Arquivo mensal: julho 2014

The Future Will Be Swarming With Rats (Motherboard)


July 29, 2014 // 02:00 PM CET

That cockroaches will inherit our despoiled earth is just a tired misconception. The real champions will be disease-carrying rats.

Even though cockroaches seem to be of inexhaustible supply, their invertebrate ilk are actually suffering a fairly rapid decline—and the rodents are rising up. In a recent and widely-discussed study in Science, researchers examined a process called defaunation—remember that term, it’s likely to prove as vital as ‘Arctic ice melt’ or ‘habitat loss’ to understanding our planet’s ecological collapse—that describes how the majority of the world’s animals are vanishing at a rapid pace.

Led by Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology at Stanford University, a team of scientists documented the rate that fauna are going extinct in the modern era. Since the year 1500 AD, at least 320 vertebrate species have been extinguished, primarily due to human activity. Those that remain have seen their total populations decline by 25 percent. Even more striking is the decline of insects: In the past 35 years alone, the scientists found that the number of invertebrates have plummeted 45 percent. The researchers cite the drops as further evidence that we are bearing witness to the unfurling of the Anthropocene Extinction event—the planet’s sixth great mass extinction.

So who wins, besides humans, when the bees and the tigers and the bears lose? Rats.

“Where human density is high, you get high rates of defaunation, high incidence of rodents, and thus high levels of pathogens, which increases the risks of disease transmission,” Dirzo said in a statement upon the study’s publication. “Who would have thought that just defaunation would have all these dramatic consequences? But it can be a vicious circle.”

Hilary Young, one of the study’s authors, has conducted previous research examining how rodents thrived after a large species went extinct.


“What we found was that these areas quickly experienced massive increases of rodents,” Young told The Current. “All the grass and shrubs normally eaten by this megafauna was, instead, available for rodents—both as food and as shelter. Consequently, the number of rodents doubled—and so did the abundance of the disease-carrying ectoparasites that they harbored.”

Twice the rats. And twice the ectoparasites. A 2013 study in the International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences examined how parasite-carrying rats are instrumental in transporting disease: “Rodents together with arthropod ectoparasites can play an important role in the distribution of the arboviruses, streptococcal infections, choriomeningitis, plague, tularemia, leptospirosis, spirochaetosis etc.,” the authors wrote.

“Ectoparasites include insects and acarnies (fleas and mites),” the 2013 study continued, “some of them are permanent like lice, while most of the mature ticks and fleas are temporary parasites. Rats are known to harbor four groups of arthropod ectoparasites: fleas, ticks, mites and lice… Some of the ectoparasites can biologically or mechanically transfer infectious agents to the human or animals and results in the spread of infection.”

In other words, rats carry a lot of parasites, which carry a lot of diseases. Here, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is a quick list of the diseases rats are currently responsible for spreading in the United States:

  • Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome
  • Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome
  • Lassa Fever
  • Leptospirosis
  • Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis (LCM)
  • Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever
  • Plague
  • Rat-Bite Fever
  • Salmonellosis
  • South American Arenaviruses (Argentine hemorrhagic fever, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, Sabiá-associated hemorrhagic fever, Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever)
  • Tularemia

It’s an ugly list. And in light of their impending dominance, it’s worth remembering that rats played a key role in helping spread the bubonic plague during the Black Death. Crammed, unhygienic living conditions helped it become such a devastating killer, but it was an ectoparasite—a flea—that brought the plague.

“The bubonic plague, a disease still present in some areas of the world, is now known to have spread via fleas living on rats,” Mark Ormrod, a professor of history at the University of York, wrote for the BBC.

Our hygiene and health-care are much improved from Medieval times, but we are headed towards a future marked by shared, maybe cramped, living spaces: More than half the world’s population currently lives in cities, billions are slated to join them, and so, the megacities are growing. More urban living, paired with more rats, could beget similar, if not as deadly, health woes.

And Dirzo and his crew aren’t the only ones who worry about the rise of the rats. In fact, just earlier this year, another group of scientists determined that rodents would be the species most likely to outlast all others.

Dr. Jan Zalasiewicz, a geologist at the University of Leicester, believes that rats are the animal best suited to repopulate the world in the event of a mass extinction.

“[Rats] are now on many, if not most, islands around the world,” he explained, “and once there, have proved extraordinarily hard to eradicate. They’re often there for good, essentially. Once there, they have out-competed many native species and at times have driven them to extinction. As a result, ecospace is being emptied—and rats are in a good position to re-fill a significant chunk of it, in the mid to far geological future.”

For many of us, that future is exceedingly easy to imagine. By some counts, in New York, there are twice as many rats as human residents. They are a scourge in other cities, too, of course.

As humans continue to knock out the larger fauna, and the number of rats “double” to fill the void, we can, theoretically, look forward to seeing more of all of the above. And even if you’re not concerned with the health implications, there’s the simple fact that we’re hacking away at our immense, spectacular biodiversity, and trading it in for a deeply unpleasant, rat-centric monotony.

Beyond defaunation, there’s evidence that climate change is improving conditions for rats in general in many regions, too. It’s also probably worth adding at this point that warmer temperatures are causing some rat species to grow larger, too, thus adding another potential population booster. Zalasiewicz, for his part, imagines that once its competition is scarce, rats could become larger than sheep.

So that, then, is a foreboding slice of the Anthropocene: Giant, parasite-and-disease-carrying rats, multiplying in droves while everything else goes extinct.



Ice age lion figurine: Ancient fragment of ivory belonging to 40,000 year old animal figurine unearthed (Science Daily)

Date: July 30, 2014

Source: Universitaet Tübingen

Summary: Archaeologists have found an ancient fragment of ivory belonging to a 40,000 year old animal figurine. Both pieces were found in the Vogelherd Cave in southwestern Germany, which has yielded a number of remarkable works of art dating to the Ice Age. The mammoth ivory figurine depicting a lion was discovered during excavations in 1931. The new fragment makes up one side of the figurine’s head.

The fragment on the left makes up half the head of the animal figure on the right, showing that the “lion” was fully three-dimensional, and not a relief as long thought. Credit: Hilde Jensen, Universität Tübingen

Archaeologists from the University of Tübingen have found an ancient fragment of ivory belonging to a 40,000 year old animal figurine. Both pieces were found in the Vogelherd Cave in southwestern Germany, which has yielded a number of remarkable works of art dating to the Ice Age. The mammoth ivory figurine depicting a lion was discovered during excavations in 1931. The new fragment makes up one side of the figurine’s head, and the sculpture may be viewed at the Tübingen University Museum from 30 July.

“The figurine depicts a lion,” says Professor Nicholas Conard of Tübingen University’s Institute of Prehistory and Medieval Archaeology, and the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment Tübingen. “It is one of the most famous Ice Age works of art, and until now, we thought it was a relief, unique among these finds dating to the dawn of figurative art. The reconstructed figurine clearly is a three dimensional sculpture.”

The new fragment was discovered when today’s archaeologists revisited the work of their predecessors from the 1930s. “We have been carrying out renewed excavations and analysis at Vogelherd Cave for nearly ten years,” says Conard. “The site has yielded a wealth of objects that illuminate the development of early symbolic artifacts dating to the period when modern humans arrived in Europe and displaced the indigenous Neanderthals.” He points out that the Vogelherd Cave has provided evidence of the world’s earliest art and music and is a key element in the push to make the caves of the Swabian Jura a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Vogelherd is one of four caves in the region where the world’s earliest figurines have been found, dating back to 40,000 years ago. Several dozen figurines and fragments of figurines have been found in the Vogelherd alone, and researchers are piecing together thousands of mammoth ivory fragments.

Money talks when it comes to acceptability of ‘sin’ companies, study reveals (Science Daily)

Date: July 30, 2014

Source: University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

Summary: Companies who make their money in the ‘sin’ industries such as the tobacco, alcohol and gaming industries typically receive less attention from institutional investors and financial analysts. But new research shows social norms and attitudes towards these types of businesses are subject to compromise when their share price looks to be on the rise.

Companies who make their money in the “sin” industries such as the tobacco, alcohol and gaming industries typically receive less attention from institutional investors and financial analysts.

But new research shows social norms and attitudes towards these types of businesses are subject to compromise when their share price looks to be on the rise. A paper from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management found that institutional shareholdings and analysts’ coverage of sin firms were low when firm performance was low but went up with rising performance expectations.

That suggests that market participants may ignore social norms and standards with the right financial reward.

“This is a way to test the trade-off between people’s non-financial and financial incentives. The boundary of people’s social norms is not a constant,” said researcher Hai Lu, an associate professor of accounting at the Rotman School. Prof. Lu co-wrote the paper with two former Rotman PhD students, McMaster University’s Kevin Veenstra and Yanju Liu, now with Singapore Management University.

The paper sheds light on why there can be a disconnect between the investment behaviour of Wall St. and the ethical expectations of ordinary people. It also suggests a worrisome implication that compromising one’s ethical values in the face of high financial rewards can become a social norm in itself.

On the brighter side, the paper also finds that strong social norms still have an influence over people’s behaviour. If social norms are strong enough and the price of ignoring them is high, this may act as a disincentive to disregard them in favour of other benefits.

This is the first study to examine whether the social acceptability of sin stocks can vary with financial performance. The researchers compared consumption and attitudinal data with information on sin firm stocks, analysts’ coverage and levels of institutional investment.

Journal Reference:

  1. Liu, Yanju and Lu, Hai and Veenstra, Kevin J. Is Sin Always a Sin? The Interaction Effect of Social Norms and Financial Incentives on Market Participants’ Behavior. Accounting, Organizations and Society, March 31, 2014 [link]

Contrary to image, city politicians do adapt to voters (Science Daily)

Date: July 29, 2014

Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Summary: Political scientists have long wondered whether city governments in the U.S. are really responsive to their voters. Aren’t local governments simply mired in machine politics, or under the sway of local big-money interests? Does ideology matter? Now a uniquely comprehensive study has produced a pair of distinctive findings: first, that the policies of city governments do closely match the politics of their citizens, and second, that this occurs regardless of the exact form of government than a city has.

Political scientists have long wondered whether city governments in the U.S. are really responsive to their voters. Aren’t local governments simply mired in machine politics, or under the sway of local big-money interests? Does ideology matter?

Now a uniquely comprehensive study co-authored by an MIT political scientist has produced a pair of distinctive findings: first, that the policies of city governments do closely match the politics of their citizens, and second, that this occurs regardless of the exact form of government than a city has.

That means that urban governance is more flexible, adaptable, and representative than the popular image might suggest. It also indicates that the link between public opinion and policy outcomes in municipal government is independent of whether it is led by a mayor, a town council, or selectmen, or uses direct referendums as opposed to indirect representatives.

“Politics doesn’t look quite as different at the local level as people thought it did,” says Chris Warshaw, an assistant professor of political science at MIT, and an author of a new paper detailing the findings of the study.

The research is singularly broad, examining the policies of every U.S. city and town with a population of 20,000 or more. It breaks new ground by extensively examining, on the municipal front, what researchers have found to be true of federal and state governments: that the views of the people usually matter significantly in shaping political action.

Or, as the researchers say in their new paper on the subject, there is a “robust role for citizen policy preferences in determining municipal policy outcomes.”

All politics is not just local, but ideological

The paper, “Representation in Municipal Government,” appears in the latest issue of the American Political Science Review. It was written by Warshaw and Chris Tausanovitch, an assistant professor of political science at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The study links data from seven large-scale surveys, taken from 2000 through 2011, each of which asked 30,000 to 80,000 American voters their views on a wide range of policy questions. To further enhance the measurement of policy preferences among voters, the researchers also incorporated models that estimate preferences based on demographic and geographic information, and looked at other data, such as on presidential vote results in cities and towns.

The study examined 1,600 American municipalities. San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington ranked as the most liberal cities with 250,000 or more people, while Mesa, Ariz., Oklahoma City, and Virginia Beach, Va., were rated as the most conservative.

To see if voter preferences matched the policies that municipal governments enacted, Warshaw and Tausanovitch used a wide variety of data sources to rate the policy choices enacted by local governments, often involving spending and taxes. “The substantively consequential policies are the ones we look at,” Warshaw says.

The researchers also controlled for cities’ fiscal health, since well-off municipalities can afford to spend more on public projects and regulations than poorer towns and cities.

Even accounting for such factors, Warshaw and Tausanovitch found that liberal cities tend to both tax and spend more, while having “less regressive tax systems,” with a lower share of revenues from sales taxes. This strong correlation, they found, persists whatever the form of local government.

So while people like to say that “all politics is local,” Warshaw thinks we should amend that view. The notion that “idiosyncratic local political battles, about zoning, land, growth, and fixing potholes, is the core of city politics,” as he puts it, is not quite wrong; it’s just that the battles over such things also occur within the same ideological spectrum that applies to state and federal politics.

Room for more research

Warshaw notes that more research could be conducted on the causal mechanisms that make cities broadly responsive to public opinion. “My hope is this will inspire other people to go out and fill in those mechanisms,” he says.

Methodologically, he suggests, the variation in the structures of city governments, among other things, might allow scholars to further compare and contrast otherwise similar groups of municipalities.

“Given that we know the powers of cities vary a lot in different states, an obvious piece of variation to explore is that in states that give more discretion to cities, you [might] get different outcomes,” Warshaw says. “By utilizing that variation across the country, you can start to get into those questions.”

Pressões territoriais forçam índios isolados a estabelecer contato (Fapesp)

Integrantes de grupo indígena travam primeiro contato com funcionários da Funai e índios Ashaninka na Aldeia Simpatia, no Acre (foto: divulgação/Funai)


Por Elton Alisson, de Rio Branco (AC)

Agência FAPESP – Um grupo indígena de etnia ainda não identificada estabeleceu em junho o primeiro contato com funcionários da Fundação Nacional do Índio (Funai) e com índios Ashaninka, na Aldeia Simpatia, da Terra Indígena Kampa e Isolados do Alto Envira, na fronteira do Acre com o Peru. O grupo, que recebeu destaque da revista Science, pode ser apenas um de vários outros da região que devem sair da “condição de anonimato” nos próximos anos.

Isso porque o avanço da exploração de madeira e petróleo, além do narcotráfico e da construção de estradas próximas ou nas terras indígenas – principalmente no lado peruano –, podem estar forçando-os a sair do isolamento na floresta e a se aproximar das aldeias de índios já contatados.

A avaliação foi feita por pesquisadores participantes de uma mesa-redonda sobre índios isolados no Acre realizada durante a 66ª Reunião Anual da Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência (SBPC), que terminou no domingo (27/07), no campus da Universidade Federal do Acre (UFAC), em Rio Branco.

“Há um conjunto de 10 áreas indígenas nessa região de fronteira do Acre com o Peru, conhecida como Paralelo 10, que são corredores de índios isolados”, disse Terri Vale de Aquino, antropólogo da Coordenação Geral de Índios Isolados e de Recente Contato da Funai e professor da UFAC.

“Existem muitas denúncias de casos de contatos forçados, escravidão e, sobretudo, de violência contra os povos indígenas nessa região. Isso tem provocado a migração para o Acre”, afirmou Aquino.

De acordo com o pesquisador, a construção de uma rodovia de 40 quilômetros de extensão entre os rios Muru e Tarauacá atingirá uma área utilizada por índios Kaxinawá destinada exclusivamente a índios isolados que vivem na fronteira do Acre com Peru, apontou.

“As lideranças dos índios Kaxinawá estão fazendo uma denúncia ao Ministério Público Federal porque essa estrada está sendo construída sem licença e estudos e relatórios de impacto ambiental”, afirmou.

Além disso, a distribuição de lotes para a exploração de petróleo e gás na região está “ilhando” terras indígenas no Alto Juruá e impactando diretamente os povos indígenas e grupos de índios isolados na região, sobretudo do lado peruano da fronteira, apontou.

Para agravar esses problemas, narcotraficantes têm buscado novas rotas de tráfico de drogas na Amazônia por meio do Alto Envira, um rio binacional que nasce em terras peruanas e passa pelo Acre, contou Aquino.

