Arquivo mensal: abril 2013

Apenas 33% dos brasileiros ligam felicidade a dinheiro (OESP)

Por Gabriela Vieira | Estadão Conteúdo – qui, 25 de abr de 2013

A intrigante pergunta ‘o que é felicidade?’ foi mais uma vez objeto de pesquisa. O Instituto Akatu entrevistou 800 pessoas de doze capitais do País e concluiu que mais de 60% dos entrevistados relacionaram o sentimento com a saúde e o convívio social com família ou amigos. Em seguida apontaram qualidade de vida. O quesito “dinheiro” veio em quarto lugar entre os itens que mais fazem as pessoas felizes. Segundo a “Pesquisa Akatu 2012: Rumo à Sociedade do Bem-Estar”, divulgada nesta quinta-feira, 25, apenas cerca de três em cada dez brasileiros (33%) indicaram a tranquilidade financeira em suas respostas.

O levantamento também destacou oito temas (afetividade, alimentos, água, durabilidade, energia, mobilidade, resíduos e saúde) nos quais os entrevistados escolheram, aleatoriamente, entre caminhos considerados sustentáveis ou “de sociedade de consumo”. “Em cinco dos oito temas predominaram as escolhas sustentáveis”, indica o diretor presidente do Instituto Akatu, Hélio Mattar.

Ocorreu um empate entre as escolhas nas temáticas sobre energia e resíduos. Apenas no assunto saúde a maioria das pessoas optou pela opção consumista, que era a de possuir um bom plano de saúde. “Essa resposta na verdade é condizente com o que as pessoas consideraram ser felicidade. Ela revela mais uma preocupação com a saúde e com a precariedade do sistema público. Até mesmo porque a outra opção consistia em práticas preventivas, como ter mais lazer e fazer exercícios físicos”, explica Mattar.

Consumo consciente

Ainda foi possível concluir que o número de consumidores conscientes é maior quanto mais alta a classe social dos entrevistados. No entanto, destaca Mattar, a tendência à maior preferência pelo “caminho da sustentabilidade” pode ser verificada em todas as classes econômicas. Para o diretor da Akatu, algumas práticas sustentáveis ainda têm o fator econômico como limitador. É o caso da compra de produtos orgânicos ou provenientes de materiais reciclados, que costumam ser mais caros do que os regulares.

Sociology as something that can be “committed”

PM Stephen Harper steps up attack on Justin Trudeau over terrorism


OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Apr. 25 2013, 1:52 PM EDT; Last updated Friday, Apr. 26 2013, 9:05 AM EDT

Stephen Harper is stepping up his attack on rival Justin Trudeau’s musings about the “root causes” behind the Boston bombings, saying the only appropriate reaction to such attacks is to condemn the actions and direct government efforts to fighting them.

“This is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression,” [emphasis added] Mr. Harper told a news conference in Ottawa, a phrase he later repeated in French for the benefit of French-language media outlets.

Mr. Harper had been asked by a journalist Thursday to say at what point he considered it acceptable to start talking about the “root causes” that might lead someone to plot an attack on North American soil, such as the Canadian residents arrested this week and accused of scheming to derail a Via train.

The Prime Minister made the remark on the same day a fierce debate erupted over news that Tory MPs are being urged to blanket their ridings with flyers bashing Mr. Trudeau as an inexperienced lightweight.

“Root causes” is the phrase Mr. Trudeau used last week when he said it was essential to look at the motivating factors behind the Boston Marathon bombings. Mr. Harper wasted little time in ridiculing his Liberal opponent for what he considered a weak response to terrorism.

On Thursday, the Prime Minister elaborated on his assertion that now is no time for academic pondering, saying that those who would seek to hurt Canada are starkly opposed to Western values.

“These things are serious threats – global terrorist attacks, people who have agendas of violence that are deep and abiding threats to all the values that our society stands for,” the Prime Minister said.

“I don’t think we want to convey any view to the Canadian public other than our utter condemnation of this violence and our utter determination through our laws and through our laws and activities to do everything we can to counter it.”

To devote this much time to the leader of the third-biggest party in the Commons suggests Mr. Harper is stooping to conquer – but Conservatives say privately they believe the opportunity to brand Mr. Trudeau as inexperienced is too good to pass up.

The Tories have recently begun running attack ads that brand the Liberal Leader as inexperienced or “in over his head” and the Conservatives feel Mr. Trudeau has confirmed this criticism.

Mr. Harper defended the use of taxpayers’ dollars to finance a bulk-mail campaign – known as 10-per-centers – against Mr. Trudeau at a news conference on Thursday. He said the campaign is well within the rules of the House of Commons, and MPs from all parties send partisan missives.

“All parties work within those rules, and all parties use those activities and use those rules.”

But the newly minted Liberal Leader is hitting back, accusing the Tories of using the public purse to spread distortions and lies.

“Instead of defending an increasingly indefensible, mediocre record on the economy and on various decisions, they attack and they use whatever public resources they can to turn people away from politics and to foster cynicism,” Mr. Trudeau said in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Separately, Thursday, the Combatting Terrorism Act, a bill that would give additional police powers at the cost of civil liberties, received Royal Assent. The Harper government, which sponsored the legislation, did not say how soon S-7 comes into force.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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Breaking: RCMP Close to Arrests of Known Sociologists (Coop Média de Montréal)

BLOG POST posted on APRIL 25, 2013 by BERNANS

Breaking: RCMP Close to Arrests of Known Sociologists

April 25, 2013

When asked about the RCMP arrests made in an alleged terrorist plot, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had a warning for Canadians who would “commit sociology.”*

The RCMP has confirmed that it is aware of several sociologist networks operating in a number of Canadian universities. Sources say arrests are imminent.

While most sociologists currently operating in Canada are thought to be of the home-grown variety, there appears to be a great deal of international coordination through various websites, social media and academic journals.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is expected to introduce emergency minimum sentences legislation for anyone who commits sociology or provides material support to a known sociologist network. The legislation could be introduced as early as tomorrow.

Sources say the RCMP will likely make arrests of known sociologists in the coming hours. More details will be provided as the story develops.

David Bernans is a Québec-based writer and translator. He is the author of Collateral Murder. Follow him on twitter @dbernans.

* An actual quote! This is a satirical article, but, believe it or not our Prime Ministeractually said this. It has to do with the Harper government’s insistence that ignorance is the best policy when it comes to the root causes of evil.

4:30 pm UPDATE: This reporter was interviewing security expert Guy Lapoint on the extent of sociology in Canada when he was taken away for questioning by the RCMP. Just before the RCMP barged into Lapoint’s office he was saying, “If only we had some way to find out what makes people commit sociology, some sort of macro-view of the whole society that could explain this phenomenon, we could…”

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As two men were arrested this week for allegedly conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack, the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not interested in talking about the causes of terrorism. He said: “I think, though, this is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression… The root causes of terrorism is terrorists.” 
He inspired me to make this for Sociology at Work. Go forth and commit sociology, friends!High-Res
As two men were arrested this week for allegedly conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack, the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not interested in talking about the causes of terrorism. He said: “I think, though, this is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression… The root causes of terrorism is terrorists.”

He inspired me to make this for Sociology at Work. Go forth and commit sociology, friends!

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Picard Wtf - This is not a time to commit sociology



Mainstream green is still too white (Color Lines)

By Brentin Mock; Cross-posted from ColorLines

We missing anything here?Last year was the hottest on record for the continental United States, and it wasn’t an outlier. The last 12 years have been the warmest years since 1880, the year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began tracking this information. And climate scientists predict that the devastating blizzards, droughts, hurricanes, and wildfires we’ve been experiencing lately will worsen due to climate change.

In many ways these punishing weather events feel like Mother Nature seeking revenge for our failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the primary cause of global warming. Despite abundant evidence, the U.S. government has yet to pass a law that would force a reduction in these emissions.

During his first term, President Obama did make climate change a priority, both in his campaign and in office. The American Clean Energy and Security Act that Congress produced passed through the House in June 2009 by a narrow margin. Yet the bill never reached a vote in the Senate, and it died quietly.

Environmentalists have been flummoxed ever since. One prominent cause-of-death theory says that large mainstream (and predominantly white) environmental groups failed to mobilize grassroots support and ignored those who bear a disproportionate burden of climate change, namely poor people of color.

With Obama in for a second term and reaffirmed in his environmental commitments, climate legislation has another chance at life. Now, observers are wondering if mainstream environmentalists learned the right lessons from the first climate bill failure and how they’ll work with people of color this time around.

Anatomy of a conflict

To hear some environmental leaders tell it, their defeat wasn’t due to a lack of investment in black and brown people living in poor and working class communities, but to an over-investment in Obama. For example, Dan Lashof, climate and clean air director for Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), has blamed the president for having the audacity to push healthcare reform and he’s pointed the finger at green groups for being too patient with Obama.

Asked what environmental advocates who led the first climate bill effort could have done differently in 2009, Bill McKibben, founder of the online grassroots organizing campaign, says their game plan was too insular. “There was no chance last time because all the action was in the closed rooms, not in the streets,” he tells

Yet that “action” took place behind closed doors for a reason: Major mainstream green groups including the Environmental Defense Fund and The Nature Conservancy teamed up with oil companies and some of the biggest polluters and emitters in the nation to form the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP). This ad hoc alliance was the driving force behind the failed 2009 bill and there were no environmental justice, civil rights, or people-of-color groups at the USCAP table.

Obama can’t be blamed for the blind spots of major groups. As recent Washington Post and Politico articles have pointed out, their leadership and membership simply don’t reflect the race or socieconomic class of people most vulnerable to climate change’s wrath.

Sarah Hansen, former executive director of the Environmental Grantmakers Association, argued recently that the mainstream has been stingy with funding and resources and inept at engaging environmental justice communities. In a National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) study, “Cultivating the Grassroots: A Winning Approach for Environmental and Climate Funders,” Hansen reported that philanthropies awarded most of their environmental dollars to large, predominantly white groups but received little return in terms of law and policy. Meanwhile, wrote Hansen, too few dollars have been invested in community- and environmental justice-based organizations.

According to the NCRP report, environmental organizations with $5 million-plus budgets made up only 2 percent of green groups in general but in 2009 received half of all grants in the field. The NCRP also found that 15 percent of all green dollars benefited marginalized populations between 2007 and 2009. Only 11 percent went to social justice causes.

In January, Harvard professor Theda Skocpol released a study of the first climate bill campaign’s failure and faulted green groups involved for choosing direct congressional lobbying over grassroots organizing. Some of the major organizations did spend money on field organizers, wrote Skocpol, but only to push public messaging like billboards and advertisements.

“The messaging campaigns would not make it their business to actually shape legislation — or even talk about details with ordinary citizens or grassroots groups,” Skocpol wrote in the report. The public “is seen as a kind of background chorus that, hopefully, will sing on key.”

Take one for the team?

That the environmental movement thought billboards and ads could replace educating and organizing actual people was their biggest flaw, a position shared by Hansen and Skocpol. In comparison, health reform advocates took a lobbying and grassroots approach while the climate-change bill made the rounds and got a law passed.

“If you want to gain the trust of the emerging non-white majority, it’s not just a messaging thing,” explains Ryan Young, legal counsel for the California-based Greenlining Institute, a policy research nonprofit focused on economic, environmental, and racial justice. “It’s a values thing. You must understand the values of these communities and craft policy around that.”

Why does this matter?

Consider how the website of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) recently featured an article on city bird sanctuaries from the group’s print magazine titled “Urban Renewal.”

Having people of color on staff might have helped NWF understand that for some, “urban renewal” signifies a historical legacy of black and Latino neighborhoods being effectively erased by development projects such as sports stadiums. Cultural snafus like this have led to white environmental groups being clowned in influential outlets including The Daily Show.

In an interview about the unintended message of “Urban Renewal,” Jim Lyon, NWF’s vice president for conservation policy, told that the group doesn’t “always get everything right” and that “he’d take it back to his staff.” (Ironically, one of the harshest critiques of urban renewal came from Jane Jacobs, a white conservationist.) On the topic of staff diversity, Lyon said the organization isn’t where they want it to be, but that they’ve made “good progress.” He would not release staff demographics, but said NWF achieves diversity through partnerships with other groups and programs like Eco-Schools USA, which he says “engages more than 1 million children of color” daily.

Beverly Wright, who heads the New Orleans-based Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, says racial oversights of traditionally white groups are the main reason black and Latino environmentalists have formed their own organizations. The culturally divided camps sometimes use the same words, but they’re often speaking different languages.

Take “cap-and-trade,” a scheme that would commodify greenhouse gas emissions for market-trading as a way to reduce those emissions. The first climate bill centered on cap-and-trade because most major environmental groups supported it. But cap-and-trade was anathema to environmental justice because it did nothing to curb local co-pollutants such as smog and soot, direct threats to communities of color. That’s not to mention that cap-and-trade was the brainchild of C. Boyden Gray, a conservative member of the Federalist Society and leader of FreedomWorks, today a major Tea Party funder.

Wright says major green groups tried to coax environmental justice organizations into supporting cap-and-trade by claiming it was for the “greater good.”

“But that meant white people get all the greater goods and we get the rest,” says Wright. “Until they want to have real discussions around racism, they won’t have our support. That’s what happened last time with the climate bill. It did not move, because they did not have diversity in their voices.”

“Diversity” doesn’t just mean hiring more people of color. As the 30-year-old Center for Health, Environment and Justice stated in March, the diversity conversation “really needs to be about resources and assistance to the front line communities rather than head counting.”

What’s next?

So in the new round of climate bill talks, will large environmental groups meaningfully engage community-based environmental justice groups?

The prognosis is mixed. Look at MomentUs, a mammoth collaborative started in January to ramp up support for new climate legislation. While MomentUs claims to be a game-changer, the strategy behind it seems very similar to that of USCAP’s — the one that failed to deliver a climate-change law the first time around. On its website, MomentUs describes its board of directors as “cultural, environmental, business, and marketing leaders who offer the diversity of viewpoints and keen insight vital to advancing MomentUs’s mission.” At press time, all of the directors are white. So is the staff, except for one office administrator.

Looking at MomentUs partners, it appears that the same traditionally white environmental organizations who teamed up for USCAP are now working with corporations including ALEC funder Duke Energy, predatory subprime mortgage king Wells Fargo, perennial labor union target Sodexho, and Disney. At press time there are no environmental justice or civil rights groups involved.

On the other side of the spectrum, The Sierra Club — one of the nation’s largest and whitest green groups — has had an expansive role in environmental justice and advocacy, particularly in the Gulf Coast. In January it joined the NAACP and labor unions in launching the Democracy Initiative, which will tackle voting rights, environmental justice, and other civil rights concerns.

To be sure, it’s way too early to make a conclusion about MomentUs or the Democracy Initiative, but the latter appears to be a step in the right direction in terms of highlighting the intersection between poor environmental outcomes and racism.

McKibben, the founder, has helped cultivate a multicultural fight against the Keystone XL pipeline project, but he admits that the overall environmental movement has “tons of work to do” on racial equity and inclusion.

“The sooner [mainstream environmentalists] absorb the message and are led by members of the environmental justice movement, the better,” he says.

In that case, the question is a matter of timing and power, of who decides when and which environmental justice activists get to lead.

Stay tuned.

Brentin Mock is a New Orleans-based journalist who serves as ColorLines’s reporting fellow on voting rights.     

Indigenous rights are the best defence against Canada’s resource rush (Guardian)

First Nations people – and the decision of Canadians to stand alongside them – will determine the fate of the planet

By Martin Lukacs

Friday 26 April 2013 16.12 BST –

Canada blog about Aboriginal rights : First Nations protesters in Idle No More demonstration Toronto

First Nations protesters are silhouetted against a flag as the take in a Idle No More demonstration in Toronto, January 16, 2013. Photograph: Mark Blinch/Reuters

In a boardroom in a soaring high-rise on Wall Street, Indigenous activist Arthur Manuel is sitting across from one of the most powerful financial agents in North America.

It’s 2004, and Manuel is on a typical mission. Part of a line of distinguished Indigenous leaders from western Canada, Manuel is what you might call an economic hit-man for the right cause. A brilliant thinker trained in law, he has devoted himself to fighting Canada’s policies toward Indigenous peoples by assailing the government where it hurts most – in its pocketbook.

Which is why he secured a meeting in New York with a top-ranking official at Standard & Poor’s, the influential credit agency that issues Canada’s top-notch AAA rating. That’s what assures investors that the country has its debts covered, that it is a safe and profitable place to do business.

This coveted credit rating is Manuel’s target. His line of attack is to try to lift the veil on Canada’s dirty business secret: that contrary to the myth that Indigenous peoples leech off the state, resources taken from their lands have in fact been subsidizing the Canadian economy. In their haste to get at that wealth, the government has been flouting their own laws, ignoring Supreme Court decisions calling for the respect of Indigenous and treaty rights over large territories. Canada has become very rich, and Indigenous peoples very poor.

