she calls them “alloparents”—who provided protection, care, and resources not only to blood-kin young but to others too, who were treated as kin. And the sociologist Patricia Hill Collins examines how “othermothers” are critical to family survival where families are struggling, particularly in African American, ethnic minority, and low-income families that do not have the income that middle-income families rely on.

The idea of collective responsibility for all children comes up in many different strands of human study. But it was also foundational to moral tensions that helped shape the nation when business interests and the well-being of people were at odds. Time and again market interests were argued—by those most profiting from them—as necessarily outweighing the good of the “little people,” even little children. The nineteenth-century debate about child labor reflects this tension precisely. As mill owners, who profited greatly from hiring small, nimble hands and paying small wages, put it back in the nineteenth century: “We all think that mills should run not over eleven hours a day and avoid, if possible, taking children under twelve but deem legislation on the subject bad policy; let the employer and employee settle these things, this is a free country after all.”

Freedom, of course, was an unregulated market that could use workers as desired, including children. But a growing awareness of child labor was disturbing, and not only to parents and labor rights advocates. Middle-class people took up the cause of working-class families even though their own children would never be subjected to such conditions. As Charles J. Bonaparte, presiding officer of the National Child Labor Committee, put it in a speech in 1905, “All right minded fathers and mothers want their own children to have every advantage in life, and all right minded men and women broaden out this feeling to take in all children.”

These child labor activists challenged all adults of the society— not just biological parents—to consider preventing harm to children a social responsibility. Bolstered by the unflinching photographs by Lewis W. Hine, the public face of ruthless business practices came home. One of Hine’s photos, captioned “Leo, 48 inches high, 8 years old, picks up bobbins at 15 cents a day,” shows a worn-out little boy looking you straight in the eye—it is hard to ignore him. Looking back now, it is startling to recall that it took decades to end child labor. Yet the power of the business lobby was as formidable then as it is today. Business interests, with strong allies in Congress, argued that “market freedom” justified the use of children in the mills, in much the same way that plantation owners justified the need for slavery. It is the essential position of the marketeer; these are economic negotiations, not moral debates. Yet I found that the taproot of child advocacy, though not now part of a social movement, nonetheless is widespread. The most common grounds on which middle-income people claimed the moral right to break the rules or the law was in relation to children’s need for care and protection.

‘As a Parent… I Just Couldn’t Live with Myself If I…’

Mary Jane, a retail sales manager in Denver, told me a story about a mother—Jenna—who called in sick when she had no sick days left. The fast-moving retail store that Mary Jane managed really needed “all hands on deck,” but Mary Jane was also surprised that Jenna would call in, because she was sure Jenna wasn’t really ill, and she was “really responsible.” She called Jenna back and wheedled her into telling her the full story.

On her way to work, Jenna had dropped her baby off at day care without diapers because “she just didn’t have the money to buy them.” The head of the day care center said she couldn’t take the baby because it was the third time Jenna had done this, and that meant that the staff had to use other children’s diapers— other families’ resources—and it wasn’t fair. Jenna had begged them to take the baby, explaining that when she got her paycheck, she would “buy a bag for everyone else.” But the child care staff felt they had been as flexible as they could—they had to “draw the line somewhere.” Mary Jane told me that she was angry and in a way ashamed: “I know what Pampers cost and I know what Jenna makes, and… as it is she ’s got to be cutting back [on everything else] just to buy them.” Mary Jane bought a bag of Pampers and drove over to the day care center, so that day’s problem was solved. And really, Mary Jane told me, you can hardly blame the child care staff, because they can’t really “steal from Paul to pay Peter”; that would be unfair.

But Mary Jane found that the incident stuck in her mind. She imagined what it must have felt like for Jenna to be holding her child, all stressed out, and begging the child care worker to take her, without having diapers or clothing or any of the things a proper mother has when dropping off her baby. Could the child sense what was going on? And then Jenna having to leave, no doubt feeling humiliated, and then calling in to work and telling a lie because telling the truth was too embarrassing.

Mary Jane said she “just hated to think about it,” though really she knew that it was such a small incident in comparison to what goes on in many families that don’t have the money to care for their children. But it was that moment that shifted something for Mary Jane. She said she realized “this is [about] more than… just one kid.” She began to buy various items that helped out the mothers who worked for her, but that seemed so small. So she began to divert some of the available resources from the store, various “goods” that could get overstocked. She found ways to share the company’s wealth because the wages the company paid did not.

Mary Jane said, “As a mother, I just couldn’t act like this was okay. I felt like I had to do something.” And finally, “something” for just one mother, just one time, wasn’t enough for Mary Jane.

Others too used their identity as a mother or the idea of kinship to assert their moral ground. When Cora in Boston—who put kids before scrod—called the women who worked for her “family,” so, by extension, were their children. She was establishing a changed backdrop, pushing the norms of American business where human harm is irrelevant. She sketched out a landscape of relationship. In this terrain you get to act according to different principles because we all understand that kin ties are precious, and they come with obligations. By moving her employees into kinship space, Cora staked out the right to treat them in humane ways, and that included acting as though their children mattered.

This was precisely what Bea—who laid away prom dresses— meant when she said, “It gets messy quickly.” Bea was talking about the mess of human relationships from which one ought— according to business professionalism—to remain clean, or in any case anesthetized. That didn’t work for her. She said, “I can’t keep my distance.” Yet Bea had come to terms with her own conscience, and those terms started with treating the people she worked with as though they have value.

Margaret, who ran her own business in Wisconsin, agreed. She told me that the day when she looked into the face of a young mother who was carrying two sick children to work in freezing weather to get her small paycheck so that she could buy them some food and medicine, things changed for her. She opened the door to thinking about how—“there but for fortune”—those could have been her grandchildren. And even though they weren’t, didn’t they still need her understanding and help? And there ’s Dr. Smith at the city health center, who routinely cared for mothers, fathers, and children who didn’t have proper identification for health insurance or “correct” citizenship. He told me, “I’ve got kids and grandkids… give me a break.”

Being a parent—or as good as one—opened a door for many people, and the opening turned out to be wide enough for more than just their own children. For some people, the meaning of as a parent turned out to be as a brother or sister and a son or daughter too. Because increasingly, the problems that people bring with them have to do with other fragile kin. A manager in a hotel chain spoke of her sister’s bipolar disorder and how she often had to take time off unexpectedly to deal with her sister’s emergencies. et—in turn—she was supposed to fire service staff “who don’t even get the paid days [she does]” when they had family crises. She worked around those rules and had even found ways to “extend” the health benefits that managers got so that they reached a few down below, because it just didn’t seem fair to her.

More and more frequently it was aging kin who were mentioned as a key care issue among middle-aged people, who are juggling parents’ needs with work and often still supporting growing children. I heard the rhetorical question “How do they do it when I am beside myself with being pulled in every direction?” “How do they do it on twenty-five, thirty, or thirty-five thousand a year [double what we call the poverty line]?” Middle-class, middle-aged people shook their heads at the thought.

Colin, a midlevel manager in a food packing company, said, “My dad has Alzheimer’s and I’ve had a hell of a year trying to handle it… so I’m gonna fire these guys who have family problems… and make less than a third of what I make? He [Colin’s boss] can give me all the shit he wants… but that [writing people up or docking pay] ain’t happening. And what he don’t know don’t hurt him.”

‘There’s No Rules When a Woman Is Being Abused’

During a focus group discussion in the Midwest, Angela told a story about being beaten by her then-husband. She “was typical… trying to hide it” and feeling deep shame. As a top broker in a large real estate company, she felt that she should be strong enough to end the marriage. Instead, she would wear long sleeves and turtlenecks to cover marks of abuse. But the head of her office, “a family man,” took her out to lunch and told her that he knew what was going on—everyone did. And if she was ready to make the break, they were ready to transfer her to another office, in another state. She wouldn’t lose her stature in the company; in fact, they would provide her with an economic bridge until she found her footing in the new location. Angela said that she thought this man and the support that came with him “saved [her] life.”

Eventually Angela left real estate work. She became a top manager in a service industry where she supervised others, some of whom were far down the economic ladder. But Angela had incorporated an ethic about people ’s safety and the issue of intervening in abuse and had extended it to include everyone, particularly women who were “a lot more vulnerable than [she] was,” because lower-wage workers have no safety nets of savings, no flexibility in their schedules, and in many cases very few if any paid days off, and “everyone just ignores it.” Angela reflected that she “didn’t even have kids to worry about” and had “more options” and still couldn’t make the break until “someone reached out and helped.”

So in Angela’s department it was known that you get help, off the books or on; she wouldn’t ignore domestic violence. “If any woman comes to me and says she ’s being beaten… I am going to do whatever it takes, she said. “There ’s no rules when a woman is being abused.” Angela didn’t use the word “sisterhood,” but she certainly described it. And then Angela found that she had even extended the call to stop abuse to employees’ children too. “A mom came and told me that her son was being bullied up at school. told her, ‘Go, do what you have to. … Stay in touch with me but just go do what you have to do.’”

Angela, well educated and wealthy, remembered facing the despair of being unable to protect herself despite her advantages. Getting real help—not words or commiseration, but concrete help—made the difference. And from there, as happened to so many of these people who decide to act, her perspective fanned out to include a wider range of vulnerable people with whom she identified. “We’ve got to take care of each other,” Angela said, and if your company or institution or government doesn’t, well, you do it yourself.

Neighbors Talk About Town Lines

Once in a while I heard about collective acts in discussions about local conditions and the treatment of others—in one case even immigrant neighbors. Americans have long been unsettled in their views about hardworking—and often economically desperate—immigrants who reside in local communities or make use of public institutions. This ambivalence is not surprising; ours is a capricious history when it comes to immigration. We have welcomed immigrants as the nation’s future and also called them a scourge; we have enjoyed their cheap hard labor while challenging their children’s access to public schools; we have opened doors leading to immigrants’ offspring becoming major social and political figures and then erected walls to bar others from entering.

We are deep in the latter national temperament right now, yet throughout this research I met all sorts of people who found this a troubling attitude. While everyone said that there have to be laws, they also said “we are a nation of immigrants.” We were all foreigners at one time or another. Other than the American Indian people, as a teacher in New York pointed out to me, “you ask about families, almost everyone will tell you” about another land that their people once came from and how that matters to them. “Kids love to tell their family’s cultural history.” So, are only the old immigration histories to be valued and the new ones to be eradicated? And how, then, do we mark the divide?

