Arquivo mensal: setembro 2014

Rogue winds swept humans to last uninhabited islands (New Scientist)

13:00 30 September 2014 by Michael Slezak

Too far east? <i>(Image: Thomas J. Abercrombie/National Geographic Creative)</i>

Too far east? (Image: Thomas J. Abercrombie/National Geographic Creative)

Expert navigation and advanced boat-building technology were not enough for humans to finally colonise the world’s most remote islands – shifting wind patterns also played a part.

There were no humans on Easter Island in the south-eastern Pacific until the middle ages, when expert Polynesian sailors spread from the central Pacific islands. Within a few hundred years, they colonised previously uninhabited islands all across the South Pacific. But how they did so has remained a matter of some controversy.

Today winds blow from east to west in the tropics, and in the opposite direction further south. This would have made it an epic struggle against the wind to sail eastwards to Easter Island or westwards to New Zealand, and scientists have clashed over whether Polynesian seafaring could have coped with such a task.

The Polynesians would probably have needed fixed-mast canoes to sail against the wind, which there is no evidence of, says Ian Goodwin from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Instead, his research suggests that these pioneering sailors might have had the winds in their favour after all.

“All previous research that’s been done trying to understand this very rapid colonisation of the Pacific tried to grapple with the migration in terms of modern climate,” says Goodwin, who teamed up with anthropologist Atholl Andersonfrom the Australian National University in Canberra.

They wanted to see whether wind patterns could help explain the migrations. Using evidence from tree rings, lake sediments and ice cores, they tried to reconstruct ancient climates. Their work showed that, for a couple of centuries, a unique set of wind changes would have made these journeys easier.

Catching the breeze

The wind record reveals that every few decades there were dramatic shifts in wind direction, corresponding to expansions and contractions of the predominantly warm, moist climates of the tropical regions, caused by warming of the western Pacific Ocean. Many of these events explain the movements of Polynesians’ across the pacific.

From 1080 to 1100, the tropics contracted, moving the westerly winds further north. This would have created ideal sailing routes from the already colonised South Austral Islands to Easter Island – exactly when many archaeologists now think the island was colonised. Later, from 1140 to 1160, the opposite happened. The tropics expanded, and the easterly winds moved further south, allowing migration to New Zealand, which corresponds with archaeological and oral history records.

But the wind changes seem to have stopped as suddenly as they emerged – which could be why there don’t appear to have been any major voyages after 1300

Debating blows on

Terry Hunt, an anthropologist at the University of Oregon in the US, believes the timings are significant. He and his colleagues previously establishedexactly when some of the colonisations happened using radiocarbon dating. “When we wrote our paper, we were saying to ourselves ‘something must have erased distance in the rapid colonization of the remote Pacific.’ These windows may be the critical clue,” he says.

Dilys Johns from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, is more reserved about the role the wind played for the Polynesians’ rapid spread across the South Pacific. “It’s good to know they had chunks of time when it wouldn’t have been as difficult,” she says, but she still believes Polynesians were probably capable of sailing against the winds.

Hunt disagrees. “I think this is a compelling argument that an upwind capability was not necessary for long-distance voyaging, and indeed did not play a role.”

Journal Reference: PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1408918111

Climate detectives reveal handprint of human caused climate change in Australia (Science Daily)

Date: September 29, 2014

Source: University of New South Wales

Summary: Australia’s hottest year on record in 2013 along with the accompanying droughts, heat waves and record-breaking seasons of that year was virtually impossible without the influence of human-caused global warming, scientists say.

The impacts of man-made climate change were felt in Australia during its hottest year on record in 2013. Credit: UNSW, P3, Helena Brusic.

Australia’s hottest year on record in 2013 along with the accompanying droughts, heat waves and record-breaking seasons of that year was virtually impossible without the influence of human-caused global warming.

New research from ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science (ARCCSS) researchers and colleagues, over five different Australian papers in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS), has highlighted the powerful influence of global warming on Australia’s climate.

“We often talk about the fingerprint of human-caused climate change when we look at extreme weather patterns,” said Prof David Karoly, an ARCCSS researcher with the University of Melbourne.

“This research across four different papers goes well beyond that. If we were climate detectives then Australia’s hottest year on record in 2013 wasn’t just a smudged fingerprint at the scene of the crime, it was a clear and unequivocal handprint showing the impact of human caused global warming.”

In 2013, heat records fell like dominoes. Australia had its hottest day on record, its hottest month on record, its hottest summer on record, its hottest spring on record and then rounded it off with the hottest year on record.

According to the research papers presented in BAMS, the impact of climate change significantly increased the chances of record heat events in 2013. Looking back over the observational record the researchers found global warming over Australia (see attached graphic): doubled the chance of the most intense heat waves, tripled the likelihood of heatwave events, made extreme summer temperature across Australia five time more likely increased the chance of hot dry drought-like conditions seven times made hot spring temperatures across Australia 30 times more likely.

But perhaps most importantly, it showed the record hot year of 2013 across Australia was virtually impossible without the influence of human-caused global warming. At its most conservative, the science showed the heat of 2013 was made 2000 times more likely by global warming.

“When it comes to what helped cause our hottest year on record, human-caused climate change is no longer a prime suspect, it is the guilty party,” said ARCCSS Australian National University researcher Dr Sophie Lewis.

“Too often we talk about climate change impacts as if they are far in the future. This research shows they are here, now.”

The extreme year of 2013 is just the latest peak in a trend over the observational record that has seen increasing bushfire days, the record-breaking warming of oceans around Australia, the movement of tropical species into temperate zones and the shifting of rain bearing storm tracks further south and away from some of our most important agricultural zones.

“The most striking aspect of the extreme heat of 2013 and its impacts is that this is only at the very beginning of the time when we are expected to experience the first impacts of human-caused climate change,” said Dr Sarah Perkins an ARCCSS researcher with the University of New South Wales.

“If we continue to put carbon into our atmosphere at the currently accelerating rate, years like 2013 will quickly be considered normal and the impacts of future extremes will be well beyond anything modern society has experienced.”

Dolphins are attracted to magnets: Add dolphins to the list of magnetosensitive animals, French researchers say (Science Daily)

Date: September 29, 2014

Source: Springer Science+Business Media

Summary: Add dolphins to the list of magnetosensitive animals, French researchers say. Dolphins are indeed sensitive to magnetic stimuli, as they behave differently when swimming near magnetized objects.

Bottlenose dolphins (stock image). Credit: © sanilda / Fotolia

Add dolphins to the list of magnetosensitive animals, French researchers say. Dolphins are indeed sensitive to magnetic stimuli, as they behave differently when swimming near magnetized objects. So says Dorothee Kremers and her colleagues at Ethos unit of the Université de Rennes in France, in a study in Springer’s journalNaturwissenschaften — The Science of Nature. Their research, conducted in the delphinarium of Planète Sauvage in France, provides experimental behavioral proof that these marine animals are magnetoreceptive.

Magnetoreception implies the ability to perceive a magnetic field. It is supposed to play an important role in how some land and aquatic species orientate and navigate themselves. Some observations of the migration routes of free-ranging cetaceans, such as whales, dolphins and porpoises, and their stranding sites suggested that they may also be sensitive to geomagnetic fields.

Because experimental evidence in this regard has been lacking, Kremers and her colleagues set out to study the behavior of six bottlenose dolphins in the delphinarium of Planète Sauvage in Port-Saint-Père. This outdoor facility consists of four pools, covering 2,000 m² of water surface. They watched the animals’ spontaneous reaction to a barrel containing a strongly magnetized block or a demagnetized one. Except from this characteristic, the blocks were identical in form and density. The barrels were therefore indistinguishable as far as echolocation was concerned, the method by which dolphins locate objects by bouncing sound waves off them.

During the experimental sessions, the animals were free to swim in and out of the pool where the barrel was installed. All six dolphins were studied simultaneously, while all group members were free to interact at any time with the barrel during a given session. The person who was assigned the job to place the barrels in the pools did not know whether it was magnetized or not. This was also true for the person who analyzed the videos showing how the various dolphins reacted to the barrels.

The analyses of Ethos team revealed that the dolphins approached the barrel much faster when it contained a strongly magnetized block than when it contained a similar not magnetized one. However, the dolphins did not interact with both types of barrels differently. They may therefore have been more intrigued than physically drawn to the barrel with the magnetized block.

“Dolphins are able to discriminate between objects based on their magnetic properties, which is a prerequisite for magnetoreception-based navigation,” says Kremers. “Our results provide new, experimentally obtained evidence that cetaceans have a magenetic sense, and should therefore be added to the list of magnetosensitive species.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Dorothee Kremers, Juliana López Marulanda, Martine Hausberger, Alban Lemasson. Behavioural evidence of magnetoreception in dolphins: detection of experimental magnetic fields. Naturwissenschaften, 2014 DOI:10.1007/s00114-014-1231-x

Adding uncertainty to improve mathematical models (Science Daily)

Date: September 29, 2014

Source: Brown University

Summary: Mathematicians have introduced a new element of uncertainty into an equation used to describe the behavior of fluid flows. While being as certain as possible is generally the stock and trade of mathematics, the researchers hope this new formulation might ultimately lead to mathematical models that better reflect the inherent uncertainties of the natural world.

Burgers’ equation. Named for Johannes Martinus Burgers (1895–1981), the equation describes fluid flows, as when two air masses meet and create a front. A new development accounts for many more complexities and uncertainties, making predictions more robust, less sterile. Credit: Image courtesy of Brown University

Ironically, allowing uncertainty into a mathematical equation that models fluid flows makes the equation much more capable of correctly reflecting the natural world — like the formation, strength, and position of air masses and fronts in the atmosphere.

Mathematicians from Brown University have introduced a new element of uncertainty into an equation used to describe the behavior of fluid flows. While being as certain as possible is generally the stock and trade of mathematics, the researchers hope this new formulation might ultimately lead to mathematical models that better reflect the inherent uncertainties of the natural world.

The research, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A, deals with Burgers’ equation, which is used to describe turbulence and shocks in fluid flows. The equation can be used, for example, to model the formation of a front when airflows run into each other in the atmosphere.

“Say you have a wave that’s moving very fast in the atmosphere,” said George Karniadakis, the Charles Pitts Robinson and John Palmer Barstow Professor of Applied Mathematics at Brown and senior author of the new research. “If the rest of the air in the domain is at rest, then flow one goes over the other. That creates a very stiff front or a shock, and that’s what Burgers’ equation describes.”

It does so, however, in what Karniadakis describes as “a very sterilized” way, meaning the flows are modeled in the absence of external influences.

For example, when modeling turbulence in the atmosphere, the equations don’t take into consideration the fact that the airflows are interacting not just with each other, but also with whatever terrain may be below — be it a mountain, a valley or a plain. In a general model designed to capture any random point of the atmosphere, it’s impossible to know what landforms might lie underneath. But the effects of whatever those landforms might be can still be accounted for in the equation by adding a new term — one that treats those effects as a “random forcing.”

In this latest research, Karniadakis and his colleagues showed that Burgers’ equation can indeed be solved in the presence of this additional random term. The new term produces a range of solutions that accounts for uncertain external conditions that could be acting on the model system.

The work is part of a larger effort and a burgeoning field in mathematics called uncertainty quantification (UQ). Karniadakis is leading a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative centered at Brown to lay out the mathematical foundations of UQ.

“The general idea in UQ,” Karniadakis said, “is that when we model a system, we have to simplify it. When we simplify it, we throw out important degrees of freedom. So in UQ, we account for the fact that we committed a crime with our simplification and we try to reintroduce some of those degrees of freedom as a random forcing. It allows us to get more realism from our simulations and our predictions.”

Solving these equations is computationally expensive, and only in recent years has computing power reached a level that makes such calculations possible.

“This is something people have thought about for years,” Karniadakis said. “During my career, computing power has increased by a factor of a billion, so now we can think about harnessing that power.”

The aim, ultimately, is to make the mathematical models describing all kinds of phenomena — from atmospheric currents to the cardiovascular system to gene expression — that better reflect the uncertainties of the natural world.

Heyrim Cho and Daniele Venturi were co-authors on the paper.

Journal Reference:

  1. H. Cho, D. Venturi, G. E. Karniadakis. Statistical analysis and simulation of random shocks in stochastic Burgers equation. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 2014; 470 (2171): 20140080 DOI: 10.1098/rspa.2014.0080

We’re way more screwed than we were the last time the U.N. had a big climate meeting (Grist)

It’s been nearly five years since President Obama and other heads of state attended a major U.N. climate event. In the time since the 2009 Copenhagen conference, there has been little real progress toward a strong global climate agreement — instead there’s been backsliding. But there’s been lots of progress in making the climate go haywire.

So at the U.N. Climate Summit on Tuesday, when heads of state brag about accomplishments, make grandiose promises, and announce a lot of marginally helpful measures from the private sector and civil society, don’t be fooled. Things are a lot grimmer now than they were even five years ago.

Consider: Carbon dioxide emissions have gone up every year since 2009. CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has gone up too — from an average of 387 parts per million in 2009 to an average of more than 400 ppm for April, May, and June of this year. Last month was the hottest August ever recorded, and 2014 is on track to be the hottest year ever recorded.

A hard-hitting report released on Thursday by Oxfam International — “The Summit that Snoozed?” — highlights more ways we’ve let things get worse.  Here are some of its top points:

Climate change is costing the world more money every year. Since 2009, extreme weather-related disasters have cost more than three times what they did in the whole of the 1970s. Oxfam knows this all too well, since much of what it does is respond to the ensuing humanitarian crises. The group writes, “Devastating storms and floods in Pakistan, the Philippines and elsewhere in the world have cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars as poor countries and aid agencies like Oxfam struggle to cope.”

The U.S. actually suffered the highest number of extreme weather-related disasters in the last five years, and the largest economic losses at $198 billion. But that big price tag is because the U.S. is so rich, not because its disasters were the worst. Typhoon Haiyan took far more lives in the Philippines than Sandy did in the U.S., but Haiyan caused less economic damage. So while the U.S.’s economic damages were 14 times larger in absolute terms, the Philippines lost 1.2 percent of its GDP, while the U.S. lost only 0.2 percent.

Of the more than 112,000 lives Oxfam says were lost to extreme weather events over the past five years, more than half were in Russia, where 56,246 died from the 2010 heat wave. Russian President Vladimir Putin, by the way, is a denier of climate science and will not be attending the U.N. Climate Summit.

(A caveat, which Oxfam neglects to mention, about its economic numbers: While the comparisons across decades are adjusted for inflation, they are not adjusted for economic growth. One reason we suffer bigger economic impacts than we did in the 1970s is because we are richer and we have more valuable property to damage.)

Oxfam doesn’t provide any data on the increasing frequency of extreme weather events or their relationship to climate change. Perhaps the group, understandably, views that as a given. But lest there be any doubt: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded in 2011 that extreme weather would become more common due to climate change. And it’s already happening. A study from August in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that prolonged periods of hot or wet weather during summers in the Northern Hemisphere have doubled in the last decade. A study of 2012 data by 18 international research teams published last September in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Societyfound that human-caused climate change was partially responsible for half of the major extreme weather events that year.

The richest countries are wasting more money subsidizing fossil fuels.According to Oxfam, “The latest OECD figures of its 34 members show that total subsidies to fossil fuels have increased since Copenhagen — from just over $60 billion in 2009 to just over $80 billion in 2011. … More recent years are not yet available but there is no reason to suggest that the trend has reversed.” Since 80 percent of the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground if we’re to keep below 2 degrees Celsius of warming, policies that encourage fossil exploration or exploitation are extremely counterproductive.

And no, despite the growth of renewable capacity and the decline in the cost of renewables, the market isn’t solving this problem for us. Since 2009, private sector investment in fossil fuels has increased from just over $1 trillion to $1.1 trillion. That’s four times the size of private investment in renewables, which decreased from $300 billion in 2011 to $250 billion in 2012.

Copenhagen’s targets were too weak, and countries have been scaling down their ambition since then. As a U.N. report found in 2010, the voluntary emission-reduction pledges countries made under the Copenhagen Accord were not large enough to keep the world from warming by less than 2 degrees Celsius, which is the target set in Copenhagen. Since then, everyone has stuck to their lowest possible targets or even lowered them further, while some countries have adopted policies that will make it impossible to meet even the targets they have. Oxfam explains:

A number of countries set pledges in the form of a range, in which the higher end would be conditional on action by other countries. Australia and New Zealand’s 5 per cent pledges would move to 25 per cent and 20 per cent respectively if an appropriate global deal were struck, while the EU’s 20 per cent target would climb to 30 per cent if the conditions were right. Of the seven rich countries (or blocs) that promised to increase their target, none have done so. …

Similarly, while there was an agreement in 2011 to extend the Kyoto Protocol, which legally commits developed countries to cut their emissions, major countries have gone backwards instead of forwards. Canada, with a focus on tar sands extraction, announced they were dropping out of the Kyoto Protocol soon afterwards and replaced its Copenhagen pledge with a new set of targets, which allow emissions to rise. Two years later, Japan tore up its Copenhagen pledge to reduce its emissions by a quarter on 1990 levels, again replacing it with a set of targets that sanction a rise instead. In July 2014, Australia repealed its carbon tax, the country’s main tool for reducing emissions at home. As a result, Australia may struggle to meet even its minimum “unconditional” Copenhagen pledge of a 5 per cent cut by 2020.

In fairness to Australia and Canada, their heads of state are ditching the Climate Summit, so it’s not like they’re even pretending they care about climate change.

In light of all this, anyone watching the Climate Summit should retain a healthy skepticism about the promises and potentially misleading progress reports being offered. But the summit is also an opportunity to right some of these wrongs. Leaders making speeches on Tuesday can propose and commit to larger emissions reductions in the lead-up to treaty negotiations in Paris next year. And they can pony up the missing money for the U.N. Green Climate Fund.

Advocates like Oxfam and the 140 organizations cosponsoring the People’s Climate March on Sunday are trying to make clear that they won’t let world leaders off the hook easily.

National Science Foundation: Record California Drought Directly Linked To Climate Change (Climate Progress)



NSF: “The drought crippling California is by some measures the worst in the state’s history.” CREDIT: NOAA

A Stanford study funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) confirms a growing body of research that finds “The atmospheric conditions associated with the unprecedented drought in California are very likely linked to human-caused climate change.”

The NSF news release, headlined, “Cause of California drought linked to climate change,” explains:

Climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh of Stanford University and colleagues used a novel combination of computer simulations and statistical techniques to show that a persistent region of high atmospheric pressure over the Pacific Ocean–one that diverted storms away from California–was much more likely to form in the presence of modern greenhouse gas concentrations.

Unprecedented droughts often combine a reduction in precipitation with higher temperatures that increase evaporation, leaving soil parched. As the NSF notes in this case, “Combined with unusually warm temperatures and stagnant air conditions, the lack of precipitation has triggered a dangerous increase in wildfires and incidents of air pollution across the state.”

We know, of course, that global warming is making heat waves longer and stronger and more frequent, which in turn makes droughts worse everywhere. But climate change is also causing reduced precipitation in many regions, such as the Mediterranean and southwestern United States. This double whammy from carbon pollution means we’ll be seeing more and more dangerous record droughts.

California’s 3-year drought has reached epic proportions. The L.A. Times reported last week, “Drought has 14 communities on the brink of waterlessness.”

Here’s the most recent Drought Monitor for the state:


So what is the proximate cause of the reduced precipitation over California? New studies suggest that increases in sea surface temperatures are not the cause of the drying. The NSF study, however, explains:

Scientists agree that the immediate cause of the drought is a particularly tenacious “blocking ridge” over the northeastern Pacific — popularly known as the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, or “Triple R” — that prevented winter storms from reaching California during the 2013 and 2014 rainy seasons.

Blocking ridges are regions of high atmospheric pressure that disrupt typical wind patterns in the atmosphere.

The NSF study analyzed “the period since 1948, for which comprehensive atmospheric data are available.” Researchers “found that the persistence and intensity of the Triple R in 2013 were unrivaled by any previous event.” Stanford’s Bala Rajaratnam then “applied advanced statistical techniques to a large suite of climate model simulations.”

Finally, researchers looked at two sets of models — one set that duplicated the current climate, in which carbon pollution is warming the atmosphere, and the other set in which carbon pollution levels were comparable to those just before the Industrial Revolution.

The researchers found that the extreme heights of the Triple R in 2013 were at least three times as likely to occur in the present climate as in the preindustrial climate.

They also found that such extreme values are consistently tied to unusually low precipitation in California, and to the formation of atmospheric ridges over the northeastern Pacific.

Prof. Rajaratnam concluded, “We’ve demonstrated with high statistical confidence that large-scale atmospheric conditions similar to those of the Triple R are far more likely to occur now than in the climate before we emitted large amounts of greenhouse gases.”

This matches the finding in an April study that “there is a traceable anthropogenic warming footprint in the enormous intensity of the anomalous ridge during winter 2013-14, the associated drought and its intensity.” The lead author of that study, Dr. Simon Wang of the Utah Climate Center, told me in an email earlier this year, “I personally think that the debate over global warming leading to stronger blocking has passed. The ongoing challenge is how we predict WHEN and WHERE those blocking will happen and affect WHICH region.”

Indeed, as I’ve reported, scientists a decade ago not only predicted the loss of Arctic ice would dry out California, they also precisely predicted the specific, unprecedented change in the jet stream that has in fact caused the unprecedented nature of the California drought.

In fact, a growing body of evidence — documented by Senior Weather Channel meteorologist Stu Ostro and others — that “global warming is increasing the atmosphere’s thickness, leading to stronger and more persistent ridges of high pressure, which in turn are a key to temperature, rainfall, and snowfall extremes and topsy-turvy weather patterns like we’ve had in recent years.”

Bottom Line: Human activity has made droughts longer and stronger in many places, including California. If we continue on our current path of unrestricted carbon pollution, we will be sharply increasing the chances of civilization-threatening mega-droughts here and abroad.