In other words, Canada owes big. Some have even begun calculating how much. According to economist Fred Lazar, First Nations in northern Ontario alone are owed $32 billion for the last century of unfulfilled treaty promises to share revenue from resources. Manuel’s argument is that this unpaid debt – a massive liability of trillions of dollars carried by the Canadian state, which it has deliberately failed to report – should be recognized as a risk to the country’s credit rating.

How did the official who could pull the rug under Canada’s economy respond? Unlike Canadian politicians and media who regularly dismiss the significance of Indigenous rights, he took Manuel seriously. It was evident he knew all the jurisprudence. He followed the political developments. He didn’t contradict any of Manuel’s facts.

He no doubt understood what Manuel was remarkably driving at: under threat of a dented credit rating, Canada might finally feel pressure to deal fairly with Indigenous peoples. But here was the hitch: Standard & Poor’s wouldn’t acknowledge the debt, because the official didn’t think Manuel and First Nations could ever collect it. Why? As author Naomi Klein, who accompanied Manuel at the meeting, remembers, his answer amounted to a realpolitik shoulder shrug.

“Who will able to enforce the debt? You and what army?”

This was his brutal but illuminating admission: Indigenous peoples may have the law on their side, but they don’t have the power. Indeed, while Indigenous peoples’ protests have achieved important environmental victories – mining operations stopped here, forest conservation areas set up there – these have remained sporadic and isolated. Canada’s country-wide policies of ignoring Indigenous land rights have rarely been challenged, and never fundamentally.

Until now. If it’s only a social movement that can change the power equation upholding the official’s stance, then the Idle No More uprisingmay be it. Triggered initially in late 2012 by opposition to the Conservative government’s roll-back of decades of environmental protection, this Indigenous movement quickly tapped into long-simmering indignation. Through the chilly winter months, Canada witnessed unprecedented mobilizations, with blockades and round-dances springing up in every corner of the country, demanding a basic resetting of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples.

Money is not the main form this justice will take. First Nations desperately need more funding to close the gap that exists between them and Canadians. But if Indigenous peoples hold a key to the Canadian economy, the point is to use this leverage to steer the country in a different direction. “Draw that power back to the people on the land, the grassroots people fighting pipelines and industrial projects,” Manuel says. “That will determine what governments can or cannot do on the land.”

The stakes could not be greater. The movement confronts a Conservative Canadian government aggressively pursuing $600 billion of resource development on or near Indigenous lands. That means the unbridled exploitation of huge hydrocarbon reserves, including the three-fold expansion of one of the world’s most carbon-intensive projects, the Alberta tar sands. Living closest to these lands, Indigenous peoples are the best and last defence against this fossil fuel scramble. In its place, they may yet host the energy alternatives – of wind, water, or solar.

No surprise, then, about the government’s basic approach toward First Nations: “removing obstacles to major economic development.” Hence the movement’s next stage – a call for defiance branded Sovereignty Summer – is to put more obstacles up. The assertion of constitutionally-protected Indigenous and treaty rights – backed up by direct action, legal challenges and massive support from Canadians – is exactly what can create chronic uncertainty for this corporate and government agenda. For those betting on more than a half-trillion in resource investments, that’s a very big warning sign.

Industry has taken notice. A recent report on mining dropped Canada out of the top spot for miners: “while Canadian jurisdictions remain competitive globally, uncertainties with Indigenous consultation and disputed land claims are growing concerns for some.” And if the uncertainty is eventually tagged with a monetary sum, then Canada will, as Manuel warned Standard & Poor’s, face a large and serious credit risk. Trying to ward off such a threat, the government is hoping to lock mainstream Indigenous leaders into endless negotiations, or sway them with promises of a bigger piece of the resource action.

But this bleak outlook intent on a final ransacking of the earth doesn’t stand up to the vision the movement offers Canadians. Implementing Indigenous rights on the ground, starting with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, could tilt the balance of stewardship over a vast geography: giving Indigenous peoples much more control, and corporations much less. Which means that finally honouring Indigenous rights is not simply about paying off Canada’s enormous legal debt to First Nations: it is also our best chance to save entire territories from endless extraction and destruction. In no small way, the actions of Indigenous peoples – and the decision of Canadians to stand alongside them – will determine the fate of the planet.

This new understanding is dawning on more Canadians. Thousands are signing onto educational campaigns to become allies to First Nations. Direct action trainings for young people are in full swing. As Chief Allan Adam from the First Nation in the heart of the Alberta oil patch has suggested, it might be “a long, hot summer.”

Sustained action that puts real clout behind Indigenous claims is what will force a reckoning with the true nature of Canada’s economy – and the possibility of a transformed country. That is the promise of a growing mass protest movement, an army of untold power and numbers.

Computer Scientists Suggest New Spin On Origins of Evolvability: Competition to Survive Not Necessary? (Science Daily)

Apr. 26, 2013 — Scientists have long observed that species seem to have become increasingly capable of evolving in response to changes in the environment. But computer science researchers now say that the popular explanation of competition to survive in nature may not actually be necessary for evolvability to increase.

The average evolvability of organisms in each niche at the end of a simulation is shown. The lighter the color, the more evolvable individuals are within that niche. The overall result is that, as in the first model, evolvability increases with increasing distance from the starting niche in the center. (Credit: Joel Lehman, Kenneth O. Stanley. Evolvability Is Inevitable: Increasing Evolvability without the Pressure to Adapt. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (4): e62186 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062186)

In a paper published this week inPLOS ONE, the researchers report that evolvability can increase over generations regardless of whether species are competing for food, habitat or other factors.

Using a simulated model they designed to mimic how organisms evolve, the researchers saw increasing evolvability even without competitive pressure.

“The explanation is that evolvable organisms separate themselves naturally from less evolvable organisms over time simply by becoming increasingly diverse,” said Kenneth O. Stanley, an associate professor at the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Central Florida. He co-wrote the paper about the study along with lead author Joel Lehman, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Texas at Austin.

The finding could have implications for the origins of evolvability in many species.

“When new species appear in the future, they are most likely descendants of those that were evolvable in the past,” Lehman said. “The result is that evolvable species accumulate over time even without selective pressure.”

During the simulations, the team’s simulated organisms became more evolvable without any pressure from other organisms out-competing them. The simulations were based on a conceptual algorithm.

“The algorithms used for the simulations are abstractly based on how organisms are evolved, but not on any particular real-life organism,” explained Lehman.

The team’s hypothesis is unique and is in contrast to most popular theories for why evolvability increases.

“An important implication of this result is that traditional selective and adaptive explanations for phenomena such as increasing evolvability deserve more scrutiny and may turn out unnecessary in some cases,” Stanley said.

Stanley is an associate professor at UCF. He has a bachelor’s of science in engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate in computer science from the University of Texas at Austin. He serves on the editorial boards of several journals. He has over 70 publications in competitive venues and has secured grants worth more than $1 million. His works in artificial intelligence and evolutionary computation have been cited more than 4,000 times.

Journal Reference:

  1. Joel Lehman, Kenneth O. Stanley. Evolvability Is Inevitable: Increasing Evolvability without the Pressure to AdaptPLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (4): e62186 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0062186

Ecology Buys Time for Evolution: Climate Change Disrupts Songbird’s Timing Without Impacting Population Size (Yet) (Science Daily)

Apr. 25, 2013 — Songbird populations can handle far more disrupting climate change than expected. Density-dependent processes are buying them time for their battle. But without (slow) evolutionary rescue it will not save them in the end, says an international team of scientists led by the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) in Science this week.

Parus major. Songbird populations can handle far more disrupting climate change than expected. Density-dependent processes are buying them time for their battle. But without (slow) evolutionary rescue it will not save them in the end. (Credit: © hfox / Fotolia)

Yes, spring started late this year in North-western Europe. But the general trend of the four last decades is still a rapidly advancing spring. The seasonal timing of trees and insects advance too, but songbirds like Parus major, or the great tit, lag behind. Yet without an accompanying decline in population numbers, it seems, as the international research team shows for the great tit population in the Dutch National Park the Hoge Veluwe.

“It’s a real paradox,” explain Dr Tom Reed and Prof Marcel Visser of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. “Due to the changing climate of the past decades the egg laying dates of Parus major have become increasingly mismatched with the timing of the main food source for its chicks: caterpillars. The seasonal timing of the food peak has advanced over twice as fast as that of the birds and the reproductive output is reduced. Still, the population numbers do not go down.” On the short term, that is, as Reed, Visser and colleagues from Norway, the USA, and France have now calculated using almost 40 years of data from this songbird.

The solution to the paradox is that although fewer offspring now fledge due to food shortage, each of these chicks has a higher chance of survival until the next breeding season. “We call this relaxed competition, as there are fewer fledglings to compete with,” first author Reed points out. Out of 10 eggs laid, 9 chicks are born, 7 fledge and on average only one chick survives winter. That last number increases with less competitors around.

This is the first time that density dependence — a widespread phenomenon in nature — and ecological mismatch are linked, and it is a real eye-opener. Reed: “It all seems so obvious once you’ve calculated this, but people were almost sure that mistiming would lead to a direct population decline.”

The great tits that lay eggs earlier in spring are more successful nowadays than late birds, which produce relatively few surviving offspring. This leads to increasing selection for birds to reproduce early. But the total number of birds in the new generation stays the same. “That is the second paradox,” the researchers state. “Why are population numbers hardly affected, despite the stronger selection on timing caused by the mismatch? The answer is that for selection it matters which birds survive, while for population size it only matters how many survive. Visser: “The mortality in one group can be compensated for by the success in another. But this stretching, this flexibility, is not unlimited.”

The mismatch between egg laying period and caterpillar peak in the woods will keep growing, and so will the impact following the temporary rescue, as long as spring temperatures continue to increase. “The density dependence is only buying the birds time, hopefully for evolutionary adaptation to dig in before population numbers are substantially affected,” according to Visser. The new findings can help to predict the impact of future environmental change on other wild populations and to identify relevant measures to take. Even rubber bands stretch only so far before they break.

Journal Reference:

  1. T. E. Reed, V. Grotan, S. Jenouvrier, B.-E. Saether, M. E. Visser. Population Growth in a Wild Bird Is Buffered Against Phenological MismatchScience, 2013; 340 (6131): 488 DOI: 10.1126/science.1232870

Fish Win Fights On Strength of Personality (Science Daily)

Apr. 26, 2013 — When predicting the outcome of a fight, the big guy doesn’t always win suggests new research on fish. Scientists at the University of Exeter and Texas A&M University found that when fish fight over food, it is personality, rather than size, that determines whether they will be victorious. The findings suggest that when resources are in short supply personality traits such as aggression could be more important than strength when it comes to survival.

Scientists at the University of Exeter and Texas A&M University found that when fish fight over food, it is personality, rather than size, that determines whether they will be victorious. (Credit: University of Exeter)

The study, published in the journalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, found that small fish were able to do well in contests for food against larger fish provided they were aggressive. Regardless of their initial size, it was the fish that tended to have consistently aggressive behaviour — or personalities — that repeatedly won food and as a result put on weight.

Dr Alastair Wilson from Biosciences at the University of Exeter said: “We wondered if we were witnessing a form of Napoleon, or small man, syndrome. Certainly our study indicates that small fish with an aggressive personality are capable of defeating their larger, more passive counterparts when it comes to fights over food. The research suggests that personality can have far reaching implications for life and survival.”

The sheepshead swordtail fish (Xiphophorus birchmanni) fish were placed in pairs in a fish tank, food was added and their behaviour was captured on film. The feeding contest trials were carried out with both male and female fish. The researchers found that while males regularly attacked their opponent to win the food, females were much less aggressive and rarely attacked.

In animals, personality is considered to be behaviour that is repeatedly observed under certain conditions. Major aspects of personality such as shyness or aggressiveness have previously been characterised and are thought to have important ecological significance. There is also evidence to suggest that certain aspects of personality can be inherited. Further work on whether winning food through aggression could ultimately improve reproductive success will shed light on the heritability of personality traits.

Journal Reference:

  1. Alastair J Wilson, Andrew Grimmer, Gil G. Rosenthal.Causes and consequences of contest outcome: aggressiveness, dominance and growth in the sheepshead swordtail, Xiphophorus birchmanni.Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 2013; DOI:10.1007/s00265-013-1540-7

Uma brincadeira para aguçar o interesse das crianças pela biodiversidade (Faperj)


Vinicius Zepeda

Atividade voltada a crianças de cinco a oito anos proporciona reflexão sobre temas como biopirataria e tráfico de animais. Peter Ilicciev

“Por que o bicho-preguiça dorme pendurado nas árvores? Por que as plantas da floresta têm tantas cores? Que animais fazem esses barulhos? Por que algumas matas são fechadas e outras abertas? E quais bichos vivem aqui?” Quem convive com crianças sabe o quanto elas nos enchem de perguntas que, muitas vezes, não sabemos responder. Também sabe que elas gostam muito de brincar o tempo todo. E como seria se elas pudessem aguçar sua natural curiosidade sobre a biodiversidade brasileira em um jogo onde fossem pequenos guardiões de uma floresta e sentissem como se estivessem passeando dentro dela? Esta é a proposta de “Floresta dos Sentidos”, ciclo de atividades que começa nesta sexta, 26 de abril, na sala de exposições do Museu da Vida, da Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz). Voltada para crianças de cinco a oito anos, a iniciativa é resultado da união de um projeto coordenado por Luisa Medeiros Massarani, diretora do Museu da Vida/Fiocruz e divulgadora de ciências, organizado com auxílio do programa de Apoio à Difusão e Popularização da Ciência no Estado do Rio de Janeiro, e outro coordenado pela médica e pesquisadora da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Daniela Uziel, por meio do programa de Apoio a Projetos de Extensão e Pesquisa, ambos por meio de editais lançados pela FAPERJ.

Luisa Massarani explica que a proposta se assemelha a um jogo de caça ao tesouro. “As crianças são divididas em grupos de 20 por sessão e recebem um pequeno kit, com lanterna, lupa, bloco de anotações e uma corda para entrar na floresta e realizarem uma série de tarefas. Antes, porém, um computador apresenta uma animação em que, tendo o bicho-preguiça como mascote, se passam as instruções para realizar a atividade”, explica a diretora do Museu da Vida, que é também coordenadora da área da FAPERJ. Além disso, os mediadores do museu permanecem a postos para orientar e esclarecer quaisquer dúvidas que as crianças possam ter. “Ao mesmo tempo em que se divertem, elas são sensibilizadas sobre temas atuais, como o roubo de conhecimento gerado a partir da nossa biodiversidade – a chamada biopirataria –, tráfico de animais e disputa pelos nichos ecológicos entre espécies nativas e introduzidas nas florestas brasileiras”, complementa.

No jogo, as crianças são desafiadas a explorar e conhecer a fauna e a flora brasileira através do tato, audição e visão. Peter Ilicciev

Segundo as pesquisadoras, o nome Floresta dos Sentidos diz respeito à forma como a exploração do tema é apresentada às crianças. “Durante a atividade, os pequenos guardiões são desafiados a explorar e conhecer a fauna e a flora brasileira através do tato, da audição e da visão”, explicam. “Assim, além de ser fundamentalmente interativa e demandar o uso dos quatro sentidos, ela também possibilita a participação de crianças portadoras de necessidades especiais”, acrescentam.

Daniela Uziel descreve algumas das atividades propostas e destaca algumas curiosidades. “Em meio à brincadeira, os pequenos se encantam com uma caverna que reproduz os sons da fauna brasileira, como o coaxar de uma rã ou o zumbido de um mosquito, e podem desvendar com as próprias mãos os segredos escondidos no tronco do Toca-Toca”, descreve. Quando optam pelo tema “espécies invasoras”, as crianças descobrem, por exemplo, que aquele simpático mico que se vê por todo o Rio de Janeiro não é uma espécie nativa da região e causa prejuízos, comendo filhotes de aves e disputando espaço com outras espécies de primatas já ameaçadas de extinção. “Já no tema ‘espécies traficadas’, as crianças descobrem que animais que causam pavor a muitas pessoas, como as aranhas, produzem substâncias úteis na pesquisa de novos medicamentos”, complementa

Na “Floresta dos Sentidos, espécies naturais e invasoras, bem como a vegetação, reproduzem fielmente a realidade local. Peter Ilicciev

Luisa Massarani destaca ainda que a pequena floresta foi toda montada pensando nas crianças. “Inclusive, a montagem do espaço foi feita em tamanho proporcional ao das crianças, de forma que elas realmente se sintam no interior de uma floresta”, explica. Para isso, elas contaram com a consultoria de um grupo de cientistas, ajudando a planejar o espaço minuciosamente do ponto de vista científico. “É um microcosmos da realidade: as espécies nativas e introduzidas, bem como a vegetação são reproduzidas fielmente”, salienta.

Segundo experiências anteriores que vem desenvolvendo na área de divulgação da ciência, a diretora do Museu da Vida percebe que o público infantil tem interesse pela temática científica. “Assim, ações voltadas para crianças tem grande potencial para permitir que elas desenvolvam o gosto pelas ciências e possam, futuramente, se transformar nos cientistas de amanhã”, conclui.