In some places this becomes a town line. In a modest town in the United States that sits on the border between the American Southwest and Mexico, several hundred children mill around their bus stop waiting to go to school every day. Many cross the border line to get on the bus. They live in Mexico but are American because the only hospital in the area is on the U.S. side of the border. So both Mexicans and Americans go to the local hospital to give birth, and later these children attend school together on the U.S. side of the border. They grow up together.

When there’s a fire in the small town on the Mexican side of the border the American fire trucks race over the crossing to put it out, because the Mexican town doesn’t have a fire station close by. When a person is injured in the Mexican town, an ambulance speeds over to bring him to the only available hospital, on the U.S. side of the line. It’s what those people do—put out fires that burn up homes or deliver people who are injured to the care that they need. And it’s what the teachers do at the local schools—they educate children, in this case children of two nations. The route to the schoolyard differs for the two sets of kids, but they come with the same need to learn.

At one time, several years ago, an effort was afoot to bar the children from the southern side of the border from crossing over and coming to the school. It was argued that “we” shouldn’t pay for their education, even though for decades children who had been educated at the school had grown into adults who worked in the United States as well as Mexico. They provide labor, taxes, family life. Some, no doubt, join fire departments and work in hospitals and in schools. They replenish the well from which they have drawn. But in keeping with a time when children’s needs and injured people’s lives were being measured by cost and market gain, a campaign emerged to cut off half a community. It didn’t work.

Lots of the Americans objected—they had grown up with this tradition of neighborliness that crossed borders. And some— enough, it seems—were repelled by the notion that south-of-the-border children would be kicked out of the school. The Americans had grown up with the parents of these kids, some Anglos, some people of Mexican descent, and many a mix of both; this was a place that had been tested. And it turned out that local humanity trumped lines on a map. Recently I visited this town, and despite the “conservative” times and the rain of anti-immigrant rhetoric, people seemed to be going about their daily business: kids from either side of the line were being educated, ambulances and fire trucks still responded to basic human need.

I visited another smallish American town in rural Maine. The people in that northern county weren’t dealing with borderlines, but they were also talking about neighbors and the market erosion of common fairness. It was the summer of 2008, when oil prices were nearly $150 a barrel. I was listening in on town talk at a weekly farmers’ market and heard an impromptu discussion. Among a throng of local shoppers a few had started talking about oil prices and how neighborhood families and particularly elderly people in the county were likely to freeze in the coming winter. “Just freeze to death,” I heard said in an agitated voice.

Just then a middle-aged woman, who had been talking to friends, suddenly turned around to face other shoppers and asked, “What’s happening to us? Why doesn’t the government do something?” A local farmer, sorting vegetables nearby, responded immediately, “The government is the same as the oil companies. There’s no difference. We can’t wait for them to do anything.” A young mom holding a baby as she stood in line said, “So what do we do?” There was no single response, but they were looking at each other to find it.

A Common America

There are many strands of identity in America, and that plurality came out full force in my research for this book. But with that variation also came commonality. It was common for people to seek ways to make moral sense of their choices about what’s fair and what ’s not. They would dig into their most deeply held values to explain their decisions. It was not enough to just come to the conclusion “Well, I felt this was wrong so I broke the rule or the law.” That seemed reckless or lawless, and most of the disobedient considered themselves very ethical people. But, as the previous chapters explored, when everyday institutions and ordinary rules harm people right in front of you, that provokes a kind of soul searching, looking for what some called their “roots” or their “true self.”

Over the years I’ve heard people say, “As the daughter of immigrants…,” or “As a black man…,” or “As someone whose dad always worked with his hands…,” or “As a single mom who once needed public assistance. …” I heard “As a Latino mother…,” “As a gay man…,” “As a Christian…,” “As a survivor of domestic violence… ,” “As the daughter of a guy who committed suicide [after his family farm was bankrupted]…” Of course these prologues established a personal biography, but they did more than that. When I heard someone open with “As a black mother…,” I heard a murmur of history, voices from generations who taught that the survival of tomorrow’s children matters more than rules or laws.

When I heard someone say, “As an immigrant’s son…,” I could almost see the previous generations of “aliens,” scarves on heads and hats in hand, that the speaker lined up to explain his way of looking at legality and borders. When I heard, “As a woman who’s been abused…” I knew that the account would be personal but also about power and the understanding that sometimes those who hold it won’t protect you. Most people start with the personal, but some of them move on. They use their story to establish links with others and then, with that stronger connected identity, have the courage to face bigger questions about our society.

There have been many stands against unfairness in American history, and they were named by these ordinary people who chose to act upon injustices in their midst. And that’s when they started to sound alike; while personal roots, claims, and family histories were used to explain a turn to disobedience, the accounts began to echo each other, blend together, and become a common America.

Lisa Dodson is a professor of sociology at Boston College and the author of “The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy” (lisa.dodson.1@bc.edu). She lives in Auburndale, Mass.

© 2011 The New Press All rights reserved.

View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/150126

>Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life (MIT Press)

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Book release (April 2011, MIT Press):

Kari Marie Norgaard

Global warming is the most significant environmental issue of our time, yet public response in Western nations has been meager. Why have so few taken any action? In Living in Denial, sociologist Kari Norgaard searches for answers to this question, drawing on interviews and ethnographic data from her study of “Bygdaby,” the fictional name of an actual rural community in western Norway, during the unusually warm winter of 2001-2002.

In 2001-2002 the first snowfall came to Bygdaby two months later than usual; ice fishing was impossible; and the ski industry had to invest substantially in artificial snow-making. Stories in local and national newspapers linked the warm winter explicitly to global warming. Yet residents did not write letters to the editor, pressure politicians, or cut down on use of fossil fuels. Norgaard attributes this lack of response to the phenomenon of socially organized denial, by which information about climate science is known in the abstract but disconnected from political, social, and private life, and sees this as emblematic of how citizens of industrialized countries are responding to global warming.

Norgaard finds that for the highly educated and politically savvy residents of Bygdaby, global warming was both common knowledge and unimaginable. Norgaard traces this denial through multiple levels, from emotions to cultural norms to political economy. Her report from Bygdaby, supplemented by comparisons throughout the book to the United States, tells a larger story behind our paralysis in the face of today’s alarming predictions from climate scientists.

About the Author

Kari Marie Norgaard is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Oregon.

>Never Say ‘Diagonal of the Covariance Matrix’: 6 Things Scientists Can Learn from Science Journalists

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Never Say ‘Diagonal of the Covariance Matrix’: 6 Things Scientists Can Learn from Science Journalists
By Maggie Koerth-Baker
Science Editor, BoingBoing.net

The New York Times
February 26, 2011, 2:22 PM

Can Scientists Learn from Science Journalists?
By ANDREW C. REVKIN

Maggie Koerth-Baker, science editor of BoingBoing.net, gave a really good talk at the University of Wisconsin aiming to encourage scientists to communicate effectively with other human beings. A starting point: listening. Another: Start a blog.

Here’s a summary of the main points that I got from David Isenberg, who alerted me to the lecture:

  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Don’t just talk, ask.
  • Lay people know more (and less) than you think.
  • Not everything is news.
  • Be critical of your own work.
  • Mistakes last, but pedantry kills.

There are deep divisions between the cultures and norms of science and journalism.

One example: For scientists, peer review occurs before publication, for journalists, afterward.

Another: All lines in a newspaper story or broadcast, in theory at least, have to stand on their own as accurate; in a research paper, the inaccuracies produced by the compression in an abstract are seen as normal and acceptable by many scientists, with the nuance conveyed in the body of a paper.

In a recent conversation I had with Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist and communicator, it was clear we had utterly different norms for interpreting summaries of a research paper.

Some of the differences were touched on in my recent coverage of new analysis attributing some changes in extreme precipitation in the Northern Hemisphere to human-driven global warming.

I would add that scientists (and science journalists) would do well to review the talk given by Thomas Lessl of the University of Georgia at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, on the limited role of science, even if communicated clearly, in shaping policy and human choices.

There’s a link and excerpt in my recent post “Do Fights Over Climate Communication Reflect the End of ‘Scientism’?”

The take-home thought:

As scientists and science journalists spar over who’s failing in climate communication, an outsider says they’re missing the point

>Ancient Catastrophic Drought Leads to Question: How Severe Can Climate Change Become? (NSF)

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Press Release 11-039

Extreme megadrought in Afro-Asian region likely had consequences for Paleolithic cultures

A boat on Lake Tanganyika today; the lake’s ancient surface water level fell dramatically.
Credit: Curt Stager.

February 24, 2011
How severe can climate change become in a warming world?

Worse than anything we’ve seen in written history, according to results of a study appearing this week in the journal Science.

An international team of scientists led by Curt Stager of Paul Smith’s College, New York, has compiled four dozen paleoclimate records from sediment cores in Lake Tanganyika and other locations in Africa.

The records show that one of the most widespread and intense droughts of the last 50,000 years or more struck Africa and Southern Asia 17,000 to 16,000 years ago.

Between 18,000 and 15,000 years ago, large amounts of ice and meltwater entered the North Atlantic Ocean, causing regional cooling but also major drought in the tropics, says Paul Filmer, program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research along with NSF’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences and its Division of Ocean Sciences.

“The height of this time period coincided with one of the most extreme megadroughts of the last 50,000 years in the Afro-Asian monsoon region with potentially serious consequences for the Paleolithic humans that lived there at the time,” says Filmer.

The “H1 megadrought,” as it’s known, was one of the most severe climate trials ever faced by anatomically modern humans.

Africa’s Lake Victoria, now the world’s largest tropical lake, dried out, as did Lake Tana in Ethiopia, and Lake Van in Turkey.

The Nile, Congo and other major rivers shriveled, and Asian summer monsoons weakened or failed from China to the Mediterranean, meaning the monsoon season carried little or no rainwater.

What caused the megadrought remains a mystery, but its timing suggests a link to Heinrich Event 1 (or “H1”), a massive surge of icebergs and meltwater into the North Atlantic at the close of the last ice age.

Previous studies had implicated southward drift of the tropical rain belt as a localized cause, but the broad geographic coverage in this study paints a more nuanced picture.

“If southward drift were the only cause,” says Stager, lead author of the Science paper, “we’d have found evidence of wetting farther south. But the megadrought hit equatorial and southeastern Africa as well, so the rain belt didn’t just move–it also weakened.”

Climate models have yet to simulate the full scope of the event.

The lack of a complete explanation opens the question of whether an extreme megadrought could strike again as the world warms and de-ices further.

“There’s much less ice left to collapse into the North Atlantic now,” Stager says, “so I’d be surprised if it could all happen again–at least on such a huge scale.”