If trees could talk: Forest research network reveals global change effects (Science Daily)

Date: September 26, 2014

Source: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Summary: Permafrost thaw drives forest loss in Canada, while drought has killed trees in Panama, southern India and Borneo. In the U.S., in Virginia, over-abundant deer eat trees before they reach maturity, while nitrogen pollution has changed soil chemistry in Canada and Panama. More than 100 collaborators have now published a major overview of what 59 forests in 24 countries teach us about forest responses to global change.

In addition to identifying, mapping, measuring and monitoring trees in the CTFS-ForestGEO study plots, researchers describe the relatedness of trees, track flower and seed production, collect insects, survey mammals, quantify carbon stocks and flows within the ecosystem, take soil samples and measure climate variables like rainfall and temperature. The thorough study of these plots provides insights into not only how forests are changing but also why. Credit: Beth King, STRI

Permafrost thaw drives forest loss in Canada, while drought has killed trees in Panama, southern India and Borneo. In the U.S., in Virginia, over-abundant deer eat trees before they reach maturity, while nitrogen pollution has changed soil chemistry in Canada and Panama. Continents apart, these changes have all been documented by the Smithsonian-led Center for Tropical Forest Science-Forest Global Earth Observatory, CTFS-ForestGEO, which released a new report revealing how forests are changing worldwide.

“With 107 collaborators we’ve published a major overview of what 59 forests in 24 countries, where we monitor nearly 6 million trees teach us about forest responses to global change,” said Kristina Anderson-Teixeira, first author of the report and CTFS-ForestGEO and ecosystem ecologist based at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

Many of the changes occurring in forests worldwide are attributable to human impacts on climate, atmospheric chemistry, land use and animal populations that are so pervasive as to warrant classification of a new geologic period in Earth’s history — the Anthropocene, the Age of Humans.

Measuring and understanding the effects of all these changes — collectively termed “global change” — are easier said than done. Some of the best information about these global-scale changes comes from CTFS-ForestGEO, the only network of standardized forest-monitoring sites that span the globe.

Since the censuses began at the first site on Barro Colorado Island in Panama in 1981, atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased by 16 percent. The forest sites in the network have warmed by an average of over 1 degree F (0.6 degree C) and experienced up to 30 percent changes in precipitation. Landscapes around protected sites experience deforestation.

The plot network now includes forests from Brazil to northern Canada, from Gabon to England and from Papua New Guinea to China.

In addition to identifying, mapping, measuring and monitoring trees, researchers describe the relatedness of trees, track flower and seed production, collect insects, survey mammals, quantify carbon stocks and flows within the ecosystem, take soil samples and measure climate variables like rainfall and temperature. The thorough study of these plots provides insights into not only how forests are changing but also why.

Climate change scenarios predict that most of these sites will face warmer and often drier conditions in the future — some experiencing novel climates with no modern analogs. Forests are changing more rapidly than expected by chance alone, and shifts in species composition have been associated with environmental change. Biomass increased at many tropical sites across the network.

“It is incredibly rewarding to work with a team of forest scientists from 78 research institutions around the world, including four Smithsonian units” Anderson-Teixeira said. “CTFS-ForestGEO is a pioneer in the kind of collaborative effort it takes to understand how forests worldwide are changing.”

“We look forward to using the CTFS-ForestGEO network to continue to understand how and why forests respond to change, and what this means for the climate, biodiversity conservation and human well-being,” said Stuart Davies, network director.

Journal Reference:

  1. Anderson-Teixeira, K.J., Davies, S.J., Bennett, A.C., et al. CTFS-ForestGEO: A worldwide network monitoring forests in an era of global change.. Global Change Biology, 2014

Diálogos sobre o fim do mundo (El País)

Do Antropoceno à Idade da Terra, de Dilma Rousseff a Marina Silva, o antropólogo Eduardo Viveiros de Castro e a filósofa Déborah Danowski pensam o planeta e o Brasil a partir da degradação da vida causada pela mudança climática 

29 SEP 2014 – 11:18 BRT

Se alguns, entre os milhares que passaram pela calçada da Casa de Rui Barbosa, na semana de 15 a 19 de setembro, por um momento tivessem o ímpeto de entrar, talvez levassem um susto. Ou até se desesperassem. Durante cinco dias, debateu-se ali, no bairro de Botafogo, no Rio de Janeiro, algo que, apesar dos sinais cada vez mais evidentes, ainda parece distante das preocupações da maioria: a progressiva e cada vez mais rápida degradação da vida a partir da mudança climática. Pensadores de diversas áreas e de diferentes regiões do mundo discutiram o conceito de Antropoceno – o momento em que o homem deixa de ser agente biológico para se tornar uma força geológica, capaz de alterar a paisagem do planeta e comprometer sua própria sobrevivência como espécie e a dos outros seres vivos. Ou, dito de outro modo, o ponto de virada em que os humanos deixam de apenas temer a catástrofe para se tornar a catástrofe.

Com o título “Os mil nomes de Gaia – do Antropoceno à Idade da Terra”, o encontro foi concebido pelo francês Bruno Latour, uma das estrelas internacionais desse debate, e dois dos pensadores mais originais do Brasil atual, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro e Déborah Danowski. Na mesma semana, Eduardo e Déborah lançaram o livro que escreveram juntos: Há mundo por vir? – ensaio sobre os medos e os fins (Editora Cultura e Barbárie).

Na obra, abordam as várias teorias, assim como as incursões da literatura e do cinema, sobre esse momento em que a arrogância e o otimismo da modernidade encontram uma barreira. O homem é então lançado no incontrolável e até na desesperança, no território de Gaia, o planeta ao mesmo tempo exíguo e implacável. Como escrevem logo no início do livro, com deliciosa ironia: “O fim do mundo é um tema aparentemente interminável – pelo menos, é claro, até que ele aconteça”.

Déborah é filósofa, professora da pós-graduação da PUC do Rio de Janeiro. Pesquisa a metafísica moderna e, ultimamente, o pensamento ecológico. Eduardo é etnólogo, professor do Museu Nacional da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. É autor do “perspectivismo ameríndio”, contribuição que impactou a antropologia e o colocou entre os maiores antropólogos do mundo. Como disse Latour, Déborah é uma “filósofa meio ecologista”, Eduardo um “antropólogo meio filósofo”.

Eduardo e Déborah são marido e mulher e pais de Irene, a quem o livro é dedicado. Além da casa, os dois compartilham a capacidade bastante rara de dialogar com os vários campos de conhecimento e da cultura sem escapar de refletir também sobre a política – para muito além de partidos e eleições, mas também sobre partidos e eleições. Ambos têm uma ação bastante ativa nas redes sociais. Como diz Eduardo, o Twitter é onde ele pensa.

A entrevista a seguir contém alguns dos momentos mais interessantes de cinco horas de conversa – três horas e meia no apartamento deles, em Botafogo, no sábado após o colóquio, e uma hora e meia por Skype, dias depois. Entre os dois encontros, 400.000 pessoas, segundo os organizadores, participaram da Marcha dos Povos pelo Clima, em Nova York, e 4.000 no Rio de Janeiro; Barack Obama afirmou que “o clima está mudando mais rápido do que as ações para lidar com a questão” e que nenhum país ficará imune; e o Brasil recusou-se a assinar o compromisso de desmatamento zero até 2030.

Ainda que tenham sido dias intensos, é possível afirmar que para muitos parece mais fácil aderir a ameaças de fim de mundo, como a suposta profecia maia, de 21 de dezembro de 2012, do que acreditar que a deterioração da vida que sentem (e como sentem!), objetiva e subjetivamente, no seu cotidiano – e que em São Paulo chega a níveis inéditos com a seca e a ameaça de faltar água para milhões – é resultado da ação do homem sobre o planeta. É mais fácil crer na ficção, que ao final se revela como ficção, salvando a todos, do que enfrentar o abismo da realidade, em que nosso primeiro pé já encontrou o nada.

É sobre isso que se fala nesta entrevista. Mas também sobre pobres e sobre índios, e sobre índios convertidos em pobres; sobre esquerda e sobre direita; sobre capitalismo e sobre o fim do capitalismo; sobre Lula, Dilma Rousseff e Marina Silva. Sobre como nos tornamos “drones”, ao dissociar ação e consequência. E como todos estes são temas da mudança climática – e não estão distantes, mas perto, bem perto de nós. Mais próximos do que a mesa de cabeceira onde desligamos o despertador que nos acorda para uma vida que nos escapa. O problema é que o que nos acorda nem sempre nos desperta. Talvez seja hora de aprender, como fazem diferentes povos indígenas, a dançar para que o céu não caia sobre a nossa cabeça.

A antropóloga sul-africana Lesley Green referiu-se, em sua exposição no colóquio, ao momento de países como África do Sul e Brasil, países em que uma parcela da população que historicamente estava fora do mundo do consumo passa a ter acesso ao mundo do consumo. No Brasil, estamos falando da chamada Classe C ou “nova classe média”. Me parece que esse é quase um dogma no Brasil de hoje, algo que poucos têm a coragem de confrontar. Como dar essa má notícia, a de que agora que podem consumir, de fato não podem, porque as elites exauriram o planeta nos últimos séculos? E como dizer isso no Brasil, em que todo o processo de inclusão passa pelo consumo?

“O capitalismo está fundado no princípio da produção de riqueza, mas a questão num planeta finito é redistribuir a riqueza”

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro – Essa é uma grande questão em países como o Brasil. E totalmente legítima. O que está em jogo aí é a questão da igualdade. Até certo ponto é muito mais fácil você dar um carro para o pobre do que tirar o carro do rico. E talvez fosse muito mais fácil para o pobre aceitar que ele não pode ter um carro se o rico parasse de ter carro também. Dizendo, de fato: “Olha, lamento, você não pode mais usar, mas eu também não”. É claro que enquanto você ficar dizendo para o pobre – “Você não pode ter e eu tenho” – não dá. Ele vai dizer: “Por que vocês podem continuar a consumir seis planetas Terra e eu não posso comprar o meu carrinho?”. É preciso dissociar crescimento de igualdade, como afirma o Rodrigo Nunes (professor do Departamento de Filosofia da PUC-Rio). E sobretudo você tem que parar de superdesenvolver os países superdesenvolvidos. E a palavra tem que ser “superdesenvolvido”. Porque a gente fala muito em sociedades desenvolvidas e subdesenvolvidas, como antigamente – países subdesenvolvidos, países em vias de desenvolvimento, países desenvolvidos. Nunca ninguém falou que existem países superdesenvolvidos, isto é, excessivamente desenvolvidos. É o caso dos Estados Unidos, onde um cidadão americano médio gasta o equivalente a 32 cidadãos do Quênia ou da Etiópia. A relação que sempre se faz é que, para tirar as populações da pobreza, é preciso crescer economicamente. E aí você tem um dilema: se você cresce economicamente, com uso crescente de energia fortemente poluente, como petróleo e carvão, nós vamos destruir o planeta. Assim, a luta pela igualdade não pode depender do nosso modelo de crescimento econômico mundial, do qual o Brasil, Índia e China são só as pontas mais histéricas, porque querem crescer muito rápido. O jeito como o mundo está andando não pode continuar porque se baseia numa ideia de que o crescimento pode ser infinito, quando a gente sabe que mora num mundo finito, com recursos finitos. Entretanto, eu nunca vi ninguém falar: “O crescimento vai ter que parar aqui”. Você vai ser preso se você disser isso em qualquer lugar do mundo. Eu não acho que o Brasil tenha que parar de crescer, no sentido de crescimento zero. O que o Brasil precisa, como o mundo precisa, é de uma redistribuição radical da riqueza. Quanto mais você redistribui, menos precisa crescer, no sentido de aumentar a produção. A economia capitalista está fundada no princípio de que viver economicamente é produzir riqueza, quando a questão realmente crítica é redistribuir a riqueza existente.

Mas aí você toca na parte mais difícil, os privilégios… E a mudança parece ainda mais distante, quase impossível.

Eduardo – É verdade. Os grandes produtores de petróleo têm todo interesse em tirar até a última gota de petróleo do chão, mas eles também não são completamente imbecis. E estão se preparando para monopolizar outras riquezas no futuro que possam vir a ser a mercadoria realmente importante. Por exemplo, água. Eu não tenho a menor dúvida de que existem planos estratégicos das grandes companhias petrolíferas para a passagem de produtoras de petróleo a produtoras de água, que será a mercadoria escassa. Você pode viver sem petróleo, você pode viver sem luz, inclusive, mas você não pode sobreviver sem água. A minha impressão é que, assim que passar a eleição, São Paulo vai entrar numa vida de science fiction. O que é uma megalópole sem água?

Acho que saberemos em breve…

“São Paulo é uma espécie de laboratório do mundo. Tudo está acontecendo de maneira acelerada”

Eduardo – É mais fácil você dizer que a culpa é do (Geraldo) Alckmin (governador de São Paulo, pelo PSDB), que não tomou as medidas necessárias. É mais fácil do que dizer: isso aí é o efeito de São Paulo ter cimentado todo o seu território, se transformado num captor térmico gigantesco, só com cimento, asfalto e carro jogando gás carbônico. Desapareceu a garoa, não existe mais a garoa em São Paulo. A Amazônia foi e está sendo desmatada por empresários paulistas. São Paulo é uma metáfora, mas não é só uma metáfora. São Paulo está destruindo a Amazônia e está sofrendo as consequências disso. Acho que São Paulo é um laboratório espetacular, no sentido não positivo da palavra. É como se estivesse passando em fast forward, acelerado, tudo o que está acontecendo no mundo. Explodiu a quantidade de carros, explodiu a poluição, explodiu a falta de água, explodiu a violência, explodiu a desigualdade. Em suma, São Paulo é uma espécie de laboratório do mundo, neste sentido. Não só São Paulo, há outras cidades iguais, mas São Paulo é a mais próxima de nós, e estamos vendo o que está acontecendo.

E por que as pessoas não conseguem fazer a conexão, por exemplo, entre a seca em São Paulo e o desmatamento na Amazônia?

Eduardo – Porque é muito grande a coisa. Há um pensador alemão, o Günther Anders, que foi o primeiro marido da Hannah Arendt. Ele fugiu do nazismo e virou um militante antinuclear, especialmente entre o fim da década de 40 e os anos 70. Ele diz que a arma nuclear é uma prova de que aconteceu alguma coisa com a humanidade, na medida em que ela se tornou incapaz de imaginar o que é capaz de fazer. É uma situação antiutópica. O que é um utopista? Um utopista é uma pessoa que consegue imaginar um mundo melhor, mas não consegue fazer, não conhece os meios nem sabe como. E nós estamos virando o contrário. Nós somos capazes tecnicamente de fazer coisas que não somos nem capazes de imaginar. A gente sabe fazer a bomba atômica, mas não sabe pensar a bomba atômica. O Günther Anders usa uma imagem interessante, a de que existe essa ideia em biologia da percepção de fenômenos subliminares, abaixo da linha de percepção. Tem aquela coisa que é tão baixinha, que você ouve mas não sabe que ouviu; você vê, mas não sabe que viu; como pequenas distinções de cores. São fenômenos literalmente subliminares, abaixo do limite da sua percepção. Nós, segundo ele, estamos criando uma outra coisa agora que não existia, o supraliminar. Ou seja, é tão grande, que você não consegue ver nem imaginar. A crise climática é uma dessas coisas. Como é que você vai imaginar um troço que depende de milhares de parâmetros, que é um transatlântico que está andando e tem uma massa inercial gigantesca? As pessoas ficam paralisadas. Dá uma espécie de paralisia cognitiva. Então as pessoas falam: “Não posso pensar nisso. Se eu pensar nisso, como é que eu vou dar conta? Você está dizendo que o mundo vai aquecer quatro graus… E o que vai acontecer? Então é melhor não pensar”. Bem, a gente acha que tem que pensar.

Déborah Danowski – Os indígenas, os pequenos agricultores, eles estão percebendo no contato com as plantas, com os animais, que algo está acontecendo. Eles têm uma percepção muito mais apurada do que a gente.

Eduardo – Como eles veem que o clima está mudando? No calendário agrícola de uma tribo indígena você sabe que está na hora de plantar porque há vários sinais da natureza. Por exemplo, o rio chegou até tal nível, o passarinho tal começou a cantar, a árvore tal começou a dar flor. E a formiga tal começou a fazer não-sei-o-quê. O que eles estão dizendo agora é que esses sinais dessincronizaram. O rio está chegando a um nível antes de o passarinho começar a cantar. E o passarinho está cantando muito antes de aquela árvore dar flor. É como se a natureza tivesse saído de eixo. E isso todos eles estão dizendo. As espécies estão se extinguindo, e a humanidade parece que continua andando para um abismo. O mundo vai, de fato, piorar para muita gente, para todo mundo. Só o que vai melhorar é a taxa de lucro de algumas empresas, e mesmo os acionistas delas vão ter que talvez tirar a casa de luxo que eles têm na Califórnia e jogar para outro lugar, porque ali vai ter pegado fogo. Se houver uma epidemia, um vírus, uma pandemia letal, violenta, tipo ebola, pode pegar todo mundo. Enquanto os sujeitos têm corpo de carne e osso, ninguém está realmente livre, por mais rico que seja, do que vai acontecer. Mas é evidente que quem vai primeiro soçobrar serão os pobres, os danados da Terra, os condenados da Terra. Algumas pessoas estão começando a se preocupar, mas não conseguem fazer parar, porque todas as outras estão empurrando. E você diz: “para, para, para!”. E você não consegue. Mas há muitas iniciativas pelo mundo de gente que percebeu que os estados nacionais, ou que as grandes tecnologias gigantescas, heroicas e épicas, não vão nos salvar. E que está nas nossas mãos nos salvarmos. Não está nas mãos dos nossos responsáveis. Não temos responsáveis. A ideia de que o governo é responsável por nós, a gente já viu que não é. Ele é irresponsável. Ele toma decisões irresponsáveis, destrói riquezas que ele não pode substituir, e, portanto, há um descrédito fortíssimo nas formas de representação.

Como os protestos de junho de 2013…

Eduardo – As crises de junho são crises de “não nos representa”. Isso não é só no Brasil. É como se tivesse havido uma espécie de fissura. É uma outra geração. Não deixa de ser parecido com 68, de certa maneira. Só que agora não é em torno de novas lutas, como gênero, sexualidade, etnia. Tudo isso continua, mas há uma outra coisa muito maior por cima: o que estamos fazendo com a Terra onde a gente vive? Vamos continuar comendo transgênico? Vamos continuar nos envenenando? Vamos continuar destruindo o planeta? Vamos continuar mudando a temperatura?

Pegando como gancho a nossa situação aqui no Brasil, com um governo desenvolvimentista, com grandes obras na Amazônia, transposição do rio São Francisco etc, gostaria que vocês falassem sobre a questão do pobre. Você afirma, de uma maneira muito original, Eduardo, que o pobre é um “nós” de segunda classe. A grande promessa seria tirá-lo da pobreza para ficar mais parecido com a única forma desejável de ser, a nossa. E o índio problematiza isso e, portanto, se torna um problema. O índio não se interessa em ser “nós”. Então eu queria que vocês explicassem melhor essa ideia e a situassem na política do atual governo para os pobres e para os índios.

“A história do Brasil é um processo de conversão do índio em pobre. É o que está acontecendo na Amazônia agora”

Eduardo – O capitalismo é uma máquina de fazer pobres. Inclusive na Europa. Os pobres não estão aqui, só. O pobre é parte integrante do sistema de crescimento. As pessoas acham que o crescimento diminui a pobreza. O crescimento, na verdade, produz e reproduz a pobreza. Na medida em que ele tira gente da pobreza, ele tem que criar outros pobres no lugar. O capitalismo conseguiu melhorar a condição de vida do operariado europeu porque jogou para o Terceiro Mundo as condições miseráveis. Então, era o operário daqui sendo explorado para que os pobres operários de lá fossem menos explorados. Essa oposição que eu fiz entre índio e pobre é, na verdade, uma crítica direta, explícita, a uma boa parte da esquerda, a esquerda tradicional, a velha esquerda que está no poder, que divide o poder por concessão da direita, dos militares e tal, e é muito voltada para a ideia de desenvolvimento. Uma coisa era o desenvolvimentismo do Celso Furtado, naquela época. Acho, inclusive, um insulto à memória dele. O Celso Furtado estava vivendo uma outra época, um outro mundo, um outro modelo. E as pessoas hoje continuam a falar essas palavras de ordem que têm 40, 50, 60 anos, como se fosse a mesma coisa. Mas, qual é o problema? O problema é que a esquerda de classe média, o intelectual de esquerda, vê o seu Outro essencialmente como um pobre. Pobre é uma categoria negativa, né? Pobre é alguém que se define pelo que não tem. Não tem dinheiro, não tem educação, não tem oportunidade. Então, a atitude natural em relação ao pobre, e isso não é uma crítica, é o ver natural, é que o pobre tem que deixar de ser aquilo. Para ele poder ser alguma coisa, ele tem que deixar de ser pobre. Então a atitude natural é você libertar o pobre, emancipar o pobre das suas condições. Tirá-lo do trabalho escravo, dar a ele educação, moradia digna. Mas, invariavelmente, esse movimento tem você mesmo como padrão. Você não se modifica, você modifica o pobre. Você traz o pobre para a sua altura, o que já sugere que você está por cima do pobre. Ao mesmo tempo, você torna o pobre homogêneo. Sim, porque se o pobre é definido por alguém que não tem algo, então é todo mundo igual.

E o que é um índio?