“O narcotráfico está muito intenso no Alto Envira e por dois anos desarticulou as bases de índios isolados do Rio Xinane [afluente do Envira] pela violência que imprimiu na região”, afirmou. “Esse conjunto de fatores pressiona muito os povos indígenas isolados que habitam essa região fronteiriça.”

Segundo os pesquisadores, o grupo de índios isolados que estabeleceu o primeiro contato no dia 29 de junho no Acre também relatou, por meio de intérpretes, ter sofrido atos de violência cometidos por não indígenas nas cabeceiras do rio Envira, em território peruano.

“Esses índios isolados podem estar fugindo dos madeireiros e do narcotráfico, além da exploração de petróleo e gás e da construção de estradas em suas terras”, estimou Aquino.

Presença recente

De acordo com Aquino, a presença de povos indígenas isolados no Acre é um fenômeno relativamente recente e tem se intensificado. Nos últimos 30 anos, a Funai avistou e passou a monitorar quatro grupos de índios isolados no Alto Envira, mas estima que possam existir muitos outros na região.

“O grupo de indígenas que estabeleceu contato em junho contou que há outros grupos de índios isolados na região – alguns aliados e outros inimigos deles – que nem sabíamos que existiam”, disse Aquino.

Um dos mais recentes grupos de índios isolados no estado foi avistado por funcionários da Funai em 2008 na cabeceira do rio Xinane e chegou à região fugindo do avanço dos madeireiros e do narcotráfico sobre suas terras, disse Aquino.

Já um outro grupo de índios isolados avistado na cabeceira do rio Humaitá, na margem esquerda do Envira, sobreviveu ao massacre de populações indígenas durante o primeiro ciclo da borracha da Amazônia, entre 1880 e 1920, no chamado “tempo dos seringais”, e resistiu por mais de 100 anos ao primeiro contato.

“Estima-se que eles formem um grupo de aproximadamente 300 índios, sendo o maior entre os quatro povos indígenas isolados já avistados pela Funai nessa região do Acre”, disse Aquino. “Eles já são bastante conhecidos aqui no Acre inclusive por outros povos isolados, que acham que eles são feiticeiros e xamãs.”

Além desses, há o grupo Mashco-Piro, conhecido pelo comportamento nômade. A comunidade costuma caminhar pelas cabeceiras do rio Madre de Díos, no lado peruano, e afluentes – em grupos grandes, formados por entre 100 e 150 índios.

Em geral, segundo Aquino, eles entram no território acreano no verão. Permanecem por períodos de três a quatro dias em um mesmo lugar e logo em seguida já migram para outro.

“Nunca localizamos nenhuma maloca ou roçado desse grupo de índios isolados no Acre. Eles são conhecidos como povo de floresta e se estabelecem aqui em acampamentos provisórios, compartilhando a terra do povo Pano”, contou.

Aumento de evidências

De acordo com Aquino, a presença desses quatro grupos de índios isolados já identificados no Acre foi constatada por meio de avistamentos e confrontos, além de coletas de vestígios de sua presença na região, tais como saques, rastros ou de utensílios, como cestas e flechas, que deixaram pelo caminho.

Um mapeamento realizado pelo pesquisador para verificar a presença de índios isolados no Acre nas últimas três décadas apontou que o maior número de evidências foi coletado entre os anos de 2006 e 2013.

Do total de 231 evidências coletadas da presença desses índios isolados na região, 156 foram registradas nesses últimos oito anos. E desses 156 indícios, 70 foram saques de ferramentas de metal, contou Aquino.

“Isso denota que esses grupos de índios isolados estão buscando, principalmente, ferramentas de metal, e substituindo o machado de pedra pelo de aço. Eles também conhecem armas e já usam até espingardas”, contou.

Uma hipótese levantada pelos pesquisadores para explicar o aumento do número de saques na região é a busca por tecnologia por parte dos grupos de índios isolados.

“Percebemos que também há muitas iniciativas de aproximação desses grupos de índios isolados pela curiosidade de conhecer e coletar produtos industrializados”, disse Carlos Lisboa Travassos, coordenador-geral de Índios Isolados e Recém-Contatados da Funai.

“Algumas dessas situações de contato podem trazer um risco muito grande à saúde desses índios isolados, uma vez que eles não possuem imunidade à gripe e a outras doenças que podem levá-los a morrer de uma forma muito rápida e devastadora”, destacou.

O grupo de sete índios – quatro rapazes, duas mulheres jovens e uma criança – que estabeleceu o primeiro contato no fim de junho contraiu gripe e teve de ser transferido para a Base de Proteção Etnoambiental Xinane, da Funai, para receber atendimento médico.

Após a conclusão do tratamento, os indígenas retornaram para suas malocas, onde estão os demais integrantes do grupo. “Precisamos nos preparar para amenizar os primeiros riscos à saúde desses grupos no primeiro contato e estabelecer uma relação franca com eles”, afirmou Travassos.

Segundo Travassos, a política de proteção aos índios isolados da Funai é a do não contato, respeitando a autodeterminação de aproximação dos povos. São previstas, contudo, ações de intervenção, como planos de contingência, quando um grupo indígena isolado procura estabelecer contato, como ocorreu no final de junho.

Registro do contato

No início da palestra os pesquisadores da Funai exibiram um vídeo de alguns minutos com imagens do primeiro contato com o novo grupo de índios isolados para uma plateia composta por muitos indígenas do Brasil e Peru.

De acordo com informações dos intérpretes que integraram a equipe da Funai que estabeleceu o primeiro contato, os índios pertencem a um subgrupo do tronco linguístico Pano, e o contato e a permanência deles na região ocorreram de forma pacífica, apesar de os índios Ashaninka terem se assustado com o aparecimento dos “forasteiros”. “Eles falaram que a língua deles é muito próxima à dos Jaminawá, se não for a mesma”, contou Aquino.

Segundo os antropólogos da Funai, alguns dos traços que os diferenciam de outros grupos isolados é o uso de folhas de envira (árvore da floresta tropical) amarrada no pênis e na cintura, na qual levam um facão.

O arco e a flecha que utilizam são feitos de madeira de pupunha e a ponta da flecha é feita de taboca (um tipo de bambu) e é bastante perfurante.

Ciência a serviço da exploração da natureza e dos trabalhadores (Portal do Meio Ambiente)


Mesa: A destruição tem preço? Pode-se confiar nas garantias da Ciência? Exploração petroleira (de Yasuni a Coari / Juruá); Mineração (de Carajás a Madre de Dios). Lindomar Padilha (CIMI); Barbara Silva (militante da comunicação comunitária na Pan Amazônia), Raimundo G. Neto (CEPASP/Movimento dos Atingidos por Mineração); Simeon Velarde (Vanguardia Amazónica-Peru), Ana Patrícia (COMIN)

Na manhã do dia 24 de julho, ocorreu a mesa com o tema “A destruição tem preço? Pode-se confiar nas garantias da Ciência? Exploração petroleira (de Yasuni a Coari / Juruá); Mineração (de Carajás a Madre de Dios).”

Barbara Silva, militante da comunicação comunitária na Pan-Amazônia, destacou a ação da Petrobrás na Amazônia Equatoriana e seus impactos na floresta e em comunidades equatorianas: “A Petrobrás age em outros países de um modo diferente. Ela faz no Equador, Bolívia e Colômbia o que ela não faz no Brasil: invade terras indígenas, frauda laudos técnicos, contamina água e solos, afetando a saúde e a economia de populações inteiras” .

Barbara Silva (militante da comunicação comunitária na Pan-Amazônia)

Silva ainda nos convoca a pensar a relação homem e natureza a partir de um termo que vai além da ideia de cuidar da natureza: “A austeridade imprime uma ação sobre o cuidado que é necessário a natureza. Pensar sobre o que queremos para a região amazônica é pensar no modo que vivemos. Consumir menos é uma ação individual que reflete nossa ação de cuidado com a natureza”, finalizou.

“Precisamos avançar é na ‘perda de inocência’, o Estado Brasileiro não é a favor do povo trabalhadores brasileiro, nem ontem, nem hoje.”, aponta Raimundo Neto (CEPASP/Movimento dos Atingidos por Mineração), após realizar um panorama das políticas e projetos de mineração no Pará.

Lindomar Padilha (CIMI); Simeon Velarde (Vanguardia Amazónica-Peru), Ana Patrícia (COMIN)

Simeon Velarde, da Vanguardia Amazónica-Peru, diz que a empresa petroleira Pluspetrol contamina os rios da amazônia peruana, mas diz que é de forma responsável. “O Peru é rico em matéria primas, em petróleo, gás, minério e essa realidade produz um crescimento econômico interessante para o país, mas esse crescimento não se redistribui socialmente. Eles dizem que vão fazer escolas, programas de inclusão de jovens, mas isso não acontece. O presidente vai aos meios de comunicações para defender essas empresas, pois com elas o país terá mais desenvolvimento, e segue mentindo à população”.

Fotos: Talita Oliveira

Fonte: ADUFAC.

Sudeste, rumo à desertificação (Envolverde)

29/7/2014 – 12h08

por Julio Ottoboni*

secawiki 300x204 Sudeste, rumo à desertificação

O sudeste do Brasil, parte da região central e do sul caminham para se tornar desérticas. A seca registrada este ano na porção centro-sul, principalmente em São Paulo, está ligada a permanente e acelerada degradação da floresta amazônica. O transporte de umidade para as partes mais ao sul do continente está sendo comprometida, pois além de sua diminuição é trazido partículas geradas nos processos de queimadas que impedem a formação de chuvas.

Os cientistas do (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe) e do Instituto de Pesquisas da Amazônia (Inpa) há mais de uma década fizeram esse alerta, que a cada ano está pior e mais grave. E coloca em confronto o modelo econômico agropecuário, baseado em commodities, com a área mais industrializada, produtiva e rica do país. E também a mais urbanizada e detentora de 45% da população brasileira e abrigada em apenas 10,5% do território nacional.

O cientista e doutor em meteorologia do Inpe, Gilvam Sampaio de Oliveira, a situação é preocupante e bem mais grave do imaginado em relação a eventos extremos. A comunidade científica está surpresa com a dinâmica das alterações do clima. O número de desastres naturais vem crescendo. Entre 1940 e 2009 houve uma curva ascendente de inundações e o número de dias frios, principalmente em São Paulo, está em franca decadência.

“As questões que já estamos passando, como essa seca, eram projetadas para daqui há 15 ou 20 anos. A área de altas temperaturas está aumentando em toda América do Sul. Em São Paulo e São José dos Campos, por exemplo, há um aumento de chuvas com mais de 100 milímetros concentradas e períodos maiores sem precipitação alguma. E quanto mais seca a região, aumenta o efeito estufa e diminui a possibilidade de chuvas”, alertou o cientista.

O sistema principal formador do ciclo natural que abastece a pluviometria do sudeste começa com a massa de ar quente repleta de umidade, formada na bacia do Amazonas, seguindo até os Andes. Com a barreira natural, ela retorna para a porção sul continental, o que decreta o regime de chuvas.

A revista científica Nature publicou em 2012 um estudo inglês da Universidade de Leeds. O artigo apresentou o resultado de um estudo no qual os mais de 600 mil quilômetros quadrados de floresta amazônica perdidos desde a década de 1970, e com o avanço do desmatamento seguido de queimadas cerca de 40% de todo complexo natural, estará extinto até 2050. Isso comprometerá o regime de chuvas, que seriam reduzidas em mais de 20% nos períodos de seca.

Faixa dos desertos

O sudeste brasileiro está na faixa dos desertos existente no hemisfério sul do planeta. Ela atravessa enormes áreas continentais, como os desertos australianos de Great Sendy, Gibson e Great Victoria, na plataforma africana surgem as áreas desertificadas da Namíbia e do Kalahari e na América do Sul, o do Atacama. Sem qualquer coincidência, ambos desertos africanos, inclusive em expansão, estão alinhados frontalmente, dentro das margens latitudinais, com as regiões dos Estados do Sudeste e do Sul do país.

Essa porção territorial só se viu livre da desertificação com o êxito da Amazônia e a formação da Mata Atlântica. Ambas foram determinantes para se criar um regime de chuvas que mantiveram essas partes do Brasil e da América do Sul com solos férteis e índices pluviométricos mais que satisfatórios à manutenção da vida.

O geólogo do Inpe  e assessor da Agência Espacial Brasileira (AEB), Paulo Roberto Martini,  tem sua teoria para esse fenômeno. Na qual a desertificação destas regiões ocorrerá se o transporte de ar úmido for bloqueado ou escasseado, por ação natural ou antrópica. Exatamente o que vem acontecendo. As investigações geomorfológicas já mostraram que entre os anos 1000 e 1300 houveram secas generalizadas e populações inteiras desaparecerem nas Américas. E isto pode ocorrer novamente, agora potencializado pela devastação causada pelo homem.

“Esse solo da região Sul e Sudeste tem potencial enorme para se tornar deserto, basta não chover regularmente. A distribuição da umidade evitou que essa região da América do Sul fosse transformada num imenso deserto”, explicou Martini.

Segundo o pesquisador, no fim do período glacial, por volta de 12 mil anos, a cobertura do Brasil teria sido predominantemente de savana, como na África, pobre em diversidade e formada por gramíneas e poucas espécies arbóreas. O que ainda é encontrado no interior de São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo e no Mato Grosso. Entretanto, a umidade oceânica associada à amazônica possibilitou a constituição da Mata Atlântica e seu ingresso continente adentro.

A penetração da flora em áreas de campo realimentou o ciclo das chuvas, nível de umidade das áreas ocupadas e a fertilização do solo. Em milhares de anos formou-se um vasto complexo florestal, atualmente reduzido a menos de 5% de seu tamanho original na época do descobrimento.

“Há uma cultura de degradação e falar em restauração das matas no Brasil é ficção. Só se produz água quando se faz floresta, a sociedade tem que reagir a isso”, observou o dirigente da entidade SOS Mata Atlântica, Mário Mantovani.

As pesquisas mostram que o povoamento vegetal no que é hoje o território brasileiro teria começado pela costa do Oceano Atlântico, seguindo para o interior ao longo das várzeas dos rios, onde se encontram os solos mais ricos em nutrientes. Foram milhares de anos neste ritmo, o que induziu diversos especialistas a defenderem a tese de que a Mata Atlântica esteve intimamente ligada a Floresta Amazônica, pois ambas detém diversas semelhanças em seus ciclos sazonais e em espécimes de fauna e flora.

Mas com a derrubada desta proteção vegetal e o encurtamento do ciclo de chuvas oriundas do mega sistema amazônico, as mudanças climáticas ganharam impulso e têm causado alterações no desenvolvimento de diferentes culturas agrícolas, entre elas milho, trigo e café com impactos imensos na produção brasileira e norte-americana. A avaliação partiu dos integrantes do Workshop on Impacts of Global Climate Change on Agriculture and Livestock , realizado em maio na Universidade de São Paulo (USP), em Ribeirão Preto (SP).

* Júlio Ottoboni é jornalista diplomado e pós-graduado em jornalismo científico.

10 reasons to be hopeful that we will overcome climate change (The Guardian)

From action in China and the US to falling solar costs and rising electric car sales, there is cause to be hopeful, Wednesday 30 July 2014 05.00 BST

Indian workers walk past solar panels at the 200 megawatts Gujarat Solar Park at Charanka in Patan district, India, Saturday, April 14, 2012.

Indian workers walk past solar panels at the 200 megawatts Gujarat Solar Park at Charanka in Patan district, India, Saturday, April 14, 2012. Photograph: Ajit Solanki/AP

For the last few months, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have been at record levels unseen in over 800,000 years. The chairman of the IPCC, an international panel of the world’s top climate scientists, warned earlier this year that“nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change”.

Future generations will no doubt wonder at our response, given the scale of the threat.It’s known that death, poverty and suffering await millions, and yet governments still vacillate.

