Arquivo mensal: dezembro 2012

Devir-pobre, devir-índio (Quadrado dos Loucos)

4 de agosto de 2012

Por Bruno Cava

Em 15 de junho, aconteceu o seminário terraTerra, na Casa de Rui Barbosa, no Rio. Inscrito como evento da Cúpula dos Povos, o encontro de grupos militantes e intelectuais tinha por objetivo aprofundar a crítica ao modelo de desenvolvimento. No contexto da crise socioambiental, aterrar a discussão nas lutas, nas alternativas, nas ocupações e formas de resistir e reexistir. Na ocasião, o cadinho de falas, textos e debates resultou em bons e maus encontros. Uma fratura que repercute a própria atividade prática dos grupos que participavam da dinâmica. Foi a “trama da sapucaia”, para pegar emprestado de um texto de Cléber Lambert. Como toda fratura em ambientes de rico pensamento e debate aberto, tiveram basicamente dois efeitos. Um efeito narcísico, improdutivo, edipiano, neurótico. Quando o desejo volta contra si mesmo como planta venenosa, com piadinhas, pulsões e muito espírito de rebanho, o que acaba por reunir o ressentimento dos súditos em projeto de vingança. Mas também o outro lado, produtivo, prometeico, fabulador. Quando o desejo se liga ao real sem recalques, gera diferenças qualitativas e propicia que se continue pensando e continue lutando. Esses dois efeitos atravessaram as pessoas em várias intensidades e sentidos, nos dois pólos do debate. Eu particularmente prefiro Prometeu a Narciso e não renuncio à agressividade da diferença.

No final do seminário, um dos palestrantes (não lembro exatamente quem), do alto de seu poder de síntese, resumiu as posições. De um lado, aqueles que defendem que “o índio vire pobre”. Do outro, aqueles que defendem que “o pobre vire índio”. Os primeiros representariam o projeto desenvolvimentista. Fazer do índio mais um trabalhador e consumidor do novo Brasil, o país do futuro que chegou. Inclui-lo na sociedade forjada pela modernidade. Uma monocultura inteiramente pautada pelo quantitativo, o extensivo e o pacto diabólico da produção pela produção. Em última instância, aqueles que defendem Dilma (pela via economicista). Os segundos, defensores que “o pobre vire índio”, pensam a cosmologia indígena como alteridade radical à sociedade colonizada. Opõem o intensivo ao extensivo e a qualidade à quantidade. Para eles, a solução está em combater para que o índio não vire pobre, ao mesmo tempo em que os pobres se indianizem, e assim possam vencer a assimetria fundamental de uma antropologia que os assujeita e que se manifesta em todos os lugares e discursos por onde passam. Em vez disso, o pobre é que deve se reconstruir pelo índio. “Todo mundo é índio, menos quem não é” (Eduardo Viveiros de Castro). Disseminar o índio no corpo da população, como na retomada cabocla das terras, ou na campanha indigenista dos zapatistas. Em vez de concretar o Xingu, mostrar que a cidade jamais deixou de ser indígena. Que a floresta como saturação de relações jamais deixou de ser a nossa verdadeira riqueza cultural. Em última instância, aqueles que promovem Marina (por essa via antropológica).

Com o recorte, esse palestrante tentou sintetizar as múltiplas incidências da questão num simples fla-flu. Uma operação legítima do ponto de vista das estratégias político-teóricas envolvidas, mas que terminou por colocar o problema de maneira desfocada e, no fundo, simplória. É que o problema começa no verbo. Nem tanto o pobre virar índio, ou o índio virar pobre, mas pôr em questão o virar mesmo. A questão está no processo de passagem, mais no trânsito que nos pontos de partida e chegada, a imanência da reexistência às transcendências das culturas existentes. O palestrante confundiu o devir com o sujeito. É preciso antes de tudo examinar a travessia, a transformação mesma, que é primeira em relação ao que se transforma. Isto significa assumir uma perspectiva em que as coisas se sustentam instáveis, enquanto cristalizações de processos inacabados e precários; e em que a relação entre as coisas existe como uma relação entre transformações de transformações, relações de relações em ação cruzada. As coisas ficam mais abertas à mudança. E ensejam ser desdobradas em múltiplas perspectivas.

A pobreza, por exemplo, contém um paradoxo. Na mesma medida que é privação, também é potência. Por óbvio, privação e potência não acontecem ao mesmo tempo. Mas o pobre é aquela força que caminha nesse campo instável, onde pode transitar por todo o espectro de grau entre uma e outra. Porque a pobreza tem uma dimensão afirmativa, inventa novos usos, constrói o máximo do mínimo, a favela do lixo, a poesia das expressões doridas e tensionadas das ruas. Gatos nascem livres e pobres e recusam a ser chamados pelo nome. Qualquer prescrição de imobilidade não serve para quem tem de se mover todos os dias para reinventar o mundo, em cuja crise o pobre vive e se relaciona. Devir pobre ativa a potência insofismável dessa classe inscrita como agente de produção do capitalismo.

Por que não se trata tanto de virar isto ou aquilo, mas de devir. Pode ser ridículo eu, homem branco, querer ser negro, mas nada impede aconteça uma negritude em mim. Devir-onça não significa tornar-se uma onça. Nesse sentido, sucedem processos de transformações que podem ser apresados subjetivamente, e o conjunto galgar novos horizontes éticos e políticos. Devir pobre, índio, mulher, criança, planta, mundo. Nos devires, está em jogo a construção de um comum de reexistências e lutas, no interior das culturas e identidades disponíveis. No interior e para além, e mesmo contra. Um comum diferenciante em que as diferentes forças de existir podem se enredar e se maquinar na própria distância entre elas, no dissenso constituinte; sem redução a uma identidade comum,  ao consenso, ao denominador comum, a um “em comum”. É se recompor no amor pelo outro, sem reduzi-lo a si, nem se submeter a ele. Isto é, partilha desmedida de afetos ativos, no bom encontro em que se multiplicam e produzem o real, jamais na subjugação entre seres comensuráveis entre si, na redução ao “consenso mínimo do relacionamento”.

Com essa forma de pôr o problema, é possível se concentrar antes nas estratégias e táticas de ação, nos agenciamentos do desejo, nas formas de criar e se deslocar, — em tudo que isso que favorece uma fuga reexistente das identidades, e assim favorece a diferença por si mesma — do que ficar idealizando e descrevendo outras identidades possíveis, lutando pelas existentes ou combatendo outras que possam vir a existir, como faria um inventariante dos elementos culturais por aí. Posso irromper dentro de mim, — mesmo que eu me constitua de forças majoritárias e dominantes da cultura estabelecida, — irromper o meu avesso, o meu avesso simétrico, o meu índio e o meu subdesenvolvimento, um intensivo pelo qual tudo o que passa resulta diferente. Essa diferença ameaça o poder constituído. Uma força que vem, acontece, e me arrasta pra outro lugar e outro tempo.

O primado da diferença implica que o problema de índio-virar-pobre ou pobre-virar-índio embute uma dicotomia infernal. Já se trata, desde o início, de um falso problema.

Portanto, é preciso recolocar o problema. Preocupar-se em ser pobre ou índio é muito pouco. Faz-se necessário mobilizar os substantivos em verbos, molecularizar os adjetivos em advérbios. O caso não está na transformação de A a B ou de B a A. E sim no diferencial C que faz com que A e B possam coexistir no mesmo plano de composição política. Então é caso do pobre devir índio e o índio devir pobre. E mais. Seguindo a lógica, igualmente sucede um diferencial entre A e A´, e entre B e B´. Ou seja, o pobre devir pobre e o índio devir índio. Se o projeto do novo Brasil consiste em fazer da “Classe C” o modelo de cidadão, trabalhador e consumidor, esta figura antropológica pode devir pobre-potência. O trabalhador recusa o trabalho, o consumidor consome o consumo e o cidadão se revolta. De maneira simétrica, o índio devém índio ao impregnar as forças que o constrangem na maior comunidade de todos os tempos: o mercado capitalista global. Menos para ser reconhecido como indígena do que para indianizar o poder. Institui outras formas de medir, se relacionar e escapar dos aparelhos de captura. Contra Belo Monte, o Xingu em São Paulo.

Muitas vezes, sofisticados esforços de desmontagem da metafísica ocidental perdem de vista o essencial. Todo o esforço por desarranjar a violência e o intolerável, inscritos na estrutura produtiva deste mundo, só é eficaz levado a um sentido material. Isto é, animado pelos processos de transformação e afirmação de diferença já em andamento, pela proliferação de lutas socioambientais que se debatem no dia a dia. A política precede o ser. E política sem transitividade com a crítica do sistema produtivo se torna cega à máquina capitalista, arriscando nivelar-se a uma apologia (embora requintada e elitista) ao que de pior há na modernidade européia: a economia política clássica e neoclássica.

A agressão e destruição dos aparelhos de captura só acontecem quando imediatamente ligadas à montagem de uma máquina revolucionária.

Devo parte do conteúdo deste artigo à palestra proferida por Cléber Lambert no seminário de anteontem à Casa de Rui Barbosa, co-organizado pela Universidade Nômade, bem como ao encontro produtivo entre dois pensadores de primeiro time do Brasil contemporâneo, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro e Giuseppe Cocco.

Anúncios

What We Learned About Humanity in 2012 (Live Science)

Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor

Date: 27 December 2012 Time: 10:03 AM ET

A skull of the Red Deer Cave People, possibly a previously unknown human species.Mysterious fossils of what may be a previously unknown human species were uncovered in caves in China. The hominins lived some time between 11,500 and 14,500 years ago, meaning they would have shared the landscape with modern humans when China’s earliest farmer were first appearing. Discovered at what is called Red Deer Cave in southwest China, the hominins have been dubbed the Red Deer Cave People. A skull of the possibly new hominin, shown here. CREDIT: Darren Curnoe. 

The controversial extinct human lineage known as “hobbits” gained a face this year, one of many projects that shed light in 2012 on the history of modern humans and their relatives. Other discoveries include the earliest known controlled use of fire and the possibility that Neanderthals or other extinct human lineages once sailed to the Mediterranean.

Here’s a look at what we learned about ourselves through our ancestors this year.

We’re not alone

A trove of discoveries this year revealed a host of other extinct relatives of modern humans. For instance, researchers unearthed 3.4-million-year-old fossils of a hitherto unknown species that lived about the same time and place as Australopithecus afarensis, a leading candidate for the ancestor of the human lineage. In addition, fossils between 1.78 million and 1.95 million years old discovered in 2007 and 2009 in northern Kenya suggest that at least two extinct human species lived alongside Homo erectus, a direct ancestor of our species. Moreover, fossils only between 11,500 and 14,500 years old hint that a previously unknown type of human called the “Red Deer Cave People” once lived in China.

Bones were not all that scientists revealed about modern humans’ extinct relatives in 2012. For instance, scientists finally put a face on the hobbit, a nickname for a controversial human lineage. Anthropologist Susan Hayes at the University of Wollongong in Australia reconstructed the appearance of the 3-foot (1-meter) tall, 30-year-old female member of the extinct humans officially known as Homo floresiensis, which were first discovered on the remote Indonesian island of Flores in 2003. [Image Gallery: A Real Life ‘Hobbit’]

DNA extracted from a recently discovered extinct human lineage known as the Denisovans — close relatives of Neanderthals — also revealed new details about this group, which once interbred with modern humans. The Denisovan genome that was sequenced belonged to a little girl with dark skin, brown hair and brown eyes, and displayed about 100,000 recent changes in our genome that occurred after the split from the Denisovans. A number of these changes influenced genes linked with brain function and nervous system development, leading to speculation that we may think differently from the Denisovans.

Genetic analysis also suggested the only modern humans whose ancestors did not interbreed with Neanderthals were apparently sub-Saharan Africans. These findings are just one tidbit regarding the closest extinct relatives of modern humans that was revealed this year. Scientists also found that the unusually powerful right arms of Neanderthals might not have been due to a spear-hunting life as was previously suggested, but rather one often spent scraping animal skins for clothes and shelters. Archaeologists also suggested that Neanderthals and other extinct human lineages might have been ancient mariners, venturing to the Mediterranean Islands millennia before researchers think modern humans arrived at the isles.

Humans’ tool use

Ancient artifacts revealed this year also have shown how tool use has helped humanity reshape the world — and perhaps inadvertently reshape humanity as well.

For instance, ash and charred bone, the earliest known evidence of controlled use of fire, reveal that human ancestors may have used fire 1 million years ago, 300,000 years earlier than thought, suggesting that human ancestors as early as Homo erectus may have begun using fire as part of their way of life. Controlled fires and cooked meat may have influenced human brain evolution, allowing our ancestors to evolve to have larger, more calorie-hungry brains and bodies.

Discoveries involving ancient weapons also revealed that humans learned to make and use these tools far earlier than scientists thought. For instance, what may be ancient stone arrowheads or lethal tools for hurling spearssuggest humans innovated relatively advanced weapons about 70,000 years ago, while a University of Toronto-led team of anthropologists found evidence that humans in South Africa used stone-tipped weapons for hunting 500,000 years ago, which is 200,000 years earlier than previously suggested.

Even the seemingly innocuous discovery this year of the first direct signs of cheesemakingfrom 7,500-year-old potsherds from Poland might help reveal how animal milk dramatically shaped the genetics of Europe. Most of the world, including the ancestors of modern Europeans, is lactose intolerant, unable to digest the milk sugar lactose as adults. However, while cheese is a dairy product, it is relatively low in lactose. Transforming milk into a product such as cheese that is friendlier to lactose-intolerant people might have helped promote the development of dairying among the first farmers of Europe. The presence of dairying over many generations may then, in turn, have set the stage for the evolution of lactase tolerance in Europe. As such, while cheese might just seem to be a topping on pizza or a companion to wine, it might have changed Western digestive capabilities.

Other clues regarding the diet of ancient relatives also emerged. For example, 2-million-year-old fossils suggest humans’ immediate ancestor may have lived off a woodland dietof leaves, fruits and bark, instead of a menu based on the open savanna, as other extinct relatives of humanity did. In addition, fragments of a 1.5-million-year-old skull from a child recently found in Tanzania suggest that later members of the human lineage weren’t just occasional carnivores but regular meat eaters, findings that help build the case that meat-eating helped the human lineage evolve large brains.

Humans still evolving

When it comes to the future of humanity, research this year added to accumulating evidence that natural forces of evolution continue to shape humanity. Church records of nearly 6,000 Finns born between 1760 and 1849 showed that despite humans radically altering their environments with behavior such as farming, human patterns of survival and reproduction were comparable with those of other species.

One researcher at Stanford University has even suggested that humans are getting dumber over time, having lost the evolutionary pressure to be smart once we started living in densely populated settlements several millennia ago. However, other scientists dispute this notion, pointing at geniuses such as Stephen Hawking, and suggest that rather than losing our intelligence, people have diversified, resulting in a number of different types of smarts today.