Eduardo – O índio, ao contrário, é uma palavra que acho que só existe no plural. Índio, para mim, é índios. É justamente o contrário do pobre. Eles se definem pelo que têm de diferente, uns dos outros e eles todos de nós, e por alguém cuja razão de ser é continuar sendo o que é. Mesmo que adotando coisas da gente, mesmo que querendo também a sua motocicleta, o seu rádio, o seu Ipad, seja o que for, ele quer isso sem que lhe tirem o que ele já tem e sempre teve. E alguns não querem isso, não estão interessados. Não é todo mundo que quer ser igual ao branco. O que aconteceu com a história do Brasil é que foi um processo circular de transformação de índio em pobre. Tira a terra, tira a língua, tira a religião. Aí o cara fica com o quê? Com a força de trabalho. Virou pobre. Qual foi sempre o truque da mestiçagem brasileira? Tiravam tudo, convertiam e diziam: agora, se vocês se comportarem bem, daqui a 200, 300, 400 anos, vocês vão virar brancos. Eles deixam de ser índios, mas não conseguem chegar a ser brancos. Pessoal, vocês precisam misturar para virar branco. Se vocês se esforçarem, melhorarem a raça, melhorarem o sangue, vai virar branco. O que chamam de mestiçagem é uma fraude. O nome é branqueamento. E é o que estão fazendo na Amazônia. É re-colonização. O Brasil está sendo recolonizado por ele mesmo com esse modelo sulista/europeu/americano. Essa cultura country que está invadindo a Amazônia junto com a soja, junto com o boi. E ao mesmo tempo transformando quem mora ali em pobre. E produzindo a pobreza. O ribeirinho vira pobre, o quilombola vira pobre, o índio vai virando pobre. Atrás da colheitadeira, atrás do boi, vem o programa de governo, vem o Bolsa Família, vem tudo para ir reciclando esse lixo humano que vai sendo pisoteado pela boiada. Reciclando ele em “pobre bom cidadão”. E aí a Amazônica fica liberada…

Como enfrentar isso?

“Qual foi a grande carta de alforria que o governo Dilma deu ao pobre? O cartão de crédito”

Eduardo – Se você olhar a composição étnica, cultural, da pobreza brasileira, você vai ver quem é o pobre. Basicamente índios, negros. O que eu chamo de índios inclui africanos. Inclui os imigrantes que não deram certo. Esse pessoal é essa mistura: é índio, é negro, é imigrante pobre, é brasileiro livre, é o caboclo, é o mestiço, é o filho da empregada com o patrão, filho da escrava com o patrão. O inconsciente cultural destes pobres brasileiros é índio, em larga medida. Tem um componente não branco. É aquela frase que eu inventei: no Brasil todo mundo é índio, exceto quem não é. Então, em vez de fazer o pobre ficar mais parecido com você, você tem que ajudar o pobre a ficar mais parecido com ele mesmo. O que é o pobre positivado? Não mais transformado em algo parecido comigo, mas transformado em algo que ele sempre foi, mas que impedem ele de ser ao torná-lo pobre. O quê? Índio. Temos de ajudá-los a lutar para que eles mesmos definam seu próprio rumo, em vez de nos colocarmos na posição governamental de: “Olha, eu vou tirar vocês da pobreza”. E fazendo o quê? Dando para eles consumo, consumo, consumo.

Déborah – Fora a dívida, né.

Eduardo – Endividando, no cartão de crédito. Qual foi a grande carta de alforria que o governo Dilma deu ao pobre? O cartão de crédito. Hoje pobre tem cartão de crédito. Legal? Muito legal, sobretudo para as firmas que vendem as mercadorias que os pobres compram no cartão de crédito. Porque a Brastemp está adorando o cartão de crédito para pobre. As Casas Bahia estão nas nuvens. Porque o pobre agora pode se endividar.

E aí vêm os elogios à honestidade do pobre…

Eduardo – Eles, sim, pagam as dívidas, porque rico não paga. Eike Batista não paga dívida, mas a empregada morre de trabalhar para pagar o cartão de crédito. Eu provocava a esquerda, dizendo: “O que vocês não estão entendendo é o seguinte. Enquanto vocês tratarem o Outro como pobre, e portanto como alguém que tem que ser melhorado, educado, civilizado – porque no fundo é isso, civilizar o pobre! –, vocês vão estar sendo cúmplices de todo esse sistema de destruição do planeta que permitiu aos ricos serem ricos”.

Vocês afirmam que os índios são especialistas em fim do mundo. E que vamos precisar aprender com eles. No livro, há até uma analogia com o filme de Lars Von Trier, no qual um planeta chamado Melancolia atinge a Terra. Vocês dizem que, em 1492, o Velho Mundo atingiu o Novo Mundo, como um planeta que vocês chamam ironicamente de Mercadoria. O que os índios podem nos ensinar sobre sobreviver ao fim do mundo?

Eduardo – Eles podem nos ensinar a viver num mundo que foi invadido, saqueado, devastado pelos homens. Isto é, ironicamente, num mundo destruído por nós mesmos, cidadãos do mundo globalizado, padronizado, saturado de objetos inúteis, alimentado à custa de pesticidas e agrotóxicos e da miséria alheia. Nós, cidadãos obesos de tanto consumir lixo e sufocados de tanto produzir lixo. A gente invadiu a nós mesmos como se tivéssemos nos travestidos de alienígenas que trataram todo o planeta como nós, europeus, tratamos o Novo Mundo a partir de 1492. Digo “nós”, porque eu acho que a classe média brasileira, os brancos, no sentido social da palavra, não são europeus para os europeus, mas são europeus para dentro do Brasil. Nós, então, nos vemos como alienígenas em relação ao mundo. Como se a gente tivesse uma relação com o mundo diferente da relação dos outros seres vivos, como se os humanos fossem especiais. Não deixa de ser uma coisa importante na tradição do catolicismo e do cristianismo. O homem tem um lado que não é mundano, um destino fora do mundo. Isso faz com que ele trate o mundo como se fosse feito para ser pilhado, saqueado, apropriado. E a gente acaba tratando a nós mesmos como nós tratamos os povos que habitavam aqui no Novo Mundo. Ou seja, como gente a explorar, a escravizar, a catequizar e a reduzir. Esta é a primeira coisa que eu acho que os índios podem nos ensinar: a viver num mundo que foi de alguma maneira roubado por nós mesmos de nós.

E a segunda?

“Os índios são especialistas em fim do mundo, eles podem nos ensinar a viver melhor num mundo pior”

Eduardo – Acho que os índios podem nos ensinar a repensar a relação com o mundo material, uma relação que seja menos fortemente mediada por um sistema econômico baseado na obsolescência planejada e, portanto, na acumulação de lixo como principal produto. Eles podem nos ensinar a voltar à Terra como lugar do qual depende toda a autonomia política, econômica e existencial. Em outras palavras: os índios podem nos ensinar a viver melhor em um mundo pior. Porque o mundo vai piorar. E os índios podem nos ensinar a viver com pouco, a viver portátil, e a ser tecnologicamente polivalente e flexível, em vez de depender de megamáquinas de produção de energia e de consumo de energia como nós. Quando eu falo índio é índio aqui, na Austrália, o pessoal da Nova Guiné, esquimó… Para mim, índio são todas as grandes minorias que estão fora, de alguma maneira, dessa megamáquina do capitalismo, do consumo, da produção, do trabalho 24 horas por dia, sete dias por semana. Esses índios planetários nos ensinam a dispensar a existência das gigantescas máquinas de transcendência que são o Estado, de um lado, e o sistema do espetáculo do outro, o mercado transformado em imagem. Eu acho que os índios podem também nos ensinar a aceitar os imponderáveis, os imprevistos e os desastres da vida com o “pessimismo alegre” (expressão usada originalmente pelo filósofo francês François Zourabichvili, com relação a Deleuze, mas que aqui ganha outros sentidos). O pessimismo alegre caracteriza a atitude vital dos índios e demais povos que vivem à margem da civilização bipolar que é a nossa, que está sempre oscilando entre um otimismo maníaco e um desespero melancólico. Os índios aceitam que nós somos mortais e que do mundo nada se leva. Em muitos povos indígenas do Brasil, e em outras partes do mundo, os bens do defunto são inclusive queimados, são destruídos no funeral. A pessoa morre e tudo o que ela tem é destruído para que a memória dela não cause dor aos sobreviventes. Acho que essas são as coisas que os índios poderiam nos ensinar, mas que eu resumiria nesta frase: os índios podem nos ensinar a viver melhor num mundo pior.

Como é um “pessimismo alegre”?

Eduardo – Acho que o pessimismo alegre é o que você encontra na favela carioca. É o que você encontra no meio das populações que vivem no semiárido brasileiro. É a mesma coisa que você encontra, em geral, nas camadas mais pobres da população. O fato de que você vive em condições que qualquer um de nós, da classe média para cima, consideraria materialmente intoleráveis. Mas isso não os torna seres desesperados, tristes, melancólicos, etc. Muito pelo contrário. É claro que eu não estou falando de situações dramáticas, de gente morrendo de fome. Isso aí não há ninguém que aguente. Mas, se você perguntar para o índio, ele vai dizer: estamos todos fritos, um dia o mundo vai acabar caindo na nossa cabeça, mas isso não impede que você se distraia, que se divirta, que ria um pouco dessa condição meio patética que é a de todo ser humano, em que ele vive como se fosse imortal e ao mesmo tempo sabe que vai morrer. Os índios não acham que o futuro vai ser melhor do que o presente, como nós, e portanto não se desesperam porque o futuro não vai ser melhor do que o presente, como a gente está descobrindo. Eles acham que o futuro vai ser ou igual ou pior do que agora, mas isso não impede que eles considerem isso com pessimismo alegre, que é o contrário do otimismo desencantado, que é um pouco o nosso. Do tipo estamos mal, mas vai dar tudo certo, a tecnologia vai nos salvar, ou o homem vai finalmente chegar ao socialismo. Os índios acham que tudo vai para as cucuias, mesmo. Mas isso não lhes tira o sono, porque viver é uma coisa que você tem que fazer de minuto a minuto, tem que viver o presente. E nós temos um problema, que é a dificuldade imensa em viver o presente. Os índios são pessoas que de fato vivem no presente no melhor sentido possível. Vamos tratar de viver o presente tal como ele é, enfrentando as dificuldades que ele apresenta, mas sem imaginar que a gente tem poderes messiânicos, demiúrgicos de salvar o planeta. Essa é um pouco a minha sensação. O pessimismo alegre é uma atitude que eu sinto como característica de quem tem que viver, e não simplesmente gente que acha que é a palmatória do mundo, que tem que pensar pelo mundo todo.

“Como é que a Dilma Rousseff pode dar Bolsa Família e ao mesmo tempo tornar a vida da Kátia Abreu cada vez mais fácil? Porque o dinheiro não sai do bolso dos ricos, mas da natureza”

Déborah – Acho que sobretudo depende da criação de relações com as outras pessoas. Em vez de você confiar na acumulação, que nos torna sempre tristes, porque está sempre faltando alguma coisa, precisamos sempre obter mais, acumular mais, etc, nós criamos relações com as pessoas que estão à nossa volta, com os outros seres, no meio dos quais nós vivemos.

Parece que há uma cegueira de parte do que se denomina esquerda, hoje, para compreender outras formas de estar no mundo, assim como para compreender desafios como os impostos pela mudança climática, como vemos no Brasil, mas não só no Brasil. Aqui, estamos num momento bem sensível do país, com Belo Monte e as grandes barragens previstas para o Tapajós. Supostamente, teríamos hoje duas candidatas de esquerda (Dilma Rousseff e Marina Silva) nos primeiros lugares da disputa eleitoral para a presidência, mas as questões socioambientais pouco são tocadas. Qual é a dificuldade?

Eduardo – Você tem pelo menos duas esquerdas, como se vê até pelas candidaturas. Só que, infelizmente, uma esquerda muito bem caracterizada, que é a da Dilma, e outra esquerda, representada pela Marina, em que falta capacidade para formular com clareza o que diferencia ela da outra. Essas duas esquerdas, de certa maneira, sempre existiram. Lá no início, na Primeira Internacional, essa fratura correspondeu à distinção entre os anarquistas e os comunistas. Mas hoje eu diria que você tem duas posições dentro da esquerda. Uma posição que a gente poderia chamar de “crescimentista”, centralista, que acha que a solução é tomar o controle do aparelho do Estado para implementar uma política de despauperização do povo brasileiro, dentro da qual a questão do meio ambiente não tem nenhuma importância. A Dilma chegou a cometer aquele famoso ato falho lá em Copenhagen (em 12/2009, quando era ministra-chefe da Casa Civil do governo Lula), ao dizer: “O meio ambiente é, sem dúvida nenhuma, uma ameaça ao desenvolvimento sustentável”. Ato falho. Não era isso o que ela queria dizer, mas disse. Essa esquerda tem zero de sensibilidade ambiental. Ela poderia perceber que uma outra maneira de falar “ambiente” é falar “condições materiais de existência”. Falta de esgoto na favela é problema ambiental do mesmo jeito que desmatamento na Amazônia é problema ambiental. Não é de outro jeito, é do mesmo jeito. Mas, para essa esquerda, ar, água, planta, bicho não faz parte do mundo. São pessoas completamente antropocêntricas, que veem o mundo à disposição dos homens, para ser dominado, controlado e escravizado. Essa esquerda, que é a esquerda da Dilma, é uma esquerda velha, no sentido de que é uma esquerda que, na verdade, pensa como se 1968 não tivesse acontecido. É alguém com uma espécie de nostalgia da União Soviética…

Déborah – Com nostalgia do que nunca aconteceu.

Eduardo – Soviet mais eletricidade, a famosa fórmula do Lenin. O que é o comunismo? O comunismo são os soviets, que são os conselhos operários, mais eletricidade, isto é, mais tecnologia. Aí eu brincava, quando a Dilma tomou o poder: “A Dilma é isso, só que sem o soviet”. É só eletricidade… Ou seja, capitalismo. O que distinguia o socialismo comunista do Lenin era a tecnologia moderna mais a organização social comunista. Se você tira a organização comunista só sobra o capitalismo. Então essa esquerda é uma esquerda sócia do capitalismo. Acha que é preciso levar o capitalismo até o fim, para que ele se complete, para que a industrialização se complete, para que a transformação de todos os índios do mundo em pobres se complete. Para que você então transforme o pobre em proletário, o proletário em classe revolucionária, ou seja, é uma historinha de fadas. Como se pudesse separar a parte boa da parte ruim do capitalismo. Como se fosse possível: isso aqui eu quero, isso aqui eu não quero. Outra coisa, essa esquerda fez um pacto satânico com a direita, que é o seguinte: a gente gosta dos pobres, quer melhorar a vida deles, quer melhorar o nível de renda deles, mas não vai tocar no bolso de vocês, fiquem tranquilos. É o que está dito na Carta ao Povo Brasileiro (documento escrito por Lula na campanha eleitoral de 2002). Pode deixar, que a gente não vai fazer a revolução, não vai ser Robin Hood, ao contrário. E foi exatamente isso o que aconteceu. Ou seja, os bancos nunca lucraram tanto. O Brasil optou por se transformar num exportador de commodities e virar uma verdadeira plantation, como ele era desde o começo. Era exportador de matéria-prima para o centro do império, agora para a China. Mas o pacto foi esse: a gente governa se, primeiro, não prender os militares, não acertar as contas com a ditadura; e, segundo, não mexer no bolso dos ricos, não tocar na estrutura do capital. Veja o tamanho das algemas que a esquerda se pôs. De onde é que vai vir, então, a grana para melhorar a vida dos pobres? Só tem um lugar. Da natureza. Então você superexplora, você queima os móveis da casa. Aumentou o dinheiro disponível para dar umas migalhas para os pobres, o bolo cresceu. Não é por acaso que o Delfim Netto (ministro da Fazenda no período do chamado “Milagre Econômico Brasileiro”, na ditadura civil-militar) é um grande conselheiro do Lula. Primeiro é preciso crescer para depois distribuir. Está crescendo, está dando renda para os pobres, mas esse dinheiro não está saindo do bolso dos ricos. Está saindo da natureza, da floresta destruída. É da água que a gente está exportando para a China sob a forma de boi, de carne e de soja. Estamos comendo o principal para não tocar no bolso dos ricos. E assim a Dilma sai passeando com a Kátia Abreu (senadora pelo PMDB, representante do agronegócio e a principal líder da bancada ruralista do Congresso) e dá Bolsa Família. Como é que a Dilma consegue ao mesmo tempo dar Bolsa Família e tornar a vida da Kátia Abreu cada vez mais fácil? O dinheiro tem que sair de algum lugar. Não está saindo de empréstimo internacional, mas está saindo de empréstimo natural. Esse empréstimo não dá para pagar. Quando a natureza vier cobrar, estaremos fritos. E a natureza está cobrando de que forma? Seca, tufão, furacão, enchente… E no Brasil ainda não chegou a barra pesada. Outro problema desta esquerda é que ela não tem nenhuma noção de mundo, de planeta. Ela pensa o Brasil. Ela é nacionalista em todos os sentidos. Vê curto. Ela vê o Brasil no mundo quando se trata do mercado. Agora, quando se trata do planeta, enquanto casa das espécies, lugar onde nós moramos, ela não está nem aí. O fato de que o Ártico está derretendo não é um problema para o Brasil. Pré-Sal ser um problema para o planeta? Não queremos saber. É uma esquerda xenófoba, neste sentido. Ela não percebe que o Brasil é grande, mas o mundo é pequeno. A Dilma, para mim, é um fóssil. Tem pensamento fossilizado. Ela não está nem no século 20, ela está no século 19.

E a esquerda que a Marina representaria?

“A Marina Silva representaria uma esquerda pós-68, mais democrática e menos vertical, mas ela perdeu o rumo”

Eduardo – Essa é uma esquerda pós-68, que incorporou aquilo que apareceu em 1968, de que dentro da luta de classes há muitas outras lutas. Há a luta das mulheres, a luta dos índios, a luta dos homossexuais… Enfim, todas essas outras formas de pensar as diferenças sociais que não se reduz à questão dos ricos e dos pobres. A pobreza não é uma categoria econômica, mas uma categoria existencial que envolve justiça. E a justiça não é só dar dinheiro para o pobre, mas reconhecer todas essas diferenças que são ignoradas e que explodiram em 1968. A política mudou porque, primeiro, em 68 o socialismo começou a se desacreditar. Não esqueçamos que o Partido Comunista Francês foi contra 1968. Apoiou a repressão policial exatamente como a esquerda oficial apoiou baixar a porrada nos manifestantes de junho de 2013. Ela apoiou a repressão policial à revolta de 68, que não foi francesa, foi mundial. Em 1968 foi a Marcha dos 100.000 aqui, foi a revolta contra a guerra do Vietnã nos Estados Unidos, foi a revolta propriamente dita na França, na Itália e em outros países. Ou seja, foi uma revolução mundial. E nós estamos vivendo, de lá até hoje, a contrarrevolução mundial. A direita retomou o poder e falou: “Temos que impedir que isso aconteça de novo”.

E como a Marina representaria essa esquerda pós-68?

Eduardo – É uma esquerda em que o pobre urbano operário não é mais o personagem típico. Mas é quem? É o índio, o seringueiro, é a mulher, é o negro. A Marina acumula várias identidades…

Déborah – Como você escreveu, Eliane, no seu artigo sobre as diferenças entre os Silvas

Eduardo – Isso. O Lula é o representante do sonho brasileiro de ser como o norte do planeta, os Estados Unidos. Como diz o (antropólogo) Beto Ricardo (um dos fundadores do Instituto Socioambiental), o Brasil é como se fosse dividido entre uma grande São Bernardo e uma grande Barretos. Quer dizer, a zona rural vai ser como Barretos (cidade do interior paulista onde se faz a maior festa country do país): gado, rodeio, bota, chapéu e 4X4. E a parte urbana vai ser uma grande São Bernardo (cidade do chamado ABC Paulista, onde Lula se tornou líder sindical metalúrgico nas grandes greves da virada dos anos 70 para os 80): fábricas, metalurgia, motores, carros. A Marina representaria o outro lado. Essa outra esquerda, muito mais democrática, que aposta menos na organização vertical, autoritária, centralista, clássica dos partidos de esquerda comunista. Embora o PT não seja um partido comunista, nem de longe, é um partido que incorporou vários ex-comunistas, várias pessoas que têm a concepção de que é preciso tomar o Estado, o poder central, para instalar o socialismo, digamos.

E a Marina consegue representar essa outra esquerda?

“O centro do Brasil não é São Paulo, mas a Amazônia”

Eduardo – A Marina está numa posição equívoca, porque ela representa um tipo de pensamento que deveria estar nas ruas, e não no Estado. Deveria estar mobilizando a população, a chamada sociedade civil, e não disputando a presidência num sistema político corrupto, que é praticamente impossível de mexer. Acho que estamos num sistema político com um nó cego e só sairíamos disso aí, literalmente, com uma insurreição popular que forçasse o poder a se auto-reformar. Nestas condições, o governo da Marina é um governo impossível, sob certo ponto de vista. Na minha opinião, depois que ela saiu daquela primeira eleição em 2010 com 20 milhões de votos, tinha que ter saído da lógica da política partidária e se transformado numa líder de movimento social. Uma pessoa capaz de exprimir todo esse jogo de diferenças que tem no Brasil. Ela era líder seringueira, do povo da floresta. Estava lutando pelo ambiente. Essas questões foram sumindo e, quando houve a tentativa de pendurar na campanha dela essas outras lutas para as quais ela pessoalmente não estava preparada – aborto, direitos da mulher, direitos dos LGBT (Lésbicas, Gays, Bissexuais, Transexuais, Travestis e Transgêneros) –, aí ela ficou travada por toda a outra composição dela, que é com o eleitorado evangélico. Então ela também tem o seu problema por ali. Mas o problema principal não é esse. Eu acho que a Marina representa a outra esquerda, a esquerda horizontalista, localista, ambientalista, que entende que é de baixo para cima que as coisas se organizam, mas ela está envolvida num processo eleitoral que é todo o contrário disso. Eleição é um momento de lazer, no sentido de que a população pensa que tem poder, porque pode escolher seus governantes, e depois da eleição volta à posição passiva. Se você tenta sair da posição passiva fora do período eleitoral, a polícia vem e bate em você. Você só pode se manifestar durante as eleições, o povo só pode ser político durante as eleições. Hoje só há dois tipos de cidadão no Brasil: o eleitor e o vândalo. O eleitor só tem uma vez a cada dois, quatro anos, e o resto do tempo você tem que ser vândalo. Ou ficar quietinho em casa, pegando propaganda, sonhando com seu carro e juntando dinheiro para ir para Miami. Acho que a Marina perdeu o rumo. Tenho uma admiração imensa por ela, pessoal, coisa que eu não tenho por nenhum outro. Tenho uma admiração pelo Lula, em outro sentido. Esse cara é incrível, tem um carisma político, mas não o conheço pessoalmente. A Marina, que eu conheço pessoalmente, é uma pessoa fantástica. Inteligentíssima. E é uma pessoa de enorme elegância, no amplo sentido da palavra. Mas ela tem que agradar todo mundo, o que é impossível. Se ela for presidente, espero que ela tenha contado a mentira certa. Isto é, que ela engane, que ela traia, quem merece ser traído. E não, como fez a Dilma, trair quem não merecia ser traído. A Marina não aproveitou a oportunidade para se colocar como uma candidata realmente alternativa. Eu não entendi ainda o que ela está dizendo que seja diferente da Dilma. Não entendi.