Given what such a catastrophic megadrought could do to today’s most densely populated regions of the globe, Stager hopes he’s right.

Stager also holds an adjunct position at the Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono.

Co-authors of the paper are David Ryves of Loughborough University in the United Kingdom; Brian Chase of the Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution de Montpellier in France and the Department of Archaeology, University of Bergen, Norway; and Francesco Pausata of the Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, Norway.

-NSF-

>Can a group of scientists in California end the war on climate change? (Guardian)

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The Berkeley Earth project say they are about to reveal the definitive truth about global warming

Ian Sample
guardian.co.uk
Sunday 27 February 2011 20.29 GMT

Richard Muller of the Berkeley Earth project is convinced his approach will lead to a better assessment of how much the world is warming. Photograph: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

In 1964, Richard Muller, a 20-year-old graduate student with neat-cropped hair, walked into Sproul Hall at the University of California, Berkeley, and joined a mass protest of unprecedented scale. The activists, a few thousand strong, demanded that the university lift a ban on free speech and ease restrictions on academic freedom, while outside on the steps a young folk-singer called Joan Baez led supporters in a chorus of We Shall Overcome. The sit-in ended two days later when police stormed the building in the early hours and arrested hundreds of students. Muller was thrown into Oakland jail. The heavy-handedness sparked further unrest and, a month later, the university administration backed down. The protest was a pivotal moment for the civil liberties movement and marked Berkeley as a haven of free thinking and fierce independence.

Today, Muller is still on the Berkeley campus, probably the only member of the free speech movement arrested that night to end up with a faculty position there – as a professor of physics. His list of publications is testament to the free rein of tenure: he worked on the first light from the big bang, proposed a new theory of ice ages, and found evidence for an upturn in impact craters on the moon. His expertise is highly sought after. For more than 30 years, he was a member of the independent Jason group that advises the US government on defence; his college lecture series, Physics for Future Presidents was voted best class on campus, went stratospheric on YouTube and, in 2009, was turned into a bestseller.

For the past year, Muller has kept a low profile, working quietly on a new project with a team of academics hand-picked for their skills. They meet on campus regularly, to check progress, thrash out problems and hunt for oversights that might undermine their work. And for good reason. When Muller and his team go public with their findings in a few weeks, they will be muscling in on the ugliest and most hard-fought debate of modern times.

Muller calls his latest obsession the Berkeley Earth project. The aim is so simple that the complexity and magnitude of the undertaking is easy to miss. Starting from scratch, with new computer tools and more data than has ever been used, they will arrive at an independent assessment of global warming. The team will also make every piece of data it uses – 1.6bn data points – freely available on a website. It will post its workings alongside, including full information on how more than 100 years of data from thousands of instruments around the world are stitched together to give a historic record of the planet’s temperature.

Muller is fed up with the politicised row that all too often engulfs climate science. By laying all its data and workings out in the open, where they can be checked and challenged by anyone, the Berkeley team hopes to achieve something remarkable: a broader consensus on global warming. In no other field would Muller’s dream seem so ambitious, or perhaps, so naive.

“We are bringing the spirit of science back to a subject that has become too argumentative and too contentious,” Muller says, over a cup of tea. “We are an independent, non-political, non-partisan group. We will gather the data, do the analysis, present the results and make all of it available. There will be no spin, whatever we find.” Why does Muller feel compelled to shake up the world of climate change? “We are doing this because it is the most important project in the world today. Nothing else comes close,” he says.

Muller is moving into crowded territory with sharp elbows. There are already three heavyweight groups that could be considered the official keepers of the world’s climate data. Each publishes its own figures that feed into the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City produces a rolling estimate of the world’s warming. A separate assessment comes from another US agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). The third group is based in the UK and led by the Met Office. They all take readings from instruments around the world to come up with a rolling record of the Earth’s mean surface temperature. The numbers differ because each group uses its own dataset and does its own analysis, but they show a similar trend. Since pre-industrial times, all point to a warming of around 0.75C.

You might think three groups was enough, but Muller rolls out a list of shortcomings, some real, some perceived, that he suspects might undermine public confidence in global warming records. For a start, he says, warming trends are not based on all the available temperature records. The data that is used is filtered and might not be as representative as it could be. He also cites a poor history of transparency in climate science, though others argue many climate records and the tools to analyse them have been public for years.

Then there is the fiasco of 2009 that saw roughly 1,000 emails from a server at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) find their way on to the internet. The fuss over the messages, inevitably dubbed Climategate, gave Muller’s nascent project added impetus. Climate sceptics had already attacked James Hansen, head of the Nasa group, for making political statements on climate change while maintaining his role as an objective scientist. The Climategate emails fuelled their protests. “With CRU’s credibility undergoing a severe test, it was all the more important to have a new team jump in, do the analysis fresh and address all of the legitimate issues raised by sceptics,” says Muller.

This latest point is where Muller faces his most delicate challenge. To concede that climate sceptics raise fair criticisms means acknowledging that scientists and government agencies have got things wrong, or at least could do better. But the debate around global warming is so highly charged that open discussion, which science requires, can be difficult to hold in public. At worst, criticising poor climate science can be taken as an attack on science itself, a knee-jerk reaction that has unhealthy consequences. “Scientists will jump to the defence of alarmists because they don’t recognise that the alarmists are exaggerating,” Muller says.

The Berkeley Earth project came together more than a year ago, when Muller rang David Brillinger, a statistics professor at Berkeley and the man Nasa called when it wanted someone to check its risk estimates of space debris smashing into the International Space Station. He wanted Brillinger to oversee every stage of the project. Brillinger accepted straight away. Since the first meeting he has advised the scientists on how best to analyse their data and what pitfalls to avoid. “You can think of statisticians as the keepers of the scientific method, ” Brillinger told me. “Can scientists and doctors reasonably draw the conclusions they are setting down? That’s what we’re here for.”

For the rest of the team, Muller says he picked scientists known for original thinking. One is Saul Perlmutter, the Berkeley physicist who found evidence that the universe is expanding at an ever faster rate, courtesy of mysterious “dark energy” that pushes against gravity. Another is Art Rosenfeld, the last student of the legendary Manhattan Project physicist Enrico Fermi, and something of a legend himself in energy research. Then there is Robert Jacobsen, a Berkeley physicist who is an expert on giant datasets; and Judith Curry, a climatologist at Georgia Institute of Technology, who has raised concerns over tribalism and hubris in climate science.

Robert Rohde, a young physicist who left Berkeley with a PhD last year, does most of the hard work. He has written software that trawls public databases, themselves the product of years of painstaking work, for global temperature records. These are compiled, de-duplicated and merged into one huge historical temperature record. The data, by all accounts, are a mess. There are 16 separate datasets in 14 different formats and they overlap, but not completely. Muller likens Rohde’s achievement to Hercules’s enormous task of cleaning the Augean stables.

The wealth of data Rohde has collected so far – and some dates back to the 1700s – makes for what Muller believes is the most complete historical record of land temperatures ever compiled. It will, of itself, Muller claims, be a priceless resource for anyone who wishes to study climate change. So far, Rohde has gathered records from 39,340 individual stations worldwide.

Publishing an extensive set of temperature records is the first goal of Muller’s project. The second is to turn this vast haul of data into an assessment on global warming. Here, the Berkeley team is going its own way again. The big three groups – Nasa, Noaa and the Met Office – work out global warming trends by placing an imaginary grid over the planet and averaging temperatures records in each square. So for a given month, all the records in England and Wales might be averaged out to give one number. Muller’s team will take temperature records from individual stations and weight them according to how reliable they are.

This is where the Berkeley group faces its toughest task by far and it will be judged on how well it deals with it. There are errors running through global warming data that arise from the simple fact that the global network of temperature stations was never designed or maintained to monitor climate change. The network grew in a piecemeal fashion, starting with temperature stations installed here and there, usually to record local weather.

Among the trickiest errors to deal with are so-called systematic biases, which skew temperature measurements in fiendishly complex ways. Stations get moved around, replaced with newer models, or swapped for instruments that record in celsius instead of fahrenheit. The times measurements are taken varies, from say 6am to 9pm. The accuracy of individual stations drift over time and even changes in the surroundings, such as growing trees, can shield a station more from wind and sun one year to the next. Each of these interferes with a station’s temperature measurements, perhaps making it read too cold, or too hot. And these errors combine and build up.

This is the real mess that will take a Herculean effort to clean up. The Berkeley Earth team is using algorithms that automatically correct for some of the errors, a strategy Muller favours because it doesn’t rely on human interference. When the team publishes its results, this is where the scrutiny will be most intense.

Despite the scale of the task, and the fact that world-class scientific organisations have been wrestling with it for decades, Muller is convinced his approach will lead to a better assessment of how much the world is warming. “I’ve told the team I don’t know if global warming is more or less than we hear, but I do believe we can get a more precise number, and we can do it in a way that will cool the arguments over climate change, if nothing else,” says Muller. “Science has its weaknesses and it doesn’t have a stranglehold on the truth, but it has a way of approaching technical issues that is a closer approximation of truth than any other method we have.”

He will find out soon enough if his hopes to forge a true consensus on climate change are misplaced. It might not be a good sign that one prominent climate sceptic contacted by the Guardian, Canadian economist Ross McKitrick, had never heard of the project. Another, Stephen McIntyre, whom Muller has defended on some issues, hasn’t followed the project either, but said “anything that [Muller] does will be well done”. Phil Jones at the University of East Anglia was unclear on the details of the Berkeley project and didn’t comment.

Elsewhere, Muller has qualified support from some of the biggest names in the business. At Nasa, Hansen welcomed the project, but warned against over-emphasising what he expects to be the minor differences between Berkeley’s global warming assessment and those from the other groups. “We have enough trouble communicating with the public already,” Hansen says. At the Met Office, Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution, was in favour of the project if it was open and peer-reviewed.

Peter Thorne, who left the Met Office’s Hadley Centre last year to join the Co-operative Institute for Climate and Satellites in North Carolina, is enthusiastic about the Berkeley project but raises an eyebrow at some of Muller’s claims. The Berkeley group will not be the first to put its data and tools online, he says. Teams at Nasa and Noaa have been doing this for many years. And while Muller may have more data, they add little real value, Thorne says. Most are records from stations installed from the 1950s onwards, and then only in a few regions, such as North America. “Do you really need 20 stations in one region to get a monthly temperature figure? The answer is no. Supersaturating your coverage doesn’t give you much more bang for your buck,” he says. They will, however, help researchers spot short-term regional variations in climate change, something that is likely to be valuable as climate change takes hold.