Notificação de HIV no Brasil passará a ser obrigatória (OESP)

Por Felipe Frazão | Estadão Conteúdo – 11 horas atrás (Yahoo Notícias)

O Ministério da Saúde vai tornar compulsória a notificação de todas as pessoas infectadas com o vírus HIV, mesmo as que não desenvolveram a doença. A portaria ministerial que trata da obrigatoriedade de aviso de todos os casos de detecção do vírus da aids no País deve ser publicada em janeiro.

Atualmente, médicos e laboratórios informam ao Ministério da Saúde apenas os casos de pacientes que possuem o HIV e tenham, necessariamente, manifestado a doença. Os dados serão mantidos em sigilo. Somente as informações de perfil (sem a identificação do nome) poderão ser divulgadas para fins estatísticos.

Hoje, o governo monitora os soropositivos sem aids de maneira indireta. As informações disponíveis são de pessoas que fizeram a contagem de células de defesa nos serviços públicos ou estão cadastradas para receber antirretrovirais pelo Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS). O novo banco de dados será usado para planejamento de políticas públicas de prevenção e tratamento da aids.

“Para a saúde pública é extremamente importante, porque nós vamos poder saber realmente quantas pessoas estão infectadas e o tipo de serviços que vamos precisar”, explica Dirceu Grego, diretor do Departamento de DST, Aids e Hepatites Virais do Ministério da Saúde.

A mudança ocorre quatro meses após o governo anunciar a ampliação do acesso ao tratamento com medicação antirretroviral oferecido pelo SUS. A prescrição passou a ser feita em estágios menos avançados da aids.

Desde então, casais com um dos parceiros soropositivo passaram a ter acesso à terapia em qualquer estágio da doença.

O ministério também recomendou que a droga seja ministrada de forma mais precoce para quem não têm sintomas de aids, mas possui o vírus no organismo – uma tendência na abordagem da doença, reforçada na última Conferência Internacional de Aids, realizada em julho deste ano nos Estados Unidos.

À época, o ministério calculou que o número de brasileiros com HIV fazendo uso dos antirretrovirais aumentaria em 35 mil. Atualmente, são cerca de 220 mil pacientes com aids.

Outras 135 mil pessoas, estima o governo, têm o HIV, mas não sabem. Elas estão no foco da mudança na obrigatoriedade de notificação, porque não foram ainda diagnosticadas. Segundo Grego, essas pessoas devem ser incorporadas ao tratamento. Assim como ocorre quando os pacientes são diagnosticados com aids, caberá aos médicos e laboratórios avisar ao ministério sobre a descoberta de pessoas infectadas – os soropositivos. As informações são do jornal O Estado de S.Paulo.

Favelas: preservar o quê? (riorealblog.com)

By Julia Michaels

Posted on December 23, 2012

Um mundo na van

SONY DSC

Não existe ônibus direto para Copacabana, vindo da avenida Brasil, altura da passarela nove, Parque União.  Então, o jeito é andar de van. Só que o caminho até o ponto é um desafio mortal.

“Há cracudos,” avisa Jailson de Souza e Silva, fundador do Observatório de Favelas, “e eles avançam. Conhecem as caras das pessoas, e avançam em quem tem cara de gringo.” Ele pede para uma funcionária fazer o papel de guardacostas. No caminho, a acompanhante opina que o governo devia colocar os viciados para trabalhar. “Podiam estampar camisetas,” sugere.

thinktank Observatório de Favelas é localizado na beirada do Complexo da Maré, uma coleção de 16 favelas e conjuntos habitacionais espremidos entre a avenida Brasil e a baía de Guanabara. A pacificação não chegou ainda à Maré. Souza e  Silva morou lá sete anos, e mais onze numa favela perto da Penha.

O interior da van, quase totalmente ocupada, é escuro, fresco, sonorizado de samba. O ar está ligado e os vidros estão abertos, para aproveitar a brisa de uma das últimas tardes de primavera carioca. Não se demora muito para sair, mas na hora da partida aparece uma mulher negra, repleta de curvas e megahair. O motorista, rapaz sólido de olhos doces e redondos, para, desce, e deixa-a subir para se sentar na metade de um lugar na frente, junto a ele e mais duas mulheres.

Mas nem se andou meio metro e alguém lembra que a polícia está por aí na avenida, entre os viciados, de moto, sirene, e revólver, feita pastor de zumbi– espalhando fieis. O motorista para novamente, a bonitona desce, dá volta, e sobe na parte traseira da van, para ficar em pé junto ao cobrador.

Ponto de van e de mototáxi

Ponto de van e de mototáxi

Co-autor do recém-lançado livro O Novo Carioca, Souza e Silva faz parte de um grupo de pensadores e agitadores no Rio de Janeiro, que observa e encoraja o surgimento do tal “Novo Carioca”. Trata-se de pessoas, na sua maioria jovens, que aproveitam cada vez mais a cidade. Aventuram-se por bairros e morros, fazendo conexões e amizades, criando e participando em uma gama de manifestações culturais. A integração urbana– e a cara futura da cidade– dizem os autores do livro, dependem muito do novo carioca.

De acordo com Souza e Silva, “[…] não existe uma identidade carioca independente das favelas […] a cidade tornou-se uma referência nacional e internacional também em função do peso arquitetônico, cultural e social de seus espaços favelados. A garantia dessa riqueza paisagística e dessa pluralidade cultural é central para o Rio de Janeiro”, conforme ele escreve no livro.

Jailson de Souza e Silva

Dali a alguns metros, passados vários cracudos solitários e em grupo, alguns no meio fio,  depois da polícia, a van encosta. O motorista e a moça descem, ela dá volta,  e sobe para ficar novamente no meio, ao lado dele, na frente. E o samba brada. A viagem recomeça, a van entrando numa passarela de retorno ao outro lado da avenida. Do alto, mais cracudos a vista.

“Vamos parar pro diesel,” avisa o cobrador. Ninguém diz nada, mas ele– saradão, de tênis, regata e bermuda, cabeça raspada menos um topete aloirado e encaracolado, de tatuagens, pede desculpas. O motorista queria encher o tanque antes, mas não deu. O cobrador desliza a porta e desce para cuidar do combustível. O posto também vende empadas, e pela porta aberta o motorista e o frentista trocam comentários engraçadinhos porém herméticos para quem é de fora, sobre empadões.

Passa uma mulher negra de soutien roxo e micro saia de material elástico e barato, descalça, pedindo esmola no balcāo das empadas. Passa um rapaz de muletas, faltando uma perna.

Há pouco, Souza e Silva disse que nunca quis sair da favela. “Não é verdade que as pessoas queiram sair da favela,” falou. “Eu sou o exemplo mais concreto. Eu só me mudei da favela– eu fiz uma ótima casa na favela– porque a guerra tornou impossível criar meu filho na favela […] se fóssemos só eu e minha mulher não sairíamos, mas criar um filho com isso, com bala perdida o tempo inteiro, sem poder andar na rua, porque tem jovens com fuzis, e a policia desrespeitando o morador– foi isso que me fez sair da favela. Onde eu morava tinha coleta de esgoto, calçamento, comercio imenso, grau de solidariedade com as pessoas, grau de intensidade de vida, de festa muito forte, de envolvimento, pertencimento grande, e cada vez mais criando opções [culturais].”

Para o americano nascido num subúrbio de casas com quintal para brincar, grama para cortar, e folhas para juntar, soa familiar a descrição de vida comunitária de favela. No subúrbio americano, os vizinhos sabem quem está doente, quem precisa de canja de galinha, carona, uma visita. Lá, o estado é mais eficaz do que no Brasil– as escolas públicas geralmente são boas, por exemplo– mas fora das grandes cidades as pessoas vivem espalhadas, precisando de apoio, e dando apoio, nas horas de dificuldade. Vizinhos limpam a neve da entrada da casa dos mais velhos, andam de porta em porta distribuindo panfletos de candidatos, dão carona para a igreja, fazem babysitting, passeiam cachorros, regam plantas, distribuem balas às crianças no Halloween.

Pit stop

Pit stop

O carioca do asfalto conhece e cumprimenta vizinhos, porteiros, entregadores, feirantes, comerciantes do bairro. Brinca, zoa o time do outro. Participa de bloco de carnaval, e de festa junina na praça. Compartilha praia, cerveja, galeto, pelada de futebol. Mas raramente se junta aos vizinhos para providenciar algo necessário e de utilidade geral: água, luz, casa. No Brasil, quem mora no asfalto paga imposto, paga porteiro, paga pedreiro, passeador e empregada– e assim resolve a vida.

No Brasil, o nivel de confiança no outro é baixo, sobretudo quando o outro não é parente ou colega. Mas na favela a confiança é maior do que em geral, porque há menos desigualdade. O outro é mais parecido, menos assustador, disse Souza e Silva. E a vida é mais pública.

A van tem termometro. No painel acima da cabeça da moça de megahair, marca mais de 36 graus. Mas a brisa é fresca, o samba incita, e Mara, a moça do lado, está negociando com o motorista o transporte de um grupo em janeiro, para Jacarepaguá. Haverá um casamento. “Seu?” pergunta o cobrador, com um sorriso malicioso. Pelo tom de voz e a plenitude de expressões faciais, mais a roupa, conclui-se que ele é homossexual.

“É ruim, hein!” exclama Mara. “Eu casar em Jacarepaguá? Vou casar no Copacabana Palace!” Ela pede um preço do motorista. Ele diz que está pensando.  E para num ponto de ônibus. Sobe um rapaz de pele enrugado pelo sol, que fica em pé ao lado do cobrador. No próximo ponto, o cobrador abre a porta para revelar uma loira, segurando uma grande sacola. Ela faz não com a cabeça. O motorista diz que tem lugar. “Vem, sim!” ele exorta, dobrando-se por cima das três moças no banco de frente para que sua voz chegue aos ouvidos da cliente em potencial. Mas ela se recusa.

“Agora mete o pé!” diz um passageiro, ao passo que a van engrena na avenida Brasil.

“Vou meter,” responde o motorista. “Tem que estar em Copacabana às duas horas.”

As vans surgiram nos anos 90 no Rio de Janeiro, como resposta informal à falta de transporte entre bairros afastados e áreas centrais da cidade. “Sem a van Copacanana-Maré, nao sei o que seria da gente, galera que circula dia e noite construindo novas formas de viver a cidade,” comentou Souza e Silva.

Hoje, milicianos controlam grande parte do negócio e o prefeito Eduardo Paes tenta racionalizar o transporte urbano. Para reduzir o número de veículos nas ruas, fariam muito mais sentido linhas de ônibus ou de metrô. A questão não é tāo diferente da de ocupaçāo do solo. Já existem prédios em favelas.

S

“Quanto, então?” pergunta a Mara. “Vinte,” diz o motorista.

“Por pessoa? Isso sai do meu bolso!” Ela mexe com o celular e mostra alguma coisa, uma foto talvez, à moça do lado dela.

Neste momento, quatro anos após o início da pacificação no Rio de Janeiro, com vários reflexos economicos e imobiliarios dela em curso, fala-se muito na preservação da favela, sobretudo das na Zona Sul. Sabe-se que um número crescente de jovens estrangeiros brinca de casinha no Vidigal, na Rocinha, no Pavão-Pavãozinho e no Cantagalo. Uma breve caminhada em qualquer um desses morros revela sacas de cimento, tijolos recém-colocados. A vida ficou mais segura em muitas favelas pacificadas. As pessoas investem, a cidade se transforma. A barreira entre morro e asfalto fica um tanto menos nítida.

O que deveria ser preservado, nestas áreas da cidade tão longamente negligenciadas? “Uma grande confusão que se faz,” disse mais cedo Souza e Silva na sala dele no Observatório, “é de considerar, quando se fala em preservar a favela como habitat, [que trata-se de] preservar  paisagem.”

A paisagem, mesmo nas favelas mais cinematográficas, mesmo onde as crianças hoje brincam tranquilamente na rua e faz-se churrasco de Reveillon para turista, ainda é frequentemente feia e malcheirosa.

“Tem que garantir todas as condições básicas: saneamento, luz, água, esgoto, coleta de lixo, crêche, educação, equipamentos culturais,” acrescentou Souza e Silva. “Tudo que se tem para viver com dignidade num centro urbano tem que ter na favela. Só que isso não quer dizer eliminar a favela,” explicou. “Significa reconhecer que a favela tem uma geografia particular, que pode ser preservada como as cidades medievais foram preservadas […] podemos ter vários tipos de habitat, de estrutura urbana, sem perder a dignidade.”

SONY DSC

E, supondo que a favela ganhe essa dimensão toda nos próximos anos– pois o programa Morar Carioca, financiado pelo BID, pretende justamente urbanizar todas as favelas cariocas até 2020– o que Souza Silva e outros representantes das regiões populares da cidade querem preservar é um estilo de vida.

O cobrador manda a Mara tomar nota do celular dele, no dela. “Agora liga para mim,” ele diz. ” Para eu ter teu número também.” A negociação será demorada.

“Alguém vai para o Aterro?” pergunta o motorista. “Eu,” diz a moça do outro lado da Mara.

“Serve o Largo do Machado?”

“Serve.”

“Você que vai casar?” pergunta o cobrador novamente, como se fosse policial tentando desvendar mentiras. “So no Copa Palace,” reitera a Mara.

“Faz tempo que não vejo sua namorada,” provoca a amiga da Mara ao motorista.

“Que namorada!” ele corrige. “Sou casado.”

O próximo é próximo: cobrador e passageiro

A van passa pela estação de trem Leopoldina, pelo Sambódromo, e finalmente encosta no Largo do Machado. A temperatura já baixou um grau. O samba ameniza, e a brisa idem. A amiga da Mara desce. Mara diz que vai para São Conrado, mas para chegar lá terá que descer antes do Shopping Rio Sul e pegar outro transporte.

O passageiro de pele enrugado quer pagar seus três reais ao cobrador. “Na saída,” afirma este.

Cariocas do asfalto criam e mantém vínculos no bairro, na cidade. Os vínculos entre moradores de favela, disse Souza e Silva, precisam ser preservados. Muitas vezes, advêm de fortes experiências de vida.

Não devem ser muito diferentes dos vínculos comunitários evidentes na pequena cidade de Sandy Hook, por exemplo, cidade norte americana recentemente atingida por uma tragédia terrível. Vizinhos lá estranharam nunca terem entrado na casa da māe do matador, de acordo com reportagens. Pois lá, entra-se na casa de vizinho, mesmo que não seja amigo. Tomar essa liberdade, e sentir a confiança embutida no ato, fazem parte da democracia americana.

No Brasil, tal comportamento pode ser considerado uma intrusão. Na Zona Sul do Rio de Janeiro, pede-se licença, cheio de dedos, para conferir a criatividade de um decorador ou arquiteto, num apartamento de layout igual.

“Reconhecer que a favela é mais do que paisagem é reconhecer esses vínculos,” finalizou Souza e Silva.

O passageiro de rugas chegou no destino. A van para, o cobrador desce, o passageiro paga na calçada. “Não quer receber antes,” lamenta o motorista. “Só viado, mesmo.”

