Arquivo mensal: outubro 2014

Building an Ark for the Anthropocene (New York Times)

CreditJason Holley

WE are barreling into the Anthropocene, the sixth mass extinction in the history of the planet. A recent study published in the journal Science concluded that the world’s species are disappearing as much as 1,000 times faster than the rate at which species naturally go extinct. It’s a one-two punch — on top of the ecosystems we’ve broken, extreme weather from a changing climate causes even more damage. By 2100, researchers say, one-third to one-half of all Earth’s species could be wiped out.

As a result, efforts to protect species are ramping up as governments, scientists and nonprofit organizations try to build a modern version of Noah’s Ark. The new ark certainly won’t come in the form of a large boat, or even always a place set aside. Instead it is a patchwork quilt of approaches, including assisted migration, seed banks and new preserves and travel corridors based on where species are likely to migrate as seas rise or food sources die out.

The questions are complex. What species do you save? The ones most at risk? Charismatic animals, such as lions or bears or elephants? The ones most likely to survive? The species that hold the most value for us?

One initiative, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services formed in 2012 by the governments of 121 countries, aims to protect and restore species in wild areas and to protect species like bees that carry out valuable ecosystem service functions in the places people live. Some three-quarters of the world’s food production depends primarily on bees.

“We still know very little about what could or should be included in the ark and where,” said Walter Jetz, an ecologist at Yale involved with the project. Species are being wiped out even before we know what they are.

Another project, the EDGE of Existence, run by the Zoological Society of London, seeks to protect the most unusual wildlife at highest risk. These are species that evolved on their own for so long that they are very different from other species. Among the species the project has helped to preserve are the tiny bumblebee bat and the golden-rumped elephant shrew.

While the traditional approach to protecting species is to buy land, preservation of the right habitat can be a moving target, since it’s not known how species will respond to a changing climate.

To complete the maps of where life lives, scientists have enlisted the crowd. A crowdsourcing effort called the Global Biodiversity Information Facility identifies and curates biodiversity data — such as photos of species taken with a smartphone — to show their distribution and then makes the information available online. That is especially helpful to researchers in developing countries with limited budgets. Another project, Lifemapper, at the University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute, uses the data to understand where a species might move as its world changes.

“We know that species don’t persist long in fragmented areas and so we try and reconnect those fragments,” said Stuart L. Pimm, a professor of conservation at Duke University, and head of a nonprofit organization called SavingSpecies. One of his group’s projects in the Colombian Andes identified a forest that contains a carnivorous mammal that some have described as a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear, called anolinguito, new to science. Using crowd-sourced data, “we worked with local conservation groups and helped them buy land, reforest the land and reconnect pieces,” Dr. Pimm says.

Coastal areas, especially, are getting scrutiny. Biologists in Florida, which faces a daunting sea level rise, are working on a plan to set aside land farther inland as a reserve for everything from the MacGillivray’s seaside sparrow to the tiny Key deer.

To thwart something called “coastal squeeze,” a network of “migratory greenways” is envisioned so that species can move on their own away from rising seas to new habitat. “But some are basically trapped,” said Reed F. Noss, a professor of conservation biology at the University of Central Florida who is involved in the effort, and they will most likely need to be picked up and moved. The program has languished, but Amendment 1, on the ballot this November, would provide funding.

One species at risk is the Florida panther. Once highly endangered, with just 20 individuals left, this charismatic animal has come back — some. But a quarter or more of its habitat is predicted to be under some three feet of water by 2100. Males will move on their own, but females will need help because they won’t cross the Caloosahatchee River. Experts hope to create reserves north of the river, and think at some point they will have to move females to new quarters.

Protecting land between reserves is vital. The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, known as Y2Y, would protect corridors between wild landscapes in the Rockies from Yellowstone National Park to northern Canada, which would allow species to migrate.

RESEARCHERS have also focused on “refugia,” regions around the world that have remained stable during previous swings of the Earth’s climate — and that might be the best bet for the survival of life this time around.

A section of the Driftless Area encompassing northeastern Iowa and southern Minnesota, also known as Little Switzerland, has ice beneath some of its ridges. The underground refrigerator means the land never gets above 50 or so degrees and has kept the Pleistocene snail, long thought extinct, from disappearing there. Other species might find refuge there as things get hot.

A roughly 250-acre refugia on the Little Cahaba River in Alabama has been called a botanical lost world, because of its wide range of unusual plants, including eight species found nowhere else. Dr. Noss said these kinds of places should be sought out and protected.

Daniel Janzen, a conservation ecologist at the University of Pennsylvania who is working to protect large tracts in Costa Rica, said that to truly protect biodiversity, a place-based approach must be tailored to the country. A reserve needs to be large, to be resilient against a changing climate, and so needs the support of the people who live with the wild place and will want to protect it. “To survive climate change we need to minimize the other assaults, such as illegal logging and contaminating water,” he said. “Each time you add one of those you make it more sensitive to climate change.”

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, beneath the permafrost on an island in the Arctic Ocean north of mainland Norway, preserves seeds from food crops. Frozen zoos keep the genetic material from extinct and endangered animals. The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive in Michigan, meanwhile, founded by a family of shade tree growers, has made exact genetic duplicates of some of the largest trees on the planet and planted them in “living libraries” elsewhere — should something befall the original.

In 2008, Connie Barlow, a biologist and conservationist, helped move an endangered conifer tree in Florida north by planting seedlings in cooler regions. Now she is working in the West. “I just assisted in the migration of the alligator juniper in New Mexico by planting seeds in Colorado,” she said. “We have to. Climate change is happening so fast and trees are the least capable of moving.”

A reader’s guide to the “ontological turn” – Parts 1 to 4 (Somatosphere)

January 15, 2014

A reader’s guide to the “ontological turn” – Part 1

Judith Farquhar

This article is part of the series: A reader’s guide to the “ontological turn”

Editor’s note: In the wake of the discussion about the ‘ontological turn’ at this year’s American Anthropological Association conference, we asked several scholars, “which texts or resources would you recommend to a student or colleague interested in the uses of ‘ontology’ as an analytical category in recent work in anthropology and science and technology studies?”  This was the reading list we received fromJudith Farquhar, Max Palevsky Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago.  Answers from a number of other scholars will appear as separate posts in the series.

In providing a reading list, I had lots of good “ontological” resources at hand, having just taught a seminar called “Ontological Politics.”  This list is pared down from the syllabus; and the syllabus itself was just a subset of the many useful philosophical, historical, and ethnographic readings that I had been devouring during the previous year, when I was on leave.

I really like all these pieces, though I don’t actually “follow” all of them.  This is a good thing, because the field — if it can be called that — tends to go in circles, with all the usual suspects citing all the usual suspects.  In the end, as we worked our way through the course, I found the ethnographic work more exciting than most of the more theoretically inclined writing.  At the other end of the spectrum, I feel quite transformed by having read Heidegger’s “The Thing” — but I’m not sure why!

Philosophical and methodological works in anthropology and beyond:

Philippe Descola, 2013, The Ecology of Others, Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.

William Connolly, 2005, Pluralism. Durham: Duke University Press. (Ch. 3, “Pluralism and the Universe” [on William James], pp. 68-92.)

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, 2004, “Perspectival Anthropology and the Method of Controlled Equivocation,” Tipiti 2 (1): 3-22.

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, 2012, “Immanence and Fear: Stranger events and subjects in Amazonia,” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2 (1): 27-43.

Marisol de la Cadena, 2010, “Indigenous Cosmopolitics in the Andes: Conceptual reflections beyond ‘politics’,” Cultural Anthropology 25 (2): 334-370.

Bruno Latour, 2004, “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam? From matters of fact to matters of concern.Critical Inquiry 30 (2): 225-248.

A dialogue from Common Knowledge 2004 (3): Ulrich Beck: “The Truth of Others: A Cosmopolitan Approach” (pp. 430-449) and Bruno Latour: “Whose Cosmos, Which Cosmopolitics? Comments on the Peace Terms of Ulrich Beck” (pp. 450-462).

Graham Harman, 2009, Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics.  Melbourne: Re.Press.  (OA)

Isabelle Stengers, 2005, “The Cosmopolitical Proposal,” in Bruno Latour & Peter Weibel, eds., Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy.  Cambridge MA: MIT Press, pp. 994-1003.

Martin Heidegger, 1971, “The Thing,” in Poetry, Language, Thought (Tr. Albert Hofstadter).  New York: Harper & Row, pp. 163-180

Graham Harman, 2010, “Technology, Objects and Things in Heidegger,”Cambridge Journal of Economics 34: 17-25.

Jane Bennett and William Connolly, 2012, “The Crumpled Handkerchief,” in Bernd Herzogenrath, ed., Time and History in Deleuze and Serres. London & New York: Continuum, pp. 153-171.

Tim Ingold, 2004, “A Circumpolar Night’s Dream,” in John Clammer et al., eds., Figured Worlds: Ontological Obstacles in Intercultural Relations.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press, pp. 25-57.

Annemarie Mol, 1999, “Ontological Politics: A Word and Some Questions,” in John Law, and J. Hassard, ed., Actor Network Theory and After.  Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 74-89.

Terrific ethnographic studies very concerned with ontologies:

Mario Blaser, 2010, Storytelling Globalization from the Chaco and Beyond.  Durham NC: Duke University Press.

Eduardo Kohn, 2013, How Forests Think: Toward an anthropology beyond the human. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Helen Verran, 2011, “On Assemblage: Indigenous Knowledge and Digital Media (2003-2006) and HMS Investigator (1800-1805).” In Tony Bennet & Chris Healey, eds.,  Assembling Culture.  London & New York: Routledge, pp. 163-176.

Morten Pedersen, 2011, Not Quite Shamans: Spirit worlds and Political Lives in Northern Mongolia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

John Law & Marianne Lien, 2013, “Slippery: Field Notes in Empirical Ontology,” Social Studies of Science 43 (3): 363-378.

Stacey A. Langwick, 2011, Bodies, Politics, and African Healing: The Matter of Maladies in Tanzania.  Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Judith Farquhar is Max Palevsky Professor of Anthropology and Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. Her research concerns traditional medicine, popular culture, and everyday life in contemporary China. She is the author of Knowing Practice: The Clinical Encounter of Chinese Medicine (Westview 1996),Appetites: Food and Sex in Post-Socialist China (Duke 2002), and Ten Thousand Things: Nurturing Life in Contemporary Beijing (Zone 2012) (with Qicheng Zhang), and editor (with Margaret Lock) of Beyond the Body Proper: Reading the Anthropology of Material Life (Duke 2007).

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January 17, 2014

A reader’s guide to the “ontological turn” – Part 2

Javier Lezaun

This article is part of the series: A reader’s guide to the “ontological turn”

Editor’s note: In the wake of the discussion about the ‘ontological turn’ at this year’s American Anthropological Association conference, we asked several scholars, “which texts or resources would you recommend to a student or colleague interested in the uses of ‘ontology’ as an analytical category in recent work in anthropology and science and technology studies?”  This was the answer we received from Javier Lezaun, James Martin Lecturer in Science and Technology Governance at the University of Oxford. 

Those of us who have been brought up in the science and technology studies (STS) tradition look at claims of an ‘ontological turn’ with a strange sense of familiarity: it’s déjà vu all over again! For we can read the whole history of STS (cheekily and retroactively, of course) as a ‘turn to ontology’, albeit one that was rarely thematized as such.

A key text in forming STS and giving it a proto-ontological orientation (if such a term can be invented) is Ian Hacking’s Representing and Intervening (1983). On its surface the book is an introduction to central themes and keywords in the philosophy of science. In effect, it launches a programme of research that actively blurs the lines between depictions of the world and interventions into its composition. And it does so by bringing to the fore the constitutive role of experimental practices – a key leitmotiv of what would eventually become STS.

Hacking, of course, went on to develop a highly original form of pragmatic realism, particularly in relation to the emergence of psychiatric categories and new forms of personhood. His 2004 book, Historical Ontology, captures well the main thrust of his arguments, and lays out a useful contrast with the ‘meta-epistemology’ of much of the best contemporary writing in the history of science.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves and disrespecting our good old friend Chronology. The truth is that references to ontology are scarce in the foundational texts of STS (the term is not even indexed in Representing and Intervening, for instance). This is hardly surprising: alluding to the ontological implies a neat distinction between being and representing, precisely the dichotomy that STS scholars were trying to overcome – or, more accurately, ignore – at the time. The strategy was to enrich our notion of representation, not to turn away from it in favour of higher plane of being.

It is in the particular subfield of studies of particle physics that the discussion about ontology within STS developed, simply because matters of reality – and the reality of matter – featured much more prominently in the object of study. Andrew Pickering’s Constructing Quarks: A Sociological History of Particle Physics (1984) was one of the few texts that tackled ontological matters head on, and it shared with Hacking’s an emphasis on the role of experimental machineries in producing agreed-upon worlds. In his following book, The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science (1995), Pickering would develop this insight into a full-fledged theory of temporal emergence based on the dialectic of resistance and accommodation.

An interesting continuation and counterpoint in this tradition is Karen Barad’s book, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (2007). Barad’s thesis, particularly her theory of agential realism, is avowedly and explicitly ontological, but this does not imply a return to traditional metaphysical problem-definitions. In fact, Barad speaks of ‘onto-epistemology’, or even of ‘onto-ethico-epistemology’, to describe her approach. The result is an aggregation of planes of analysis, rather than a turn from one to the other.

Arguments about the nature of quarks, bubble chambers and quantum physics might seem very distant from the sort of anthropo-somatic questions that preoccupy readers of this blog, but it is worth noting that this rarefied discussion has been the terrain where key elements of the current STS interest in ontology – the idioms of performativity and materialism in particular – were first tested.

The work that best represents this current interest in matters of ontology within STS is that of Annemarie Mol and John Law. Their papers on topologies (e.g., ‘Regions, Networks and Fluids: Anaemia and Social Topology’ in 1994; ‘Situating technoscience:  an inquiry into spatialities’, 2001) broke new ground in making explicit the argument about the multiplicity of the world(s), and served to develop a first typology of alternative modes of reality. Mol’s ethnography of atherosclerosis, The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice (2003), is of course the (provisional?) culmination of this brand of ‘empirical philosophy’, and a text that offers a template for STS-inflected anthropology (and vice versa).

One distinct contribution of this body of work – and this is a point made by Malcolm Ashmore in his review of The Body Multiple – is to extend STS modes of inquiry beyond the study of new or controversial entities, and draw the same kind of analytical intensity to realities – like that (or those) of atherosclerosis – whose univocal reality we tend to take for granted. For better and worse, STS grew out of an effort to understand how new facts and artifacts enter our world, and the field remains attached to all that is (or appears to be) new – even if the end-result of the analysis is often to challenge those claims to novelty. The current ‘ontological turn’ in STS would then represent an effort to excavate mundane layers of reality, to draw attention to the performed or enacted nature of that that appears old, settled or uncontroversial. I suspect this manoeuvre carries less value in Anthropology, where the everyday and the taken-for-granted is often the very locus of inquiry.

The other value of the ‘ontological turn’ is, in my view, to recast the question of politics – as both an object of study and a mode of engagement with the world. This recasting can take at least two different forms. There are those who argue that attending to the ontological, i.e., to the reality of plural worlds and the unavoidable condition of multinaturalism, intensifies (and clarifies) the normative implications of our analyses (see for instance the genealogical argument put forward very forcefully by Dimitris Papadopoulos in his article ‘Alter-ontologies: towards a constituent politics in technoscience’). A slightly different course of action is to think of ontology as a way of addressing the intertwining of the technological and the political. Excellent recent examples of this approach are Noortje Marres’s Material Participation: Technology, the Environment, and everyday Publics (2012) and Andrew Barry’s Material Politics: Disputes Along the Pipeline (2013).

In sum, and to stake out my own position, I think STS is best seen as a fairly tight bundle of analytical sensibilities – sensibilities that are manifested in an evolving archipelago of case studies. It is not a theory of the world (let alone a theory of being), and it quickly becomes trite and somewhat ritualistic when it is transformed into a laundry list of statements about what the world is or should be like. In this sense, an ‘ontological turn’ would run counter to the STS tradition, as I see it, if it implies asserting a particular ontology of the world, regardless of whether the claim is that that ontology is plural, multiple, fluid, relational, etc. This sort of categorical, pre-empirical position smothers the critical instincts that energize the field and have driven its evolution over the last three decades. Steve Woolgar and I have formulated this view in a recent piece for Social Studies of Science (‘The wrong bin bag:  a turn to ontology in science and technology studies?’), and a similar argument been made often and persuasively by Michael Lynch (e.g., “Ontography: investigating the production of things, deflating ontology”).

Javier Lezaun is James Martin Lecturer in Science and Technology Governance and Deputy Director at the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography at the University of Oxford. His research focuses on the politics of scientific research and its governance. He directs the research programme BioProperty, funded by the European Research Council, which investigates the role of property rights and new forms of ownership in biomedical research. Javier is also currently participating in research projects on thegovernance of climate geoengineering, and new forms of consumer mobilization in food markets.

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February 12, 2014

A reader’s guide to the “ontological turn” – Part 3

Morten Axel Pedersen

This article is part of the series: A reader’s guide to the “ontological turn”

Editor’s note: In the wake of all the discussion about the ‘ontological turn’ at this year’s American Anthropological Association conference, we asked four scholars, “which texts or resources would you recommend to a student or colleague interested in the uses of ‘ontology’ as an analytical category in recent work in anthropology and science and technology studies?”  This was the reading list we received fromMorten Axel Pedersen, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen.

As someone who has, for a decade, participated in discussions about ‘ontology’ at various European anthropology venues and departments, I share the sense of déjà-vu noted by Lezaun in Part 2 of this Reader’s Guide. In fact, it is surprising just how much interest and enthusiasm, not to mention critique and aversion, has been generated by the recent introduction of this discussion into mainstream US anthropology. Arguably, the ontological turn now faces the risk of becoming the latest ‘new thing’, so critique is inevitable, necessary and welcome. Indeed, students and scholars from some of the same institutions that spearheaded anthropology’s turn to ontology are now questioning its most deeply held assumptions and cherished arguments. That, of course, is precisely how things should be. And hopefully, the part-repetition in the US of debates that are now losing steam in Latin America, Japan and Europe will provide a new framework for experimentally transforming and productively distorting anthropology’s engagement with ontology, and thus avoid the ever lurking danger of it becoming just another orthodoxy.

What follows here is a list of predominantly anthropological readings, which does not cover the creative interfaces between STS and anthropology explored by scholars in Copenhagen, Manchester, Osaka, and elsewhere. The list is not intended to be exclusive. Indeed, many scholars who figure on it may well not consider themselves part of the ontological turn and may be critical of part or all of it. The reason why they are nevertheless included is that they all have, in my view, played a role in making the ‘turn’ what it is today.

Books

Blaser, Mario. 2010. Storytelling Globalization from the Chaco and Beyond.  Durham NC: Duke University Press.

Descola, Philippe. 2013. Beyond Nature and Culture. Trans. J. Lloyd. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Gell, Alfred. 1998. Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Holbraad, Martin. 2012. Truth in Motion: The Recursive Anthropology of Cuban Divination. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Kohn, Eduardo. 2012. How Forests Think: Toward an anthropology beyond the human. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Krøijer, Stine. Forthcoming. Figurations of the Future: Forms and Temporality of Left Radical Politics in Northern Europe. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Maurer, Bill. 2005. Mutual Life, Limited. Islamic Banking, Alternative Currencies, Lateral Reason. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Miyazaki, Hirokazu. 2013. Arbitraging Japan: Dream of Capitalism at the End of Finance. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Rio, Knut Mikjel. 2007. The Power of Perspective. Social Ontology and Agency on Ambrym Island, Vanuatu. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Scott, Michael W. 2007. The Severed Snake: Matrilineages, Making Place, and a Melanesian Christianity in Southeast Solomon Islands. Durham NC: Carolina Academic Press.

Stasch, Rupert. 2009. Society of Others. Kinship and Mourning in a West Papuan Place. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Strathern, Marilyn. 2004. Partial Connections (Updated Edition). Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira.

Swancutt, Katrhine, 2012. Fortune and the Cursed: The Sliding Scale of Time in Mongolian Divination. Oxford: Berghahn.

Wagner, Roy. 1975. The Invention of Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Willerslev, Rane. 2007. Soul Hunters: Hunting, Animism and Personhood amomg the Siberian Yukaghirs. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Viveiros de Castro, Eduardo. 2009. Métaphysiques cannibales. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France

Edited volumes/sections

Jensen, C. B, M. A. Pedersen & B. R. Wintereik, eds. 2011. “Comparative Relativism”, special issue of Common Knowledge 17 (1).

Jensen, C. B. & A. Morita, eds. 2012. “Anthropology as critique of reality: A Japanese turn“. Forum in HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2 (2): 358-405.

Candea, Matei & Lys Alcayna–Stevens, eds. 2012. “Internal Others: Ethnographies of Naturalism“, Special section in Cambridge Anthropology30(2): 36-146

Henare, A., M: Holbraad and S.Wastell, eds. 2007. Thinking Through Things: Theorising Artifacts Ethnographically. London: Routledge. (Here’s a pre-publication version of the Introduction).