Despite his reservations, Thorne says climate science stands to benefit from Muller’s project. “We need groups like Berkeley stepping up to the plate and taking this challenge on, because it’s the only way we’re going to move forwards. I wish there were 10 other groups doing this,” he says.

For the time being, Muller’s project is organised under the auspices of Novim, a Santa Barbara-based non-profit organisation that uses science to find answers to the most pressing issues facing society and to publish them “without advocacy or agenda”. Funding has come from a variety of places, including the Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research (funded by Bill Gates), and the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley Lab. One donor has had some climate bloggers up in arms: the man behind the Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation owns, with his brother David, Koch Industries, a company Greenpeace called a “kingpin of climate science denial”. On this point, Muller says the project has taken money from right and left alike.

No one who spoke to the Guardian about the Berkeley Earth project believed it would shake the faith of the minority who have set their minds against global warming. “As new kids on the block, I think they will be given a favourable view by people, but I don’t think it will fundamentally change people’s minds,” says Thorne. Brillinger has reservations too. “There are people you are never going to change. They have their beliefs and they’re not going to back away from them.”

Waking across the Berkeley campus, Muller stops outside Sproul Hall, where he was arrested more than 40 years ago. Today, the adjoining plaza is a designated protest spot, where student activists gather to wave banners, set up tables and make speeches on any cause they choose. Does Muller think his latest project will make any difference? “Maybe we’ll find out that what the other groups do is absolutely right, but we’re doing this in a new way. If the only thing we do is allow a consensus to be reached as to what is going on with global warming, a true consensus, not one based on politics, then it will be an enormously valuable achievement.”

>Can Geoengineering Save the World from Global Warming? (Scientific American)

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Ask the Experts | Energy & Sustainability
Scientific American

Is manipulating Earth’s environment to combat climate change a good idea–and where, exactly, did the idea come from?

By David Biello | February 25, 2011

STARFISH PRIME: This nighttime atmospheric nuclear weapons test generated an aurora (pictured) in Earth’s magnetic field, along with an electromagnetic pulse that blew out streetlights in Honolulu. It is seen as an early instance of geoengineering by science historian James Fleming. Image: Courtesy of US Govt. Defense Threat Reduction Agency

As efforts to combat climate change falter despite ever-rising concentrations of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, some scientists and other experts have begun to consider the possibility of using so-called geoengineering to fix the problem. Such “deliberate, large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment” as the Royal Society of London puts it, is fraught with peril, of course.

For example, one of the first scientists to predict global warming as a result of increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere—Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius—thought this might be a good way to ameliorate the winters of his native land and increase its growing season. Whereas that may come true for the human inhabitants of Scandinavia, polar plants and animals are suffering as sea ice dwindles and temperatures warm even faster than climatologists predicted.

Scientific American corresponded with science historian James Fleming of Colby College in Maine, author of Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control, about the history of geoengineering—ranging from filling the air with the artificial aftermath of a volcanic eruption to seeding the oceans with iron in order to promote plankton growth—and whether it might save humanity from the ill effects of climate change.

[An edited transcript of the interview follows.]

What is geoengineering in your view?
Geoengineering is planetary-scale intervention [in]—or tinkering with—planetary processes. Period.

As I write in my book, Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control, “the term ‘geoengineering’ remains largely undefined,” but is loosely, “the intentional large-scale manipulation of the global environment; planetary tinkering; a subset of terraforming or planetary engineering.”

As of June 2010 the term has a draft entry in the Oxford English Dictionary—the modification of the global environment or the climate in order to counter or ameliorate climate change. A 2009 report issued by the Royal Society of London defines geoengineering as “the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change.”

But there are significant problems with both definitions. First of all, an engineering practice defined by its scale (geo) need not be constrained by its stated purpose (environmental improvement), by any of its currently proposed techniques (stratospheric aerosols, space mirrors, etcetera) or by one of perhaps many stated goals (to ameliorate or counteract climate change). Nuclear engineers, for example, are capable of building both power plants and bombs; mechanical engineers can design components for both ambulances and tanks. So to constrain the essence of something by its stated purpose, techniques or goals is misleading at best.

Geo-scale engineering projects were conducted by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union between 1958 and 1962 that had nothing to do with countering or ameliorating climate change. Starting with the [U.S.’s] 1958 Argus A-bomb explosions in space and ending with the 1962 Starfish Prime H-bomb test, the militaries of both nations sought to modify the global environment for military purposes.

Project Argus was a top-secret military test aimed at detonating atomic bombs in space to generate an artificial radiation belt, disrupt the near-space environment, and possibly intercept enemy missiles. It, and the later tests conducted by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union, peaked with H-bomb detonations in space in 1962 that created an artificial [electro]magnetic [radiation] belt that persisted for 10 years. This is geoengineering.

This idea of detonating bombs in near-space was proposed in 1957 by Nicholas Christofilos, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. His hypothesis, which was pursued by the [U.S.] Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency [subsequently known as DARPA] and tested in Project Argus and other nuclear shots, held that the debris from a nuclear explosion, mainly highly energetic electrons, would be contained within lines of force in Earth’s magnetic field and would travel almost instantly as a giant current spanning up to half a hemisphere. Thus, if a detonation occurred above a point in the South Atlantic, immense currents would flow along the magnetic lines to a point far to the north, such as Greenland, where they would severely disrupt radio communications. A shot in the Indian Ocean might, then, generate a huge electromagnetic pulse over Moscow. In addition to providing a planetary “energy ray,” Christofilos thought nuclear shots in space might also disrupt military communications, destroy satellites and the electronic guidance systems of enemy [intercontinental ballistic missiles], and possibly kill any military cosmonauts participating in an attack launched from space. He proposed thousands of them to make a space shield.

So nuclear explosions in space by the U.S. and the Soviet Union constituted some of the earliest attempts at geoengineering, or intentional human intervention in planetary-scale processes.

The neologism “geoengineer” refers to one who contrives, designs or invents at the largest planetary scale possible for either military or civilian purposes. Today, geoengineering, as an unpracticed art, may be considered “geoscientific speculation”. Geoengineering is a subset of terraformation, which also does not exist outside of the fantasies of some engineers.

I have recently written to the Oxford English Dictionary asking them to correct their draft definition.

Can geoengineering save the world from climate change?
In short, I think it may be infinitely more dangerous than climate change, largely due to the suspicion and social disruption it would trigger by changing humanity’s relationship to nature.

To take just one example from my book, on page 194: “Sarnoff Predicts Weather Control” read the headline on the front page of The New York Times on October 1, 1946. The previous evening, at his testimonial dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, RCA president Brig. Gen. David Sarnoff had speculated on worthy peaceful projects for the postwar era. Among them were “transformations of deserts into gardens through diversion of ocean currents,” a technique that could also be reversed in time of war to turn fertile lands into deserts, and ordering “rain or sunshine by pressing radio buttons,” an accomplishment that, Sarnoff declared, would require a “World Weather Bureau” in charge of global forecasting and control (much like the “Weather Distributing Administration” proposed in 1938). A commentator in The New Yorker intuited the problems with such control: “Who” in this civil service outfit, he asked, “would decide whether a day was to be sunny, rainy, overcast…or enriched by a stimulating blizzard?” It would be “some befuddled functionary,” probably bedeviled by special interests such as the raincoat and galoshes manufacturers, the beachwear and sunburn lotion industries, and resort owners and farmers. Or if a storm was to be diverted—”Detour it where? Out to sea, to hit some ship with no influence in Washington?”

How old is the idea of geoengineering? What other names has it had?
I can trace geoengineering’s direct modern legacy to 1945, and have prepared a table of such proposals and efforts for the [Government Accountability Office]. Nuclear weapons, digital computers and satellites seem to be the modern technologies of choice. Geoengineering has also been called terraformation and, more restrictively, climate engineering, climate intervention or climate modification. Many have proposed abandoning the term geoengineering in favor of solar radiation management and carbon (or carbon dioxide) capture and storage. Of course, the idea of control of nature is ancient—for example, Phaeton or Archimedes.

Phaeton, the son of Helios, received permission from his father [the Greek sun god] to drive the sun chariot, but failed to control it, putting the Earth in danger of burning up. He was killed by a thunderbolt from Zeus to prevent further disaster. Recently, a prominent meteorologist has written about climate control and urged us to “take up Phaeton’s reins,” which is not a good idea.

Archimedes is known as an engineer who said: “Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, and I will move the Earth.” Some geoengineers think that this is now possible and that science and technology have given us an Archimedean set of levers with which to move the planet. But I ask: “Where will it roll if you tip it?”

How are weather control and climate control related?
Weather and climate are intimately related: Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a given place and time, while climate is the aggregate of weather conditions over time. A vast body of scientific literature addresses these interactions. In addition, historians are revisiting the ancient but elusive term klima, seeking to recover its multiple social connotations. Weather, climate and the climate of opinion matter in complex ways that invite—some might say require or demand—the attention of both scientists and historians. Yet some may wonder how weather and climate are interrelated rather than distinct. Both, for example, are at the center of the debate over greenhouse warming and hurricane intensity. A few may claim that rainmaking, for example, has nothing to do with climate engineering, but any intervention in the Earth’s radiation or heat budget (such as managing solar radiation) would affect the general circulation and thus the location of upper-level patterns, including the jet stream and storm tracks. Thus, the weather itself would be changed by such manipulation. Conversely, intervening in severe storms by changing their intensity or their tracks or modifying weather on a scale as large as a region, a continent or the Pacific Basin would obviously affect cloudiness, temperature and precipitation patterns with major consequences for monsoonal flows, and ultimately the general circulation. If repeated systematically, such interventions would influence the overall heat budget and the climate.

Both weather and climate control have long and checkered histories: My book explains [meteorologist] James Espy’s proposal in the 1830s to set fire to the crest of the Appalachian Mountains every Sunday evening to generate heated updrafts that would stimulate rain and clear the air for cities of the east coast. It also examines efforts to fire cannons at the clouds in the arid Southwest in the hope of generating rain by concussion.

In the 1920s airplanes loaded with electrified sand were piloted by military aviators who “attacked” the clouds in futile attempts to both make rain and clear fog. Many others have proposed either a world weather control agency or creating a global thermostat, either by burning vast quantities of fossil fuels if an ice age threatened or sucking the CO2 out of the air if the world overheated.