S

Não casa em Jacarepaguá

A van chega na praia do Flamengo, e descem vários passageiros, criando mais espaço. “Onde você trabalha em São Conrado?” pergunta o motorista, agora sozinho no banco da frente, para Mara.

“No Fashion Mall?” aposta o cobrador. É o shopping mais chique do Rio de Janeiro. Ela diz que sim. “Qual loja?” ele pergunta. Agora resolve receber de todo mundo. O dinheiro é passado adiante, troco feito.

“Armani,” responde a Mara. A van passa por um túnel pequeno. Na saída, Mara está colocando um óculos de sol com um AX no haste. Logo a van para no ponto, ela desce, e daí aparece no vão da porta aberta um jovem de topete e sobrancelha feita, mão sugestivamente na cintura, um pé esticado à frente do outro para ressaltar um quadril amplo.

“Seu irmão?” pergunta o motorista ao cobrador. O rapaz sobe requebrando para o assento de carona agora vazio, e o cobrador, de sorriso maroto, desce para comprar água gelada para ele e o colega de trabalho.

Enquanto os dois bebem das garrafinhas suadas de plástico azul, a van chega em Copacabana, o bairro mais denso do Rio de Janeiro. A brisa do mar adentra os vidros; o samba flui para fora. Fazem 33 graus, de acordo com os números vermelhos do painel. Os últimos descem na altura da Francisco Sá, e lá vai a dupla Copacabana-Maré pelo retorno, pela praia, de volta ao Parque União.

Fluctuating Environment May Have Driven Human Evolution (Science Daily)

Dec. 24, 2012 — A series of rapid environmental changes in East Africa roughly 2 million years ago may be responsible for driving human evolution, according to researchers at Penn State and Rutgers University.

“The landscape early humans were inhabiting transitioned rapidly back and forth between a closed woodland and an open grassland about five to six times during a period of 200,000 years,” said Clayton Magill, graduate student in geosciences at Penn State. “These changes happened very abruptly, with each transition occurring over hundreds to just a few thousand years.”

According to Katherine Freeman, professor of geosciences, Penn State, the current leading hypothesis suggests that evolutionary changes among humans during the period the team investigated were related to a long, steady environmental change or even one big change in climate.

“There is a view this time in Africa was the ‘Great Drying,’ when the environment slowly dried out over 3 million years,” she said. “But our data show that it was not a grand progression towards dry; the environment was highly variable.”

According to Magill, many anthropologists believe that variability of experience can trigger cognitive development.

“Early humans went from having trees available to having only grasses available in just 10 to 100 generations, and their diets would have had to change in response,” he said. “Changes in food availability, food type, or the way you get food can trigger evolutionary mechanisms to deal with those changes. The result can be increased brain size and cognition, changes in locomotion and even social changes — how you interact with others in a group. Our data are consistent with these hypotheses. We show that the environment changed dramatically over a short time, and this variability coincides with an important period in our human evolution when the genus Homo was first established and when there was first evidence of tool use.”

The researchers — including Gail Ashley, professor of earth and planetary sciences, Rutgers University — examined lake sediments from Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania. They removed the organic matter that had either washed or was blown into the lake from the surrounding vegetation, microbes and other organisms 2 million years ago from the sediments. In particular, they looked at biomarkers — fossil molecules from ancient organisms — from the waxy coating on plant leaves.

“We looked at leaf waxes because they’re tough, they survive well in the sediment,” said Freeman.

The team used gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to determine the relative abundances of different leaf waxes and the abundance of carbon isotopes for different leaf waxes. The data enabled them to reconstruct the types of vegetation present in the Olduvai Gorge area at very specific time intervals.

The results showed that the environment transitioned rapidly back and forth between a closed woodland and an open grassland.

To find out what caused this rapid transitioning, the researchers used statistical and mathematical models to correlate the changes they saw in the environment with other things that may have been happening at the time, including changes in the Earth’s movement and changes in sea-surface temperatures.

“The orbit of the Earth around the sun slowly changes with time,” said Freeman. “These changes were tied to the local climate at Olduvai Gorge through changes in the monsoon system in Africa. Slight changes in the amount of sunshine changed the intensity of atmospheric circulation and the supply of water. The rain patterns that drive the plant patterns follow this monsoon circulation. We found a correlation between changes in the environment and planetary movement.”

The team also found a correlation between changes in the environment and sea-surface temperature in the tropics.

“We find complementary forcing mechanisms: one is the way Earth orbits, and the other is variation in ocean temperatures surrounding Africa,” Freeman said. The researchers recently published their results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences along with another paper in the same issue that builds on these findings. The second paper shows that rainfall was greater when there were trees around and less when there was a grassland.

“The research points to the importance of water in an arid landscape like Africa,” said Magill. “The plants are so intimately tied to the water that if you have water shortages, they usually lead to food insecurity.

“Together, these two papers shine light on human evolution because we now have an adaptive perspective. We understand, at least to a first approximation, what kinds of conditions were prevalent in that area and we show that changes in food and water were linked to major evolutionary changes.”

The National Science Foundation funded this research.

*   *   *

How climate shifts in Africa sparked human evolution (MSNBC)

Scientists say landscape transitions may have forced early humans to think on their feet

Image: Nutcracker Man

Nicolle Rager Fuller / NSF. The first specimen of Paranthropus boisei, also called Nutcracker Man, was reported by Mary and Louis Leakey in 1959 from a site in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania.

By Charles Choi – LiveScience Contributor

updated 12/26/2012 2:16:27 PM ET

At Olduvai Gorge, where excavations helped to confirm Africa was the cradle of humanity, scientists now find the landscape once fluctuated rapidly, likely guiding early human evolution.

These findings suggest that key mental developments within the human lineage may have been linked with a highly variable environment, researchers added.

Olduvai Gorge is a ravine cut into the eastern margin of the Serengeti Plain in northern Tanzania that holds fossils of hominins — members of the human lineage. Excavations at Olduvai Gorge by Louis and Mary Leakey in the mid-1950s helped to establish the African origin of humanity.

The Great Drying? 

To learn more about the roots of humanity, scientists analyzed samples of leaf waxes preserved in lake sediments at Olduvai Gorge, identifying which plants dominated the local environment around 2 million years ago. This was about when Homo erectus, a direct ancestor of modern humans who used relatively advanced stone tools, appeared.

“We looked at leaf waxes, because they’re tough, they survive well in the sediment,” researcher Katherine Freeman, a biogeochemist at Pennsylvania State University, said in a statement.

After four years of work, the researchers focused on carbon isotopes — atoms of the same element with different numbers of neutrons — in the samples, which can reveal what plants reigned over an area. The grasses that dominate savannas engage in a kind of photosynthesis that involves both normal carbon-12 and heavier carbon-13, while trees and shrubs rely on a kind of photosynthesis that prefers carbon-12. (Atoms of carbon-12 each possess six neutrons, while atoms of carbon-13 have seven.)

Scientists had long thought Africa went through a period of gradually increasing dryness — called the Great Drying — over 3 million years, or perhaps one big change in climate that favored the expansion of grasslands across the continent, influencing human evolution. However, the new research instead revealed “strong evidence for dramatic ecosystem changes across the African savanna, in which open grassland landscapes transitioned to closed forests over just hundreds to several thousands of years,” researcher Clayton Magill, a biogeochemist at Pennsylvania State University, told LiveScience. [Know Your Roots? Take Our Human Evolution Quiz]

The researchers discovered that Olduvai Gorge abruptly and routinely fluctuated between dry grasslands and damp forests about five or six times during a period of 200,000 years.

“I was surprised by the magnitude of changes and the rapid pace of the changes we found,” Freeman told LiveScience. “There was a complete restructuring of the ecosystem from grassland to forest and back again, at least based on how we interpret the data. I’ve worked on carbon isotopes my whole career, and I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Losing water 

The investigators also constructed a highly detailed record of water history in Olduvai Gorge by analyzing hydrogen isotope ratios in plant waxes and other compounds in nearby lake sediments. These findings support the carbon isotope data, suggesting the region experienced fluctuations in aridity, with dry periods dominated by grasslands and wet periods characterized by expanses of woody cover.

“The research points to the importance of water in an arid landscape like Africa,” Magill said in a statement. “The plants are so intimately tied to the water that if you have water shortages, they usually lead to food insecurity.”

The research team’s statistical and mathematical models link the changes they see with other events at the time, such as alterations in the planet’s movement. [50 Amazing Facts About Earth]

“The orbit of the Earth around the sun slowly changes with time,” Freeman said in statement. “These changes were tied to the local climate at Olduvai Gorge through changes in the monsoon system in Africa.”

Earth’s orbit around the sun can vary over time in a number of ways — for instance,Earth’s orbit around the sun can grow more or less circular over time, and Earth’s axis of spin relative to the sun’s equatorial plane can also tilt back and forth. This alters the amount of sunlight Earth receives, energy that drives Earth’s atmosphere.

“Slight changes in the amount of sunshine changed the intensity of atmospheric circulation and the supply of water,” Freeman said. “The rain patterns that drive the plant patterns follow this monsoon circulation. We found a correlation between changes in the environment and planetary movement.”

The team also found links between changes at Olduvai Gorge and sea-surface temperatures in the tropics.

“We find complementary forcing mechanisms — one is the way Earth orbits, and the other is variation in ocean temperatures surrounding Africa,” Freeman said.

These findings now shed light on the environmental shifts the ancestors of modern humans might have had to adapt to in order to survive and thrive.

“Early humans went from having trees available to having only grasses available in just 10 to 100 generations, and their diets would have had to change in response,” Magill said in a statement. “Changes in food availability, food type, or the way you get food can trigger evolutionary mechanisms to deal with those changes. The result can be increased brain size and cognition, changes in locomotion and even social changes — how you interact with others in a group.”

This variability in the environment coincided with a key period in human evolution, “when the genus Homo was first established and when there was first evidence of tool use,” Magill said.

The researchers now hope to examine changes at Olduvai Gorge not just across time but space, which could help shed light on aspects of early human evolution such as foraging patterns.

Magill, Freeman and their colleague Gail Ashley detailed their findings online Dec. 24 in two papers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

AL aprova lei que institui Sistema Estadual de REDD+ em MT (ICV)

André Alves – Especial para o Institutto Centro de Vida – ICV

21/12/2012

A Assembleia Legislativa de Mato Grosso aprovou nesta quarta-feira (19/12) projeto de lei que cria o Sistema Estadual de REDD+ em Mato Grosso. O projeto, de autoria do poder executivo, segue agora para a sanção do governador Silval Barbosa (PMDB) e não deverá sofrer alterações no texto. O sistema tem como objetivo promover a redução das emissões dos gases de efeito estufa com origem no desmatamento e degradação florestal e também estimular o manejo florestal sustentável, além do aumento de estoques de carbono no estado.

“A aprovação desta lei representa um marco regulatório para o estado, pois vamos compartilhar os benefícios da conservação ambiental”, declarou o secretário estadual de Meio Ambiente Vicente Falcão. “É uma conquista do governo, mas também da sociedade civil que durante dois anos discutiu uma proposta que veio na maturidade certa”, complementou.

O texto aprovado na Assembleia prevê ainda a participação efetiva dos diferentes grupos sociais envolvidos ou afetados pelas ações de REDD. Ou seja, os projetos e programas de desmatamento evitado em áreas de assentamentos ou terras indígenas, por exemplo, terão que atender as demandas dessas comunidades, além de prever um mecanismo de distribuição justa de benefícios.

Para o secretário a implantação de um sistema de REDD+ consolida as políticas ambientais e significa um passo importante para cumprir a meta de reduzir o desmatamento no estado em 89% até o ano de 2020. “Agora há uma nova leitura, pois além do comando e controle vamos ter instrumentos de incentivo para inibir o desmatamento”, concluiu.

Laurent Micol, coordenador executivo do Instituto Centro de Vida – ICV, entidade que coordena o GT REDD no Fórum Mato-grossense de Mudanças Climáticas, explica que com a aprovação da lei, Mato Grosso assume um protagonismo nacional em relação a instrumentos de desmatamento evitado. “Os futuros projetos e programas de redução de desmatamento em andamento poderão se enquadrar na lei assim como os futuros projetos terão que assegurar as questões sociais e ambientais previstas na lei”, explicou. “Há também uma maior segurança para os investidores e doadores para estes projetos e programas”, completou. Micol usou como exemplo a recente doação do banco alemão KFW que repassou 8 milhões de reais ao governo do Acre, o primeiro estado na Amazônia a ter uma legislação com esta finalidade, como pagamento por serviços ambientais.

A discussão da proposta da lei começou com a instituição do Grupo de Trabalho REDD, em março de 2009, no âmbito do Fórum Mato-grossense de Mudanças Climáticas. O grupo trabalhou durante dois anos na elaboração da proposta, que foi debatida em consultas públicas e recebeu propostas de modificações pela internet. Ao todo foram 171 proposições que foram analisadas até a versão final da minuta ser validada pelo Fórum.

Assim que sancionada a lei, o governo deverá instituir o Conselho Gestor do Sistema Estadual de REDD+, que terá função deliberativa. O conselho terá 12 representantes e será paritário entre governo estadual e federal com a sociedade civil. Enquanto isso, o GT REDD está trabalhando na proposta de um programa setorial para o manejo florestal para ser apresentado a Secretaria de Estado de Meio Ambiente (Sema).

Sobre o GT REDD

O GT REDD MT conta com 78 membros, incluindo a Sema e outras secretarias estaduais, a Procuradoria do Estado, a Assembleia Legislativa, representações de organizações dos setores agropecuário, florestal, organizações da sociedade civil e movimentos sociais, a Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil e a Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso. O ICV foi eleito para coordenar e facilitar os trabalhos do grupo.

REDD+

REDD+ é a sigla em inglês para Redução de Emissões por Desmatamento e Degradação Florestal, incluindo a conservação e ao manejo das florestas e o aumento dos estoques de carbono.

Outras informações ICV: 65 3621-3148

On the end of the world / sobre o fim do mundo (21.12.2012)

O mundo não acabou (Folha de S.Paulo)

Contardo Calligaris – 27/12/2012 – 03h00

Pode ser que o mundo acabe entre hoje (segunda, dia em que escrevo) e quinta, 27, dia em que seria publicada esta coluna. Em tese, eu não devo me preocupar: meu título não será desmentido –pois, se o mundo acabar, não haverá mais ninguém para verificar que eu me enganei.

Tudo isso, em termos, pois o fim do mundo esperado (mais ou menos ansiosamente) por alguns (ou por muitos) não é o sumiço definitivo e completo da espécie. Ao contrário: em geral, quem fantasia com o fim do mundo se vê como um dos sobreviventes e, imaginando as dificuldades no mundo destruído, aparelha-se para isso.

Na cultura dos EUA, os “survivalists” são também “preppers”: ou seja, quem planeja sobreviver se prepara. A catástrofe iminente pode ser mais uma “merecida” vingança divina contra Sodoma e Gomorra, a realização de uma antiga profecia, a consequência de uma guerra (nuclear, química ou biológica), o efeito do aquecimento global ou, enfim (última moda), o resultado de uma crise financeira que levaria todos à ruina e à fome.