But solutions are available. Here are ten reasons to be hopeful that humans will rise to the challenge of climate change.

1) Barack Obama has made it one of his defining issues

Any politician who runs as the personification of hope is bound to be a bit of a let down. And so it seemed for five long, hot years. Barack Obama inaugurated his first US presidential term by promising to “roll back the spectre of a warming planet”. Yet he seemed unable (or willing) to even roll back the ghosts haunting his Congress. Now, as he staggers into his legacy-building stage, Obama has confronted and even circumvented Congress. His emissions caps on coal power stations, announced last month were the culmination of a massive public relations push and scientific blitzkriegwith Obama as its champion, potentially making the next presidential election a referendum on climate change action.

Obama speaks at the 2014 State of the Union. Sitting behind him on the right is Republican congressional leader John Boehner, who said in May “that every proposal that has come out of this administration to deal with climate change involves hurting our economy and killing American jobs”

2) China has ordered coal power plants to close

Just a day after the launch of Obama’s big crackdown on coal, He Jiankun, a top Chinese government climate advisor told Reuters, “The government will use two ways to control CO2 emissions in the next five-year plan, by intensity and an absolute cap”. This was the first time the promise of limiting absolute emissions had emerged from a source close to the Chinese leadership (even if He was later forced to disown the comments).

The response of world’s largest emitter of carbon has the potential to be swift and decisive, given its centrally controlled economy. Responding to smog-tired residents in China’s cities, the government has ordered a mass shutdown of coal plants within a few years. Coal control measures now exist in 12 of the country’s 34 provinces.Greenpeacehave estimated that if these measures are implemented, it could bring China’s emissions close to the level the International Energy Agency says are needed to avoid more than 2C warming.

China's project coal consumption with coal control measures

China’s project coal consumption with coal control measures Photograph: /Greenpeace

3) The cost of solar has fallen by two thirds

According to the authoritative IEA thinktank, the price of installing photovoltaic (solar electricity) systems dropped by two thirds over the past six years. The resulting solar explosion has generated a “prosumer” market, in which the owners of homes and businesses are taking ownership of a growing proportion of the energy supply. During June in Australia’s “sunshine state” of Queensland the price of electricity fell below zero for several days, largely thanks to the input from privately-owned solar panels. The UK, Germany and other European nations smashed their record solar outputs over this year’s summer solstice.

4) People are taking their money out of fossil fuels

Dozens of cities, institutions and investors are taking their money out of fossil fuel companies after the launch of a divestment campaign in the US around 18 months ago. Similar campaigns were used in the past to hamstring apartheid South Africa and tobacco companies, but this one is happening faster than any of those. Supporters of the movement include former US vice president Al Gore, who says fossil fuel companies are overvalued because they cannot burn the assets they own if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change. “Investors have so far been slow to appreciate the implications for the carbon-intensive assets within their portfolios.”

CO2 emissions potential of listed fossil fuel reserves

CO2 emissions potential of listed fossil fuel reserves Photograph: Carbon Tracker

5) Bangladeshi women are being retrained as solar technicians

The UN says global warming will impact more women than men because they make up the majority of the world’s poor. Close to two billion people rely on wood, charcoal and agricultural waste for cooking and heating. The primary gatherers of this toxic, labour- and carbon-intensive energy source are women. Thus, the education and social emancipation of women could be one of the greatest catalysts for grassroots climate action. Bangladeshi women who previously lived without electricity have beenretraining as solar technicians to bring power to the country’s 95 million people who live without electric light. The country now has the fastest growing solar sector in the world with 2 million households fitted with solar power units.

6) Renewable energy will soon take the lion’s share of new power

Falling technology prices, innovation and some decent government initiatives have seen renewables taking an increasing share of global electricity generation. After stalling through the early part of last decade, the increase is now inexorable. The sector, flushed with confidence, has begun to attract the kind of sustained investment growth of which most industries can only dream. In 2013 investors contributed US$268.2 billion to renewable projects – 5 times more than in 2004. The average growth of US$24 billion per year is in the same ball park as the riotous expansion of venture capital during the late 90s dot com bubble, except it has already lasted five time longer. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that by 2030 spending on renewable energy sources could make up two thirds of a global energy spend of US$7.7 trillion.

See: New power generation

7) European homes are using 15% less energy than they were in 2000

In every part of the world (barring the Middle East) governments are taking advantage of the cheapest way to bring down their emissions – by saving energy. Energy efficient housing and appliances have seen global household emissions drop almost 1% per year, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but a 1% drop over a year is equivalent to every resident of New York going completely off grid. In the EU, households reduced their consumption by 15.5% between 2000 and 2011. In the developing world, where urban populations are booming and millions of new homes will need to be built, the IPCC has said there is a “window of opportunity” to create sustainable housing for the future. Since 2009, the United Nations’ Sushi programme has been training local builders and planners in Thailand, Brazil, India and Bangladesh to use low cost energy efficient building practices for social housing projects.

Lilac co-housing project in Bramley, Leeds

The Low Impact Living Affordable Community in Bramley, Leeds. Photograph: Andy Lord

8) Cutting emissions has become a business imperative

A recent WWF/Ceres report found that the 53 US Fortune 100 companies who report their emissions had cut their carbon footprint by 58 million megatonnes in 2012 – roughly equivalent to the total emissions of Peru. This was achieved mainly through energy efficiency measures, although switching to green energy sources was also a factor. These measures are turning out to be not just cost effective but actually a business imperative. Each megatonne reduction saved an average of US$19 – a total of US$1.1 billion across just 53 companies. In the UK, tyre manufacturer Michelin has dropped its £20 million energy bill by 20% in five years by employing energy managers. “[Climate] adaptation is just good business,” say analysts from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

9) Oil is becoming much more expensive to find

Oil and gas companies are finding it increasingly expensive to find and extract their buried gravy. The Wall Street Journal reported in January the total capital expenditure of fossil giants Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell grew to £70 billion in 2013, yet all three have experienced huge declines in production relative to cost as their budgets are stretched by the need to open new wells in challenging environments. Off the coast of Brazil, huge oil fields lie more than 5km beneath the deep ocean floor. Despite the world’s largest corporate spending programme (£138 bn), national driller Petrobras is being driven towards the wall by the crippling expense of drilling so deep.

One area where the shift from Promised Land to land of compromise has been exemplified is the Arctic. Oil companies see the region’s melting sea ice as a fine opportunity to recover vast untapped reserves. But the costs of exploring the region have proved too great for Shell, who after spending £5bn, have shelved their exploration in the region. Many other companies, although notably not Russian behemoth Gazprom, have ruled out Arctic exploration in the foreseeable future. “I don’t think we’ll see any oil production in the Arctic any time soon. Probably not this decade and not the next,” Lundin Petroleum chairman Ian Lundin said in February. “The commercial challenges are too big.”

Drilling for oil in the Arctic has proved costly for Shell

Drilling for oil in the Arctic has proved costly for Shell Photograph: Design Pics Inc/REX

10) Electric car sales are doubling each year

Since 2011 electric car sales have doubled every year. Consumer acceptance of the technology is on an exponential growth curve that researchers say will see more than one million such vehicles driven across the world by the end of 2015. Five years ago, the technology was a quirky, futuristic gimmick lacking any serious impact on the global car market. Questions were raised about its price competitiveness. But in Norway, one in every hundred cars is now electric. Beyond the oft-enlightened Norse, the technology has a growing foothold in the US (which is by far the largest single market with 174,000 cars), Japan (68,000) and China (45,000).

German chancellor Angela Merkel next to the new BMW i3 electric car

German chancellor Angela Merkel next to the new BMW i3 electric car Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters/REUTERS

Learning the smell of fear: Mothers teach babies their own fears via odor, animal study shows (Science Daily)

Date: July 28, 2014

Source: University of Michigan Health System

Summary: Babies can learn what to fear in the first days of life just by smelling the odor of their distressed mothers’, new research suggests. And not just “natural” fears: If a mother experienced something before pregnancy that made her fear something specific, her baby will quickly learn to fear it too — through her odor when she feels fear.

Even when just the odor of the frightened mother was piped in to a chamber where baby rats were exposed to peppermint smell, the babies developed a fear of the same smell, and their blood cortisol levels rose when they smelled it. Credit: Image courtesy of University of Michigan Health System

Babies can learn what to fear in the first days of life just by smelling the odor of their distressed mothers, new research suggests. And not just “natural” fears: If a mother experienced something before pregnancy that made her fear something specific, her baby will quickly learn to fear it too — through the odor she gives off when she feels fear.

In the first direct observation of this kind of fear transmission, a team of University of Michigan Medical School and New York University studied mother rats who had learned to fear the smell of peppermint — and showed how they “taught” this fear to their babies in their first days of life through their alarm odor released during distress.

In a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team reports how they pinpointed the specific area of the brain where this fear transmission takes root in the earliest days of life.

Their findings in animals may help explain a phenomenon that has puzzled mental health experts for generations: how a mother’s traumatic experience can affect her children in profound ways, even when it happened long before they were born.

The researchers also hope their work will lead to better understanding of why not all children of traumatized mothers, or of mothers with major phobias, other anxiety disorders or major depression, experience the same effects.

“During the early days of an infant rat’s life, they are immune to learning information about environmental dangers. But if their mother is the source of threat information, we have shown they can learn from her and produce lasting memories,” says Jacek Debiec, M.D., Ph.D., the U-M psychiatrist and neuroscientist who led the research.

“Our research demonstrates that infants can learn from maternal expression of fear, very early in life,” he adds. “Before they can even make their own experiences, they basically acquire their mothers’ experiences. Most importantly, these maternally-transmitted memories are long-lived, whereas other types of infant learning, if not repeated, rapidly perish.”

Peering inside the fearful brain

Debiec, who treats children and mothers with anxiety and other conditions in the U-M Department of Psychiatry, notes that the research on rats allows scientists to see what’s going on inside the brain during fear transmission, in ways they could never do in humans.

He began the research during his fellowship at NYU with Regina Marie Sullivan, Ph.D., senior author of the new paper, and continues it in his new lab at U-M’s Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute.

The researchers taught female rats to fear the smell of peppermint by exposing them to mild, unpleasant electric shocks while they smelled the scent, before they were pregnant. Then after they gave birth, the team exposed the mothers to just the minty smell, without the shocks, to provoke the fear response. They also used a comparison group of female rats that didn’t fear peppermint.

They exposed the pups of both groups of mothers to the peppermint smell, under many different conditions with and without their mothers present.

Using special brain imaging, and studies of genetic activity in individual brain cells and cortisol in the blood, they zeroed in on a brain structure called the lateral amygdala as the key location for learning fears. During later life, this area is key to detecting and planning response to threats — so it makes sense that it would also be the hub for learning new fears.

But the fact that these fears could be learned in a way that lasted, during a time when the baby rat’s ability to learn any fears directly was naturally suppressed, is what makes the new findings so interesting, says Debiec.

The team even showed that the newborns could learn their mothers’ fears even when the mothers weren’t present. Just the piped-in scent of their mother reacting to the peppermint odor she feared was enough to make them fear the same thing.

And when the researchers gave the baby rats a substance that blocked activity in the amygdala, they failed to learn the fear of peppermint smell from their mothers. This suggests, Debiec says, that there may be ways to intervene to prevent children from learning irrational or harmful fear responses from their mothers, or reduce their impact.

From animals to humans: next steps

The new research builds on what scientists have learned over time about the fear circuitry in the brain, and what can go wrong with it. That work has helped psychiatrists develop new treatments for human patients with phobias and other anxiety disorders — for instance, exposure therapy that helps them overcome fears by gradually confronting the thing or experience that causes their fear.

In much the same way, Debiec hopes that exploring the roots of fear in infancy, and how maternal trauma can affect subsequent generations, could help human patients. While it’s too soon to know if the same odor-based effect happens between human mothers and babies, the role of a mother’s scent in calming human babies has been shown.

Debiec, who hails from Poland, recalls working with the grown children of Holocaust survivors, who experienced nightmares, avoidance instincts and even flashbacks related to traumatic experiences they never had themselves. While they would have learned about the Holocaust from their parents, this deeply ingrained fear suggests something more at work, he says.

Going forward, he hopes to work with U-M researchers to observe human infants and their mothers — including U-M psychiatrist Maria Muzik, M.D. and psychologist Kate Rosenblum, Ph.D., who run a Women and Infants Mental Health clinic and research program and also work with military families. The program is currently seeking women and their children to take part in a range of studies.

Journal Reference:

  1. Jacek Debiec and Regina Marie Sullivan. Intergenerational transmission of emotional trauma through amygdala-dependent mother-to-infant transfer of specific fear. PNAS, July 28, 2014 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1316740111

Global warming amplifier: Rising water vapor in upper troposphere to intensify climate change (Science Daily)

Date: July 28, 2014

Source: University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

Summary: A new study from scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and colleagues confirms rising levels of water vapor in the upper troposphere — a key amplifier of global warming — will intensify climate change impacts over the next decades. The new study is the first to show that increased water vapor concentrations in the atmosphere are a direct result of human activities.

Illustration of annual mean T2-T12 field that provides a direct measure of the upper-tropospheric water vapor. Purple = dry and Red = moist. Credit: Eui-Seok Chung, Ph.D. Assistant Scientist – UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

A new study from scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and colleagues confirms rising levels of water vapor in the upper troposphere — a key amplifier of global warming — will intensify climate change impacts over the next decades. The new study is the first to show that increased water vapor concentrations in the atmosphere are a direct result of human activities.

“The study is the first to confirm that human activities have increased water vapor in the upper troposphere,” said Brian Soden, professor of atmospheric sciences at the UM Rosenstiel School and co-author of the study.

To investigate the potential causes of a 30-year moistening trend in the upper troposphere, a region 3-7 miles above Earth’s surface, Soden, UM Rosenstiel School researcher Eui-Seok Chung and colleagues measured water vapor in the upper troposphere collected by NOAA satellites and compared them to climate model predictions of water circulation between the ocean and atmosphere to determine whether observed changes in atmospheric water vapor could be explained by natural or human-made causes. Using the set of climate model experiments, the researchers showed that rising water vapor in the upper troposphere cannot be explained by natural forces, such as volcanoes and changes in solar activity, but can be explained by increased greenhouse gases, such as CO2.

Greenhouse gases raise temperatures by trapping Earth’s radiant heat inside the atmosphere. This warming also increases the accumulation of atmospheric water vapor, the most abundant greenhouse gas. The atmospheric moistening traps additional radiant heat and further increases temperatures.

Climate models predict that as the climate warms from the burning of fossil fuels, the concentrations of water vapor will also increase in response to that warming. This moistening of the atmosphere, in turn, absorbs more heat and further raises Earth’s temperature.

The paper, titled “Upper Tropospheric Moistening in response to Anthropogenic Warming,” was published in the July 28th, 2014 Early Addition on-line of the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The paper’s authors include Chung, Soden, B.J. Sohn of Seoul National University, and Lei Shi of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Ashville, North Carolina.

Journal Reference:

  1. Eui-Seok Chung, Brian Soden, B. J. Sohn, and Lei Shi. Upper-tropospheric moistening in response to anthropogenic warming. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1409659111

Impact of Deepwater Horizon oil spill on coral is deeper and broader than predicted (Science Daily)

Date: July 28, 2014

Source: Penn State

Summary: A new discovery of two additional coral communities showing signs of damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill expands the impact footprint of the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A new discovery of two additional coral communities showing signs of damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill expands the impact footprint of the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The discovery was made by a team led by Charles Fisher, professor of biology at Penn State University. A paper describing this work and additional impacts of human activity on corals in the Gulf of Mexico will be published during the last week of July 2014 in the online Early Edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Several colonies of coral with attached anemones and brittle star from a previously discovered coral community 13 km from the spill site showing damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Corals from this community were used as models to identify damage from the oil spill in two newly discovered coral communities. The extensive brown growth on the normally gold-colored coral is not found on healthy colonies. Credit: Fisher lab, Penn State University

A new discovery of two additional coral communities showing signs of damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill expands the impact footprint of the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The discovery was made by a team led by Charles Fisher, professor of biology at Penn State University.