Mas é só vivenciando que conseguimos realmente descobrir como funciona esta floresta. E brincando, as crianças com certeza vão se divertir e assimilar informações muito mais facilmente…

Serviço: Floresta dos Sentidos – Atividade gratuita
Inauguração: 26 de abril, ás 15h
Local: Sala de exposições do Museu da Vida
Visitação: de terça a sexta, das 9h às 16h30, mediante agendamento. No sábado, visitação livre, das 10h às 16h.
Endereço: Av. Brasil, 4365 – Manguinhos – Rio de Janeiro (dentro do campus da Fiocruz e próximo à passarela 6)
Mais informações e agendamento: (21) 2590-6747 (21) 2590-6747 e

© FAPERJ – Todas as matérias poderão ser reproduzidas, desde que citada a fonte.

‘When in Rome’: Monkeys Found to Conform to Social Norms (Science Daily)

Apr. 25, 2013 — The human tendency to adopt the behaviour of others when on their home territory has been found in non-human primates.

Vervet monkeys. (Credit: © JLindsay / Fotolia)

Researchers at the University of St Andrews observed ‘striking’ fickleness in male monkeys, when it comes to copying the behaviour of others in new groups. The findings could help explain the evolution of our human desire to seek out ‘local knowledge’ when visiting a new place or culture.

The new discovery was made by Dr Erica van de Waal and Professor Andrew Whiten of the University of St Andrews, along with Christèle Borgeaud of the University of Neuchâtel.

Professor Whiten commented, “As the saying goes, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’. Our findings suggest that a willingness to conform to what all those around you are doing when you visit a different culture is a disposition shared with other primates.”

The research was carried out by observing wild vervet monkeys in South Africa. The researchers originally set out to test how strongly wild vervet monkey infants are influenced by their mothers’ habits.

But more interestingly, they found that adult males migrating to new groups conformed quickly to the social norms of their new neighbours, whether it made sense to them or not.

Professor Whiten commented, “The males’ fickleness is certainly a striking discovery. At first sight their willingness to conform to local norms may seem a rather mindless response — but after all, it’s how we humans often behave when we visit different cultures.

“It may make sense in nature, where the knowledge of the locals is often the best guide to what are the optimal behaviours in their environment, so copying them may actually make a lot of sense.”

In the initial study, the researchers provided each of two groups of wild monkeys with a box of maize corn dyed pink and another dyed blue. The blue corn was made to taste repulsive and the monkeys soon learned to eat only pink corn. Two other groups were trained in this way to eat only blue corn.

A new generation of infants were later offered both colours of food — neither tasting badly — and the adult monkeys present appeared to remember which colour they had previously preferred.

Almost every infant copied the rest of the group, eating only the one preferred colour of corn.

The crucial discovery came when males began to migrate between groups during the mating season.

The researchers found that of the ten males who moved to groups eating a different coloured corn to the one they were used to, all but one switched to the new local norm immediately.

The one monkey who did not switch, was the top ranking in his new group who appeared unconcerned about adopting local behavior.

Dr van de Waal conducted the field experiments at the Inkawu Vervet Project in the Mawana private game reserve in South Africa. She became familiar with all 109 monkeys, making it possible for her to document the behaviour of the males who migrated to new groups.

She said, “The willingness of the immigrant males to adopt the local preference of their new groups surprised us all. The copying behaviour of both the new, naïve infants and the migrating males reveals the potency and importance of social learning in these wild primates, extending even to the conformity we know so well in humans.”

Commenting on the research, leading primatologist Professor Frans de Waal, of the Yerkes Primate Center of Emory University, said that the study “is one of the few successful field experiments on cultural transmission to date, and a remarkably elegant one at that.”

The study has been hailed by leading primate experts as rare experimental proof of ‘cultural transmission’ in wild primates to date. The research is published April 25 by the journalScience.

Journal Reference:

  1. E. van de Waal, C. Borgeaud, A. Whiten. Potent Social Learning and Conformity Shape a Wild Primate’s Foraging DecisionsScience, 2013; 340 (6131): 483 DOI:10.1126/science.1232769

Mutirão para o Bolsa Verde (Ministério do Meio Ambiente)

Segunda, 22 Abril 2013 18:34 Última modificação em Terça, 23 Abril 2013 13:14|

Governo federal montará força-tarefa para o cadastro de novas famílias beneficiárias do programa. Ação ocorrerá em seis regiões do Pará


O Ministério do Meio Ambiente (MMA) pretende ampliar o número de beneficiários do Programa de Apoio à Conservação Ambiental Bolsa Verde. Nesta segunda-feira (22), representantes do Ministério, do Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio), do Ministério do Desenvolvimento Social e Combate à Fome (MDS), do Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (Incra) e da Secretaria do Patrimônio da União (SPU) participaram de oficina, em Belém (PA), para definir mutirões para cadastramento de novas famílias beneficiárias no Pará.

O Bolsa Verde é um programa do Plano Brasil sem Miséria voltado a famílias em situação de extrema pobreza que exercem atividades de conservação ambiental. O objetivo é incentivar a conservação dos ecossistemas, promover a cidadania e aumentar a renda das populações que vivem em unidades de conservação, assentamentos e povos ribeirinhos. O valor do benefício do Bolsa Verde é de R$ 300 – pagos a cada três meses para famílias inseridas no Cadastro Único (CadÚnico) dos programas sociais do governo federal.

“Com base na análise de dados potenciais para o Bolsa Verde, verificamos que 40% das famílias cadastradas pelo ICMBio e Incra, não encontradas no CadÚnico do Plano Brasil Sem Miséria, estão localizadas no Estado do Pará”, destacou a representante da Secretaria de Extrativismo e Desenvolvimento Rural Sustentável do MMA, Larisa Gaivizzo. Dessa forma, com base na análise de critérios quantitativos e logísticos para a realização de mutirões para alcançar as famílias com potencial de beneficiárias, foram selecionados seis polos para força-tarefa nas seguintes regiões: Santarém, Afuá, Porto de Moz e Gurupá, Marajó, Baixo Tocantins e Salgado Paraense.

Os mutirões ocorrerão nos próximos meses, entre maio e junho, e farão o CadÚnico para os programas Bolsa Verde e Bolsa Família, ambas ações do Plano Brasil Sem Miséria do governo federal. Nessas mesmas regiões também serão agregados outros serviços de apoio à população local, que ainda serão negociados e definidos em reunião interministerial nos próximos dias.

Além disso, os mutirões somarão força à outras atividades desenvolvidas nessas regiões pelo ICMBio, como o cadastramento de famílias em Unidades de Conservação (UCs) de uso sustentável.

Anthropologists should do a better job of promoting their field (Orlando Sentinel)

By Ty Matejowsky and Beatriz M. Reyes-Foster | Guest columnists

April 24, 2013

Anthropology has been in the news quite a bit lately.

The New York Times recently profiled Napoleon Chagnon on the eve of the publication of his memoir, “Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes — The Yanomamo and the Anthropologists.”

Last August, Kiplinger named anthropology “the worst major for your career.”

Two months later, Forbes ranked “anthropology and archaeology,” as No. 1 on its list of “worst college majors.”

This newfound public shaming of anthropology only adds insult to injury in light of Florida Gov. Rick Scott‘s dismissive 2011 statements about anthropologists. More than once Scott, whose daughter famously earned an anthropology degree, quipped that Florida does “not need any more anthropologists.”

Overall, 2012 was anthropology’s annus horribilis, as Science magazine recently stated.

Of anthropology’s major subfields, cultural anthropology has probably fared the worst in recent public discussions. Although archaeology and physical anthropology get their fair share of positive media portrayals — think Emily Deschanel’s portrayal of sexy forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan on CBS’s Bones — it seems that journalists only acknowledge cultural anthropology when it is gripped by controversy.

Cultural anthropology suffers a public-image problem as our “brand” is now largely defined by others. Politicians, studies by business media with profit-driven measures of success, and pseudo-anthropological authorities like Jared Diamond have done much to define cultural anthropology in the popular consciousness.

In many ways, cultural anthropology lacks archaeology’s and physical anthropology’s “cool” cachet. While their practices and methodologies easily translate to National Geographic or History Channel programs, they necessarily involve some degree of commodification.

Bones, ruins, and artifacts all become objects for public consumption. Cultural anthropology is much more difficult to “sell” because it resists similarly commodifying living people. The 2013 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue with photos of tribal peoples alongside bikini-clad models serves as a prime example of this commodification.

Many cultural anthropologists have remained aloof amid this tumult. This remoteness is surely compounded by today’s academic environment. Public engagement counts little toward promotion and tenure and may even be viewed dismissively by fellow academics.

Many anthropologists, already burdened with increased class sizes, decreased institutional support, and ever-growing pressures to publish and secure research grants simply do not have the time, resources or motivation to publicly voice their opinions.

Cultural anthropology’s branding problem is largely superficial. Anthropologists possess unique knowledge and skill sets that have real-world value. Anthropology helps us understand the world in a way that cannot be reduced to numbers or captured in surveys.

The marketing industry is increasingly recognizing the value of anthropological methodologies. A recent Atlantic article highlights the way in which ethnography and participant-observation are used in market research. Moreover, the World Bank recently elected an anthropologist, Jim Yong Kim, as president.

Anthropologists need to take better ownership of our brand. The complexity of anthropological concepts such as “culture,” “power” and the “global” should not dissuade anthropologists from engaging in meaningful public discourse.

Evidence of such newfound public engagement is emerging within the Web and blogosphere. Jason Antrosio’s Living Anthropologically blog and the “This is Anthropology” initiative, a “jargon-free” website with the purpose of informing the public about anthropology, are well ahead of the curve in this way, providing anthropological perspectives on relevant social issues that are both accessible and engaging.

Revisiting anthropology’s history may be the best way to revitalize the cultural anthropology brand. Franz Boas, considered the father of American anthropology, argued that race is not biologically determined and that no race is genetically superior. His numerous speeches and public writings underscore his commitment to public engagement.

Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict continued Boas’ tradition by writing books read by millions. Mead’s “Coming of Age in Samoa” pushed gender and sex boundaries in the 1920s. Benedict’s book “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” transformed many people’s’ understandings of post-war Japan.

The much-loved fictional writing of Zora Neale Hurston was greatly informed by her anthropological training. These anthropologists, perhaps imperfectly, challenged prevailing assumptions by the general public in their times.

Challenging preconceived notions and assumptions is still central to our brand. Anthropology is critically engaged, proactive, holistic and progressive. More than anything, the anthropology brand is concerned with culture, an ever-changing process that both defines our reality and is defined by our individual and societal choices.

Ty Matejowsky and Beatriz M. Reyes-Foster are professors in the department of anthropology at the University of Central Florida.

Anthropologists at the All Scientists Meeting of the Long Term Ecological Research Network (Anthropology News)

By Mark Moritz, Michael Paolisso, Courtney Carothers, Sean Downey, Kathleen Galvin, Drew Gerkey, Steven Lansing, Terrence McCabe, Amber Wutich and Rebecca Zarger

March 1st, 2013

"Participants attend a working group session on anthropological sciences, ecology and environment during the 2012 LTER All Scientists Meeting in Estes Park, Colorado. Photo courtesy LTER Network Office"

Participants attend a working group session on anthropological sciences, ecology and environment during the 2012 LTER All Scientists Meeting in Estes Park, Colorado. Photo courtesy LTER Network Office

In September 2012, we participated in the 2012 All Scientists Meeting (ASM) of the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network in Estes Park, Colorado to make the case for integrating more anthropologists into the study of ecosystems. During the ASM’s initial plenary, the presence of embedded anthropologists was announced to all, and we were invited to stand and identify ourselves for the audience. From then on we spent several days immersing ourselves in the activities of the LTER network and engaging with its researchers, a group previously unknown to many of us. We worked to overcome apprehensions (“Why are anthropologists studying us?”), identify areas where our expertise might be useful (“What can anthropologists contribute to ecological research?”), and left with some experiences and ideas that we would like to share with fellow anthropologists who may be interested in pursuing the challenges and opportunities provided by the LTER network.

The LTER Network

The National Science Foundation (NSF) created the LTER Network in 1980 to support long-term research of ecosystems with the understanding that many ecosystem processes can only be studied through long-term research. Sites were selected to represent major ecosystem types or natural biomes across the US (there are now also a few international LTER sites). It is one of the most highly funded NSF programs. The LTER Network is a major component of the LTER program as it allows for integrative cross-site, and network-wide research. The ASM is another critical component of the network as it brings researchers, post-docs, graduate and undergraduate students together every three years to share results, discuss progress, and develop new collaborative research projects. The ASMconsists of an intensive six-day program with workshops, keynote speakers, poster presentations (with free beer) and field trips, which all offer plenty of opportunities to strengthen and develop new connections and opportunities within the network.

Anthropologists at the ASM

Anthropologists (eg, Ted Gragson, Laura Ogden, Charles Redman) have been involved in research at a number of the LTER sites and have written about the integration of social science in the LTER network (Redman et al, Integrating Social Science into the Long-Term Ecological Research [LTER] Network, Ecosystems, 2004), but the theme of this year’s ASM meeting—the Anthropocene—offered a unique opportunity to make the case for greater involvement of anthropologists in LTER projects. And so with support of the cultural anthropology program at NSF, Steve Lansing gave a keynote lecture about his research on complex adaptive systems in Bali, while Michael Agar and Michael Paolisso organized two workshops to identify intellectual and programmatic bridges between ecological and environmental anthropology and LTER projects to strengthen research into ecological and human dimension interactions at multiple spatiotemporal scales. The workshops showcased our research, which represented a wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches within ecological anthropology, but all underscored the relevance of anthropological approaches for study of complex social-ecological systems in the Anthropocene. In addition, we participated in workshops, visited the poster sessions, and made connections with LTER researchers. Most researchers at our session were already studying the human dimensions of ecosystems, which is indicative of some the challenges in integrating anthropology.

There is a growing recognition among ecologists that they need to grapple with the human impacts on ecosystems and that the old model of studying isolated and protected reserves to understand ecosystems is no longer valid. This is evidenced by the theme of this year’s ASM meeting and the increasing impact of climate change on ecosystems in the LTER sites. However, there are few ecological models that satisfactorily incorporate human complexity. Ecologists may study ecosystem processes at the micro-scale and then jump to the global macro-scale, eg, measuring the impact of global warming on these processes, thus skipping the local, regional, and national scales at which human activities more directly affect ecosystem processes in myriad ways. This offers opportunities for anthropologists who study complex social-ecological systems using a holistic approach and making linkages across these spatiotemporal scales. Moreover, anthropologists are no strangers to long-term research as many are involved in ethnographic research in one site over multiple decades. Thus, anthropologists can make significant conceptual contributions to LTER projects.


One attraction of research in LTER sites is that anthropologists living close to an LTER site could do research in their own backyard. There are currently 26 sites across the US so there are plenty of opportunities. In addition, it offers the possibility of funding sources other than the NSF Cultural Anthropology program. However, funding processes are complicated and opportunities may be more limited (than they should be). There are some funding restrictions within NSF that limit the integration of social and ecological research. There are no clear guidelines or processes for funding social science research within LTER projects. Senior anthropologists may have to find other sources of funding to support their research at LTER sites. However, we found that there may be many more opportunities for enterprising graduate students to join an LTER team. The advantage for graduate students is that LTER sites have extensive data and an established infrastructure, which relieves them of some of the challenges of finding a new field site and provides ample opportunity to collaborate with other graduate students, more effectively bridging interdisciplinary divides.

The research model of the LTER network—long-term projects, cross-site linkages, and consistent funding—also offers unique opportunities for anthropologists to rethink ways of doing research in unprecedented ways. Whereas long-term ethnographic research often depends on the commitment of individual researchers, research at LTER sites is institutionalized. We could ask, what comprehensive, long-term, high frequency data on social systems could be collected across multiple sites to advance our understanding of the dynamic processes in coupled human and natural systems? That is an exciting question to ponder.


While there are social science activities at almost all LTER sites and the network has a long history of social science engagement, it is often on an ad hoc and inconsistent basis and contingent on funding availability. The greatest challenge in integrating anthropological research in LTER projects may be a general problem of interdisciplinary research. This is manifested in different ways, including the incongruence of conceptual models, theories, methods, scope, and units of analysis in ecology and anthropology. Anthropologists’ primary goal has been describing and explaining cross-cultural variation across all human societies and very long time periods, while LTER research is mainly conducted within the context of the US and over relatively short periods (even though it is long-term research). In addition, the iterative, recursive, abductive approaches of ethnographic research strategies, as described by Michael Agar, are not always understood by ecologists who use more standardized scientific protocols and can be seen as lacking value and validity. Of course, there are many ecologists and anthropologists that have successfully collaborated in interdisciplinary studies of complex social-ecological systems, for example the South Turkana Ecosystem Project, but the number of transdisciplinary studies in which research transcends the disciplines is less common.