Pedersen, M. A., R. Empson and C. Humphrey, eds. 2007. “Inner Asian Perspectivism,” special issue of Inner Asia 9 (2) (especially papers by da Col,Holbraad/Willerslev and Viveiros de Castro)

Articles engaging explicitly with “ontology”, also critically

Alberti, B., S. Fowles, M. Holbraad, Y. Marshall, C. Witmore. 2011. ‘Worlds otherwise’: Archaeology, Anthropology, and Ontological Difference forum.Current Anthropology 52(6): 896-912

Blaser, Mario. 2013. Ontological conflicts and the stories of peoples in spite of Europe: toward a conversation on political ontology. Current Anthropology54(5): 547-568.

Course, Magnus. 2010. Of Words and Fog. Linguistic relativity and Amerindian ontology. Anthropological Theory 10(3): 247–263.

De la Cadena, Marisol. 2010. Indigenous Cosmopolitics in the Andes: Conceptual Reflections beyond ‘Politics’. Cultural Anthropology 25 (2): 334-70.

Hage, Ghassan. 2012. Critical anthropological thought and the radical political imaginary today. Critique of Anthropology 32(3): 285–308

Heywood, Paolo. 2012. Anthropology and What There Is: Reflections on “Ontology”. Cambridge Anthropology 30 (1): 143-151.

Holbraad, Martin. 2009. Ontography and Alterity: Defining anthropological truth. Social Analysis 53 (2): 80-93.

Holbraad, Martin. 2011. Can the Thing Speak? OAP Press, Working Paper Series, Article # 7.

Laidlaw, James. 2012. Ontologically Challenged. Anthropology of This Century, vol. 4, London, May 2012.

Laidlaw, James and Paolo Heywood, 2013. One More Turn and You’re There.Anthropology of This Century, vol. 7, London, May 2013.

Nielsen, Morten. 2013. Analogic Asphalt: Suspended value conversions among young road workers in Southern Mozambique. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3 (2): 79-96.

Pedersen, Morten Axel. 2001. Totemism, animism and North Asian indigenous ontologies. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 7 (3): 411-427.

Pedersen, Morten Axel. 2012. Common nonsense. A review of certain recent reviews of the ‘ontological turn.’ Anthropology of This Century, 5.

Salmon, Amira. 2013. Transforming translations (part I):“The owner of these bones”. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3(3): 1-32.

Scott, Michael W. 2013. The Anthropology of Ontology (Religious Science?).Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19 (4): 859–72.

Venkatesan, Soumhya et al. 2010. Ontology Is Just Another Word for Culture: Motion Tabled at the 2008 Meeting of the Group for Debates in Anthropological Theory, University of Manchester. Critique of Anthropology30 (2):152-200. (The papers can also be downloaded here).

Viveiros de Castro, Eduardo. 2002. And. Manchester: Papers in Social Anthropology.

Viveiros de Castro, E. 2013 “The Relative Native” by HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3(3): 473-502.

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Finally, there are some recent and ongoing dialogues in France between anthropologists and philosophers concerning issues of metaphysics and ontology, which may be of interest:

Morten Axel Pedersen is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen. His publications include Not Quite Shamans: Spirit Worlds and Political Lives in Northern Mongolia (2011). He is also co-editor, with Martin Holbraad, of Times of Security: Ethnographies of Fear, Protest, and the Future(2013). A new book co-authored with Lars Højer, Urban Hunters: Dealing and Dreaming in Times of Transition is forthcoming.

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March 19, 2014

A reader’s guide to the “ontological turn” – Part 4

Annemarie Mol

This article is part of the series: A reader’s guide to the “ontological turn”

Editor’s note: In the wake of all the discussion about the ‘ontological turn’ at this year’s American Anthropological Association conference, we asked four scholars, “which texts or resources would you recommend to a student or colleague interested in the uses of ‘ontology’ as an analytical category in recent work in anthropology and science and technology studies?”  This was the answer we received fromAnnemarie Mol, professor of Anthropology of the Body at the University of Amsterdam.  Answers from Judith Farquhar, Javier Lezaun, and Morten Axel Pedersen appear as separate posts in the series.

The point of the use of the word ‘ontology’ in STS was that it allowed us not just to talk about the methods that were used in the sciences, but (in relation to these) also address what the sciences made of their object. E.g. rather than asking whether or not some branch of science knows ‘women’ correctly, or instead with some kind of bias, we wanted to shift to the question: what are the topics, the concerns and the questions that knowledge practices insist on; how do they interfere in practices; what do they do to/with women; etc. At first this was cast in constructivist terms as ‘what do various scientific provinces make ofwomen’. But then we began to doubt whether ‘making’ was such a good metaphor, as it gives some ‘maker’ too much credit; as it suggests a time line with a before and an after; and materials out of which x or y might be made. So we shifted terminology and used words like perform, or do, or enact. Here we widened the idea of the staging of social realities (e.g. identities) to that of physical realities.

The idea was that there are not just many ways of knowing ‘an object’, but rather many ways of practising it. Each way of practising stages – performs, does, enacts – a different version of ‘the’ object. Hence, it is not ‘an object’, but more than one. An object multiple. That reality might be multiple goes head on against the Euroamerican tradition in which different people may each have their own perspective on reality, while there is only one reality – singular, coherent, elusive – to have ‘perspectives’ on.  To underline our break with this monorealist heritage of monotheism, we imported the old fashioned philosophical term of ontology and put it in the plural. Ontologies. That was – at the time – an unheard of oxymoron.

Crucial in all this was the work of Donna Haraway (even if she did not particularly use the word ontology). Read it all – or pick out what seems interesting to you. Here, now. But if you don’t quite know where to start, plunge into Primate Visions.

Crucial, too, was earlier STS work on methods that had recast these as techniques of staging a world (not just of objects, but also of tools, money, readers, investors, etc.). Here Bruno Latour, Michel Callon and John Law worked in ways that later fed into the ‘ontology’ stream. See for that particular history: Annemarie Mol, “Actor-Network Theory: Sensitive Terms and Enduring Tensions.”

The branches of STS from which studies into ontology grew, took themselves as shifting the anthropological gaze from ‘the others’ to the sciences, scienced that staged themselves as universal, but weren’t. They were variously situated techno-science practices and making them travel was hard work. “Show me a universal and I will ask how much it costs,” wrote Bruno Latour, (in Irréductions, the second part of The Pasteurisation of France) Hence, going out in the world to study ‘others’ while presuming ‘the West’ (or at least (its) science) was rational, coherent, naturalist, what have you – seemed a bad idea to us. The West could do with some thorough unmasking – and taking this to what many saw as pivotal to its alleged superiority, its truth machines, seemed a good idea (even if a lot later some of the techniques involved were highjacked by climate change deniers… ).

But there were also always specific relevant interventions to be made. For instance, if ontology is not singular and given, the question arises about whichreality to ‘do’. Ontology does not precede or escape politics, but has a politics of its own. Not a politics of who (who gets to speak; act; etc.) but a politics of what(what is the reality that takes shape and that various people come to live with?) See: A. Mol, “Ontological politics. A word and some questions,” (in Law & Hassard, Actor Network Theory and After).

For a longer and more extensive opening up of ontologies / realities (in the plural), well, there is my book The body multiple: Ontology in medical practice(Duke University Press 2003) – that lays it all out step by step… Including the difficult aspect of ontological multiplicity that while there is more reality than one, its different versions are variously entangled with one another, so that there are less than many. (As Donna Haraway put it; and as explored by Marilyn Strathern in Partial Connections)

For an earlier use of the term ontological that makes its relevance clear and lays out how realities being done may change over time: Cussins, Charis.“Ontological choreography: Agency through objectification in infertility clinics.” Social studies of science 26, no. 3 (1996): 575-610. Later reworked in Thompson Charis, Making Parents: The Ontological Choreography of Reproductive Technologies.

For an early attempt to differentiate the semiotics involved from the symbolic interactionist tradition and its perspectives see: Mol, Annemarie, and Jessica Mesman. “Neonatal food and the politics of theory: some questions of method.” Social Studies of Science 26, no. 2 (1996): 419-444.

The politics at stake come out very well in Ingunn Moser: “Making Alzheimer’s disease matter. Enacting, interfering and doing politics of nature.” Geoforum39, no. 1 (2008): 98-110.

And for the haunting question as to what/who acts and/or what/who is enacted, see: Mol, Annemarie, and John Law. “Embodied action, enacted bodies: the example of hypoglycaemia.” Body & Society 10, no. 2-3 (2004): 43-62.

If you like realities as they get tied up with techniques, this is an exciting one, as it multiplies what it is to give birth: Akrich, Madeleine, and Bernike Pasveer.“Multiplying obstetrics: techniques of surveillance and forms of coordination.”Theoretical medicine and bioethics 21, no. 1 (2000): 63-83.

Remember, the multiplicity of reality does not imply its plurality. Here is a great example of that, a study that traces the task of coordinating between different versions of reality in the course of an operation: Moreira, Tiago.“Heterogeneity and coordination of blood pressure in neurosurgery.” Social Studies of Science 36, no. 1 (2006): 69-97.

But if different versions of ‘an object’ may be enacted in practice, this is not to say that they are always fused at some point into ‘an object’ – they may never quite get to hang together. For a good case of that, see: Law, John, and Vicky Singleton. “Object lessons.” Organization 12, no. 3 (2005): 331-355.

And here an obligatory one for anthropologists, as the ‘object’ being studied – and multiplied – is a ‘population’ as defined by genetics in practice: M’charek, Amâde. “Technologies of population: Forensic DNA testing practices and the making of differences and similarities.” Configurations 8, no. 1 (2000): 121-158.

Oh, and I should not forget this troubling of ‘perspectives’ that went beyond realities to also include appreciations: Pols, Jeannette. “Enacting appreciations: beyond the patient perspective.” Health Care Analysis 13, no. 3 (2005): 203-221.

More recently, there was a special issue of Social Studies of Science to do with ontologies. It has a good introduction: Woolgar, Steve, and Javier Lezaun. “The wrong bin bag: A turn to ontology in science and technology studies?.”Social Studies of Science 43, no. 3 (2013): 321-340. In it, you may want to read: Law, John, and Marianne Elisabeth Lien. “Slippery: Field notes in empirical ontology.” Social Studies of Science 43, no. 3 (2013): 363-378.

And if you are still hungry for ontologies, then there is (with the example of eating and with norms explicitly added to ‘onto’): Mol, Annemarie. “Mind your plate! The ontonorms of Dutch dieting.” Social Studies of Science 43, no. 3 (2013): 379-396.

All of which is not to say that I would want to argue for such a thing as a ‘turn to ontology’ in anthropology or anywhere else. In the branch of the social studies of science, technology and medicine that I come from this term, ontology, has served quite specific purposes. It has helped to put some issues and questions on the agenda. But of course, like all terms, it has its limits. For it evokes ‘reality’ better than other things deserving our attention – norms, processes, spatialities, dangers, pleasures: what have you…

 

Annemarie Mol is professor of Anthropology of the Body at the University of Amsterdam. In her work she combines the ethnographic study of practices with the task of shifting our theoretical repertoires. She is author of  The body multiple: Ontology in medical practice and The Logic of Care: Health and the Problem of Patient Choice.

On Culture and Other Crimes: An Interview with Slavoj Zizek (Exchange)

Accessed October 28, 2014

By Kerry Chance
Anthropology
University of Chicago

Slavoj Zizek, psychoanalytic philosopher and cultural critic at the Institute of Sociology in Slovenia, has taught all over the world, most recently at the University of Chicago. His first public lecture at Chicago, entitled “The Ignorance of Chicken, or, Who Believes What Today”, looked every bit the rock show. Crowds stretched across the main campus quad, a ‘merch’ table featured his latest book The Parallax View, and as the lecture began with crowds still waiting outside, people climbed through the windows of the packed auditorium. While at Chicago, Zizek also taught a seminar as the Critical Inquiry Visiting Professor on topics ranging from Lacanian ethics, political correctness, habit in Hegel, the Big Other, Stalin, theology, politics and the role of the intellectual. Zizek has written innumerable articles and is the author of more than fifty books, including The Sublime Object of Ideology, The Ticklish Subject, Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?, On Belief andWelcome to the Desert of the RealÑto name just a few that have contributed to his widespread popularity in and outside the academy. Here, Zizek speaks to Exchange about culture, Lacan, cognitive science, neoliberalism and projects for contemporary anthropology.

I.

Chance: In class and in your public lectures here at Chicago, you’ve frequently talked about culture and have done so in two ways: first, in terms of belief as you have theorized it in your earlier work, and secondly in terms of Hegel’s notion of habit. How are you thinking culture in Lacanian terms?

Zizek: Traditionally, Lacanians like to identify culture simply as the symbolic system, within which there is a linguistically limited horizon of meaning, but I think two things should be added.

First, what is for me the zero-sum of culture, if I improvise, is what to do about embarrassing excesses. When somebody does something embarrassing, burps after eating for example, culture is how you react to it in a polite way. To be very vulgar, all seduction rituals are the cultured way of dealing with the fact that people would like to copulate with each other. Now, someone will say, “wait a minute, to feel something as embarrassment, culture must already be there.” No, I don’t think so. Somehow, embarrassment is first. In other words, we have to presuppose an excess, again, embarrassment apropos of something disgusting, non-social, or an excess of obscenity or enjoyment.

So again, this would be the first specification: to put it in bombastic Lacanian terms, first the excess of the real, embarrassment, shock – and culture is how you deal with it. This is why Lacan in a nice, tasteless way put it that one measure of the passage from the animal to the human kingdom is what to do with shit. He always liked this example, that an animal by definition just shits wherever, for humans shit is always an embarrassment. It always amused me when I was a boy that, at circuses, you have animals, horses and especially elephants that take a big shit and usually you see people hidden behind them ready to make the shit quickly disappear. Animals don’t care. The problem with humans is what to do with this embarrassment.

The second thing that interests me, which is a much more concrete historical analysis, is why there is such an obsession with culture today. Why is it that today not only do we have culture studies but everything – and by everything I mean at least the humanities and for some people even the hard sciences – has become a subspecies of cultural studies? In the hard sciences, people will say following Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, their history is the history of culture, of paradigm shifts and so on. Everything becomes culture.

Chance: How is this linked to your notion of belief?

Zizek: Again, this is linked to my notion of belief, to the idea that something is changing in the status of belief. Today, the predominant form is a belief that culture is the name of a belief, which is no longer taken seriously. Culture means, for example, I am a Jew, and although I don’t think there was a stupid god coming down and shouting some stupid things to people on Mount Sinai, I nonetheless say out of respect for my lifestyle or whatever, I don’t eat pork. This is culture.

To complicate things even further, I think two traps should be avoided here. Among other things, I have tried to focus my work on one of these traps in the last few years. First, it is too simple to say, “does this mean once before people were taking culture seriously.” No. Not only conservatives, but even progressives like to criticize the present, evoking, “oh, but once it was different, things were more authentic.” No, it wasn’t. It is not that before people did believe. If anything, they believe more today. It’s just that the modality of distance was different. Before, it wasn’t a matter of belief. Rather, it was a feeling of being more attached to, and having more respect for, the power of appearance of ritual as such. Something changed today at that level, I think. So paradoxically these external signs of belief – “nobody takes anything seriously” – if anything, points to how it’s more difficult today for us to trust the symbolic ritual, the symbolic institution. But again, there is no time when people ‘really meant it.’

What I know from anthropology, I may be wrong, is that all the great errors started with a phenomenological evolutionary illusion. I think when researchers found a certain gap between reality and beliefs or between form and content, they always thought, “ah, we have a later descendent state of evolution, there must have been some point earlier when people meant it.” The dream is that there was an original moment when people really ‘meant it.’ An example I know from my Marxist past, in anthropology you must know him from the 19th century, Lewis Henry Morgan. I remember from my youth that Engels among other classical Marxists relied on him. Morgan found that in some tribes all the men in one tribe referred to the women of the other tribe as their ‘sister wives.’ From this he deduced, that this is the linguistic remainder of some primordial form of marriage. The incest prohibition already in place, you were not allowed to have sex with women in your tribe, but only with the women in another tribe. The women were exchanged in a block, collectively. It was basic incest, but regulated. The way I heard it, anthropologists later proved that there never was this nice regulated collective orgy. That is to say, the wrong conclusion was that from this name ‘sister wives’ you conclude that there was a point when it was really meant. No, the gap is here from the very beginning.

What fascinates me in this example also is the logic of institution. By institution, I mean how, in order for something to function as a belief, you cannot simply say, “okay, let’s pretend.” In my book, I think the Ticklish Subject (Verso, 1999), I have a wonderful anecdote, which for me again tells about what culture is as an institution. It is a crazy story about elections some fifteen years ago in my country, Slovenia. An ex-friend of mine, who was a candidate told me – okay, he had to do these democratic games like kissing the asses of local constituents – an old lady came to him and said if he wanted her vote he would have to do her a favor. She was obsessed with the idea that something was wrong with her house number (number 24, not even 13), that this number brings misfortune. There was a burglary twice, lightning struck the house, and she’s convinced that it’s because of the number. She said, can she arrange with the city authorities to change the number, to 23a or something, just not 24. He said to her, “But lady, why even go through all this mess? Why don’t you simply paint a new number and change it yourself?” She said, “No, it must be done properly.” Though it was only superstition, to be effective it must be done properly through the institution. The must be a minimum reification to take the game seriously.

Chance: Is this a project for anthropology?

Zizek: This returns to another aspect of your question. That is, another lesson of all these notions of culture is the irreducibility of alienation. We should abandon this old phenomenological – and for some people, Marxist motive – that every institutionalization means reification in two directions, the past and the future. For the past, it is the idea that we should try to reconstitute a moment when it was not alienated, when it was ‘meant seriously.’ For the future, it is to isolate the moment, to dream or to work toward the moment when this transparency and authenticity of meaning will be reinstalled. No, we should also see the liberating aspect of it.

To return here to what I know of anthropology, when anthropology about half a century ago shifted from “let’s observe the mating rituals in Southern Samoa or South Pacific” or whatever, to focusing on our daily life rituals. You remember Florida, the scandal elections and the first Bush victory. A guy somewhere from Africa wrote an article imitating that sort of journalistic report, you know, an enlightened Western journalist goes to Africa, where they allegedly have some election and he mocks the election, “ha, ha, what corruption.” Well, this guy wrote about Florida in the same way, saying there are votes disappearing, the brother of the candidate is the local government, you know, describing Florida as a provincial Banana Republic case of cheating. It was a wonderful result. It was anthropology at its best.

I think this is what interests me, the anthropology of our lives. Not only is this a politically correct procedure – in this exceptional case, I use the term ‘politically correct’ in a positive way – but also I find it always a subversive procedure. The starting point is always the implicit racism of the anthropologist: you look at a foreign culture, you study them with this detachment, “oh what strange rituals” and so on. The phenomenological humanist temptation would be to say, “No, in this engaged participating fieldwork, we should immerse ourselves, become one of them to really understand them.” This series of presuppositions we should reject. What does it mean that we should be one of them to understand them? They usually don’t understand themselves – isn’t it the basic experience that people as a rule follow rituals that are just a part of tradition, which they themselves don’t get? I think the anthropology of our lives is the true breakthrough from this implicitly racist attitude of studying the eccentricity of others, to adopt the same view of ourselves. It is much better as a double alienation.

This is connected to another central motive of my work, this obsession with not only rules but also habits, which tell you how to obey or disobey rules. Especially social prohibitions never mean what they appear to mean. This is an incredibly wealthy topic of ideology for contemporary anthropology. Why is it so important? Precisely because we live in an era of so-called post-ideology. I claim that at precisely this level, ideology has survived.

My interest in anthropology, what always fascinated me was people never mean what they say and in order to be a part of a culture you have to get this gap. There is an important role of obscenities here. Let me tell you a comic adventure. This weekend, I was with Fred Jameson at Duke and there Fred invited an old, very distinguished Argentine gentleman – I will not tell you the name it’s too embarrassing – because of my wife, who is also Argentinean. This gentleman, you would be afraid of using the f-word in front of him, so I said to myself, okay, can I make him say something dirty? And I did seduce him, you know how? The specificities of Argentine Spanish are very different from say Venezuelan Spanish or Mexican Spanish. So, I told him how I tried to learn Spanish, and then I made my first step into obscenity. I told him I knew the word ‘cojo,’ which in Spanish simply means ‘to catch’ something, like “how do I catch a taxi?” Now, this word will be important because I told him I heard somewhere in Argentina there is a series of jokes, where a stupid Spaniard comes to Argentina and asks, “Where do I catch a taxi?” In Argentinean Spanish, ‘catch’ here means the f-word. Then, the distinguished gentleman smiled briefly and I saw that he knew a really dirty example. And I like it how he broke down. After two or three minutes, he broke down and said, “It’s against my nature but I must tell you Argentines have an even more dirty joke…” which is that a Spanish guy says, “How do you catch a cab?,” which means to fuck a taxi, and the Argentine says, “Well, the only practical way I can imagine is the exhaust pipe.” I was so glad that this distinguished gentleman, that I made him say this joke. For me, this is culture. For me, it is not a violation, but the closest you can get to authentic communication.