A paper describing this work and additional impacts of human activity on corals in the Gulf of Mexico will be published during the last week of July 2014 in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The footprint of the impact of the spill on coral communities is both deeper and wider than previous data indicated,” said Fisher. “This study very clearly shows that multiple coral communities, up to 22 kilometers from the spill site and at depths over 1800 meters, were impacted by the spill.”

The oil from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico has largely dissipated, so other clues now are needed to identify marine species impacted by the spill. Fisher’s team used the current conditions at a coral community known to have been impacted by the spill in 2010 as a model “fingerprint” for gauging the spill’s impact in newly discovered coral communities.

Unlike other species impacted by the spill whose remains quickly disappeared from the ocean floor, corals form a mineralized skeleton that can last for years after the organism has died. “One of the keys to coral’s usefulness as an indicator species is that the coral skeleton retains evidence of the damage long after the oil that caused the damage is gone,” said Fisher. The scientists compared the newly discovered coral communities with one they had discovered and studied around the time of the oil spill, using it as a model for the progression of damage caused by the spill over time. “We were able to identify evidence of damage from the spill in the two coral communities discovered in 2011 because we know exactly what our model coral colonies, impacted by the oil spill in 2010, looked like at the time we found the new communities.”

Corals are sparse in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but because they act as an indicator species for tracking the impact of environmental disasters like the Deepwater Horizon blowout, the effort to find them pays off in useful scientific data. “We were looking for coral communities at depths of over 1000 meters that are often smaller than the size of a tennis court,” said Fisher. “We needed high-resolution images of the coral colonies that are scattered across these communities and that range in size from a small houseplant to a small shrub.”

To begin the search, the team used 3D seismic data from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to identify 488 potential coral habitats in a 40 km radius around the spill site. From that list they chose the 29 sites they judged most likely to contain corals impacted by the spill. The team then used towed camera systems and Sentry, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), which they programmed to autonomously travel back-and-forth across specific areas collecting images of the sites from just meters above the ocean floor. Finally, the team used a Shilling ultra-heavy-duty remote-operated vehicle (ROV), to collect high-resolution images of corals at the sites where they were discovered.

“With the cameras on board the ROV we were able to collect beautiful, high-resolution images of the corals,” said Fisher. “When we compared these images with our example of known oil damage, all the signs were present providing clear evidence in two of the newly discovered coral communities of the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

In searching for coral communities impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the team also found two coral sites entangled with commercial fishing line. These additional discoveries serve as a reminder that the Gulf is being impacted by a diversity of human activities.

In addition to Fisher, the research team included Pen-Yuan Hsing, Samantha P. Berlet, Miles G. Saunders and Elizabeth A. Larcom from Penn State; Carl L. Kaiser, Dana R. Yoerger, and Timothy M. Shank from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Harry H. Roberts from Louisiana State University; William W. Shedd from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management; Erik E. Cordes from Temple University; and James M. Brooks from TDI-Brooks International Inc.

The research was supported by the Assessment and Restoration Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative funding to support the Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf (ECOGIG) consortium administered by the University of Mississippi, and B P as part of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment.

Journal Reference:

  1. Charles R. Fisher, Pen-Yuan Hsing, Carl L. Kaiser, Dana R. Yoerger, Harry H. Roberts, William W. Shedd, Erik E. Cordes, Timothy M. Shank, Samantha P. Berlet, Miles G. Saunders, Elizabeth A. Larcom, and James M. Brooks. Footprint of Deepwater Horizon blowout impact to deep-water coral communities.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1403492111

Evolution in rainforest flies points to climate change survival (Science Daily)

Date: July 29, 2014

Source: Monash University

Summary: Scientists believe some tropical species may be able to evolve and adapt to the effects of climate change. The new findings suggests some sensitive rainforest-restricted species may survive climate change and avoid extinction. But only if the change is not too abrupt and dramatically beyond the conditions that a species currently experiences.

Scientists believe some tropical species may be able to evolve and adapt to the effects of climate change. Credit: © Banana Republic / Fotolia

Scientists believe some tropical species may be able to evolve and adapt to the effects of climate change.

The new findings published in the journal,Proceedings of the Royal Society B, suggests some sensitive rainforest-restricted species may survive climate change and avoid extinction. But only if the change is not too abrupt and dramatically beyond the conditions that a species currently experiences.

Previous research offered a bleak prospect for tropical species’ adaptation to climate change, now researchers from Monash University believe the situation may not be quite so hopeless.

One of the lead researchers, Dr Belinda Van Heerwaarden said the impact of climate change on the world’s biodiversity is largely unknown.

“Whilst many believe some species have the evolutionary potential to adapt no one really knows for sure, and there are fears that some could become extinct.”

Dr Van Heerwaarden and Dr Carla M. Sgrò, from the Faculty of Science extended on an experiment from the 2000s in which tropical flies native to Australian rain forests called Drosophila birchii, were taken out of the damp rainforest and exposed to very dry conditions, mimicking the effects of potential climate change.

In the original experiment the flies died within hours and despite rescuing those that survived longest and allowing them to breed for over 50 generations, the flies were no more resistant, suggesting they didn’t have the evolutionary capacity to survive.

In Dr Van Heerwaarden and Dr Sgrò’s version they changed the conditions from 10 per cent to 35 per cent humidity.

“The first experiment tested whether the flies could survive in 10 per cent relative humidity. That’s an extreme level that’s well beyond the changes projected for the wet tropics under climate change scenarios over the next 30 years.”

“In our test we decreased the humidity to 35 per cent, which is much more relevant to predictions of how dry the environment will become in the next 30 to 50 years. We discovered that when you change the environment, you get a totally different answer,” Dr Van Heerwaarden said.

Whilst on average most of the flies died after just 12 hours, some survived a little longer than others. By comparing different families of flies, the researchers discovered the difference in the flies’ resistance is influenced by their genes.

To test this theory the longest-living flies were rescued and allowed to breed. After just five generations, one species evolved to survive 23 per cent longer in 35 per cent humidity.

As well as looking at the potential impact of climate change, the research also highlights the importance of genetic diversity within species.

Dr Sgrò said this finding suggests there is genetic variation present in these flies, which means they can evolve in response to climate change.

“Tropical species make up the vast majority of the world’s biodiversity and climactic models predict these will be most vulnerable to climate change. However these models do not consider the extent to which evolutionary response may buffer the negative impacts of climate change.”

“Our research indicates that the genes that help flies temporarily survive extreme dryness are not the same as those that help them resist more moderate conditions. The second set of genes are the ones that enable these flies to adapt,” she said.

“We have much work to do but this experiment gives us hope that some tropical species have the capacity to survive climate change,” said Dr Sgrò.

The results mean that other species thought to be at serious risk might have some hope of persisting a little longer under climate change than previously thought.

The next phase of the research study will see Dr Van Heerwaarden and Dr Carla M. Sgrò investigate whether the climactic stress tolerated by the tropical flies extends to other species.

Journal Reference:

  1. B. van Heerwaarden, C. M. Sgro. Is adaptation to climate change really constrained in niche specialists? Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2014; 281 (1790): 20140396 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0396

Social origins of intelligence in the brain (Science Daily)

Date: July 29, 2014

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Summary: By studying the injuries and aptitudes of Vietnam War veterans who suffered penetrating head wounds during the war, scientists are tackling — and beginning to answer — longstanding questions about how the brain works. The researchers found that brain regions that contribute to optimal social functioning also are vital to general intelligence and to emotional intelligence. This finding bolsters the view that general intelligence emerges from the emotional and social context of one’s life.

Brain regions that contribute to optimal social functioning also are vital to general intelligence and to emotional intelligence. Credit: © christingasner / Fotolia

By studying the injuries and aptitudes of Vietnam War veterans who suffered penetrating head wounds during the war, scientists are tackling — and beginning to answer — longstanding questions about how the brain works.

The researchers found that brain regions that contribute to optimal social functioning also are vital to general intelligence and to emotional intelligence. This finding bolsters the view that general intelligence emerges from the emotional and social context of one’s life.

The findings are reported in the journal Brain.

“We are trying to understand the nature of general intelligence and to what extent our intellectual abilities are grounded in social cognitive abilities,” said Aron Barbey, a University of Illinois professor of neuroscience, of psychology, and of speech and hearing science. Barbey (bar-BAY), an affiliate of the Beckman Institute and of the Institute for Genomic Biology at the U. of I., led the new study with an international team of collaborators.

Studies in social psychology indicate that human intellectual functions originate from the social context of everyday life, Barbey said.

“We depend at an early stage of our development on social relationships — those who love us care for us when we would otherwise be helpless,” he said.

Social interdependence continues into adulthood and remains important throughout the lifespan, Barbey said.

“Our friends and family tell us when we could make bad mistakes and sometimes rescue us when we do,” he said. “And so the idea is that the ability to establish social relationships and to navigate the social world is not secondary to a more general cognitive capacity for intellectual function, but that it may be the other way around. Intelligence may originate from the central role of relationships in human life and therefore may be tied to social and emotional capacities.”

The study involved 144 Vietnam veterans injured by shrapnel or bullets that penetrated the skull, damaging distinct brain tissues while leaving neighboring tissues intact. Using CT scans, the scientists painstakingly mapped the affected brain regions of each participant, then pooled the data to build a collective map of the brain.

The researchers used a battery of carefully designed tests to assess participants’ intellectual, emotional and social capabilities. They then looked for patterns that tied damage to specific brain regions to deficits in the participants’ ability to navigate the intellectual, emotional or social realms. Social problem solving in this analysis primarily involved conflict resolution with friends, family and peers at work.

As in their earlier studies of general intelligence and emotional intelligence, the researchers found that regions of the frontal cortex (at the front of the brain), the parietal cortex (further back near the top of the head) and the temporal lobes (on the sides of the head behind the ears) are all implicated in social problem solving. The regions that contributed to social functioning in the parietal and temporal lobes were located only in the brain’s left hemisphere, while both left and right frontal lobes were involved.

The brain networks found to be important to social adeptness were not identical to those that contribute to general intelligence or emotional intelligence, but there was significant overlap, Barbey said.

“The evidence suggests that there’s an integrated information-processing architecture in the brain, that social problem solving depends upon mechanisms that are engaged for general intelligence and emotional intelligence,” he said. “This is consistent with the idea that intelligence depends to a large extent on social and emotional abilities, and we should think about intelligence in an integrated fashion rather than making a clear distinction between cognition and emotion and social processing. This makes sense because our lives are fundamentally social — we direct most of our efforts to understanding others and resolving social conflict. And our study suggests that the architecture of intelligence in the brain may be fundamentally social, too.”

Journal Reference:

  1. A. K. Barbey, R. Colom, E. J. Paul, A. Chau, J. Solomon, J. H. Grafman. Lesion mapping of social problem solving. Brain, 2014; DOI: 10.1093/brain/awu207

Violent aftermath for the warriors at Alken Enge (Science Daily)

Date: July 29, 2014

Source: Aarhus University

Summary: Denmark attracted international attention in 2012 when archaeological excavations revealed the bones of an entire army, whose warriors had been thrown into the bogs near the Alken Enge wetlands in East Jutland after losing a major engagement about 2,000 years ago. Work has continued in the area since then and archaeologists have now made sensational new findings.

Four pelvic bones on a stick. Credit: Peter Jensen, Aarhus University

Four pelvic bones on a stick and bundles of desecrated bones testify to the ritual violence perpetrated on the corpses of the many warriors who fell in a major battle close to the Danish town of Skanderborg around 2,000 years ago.

Denmark attracted international attention in 2012 when archaeological excavations revealed the bones of an entire army, whose warriors had been thrown into the bogs near the Alken Enge wetlands in East Jutland after losing a major engagement around 2,000 years ago. Work has continued in the area since then and archaeologists and experts from Aarhus University, Skanderborg Museum and Moesgaard Museum have now made sensational new findings.

“We have found a wooden stick bearing the pelvic bones of four different men. In addition, we have unearthed bundles of bones, bones bearing marks of cutting and scraping, and crushed skulls. Our studies reveal that a violent sequel took place after the fallen warriors had lain on the battlefield for around six months,” relates Project Manager Mads Kähler Holst from Aarhus University.

Religious act

The remains of the fallen were gathered together and all the flesh was cleaned from the bones, which were then sorted and brutally desecrated before being cast into the lake. The warriors’ bones are mixed with the remains of slaughtered animals and clay pots that probably contained food sacrifices.

“We are fairly sure that this was a religious act. It seems that this was a holy site for a pagan religion — a sacred grove — where the victorious conclusion of major battles was marked by the ritual presentation and destruction of the bones of the vanquished warriors,” adds Mads Kähler Holst.

Remains of corpses thrown in the lake

Geological studies have revealed that back in the Iron Age, the finds were thrown into the water from the end of a tongue of land that stretched out into Mossø lake, which was much larger back then than it is today.

“Most of the bones we find here are spread out over the lake bed seemingly at random, but the new finds have suddenly given us a clear impression of what actually happened. This applies in particular to the four pelvic bones. They must have been threaded onto the stick after the flesh was cleaned from the skeletons,” explains Field Director Ejvind Hertz from Skanderborg Museum.

Internal Germanic conflict

The battles near Alken Enge were waged during that part of the Iron Age when major changes were taking place in Northern Europe because the Roman Empire was expanding northwards, putting pressure on the Germanic tribes. This resulted in wars between the Romans and the Germanic tribes, and between the Germanic peoples themselves.

Archaeologists assume that the recent finds at the Alken dig stem from an internal conflict of this kind. Records kept by the Romans describe the macabre rituals practised by the Germanic peoples on the bodies of their vanquished enemies, but this is the first time that traces of an ancient holy site have been unearthed.

Diet affects males’ and females’ gut microbes differently (Science Daily)

Date: July 29, 2014

Source: University of Texas at Austin

Summary: The microbes living in the guts of males and females react differently to diet, even when the diets are identical, according to a new study. These results suggest that therapies designed to improve human health and treat diseases through nutrition might need to be tailored for each sex.

Illustration by Marianna Grenadier and Jenna Luecke. Credit: Image courtesy of University of Texas at Austin

The microbes living in the guts of males and females react differently to diet, even when the diets are identical, according to a study by scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and six other institutions published this week in the journal Nature Communications. These results suggest that therapies designed to improve human health and treat diseases through nutrition might need to be tailored for each sex.

The researchers studied the gut microbes in two species of fish and in mice, and also conducted an in-depth analysis of data that other researchers collected on humans. They found that in fish and humans diet affected the microbiota of males and females differently. In some cases, different species of microbes would dominate, while in others, the diversity of bacteria would be higher in one sex than the other.

These results suggest that any therapies designed to improve human health through diet should take into account whether the patient is male or female.

Only in recent years has science begun to completely appreciate the importance of the human microbiome, which consists of all the bacteria that live in and on people’s bodies. There are hundreds or even thousands of species of microbes in the human digestive system alone, each varying in abundance.

Genetics and diet can affect the variety and number of these microbes in the human gut, which can in turn have a profound influence on human health. Obesity, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease have all been linked to low diversity of bacteria in the human gut.

One concept for treating such diseases is to manipulate the microbes within a person’s gut through diet. The idea is gaining in popularity because dietary changes would make for a relatively cheap and simple treatment.

Much has to be learned about which species, or combination of microbial species, is best for human health. In order to accomplish this, research has to illuminate how these microbes react to various combinations of diet, genetics and environment. Unfortunately, to date most such studies only examine one factor at a time and do not take into account how these variables interact.

“Our study asks not just how diet influences the microbiome, but it splits the hosts into males and females and asks, do males show the same diet effects as females?” said Daniel Bolnick, professor in The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Natural Sciences and lead author of the study.

