Arquivo mensal: agosto 2015

Anthropologies #21: Annual Review of Anthropology, Climate Change, Anthropocene (Savage Minds)

August 31, 2015 / 

To kick off this issue, we begin with Sean Seary’s excellent overview of recent literature about anthropology’s engagement with climate. This review originally appeared on Anthropology Report, has been reproduced here to give us a solid foundation for moving forward. Seary, a recent graduate from Hartwick College, currently lives in Brunswick, Maine. His research interests focus on the convergence of anthropology and climate change. Seary’s work has also been featured on PopAnth. –R.A.

Introduction: Anthropological Interventions

Since the 1960s, global climate and environmental change have been important topics of contemporary scientific research. Growing concerns about climate change have introduced a (relatively) new variable in climate change research: the anthropogenic causes of local-global climate and environmental change. Despite archaeologists providing some of the first research and commentary on climate change–a point that is explored in Daniel Sandweiss and Alice Kelley’s Archaeological Contributions to Climate Change Research: The Archaeological Record as a Paleoclimatic and Paleoenvironmental Archive–the field of climate and environmental change research has been predominantly studied by “natural scientists.” This is where Susan Crate’s Climate and Culture: Anthropology in the Era of Contemporary Climate Change in the 2011 Annual Review of Anthropology intervenes. Crate calls for anthropological engagement with the natural sciences (and vice versa) on global climate change discourse, with the intention of creating new multidisciplinary ethnographies that reflect all the contributors to global environmental change.

Crate’s review begins by stating that the earliest anthropological research on climate change was associated with archaeologists: most of whom studied how climate change had an impact on cultural dynamics, societal resilience and decline, and social structure. Anthropological and archaeological engagement with climate change revolved around how cultures attributed meaning and value to their interpretations of weather and climate. Archaeology has long been working on understanding the relationship between climate, environment, and culture. Historically, archaeologists have worked with “natural” scientists in the recovery of climate and environmental data pulled from archaeological strata (Sandweiss and Kelley 2012:372). Such works include Environment and Archaeology: An Introduction to Pleistocene Geography (Butzer 1964), Principles of Geoarchaeology: A North American Perspective (Waters 1992) and Environmental Archaeology: Principles and Practice(Dincauze 2000). The archaeological record incorporates not only stratigraphic data, but also proxy records. These records contributed to much larger paleoclimate and paleoenvironmental studies, including publications in general science literature like ScienceNature, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Sandweiss and Kelley 2012:372; see also the 2013 article in NatureContribution of anthropology to the study of climate change). Conversely, the work of “natural” scientists has also appeared in archaeological literature. Contemporarily, archaeologists have studied the impacts that water (or lack thereof) can have on human-environment interactions, through the study of soil and settlements drawing from case studies in Coastal Peru, Northern Mesopotamia, the Penobscot Valley in Maine, or Shetland Island.

Contemporary anthropological analysis of climate change usually focuses on adaptations towards local climate, temperature, flooding, rainfall, and drought (Crate 2011:178). Climate change impacts the cultural framework in which people perceive, understand, experience, and respond to the world in which they live. Crate believes that because of anthropologists’ ability to “be there,” anthropologists are well-suited to interpret, facilitate, translate, communicate, advocate, and act in response to the cultural implications of global (and local) climate change. Understanding the role that people and culture play in understanding land use changes is crucial to defining anthropology’s engagement with climate change. Anthropologists, as well as scientists from allied disciplines must engage in vigorous cross-scale, local-global approaches in order to understand the implications of climate change (Crate 2011:176).

Crate urges that anthropology use its experience in place-based community research and apply it to a global scale, while focusing on ethnoclimatology, resilience, disasters, displacement, and resource management. By studying people living in “climate-sensitive” areas, anthropologists can document how people observe, perceive, and respond to the local effects of global climate change, which at times can compromise not only their physical livelihood, but also undermine their cultural orientations and frameworks (Crate 2011:179). Anthropology is well positioned to understand the “second disaster,” or sociocultural displacement which follows the first disaster (physical displacement), as a result local environmental and climate change. Some of these “second disasters” include shifts in local governance, resource rights, and domestic and international politics (Crate 2011:180). These “second disasters” present yet another challenge to anthropology’s involvement with global climate change: that global climate change is a human rights issue. Therefore, anthropologists should take the initiative in being active and empowering local populations, regions, and even nation-states to seek redress for the damage done by climate change (Crate 2011:182) It is the responsibility of anthropologists working in the field of climate change to link the local and lived realities of environmental change with national and international policies.