II.

Chance: I wanted to talk about Lacanian ethics and about Lacan’s injunction to be consistent with your desire –

Zizek: The thing about Lacan’s injunction is what if your desire is not consistent? In other words, the way I read Lacan is that more and more in his late work he devalues desire, desire itself as not an ethical category. The Lacan of the fifties and sixties, it is the ethics of desire to not compromise your desire. But later, more and more he emphasizes that desire is a priori something hypocritical, inconsistent. In this sense, desire mostly thinks with a secret code that you will not get, the whole economy is to avoid the realization of desire, which is why Lacan understood that fantasy is a realization of desire. He doesn’t mean realization of desire in the sense of getting what you desire, like I want to eat strawberry cakes and I in the fantasy imagine myself realizing it. For Lacan, it is to stage a scene where that desire as such emerges. What would be a nicer example, let’s say I have a desire to eat strawberries but as always with desires, you have this suspicion, what if I will be disappointed. A fantasy would be, for example, I am there sleeping and somebody brings me strawberries, then I taste one, then I stop and it goes on. This ‘going on’ – I never fully have the strawberries – is fantasy. You don’t realize desire – getting your dirty mouth full of strawberries – you just stage this scene on a pleasant, hopeful state of desire, on the verge of satisfaction but not yet there. There is a pleasant obstacle preventing it all the time. This is fantasy.

Chance: How does this ethical injunction, both in the early and late Lacan, play out in the political realm, specifically thinking about it in relation to the cartoon depictions of Mohammad, a debate that opposed unlimited freedom of the press to respect for the other?

Zizek: Do you see the piece I wrote – not in The New York Times, which was censored – but “Antinomies of Tolerant Reason”? (See HYPERLINK “http://www.lacan.com” http://www.lacan.com)

You know, many leftists were mad at me there. They thought I made too many compromises with Western liberals, too much anti-Muslim compromise. But the reason I did it was that I got a little bit sick and tired with these politically correct Western liberals – didn’t you notice this hypocrisy? I noticed it was the same people, who in the West are so sensitive – like I look at you and it already can be harassment – and all of sudden, they say it is a different culture, blah, blah, blah. I hate that even some feminists now are turning to culture as one of the standard defenses of Islam. In the West, we at least have formal equality of women. I am very sorry but there, you have a culture, at least in the predominant mode that is so openly anti-feminine. My god, but they are openly doing what we here are trying to unearth as the anti-feminism beneath the emancipated feminine. My god, are we now even prohibited from stating the obvious?

Do you know this famous, eternal politically correct example of clitoridechtomy? This example is not Islam – it is a ritual independent of Islam. But I remember some Muslim women claiming: isn’t it that in the West in order to be attractive to men, women have to remain slim, seductive; isn’t this a global clitoridechtomy; isn’t it much worse? There, it’s only the clitoris, here, it’s as if your entire body is clitoridechtomized. I hate this – I remember when I was a youth what the facts were about the Gulag. People would say: but at least here, you are in or out of the Gulag; isn’t it that the whole United States is one ideological Gulag? You know, this cheap counter universalization. I don’t buy it – this is what I try to say in that text. The first thing is to admit a genuine deadlock and to stop this hypocrisy.

In that text, I hope it is obvious this fury I have at this logic of respect. Sometimes, respect is the most disrespectful category. Respect here is like telling a child false things so not to hurt him. Here, respect means not taking him seriously. I think a lot of the people who preach, “you should show restraint, show respect to Islam,” are enacting the worst sort of patronization. Paradoxically, violent critics of Islam, on the most elementary level, show more respect for Islam than those who, out of respect, do not attack it. I am not saying we should turn to this, but at least those critics take people seriously as believers.

III.

Chance: What does it mean to return to big theory?

Zizek: You remember, years ago it was fashionable to say big theory overlooks its own historical, concrete, anthropological conditions and presuppositions. That it is na•ve. Foucault has this attitude in its utmost when he says, before asking what’s the meaning of the universe, you should ask in what historical context is it even possible to ask this question. So direct truth questions become questions about the concrete historical conditions in which one can raise such a question. I think this was a deadlock.

Today’s big theory is no longer a na•ve big theory. It’s not saying “let’s forget about historical context and again ask, does god exist, or are we free.” No, the point is that concrete theory – the idea that we cannot ask metaphysical questions, only historical questions – had a skeleton in the closet: it has its own big theory presuppositions. Usually, even some rather primitive historicist, relativist ideas, for example, everything depends on historical circumstances or interactions, there are no universalities, and so on. So for me, it’s about not forgetting from where one speaks. It’s about including into reflection, into historical reflection, the very historicism, which was unquestioned in this eternal, Foucauldian model. I find it so boring. It’s so boring to say, “no, you shouldn’t ask are we free, the only question is what does it mean in our society to ask the question are we free.”

Chance: The presence of cognitive science is increasingly felt in anthropology. What particular problems does cognitive science pose for social sciences?

Zizek: Big theory brings us nicely to cognitive science because what it so tickling about them is precisely this question of freedom – does it mean we are not free? It’s interesting that all the debates about cognitive sciences – the image of the human being emerging from all these interactions, from the brain sciences or more abstract mind sciences – is about are we free.

I don’t know about social sciences, but I know about my field, psychoanalysis. I dealt with cognitive sciences extensively in my last book (SeeThe Parallax View, MIT Press 2006). I think firstly, they should be taken seriously. They should not be dismissed as just another na•ve, naturalizing, positivist approach. The question should be seriously asked, how do they compel us to redefine the most basic notions of human dignity, freedom? That is to say, what we experience as dignity and freedom is it all just an illusion, as they put it in computer user terms, a user’s illusion. Meaning, for example, when you write a text on a computer, you have this user’s illusion scrolling up or down that there is text above or below. There is no text there. Is our freedom the same as a user’s illusion or is there a freedom?

The thing to do – and I’m not saying I did it, I’m saying I am trying to do it – is to take these sciences very seriously, and find a point in them where there is a need for an intervention of concepts developed by psychoanalysis. I think – I hope – that I isolated one such point. I noticed how, when they tried to account for consciousness, they all have to resort to almost always the same metaphor of this autopoesis, self-reflexive move, some kind of self-relating, self-referring closed circuit. They are only able to describe it metaphorically. What I claim is that this is what Freud meant by death drive and so on.

But it’s not that we psychoanalysts know it and can teach the idiots. I think this is also good for us – and by us I mean, my gang of psychoanalytically oriented people. It compels us also to formulate our terminology, to purify our technology as it were.

IV.

Chance: What, if anything, is neoliberalism?

Zizek: You must know, and it has often been noted, that the big shift in the study of the human mind from traditional approaches to modern cognitivism mirrors perfectly the shift from bureaucratic capitalism to neoliberal capitalism with its flexibility and plasticity. It’s so interesting to notice how many cognitivists that I’ve read even say this openly. They say that traditional science of mind was production oriented, organizing up and down, like traditional bureaucratic capitalism. Today, it’s like this digital, flexible capitalism – you don’t have one central deciding point, you have free interaction, nomadic plasticity and so on. I found this very interesting.

Catherine Malabou wrote a wonderful book called What to Do With the Human Brain. She develops, in a very nice way, that plasticity can have two meanings. One meaning is this neoliberal plasticity. Basically, it’s an accommodating plasticity: how to succeed on the market, how to adopt new identity. But there is a more radical plasticity, where the point is not just an adaptive plasticity. It’s a plasticity that not only adapts itself to existing circumstances but also tries to form a margin of freedom to intervene, to change the circumstances.

The same would go for me for neoliberalism. My point would be first, there obviously exists something like neoliberalism. That is to say, it is a fact that at the level of relations between the states, within singular economies new rules of capitalism are emerging today.

But my first doubt would be about the process of describing the fact that something new is emerging. I don’t think it is adequately described by the way neoliberalism describes itself. For example, saying “the rule is no longer state intervention, but free interaction, flexibility, the diminishing role of the state.” But wait a minute, is this really going on? I mean, take Reagan’s presidency and Bush’s presidency today. While bombasting against big spending Democrats – that is to say, big state – the state has never been as strong as it is today and there is an incredible explosion of state apparatuses. State control today is stronger than ever. That would be my automatic reaction: yes, there is something new but, when covered by the label neoliberalism, it is not adequately described. The self-perception of today’s era as neoliberal is a wrong self-perception.

Even leftist critics all too often accept this self-description on its own terms and then proceed to criticize it, saying, “no, we can’t leave everything to the market.” Wait a minute, who is leaving everything to the market? If we look at today’s American economy, how much support there is for American farmers, how much intervention, military contracts, where is there any free market? I mean, sorry, but I don’t see much free market here.

Just look at this paradox, which I think is the nicest icon of what goes on today. You know the problem of cotton in the state of Mali I think, which is the producer of cheap cotton far better than the United States’ cotton. The country is going to ruin because, as you know, the American cotton producers get more state support than the entire Gross Domestic Product of the state of Mali. And they say there, we don’t want American help, what we want is just when you preach about corrupt state intervention and the free market, you play by your own rules. You know, there’s so much cheating going on here.

So that would be the kind of anthropological study that’s needed: what neoliberalism really means. That’s what we have to do.

Zizek PicksMost important book published in the last six months: On Creaturely Life by Eric Santner

It will sound hypocritical but really, I would say On Creaturely Life. If you go further back to 2005, it would be The Persistence of Subjectivity by Robert Pippin.

Most important film released in the last six months: Manderlay directed by Lars Von Trier

My god, this is a tough question. My problem is, as much as I love even commercial Hollywood, I really don’t remember one in particular. It’s a weird film but I like it, the last Lars Von Trier, Manderlay. Need I add that I haven’t seen it, but a priori I don’t deal with empirical things.

Favorite obscure text: Sex and Character by Otto Weininger

Sex and Character. It’s obscure today but remember that this book was published in 1903 and was reprinted like fifty times. Then, it was a megabook. It’s vicious – radically anti-feminist, anti-Semitic, anti-whatever-you-want but I think it’s shattering.

Most underrated philosopher: Hegel

It will sound crazy because he is one of the most overrated philosophers, but I think, Hegel. Because for the last two hundred years, every philosopher defines himself as somehow wanting to go over Hegel. He’s this universal punching bag. Known as he is, he is still the most underrated.

Favorite politician of all time? Lenin and Cromwell

My answer is so boring. It’s boring, it’s stupid, it’s provocative, I’m ashamed to pronounce it: Lenin. You know, many na•ve leftists, who want to maintain their democratic credentials, would say some tragic victim like Allende. I think there is no perspective there. I have a cynical idea that Pinochet’s coup d’etat came at the right point. Imagine what would have happened if someone like Clinton and not that stupid Nixon-Kissinger gang were in power. Someone like Clinton would have gotten the formula: annoy him economically, wait for the true economic crisis to explode and then Allende would either have to opt for a three-way neoliberalism and play all those emancipatory welfare games. Or, he would have to turn Castro, get really tough and lose. Don’t you think they struck at the right point to redeem him? So I don’t respect this kind of person.

I would love to have somebody else – I have such traditional tastes. Okay, again, it’s traditional but if you go back further, Freud loved him: Oliver Cromwell. I like it the way he ruthlessly went from first using the Parliament to cut off the head of the king, to then disbanding Parliament.

What surprises me is this myth that Cromwell was this cruel Puritan. Not only did he have personal integrity, but contrary to royalist myth, he was not revengeful. To put it naively, he was even personally kind. It may also come as a surprise how religiously tolerant he was. This is a myth, you know, this pale-lips Puritan just killing all the Catholics and everybody else. No, he was striving very much, for his vision was a kind of secular plurality of religions. He was a genuine tragic, tragic figure, I think.

Occupy Democracy is not considered newsworthy. It should be (The Guardian)

Sleeping outside for an iPhone is OK, but do it in furtherance of democratic expression and you’re in trouble

theguardian.com, Monday 27 October 2014 15.11 GMT

Occupy London demonstrationOfficers policing the Occupy Democracy protest in Parliament Square, London. Photograph: Jay Shaw Baker/NurPhoto/Rex

You can tell a lot about the moral quality of a society by what is, and is not, considered news.

From last Tuesday, Parliament Square was wrapped in wire mesh. In one of the more surreal scenes in recent British political history, officers with trained German shepherds stand sentinel each day, at calculated distances across the lawn, surrounded by a giant box of fences, three metres high – all to ensure that no citizen enters to illegally practice democracy. Yet few major news outlets feel this is much of a story.

Occupy Democracy, a new incarnation of Occupy London, has attempted to use the space for an experiment in democratic organising. The idea was to turn Parliament Square back to the purposes to which it was, by most accounts, originally created: a place for public meetings and discussions, with an eye to bringing all the issues ignored by politicians in Westminster back into public debate. Seminars and assemblies were planned, colourful bamboo towers and sound systems put in place, to be followed by a temporary library, kitchen and toilets.

There was no plan to turn this into a permanent tent city, which are now explicitly illegal. True, this law is very selectively enforced; Metropolitan police regularly react with a wink and a smile if citizens camp on the street while queuing overnight for the latest iPhone. But to do it in furtherance of democratic expression is absolutely forbidden. Try it, and you can expect to immediately see your tent torn down and if you try even the most passive resistance you’re likely to be arrested. So organisers settled on a symbolic 24-hour presence, even if it meant sleeping on the grass under cardboard boxes in the autumn rain.

The police response can only be described as hysterical. Tarpaulins used to sit on the grass were said to be illegal, and when activists tried to sit on them they were attacked by scores of officers. Activists say they had limbs twisted and officers stuck thumbs into nerve endings as “pain compliance”. Pizza boxes were declared illegal structures and confiscated and commanders even sent officers to stand over activists at night telling them it was illegal to close their eyes.

Finally, the fences went up, and the guard dogs appeared – ostensibly, for what officers insisted was scheduled cleaning that happened to continue each day of the occupation. Hundreds of participants were thus pushed into the tiny green strip to the north of the Churchill statue, and even then, it seemed like every time they sat down for a seminar on financial reform or planning a response to the housing crisis, they were interrupted by some new pretext for police intervention – someone had an “illegal” megaphone, there was what looked like camping equipment, some regulation might have been violated – and squads of police once again stormed in.

One could speak of many things here: the obvious embarrassment of the police, compared with the perseverance and cheerful good humour of the occupiers, who continually grew in numbers and spirit as the repression increased. But what I really want to talk about is the reaction of the media.

The reason that park occupations are so important is because everyone knows they are there. Activists constantly hear the same refrain from would-be allies: “I agree that there’s been an erosion of democracy in this country, that the money controls everything, what I don’t know is: what can I do?” Our usual reply is: meet with other like-minded people. When people get together, brilliant ideas invariably emerge. But it’s impossible to bring people together unless there is a location, a place where they can always go, 24/7, to meet people and begin to have conversations and make plans. This is precisely what our political authorities have decided that Londoners must never again be allowed to have.

To achieve this, the police and media must take what are ostensibly completely opposite reactions to any occupation. The police act as if the possibility of non-violent camping is an existential threat to the very idea of civil government; hundreds of police are mobilised in a near-panic reaction; hallowed public spaces are shut off.

Official media, on the other hand – and in this case the BBC and mainstream newspapers are acting as if they were an arm of government – take exactly the opposite approach, insisting that the events in question are so trivial and unimportant that there is no need to cover them at all. The very same press that provides wall-to-wall coverage of pro-democracy occupations and police repression halfway around the world, in Hong Kong, acts as if analogous events at home are of no interest. It’s hard to think of a more dramatic story than battles between police and non-violent protesters, or the erection of giant fences and mobilisation of attack dogs directly beneath the mother of all parliaments. Yet while I was in the square, the only TV cameras I saw were being carried by journalists from Iran, Russia and Qatar.

We need to ask ourselves what it means that police suppression of democratic assemblies is no longer considered news. Is the wall of silence, as most activists suspect, simply a continuation of the actual physical wall surrounding Parliament Square, another piece of the same strategy, or is it a token of ultimate cynicism? Britons no longer have the right to freedom of assembly. Sorry, that’s no longer news.

O longo dia seguinte (El País)

A escassez de água em São Paulo é o rei nu das eleições de 2014. No momento em que a maior cidade do país se transforma num cenário de distopia, o processo eleitoral chegou ao fim sem nenhum debate sério sobre o meio ambiente e o modelo de desenvolvimento para o Brasil

 – 27 OCT 2014 – 12:05 BRST

Chegamos ao dia seguinte sem que o futuro tenha sido de fato disputado. Se a eleição de 2014 foi a mais acirrada das últimas décadas, não só pelos candidatos, mas pelos eleitores, terminou sem debate. Não havia adversários nem nos estúdios de TV, onde os candidatos rolavam ora na lama, ora na retórica mais medíocre, nem nas redes sociais, elas que se tornaram as ruas realmente tomadas pela militância. Havia apenas inimigos a serem destruídos. As fraturas do país dizem respeito bem menos à pequena diferença entre a vencedora e o derrotado – e bem mais a uma fissura entre o país que vivemos e o país inventado. Não como uma fabulação, que é a matéria de qualquer vida. Não como uma utopia, que é onde se sonha chegar. Mas como um deslocamento perverso da realidade, uma cisão. Só essa desconexão pode explicar como a maior cidade do país transformava-se num cenário de distopia durante o primeiro e o segundo turnos eleitorais sem que em nenhum momento o meio ambiente e o modelo de desenvolvimento tenham entrado na pauta com a seriedade necessária. Chegamos ao dia seguinte como parte dos moradores de São Paulo: olhando para o céu à espera de que uma chuva venha nos salvar. E é com essa verdade profunda que temos de lidar.

Se a eleição pareceu interminável, o dia seguinte poderá ser muito mais longo. E seria, qualquer que fosse o vencedor. Com qualquer um deles, o que se disputou foi o poder, não um projeto de país. São Paulo talvez seja a expressão hiper-real desse momento, seja nossa escultura de Ron Mueck, o artista australiano que cria figuras humanas em dimensões superlativas. É como se o futuro tivesse chegado antes na cidade expandida, mais próximo da sombria ficção científica de Philip K. Dick do que da megalópole de comercial de TV onde os novos modelos de carros deslizam céleres por ruas sem trânsito.

Nesse cenário, Geraldo Alckmin, o governador do partido que há 20 anos está no poder foi reeleito no primeiro turno. Confrontados com a crise da água, Aécio Neves (PSDB) disse: “Vivemos a maior estiagem dos últimos 80 anos, e a meu ver o Estado fez algo absolutamente adequado, que foi propor bônus para aqueles que economizassem. Talvez o que tenha faltado foi uma parceria maior do governo federal”. E Dilma Rousseff (PT) rebateu: “Eu disse a ele (Alckmin): governador, pela minha experiência, acho que o senhor deveria fazer obras emergenciais. Porque tudo indica que essa seca se prolongará, e vocês não têm capacidade de abastecimento suficiente”.

Pode existir exibição maior de mediocridade do que essas respostas dadas por aquela que queria continuar presidente e por aquele que desejava se tornar presidente? É de chorar sentado em um dos reservatórios do sistema Cantareira, mas a maioria dos eleitores não pareceu se importar. Um sugere que basta chover ou dar bônus aos consumidores, a outra que obras emergenciais teriam solucionado todo o problema. Nenhum demonstrou nem capacidade nem vontade de fazer relações com o modelo de desenvolvimento, o esgotamento dos recursos, o desmatamento e o modo de vida.

O monstro bafejava na sala, mas os presidenciáveis disputavam quem tinha dado o nó no rabo do gato

Assim, enquanto São Paulo se transformava numa vitrine do cotidiano corroído pela degradação ambiental, o máximo de discussão que se conseguiu foi sobre de quem é a culpa. Isso num momento global em que as mudanças climáticas e suas consequências são consideradas por alguns dos pensadores mais relevantes do planeta, em todas as áreas, o tema de maior importância desse período, talvez de toda história humana. A cisão com a realidade é total. O monstro bafejava na sala, mas os presidenciáveis disputavam quem tinha dado o nó no rabo do gato.

Mesmo Marina Silva muito pouco tocou nesses temas ao disputar o primeiro turno, desassemelhando-se a si mesma. Ela, de quem se esperava que fizesse a diferença fazendo diferente, preferiu falar sobre a autonomia do Banco Central. No máximo escaparam, ela e todos, pela bandeira fácil do “desenvolvimento sustentável”, como se algum candidato fosse dizer que não quer desenvolvimento sustentável e como se este fosse um conceito já dado. Mas tocar nos temas cruciais do presente e do futuro, disputar a escolha do modelo de desenvolvimento em pontos concretos, com a seriedade que o momento histórico exige, não. O meio ambiente ficou fora da pauta dos presidenciáveis por escolha de conveniência, já que esse é o debate difícil, ao implicar mudanças no modo de vida dos eleitores, mas também porque a população têm escasso ou nenhum interesse no tema, apesar de a degradação ambiental roer o cotidiano. Essa é a fratura da negação.