While Bolnick’s results identify that there is a significant difference in the gut microbiota for males and females, the dietary data used in the analysis are organized in complex clusters of disparate factors and do not easily translate into specific diet tips, such as eating more vegetables or less meat.

“To guide people’s behavior, we need to know what microbes are desirable for people,” said Bolnick. “Diet and sex do interact to influence the microbes, but we don’t yet know what a desirable target for microbes is. Now we can go in with eyes open when we work on therapies for gut microbe problems, as many involve dietary changes. We can walk into those studies looking for something we weren’t aware of before. All along we treated diet as if it works the same for men and women. Now we’ll be approaching studies of therapies in a different way.”

Why men and women would react differently to changes in diet is unclear, but there are a couple of possibilities. The hormones associated with each sex could potentially influence gut microbes, favoring one strain over another. Also, the sexes often differ in how their immune systems function, which could affect which microbes live and die in the microbiome.

One notable exception in Bolnick’s results was in the mice. Although there was a tiny difference between male and female mice, for the most part the microbiota of each sex reacted to diet in the same manner. Because most dietary studies are conducted on mice, this result could have a huge effect on such research, and it raises questions about how well studies of gut microbes in lab mice can be generalized to other species, particularly humans.

“This means that most of the research that’s being done on lab mice — we need to treat that with kid gloves,” said Bolnick.

Bolnick’s co-authors are Lisa Snowberg (UT Austin); Philipp Hirsch (University of Basel and Uppsala University); Christian Lauber and Rob Knight (University of Colorado, Boulder); Elin Org, Brian Parks and Aldons Lusis (University of California, Los Angeles); J. Gregory Caporaso (Northern Arizona University and Argonne National Laboratory); and Richard Svanbäck (Uppsala University).

This research was funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Swedish Research Council.

Journal Reference:

  1. Daniel I. Bolnick, Lisa K. Snowberg, Philipp E. Hirsch, Christian L. Lauber, Elin Org, Brian Parks, Aldons J. Lusis, Rob Knight, J. Gregory Caporaso, Richard Svanbäck. Individual diet has sex-dependent effects on vertebrate gut microbiota. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5500

The Quantum Cheshire Cat: Can neutrons be located at a different place than their own spin? (Science Daily)

Date: July 29, 2014

Source: Vienna University of Technology, TU Vienna

Summary: Can neutrons be located at a different place than their own spin? A quantum experiment demonstrates a new kind of quantum paradox. The Cheshire Cat featured in Lewis Caroll’s novel “Alice in Wonderland” is a remarkable creature: it disappears, leaving its grin behind. Can an object be separated from its properties? It is possible in the quantum world. In an experiment, neutrons travel along a different path than one of their properties — their magnetic moment. This “Quantum Cheshire Cat” could be used to make high precision measurements less sensitive to external perturbations.

The basic idea of the Quantum Cheshire Cat: In an interferometer, an object is separated from one if its properties – like a cat, moving on a different path than its own grin. Credit: Image courtesy of Vienna University of Technology, TU Vienna

Can neutrons be located at a different place than their own spin? A quantum experiment, carried out by a team of researchers from the Vienna University of Technology, demonstrates a new kind of quantum paradox.

The Cheshire Cat featured in Lewis Caroll’s novel “Alice in Wonderland” is a remarkable creature: it disappears, leaving its grin behind. Can an object be separated from its properties? It is possible in the quantum world. In an experiment, neutrons travel along a different path than one of their properties — their magnetic moment. This “Quantum Cheshire Cat” could be used to make high precision measurements less sensitive to external perturbations.

At Different Places at Once

According to the law of quantum physics, particles can be in different physical states at the same time. If, for example, a beam of neutrons is divided into two beams using a silicon crystal, it can be shown that the individual neutrons do not have to decide which of the two possible paths they choose. Instead, they can travel along both paths at the same time in a quantum superposition.

“This experimental technique is called neutron interferometry,” says Professor Yuji Hasegawa from the Vienna University of Technology. “It was invented here at our institute in the 1970s, and it has turned out to be the perfect tool to investigate fundamental quantum mechanics.”

To see if the same technique could separate the properties of a particle from the particle itself, Yuji Hasegawa brought together a team including Tobis Denkmayr, Hermann Geppert and Stephan Sponar, together with Alexandre Matzkin from CNRS in France, Professor Jeff Tollaksen from Chapman University in California and Hartmut Lemmel from the Institut Laue-Langevin to develop a brand new quantum experiment.

The experiment was done at the neutron source at the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble, where a unique kind of measuring station is operated by the Viennese team, supported by Hartmut Lemmel from ILL.

Where is the Cat …?

Neutrons are not electrically charged, but they carry a magnetic moment. They have a magnetic direction, the neutron spin, which can be influenced by external magnetic fields.

First, a neutron beam is split into two parts in a neutron interferometer. Then the spins of the two beams are shifted into different directions: The upper neutron beam has a spin parallel to the neutrons’ trajectory, the spin of the lower beam points into the opposite direction. After the two beams have been recombined, only those neutrons are chosen, which have a spin parallel to their direction of motion. All the others are just ignored. “This is called postselection,” says Hermann Geppert. “The beam contains neutrons of both spin directions, but we only analyse part of the neutrons.”

These neutrons, which are found to have a spin parallel to its direction of motion, must clearly have travelled along the upper path — only there, the neutrons have this spin state. This can be shown in the experiment. If the lower beam is sent through a filter which absorbs some of the neutrons, then the number of the neutrons with spin parallel to their trajectory stays the same. If the upper beam is sent through a filter, than the number of these neutrons is reduced.

… and Where is the Grin?

Things get tricky, when the system is used to measure where the neutron spin is located: the spin can be slightly changed using a magnetic field. When the two beams are recombined appropriately, they can amplify or cancel each other. This is exactly what can be seen in the measurement, if the magnetic field is applied at the lower beam — but that is the path which the neutrons considered in the experiment are actually never supposed to take. A magnetic field applied to the upper beam, on the other hand, does not have any effect.

“By preparing the neurons in a special initial state and then postselecting another state, we can achieve a situation in which both the possible paths in the interferometer are important for the experiment, but in very different ways,” says Tobias Denkmayr. “Along one of the paths, the particles themselves couple to our measurement device, but only the other path is sensitive to magnetic spin coupling. The system behaves as if the particles were spatially separated from their properties.”

High Hopes for High-Precision Measurements

This counter intuitive effect is very interesting for high precision measurements, which are very often based on the principle of quantum interference. “When the quantum system has a property you want to measure and another property which makes the system prone to perturbations, the two can be separated using a Quantum Cheshire Cat, and possibly the perturbation can be minimized,” says Stephan Sponar.

The idea of the Quantum Cheshire Cat was first developed by Prof. Jeff Tollaksen and Prof. Yakir Aharonov from the Chapman University. An experimental proposal was published last year. The measurements which have now been presented are the first experimental proof of this phenomenon.

Journal Reference:

  1. Tobias Denkmayr, Hermann Geppert, Stephan Sponar, Hartmut Lemmel, Alexandre Matzkin, Jeff Tollaksen, Yuji Hasegawa. Observation of a quantum Cheshire Cat in a matter-wave interferometer experiment. Nature Communications, 2014; 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5492

Luxury cruise line accused of offering ‘environmental disaster tourism’ with high-carbon footprint Arctic voyage (The Independent)

Cruise passengers will pay upwards of £12,000 to see polar bears and humpback whales in their natural habitat – before it disappears

Tuesday 29 July 2014

A luxury cruise operator in the US has announced it will offer a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip to experience the environmental devastation of the Arctic – using a mode of transport that emits three times more CO2 per passenger per mile than a jumbo jet.

It will be the first ever leisure cruise through the Northwest Passage, only accessible now because of the melting of polar ice, and is being marketed at those with an interest in witnessing the effects of climate change first-hand.

Tickets for the trip, scheduled for 16 August 2016 and organised by Crystal Cruises, will cost between $20,000 (£12,000) and $44,000.

Yet there is no mention on Crystal Cruises’ promotion or FAQ for the journey of the boat’s own carbon footprint.

Up to 1,070 passengers will be taken on the 32-day expedition to see seals, walruses, humpback whales and musk-ox – though the company admits there is “no guarantee” of catching a glimpse of a polar bear.

The bulk of the voyage will take place on the Crystal Serenity, a 68,000-ton, 13-deck ship, though it will also be accompanied by an escort vessel and a helicopter.

Popular Science described the trip as “environmental disaster tourism”, and quoted research which suggests that the carbon footprint of a cruise ship, per passenger per mile covered, is triple that of a Boeing 747 flight.

The company said passengers may be able to see endangered polar bears while on the cruise

The company said passengers may be able to see endangered polar bears while on the cruise

The cruise promotion was criticised by social media users for giving people the opportunity to “see/help ruin the environment”, “watch the ravages of global warming in person and become a human vulture” and take a “high-carbon-footprint cruise to watch polar bears drown”.

World Ocean Observatory wrote: “Is no place safe from our intrusion, waste, and consumption?”

In an FAQ on its website, Crystal Cruises said 14 experts would be accompanying guests on the cruise to give lectures about the impacts on the environment around them of climate change, as well as the “historic” nature of their inaugural journey down the Northern Passage.

Company executive Thomas Mazloum told the website GCaptain: “During this voyage, speakers will enlighten guests on information regarding climate change, and how it has impacted this passage.

“With the recent retreat of polar ice, the time is right for us to lead the way within the travel industry, as Crystal has done throughout our 25-year history.”

Under the heading of “Environmental” on its FAQ, Crystal Cruises said both the main ship and escort vessel would “voluntarily use Marine Gas Oil, a low-sulphur fuel… well in excess of the existing environmental regulations”.

Global wildlife decline driving slave labor, organized crime (Science Daily)

Date: July 24, 2014

Source: University of California – Berkeley

Summary: Global decline of wildlife populations is driving increases in violent conflicts, organized crime and child labor around the world, according to a experts. Researchers call for biologists to join forces with experts such as economists, political scientists, criminologists, public health officials and international development specialists to collectively tackle a complex challenge.

Global decline of wildlife populations is driving increases in violent conflicts, organized crime and child labor around the world, according to a policy paper led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. The authors call for biologists to join forces with experts such as economists, political scientists, criminologists, public health officials and international development specialists to collectively tackle a complex challenge.

The paper, to be published Thursday, July 24, in the journal Science, highlights how losses of food and employment from wildlife decline cause increases in human trafficking and other crime, as well as foster political instability.

“This paper is about recognizing wildlife decline as a source of social conflict rather than a symptom,” said lead author Justin Brashares, associate professor of ecology and conservation at UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. “Billions of people rely directly and indirectly on wild sources of meat for income and sustenance, and this resource is declining. It’s not surprising that the loss of this critical piece of human livelihoods has huge social consequences. Yet, both conservation and political science have generally overlooked these fundamental connections.”

Fishing and the rise of piracy

Fewer animals to hunt and less fish to catch demand increasingly greater effort to harvest. Laborers — many of whom are children — are often sold to fishing boats and forced to work 18-20 hour days at sea for years without pay.

“Impoverished families are relying upon these resources for their livelihoods, so we can’t apply economic models that prescribe increases in prices or reduced demand as supplies become scarce,” said Brashares. “Instead, as more labor is needed to capture scarce wild animals and fish, hunters and fishers use children as a source of cheap labor. Hundreds of thousands of impoverished families are selling their kids to work in harsh conditions.”

The authors connected the rise of piracy and maritime violence in Somalia to battles over fishing rights. What began as an effort to repel foreign vessels illegally trawling through Somali waters escalated into hijacking fishing — and then non-fishing — vessels for ransom.

“Surprisingly few people recognize that competition for fish stocks led to the birth of Somali piracy,” said Brashares. “For Somali fishermen, and for hundreds of millions of others, fish and wildlife were their only source of livelihood, so when that was threatened by international fishing fleets, drastic measures were taken.”

The authors also compared wildlife poaching to the drug trade, noting that huge profits from trafficking luxury wildlife goods, such as elephant tusks and rhino horns, have attracted guerilla groups and crime syndicates worldwide. They pointed to the Lord’s Resistance Army, al-Shabab and Boko Haram as groups known to use wildlife poaching to fund terrorist attacks.

Holistic solutions required

“This paper begins to touch the tip of the iceberg about issues on wildlife decline, and in doing so the authors offer a provocative and completely necessary perspective about the holistic nature of the causes and consequences of wildlife declines,” said Meredith Gore, a Michigan State University associate professor in the nascent field of conservation criminology who was not part of the study.

As potential models for this integrated approach, the authors point to organizations and initiatives in the field of climate change, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the United for Wildlife Collaboration. But the paper notes that those global efforts must also be accompanied by multi-pronged approaches that address wildlife declines at a local and regional scale.

“The most important bit from this article, I think, is that we need to better understand the factors that underlie fish and wildlife declines from a local perspective, and that interdisciplinary approaches are likely the best option for facilitating this understanding,” said Gore.

The authors give examples of local governments heading off social tension, such as the granting of exclusive rights to hunting and fishing grounds to locals in Fiji, and the control of management zones in Namibia to reduce poaching and improve the livelihoods of local populations.

“This prescribed re-visioning of why we should conserve wildlife helps make clearer what the stakes are in this game,” said UC Santa Barbara assistant professor Douglas McCauley, a co-author who began this work as a postdoctoral researcher in Brashares’ lab. “Losses of wildlife essentially pull the rug out from underneath societies that depend on these resources. We are not just losing species. We are losing children, breaking apart communities, and fostering crime. This makes wildlife conservation a more important job than it ever has been.”

Journal Reference:

  1. J. S. Brashares, B. Abrahms, K. J. Fiorella, C. D. Golden, C. E. Hojnowski, R. A. Marsh, D. J. McCauley, T. A. Nunez, K. Seto, L. Withey. Wildlife decline and social conflict. Science, 2014; 345 (6195): 376 DOI: 10.1126/science.1256734

The Pricing of Everything (The Guardian)

The Natural Capital Agenda looks like an answer to the environmental crisis. But it’s a delusion.

By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website, 24th July 2014

This is the transcript of George Monbiot’s SPERI Annual Lecture, hosted by the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield. The lecture was delivered without notes, and transcribed afterwards, so a few small changes have been made for readability, but it’s more or less as given. You can watch the video here.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are witnessing the death of both the theory and the practice of neoliberal capitalism. This is the doctrine which holds that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. It holds that people are best served, and their prosperity is best advanced, by the minimum of intervention and spending by the state. It contends that we can maximise the general social interest through the pursuit of self-interest.

To illustrate the spectacular crashing and burning of that doctrine, let me tell you the sad tale of a man called Matt Ridley. He was a columnist on the Daily Telegraph until he became – and I think this tells us something about the meritocratic pretensions of neoliberalism – the hereditary Chair of Northern Rock: a building society that became a bank. His father had been Chair of Northern Rock before him, which appears to have been his sole qualification.

While he was a columnist on the Telegraph he wrote the following:

The government “is a self-seeking flea on the backs of the more productive people of this world. … governments do not run countries, they parasitize them.”(1) He argued that taxes, bail-outs, regulations, subsidies, interventions of any kind are an unwarranted restraint on market freedom. When he became Chairman of Northern Rock, Mr Ridley was able to put some of these ideas into practice. You can see the results today on your bank statements.

In 2007 Matt Ridley had to go cap in hand to the self-seeking flea and beg it for what became £27 billion. This was rapidly followed by the first run on a British bank since 1878. The government had to guarantee all the deposits of the investors in the bank. Eventually it had to nationalise the bank, being the kind of parasitic self-seeking flea that it is, in order to prevent more or less the complete collapse of the banking system(2).

By comparison to Mr Ridley, the likes of Paul Flowers, our poor old crystal Methodist, were pretty half-hearted. In fact about the only things which distinguish Mr Flowers from the rest of the banking fraternity were that a) he allegedly bought his own cocaine and b) he singularly failed to bring the entire banking system to its knees.