Of course, being anthropologists, we could not help ourselves and studied the LTER participants at their ASM. If we want to make the case for integrating more anthropologists in the study of ecosystems, we should at least become familiar with what ecologists think of our research and us. The audience at our workshops consisted primarily of fellow anthropologists, ecology graduate students, and a few PIs of LTER sites, which indicates that among the higher organizational levels of the LTER network and the next generation of ecologists there is a growing interest in anthropological approaches to study anthromes in the Anthropocene. However, there still may be some resistance to the integration of social sciences in ecosystem research as well as stereotypes of anthropologists, and we overheard a senior ecologist describe anthropologists as being lousy scientists with physics envy and no quantitative skills who want a slice of the LTER cake. To be fair, Lansing’s keynote was well-received by the ecologists in the audience, who for the most part were excited to see how topics that interested them were interwoven with topics more familiar to anthropologists, including religion, social relations, economic development, and governance.

In the end, one keynote and two workshops are not sufficient to make the case for anthropology, but it is a necessary first step and we think that an ongoing engagement with LTER research is critical if we want to contribute to a discussion about Earth stewardship.

This essay was a collaboration of Mark Moritz (Ohio State U), Michael Paolisso(UMaryland), Courtney Carothers (U Alaska-Fairbanks), Sean Downey (U Maryland),Kathleen Galvin (Colorado State U), Drew Gerkey (National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center), J Stephen Lansing (U Arizona), Terrence McCabe (U Colorado),Amber Wutich (Arizona State U) and Rebecca Zarger (U South Florida).

What BP Doesn’t Want You to Know About the 2010 Gulf Spill (The Daily Beast)

The 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill was even worse than BP wanted us to know.

by  | April 22, 2013 4:45 AM EDT

“It’s as safe as Dawn dishwashing liquid.” That’s what Jamie Griffin says the BP man told her about the smelly, rainbow-streaked gunk coating the floor of the “floating hotel” where Griffin was feeding hundreds of cleanup workers during the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Apparently, the workers were tracking the gunk inside on their boots. Griffin, as chief cook and maid, was trying to clean it. But even boiling water didn’t work.

BP Oil Spill
An agonizing 87 days passed before the BP oil spill was finally sealed off. According to US government estimates, 210 million gallons of Louisiana sweet crude had escaped into the Gulf, making this disaster the largest unintentional oil leak in world history. (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

“The BP representative said, ‘Jamie, just mop it like you’d mop any other dirty floor,’” Griffin recalls in her Louisiana drawl.

It was the opening weeks of what everyone, echoing President Barack Obama, was calling “the worst environmental disaster in American history.” At 9:45 p.m. local time on April 20, 2010, a fiery explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig had killed 11 workers and injured 17. One mile underwater, the Macondo well had blown apart, unleashing a gusher of oil into the gulf. At risk were fishing areas that supplied one third of the seafood consumed in the U.S., beaches from Texas to Florida that drew billions of dollars’ worth of tourism to local economies, and Obama’s chances of reelection. Republicans were blaming him for mishandling the disaster, his poll numbers were falling, even his 11-year-old daughter was demanding, “Daddy, did you plug the hole yet?”

Griffin did as she was told: “I tried Pine-Sol, bleach, I even tried Dawn on those floors.” As she scrubbed, the mix of cleanser and gunk occasionally splashed onto her arms and face.

Within days, the 32-year-old single mother was coughing up blood and suffering constant headaches. She lost her voice. “My throat felt like I’d swallowed razor blades,” she says.

Then things got much worse.

Like hundreds, possibly thousands, of workers on the cleanup, Griffin soon fell ill with a cluster of excruciating, bizarre, grotesque ailments. By July, unstoppable muscle spasms were twisting her hands into immovable claws. In August, she began losing her short-term memory. After cooking professionally for 10 years, she couldn’t remember the recipe for vegetable soup; one morning, she got in the car to go to work, only to discover she hadn’t put on pants. The right side, but only the right side, of her body “started acting crazy. It felt like the nerves were coming out of my skin. It was so painful. My right leg swelled—my ankle would get as wide as my calf—and my skin got incredibly itchy.”

“These are the same symptoms experienced by soldiers who returned from the Persian Gulf War with Gulf War syndrome,” says Dr. Michael Robichaux, a Louisiana physician and former state senator, who treated Griffin and 113 other patients with similar complaints. As a general practitioner, Robichaux says he had “never seen this grouping of symptoms together: skin problems, neurological impairments, plus pulmonary problems.” Only months later, after Kaye H. Kilburn, a former professor of medicine at the University of Southern California and one of the nation’s leading environmental health experts, came to Louisiana and tested 14 of Robichaux’s patients did the two physicians make the connection with Gulf War syndrome, the malady that afflicted an estimated 250,000 veterans of that war with a mysterious combination of fatigue, skin inflammation, and cognitive problems.

Meanwhile, the well kept hemorrhaging oil. The world watched with bated breath as BP failed in one attempt after another to stop the leak. An agonizing 87 days passed before the well was finally plugged on July 15. By then, 210 million gallons of Louisiana sweet crude had escaped into the Gulf of Mexico, according to government estimates, making the BP disaster the largest accidental oil leak in world history.

In 2010, Pulitzer Prize-winning animator Mark Fiore created this humorous and poignant take on the BP oil spill.

Yet three years later, the BP disaster has been largely forgotten, both overseas and in the U.S. Popular anger has cooled. The media have moved on. Today, only the business press offers serious coverage of what the Financial Times calls “the trial of the century”—the trial now under way in New Orleans, where BP faces tens of billions of dollars in potential penalties for the disaster. As for Obama, the same president who early in the BP crisis blasted the “scandalously close relationship” between oil companies and government regulators two years later ran for reelection boasting about how much new oil and gas development his administration had approved.

Such collective amnesia may seem surprising, but there may be a good explanation for it: BP mounted a cover-up that concealed the full extent of its crimes from public view. This cover-up prevented the media and therefore the public from knowing—and above all, seeing—just how much oil was gushing into the gulf. The disaster appeared much less extensive and destructive than it actually was. BP declined to comment for this article.

That BP lied about the amount of oil it discharged into the gulf is already established. Lying to Congress about that was one of 14 felonies to which BP pleaded guilty last year in a legal settlement with the Justice Department that included a $4.5 billion fine, the largest fine ever levied against a corporation in the U.S.

What has not been revealed until now is how BP hid that massive amount of oil from TV cameras and the price that this “disappearing act” imposed on cleanup workers, coastal residents, and the ecosystem of the gulf. That story can now be told because an anonymous whistleblower has provided evidence that BP was warned in advance about the safety risks of attempting to cover up its leaking oil. Nevertheless, BP proceeded. Furthermore, BP appears to have withheld these safety warnings, as well as protective measures, both from the thousands of workers hired for the cleanup and from the millions of Gulf Coast residents who stood to be affected.

The financial implications are enormous. The trial now under way in New Orleans is wrestling with whether BP was guilty of “negligence” or “gross negligence” for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. If found guilty of “negligence,” BP would be fined, under the Clean Water Act, $1,100 for each barrel of oil that leaked. But if found guilty of “gross negligence”—which a cover-up would seem to imply—BP would be fined $4,300 per barrel, almost four times as much, for a total of $17.5 billion. That large a fine, combined with an additional $34 billion that the states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida are seeking, could have a powerful effect on BP’s economic health.

Yet the most astonishing thing about BP’s cover-up? It was carried out in plain sight, right in front of the world’s uncomprehending news media (including, I regret to say, this reporter).

BP Oil Spill
More than half of the Corexit was dispersed by C-130 airplanes, often hitting workers. (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

The chief instrument of BP’s cover-up was the same substance that apparently sickened Jamie Griffin and countless other cleanup workers and local residents. Its brand name is Corexit, but most news reports at the time referred to it simply as a “dispersant.” Its function was to attach itself to leaked oil, break it into droplets, and disperse them into the vast reaches of the gulf, thereby keeping the oil from reaching Gulf Coast shorelines. And the Corexit did largely achieve this goal.

But the 1.84 million gallons of Corexit that BP applied during the cleanup also served a public-relations purpose: they made the oil spill all but disappear, at least from TV screens. By late July 2010, the Associated Press and The New York Times were questioning whether the spill had been such a big deal after all. Time went so far as to assert that right-wing talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh “has a point” when he accused journalists and environmentalists of exaggerating the crisis.

But BP had a problem: it had lied about how safe Corexit is, and proof of its dishonesty would eventually fall into the hands of the Government Accountability Project, the premiere whistleblower-protection group in the U.S. The proof? A technical manual BP had received from NALCO, the firm that supplied the Corexit that BP used in the gulf.

An electronic copy of that manual is included in a new report GAPhas issued, “Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf.” On the basis of interviews with dozens of cleanup workers, scientists, and Gulf Coast residents, GAP concludes that the health impacts endured by Griffin were visited upon many other locals as well. What’s more, the combination of Corexit and crude oil also caused terrible damage to gulf wildlife and ecosystems, including an unprecedented number of seafood mutations; declines of up to 80 percent in seafood catch; and massive die-offs of the microscopic life-forms at the base of the marine food chain. GAP warns that BP and the U.S. government nevertheless appear poised to repeat the exercise after the next major oil spill: “As a result of Corexit’s perceived success, Corexit … has become the dispersant of choice in the U.S. to ‘clean up’ oil spills.”

BP Oil Spill
Numerous fishermen on BP’s payroll helped with the cleanup by dispersing Corexit. (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

BP’s cover-up was not planned in advance but devised in the heat of the moment as the oil giant scrambled to limit the PR and other damages of the disaster. Indeed, one of the chief scandals of the disaster is just how unprepared both BP and federal and state authorities were for an oil leak of this magnitude. U.S. law required that a response plan be in place before drilling began, but the plan was embarrassingly flawed.

“We weren’t managing for actual risk; we were checking a box,” says Mark Davis, director of the Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy at Tulane University. “That’s how we ended up with a response plan that included provisions for dealing with the impacts to walruses: because [BP] copied word for word the response plans that had been developed after the Exxon-Valdez oil spill [in Alaska, in 1989] instead of a plan tailored to the conditions in the gulf.”

As days turned into weeks and it became obvious that no one knew how to plug the gushing well, BP began insisting that Corexit be used to disperse the leaking oil. This triggered alarms from scientists and from a leading environmental NGO in Louisiana, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN).

The group’s scientific adviser, Wilma Subra, a chemist whose work on environmental pollution had won her a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation, told state and federal authorities that she was especially concerned about how dangerous the mixture of crude and Corexit was: “The short-term health symptoms include acute respiratory problems, skin rashes, cardiovascular impacts, gastrointestinal impacts, and short-term loss of memory,” she told GAP investigators. “Long-term impacts include cancer, decreased lung function, liver damage, and kidney damage.”

(Nineteen months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, a scientific study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Pollution found that crude oil becomes 52 times more toxic when combined with Corexit.)

BP even rebuffed a direct request from the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, who wrote BP a letter on May 19, asking the company to deploy a less toxic dispersant in the cleanup. Jackson could only ask BP to do this; she could not legally require it. Why? Because use of Corexit had been authorized years before under the federal Oil Pollution Act.

In a recent interview, Jackson explains that she and other officials “had to determine, with less-than-perfect scientific testing and data, whether use of dispersants would, despite potential side effects, improve the overall situation in the gulf and coastal ecosystems. The tradeoff, as I have said many times, was potential damage in the deep water versus the potential for larger amounts of undispersed oil in the ecologically rich coastal shallows and estuaries.” She adds that the presidential commission that later studied the BP oil disaster did not fault the decision to use dispersants.

Knowing that EPA lacked the authority to stop it, BP wrote back to Jackson on May 20, declaring that Corexit was safe. What’s more, BP wrote, there was a ready supply of Corexit, which was not the case with alternative dispersants. (A NALCO plant was located just 30 miles west of New Orleans.)

But Corexit was decidedly not safe without taking proper precautions, as the manual BP got from NALCO spelled out in black and white. The “Vessel Captains Hazard Communication” resource manual, which GAP shared with me, looks innocuous enough. A three-ring binder with a black plastic cover, the manual contained 61 sheets, each wrapped in plastic, that detailed the scientific properties of the two types of Corexit that BP was buying, as well as their health hazards and recommended measures against those hazards.

BP applied two types of Corexit in the gulf. The first, Corexit 9527, was considerably more toxic. According to the NALCO manual, Corexit 9527 is an “eye and skin irritant. Repeated or excessive exposure … may cause injury to red blood cells (hemolysis), kidney or the liver.” The manual adds: “Excessive exposure may cause central nervous system effects, nausea, vomiting, anesthetic or narcotic effects.” It advises, “Do not get in eyes, on skin, on clothing,” and “Wear suitable protective clothing.”

When available supplies of Corexit 9527 were exhausted early in the cleanup, BP switched to the second type of dispersant, Corexit 9500. In its recommendations for dealing with Corexit 9500, the NALCO manual advised, “Do not get in eyes, on skin, on clothing,” “Avoid breathing vapor,” and “Wear suitable protective clothing.”

It’s standard procedure—and required by U.S. law—for companies to distribute this kind of information to any work site where hazardous materials are present so workers can know about the dangers they face and how to protect themselves. But interviews with numerous cleanup workers suggest that this legally required precaution was rarely if ever followed during the BP cleanup. Instead, it appears that BP told NALCO to stop including the manuals with the Corexit that NALCO was delivering to cleanup work sites.

“It’s my understanding that some manuals were sent out with the shipments of Corexit in the beginning [of the cleanup],” the anonymous source tells me. “Then, BP told NALCO to stop sending them. So NALCO was left with a roomful of unused binders.”

Roman Blahoski, NALCO’s director of global communications, says: “NALCO responded to requests for its pre-approved dispersants from those charged with protecting the gulf and mitigating the environmental, health, and economic impact of this event. NALCO was never involved in decisions relating to the use, volume, and application of its dispersant.”

BP Oil Spill
The gulf’s vital tourism industry lost billions as oil poured into the water. (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

Misrepresenting the safety of Corexit went hand in hand with BP’s previously noted lie about how much oil was leaking from the Macondo well. As reported by John Rudolf in The Huffington Post, internal BP emails show that BP privately estimated that “the runaway well could be leaking from 62,000 barrels a day to 146,000 barrels a day.” Meanwhile, BP officials were telling the government and the media that only 5,000 barrels a day were leaking.

In short, applying Corexit enabled BP to mask the fact that a much larger amount of oil was actually leaking into the gulf. “Like any good magician, the oil industry has learned that if you can’t see something that was there, it must have ‘disappeared,’” Scott Porter, a scientist and deep-sea diver who consults for oil companies and oystermen, says in the GAP report. “Oil companies have also learned that, in the public mind, ‘out of sight equals out of mind.’ Therefore, they have chosen crude oil dispersants as the primary tool for handling large marine oil spills.”

BP also had a more direct financial interest in using Corexit, argues Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, whose members include not only shrimpers but fishermen of all sorts. As it happens, local fishermen constituted a significant portion of BP’s cleanup force (which numbered as many as 47,000 workers at the height of the cleanup). Because the spill caused the closure of their fishing grounds, BP and state and federal authorities established the Vessels of Opportunity (VoO) program, in which BP paid fishermen to take their boats out and skim, burn, and otherwise get rid of leaked oil. Applying dispersants, Guidry points out, reduced the total volume of oil that could be traced back to BP.

“The next phase of this trial [against BP] is going to turn on how much oil was leaked,” Guidry tells me. [If found guilty, BP will be fined a certain amount for each barrel of oil judged to have leaked.] “So hiding the oil with Corexit worked not only to hide the size of the spill but also to lower the amount of oil that BP may get charged for releasing.”

BP Oil Spill
“You could smell oil and stuff in the air, but on the news they were saying it’s fine.” (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

Not only did BP fail to inform workers of the potential hazards of Corexit and to provide them with safety training and protective gear, according to interviews with dozens of cleanup workers, the company also allegedly threatened to fire workers who complained about the lack of respirators and protective clothing.

“I worked with probably a couple hundred different fishermen on the [cleanup],” Acy Cooper, Guidry’s second in command, tells me in Venice, the coastal town from which many VoO vessels departed. “Not one of them got any safety information or training concerning the toxic materials they encountered.” Cooper says that BP did provide workers with body suits and gloves designed for handling hazardous materials. “But when I’d talk with [the BP representative] about getting my guys respirators and air monitors, I’d never get any response.”

Roughly 58 percent of the 1.84 million gallons of Corexit used in the cleanup was sprayed onto the gulf from C-130 airplanes. The spray sometimes ended up hitting cleanup workers in the face.

“Our boat was sprayed four times,” says Jorey Danos, a 32-year-old father of three who suffered racking coughing fits, severe fatigue, and memory loss after working on the BP cleanup. “I could see the stuff coming out of the plane—like a shower of mist, a smoky color. I could see [it] coming at me, but there was nothing I could do.”