After 1945 three technologies—nuclear weapons, digital computers and satellites—dominated discussions about ultimate weather and climate control, but with very little acknowledgement that unintended consequences and social disruption may be more damaging than any presumed benefit.

What would be the ideal role for geoengineering in addressing climate change?
That it generates interest in and awareness of the impossibility of heavy-handed intervention in the climate system, since there could be no predictable outcome of such intervention, physically, politically or socially.

Why do scientists continue to pursue this then, after 200 or so years of failure?
Science fantasy is informed by science fiction and driven by hubris. One of the dictionary definitions of hubris cites Edward Teller (the godfather of modern geoengineering).

Teller’s hubris knew no bounds. He was the [self-proclaimed] father of the H-bomb and promoted all things atomic, even talking about using nuclear weapons to create canals and harbors. He was also an advocate of urban sprawl to survive nuclear attack, the Star Wars [missile] defense system, and a planetary sunscreen to reduce global warming. He wanted to control nature and improve it using technology.

Throughout history rainmakers and climate engineers have typically fallen into two categories: commercial charlatans using technical language and proprietary techniques to cash in on a gullible public, and sincere but deluded scientific practitioners exhibiting a modicum of chemical and physical knowledge, a bare minimum of atmospheric insight, and an abundance of hubris. We should base our decision-making not on what we think we can do “now” and in the near future. Rather, our knowledge is shaped by what we have and have not done in the past. Such are the grounds for making informed decisions and avoiding the pitfalls of rushing forward, claiming we know how to “fix the sky.”

>What we have and haven’t learned from ‘Climategate’

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DON’T KNOW MUCH AGNOTOLOGY

Grist.org
BY David Roberts
28 FEB 2011 1:29 PM

I wrote about the “Climategate” controversy (over emails stolen from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit) once, which is about what it warranted.

My silent protest had no effect whatsoever, of course, and the story followed a depressingly familiar trajectory: hyped relentlessly by right-wing media, bullied into the mainstream press as he-said she-said, and later, long after the damage is done, revealed as utterly bereft of substance. It’s a familiar script for climate faux controversies, though this one played out on a slightly grander scale.

Investigations galore

Consider that there have now been five, count ‘em five, inquiries into the matter. Penn State established an independent inquiry into the accusations against scientist Michael Mann and found “no credible evidence” [PDF] of improper research conduct. A British government investigation run by the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee found that while the CRU scientists could have been more transparent and responsive to freedom-of-information requests, there was no evidence of scientific misconduct. The U.K.’s Royal Society (its equivalent of the National Academies) ran an investigation that found “no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice.” The University of East Anglia appointed respected civil servant Sir Muir Russell to run an exhaustive, six-month independent inquiry; he concluded that “the honesty and rigour of CRU as scientists are not in doubt … We have not found any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments.”

All those results are suggestive, but let’s face it, they’re mostly … British. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) wanted an American investigation of all the American scientists involved in these purported dirty deeds. So he asked the Department of Commerce’s inspector general to get to the bottom of it. On Feb. 18, the results of that investigation were released. “In our review of the CRU emails,” the IG’s office said in its letter to Inhofe [PDF], “we did not find any evidence that NOAA inappropriately manipulated data … or failed to adhere to appropriate peer review procedures.” (Oddly, you’ll find no mention of this central result in Inhofe’s tortured public response.)

Whatever legitimate issues there may be about the responsiveness or transparency of this particular group of scientists, there was nothing in this controversy — nothing — that cast even the slightest doubt on the basic findings of climate science. Yet it became a kind of stain on the public image of climate scientists. How did that happen?

Smooth criminals

You don’t hear about it much in the news coverage, but recall, the story began with a crime. Hackers broke into the East Anglia email system and stole emails and documents, an illegal invasion of privacy. Yet according to The Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel, the emails “found their way to the internet.” In ABC science correspondent Ned Potter’s telling, the emails “became public.” The New York Times’ Andy Revkin says they were “extracted from computers.”

None of those phrasings are wrong, per se, but all pass rather lightly over the fact that some actual person or persons put them on the internet, made them public, extracted them from the computers. Someone hacked in, collected emails, sifted through and selected those that could be most damning, organized them, and timed the release for maximum impact, just before the Copenhagen climate talks. Said person or persons remain uncaught, uncharged, and unprosecuted. There have since been attempted break-ins at other climate research institutions.

If step one was crime, step two was character assassination. When the emails were released, they were combed over by skeptic blogs and right-wing media, who collected sentences, phrases, even individual terms that, when stripped of all context, create the worst possible impression. Altogether the whole thing was as carefully staged as any modern-day political attack ad.

Yet when the “scandal” broke, rather than being about criminal theft and character assassination, it was instantly “Climategate.” It was instantly about climate scientists, not the illegal and dishonest tactics of their attackers. The scientists, not the ideologues and ratf*ckers, had to defend themselves.

Burden of proof

It’s a numbingly familiar pattern in media coverage. The conservative movement that’s been attacking climate science for 20 years has a storied history of demonstrable fabrications, distortions, personal attacks, and nothingburger faux-scandals — not only on climate science, but going back to asbestos, ozone, leaded gasoline, tobacco, you name it. They don’t follow the rigorous standards of professional science; they follow no intellectual or ethical standards whatsoever. Yet no matter how long their record of viciousness and farce, every time the skeptic blogosphere coughs up a new “ZOMG!” it’s as though we start from zero again, like no one has a memory longer than five minutes.

Here’s the basic question: At this point, given their respective accomplishments and standards, wouldn’t it make sense to give scientists the strong benefit of the doubt when they are attacked by ideologues with a history of dishonesty and error? Shouldn’t the threshold for what counts as a “scandal” have been nudged a bit higher?

Agnotological inquiry

The lesson we’ve learned from climategate is simple. It’s the same lesson taught by death panels, socialist government takeover, Sharia law, and Obama’s birth certificate. To understand it we must turn to agnotology, the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt. (Hat tip to an excellent recent post on this by John Quiggen.)

Beck, Palin, and the rest of Fox News and talk radio operate on the pretense that they are giving consumers access to a hidden “universe of reality,” to use Limbaugh’s term. It’s a reality being actively obscured the “lamestream media,” academics, scientists, and government officials. Affirming the tenets of that secret reality has become an act of tribal reinforcement, the equivalent of a secret handshake.

The modern right has created a closed epistemic loop containing millions of people. Within that loop, the implausibility or extremity of a claim itself counts as evidence. The more liberal elites reject it, the more it entrenches itself. Standards of evidence have nothing to do with it.

The notion that there is a global conspiracy by professional scientists to falsify results in order to get more research money is, to borrow Quiggen’s words about birtherism, “a shibboleth, that is, an affirmation that marks the speaker as a member of their community or tribe.” Once you have accepted that shibboleth, anything offered to you as evidence of its truth, no matter how ludicrous, will serve as affirmation. (Even a few context-free lines cherry-picked from thousands of private emails.)

Living with the loop

There’s one thing we haven’t learned from climategate (or death panels or birtherism). U.S. politics now contains a large, well-funded, tightly networked, and highly amplified tribe that defines itself through rejection of “lamestream” truth claims and standards of evidence. How should our political culture relate to that tribe?

We haven’t figured it out. Politicians and the political press have tried to accommodate the shibboleths of the right as legitimate positions for debate. The press in particular has practically sworn off plain judgments of accuracy or fact. But all that’s done is confuse and mislead the broader public, while the tribe pushes ever further into extremity. The tribe does not want to be accommodated. It is fueled by elite rejection.

At this point mainstream institutions like the press are in a bind: either accept the tribe’s assertions as legitimate or be deemed “biased.” Until there is a way out of that trap, there will be more and more Climategates.

Fact-Free Science (N.Y. Times)

THE WAY WE LIVE NOW

By JUDITH WARNER
Published: February 25, 2011

Photo: Camille Seaman.

President Obama has made scientific innovation the cornerstone of his plans for “winning the future,” requesting in his recent budget proposal large financing increases for scientific research and education and, in particular, sustained attention to developing alternative energy sources and technologies. “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment,” he declared in his State of the Union address last month.

It would be easier to believe in this great moment of scientific reawakening, of course, if more than half of the Republicans in the House and three-quarters of Republican senators did not now say that the threat of global warming, as a man-made and highly threatening phenomenon, is at best an exaggeration and at worst an utter “hoax,” as James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, once put it. These grim numbers, compiled by the Center for American Progress, describe a troubling new reality: the rise of the Tea Party and its anti-intellectual, anti-establishment, anti-elite worldview has brought both a mainstreaming and a radicalization of antiscientific thought.

The politicization of science isn’t particularly new; the Bush administration was famous for pressuring government agencies to bring their vision of reality in line with White House imperatives. In response to this, and with a renewed culture war over the very nature of scientific reality clearly brewing, the Obama administration tried to initiate a pre-emptive strike earlier this winter, issuing a set of “scientific integrity” guidelines aimed at keeping the work of government scientists free from ideological pollution. But since taking over the House of Representatives, the Republicans have packed science-related committees with lawmakers who refute such basic findings as the reality of global warming and the threats of climate change. Fred Upton, the head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has said outright that he does not believe that global warming is man-made. John Shimkus of Illinois, who also sits on the committee — as well as on the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment — has said that the government doesn’t need to make a priority of regulating greenhouse-gas emissions, because as he put it late last year, “God said the earth would not be destroyed by a flood.”

Source: Gallup

Whoever emerges as the Republican presidential candidate in 2012 will very likely have to embrace climate-change denial. Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Mike Huckabee, all of whom once expressed some support for action on global warming, have notably distanced themselves from these views. Saying no to mainstream climate science, notes Daniel J. Weiss, a senior fellow and director of climate strategy for the Center for American Progress, is now a required practice for Republicans eager to play to an emboldened conservative base. “Opposing the belief that global warming is human-caused has become systematic, like opposition to abortion,” he says. “It’s seen as another way for government to control people’s lives. It’s become a cultural issue.”

That taking on the scientific establishment has become a favored activity of the right is quite a turnabout. After all, questioning accepted fact, revealing the myths and politics behind established certainties, is a tactic straight out of the left-wing playbook. In the 1960s and 1970s, the push back against scientific authority brought us the patients’ rights movement and was a key component of women’s rights activism. That questioning of authority veered in a more radical direction in the academy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when left-wing scholars doing “science studies” increasingly began taking on the very idea of scientific truth.