A preparação dos sobreviventes pode incluir ou não o deslocamento para lugares mais seguros (abrigos debaixo da terra, picos de montanhas que, por alguma razão, serão poupados, lugares “místicos” com proteção divina, plataformas de encontro com extraterrestres etc.), mas dificilmente dispensa a acumulação de bens básicos de subsistência (alimentos, água, remédios, combustíveis, geradores, baterias) e (pelo seu bem, não se esqueça disso) de armas de todo tipo (caça e defesa) com uma quantidade descomunal de munições -sem contar coletes a prova de balas e explosivos.

Imaginemos que você esteja a fim de perguntar “armas para o quê?”. Afinal, você diria, talvez a gente precise de armas de caça, pois o supermercado da esquina estará fechado. Mas por que as armas para defesa? Se houver mesmo uma catástrofe, ela não poderia nos levar a descobrir novas formas de solidariedade entre os que sobraram? Pois bem, se você coloca esse tipo de perguntas, é que você não fantasia com o fim do mundo.

Para entender no que consiste a fantasia do fim do mundo, não é preciso comparar os diferentes futuros pós-catastróficos possíveis. Assim como não é preciso considerar se, por exemplo, nos vários cenários desolados do dia depois, há ou não o encontro com um Adão ou uma Eva com quem recomeçar a espécie. Pois essas são apenas variações, enquanto a necessidade das armas (e não só para caçar os últimos coelhos e faisões) é uma constante, que revela qual é o sonho central na expectativa do fim do mundo.

Em todos os fins do mundo que povoam os devaneios modernos, alguns ou muitos sobrevivem (entre eles, obviamente, o sonhador), mas o que sempre sucumbe é a ordem social. A catástrofe, seja ela qual for, serve para garantir que não haverá mais Estado, condado, município, lei, polícia, nação ou condomínio. Nenhum tipo de coletividade instituída sobreviverá ao fim do mundo. Nele (e graças a ele) perderá sua força e seu valor qualquer obrigação que emane da coletividade e, em geral, dos outros: seremos, como nunca fomos, indivíduos, dependendo unicamente de nós mesmos.

Esse é o desejo dos sonhos do fim do mundo: o fim de qualquer primazia da vida coletiva sobre nossas escolhas particulares. O que nos parece justo, no nosso foro íntimo, sempre tentará prevalecer sobre o que, em outros tempos, teria sido ou não conforme à lei.

Por isso, depois do fim do mundo, a gente se relacionará sem mediações –sem juízes, sem padres, sem sábios, sem pais, sem autoridade reconhecida: nós nos encararemos, no amor e no ódio, com uma mão sempre pronta em cima do coldre.

E não é preciso desejar explicitamente o fim do mundo para sentir seu charme. A confrontação direta entre indivíduos talvez seja a situação dramática preferida pelas narrativas que nos fazem sonhar: a dura história do pioneiro, do soldado, do policial ou do criminoso, vagando num território em que nada (além de sua consciência) pode lhes servir de guia e onde nada se impõe a não ser pela força.

Na coluna passada, comentei o caso do jovem que matou a mãe e massacrou 20 crianças e seis adultos numa escola primária de Newtown, Connecticut. Pois bem, a mãe era uma “survivalist”; ela se preparava para o fim do mundo. Talvez, junto com as armas e as munições acumuladas, ela tenha transmitido ao filho alguma versão de seu devaneio de fim do mundo.

*   *   *

Are You Prepared for Zombies? (American Anthropological Association blog)

By Joslyn O. – December 21, 2012 at 12:52 pm

 

In light of all the end of the world talk, a repost of this Zombie preppers post from last spring:

Today’s guest blog post is by cultural anthropologist and AAA member, Chad Huddleston. He is an Assistant Professor at St. Louis University in the Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice department.

Recently, a host of new shows, such as Doomsday Preppers on NatGeo and Doomsday Bunkers on Discovery Channel, has focused on people with a wide array of concerns about possible events that may threaten their lives.  Both of these shows focus on what are called ‘preppers.’ While the people that may have performed these behaviors in the past might have been called ‘survivalists,’ many ‘preppers’ have distanced themselves from that term, due to its cultural baggage: stereotypical anti-government, gun-loving, racist, extremists that are most often associated with the fundamentalist (politically and religiously) right side of the spectrum.

I’ve been doing fieldwork with preppers for the past two years, focusing on a group called Zombie Squad. It is ‘the nation’s premier non-stationary cadaver suppression task force,’ as well as a grassroots, 501(c)3 charity organization.  Zombie Squad’s story is that while the zombie removal business is generally slow, there is no reason to be unprepared.  So, while it is waiting for the “zombpacolpyse,” it focuses its time on disaster preparedness education for the membership and community.

The group’s position is that being prepared for zombies means that you are prepared for anything, especially those events that are much more likely than a zombie uprising – tornadoes, an interruption in services, ice storms, flooding, fires, and earthquakes.

For many in this group, Hurricane Katrina was the event that solidified their resolve to prep.  They saw what we all saw – a natural disaster in which services were not available for most, leading to violence, death and chaos. Their argument is that the more prepared the public is before a disaster occurs, the less resources they will require from first responders and those agencies that come after them.

In fact, instead of being a victim of natural disaster, you can be an active responder yourself, if you are prepared.  Prepare they do.  Members are active in gaining knowledge of all sorts – first aid, communications, tactical training, self-defense, first responder disaster training, as well as many outdoor survival skills, like making fire, building shelters, hunting and filtering water.

This education is individual, feeding directly into the online forum they maintain (which has just under 30,000 active members from all over the world), and by monthly local meetings all over the country, as well as annual national gatherings in southern Missouri, where they socialize, learn survival skills and practice sharpshooting.

Sound like those survivalists of the past?  Emphatically no.  Zombie Squad’s message is one of public education and awareness, very successful charity drives for a wide array of organizations, and inclusion of all ethnicities, genders, religions and politics.  Yet, the group is adamant on leaving politics and religion out of discussions on the group and prepping. You will not find exclusive language on their forum or in their media.  That is not to say that the individuals in the group do not have opinions on one side or the other of these issues, but it is a fact that those issues are not to be discussed within the community of Zombie Squad.

Considering the focus on ‘future doom’ and the types of fears that are being pushed on the shows mentioned above, usually involve protecting yourself from disaster and then other people that have survived the disaster, Zombie Squad is a refreshing twist to the ‘prepper’ discourse.  After all, if a natural disaster were to befall your region, whom would you rather be knocking at your door: ‘raiders’ or your neighborhood Zombie Squad member?

And the answer is no: they don’t really believe in zombies.

 

As Chief Spence starves, Canadians awaken from idleness and remember their roots (The Globe and Mail)

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/as-chief-spence-starves-canadians-awaken-from-idleness-and-remember-their-roots/article6700592/

Naomi Klein

The Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Dec. 24 2012, 11:24 AM EST / Last updated Monday, Dec. 24 2012, 11:27 AM EST

I woke up just past midnight with a bolt. My six-month-old son was crying. He has a cold – the second of his short life–and his blocked nose frightens him. I was about to get up when he started snoring again. I, on the other hand, was wide awake.

A single thought entered my head: Chief Theresa Spence is hungry. Actually it wasn’t a thought. It was a feeling. The feeling of hunger. Lying in my dark room, I pictured the chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation lying on a pile of blankets in her teepee across from Parliament Hill, entering day 14 of her hunger strike.

I had of course been following Chief Spence’s protest and her demand to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss the plight of her people and his demolition of treaty rights through omnibus legislation. I had worried about her. Supported her. Helped circulate the petitions. But now, before the distancing filters of light and reason had a chance to intervene, I felt her. The determination behind her hunger. The radicality of choosing this time of year, a time of so much stuffing – mouths, birds, stockings – to say: I am hungry. My people are hungry. So many people are hungry and homeless. Your new laws will only lead to more of this misery. Can we talk about it like human beings?

Lying there, I imagined another resolve too – Prime Minister Harper’s. Telling himself: I will not meet with her. I will not cave in to her. I will not be forced to do anything.

Mr. Harper may relent, scared of the political fallout from letting this great leader die. I dearly hope he does. I want Chief Spence to eat. But I won’t soon forget this clash between these two very different kinds of resolve, one so sealed off, closed in; the other cracked wide open, a conduit for the pain of the world.

But Chief Spence’s hunger is not just speaking to Mr. Harper. It is also speaking to all of us, telling us that the time for bitching and moaning is over. Now is the time to act, to stand strong and unbending for the people, places and principles that we love.

This message is a potent gift. So is the Idle No More movement – its name at once a firm commitment to the future, while at the same time a gentle self-criticism of the past. We did sit idly by, but no more.

The greatest blessing of all, however, is indigenous sovereignty itself. It is the huge stretches of this country that have never been ceded by war or treaty. It is the treaties signed and still recognized by our courts. If Canadians have a chance of stopping Mr. Harper’s planet-trashing plans, it will be because these legally binding rights – backed up by mass movements, court challenges, and direct action will stand in his way. All Canadians should offer our deepest thanks that our indigenous brothers and sisters have protected their land rights for all these generations, refusing to turn them into one-off payments, no matter how badly they were needed. These are the rights Mr. Harper is trying to extinguish now.

During this season of light and magic, something truly magical is spreading. There are round dances by the dollar stores. There are drums drowning out muzak in shopping malls. There are eagle feathers upstaging the fake Santas. The people whose land our founders stole and whose culture they tried to stamp out are rising up, hungry for justice. Canada’s roots are showing. And these roots will make us all stand stronger.

Author and activist Naomi Klein is the author of No Logo, The Shock Doctrine , and a forthcoming book on the politics of climate change.

* * *

Idle No More: Indigenous-Led Protests Sweep Canada for Native Sovereignty and Environmental Justice (Democracy Now!)

Video

A new campaign for indigenous rights and environmental justice is spreading across Canada. The “Idle No More” movement began as a series of protests against a controversial government budget bill but has since expanded into a nationwide movement for political transformation. Aboriginal and environmental activists are calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to honor treaties with aborigines, open dialogue with environmentalists, and reject tar sands pipelines that would infiltrate First Nation territories. We go to Toronto to speak with Pamela Palmater, chair in indigenous governance at Ryerson University and spokeswoman for the Idle No More movement. “We, First Nations people, have been subsidizing the wealth and prosperity and programs and services of Canadians from our lands and resources,” Palmater says. “And that’s the reality here that most people don’t understand.” [includes rush transcript]

GUEST: Pamela Palmater, chair in indigenous governance at Ryerson University, spokeswoman for the Idle No More movement and a member of the Eel River Bar First Nation.

*   *   *

Aboriginal activists slam Harper, praise hunger strike chief

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/12/21/pol-idle-no-more-aboriginal-protests.html

Idle No More members march in Montreal to protest omnibus bill

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2012/12/20/montreal-idle-no-more-protest-mohawk.html

On eve of national ‘Idle No More’ protest, hunger-striking Attawapiskat chief pushes Harper to lead change

http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/12/20/on-eve-of-national-idle-no-more-protest-hunger-striking-attawapiskat-chief-pushes-harper-to-lead-change/

Thousands take over Saskatoon mall for Idle No More protest

http://www.thestarphoenix.com/news/Thousands+take+over+Saskatoon+mall+Idle+More+protest/7729333/story.html

Roussolph the red-nosed reindeer (FT)

http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2012/12/24/roussolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer/#ixzz2GHguUlpl

Dec 24, 2012 2:00pm by Henry Mance

This year, the Christmas tale from beyondbrics takes us to the up-and-coming area of Brics-ton, where Roussolph the Brazilian reindeer has been unceremoniously dumped from Santa Capital’s portfolio.

Read on…

Santa: Right, listen up. This year’s sleigh team is the same as last year’s, except that the Latin American representative will be Peña Nieto of Mexico, who takes over from Roussolph. Talking of glossy hair gel, please welcome our new chief caribou Xi Jinping.

Roussolph: You can’t ditch/ underweight me! What about my wonderful shiny red nose?

Santa: It’s your red nose that’s the problem. Some children think you’re a socialist. Who trusts a socialist to deliver the goodies?

Roussolph: But Xi is a communist!

Santa: And yet he says all the right things.

Xi Jinping: Hello. Let’s fight corruption! Goodbye.

Santa: See? He also waves and smiles.

Roussolph: Fine. But remember my antlers – they’re the sixth biggest in the world!

David Camerolph: They’re not any more. Frightfully sorry, but ours are.

Roussolph: Overtaken by the omnishambles?! Why aren’t my antlers growing faster?

[Enter Guido the Forecasting Elf]

Guido the Elf: Great news! Next year your antlers will grow by one metre!

Roussolph: How do you know?

Guido the Elf: I stuck my finger in the air.

Roussolph: Eh?

Guido the Elf: I mean, I have performed a thorough calculation. I got predictions from all the other elves then doubled them.

Roussolph: Oh, Guido. You’re as persistent as Argentine bond hold-out – and about as helpful. Why don’t I sack you?

Guido the Elf: Because the Economist told you to?

Roussolph: Alas. Where did it all go wrong? Whatever happened to the shining ‘B’ of emerging markets – rich in resources, loved by investors, finally overcoming years of corrupt government…

Santa: Do you mean Bur—

Roussolph: NO, I DO NOT MEAN BURMA. Is Burma hosting the World Cup?

Guido the Elf: The World Cup! I knew there was something I was meant to be preparing for. How many stadiums was it?

[Exits, pursued by a bear]

Roussolph: Oh, this is like a Greek tragedy.

Bluff the Magic Draghi [entering]: Did someone call for me?

Roussolph: The Magic Draghi! Thank goodness. Do you remember the good times? When everyone loved my red nose?

Draghi: When they called you exotic – but in a good way?

Roussolph: They would look at me and whisper, “Oh, what a lovely pair of commodities ” … and no one would ever say, “but a pity the roads back to your place are so bad.”

Draghi: You deserve better than this ! I have a simple solution. With my magic, I can turn back time, using only the power of liquidity!

Roussolph: please, turn it back!

Draghi: Back you go! To the time you were future! To the days your red nose shone most proudly! Back to the 1970s!

Roussolph: Saved at last! I’ll definitely be in the sleigh portfolio next year!

Draghi: Yes! Now what was that tune…

Roussolph the Reindeer [all join in and sing:]

You know old Vladdy Putin
And shiny Xi Jinping
There’s smooth Peña Nieto
And shy Manmohan Singh
But do you recall
The boldest EM reindeer of all?

Roussolph the red-nosed reindeer,
Busy as a jumping bean.
Each time she saw a problem,
Thought the state should intervene.

Vanquished fund managers
Even dared to call her names
(like “Cristina”).
They made sure poor Roussolph
Never saw no share price gains
(Remember Petrobras?).

Then one growth-free Christmas Eve
Santa came to say,
“Roussolph, oh your nose so bright
Gives investors quite a fright!”