Déborah, em sua exposição no colóquio, você falou sobre a esquerda e a direita, a partir de (Gilles) Deleuze (filósofo francês), de uma forma muito interessante….

Déborah – Na verdade, isso é uma definição dele num vídeo que se chama Abecedário. Ele tem outras definições de esquerda, como, por exemplo, que o papel da esquerda é pensar; e que a esquerda coloca questões que a direita quer a todo custo esconder. Essa da percepção é uma que gosto especialmente porque me ajuda a reconhecer posições de direita ou de esquerda. Ser de esquerda é até mais uma questão de percepção do que de conceito. O ser de direita é sempre perceber as coisas a partir de si mesmo, como num endereço postal. Assim: eu, aqui, neste lugar, na minha casa, na rua tal, na praia de Botafogo, Flamengo, Rio de Janeiro, América do Sul. E você pensa o mundo, ali, como uma extensão de si mesmo. E cada vez que você se afasta, vai perdendo interesse, a coisa vai decaindo de valor. E ser de esquerda é o contrário: vai do horizonte até a casa.

Eduardo – Esse pensar a partir de si mesmo significa: como é que eu posso me manter onde estou e não perder nada? Como é que eu posso preservar os meus privilégios, mexer no mundo sem mexer em mim?

Déborah – Acho que a Dilma, o PT, têm sido de direita nesse sentido. O que importa é estender seus próprios privilégios aos outros, trazer os outros para si mesmo, mas pensando a partir de si mesmo. O que eu sou é o que eles devem ser também. Eu continuo a ser o que eu era e dou aos outros um pouco do que eu sou, e no melhor dos mundos eles vão acabar sendo iguais a mim. E a Marina é – ou seria – essa outra maneira de pensar, a partir da floresta, a partir desses outros povos, seria pensar nas outras possibilidades de ser diferente.

“Para imaginar o não fim do mundo é preciso imaginar o fim do capitalismo”

Eduardo – É pensar que o centro do Brasil é a Amazônia, e não São Paulo. No sentido de que é lá que está se decidindo o futuro do Brasil, não em São Paulo. É o que a gente fizer lá, com as pessoas de lá, que vai definir o que o Brasil vai ser. O Brasil vai ser todo São Paulo? Igual a São Paulo? É isso o que a gente quer? Uma grande São Paulo? Ou a gente quer, ao contrário, que o Brasil se “amazonize”, que o que resta de Amazônia no Brasil possa contaminar o Brasil que se “desamazonizou”. A Mata Atlântica sumiu. A gente não quer voltar tudo, mas a gente quer que a Amazônia nos ensine a voltar a ser Mata Atlântica. A gente quer que a Amazônia nos ensine como os pobres da cidade podem voltar a ser um pouco índios. E a gente sabe que, do ponto de vista geopolítico, histórico, a Amazônia é o centro do Brasil. É lá que está rolando tudo. E o pessoal fica discutindo a eleição em São Paulo. É bom que discuta. Tem que discutir a água de São Paulo, é claro. Mas como é que se discute a água de São Paulo? É por causa da Amazônia que está faltando água em São Paulo. É por causa do que estamos fazendo na Amazônia que estamos sofrendo falta de água aqui. Ah, mas a ligação não é direta. Claro que não é direta. Mas existe, e é por ela que a coisa passa. A plataforma da Dilma, no fundo, é isso. Você olha a partir de São Paulo, Brasília, Rio… Você olha a Amazônia a partir de onde você está e vê a Amazônia lá no fundo. Ou então você pode olhar o Brasil a partir da Amazônia e se perguntar o que isso significa. Isso é sair de onde eu estou, é mudar minha posição.

Acho que foi a Isabelle Stengers (filósofa belga) que disse que “o capitalismo pode não se preocupar com a atmosfera, mas é muito mais grave que a atmosfera não se preocupe com o capitalismo”. Você, Eduardo, afirma que é mais fácil imaginar o fim do capitalismo do que o fim do mundo, mas que teremos de imaginar os dois. Mas quem fala no fim do capitalismo é visto como alguém que está viajando, que está fora da realidade. Se essa é também uma crise de imaginação, como fazer isso, na medida em que seria imaginação contra poder?

Eduardo – O ambiente, o clima, a atmosfera estão mudando mais depressa do que o capitalismo, do que a sociedade. O Obama falou isso agora. A gente sempre imaginou a sociedade mudando num ritmo muito mais rápido do que a natureza, que era um pano de fundo imóvel para a história do homem. O fato de que o capitalismo não acaba é a razão pela qual o mundo está acabando, vamos dizer assim. O capitalismo – esse sistema socioeconômico e técnico, instalado desde o começo da modernidade, com a invasão da América, alterações no sistema de propriedade, mudanças técnicas que sobrevieram na Europa ali no começo do século 16, acentuando-se de maneira dramática com a industrialização e o uso de combustíveis fósseis no século 18 – é o responsável pelo estado presente do mundo. Ou seja, para imaginar o não fim do mundo, nós temos que imaginar o fim do capitalismo. E isso é extremamente difícil. Porque a questão do capitalismo nunca foi substituir, mas somar, sobrepor. Então nós temos hoje o quê? Nunca se consumiu tanto carvão quanto se consome agora. Então essa coisa de que o petróleo iria substituir o carvão, porque o petróleo é menos poluente do que o carvão, não é verdade. Está se consumindo mais carvão do que petróleo. Agora está se usando energia nuclear, energia eólica, energia solar. Isso não baixou o consumo de petróleo. O que está acontecendo é que nós estamos acrescentando fontes de energia, ou seja, não para nunca. Quanto mais melhor.

E como se imaginaria o fim do capitalismo?

Eduardo – O fim do capitalismo, provavelmente, não virá do esgotamento das fontes energéticas. Ele virá de outro lugar. Ele virá, provavelmente, de catástrofes climáticas, sociais, políticas. Aí já me permito sonhar um pouco. Com uma certa capacidade de a população planetária pouco a pouco ir criando pequenos bolsões alternativos de deserção. Enfim, uma certa “indianização” da população, na tentativa de se tornar independente das fontes globais de mercadoria, dos sistemas globais de transporte e de energia e lutar pelo mínimo de autossuficiência local, como já vem acontecendo em muitos lugares do planeta. Com ênfase no município, na comunidade, nos governos locais, nos arranjos locais, no transporte de curta distância, no consumo de produtos produzidos não muito longe de casa. Acho que vai haver uma certa contração da economia, porque é muito possível que essas crises afetem os sistemas mundiais de distribuição de energia. Veja essa seca de São Paulo. O que é isso? Isso significa que, enfim, essas cidades gigantescas que dependem de redes gigantescas de aprovisionamento de energia, de água, de eletricidade, etc, vão se tornar inviáveis. Acho que nós tendemos a um mundo de bairros, mais do que a um mundo de megalópoles. A tendência vai ser você criar um mundo onde as relações de vizinhança, a usina solar local, as hortas comunitárias, os governos de vereança local vão se tornar cada vez mais importantes. Acho que vai haver uma inversão da política, cada vez mais de baixo para cima do que de cima para baixo. Ou, pelo menos, a pressão de baixo para cima vai tender a contrabalançar a pressão de cima para baixo exercida pelas grandes companhias de petróleo, pelos governos nacionais, pelos grandes tomadores de decisão do mundo. Eles vão começar a se defrontar com uma multiplicação de ações locais, uma multiplicação de iniciativas cidadãs, se você quiser, que vão se parecer mais com o índio do que com o turista globetrotter que atravessa o planeta como se tivesse sempre no mesmo lugar em toda a parte. Acho que essa é uma maneira de imaginar o fim do capitalismo.

Déborah – Mas acho que isso não basta, porque será necessário um enfrentamento. Senão fica parecendo que cada um saindo para por em prática sua ação local seria o suficiente…

Eduardo – Vai haver sangue, como se diz. Lembremos que a Primavera Árabe teve como um dos fatores fundamentais uma crise brutal de abastecimento alimentar. De pão, particularmente. De trigo. O governo chinês tem tomado medidas dramáticas de redução da poluição e de tentativa de baixar um pouco a bola, porque está havendo uma grande quantidade de revoltas populares, de motins, dessas coisas que a gente não sabe, porque a Muralha na China é altíssima em termos de censura. Mas está havendo uma reação das populações locais, que estão brigando com os governos e pressionando para que ele tome medidas. O futuro nos reserva grandes acontecimentos ruins em termos de catástrofes climáticas, de fome, de seca…

Para vocês, qualquer saída, se há saída, passa pela recusa do excepcionalismo humano. Apareceu várias vezes no colóquio esse mundo de humanos e não humanos horizontalizados. Como seria esse mundo e como mudar uma forma de funcionar, na qual a visão de si mesmo como centro está confundida com a própria identidade do que é ser um humano?

“O símbolo de nossa relação com o mundo é o drone. Somos todosdrones

Eduardo – Tem uma frase que o Lévi-Strauss escreveu certa vez, que é muito bonita. Ele diz que nós começamos por nos considerarmos especiais em relação aos outros seres vivos. Isso foi só o primeiro passo para, em seguida, alguns de nós começar a se achar melhores do que os outros seres humanos. E nisso começou uma história maldita em que você vai cada vez excluindo mais. Você começou por excluir os outros seres vivos da esfera do mundo moral, tornando-os seres em relação aos quais você pode fazer qualquer coisa, porque eles não teriam alma. Esse é o primeiro passo para você achar que alguns seres humanos não eram tão humanos assim. O excepcionalismo humano é um processo de monopolização do valor. É o excepcionalismo humano, depois o excepcionalismo dos brancos, dos cristãos, dos ocidentais… Você vai excluindo, excluindo, excluindo… Até acabar sozinho, se olhando no espelho da sua casa. O verdadeiro humanismo, para Lévi-Strauss, seria aquele no qual você estende a toda a esfera do vivente um valor intrínseco. Não quer dizer que são todos iguais a você. São todos diferentes, como você. Restituir o valor significa restituir a capacidade de diferir, de ser diferente, sem ser desigual. É não confundir nunca diferença e desigualdade. Não é por acaso que todas as minorias exigem respeito. Respeitar significa reconhecer a distância, aceitar a diferença, e não simplesmente ir lá, tirar os pobrezinhos daquela miséria em que eles estão. Respeitar quer dizer: aceite que nem todo mundo quer viver como você vive.

O atual governo, por exemplo, assim como setores da sociedade brasileira, parecem ter dificuldade de reconhecer os índios, os ribeirinhos e os quilombolas no caminho das grandes obras como gente. Se isso é difícil quando se trata de humanos, é imensamente mais difícil respeitar as diferenças dos animais ou das árvores, que, nesse conceito de excepcionalidade que atravessa a nossa forma de enxergar o mundo – e nós no mundo – estão a serviço dos humanos…

Eduardo – Uma coisa é você dizer que os animais são humanos, no sentido de direitos humanos. Outra coisa é dizer que os animais são pessoas, isto é, são seres que têm valor intrínseco. É isso o que significa ser pessoa. Reconhecer direitos aos demais viventes não é reconhecer direitos humanos aos demais viventes. É reconhecer direitos característicos e próprios daquelas diferentes formas de vida. Os direitos de uma árvore não são os mesmos direitos de um cidadão brasileiro da espécie homo sapiens. O que não quer dizer, entretanto, que ela não tenha direitos. Por exemplo, o direito à existência, que só pode ser negado sob condições que exigem reflexão. Os índios não acham que as árvores são iguais a eles. O que eles acham simplesmente é que você não faz nada impunemente. Todo ser vivo, com exceção dos vegetais, tem que tirar a vida de um outro ser vivo para sobreviver. A diferença está no fato de que os índios sabem disso. E sabem que isso é algo sério. Nós estamos acostumados a fazer a nossa caça nos supermercados, não somos mais capazes de olhar de frente uma galinha antes de matá-la para comer. Assim, perdemos a consciência de que nós vivemos num mundo em que viver é perigoso e traz consequências. E que comer tem consequências. Os animais seriam pessoas no sentido de que eles possuem valor intrínseco, eles têm direito à vida, e só podemos tirar a vida deles quando a nossa vida depende disso. Isso é uma coisa que, para os índios, é absolutamente claro. Se você matar à toa, você vai ter problemas. Eles não estão dizendo que é tudo igual. Eles estão dizendo que tudo possui um valor intrínseco e que mexer com isso envolve você mesmo. Acho que o símbolo da nossa relação com o mundo, hoje, é o tipo de guerra que os Estados Unidos fazem com os drones, aqueles aviões não tripulados, ou apertando um botão. Ou seja, você nem vê a desgraça que você está produzindo. Nós todos, hoje, estamos numa relação com o mundo cujo símbolo seria o drone. A pessoa está lá nos Estados Unidos apertando um botão num computador, aquilo vai lá para o Paquistão, joga uma bomba em cima de uma escola, e a pessoa que apertou o botão não está nem sabendo o que está acontecendo. Ou seja, nós estamos distantes. As consequências de nossas ações estão cada vez mais separadas das nossas ações.

Perderam-se os sentidos e as conexões entre morrer e matar…

Eduardo – Exatamente. Ou seja, o índio que vai para o mato e tem que flechar o inimigo, ele tem que arcar com as consequências psicológicas, morais, simbólicas disso. Aquele soldadinho americano que está num quartel nos Estados Unidos, apertando um botão, ele nem sabe o que está fazendo. Porque ele está longe. Você cada vez mais distancia os efeitos das suas ações de você mesmo. Então nós somos todos dronesnesse sentido. A gente compra carne no supermercado quadradinha, bem embaladinha, refrigeradinha, sem cara de bicho. E você está o mais longe possível daquela coisa horrorosa que é o matadouro. Daquela coisa horrorosa que são as fazendas em que as galinhas estão enfiadas em gaiolas apertadas. Se o pessoal lembrar que 50% das galinhas que nascem são galos e que esses 50% que nascem são triturados ao nascer para virar ração animal porque não colocam ovos, talvez não conseguissem comer galinhas. Se você mostrasse que metade dos pintinhos vão todos vivos para uma máquina que tritura, talvez melhorasse um pouco. Mas as pessoas não querem saber disso. Nisso, nós somos iguaizinhos ao soldado americano que aperta o botão para matar inocentes no Paquistão. Nós fazemos a mesma coisa com as galinhas. Nós somos todos drones. Temos uma relação com o mundo igual à que os Estados Unidos tem com suas máquinas de guerra. Somos como os pilotos da bomba atômica que não sabiam bem o que estavam fazendo quando soltaram a bomba atômica em cima de Hiroshima. Dissociação mental. Essa coisa de não se dar conta do que a gente está fazendo, por um lado está aumentando. Mas, por outro lado, com a mudança climática, as pessoas estão começado a perceber que o que elas estão fazendo está influenciando o mundo. Estamos num momento crucial: por um lado o aumento brutal do modelo drone, com tudo cada vez mais distante, e, por outro, as catástrofes batendo na sua porta. O mar está subindo, o furacão está chegando, a seca está vindo.

Eu queria terminar perguntando o seguinte: vocês escrevem que tudo o que pode ser dito sobre a mudança climática se torna anacrônico e tudo o que se pode fazer a respeito é necessariamente pouco e tarde demais. Então, o que fazer? Como sonhar outros sonhos, como diz Isabelle Stengers? Ou como dançar para que o céu não caia na nossa cabeça, como fazem os índios?

Déborah – É tarde demais para algumas coisas, mas não para outras. Disso a gente não pode esquecer nunca. Por exemplo: nós não podemos fazer sumir em curto, médio ou longo prazo com esses gases de efeito estufa. E nem com o forte desequilíbrio energético que nós já causamos, já imprimimos ao sistema climático da Terra. E como as emissões continuam aumentando, acho que não seria razoável esperar, politicamente, que essas emissões sejam estancadas de uma hora para outra.

Eduardo – O mundo está esquentando e não vai parar de esquentar mesmo se a gente parar agora. Já começou um processo que é irreversível, até certo ponto.

Déborah – Então, uma parte do que vai acontecer não depende mais das nossas decisões e ações presentes. Já é passado. Mas existe uma diferença enorme entre um aquecimento de dois graus e um aquecimento de, sei lá, quatro e seis graus. Essa diferença é a diferença entre um mundo difícil e um mundo hostil à espécie humana e a várias outras espécies. Quer dizer, a diferença se traduz entre milhares de mortes por ano em virtude de eventos extremos e milhões de flagelados do clima, de vítimas fatais, talvez centenas de milhões, até, como alguns chegam a dizer. Isso sem contar as outras espécies. Então, não podemos nos dar ao luxo de nos desesperarmos, eu acho.

O desespero é um luxo?

Déborah – É, o desespero seria um luxo. Se a gente pensa em nós mesmos, nos nossos filhos, e nos outros viventes que existem e que vão existir, se desesperar não é uma opção. Então, por um lado a gente tem que fazer o que puder para mitigar essas emissões, para criar também condições de adaptação das diferentes populações, dos ecossistemas, aos efeitos do aquecimento global. Isso em relação ao que já foi e ao que ainda vai ser, que não poderemos evitar. E, por outro lado, nós temos que fazer, como diz Donna Haraway (filósofa americana), numa expressão que é muito boa, mas que não dá muito para traduzir em português: stay with the trouble. Ficar, viver com o problema. Aguentar. Não é só aguentar o tranco. É: sim, temos esse mundo empobrecido, mas nós vamos viver com ele. O que significa viver como a grande maioria das pessoas já vive. Pessoas que não podem se proteger desse mundo que a gente criou, ou acha que criou. Há uma porção de populações que stay with the trouble há muito tempo, e a gente vai ter que aprender com elas.

Eduardo – A gente vai ter que aprender a ter sociedades com capacidade de mudar de escala. Imagina uma aldeia indígena, numa ilha, em que o mar sobe um metro. Será necessário mudar a aldeia de lugar porque o mar subiu um metro. Vai ter que entrar mais para dentro da costa. É chato, tal, mas ela muda de lugar. Agora, imagina Nova York. Os caras não vão conseguir tirar o Empire State do lugar. Ou seja, tem modos de vida em que é muito mais fácil se adaptar ao que vem por aí. Por um lado, a gente fala: quem vai se dar mal primeiro? Quem vai se dar mal primeiro com as mudanças climáticas vão ser os pobres. Eles é que vão ser os primeiros a sofrer. É verdade. Por outro lado, eu desconfio que eles vão ser os primeiros a sofrer e os primeiros a se virar.

Eliane Brum é escritora, repórter e documentarista. Autora dos livros de não ficçãoColuna Prestes – o Avesso da Lenda, A Vida Que Ninguém vê, O Olho da Rua, A Menina Quebrada, Meus Desacontecimentos e do romance Uma Duas. Site: Email: Twitter: @brumelianebrum




Disruption opens with a serene archival footage, from Apollo 8 lunar mission, of the Earth rising over the horizon of the Moon before jumping sharply to modern images of extreme storms and the devastation faced in their aftermath. Cities lie in ruin, streets flooded and buildings aflame. “The world hasn’t ended,” title cards bleakly read. “But the world as we know it has.”

Shot during the 100 days prior to the September 21, 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City, the film serves as a cautionary countdown intended to motivate viewers to take action on the issue of climate change. The audience is taken inside the People’s Climate Mobilization Hub, a New York office space where organizers and activists strive to set in motion the largest climate rally in history. Their primary objective is to capture the consideration of world leaders prior to a major UN climate meeting in order to draw worldwide attention to the existing and future threats of changing weather patterns.

Citing historical movements such as women’s liberation and civil rights as major influences in the decision to facilitate a march, organizers share a unified belief in the power of people coming together in the interest of a common cause, even in the digital age. Experts on climate change, from authors and academics to scientists and community organizers, give viewers a history lesson on the topic at hand and make it clear that weather patterns are an issue of global concern. Interview subjects push to disempower big corporations such as oil companies and other resource-damaging operations, warning that the preservation of our natural resources is a long-term investment more valuable than any monetary sum.

At the end, the filmmakers issue a final call to action, encouraging those with environmental concerns to join their movement at a time when “the whole world will be watching.” Featuring impressive cinematography paired with stock footage and impassioned testimonials, Disruption is both an eye-opening look at a grim future, as well as a motivational piece on how to improve that future.

Watch the full documentary now

Voices from the People’s Climate March: Indigenous Groups Lead Historic 400,000-Strong NYC Protest (Democracy Now!)