“The next day,” Danos continues, “when the BP rep came around on his speed boat, I asked, ‘Hey, what’s the deal with that stuff that was coming out of those planes yesterday?’ He told me, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ I said, ‘Man, that s–t was burning my face—it ain’t right.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ I said, ‘Well, could we get some respirators or something, because that s–t is bad.’ He said, ‘No, that wouldn’t look good to the media. You got two choices: you can either be relieved of your duties or you can deal with it.’”

Perhaps the single most hazardous chemical compound found in Corexit 9527 is 2-Butoxyethanol, a substance that had been linked to cancers and other health impacts among cleanup workers on the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill in Alaska. According to BP’s own data, 20 percent of offshore workers in the gulf had levels of 2-Butoxyethanol two times higher than the level certified as safe by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Cleanup workers were not the only victims; coastal residents also suffered. “My 2-year-old grandson and I would play out in the yard,” says Shirley Tillman of the Mississippi coastal town Pass Christian. “You could smell oil and stuff in the air, but on the news they were saying it’s fine, don’t worry. Well, by October, he was one sick little fellow. All of a sudden, this very active little 2-year-old was constantly sick. He was having headaches, upper respiratory infections, earaches. The night of his birthday party, his parents had to rush him to the emergency room. He went to nine different doctors, but they treated just the symptoms; they’re not toxicologists.”

BP Oil Spill
Doctors misdiagnosed Danos, a BP clean-up worker who was exposed to Corexit, with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

“It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” Ever since the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, that’s been the mantra. Cover-ups don’t work, goes the argument. They only dig a deeper hole, because the truth eventually comes out.

But does it?

GAP investigators were hopeful that obtaining the NALCO manual might persuade BP to meet with them, and it did. On July 10, 2012, BP hosted a private meeting at its Houston offices. Presiding over the meeting, which is described here publicly for the first time, was BP’s public ombudsman, Stanley Sporkin, joining by telephone from Washington. Ironically, Sporkin had made his professional reputation during the Watergate scandal. As a lawyer with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Sporkin investigated illegal corporate payments to the slush fund that President Nixon used to buy the silence of the Watergate burglars.

Also attending the meeting were two senior BP attorneys; BP Vice President Luke Keller; other BP officials; Thomas Devine, GAP’s senior attorney on the BP case; Shanna Devine, GAP’s investigator on the case; Dr. Michael Robichaux; Dr. Wilma Subra; and Marylee Orr, the executive director of LEAN. The following account is based on my interviews with Thomas Devine, Robichaux, Subra, and Orr. BP declined to comment.

BP officials had previously confirmed the authenticity of the NALCO manual, says Thomas Devine, but now they refused to discuss it, even though this had been one of the stated purposes for the meeting. Nor would BP address the allegation, made by the whistleblower who had given the manual to GAP, that BP had ordered the manual withheld from cleanup work sites, perhaps to maintain the fiction that Corexit was safe.

“They opened the meeting with this upbeat presentation about how seriously they took their responsibilities for the spill and all the wonderful things they were doing to make things right,” says Devine. “When it was my turn to speak, I said that the manual our whistleblower had provided contradicted what they just said. I asked whether they had ordered the manual withdrawn from work sites. Their attorneys said that was a matter they would not discuss because of the pending litigation on the spill.” [Disclosure: Thomas Devine is a friend of this reporter.]

The visitors’ top priority was to get BP to agree not to use Corexit in the future. Keller said that Corexit was still authorized for use by the U.S. government and BP would indeed feel free to use it against any future oil spills.

Benjamin Lowy

A second priority was to get BP to provide medical treatment for Jamie Griffin and the many other apparent victims of Corexit-and-crude poisoning. This request too was refused by BP.

Robichaux doubts his patients will receive proper compensation from the $7.8 billion settlement BP reached in 2012 with the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, 19 court-appointed attorneys who represent the hundreds of individuals and entities that have sued BP for damages related to the gulf disaster. “Nine of the most common symptoms of my patients do not appear on the list of illnesses that settlement says can be compensated, including memory loss, fatigue, and joint and muscular pain,” says Robichaux. “So how are the attorneys going to file suits on behalf of those victims?”

At one level, BP’s cover-up of the gulf oil disaster speaks to the enormous power that giant corporations exercise in modern society, and how unable, or unwilling, governments are to limit that power. To be sure, BP has not entirely escaped censure for its actions; depending on the outcome of the trial now under way in New Orleans, the company could end up paying tens of billions of dollars in fines and damages over and above the $4.5 billion imposed by the Justice Department in the settlement last year. But BP’s reputation appears to have survived: its market value as this article went to press was a tidy $132 billion, and few, if any, BP officials appear likely to face any legal repercussions. “If I would have killed 11 people, I’d be hanging from a noose,” says Jorey Danos. “Not BP. It’s the golden rule: the man with the gold makes the rules.”

As unchastened as anyone at BP is Bob Dudley, the American who was catapulted into the CEO job a few weeks into the gulf disaster to replace Tony Hayward, whose propensity for imprudent comments—“I want my life back,” the multimillionaire had pouted while thousands of gulf workers and residents were suffering—had made him a globally derided figure. Dudley told the annual BP shareholders meeting in London last week that Corexit “is effectively … dishwashing soap,” no more toxic than that, as all scientific studies supposedly showed. What’s more, Dudley added, he himself had grown up in Mississippi and knows that the Gulf of Mexico is “an ecosystem that is used to oil.”

Nor has the BP oil disaster triggered the kind of changes in law and public priorities one might have expected. “Not much has actually changed,” says Mark Davis of Tulane. “It reflects just how wedded our country is to keeping the Gulf of Mexico producing oil and bringing it to our shores as cheaply as possible. Going forward, no one should assume that just because something really bad happened we’re going to manage oil and gas production with greater sensitivity and wisdom. That will only happen if people get involved and compel both the industry and the government to be more diligent.”

And so the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history has been whitewashed—its true dimensions obscured, its victims forgotten, its lessons ignored. Who says cover-ups never work?

Mark Hertsgaard is a fellow at the New American Foundation and the author, most recently, of HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth. This article was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute.

Brazil worried about stadium gentrification at World Cup (Reuters)

Brazil World Cup

Aerial view shows the new rooftop of the Maracana Stadium, which is undergoing renovations.

Felipe Dana/AP

TURIN — The Brazilian government is worried ordinary fans could be priced out of the country’s modernized stadiums in an unwanted legacy from hosting the 2014 World Cup.

Brazil is building two brand new stadiums and remodeling another 10 which will leave the country with a glut of all-seater, state-of-the-art arenas once next year’s tournament is finished.

It will be a new experience for many Brazilian fans who for years have had to put up with dilapidated arenas, dubious catering and overflowing toilets.

The worry is that many of those who provided the throbbing atmosphere at top matches will no longer be able to afford to go to games as administrators look to gentrify the soccer-going public to increase income.

“To have socially exclusive stadiums as a result of the World Cup investments is not the legacy we want,” deputy sports minister Luis Fernandes told Reuters in an interview.

“The government is very concerned with this issue and it has to be addressed very seriously. I think we could have a gentrification of the stadiums.

“Some stadium administrators are quite explicit in saying that, to be economically feasible, they would have to shift the type of attendance at games,” he added.

“It would change from one where what predominates is the so-called D and E class, to one where there will be a heavy predominance of what they call class A and B spectators who will not only buy the tickets but will also consume in the stadium.

“But if you want to shift the social origin of the spectators so you can have people that can afford to buy other merchandise and food besides tickets, that could be a negative side effect.”

Until recently, there has been almost nothing to buy inside Brazilian stadiums apart from rudimentary fast food and soft drinks. Supporters often prefer to buy counterfeit merchandise from unlicensed street vendors, known as camelos, in front of the stadium.

Nine of Brazil’s 12 World Cup stadiums are owned by the governments of the respective states and will be handed over to private administrators who will hope to make money from selling merchandise inside.

“Football had and has a very central role in building national identity in Brazil,” added Fernandes. “So we are very concerned with that aspect and will be dealing with it in terms of national and state legislation.”

A similar phenomenon has already taken place in England where stadiums have improved vastly over the past 20 years, but working-class fans have been priced out and replaced by middle-class ones.

However, while the shift in England, was built on the back of growing popularity for football, attendances at many Brazilian games are shrinking with an average of 13,000 for last year’s national championship first division.

Fans of Cruzeiro have already noticed the difference. Cheapest tickets for some of the team’s matches have cost 60 Reais ($29.87) since the re-opening of Belo Horizonte’s Mineirao stadium.

Meanwhile, cheapest tickets for the re-opening the Castelao stadium in Fortaleza cost 50 Reais for a double bill of matches in the local state championship, more than at many European first division clubs.

Fernandes pointed out that soccer had such a strong influence in Brazil that memories of the 1950 tournament, which the country hosted but the team lost to Uruguay in the deciding match, were still dragged up.

“It has deep historical, roots,” he said, explaining that Brazilians suffered from what writer Nelson Rodrigues described as “the stray dog complex”.

“Brazilians suffered an inferiority complex and when we lost that match against Uruguay, it reinforced that,” he said. “We were the stray dogs and the others were the pedigrees.

“People felt condemned to be inferior. Football was the first area which inspired national pride up, where we thought Brazil can do it.”

© 2013 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

Read More:

Playing for All Kinds of Possibilities (N.Y.Times)

Buckets of Blickets: Children and Logic: A game developed by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley hopes to show how imaginative play in children may influence development of abstract thought.


Published: April 22, 2013

When it comes to play, humans don’t play around.

Alison Gopnik and the Gopnik Lab/University of California, Berkeley. Esther and Benny, both 4, play Blickets with Sophie Bridgers in a lab at the University of California, Berkeley. Children, lacking prior biases, excel in the game, based on associations, but adults flunk it.

Other species play, but none play for as much of their lives as humans do, or as imaginatively, or with as much protection from the family circle. Human children are unique in using play to explore hypothetical situations rather than to rehearse actual challenges they’ll face later. Kittens may pretend to be cats fighting, but they will not pretend to be children; children, by contrast, will readily pretend to be cats or kittens — and then to be Hannah Montana, followed by Spider-Man saving the day.

And in doing so, they develop some of humanity’s most consequential faculties. They learn the art, pleasure and power of hypothesis — of imagining new possibilities. And serious students of play believe that this helps make the species great.

The idea that play contributes to human success goes back at least a century. But in the last 25 years or so, researchers like Elizabeth S. SpelkeBrian Sutton-SmithJaak Panksepp and Alison Gopnik have developed this notion more richly and tied it more closely to both neuroscience and human evolution. They see play as essential not just to individual development, but to humanity’s unusual ability to inhabit, exploit and change the environment.

Dr. Gopnik, author of “The Scientist in the Crib” and “The Philosophical Baby,” and a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, has been studying the ways that children learn to assess their environment through play. Lately she has focused on the distinction between “exploring” new environments and “exploiting” them. When we’re quite young, we are more willing to explore, she finds; adults are more inclined to exploit.

To exploit, one leans heavily on lessons (and often unconscious rules) learned earlier — so-called prior biases. These biases are useful to adults because they save time and reduce error: By going to the restaurant you know is good, instead of the new place across town, you increase the chance that you’ll enjoy the evening.

Most adults are slow to set such biases aside; young children fling them away like bad fruit.

Dr. Gopnik shows this brilliantly with a game she invented with the psychologist David Sobel (her student, now a professor at Brown). In the game, which has the fetching name Blickets, players try to figure out what it is that makes an otherwise undistinguished clay figure a blicket. In some scenarios you can win even if you’re applying a prior bias. In others you can’t.

Last summer I joined Dr. Gopnik behind a wall of one-way glass to watch her lab manager, Sophie Bridgers, play the game with an extremely alert 4-year-old, Esther.

Seated at a child-size table, Esther leaned forward on her elbows to watch as Ms. Bridgers brought out a small bin of clay shapes and told her that some of them were blickets but most were not.

“You cannot tell which ones are blickets by looking at them. But the ones that are blickets have blicketness inside. And luckily,” Ms. Bridgers went on, holding up a box with a red plastic top, “I have my machine. Blicketness makes my machine turn on and play music.”

It’s a ruse, of course. The box responds not to the clay shapes but to a switch under the table controlled by Ms. Bridgers.

Now came the challenge. The game can be played by either of two rules, called “and” and “or.” The “or” version is easier: When a blicket is placed atop the machine, it will light the machine up whether placed there by itself or with other pieces. It is either a blicket or it isn’t; it doesn’t depend on the presence of any other object.

In the “and” trial, however, a blicket reveals its blicketness only if both it and another blicket are placed on the machine; and it will light up the box even if it and the other blicket are accompanied by a non-blicket. It can be harder than it sounds, and this is the game that Esther played.

First, Ms. Bridgers put each of three clay shapes on the box individually — rectangle, then triangle, then a bridge. None activated the machine. Then she put them on the box in three successive combinations.

1. Rectangle and triangle: No response.

2. Rectangle and bridge: Machine lighted up and played a tune!

3. Triangle and bridge: No response.

Ms. Bridgers then picked up each piece in turn and asked Esther whether it was a blicket. I had been indulging my adult (and journalistic) prior bias for recorded observation by filling several pages with notes and diagrams, and I started flipping frantically through my notebook.

I was still looking when Esther, having given maybe three seconds’ thought to the matter, correctly identified all three. The rectangle? “A blicket,” she said. Triangle? A shake of the head: No. Bridge? “A blicket.” A 4-year-old had instantly discerned a rule that I recognized only after Dr. Gopnik explained it to me.

Esther, along with most other 4- and 5-year-olds tested, bested not just me but most of 88 California undergraduates who took the “and” test. We educated grown-ups failed because our prior biases dictated that we play the game by the more common and efficient “or” rule.

“Or” rules apply far more often in actual life, when a thing’s essence seldom depends on another object’s presence. An arrow’s utility may depend on a bow, but its identity as an arrow does not. Since the “or” rule is more likely correct and simpler to use, I grabbed it and clung.

Esther, however, quickly ditched the “or” rule and hit upon the far less likely “and” rule. Such low-probability hypotheses often fail. But children, like adventurous scientists in a lab, will try these wild ideas anyway, because even if they fail, they often produce interesting results.

Esther and her twin brother, Benny (who played another version of the game), generated low-probability hypotheses as fast as I could breathe. “Maybe if you turn it over and put it on the other end!” “Let’s put all three on!” They were hypothesis machines. Their mother, Wendy Wolfson (who is a science writer), told me they’re like this all the time. “It’s like living with a pair of especially inquisitive otters.”

Alas, Dr. Gopnik said, this trait peaks around 4 or 5. After that, we gradually take less interest in seeing what happens and more in getting it right.

Yet this playlike spirit of speculation and exploration does stay with us, both as individuals and as a species. Studies suggest that free, self-directed play in safe environments enhances resilience, creativity, flexibility, social understanding, emotional and cognitive control, and resistance to stress, depression and anxiety. And we continue to explore as adults, even if not so freely. That’s how we got to the Internet, the moon, and Dr. Gopnik’s lab.

Finally, in the long game of evolution, Dr. Gopnik and some of her fellow scientists hypothesize that humans’ extended period of imaginative play, along with the traits it develops, has helped select for the big brain and rich neural networks that characterize Homo sapiens. This may strike you either as a low-probability or a high-probability hypothesis. But it certainly seems worth playing with.

Conservative Koch Brothers Turning Focus to Newspapers (N.Y.Times)

Tannen Maury/European Pressphoto Agency. Tribune’s newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune, have caught the interest of a number of suitors.


Published: April 20, 2013

Three years ago, Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists and supporters of libertarian causes, held a seminar of like-minded, wealthy political donors at the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, Colo. They laid out a three-pronged, 10-year strategy to shift the country toward a smaller government with less regulation and taxes.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images. The Los Angeles Times is the fourth-largest paper in the country.

The first two pieces of the strategy — educating grass-roots activists and influencing politics — were not surprising, given the money they have given to policy institutes and political action groups. But the third one was: media.

Other than financing a few fringe libertarian publications, the Kochs have mostly avoided media investments. Now, Koch Industries, the sprawling private company of whichCharles G. Koch serves as chairman and chief executive, is exploring a bid to buy the Tribune Company’s eight regional newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant.

By early May, the Tribune Company is expected to send financial data to serious suitors in what will be among the largest sales of newspapers by circulation in the country. Koch Industries is among those interested, said several people with direct knowledge of the sale who spoke on the condition they not be named. Tribune emerged from bankruptcy on Dec. 31 and has hired JPMorgan Chase and Evercore Partners to sell its print properties.

The papers, valued at roughly $623 million, would be a financially diminutive deal for Koch Industries, the energy and manufacturing conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenue of about $115 billion.