This was the era of the culture wars, the years when the conservative University of Chicago philosopher Allan Bloom warned in his book “The Closing of the American Mind” of the dangers of liberal know-nothing relativism. But somehow, in the passage from Bush I to Bush II and beyond, the politics changed. By the mid-1990s, even some progressives said that the assault on truth, particularly scientific truth, had gone too far, a point made most famously in 1996 by the progressive New York University physicist Alan Sokal, who managed to trick the left-wing academic journal Social Text into printing a tongue-in-cheek article, written in an overblown parody of dense academic jargon, that argued that physical reality, as we know it, may not exist.


Illustration: Nomoco

Following the Sokal hoax, many on the academic left experienced some real embarrassment. But the genie was out of the bottle. And as the political zeitgeist shifted, attacking science became a sport of the radical right. “Some standard left arguments, combined with the left-populist distrust of ‘experts’ and ‘professionals’ and assorted high-and-mighty muckety-mucks who think they’re the boss of us, were fashioned by the right into a powerful device for delegitimating scientific research,” Michael Bérubé, a literature professor at Pennsylvania State University, said of this evolution recently in the journal Democracy. He quoted the disillusioned French theorist Bruno Latour, a pioneer of science studies who was horrified by the climate-change-denying machinations of the right: “Entire Ph.D. programs are still running to make sure that good American kids are learning the hard way that facts are made up, that there is no such thing as natural, unmediated, unbiased access to truth . . . while dangerous extremists are using the very same argument of social construction to destroy hard-won evidence that could save our lives.”

Some conservatives argue that the Republican war on science is bad politics and that catering to the “climate-denier sect” in the party is a dangerous strategy, as David Jenkins, a member of Republicans for Environmental Protection wrote recently on the FrumForum blog. Public opinion, after all, has not kept pace with Republican rhetoric on the topic of climate change. A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted in January found that 83 percent of Americans want Congress to pass legislation promoting alternative energy, and a recent poll by the Opinion Research Corporation found that almost two-thirds want the Environmental Protection Agency to be more aggressive.

For those who have staked out extreme positions, backtracking may not be easy: “It is very difficult to get a man to understand something when his tribal identity depends on his not understanding it,” Bérubé notes. Maybe it’s time for some new identity politics.

Judith Warner is the author, most recently, of “We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication.”

>The Drama of Climate Change (More Intelligent Life)

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Climate science is a tricky subject for the stage, as two new plays in London make plain. Robert Butler puts his finger on the problem …

Special to MORE INTELLIGENT LIFE (Winter 2010)

In the last fortnight two plays about climate change have opened in London that have provoked polar reactions: “Greenland” (pictured top), at the National Theatre, got panned, and “The Heretic” (pictured below), at the Royal Court, got raves. If you go and see both, you could come away fairly confused about climate change.

Sea levels in the Maldives are rising in “Greenland”; sea levels in the Maldives are not rising in “The Heretic”. The Hockey Stick Graph, which links the rise in global temperature to human activity, has been broadly accepted by scientists in “Greenland”; the Hockey Stick Graph is an embarrassment to scientists in “The Heretic”. The UN climate change negotiations in Copenhagen might be the last chance for mankind to save itself in “Greenland”; these negotiations don’t get a mention in “The Heretic”. A life-size polar bear comes out in “Greenland”, a cuddly toy polar bear appears in “The Heretic”: one tries to create a sense of wonder, the other is a joke.

Highly divisive issues have generated some important plays: think of McCarthyism and Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”, or AIDS and Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America”, or political correctness and David Mamet’s “Oleanna”. Yet 20 years after the first report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and five years after “An Inconvenient Truth”, no major playwright had written a play about the subject. Many reasons have been suggested for this. The science is complex. The links between cause and effect (on which plays depend) are hard to show. Arts organisations get sponsorship from Big Oil. And everyone has made up their mind anyway.

The National Theatre tried to get round this last point by commissioning four youngish playwrights, none of whom (as they cheerfully admitted in a pre-show discussion) had any special knowledge in this area. As the playwrights put it, they were “on a journey”. Since the National has taken active and informed steps to reduce its own carbon emissions, it sounds as if there were administrators in the building who initially knew more about climate change than the writers.

The title had to be chosen before anything was written. Many of the scenes would revolve around Copenhagen, but that name was out as the National had already staged a superb play about science called “Copenhagen”. In six months the writers industriously interviewed everyone from the British Government’s chief scientific adviser and Greenpeace activists to prominent sceptics and the chairman of Shell. They went on to develop multiple storylines to reflect this complexity. The idea—according to the play’s dramaturg Ben Power—was “to find a new way of talking about this subject”.

The production also comes accompanied with a series of talks (from scientists, sceptics and activists) and panel discussions. There is even something called a ‘talkaoke’, a roundtable discussion that takes place in the foyer immediately after the show, where—amazingly for theatre—people can take the microphone and criticise what they’ve just seen. What’s the result of all this careful, reasonable, fact-checked, inclusive sincerity? “Greenland” was slammed: “crushingly dull” (London Standard), “shamelessly partisan” (Daily Telegraph), “rotten theatre” (Sunday Times).

“The Heretic” took another route. The playwright, Richard Bean, a former stand-up comic, has a sharp eye for modern pieties. His recent play “England People Very Nice” tackled the subject of immigration. Bean particularly admires Joe Orton, a playwright from the 1960s, as someone who would “go around, find the open wound and pour salt in it.” In ‘The Heretic’, he delivers a comedy that fictionalises (and skews) many of the current controversies and “-gates” with plenty of verve and attack.

Bean’s play takes an Earth Scientist at York University (played with crisp disdain by Juliet Stevenson) whose research into sea-level rises isn’t going to help her faculty’s chances of getting a major grant. Her appearance on the BBC’s “Newsnight” leads to her sacking, and she ends up having a regular column in the Daily Telegraph. (This time round the Telegraph’s theatre critic could see nothing “shamelessly partisan” about the play, and said it was “an absolute corker”.)

It’s probably a mistake to worry about the ways in which the science is misrepresented when the rest of the plot is not very plausible either. For the first-night audience, neither failing seemed to matter because “The Heretic” has two much more important things going for it: likeable characters and very funny jokes. It even has a happy ending. The Royal Court, hotbed of radical left-wing plays for so many decades, has produced the most right-wing play in London. It’d be interesting to know how much this cheers its staff.

Only one play so far, Steve Waters’s “The Contingency Plan”, has managed to be authoritative and funny on the subject of climate change. (That play was staged at a tiny theatre, The Bush, and richly deserves to be revived.) This last fortnight has now produced one painfully authoritative play, which tells us the great majority of climate scientists are right, and also one painfully funny play, which tells us the great majority of climate scientists are wrong. The reason why one’s a flop and the other is a hit says more about theatre than it does about climate change.

Jim Thompson, author of “The Grifters”, once wrote there are 32 ways to write a story (and he had used every one of them), but there is only one plot: “Things are not what they seem.” The problem with climate change is that the scientific consensus is a bit of a bore. It just doesn’t catch our imagination. As an audience, we are naturally drawn to deception and mystery, the half-hidden and the shadows. The theatre may be the one place where we hope our trust in authority figures will prove to be misplaced.

The authors of “Greenland” might have had more fun if they had concentrated on the smooth and powerful authority figures who deny the science, rather than the earnest folks who fret over it. That’s where the action is. As David Mamet told an interviewer, “Drama is basically about lies, somebody lying to somebody.” It’s the impulse audiences had in Ancient Greece, when characters were portrayed with masks. Whichever way you tell the story, we want to see the mask slip.

“The Heretic” is at the Royal Court Theatre through March 19th; “Greenland” is at the National Theatre through April 2nd

Robert Butler, a former theatre critic, blogs on the arts and the environment at the Ashden Directory, which he edits. His last article was about the lasting power of “Heart of Darkness”

>‘Rapid Response Team’ Pairs Scientists and Media (The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media)

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By Lisa Palmer | February 16, 2011
The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media


Think of it as the climate scientists/journalists version of “eHarmony.” A volunteer website launched by scientists serves as a matchmaking venue for media outlets and government officials looking for input on climate science topics.

It’s a Friday morning and Scott Mandia is scanning the Climate Science Rapid Response Team e-mail inbox he shares with two other climate science match-makers.

Today, on Mandia’s watch, a message from a journalist arrives at 5:30 a.m. It’s the first of two or three media requests he’ll likely get this day. Mandia’s task now? Ask for a response from one of 135 scientists in his network most qualified to answer the question. You might think of it as the climate scientists/journalists version of “eHarmony.”

Mandia, a professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College, in New York, and his fellow Rapid Response founders, John Abraham, associate professor of thermodynamics at St. Thomas University, and Ray Weymann, a California-based retired astronomer and member of the National Academy of Sciences, take shifts. Each is a volunteer custodian of e-mail requests that flow in from their climate change match-making website connecting climate scientists with lawmakers and media outlets.

Launched in November 2010, the website tries to narrow the information gap between scientific understanding of climate change and what the public knows. Scientists involved with the group are screened and selected on an invitation-only basis. The experts come from a range of climate change science specialties, everything from climate modeling researchers and ecologists to economists and policy experts. Most are university faculty members or employees of government laboratories. It’s not a collection that most climate “contrarians” might be comfortable with.
The all-volunteer group promises to respond quickly to media requests to make sure science is portrayed accurately in the day’s news. They say turnaround time for requests is as fast as two hours for media operating on a short deadline.

“The scientists became members of our group because they understand that, as scientists, they have a responsibility to engage the public by engaging the media,” Mandia said in a phone interview. Mandia said he and his colleagues operate the service with no funding, and the website design was donated by Richard Hawkins, director of the Public Interest Research Centre in the United Kingdom.

Early on a Confusing Mix-up with AGU Media Project

Coincidentally, the Climate Science Rapid Response Team website debuted at the same time as the relaunch of the American Geophysical Unions’s Climate Q and A service, which has similarities with the Rapid Response Team but strictly limits questions to matters of science. (See Yale Forum related story.) Some confusion ensued when the Los Angeles Times erroneously reported a link between the AGU’s group and the Rapid Response volunteers, and AGU staff quickly initiated a damage-control effort in fear that some on Capitol Hill would find, based on the newspaper’s coverage, their effort overly politicized.

“When that (Los Angeles Times) story came out, it sounded like scientists were fighting back against politicians. We are not advocates about policy, but it made us look like we were the 98 pound weaklings getting sand kicked in their face,” said Mandia. But the bad press proved a boon to increase the numbers involved in the Rapid Response force.