As many as 400,000 people turned out in New York City on Sunday for the People’s Climate March, the largest environmental protest in history. With a turnout far exceeding expectations, the streets of midtown Manhattan were filled with environmentalists, politicians, musicians, students, farmers, celebrities, nurses and labor activists — all united in their demand for urgent action on climate change. Organizers arranged the People’s Climate March into different contingents reflecting the movement’s diversity, with indigenous groups in the lead. Democracy Now! producers Aaron Maté and Elizabeth Press were in the streets to hear from some of the demonstrators taking part in the historic protest.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the People’s Climate March. Organizers estimate as many as 400,000 people marched in New York Sunday in the largest climate protest in history. The turnout far exceeded expectations. Other marches and rallies were held in 166 countries. More protests are planned for today. Climate activists are gathering today in downtown Manhattan for a mass sit-in dubbed “Flood Wall Street.” The actions are timed to coincide with the United Nations climate summit taking place here in New York Tuesday. President Obama and over 100 other world leaders are scheduled to attend.

Sunday’s events in New York began with an indigenous sunrise ceremony in Central Park. Indigenous activists then led the march.Democracy Now!‘s Aaron Maté was in the streets at the People’s Climate March.

AARON MATÉ: We’re near the very front of the People’s Climate March, and the sign behind me reads: “Front Lines of Crisis, Forefront of Change.” This march has been divided up into different groups, and at the front are indigenous and front-line communities most impacted by climate change.

CLAYTON THOMASMULLER: Hi. My name is Clayton Thomas-Muller. I’m an organizer with the indigenous peoples’ social movement Idle No More and Defenders of the Land. Things today are going really, really well. We’ve got tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people on the street. We have front-line indigenous communities from communities that are disproportionately affected by President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy policy. We’ve got leaders from communities fighting fracking, fighting tar sands, pipelines, all kinds of pipeline fighters from across the continent who are organizing in solidarity with First Nations from the belly of the beast in Alberta who are trying to stop tar sands expansion at the source. And we’re here to send a very clear message to President Obama, Stephen Harper and the rest of the world leaders that we need legally binding mechanisms on climate change right now passed, and if they ain’t going to do it, that the people certainly will.

INDIGENOUS ACTIVIST: Hi. We’re here to march for the next seven generations and to take astand against Big Oil companies that are coming through our territories and trying to take our ancestral lands and destroy them. We’re here because it’s going to take all of us—all of us—not just the indigenous people, but everyone in the whole world, to come together to save our water.

PERUVIAN ACTIVIST: We are from the Peruvian delegation here on the March. And we are marching because we are fighting for climate justice, and we are fighting because this December, the next COP event is going to be in our country. And we are preparing a people’s summit and the next march in December 10 in Lima. And we are asking the Peruvian government, Ollanta Humala, for coherence, because even if they are taking pictures here near Ban Ki-moon, they are not doing that kind of commitments in the country. So, we need to fight here, we need to fight in our country. This is a global fight.



EL PUENTE ACTIVIST: What do we stand for?

EL PUENTE ACTIVISTS: Peace and justice!

FRANCES LUCERNA: My name is Frances Lucerna. I’m the executive director of El Puente. We have about 300-strong here of our young people. We are a human rights organization located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Most of our young people are from Puerto Rico, from Dominican Republic. And the connection between what’s happening in terms of our islands and also what’s happening here in our waterfront community that Williamsburg is part of, we need, really, the powers that be to come together with our people and really make decisions that are about preserving our Earth.

CARLOS GARCIA: Hi. My name is Carlos Garcia. I’m the secretary-treasurer of the New York State Public Employees Federation. We represent 54,000 New York state employees who are professional scientific and technical workers. And we’re out here to say to the U.S. government, New York state government, let’s take care of our climate, let’s take care of our environment.

IRENE JOR: My name is Irene Jor. I’m with the National Domestic Workers Alliance with the New York domestic workers here today. And for us, we’re here because, as domestic workers, it’s time to clean up the climate mess.

DOMESTIC WORKERS: We are domestic workers! We want climate justice now!

IRENE JOR: Domestic workers have been part of the struggle for a long time. We’re disproportionately impacted by climate change. For those of us who are migrant women workers, we often come here because of what extractive resources and climate crisis has done to our home countries.

AARON MATÉ: We’ve come upon a huge contingent of young people, many carrying signs reading “Youth choose climate justice.”

YOUTH ACTIVISTS: Obama, we don’t want no climate drama! Hey, Obama, we don’t want no climate drama!

JONAH FELDMAN: My name is Jonah Feldman. I’m here with the Brandeis Divestment Campaign from Brandeis University.

AARON MATÉ: And what does your sign say?

JONAH FELDMAN: It says, “Divest from Climate Change.” We believe that our university should sell off all its investments in the fossil fuel industry—that’s in coal, oil, natural gas, tar sands—and to reinvest into clean, renewable alternatives.

LUIS NAVARRO: Hello. My name Luis Navarro. I’m 16. I’m from Boston, Massachusetts. I’m with the Boston-area Youth Organizing Project. Well, as a youth, I feel like every youth should be a part of this, because it concerns them and their future, whether or not if they can live by 20 years from now with this climate change. And I feel like it’s important for me to be here to show them that the youth is on our side.

AARON MATÉ: As we weave through this march that has taken over midtown Manhattan, tens of thousands out in full force, coming across all different sorts of diverse groups.

VEGAN: Number one way to fight climate change: Go vegan.

REV. SUSAN DE GEORGE: I’m Susan De George, and I’m with both Green Faith and with Hudson River Presbytery. We have everybody from Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, Protestants, atheists, agnostics, all marching in a group.

PROTESTERS: What do we want? Climate justice! When do we want it? Now!

CAITLIN CALLAHAN: My name is Caitlin Callahan. I’m from Rockaway Beach, and I’m an organizer with Rockaway Wildfire. Superstorm Sandy devastated the Rockaway Peninsula. We know that climate change is being worsened and exacerbated by all of the systemic profiteering that’s happening throughout our world. And it’s time for that to stop. If you haven’t been involved in climate justice activism before, it’s time to get involved in climate justice activism, because this is affecting all of us.

BRADEN ELLIOTT: My name is Braden Elliott. I’m a Ph.D. student at Dartmouth College, and I’m here because I care.

AARON MATÉ: And the banner under which the scientists are marching is “The Debate is Over”?

BRADEN ELLIOTT: Correct. The banner says “The Debate is Over” because the core part, the part that the planet is warming and that humans are responsible for the lion’s share of it, is settled. There’s always debate to be had on the edges of a large topic, but the call to action is very clear.

AARON MATÉ: And now we’re in the bloc of demonstrators under the banner of “We Know Who is Responsible,” anti-corporate campaigners, peace and justice groups, those who are organizing against the groups they say are holding back progress.

SANDRA NURSE: My name is Sandra Nurse. I’m here with the Flood Wall Street contingent. We’re calling on people to do a mass sit-in in the financial district to highlight the connections between corporate capitalism, extractive industries, the financing and bankrolling of climate change, the financing of politicians who will not bring meaningful legislation to the table and who are blocking the process of actually bringing meaningful legislation against climate change.

FLOOD WALL STREET CONTINGENT: All day, all week, let’s flood Wall Street!

AMY GOODMAN: Some of the voices from the 400,000-strong People’s Climate March here in New York. Special thanks to Aaron Maté and Elizabeth Press in the streets for Democracy Now!

What’s next for climate science beyond the IPCC? (Sci Dev Net)



In lead to December’s 20th UN Conference of Parties on climate change, scientists and policymakers are reflecting on the future of climate science. Many are questioning whether the existing mechanisms that feed scientific evidence into international politics are working well enough.

In this interview Ilan Kelman argues that, despite its important work, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with its consensus-based approach, is no longer suited to the new challenges posed by climate change.

The Changing Face of Climate Change (Slate)

Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?

At the front of the People’s Climate March, moments before the crowd began to move, you could look back and see the wall of stone that makes up the wealthy Upper West Side apartment buildings to your left, and Central Park to your right, in the last of its full-blown green phase before the leaves start to turn. Visible on the street: signs, artwork, and many, many heads.

In the front section of the march, designated by organizers for “the people first and most impacted,” were representatives of the Kichwa from Ecuador, Taino from the Caribbean, Winnemem Wintu from California, and many other indigenous groups in traditional clothing. There were also members of the media and the musician Sting. Young people of color from Brooklyn held large paper sunflowers and an enormous banner reading: “FRONTLINES OF CRISIS, FOREFRONT OF CHANGE.” Above them were the glossy towers that mark the beginning of Midtown and the bright red CNN sign against the fog signaling that the 11:30 a.m. start time was drawing closer. On his spire, Columbus had his back to the crowd.

The march was already the largest climate demonstration in history before the walking began. There was plenty of excitement. But the drums, the chanting, and the drone of conch-shell horns added an air of warfare.

Indigenous and underprivileged communities are already experiencing the worst impact of climate change, and for those at the front of the march, battle-ready would seem an appropriate posture.

People's Climate March.

Many of the indigenous groups participating in the People’s Climate March on Sept. 21, 2014, in New York City, wore traditional clothing. Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ricken Patel, the founder of the online activist network called Avaaz, told us shortly before the march: “We know that the most vulnerable communities get if first and worst every time.” The refrain was repeated by so many others, and research corroborates it. An analysis from Yale and George Mason University finds that in the United States, climate change is most likely to affect “Hispanics, African Americans, and other racial and ethnic groups who are likely to be more vulnerable to heat waves, extreme weather events, environmental degradation, and subsequent labor market dislocations.”

The people at the front of the march were themselves a sign that the face of mainstream climate activism has shifted from polar bears and Priuses toward marginalized communities. It is, in theory, a shift from what climate researcher Angela Park wrote in 2009 was a movement that “still suffers from the perception, and arguably the reality, that it is … led by and designed for the interests of the white, upper-middle class.”

Seven representatives from frontline communities spoke at a press conference before the march began, including Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a 26-year-old writer, professor, and spoken-word artist from the Marshall Islands. She has also been selected by the United Nations from a group of 544 nominees to speak in the opening ceremonies of Tuesday’s Climate Summit.

We caught up with her after the march. Jetnil-Kijiner is small in stature, with long black curly hair, and she appeared exhausted after arriving from the Marshall Islands just the day before the march (not to mention marching and speaking to reporters all day), but she managed to reanimate herself. Walking in Central Park, she told us that she first felt called to climate activism after returning to the Marshall Islands after college in 2010. “There are some parts of the Marshalls where you can stand and see both sides of the ocean,” she said. Rising sea levels, one of the most devastating and permanent consequences of climate change, threaten the very existence of low-lying island nations. In 2008, she woke one morning to find her home island flooded. Houses were destroyed, debris was everywhere, and once the waters receded, the trees shriveled because of the salt.

While people like Jetnil-Kijiner were physically at the front of the march, the question remains whether their voices will be drowned out by the bigger names of climate activism, the Bill McKibbens and the Ricken Patels.


Demonstrators take part in the People’s Climate March on Sept. 21, 2014, in New York City. Photo by Lisa Larson-Walker

The night before the march, McKibben and other writers and politicians spoke on a panel in the packed Unitarian Church of All Souls on the Upper East Side. Nearing the end of the discussion, the moderator, Brian Lehrer, asked McKibben what was the unified message that he wanted people to take away from the march. Instead of answering, McKibben metaphorically passed the mic, saying, “There will be people from communities who have had to deal with Sandy, the ongoing fact of living in a place where every third kid has an inhaler. They’ll do a good job of speaking powerfully.”

Just before the march, Ananda Lee Tan, an organizer with the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, told us, “We’re seeing a shift in the movement. This march really marks a flipping of the script.” Tan explained that the communities most impacted by extreme weather have joined together. “We’re taking over the leadership of the U.S. climate movement,” he said, “and so we’ll see on the streets today probably the most diverse, broad, grass-roots climate movement that the U.S. has ever seen.”

The difference is not that communities most threatened by climate change are now involved in the climate change movement. As Jacqueline Patterson, the NAACP’s Environment and Climate Justice Program director, pointed out in a phone interview, frontline communities have been involved in climate justice from the beginning of the movement. What’s new is that a wide range of groups, from labor unions and indigenous tribes to the Granny Peace Brigade, was marching in the same place.

People’s Climate March.

The People’s Climate March was the largest climate demonstration in history. Photo by Lisa Larson-Walker

Still, Patterson had a more cautious view of the role of frontline communities in the march and the wider movement. She said that while there was now more acknowledgement that frontline communities needed to be engaged, there was “to a lesser extent, an acknowledgement that the frontline communities need to lead.”

On the Wednesday before the march, a 28-year-old Avaaz canvasser (who preferred to remain anonymous, citing a nondisclosure agreement) echoed Patterson’s concerns. He said there was much improvement in the communication with frontline communities, but he was skeptical of the “big greens” such as Avaaz,, and the Sierra Club, arguing that they needed to deepen their understanding of organizing in frontline communities. “There’s a lot of wisdom there,” he said. Specifically, he wanted the established environmental organizations to give more money directly to grass-roots organizations. He told us that he planned to quit his canvassing job that evening. He didn’t want to canvas in Washington Square Park anymore; he planned to return to his home community of Staten Island to organize there.

The test of the movement’s potency will, of course, be its coordination beyond the march, its ability to maintain the unity that defined it. And on Tuesday, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner will have an opportunity to tell world leaders about the Marshall Islands, about what it is like to live on land just two meters above sea level. She is tired of answering the question of where the Marshall Islanders will move when the islands are gone. “We don’t want to move, and we shouldn’t have to move,” she said. “There should be changes now so that doesn’t have to happen.”

Naomi Klein on Cause of Climate Crisis: “Capitalism Is Stupid” (Truthout)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014 09:46

By Sarah Jaffe

2014 923 klein st

Naomi Klein (Photo: Ed Kashi). Naomi Klein, author of the groundbreaking books, No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, is back with a new groundbreaking work, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. The book resets the debate over global warming by focusing on how it is integrally related to the current economic system that spans the globe. Contribute to Truthout and receive this vitally important work. Click here now.

Naomi Klein is out to change hearts and minds around climate change.

Her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate out now from Simon & Schuster, is a broad challenge to those who want a livable planet: We need to come up with a livable economic system too. Deeply researched and personally reported, Klein’s third book takes us from the tar sands in Alberta (“Earth, skinned alive”) to the oil-soaked waters of the Gulf of Mexico (“a miscarriage”), from climate denier conferences to a meeting of would-be geoengineers, as she traces the path of destruction that capitalism and a mindset she terms “extractivism” – that is perhaps even older – have left on the Earth.

At one point, Klein concedes, it might have been possible to stop the climate crisis with a few regulations here, a carbon tax there. But we’re too far gone for that, and nothing but a full-on change in how humans relate to the Earth and to each other will save us now.

The good news is that Klein has written an immensely hopeful book, a book about people who believe they can make change and who are doing it in the face of a political and economic system that would seem to doom them to failure. She doesn’t define what comes after capitalism, leaving that to the social movements she describes being born all over the world, but sketches its broad outlines, letting us know what this new climate justice movement is against – but also what it is for – and making a case for a broad redistributive justice movement that would include already-existing movements for racial justice, feminism and decolonization.

The problem is, capitalism is stupid … in that it doesn’t actually think.

Truthout’s Sarah Jaffe caught up with Klein on the eve of the People’s Climate March and of the United Nations Climate Summit in New York to talk about why liberalism is not enough, why billionaires can’t save us, and what we need to do to save ourselves.

Sarah Jaffe for Truthout: You’ve written two other books, No Logo andThe Shock Doctrine, that helped to name and understand a particular historic moment. How was this book a direct outgrowth of your previous work, and how has your worldview changed in the years since those other books?

Naomi Klein: In many ways this is a direct continuation of The Shock Doctrine, in that that book begins and ends with Hurricane Katrina and a glimpse of a future in which our world becomes more and more disaster-prone, with an unstable climate and an unstable economy, and each shock pushes us further apart. It’s the vision of the future that I think we actually take so for granted that we just keep repeating that same vision in every sci-fi apocalyptic movie that gets produced. It’s a small group of winners and hordes of locked-out losers.

The Shock Doctrine was about the worst of humanity in crisis. A lot of people asked me, after it was published, whether or not there could be a progressive response. I remember the first event I did for The Shock Doctrine, before it actually came out, in New Orleans and Saket Soni, a fantastic organizer [with the National Guestworker Alliance and the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice], stood up and he said, “OK, they have disaster capitalism, we need disaster collectivism!” I used to quote him all the time. I end that book talking about how there are progressive precedents for crisis being moments of tremendous progressive victory and indeed this is why the right learned how to get in there fast before that could happen, that’s what the Shock Doctrine is.

Going back to No Logo, which was more about tracking the rise of the global production chain, part of what [This Changes Everything] is saying is, we knew that they were combing the world for the cheapest possible labor, and we know the effects of that. I think what was less clear at the time is that there was a direct connection between cheap labor and dirty energy, because if you’re a corporation and all you care about is cutting your production costs, that’s all that matters, it’s going to be cheap, abused labor that doesn’t have the freedom to organize, and it’s going to be coal, the cheapest and dirtiest of the fossil fuels.

So the explosion of the so-called global economy has coincided with an emissions explosion, and why would we be surprised by that, in retrospect? But I think when we were fighting those free-trade deals, a lot of us didn’t understand the climate dimension of that battle. It’s all one long story.

In this book, you say what people just aren’t supposed to say: that fixing the climate is incompatible with capitalism. In particular, you point out the ways that the profit motive has proved corrupting, in some cases to green groups themselves, in other cases to the supposedly beneficent pledges made by the superrich. Can you talk a little bit about how profit hasn’t been able to, and won’t be able to, solve the crisis?

There’s a chapter in the book on why the billionaires won’t save us, and the point of that chapter is not to play gotcha with Michael Bloomberg and Richard Branson. It’s actually to say OK, let’s say that these are the most enlightened billionaires on the planet. And let’s say that they at various points have had the shit scared out of them about climate change. But locked within the imperatives of their model, it’s possible for Michael Bloomberg to simultaneously understand the medium-term risk of fossil fuels and to back reports like “Risky Business” that are all about warnings about the billions of dollars in costs that come with a destabilized climate, and Michael Bloomberg, as an investor, to choose, in a very short-term way, to put his billions in oil and gas, which is what he does.

There was this idea that it was just a process of convincing very wealthy people that this really was a problem, and that there really were costs down the road and that in the long term it would be better to prevent it from happening.

The problem is, capitalism is stupid. You know that cover of Bloomberg Businessweek, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid,” well, it is global warming, but capitalism is stupid in that it doesn’t actually think. It seeks the maximum short-term profit. I think people are mistaking the fact that there are billionaires out there that do get the extent of the problem and really do talk a good game about carbon bubbles and the economic risk, for the idea that that’s going to translate into action. Where that becomes really dangerous is that the UN believes this too. I keep getting press releases from the UN about how the best part of the summit is that it has unprecedented participation from multinationals and CEOs from Bank of America and Walmart and McDonald’s and Amoco. It’s still this same idea that getting people around the table with the right information and the right incentives in place will solve this from the top, and there won’t need to be any friction.

I think the real difference is that now there’s a movement on the outside that says no, that understands that the imperatives for the fossil fuel industry are fundamentally incompatible with a livable climate. That’s the point of the carbon tracker research that kicked off the fossil fuel divestment movement because students look at those numbers and go OK, my university is investing in companies that have made a bet against my future. You can debate fossil fuel divestment as a tactic, but I think that it’s important to understand what you’re up against, and I think there’s much more clarity in the movement now than there has been in decades.

You write about the elite background of the environmental movement, the people who would go hunting with Teddy Roosevelt to convince him to conserve something. Green groups have often seemed to forget the people and focus on saving animals, land, and, as you note in the book, are often taking money from polluters even as they profess to fight them. Do you think these problems are connected?

Yes. I think the environmental movement is not a social movement like we normally think of social movements. It’s not a movement of outsiders, and it never really was, except for the environmental justice movement, which has always from its birth been in a relationship of tension with the green NGOs.

I think it follows seamlessly from those early hunting trips to having BP on your board of directors. The real issue is that at earlier stages of capitalism I think it was easier to reconcile saving a river or saving a mountain with the overall imperatives of expansion and growth, but we’re now at a point where that’s not the case, we need to cut too much and too quickly.

Their model used to be “Sue the Bastards” and it became, . . . “Make Markets for the Bastards.”

The other real turning point, as I say in the book, was what happened in the 1980s. It was Nixon who introduced some of the best top-down environmental regulations. There is a Republican tradition in this country of regulating polluters. But that tradition long ago died. Nobody gets regulated anymore, including polluters. What happened in the ’80s is that it became clear that in order to hang on to that insider status that these green groups needed to change. Some groups decided forget it, we’re going to go on the outside, and there were breakaways and new groups formed that were more militant. And other groups changed with the times.

The Environmental Defense Fund is a really interesting example because they were inspired by Rachel Carson; they are the group that deserves a huge amount of the credit for why DDT was banned. Their model used to be “Sue the Bastards,” and it became, in Eric Pooley’s words, “Make Markets for the Bastards.” That’s the model that continues to this day, and that’s the model that we’re going to see at the UN [this] week.

Large parts of the environmental movement have always been part of the inside game, and when the inside changed, and neoliberalism took over, the movement changed along with it. That left it uniquely ill-equipped to deal with a crisis like climate change. So we wasted a lot of time with carbon trading and carbon offsetting and touting natural gas as a bridge fuel and basically doing anything but getting off fossil fuels.

There’s a growing movement to push foundations and universities to divest from fossil fuels, though critics have argued that this won’t change the behavior of fossil fuel companies. In the book, you argue for the value of this movement and also talk about the move to “reinvest” that money in cleaner technologies. Can you explain why you support the divestment movement and what is happening with reinvestment?