A escassez de água na maior cidade brasileira é o rei nu destas eleições de 2014. E é por isso que vale a pena revisitar a reeleição de Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB). A seca acentua a nuvem de poluição que envolve a capital, o nariz sangra, a tosse se instala, o recorde de calor fora de época esgarça os nervos dentro de carros e ônibus que se movem lentamente num gigantesco labirinto de concreto. A crise tem produzido cenas como a de caminhões-pipa com escolta policial, prontos para dominar a população desesperada de um interior pintado como bucólico. A polícia que massacrou os manifestantes, agora se prepara para reprimir os sem-água. A imagem dos reservatórios remete ao repertório de geografias historicamente calcinadas. A vida torna-se pior, bem pior. E torna-se bem pior em ritmo acelerado.

Era de se esperar que a experiência cotidiana concreta tivesse um impacto nas urnas. Mas, neste cenário, o governador reelegeu-se ainda no primeiro turno, repetindo: “Não vai faltar água”. E a água já faltava. Se as pessoas votam de forma pragmática, votam pelo retorno imediato, votam naquele que acreditam que vai melhorar a vida delas, por que a crise da água teve pouco ou nenhum impacto na eleição? Seria porque a educação, a saúde, a segurança estiveram excelentes nesses 20 anos de governo do PSDB em São Paulo, o que compensaria a escassez de água? Não é o que a realidade mostra. A crise da água tampouco atingiu o desempenho de Aécio Neves, que no segundo turno conquistou 64% dos votos válidos no estado de São Paulo. Que cisão, então, ocorreu nesse momento? E o que ela diz? Ou como a escassez de água não colou na eleição, ou de que forma se colou?

A polícia que massacrou os manifestantes de junho de 2013 agora se prepara para reprimir os sem-água de 2014

Não tenho respostas, só hipóteses. Uma hipótese possível seria a mesma pela qual a candidatura de Marina Silva erodiu. Marina cometeu vários erros nessa campanha, alguns deles primários. Mas há um deles, que para muitos soa como erro, mas que não me parece que seja. Seu discurso era menos afirmativo do que os eleitores estão acostumados. Ela propunha a construção de soluções, mais do que propostas acabadas (ainda que tenha sido a única entre os três candidatos com chances no primeiro turno a apresentar um programa de governo). Propunha escuta.

Seu discurso foi classificado como “difuso” e “vago”. Às vezes, ser difuso e ser vago são as únicas verdades possíveis em determinado momento histórico, como mostraram as manifestações de junho de 2013. Mas logo essas características, também nela decodificadas como defeitos, foram transformadas em “fraqueza”. E, na sequência, em identidade. Assim, a mulher que nasceu num seringal do Acre, trabalhou desde criança em condições brutais, passou fome, alfabetizou-se aos 16 anos, foi empregada doméstica, sobreviveu a três hepatites, cinco malárias e uma leishmaniose, além de sofrer contaminação por mercúrio, e ainda assim tornou-se professora com pós-graduação, senadora, ministra, uma das maiores lideranças ambientais do planeta e por fim uma candidata à presidência com chances de vencer, foi considerada “fraca”. Mais uma fratura entre imagem e realidade.

As afirmações peremptórias, com pontos de exclamação, assim como as certezas, são mercadorias valorizadas. Em geral ordinárias, mas valorizadas mesmo assim. Num momento em que a falta de controle parece se expressar em toda a sua assustadora grandiosidade, como na escassez de água em São Paulo, assim como na corrosão das condições de vida pela degradação ambiental, talvez as certezas, mesmo que falsas e irresponsáveis, tornem-se ainda mais valorizadas. Talvez a virtude encontrada em Alckmin por parte dos eleitores seja a da negação da realidade: “Tudo sob controle. Não vai faltar água”.

Uma garantia expressada sem hesitação ou titubeio, em voz firme, quando a água se esvai das torneiras e a vida converte-se literalmente em cinza, uma garantia falsa, parece ainda soar como uma garantia. E logo é decodificada como força, como a expressão de alguém que sabe liderar e sabe o que fazer e, principalmente, nos libera de ter de fazer algo. Sua vantagem é manter viva a ilusão mais cara, a ilusão do controle. Esta seria uma cisão para encobrir a fratura maior, a de que os responsáveis não têm responsabilidade. E a de que cada um, que também é responsável pela destruição ambiental, tampouco quer ser responsável, porque isso implicaria mudar de posição e alterar radicalmente seu modo de vida.

Talvez a virtude encontrada em Geraldo Alckmin pelos eleitores seja a da negação da realidade

Ao esforço de mudar o modo de vida poucos aderem, porque dá trabalho e provoca perdas, exige mediação e concessão. Para muitos, já parece um sacrifício excessivo diminuir o tempo do banho, imagina alterar radicalmente o cotidiano. Assim, vale mais a pena escolher não a ficção, mas a mentira – e ficção e mentira jamais podem ser confundidas –, porque dessa maneira se torna possível manter o máximo de tempo possível uma rotina que não apenas é insustentável a longo prazo, como já não se sustenta agora. E também a fantasia sobre si mesmo como um bom cidadão.

Soa mais conveniente, portanto, acreditar nessa versão mágica, a de que não vai faltar água, quando já está faltando água, promovendo uma cisão com a realidade. De novo, portanto, é um voto pragmático, voltado ao bem-estar imediato de não ter de se mover. De não precisar fazer nada ou muito pouco a respeito. Voltado a algo talvez mais caro do que água, a certeza de que há sempre uma saída que não exija comprometimento e mudança real. Uma saída em que apenas os outros façam o sacrifício, como sempre foi no caso do racionamento muito mais antigo e persistente na casa dos pobres.

No fim da semana passada, foi divulgada uma gravação em que Dilma Pena, a presidente da Sabesp (Companhia de Saneamento Básico do Estado de São Paulo), dizia numa reunião interna: “A Sabesp tem estado muito pouco na mídia, acho que é um erro. Nós tínhamos que estar mais na mídia, sabe, (…) nas rádios comunitárias, (…) todos falando, com um tema repetido, um monopólio: economia de água. ‘Cidadão, economize água’. Isso que tinha que estar reiteradamente na mídia, mas nós temos de seguir orientação, nós temos superiores, e a orientação não tem sido essa. Mas é um erro”. O diretor metropolitano da Sabesp, Paulo Massato, fez o seguinte comentário na mesma reunião: “Se repetir o que aconteceu esse ano, do final de 2013, de outubro pra cá, se voltar a repetir em 2014, confesso que eu não sei o que fazer. Essa é uma agonia, uma preocupação. Alguém brincou aqui, mas é uma brincadeira séria. Vamos dar férias para oito milhões e oitocentos mil habitantes e falar: ‘saiam de São Paulo’. Porque aqui não tem água, não vai ter água pra banho, pra limpeza da casa, quem puder compra garrafa, água mineral. Quem não puder, vai tomar banho na casa da mãe lá em Santos, lá em Ubatuba, Águas de São Pedro, sei lá, aqui não vai ter”.

É gravíssimo que a presidente da Sabesp tenha sido impedida, por qualquer motivo e mais ainda por motivos eleitoreiros, de alertar a população sobre a enormidade do problema. É criminoso e deve haver apuração e responsabilização de todos os envolvidos. Mas precisamos ter a honestidade de assumir que dificilmente, em 5 de outubro, data da votação do primeiro turno, algum cidadão pudesse alegar desconhecer a situação e a necessidade de economizar água durante a prolongada seca que enfrenta São Paulo.

É bastante sedutor o dogma de que o homem pode controlar a catástrofe ambiental que provocou

Geraldo Alckmin deu a mentira que a população queria ouvir porque conhece bem seus eleitores. Parodiando o título do livro do escritor Ferrez, não há inocentes em São Paulo. A reeleição de Alckmin talvez seja um daqueles fenômenos sustentados pela expectativa de que, se mentirmos todos, talvez vire verdade. Em parte, o governador pode não ter vencido apesar da crise da água, mas também por causa dela.

A crise da água na maior cidade brasileira, em plena eleição, é fascinante pelo que diz daquilo que não é dito. Se é um fato que faltou planejamento ao governo estadual tucano, que aí está há 20 anos e agora por mais quatro, esta é só a ponta explícita, a mais fácil de enxergar (ainda que deliberadamente a maioria dos eleitores a tenha ignorado nas urnas). Mas, ao colocar a parte no lugar do todo, revela-se essa crença arraigada, e por estes dias também desesperada, de acreditar que teria bastado algumas obras para escapar do que se tornou a vida cotidiana em São Paulo, na qual a água é apenas a ausência mais gritante. É o dogma, quase religioso, de que o homem pode controlar a catástrofe ambiental que provocou.

De novo, a ilusão do controle, mesmo quando a realidade aniquila os dias, mesmo quando no fundo cada um sabe que, fora e dentro, algo de fundamental da vida de cada um se esvai. Quanto mais se sente que o controle escapa, no miúdo e no macro do cotidiano, maior é a recusa em enxergar. O desastre já passou da porta de casa, mas ainda se crê que basta chover para tudo voltar a ser como antes, que já era ruim, mas menos. Ou que se o não planejado for feito, ainda que tarde, o problema de São Paulo está resolvido. Cinde-se de novo – e talvez uma parte significativa da população sequer perceba que a escassez de água tem causas ambientais profundas. Como se as questões do meio ambiente, que aqui estão, estivessem lá, no mundo abstrato dos outros.

A política ambiental de Dilma Rousseff, agora reeleita, foi um retrocesso para o Brasil

Dilma Rousseff foi reeleita. Sua política ambiental, se é que pode se chamar assim, foi um retrocesso. A visão sobre a Amazônia do governo se notabilizou pela semelhança com o projeto da ditadura militar para a região. Em sua gestão, obras como a hidrelétrica de Belo Monte, no rio Xingu, foram impostas aos povos da floresta sem consulta prévia, autoritarismo que levou o Brasil à Comissão Interamericana de Diretos Humanos da Organização dos Estados Americanos (OEA). Seu próximo alvo é barrar o belo rio Tapajós, onde encontra a resistência dos Munduruku e de comunidades agroextrativistas,como a de Montanha e Mangabal. Pressionado pelo processo eleitoral, o governo disse que, desta vez, cumprirá a lei e ouvirá os índios, mas não escutará os ribeirinhos.

A presidente também arrancou um naco do Parque Nacional da Amazônia para facilitar o caminho das hidrelétricas planejadas para o Tapajós. Mas só criou unidades de conservação na Amazônia a 12 dias do segundo turno, na tentativa de minimizar a repercussão de seu péssimo desempenho no setor. O desmatamento na Amazônia voltou a crescer: 191% no bimestre de agosto e setembro deste ano, comparado à 2013. Segundo o Imazon (Instituto do Homem e do Meio Ambiente da Amazônia), porque o governo adiou a divulgação dos dados oficiais para depois das eleições. Dilma foi também a presidente que menos demarcou terras indígenas desde a redemocratização do país.

Pessoas respeitáveis defenderam nestas eleições que o susto de quase perder o poder fará Dilma Rousseff e o PT retomarem algumas lutas históricas, também no horizonte socioambiental. Veremos. Em seu discurso da vitória, neste domingo (26/10), Dilma falou em “diálogo”. E em “pontes”. Num pronunciamento bem pensado, em que a presidente reeleita podia colar tudo, já que o cargo estava garantido por mais quatro anos, vale a pena prestar atenção nas ausências. Dilma Rousseff não mencionou nem “índios” – e nem “meio ambiente”.

Eliane Brum é escritora, repórter e documentarista. Autora dos livros de não ficção Coluna 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: elianebrum.com Email: elianebrum.coluna@gmail.com Twitter: @brumelianebrum

Antropoceno, Capitaloceno, Cthulhuceno: o que caracteriza uma nova época? (ClimaCom)

28/10/2014

A proposta de formalização de uma nova época da Terra levanta questões sobre utilidade, responsabilidade e formas alternativas de narrar a história do mundo em que vivemos

Por Daniela Klebis

Os impactos das ações humanas sobre o planeta nos últimos 200 anos têm sido tão profundos que podem justificar a definição de nova época para a Terra, o Antropoceno. No último dia 17 de outubro, a Comissão Internacional sobre Estratigrafia (ICS, na sigla inglês), reuniu-se em Berlim para dar continuidade às discussões sobre a formalização dessa nova época terrena, cuja decisão final será votada somente em 2016. A despeito dos processos burocráticos, o termo já foi informalmente assimilado por filósofos, arqueólogos, historiadores, ambientalistas e cientistas do clima e, nesse meio, o debate segue, para além da reunião de evidências físicas, no sentido de compreender sua utilidade: estamos prontos para assumir a época dos humanos?

A história da Terra se divide em escalas de tempo geológicas, que são definidas pela ICS, com sede em Paris, na França. Essas escalas de tempo começam com grandes espaços de tempos chamados éons, que se dividem em eras (como a Mezozóica), e então em períodos (Jurássico, Neogeno),  épocas e por fim, em idades. Quem acenou pela primeira vez a necessidade de definir uma nova época, baseada nos impactos indeléveis das ações humanas sobre a paisagem terrestre foi o químico atmosférico Paul J. Crutzen, prêmio Nobel de química em 1995. Cutzen sugeriu o termo Antropoceno durante o encontro  do Programa Internacional de Geofera e Biosfera (IGBP, na sigla em inglês), no México, em 2000. O evento tinha por objetivo discutir os problemas do Holoceno, a época em que nos encontramos há cerca de 11700 anos,desde o fim da era glacial.

A hipótese sustentada pelos defensores da nova denominação baseia-se nas observações sobre as mudanças iniciadas pelo homem sobre o ambiente desde 1800, cujas evidências geológicas  possuem impacto a  longo prazo na história da Terra.  E quais são as evidências que podem justificar a adoção do termo Antropoceno?  “O que nós humanos mais fizemos nesses dois séculos foi criar coisas que não existiram pelos 4,5 bilhões de anos da história da Terra”, denuncia o geólogo Jan Zalasiewicz, presidente do grupo de trabalho sobre o Antropoceno da ICS, em colóquio em Sidney, na Autrália, em março deste ano.

antropoceno1

Minerais sintéticos, fibras de carbono, plásticos, concreto, são alguns exemplos de novos elementos criados pelo homem. O concreto, um material produzido pela mistura de cimento, areia, pedra e água, vem se espalhando na superfície de nosso planeta a uma velocidade de 2 bilhões de quilômetros por ano, conforme aponta o geólogo.  Abaixo da superfície, escavações em busca de minérios e petróleo já abriram mais de 50 milhões de quilômetros em buracos subterrâneos.

Além das mudanças físicas, a emissão exagerada de dióxido de carbono e outros gases de efeito estufa, resultantes da ação humana, provocam mudanças químicas na atmosfera, como aquecimento global, descongelamento de calotas polares e acifidificação dos oceanos. A biosfera é também analisada, já que mudanças resultantes da perda de habitats, atividades predatórias e invasão de especies também provocam mudanças na composição química e física dos ambientes.

As evidências do impacto da ação humana,que vêm sendo consistentemente apontadas em estudos climáticos, foram reforçadas pelo 5º. Relatório do Painel Intercontinental de Mudanças Climáticas (IPCC), publicado no início do ano, com um consenso de 97% dos cientistas. Mais recentemente, no dia 30 de setembro, um relatório publicado no publicado pela WWF (World Wildlife Fund, em inglês), em parceria com a Sociedade Zoológica de Londres, apontou ainda que, nos últimos 40 anos, 52% da população de animais vertebrados na Terra desapareceu. Ao mesmo tempo, os seres humanos dobraram em quantidade. “Estamos empurrando a biosfera para a sua 6ª. extinção em massa”, alerta Hans-Otto Pörtner, do Instituto Alfred Wegener de Pesquisa Marinha e Polar, em Bremerhaven, Alemanha, e co-autor do capítulo sobre ecossistema do relatório do IPCC publicado nesse ano. Pörtner refere-se às cinco grandes extinções em massa registradas nos últimos 540 milhões de anos, caracterizadas por palentólogos como períodos em que mais de 75% das espécies foram extintas do planeta em um curto intervalo geológico.

“Há 200 anos, a coisas começaram a mudar o suficiente para visivelmente impactar o planeta: a população cresceu, assim como as emissões de CO2”, destaca Zalasiwicz. Segundo ele, o uso de energia cresceu 90 vezes entre 1800 e 2010, e já queimamos cerca de 200 milhões de anos de fósseis, entre carvão, óleo e gás. “Os humanos correspondem a 1/3 de todos os vertebrados da terra. Mas a dominação sem precedentes sobre todos os outros seres vivos, faz dessa a er a humana”, conclui.

Eileen Crist pesquisadora do Departamento de Ciências e Tecnologia na Sociedade, no Virginia Tech, no EUA, desafia a escolha do termo, defendendo que o discurso do Antropoceno deixa de questionar a soberania humana para propor, ao contrário, abordagens tecnológicas que poderiam tornar o domínio humano sustentável. “Ao afirmar a centralidade do homem – tanto como uma força causal quanto como objeto de preocupação – o Antropoceno encolhe o espaço discursivo para desafiar a dominação da biosfera, oferecendo, ao invés disso, um campo técnico-científico para a sua racionalização e um apelo pragmático para nos resignarmos à sua atualidade”, argumenta a pesquidadora em um artigo publicado em 2013.

O Antropoceno, dessa forma, entrelaça uma série de temas na formatação de seu discurso, como, por exemplo, o aumento acelerado da população que chegará a superar os 10 bilhões de habitantes; o crescimento econômico e a cultura de consumo enquanto modelo social dominante; a tecnologia como destino inescapável e, ao mesmo tempo, salvação da vida humana na Terra; e, ainda, o pressuposto de que o impacto humano é natural e contingente da nossa condição de seres providos de inteligência superior. Crist aponta que esse discurso mascara a opção de racionalizar o regime totalitátio do humano no planeta. “Como discurso coeso, ele bloqueia formas alternativas de vida humana na Terra”, indica.

antropoceno2

Relacionalidade

Donna Haraway, professora emérita da Universidade da Califórina em Santa Cruz, EUA, comentou, em participação no Colóquio Os Mil Nomes de Gaia, em setembro, que essa discussão é um dos “modos de buscar palavras que soam muito grandes, porém, não são grandes o suficiente para compreender a continuidade e a precariedade de viver e morrer nessa Terra”. Haraway é também umas das críticas do termo Antropoceno. Segundo ela, o Antropoceno implica um homem individual, que se desenvolve, e desenvolve uma nova paisagem de mundo, estranho a todas as outras formas de vida: uma percepção equivocada de um ser que seria capaz existir sem se relacionar com o resto do planeta. “Devemos compreender que para ser um, devemos ser muitos. Nos tornamos com outros seres”, comenta.

Para Haraway, épreciso, problematizar essa percepção, e endereçar a responsabilidade pelas mudanças, que está justamente no sistema capitalista que criamos. Este sim tem impulsionado a exploração, pelos homens, da Terra: “A história inteira poderia ser Capitaloceno, e não Antropoceno”, diz. Tal percepção, de acordo com a filósofa, pemite-nos resistir ao senso inescapabilidade presente nesse discurso, como Crist mencionou acima. “Estamos cercados pelo perigo de assumir que tudo está acabado, que nada pode acontecer”, diz.

Haraway aponta, entretanto, que é necessário evocar um senso de continuidade (ongoingness,em inglês),a partir de outras possibilidades narrativas e de pensamento.Uma delas, seria o Cthulhuceno, criado pela filósofa. A expressão vem de um conto de H.P.Lovecraft, O chamado de Cthulhu, que fala sobre humanos que têm suas mentes deterioradas quando, em rituais ao deus Cthulhu – uma mistura de homem, dragão e polvo que vive adormecido sob as águas do Pacífico Sul – conseguem vislumbrar uma realidade diferente da que conheciam.  No início da história, o autor norte-americano descreve o seguinte: “A coisa mais misericordiosa do mundo, acho eu, é a incapacidade da mente humana de correlacionar tudo que ela contém”.  A partir desse contexto, Donna Haraway explica que é necessário “desestabilizar mundos de pensamentos, com mundos de pensamentos”. O Cthulhuceno não é sobre adotar uma transcendência, uma ideia de vida ou morte: “trata-se de abraçar a continuidade sinuosa do mundo terreno, no seu passado​​, presente e futuro. Entretanto, tal continuidade implica em assumir que existe um problema muito grande e que ele precisa ser enfrentado. Devemos lamentar o que aconteceu, pois não deveria ter ocorrido. Mas não temos que continuar no mesmo caminho”, sugere.

Seca em SP deve continuar em 2015, diz cientista (OESP)

Organização Mundial de Meteorologia prevê influência do El Niño ainda neste ano, que já é considerado o mais quente desde 2004

A seca em São Paulo deve continuar em 2015, desta vez associada também ao desenvolvimento do fenômeno El Niño, afirmou ao Estado o secretário-geral adjunto da Organização Mundial de Meteorologia (OMM), Jeremiah Lengoasa.