“Scientists then realized they were being criticized unfairly and wanted to get involved,” said Mandia. The number of scientists involved with the Rapid Response Team quadrupled in number.
The AGU’s Q and A Service first formed to support media requests during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. It started again prior to the U.N. talks in Cancun. The Q and A service is open to anyone with a PhD degree willing to provide scientific expertise on a subject.

“AGU is not a partisan organization. We are here to make our science available so there is good information available to the media,” AGU Executive Director Chris McEntee said in a telephone interview.

About 700 scientists are registered with AGU’s service, which has provided answers to 68 media outlets. “We think it is important that policymakers, media, and the public get unbiased, nonpartisan information when making a decision,” said McEntee. “The service fits with our mission to promote scientific discovery for the benefit of humanity.”

Scientists Step Up

Mandia said scientists involved with his effort are usually tapped once or twice a month for media inquiries. No single person carries the burden of too many repeat requests because the group has selected a range of scientists, vetted for their expertise in various disciplines. The Rapid Response Team also has promised confidentiality of its scientists, who can remain anonymous if they wish. But Mandia said that, despite the offer, “none of them has ever requested anonymity.”

Andrew Dessler, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A & M University, is affiliated with both information services, but is more involved with the Climate Science Rapid Response Team. He was prompted into action because “dealing with climate change misinformation is difficult to do on your own,” Dessler wrote in an e-mail. “Effectively responding to the denial machine absolutely requires coordinated action by the climate science community. In this way, I think the CCRRT [sic] is a model of how scientists can effectively spend their limited resources on outreach.”

Dessler gives the Rapid Response service high marks, especially for institutionalizing the response process from scientists and distributing the communications workload. “You have to realize the asymmetry here. For [some] so-called skeptics, spreading misinformation is their full-time job. Scientists, on the other hand, already have a full-time job: research and teaching. Thus, we need to have mechanisms to level the playing field, and the CCRRT [sic] is one such mechanism,” said Dessler, adding that he encourages scientists to get involved in public outreach. “Because we are mainly funded by tax dollars, I think we have a responsibility to repay this by spreading the results of our research as far and wide as possible.”

A Goal of Precise Pairing

As of early February, more than 100 media organizations — newspaper, magazine, online media, television, and radio — and government officials have used the service to find climate scientists who could comment on a story. Mainstream media users have included The New York Times, The Guardian (UK), CNN International, and American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” among many others. Mandia said many of the media questions in December had to do with severe weather in the United States and in Northern Europe.

The Rapid Response website includes testimonials from such reporters as Ben Webster, of The Times in London: “I asked a difficult question about ice cores and was impressed by the efforts the team made to find the right people to respond. The response was balanced, stating clearly what was known but also the uncertainties.”

Eli Kintisch, a reporter for Science and author of Hack the Planet (Wiley, 2010), called on the service when he was looking for a scientist to serve as a color commentator of a live blog for Science he was producing during a House hearing. Facing time constraints, Kintisch relied on the matchmakers for the legwork of finding someone to fill this role.

“I have my own batch of sources on climate that I have used to comment on stories, and I have used ProfNet in the past occasionally. But I was looking for someone who had some experience with public engagement and would be available for two to four hours,” Kintisch said in a telephone interview. “The hearing was a review of the basics of climate science, and there were some prominent contrarians testifying, so I thought it would be useful to have someone available who knew the basics of climate science.”

While not all climate scientists feel comfortable engaging with the media, they are finding ways to get more involved in communications. Mandia said, “Some scientists are nervous about speaking to the press and worry they will be misquoted, but getting out of the ‘Ivory Tower’ is becoming very important.”

Lisa Palmer is a Maryland-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to The Yale Forum. (E-mail: lisa@yaleclimatemediaforum.org)

>The Role of Trust in Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience: Can ICTs help?

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February 27, 2011
By Angelica Valeria Ospina
From http://niccd.wordpress.com.

Amidst the magnitude and uncertainty that characterizes the climate change field, trust is a topic that is often overlooked, despite being one of the cornerstones of resilience building and adaptive capacity.

Trust is an essential element of effective communication, networking and self-organisation, and thus is indispensable in efforts to withstand and recover from the effects of climate change-related manifestations, being acute shocks or slow-changing trends. It’s an equally important basis for vulnerable communities to be able to adapt, and potentially change, in face of the -largely unknown- impact of climatic occurrences.

Associated with the belief, reliability, expectations and perceptions between people and the institutions within which they operate or interact, trust often acts as an underlying cause of action or inaction, constituting an important factor in decision-making processes.

With the rapid diffusion of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) such as mobile phones and the Internet, the unprecedented speed at which information is produced and shared is posing a new set of possibilities -and challenges- to communication management and trust building, both essential to the development of resilience and adaptation to the changing climate.

Adaptation experiences suggest that vulnerable communities are more prone to act upon information that they can ‘trust’, a complex concept that could be linked to factors such as the source of the information -and the local perception of it-, the language used to convey the message, the role and credibility of ‘infomediaries’ or local facilitators that help disseminate the information, the use of local appropriation mechanisms and community involvement, among others.

Climate change Adaptation Strategies and National Programmes of Action are increasingly called to foster trust-building processes by engaging local actors and gaining a better understanding of local needs and priorities. Thus, trust building in the climate change field involves finding new collaborative spaces where the interests of all stakeholders can be heard, and both scientific and traditional knowledge can be shared and built upon towards more effective adaptive practices, and potentially, transformation.

The widespread diffusion of ICTs -such as mobile phones, Internet access and even community radios- within Developing country environments could be opening up new opportunities to use these tools in support of trust-building processes, a necessary step towards change and transformation.

So, how can ICTs help to build trust within climate change resilience and adaptation processes?

Research at the intersection of ICTs, climate change and development suggests the following aspects in regards to the supportive role of ICT tools towards trust:

  • Multi-level Communication: ICTs can facilitate communication and trust-building between and across actors at the micro (e.g. community members), meso (e.g. NGOs) and macro levels (e.g. policy makers), fostering participation in the design of adaptation -and mitigation- strategies, as well as accountability and monitoring during their implementation.
  • Network Strengthening: The role of social networks is key within processes of adaptation to climate change and resilience building. Trust is at the core of networks functioning. The use of ICTs such as mobile phones can help to enhance communication and the bonds of trust within and among networks, which can in turn contribute to the effectiveness of community networks’ support and the access to resources.
  • Self-organisation: The ability to self-organize is a key attribute of resilient systems, and involves processes of collaboration that require trust among stakeholders and institutions. By facilitating access to information and resources through both point-to-multipoint and point-to-point exchange, ICTs can be important contributors to self-organisation and to the coordination of both preventive and reactive joint efforts in face of climatic events. They can help climate change actors to verify or double-check facts if the information source is not entirely trusted, diversifying their potential responses to the occurrence of climatic events. Additionally, ICTs can play a role towards trust by enabling the assessment of options and trade-offs involved in decision-making.
  • Appropriation and Infomediaries: The role of actors that ‘translate’ or ‘mediate’ the technical and scientific information to suit the needs of the local context, is vital for the appropriation of information. Tools such as the Internet, GIS or mobile phones can support and strengthen the role of agricultural extension workers, deepening the relationships of trust that they have established with local producers affected by climate change manifestations by offering them a broader set of options and information, for example, on crop diversification or plague management, including more immediate response to their queries.
  • Transparency and Fluency: Online platforms that provide new channels for citizens to voice their views and concerns, and that allow an interaction with decision makers, are an example of ICTs potential towards transparency and information fluency, which is an important factor in the local perception, expectations and ‘trust’ on local, regional and national institutions.

While at the onset of extreme events we are quick to recognize the importance of communication, we often fail to acknowledge the pivotal role of trust towards adaptation and resilience, as well as the potential of innovative tools such as ICTs to help fostering trust, strengthening networks and collaboration.

But as important as discussing the potential of ICTs towards trust building in adaptive processes, is discussing the risks associated with their use.

Ensuring the quality, accuracy and relevance of the information is key to avoid maladaptive practices and poor decision-making, which could potentially lead to deepen existent vulnerabilities and inequalities. Issues of power and differential access to information also need to be addressed when considering the potential of these tools towards trust building, network strengthening and participatory processes –including those related to climate change.

Ultimately, ICTs could play an important supportive role helping to build and strengthen trust within vulnerable communities affected by climate change impacts, as well as in National Adaptation Plans and Programmes of Action seeking to build long-term climate change resilience with a multi-stakeholder, participatory base.

>ICTs and the Climate Change ‘Unknowns’: Tackling Uncertainty

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January 4, 2011
By Angelica Valeria Ospina
From http://niccd.wordpress.com/

Determining the repercussions of the changing climate is a field of great unknowns. While the impacts of climatic variations and seasonal changes on the most vulnerable populations are expected to increase and be manifest in more vulnerable ecosystems and natural habitats, the exact magnitude and impact of climate change effects remain, for the most part, open questions.

Such uncertainty is a key contributor to climate change vulnerability, particularly among developing country populations that lack the resources, including access to information and knowledge, to properly prepare for and cope with its impacts.

But, how can vulnerable contexts prepare for the ‘unknowns’ posed by climate change? And should the quest for ‘certainty’ be the focus of our attention?

The rapid diffusion of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) within developing country environments, the hardest hit by climate change-related manifestations, is starting to shed new light on these issues.

A recent article by Reuters identified 10 climate change adaptation technologies that will become crucial to cope and adapt to the effects of the changing climate over the next century.

The bullet points found bellow link these 10 aspects with the potential of ICTs within the climate change field, highlighting some of the ways in which they can help vulnerable populations to better prepare for and cope with the effects of climatic uncertainty.