One of the things that has been most pronounced in the resurgence and emergence of these anti-extractive fights, anti-pipeline fights, is that more and more people are coming to the same conclusion, which is that we can’t just say no – we also have to be providing people with real economic alternatives.  We’re just going to be fighting against the worst possible ideas unless we can show people that there’s actually another economic model that will bring them jobs and a better way of life. I hear this again and again, see it again and again: frontline activists going, “We need to build an economic alternative right here.” Communities in England that are fighting fracking have decided to launch their own renewable energy co-ops. First Nations communities in Canada where they’re fighting the Tar Sands are simultaneously launching renewable energy projects because the extractive industries right now are the only ones offering jobs. It’s critical to show that there are these alternatives if we aren’t just going to be scrambling all the time.

I think renewable energy is threatening precisely because it lends itself to decentralization.

The problem is always funding. There’s no shortage of great alternatives out there that are justice-based. In building these alternatives, you’re also strengthening the resistance to fossil fuels. What we’re hearing from frontline communities is that this is what’s most important to embolden communities to fight back. I highlight something like the Black Mesa Water Coalition: They have shut down a coal power plant and are successfully fighting coal, but there’s limits to how much they can win, they say, unless they can show that there’s another way to bring resources to the communities. They have this great proposal to have a utility-scale solar project on Navajo land, land that used to be a coal mine, it’s been decommissioned. It’s a beautiful elegant plan. This is the kind of thing that needs to be funded. And it isn’t being funded by government.

So if we think about the capital that is being moved from fossil fuels right now – and it is being moved: A lot of schools are saying no, but a few have said yes; a lot of cities have said yes; a whole bunch of foundations are now on board. I’m really excited by the prospect of that capital going into investing in a just transition; that can really show how possible and inspiring this transition is.

But we can’t mistake that for the scale of action. We need the scale of action like we’re seeing in Germany, where you have a national feed-in tariff that is shifting that country with incredible speed to renewable energy. In the meantime, until we get there, we also need some really good examples of this working.

There are so many brilliant technologies that do exist to challenge the crisis, you note – just this week we heard that Burlington, Vermont is now getting all of its power from renewable sources. Yet the people who propose to save the earth with technology are more interested in terrifying types of geoengineering. Why do you think solar energy isn’t exciting enough for them?

I think renewable energy is threatening precisely because it lends itself to decentralization. It’s not that money can’t be made, but it lends itself to more people making less money. Some people have talked about fossil fuels as technologies of the 1%, or the 1% of the 1%, because as soon as you have an extractive-based technology – I’d include nuclear in that – the resource itself is concentrated in specific locations; it’s not available everywhere; it takes a lot of money to get it out; it takes a lot of money to refine it; it takes a lot of money to transport it. That means you’re only going to have a few big players who are going to profit a lot.

What we can have is more deliberate growth and that does mean valuing work that we currently don’t value at all.

So it’s not that you can’t have all kinds of economic opportunities in a renewables-based economy. But it is going to be a more level economy because you have so many players. That’s what’s worked best in Germany, the multiplication of these small-scale projects. You’ve got some big projects as well, but you have 900 new energy co-ops, hundreds of municipal-scale renewable energy utilities popping up. It’s not about whether you can make money off this. It’s about whether a few people are going to continue to make the kind of stupid money that is actually the barrier to progress. I think the answer is no, and that’s why they’re fighting tooth and nail to protect that model and are willing to entertain dimming the sun and fertilizing the seas before they entertain putting up solar panels on a mass scale.

Your subtitle is Capitalism vs. the Climate, but you actually go beyond capitalism and challenge the whole mindset of what you call “extractivism.” I kept finding myself thinking, at various times, that the book was also about “patriarchy vs. the climate” and “colonialism vs. the climate.” There’s a theme that runs through the book where you talk about the need to revalue caring work, women’s reproductive labor, even mention the Wages for Housework movement. I would love to hear you talk about what kind of work we need to value, what kinds of values we need to have in order to create a new system beyond capitalism.

It’s a great question. It is beyond – that’s why I talk about extractivism as a mindset. Some people talk about it as instrumentalism, which is really just about “I’m going to take from you and get whatever I can out of you.” That’s how we relate to each other, and that’s how we relate to the earth. It’s not a reciprocal relationship, it isn’t a regenerative relationship. We need to get at the core of how we got here in the first place, which was this mentality of this intense hierarchy between people who supposedly mattered and people who didn’t matter, places that supposedly mattered and places that didn’t matter and could therefore be sacrificed.

It is important to understand the clash between the kind of economic growth that we have and the constraints presented to us by atmospheric science. We can’t just keep growing our economy. But that said, there are low-carbon parts of our economy that we want to expand and can expand. What we can’t have is stupid growth in the same way that we can’t have stupid profits. What we can have is more deliberate growth, and that does mean valuing work that we currently don’t value at all.

When we do that work of valuing work that is now being belittled and mistreated, what we start doing is creating more economic options for people and for communities, and that in turn makes it less likely for people to make those impossible decisions that so many communities are being asked to make right now; whether to have water or whether to have a mine; or whether to have a refinery in their backyard.

That’s why I talk about basic income as well, that there has to be a stronger social safety net because when people don’t have options, they’re going to make bad choices. Let’s have better choices on the table.

You write about the hope that has come since you started work on this book, the new movements, the new attention. What more hopeful signs have you seen since you finished the book?

I’m excited about the energy of this moment where I see a lot of people engaging in climate change that I know weren’t engaged just a year ago. It’s really exciting to see a lot of people who were involved in Occupy Wall Street getting involved in Flood Wall Street. I think those connections are being made really fast by some really smart people who’ve already shown that they can change the debate.

Having spent a few weeks talking mostly to journalists about the book, a lot of mainstream journalists outside of the US, I think that the moment we’re in is essentially about whether or not we believe in social movements. It’s really striking to me. If somebody, a progressive person who has experience with social movements and believes in social movements reads the book, they tell me that they feel inspired and hopeful and excited. But a lot of the liberal journalists who I’ve been speaking to tell me that they read the book, and it just fills them with despair because they don’t believe in activism. I expected to be having arguments about the science; I expected to be having arguments about the policy: I’ve had basically none of those. I’m having arguments about whether or not there’s a reason to have any hope at all. That’s a hard thing to do all day!

I think there’s something about climate change – I’m realizing this more and more since finishing the book – that really demarcates the difference between liberals and radicals, liberals and leftists in the sense that if you are really committed to that sort of reasonable centrist reformist model, top-down model of change, and you also are willing to look at the science and look at the, be honest about the kind of economy we’re in, then you’re filled with despair. Look at Ezra Klein writing “7 reasons America will fail on climate change.” If you believe that the only way the world changes is through a combination of policy wonks and enlightened leaders, then you will be in despair because you will look at the aligned, entrenched interests in a dysfunctional democracy, and you will say “we’re cooked.”

If, however, you believe that social movements have grabbed the wheel of history before and might just do it again, if you’ve caught glimpses of that in your life, the moments when suddenly it seems that everything’s changing, then you still hold out that hope.

I’m looking forward to being around activists for a few days!

Indian scientists significantly more religious than UK scientists (Science Daily)

Date: September 24, 2014

Source: Rice University

Summary: Indian scientists are significantly more religious than United Kingdom scientists, according to the first cross-national study of religion and spirituality among scientists.

Indian scientists are significantly more religious than United Kingdom scientists, according to the first cross-national study of religion and spirituality among scientists.

The U.K. and India results from Religion Among Scientists in International Context (RASIC) study were presented at the Policies and Perspectives: Implications From the Religion Among Scientists in International Context Study conference held today in London. Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program and Baker Institute for Public Policy sponsored the conference. The U.K. results were also presented at the Uses and Abuses of Biology conference Sept. 22 at Cambridge University’s Faraday Institute in Cambridge, England.

The surveys and in-depth interviews with scientists revealed that while 65 percent of U.K. scientists identify as nonreligious, only 6 percent of Indian scientists identify as nonreligious. In addition, while only 12 percent of scientists in the U.K. attend religious services on a regular basis — once a month or more — 32 percent of scientists in India do.

Elaine Howard Ecklund, Rice’s Autrey Professor of Sociology and the study’s principal investigator, said the U.K. and India data are being released simultaneously because of the history between the U.K. and India. She noted that their differences are quite interesting to compare.

“India and the U.K. are at the same time deeply intertwined historically while deeply different religiously,” Ecklund said. “There is a vastly different character of religion among scientists in the U.K. than in India — potentially overturning the view that scientists are universal carriers of secularization.”

Despite the number of U.K. scientists identifying themselves as nonreligious, 49 percent of U.K. survey respondents acknowledged that there are basic truths in many religions. In addition, 11 percent of U.K. survey respondents said they do believe in God without any doubt, and another 8 percent said they believe in a higher power of some kind.

Ecklund noted that although the U.K. is known for its secularism, scientists in particular are significantly more likely to identify as not belonging to a religion than members of the general population.

“According to available data, only 50 percent of the general U.K. population responded that they did not belong to a religion, compared with 65 percent of U.K. scientists in the survey,” Ecklund said. “In addition, 47 percent of the U.K. population report never attending religious services compared with 68 percent of scientists.”

According to the India survey, 73 percent of scientists responded that there are basic truths in many religions, 27 percent said they believe in God and 38 percent expressed belief in a higher power of some kind. However, while only 4 percent of the general Indian population said they never attend religious services, 19 percent of Indian scientists said they never attend.

“Despite the high level of religiosity evident among Indian scientists when it comes to religious affiliation, we can see here that when we look at religious practices, Indian scientists are significantly more likely than the Indian general population to never participate in a religious service or ritual, even at home,” Ecklund said.

Although there appear to be striking differences in the religious views of U.K. and Indian scientists, less than half of both groups (38 percent of U.K. scientists and 18 percent of Indian scientists) perceived conflict between religion and science.

“When we interviewed Indian scientists in their offices and laboratories, many quickly made it clear that there is no reason for religion and science to be in conflict; for some Indian scientists, religious beliefs actually lead to a deeper sense of doing justice through their work as scientists,” Ecklund said. “And even many U.K. scientists who are themselves not personally religious still do not think there needs to be a conflict between religion and science.”

The U.K. survey included 1,581 scientists, representing a 50 percent response rate. The India survey included 1,763 scientists from 159 universities and/or research institutions. Both surveys also utilized population data from the World Values Survey to make comparisons with the general public. In addition, the researchers conducted nearly 200 in-depth interviews with U.K. and Indian scientists, many of these in person.

The complete study will include a survey of 22,000 biologists and physicists at different points in their careers at top universities and research institutes in the U.S., U.K., Turkey, Italy, France, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan — nations that have very different approaches to the relationship between religious and state institutions, different levels of religiosity and different levels of scientific infrastructure. Respondents were randomly selected from a sampling frame of nearly 50,000 scientists and compiled by undergraduate and graduate students at Rice University through an innovative sampling process. The study will also include qualitative interviews with 700 scientists. The entire RASIC study will be completed by the end of 2015.

Bacterial ‘communication system’ could be used to stop, kill cancer cells, study finds (Science Daily)

Date: September 24, 2014

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia

Summary: A molecule used as a communication system by bacteria can be manipulated to prevent cancer cells from spreading, a study has demonstrated. “During an infection, bacteria release molecules which allow them to ‘talk’ to each other,” said the lead author of the study. “Depending on the type of molecule released, the signal will tell other bacteria to multiply, escape the immune system or even stop spreading.”

Bacteria molecule kills cancer cells: Cancer cells on the left are pre-molecule treatment. The cells on the right are after the treatment and are dead. Credit: Image courtesy of University of Missouri-Columbia

Cancer, while always dangerous, truly becomes life-threatening when cancer cells begin to spread to different areas throughout the body. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have discovered that a molecule used as a communication system by bacteria can be manipulated to prevent cancer cells from spreading. Senthil Kumar, an assistant research professor and assistant director of the Comparative Oncology and Epigenetics Laboratory at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, says this communication system can be used to “tell” cancer cells how to act, or even to die on command.

“During an infection, bacteria release molecules which allow them to ‘talk’ to each other,” said Kumar, the lead author of the study. “Depending on the type of molecule released, the signal will tell other bacteria to multiply, escape the immune system or even stop spreading. We found that if we introduce the ‘stop spreading’ bacteria molecule to cancer cells, those cells will not only stop spreading; they will begin to die as well.”

In the study published in PLOS ONE, Kumar, and co-author Jeffrey Bryan, an associate professor in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, treated human pancreatic cancer cells grown in culture with bacterial communication molecules, known as ODDHSL. After the treatment, the pancreatic cancer cells stopped multiplying, failed to migrate and began to die.

“We used pancreatic cancer cells, because those are the most robust, aggressive and hard-to-kill cancer cells that can occur in the human body,” Kumar said. “To show that this molecule can not only stop the cancer cells from spreading, but actually cause them to die, is very exciting. Because this treatment shows promise in such an aggressive cancer like pancreatic cancer, we believe it could be used on other types of cancer cells and our lab is in the process of testing this treatment in other types of cancer.”

Kumar says the next step in his research is to find a more efficient way to introduce the molecules to the cancer cells before animal and human testing can take place.

“Our biggest challenge right now is to find a way to introduce these molecules in an effective way,” Kumar said. “At this time, we only are able to treat cancer cells with this molecule in a laboratory setting. We are now working on a better method which will allow us to treat animals with cancer to see if this therapy is truly effective. The early-stage results of this research are promising. If additional studies, including animal studies, are successful then the next step would be translating this application into clinics.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Ashwath S. Kumar, Jeffrey N. Bryan, Senthil R. Kumar. Bacterial Quorum Sensing Molecule N-3-Oxo-Dodecanoyl-L-Homoserine Lactone Causes Direct Cytotoxicity and Reduced Cell Motility in Human Pancreatic Carcinoma Cells.PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (9): e106480 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106480

Liberia: Dead Ebola Patients Resurrect? (The New Dawn)


Photo: Boakai Fofana/allAfricaA burial team carries the body of a suspected Ebola victim under the watchful eyes of police officers.

By Franklin Doloquee

Two Ebola patients, who died of the virus in separate communities in Nimba County have reportedly resurrected in the county. The victims, both females, believed to be in their 60s and 40s respectively, died of the Ebola virus recently in Hope Village Community and the Catholic Community in Ganta, Nimba.

But to the amazement of residents and onlookers on Monday, the deceased reportedly regained life in total disbelief. The New Dawn Nimba County correspondent said the late Dorris Quoi of Hope Village Community and the second victim only identified as Ma Kebeh, said to be in her late 60s, were about to be taken for burial when they resurrected.

Ma Kebeh had reportedly been in door for two nights without food and medication before her alleged death. Nimba County has had bizarre news of Ebola cases with a native doctor from the county, who claimed that he could cure infected victims, dying of the virus himself last week.

News of the resurrection of the two victims has reportedly created panic in residents of Hope Village Community and Ganta at large, with some citizens describing Dorris Quoi as a ghost, who shouldn’t live among them. Since the Ebola outbreak in Nimba County, this is the first incident of dead victims resurrecting.

Heirs to Rockefeller oil fortune divest from fossil fuels over climate change (The Guardian)

Heirs to Standard Oil fortune join campaign that will withdraw a total of $50bn from fossil fuels, including from tar sands funds

US will not commit to climate change aid for poor nations

in New York

The Guardian, Monday 22 September 2014 17.19 BST

Peter O'Neill, head of the Rockefeller family and great-great-grandson of John D Rockefeller, along with Neva Rockefeller Goodwin (second from the right_, great-granddaughter of of John D. Rockefeller, and Stephen B Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Peter O’Neill, head of the Rockefeller family and great-great-grandson of John D Rockefeller, along with Neva Rockefeller Goodwin (second from the right_, great-granddaughter of of John D. Rockefeller, and Stephen B Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

The heirs to the fabled Rockefeller oil fortune withdrew their funds from fossil fuel investments on Monday, lending a symbolic boost to a $50bn divestment campaign ahead of a United Nations summit on climate change.

The former vice-president, Al Gore, will present the divestment commitments to world leaders, making the case that investments in oil and coal have an uncertain future.

With Monday’s announcement, more than 800 global investors – including foundations such as the Rockefeller Brothers, religious groups, healthcare organisations, cities and universities – have pledged to withdraw a total of $50bn from fossil fuel investments over the next five years.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund controls about $860m in assets, said Beth Dorsey, the chief executive of the Wallace Global Fund and the Divest-Invest movement, which has led the divestment campaign. About 7% are invested in fossil fuels.

But the Rockefellers’ decision to cut their ties with oil lends the divestment campaign huge symbolic importance because of their family history. The divestment move also helps bring a campaign launched by scrappy activists on college campuses into the financial mainstream.

But for oil, there may not have been a Rockefeller fortune. John and William Rockefeller were the co-founders of the Standard Oil Company, which at the time operated the world’s biggest refineries, and overtime spawned Exxon, Amoco and Chevron.

Now, after a year of deliberations, the descendants of those original Rockefellers had decided the time had come to move away from oil.

“John D Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, moved America out of whale oil and into petroleum,” Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, said in a statement. “We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy.”

In addition to the Rockefellers, the World Council of Churches, which represents some 590 million people in 150 countries – also pulled its investments from fossil fuels on Monday. The move represented a turning point for a movement which began by demanding that universities purge their financial holdings of ties to the fossil fuel industry.

About 30 cities have also chosen to divest, including Santa Monica and Seattle.

“When you have the Rockefellers and the World Council of Churches and institutions with global reach coming together and divesting, then this movement which began just three short years ago has really reached a significant turning point,” Dorsey said.

In that time, supporters such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu have framed divestment from fossil fuels as a moral imperative – like the anti-apartheid movement of a generation ago.

“Climate change is the human rights challenge of our time. We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there is no tomorrow, for there will be no tomorrow,” Tutu said in a video address.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund over the years has been a big supporter of environmental causes, including to campaign groups opposed to fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline, which made for an awkward fit at times with its continued investment in oil and gas. The family plans to first divest from tar sands commitments.

A number of universities have also started to cut their ties with fossil fuel – with Stanford University dropping coal holdings from its $18bn endowment.

But divestment remains a hard sell. The University of California system said last week it would continue to hold on to fossil fuels. Harvard University has also resisted pressure from faculty and students to divest – although Yale has said it will look into whether renewable energy offers a better bet in the long run.

“In the last great divestment campaign, Harvard said no before it said yes. I think it’s just a matter of time,” Dorsey said. “Unlike with the anti-apartheid movement, this is not just an ethical issue. There is a powerful financial reason as well.”

Jon Stewart Obliterates Republicans By Highlighting Their Ignorance On Climate Change (Politicus USA)

Tuesday, September, 23rd, 2014, 10:09 am

jon stewart climate changeedited

On Monday night’s episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, host Jon Stewart devoted the first segment of his program to the subject of climate change. He discussed the People’s Climate March that took place in New York City on Sunday,where over 100,000 people took to the streets to bring awareness to the dangers facing our planet due to rapid global warming. Stewart pointed out that, while you would think people around the world are now acutely aware of the existence of climate change and its effects on the environment, this march was necessary because House Republicans continue to deny its existence.

The Daily Show host then directed his attention to a recent hearing by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, where White House Science Director, John Holdren,spoke in front of the committee to discuss President Obama’s initiative to reduce carbon emissions 30% by the year 2030. Stewart lamented that Holdren had the unenviable task of “pushing a million pounds of idiot up a mountain.”

Below is video of the entire segment, courtesy of Comedy Central.

Stewart highlighted the various Republicans on the committee who peppered Holdren with idiotic questions or flat-out conspiracy theories. Confirmed moron Steve Stockman asked Holdren about global ‘wobbling.’ Stockman wanted to know why it wasn’t included in any climate models when he had read somewhere that it helped contribute to the last major ice age. Holdren patiently pointed out to Stockman that ‘wobbling’ refers to changes in the planet’s tilt and orbit and takes place over tens of thousands of years. It is very slow and has a tiny effect within a time scale of 100 years, which is the normal time frame for climate models.

Of course, the stupid wasn’t just contained to Stockman. A clip was played showing California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a well-known climate skeptic, tossing out a question about the dangers of carbon dioxide Rohrabacher wanted to know at what level does carbon dioxide become dangerous for human beings. When Holdren stated that he always enjoys his interactions with Rohrabacher, Stewart interjected, claiming Holdren meant it in the same way someone enjoys playing peek-a-boo with a baby or teasing a cat with a laser pointer. Stewart then showed Holdren’s response, where Holdren told Rohrabacher that his question was a red herring. As Holdren stated, the focus on CO2 is not about whether or not humans can breathe with increased levels, but if those increased levels trap heat in the atmosphere and rapidly change global temperatures.

However, the worst may have been Indiana Representative Larry Bucshon. The Congressman revealed himself as a full-fledged denier on the tin-foil hat variety during the hearing. He wondered why Holdren wasn’t listening to public comments on global warming. Holdren answered that perhaps Bucshon should read the scientific literature available on the subject instead of public opinion. As exasperated Stewart stated that Bucshon should read a climate science journal instead a teabaggers YouTube comments. Stewart then said Bucshon gave away the game when Bucshon told Holdren that he doesn’t believe scientists because it is their job to do these studies. In his opinion, scientists have a vested interest to create a hoax and therefore he won’t read what they produce.

After pointing out Bucshon’s idiocy, while also revealing that Bucshon’s biggest campaign donors are energy companies, Stewart then turned it back to Stockman to end the segment. He showed Stockman asking about the rise of sea levels and wondering how long it will take. Then, Stockman amazingly insisted that sea levels won’t rise because of displacement, using an example of melting ice cubes in a glass. This finally set Stewart off. Stewart tore apart Stockman’s lack of understanding of grade-school science by bringing out a glass of ice water and a bowl of ice. Stewart then proved the point that displacement only takes into account ice that is already in a body of water. However, if you take ice from elsewhere, say land, and put it in a body of water, that water level will rise.

All in all, this was one of Stewart’s best segments in a while. He tore apart the willful ignorance and Koch-funded denial of the Republican Party when it comes to the issue of climate change. The fact is, Republicans are placing us in great harm by refusing to act at all when it comes to global warming and the devastating effects it is having on our country and planet.