Where’s Mr Ridley now? Oh, we don’t call him Mr Ridley any more. He sits in the House of Lords as a Conservative peer. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how our system works.

It is not just that neoliberalism has failed spectacularly in that this creed – which was supposed to prevent state spending and persuade us that we didn’t need state spending – has required the greatest and most wasteful state spending in history to bail out the deregulated banks. But also that it has singularly failed to create the great society of innovators and entrepreneurs that we were promised by the originators of this doctrine, by people like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who insisted that it would create a society of entrepreneurs.

As Thomas Piketty, a name which is on everybody’s lips at the moment, so adeptly demonstrates in his new book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, what has happened over the past thirty years or so has been a great resurgence of patrimonial capitalism, of a rentier economy, in which you make far more money either by owning capital or by positioning yourself as a true self-serving flea upon the backs of productive people, a member of an executive class whose rewards are out of all kilter with its performance or the value it delivers(3). You make far more money in either of those positions than you possibly can through entrepreneurial activity. If wealth under this system were the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.

So just at this moment, this perfect moment of the total moral and ideological collapse of the neoliberal capitalist system, some environmentalists stumble across it and say, “This is the answer to saving the natural world.” And they devise a series of ideas and theories and mechanisms which are supposed to do what we’ve been unable to do by other means: to protect the world from the despoilation and degradation which have done it so much harm.

I’m talking about the development of what could be called the Natural Capital Agenda: the pricing, valuation, monetisation, financialisation of nature in the name of saving it.

Sorry, did I say nature? We don’t call it that any more. It is now called natural capital. Ecological processes are called ecosystem services because, of course, they exist only to serve us. Hills, forests, rivers: these are terribly out-dated terms. They are now called green infrastructure. Biodiversity and habitats? Not at all à la mode my dear. We now call them asset classes in an ecosystems market. I am not making any of this up. These are the names we now give to the natural world.

Those who support this agenda say, “Look, we are failing spectacularly to protect the natural world – and we are failing because people aren’t valuing it enough. Companies will create a road scheme or a supermarket – or a motorway service station in an ancient woodland on the edge of Sheffield – and they see the value of what is going to be destroyed as effectively zero. They weigh that against the money to be made from the development with which they want to replace it. So if we were to price the natural world, and to point out that it is really worth something because it delivers ecosystems services to us in the form of green infrastructure and asset classes within an ecosystems market (i.e. water, air, soil, pollination and the rest of it), then perhaps we will be able to persuade people who are otherwise unpersuadable that this is really worth preserving.”

They also point out that through this agenda you can raise a lot of money, which isn’t otherwise available for conservation projects. These are plausible and respectable arguments. But I think they are the road to ruin – to an even greater ruin than we have at the moment.

Let me try to explain why with an escalating series of arguments. I say escalating because they rise in significance, starting with the relatively trivial and becoming more serious as we go.

Perhaps the most trivial argument against the Natural Capital Agenda is that, in the majority of cases, efforts to price the natural world are complete and utter gobbledygook. And the reason why they are complete and utter gobbledygook is that they are dealing with values which are non-commensurable.

They are trying to compare things which cannot be directly compared. The result is the kind of nonsense to be found in the Natural Capital Committee’s latest report, published a couple of weeks ago(4). The Natural Capital Committee was set up by this Government, supposedly in pursuit of better means of protecting the natural world.

It claimed, for example, that if fresh water ecosystems in this country were better protected, the additional aesthetic value arising from that protection would be £700 million. That’s the aesthetic value: in other words, what it looks like. We will value the increment in what it looks like at £700 million. It said that if grassland and sites of special scientific interest were better protected, their wildlife value would increase by £40 million. The value of their wildlife – like the chalk hill blues and the dog violets that live on protected grasslands – would be enhanced by £40 million.

These figures, ladies and gentlemen, are marmalade. They are finely shredded, boiled to a pulp, heavily sweetened … and still indigestible. In other words they are total gibberish.

But they are not the worst I’ve come across. Under the last Government, the Department for Transport claimed to have discovered “the real value of time.” Let me read you the surreal sentence in which this bombshell was dropped. “Forecast growth in the real value of time is shown in Table 3.”(5) There it was, the real value of time – rising on a graph.

The Department for Environment, when it launched the National Ecosystem Assessment in 2011, came out with something equally interesting. It said it had established “the true value of nature for the very first time”(6). Unfortunately it wasn’t yet able to give us a figure for “the true value of nature”, but it did manage to provide figures for particular components of that value of nature. Let me give you just one of these. It said that if we looked after our parks and greens well they would enhance our well-being to the tune of £290 per household per year in 2060.

What does it mean? It maintained that the increment in well-being is composed of “recreation, health and solace”; natural spaces in which “our culture finds its roots and sense of place”; “shared social value” arising from developing “a sense of purpose” and being “able to achieve important personal goals and participate in society” enhanced by “supportive personal relationships” and “strong and inclusive communities”(7). So you put solace and sense of place and social value and personal goals and supportive personal relationships and strong and inclusive communities all together into one figure and you come out with £290 per household per year.

All we require now is for the Cabinet Office to give us a price for love and a true value for society and we will have a single figure for the meaning of life.

I know what you’re thinking: it’s 42(8). But Deep Thought failed to anticipate the advent of Strictly Come Dancing, which has depreciated the will to live to the extent that it’s now been downgraded to 41.

It is complete rubbish, and surely anyone can see it’s complete rubbish. Not only is it complete rubbish, it is unimprovable rubbish. It’s just not possible to have meaningful figures for benefits which cannot in any sensible way be measured in financial terms.

Now there are some things that you can do. They are pretty limited, but there are some genuinely commensurable pay-offs that can be assessed. So, for instance, a friend of mine asked me the other day, “What’s the most lucrative investment a land owner can make?”. I didn’t know. “An osprey! Look at Bassenthwaite in the Lake District where there’s a pair of ospreys breeding and the owners of the land have 300,000 people visiting them every year. They charge them for car parking and they probably make a million pounds a year.”

You can look at that and compare it to what you were doing before, such as rearing sheep, which is only viable because of farm subsidies: you actually lose money by keeping sheep on the land. So you can make a direct comparison because you’ve got two land uses which are both generating revenue (or losing revenue) that is already directly costed in pounds. I’ve got no problem with that. You can come out and say there is a powerful economic argument for having ospreys rather than sheep.

There are a few others I can think of. You can, for instance, look at watersheds. There is an insurance company which costed Pumlumon, the highest mountain in the Cambrian mountains, and worked out that it would be cheaper to buy Pumlumon and reforest it in order to slow down the flow of water into the lowlands than to keep paying out every year for carpets in Gloucester.

There were quite a few assumptions in there, as we don’t yet have all the hydrological data we need, but in principle you can unearth some directly commensurable values – the cost of insurance pay-outs, in pounds, versus the cost of buying the land, in pounds – and produce a rough ballpark comparison. But in the majority of cases you are not looking at anything remotely resembling financial commensurability.

So that is Problem One, and that is the most trivial of the problems.

Problem Two is that you are effectively pushing the natural world even further into the system that is eating it alive. Dieter Helm, the Chairman of the Natural Capital Committee, said the following in the same report I quoted from just a moment ago. “The environment is part of the economy and needs to be properly integrated into it so that growth opportunities will not be missed.”(9)

There, ladies and gentlemen, you have what seems to me the Government’s real agenda. This is not to protect the natural world from the depredations of the economy. It is to harness the natural world to the economic growth that has been destroying it. All the things which have been so damaging to the living planet are now being sold to us as its salvation; commodification, economic growth, financialisation, abstraction. Now, we are told, these devastating processes will protect it.

(Sorry, did I say the living planet? I keep getting confused about this. I meant asset classes within an ecosystem market.)

It gets worse still when you look at the way in which this is being done. Look at the government’s Ecosystems Markets Task Force, which was another of these exotic vehicles for chopping up nature and turning it into money. From the beginning it was pushing nature towards financialisation. It talked of “harnessing City financial expertise to assess the ways that these blended revenue streams and securitisations enhance the return on investment of an environmental bond.”(10) That gives you an idea of what the agenda is – as well as the amount of gobbledygook it is already generating.

What we are talking about is giving the natural world to the City of London, the financial centre, to look after. What could possibly go wrong? Here we have a sector whose wealth is built on the creation of debt. That’s how it works, on stacking up future liabilities. Shafting the future in order to serve the present: that is the model. And then that debt is sliced up into collateralised debt obligations and all the other marvellous devices that worked so well last time round.

Now nature is to be captured and placed in the care of the financial sector, as that quote suggests. In order for the City to extract any value from it, the same Task Force says we need to “unbundle” ecosystem services so they can be individually traded(11).

That’s the only way in which it can work – this financialisation and securitisation and bond issuing and everything else they are talking about. Nature has to be unbundled. If there is one thing we know about ecosystems, and we know it more the more we discover about them, it’s that you cannot safely disaggregate their functions without destroying the whole thing. Ecosystems function as coherent holistic systems, in which the different elements depend upon each other. The moment you start to unbundle them and to trade them separately you create a formula for disaster.

Problem Three involves what appears to be a very rude word, because hardly anyone uses it, certainly not in polite society. It begins with a ‘p’ and it’s five letters long and most people seem unable to utter it. It is, of course, power.

Power is the issue which seems to get left out of the Natural Capital Agenda. And because it gets left out, because it it is, I think, deliberately overlooked, what we are effectively seeing is the invocation of money as a kind of fairy dust, that you sprinkle over all the unresolved problems of power in the hope that they will magically resolve themselves. But because they are unresolved, because they are unaddressed, because they aren’t even acknowledged; the natural capital agenda cannot possibly work.

Let me give you an example of a system which doesn’t work because of this problem, despite high commensurability, simple and straightforward outputs and a simple and straightforward monitoring system. That is the European Emissions Trading System, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions by creating a carbon price.

I am not inherently opposed to it. I can see it is potentially as good a mechanism as any other for trying gradually to decarbonise society. But it has failed. An effective price for carbon begins at about £30 a ton. That is the point at which you begin to see serious industrial change and the disinvestment in fossil fuels we so desperately need to see.

Almost throughout the history of the European Emissions Trading System, the price of carbon has hovered around five Euros. That is where it is today. The reason is an old-fashioned one. The heavily polluting industries, the carbon-intensive industries, which were being asked to change their practices, lobbied the European Union to ensure that they received an over-allocation of carbon permits. Far too many permits were issued. When the European Parliament started talking about withdrawing some of those permits, it too was lobbied and it caved in and failed to withdraw them. So the price has stayed very low.

What we see here is the age-old problem of power. Governments and the Commission are failing to assert political will. They are failing to stand up for themselves and say, “This is how the market is going to function. It is not going to function without a dirigiste and interventionist approach.” Without that dirigiste and interventionist approach we end up with something which is almost entirely useless. In fact worse than useless because I don’t think there has been a single coal-burning power station, motorway or airport in the European Union approved since the ETS came along, which has not been justified with reference to the market created by the trading system.

You haven’t changed anything by sprinkling money over the problem, you have merely called it something new. You have called it a market as opposed to a political system. But you still need the regulatory involvement of the state to make that market work. Because we persuade ourselves that we don’t need it any more because we have a shiny new market mechanism, we end up fudging the issue of power and not addressing those underlying problems.

Let me give you another example: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity project, overseen by Pavan Sukhdev from Deutsche Bank. This huge exercise came up with plenty of figures, most of which I see as nonsense. But one or two appeared to be more more plausible. Among the most famous of these was its valuation of mangrove forests. It maintained that if a businessman or businesswoman cuts down a mangrove forest and replaces it with a shrimp farm, that will be worth around $1,200 per hectare per year to that person. If we leave the mangrove forest standing, because it protects the communities who live on the coastline and because it is a wonderful breeding ground for fish and crustaceans, it will be worth $12,000 per hectare per year(12). So when people see the figures they will conclude that it makes sense to save the mangrove forests, and hey presto, we have solved the problem. My left foot!

People have known for centuries the tremendous benefits that mangrove forests deliver. But has that protected them from being turned into shrimp farms or beach resorts? No, it hasn’t. And the reason it hasn’t is that it might be worth $12,000 to the local impoverished community of fisher folk, but if it’s worth $1,200 to a powerful local politician who wants to turn it into shrimp farms, that counts for far more. Putting a price on the forest doesn’t in any way change that relationship.

You do not solve the problem this way. You do not solve the problem without confronting power. But what we are doing here is reinforcing power, is strengthening the power of the people with the money, the power of the economic system as a whole against the power of nature.

Let me give you one or two examples of that. Let’s start on the outskirts of Sheffield with Smithy Wood. This is an ancient woodland, which eight hundred years ago was recorded as providing charcoal for the monks who were making iron there. It is an important part of Sheffield’s history and culture. It is full of stories and a sense of place and a sense of being able to lose yourself in something different. Someone wants to turn centre of Smithy Wood into a motorway service station(13).

This might have been unthinkable until recently. But it is thinkable now because the government is introducing something called biodiversity offsets. If you trash a piece of land here you can replace its value by creating some habitat elsewhere. This is another outcome of the idea that nature is fungible and tradeable, that it can be turned into something else: swapped either for money or for another place, which is said to have similar value.

What they’ve said is, “We’re going to plant 60,000 saplings, with rabbit guards around them, in some other place, and this will make up for trashing Smithy Wood.” It seems to me unlikely that anyone would have proposed trashing this ancient woodland to build a service station in the middle of it, were it not for the possibility of biodiversity offsets. Something the Government has tried to sell to us as protecting nature greatly threatens nature.

Let me give you another example. Say we decide that we’re going to value nature in terms of pounds or dollars or euros and that this is going to be our primary metric for deciding what should be saved and what should not be saved. This, we are told, is an empowering tool to protect the natural world from destruction and degradation. Well you go to the public enquiry and you find that, miraculously, while the wood you are trying to save has been valued at £x, the road, which they want to build through the wood, has been valued at £x+1. And let me tell you, it will always be valued at £x+1 because cost benefit analyses for such issues are always rigged.

The barrister will then be able to say, “Well there you are, it is x+1 for the road and x for the wood. End of argument.” All those knotty issues to do with values and love and desire and wonder and delight and enchantment, all the issues which are actually at the centre of democratic politics, are suddenly ruled out. They are outside the box, they are outside the envelope of discussion, they no longer count. We’ve been totally disempowered by that process.

So that was Problem Three. But the real problem, and this comes to the nub of the argument for me, is over the issues which I will describe as values and framing. Am I allowed to mention Sheffield Hallam? Too late. In response to an article I wrote that was vaguely about this issue last week, Professor Lynn Crowe from Sheffield Hallam University wrote what I thought was a very thoughtful piece(14). She asked this question: “How else can we address the challenge of convincing those who do not share the same values as ourselves of our case?”.

In other words, we are trying to make a case to people who just don’t care about the natural world. How do we convince them, when they don’t share those values, to change their minds? To me the answer is simple. We don’t.

We never have and we never will. That is not how politics works. Picture a situation where Ed Miliband stands up in the House of Commons and makes such a persuasive speech that David Cameron says, “You know, you’ve completely won me over. I’m crossing the floor and joining the Labour benches.”

That’s not how it works. That is not how politics has ever proceeded, except in one or two extremely rare cases. You do not win your opponents over. What you do to be effective in politics is first, to empower and mobilise people on your own side and secondly, to win over the undecided people in the middle. You are not going to win over the hard core of your opponents who are fiercely opposed to your values.

This is the horrendous mistake that New Labour here and the Democratic Party in the United States have made. “We’ve got to win the next election so we’ve got to appease people who don’t share our values, so we’re going to become like them. Instead of trying to assert our own values, we are going to go over to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not really red; we’re not scary at all. We are actually conservatives.’” That was Tony Blair’s message. That was Bill Clinton’s message. That, I’m afraid, is Barack Obama’s message.