O aquecimento das águas equatoriais do Oceano Pacífico, na altura do Peru e do Equador, provocará a formação de nuvens que tendem a ser arrastadas pelos ventos na direção oeste.

O conteúdo na íntegra está disponível em: http://sao-paulo.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,seca-em-sp-deve-continuar-em-2015-diz-cientista,1584016

(Denise Chrispim Marin / O Estado de São Paulo)

Seca em SP deve continuar em 2015, diz cientista

28/10/14 – A seca em São Paulo deve continuar em 2015, desta vez associada também ao desenvolvimento do fenômeno El Niño, afirmou ao Estado o secretário-geral adjunto da Organização Mundial de Meteorologia (OMM), Jeremiah Lengoasa.

O aquecimento das águas equatoriais do Oceano Pacífico, na altura do Peru e do Equador, provocará a formação de nuvens que tendem a ser arrastadas pelos ventos na direção oeste. Mas não para a América do Sul, explicou o cientista sul-africano, que participou ontem da abertura da 40.ª Sessão do Painel Intergovernamental sobre Mudança Climática (IPCC, em inglês), em Copenhague (mais informações abaixo).

“É a natureza tentando se modelar para atingir seu normal”, declarou, em entrevista ao Estado. “Se entendermos melhor os padrões de oscilação do fenômeno El Niño, poderemos prever de forma mais precisa e tornar disponível essa informação para os governos e as populações a serem atingidas. Mas a mudança do clima está tornando essa tarefa muito difícil.”

Lengoasa explicou que o fenômeno El Niño foi mais agressivo entre 1997-98, quando provocou o aumento médio de 0,5 grau Celsius na temperatura média mundial e levou a uma mudança severa na distribuição das chuvas. Em 2010, voltou a apresentar-se de maneira intensa, mas não tão forte como antes. “Já há 70% de chances de o El Niño surgir muito cedo, ainda no final deste ano. Se tiver o mesmo efeito de 97-98, isso será caracterizado por uma imensa seca no mundo”, disse. “Mas ainda há possibilidade de ele não se desenvolver de maneira tão forte.”

A OMM apresentará, nas próximas semanas, um relatório preliminar sobre o comportamento meteorológico de 2014. O ano é considerado o mais quente desde 2004, segundo análise dos dez primeiros meses, mesmo com os efeitos em curso do fenômeno de resfriamento conhecido como La Niña. Durante conferência neste mês, a organização estudará particularmente os dois fenômenos, El Niño e La Niña, com especial atenção para o efeito do primeiro no aquecimento das camadas mais profundas do Oceano Pacífico, abaixo de 2 mil metros. Esses dados serão acrescentados aos modelos atuais de previsão do clima. Em especial, para a melhor detecção de eventos extremos.

Recomendações

Para países que enfrentam eventos climáticos extremos, como o Brasil, Lengoasa faz algumas recomendações. Primeiro, fortalecer os serviços hidrometeorológicos, que oferecem as informações sobre o clima. Segundo, de acordo com ele, os países devem intensificar o diálogo entre diferentes ministérios sobre a mudança climática. O apoio aos esforços mundiais, como o da 21.ª Conferência das Partes sobre Mudança Climática (COP21), é sua terceira sugestão. A expectativa é de um acordo sobre compromissos de redução de emissões de gases de efeito estufa na COP21, em maio, em Paris.

*   *   *

These Two World Leaders Are Laughing While the Planet Burns Up (New Republic)

OCTOBER 21, 2014

Meet earth’s worst climate villains

By

Canada once had a shot at being the world’s leader on climate change. Back in 2002, our northern neighbors had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s first treaty that required nations to cut their emissions or face penalties. In 2005, the country hosted an international climate change conference in Montreal, where then-Prime Minister Paul Martin singled out America for its indifference. “To the reticent nations, including the United States, I say this: There is such a thing as a global conscience,” Martin said.

Australia, too, was briefly a success story. The government ratified Kyoto in 2007 and delivered on promises to pass a tax on carbon by 2011. The prime minister that year, Julia Gillard, noted her administration’s priorities to set “Australia on the path to a high-skill, low-carbon future or [leave] our economy to decay into a rusting, industrial museum.”

Today, the two countries are outliers againfor all the wrong reasons.

According to a 2014 Climate Change Performance Index from European groups Climate Action Network Europe and Germanwatch, Canada and Australia occupy the bottom two spots among all 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Among the 20 countries with the largest economies (G20), only Saudi Arabia ranked lower than them. Canada and Australia’s records on climate change have gotten so bad, they’ve become the go-to examples for Republicans, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who don’t think climate change exists.

How did these two nations go from leading the fight against climate change to denying that it even exists?

On the way to his first trip in the U.S., Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott stopped for a full day of talks with Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June. The Sydney Morning Heraldreported that Abbott was in Canada’s capital with the intention of building a “conservative alliance among ‘like-minded’ countries” to try to dismantle global efforts on climate change. At a press conference that day, Harper applauded Abbott’s efforts to gut Australia’s carbon tax. “You’ve used this international platform to encourage our counterparts in the major economies and beyond to boost economic growth, to lower taxes when possible and to eliminate harmful ones, most notably the job-killing carbon tax,” Harper said. He added that “we shouldn’t clobber the economy” by pursuing an emissions trading scheme or a carbon tax.

This is how Canada and Australia’s top leaders frame global warming. The two stress that they will always choose short-term economic gain first, disregarding scientific findings and even the interests of their political allies in the process.The countries’ abrupt shift on climate track conservatives’ rise to a majority in Canada in 2011 and in Australia last year.

In just a few years, conservatives have delivered blow after blow to the nations’ environmental progress. Canada withdrew from Kyoto in 2011 to avoid paying expensive penalties for failing to meet its promise to cut carbon 6 percent over 1990 levels (Canada’s emissions had risen by nearly 30 percent). Harper offered a less ambitious target instead, one that mirrored the U.S.’s commitment cut 17 percent of carbon pollution by 2020. But Canada will miss that target by a long shot, according to environmental groups who point to the aggressive development of the Alberta tar sands oil and expired clean energy subsidies. The commissioner of the Department of Environment and Sustainable Development noted in a recent report that Canada “does not have answers” to most of its environmental concerns. Australia, meanwhile, had the world’s highest emissions per capita in 2012topping even America’s. The government’s mediocre ambition of cutting emissions 5 percent by 2020 won’t happen either: It projects emissions to grow 2 percent a year, according to Inside Climate News.

The hostility toward environmental interests goes even deeper than energy policy. Harper has battled his own scientists, independent journalists, and environmental groups at odds with his views.

Climate scientists have reported that they are unable to speak to press about their own findings, feeling effectively “muzzled” by agencies that want to script talking points for them. In June, a government spokesperson explained that federal meteorologists must speak only “to their area of expertise,” which does not include climate change, according to a government spokesperson. Journalists sometimes face bullying, too. Environmental author Andrew Nikiforuk told ThinkProgress that “a government of thugs” slandered him and shut him out of events. But environmentalists may fare the worst. Seven environmental nonprofits in Canada have accused the Canada Revenue Agency of unfairly targeting them for audits. According to internal documents obtained by The GuardianCanada’s police and Security Intelligence Service identified nonviolent environmental protestslike people who oppose hydrofracking and the Keystone XL tar sands pipelineas “forms of attack” fitting the “number of cases where we think people might be inclined to acts of terrorism.”

Australia, for its part, has downplayed scientific findings. Abbott, along with his Environment Minister Greg Hunt, have rejected any link between extreme weather and global warming. Abbott, who once called the science of climate change “absolute crap,” said last year that UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres was “talking out of her hat” when saying that rising temperatures were driving more intense and frequent brushfires. “Climate change is real as I have often said and we should take strong action against it but these fires are certainly not a function of climate change,” he argued. Hunt defended his boss, citing Wikipedia as his proof. “I looked up what Wikipedia says for example, just to see what the rest of the world thought, and it opens up with the fact that bushfires in Australia are frequently occurring events during the hotter months of the year. Large areas of land are ravaged every year by bushfires. That’s the Australian experience.” He could have referred to his Department of Environment’s website instead, had it not earlier removed explicit references connecting climate change, heatwaves, and fires.

As the host of the G20 this November, Australia is in an awkward position. Australians have staged protests, while the U.S. and European leaders have pressured Abbott to put climate change on the agenda. He has refused. There’s no room for climate, he says, because the summit is about “economic security” and “the importance of private sector-led growth.”

What’s even more baffling about the rise of climate denial in both countries is that it’s apparently not the popular view in either country. According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Australians and Canadians say climate change is a major threatas opposed to 40 percent of Americans who say the same.

Of course, the U.S. has reversed itself recently, too. President Barack Obama is making climate change a second-term priority, and has taken steps to cap carbon pollution from power plants. Such initiatives have put the U.S. on track to meet its pledge in Copenhagen in 2009 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020. At the same time, China, which faces internal pressure over air pollution, is looking a lot more serious about slowing down pollution; it will begin a national cap-and-trade program in 2016. Even India is redoubling efforts on clean energy, to meet the power needs of its growing population. Half the world plans to put a price on carbon.

It’s true that neither Canada nor Australia has much responsibility for the amount of heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere. The United States, China, and India make up a combined 49 percent of the world’s carbon emissions in 2013. Canada and Australia, by comparison, emit 3.5 percent of total carbon emissions combined. But the critical requirement for an international climate change agreementwhich negotiatiors will try to hammer out in Paris next yearis that every country big and small make a commitment to greenhouse gas targets. Fortunately, the negligence of two smaller, industrialized countries won’t be the fatal blow to negotiations in Paris. Still, by ducking their own responsibility, Australia and Canada are ignoring their “global conscience”to borrow a former prime minister’s words.

A decade ago, our close allies due north and across the Pacific rightly shamed us on our poor response to climate change. Now, they’ve lost the moral high ground. At the September United Nations Climate Summit, the largest gathering of world leaders yet on the issue, both Abbott and Harper were no-shows. The ministers sent in their place also arrived empty-handed; Australia’s foreign minister suggested that only larger countries should be responsible for more ambitious climate action. Canada Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq repeated an already-public commitment that Canada would copy Obama’s fuel economy regulations requiring 35.5 miles per gallon. Afterward, in an interview with the Globe and Mail, Aglukkaq spoke of the unfairness of a global treaty. “It’s not up to one country to solve the global greenhouse-gas emissions. I mean, seriously now, it’s just not fair. We all have to do our part, big or small countries.”

That’s true. If only her small country would do its part, too.

In Amazon wars, bands of brothers-in-law (University of Utah)

[Chagnon is restless.Gosh]

27-Oct-2014

Contact: Lee J. Siegel

How culture influences violence among the Amazon’s ‘fierce people’

IMAGE: In this mid-1960s photo, men from two Yanomamo villages in the Amazon engage in nonhostile combat to determine the strength and fighting prowess of potential alliance partners. A new study…

Click here for more information.

SALT LAKE CITY, Oct. 27, 2014 – When Yanomamö men in the Amazon raided villages and killed decades ago, they formed alliances with men in other villages rather than just with close kin like chimpanzees do. And the spoils of war came from marrying their allies’ sisters and daughters, rather than taking their victims’ land and women.

Those findings – which suggest how violence and cooperation can go hand-in-hand and how culture may modify any innate tendencies toward violence – come from a new study of the so-called “fierce people” led by provocative anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon and written by his protégé, University of Utah anthropologist Shane Macfarlan.

Macfarlan says the researchers had expected to find the Yanomamö fought like “bands of brothers” and other close male kin like fathers, sons and cousins who live in the same community and fight nearby communities. That is how fights are conducted by chimpanzees – the only other apes besides humans that form coalitions to fight and kill.

Instead, “a more apt description might be a ‘band of brothers-in-law,'” in which Yanomamö men ally with similar-age men from nearby villages to attack another village, then marry their allies’ female kin, Macfarlan, Chagnon and colleagues write in the study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study provides a mechanism to explain why Yanomamö warriors in a 1988 Chagnon study had more wives and children than those who did not kill.

“We are showing these guys individually get benefits from engaging in killing,” Macfarlan says. “They’re getting long-term alliance partners – other guys they can trust to get things done. And they are getting marriage opportunities.”

Since his 1968 book “Yanomamö: The Fierce People,” Chagnon has been harshly criticized by some cultural anthropologists who claim he places undue emphasis on genes and biology as underpinnings of human violence, based on his 1964-1993 visits to the Yanomamö. Defenders such as Macfarlan say Chagnon takes a much more balanced view, and that “it’s never a genes-versus-culture argument. They operate in tandem.”

Chagnon got what was seen as vindication in 2012 when he was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. The new study, with Macfarlan as first author and Chagnon as senior author – is Chagnon’s inaugural PNAS article as a member.

Macfarlan joined the University of Utah faculty this year an assistant professor of anthropology. He worked as Chagnon’s postdoctoral fellow at the University of Missouri from January 2013 to June 2014. Chagnon and Macfarlan conducted the study with two Missouri colleagues: anthropologists Robert S. Walker and Mark V. Flinn.

Models of Warfare

The Yanomamö – hunters and farmers who live in southern Venezuela and northern Brazil – once gained social status as “unokai” for killing.

Up to 20 Yanomamö (pronounced yah-NO-mama, but also spelled Yanomami or Yanomama) would sneak up on another village at dawn, “shoot the first person they saw and then hightail back home,” Macfarlan says. Some Yanomamö men did this once, some up to 11 times and some never killed. (Data for the study, collected in the 1980s, covered somewhat earlier times when spears, bows and arrows were the primary weapons.)

IMAGE: University of Utah anthropologist Shane Macfarlan, shown here, is first author of a new study with provocative anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon about the Yanomamo, or so called ‘fierce people’ of…

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Macfarlan says the classic debate has been, “does warfare in small-scale societies like the Yanomamö resemble chimpanzee warfare?” – a theory known as the “fraternal interest group” model, in which bands of brothers, fathers, sons and paternal uncles all living in the same community fight other similar communities.

The new study asked whether Yanomamö killing follows that model or the “strategic alliance model,” which the researchers dub the “band of brothers-in-law” model. This model – supported by the study’s findings – indicates that Yanomamö men form alliances not with close kin from the same community, but with men from other communities. After killing together, a bond is formed and they often marry each other’s daughters or sisters and move into one or the other’s village or form a new village.

“When we started off this project, we all assumed it would be the chimpanzee-like model. But in human groups we have cultural rules that allow us to communicate with other communities. You certainly don’t see chimpanzees doing this.”

Is the study a retreat from what Chagnon’s critics see as too much focus on genetic and biological underpinnings of violence? Macfarlan says no, that Chagnon “has never been as all-biology as people have painted him. Most of his published research shows how unique cultural rules make the Yanomamö an interesting group of people.”

Earlier research suggested that for chimps, warfare is adaptive in an evolutionary sense, and that it also benefits small-scale human societies. The new study asked, “If warfare is adaptive, in what way do the adaptive benefits flow?” Macfarlan says.

“Some people, myself included, said, to the victor goes the spoils, because if you conquer another territory, you might take their land, food or potentially their females.”

But the new study indicates “the adaptive benefits are the alliances you build by perpetrating acts of warfare,” he adds. “It’s not that you are taking land or females from the vanquished group, but for the Yanomamö, what you acquire is that you can exchange resources with allies, such as labor and, most importantly, female marriage partners.”

The study’s findings that the Yanomamö form strategic alliances to kill suggest that “our ultracoooperative tendencies tend to go hand-in-hand with our ultralethal tendencies,” Macfarlan says. “We show a relationship between cooperation and violence at a level unseen in other organisms.” That may seem obvious for allied nations in modern wars, but “we’re saying that even in small-scale societies this is the case.”

IMAGE: Men from one Yanomamo village in the Amazon ‘dance’ in a neighboring village to show off their military prowess, weaponry and group cohesion after they were invited to a…

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How the Study was Conducted

The new study analyzed data collected by Chagnon in the 1980s, when about 25,000 Yanomamö lived in about 250 villages ranging from 25 to 400 people.

The study examined 118 Yanomamö warriors or unokai who had killed a total of 47 people by forming raiding parties of two to 15 men. The researchers analyzed the relationships between every possible pair of men in those raiding parties. Among the 118 unokai men, there were 509 possible pairs. Macfarlan says the findings revealed surprises about the relationship between co-unokai – pairs of men who kill together:

  • Only 22 percent of men who kill together were from the same lineage.
  • Only 34 percent of co-unokai pairs were from the same place of birth. “Guys who come from different places of birth are more likely to kill together.”
  • Among co-killers known to be related, a majority were related on their mother’s side rather than their father’s side – more evidence of forming alliances beyond the immediate paternal kinship group. In Yanomamö culture, true kin are viewed as being on the paternal side, while maternal relatives are seen as belonging to another social group.
  • The Yanomamö preferred forming coalitions with men within a median of age difference of 8 years. “The more similar in age, the more likely they will kill multiple times,” Macfarlan says.
  • Of the 118 unokai, 102 got married in a total of 223 marriages to 206 women. Of married killers, 70 percent married at least one woman from the same paternal line as an ally in killing. And “the more times they kill together, the more likely they are going to get marriage partners from each other’s family line,” Macfarlan says.
  • As a result, “The more times the guys kill together, the more likely they are to move into the same village later in life, despite having come from different village.”

The study found allies-in-killing often are somewhere between maternal first and second cousins, Macfarlan says. Under Yanomamö rules, a man’s ideal marriage partner is a maternal first cousin, who would be the offspring of your mother’s brother. He says Yanomamö rules allow marriage to a maternal first cousin, but not a paternal first cousin.

Despite debate over the biological roots of deadly coalitions in chimps and humans, the new study shows how culture can make it “uniquely human” because if Yanomamö men “kill together, they are plugged into this social scene, this marriage market,” Macfarlan says. “They are playing the game of their culture.”

“Forum: Archaeology of the Anthropocene” (AAA Blog)

“Forum: Archaeology of the Anthropocene”

by Asa Randall

CITATION:

Edgeworth, M., Benjamin, J., Clarke, B., Crossland, Z., Domanska, E., Gorman, A. C., Graves-Brown, P., Harris, E. C., Hudson, M. J., Kelley, J. M., Paz, V. J., Salerno, M. A., Witmore, C. & Zarankin, A. 2014. Forum: Archaeology of the Anthropocene. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, 1,1, pp. 73-132.

ON-LINE AVAILABILITY:

 DOI: 10.1558/jca.v1i1.73

ABSTRACT:

What role will archaeology play in the Anthropocene – the proposed new geological epoch marked by human impact on Earth systems? That is the question discussed by thirteen archaeologists and other scholars from five continents in this thought-provoking forum. Their responses are diverse and wide-ranging. While Edward Harris looks to archaeological stratigraphy for a material paradigm of the Anthropocene, Alice Gorman explores the extent of human impact on orbital space and lunar surfaces – challenging the assumption that the Anthropocene is confined to Earth. Jeff Benjamin investigates the sounds of the Anthropocene. Paul Graves-Brown questions the idea that the epoch had its onset with the invention of the steam engine, while Mark Hudson uses Timothy Morton’s concept of hyperobjects to imagine the dark artefacts of the future. Victor Paz doubts the practical relevance of the concept to archaeological chronologies, and Bruce Clarke warns archaeologists to steer clear of the Anthropocene altogether, on the grounds of the overbearing hubris of the very idea of the Age of Humans. Others like Jason Kelly and Ewa Domanska regard the Anthropocene debate as an opportunity to reach new forms of understanding of Earth systems. André Zarankin and Melisa Salerno ground significant issues in the archaeology of Antarctica. And Zoe Crossland explores the vital links between the known past and the imagined future. As a discipline orientated to the future and contemporary world as well as the past, Chris Witmore concludes, archaeology in the Anthropocene will have more work than it can handle.

The archaeological imagination is the ability to conceive of a past through encounters with old objects, substances, or places (Thomas, 1996, p. 63-64). In a sense, the archaeological imagination meshes the past with the present, as ancient objects are animated with contemporary concerns. Imagining a past and even empathizing with ancient actors likely has its roots in early modern humans (Gamble, 2008, p. 1-2). That is, everyone has an archaeological imagination.  Archaeologists in particular have spent a fair amount of time honing their scientific toolkits and theoretical frameworks to create informed narratives about the past. Much archaeological effort has been oriented towards elucidating patterns and processes in deep time, although archaeologies of modern rubbish disposal or ruination (e.g. Rathje and Murphy, 2001, p, Dawdy, 2010, p.) have coexisted with studies of the more ancient. Indeed, archaeology’s focus on the material world—or human entanglements with it—provides relevant viewpoint in which to engage with, critique, or document the Anthropocene.