All of the other reindeers
Were smitten with anxiety.
Maybe some emerging markets
Haven’t learnt their history?

Apologies to Johnny Marks

 

The 500 Phases of Matter: New System Successfully Classifies Symmetry-Protected Phases (Science Daily)

Dec. 21, 2012 — Forget solid, liquid, and gas: there are in fact more than 500 phases of matter. In a major paper in a recent issue of Science, Perimeter Faculty member Xiao-Gang Wen reveals a modern reclassification of all of them.

Artist’s impression of a string-net of light and electrons. String-nets are a theoretical kind of topologically ordered matter. (Credit: Xiao-Gang Wen/ Perimeter Institute)

Condensed matter physics — the branch of physics responsible for discovering and describing most of these phases — has traditionally classified phases by the way their fundamental building blocks — usually atoms — are arranged. The key is something called symmetry.

To understand symmetry, imagine flying through liquid water in an impossibly tiny ship: the atoms would swirl randomly around you and every direction — whether up, down, or sideways — would be the same. The technical term for this is “symmetry” — and liquids are highly symmetric. Crystal ice, another phase of water, is less symmetric. If you flew through ice in the same way, you would see the straight rows of crystalline structures passing as regularly as the girders of an unfinished skyscraper. Certain angles would give you different views. Certain paths would be blocked, others wide open. Ice has many symmetries — every “floor” and every “room” would look the same, for instance — but physicists would say that the high symmetry of liquid water is broken.

Classifying the phases of matter by describing their symmetries and where and how those symmetries break is known as the Landau paradigm. More than simply a way of arranging the phases of matter into a chart, Landau’s theory is a powerful tool which both guides scientists in discovering new phases of matter and helps them grapple with the behaviours of the known phases. Physicists were so pleased with Landau’s theory that for a long time they believed that all phases of matter could be described by symmetries. That’s why it was such an eye-opening experience when they discovered a handful of phases that Landau couldn’t describe.

Beginning in the 1980s, condensed matter researchers, including Xiao-Gang Wen — now a faculty member at Perimeter Institute — investigated new quantum systems where numerous ground states existed with the same symmetry. Wen pointed out that those new states contain a new kind of order: topological order. Topological order is a quantum mechanical phenomenon: it is not related to the symmetry of the ground state, but instead to the global properties of the ground state’s wave function. Therefore, it transcends the Landau paradigm, which is based on classical physics concepts.

Topological order is a more general understanding of quantum phases and the transitions between them. In the new framework, the phases of matter were described not by the patterns of symmetry in the ground state, but by the patterns of a decidedly quantum property — entanglement. When two particles are entangled, certain measurements performed on one of them immediately affect the other, no matter how far apart the particles are. The patterns of such quantum effects, unlike the patterns of the atomic positions, could not be described by their symmetries. If you were to describe a city as a topologically ordered state from the cockpit of your impossibly tiny ship, you’d no longer be describing the girders and buildings of the crystals you passed, but rather invisible connections between them — rather like describing a city based on the information flow in its telephone system.

This more general description of matter developed by Wen and collaborators was powerful — but there were still a few phases that didn’t fit. Specifically, there were a set of short-range entangled phases that did not break the symmetry, the so-called symmetry-protected topological phases. Examples of symmetry-protected phases include some topological superconductors and topological insulators, which are of widespread immediate interest because they show promise for use in the coming first generation of quantum electronics.

In the paper featured in Science, Wen and collaborators reveal a new system which can, at last, successfully classify these symmetry-protected phases.

Using modern mathematics — specifically group cohomology theory and group super-cohomology theory — the researchers have constructed and classified the symmetry-protected phases in any number of dimensions and for any symmetries. Their new classification system will provide insight about these quantum phases of matter, which may in turn increase our ability to design states of matter for use in superconductors or quantum computers.

This paper is a revealing look at the intricate and fascinating world of quantum entanglement, and an important step toward a modern reclassification of all phases of matter.

Journal Reference:

  1. X. Chen, Z.-C. Gu, Z.-X. Liu, X.-G. Wen. Symmetry-Protected Topological Orders in Interacting Bosonic SystemsScience, 2012; 338 (6114): 1604 DOI:10.1126/science.1227224

Don’t Blame Autism for Newtown (New York Times)

By PRISCILLA GILMAN – Published: December 17, 2012

LAST Wednesday night I listened to Andrew Solomon, the author of the extraordinary new book “Far From the Tree,” talk about the frequency of filicide in families affected by autism. Two days later, I watched the news media attempt to explain a matricide and a horrific mass murder in terms of the killer’s supposed autism.

It began as insinuation, but quickly flowered into outright declaration. Words used to describe the killer, Adam Lanza, began with “odd,” “aloof” and “a loner,” shaded into “lacked empathy,” and finally slipped into “on the autism spectrum” and suffering from “a mental illness like Asperger’s.” By Sunday, it had snowballed into a veritable storm of accusation and stigmatization.

Whether reporters were directly attributing Mr. Lanza’s shooting rampage to his autism or merely shoddily lumping together very different conditions, the false and harmful messages were abundant.

Let me clear up a few misconceptions. For one thing, Asperger’s and autism are not forms of mental illness; they are neurodevelopmental disorders or disabilities. Autism is a lifelong condition that manifests before the age of 3; most mental illnesses do not appear until the teen or young adult years. Medications rarely work to curb the symptoms of autism, but they can be indispensable in treating mental illness like obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Underlying much of this misreporting is the pernicious and outdated stereotype that people with autism lack empathy. Children with autism may have trouble understanding the motivations and nonverbal cues of others, be socially naïve and have difficulty expressing their emotions in words, but they are typically more truthful and less manipulative than neurotypical children and are often people of great integrity. They can also have a strong desire to connect with others and they can be intensely empathetic — they just attempt those connections and express that empathy in unconventional ways. My child with autism, in fact, is the most empathetic and honorable of my three wonderful children.

Additionally, a psychopathic, sociopathic or homicidal tendency must be separated out from both autism and from mental illness more generally. While autistic children can sometimes be aggressive, this is usually because of their frustration at being unable to express themselves verbally, or their extreme sensory sensitivities. Moreover, the form their aggression takes is typically harmful only to themselves. In the very rare cases where their aggression is externally directed, it does not take the form of systematic, meticulously planned, intentional acts of violence against a community.

And if study after study has definitively established that a person with autism is no more likely to be violent or engage in criminal behavior than a neurotypical person, it is just as clear that autistic people are far more likely to be the victims of bullying and emotional and physical abuse by parents and caregivers than other children. So there is a sad irony in making autism the agent or the cause rather than regarding it as the target of violence.

In the wake of coverage like this, I worry, in line with concerns raised by the author Susan Cain in her groundbreaking book on introverts, “Quiet”: will shy, socially inhibited students be looked at with increasing suspicion as potentially dangerous? Will a quiet, reserved, thoughtful child be pegged as having antisocial personality disorder? Will children with autism or mental illness be shunned even more than they already are?

This country needs to develop a better understanding of the complexities of various conditions and respect for the profound individuality of its children. We need to emphasize that being introverted doesn’t mean one has a developmental disorder, that a developmental disorder is not the same thing as a mental illness, and that most mental illnesses do not increase a person’s tendency toward outward-directed violence.

We should encourage greater compassion for all parents facing an extreme challenge, whether they have children with autism or mental illness or have lost their children to acts of horrific violence (and that includes the parents of killers).

Consider this, posted on Facebook yesterday by a friend of mine from high school who has an 8-year-old, nonverbal child with severe autism:

“Today Timmy was having a first class melt down in Barnes and Nobles and he rarely melts down like this. He was throwing his boots, rolling on the floor, screaming and sobbing. Everyone was staring as I tried to pick him up and [his brother Xander] scrambled to pick up his boots. I was worried people were looking at him and wondering if he would be a killer when he grows up because people on the news keep saying this Adam Lanza might have some spectrum diagnosis … My son is the kindest soul you could ever meet. Yesterday, a stranger looked at Timmy and said he could see in my son’s eyes and smile that he was a kind soul; I am thankful that he saw that.”

Rather than averting his eyes or staring, this stranger took the time to look, to notice and to share his appreciation of a child’s soul with his mother. The quality of that attention is what needs to be cultivated more generally in this country.

It could take the form of our taking the time to look at, learn about and celebrate each of the tiny victims of this terrible shooting. It could manifest itself in attempts to dismantle harmful, obfuscating stereotypes or to clarify and hone our understanding of each distinct condition, while remembering that no category can ever explain an individual. Let’s try to look in the eyes of every child we encounter, treat, teach or parent, whatever their diagnosis or label, and recognize each child’s uniqueness, each child’s inimitable soul.

Priscilla Gilman is the author of “The Anti-Romantic Child: A Memoir of Unexpected Joy.”

The Decline of the ‘Great Equalizer’ (The Atlantic)

DEC 19 2012, 9:15 AM – DAVID ROHDE, KRISTINA COOKE, AND HIMANSHU OJHA

Massachusetts, home to America’s best schools and best-educated workforce, has seen income inequality soar. Why? The poor are losing an academic arms race with the rich.

615 student silhouette.jpg

Reuters

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men — the balance wheel of the social machinery.”
Horace Mann, pioneering American educator, 1848

“In America, education is still the great equalizer.”
Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, 2011

BOSTON – When Puritan settlers established America’s first public school here in 1635, they planted the seed of a national ideal: that education should serve as the country’s “great equalizer.”

Americans came to believe over time that education could ensure that all children of any class had a shot at success. And if any state should be able to make that belief a reality, it was Massachusetts.

The Bay State is home to America’s oldest school, Boston Latin, and its oldest college, Harvard. It was the first state to appoint an education secretary, Horace Mann, who penned the “equalizer” motto in 1848. Today, Massachusetts has the country’s greatest concentration of elite private colleges, and its students place first in nationwide Department of Education rankings.

Yet over the past 20 years, America’s best-educated state also has experienced the country’s second-biggest increase in income inequality, according to a Reuters analysis of U.S. Census data. As the gap between rich and poor widens in the world’s richest nation, America’s best-educated state is among those leading the way.

Between 1989 and 2011, the average income of the state’s top fifth of households jumped 17 percent. The middle fifth’s income dropped 2 percent, and the bottom fifth’s fell 9 percent. Massachusetts now has one of the widest chasms between rich and poor in America: It is the seventh-most unequal of the 50 states, according to a Reuters ranking of income inequality. Two decades ago, it placed 23rd.

If the great equalizer’s ability to equalize America is dwindling, it’s not because education is growing less important in the modern economy. Paradoxically, it’s precisely because schooling is now even more important.

Screen Shot 2012-12-19 at 9.10.22 AM.png

One force behind rising inequality, in both America and other advanced economies, is well-known. The decline of manufacturing and the replacement of clerks and secretaries with software mean there are fewer high-paying jobs for low-skilled workers.

The good jobs that do exist increasingly require higher education: Since the recession started in the U.S. in 2007, the number of jobs needing a college degree has risen by 2.2 million, according to a recent Georgetown University study. The number of jobs for mere high-school graduates fell by 5.8 million.

FALLING BEHIND THE RICHJust to stay even, poorer Americans need to obtain better credentials. But that points to another rich-poor divide in the United States. Educators call it the scholastic “achievement gap.” It has been around forever, but it’s getting wider. Lower-class children are getting better educations than before. But richer kids are outpacing their gains, which in turn is stoking the widening income gap.

Across the country, a Stanford University study found last year, the achievement gap between rich and poor students on standardized tests is 30 to 40 percent wider than it was a quarter-century ago. Because excellent students are more likely to grow rich, the authors argued, income inequality risks becoming more entrenched.

“Now, we’re in a situation where we need to educate everyone at the level of the elite in the past,” said Paul Reville, Massachusetts secretary of education. “We don’t have a system to do that.”

It’s an academic arms race, and it can be seen in the sharply contrasting fortunes of Weston, a booming Boston suburb, and the blue-collar community of Gardner, where a 20-foot-tall chair sits on Elm Street as a monument to the town’s past as a furniture-manufacturing hub.

The percentage of Gardner children bound for four-year colleges has held steady at about half in the past decade, and median incomes have tumbled as furniture makers headed south or overseas. Gardner High School graduate Curtis Dorval dropped out of the University of Massachusetts this year after his father, a Walmart worker, ran short of money. He’s working at a Walmart now, too, and then heading off to the military.

In Weston, hedge-fund managers are tearing down modest homes to build mansions. Per-capita incomes have leaped 161 percent in the past two decades, and the high school is sending 96 percent of its graduates to universities.

Tanner Skenderian, president of the class of 2012, is now at Harvard; in her graduation speech, she told her classmates to “reach for the moon.”

VICIOUS CYCLE

This correlation between educational attainment and financial fortune is clear statewide. In the bottom fifth of Massachusetts households, the average income dropped 9 percent in the past 20 years to $12,000. They fared worse despite a sizable gain in educational attainment: The share of people 25 and older in the group with a bachelor’s degree rose to 18.5 percent from 11 percent.

The same thing happened to the middle fifth. Their average income slipped 2 percent to $63,000. The share of adults with a bachelor’s rose to 43 percent from 29 percent.

But the top fifth saw their average income leap 17 percent, to $217,000, as their education levels soared far higher. Three-quarters had a bachelor’s, up from half. Fully 50 percent had a post-graduate degree, up from a quarter.

GRAPHIC: Degrees of inequity: Bay State households at all levels of income are getting better educations. But only the richest are seeing income rise.

Some Massachusetts officials say they fear a vicious cycle is taking hold, in which income inequality and educational inequality feed off each other. Democrats and Republicans agree that the increased disparity is a threat to economic mobility in the state. But as in much of the rest of the United States, they disagree over what to do about it. Democrats argue the solution is more – and earlier – schooling. Republicans believe traditional public schools are part of the problem.

The education gap is just one factor behind growing inequality. The U.S. economy has been so weak that large numbers of graduates are underemployed: In 2010, according to Andy Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, only 59 percent of Massachusetts adults with a bachelor’s degree were in jobs that actually required one.

Long-term changes in marriage patterns matter, too, because they are stoking the educational-attainment gap that in turn feeds the income chasm.

People are increasingly more likely to marry their educational equal, Sum’s research finds, creating well-paid two-income couples at the top. At the bottom fifth, the number of single-parent families has risen 15 percent since 1990. Those parents have lower incomes and less time to devote to their children’s schooling. In a pattern echoed nationwide, 70 percent of Massachusetts families with children in the bottom fifth are headed by a single parent – compared with 7 percent in the top fifth.

“All the evidence shows that children born to two highly educated, high-income people tend to obtain the highest level of academic achievement,” said Sum. “At the bottom, where the mom is not that well-educated and tends to have lower income, children tend to do worse.”

EDUCATED BUT MEDIOCRE

A brainier workforce alone isn’t sufficient to drive growth, though. Even as education levels in the Bay State have risen lately, faster growth hasn’t followed. Between 2000 and 2010, Sum found, Massachusetts ranked just 37th in job creation. In fact, none of the 10 states with the top students placed in the top 10 on payroll growth.