In order to accommodate to the rapidly changing (human) ecology, anthropology is in need of new ethnographies that show how the “global” envelops the local, and the subsequent imbalance (environmental injustice/racism) that it creates during this process. Crate urgently calls for anthropologists to become actors in the policy process, utilizing a multidisciplinary, multi-sited collaboration between organizations, foundations, associations, as well as political think tanks and other scientific disciplines. Anthropology’s task at hand is to bridge what is known about climate change to those who are not aware of its impacts, in order to facilitate a global understanding of climate change and its reach (Crate 2011:184).

Crate’s “Climate and Culture” may not have been the first Annual Review article regarding climate change and anthropology, but it is certainly one of the most urgent and pressing. Crate became a member of the American Anthropological Association’s Global Climate Change Task Force. Their report released in January 2015 sets an ambitious agenda for anthropology and climate change. Crate’s article also became foundational for a thematic emphasis of the 2012 Annual Review of Anthropology, which featured seven additional articles on anthropology and climate change.

Politics of the Anthropogenic

Nathan Sayre’s Politics of the Anthropogenic continues where Crate’s Climate and Culture left off: at the advent of a new form of anthropology, one that utilizes an interdisciplinary approach towards understanding the human ecology in relation to global climate change. Sayre invokes a term which Crate did not use in her review article, but that seems to have increasing salience to anthropology: The Anthropocene. Notably, the idea of the Anthropocene and its relationship to anthropology was also the subject of Bruno Latour’s keynote lecture to the American Anthropological Association in 2014: Anthropology at the Time of the Anthropocene.

Sayre describes the Anthropocene as the moment in history when humanity began to dominate, rather than coexist with the “natural” world (Sayre 2012:58). What defines the Anthropocene as a distinct epoch or era is when human activities rapidly shifted (most often considered the Industrial Revolution) from merely influencing the environment in some ways to dominating it in many ways. This is evident in population growth, urbanization, dams, transportation, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and the overexploitation of natural resources. The adverse effects of anthropogenic climate change can be measured on nearly every corner of the earth. As a result of local environmental change and global climate change, humans, climate, soil, and nonhuman biota have begun to collapse into one another; in this scenario, it is impossible to disentangle the “social” from the “natural” (Sayre 2012:62). Sayre states that anthropology’s role, together with other sciences, in analyzing climate change in the Anthropocene is to understand that there is no dichotomy between what is considered natural and cultural. Understanding the fluctuations in the earth’s ecosystems cannot be accounted for without dispelling the ideological separation between the natural and the cultural. By adopting conceptual models of “climate justice” and earth system science, anthropologists and biophysical scientists can further dispel the archaic dichotomy of humanity and nature.

The atmosphere, the earth, the oceans, are genuinely global commons. However, environmental climate change and the subsequent effects are profoundly and unevenly distributed throughout space and time (Sayre 2012:65). Biophysically and socioeconomically, the areas that have contributed most to global climate change are the least likely to suffer from its consequences. Those who have contributed the least suffer the most. Anthropologists can play an important role in utilizing climate-based ethnography to help explain and understand the institutions that are most responsible for anthropogenic global warming–oil, coal, electricity, automobiles–and the misinformation, lobbying, and public relations behind “climate denialism” in the Anthropocene. This is the first step in seeking redress for the atrocities of environmental injustice.

Evolution and Environmental Change in Early Human Prehistory

Understanding climate change in the Anthropocene is no easy task, but as Richard Potts argues in Evolution and Environmental Change in Early Human Prehistory, humans have been influencing their environments and their environments have been influencing them well before the era that is considered the “Anthropocene.” Throughout the last several million years the earth has experienced one of its most dramatic eras of climate change, which consequently coincided with the origin of hominins. Homo sapiens represent a turning point in the history of protohuman and human life, because of their capacity to modify habitats and transform ecosystems. Now, approximately 50% of today’s land surface is reserved for human energy flow, and a further 83% of all the viable land on the planet has either been occupied or altered to some extent (Potts 2012:152).