Politically, however, the papers could serve as a broader platform for the Kochs’ laissez-faire ideas. The Los Angeles Times is the fourth-largest paper in the country, and The Tribune is No. 9, and others are in several battleground states, including two of the largest newspapers in Florida, The Orlando Sentinel and The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. A deal could include Hoy, the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper, which speaks to the pivotal Hispanic demographic.

One person who attended the Aspen seminar who spoke on the condition of anonymity described the strategy as follows: “It was never ‘How do we destroy the other side?’ ”

“It was ‘How do we make sure our voice is being heard?’ ”

Guests at the Aspen seminar included Philip F. Anschutz, the Republican oil mogul who owns the companies that publish The Washington Examiner, The Oklahoman and The Weekly Standard, and the hedge fund executive Paul E. Singer, who sits on the board of the political magazine Commentary. Attendees were asked not to discuss details about the seminar with the press.

A person who has attended other Koch Industries seminars, which have taken place since 2003, says Charles and David Koch have never said they want to take over newspapers or other large media outlets, but they often say “they see the conservative voice as not being well represented.” The Kochs plan to host another conference at the end of the month, in Palm Springs, Calif.

At this early stage, the thinking inside the Tribune Company, the people close to the deal said, is that Koch Industries could prove the most appealing buyer. Others interested, including a group of wealthy Los Angeles residents led by the billionaire Eli Broad and Ronald W. Burkle, both prominent Democratic donors, and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, would prefer to buy only The Los Angeles Times.

The Tribune Company has signaled it prefers to sell all eight papers and their back-office operations as a bundle. (Tribune, a $7 billion media company that also owns 23 television stations, could also decide to keep the papers if they do not attract a high enough offer.)

Koch Industries is one of the largest sponsors of libertarian causes — including the financing of policy groups like the Cato Institute in Washington and the formation of Americans for Prosperity, the political action group that helped galvanize Tea Party organizations and their causes. The company has said it has no direct link to the Tea Party.

This month a Koch representative contacted Eddy W. Hartenstein, publisher and chief executive of The Los Angeles Times, to discuss a bid, according to a person briefed on the conversation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the conversation was private. Mr. Hartenstein declined to comment.

Koch Industries recently brought on Angela Redding, a consultant based in Salt Lake City, to analyze the media environment and assess opportunities. Ms. Redding, who previously worked at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, did not respond to requests for comment.

“As an entrepreneurial company with 60,000 employees around the world, we are constantly exploring profitable opportunities in many industries and sectors. So, it is natural that our name would come up in connection with this rumor,” Melissa Cohlmia, a spokeswoman for Koch Companies Public Sector, said in a statement last month.

“We respect the independence of the journalistic institutions referenced in the news stories,” Ms. Cohlmia continued. “But it is our longstanding policy not to comment on deals or rumors of deals we may or may not be exploring.”

One person who has previously advised Koch Industries said the Tribune Company papers were considered an investment opportunity, and were viewed as entirely separate from Charles and David Kochs’ lifelong mission to shrink the size of government.

At least in politically liberal Los Angeles, a conservative paper could be tricky. David H. Koch, who lives in New York and serves as executive vice president of Koch Industries, has said he supports gay marriage and could align with many residents on some social issues, Reed Galen, a Republican consultant in Orange County, Calif., said.

Koch Industries’ main competitor for The Los Angeles Times is a group of mostly Democratic local residents. In the 2012 political cycle, Mr. Broad gave $477,800, either directly or through his foundation, to Democratic candidates and causes, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Mr. Burkle has long championed labor unions. President Bill Clinton served as an adviser to Mr. Burkle’s money management firm, Yucaipa Companies, which in 2012 gave $107,500 to Democrats and related causes. The group also includes Austin Beutner, a Democratic candidate for mayor of Los Angeles, and an investment banker who co-founded Evercore Partners.

“This will be a bipartisan group,” Mr. Beutner said. “It’s not about ideology, it’s about a civic interest.” (The Los Angeles consortium is expected to also include Andrew Cherng, founder of the Panda Express Chinese restaurant chain and a Republican.)

“It’s a frightening scenario when a free press is actually a bought and paid-for press and it can happen on both sides,” said Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

Last month, shortly after L.A. Weekly first reported on Koch Industries’ interest in the Tribune papers, the liberal Web site Daily Kos and Courage Campaign, a Los Angeles-based liberal advocacy group, collected thousands of signatures protesting such a deal. Conservatives, meanwhile, welcomed the idea of a handful of prominent papers spreading the ideas of economic “freedom” from taxes and regulation that the Kochs have championed.

Seton Motley, president of Less Government, an organization devoted to shrinking the role of the government, said the 2012 presidential election reinforced the view that conservatives needed a broader media presence.

“A running joke among conservatives as we watched the G.O.P. establishment spend $500 million on ineffectual TV ads is ‘Why don’t you just buy NBC?’ ” Mr. Motley said. “It’s good the Kochs are talking about fighting fire with a little fire.”

Koch Industries has for years felt the mainstream media unfairly covered the company and its founding family because of its political beliefs., a Web site run by the company, disputes perceived press inaccuracies. The site, which asserts liberal bias in the news media, has published private e-mail conversations between company press officers and journalists, including the Politico reporter Kenneth P. Vogel and editors at The New Yorker in response to an article about the Kochs by Jane Mayer.

“So far, they haven’t seemed to be particularly enthusiastic about the role of the free press,” Ms. Mayer said in an e-mail, “but hopefully, if they become newspaper publishers, they’ll embrace it with a bit more enthusiasm.”

A Democratic political operative who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he admired how over decades the brothers have assembled a complex political infrastructure that supports their agenda. A media company seems like a logical next step.

This person said, “If they get some bad press that Darth Vader is buying Tribune, they don’t care.”

Hidrelétricas podem afetar sistema hidrológico do Pantanal (Fapesp)

Projeto para construção de mais 87 pequenas centrais hidrelétricas na bacia do Alto Paraguai pode afetar conectividade da área de planalto com a de planície do bioma pantaneiro e dificultar fluxo migratório de peixes e outras espécies aquáticas, alertam pesquisadores (Walfrido Tomas)


Por Elton Alisson

Agência FAPESP – O projeto de construção de mais 87 Pequenas Centrais Hidrelétricas (PCHs) na Bacia do Alto Paraguai, em discussão atualmente, pode afetar a conectividade do planalto – onde nasce o Rio Paraguai e seus afluentes – e a planície inundada do Pantanal – por onde as águas desses rios escoam –, dificultando o fluxo migratório de peixes e outras espécies aquáticas e semiaquáticas pelo sistema hidrológico.

O alerta foi feito por pesquisadores durante o terceiro evento do Ciclo de Conferências 2013 do BIOTA Educação, que teve como tema o Pantanal. O evento foi realizado pelo programa BIOTA-FAPESP no dia 18 de abril, na sede da FAPESP.

De acordo com José Sabino, professor da Universidade Anhanguera-Uniderp, o impacto das PCHs já existentes na região da Bacia do Alto Paraguai não são tão grandes porque, em geral, baseiam-se em uma tecnologia denominada “a fio d’água” – que dispensa a necessidade de manter grandes reservatórios de água.

A somatória das cerca de 30 PCHs existentes com as 87 planejadas, no entanto, pode impactar a hidrologia e a conectividade das águas do planalto e da planície da Bacia do Alto Paraguai e dificultar processos migratórios de espécies de peixes do Pantanal, alertou o especialista.

“A criação dessas PCHs pode causar a quebra de conectividade hidrológica de populações e de processos migratórios reprodutivos, como a piracema, de algumas espécies de peixes”, disse Sabino.

Durante a piracema, o período de procriação que antecede as chuvas do verão, algumas espécies de peixes, como o curimbatá (Prochilodus lineatus) e o dourado (Salminus brasiliensis), sobem os rios até as nascentes para desovar.

Se o acesso às cabeceiras dos rios for interrompido por algum obstáculo, como uma PCH, a piracema pode ser dificultada. “A construção de mais PCHs na região do Pantanal pode ter uma influência sistêmica sobre o canal porque, além de mudar o funcionamento hidrológico, também deve alterar a força da carga de nutrientes carregada pelas águas das nascentes dos rios no planalto que entram na planície pantaneira”, disse Walfrido Moraes Tomas, pesquisador do Centro de Pesquisa Agropecuária do Pantanal (CPAP) da Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Embrapa), no Mato Grosso do Sul, palestrante na conferência na FAPESP.

“Isso também poderá ter impactos nos hábitats de espécies aquáticas ou semiaquáticas”, reiterou Tomas. De acordo com o pesquisador, o Pantanal é uma das áreas úmidas mais ricas em espécies do mundo, distribuídas de forma abundante, mas não homogênea, pela planície pantaneira.

Alguns dos últimos levantamentos de espécies apontaram que o bioma possui 269 espécies de peixes, 44 de anfíbios, 127 de répteis, 582 de aves e 152 de mamíferos.

São necessários, no entanto, mais inventários de espécies para preencher lacunas críticas de conhecimento sobre outros grupos, como o dos invertebrados – sobre os quais ainda não há levantamento sobre o número de espécies –, além de crustáceos, moluscos e lepidópteros (ordem de insetos que inclui as borboletas), que ainda são pouco conhecidos.

“Uma iniciativa que vai nos dar uma grande contribuição nesse sentido será o programa Biota Mato Grosso do Sul, que começou ser implementado há três anos”, disse Tomas.

Inspirado no BIOTA-FAPESP, o programa Biota Mato Grosso do Sul pretende consolidar a infraestrutura de coleções e acervos em museus, herbários, jardins botânicos, zoológicos e bancos de germoplasma do Mato Grosso do Sul para preencher lacunas de conhecimento, taxonômicas e geográficas, sobre a diversidade biológica no estado.

Para atingir esse objetivo, pesquisadores pretendem informatizar os acervos e coleções científicas e estabelecer uma rede de informação em biodiversidade entre todas as instituições envolvidas com a pesquisa e conservação de biodiversidade do Mato Grosso do Sul.

“Começamos agora a fazer os primeiros inventários de espécies de regiões- chave do estado e estamos preparando um volume especial da revista Biota Neotropica sobre a biodiversidade de Mato Grosso do Sul, que será um passo fundamental para verificarmos as informações disponíveis sobre a biota do Pantanal e direcionar nossas ações”, disse Tomas à Agência FAPESP.

“Diferentemente do Estado de São Paulo, que tem coleções gigantescas, Mato Grosso do Sul não dispõe de grandes coleções para fazermos mapeamentos de diversidade. Por isso, precisaremos ir a campo para fazer os inventários”, explicou.

Espécies ameaçadas

Segundo Tomas, das espécies de aves ameaçadas, vulneráveis ou em perigo de extinção no Brasil, por exemplo, 188 podem ser encontradas no Pantanal. No entanto, diminuiu muito nos últimos anos a ocorrência de caça de espécies como onça-pintada, onça-parda, ariranha, arara-azul – ave símbolo do Pantanal – e jacaré.

E não há indícios de que a principal atividade econômica da região – a pecuária, que possibilitou a ocupação humana do bioma em um primeiro momento em razão de o ambiente ser uma savana inundada com pastagem renovada todo ano – tenha causado impactos na biota pantaneira.

“Pelo que sabemos até agora, nenhuma espécie da fauna do Pantanal foi levada a risco de extinção por causa da pecuária”, afirmou Tomas. Já a pesca – a segunda atividade econômica mais intensiva no Pantanal – pode ter impactos sobre algumas espécies de peixes.

Isso porque a atividade está focalizada em 20 das 270 espécies de peixes do bioma pantaneiro, em razão do tamanho, sabor da carne e pela própria cultura regional.

Entre elas, estão o dourado, o curimbatá, a piraputanga (Brycon hilarii), o pacu (Piaractus mesopotamicus) e a cachara (Pseudoplatystoma reticulatum) – um peixe arisco encontrado em rios como Prata e Olho D’água, que pode chegar a medir 1,20 metro e pesar 40 quilos.

“Há indícios de que, pelo fato de a pesca no Pantanal ser direcionada a algumas espécies, a atividade possa reduzir algumas populações de peixes”, disse Sabino.

Além de Sabino e Tomas, o professor Arnildo Pott, da Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul (UFMS), de Campo Grande, também proferiu palestra, sobre a origem, evolução e diversidade da vegetação do Bioma Pantanal.

Estratégias de conservação

Os pesquisadores também chamaram a atenção para o fato de que, atualmente, apenas cerca de 5% do Pantanal está protegido por unidades de conservação. E que muitas das espécies de animais da região, como a onça- pintada, a ariranha e a arara-azul, por exemplo, não são protegidas efetivamente, porque ficam fora dessas unidades de conservação.

“A conservação de espécies ameaçadas no Pantanal requer estratégias mais amplas do que apenas a implantação ou gestão das unidades de conservação”, destacou Tomas. “São necessárias políticas de gestão de bacias hidrográficas e de remuneração por serviços ecossistêmicos para assegurar a conservação de espécies ameaçadas.”

Organizado pelo Programa BIOTA-FAPESP, o Ciclo de Conferências 2013 tem o objetivo de contribuir para o aperfeiçoamento do ensino de ciência. A quarta etapa será no dia 16 de maio, quando o tema será “Bioma Cerrado”. Seguem-se conferências sobre os biomas Caatinga (20 de junho), Mata Atlântica (22 de agosto), Amazônia (19 de setembro), Ambientes Marinhos e Costeiros (24 de outubro) e Biodiversidade em Ambientes Antrópicos – Urbanos e Rurais (21 de novembro).

Earth’s Current Warmth Not Seen in the Last 1,400 Years or More, Says Study (Science Daily)

Apr. 21, 2013 — Fueled by industrial greenhouse gas emissions, Earth’s climate warmed more between 1971 and 2000 than during any other three-decade interval in the last 1,400 years, according to new regional temperature reconstructions covering all seven continents. This period of humanmade global warming, which continues today, reversed a natural cooling trend that lasted several hundred years, according to results published in the journalNature Geoscience by more than 80 scientists from 24 nations analyzing climate data from tree rings, pollen, cave formations, ice cores, lake and ocean sediments, and historical records from around the world.

During Europe’s 2003 heat wave, July temperatures in France were as much as 18 degrees F hotter than in 2001. (Credit: NASA)

“This paper tells us what we already knew, except in a better, more comprehensive fashion,” said study co-author Edward Cook, a tree-ring scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who led the Asia reconstruction.

The study also found that Europe’s 2003 heat wave and drought, which killed an estimated 70,000 people, happened during Europe’s hottest summer of the last 2,000 years. “Summer temperatures were intense that year and accompanied by a lack of rain and very dry soil conditions over much of Europe,” said study co-author Jason Smerdon, a climate scientist at Lamont-Doherty and one of the lead contributors to the Europe reconstruction. Though summer 2003 set a record for Europe, global warming was only one of the factors that contributed to the temperature conditions that summer, he said.

The study is the latest to show that the Medieval Warm Period, from about 950 to 1250, may not have been global, and may not have happened at the same time in places that did grow warmer. While parts of Europe and North America were fairly warm between 950 and 1250, South America stayed relatively cold, the study says. Some people have argued that the natural warming that occurred during the medieval ages is happening today, and that humans are not responsible for modern day global warming. Scientists are nearly unanimous in their disagreement “If we went into another Medieval Warm Period again that extra warmth would be added on top of warming from greenhouse gases,” said Cook.

Temperatures varied less between continents in the same hemisphere than between hemispheres. “Distinctive periods, such as the Medieval Warm Period or the Little Ice Age stand out, but do not show a globally uniform pattern,” said co-author Heinz Wanner, a scientist at the University of Bern. By 1500, temperatures dropped below the long-term average everywhere, though colder temperatures emerged several decades earlier in the Arctic, Europe and Asia.

The most consistent trend across all regions in the last 2,000 years was a long-term cooling, likely caused by a rise in volcanic activity, decrease in solar irradiance, changes in land-surface vegetation, and slow variations in Earth’s orbit. With the exception of Antarctica, cooling tapered off at the end of the 19th century, with the onset of industrialization. Cooler 30-year periods between 830 and 1910 were particularly pronounced during weak solar activity and strong tropical volcanic eruptions. Both phenomena often occurred simultaneously and led to a drop in the average temperature during five distinct 30- to 90-year intervals between 1251 and 1820. Warming in the 20th century was on average twice as large in the northern continents as it was in the Southern Hemisphere. During the past 2000 years, some regions experienced warmer 30-year intervals than during the late 20th century. For example, in Europe the years between 21 and 80 AD were likely warmer than the period 1971-2000.

Black and White and Red All Over (Foreign Policy)

How the hyperkinetic media is breeding a new generation of terrorists.