“The best educated states were overwhelmingly mediocre in job creation,” he wrote in a study last year. He urges states to complement education with such steps as tax credits, infrastructure spending and on-the-job training.

Seventy miles northwest of Boston, Gardner once touted itself as the “chair-making capital of the world.” The factories employed thousands of workers who supported large families on single incomes. The first workplace time-recorder was invented here, too; as a result of its adoption, “punching the clock” became part of the vernacular.

Today, the factories have gone south or closed. Gardner still calls itself the furniture capital of New England but because of its outlet stores, not its factories. The biggest employers are a hospital and a community college. Retail jobs at Walmart and other chains have replaced better-paying factory work. Between 1989 and 2009, the town’s per capita income slipped 19 percent to $18,000.

A town of some 20,000 people, Gardner has roughly twice the population of wealthy Weston, but spends just 60 percent as much on education. The town’s high school has had six principals in the past eight years.

Even kids who excel at Gardner High School increasingly face financial hurdles after they graduate, say teachers and students. Mayor Mark Hawke said cost routinely prices high-achieving students out of elite private colleges. “It happens every day,” he said.

David Dorval, 47, was laid off in 2009 after working at an area hospital registering patients for 16 years. Dorval, who has an associate’s degree, struggled to find work, and he and his wife divorced. Today he takes home $1,000 a month at Walmart in Gardner and pays half of his earnings to his ex-wife in child support. He goes to his 79-year-old mother’s house for lunch each day.

“I don’t feel like I am able to do what my parents were able to do,” he said. “My parents were able to support eight kids.”

PRICED OUT

His son, Curtis Dorval, works at Walmart as well. When he was a senior at Gardner High School, Curtis was class president. He was accepted by Northeastern University, a private school in Boston.

But Northeastern cost $50,000 a year, which Curtis, then 17, felt he couldn’t afford. Instead, he enrolled last year at the state-run University of Massachusetts Amherst, studying mechanical engineering. With the help of a scholarship for graduating in the top quarter of his class, Curtis paid $10,200 a year.

He got some help from his father, who had saved up $10,000 in stocks and bonds from his days in the hospital job. This summer, that money ran out and Curtis left UMass to enlist in the Air Force. He will serve as an airman – and hopes to use military benefits to pay for parttime university classes.

“The main reason was I needed a way to pay for college,” he said.

David Dorval quickly used up his savings for Curtis's education. New England's excellent colleges are America's priciest - some 25 percent above the U.S. average. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

David Dorval quickly used up his savings for Curtis’s education. New England’s excellent colleges are America’s priciest – some 25 percent above the U.S. average. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

That is the flip side of New England’s excellent universities: They are the most expensive in the country, according to a study by the College Board. A four-year education at a public or private university costs nearly one-fourth more than the national average.

Sticker shock is forcing those who do stay in college to pass up elite private schools for cheaper state ones. That’s also happening in the middle-class town of Leominster, a former plastics-manufacturing center 15 miles east of Gardner.

Among last year’s top students was Eric Marcoux, co-leader of the robotics team and member of the National Honor Society. He was accepted to Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a top private engineering university. WPI offered him a $20,000 annual scholarship – but he and his family still faced taking on roughly $30,000 a year in debt. Marcoux chose the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he’ll have to borrow only half as much.

“It was a lot of going back and forth,” said Marcoux, whose dream is to work for Google. “It was a hard decision but I think it was the right one.”

Trading down can carry a stiff cost: A Harvard study published this year found that students who go to Massachusetts state colleges are less likely to graduate than those who attend Massachusetts private colleges.

The state has tried to help poorer kids. In the early 1990s, Massachusetts sharply increased state funding of local elementary and secondary schools and mandated comprehensive testing. The overhaul was designed to improve student performance and eradicate the achievement gap.

THE SAT GAP

Twenty years later, Massachusetts spends $4.8 billion a year on its public schools, up 83 percent from 1990. Children from lower income families have improved their scores on tests, but their results still lag, as a look at results from the Scholastic Aptitude Tests makes clear.

In the state’s five wealthiest school districts, students had average scores ranging from 594 to 621 on the 800-point college-admissions test in 2009-2010. In the five poorest districts for which data are available, the SAT scores averaged from 403 to 469.

Reville, the education secretary, wants a redoubled push on childhood education: The 1990s reforms were good but didn’t go far enough. “There is no way for someone who is poorly educated to be self-sufficient,” he said. “It’s in our national interest to do something that we should have done morally anyway.”

What he proposes is sweeping change.

Income depends on educational achievement, and the single best predictor of a child’s likelihood of academic success remains in turn the socio-economic status of his or her mother, said Reville. The solution to erasing the achievement gap involves, in essence, providing low-income students with the advantages their wealthier peers enjoy: pre-school at the age of three, tutors, summer camps, and after-school activities like sports and music lessons. Schools could contract with outside organizations to provide those activities, or lengthen their school day or school year by one-third.

Asked how much such an initiative might cost, Reville responded, “How much would it cost to give every child an upper-middle-class life?”

Such talk makes Massachusetts Republicans blanch. They say they care about income disparities that harm people’s ability to move up the income ladder. Americans are now less likely to move to a higher economic class in their lifetime than Western Europeans or Canadians, according to a number of recent studies.

Republicans argue that the problem is not resources in the public schools: Massachusetts already ranks No. 8 in the amount of money states spend per student, according to the Census Bureau.

CHOICE AND CHARTERS

“What Reville is suggesting is wraparound social services,” said Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute, a conservative think tank in Boston. “We think decentralized decision-making in the schools makes more sense.”

Instead of spending more, Stergios said, give parents greater choice over which schools their children attend. Expand the use of charter schools, financed by the public but managed independently. Make cities strictly follow the course of study set out by the state. Increase the accountability of teachers by linking pay to student test scores.

“We haven’t closed the (achievement) gap because the Massachusetts curriculum isn’t being taught rigorously enough in the urban areas, principals don’t have enough power and independence, and there’s a cap on charter schools,” said Stergios. “That’s why we haven’t seen the great equalizer working as it should.”

Adding to the complexity of addressing the income and educational gaps is a widening geographical divide in the state.

In Massachusetts, some 230,000 people were unemployed in October, Conference Board data show, and roughly 140,000 unfilled jobs were advertised online. Skilled professions, including software engineers and web developers, topped the list. Nearly seven out of 10 vacancies were in the Boston area.

Harvard economist Ed Glaeser calls this the new reality of a knowledge-based global economy. More than ever, innovation, growth and opportunity are clustered in large cities such as Boston. Let decaying factory towns become ghost towns. Instead of building better transportation links, Glaeser believes their inhabitants should be encouraged to move to the closest economic hub.

“In 1940, you wanted to be in an area with resources for your mill,” he said. “In 2012, you want to be in a cluster of smart people.”

CLASS CLUSTERS

Weston, where Glaeser himself lives, is such a cluster. But it isn’t for everyone. Its house prices and real estate taxes put it out of reach for most Massachusetts residents, which points up a conundrum.

As those who can afford to do so head for the clusters, inequality grows. Across the state, communities are becoming more homogenous by income group, said Ben Forman, research director at think tank MassInc.

“There are definitely more Westons now than there were a couple of decades ago,” Forman said. “What the research shows is that more economic segregation leads to high-income children performing better and better and lower-income children falling behind.”

The Boston suburbs where Weston is located are home to the most-educated workforce in the nation’s best-educated state, according to the Boston Federal Reserve.

A Reuters analysis of Census and American Community Survey data found that two-thirds of working-age adults in Weston and surrounding towns had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2010. That’s more than double the national average of 28 percent. Just 23 percent of their peers in Gardner and its neighbors had a bachelor’s or better. As earnings fell in Gardner they soared in Weston. In 1990, Weston residents made 3.5 times more than Gardnerites. By 2009, it was 12 to 1.

On a summer Tuesday afternoon, a man was reading a copy of “Horseback Riding for Dummies” outside Bruegger’s Bagels, the sole fast-food chain that Weston has allowed to open as it tries, with mixed success, to preserve its historic character.

One hedge-fund manager built a 22-room mansion with a basketball court, pool and 10-car garage. Another tore down two homes to build a private equestrian center for his wife and daughter with an indoor riding ring.

WESTON’S ADVANTAGES

Town leaders say they are struggling to keep the town from becoming even wealthier. “We have three selectmen who are trying to find ways to diversify our population with affordable housing,” said Michael Harrity, chairman of the board of selectmen. “It’s difficult when lots are selling for $700,000 for teardowns.”

One area where development is warmly welcome is education. This fall, the town opened a new $13 million science wing for Weston High School that includes nine state-of-the art labs and a multimedia conference center.

Weston High is one of the finest public schools in the country. In 2011, 96 percent of its graduates planned to go on to four-year degree programs. In Gardner, only about half did. Nationally, a 2011 University of Michigan study found that the gap in college-completion rates between rich and poor students has grown by about half since the late 1980s.

Those differentials have a long-term impact. An American with a bachelor’s degree earns on average about $1 million more over a lifetime than one with just some college, according to recent studies.

Another advantage Weston kids have is their involved and demanding parents.

Gardner High has no parent-teacher organization. In Weston, parents raised $300,000 last year for additional after-school activities in the public schools. Top scientists living in Weston help with school science fairs. Parental involvement is so intense that three parents sit on the interview panel for every prospective new teacher. Stay-at-home Weston mothers attend meetings of student-body leaders and help students organize events. They’re known as “Grade Moms”.

‘VERY FORTUNATE’
At Harvard Yard. A study ranked Massachusetts No. 1 in education, No. 37 in job creation. REUTERS/Brian SnyderAt Harvard Yard. A study ranked Massachusetts No. 1 in education, No. 37 in job creation. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Liz Hochberger, a recent president of the Weston Parent-Teacher Organization, said the town’s excellent public schools had become a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Professors from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, along with the wealthy, move to Weston for its public schools, which further improves test scores and college acceptance rates. “Whenever someone is moving to this area and they research the schools,” Hochberger said, “this is always on the list.”

Tanner Skenderian, president of this year’s Weston High graduating class, joked in a speech about her town’s hyper-competitive students. “Welcome to Weston, where third graders take AP Physics, middle-school students sleep for 42 minutes a night, and the most competitive race run by the 2012 boys state champion track team was the race to get the cookies in the cafeteria,” she said.

Competition in high school was fierce. In one advanced placement physics class, she said, six of the 12 students were the children of professors at MIT, America’s premier science university.

But Tanner thrived there. She also found school to be a source of support after her father died while she was in middle school. This fall, she headed to Harvard, after spending the summer interning at the governor’s office. Given the job market, she said she may apply to business or law school after graduating.

Weston, in short, gave her an education that raises her odds of joining her mother – who owns a marketing and event-planning company – at the top of America’s economic ladder.

“We’re very fortunate that we’re rather affluent,” she said. “We have more opportunities, more technology, more classes and more teachers.”

_____

Edited by Michael Williams and Janet Roberts. See more at our Income Inequality homepage.

With Mental Health Issues Rising On Campuses, New Student Initiative to Maintain Balanced Mental Health Is Emerging (Science Daily)

Dec. 18, 2012 — Rates of serious mental illness among university students are drastically rising, and universities are struggling with how to respond to students who show symptoms. Traumatic situations such as academics, financial problems, family problems, intimate and other relationship issues, and career related issues are leaving students overwhelmed, exhausted, sad, lonely, hopeless and depressed.

Volume 60, Issue 1, 2012 of the Journal of American College Health includes publication of the first ever feasibility study on Psychiatric Advance Directives (PADs) for college students. PADs allow students who are living with serious mental illnesses to plan ahead with a support person, creating and documenting an intervention strategy to be used in the event of a psychiatric crisis.

The study entitled “University Students’ Views on the Utility of Psychiatric Advance Directives” was conducted by Anna M. Scheyett, PhD and Adrienne Rooks, MSW. The researchers found that students perceived PADs as beneficial.

“With a PAD, university students could give permission for the university to communicate with relevant support people, identify warning signs of relapse, describe effective interventions and give advance permission for administration of specific medications,” wrote Scheyett and Rooks. “By providing this novel intervention, we may be able to ensure that university students not only get the care they need during crises but also reduce crises through early and effective action and treatment.”

Access free articles from the issue: http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/vach20/60/7

Journal Reference:

  1. Reginald Fennell. Should College Campuses Become Tobacco Free Without an Enforcement Plan? Journal of American College Health, 2012; 60 (7): 491 DOI:10.1080/07448481.2012.716981

Unesco lança campanha para ampliar cooperação pela água em 2013 (Envolverde)

20/12/2012 – 11h02

por Redação do EcoD

campanha Unesco lança campanha para ampliar cooperação pela água em 2013

A campanha é destinada ao dia e ao ano internacional da água. Foto: Divulgação

A Organização das Nações Unidas para a Educação, a Ciência e a Cultura (Unesco) lançou na terça-feira, 18 de dezembro, a campanha Ano Internacional da Cooperação pela Água 2013, destinada ao Dia (22 de março) e ao Ano Internacional da Água. A iniciativa pretende alcançar cinco objetivos:

1. Conscientizar sobre a importância, os benefícios e os desafios da cooperação em questões relacionadas à água;
2. Gerar conhecimento e construir capacidades em prol da cooperação pela água;
3. Provocar ações concretas e inovadoras em prol da cooperação pela água;
4. Fomentar parcerias, diálogo e cooperação pela água como prioridades máximas, mesmo após 2013;
5. Fortalecer a cooperação internacional pela água para abrir caminho para os Objetivos de Desenvolvimento Sustentável defendidos por toda a comunidade que trata sobre água e atendendo às necessidades de todas as sociedades.

Segundo a organização, a humanidade não pode prosperar sem a cooperação no manejo da água, e o desenvolvimento da assistência pelos recursos hídricos envolve uma abordagem que reúne fatores e disciplinas culturais, educacionais e científicas e deve cobrir diversas dimensões: religiosa, ética, social, política, legal, institucional e econômica.

A cooperação pela água assume muitas formas, desde a parceria por meio de fronteiras para o manejo de aquíferos subterrâneos e bacias fluviais compartilhadas, até o intercâmbio de dados científicos, à parceria em uma vila rural para a construção de um poço ou para o fornecimento de água potável através de redes urbanas.

O Ano Internacional de Cooperação pela Água, em 2013, deseja encorajar partes interessadas nos níveis internacional, regional, nacional e local a agir em prol do acesso aos recursos hídricos.

– Conheça a campanha –

* Publicado originalmente no site EcoD.

Are Bacteria Making You Hungry? (Science Daily)

Dec. 19, 2012 — Over the last half decade, it has become increasingly clear that the normal gastrointestinal (GI) bacteria play a variety of very important roles in the biology of human and animals. Now Vic Norris of the University of Rouen, France, and coauthors propose yet another role for GI bacteria: that they exert some control over their hosts’ appetites. Their review was published online ahead of print in the Journal of Bacteriology.