In the inaugural issue of the Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, Edgeworth and colleagues turn their archaeological imagination towards the “anthropocene” and ask what does an archaeology of the Anthropocene look like, how do today’s practices create tangible (or even acoustic) traces, and what might the Anthropocene’s archaeological record look like in the future? The collection of short papers emerged from the 2013 Theoretical Archaeology Group meeting, and there is much to digest here. Of the contributions in the forum, those by Edgeworth (“Introduction”) and Witmore (“Archaeology, the Anthropocene, and the Hypanthropocene”) provide useful discussions of the themes, controversies, and contributions. Broadly speaking, the forum participants engage with the ways in which the Anthropocene destabilizes disciplinary boundaries and makes complex the relationship between time scales (human versus geological) and the spatial scale(s) of human activity in the world. These same sorts of themes echo ongoing debate regarding the Anthropocene as a precise “thing” whose identity is controlled by Geologists, or one that invokes or necessitates many viewpoints.

Of particular interest to me were those contributions that highlighted ways in which aspects of Anthropocenic habitation extend or unsettle traditional archaeological imaginations. For example, Hudson (“Dark Artifacts: Hyperobjects and the Archaeology of the Anthropocene”) considers from an archaeological perspective what Morton (2010, p.) refers to as “hyperobjects.” Paraphrasing Hudson, hyperobjects are characterized as massively distributed such that they are physically and conceptually viscous, of a particular phase but of great durability, nonlocal (i.e. not typical of any one place), formed from interactions, and often “dangerous”.  Cited examples include Styrofoam, radionuclides, or plastiglomerate (so, too, the rebounding landscapes described by Ingo Schlupp may qualify); the spatial distribution, small size, or virtual character of hyperobjects makes them difficult to visualize or even comprehend. Not only do hyperobjects resist easy interpretation due to their lack of being of a particular place, their durability means that they lack life-cycles that are intelligible within a human framework of hundreds or thousands of years (that is, they will co-exist with many different kinds of societies in the future). While hyperobjects are of human agency, they reside in a strange state between cultural and natural whose ubiquity does not neatly sit in the localized or humanized imagined pasts that we are accustomed to thinking through, and which may ultimately lead to indifference towards them.

In a related vein, Crossland (“Anthropocene: Locating Agency, Imagining the Future”) considers the ways in which narratives about the Anthropocene can warp time and agency. To paraphrase Crossland, by restricting the Anthropocene to the industrial era (replete with dangerous hyperobjects), a teological arrow is held fast between the past and the present, such that only a dystopic future is possible. On the other hand, relocating the Anthropocene to the ancient world (the so-called Paleoanthropocene) may promote continuity between present and past (and redistribute the responsibility for it globally), but “the power of the imagery is undercut, and the ability of the concept to shock people and governments into change seems to be weakened” (p. 125). Crossland suggests a third route for our archaeological imaginations in the Anthropocene, which is to accept that at any point in time futures are open ended, and that “traces of the past therefore provide the ground for imagining the future” (p. 127). While preexisting conditions are important, traces of the past are really collaborations between the past and the present. We can avoid historical narratives that are arranged as progressive change with dystopian futures by envisioning that presents (in the past and our own) had many potential futures.  Kenneth Sassaman (2012, p.) has similarly argued that the relationships between past/present/future are never stable, and that communities in the past likely planned for their own alternative futures.

I’m not certain that the concept of hyperobject does anything for us, particularly as a marker of the Anthropocene. It is likely that other “pre-modern” objects or technologies have been equally influential but we do not reflect on them either. Furthermore, the time and space bending properties of the archaeological imagination are not easily translated into a world dominated by progressive thinking.  But, Hudson and other papers in this contribution challenges us to think about how the categories of objects and substances we are creating today—and the methods we use to interrogate them—can influence how we think about time, culture, and even social justice. In this regard, I suspect the upcoming “Anthropocene Slam: A Cabinet of Curiosities” forum (which will apparently be streamed live) will provide much food for thought. According to the forum’s description, each contributor has provided an object of study, ranging from substances such as concrete to room thermostats, through which we might visualize or imagine the relations between pasts and futures and different ecologies.

What will a future archaeological imagination make of the anthropocene? Time will certainly tell.  Yet, perhaps thinking about how we are creating an archaeological record of our own may make us more keenly future oriented.

FURTHER READING:

Dawdy, S. L. 2010. Clockpunk Anthropology and the Ruins of Modernity. Current Anthropology, 51, 761-793. DOI 10.1086/657626. Dawdy explores the ways in which creative uses of  and experiences with the past in contemporary times undermines easy separations between modern and premodern.

Gamble, C. 2008. Archaeology: the basics, New York, Routledge. This is an easy to read introductory text on Archaeology and interpretation.

Morton, T. 2010. The ecological thought, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press. Morton considers what interconnectedness means, particularly when we acknowledge that all things have relations.

Rathje, W. L. & Murphy, C. 2001. Rubbish!: the archaeology of garbage, Tucson, AZ, University of Arizona Press. This popular book provides insights from archaeological examinations of modern refuse disposal practices.

Sassaman, K. E. 2012. Futurologists Look Back. Archaeologies, 10.1007/s11759-012-9205-0, 1–19. 10.1007/s11759-012-9205-0. Sassaman argues that the wall that is often erected between modern and premodern communities is minimized if we allow ancient communities to have imagined and acted upon their own futures (so called futures past).

Thomas, J. 1996. Time, Culture and Identity: An Interpretive Archaeology, London, Routledge. Thomas introduces the concept of the archaeological imagination.

Climate change caused by ocean, not just atmosphere (Science Daily)

Date: October 25, 2014

Source: Rutgers University

Summary: Most of the concerns about climate change have focused on the amount of greenhouse gases that have been released into the atmosphere. A new study reveals another equally important factor in regulating Earth’s climate. Researchers say the major cooling of Earth and continental ice build-up in the Northern Hemisphere 2.7 million years ago coincided with a shift in the circulation of the ocean.

The ocean conveyor moves heat and water between the hemispheres, along the ocean bottom. It also moves carbon dioxide. Credit: NASA

Most of the concerns about climate change have focused on the amount of greenhouse gases that have been released into the atmosphere.

But in a new study published in Science, a group of Rutgers researchers have found that circulation of the ocean plays an equally important role in regulating Earth’s climate.

In their study, the researchers say the major cooling of Earth and continental ice build-up in the Northern Hemisphere 2.7 million years ago coincided with a shift in the circulation of the ocean — which pulls in heat and carbon dioxide in the Atlantic and moves them through the deep ocean from north to south until it’s released in the Pacific.

The ocean conveyor system, Rutgers scientists believe, changed at the same time as a major expansion in the volume of the glaciers in the northern hemisphere as well as a substantial fall in sea levels. It was the Antarctic ice, they argue, that cut off heat exchange at the ocean’s surface and forced it into deep water. They believe this caused global climate change at that time, not carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“We argue that it was the establishment of the modern deep ocean circulation — the ocean conveyor — about 2.7 million years ago, and not a major change in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere that triggered an expansion of the ice sheets in the northern hemisphere,” says Stella Woodard, lead author and a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences. Their findings, based on ocean sediment core samples between 2.5 million to 3.3 million years old, provide scientists with a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of climate change today.

The study shows that changes in heat distribution between the ocean basins is important for understanding future climate change. However, scientists can’t predict precisely what effect the carbon dioxide currently being pulled into the ocean from the atmosphere will have on climate. Still, they argue that since more carbon dioxide has been released in the past 200 years than any recent period in geological history, interactions between carbon dioxide, temperature changes and precipitation, and ocean circulation will result in profound changes.

Scientists believe that the different pattern of deep ocean circulation was responsible for the elevated temperatures 3 million years ago when the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was arguably what it is now and the temperature was 4 degree Fahrenheit higher. They say the formation of the ocean conveyor cooled Earth and created the climate we live in now.

“Our study suggests that changes in the storage of heat in the deep ocean could be as important to climate change as other hypotheses — tectonic activity or a drop in the carbon dioxide level — and likely led to one of the major climate transitions of the past 30 million years,” says Yair Rosenthal, co-author and professor of marine and coastal sciences at Rutgers

The paper’s co-authors are Woodard, Rosenthal, Kenneth Miller and James Wright, both professors of earth and planetary sciences at Rutgers; Beverly Chiu, a Rutgers undergraduate majoring in earth and planetary sciences; and Kira Lawrence, associate professor of geology at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. C. Woodard, Y. Rosenthal, K. G. Miller, J. D. Wright, B. K. Chiu, K. T. Lawrence.Antarctic role in Northern Hemisphere glaciation. Science, 2014; DOI:10.1126/science.1255586

Metade da riqueza mundial pertence a 1% da população, diz relatório (Portal do Meio Ambiente)

PUBLICADO 27 OUTUBRO 2014

9586

O 1% mais rico da população detém mais de 48% da riqueza mundial, que cresceu 8,3% de meados do ano passado a meados deste ano.

De acordo com relatório do Credit Suisse sobre o assunto, em 2014 o total da riqueza no mundo bateu um novo recorde, alcançando US$ 263 trilhões.

No documento, o banco diz que o valor já é o dobro do registrado em 2000, “apesar do ambiente econômico desafiador”, marcado pela crise econômica e pela lenta recuperação dos países.

A criação de recursos foi particularmente forte na América do Norte, com um crescimento de 11,4% entre meados de 2013 e meados de 2014, e na Europa, onde a alta foi de 10,6%. Nas duas regiões, o mercado de capitais foi o principal impulsionador.

Nos mercados emergentes, a Ásia –com destaque para a China– foi a principal responsável pelo aumento de riquezas, assim como no ano passado.

“No entanto, achamos que o crescimento das riquezas no mercados emergentes não foi capaz de manter o seu momento pré-crise, entre 2000 e 2008. Isso não deve nos distrair do fato de que a riqueza pessoal na Índia e na China cresceu pelo fator de 3,1 e 4,6 desde 2000.”

DESIGUALDADE

Segundo o relatório, uma pessoa precisa de US$ 3.650 para estar na metade mais rica do mundo. Para ser membro dos 10% mais ricos são necessários US$ 77 mil. Já para fazer parte do 1% mais rico é preciso ter US$ 798 mil.

O mínimo de recursos para pertencer ao 1% mais rico cresceu desde a crise de 2008. Naquele ano, eram necessários US$ 635 mil, contra US$ 798 mil hoje.
Por sua vez, a riqueza média global tem diminuído desde 2010.

“Esses achados indicam um aumento da desigualdade global nos anos recentes. No entanto, nossos resultados sugerem que a tendência inversa ocorreu no período que antecedeu à crise financeira.”

You’re powered by quantum mechanics. No, really… (The Guardian)

For years biologists have been wary of applying the strange world of quantum mechanics, where particles can be in two places at once or connected over huge distances, to their own field. But it can help to explain some amazing natural phenomena we take for granted

and

The Observer, Sunday 26 October 2014

A European robin in flight

According to quantum biology, the European robin has a ‘sixth sense’ in the form of a protein in its eye sensitive to the orientation of the Earth’s magnetic field, allowing it to ‘see’ which way to migrate. Photograph: Helmut Heintges/ Helmut Heintges/Corbis

Every year, around about this time, thousands of European robins escape the oncoming harsh Scandinavian winter and head south to the warmer Mediterranean coasts. How they find their way unerringly on this 2,000-mile journey is one of the true wonders of the natural world. For unlike many other species of migratory birds, marine animals and even insects, they do not rely on landmarks, ocean currents, the position of the sun or a built-in star map. Instead, they are among a select group of animals that use a remarkable navigation sense – remarkable for two reasons. The first is that they are able to detect tiny variations in the direction of the Earth’s magnetic field – astonishing in itself, given that this magnetic field is 100 times weaker than even that of a measly fridge magnet. The second is that robins seem to be able to “see” the Earth’s magnetic field via a process that even Albert Einstein referred to as “spooky”. The birds’ in-built compass appears to make use of one of the strangest features of quantum mechanics.

Over the past few years, the European robin, and its quantum “sixth sense”, has emerged as the pin-up for a new field of research, one that brings together the wonderfully complex and messy living world and the counterintuitive, ethereal but strangely orderly world of atoms and elementary particles in a collision of disciplines that is as astonishing and unexpected as it is exciting. Welcome to the new science of quantum biology.

Most people have probably heard of quantum mechanics, even if they don’t really know what it is about. Certainly, the idea that it is a baffling and difficult scientific theory understood by just a tiny minority of smart physicists and chemists has become part of popular culture. Quantum mechanics describes a reality on the tiniest scales that is, famously, very weird indeed; a world in which particles can exist in two or more places at once, spread themselves out like ghostly waves, tunnel through impenetrable barriers and even possess instantaneous connections that stretch across vast distances.

But despite this bizarre description of the basic building blocks of the universe, quantum mechanics has been part of all our lives for a century. Its mathematical formulation was completed in the mid-1920s and has given us a remarkably complete account of the world of atoms and their even smaller constituents, the fundamental particles that make up our physical reality. For example, the ability of quantum mechanics to describe the way that electrons arrange themselves within atoms underpins the whole of chemistry, material science and electronics; and is at the very heart of most of the technological advances of the past half-century. Without the success of the equations of quantum mechanics in describing how electrons move through materials such as semiconductors we would not have developed the silicon transistor and, later, the microchip and the modern computer.

However, if quantum mechanics can so beautifully and accurately describe the behaviour of atoms with all their accompanying weirdness, then why aren’t all the objects we see around us, including us – which are after all only made up of these atoms – also able to be in two place at once, pass through impenetrable barriers or communicate instantaneously across space? One obvious difference is that the quantum rules apply to single particles or systems consisting of just a handful of atoms, whereas much larger objects consist of trillions of atoms bound together in mindboggling variety and complexity. Somehow, in ways we are only now beginning to understand, most of the quantum weirdness washes away ever more quickly the bigger the system is, until we end up with the everyday objects that obey the familiar rules of what physicists call the “classical world”. In fact, when we want to detect the delicate quantum effects in everyday-size objects we have to go to extraordinary lengths to do so – freezing them to within a whisker of absolute zero and performing experiments in near-perfect vacuums.

Quantum effects were certainly not expected to play any role inside the warm, wet and messy world of living cells, so most biologists have thus far ignored quantum mechanics completely, preferring their traditional ball-and-stick models of the molecular structures of life. Meanwhile, physicists have been reluctant to venture into the messy and complex world of the living cell; why should they when they can test their theories far more cleanly in the controlled environment of the lab where they at least feel they have a chance of understanding what is going on?

Erwin Schrödinger, whose book What is Life? suggested that the macroscopic order of life was based on order at its quantum level.

Erwin Schrödinger, whose book What is Life? suggested that the macroscopic order of life was based on order at its quantum level. Photograph: Bettmann/CORBIS

Yet, 70 years ago, the Austrian Nobel prize-winning physicist and quantum pioneer, Erwin Schrödinger, suggested in his famous book,What is Life?, that, deep down, some aspects of biology must be based on the rules and orderly world of quantum mechanics. His book inspired a generation of scientists, including the discoverers of the double-helix structure of DNA, Francis Crick and James Watson. Schrödinger proposed that there was something unique about life that distinguishes it from the rest of the non-living world. He suggested that, unlike inanimate matter, living organisms can somehow reach down to the quantum domain and utilise its strange properties in order to operate the extraordinary machinery within living cells.

Schrödinger’s argument was based on the paradoxical fact that the laws of classical physics, such as those of Newtonian mechanics and thermodynamics, are ultimately based on disorder. Consider a balloon. It is filled with trillions of molecules of air all moving entirely randomly, bumping into one another and the inside wall of the balloon. Each molecule is governed by orderly quantum laws, but when you add up the random motions of all the molecules and average them out, their individual quantum behaviour washes out and you are left with the gas laws that predict, for example, that the balloon will expand by a precise amount when heated. This is because heat energy makes the air molecules move a little bit faster, so that they bump into the walls of the balloon with a bit more force, pushing the walls outward a little bit further. Schrödinger called this kind of law “order from disorder” to reflect the fact that this apparent macroscopic regularity depends on random motion at the level of individual particles.

But what about life? Schrödinger pointed out that many of life’s properties, such as heredity, depend of molecules made of comparatively few particles – certainly too few to benefit from the order-from-disorder rules of thermodynamics. But life was clearly orderly. Where did this orderliness come from? Schrödinger suggested that life was based on a novel physical principle whereby its macroscopic order is a reflection of quantum-level order, rather than the molecular disorder that characterises the inanimate world. He called this new principle “order from order”. But was he right?

Up until a decade or so ago, most biologists would have said no. But as 21st-century biology probes the dynamics of ever-smaller systems – even individual atoms and molecules inside living cells – the signs of quantum mechanical behaviour in the building blocks of life are becoming increasingly apparent. Recent research indicates that some of life’s most fundamental processes do indeed depend on weirdness welling up from the quantum undercurrent of reality. Here are a few of the most exciting examples.

Enzymes are the workhorses of life. They speed up chemical reactions so that processes that would otherwise take thousands of years proceed in seconds inside living cells. Life would be impossible without them. But how they accelerate chemical reactions by such enormous factors, often more than a trillion-fold, has been an enigma. Experiments over the past few decades, however, have shown that enzymes make use of a remarkable trick called quantum tunnelling to accelerate biochemical reactions. Essentially, the enzyme encourages electrons and protons to vanish from one position in a biomolecule and instantly rematerialise in another, without passing through the gap in between – a kind of quantum teleportation.

And before you throw your hands up in incredulity, it should be stressed that quantum tunnelling is a very familiar process in the subatomic world and is responsible for such processes as radioactive decay of atoms and even the reason the sun shines (by turning hydrogen into helium through the process of nuclear fusion). Enzymes have made every single biomolecule in your cells and every cell of every living creature on the planet, so they are essential ingredients of life. And they dip into the quantum world to help keep us alive.

Another vital process in biology is of course photosynthesis. Indeed, many would argue that it is the most important biochemical reaction on the planet, responsible for turning light, air, water and a few minerals into grass, trees, grain, apples, forests and, ultimately, the rest of us who eat either the plants or the plant-eaters.

The initiating event is the capture of light energy by a chlorophyll molecule and its conversion into chemical energy that is harnessed to fix carbon dioxide and turn it into plant matter. The process whereby this light energy is transported through the cell has long been a puzzle because it can be so efficient – close to 100% and higher than any artificial energy transport process.

Sunlight shines through chestnut tree leaves. Quantum biology can explain why photosynthesis in plants is so efficient.

Sunlight shines through chestnut tree leaves. Quantum biology can explain why photosynthesis in plants is so efficient. Photograph: Getty Images/Visuals Unlimited

The first step in photosynthesis is the capture of a tiny packet of energy from sunlight that then has to hop through a forest of chlorophyll molecules to makes its way to a structure called the reaction centre where its energy is stored. The problem is understanding how the packet of energy appears to so unerringly find the quickest route through the forest. An ingenious experiment, first carried out in 2007 in Berkley, California, probed what was going on by firing short bursts of laser light at photosynthetic complexes. The research revealed that the energy packet was not hopping haphazardly about, but performing a neat quantum trick. Instead of behaving like a localised particle travelling along a single route, it behaves quantum mechanically, like a spread-out wave, and samples all possible routes at once to find the quickest way.

A third example of quantum trickery in biology – the one we introduced in our opening paragraph – is the mechanism by which birds and other animals make use of the Earth’s magnetic field for navigation. Studies of the European robin suggest that it has an internal chemical compass that utilises an astonishing quantum concept called entanglement, which Einstein dismissed as “spooky action at a distance”. This phenomenon describes how two separated particles can remain instantaneously connected via a weird quantum link. The current best guess is that this takes place inside a protein in the bird’s eye, where quantum entanglement makes a pair of electrons highly sensitive to the angle of orientation of the Earth’s magnetic field, allowing the bird to “see” which way it needs to fly.

All these quantum effects have come as a big surprise to most scientists who believed that the quantum laws only applied in the microscopic world. All delicate quantum behaviour was thought to be washed away very quickly in bigger objects, such as living cells, containing the turbulent motion of trillions of randomly moving particles. So how does life manage its quantum trickery? Recent research suggests that rather than avoiding molecular storms, life embraces them, rather like the captain of a ship who harnesses turbulent gusts and squalls to maintain his ship upright and on course.

Just as Schrödinger predicted, life seems to be balanced on the boundary between the sensible everyday world of the large and the weird and wonderful quantum world, a discovery that is opening up an exciting new field of 21st-century science.

Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology by Jim Al-Khalili and Johnjoe McFadden will be published by Bantam Press on 6 November.

Coping with water scarcity: Effectiveness of water policies aimed at reducing consumption evaluated (Science Daily)

Date: October 23, 2014

Source: University of California, Riverside

Summary: Southern California water agencies have turned to new pricing structures, expanded rebate programs and implemented other means to encourage their customers to reduce consumption. Some of those policies have greatly reduced per capita consumption, while others have produced mixed results.


As California enters its fourth year of severe drought, Southern California water agencies have turned to new pricing structures, expanded rebate programs and implemented other means to encourage their customers to reduce consumption.

Some of those policies have greatly reduced per capita consumption, while others have produced mixed results, according to a report published in the UC Riverside School of Public Policy journal Policy Matters. The journal is published quarterly by the School of Public Policy, and provides timely research and guidance on issues that are of concern to policymakers at the local, state, and national levels.