“Americans refuse to be terrorized,” declared President Barack Obama in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. “Ultimately, that’s what we’ll remember from this week.” Believe that, and I’ve got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

The Boston bombings have provoked the most intense display of law enforcement and media coverage since the 9/11 attacks. Greater Boston was in full lockdown: “a ghost town,” “a city in terror,” “a war zone,” screamed the headlines. Public transit was stopped, a no-fly zone proclaimed, people told to stay indoors, schools and universities closed, and hundreds of FBI agents pulled from other pressing investigations to focus exclusively on the case — along with thousands upon thousands of other federal, state, and city agents equipped with heavy weapons and armored vehicles. It all came close to martial law, with all the tools of the security state mobilized to track down a pair of young immigrants with low-tech explosives and small arms who failed to reconcile their problems of identity and became suspected amateur terrorists.

Not that the events weren’t shocking and brutal. But this law enforcement and media response, of course, is part of the overall U.S. reaction to terrorism since 9/11, when perhaps never in history have so few, armed with so few means, caused so much fear in so many. Indeed, as with the anarchists a century ago, last week’s response is precisely the outsized reaction that sponsors of terrorism have always counted on in order to terrorize.

Nothing compares to the grief of parents whose child has been murdered like 8-year-old Martin Richard, except perhaps the collective grief of many parents, as for the 20 children killed in last December’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Yet, despite the fact that the probability of a child, or anyone else in the United States, being killed by a terrorist bomb is vastly smaller than being killed by an unregistered handgun — or even by an unregulated fertilizer plant — U.S. politicians and the public seem likely to continue to support uncritically the extravagant measures associated with an irrational policy of “zero tolerance” for terrorism, as opposed to much-more-than-zero tolerance for nearly all other threats of violence. Given the millions of dollars already spent on the Boston bombing investigation and the trillions that the national response to terrorism has cost in little more than a decade, the public deserves a more reasoned response. We can never, ever be absolutely safe, no matter how much treasure we spend or how many civil liberties we sacrifice.

While there is always the chance that investigators will find foreign connections and broader plots beyond the doings of the two men suspected in the Boston bombing, our knowledge about terrorism suggests that what we already know about the April 15 bombing does not justify the disproportionate and overwrought response, including the “global security alert” U.S. authorities issued through Interpol for 190 countries. Even if the suspected Boston bombers prove to be part of a larger network of jihadi wannabes, as were the 2005 London subway suicide bombers, or had planned more operations before dying in a blaze of glory, as did the 2004 Madrid train bombers, these would-be knights under the prophet’s banner could never alone wreak the havoc that our reaction to them does.

The brothers Tsarnaev, the suspected Boston bombers, have been described by neighbors, friends, and relatives as fairly normal young men — regular Cambridge kinds. They left the Chechen conflict years ago and immigrated to the United States as asylum seekers under the U.S. government’s refugee resettlement program. Tamerlan, the oldest, was married with a 3-year-old daughter. A former Golden Gloves heavyweight boxer who once thought of competing for the United States, he had been increasingly drawn to radical Islam in the last few years. In a photo essay about his fondness for boxing, he worried, “I don’t have a single American friend; I don’t understand them.” He complained, “There are no values anymore,” forswearing drinking because “God said no alcohol.” Tamerlan’s YouTube page posts videos of radical Islamic clerics from Chechnya and elsewhere haranguing the West as bombs explode in the background. In 2011, the FBI interviewed Tamerlan at Russia’s request about connections to Chechen extremists, but the investigation found “no derogatory information.” Although Russian forces withdrew from Chechnya in 2009, violence has persisted in neighboring Dagestan, where Tamerlan visited his father last year and perhaps linked up with jihadi instigators who motivated him to act. Like the father of 9/11 pilot bomber Mohamed Atta, Tamerlan’s father claims his boy was framed and murdered. In his last reported phone communication, on Thursday, just hours before the police shootout began, he called his mother.

The younger brother, Dzhokhar, a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, played intramural soccer. On the day after the bombing he went to the dorms, worked out at the gym, and that night went to a party attended by some of his soccer buddies. Known to his friends as Jahar, he entered the university on a scholarship but lately had been failing his classes. He hung out with other students, had an easy relationship with the other young men and women, hardly ever talked politics, and was never pegged as an Islamist activist or sympathizer or even as particularly religious. Whereas relatives, friends, and teachers consistently describe Jahar as “always smiling,” “with a heart of gold,” acquaintances say Tamerlan never smiled and was aggressive. One cousin said he warned Jahar about being susceptible to the negative influence of the older brother he loved. In the last few months, Jahar’s tweets began turning darker: “i won’t run i’ll just gun you all out #thugliving,” “Do I look like that much of a softy … little do these dogs know they’re barking at a lion,” “I killed Abe Lincoln during my two hour nap #intensedream.” But declaring this wayward killer — and a naturalized citizen, at that — an “enemy combatant” borders on Orwellian.

Under sponsorship by the Defense Department, my multidisciplinary, multinational research team has been conducting field studies and analyses of the mental and social processes involved in radicalization at home and abroad. Our findings indicate that terrorist plotters against Western civilian populations tend not to be parts of sophisticated, foreign-based command-and-control organizations. Rather, they belong to loose, homegrown networks of family and friends who die not just for a cause, but for each other. Jihadists pretty much span the population’s normal distribution: There are very few psychopaths and sociopaths, few brilliant thinkers and strategists. Jihadi wannabes today are mostly emerging adults in transitional stages of their lives — students, immigrants, in search of jobs or companions — who are especially prone to movements that promise a meaningful cause, camaraderie, adventure, and glory. Most have a secular education, becoming “born again” into the jihadi cause in their late teens or 20s. The path to radicalization can take years, months, or just days, depending on personal vulnerabilities and the influence of others. Occasionally there is a hookup with a relative, or a friend of a friend, who has some overseas connection to someone who can get them a bit of training and motivation to pack a bag of explosives or pull a trigger, but the Internet and social media are usually sufficient for radicalization and even operational preparation.

The result is not a hierarchic, centrally commanded terrorist movement but a decentralized, self-organizing, and constantly evolving complex of social networks based on contingent adaptations to changing events. These are no real “cells,” but only clusters of mostly young men who motivate one another within “brotherhoods” of real and fictive kin. Often, in fact, there is an older brother figure, a dominant personality who mobilizes others in the group. But rarely is there an overriding authority or father figure. (Notably, for these transitional youth, there’s often an absence of a real father).

Some of the most successful plots, such as the Madrid and London bombings, are so anarchic, fluid, and improbable that they succeeded in evading detection despite the fact that intelligence and law enforcement agencies had been following some of the actors for some time. Three key elements characterize the “organized anarchy” that typifies modern violent Islamic activism: Ultimate goals are vague and superficial (often no deeper than revenge against perceived injustice against Muslims around the world); modes of action are decided pragmatically on the basis of trial and error or based on the residue of learning from accidents of past experience; and those who join are not recruited but are locally linked self-seekers — often from the same family, neighborhood, or Internet chat room — whose connection to global jihad is more virtual than material. Al Qaeda and associates do not so much recruit as attract disaffected individuals who have already decided to embark on the path to violent extremism with the help of family, friends, or a few fellow travelers.

Like the young men who carried out the Madrid and London attacks, most homegrown jihadi plotters first hook up with the broad protest sentiment against “the global attack on Islam” before moving into a narrower parallel universe. They cut ties with former companions who they believe are too timid to act and cement bonds with those who are willing to strike. They emerge from their cocoon with strong commitment to strike and die if necessary, but without any clear contingency planning for what might happen after the initial attack.

For the first time in history, a massive, media-driven political awakening has been occurring — spurred by the advent of the Internet, social media, and cable television — that can, on the one hand, motivate universal respect for human rights while, on the other, enable, say, Muslims from Borneo to sacrifice themselves for Palestine, Afghanistan, or Chechnya (despite almost no contact or shared history for the last 50,000 years or so). When perceived global injustice resonates with frustrated personal aspirations, moral outrage gives universal meaning and provides the push to radicalization and violent action.

But the popular notion of a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West is woefully misleading. Violent extremism represents not the resurgence of traditional cultures, but their collapse, as young people unmoored from millennial traditions flail about in search of a social identity that gives personal significance. This is the dark side of globalization.

Take Faisal Shahzad, the would-be bomber of Times Square in 2010, or Maj. Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in 2009. Both were apparently inspired by the online rhetoric of Anwar al-Awlaki, a former preacher at a Northern Virginia mosque who was killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen in 2011. Although many commentators leapt to the conclusion that Awlaki and his ilk deviously brainwashed and recruited Shahzad and Hassan, in fact they sought out the popular Internet preacher because they were already radicalized to the point of wanting further guidance to act. As Defense Department terrorism consultant Marc Sageman notes: “Just like you saw Major Hasan send 21 emails to al-Awlaki, who sends him two back, you have people seeking these guys and asking them for advice.” More than 80 percent of plots in both Europe and the United States were concocted from the bottom up by mostly young people just hooking up with one another.

Especially for young men, mortal combat with a “band of brothers” in the service of a great cause is both the ultimate adventure and a road to esteem in the hearts of their peers. For many disaffected souls today, jihad is a heroic cause — a promise that anyone from anywhere can make a mark against the most powerful country in the history of the world. But because would-be jihadists best thrive and act in small groups and among networks of family and friends — not in large movements or armies — their threat can only match their ambitions if fueled way beyond actual strength. And publicity is the oxygen that fires modern terrorism.

It is not by arraying “every element of our national power” against would-be jihadists and those who inspire them that violent extremism will be stopped, as Obama once declared. Although wide-ranging intelligence, good police work, and security preparedness (including by the military and law enforcement) is required to track and thwart the expansion of al Qaeda affiliates into the Arabian Peninsula, Syria (and perhaps Jordan), North Africa, and East Africa, this is insufficient. As 2012 U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney quipped, “We can’t kill our way out of this mess.” In the United States, there are many pockets of displaced immigrant and refugee young people with even more than the usual struggles of personal development. Young Somalis seem to be having particular difficulty, and a small few are moving to the path of violent jihad. This is a good time to think about how we relate to them, though there are probably more easy mistakes than easy solutions. But political attempts to relate these problems to the very different issue of illegal immigration only adds to the scaremongering.

We need to pay attention to what makes these young men want to die to kill, by listening to their families and friends, trying to engage them on the Internet, and seeing whom they idolize, how they organize, what bonds them, and what drives them. U.S. power won’t stop the self-seeking, and preaching “moderate” Islam (or moderate anything) is hardly likely to sway young men in search of significance and glory. And even if every airplane passenger were to be scanned naked or every American city locked down, it would not stop young men from joining the jihad or concocting new ways of killing civilians.

Terrorists are directly responsible for violent acts, but only indirectly for the reaction that follows. Objectively, terrorist acts on even a 9/11 scale could never seriously harm American society; only our reaction can. By amplifying and connecting relatively sporadic terrorist acts into a generalized “war” or “assault on freedom,” the somewhat marginal phenomenon of terrorism has become a primary preoccupation of the U.S. government and American people. In this sense, Osama bin Laden has been victorious beyond his wildest dreams — not because of anything he has done, but because of how we have reacted to the episodic successes he inspires.

There are several ways to react to the political hype and media amplification of terrorism. Doing nothing and allowing this frenzied media environment to continue will only encourage future attacks; meanwhile, reporting that rushes to judgment and complements law enforcement’s denial of Miranda rights will only erode confidence in the integrity and fairness of the American press and U.S. government institutions. Legal regulation of media, as in many other countries, may not be compatible with a free society and if tried would certainly provoke persistent opposition and deep outrage. For example, previous attempts by the British government to ban interviews with terrorists and their supporters backfired. As the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted in 2002, “Democracies die behind closed doors.” Even noncoercive guidelines are likely to incite widespread resistance. As former New York Times Executive Editor A.M. Rosenthal put it: “The last thing in the world I want is guidelines. I don’t want guidelines from the government … or anyone else.”

But voluntary self-restraint by the media, which is less intrusive and supported by many, is not only possible but manageable. (Venerable journalist Edward R. Murrow, informed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the specifics of the Pearl Harbor attack, declined the scoop and didn’t file his report until the administration could formulate a reasoned response.) Of course, “gentle censorship,” like the initially successful attempts by George W. Bush’s administration to prevent airing of bin Laden messages or talks with terrorists, can seriously hamper the flow of knowledge necessary for understanding what makes terrorists tick and how to thwart them.

The First Amendment enables the news media to watchdog the republic and help prevent government excesses and abuses so that a well-informed public can monitor and decide where government policy should go. Yet the media is increasingly less a public service devoted to this task than a competitive business that believes it best succeeds through sensation, which violence privileges. For example, the typical television news story has declined from an average of several minutes in the 1950s and 1960s to today’s repeated sound bites — often no more than a few seconds — that sensationalize the spectacular. And despite the fact that one of the suspected Boston bombers is now dead and the other in custody, it can be argued that their terrorism succeeded through the spectacular theater of last week’s events, capturing our attention and stoking our deepest fears.

We can break this real, if unplanned, alliance between terrorism and the media through better reporting for the social good, which may prove to be the best business strategy of all. When we practice restraint and show the resilience of people carrying on with their lives even in the face of atrocities like that in Boston, then terrorism fails.

Scott Atran, an anthropologist at John Jay College, the University of Michigan, and Oxford University, is co-founder of ARTIS Research and author of Talking to the Enemy.

Mathematical Models Out-Perform Doctors in Predicting Cancer Patients’ Responses to Treatment (Science Daily)

Apr. 19, 2013 — Mathematical prediction models are better than doctors at predicting the outcomes and responses of lung cancer patients to treatment, according to new research presented today (Saturday) at the 2nd Forum of the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO).

These differences apply even after the doctor has seen the patient, which can provide extra information, and knows what the treatment plan and radiation dose will be.

“The number of treatment options available for lung cancer patients are increasing, as well as the amount of information available to the individual patient. It is evident that this will complicate the task of the doctor in the future,” said the presenter, Dr Cary Oberije, a postdoctoral researcher at the MAASTRO Clinic, Maastricht University Medical Center, Maastricht, The Netherlands. “If models based on patient, tumour and treatment characteristics already out-perform the doctors, then it is unethical to make treatment decisions based solely on the doctors’ opinions. We believe models should be implemented in clinical practice to guide decisions.”

Dr Oberije and her colleagues in The Netherlands used mathematical prediction models that had already been tested and published. The models use information from previous patients to create a statistical formula that can be used to predict the probability of outcome and responses to treatment using radiotherapy with or without chemotherapy for future patients.

Having obtained predictions from the mathematical models, the researchers asked experienced radiation oncologists to predict the likelihood of lung cancer patients surviving for two years, or suffering from shortness of breath (dyspnea) and difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) at two points in time:

1) after they had seen the patient for the first time, and

2) after the treatment plan was made. At the first time point, the doctors predicted two-year survival for 121 patients, dyspnea for 139 and dysphagia for 146 patients.

At the second time point, predictions were only available for 35, 39 and 41 patients respectively.

For all three predictions and at both time points, the mathematical models substantially outperformed the doctors’ predictions, with the doctors’ predictions being little better than those expected by chance.

The researchers plotted the results on a special graph [1] on which the area below the plotted line is used for measuring the accuracy of predictions; 1 represents a perfect prediction, while 0.5 represents predictions that were right in 50% of cases, i.e. the same as chance. They found that the model predictions at the first time point were 0.71 for two-year survival, 0.76 for dyspnea and 0.72 for dysphagia. In contrast, the doctors’ predictions were 0.56, 0.59 and 0.52 respectively.

The models had a better positive predictive value (PPV) — a measure of the proportion of patients who were correctly assessed as being at risk of dying within two years or suffering from dyspnea and dysphagia — than the doctors. The negative predictive value (NPV) — a measure of the proportion of patients that would not die within two years or suffer from dyspnea and dysphagia — was comparable between the models and the doctors.

“This indicates that the models were better at identifying high risk patients that have a very low chance of surviving or a very high chance of developing severe dyspnea or dysphagia,” said Dr Oberije.

The researchers say that it is important that further research is carried out into how prediction models can be integrated into standard clinical care. In addition, further improvement of the models by incorporating all the latest advances in areas such as genetics, imaging and other factors, is important. This will make it possible to tailor treatment to the individual patient’s biological make-up and tumour type

“In our opinion, individualised treatment can only succeed if prediction models are used in clinical practice. We have shown that current models already outperform doctors. Therefore, this study can be used as a strong argument in favour of using prediction models and changing current clinical practice,” said Dr Oberije.

“Correct prediction of outcomes is important for several reasons,” she continued. “First, it offers the possibility to discuss treatment options with patients. If survival chances are very low, some patients might opt for a less aggressive treatment with fewer side-effects and better quality of life. Second, it could be used to assess which patients are eligible for a specific clinical trial. Third, correct predictions make it possible to improve and optimise the treatment. Currently, treatment guidelines are applied to the whole lung cancer population, but we know that some patients are cured while others are not and some patients suffer from severe side-effects while others don’t. We know that there are many factors that play a role in the prognosis of patients and prediction models can combine them all.”

At present, prediction models are not used as widely as they could be by doctors. Dr Oberije says there are a number of reasons: some models lack clinical credibility; others have not yet been tested; the models need to be available and easy to use by doctors; and many doctors still think that seeing a patient gives them information that cannot be captured in a model. “Our study shows that it is very unlikely that a doctor can outperform a model,” she concluded.