Are bacteria making you hungry? Over the last half decade, it has become increasingly clear that the normal gastrointestinal (GI) bacteria play a variety of very important roles in the biology of human and animals. (Credit: © fabiomax / Fotolia)

This hypothesis is based in large part on observations of the number of roles bacteria are already known to play in host biology, as well as their relationship to the host system. “Bacteria both recognize and synthesize neuroendocrine hormones,” Norris et al. write. “This has led to the hypothesis that microbes within the gut comprise a community that forms a microbial organ interfacing with the mammalian nervous system that innervates the gastrointestinal tract.” (That nervous system innervating the GI tract is called the “enteric nervous system.” It contains roughly half a billion neurons, compared with 85 billion neurons in the central nervous system.)

“The gut microbiota respond both to both the nutrients consumed by their hosts and to the state of their hosts as signaled by various hormones,” write Norris et al. That communication presumably goes both ways: they also generate compounds that are used for signaling within the human system, “including neurotransmitters such as GABA, amino acids such as tyrosine and tryptophan — which can be converted into the mood-determining molecules, dopamine and serotonin” — and much else, says Norris.

Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly clear that gut bacteria may play a role in diseases such as cancer, metabolic syndrome, and thyroid disease, through their influence on host signaling pathways. They may even influence mood disorders, according to recent, pioneering studies, via actions on dopamine and peptides involved in appetite. The gut bacterium,Campilobacter jejuni, has been implicated in the induction of anxiety in mice, says Norris.

But do the gut flora in fact use their abilities to influence choice of food? The investigators propose a variety of experiments that could help answer this question, including epidemiological studies, and “experiments correlating the presence of particular bacterial metabolites with images of the activity of regions of the brain associated with appetite and pleasure.”

Journal Reference:

  1. V. Norris, F. Molina, A. T. Gewirtz. Hypothesis: bacteria control host appetitesJournal of Bacteriology, 2012; DOI:10.1128/JB.01384-12

Will we ever have cyborg brains? (IO9)

Will we ever have cyborg brains?

DEC 19, 2012 2:40 PM

By George Dvorsky

Over at BBC Future, computer scientist Martin Angler has put together a provocative piece about humanity’s collision course with cybernetic technologies. Today, says Angler, we’re using neural interface devices and other assistive technologies to help the disabled. But in short order we’ll be able to radically enhance human capacites — prompting him to wonder about the extent to which we might cyborgize our brains.

Angler points to two a recent and equally remarkable breakthroughs, including a paralyzed stroke victim who was able to guide a robot arm that delivered a hot drink, and a thought-controlled prosthetic hand that could grasp a variety of objects.

Admitting that it’s still early days, Angler speculates about the future:

Yet it’s still a far cry from the visions of man fused with machine, or cyborgs, that grace computer games or sci-fi. The dream is to create the type of brain augmentations we see in fiction that provide cyborgs with advantages or superhuman powers. But the ones being made in the lab only aim to restore lost functionality – whether it’s brain implants that restore limb control, or cochlear implants for hearing.

Creating implants that improve cognitive capabilities, such as an enhanced vision “gadget” that can be taken from a shelf and plugged into our brain, or implants that can restore or enhance brain function is understandably a much tougher task. But some research groups are being to make some inroads.

For instance, neuroscientists Matti Mintz from Tel Aviv University and Paul Verschure from Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, are trying to develop an implantable chip that can restore lost movement through the ability to learn new motor functions, rather than regaining limb control. Verschure’s team has developed a mathematical model that mimics the flow of signals in the cerebellum, the region of the brain that plays an important role in movement control. The researchers programmed this model onto a circuit and connected it with electrodes to a rat’s brain. If they tried to teach the rat a conditioned motor reflex – to blink its eye when it sensed an air puff – while its cerebellum was “switched off” by being anaesthetised, it couldn’t respond. But when the team switched the chip on, this recorded the signal from the air puff, processed it, and sent electrical impulses to the rat’s motor neurons. The rat blinked, and the effect lasted even after it woke up.

Be sure to read the entire article, as Angler discusses uplifted monkeys, the tricky line that divides a human brain from a cybernetic one, and the all-important question of access.

Image: BBC/Science Photo Library.

Human hands evolved for punching (Discovery News)

Analysis by Jennifer Viegas

Wed Dec 19, 2012 06:16 PM ET

Fist

Credit: iStockPhoto

Human hands evolved so that men could make fists and fight, and not just for manual dexterity, new research finds.

The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, adds to a growing body of evidence that humans are among the most aggressive and violent animals on the planet.

“With the notable exception of bonobos, great apes are a relatively aggressive group of mammals,” lead author David Carrier told Discovery News. “Although some primatologists may argue that chimpanzees are the most aggressive apes, I think the evidence suggests that humans are substantially more violent.”

Carrier points out that while chimpanzees physically batter each other more frequently than humans, rape appears to be less common in chimpanzees, and torture and group-against-group forms of violence, such as slavery, are not documented in the animals.

“Chimpanzees are also known to engage in raiding welfare in which one group largely eliminates a neighboring group, but this is not comparable in scope to the genocide that has characterized human history,” added Carrier, a University of Utah biology professor.

For this latest study, he and co-author Michael Morgan, a medical student, conducted three experiments. First, they analyzed what happened when men, aged from 22 to 50, hit a punching bag as hard as they could. The peak stress delivered to the bag — the force per area — was 1.7 to 3 times greater with a fist strike compared with a slap.

“Because you have higher pressure when hitting with a fist, you are more likely to cause injury to tissue, bones, teeth, eyes and the jaw,” Carrier said.

The second and third experiments determined that buttressing provided by the human fist increases the stiffness of the knuckle joint fourfold. It also doubles the ability of the fingers to transmit punching force, mainly due to the force transferred from the fingers to the thumb when the fist is clenched.

In terms of the size and shape of hand anatomy, the scientists point out that humans could have evolved manual dexterity with longer thumbs, but without the fingers and palms getting shorter.

Gorilla hands are closer in proportion to human hands than are other apes’ hands, but they and no other ape — aside from us — hits with a clenched fist.

The researchers additionally point out that humans use fists during threat displays. There is also a difference in body size between males and females, particularly evident with hands and arms. This, Carrier said, is “consistent with the hand being a weapon.”

Human males tend to be more physically violent than women, with men being ten times more likely to commit homicide than females in the U.S., Carrier said. But the research, nonetheless, applies to women as well.

“The bottom line is that women need to fight and defend themselves too,” Morgan told Discovery News. “Women need to fight off attackers and defend themselves from rape.”

Defending children may even help to explain human hand anatomy, since both men and women are often driven to protect their offspring, in addition to fighting with others over territory, resources and for other reasons.

“It can be argued that modern man exists in a world devoid of the evolutionary and selective pressures to which aggression was a beneficial trait,” Morgan said. “Our aggressive behavior remains, but no longer serves an evolutionary purpose.”

Água marginalizada: O reflexo da sociedade (Envolverde)

9/12/2012 – 10h35

por Sarah Bueno Motter e Giovani de Oliveira, da EcoAgência

Diluvio Água marginalizada: O reflexo da sociedade

O Dilúvio é o maior riacho que corta a cidade de Porto Alegre. Foto: Divulgação/Internet

As margens são um limite. Até onde o Dilúvio vai, até onde ele pode ir. Balizado pelo concreto humano, o arroio que corta a capital faz parte da rotina da cidade. Em suas margens, estão os congestionamentos e a ansiedade de Porto Alegre. Nas suas beiradas, está, na hora do rush, o stress de querer chegar rápido ao outro lado da cidade e não conseguir a velocidade pretendida. A poluição que corre dentro do Dilúvio também passa nos seus limiares, os quais são contaminados pela exaustão da sociedade perante sua rotina.

As margens do Dilúvio transbordam o vazio de nossa civilização que corre apressada sem nem saber o motivo. Que deixa à sua margem aqueles que não têm o capital e as oportunidades iguais, aqueles que não têm o carro, aqueles que não têm a casa. Esses ficam às margens.

As bordas também refletem as novas tendências. O desejo da ciclovia, do transporte limpo. Elas falam de um novo caminho que a cidade “quer” abrir. Um caminho para o sustentável.

Mas a sustentabilidade não caminha junto da miséria e da desigualdade e ela não é parceira do descaso. A sustentabilidade não está nas aparências. Ela não é balizada por frágeis mudanças sem conteúdo maciço, sem a pretensão de uma metamorfose. Ela não parte do nada e não chega a lugar nenhum. Ela não se inaugura com uma quadra de ciclovia, ela é uma estrada inteira.

A água, quando cai no Dilúvio, faz o barulho característico dos riachos, aquele som que muitas vezes queremos levar para casa, comprando uma fonte de decoração. O barulho é tão bonito e característico, mas o concreto afasta a cidade da natureza, que suja de nossos resíduos, continua seu caminho. As margens do Dilúvio são uma síntese do que somos. Os carros, os excluídos, a sujeira, os “novos caminhos” e a natureza que teima e vive entre o cinza da ambição humana.

O Dilúvio é o símbolo de uma sociedade precária, individualista e agressiva. Como muitas das crianças que moram embaixo de suas pontes, suas águas são agredidas desde o começo de sua vida. Já em sua nascente, na Lomba do Sabão, o arroio é violentado pela ocupação irregular da área. Famílias, sem condições de moradia, ocupam um local protegido por lei, e jogam seus dejetos nas águas do Dilúvio. Pessoas violentadas pela sociedade do ter, sem espaço para tentar ser, violentam também o arroio e invadem seu espaço.

Espaço que cada vez existe menos. Espaço cada vez mais ocupado pelo lixo, espaço que nós não temos mais. O espaço que poderia ser de lazer, de contato com a natureza em meio à cidade, torna-se um espaço do qual fugimos. Não a toa, algumas pessoas defendem que se cubra o Dilúvio. Defendem uma grande tampa de concreto, que não cure a ferida, mas nos impeça de ver ou sentir.

Mas incrivelmente, violentado do começo ao fim, o Dilúvio segue vivo, suas águas, são a moradia de peixes, pescados por improváveis gaivotas porto-alegrenses. E suas margens, costeadas pelo cinza, ainda conservam um verde, que insiste em se manter vivo.

* Publicado originalmente no site EcoAgência.

Bullying by Childhood Peers Leaves a Trace That Can Change the Expression of a Gene Linked to Mood (Science Daily)

Dec. 18, 2012 — A recent study by a researcher at the Centre for Studies on Human Stress (CSHS) at the Hôpital Louis-H. Lafontaine and professor at the Université de Montréal suggests that bullying by peers changes the structure surrounding a gene involved in regulating mood, making victims more vulnerable to mental health problems as they age.

The study published in the journal Psychological Medicine seeks to better understand the mechanisms that explain how difficult experiences disrupt our response to stressful situations. “Many people think that our genes are immutable; however this study suggests that environment, even the social environment, can affect their functioning. This is particularly the case for victimization experiences in childhood, which change not only our stress response but also the functioning of genes involved in mood regulation,” says Isabelle Ouellet-Morin, lead author of the study.

A previous study by Ouellet-Morin, conducted at the Institute of Psychiatry in London (UK), showed that bullied children secrete less cortisol — the stress hormone — but had more problems with social interaction and aggressive behaviour. The present study indicates that the reduction of cortisol, which occurs around the age of 12, is preceded two years earlier by a change in the structure surrounding a gene (SERT) that regulates serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation and depression.

To achieve these results, 28 pairs of identical twins with a mean age of 10 years were analyzed separately according to their experiences of bullying by peers: one twin had been bullied at school while the other had not. “Since they were identical twins living in the same conditions, changes in the chemical structure surrounding the gene cannot be explained by genetics or family environment. Our results suggest that victimization experiences are the source of these changes,” says Ouellet-Morin. According to the author, it would now be worthwhile to evaluate the possibility of reversing these psychological effects, in particular, through interventions at school and support for victims.

Journal Reference:

  1. I. Ouellet-Morin, C. C. Y. Wong, A. Danese, C. M. Pariante, A. S. Papadopoulos, J. Mill, L. Arseneault. Increased serotonin transporter gene (SERT) DNA methylation is associated with bullying victimization and blunted cortisol response to stress in childhood: a longitudinal study of discordant monozygotic twinsPsychological Medicine, 2012; DOI: 10.1017/S0033291712002784

Manejo comunitário da água (Terramérica)

Ambiente
17/12/2012 – 10h24 – por Emilio Godoy*

am221 TERRAMÉRICA   Manejo comunitário da água

O manejo da água é fundamental para o abastecimento das comunidades rurais. Na imagem um manancial no Estado de Chiapas, sul do México. Foto: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Os serviços comunitários de água, que atendem cerca de 2.500 localidades rurais do México, são uma realidade que reclama reconhecimento legal.

Cidade do México, México, 17 de dezembro de 2012 (Terramérica).- Os sistemas comunitários de abastecimento de água, que funcionam em milhares de localidades do México, querem que uma nova estrutura legal federal em estudo os reconheça como gestores do precioso recurso. “Estamos em um limbo jurídico, porque a lei não nos reconhece, e, ao mesmo tempo, exige que peçamos concessões e façamos investimentos”, disse ao Terramérica um integrante do Sistema de Água Potável de Tecámac, Ricardo Ovando.

Esta entidade sem fins lucrativos e autônoma funciona desde a década de 1950 e foi legalizada em 1997; administra seis poços e abastece cerca de quatro mil usuários em Tecámac, município de 365 mil habitantes no Estado do México, 40 quilômetros ao norte da capital federal. O Sistema de Água Potável de Tecámac já conhece as perseguições, pois em 2005 o governo municipal tomou suas instalações, que foram recuperadas graças a um amparo legal em 2007.

Há 2.517 órgãos operadores de água deste tipo, que atendem a 2.454 cabeceiras municipais sob a forma de sistemas autônomos ou de juntas ou comitês rurais, estima o não governamental Grupo de Estudos Ambientais. O restante das quase 198 mil localidades rurais mexicanas são abastecidas por sistemas estaduais ou municipais, ou por concessionárias. Mas neste país de quase 117 milhões de habitantes, 30% das moradias não têm água encanada e outros 15% a recebem a cada três dias por outros meios, segundo estatísticas oficiais.

A Lei de Águas Nacionais, de 1992, não reconhece juridicamente os sistemas comunitários que, no entanto, funcionam graças aos conselhos de bacia, figura criada para a interação entre a governamental Comissão Nacional da Água e delegados dos usuários e de autoridades federais, estaduais e municipais. “As comunidades cuidam dos recursos naturais e devem decidir o que fazer com eles”, disse ao Terramérica Esteban Solano, morador na localidade de San Pedro Atlapulco, no município de Ocoyoacac, Estado do México, uma zona pródiga em riqueza florestal e hídrica.

Essa população se abastece de três dos quatro mananciais que brotam das montanhas e que também permitem bombear 22 mil metros cúbicos de água por dia para a Cidade do México. Em compensação, o governo da capital entregou cerca de US$ 4 milhões desde 2006. A Constituição mexicana já reconhece o acesso à água como um direito humano básico, estabelecido em 2010 pela Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU), que lhe deu natureza vinculante. Contudo, o Congresso nacional deve aprovar uma nova lei para incorporar essa mudança e tem prazo até fevereiro para fazer isso.