Triangulation possibly won elections – though in 1997 a bucket on a stick would have won – but it greatly eroded the Labour vote across the intervening years. We’ve ended up with a situation where there are effectively no political alternatives to the neoliberalism being advanced by the coalition government. In which the opposition is, in almost every case, failing to oppose. It is in this position because it has progressively neutralised itself by trying to appease people who do not share its values.

As George Lakoff, the cognitive linguist who has done so much to explain why progressive parties keep losing the elections that they should win and keep losing support even in the midst of a multiple crisis caused by their political opponents, points out, you can never win by adopting the values of your opponents(15).

You have to leave them where they are and project your own values to people who might be persuaded to come over to your side. That is what conservatives have done on both sides of the Atlantic. They have been extremely good at it, especially in the United States, where they have basically crossed their arms and said, “We’re over here and we don’t give a damn about where you are. We don’t care about what you stand for, you hippies on the Left. This is what we stand for and we are going to project it, project it, project it, until the electoral arithmetic our stance creates means that you have to come to us.”

So what we’ve got there is a Democratic Party that is indistinguishable from where the Republicans were ten years ago. It has gone so far to the right that it has lost its core values. I think you could say the same about the Labour Party in this country.

This, in effect, is what we are being asked to do through the natural capital agenda. We are saying “because our opponents don’t share our values and they are the people wrecking the environment, we have to go over to them and insist that we’re really in their camp. All we care about is money. We don’t really care about nature for its own sake. We don’t really believe in any of this intrinsic stuff. We don’t believe in wonder and delight and enchantment. We just want to show that it’s going to make money.”

In doing so, we destroy our own moral authority and legitimacy. In a recent interview George Lakoff singled out what he considered to be the perfect example of the utter incompetence of progressives hoping to defend the issues they care about. What was it? The Natural Capital Agenda(16).

As Lakoff has pointed out, these people are trying to do the right thing but they are completely failing to apply a frames analysis. A frame is a mental structure through which you understand an issue. Instead of framing the issue with our own values and describing and projecting our values – which is the only thing in the medium- to long-term that ever works – we are abandoning them and adopting instead the values of the people who are wrecking the environment. How could there be any long-term outcome other than more destruction?

There’s another way of looking at this, which says the same thing in a different ways. All of us are somewhere along a spectrum between intrinsic values and extrinsic values. Extrinsic values are about reputation and image and money. They’re about driving down the street in your Ferrari and showing it to everyone. They are about requiring other people’s approbation for your own sense of well-being.

Intrinsic values are about being more comfortable with yourself and who you are. About being embedded in your family, your community, among your friends, and not needing to display to other people in order to demonstrate to yourself that you are worth something(17).

Research in seventy countries produces remarkably consistent results: these values are highly clustered(18). So, for instance, people who greatly value financial success tend to have much lower empathy than those with a strong sense of intrinsic values. They have much less concern about the natural world, they have a stronger attraction towards hierarchy and authority. These associations are very strongly clustered.

But we are not born with these values. They are mostly the product of our social and political environment. What the research also shows is that if you change that environment, people’s values shift en masse with that change. For instance, if you have a good, functioning public health system where no one is left untreated, that embeds and imbues among the population a strong set of intrinsic values. The subliminal message is “I live in a society where everyone is looked after. That must be a good thing because that is the society I live in.” You absorb and internalise those values.

If on the other hand you live in a devil-take-the-hindmost society where people, as they do in the United States, die of treatable conditions because they cannot afford medical care, that will reinforce extrinsic values and push you further towards that end of the spectrum. The more that spectrum shifts, the more people’s values shift with it.

People on the right understand this very well. Mrs Thatcher famously said, “Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.”(19) She understood the political need to change people’s values – something the left has seldom grasped.

If we surrender to the financial agenda and say, “This market-led neoliberalism thing is the way forward,” then we shift social values. Environmentalists are among the last lines of defence against the gradual societal shift towards extrinsic values. If we don’t stand up and say, “We do not share those values, our values are intrinsic values. We care about people. We care about the natural world. We are embedded in our communities and the people around us and we want to protect them, not just ourselves. We are not going to be selfish. This isn’t about money”, who else is going to do it?

So you say to me, “Well what do we do instead? You produce these arguments against trying to save nature by pricing it, by financialisation, by monetisation. What do you do instead?”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is no mystery. It is the same answer that it has always been. The same answer that it always will be. The one thing we just cannot be bothered to get off our bottoms to do, which is the only thing that works. Mobilisation.

It is the only thing that has worked, the only thing that can work. Everything else is a fudge and a substitute and an excuse for not doing that thing that works. And that applies to attempts to monetise and financialise nature as much as it does to all the other issues we are failing to tackle. Thank you.”


1. Matt Ridley, 22nd July 1996. Power to the people: we can’t do any worse than government. The Daily Telegraph.














15. George Lakoff, 2004. Don’t think of an elephant!: know your values and frame the debate. Chelsea Green, White River Junction, VT, USA.





Inmetro já tem nove empresas acreditadas para inventários de emissões (Carbono Brasil)

29/7/2014 – 12h59

por Fernanda B. Muller, do CarbonoBrasil

Com o crescimento da demanda por informações sobre a liberação de gases do efeito estufa de companhias, Inmetro busca garantir a credibilidade dos inventários através da regulamentação da sua verificação.

Em uma sociedade que vive cada vez mais na corda bamba no que se refere às pressões que suas atividades exercem sobre os recursos naturais, novas regras visando controlar os efeitos dessas ações na qualidade ambiental se tornam essenciais.

Seguindo o exemplo de países desenvolvidos, que já vêm há muitos anos exigindo limites sobre as emissões de gases do efeito estufa (GEEs) das suas atividades produtivas e na geração de energia, o Brasil vem pouco a pouco introduzindo novas ferramentas.

Há cerca de cinco anos, o Instituto Nacional de Metrologia, Qualidade e Tecnologia (Inmetro) vem trabalhando no desenvolvimento de uma iniciativa para a acreditação de empresas e entidades que desejam verificar inventários de GEEs. A partir de agora, esses procedimentos somente poderão ser feitos pelas instituições acreditadas no Inmetro, que já está conferindo a essas empresas a chancela de Organismo de Verificação de Inventários de GEEs (OVV), sendo reconhecidas no Sistema Brasileiro de Certificação.

Na semana passada, o Instituto Totum anunciou ter sido um dos primeiros aprovados pela Coordenação Geral de Acreditação do Inmetro como OVV. Para saber mais como está esse processo, conversamos com o Dr. Ricardo Fermam, Gestor da Divisão de Desenvolvimento de Programas de Acreditação (Didac) do Inmetro.

ricardoksfermam2 Inmetro já tem nove empresas acreditadas para inventários de emissõesInstituto CarbonoBrasil: Qual foi a motivação do Inmetro para decidir regulamentar as auditorias de inventários de GEEs?

Dr. Ricardo Fermam: O Inmetro, por meio de sua Coordenação Geral de Acreditação, decidiu iniciar o processo de acreditação de organismos de verificação de inventários de gases do efeito estufa a partir da constatação de que tratava-se de uma área importante para a sociedade brasileira. Para isso, fizemos uma pesquisa com os principais organismos de acreditação mundiais que trabalham nesse setor, além de uma pesquisa de mercado com os potenciais organismos a serem acreditados e de confirmarmos a demanda da indústria e de outros órgãos governamentais para esta acreditação.

ICBr: Como é o processo de acreditação das empresas?

RF: O processo de acreditação inicia-se com a solicitação da acreditação, realizada a partir de nosso sistema informatizado chamado “Orquestra”. Para o cadastro dos OVV no sistema, deve ser solicitado à Divisão de Acreditação de Organismos (Dicor), através do e-mail, um login e uma senha. O solicitante da acreditação deve tomar conhecimento de todos os Documentos Básicos para Acreditação através do site do Inmetro, preencher integralmente os formulários da Solicitação de Acreditação disponíveis no Orquestra e anexar os documento necessários a cada tipo de acreditação através de upload dos arquivos por meio do Orquestra. A informação sobre os documentos necessários a cada tipo de solicitação está disponível na NIT-DICOR-017 – Análise da documentação. Ao enviar a solicitação formal de acreditação, é automaticamente gerado um número de processo, para que o solicitante possa acompanhar on-line, através do Orquestra, a sua tramitação. Essa solicitação será submetida a uma análise preliminar e, sendo viabilizada, um gestor de acreditação e um assistente administrativo serão indicados para acompanharem o processo.

Se os documentos encaminhados estiverem completos, um avaliador é indicado para realizar a análise da documentação, que compreende aspectos legais e técnicos. Além do avaliador indicado, quando necessário, também poderão ser utilizados na análise da documentação especialistas na área específica da solicitação e um parecer da Procuradoria Federal do Inmetro, de acordo com o escopo pretendido pelo solicitante.

Após a análise da documentação, sendo esta aprovada, é realizada a avaliação no local que abrange as instalações da organização que solicita a acreditação. Caso seja necessário, para a conclusão desta fase, pode ser realizada nova avaliação, para a verificação de pendências.

A equipe avaliadora da Coordenação geral de Acreditação (Cgcre) verifica na avaliação de escritório a implementação dos procedimentos técnicos e administrativos do organismo, na matriz ou nas filiais, e nos locais onde presta seus serviços. O organismo deverá ser avaliado em todas as instalações onde são conduzidas as seguintes atividades: qualificação inicial, treinamento, monitoramento e manutenção de registros de auditores e pessoal de auditoria; análise crítica da solicitação, designação do pessoal para auditoria, revisão do relatório final e decisão da certificação.

Após a avaliação no escritório, dependendo do tipo de solicitação, é realizada uma ou mais auditorias-testemunhas em uma ou mais auditorias de empresas clientes do solicitante. As testemunhas são necessárias para a concessão do escopo ao organismo, pois é o meio que o sistema dispõe para comprovar a competência do organismo ao prestar serviço em atividades variadas.

Ultrapassada a fase de exame dos documentos e da realização das avaliações, o processo é encaminhado à fase de decisão. No caso de concessão de acreditação, o processo será encaminhado à Comissão de Acreditação. A Comissão de Acreditação avalia a conformidade do processo aos procedimentos da Cgcre e recomenda ou não a acreditação ao Coordenador Geral de Acreditação. Essa Comissão é nomeada pelo Coordenador Geral e tem regulamento e composição definidos.

A Comissão de Acreditação pode solicitar a participação do executivo sênior da organização em processo de acreditação e de especialista no assunto específico para respaldar sua recomendação. A decisão da acreditação é do Coordenador Geral de Acreditação, sendo sua aprovação ou não formalizada ao solicitante. Nos casos de aprovação, é formalizada ao solicitante através do certificado de acreditação.

ICBr: Quais os principais critérios que uma empresas precisa atender para se qualificar como uma OVV? Quais são as normas que as empresas devem seguir para serem uma OVV?

RF: Para se tornar um OVV acreditado, as empresas precisam demonstrar competência técnica por meio do atendimento aos requisitos estabelecidos nas seguintes Normas Internacionais:

• ABNT NBR ISO 14065:2012 – “Gases do efeito estufa — Requisitos para organismos de validação e verificação de gases de efeito estufa para uso em acreditação e outras formas de reconhecimento”.
• NIT-DICOR-081 – Documento mandatório do IAF (Forum Internacional de Acreditação) para a aplicação da ABNT NBR ISO 14065:2012 (IAF MD 6)
• ABNT NBR ISO 14066:2012 – “Gases de efeito estufa — Requisitos de competência para equipes de validação e equipes de verificação de gases de efeito estufa”.
• ABNT NBR ISO 14064-3 (Especificação e orientação para a validação e verificação de declarações relativas a gases de efeito estufa), nos requisitos relacionados com a ABNT NBR ISO 14065:2012

emissons Inmetro já tem nove empresas acreditadas para inventários de emissõesICBr: As empresas já acreditadas cobrem quais setores?

RF: Produção de metal; Agricultura, Florestas e outros Usos da Terra; Manufatura; Manuseio e Eliminação de Resíduos; entre outros.

ICBr: A demanda é crescente por parte das empresas para a acreditação?

RF: Sim. Temos uma demanda crescente por essa nova acreditação: hoje, temos nove empresas já acreditadas para atuarem como OVVs e aproximadamente a mesma quantidade que pleiteiam a acreditação.

ICBr: Qual a importância da verificação por uma terceira parte dos inventários, visto que o Brasil ainda não possui um mercado compulsório de carbono?

RF: A verificação de inventários de GEEs realizada por uma terceira parte acreditada assegura a credibilidade do inventário (completude e exatidão) de uma organização. As organizações têm diferentes razões para gerir a qualidade de seus inventários de emissões de GEEs, desde a identificação de oportunidades para melhorias até atender exigências de stakeholders, passando pela preparação da organização para o cumprimento de normas voluntárias ou obrigatórias (como por exemplo, legislações municipais e/ou estaduais).

ICBr: A Companhia de Tecnologia de Saneamento Ambiental do Estado de São Paulo (CETESB) já exige inventários auditados de uma série de empreendimentos no processo de licenciamento. Vocês têm constatado esse tipo de exigência em outros locais no Brasil?

RF: Sim, por exemplo, no Rio de Janeiro (Resoluções INEA 64 e 65/2012).

* Ricardo Fermam tem Graduação em Engenharia Química pela Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (2001), mestrado em Tecnologia de Processos Químicos e Bioquímicos pela Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (2005) e doutorado em Tecnologia de Processos Químicos e Bioquímicos pela Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (2009). Atualmente é Pesquisador e Professor no Curso de Mestrado Profissional em Metrologia e Qualidade do Instituto Nacional de Metrologia, Qualidade e Tecnologia-Inmetro/RJ. Chefe-Substituto do Setor de Programas de Reconhecimento Internacional, da Coordenação Geral de Acreditação do Inmetro. Responsável pelo desenvolvimento e implantação do programa de acreditação de organismos de verificação e validação em gases de efeito estufa.

** Publicado originalmente no site CarbonoBrasil.





Pensando en el activismo encarnado y la relación con la experiencia, creo que puede ser enormemente útil algunos de estos fragmentos de Despret que traduzco para activar el debate…

La postura que caracteriza a Despret y su particular lectura de William James (en castellano véase también el texto “El cuerpo de nuestros desvelos: Figuras de la antropozoogénesis“, incluído en el volumen 1 de la compilación Tecnogénesis) fue resumida brillantemente por Latour en un texto conmemorativo de la postura de Stengers-Despret (titulado How to talk about the body?): “[…] tener un cuerpo es aprender a afectarse, esto es a ‘efectuarse’, a ser movido, puesto en movimiento por otras entidades, humanas o no humanas”(p. 205, traducción propia).

Despret, V., & Galetic, S. (2007). Faire de James un “lecteur anachronique” de Von Uexküll: esquisse d’un perpectivisme radical. In D. Debaise (Ed.),Vie et Expérimentation: Peirce, James, Dewey (pp. 45–76). Paris: Vrin.