President of ESTRO, Professor Vincenzo Valentini, a radiation oncologist at the Policlinico Universitario A. Gemelli, Rome, Italy, commented: “The booming growth of biological, imaging and clinical information will challenge the decision capacity of every oncologist. The understanding of the knowledge management sciences is becoming a priority for radiation oncologists in order for them to tailor their choices to cure and care for individual patients.”

[1] For the mathematicians among you, the graph is known as an Area Under the Curve (AUC) of the Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC).

[2] This work was partially funded by grants from the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF), the European Fund for Regional Development (INTERREG/EFRO), and the Center for Translational Molecular Medicine (CTMM).

SunEdison e Petrobras firmam acordo para planta de energia solar no Brasil (Yahoo! Notícias)

Reuters – qui, 18 de abr de 2013

18 Abr (Reuters) – A SunEdison, provedora global de serviços de energia solar e subsidiária da MEMC Electronic Materials assinou um acordo com a Petrobras para construir uma das maiores plantas de energia solar no Brasil, informou a empresa norte-americana em um comunicado nesta quinta-feira.

A planta, que será localizada em Alto do Rodrigues, no Rio Grande do Norte, terá uma capacidade instalada de 1,1 megawatt.

Leia o comunicado original, em inglês, em:

(Por Laiz de Souza)

The Tangle of the Sexes (N.Y.Times)



Published: April 20, 2013

MEN and women are so different they might as well be from separate planets, so says the theory of the sexes famously explicated in John Gray’s 1992 best seller, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.”

Jonny Negron

Indeed, sex differences are a perennially popular topic in behavioral science; since 2000, scientific journals have published more than 30,000 articles on them.

That men and women differ in certain respects is unassailable. Unfortunately, the continuing belief in “categorical differences” — men are aggressive, women are caring — reinforces traditional stereotypes by treating certain behaviors as immutable. And, it turns out, this belief is based on a scientifically indefensible model of human behavior.

As the psychologist Cordelia Fine explains in her book “Delusions of Gender,” the influence of one kind of categorical thinking, neurosexism — justifying differential treatment by citing differences in neural anatomy or function — spills over to educational and employment disparities, family relations and arguments about same-sex institutions.

Consider a marital spat in which she accuses him of being emotionally withdrawn while he indicts her for being demanding. In a gender-categorical world, the argument can quickly devolve to “You’re acting like a typical (man/woman)!” Asking a partner to change, in this binary world, is expecting him or her to go against the natural tendency of his or her category — a very tall order.

The alternative, a dimensional perspective, ascribes behavior to individuals, as one of their various personal qualities. It is much easier to imagine how change might take place.

But what of all those published studies, many of which claim to find differences between the sexes? In our research, published recently in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, we shed an empirical light on this question by using a method called taxometric analysis.

This method asks whether data from two groups are likely to be taxonic — a classification that distinguishes one group from another in a nonarbitrary, fundamental manner, called a “taxon” — or whether they are more likely to be dimensional, with individuals’ scores dispersed along a single continuum.

The existence of a taxon implies a fundamental distinction, akin to the difference between species. As the clinical psychologist Paul Meehl famously put it, “There are gophers, there are chipmunks, but there are no gophmunks.”

A dimensional model, in contrast, indicates that men and women come from the same general pool, differing relatively, trait by trait, much as any two individuals from the same group might differ.

We applied such techniques to the data from 13 studies, conducted earlier by other researchers. In each, significant differences had been found. We then looked more closely at these differences to ask whether they were more likely to be of degree (a dimension) or kind (a taxon).

The studies looked at diverse attributes, including sexual attitudes and behavior, desired mate characteristics, interest in and ease of learning science, and intimacy, empathy, social support and caregiving in relationships.

Across analyses spanning 122 attributes from more than 13,000 individuals, one conclusion stood out: instead of dividing into two groups, men and women overlapped considerably on attributes like the frequency of science-related activities, interest in casual sex, or the allure of a potential mate’s virginity.

Even stereotypical traits, like assertiveness or valuing close friendships, fell along a continuum. In other words, we found little or no evidence of categorical distinctions based on sex.

To some, this is no surprise; the psychologist Janet Hyde has argued repeatedly that men and women are far more similar than different. Yet to many others, the idea that men and women are fundamentally different beings persists. The Mars/Venus binary aside, it is all too easy to reify observed behavioral differences by associating them with the categories of the people doing the behaving, be it their sex, race or occupation.

It is important to keep in mind what we did not study. We looked only at psychological characteristics, qualities often associated with the behavior of women and men. We did not look at abilities or skills, and we did not directly observe behavior.

Just to be safe, we repeated our analyses on several dimensions where we did expect categorical differences: physical size, athletic ability and sex-stereotyped hobbies like playing video games and scrapbooking. On these we did find evidence for categories based on sex.

The Mars/Venus view describes a world that does not exist, at least here on earth. Our work shows that sex does not define qualitatively distinct categories of psychological characteristics. We need to look at individuals as individuals.

Bobbi Carothers is a senior data analyst at Washington University in St. Louis. Harry Reis is a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

How Science Can Predict Where You Stand on Keystone XL (Mother Jones)

Want to make sense of the feud between pipeline activists and “hippie-punching” moderates? Talk to the researchers.

—By  | Wed Apr. 17, 2013 3:00 AM PDT

Washington monument with protestors around itThe anti-Keystone “Forward on Climate” rally in Washington DC, February 17th, 2013. Jay Mallin/ZUMA Press

On February 17, more than 40,000 climate change activists—many of them quite young—rallied in Washington, DC, to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, which will transport dirty tar sands oil from Canada across the heartland. The scornful response from media centrists was predictable. Joe Nocera of the New York Times, for one, quickly went on the attack. In a column titled “How Not to Fix Climate Change,” he wrote that the strategy of activists “who have made the Keystone pipeline their line in the sand is utterly boneheaded.”

Nocera, who accepts the science of climate change, made a string of familiar arguments: The tar sands will be exploited anyway, the total climate contribution of the oil that would be transported by Keystone XL is minimal, and so on. Perhaps inspired by Nocera-style thinking, a group of 17 Democratic senators would later cast a symbolic vote in favor of the pipeline, signaling that opposing industrial projects is not the brand of environmentalism that they, at least, have in mind.

The Keystone activists, not surprisingly, were livid. Not only did they challenge Nocera’s facts, they utterly rejected his claims as to the efficacy of their strategy: Opponents of the pipeline have often argued that it is vital to push the limits of the possible—in particular, to put unrelenting pressure on President Obama to lead on climate change. Van Jones, the onetime Obama clean-energy adviser and a close supporter of founder and Keystone protest leader Bill McKibben, has put it like this: “I think activism works…The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movement kept pushing on the question of marriage equality, and the president came out for marriage equality, which then had a positive effect on public opinion and helped that movement win at the ballot box and in a number of states, within months.”

This article is about the emotionally charged dispute between climate activists and environmental moderates, despite their common acceptance of the science of climate change. Why does this sort of rift exist on so many issues dividing the center from the left? And what can we actually say about which side is, you know, right?

Does Joe Nocera really have a sound basis for calling the pipeline opponents’ strategy boneheaded—or is that just his gut feeling as a centrist? Does Van Jones have any basis for claiming that activism works—or is it just his gut feeling as someone favorably disposed towards activism?

This line of inquiry should prove duly humbling to both activists and moderates—and help to unite them.

It’s high time we considered the science on these questions. There is, after all, considerable scholarly work on whether activists, by pushing the boundaries of what seems acceptable, create the conditions for progress or, instead, bring about backlashes that can complicate the jobs of sympathetic policymakers.

There’s also data that may shed light on why these rifts between “moderates” and “activists” are more the rule than the exception—across the ideological spectrum. “I can’t really think of any movement where there isn’t some internal dissent about goals and tactics,” says Carleton College political scientist Devashree Gupta, who studies social movements. The recurrence of this pattern on issues from civil rights to gun control to abortion suggests that there is something here that’s well worth understanding, preferably before the next rhetorical bloodbath around Keystone.

A chief benefit of this line of inquiry: It should prove duly humbling to activists and moderates alike—and thus might help to unite them.

FROM THE OUTSET, I think we can agree on one fundamental point: Over the past several years, driven by the failure of cap and trade and a worsening climate crisis, America’s environmental movement has become considerably more activist in nature—some might even say “radical.” Exhibit A is the successful attempt by inspirer-in-chief McKibben (who has written extensively about climate for Mother Jones) to create a grassroots protest movement rather than simply to work within the corridors of power.

“What Bill is doing is actually quite impressive—he’s the first one to create a social movement around climate change, and he’s done it by creating a common enemy, the oil industry, and a salient target, which is Keystone,” says Andrew Hoffman, a professor at the University of Michigan who studies environmental politics.

There’s really little doubt that the “dark greens” are on the ascendant.

One crucial aspect of this shift is a growing reluctance by environmentalists to work hand in hand with big polluters. The latter was a central feature of the US Climate Action Partnership, the industry-environmental collaboration that led an unsuccessful cap-and-trade push a few years back. Nowadays, the environmental movement is moving toward a more oppositional relationship with industry, as evidenced by its attempts to block a major industrial project (Keystone) and to get universities and cities to drop their investments in fossil fuel companies (another of McKibben’s goals).

The rival environmental factions are sometimes described as “dark greens” (the purists who want to force radical change) and “bright greens” (those who seek compromise and accept tradeoffs). There’s really little doubt that dark greens are on the ascendant. “He’s pulling the flank out,” Hoffman says of McKibben. “I do think he has a valuable role in creating a space where others can create a more moderate role.”

Then along come the moderates, unleashing flurries of “hippie punching” under the guise of being more rational than the activists they are criticizing.

It’s also fair to say that McKibben—the charismatic journalist-turned-organizer—lies a good way to the political left. Its centrist biases notwithstanding, a recent paper by American University communications professor Matthew Nisbet does capture McKibben’s “romantic” ideology: Like most people, he’s unhappy about environmental degradation, but he also seems opposed, in a significant sense, to the economic growth engine that drives it. He believes in living smaller, in going back to nature, in consuming less—not a position many politicians would be willing to espouse. (Indeed, President Obama’s comments about climate change often contain an explicit rejection of the idea that environmental and economic progress are mutually exclusive.)

So environmentalists are moving left and becoming more activist in response to political gridlock and scary planetary rumblings. Then along come the moderates, unleashing flurries of what Grist‘s David Roberts calls “hippie punching” under the guise of being more rational and reasoned than those they are criticizing. For example, Nisbet writes: “McKibben’s line-in-the-sand opposition to the Keystone XL oil pipeline, his skepticism of technology, and his romantic vision of a future consisting of small-scale, agrarian communities reflects his own values and priorities, rather than a pragmatic set of choices designed to effectively and realistically address the problem of climate change.”

You can see how an activist might find this just a tad irritating. For what is Nisbet’s statement if not a reflection of his own values and priorities? Words like “pragmatic” and “realistic” give away the game.

Carbon bubble will plunge the world into another financial crisis – report (The Guardian)

Trillions of dollars at risk as stock markets inflate value of fossil fuels that may have to remain buried forever, experts warn

Damian Carrington – The Guardian, Friday 19 April 2013

Carbon bubble : carbon dioxide polluting power plant : coal-fired Bruce Mansfield Power Plant

Global stock markets are betting on countries failing to adhere to legally binding carbon emission targets. Photograph: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

The world could be heading for a major economic crisis as stock marketsinflate an investment bubble in fossil fuels to the tune of trillions of dollars, according to leading economists.

“The financial crisis has shown what happens when risks accumulate unnoticed,” said Lord (Nicholas) Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics. He said the risk was “very big indeed” and that almost all investors and regulators were failing to address it.

The so-called “carbon bubble” is the result of an over-valuation of oil,coal and gas reserves held by fossil fuel companies. According to a report published on Friday, at least two-thirds of these reserves will have to remain underground if the world is to meet existing internationally agreed targets to avoid the threshold for “dangerous” climate changeIf the agreements hold, these reserves will be in effect unburnable and so worthless – leading to massive market losses. But the stock markets are betting on countries’ inaction on climate change.

The stark report is by Stern and the thinktank Carbon Tracker. Their warning is supported by organisations including HSBC, Citi, Standard and Poor’s and the International Energy Agency. The Bank of England has also recognised that a collapse in the value of oil, gas and coal assets as nations tackle global warming is a potential systemic risk to the economy, with London being particularly at risk owing to its huge listings of coal.

Stern said that far from reducing efforts to develop fossil fuels, the top 200 companies spent $674bn (£441bn) in 2012 to find and exploit even more new resources, a sum equivalent to 1% of global GDP, which could end up as “stranded” or valueless assets. Stern’s landmark 2006 reporton the economic impact of climate change – commissioned by the then chancellor, Gordon Brown – concluded that spending 1% of GDP would pay for a transition to a clean and sustainable economy.

The world’s governments have agreed to restrict the global temperature rise to 2C, beyond which the impacts become severe and unpredictable. But Stern said the investors clearly did not believe action to curb climate change was going to be taken. “They can’t believe that and also believe that the markets are sensibly valued now.”

“They only believe environmental regulation when they see it,” said James Leaton, from Carbon Tracker and a former PwC consultant. He said short-termism in financial markets was the other major reason for the carbon bubble. “Analysts say you should ride the train until just before it goes off the cliff. Each thinks they are smart enough to get off in time, but not everyone can get out of the door at the same time. That is why you get bubbles and crashes.”

Paul Spedding, an oil and gas analyst at HSBC, said: “The scale of ‘listed’ unburnable carbon revealed in this report is astonishing. This report makes it clear that ‘business as usual’ is not a viable option for the fossil fuel industry in the long term. [The market] is assuming it will get early warning, but my worry is that things often happen suddenly in the oil and gas sector.”

HSBC warned that 40-60% of the market capitalisation of oil and gas companies was at risk from the carbon bubble, with the top 200 fossil fuel companies alone having a current value of $4tn, along with $1.5tn debt.

Lord McFall, who chaired the Commons Treasury select committee for a decade, said: “Despite its devastating scale, the banking crisis was at its heart an avoidable crisis: the threat of significant carbon writedown has the unmistakable characteristics of the same endemic problems.”

The report calculates that the world’s currently indicated fossil fuel reserves equate to 2,860bn tonnes of carbon dioxide, but that just 31% could be burned for an 80% chance of keeping below a 2C temperature rise. For a 50% chance of 2C or less, just 38% could be burned.

Carbon capture and storage technology, which buries emissions underground, can play a role in the future, but even an optimistic scenario which sees 3,800 commercial projects worldwide would allow only an extra 4% of fossil fuel reserves to be burned. There are currently no commercial projects up and running. The normally conservativeInternational Energy Agency has also concluded that a major part of fossil fuel reserves is unburnable.

Citi bank warned investors in Australia’s vast coal industry that little could be done to avoid the future loss of value in the face of action on climate change. “If the unburnable carbon scenario does occur, it is difficult to see how the value of fossil fuel reserves can be maintained, so we see few options for risk mitigation.”

Ratings agencies have expressed concerns, with Standard and Poor’s concluding that the risk could lead to the downgrading of the credit ratings of oil companies within a few years.

Steven Oman, senior vice-president at Moody’s, said: “It behoves us as investors and as a society to know the true cost of something so that intelligent and constructive policy and investment decisions can be made. Too often the true costs are treated as unquantifiable or even ignored.”

Jens Peers, who manages €4bn (£3bn) for Mirova, part of €300bn asset managers Natixis, said: “It is shocking to see the report’s numbers, as they are worse than people realise. The risk is massive, but a lot of asset managers think they have a lot of time. I think they are wrong.” He said a key moment will come in 2015, the date when the world’s governments have pledged to strike a global deal to limit carbon emissions. But he said that fund managers need to move now. If they wait till 2015, “it will be too late for them to take action.”

Pension funds are also concerned. “Every pension fund manager needs to ask themselves have we incorporated climate change and carbon risk into our investment strategy? If the answer is no, they need to start to now,” said Howard Pearce, head of pension fund management at the Environment Agency, which holds £2bn in assets.

Stern and Leaton both point to China as evidence that carbon cuts are likely to be delivered. China’s leaders have said its coal use will peak in the next five years, said Leaton, but this has not been priced in. “I don’t know why the market does not believe China,” he said. “When it says it is going to do something, it usually does.” He said the US and Australia were banking on selling coal to China but that this “doesn’t add up”.

Jeremy Grantham, a billionaire fund manager who oversees $106bn of assets, said his company was on the verge of pulling out of all coal and unconventional fossil fuels, such as oil from tar sands. “The probability of them running into trouble is too high for me to take that risk as an investor.” He said: “If we mean to burn all the coal and any appreciable percentage of the tar sands, or other unconventional oil and gas then we’re cooked. [There are] terrible consequences that we will lay at the door of our grandchildren.”