O novo governo, que tomou posse no dia 1º deste mês, prepara seu projeto, do qual poucos detalhes são conhecidos. Entretanto, o presidente Enrique Peña Nieto anunciou durante sua campanha eleitoral um pacote de 38 medidas para garantir o abastecimento universal, incluindo construção de represas, aquedutos e estações de tratamento, além da criação do Ministério da Água.

Além disso, o novo governo deve apresentar nos próximos meses um Programa Nacional Hídrico até 2018. É necessário revisar de maneira “crítica e sistemática as concessões, atribuições e permissões que garantam a participação das comunidades locais e dos afetados”, disse ao Terramérica o presidente da Academia Mexicana de Direito Ambiental, Rolando Cañas.

Por seu lado, as comunidades que administram seus recursos hídricos e outras organizações não governamentais preparam uma proposta para a futura lei de águas. Entre outros elementos, propõe reconhecer os sistemas de autogestão, a cogestão comunitária-municipal, a criação de programas locais de água potável e saneamento, os acordos entre vários municípios, e a supervisão comunitária do projeto, construção, operação e manutenção das estações de tratamento de esgoto.

“A lei deve estar baseada em uma perspectiva de direitos humanos. Vamos em direção a um modelo muito ambicioso, temos que garantir um bem público. E precisamos pensar além da gestão de bacias, porque cada usuário defende seu uso da água”, disse ao Terramérica a pesquisadora Raquel Gutiérrez Nájera, da Universidade de Guadalajara, no Estado de Jalisco.

A água é abundante do centro para o sul do território mexicano, mas escasseia na região norte, que sofreu este ano uma intensa seca, fenômeno que será mais frequente devido à mudança climática, segundo os cientistas. Blindar a administração hídrica comunitária é um passo para frear a privatização que ameaça o futuro marco legal, afirmam alguns.

“Há uma intenção de privatização. Um exemplo é a construção de casas, na qual os desenvolvedores recebem poços para manejar, mas a água está acabando”, disse Ovando, em cuja região operam oito sistemas de gestão autônomos e os usuários pagam pelo serviço quase US$ 4 a cada dois meses. “As florestas são as fábricas de água. Nós cuidamos delas, é justo que nos recompensem”, opinou Solano. Envolverde/Terramérica

* O autor é correspondente da IPS.

LINKS

Mesoamérica ignora sua pegada hídrica

Agro mexicano necessita de uma revolução hídrica

Sem água ao Sul do Rio Bravo

México enfrenta um severo problema líquido, em espanhol

Água comunitária passa pelos tribunais, em espanhol

Onda privatizadora se foi, desafios ficam, em espanhol

Lei de Águas Nacionais, pdf em espanhol

Grupo de Estudos Ambientais, em espanhol

Academia Mexicana de Direito Ambiental no Facebook, em espanhol

Artigo produzido para o Terramérica, projeto de comunicação dos Programas das Nações Unidas para o Meio Ambiente (Pnuma) e para o Desenvolvimento (Pnud), realizado pela Inter Press Service (IPS) e distribuído pela Agência Envolverde.

Renee Lertzman: the difficulty of knowledge

By Renee Lertzman / December 16, 2012

The notion that one can feel deeply, passionately about a particular issue – and not do anything in practically about it – seems to have flummoxed the broader environmental community.

Why else would we continue to design surveys and polls gauging public opinions about climate change (or other serious ecological threats)? Such surveys – even high profile, well funded mass surveys – continue to reproduce pernicious myths regarding both human subjectivity and the so-called gaps between values and actions.

It is no surprise that data surfacing in a survey or poll will stand in stark contrast to the ‘down and dirty’ world of actions. We all know that surveys invoke all sorts of complicated things like wanting to sound smart/good/moral, one’s own self-concept vs. actual feelings or thoughts, and being corralled into highly simplistic renderings of what are hugely complex topics or issues (“do you worry about climate change/support carbon tax/drive to work each day etc?”). So there is the obvious limitation right now. However, more important is this idea that the thoughts or ideas people hold will translate into their daily life. Reflect for a moment on an issue you care very deeply about. Now consider how much in alignment your practices are, in relation with this issue. It takes seconds to see that in fact, we can have multiple and competing desires and commitments, quite easily.

So why is it so hard for us to carry this over into how we research environmental values, perceptions or beliefs?

If we accept from the get-go that we are complicated beings living in hugely complicated contexts, woven into networks extending far beyond our immediate grasp, it makes a lot of sense that I can care deeply for my children’s future quality of life (and climatic conditions), and still carry on business as usual. I may experience deep conflict, guilt, shame and pain, which I can shove to the edges of consciousness. I may manage to not even think about these issues, or create nifty rationalizations for my consumptive behaviors.

However, this does not mean I don’t care, have deep concern, and even profound anxieties.

Until we realize this basic fact – that we are multiple selves in social contexts, and dynamic and fluid – our communications work will be limited. Why? Because we continue to speak with audiences, design messaging, and carry out research with the mythical unitary self in mind. We try to trick, cajole, seduce people into caring about our ecological treasures. This is simply the wrong track. Rather than trick, why not invite? Rather than overcome ‘barriers,’ why not presume dilemmas, and set out to understand them?

There is also the fact that some knowledge is just too difficult to bear.

The concept of “difficult knowledge” relates to the fact that when we learn, we also let go of cherished beliefs or concepts, and this can be often quite painful. How we handle knowledge, in other words, can and should be done with this recognition. How can we best support one another to bear difficult knowledge?

One of the tricks of the trade for gifted psychotherapists is the ability to listen and converse. The therapist listens; not only for the meaning, but where there may be resistance. The places that make us squirm or laugh nervously or change the topic. This is regarded as where the riches lie – where we may find ourselves stuck despite our best intentions. If we were to practice a bit of this in our own work in environmental communications, my guess is we’d see less rah-rah cheerleading engagement styles, and more ‘let’s be real and get down to business’ sort of work.

And this is what we need, desperately.

Emerging Ethical Dilemmas in Science and Technology (Science Daily)

Dec. 17, 2012 — As a new year approaches, the University of Notre Dame’s John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology and Values has announced its inaugural list of emerging ethical dilemmas and policy issues in science and technology for 2013.

The Reilly Center explores conceptual, ethical and policy issues where science and technology intersect with society from different disciplinary perspectives. Its goal is to promote the advancement of science and technology for the common good.

The center generated its inaugural list with the help of Reilly fellows, other Notre Dame experts and friends of the center.

The center aimed to present a list of items for scientists and laypeople alike to consider in the coming months and years as new technologies develop. It will feature one of these issues on its website each month in 2013, giving readers more information, questions to ask and resources to consult.

The ethical dilemmas and policy issues are:

Personalized genetic tests/personalized medicine

Within the last 10 years, the creation of fast, low-cost genetic sequencing has given the public direct access to genome sequencing and analysis, with little or no guidance from physicians or genetic counselors on how to process the information. What are the potential privacy issues, and how do we protect this very personal and private information? Are we headed toward a new era of therapeutic intervention to increase quality of life, or a new era of eugenics?

Hacking into medical devices

Implanted medical devices, such as pacemakers, are susceptible to hackers. Barnaby Jack, of security vendor IOActive, recently demonstrated the vulnerability of a pacemaker by breaching the security of the wireless device from his laptop and reprogramming it to deliver an 830-volt shock. How do we make sure these devices are secure?

Driverless Zipcars

In three states — Nevada, Florida, and California — it is now legal for Google to operate its driverless cars. Google’s goal is to create a fully automated vehicle that is safer and more effective than a human-operated vehicle, and the company plans to marry this idea with the concept of the Zipcar. The ethics of automation and equality of access for people of different income levels are just a taste of the difficult ethical, legal and policy questions that will need to be addressed.

3-D printing

Scientists are attempting to use 3-D printing to create everything from architectural models to human organs, but we could be looking at a future in which we can print personalized pharmaceuticals or home-printed guns and explosives. For now, 3-D printing is largely the realm of artists and designers, but we can easily envision a future in which 3-D printers are affordable and patterns abound for products both benign and malicious, and that cut out the manufacturing sector completely.

Adaptation to climate change

The differential susceptibility of people around the world to climate change warrants an ethical discussion. We need to identify effective and safe ways to help people deal with the effects of climate change, as well as learn to manage and manipulate wild species and nature in order to preserve biodiversity. Some of these adaptation strategies might be highly technical (e.g. building sea walls to stem off sea level rise), but others are social and cultural (e.g., changing agricultural practices).

Low-quality and counterfeit pharmaceuticals

Until recently, detecting low-quality and counterfeit pharmaceuticals required access to complex testing equipment, often unavailable in developing countries where these problems abound. The enormous amount of trade in pharmaceutical intermediaries and active ingredients raise a number of issues, from the technical (improvement in manufacturing practices and analytical capabilities) to the ethical and legal (for example, India ruled in favor of manufacturing life-saving drugs, even if it violates U.S. patent law).

Autonomous systems

Machines (both for peaceful purposes and for war fighting) are increasingly evolving from human-controlled, to automated, to autonomous, with the ability to act on their own without human input. As these systems operate without human control and are designed to function and make decisions on their own, the ethical, legal, social and policy implications have grown exponentially. Who is responsible for the actions undertaken by autonomous systems? If robotic technology can potentially reduce the number of human fatalities, is it the responsibility of scientists to design these systems?

Human-animal hybrids (chimeras)

So far scientists have kept human-animal hybrids on the cellular level. According to some, even more modest experiments involving animal embryos and human stem cells violate human dignity and blur the line between species. Is interspecies research the next frontier in understanding humanity and curing disease, or a slippery slope, rife with ethical dilemmas, toward creating new species?

Ensuring access to wireless and spectrum

Mobile wireless connectivity is having a profound effect on society in both developed and developing countries. These technologies are completely transforming how we communicate, conduct business, learn, form relationships, navigate and entertain ourselves. At the same time, government agencies increasingly rely on the radio spectrum for their critical missions. This confluence of wireless technology developments and societal needs presents numerous challenges and opportunities for making the most effective use of the radio spectrum. We now need to have a policy conversation about how to make the most effective use of the precious radio spectrum, and to close the digital access divide for underserved (rural, low-income, developing areas) populations.

Data collection and privacy

How often do we consider the massive amounts of data we give to commercial entities when we use social media, store discount cards or order goods via the Internet? Now that microprocessors and permanent memory are inexpensive technology, we need think about the kinds of information that should be collected and retained. Should we create a diabetic insulin implant that could notify your doctor or insurance company when you make poor diet choices, and should that decision make you ineligible for certain types of medical treatment? Should cars be equipped to monitor speed and other measures of good driving, and should this data be subpoenaed by authorities following a crash? These issues require appropriate policy discussions in order to bridge the gap between data collection and meaningful outcomes.

Human enhancements

Pharmaceutical, surgical, mechanical and neurological enhancements are already available for therapeutic purposes. But these same enhancements can be used to magnify human biological function beyond the societal norm. Where do we draw the line between therapy and enhancement? How do we justify enhancing human bodies when so many individuals still lack access to basic therapeutic medicine?

Should Physicians Prescribe Cognitive Enhancers to Healthy Individuals? (Science Daily)

Dec. 17, 2012 — Physicians should not prescribe cognitive enhancers to healthy individuals, states a report being published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ)Dr. Eric Racine and his research team at the IRCM, the study’s authors, provide their recommendation based on the professional integrity of physicians, the drugs’ uncertain benefits and harms, and limited health care resources.

Prescription stimulants and other neuropharmaceuticals, generally prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD), are often used by healthy people to enhance concentration, memory, alertness and mood, a phenomenon described as cognitive enhancement.

“Individuals take prescription stimulants to perform better in school or at work,” says Dr. Racine, a Montréal neuroethics specialist and Director of the Neuroethics research unit at the IRCM. “However, because these drugs are available in Canada by prescription only, people must request them from their doctors. Physicians are thus important stakeholders in this debate, given the risks and regulations of prescription drugs and the potential for requests from patients for such cognitive enhancers.”

The prevalence of cognitive enhancers used by students on university campuses ranges from 1 per cent to 11 per cent. Taking such stimulants is associated with risks of dependence, cardiovascular problems, and psychosis.

“Current evidence has not shown that the desired benefits of enhanced mental performance are achieved with these substances,” explainsCynthia Forlini, first author of the study and doctoral student in Dr. Racine’s research unit. “With uncertain benefits and clear harms, it is difficult to support the notion that physicians should prescribe a medication to a healthy individual for enhancement purposes.”

“Physicians in Canada provide prescriptions through a publicly-funded health care system with expanding demands for care,” adds Ms. Forlini. “Prescribing cognitive enhancers may therefore not be an appropriate use of resources. The concern is that those who need the medication for health reasons but cannot afford it will be at a disadvantage.”

“An international bioethics discussion has surfaced on the ethics of cognitive enhancement and the role of physicians in prescribing stimulants to healthy people,” concludes Dr. Racine. “We hope that our analysis prompts reflection in the Canadian medical community about these cognitive enhancers.”

Éric Racine’s research is funded through a New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). The report’s co-author is Dr. Serge Gauthier from the McGill Centre for Studies in Aging.

Journal Reference:

  1. Cynthia Forlini, Serge Gauthier, and Eric Racine. Should physicians prescribe cognitive enhancers to healthy individuals? Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2012; DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.121508

Visualizing The Way Americans Value Water (fastcoexist.com)

By Ariel Schwartz (accessed December 17, 2012)

It’s a pretty precious resource, considering that we need it to live. But do we actually care enough to change our behavior to make sure we have it in the future?

The aging water infrastructure in the U.S. is fragile, to say the least; every year, over 1.7 trillion gallons of water are lost due to leaks and breaks in the system. It’s never good to waste water, but that’s a staggeringly unacceptable figure at a time when the country is facing unprecedented droughts. But on a grassroots level, things may be starting to change. Water technology company Xylem’s new Value of Water Index, which examines American attitudes toward water, indicates that the public is finally realizing the magnitude of our water problem–and that everyone might need to pitch in to fix it.

According to the report–culled from a survey of 1,008 voters in the U.S.–79% of Americans realize we have a water scarcity problem. That may seem high, but 86% of respondents also say they have dealt with water shortages and contamination, meaning it takes a lot (or is just impossible) to convince some people. A whopping 88% of respondents think the country’s water structure needs reform.

Americans also think they have some personal responsibility for the crisis–specifically, 31% of respondents think they should have to pay a bit more on water bills for infrastructure improvements. If Americans upped their monthly water bill by just $7.70, we would see an extra $6.4 billion for water infrastructure investments.

In spite of everything, 69% of those polled say they take clean water for granted, and just 29% think problems with our water infrastructure will seriously affect them (remember: the vast majority of respondents have dealt with water shortages and contamination already). Water awareness still has a long way to go–but it will most likely be sped up as water shortages become more common.

Here’s the whole infographic