Water policy experts Kurt Schwabe, Ken Baerenklau and Ariel Dinar reviewed some of their recent research that was presented at a UCR workshop on urban water management in June 2014. Schwabe and Baerenklau are associate professors and Dinar is professor of environmental economics and policy. The workshop highlighted efforts by Southern California water agencies to promote water conservation, relevant research findings by UC faculty, and challenges that remain to further reduce water demand.

“California is a water-scarce state and needs to have policy tools to deal with scarcity whether in drought years or otherwise,” Dinar said. Water policy research in the School of Public Policy focuses on strategies that agencies and California can take to help reduce vulnerability to drought.

Water utilities throughout California are working to satisfy a 2010 state mandate to reduce per capita urban water demand 20 percent by 2020. Reducing residential water demand is an appealing response to water scarcity as approaches such as building more storage and conveyance systems have become increasingly expensive, the authors wrote in “Coping with Water Scarcity: The Effectiveness of Allocation-Based Pricing and Conservation Rebate Programs in California’s Urban Sector.”

“Reducing residential water demand is also attractive given it is a local solution to relieving water stress with seemingly much recent success,” they wrote.

Efforts to reduce water demand by changing behavior fall into two categories: price and non-price, the researchers said. Price-based approaches focus on adjusting the price of water while non-price approaches include other demand-management strategies such as the use of water-conserving technologies and conversion of lawns to drought-tolerant landscape, often promoted with rebates, and mandatory restrictions.

“Price-based instruments for water management … have proven to be very effective when compared to non-price instruments,” the researchers found.

One such instrument is the “water budget,” which has been adopted by more than 25 Southern California water agencies in recent years. Water budgets typically are defined as an indoor allocation based on the number of people in the house and an outdoor allocation based on the amount of irrigable land, special needs, and local weather conditions, according to the report. The sum of the indoor and outdoor allocations is a household’s water budget. Staying within that budget is deemed efficient use. Water use that exceeds a household’s budget is considered inefficient, and is priced at a higher rate to encourage conservation.

“Recent empirical evidence within southern California suggests that this sort of pricing structure can be very effective for reducing residential water demand while securing the financial cash-flow of the water utility,” the researchers reported.

Non-price efforts to reduce water consumption have not been as effective, however. For example, the researchers refer to a study of 13 groundwater-dependent California cities in which modest water price increases were more effective and more cost-effective than promoting technology standards to curb water consumption.

Some studies have found that rebate programs, in particular, have shown smaller-than-expected water savings, the researchers said in the report. For example, studies show that low-flow showerheads tend to result in longer showers and frontloading washing machines result in more cycles.

“This does not mean that such measures should be abandoned, but rather suggests that achieving real water savings in a cost-effective manner requires more research and partnerships between agencies and the research community to find an optimal mix between these two approaches,” the researchers said.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kurt Schwabe, Ben Baerenklau, and Ariel Dinar. Coping With Water Scarcity: The Effectiveness of Allocation-Based Pricing and Conservation Rebate Program in California’s Urban Sector.. Policy Matters, Volume 6, Issue 1, 2014 [link]

Suando no apocalipse (Folha de S.Paulo)

24/10/2014 02h00

Michel Laub

Num ensaio sobre “Júlio César”, filme de Joseph Mankiewicz baseado em Shakespeare, Roland Barthes vê na transpiração dos personagens um sinal de moralidade. “Todos suam porque debatem algo consigo mesmos”, escreve o pensador francês. Homens até então virtuosos, como Brutus, demonstram o “enorme trabalho fisiológico” que dá abandonar princípios para cometer um crime.

Se há uma moral no suor derramado em São Paulo, que teve dias de 37 graus em meio a uma crise hídrica sem precedentes, ela também deveria vir de uma espécie de culpa: a lembrança de que o clima excêntrico dos últimos anos nasce de uma responsabilidade coletiva, dos danos que nosso estilo de vida causa à natureza segundo a quase unanimidade dos cientistas.

É sobre a dificuldade de reconhecermos isso, entre outros temas, que trata uma entrevista recente do antropólogo Eduardo Viveiros de Castro e da filósofa Déborah Danowski à jornalista e escritora Eliane Brum. Se um utopista consegue imaginar coisas grandes e abstratas, como o tal do mundo melhor, mas não implementá-las na prática, hoje seríamos o contrário: tecnicamente capazes de fazer drones e bombas, mas não de conceber –ao menos em empatia– a hipótese concreta de seus efeitos.

Daí nasce a leviandade com que seguimos tratando florestas, rios e cidades, apesar dos múltiplos alertas. Na entrevista, publicada no site do “El País”, o cenário em que estamos prestes a entrar –uma megalópole sem água– é descrito como uma versão real da ficção maia do fim do mundo, uma narrativa sem redenção em que “nosso primeiro pé já encontrou o nada”.

A saída para amenizar o estrago seria a superação de um modelo baseado na “acumulação de lixo como principal produto”. Aqui entra o lado político de Viveiros de Castro, que desagrada petistas, tucanos e qualquer um que celebre a entrada de milhões de brasileiros no mercado consumidor. Na campanha que se encerra domingo, os argumentos do antropólogo foram compreensivelmente ignorados.

Segundo ele, a visão do pobre como um “nós de segunda classe”, alguém que deve ser melhorado para se tornar no futuro o que somos hoje –com nossas geladeiras, carros, comida transgênica barata e farta, Netflix sob o ar-condicionado silencioso–, é parte do problema. Não há recursos que deem conta de tanta demanda sem causar desmatamento, poluição, fluxos migratórios forçados e trágicos.

Um otimista à esquerda dirá que o caminho não é o crescimento sem limites, e sim uma distribuição radical da riqueza. Viveiros de Castro usa a expressão “superdesenvolvido” para nações como os Estados Unidos, onde o gasto individual é o equivalente ao de 32 pessoas do Quênia. Já um otimista à direita dirá que o capitalismo sempre criou tecnologias que o salvaram de impasses como o atual.

Tendo como parâmetro a história, na qual também há tragédias suficientes geradas pelo igualitarismo puro e duro (e que não é igualitarismo, vide a ex-URSS), o segundo cenário é mais possível. Difícil imaginar o Primeiro Mundo abrindo mão de sua riqueza voluntariamente e no prazo necessário. Ou países com imensas dívidas sociais –Brasil, Índia, China– desistindo de sua chance de desenvolvimento tardio.

O problema é que “possível” é diferente de “provável”. O otimismo gosta de se alimentar da falta de informação. Ou de uma ingenuidade teimosa em relação à boa fé e visão de longo prazo de quem nos dirige. A usina nuclear de Fukushima foi construída numa área sujeita a tsunamis. No circo negacionista da Sabesp, somos palhaços por motivos eleitorais.

Num outro ensaio de Barthes, igualmente sobre um tema a calhar aqui –o plástico–, o milagre é definido como uma “conversão brusca da natureza”. O mesmo daria para dizer de seu avesso, a catástrofe. Déborah Danowski acredita que a dúvida não é mais sobre se ela vai acontecer, e sim sobre sua dimensão –a diferença entre um aquecimento de dois, quatro ou seis graus na Terra, entre uma vida “difícil” e uma “hostil à espécie humana”.

Diante disso, acrescenta Viveiros de Castro, nos restará pouco além de aprender com aqueles que, sem sonhos produtivos e consumistas, são o oposto dos pobres: os índios. No Brasil, eles experimentam o apocalipse desde 1500. Se há algo que conhecem bem, é como tentar “viver melhor num mundo pior”, num presente/futuro que foi “roubado por nós mesmos de nós”

An Indigenous Feminist’s take on the Ontological Turn: ‘ontology’ is just another word for colonialism (Urbane Adventurer: Amiskwacî)

Personal paradigm shifts have a way of sneaking up on you. It started, innocently enough, with a trip to Edinburgh to see the great Latour discuss his latest work in February 2013. I was giddy with excitement: a talk by the Great Latour. Live and in colour! In his talk, on that February night, he discussed the climate as sentient. Funny, I thought, this sounds an awful lot like the little bit of Inuit cosmological thought I have been taught by Inuit friends. I waited, through the whole talk, to hear the Great Latour credit Indigenous thinkers for their millennia of engagement with sentient environments, with cosmologies that enmesh people into complex relationships between themselves and all relations. 

It never came. He did not mention Inuit. Or Anishinaabe. Or Nehiyawak. Or any Indigenous thinkers at all. In fact, he spent a great deal of time interlocuting with a Scottish thinker, long dead. And with Gaia.

I left the hall early, before the questions were finished. I was unimpressed. Again, I thought with a sinking feeling in my chest, it appeared that the so-called Ontological Turn was spinning itself on the backs of non-european thinkers. And, again, the ones we credited for these incredible insights into the ‘more-than-human’, and sentience and agency, were not the people who built and maintain the knowledge systems that european and north american anthropologists and philosophers have been studying for well over a hundred years, and predicating their current ‘aha’ ontological moment upon. No, here we were celebrating and worshipping a european thinker for ‘discovering’ what many an Indigenous thinker around the world could have told you for millennia. The climate is sentient!

So, again, I was just another inconvenient Indigenous body in a room full of people excited to hear a white guy talk around Indigenous thought without giving Indigenous people credit. Doesn’t this feel familiar, I thought.

As an Indigenous woman, I have tried, over the last few years, to find thinkers who engage with Indigenous thought respectfully. Who give full credit to Indigenous laws, stories and epistemologies. Who quote and cite Indigenous people rather than anthropologists who studied them 80 years ago. This is not always easy. I am so grateful to scholars like David Anderson, Julie Cruikshank and Ann Fienup-Riordan, among others, for giving me hope amidst the despair I’ve felt as the ‘Ontological Turn’ gains steam on both sides of the Atlantic. I am so grateful, too, for the Indigenous thinkers who wrestle with the academy, who have positioned themselves to speak back to Empire despite all of the polite/hidden racism, heteropatriarchy, and let’s face it–white supremacy–of the University.

The euro-western academy is colonial. It elevates people who talk about Indigenous people above people who speak with Indigenous people as equals, or who ARE Indigenous. (Just do a body count of the number of Indigenous scholars relative to non-Indigenous scholars in the euro academy, and you’ll see that over here there are far more people talking about Indigenous issues than Indigenous people talking about those issues themselves). As scholars of the euro-western tradition, we have a whole host of non-Indigenous thinkers we turn to, in knee-jerk fashion, when we want to discuss the ‘more-than-human’ or sentient environments, or experiential learning. There are many reasons for this. I think euro scholars would benefit from reading more about Critical Race theory, intersectionality, and studying the mounting number of rebukes against the privilege of european philosophy and thought and how this silences non-white voices within and outside the academy. This philosopher, Eugene Sun Park, wrote a scathing critique of the reticence of philosophy departments in the USA to consider non-european thought as ‘credible’. I would say many of the problems he identifies in euro-western philosophy are the same problems I have experienced in european anthropology, despite efforts to decolonise and re-direct the field during the ‘reflexive turn’ of the 1970s-onwards.

As an Indigenous feminist, I think it’s time we take the Ontological Turn, and the european academy more broadly, head on. To accomplish this, I want to direct you to Indigenous thinkers who have been writing about Indigenous legal theory, human-animal relations and multiple epistemologies/ontologies for decades. Consider the links at the end of this post as a ‘cite this, not that’ cheat-sheet for people who feel dissatisfied with the current euro (and white, and quite often, male) centric discourse taking place in our disciplines, departments, conferences and journals.

My experience, as a Métis woman from the prairies of Canada currently working in the UK, is of course limited to the little bit that I know. I can only direct you to the thinkers that I have met or listened to in person, whose writing and speaking I have fallen in love with, who have shifted paradigms for me as an Indigenous person navigating the hostile halls of the academy. I cannot, nor would I try, to speak for Indigenous thinkers in other parts of the world. But I guarantee that there are myriad voices in every continent being ignored in favour of the ‘GREAT WHITE HOPES’ we currently turn to when we discuss ontological matters (I speak here, of course, of ontology as an anthropologist, so hold your horses, philosophers, if you feel my analysis of ‘the ontological’ is weak. We can discuss THAT whole pickle another day).

So why does this all matter? Why am I so fired up at the realisation that (some) european thinkers are exploiting Indigenous thought, seemingly with no remorse? Well, it’s this little matter of colonialism, see. Whereas the european academy tends to discuss the ‘post-colonial’, in Canada I assure you that we are firmly still experiencing the colonial (see Pinkoski 2008 for a cogent discussion of this issue in Anthropology). In 2009, our Prime-Minister, Stephen Harper, famously claimed that Canada has ‘no history of colonialism’. And yet, we struggle with the fact that Indigenous women experience much higher rates of violence than non-Indigenous women (1200 Indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing in the last forty years alone, prompting cries from the UN and other bodies for our government to address this horrific reality). Canada’s first Prime-Minister, proud Scotsman John A. MacDonald (I refuse to apply the ‘Sir’), famously attempted to ‘kill the Indian in the Child’ with his residential schools. Canada is only now coming around to the realisation that through things like residential schools, and the deeply racist—and still legislated!–Indian Act, that it, as a nation, was built on genocide and dispossession. Given our strong British roots in Canada, you can imagine that it’s All Very Uncomfortable and creates a lot of hand-wringing and cognitive dissonance for those who have lived blissfully unaware of these violences. But ask any Indigenous person, and you will hear that nobody from an Indigenous Nation has ever laboured under the fantasy that Canada is post-colonial. Or benevolent. Nor would we pretend that the British Empire saddled us with solely happy, beautiful, loving legacies. For all its excessive politeness, the British colonial moment rent and tore apart sovereign Indigenous nations and peoples in what is now Canada, and though the sun has set on Queen Victoria’s Empire, British institutions (including the academy) still benefit from that colonial moment. We are enmeshed, across the Atlantic, in ongoing colonial legacies. And in order to dismantle those legacies, we must face our complicity head on.

Similarly, with the wave of the post-colonial wand, many european thinkers seem to have absolved themselves of any implication in ongoing colonial realities throughout the globe. And yet, each one of us is embedded in systems that uphold the exploitation and dispossession of Indigenous peoples. The academy plays a role in shaping the narratives that erase ongoing colonial violence. My experience in Britain has been incredibly eye-opening: as far as the majority of Brits are concerned, their responsibility for, and implication in, colonialism in North America ended with the War of Independence (in America) or the repatriation of the Canadian constitution (1982).

Is it so simple, though? To draw such arbitrary lines through intergenerational suffering and colonial trauma, to absolve the european academy and the european mind of any guilt in the genocide of Indigenous people (if and when european and north american actors are willing to admit it’s a genocide)? And then to turn around and use Indigenous cosmologies and knowledge systems in a so-called new intellectual ‘turn’, all the while ignoring the contemporary realities of Indigenous peoples vis-à-vis colonial nation-states, or the many Indigenous thinkers who are themselves writing about these issues? And is it intellectually or ethically responsible or honest to pretend that european bodies do not still oppress Indigenous ones throughout the world?

Zygmunt Bauman (1989) takes sociology to task for its role in narrating the Holocaust, and its role in erasing our collective guilt in the possibility for a future Holocaust to emerge. He argues that by framing the Holocaust as either a a) one-off atrocity never to be repeated (“a failure of modernity”) (5) or b) an inevitable outcome of modernity, sociology enables humanity to ignore its ongoing complicity in the conditions that created the horrors of the Holocaust. The rhetoric of the post-colonial is similarly complacent: it absolves the present generation of thinkers, politicians, lawyers, and policy wonks for their duty to acknowledge what came before, and, in keeping with Bauman’s insights, the possibility it could happen again — that within all societies lurk the ‘two faces’ of humanity that can either facilitate or quash systemic and calculated human suffering and exploitation. But the reality is, as Bauman asserts, that humanity is responsible. For all of these atrocities. And humanity must be willing to face itself, to acknowledge its role in these horrors, in order to ensure we never tread the path of such destruction again. 

I take Bauman’s words to heart, and ask my non-Indigenous peers to consider their roles in the ongoing colonial oppression of Indigenous peoples. The colonial moment has not passed. The conditions that fostered it have not suddenly disappeared. We talk of neo-colonialism, neo-Imperialism, but it is as if these are far away things (these days these accusations are often mounted with terse suspicion against the BRIC countries, as though the members of the G8 have not already colonized the globe through neo-liberal economic and political policies). The reality is that we are just an invasion or economic policy away from re-colonizing at any moment. So it is so important to think, deeply, about how the Ontological Turn–with its breathless ‘realisations’ that animals, the climate, water, ‘atmospheres’ and non-human presences like ancestors and spirits are sentient and possess agency, that ‘nature’ and ‘culture’, ‘human’ and ‘animal’ may not be so separate after all—is itself perpetuating the exploitation of Indigenous peoples. To paraphrase a colleague I deeply admire, Caleb Behn: first they came for the land, the water, the wood, the furs, bodies, the gold. Now, they come armed with consent forms and feeble promises of collaboration and take our laws, our stories, our philosophies. If they bother to pretend to care enough to do even that much—many simply ignore Indigenous people, laws, epistemologies altogether and re-invent the more-than-human without so much as a polite nod towards Indigenous bodies/Nations.

A point I am making in my dissertation, informed by the work of Indigenous legal theorists like John Borrows, Kahente Horn-Miller, Tracey Lindberg, and Val Napoleon, is that Indigenous thought is not just about social relations and philosophical anecdotes, as many an ethnography would suggest. These scholars have already shown that Indigenous epistemologies and ontologies represents legal orders, legal orders through which Indigenous peoples throughout the world are fighting for self-determination, sovereignty. The dispossession wrought by centuries of stop-start chaotic colonial invasion and imposition of european laws and languages is ongoing. It did not end with repatriation of constitutions or independence from colonial rule. Europe is still implicated in what it wrought through centuries of colonial exploitation. Whether it likes it or not.

My point here is that Indigenous peoples, throughout the world, are fighting for recognition. Fighting to assert their laws, philosophies and stories on their own terms. And when anthropologists and other assembled social scientists sashay in and start cherry-picking parts of Indigenous thought that appeal to them without engaging directly in (or unambiguously acknowledging) the political situation, agency and relationality of both Indigenous people and scholars, we immediately become complicit in colonial violence. When we cite european thinkers who discuss the ‘more-than-human’ but do not discuss their Indigenous contemporaries who are writing on the exact same topics, we perpetuate the white supremacy of the academy.

So, for every time you want to cite a Great Thinker who is on the public speaking circuit these days, consider digging around for others who are discussing the same topics in other ways. Decolonising the academy, both in europe and north america, means that we must consider our own prejudices, our own biases. Systems like peer-review and the subtle violence of european academies tend to privilege certain voices and silence others. Consider why, as of 2011, there were no black philosophy profs in all of the UK. Consider why it’s okay to discuss sentient climates in an Edinburgh lecture hall without a nod to Indigenous epistemologies and not have a single person openly question that. And then, familiarise yourself with the Indigenous thinkers (and more!) I am linking below and broaden the spectrum of who you cite, who you reaffirm as ‘knowledgeable’.

hiy-hiy.

Zoe Todd (Métis) is a PhD Candidate in Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. She researches human-fish relations in the community of Paulatuuq in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Northwest Territories, Canada. She is a 2011 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Scholar.

Some Fear Ebola Outbreak Could Make Nation Turn to Science (The New Yorker)

Borowitz Report
OCTOBER 16, 2014
BY ANDY BOROWITZ

Borowitz-Ebola-Scientists-690CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY WILLIAM THOMAS CAIN/GETTY

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—There is a deep-seated fear among some Americans that an Ebola outbreak could make the country turn to science.

In interviews conducted across the nation, leading anti-science activists expressed their concern that the American people, wracked with anxiety over the possible spread of the virus, might desperately look to science to save the day.

“It’s a very human reaction,” said Harland Dorrinson, a prominent anti-science activist from Springfield, Missouri. “If you put them under enough stress, perfectly rational people will panic and start believing in science.”

Additionally, he worries about a “slippery slope” situation, “in which a belief in science leads to a belief in math, which in turn fosters a dangerous dependence on facts.”

At the end of the day, though, Dorrinson hopes that such a doomsday scenario will not come to pass. “Time and time again through history, Americans have been exposed to science and refused to accept it,” he said. “I pray that this time will be no different.”

Guerreiros climáticos bloqueiam o maior porto de carvão do mundo (IPS)

1/10/2014 – 10h12

por Lyndal Rowlands, da IPS

canoa Guerreiros climáticos bloqueiam o maior porto de carvão do mundo

Nações Unidas, 21/10/2014 – Trinta ativistas contra a mudança climática oriundos de 12 pequenos países insulares do Oceano Pacífico bloquearam com suas canoas, junto com centenas de australianos em caiaques e pranchas de surf, o maior porto de exportação de carvão do mundo, em Newcastle, na Austrália. Organizado com apoio do grupo ecologista 350.org, com sede nos Estados Unidos, o ato, realizado no dia 17, atrasou a saída de oito dos 12 navios que passaram pelo porto durante as nove horas de bloqueio.