“[…] apelamos a [William] James y le reclutamos como lector anacrónico del naturalista [Von Uexküll]: él nos permite prolongar el interés de la práctica de von Uexküll, seguir los actos que crean los accesos a los mundos, que tejen la continuidad de las experiencias, sin recurrir a principios que escaparían a toda experiencia. Al subjetivismo que parecía imponer en teoría lo sustituimos por lo que llamamos un perspectivismo radical” (p.53)

“[La perspectiva] es a la vez una manera de ser afectado –esto es, cómo el mundo me toca–, una disponibilidad a ‘hacerse afectar’ –esto es, las pasiones que tengo que acoger– y una afectación voluntaria –esto es, éste es el mundo que querría habitar–. Es del orden del sentir como del actuar; cada una de estas vías nos conducirían al mismo punto de convergencia: el mundo es una perspectiva del cuerpo” (pp.56-57)

“El perspectivismo se reencuentra con el mundo que el subjetivismo había extraviado: nuestro cuerpo merece nuestra confianza. Porque él confía en el mundo; porque las cosas del mundo no son inertes, sino que actúan sobre él, porque le tocan en lo más íntimo, porque reivindican una importancia y una significación; porque el cuerpo es, sin duda, el que más puede reconocer ‘esa vida pública de las cosas’, esa actualidad presente por la que ellas nos confrontan [cita a W. James]’” (p.59)

“[…] Es a partir de la construcción de una comunidad de experiencia que cada cosa que experimentamos puede convertirse en mundo común” (p.61)

“La perspectiva no puede confundirse con el punto de vista: lugar de paso, promontorio [surplomb] transitorio. Estamos en el interior de un domus, por lo que se plantea la cuestión de cómo amueblarlo; y son las puertas que nos hemos dejado abiertas las que constituyen la perspectiva. De ahí el rol que pudiéramos atribuir al conflicto: el de ser una pragmática de la perspectiva. Un rol doble, de hecho: por una parte el de multiplicar las perspectivas; por otra, el de discriminarlas en función de su capacidad de acogida – ¿Estaremos bien ‘en casa’? ¿Con qué seres? ¿Qué debemos dejarnos fuera? Entonces, multipliquemos las perspectivas: porque qué hace el conflicto si no poblar la escena de actores, naturalezas, fragmentos del universo y dejarlos desplegar sus propuestas” (pp. 66-67)

“Tantos afectos, tantos mundos. Con el conflicto [la polémique] no son tanto sistemas explicativos lo que se pone en juego, sino proposiciones de mundos a habitar, mundos afectados: perspectivas que están en conflicto [la polémique]” (p.68)

“[La perspectiva] es una actitud, es decir, una disposición a ser afectado y una manera de afectar. […] El mundo es una perspectiva del cuerpo. Porque es de él del que todo parte y al que todo vuelve. Él es a través del que el mundo nos toca. Él es el que, actuando, constituye un mundo común. Él es el garante de nuestra confianza. Una perspectiva […] es una manera de habitar el mundo” (p.70)

“[…] la perspectiva es el lugar a partir del cual el mundo se hace nuestro. […] Es a partir de las acciones, es decir, de las relaciones particulares que mantenemos con las cosas de la realidad, relaciones en las que esas cosas nos confrontan, que constituimos un mundo común” (p.71)

“El mundo común se constituye a la vez en el compartir y en la multiplicación de intereses o, más bien, debiéramos decir acción a acción” (p.74)

Carne bovina é dez vezes mais custosa ao meio ambiente, diz estudo (G1)


Produção de gado bovino demanda de mais recursos naturais, como terra e água, que outras culturas (Foto: Cristino Martins/O Liberal)

Criação de gado bovino demanda mais recursos naturais que demais culturas.
Estudo foi publicado nesta semana na revista científica ‘PNAS’.


O gado bovino demanda 28 vezes mais terra e 11 vezes mais irrigação que os suínos e as aves, e uma dieta com sua carne é dez vezes mais custosa para o meio ambiente, segundo um estudo publicado esta semana pela revista da Academia Nacional de Ciências dos Estados Unidos, a “PNAS”.

A equipe observou as cinco fontes principais de proteínas na dieta dos americanos: produtos lácteos, carne bovina, carne de aves, carne de suínos e ovos. O propósito era calcular os custos ambientais por unidade nutritiva, isto é uma caloria ou grama de proteína. A composição do índice encontrou dificuldades dada à complexidade e variações na produção dos alimentos derivados de animais.

Por exemplo, o gado pastoreado na metade ocidental dos Estados Unidos emprega enormes superfícies de terra, mas muito menos água de irrigação que em outras regiões, enquanto o gado em currais e alimentado com ração consome principalmente milho, que requer menos terra, mas muito mais água e adubos nitrogenados.

A informação que os pesquisadores usaram como base para seu estudo proveio, majoritariamente, dos bancos de dados do Departamento de Agricultura.

Os insumos agropecuários levados em consideração incluíram o uso da terra, da água de irrigação, das emissões dos gases que contribuem ao aquecimento atmosférico, e do uso de adubos nitrogenados.
Carne ‘cara’

Os cálculos mostraram que o alimento humano de origem animal com o custo ambiental mais elevado é a carne bovina: dez vezes mais alto que todos os outros produtos alimentícios de origem animal, inclusive carne suína e de aves. “O gado requer, na média, 28 vezes mais terra e 11 vezes mais água de irrigação, emite cinco vezes mais gases e consome seis vezes mais nitrogênio que a produção de ovos ou carne de aves”, indica o estudo.

Por seu lado, a produção de carne suína ou de aves, os ovos e os lácteos mostraram custos ambientais similares. Os autores se mostraram surpreendidos pelo custo ambiental da produção de lácteos, considerada em geral menos onerosa para o ambiente.

Se for levado em conta o preço de irrigação e os adubos que se aplicam na produção da ração que alimenta o gado bovino para ordenha assim como a ineficiência relativa das vacas comparadas com outros bovinos, o custo ambiental dos lácteos sobe substancialmente.

A pesquisa foi conduzida por Ron Milo do Instituto Weizmann de Ciência, em Rehovot (Israel), com a colaboração de pesquisadores do Centro Canadense de Pesquisa de Energias Alternativas, do Conselho Europeu de Pesquisa, e Charles Rotschild e Selmo Nissenbaum, do Brasil.

Visual Breakdown: Military Spending in Latin America (Americas Society/Council of the Americas)

Elizabeth Gonzalez

July 24, 2014

Latin American governments are investing in military infrastructure in a bid to modernize defense systems and combat a range of security challenges, from drug trafficking to natural disasters. This month, for example, Honduras asked the United States for security assistance to address violence and organized crime driving emigration, in a scheme that would mirror Plan Colombia. Also, in mid-July, the Chinese and Russian presidents toured Latin America, fortifying regional economic and security ties. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner agreed to a mutual effort developing military technology; Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff agreed to continue negotiations to acquire Russian anti-aircraft systems.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), global military spending climbed steadily over the last decade, but 2013 data reveals a 1.9 percent drop from the previous year. However, Latin America actually saw an increase in military spending over this period, rising 2.2 percent. SIPRI found that some of the smallest military budgets rose by the highest percentages in the region, including that of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Paraguay.

Increased spending in Paraguay allowed the country to acquire equipment for the army and to open its first Emergency Operations Center, a military base to respond to natural disasters. Nicaragua created new security forces, established new bases to fight transnational crime, and beefed up coastal surveillance, and in Honduras, a portion of the expenses went toward drug trafficking interception, including radar technology. Meanwhile, Brazil—the region’s lead spender—reduced military expenses by approximately $1.5 billion, a 3.9 percent decline from 2012. The cut was part of the government’s initiative to cut costs to try to reach its surplus target for the fiscal year.

AS/COA Online breaks down the numbers for a closer look at regional trends.


Edição especial da Science alerta para 6º Grande Extinção (Carbono Brasil)

28/7/2014 – 11h10

por Fernanda B. Müller, do CarbonoBrasil

Vanishing Fauna Edição especial da Science alerta para 6º Grande Extinção

Em uma coletânea de estudos sobre a crise e os desafios do imenso número de extinções causadas pelos humanos, revista ressalta as implicações da ‘defaunação’ dos ecossistemas.

A triste conclusão de que as nossas florestas, além de estarem em um processo contínuo de desmatamento, estão vazias, cada vez mais depauperadas da vida que as constitui, é o foco de uma série especial da revista Science.

A publicação chama a atenção para um termo que deve se tornar cada vez mais conhecido, a ‘defaunação’: a atual biodiversidade animal, produto de 3,5 bilhões de anos de evolução, apesar da extrema riqueza, está decaindo em níveis que podem estar alcançando um ponto sem volta.

Segundo cientistas, tal perda parece estar contribuindo com o que classificam como o início do sexto evento de extinção biológica em massa – ao contrário dos outros, que tiveram causas naturais, nós seríamos os culpados, devido às chamadas atividades antrópicas.

“Muito permanece desconhecido sobre a ‘defaunação do antropoceno’; essas brechas no conhecimento prejudicam a nossa capacidade de prever e limitar os seus impactos. Porém, claramente, a defaunação é tanto um componente perverso da sexta extinção em massa do planeta quanto uma grande causadora da mudança ecológica global”, concluíram pesquisadores no artigo ‘Defaunação no Antropoceno‘.

Na abertura da revista, um dos editores, Sacha Vignieri, lembra que, há alguns milhares de anos, o planeta servia de lar para espetaculares animais de grande porte, como mamutes, tartarugas gigantes, tigres-dente-de-sabre, entre outros.

Porém, evidências apontam o ser humano como o grande culpado pelo desaparecimento desses animais, afirma o editor.

E infelizmente, a tendência parece longe de mudar, e com ela, toda uma série de funções dos ecossistemas, das quais depende a nossa vida, são alteradas de formas dramáticas.

Como mostram os artigos na Science, os impactos da perda da fauna vão desde o empobrecimento da cobertura vegetal até a redução na produção agrícola devido à falta de polinizadores, passando pelo aumento de doenças, a erosão do solo, os impactos na qualidade da água, entre outros. Ou seja, os efeitos da perda de uma única espécie são sistêmicos.

MacacoCR Edição especial da Science alerta para 6º Grande ExtinçãoNúmeros

De acordo com o estudo ‘Defaunação no Antropoceno‘, as populações de vertebrados declinaram em uma média de mais de um quarto nos últimos quarenta anos. Isso fica extremamente evidente quando qualquer um de nós caminha nos remanescentes de Mata Atlântica: é realmente muito difícil encontrar animais de médio e grande portes.

Pelo menos 322 espécies de vertebrados foram extintas desde 1500, e esse número só não é maior porque não conhecemos todas as espécies que já habitaram ou ainda residem em nossas florestas.

Se a situação é complicada para os vertebrados, que são muito mais conhecidos, é angustiante imaginar o tamanho da crise para os invertebrados, como os insetos, muito menos estudados.

“Apesar de menos de 1% das 1,4 milhão de espécies de invertebrados descritas terem sido avaliadas quanto à ameaça pela IUCN, das analisadas, cerca de 40% são consideradas ameaçadas”, afirma o estudo.


Certamente, a resolução dessa crise do Antropoceno não é simples.

As causas dessas perdas são bem conhecidas – caça, fragmentação dos habitats, uso de agrotóxicos, poluição, etc. –, e as tentativas para reverter essas tendências estão aumentando, como a reintrodução da fauna.

araraFACostaR Edição especial da Science alerta para 6º Grande ExtinçãoNo artigo ‘Revertendo a defaunação: restaurando espécies em um mundo mutante’, pesquisadores revisam uma série de translocações conservacionistas, como o reforço, a reintrodução e métodos mais controversos que buscam restaurar populações fora do seu habitat natural ou substituir espécies extintas.

Os autores escrevem que a meta mais tradicional, de ter populações selvagens autosustentadas em paisagens pristinas intocadas pela influência humana, é “cada vez mais inalcançável”. Assim, eles sugerem que criar a “selva”, em vez de restaurá-la, é o caminho mais prático para avançar.

Entretanto, os desafios para reverter as extinções estão se mostrando muito desafiadores, e as pesquisas atuais mostram que, “se não conseguirmos acabar ou reverter as taxas dessas perdas, significará mais para o nosso futuro do apenas que corações desiludidos ou uma floresta vazia”, disse Vignieri, o editor do especial na Science.

Rodolfo Dirzo, professor da Universidade de Stanford – um dos autores de Defaunação no Antropoceno –, argumenta que reduzir imediatamente as taxas de alteração dos habitats e a sobre-exploração ajudaria, mas que isso precisaria ser feito de acordo com as características de cada região e situação.

Ele espera que a sensibilização sobre a atual extinção em massa e suas consequências ajude a desencadear mudanças.

“Os animais importam para as pessoas, mas no equilíbrio, eles importam menos do que a alimentação, emprego, energia, dinheiro e desenvolvimento. Enquanto continuarmos a enxergar os animais nos ecossistemas como tão irrelevantes para essas necessidades básicas, os animais perderão”, disseram Joshua Tewksbury e Haldre Rogers no artigo “Um futuro rico em animais”.

* Publicado originalmente no site CarbonoBrasil.


*   *   *

Pesquisadores alertam para riscos da defaunação promovida pelo homem (Fapesp)


Agência FAPESP – A revista científica norte-americana Scienceacaba de publicar uma edição especial sobre as consequências do desaparecimento de espécies animais para a biodiversidade do planeta e para o próprio futuro da humanidade.

“Durante o Pleistoceno, apenas dezenas de milhares de anos atrás, nosso planeta sustentava animais grandes e espetaculares. Mamutes, ‘aves do terror’, tartarugas gigantes e tigres-dentes-de-sabre, bem como espécies muito menos conhecidas, como preguiças gigantes (algumas das quais chegavam a 7 metros de altura) e gliptodontes (que pareciam tatus do tamanho de automóveis), vagavam livremente”, diz a introdução do especial.

“Desde então, no entanto, o número e a diversidade de espécies animais na Terra têm declinado consistente e firmemente. Hoje, ficamos com uma fauna relativamente depauperada e continuamos a ver a rápida extinção de espécies animais. Embora algum debate persista, a maioria das evidências sugere que os seres humanos foram responsáveis pela extinção dessa fauna do Pleistoceno, e continuamos a induzir extinções de animais por meio da destruição de terras selvagens, da caça para consumo ou como luxo e da perseguição de espécies que vemos como ameaças ou concorrentes”, destaca o texto.

O especial traz artigos em que pesquisadores de diversos países citam espécies animais que estão desaparecendo, os complexos fatores por trás do processo de defaunação e as dificuldades para colocar em prática alternativas eficazes de conservação.

Um dos artigos do especial, Defaunation in the Anthropocene, tem entre seus autores o professor Mauro Galetti, do Departamento de Ecologia da Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp), campus de Rio Claro, responsável por projetos de pesquisa que integram o programa BIOTA-FAPESP.

O artigo de Galetti, produzido em colaboração com pesquisadores dos Estados Unidos, do México e do Reino Unido, ressalta que o mundo está passando por uma das maiores extinções de animais em sua história.

De acordo com os autores, a onda global de perda de biodiversidade tem a ação humana como principal causadora. Mas os impactos humanos sobre a biodiversidade animal representam uma forma ainda não reconhecida de mudanças ambientais globais.

“Dos vertebrados terrestres, 322 espécies se tornaram extintas desde 1500, e populações das espécies restantes mostram declínio médio de 25% em abundância”, dizem os autores.

“Tais declínios animais impactarão o funcionamento de ecossistemas e o bem-estar humano. Muito permanece desconhecido sobre a ‘defaunação antropocênica’. Essas lacunas de conhecimento dificultam a nossa capacidade de prever e limitar os impactos da defaunação. Claramente, no entanto, a defaunação é tanto um componente pervasivo da sexta extinção em massa do planeta como também um grande condutor de mudança ecológica global”, destacam.

Segundo Galetti e colegas, de todas as espécies animais atuais – estimadas entre 5 milhões e 9 milhões –, o mundo perde anualmente entre 11 mil e 58 mil espécies. E isso não inclui os declínios de abundância animal entre populações, ou seja, de espécies que agonizam lentamente.

“A ciência tem se preocupado com o impacto das extinções das espécies, mas o problema também envolve a extinção local de populações. Algumas espécies podem não estar globalmente ameaçadas mas podem estar extintas localmente. Essa extinção local de animais afeta o funcionamento dos ecossistemas naturais vitais ao homem. Nesse trabalho agora publicado, compilamos dados populacionais de grandes mamíferos, como rinocerontes, gorilas e leões, e também de invertebrados, como borboletas. Uma em cada quatro espécies de vertebrados tem suas populações reduzidas”, disse Galetti, em entrevista ao site da Unesp.

“A maioria dos pesquisadores analisa os efeitos humanos sobre a extinção das espécies e, nesse trabalho, nós enfocamos a extinção local de populações. A extinção de uma espécie tem um grande impacto, e a redução das populações animais causa um impacto maior ainda nos ecossistemas”, disse.