Cacique é impedido pelo governo federal de participar da 1ª Conferência Mundial sobre os Povos Indígenas (IHU)

Ban Ki-Moon, secretário-geral da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU), prometeu na manhã desta segunda-feira, 22, lutar contra a exclusão e a marginalização a que povos indígenas estão submetidos no mundo. A declaração acontece a propósito da abertura da 1ª Conferência Mundial sobre os Povos Indígenas, na sede das nações Unidas, em Nova York. A fala do secretário-geral da ONU, neste momento histórico, ocorre na ocasião em que pela segunda vez no ano uma liderança indígena é impedida de sair do país pelo governo brasileiro.

A reportagem é do portal do Conselho Indigenista Missionário – Cimi, 22-09-2014.

O cacique Marcos Xukuru recebeu o aviso da Funai, na última sexta-feira, 19, de que não poderia embarcar para Nova York e participar da conferência devido ao fato de ter pendência com a Justiça brasileira. O cacique integraria a delegação indígena do Brasil. A pendência, na verdade, trata-se de um processo judicial envolvendo a luta pela demarcação da Terra Indígena Xukuru do Ororubá, no município de Pesqueira (PE), em 2003, que já transitou e foi julgado pelo Tribunal Regional Federal da 5ª Região (TRF-5).

“Não há nenhum impedimento judicial dizendo que eu não posso sair do país. Recentemente tive duas vezes no exterior para fazer denúncias de violações aos direitos humanos contra os povos indígenas. Uma delas em Nova York, inclusive. Houve um boicote que partiu do Ministério da Justiça. Sabemos que existe receio por parte de gente do governo quanto ao que podemos dizer para o mundo”, afirma o cacique. A Assessoria Jurídica do Conselho Indigenista Missionário (Cimi) diz não ter conhecimento de nenhum outro processo envolvendo o cacique fora esse já encerrado.

A presidente da Funai, Maria Augusta Assirati, conforme Marcos Xukuru, fez o convite para que ele participasse da conferência. Foi ela também que justificou as razões do impedimento ao cacique, numa ligação onde Maria Augustadisse que a suspensão da viagem se deu por questões diplomáticas, em face da pendência judicial. “A Funai me convidou para ir com outras lideranças. Um processo que não me proíbe de viajar foi usado. É uma situação. Sabemos que isso veio do Ministério da Justiça”, diz o Xukuru. O cacique, por medida cautelar da Organização dos Estados Americanos (OEA), faz parte do programa de proteção do estado de Pernambuco.

O demais integrantes da delegação do Brasil que se deslocou para Nova York ameaçou boicotar o encontro caso o cacique não fosse reintegrado ao grupo. Porém, o Xukuru explica que pediu aos parentes que demovessem a ideia e fossem à conferência, alegando que “é um momento único para dizer o que se passa no país, quais violações estão acontecendo aqui e que lideranças estão sendo impedidas de dialogar em âmbito mundial justamente pela criminalização que sofrem quando lutam por seus direitos”, ataca o cacique Marcos Xukuru.

Este ano já é o segundo caso de lideranças indígena impedida de viajar ao exterior para agendas políticas, de denúncia de violações aos diretos destes povos. Em abril, o cacique Babau Tupinambá, uma das lideranças da luta pela demarcação da Terra Indígena Tupinambá de Olivença, no sul da Bahia, foi barrado a ir ao Vaticano para encontro com o Papa Francisco, a convite da Conferência Nacional dos Bispos do Brasil (CNBB). Depois de conceder o visto, a Polícia Federal voltou atrás alegando que existiam ordens de prisão contra Babau e pediu que ele devolvesse o passaporte apresentando-se à autoridade policial.

A 1ª Conferência Mundial sobre os Povos Indígenas termina nesta terça, 23. Um documento sobre os direitos dos povos indígenas e sua implementação, preparado diante de consulta aos países integrantes da ONU e povos indígenas, deverá concluir o histórico encontro mundial. Segundo a ONU, existem 370 milhões de indígenas de mais de 5 mil comunidades espalhados por 90 países. Eles representam 5% da população global. No Brasil, são quase 900 mil indígenas divididos em 305 povos. O país também concentra cerca de 94 grupos livres, ou seja, povos em situação voluntária de isolamento.

Processo contra o cacique do povo Xukuru

Cacique Marcos Xukuru, em 2003, sofreu um atentado em um trecho da estrada que corta a Terra Indígena Xukuru do Ororubá. Na ocasião, dois jovens indígenas acabaram mortos e um terceiro conseguiu fugir, avisando as demais lideranças do povo. Com dois mortos e o cacique desaparecido – ele havia corrido para o interior da mata – a comunidade, tomada por uma comoção coletiva, incendiou a sede da fazenda localizada onde o atentado ocorreu e se dirigiu para a Vila de Cimbres com o objetivo de retirar da terra indígena o que restava de invasores e aliados dos fazendeiros.

O conflito entre os xukuru e os invasores foi inevitável. A terra indígena, naquele momento, já tinha sido demarcada. No entanto, o cacique, então vítima de um atentado, passou a ser acusado de ter liderado os ataques contra os fazendeiros e demais invasores do território. Um processo de desenrolou por quase 10 anos, até que o TRF-5 o julgou condenando cacique Marcos e mais 20 lideranças do povo Xukuru a quatro anos de prisão. A sentença, no entanto, foi revertida em pena alternativa com o pagamento de cestas básicas.

No dia 3 deste mês, a Assembleia Legislativa de Pernambuco condecorou o cacique Marcos Xukuru com a comenda Leão do Norte, na categoria Direitos Humanos.

On the Cusp of Climate Change (New York Times)

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, via Associated Press


Sea ice is critical for all parts of the walrus’s life cycle. Adults dive and eat on these frigid platforms, and females give birth and raise their pups there. But as sea ice retreats during Arctic summers, walruses are being driven ashore.

“In the summer we’ve seen the sea ice recede far to the north,” said Chadwick V. Jay, a research ecologist for the United States Geological Survey. That change is “making it very difficult for walruses to make a living.”

In five of the last seven summers, tens of thousands of female Pacific walruses and their pups have come ashore in Alaska, farther from their preferred prey: the clam, worm and snail beds in the deep waters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas.

An Animal Gamble in the Arctic (8:59) – The Arctic is changing — fast. Two experts who have spent decades working there believe that the marine mammals who call the high latitudes home are now locked into a human-forced ecological game of chance.

Sheng Li/Reuters


In China, the tea harvest depends on the monsoons: The best tea is harvested in springtime, when the weather is still dry. But climate change threatens to extend the monsoon season.

“Post monsoon season, farmers get much less from their harvest, and a lot of the chemicals that give tea its flavor drop,” said Colin M. Orians, a chemical ecologist at Tufts University. “If climate changes the onset of the monsoon season, farmers will have a shorter window in which to harvest their tea.”

Over the next four years, Dr. Orians and his team will investigate the effects of changing temperatures and rainfall on tea quality and on the livelihoods of farmers who depend on the harvest.

Todd W. Pierson/University of Georgia


Salamanders in the Appalachian Mountains are getting smaller, and species at lower altitudes, where the greatest drying and warming has occurred, are the most affected. One species became 18 percent smaller over 55 years.

“It could be that a change in body size is the first response to climate change,” said Karen Lips, an ecologist at the University of Maryland. “Their food may be affected, and they may be producing smaller babies.”

Dr. Lips partially relied on the data of Richard Highton, a retired ecologist from the University of Maryland who spent 50 years studying and collecting salamanders that are now preserved at the Smithsonian Institution. At the time of his retirement, he noted that salamanders were mysteriously disappearing.

“If they are not nearly as big, they may not be producing as many offspring,” Dr. Lips said.

To test the theory, Dr. Lips and her team plan to raise salamanders in incubators that mimic different climates.

Nikola Solic/Reuters


Bumblebees and other pollinators are critical to global agriculture, but recent studies suggest that up to one-quarter of Europe’s bumblebee population may die out.

Researchers say that climate change is at least partly to blame, along with disease and loss of habitat.

Scientists estimate that pollinators indirectly contribute about $30 billion a year to the European economy.  “Pollinators are essential to our population,” said Jean-Christophe Vié, deputy director of the species program at the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Switzerland.

Felix Kaestle/European Pressphoto Agency

Roe Deer

Roe deer, a small, reddish-brown species that flourishes all over Europe, give birth when new plant growth provides ample nutritious food for the mother. But flowers are blooming earlier than they used to, and the deer are missing their meals.

Researchers tracked deer births from 1985 to 2011 in the Champagne region of northeastern France, where average spring temperatures have steadily increased and flowering time is coming gradually earlier. The study is online in PLOS Biology.

The deer time their fertility by light availability, not temperature. With earlier springs, they are now giving birth too late to take advantage of the best food.

Using data on 1,095 births, the scientists calculated that the mismatch between flowering time and birth over the period had grown by 36 days.

The researchers estimate that deer fitness declined by 6 percent over the period, and by 14 percent in 2007 and 2011, when flowering was particularly early.

“Roe deer are very dependent on large quantities of high quality food, and the critical stage is the first week’s supply,” said the lead author, Jean-Michel Gaillard, a director of research at the National Center for Scientific Research at the University of Lyon. “Unlike birds, for example, that can migrate and breed earlier, roe deer cannot.”

Marcelo Del Pozo/Reuters


In the Mediterranean Basin, small olive farms can support entire families. Olive trees are notoriously drought-resistant, and even in arid ecosystems they attract migratory birds and a host of insect species.

But as the region warms, some olive trees will not be as productive.

“In the south, you’re going to see a lower crop yield,” said Andrew Paul Gutierrez, an ecologist at the University of California, Berkeley. “In marginal areas, the farmers will just go out of business.”

Dr. Gutierrez and his colleagues predict that some local farmers ultimately will have to abandon their orchards, leaving barren swaths of desert where biodiversity once flourished.

Tom McHugh/Science Source


Contrary to myth, lemmings do not commit mass suicide. But populations do rise and fall in predictable cycles, to the benefit and detriment of predators like arctic foxes and migratory birds.

Recently, scientists noticed that some groups of lemmings have died off.

“The lemming cycle is the heartbeat of the terrestrial Arctic,” said Nicolas Lecomte, a biologist at the University of Moncton in Canada. “Now we’re seeing the collapse of the main prey of many terrestrial predators.”

Lemmings survive harsh winters by hiding in the snow. When warmer temperatures bring off-season rain, that snow turns to ice, and the lemmings cannot burrow.

Dr. Lecomte has found that as lemmings die off en masse, the fragile Arctic ecosystem is growing weaker.

Asit Kumar/Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

Wheat, Rice and Corn

If wheat, rice and corn are going to continue to feed the world, the crops will have to adapt to warmer temperatures. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change offers some predictions.

The analysis, published last spring in Nature Climate Change, concluded that a 3.6 degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature will bring a significant decline in crop yields.

Most projections see a decrease from 2030 onward, with greater decreases in the 2040s and 2050s.

Selective breeding and changes in irrigation methods, pest control, fertilization and planting dates may compensate, partially, for the temperature change. But most of these adaptations will work better in temperate regions, while tropical crop yields will continue to decline.

Extreme weather events — another consequence of climate change — will affect yields year-to-year in ways that are difficult to forecast.

“There are two pieces of bad news here,” said the lead author of the I.P.C.C report, Andy J. Challinor, a professor of climate impact at the University of Leeds in England. “One is that average yields are going down. The other is that yields in any given year will be less reliable.”

Patrick Kerwin


Sharks pursue their prey partly by odor, but rising carbon dioxide levels may severely impair their sense of smell.

Scientists used the smooth dogfish, a small shark, as an experimental animal. They created tanks in which some jets of water held the odor of squid, a favorite food, or no odor at all. The water in the tanks also contained varying levels of carbon dioxide.

With carbon dioxide levels resembling today’s, the sharks spent 60 percent of their time nosing about the plume with the squid odor. But in water with carbon dioxide concentrations predicted for the year 2100, the animals actively avoided the jet with the food odor, spending only 15 percent of their time there.

Any change in shark feeding habits might affect other species as well.

“There might be a decrease in hunting behavior among sharks, and an increase in prey animals as a result,” said a co-author, Ashley R. Jennings, a researcher at Boston University. “That’s assuming the prey animals aren’t being affected by CO₂ as well.”

Sue-Ann Watson

Conch Snails

As the oceans gather carbon, a small sea snail that lives in the Great Barrier Reef risks losing its famous ability to leap.

The conch snail jumps to escape from a predator, also a sea snail, that tries to inject it with a poisonous dart.

In laboratory experiments in water with increased carbon dioxide levels, the snails were 50 percent less likely to jump. And snails that did jump took nearly twice as long to do so.

The carbon dioxide and acidity disrupt a neurotransmitter receptor in the snail’s nervous system, one that other marine animals also rely on.

“They are very widespread,” said Sue-Ann Watson, a biologist at James Cook University in Australia. “It could affect many marine animals and their behaviors.”

Oceans today are 30 percent more acidic than they were 250 years ago, when the Industrial Revolution started. And it is getting worse.

“By the end of the century, if we carry on with business as usual, they will be 150 percent more acidic than they were 250 years ago,” Dr. Watson said.

Gifford Miller


As Arctic temperatures rise every summer, some of the ice on Canada’s Baffin Island melts, revealing the moss trapped underneath. Now, using radiocarbon dating, researchers have determined that until recently some of that moss hadn’t seen daylight in 44,000 years.

The melting ice not only gives scientists the chance to study ancient moss, but adds to evidence that climate change is caused by human activities, not Earth’s natural warming and cooling cycle, said Gifford H. Miller, a geologist at the University of Colorado.

“Cyclical warming is mostly related to the Earth’s irregular orbit around the sun,” he said. The Earth warms when it’s nearer the sun and cools when it’s farther away.

“For the past 10,000 years, we’ve been getting farther away,” he said. The exposure of such ancient moss suggests “the Arctic is now experiencing warmer summers than at any time since the end of the Ice Age.”

Science/Associated Press


Black-capped chickadees are commonly found in the Northeastern United States. Carolina chickadees make their home in the Southeast. Between them is a narrow zone in which both breeds reproduce in the spring.

As winter temperatures have risen over the past decade, the birds’ social scene has moved steadily northward. Today, it is about seven miles farther north than it was in 2004.

The reason? Carolina chickadees are trying to move north — like many other species dealing with climate change — and are running into the black-caps.

“As they start interacting with the black-caps, they try to hybridize,” said Robert L. Curry, a biologist at Villanova University who has studied the birds. But a high percentage of the hybrid eggs don’t hatch, he has found, and hybrid chickadees are probably less fertile.

This is unfortunate for both species in the short term, but it would be even worse for two species not accustomed to mixing.

“This is a model for what could happen if you had an introduced species moving into a new area because of climate change, then come in contact with a species it’s never met before,” Dr. Curry said.

David Inouye


To everything there is a season — including, of course, the flowering of plants. But a warming climate is changing the timing in complicated ways.

Scientists reviewed 39 years of records of flowering plants in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, a period in which each decade saw a 0.72 degree Fahrenheit increase in average summer temperatures and a 3.5-day earlier spring snow melt.

The resulting study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last spring, found considerable variation in the changes in flowering, and a much larger number of species affected than previously believed.

Some form of flowering change occurred in 41 of 60 species examined. On average, first flowering advanced by 3.3 days per decade, peak flowering by 2.5 days, and final flowering by 1.5 days.

“The changes in the flower community are potentially reshuffling what’s available for the pollinators,” said a co-author, Amy M. Iler, a postdoctoral researcher at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. “We don’t know what all the consequences will be. It’s likely it will be good for some and bad for others.”

Dr. Andrew Weeks

Fruit Flies

As temperatures rise, insect populations may relocate around the globe in search of more hospitable environments. But it is the extreme highs, not just the average rise in temperatures, that may determine where they end up.

Scientists studied 10 different fruit fly species in Australia (both temperate and tropical), noting the temperature ranges each preferred for mating and everyday life, and their thresholds for extreme hot and cold.

All the species lived in environments where temperatures were sometimes less than optimal, the researchers found, but none chose places that forced them to endure extreme heat.

“Many species might undergo seasons where conditions are not optimal for growth and reproduction,” said Johannes Overgaard, a biologist at Aarhus University in Denmark and an author of the study. “They just survive the season. But what they can’t survive is temperatures beyond their threshold.”

This is bad news for the insects in Australia, who might find themselves with fewer habitable lands as extreme conditions dominate the continent. Whether this will also hold true for other continents is not yet known, Dr. Overgaard said.

Kelly Shimoda for The New York Times

Rock Snot

An unsightly algae known as “rock snot” has been surfacing in lake waters in Eastern Canada.

“It looks like torn-up toilet paper that is attached to rocks,” said John Smol, a biologist at Queen’s University in Ontario who is studying the algae’s growth. “It’s an aesthetic issue, and as it decomposes it becomes a smell issue.”

Rock snot, or didymo, was thought of as an invasive species introduced by humans. But an analysis of fossilized algae in the lakes indicates that it is native.

The algae was present in one lake in Quebec since at least 1970, 36 years before it was first noticed, Dr. Smol’s team found.

Didymo tends to grow in flowing waters. Warmer winters may be producing less ice and snow that disrupt the flow.

Over time, the rock snot will become much more than an eyesore, Dr. Smol said. It will displace other organisms and destroy fish habitats.

F. Stuart Westmorland/Science Source

Coral Reefs

Ocean acidification endangers coral in every ocean. But researchers haverecently discovered unusual reefs in Palau that are thriving in increasingly acidicified waters.

Ocean acidification occurs when carbon emitted by human activities mixeswith ocean waters. This decreases carbonate ions in the water, which coral andother organisms need to form their protective shells.

Yet in 2012, researchers working in the waters off Palau identified coralreefs that were both extremely acidified and very healthy. What’s differentabout these reefs, said Kathryn Shamberger, anoceanographer at Texas A&M University, is that the waters became acidifiedthrough natural means.

“The growth of the reef itself and the breathing of the organisms onthe reef,” not man-made emissions, added carbon to the water, she said.

In a typical reef these products would be flushed out before they could havemuch effect. But the waters in Palau pool around its many small islands.

Might reefs suffering from man-made acidification survive as well as these?Dr. Shamberger and others are trying to figure thatout.

Eric Sanford


Increasing ocean acidity makes it difficult for marine species to build their shells and, by softening calcium carbonate, makes shells weaker. That’s bad news not only for clams, oysters and scallops, but for tens of thousands of lesser known species — echinoderms like star fish and sea urchins, colonies of tiny invertebrates, reef corals and many others.

In June, The Biological Bulletin devoted an issue to research on ocean calcification with papers and reviews on a large variety of organisms.

“Climate change and ocean acidification are going to manifest themselves in the ways species interact — eating each other, facilitating each other’s growth,” said an editor of the issue, Gretchen Hofmann, a marine biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

And yet, she added, there is some hope. “In coastal areas there are plants that actually change the pH of the water — in a good way. Eel grass and surf grasses can provide refuge from future acidification.”

Sophie McCoy

Coral Algae

Coralline algae are the cement that binds many reefs together. By filling the gaps between corals with a hard outer shell, these algae fortify the reef and provide shelter for growing organisms.

To produce that shell, this special algae — much like oysters and snails — require a steady supply of carbonate. But as carbonate becomes harder and harder to come by in increasingly acid oceans, the once-dominant species of coralline algae can no longer grow shells as thick as they once were. Other species are moving in to claim more territory.

For now, it might not be so bad to give these competitors a chance, said Sophie McCoy, an ecologist with the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in England, who lead a study on the phenomenon when she was at the University of Chicago earlier this year.

“In the short term, I think it might be a good thing in terms of local biodiversity,” she said. In the long run, however, “all the species of this algae will start to be affected.”

That could mean less coral overall, and less habitat for the organisms that call it home.

Michael Francis McElroy for the New York Times

Invasive Species

Biological intruders, from California’s medflies to Florida’s Burmese pythons, cost the United States billions of dollars every year. Rising temperatures and changing weather patterns may make them even harder to control.

“Biology can be very complicated, especially when climate change comes in,” said Andrew Paul Gutierrez, an ecologist at the University of California, Berkeley. “That’s going to affect these species in unknown ways.”

In a book on the subject, Dr. Gutierrez notes one jarring possibility: that higher temperatures may invite still more invasive species into fragile ecosystems.

Jim Gathany/Center for Disease Control


Historically, the highlands of Ethiopia offered protection from deadly, mosquito-borne malaria. But perhaps not for much longer.

The disease was mitigated at higher altitudes, where cooler temperatures kept mosquitoes in check. Now, malaria is spreading into higher elevations during warmer years, then back into lower altitudes when temperatures cool.

Looking at temperature records from the two regions, there is a clear link between the changing climate and higher rates of the disease, said Mercedes Pascual, an ecologist at the University of Michigan.

“The disease is seasonal,” she said. “But climate change here could make the problem much bigger.”

She and her colleagues found that a 1.8 degree Fahrenheit temperature increase could result in an additional three million malaria cases annually in Ethiopia among those under age 15.

A Future as Clouded as Their Past (New York Times)

Credit: Carl Wiens

We won’t ever know what the Anasazi were thinking on the eve of the 13th century when they abandoned the cities they had worked so long to build on the Colorado Plateau. The reasons had something to do with climate — a great drought and, perhaps on top of that, a mini ice age. If that wasn’t enough to defeat a thriving culture, there was the turmoil that came from just not knowing. Why were the sky and earth behaving so strangely? Why wasn’t the old magic working anymore?

The rains were not just sparser. They were no longer coming when they were supposed to — when the seedlings were in the ground waiting for water. Cooler temperatures were putting an earlier end to the growing season. Fields had been overplanted, forests stripped of wood. Crops were failing as people reverted from agriculture to hunting and gathering and fighting violently over food.

Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde — these grand stone settlements fell silent, repurposed centuries later as national parks and monuments, memorials to the repercussions of ancient climate change.

There are many theories seeking to explain the abandonment, abstracted from faint clues in old rocks and bones and in the patterns of tree rings and pollen deposition. By some measures, there was enough water, just barely, for the Anasazi settlements to hang on. And there is evidence that they had survived drier times. A more complex story has emerged as archaeologists try to infer what they can from changes in architectural styles and pottery design — hints perhaps of a people trying out new rituals, new ways to entreat suddenly indifferent gods.

Something was happening — a slow horror, perhaps so slow that it didn’t feel like a horror, until the Anasazi’s culture began to unwind. Did their leaders engage at first in denial and then quiet deliberation? When that failed, did communities split into factions with the conservatives insisting on standing their ground — clinging to the old ways and waiting for the rains to return — and the liberals pushing for new approaches? Did a visionary arise? Some Moses leading a migration? Or three Moseses leading migrations in different directions?

One way or the other, the Anasazi disintegrated, the people moving southward. Their descendants are believed to live now in the pueblos of New Mexico and Arizona, perched on mesa tops and hugging the banks of the Rio Grande.

In modern times, many of these pueblos divide themselves, for reasons they keep from the anthropologists, into kinship groups called summer and winter people or squash and turquoise people. Could these divisions be imprints left from that 13th-century upheaval?

It is frustrating how little is known. Compared with the Byzantines, the Normans, or the Mongols, the Anasazi left such faint traces, like ripples from the radiation of their own Big Bang. They have an oral history but it is mostly secret. And there is only so much that can be derived from mythology. The closest we have to records are the crude rock etchings called petroglyphs. Were these symbols in a rudimentary language or just doodling?

Our own deliberations — imprinted onto electromagnetic waves — have been pulsing outward from Earth since the first radio news shows in the 1920s and 30s, interspersed with the “Grand Ole Opry” and the “Amos ’n’ Andy” show.

By now broadcasts about greenhouses gases, melting ice caps and rising sea levels are rippling far beyond Alpha Centauri, along with the carefully calculated outrage of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. As the waves travel farther, they converge asymptotically toward a vanishing point. Even at their strongest they might seem as esoteric to curious aliens as Anasazi rock art.

Our later emanations, if they are ever understood, might tell of great feats of geoengineering: swarms of orbiting mirrors to bounce back sunlight, oceans fertilized to create carbon-absorbing algae blooms.

The Anasazi had to make do with simpler technology — water catchment basins, irrigation channels. But when all else failed at least they had somewhere to go.

Stuck here on Earth, do we embrace the Anthropocene — this new geological epoch in which the human race has become its own force of nature? Or do we hunker down for the sixth extinction? Faced with the dilemma, we cleave as naturally as a crystal into factions, like the squash people and the pumpkin people.

Diane Ackerman is one of the latest to join the environmental optimists, who believe that the same kind of technological prowess that got us into this mess will help us adapt to it, in ways we can only begin to imagine. (Her new book, “The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us” is reviewed on Page 5.)

With her following, Ms. Ackerman may become the counterpart to Bill McKibben, the environmentalist whose book “Eaarth” (he changed the name of the planet since we have irremediably transformed the place) called for a return to simpler times with backyard farms instead of lawns and decentralized green energy. The Anasazi with solar panels on the roof.

Finally there is the 25 percent of Americans (“cool skeptics,” as a Gallup poll called them) who don’t believe the keepers of the models — the interpreters of the signs. As we flail we are generating so much data that future archaeologists, if they exist, may be overwhelmed — the opposite problem presented by the Anasazi.

More than 700 years after their fall, we have the knowledge to tell us what is going wrong this time with the atmosphere. But that has made it no easier to agree on a plan. Science can only lay the case out on the table. For all our supercomputers and climatological models, what happens next will come down to something unpredictable: the meteorology of the human mind.

Forecasts: Hopes and Fears About Climate Change (New York Times)

A few of the leaders, writers and scientists who offered their thoughts on climate change. From left: Tenzin Gyatso, Margaret Atwood, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Marlene Moses.CreditFrom left: Daniel Bockwoldt/European Pressphoto Agency; Stan Honda/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images; Mark Blinch/Reuters

Two dozen scientists, authors, and world and national figures answered two questions: What is your greatest worry about climate change? What gives you hope? Here are some of their answers, condensed for space.

JANE LUBCHENCO, Former administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

I worry about oceans becoming more corrosive, decimating both fisheries and coral reefs. Oceans have already become 30 percent more acidic since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution; if business-as-usual carbon emissions continue, oceans are likely to be 150 percent more acidic by the end of this century. Yikes!

I take heart in knowing that social change can happen very rapidly once a tipping point is reached, that young people are bringing new passion and creativity to the issue, and that climate change is being seen increasingly as the moral issue it is.

TENZIN GYATSO, 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

The worst possible aspect of climate change is that it will be irreversible and irrevocable. Therefore, there is the urgency to do whatever we can to protect the environment while we can.

When I was young, even I did not really think about the environment, nor did I hear much about it from others. Today, more and more people are trying to take action. We are beginning to look at this planet as our only home, and I am hopeful that this will lead to the generation of a genuine sense of universal responsibility. We can do this.

MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG, Former mayor of New York City and special United Nations envoy for cities and climate change

Something like 90 percent of the world’s cities are on coasts, and in most places, the most vulnerable people in those cities will feel the worst impacts. We have a responsibility to do something about that. We can’t afford to sit back, cross our fingers and hope for the best.

A tremendous amount of progress is being made by cities all around the world. Cities account for some 70 percent of the emissions that cause climate change, so together they can make a big difference. In New York City back in 2007, we set a goal of reducing our carbon footprint 30 percent by 2030, and we got to a 19 percent reduction in just six years.

Mayors have powers they can use to address climate change immediately. They have control over many of the things that create emissions — like transportation and buildings — and they can invest in infrastructure. They’re not interested in turning the issue into a big political fight. They’re the ones most directly responsible for people’s safety and welfare — and they recognize the dangers of inaction.

JEFFREY SACHS, Director, Earth Institute of Columbia University

The oil industry has lobbied Washington to a state of paralysis, and as is so often true, greed is at the root of the crisis, with the politicians getting in line to feed at the oil trough. The climate deniers are not the real problem. Their transparent propaganda and misdirections are laughable; their scientific ignorance is impossible to miss. The real problem is the cowardice and greed of those who absolutely know better, both in government and industry.

We are living in an age of technological breakthroughs that could transform the world economy to a low-carbon energy system by midcentury. Solar, wind, geothermal, carbon sequestration, safe nuclear energy, and energy efficiency are all part of the mix. The oil industry should cooperate, rather than faking it or dodging it as until now.

BARBARA KINGSOLVER, Novelist; author of the memoir “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

My fear: Catastrophic extinction. We don’t get to make natural laws. Natural law made us, and it ultimately will unmake us. What makes me very sad is that we’re going to take so many species down with us.

My hope: We in the United States finally seem to be coming to the table after decades of either denial or argument. It seems as if denial as a political strategy has run its course and that we are stepping up to our responsibilities. I hope that’s true.

ALAN I. LESHNER, Chief executive, American Association for the Advancement of Science

Ideology and intuition sometimes appear to be trumping science. So people deny the evidence even as it increases. I fear that the pace at which the public understands that the climate is changing, and puts pressure on the political system, will be too slow.

We are seeing that communicating scientific knowledge has had an effect, and that makes me happy! The deniers have less and less credibility as the public understands the scientific consensus more and more.

NEIL DeGRASSE TYSON, Director, Hayden Planetarium

I find that to worry about things is to invest emotional energy in ways that do not lead to change. Always better to do something about a problem than to worry about it.

What I expect will happen in the coming decades is that beachfront real estate, some of the most expensive in the housing marketplace, will become overrun by storm surges with enough frequency that it will force the wealthiest class (who might have previously been in denial of the phenomenon) to recognize the problem and take action, actions they can take since they are typically captains of industry and are in power and in control.

JERRY BROWN, Governor of California

A huge challenge of climate change lies in the fact that for its solution, countries all over the world must collaborate in ways that are entirely unprecedented.

Each nation-state has to be fully engaged and take decisive steps outside the conventional economic comfort zone. And that requires more statesmanship that is currently in evidence in any of those countries. The mythology of the market and economistic view of life has to be transcended so people understand that a decent and sustainable quality of life requires a very different philosophy than the one that governs contemporary societies.

Here in California, we’re leading the nation in the economic recovery and the creation of jobs, and we are pioneering climate change strategies across a broad front. We have a robust cap-and-trade system. We have a goal of one-third renewable energy in the electricity sector; we’re already at 22 percent. We have the strictest building standards in the world. We have a goal of over a million electric vehicles; we’ve got our first 100,000! We have a certain momentum in California. There are other states where this is also true.

JAMES E. HANSEN, Climate scientist, emeritus director at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

The reason it’s a really dangerous situation is that the climate system does not respond quickly to the forces we apply to it. That means that we have not witnessed the impact of the gases we’ve already added to the atmosphere. We’re waiting for the public to see enough to demand effective government response.

The public doesn’t see that much yet, but there’s more in the pipeline. We are pumping energy into the ocean at a rapid rate; that energy is accumulating, and its biggest impact is going to be on ice shelves. The sea level will go up many meters. That means all coastal cities will be doomed if we stay on fossil fuel business as usual.

The upside is that the only policy that will work is making the price of fossil fuels match their cost. We have an organization determined to focus on exactly that issue: the Citizens Climate Lobby. It’s growing rapidly. Things are changing. But not fast enough.

MARIO J. MOLINA, Co-recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize for his research on the chemistry of the ozone layer

What worries me most is the irrationality of certain interest groups preventing society from addressing the problem. Republicans in Congress are preventing action on an efficient solution such as a carbon tax.

There is a solution at hand. It doesn’t cost as much as the deniers claim. The Montreal Protocol [on ozone depletion] showed that you could solve such global problems. It would have been much more expensive not to solve it.

ELIZABETH KOLBERT, Author of “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

For the last 10,000 years or so, the climate’s been relatively stable. But if you start imagining a world with a constantly changing climate, one where, say, rainfall patterns shift dramatically every few decades, then you begin to realize how dependent we all are on that stability. And the world we’re creating is that constantly changing one.

So I worry about just about everything, starting with the basics. There are 7.2 billion people on the planet right now, and we all need to eat.

Hopefulness or a lack of it is really not the issue here. We’ve already caused a lot of damage; there’s a lot of warming that’s in effect baked into the system. We’re capable of causing a great deal more damage, and we’re also capable of limiting that damage. That’s the choice at this point, and we need to face up to that.

J. MARSHALL SHEPHERD, Former president, American Meteorological Society

It bothers me that people think there’s a big debate in science when there isn’t. Being concerned about climate change is not some whim. When I go to the mall or to Walmart, people ask, “Do you really believe in climate change?” That’s like asking, “Do you believe in gravity?” I mean, the science is clear.

What gives me optimism is that many of the people who question the science are of an older generation. The kids get it. When I go to my children’s Scout meetings or when I talk to students on campus, they get beyond the misinformation and politics.

THE REV. MITCHELL C. HESCOX, President, Evangelical Environmental Network

Climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our time because it impacts every single soul in the world. In the conservative Christian world in the United States, we’ve gotten caught up in political partisanship. I’d like to see climate change as a Christian issue and not a partisan issue.

We are the stewards of God’s creation. We believe that the earth’s creation belongs to God and that we are charged to care for it.

When we started this [network] five years ago, we had 15,000 people we regularly communicated with on this issue. Today it approaches 400,000. It means that we’re starting to overcome the partisan divide and the tide is slowly turning.

DIANA H. WALL, Director, School of Global Environmental Sustainability, Colorado State University

What keeps me up, the thing that really drives me nuts, is that the rate of change is so fast. I work in one of the most extreme ecosystems on Earth: the Antarctic Dry Valleys. It is the coldest, windiest, driest place on Earth. We’re seeing warming events and very sunny events there, and this is causing a change in the organisms I study. These species have adapted to the conditions there. We don’t know what the impact will be on them or us.

My students give me hope.

MARTIN REES, Astrophysicist, University of Cambridge

I have a lot more fears than hopes. One aspect that particularly troubles me is that economists tend to underprioritize efforts at mitigation of atmospheric carbon, because the really serious downside of inaction won’t be experienced until the 22nd century and beyond. If action is delayed, it may then be too late to avoid irreversible runaway changes.

We shouldn’t discriminate against our fellow humans on grounds of date of birth. The lifetime welfare of the newborn should rate as highly as that of the already middle-aged. Indeed, many philosophers would assign equal value to the rights of those not yet born.

For them, foreclosing the potentialities of all future generations would be so catastrophic that we should strive to reduce even the tiniest probability that this could happen.

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, Former governor of New Jersey and former administrator, Environmental Protection Agency

What keeps me up at night are people who talk in absolutes. It’s the people who say “humans cause it” or “people have no role in it,” full stop. Science is not exact and the truth is in between. By taking the extreme position, they give an opening to the other side, and then people stop listening.

What gives me hope is that there are signs that the American people are beginning to relate some of the frequent weather extremes to climate.

Since 1980 our economy has grown, our population has grown and our energy use has grown, and yet our overall pollution has gone down. We are perfectly capable of implementing environmental regulation without stopping economic growth.

KATHARINE HAYHOE, Director, Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University

What troubles me as a scientist is the potential for vicious feedbacks within the climate system. The warming that we cause through all the carbon we produce could cause a series of cascading impacts that could lead to a much greater warming. The more carbon we produce, the higher the likelihood of these unpredictable risks.

What makes me hopeful are people. I’ve been working with cities, states and regional transportation councils, and none of them have to be convinced of the reality of this problem. I was sitting next to an assistant city manager for Dallas, a town not known for being green, and she blew me away with her list of amazing things Dallas has done to save energy. People are preparing for change.

MARGARET ATWOOD, Poet and novelist, author of “The Year of the Flood

The most worrisome thing is the potential death of the ocean. If it dies, we die.

What gives me hope is that more and more people are aware of the dangers we face, and many smart people are at work on solutions. Our smart brains got us into this. Let’s see if they can get us out.

FREEMAN J. DYSON, Theoretical physicist, Institute for Advanced Study

What worries me is that many people, including scientists and politicians, believe a whole lot of dogmatic nonsense about climate change. The nonsense says that climate change is a terrible danger and that it is something we could do something about if we wanted to. The whole point is to scare people, and this has been done very successfully.

Climate has always been changing, and climate has always been lousy. It has always been a background to existence that on the whole we’ve learned to cope with pretty well. What I feel happy about is that there are a lot of ordinary people with common sense who don’t believe the nonsense.

MARLENE MOSES, Nauru’s ambassador to the United Nations, chairwoman of the Alliance of Small Island States

When I go home and look at the deteriorating situation there — increased droughts, the ocean washing away the coast — I can’t help but be fearful for what the future may hold for Nauru’s children and grandchildren. How will they adapt? Will the international community be there for them? These are most distressing questions to which I don’t yet have answers.

GLORIA STEINEM, Co-founder and former editor, Ms. Magazine

Thinking about climate change used to give me images of the sun burning down and icebergs melting — horrific, but also impersonal and far away. Now I have intimate fears of storms and floods that drive us off this island of Manhattan, and fires that send thousands fleeing — in other words, just an acceleration of what we’re already seeing.

Like millions of others in public opinion polls, I’m willing to lower my standard of living to help create a turning point. We’re waiting for a practical, coordinated, understandable set of instructions that counters the Kochs, the deniers, the profiteers. Meanwhile, we try to do whatever we can.

Somehow, I find comfort in the idea that the earth is a living organism with a will of its own. The global women’s movement gives me hope because women are trying to take control of their own bodies and reproduction, which is even more basic than production. Everything we know says that when women can decide whether and when to have children, growth slows down to a little over replacement level. And that would be the single biggest long-term relief for the environment.

MARY ROBINSON, Former president of Ireland, former United Nations High Commissioner for human rights

I’m a grandmother with five grandchildren. What will they say about what we did or didn’t do?

It’s Not Genghis Khan’s Mongolia (New York Times)

Ayush Ish in her home with her son and grandson in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Extreme winter events killed off her livestock twice. CreditRachel Nuwer

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia — For all of his victories and skills, Genghis Khan always insisted that the god Tengri — the Eternal Blue Sky — deserved the credit for his triumphant success in uniting the vast Mongol Empire in the early 13th century.

Now 21st-century science may be proving him right. Not long ago, researchers studying ancient tree rings found evidence that the Great Khan rose to power during an exceptionally mild 15-year stretch.

Back-to-back years of plentiful rain and favorable temperatures — known as pluvials, the opposite of droughts — promoted vegetation growth, the researchers believe, and that in turn supported the livestock needed to power an army.

“The Mongol Empire pluvial was quite exceptional in its duration,” said Neil Pederson, an ecologist at Harvard Forest in central Massachusetts. “It was the only one in the past 1,000 years that lasted more than 10 years, so it’s really a singular event.”

These days, Mongolia’s climatic tides have been shifting toward another extreme. A 10-year drought and heat wave from 2000 to 2010, according to the tree ring data, was the most severe the country had had in a millennium.

“I’m more and more convinced that the only way we can understand this 21st-century event is within the context of climate change,” said Amy Hessl, a geographer at West Virginia University. “And the human side of that — combined with a constellation of other factors — is going to be incredible.”

Today, Mongolia is largely herders, not warriors. Sandwiched between Russia and China, it has almost three million people in a vast tract of desert and rolling steppe grassland, punctuated by mountains and forests. Climate continues to significantly shape the lives of Genghis Khan’s descendants, around one-third of whom still practice the seminomadic herding of their ancestors, moving their house — traditionally, a dome-shaped tent called a ger — with the seasons.

While televisions and solar panels are a common sight in modern gers, herders still rely on thousands of years of collective knowledge to thrive in the harsh Mongolian environment, where the temperature regularly dips below minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. Yet the predictable ebb and flow of warmth and cold, rain and snow, has begun to falter in recent years.

“I don’t know why the weather has become unusual, but I’m very worried about it,” said Urgamaltsetsg Suvita, 47, a herder in the Gobi Desert. Summer is hotter and drier and plagued by sandstorms, she said, and winter brings too much snow or too little.

In 2010, an extreme snowstorm killed her flock of livestock — nearly 1,000 animals, including horses, sheep and goats. “Winter is no longer winter,” she said.

Like much of the world, Mongolia is already experiencing the effects of climate change. The country’s average annual temperature has risen more than 3.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1940; paradoxically, winter months have grown colder over the past 20 years. Streams and lakes have begun to dry up, and fires frequently blaze across millions of acres of steppe and forest.

“The steppe ecosystem is burning and burning and burning,” said Oyunsanaa Byambasuren, a lecturer in forestry at the National University of Mongolia. “But we really don’t have enough specialists or professionals dealing with those issues.”

Dzuds — extreme winter events that cause mass livestock die-offs — also seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity. From 1999 to 2002, a succession of winter dzuds followed by summer droughts killed 30 percentof all livestock in Mongolia, and a 2010 dzud claimed 8.8 million livestock — losses equivalent to 4.4 percent of the country’s economic output.

“Wealth in much of Mongolia is measured in animals,” said Nicole Davi, a research scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and at William Paterson University. “If you lose all of your animals, you lose everything.”

Ayush Ish, 69, has lived in the Gobi Desert all her life. She and her husband lost their flock of goats and sheep in the 2002 dzud and drought, then slowly rebuilt it with the help of 50 animals allocated by the government. But when the 2010 dzud struck, all but 20 died. Around the same time, her husband died as well.

“I don’t know if it will happen again,” she said, tears running down her cheeks. “I can only hope that we’re entering a good period now.”

Like many rural Mongolians who follow a shamanistic belief system, Ms. Ish says that mining — which has recently become widespread around the country — is to blame for the changing weather patterns. Troy Sternberg, a geographer at the University of Oxford, said that “under the Mongolian belief system, the earth and sky are connected, so if you take gold out of the ground, you’re disrupting the natural rhythms of weather and climate.”

Whether or not that is true, the rise of mining — along with overgrazing by herders chasing the cashmere market — has led to wide desertification. Some studies indicate that 70 percent of Mongolia’s grasslands are degraded.

Taken together, these patterns bode ominously for the herders’ way of life. A team of Mongolian and international experts warned in a 2009 report that such trends “may lead to the end of the Mongolian traditional way of animal husbandry as we know it, that at onetime was the very core of the entire nomadic civilization.”

Some herders have already reached that breaking point. After the 1999 to 2002 dzuds alone, 180,000 people moved to the capital, Ulan Bator, in search of a better life. “The movement from a rural, agrarian life to an urban industrial one is not necessarily a bad thing if people are interested in doing other things that are tied to a more diverse economy,” said Maria Fernandez-Gimenez, an ecologist at Colorado State University. “But opportunities and services have to exist to enable that.”

Those who reach the capital usually settle in the ger district, a sprawling, makeshift neighborhood that encircles the city and creeps into the surrounding valleys. Although the skyscrapers of downtown are in eyesight, basic services are luxuries. Families must trek up to a mile to collect water from communal wells, and in winter, they burn coal and garbage to keep warm, helping to make Ulan Bator one of the world’s most polluted cities.

Khishigee Shuurai, 36, moved from western Mongolia to the capital around 15 years ago. In 2002, after losing their flock, her parents joined her in the city. Then her father died of a heart attack. Before that, she said, he frequently expressed a longing to return to the countryside.

For many, however, life here is preferable to the uncertainty and harshness of nomadic herding. Ms. Shuurai, a school custodian and mother of four, does not share her father’s regrets.

She and her husband, a construction worker, have jobs, and they recently got electricity in their ger. Her 7-year-old daughter was honored as the top student in her class, and her 12-year-old son wants to become an engineer.

“There’s many reasons to stay,” she said. “I don’t want to go back.”