A intenção foi chamar a atenção para as consequências da mudança climática nesses países. Os ativistas, que se autodenominam Guerreiros Climáticos do Pacífico, eram de 12 países insulares do Pacífico, incluindo Fiji, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Micronésia, Vanuatu, Ilhas Salomão, Tonga, Samoa, Papua Nova Guiné e Niue. “Queremos que a Austrália recorde que faz parte do Pacífico e que somos uma família, e ter esta família significa que permanecemos juntos. Não podemos permitir que um dos irmãos mais velhos destrua tudo”, declarou à IPS Mikaele Maiava, um dos ativistas.

A Austrália é o quarto maior produtor de carvão no mundo. “Assim, queremos que a comunidade australiana, especialmente os líderes da Austrália, pensem em algo mais além de seus bolsos… na humanidade, não apenas para o povo australiano, mas para todos”, acrescentou Mikaele, nascido em Tokelau.

Ao discursar na inauguração de uma mina de carvão no dia 13, o primeiro-ministro australiano, Tony Abbott, disse que “o carvão é bom para a humanidade”. Porém, Mikaele discorda. “Falamos de humanidade. A humanidade tem a ver com as pessoas perderem sua terra? Sua cultura e identidade? Tem a ver com viver com medo de que as futuras gerações já não possam viver em uma ilha bonita? Essa é a resposta para o futuro?”, questionou o ativista.

Mikaele afirmou que ele e seus companheiros estão conscientes de que sua luta não se limita ao Pacífico, e que a mudança climática também afeta outros países do Sul em desenvolvimento. “Estamos conscientes de que essa luta não é só pelo Pacífico. A mensagem que queremos passar, sobretudo aos governantes, é que somos seres humanos. Essa luta não se trata só de nossa terra, mas é pela sobrevivência”, ressaltou.

Mikaele contou como seu país já sofre as consequências da mudança climática: “Vemos mudanças nos padrões climáticos e também vemos a ameaça para nossa segurança alimentar. É difícil gerar um futuro sustentável se a terra já não é tão fértil e os cultivos não crescem devido à invasão da água salgada”.

guerreros Guerreiros climáticos bloqueiam o maior porto de carvão do mundo

A costa de Tokelau sofre erosão. “A linha costeira está mudando. Há 15 anos, quando ia para a escola, podia caminhar em linha reta. Agora tenho que andar por uma linha torcida porque a praia sofreu a erosão”, contou Mikaele. Tokelau se converteu no primeiro país do mundo a utilizar 100% de energia renovável quando adotou a energia solar em 2012 para abastecer sua população, de aproximadamente 1.400 pessoas.

Mikaele e seus companheiros ativistas construíram com as próprias mãos as canoas que trouxeram para a Austrália para o protesto, o meio tradicional de transporte e pesca em seus países. Outra “guerreira” climática, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, das Ilhas Marshall, fez chorar o público presente na Assembleia Geral da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU) em setembro, ao ler um poema escrito por sua pequena filha, Matafele Peinam.

“Ninguém se mudará, ninguém perderá sua terra natal, ninguém se converterá em um refugiado da mudança climática. Ou deveria dizer ninguém mais. Aos ilhéus de Carteret, em Papua Nova Guiné, e aos de Taro, em Fiji, aproveito este momento para pedir-lhes desculpas”, afirmou Jetnil-Kijiner, se referindo aos que são considerados os primeiros refugiados climáticos do mundo.

O Fórum das Ilhas do Pacífico qualificou a mudança climática como “maior ameaça para os meios de vida, a segurança e o bem-estar dos povos” da região. Segundo Jetnil-Kijiner, “a mudança climática é uma ameaça imediata e grave para o desenvolvimento sustentável e a erradicação da pobreza em muitos países insulares do Pacífico, e para a própria sobrevivência de alguns”.

“Entretanto, esses países estão entre os menos capazes de se adaptar e responder a esta mudança, e as consequências que enfrentam são desproporcionais em relação à sua minúscula contribuição coletiva para as emissões mundiais” dos gases-estufa, ressaltou Jetnil-Kijiner. As autoridades das ilhas do Pacífico redobraram suas cobranças e desafiaram o governo australiano a não demorar mais na adoção de medidas contra a mudança climática.

“A Austrália é um país do Pacífico. Ao optar por desmantelar suas políticas climáticas, se retirar das negociações internacionais e seguir adiante com a expansão de sua indústria de combustíveis fósseis está totalmente em desacordo com o resto da região”, afirmou Simon Bradshaw, da organização Oxfam. “Os vizinhos mais próximos da Austrália identificam sistematicamente a mudança climática como seu maior desafio e prioridade absoluta. Portanto, é inevitável que as ações recentes de Canberra repercutam em sua relação com as ilhas do Pacífico”, acrescentou.

“Uma pesquisa recente encomendada pela Oxfam mostra que 60% dos australianos acreditam que a mudança climática tem consequências negativas na capacidade da população dos países mais pobres para cultivar alimentos e ter acesso a eles, chegando a 68% entre a faixa etária de 18 aos 34 anos”, destacou Bradshaw. Envolverde/IPS

(IPS)

A tática da “embromação climática” (Instituto Socioambiental)

21/10/2014 – 11h14

por Márcio Santilli, do ISA*

mudancasclimaticas1 A tática da “embromação climática”Nos meios diplomáticos, comenta-se que o Itamaraty teria informado a conferência da ONU sobre mudanças climáticas que o Brasil adiará a entrega de sua proposta formal sobre os compromissos que o país dispõe-se a assumir de redução das emissões de gases de efeito estufa, responsáveis pelo aquecimento global. Esse posicionamento inicial dos países definirá o rumo das negociações climáticas internacionais.

O Itamaraty deve alegar que os 90 dias entre a posse do novo governo, em janeiro, e data estabelecida para esse posicionamento (31/3/2015) seriam insuficientes para tomar pé das pendências relativas às negociações. Pode ser.

Mas também pode não ser, pois um dos postulantes é a própria presidente Dilma, que já deveria estar informada das negociações, enquanto que o programa de Aécio Neves apresenta diretrizes gerais sobre o tema, embora não traga detalhes para um posicionamento formal, o que não parece difícil de fazer em 90 dias. Qualquer presidente terá de se posicionar, desde o início do mandato, sobre muitas outras pendências urgentes.

Até parece razoável a suposta preocupação do Itamaraty em assegurar um prazo maior para a decisão. Na linguagem das negociações, no entanto, os retardatários sacrificam seu protagonismo político, deixando de influenciar os demais países e ficando a reboque daqueles que irão definir os marcos de um futuro acordo.

É bom lembrar que, há seis anos, na frustrante reunião da ONU em Copenhague, o presidente Lula anunciou uma meta brasileira de redução de emissões – entre 36,1% e 38,9% – baseada sobretudo na redução das taxas do desmatamento na Amazônia. Fomos o primeiro país a assumir esse compromisso, ainda que em caráter voluntário, entre os que não estavam obrigados a reduzir suas emissões pelo Protocolo de Quioto.

A proposta atendeu a pressões da sociedade civil e significou um empurrão presidencial sobre o posicionamento do Itamaraty, sempre resistente a comprometimentos do gênero. Por outro lado, influenciou outros governos a também avançar nas suas posições, ampliando as chances de um acordo significativo, que, infelizmente, não aconteceu.

marcio pequeno A tática da “embromação climática”

Agora que vários fatores ampliam as chances de um acordo até a conferência a ser realizada em Paris, em dezembro de 2015, o Brasil adota a tática do avestruz, ficando a reboque da dinâmica que será definida por países como a China e os EUA. Não se trata de dispor, ou não, de um bom motivo para justificar a protelação de sua posição, mas deveria tratar-se de dispor de uma estratégia – de país, não só de governo – para aproveitar os momentos mais favoráveis e influenciar positivamente negociações que serão decisivas para a sociedade brasileira e as futuras gerações.

Como não é crível que o Itamaraty desconheça a relevância dos diversos momentos das negociações, também se pode creditar a sua protelação ao crescimento das emissões brasileiras e os indícios da retomada das taxas do desmatamento da Amazônia. Diplomacia defensiva. Mas para nos defender de quem? De países que se apresentem com maior disposição para salvar o mundo dos piores desdobramentos das mudanças no clima? Não seriam elas a maior ameaça para nossa economia e a qualidade de vida do nosso povo?

Eis aí uma boa questão para o debate das eleições presidenciais: a que compromissos estarão dispostos, Aécio e Dilma? Apressar o passo para não perder o bonde? Ou embarcar na tática “embromatória”? Que estratégias adotariam para reverter a tendência de aumento das emissões brasileiras, frente a um acordo internacional cujo objetivo central será diminuir as emissões globais?

* Márcio Santilli é sócio fundador do ISA.

** Publicado originalmente na Folha.com e retirado do site Instituto Socioambiental.

(Instituto Socioambiental)

Chimpanzees in Uganda forced to steal from maize plantations to survive – video (The Guardian)

Source: PLOS One/Wild Chimpanzees on the Edge: Nocturnal Activities in Croplands

Video

The great apes are facing new challenges to coexist with humans. Their home, the Kibale national park, is increasingly being encroached as agricultural fields keep getting closer to the forest. For chimpanzees inhabiting the patch next to the fields, borders are risky areas. But the animals have devised a way to avoid confrontation with humans – they conduct nocturnal raids. This footage shows chimpanzees taking maize from a plantation inside the park

Os sem água de São Paulo (Adital)

22/10/2014 – 05h27

por Roberto Malvezzi, Gogó*

torneira Os sem água de São PauloA nordestina que assistia televisão começa a chorar quando vê o sofrimento de uma mulher paulistana da periferia, com a pia cheia de pratos, o vaso sanitário cheio de outras coisas, há dois dias sem tomar banho e sem saber como lidar com essa penúria de água.

Essa história ouvi na cidade de Canudos nesse sábado passado, aqui no sertão da Bahia, local simbólico da luta nordestina pela terra e pela água. Quem me contou foi o Pe. Alberto, pároco da cidade, durante a romaria de Canudos que acontece todos os anos.

Não queria estar na pele de Geraldo Alckmin quando essa eleição passar. Quando os “sem água” saírem às ruas, como fizeram em Cochabamba (Bolívia), em Rosário (Argentina) ou em tantas cidades nordestinas em outras épocas, a classe política vai conhecer o que é a fúria popular causada pela sede. Como se diz aqui pelo sertão “a fome e a sede tem cara de herege”.

O sofrimento humano causado pela falta d’água se generaliza em todo o país. Primeiro como resultado de um processo histórico de degradação e maltrato para com nossos mananciais. Segundo pela incapacidade total de nossas autoridades que tem poder de decisão de ver o que acontece e tomar medidas preventivas contra o pior. Terceiro porque a questão eleitoral não permite o debate sério que a cidade de São Paulo e outras regiões do país – como o São Francisco – terão que tomar ao menos para sobreviver, causando até piedade de uma senhora nordestina que sabe o que é passar uma vida labutando por um pouco de água. Hoje, no sertão de Canudos, ela está muito melhor que a paulistana.

O sofrimento humano deveria gerar solidariedade, não preconceitos e raivas. Prefiro a sensibilidade da nordestina de Canudos que todos os discursos feitos nessa eleição contra o Nordeste e seu povo. A voz das redes sociais, então, mesmo vindo de médicos, advogados, políticos, intelectuais, etc., espelha o que há de pior no ser humano. A lágrima da nordestina o que há de melhor no Nordeste e no povo brasileiro.

Mas, Alckmin que se proteja. Basta um palito de fósforo e essa água pega fogo.

* Roberto Malvezzi, Gogó, é da Equipe CPP/CPT do São Francisco. Músico. Filósofo e Teólogo.

** Publicado originalmente no site Adital.

(Adital)

62% do esgoto do País ainda tem como destino a natureza (Carta Capital)

23/10/2014 – 04h40

por Caio Luiz, para a Carta Capital

 62% do esgoto do País ainda tem como destino a natureza

Cerca de 100 milhões de brasileiros ainda não têm tratamento de esgoto devido, o que, para especialistas, mostra que as políticas de saneamento pararam no século de 19.

As cem maiores cidades do Brasil despejam cerca de 3 mil piscinas olímpicas de esgoto por dia e, segundo o presidente executivo do Instituto Trata Brasil, Édison Carlos, 70% delas não tem 50% do sistema de saneamento instalado e em operação.

As informações foram divulgadas na palestra O Brasil das Águas – Saneamento, Mananciais e Oceanos durante a última edição do evento Diálogos Capitais – Inovação e Sustentabilidade, promovido por CartaCapital nesta terça, 21.

“O saneamento no Brasil parou no século 19”, disse o presidente após citar que 100 milhões de brasileiro ainda não têm esgoto tratado. “Os últimos indicadores, datados de 2012, apontam que 62% do esgoto ainda não encontra rede adequada para ser encaminhado a estações de tratamento.”

A perspectiva, de acordo com o Plano Nacional de Saneamento Básico do Governo Federal, é tornar a rede de esgoto universal em 2033. Carlos mencionou que, historicamente, o Brasil utiliza rios e oceanos como diluidores de esgoto e lamentou o estado praticamente inativo dos comitês de bacias hidrográficas.

O presidente criticou o atraso em São Paulo, que tem metade do estado com rede de esgoto apropriada. A Amazônia não chega a 10%. Rondônia e Pará têm menos de 3%.

Na crista dos dados da Trata Brasil, o professor do programa de pós-graduação em Ciência Ambiental da USP Pedro Jacobi avaliou a gestão de recursos hídricos no Brasil como o resultado de um histórico de degradação ambiental. “Estamos mais focados em trazer água às casas do que em tratá-la como consequência”, argumentou.

Jacobi cobrou transparência dos governos e afirmou que há mal uso do dinheiro público em investimentos para o saneamento. “Os calendários e descontinuidades políticas acabam prejudicando a administração dos recursos hídricos.”

O estudioso afirma que não houve pressão popular suficiente para levar encanamento e tratamento às periferias, uma vez que os loteadores de bairros afastados se preocuparam em vender terrenos, não em trazer serviços. “Nosso histórico político de tutela patrimonialista nos faz ficar solidários e participativos apenas em momentos durante e pós-crise.”

Ricardo Rolim, diretor de relações institucionais, sustentabilidade e comunicação da Ambev, compareceu ao debate e lembrou que a indústria costuma figurar como vilã quando o tema é esgoto e tratamento de água. Defendeu, porém, que as empresas precisam criar um “círculo virtuoso” em toda a cadeia de produção. “De 2002 para cá, reduzimos em 38% o consumo de água da Ambev”, informou.

* Publicado originalmente no site Carta Capital.

(Carta Capital)

De onde vem a água que abastece sua casa? (Envolverde)

23/10/2014 – 10h05

por Redação da Envolverde

plataformaISA De onde vem a água que abastece sua casa?

O Instituto Socioambiental criou uma plataforma virtual que mostra qual é o sistema responsável pelo fornecimento de água de cada local de São Paulo.

A cada dia os fatos reafirmam que a crise hídrica em São Paulo é grave. O nível dos reservatórios que abastecem a região metropolitana caem e a população já enfrenta as consequências da falta de água.

A responsabilidade pelo desabastecimento de água recae sobre os órgãos públicos. Por outro lado, inúmeras campanhas incentivam o uso consciente deste recurso por parte da população.

Com o objetivo de levantar o maior número de dados possíveis e pressionar as autoridades, o Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) criou o site “De onde vem a água?”.

A plataforma pretende aproximar as pessoas de suas fontes de água e ampliar o conhecimento sobre a situação de abastecimento dos diferentes municípios da Região Metropolitana de São Paulo, que vivem a pior crise hídrica de sua história.

Por meio da inserção do CEP, é possível visualizar o manancial que abastece determinado local e conhecer um pouco mais sobre a realidade, os principais indicadores e o volume de armazenamento dos diferentes sistemas produtores de água da Região Metropolitana de São Paulo. Permite também conhecer um pouco mais sobre os indicadores de saneamento dos municípios.

A ferramenta foi desenvolvida pelo Instituto Socioambiental no âmbito do projeto Água@SP. A primeira versão do “De onde vem a água que você bebe?” foi desenvolvida pela Campanha de Olho nos Mananciais do ISA em 2008.

Com essa nova versão, espera-se ampliar o conhecimento sobre os mananciais e contribuir para a construção de um futuro seguro e sustentável para água de São Paulo.

Clique aqui e saibade onde vem a água que abastece sua casa. (Envolverde)

(Envolverde)

Crise da água afronta a ciência brasileira (Mundo Sustentável)

23/10/2014 – 03h29

por André Trigueiro*

Sistema Cantareira atinge volume zero em 2014 mes de junho20140515 0002 1024x682 Crise da água afronta a ciência brasileira

Não foi por falta de aviso.

Além do seu incomensurável capital natural, o Brasil construiu ao longo do tempo um robusto estoque de conhecimento científico a respeito de seus biomas, ecossistemas e bacias hidrográficas.

Gente do calibre de José Lutzenberger, Augusto Ruschi e Aziz Ab’Saber (dentre tantos outros que descortinaram novos e importantes horizontes de investigação científica) revelaram que a natureza se comporta como um sofisticado sistema interligado, onde certos gêneros de intervenção, aparentemente inofensivos, podem causar gigantescos estragos.

Não fosse a genialidade e o respeito que impuseram a partir de seus trabalhos científicos, seriam massacrados pelos poderosos da época.

Não foram poucos os políticos inescrupulosos e empresários gananciosos que tentaram a todo custo “desconstruir” (para usar uma palavra da moda) suas reputações.

Deixaram um legado reconhecidamente importante que deveria inspirar uma nova ética no modelo de desenvolvimento, especialmente mais cuidado na forma como certas políticas públicas são concebidas e aplicadas.

Portanto, é curioso imaginar o que Lutz, Ruschi e Ab’Saber diriam hoje sobre essa crise hídrica sem precedentes na história do Brasil?

Em 1980, ao publicar o livro com o sugestivo título “O Fim do Futuro?”, José Lutzenberger denunciava que “a perda da capa vegetal protetora, além de significar o desaparecimento dos habitats essenciais à sobrevivência da fauna e das espécies vegetais mais especializadas e preciosas, causa o desequilíbrio hídrico dos corpos d`água (…) Estamos preparando para o nosso país o mesmo destino que o do cordão subsaariano”.

Um dos primeiros a prever a escassez de água no mundo, Augusto Ruschi denunciava em sucessivos alertas, como nesse texto de 1986, os impactos causados pelo desmatamento sobre a vazão de água dos rios, especialmente na Amazônia:

“Há 35 anos, escrevi que estávamos caminhando para construir na Amazônia o segundo maior deserto do mundo. Hoje, a previsão vai se confirmando. No primeiro ano, depois que desmatam, é uma beleza: o solo continua fértil, produz-se muito. Mas, depois, a matéria orgânica é lixiviada para as profundezas do solo e planta nenhuma vai lá embaixo buscá-la. Forma-se o cerrado, depois a caatinga, e finalmente, o deserto”.

Um dos mais respeitados cientistas brasileiros, Aziz Ab’Saber denunciou abertamente o absurdo do novo Código Florestal ter sido aprovado há quase três anos no Congresso Nacional sem o respaldo da ciência. E previu consequências trágicas para os recursos hídricos.

“Trata-se de desconhecimento entristecedor sobre a ordem de grandeza das redes hidrográficas do território intertropical brasileiro” (…) Em face do gigantismo do território e da situação real em que se encontram os seus macro biomas – Amazônia Brasileira, Brasil Tropical Atlântico, Cerrados do Brasil Central, Planalto das Araucárias, e Pradarias Mistas do Brasil Subtropical – e de seus numerosos minibiomas, faixas de transição e relictos de ecossistemas, qualquer tentativa de mudança do Código Florestal tem que ser conduzido por pessoas competentes bioeticamente sensíveis”.

Como se sabe, não foi assim que aconteceu. Prevaleceram os interesses da bancada ruralista.

Em tempo: o desmatamento na Amazônia entre agosto e setembro aumentou 191%, segundo dados apurados pelo Instituto Imazon.

E os candidatos à Presidência, o que dizem?

Bem, a cada novo dia de campanha eleitoral o Brasil tem menos água e menos floresta. E as prioridades continuam sendo outras.

Mas o legado de Lutz, Ruschi e Ab’Saber segue incomodando. Até que alguém resolva prestar atenção e evitar uma catástrofe ainda maior.

Ouça o comentário sobre este assunto na Rádio CBN.

* André Trigueiro é jornalista com pós-graduação em Gestão Ambiental pela Coppe-UFRJ onde hoje leciona a disciplina geopolítica ambiental, professor e criador do curso de Jornalismo Ambiental da PUC-RJ, autor do livro Mundo Sustentável – Abrindo Espaço na Mídia para um Planeta em Transformação, coordenador editorial e um dos autores dos livros Meio Ambiente no Século XXI, e Espiritismo e Ecologia, lançado na Bienal Internacional do Livro, no Rio de Janeiro, pela Editora FEB, em 2009. É apresentador do Jornal das Dez e editor chefe do programa Cidades e Soluções, da Globo News. É também comentarista da Rádio CBN e colaborador voluntário da Rádio Rio de Janeiro.

** Publicado originalmente no site Mundo Sustentável.

(Mundo Sustentável)