  • Innovations around Infectious Diseases: Extreme weather events and changing climatic patterns associated with climate change have been linked to the spread of vector-borne (i.e. malaria and dengue) and water-borne diseases. Within this context, ICTs such as mobile phones, community radio and the Internet have the potential to enable information sharing, awareness raising and capacity building on key health threats, enabling effective prevention and response.
  • Flood Safeguards: Climatic changes such as increased and erratic patterns of precipitation negatively affect the capacity of flood and drainage systems, built environment, energy and transportation, among others. ICT applications such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can facilitate the monitoring and provision of relevant environmental information to relevant stakeholders, including decision-making processes for the adaptation of human habitats.
  • Weather Forecasting Technologies: ICTs play a key role in the implementation of innovative weather forecasting technologies, including the integration of community monitoring. The use of mobile phones and SMS for reporting on locally-relevant indicators (e.g. likelihood of floods) can contribute to greater accuracy and more precise flood warnings to communities. Based on this information, authorities could design and put in action more appropriate strategies, and farmers could better prepare for evacuations, protect their livestock and better plan local irrigation systems, among others.
  • Insurance Tools: Access to new and more diversified sources of information and knowledge through tools such as the Internet or the mobile phone can facilitate the access to insurance mechanisms, and to information about national programs/assistance available to support vulnerable populations.
  • More Resilient Crops: In the face of higher temperatures, more variable crop seasons and decreasing productivity, ICTs have the potential to enhance food security by strengthening agricultural production systems through information about pest and disease control, planting dates, seed varieties, irrigation applications, and early warning systems, as well as improving market access, among others.
  • Supercomputing: According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the use of ICT-equipped sensors (telemetry), aerial photography, satellite imagery, grid technology, global positioning by satellite (GPS) (e.g. for tracking slow, long-term movement of glaciers) and computer modeling of the earth’s atmosphere, among others, play a key role in climate change monitoring. New technologies continue to be developed, holding great potential for real-time, more accurate information key to strengthen decision-making processes.
  • Water Purification, Water Recycling and Efficient Irrigation Systems: ICTs can contribute to the improvement of water resource management techniques, monitoring of water resources, capacity building and awareness rising. Broadly diffused applications such as mobile phones can serve as tools to disseminate information on low-cost methods for desalination, using gray water and harvesting rainwater for every day uses, as well as for capacity building on new irrigation mechanisms, among others.
  • Sensors: In addition to the role that sensors play in monitoring climate change by helping to capture more accurate data, research indicates that they also constitute promising technologies for improving energy efficiency. Sensors can be used in several environmental applications, such as control of temperature, heating and lighting.

This short identification of areas of potential does not suggest that ICTs can eliminate climatic uncertainty, but it does suggest their potential to help vulnerable populations to strengthen their capacity to withstand and recover from shocks and changing climatic trends.

By contributing to building resilience and strengthening adaptive capacity, ICTs have the potential to tackle climate change uncertainty not only by providing access to information and knowledge, but also by fostering networking, personal empowerment and participation, facilitating self-organisation, access to diverse resources and learning, among others, which ultimately contribute to better preparedness and response, including the possibility of transformation in the face of the unknown.

The need to reduce uncertainty should not substitute efforts to foster creativity and flexibility, which lie at the core of resilient responses to the ongoing challenges posed by climate change.

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*Further examples on the linkages between ICTs, climate change and vulnerability dimensions can be found at: http://www.niccd.org/ScopingStudy.pdf

>Bacia hidrográfica poderá determinar gestão de recursos hídricos (Agência Câmara)

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Jornal da Ciência da SBPC – 28/02/2011

PL 29/11, que promove alterações na Política Nacional de Recursos Hídricos (Lei 9.433/97, também conhecida como Lei das Águas), propõe descentralizar a gestão de acordo com a bacia hidrográfica.

O projeto do deputado Weliton Prado (PT-MG) é idêntico ao PL 3522/08, do ex-deputado José Fernando Aparecido de Oliveira (PV-MG), arquivado ao final da última legislatura. No Brasil, a duração da legislatura é de quatro anos.

O autor pretende tornar a gestão menos dependente das decisões e da atuação dos órgãos públicos e com maior participação da sociedade – usuários da água e/ou pessoas e instituições com interesse no setor.

Pelo projeto serão necessários planos estaduais de recursos hídricos para o acesso das unidades da Federação a recursos e avais da União destinados ao setor.

Prado explica que tal condição foi a solução encontrada para corrigir um problema: apesar de haver consenso geral sobre a necessidade desses planos estaduais, eles não são legalmente obrigatórios, tendo em vista que lei federal não pode impor tal obrigação a outros entes federados.

Aplicação dos recursos

De acordo com a proposta, a arrecadação pela cobrança do uso dos recursos hídricos será feita pelas agências de águas, atendendo a decisões e orientações dos correspondentes comitês de bacias hidrográficas.

Os valores arrecadados passam a ser aplicados exclusivamente na mesma bacia hidrográfica em que foram gerados, e não mais apenas prioritariamente, como estabelece a lei atual.

Segundo Prado, esta mudança visa reforçar a gestão participativa e também o sentido pedagógico da cobrança, ressaltando, para o usuário, “o valor da água utilizada e a necessidade de enfrentar o problema da sua escassez”.

Tramitação – O projeto terá análise conclusiva (Rito de tramitação pelo qual o projeto não precisa ser votado pelo Plenário, apenas pelas comissões designadas para analisá-lo). O projeto perderá esse caráter em duas situações: – se houver parecer divergente entre as comissões (rejeição por uma, aprovação por outra); – se, depois de aprovado ou rejeitado pelas comissões, houver recurso contra esse rito assinado por 51 deputados (10% do total). Nos dois casos, o projeto precisará ser votado pelo Plenário das comissões de Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento Sustentável; de Minas e Energia; de Finanças e Tributação; e de Constituição e Justiça e de Cidadania.

Fonte: Agência Câmara.

>Movimento da senzala (FAPESP)

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Especiais

2/3/2011
Por Fábio de Castro

Referência na historiografia brasileira, livro O Plano e o pânico: os movimentos sociais na década da Abolição, ganha edição revista (Imagem: J.B. Debret)


Agência FAPESP – Com base na historiografia tradicional, o abolicionismo e o fim da escravidão no Brasil foram interpretados por muito tempo como processos elitistas, nos quais o escravo aparecia como um personagem passivo. O livro O Plano e o pânico: os movimentos sociais na década da Abolição, que acaba de ganhar sua segunda edição, revista, vem contribuindo desde 1994 para mudar essa visão.

O fim da escravidão foi resultado de uma cultura política gestada no cotidiano do trabalho nas senzalas, de acordo com a obra, fundamentada em pesquisa realizada a partir de múltiplas fontes por Maria Helena Toledo de Machado, professora do Departamento de História da Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH) da Universidade de São Paulo (USP).

De acordo com Maria Helena, a tese central do livro – que teve origem em sua pesquisa de doutorado, concluída na USP em 1991 – é que os escravos não tiveram um papel passivo no processo que culminou com o fim da escravidão, que não teve nada de elitista, ao contrário do que deixava transparecer a historiografia abolicionista.

“Os escravos tiveram ampla participação no processo, em um movimento que também envolveu trabalhadores livres pobres e imigrantes. A atuação dos líderes abolicionistas só é compreensível como parte de um contexto de uma cultura política que teve origem nas senzalas, com a tensão social causada por sucessivas fugas em massa ao longo da década de 1880”, disse à Agência FAPESP.

Segundo a historiadora, o objetivo do livro era analisar a atuação dos escravos no processo de abolição, no período entre 1880 e 1888, no contexto paulista. Para isso, além de consultar uma bibliografia internacional, ela realizou uma pesquisa inédita considerando acervos judiciários e a documentação da polícia em cidades paulistas.

“Tratava-se de uma documentação massiva, com milhares de documentos que mapeei para selecionar apenas o que se referia aos escravos. A partir dessa seleção, valorizei os casos que relatavam revoltas, fugas em massa, homicídios, invasões de cidades e outros movimentos de maior impacto”, afirmou.

A pesquisadora, então, visitou diversas cidades paulistas, consultou cartórios locais e levantou processos criminais relacionados aos eventos que estavam listados na documentação oficial da polícia.

“Além disso, encontrei no Arquivo do Estado, pela primeira vez, o livro de reservados da polícia – onde eram registrados os fatos que não podiam ser divulgados para o público. Colhi os relatórios mais gerais dos chefes da polícia, dos presidentes das províncias e dos jornais da época”, disse Maria Helena.

No ano de 1885, por exemplo, os relatórios do chefe de polícia de Campinas relatavam que havia sido um ano tranquilo, sem maiores problemas a não ser pequenas ocorrências pontuais com escravos. Enquanto isso, o livro de reservados registrava um cenário certamente mais próximo da realidade: a cidade estava em perigo iminente com as fugas em massa de escravos.

“Percebi que os jornais eram censurados e retratavam uma versão rósea da realidade que a polícia de fato estava enfrentando. Acompanhei diversos estágios da produção dos eventos. Desde os primeiros telegramas, nos quais os fazendeiros pediam socorro ao subdelegado depois da invasão da sede de uma fazenda por escravos armados, passando pela notificação de cada autoridade, até chegar ao desenrolar do conflito e à divulgação nos jornais”, disse.

Onda de pânico

A historiadora descobriu revoltas de escravos que não haviam sido documentadas anteriormente. Uma delas, abortada, estava planejada para ser realizada em Resende (RJ), em 1881. Os registros diziam que um homem branco conhecido como Mesquita tinha chegado dos Estados Unidos e estava organizando uma revolta de escravos sem precedentes.

“Ele orientava os escravos a roubar armas dos senhores, a cortar os fios dos telégrafos e a roubar cavalos. Planejava articular uma ação orquestrada e formar uma excursão para a corte, no Rio de Janeiro, a fim de exigir a abolição da escravidão. Vários episódios mostravam grande movimentação social naquela década – entre São Paulo e Rio de Janeiro – com participação ativa dos escravos”, disse Maria Helena.

Outra revolta estudada foi organizada em 1882, em Campinas (SP), e chegou a ser realizada, embora em dimensão menor que a planejada. Liderada por um escravo liberto chamado Felipe Santiago, essa revolta foi associada à organização de uma seita religiosa denominada Arásia.

“Os adeptos tinham iniciações, recebiam novos nomes e eram marcados no corpo em ritos iniciáticos. Esses escravos haviam comprado armas e invadiram a cidade de Campinas em uma ação muito violenta. Esse tipo de episódio dissipa a ideia de que a abolição foi uma libertação passiva, ou um protesto irracional e apolítico dos escravos”, contou.

O título do livro – O Plano e o pânico –, segundo Maria Helena, remete à organização deliberada das revoltas arquitetadas por escravos e à onda de pânico por elas espalhada entre os escravistas.

“Depois da revolta de Resende em 1881, houve vários outros episódios e o pânico se espalhou pelo território paulista. O medo era tamanho que, em Bananal, por exemplo, as pessoas chegaram a abandonar as fazendas e fugir para a cidade. As polícias paulista e fluminense, despreparadas, sem armamentos, sem treinamento, viram-se sob o risco palpável de eventos violentos durante toda a década”, disse Maria Helena.

O Plano e o pânico: os movimentos sociais na década da Abolição
Autor: Maria Helena Toledo de Machado
Lançamento: 2011
Preço: R$ 37
Páginas: 248
Mais informações: http://www.boitempoeditorial.com.br