Vrba’s turnover-pulse hypothesis (TPH) and Potts’s variability selection hypothesis (VSH) both serve as explanations for the correlation between environmental and evolutionary change. Vrba’s TPH focused on the origination and extinction of lineages coinciding with environmental change, particularly the rate of species turnovers following major dry periods across equatorial Africa. Potts’s VSH focused on the inherited traits that arose in times of habitat variability, and the selection/favoring of traits that were more adaptively versatile to unstable environments (Potts 2012:154-5). There are three ways in which environmental change and human evolution can potentially be linked. First, evolutionary events may be concentrated in periods of directional environmental change. Second, evolution may be elicited during times of rising environmental variability and resource uncertainty. Finally, evolution may be independent of environmental trend or variability (Potts 2012:155). The aforementioned hypotheses and subsequent links between evolution and environmental change help shed light on the origins and adaptations of Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthals. The anatomical, behavioral, and environmental differences between neanderthals and modern humans suggests that their distinct fates reflect their differing abilities to adjusting to diverse and fluctuating habitats (Potts 2012:160). Potts does an excellent job of stating that before the Anthropocene, early Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthals not only impacted and manipulate their surrounding environments, but were (genetically) impacted by their environments.

Sea Change: Island Communities and Climate Change

Heather Lazrus’s Annual Review article Sea Change: Island Communities and Climate Change returns to climate change in the more recent Anthropocene. For island communities, climate change is an immediate and lived reality in already environmentally fragile areas. These island communities, despite their seeming isolation and impoverishment, are often deeply globally connected in ways that go beyond simplistic descriptions of “poverty” and “isolated” (Lazrus 2012:286). Globally, islands are home to one-tenth of the world’s population, and much of the world’s population tends to be concentrated along coasts. Therefore both are subject to very similar changes in climate and extreme weather events. Islands tend to be regarded as the planet’s “barometers of change” because of their sensitivity to climate change (Lazrus 2012:287). Not only are islands environmentally dynamic areas, consisting of a variety of plants and animal species, but they also have the potential to be areas of significant social, economic, and political interest.

Madagascar: A History of Arrivals, What Happened, and Will Happen Next

Madagascar is a fascinating example of sociopolitical and ecological convergence, and is explored by Robert Dewar and Alison Richard in their Madagascar: A History of Arrivals, What Happened, and Will Happen Next. Madagascar has an extremely diverse system of human ecology that is nearly as diverse the island’s topography, environments, and climate. As a product of its physical diversity, the human ecology of Madagascar has a dynamic social and cultural history. In the Southwest, the Mikea derive significant portions of their food from foraging in the dry forest. Outside of most urban areas, hunting and collecting wild plants is common. Along the west coast, fishing is crucial as a central focus of the economy, but also as a supplement to farming. Farmers in Madagascar have a wide range of varieties and species to choose from including maize, sweet potatoes, coffee, cacao, pepper, cloves, cattle, chickens, sheep, goats, pigs, and turkeys (Dewar and Richard 2012:505). Throughout the island, rice and cattle are the two most culturally and economically important domesticates, and are subsequently adapted to growing under the local conditions of the microclimates of Madagascar. Semi-nomadic cattle pastoralism takes place in the drier regions of Madagascar. Whatever the environmental, climatic, social, or economic surroundings may be, Madagascar (as well as other islands) serve as local microcosms for climate change on the global scale. This relates to Crate’s call for an anthropology that brings forth the global array of connections (“natural”/ sociocultural) portraying local issues of climate change to the global sphere.

Ethnoprimatology and the Anthropology of the Human-Primate Interface

Agustin Fuentes’s main arguments in Ethnoprimatology and the Anthropology of the Human-Primate Interface focus on human-induced climate change and how it affects a vast amount of species, including the other primates (Fuentes 2012:110). By getting rid of the ideology that humans are separate from natural ecosystems and the animals within them, then anthropology can better grasp inquiries relating to global climate change within the Anthropocene. Fuentes then goes on to say (similarly to Crate and Sayre) that by freeing anthropological (and other scientific discourse) from the dichotomy of nature and culture, people will fully understand their relationship in the order of primates, but also their place within the environment. Our human capacity to build vast urban areas, transportation systems, and the deforestation of woodland all impact the local environments in which we live, and consequently gives humans an aura of dominance over nature. As Fuentes states, “at the global level, humans are ecosystem engineers on the largest of scales, and these altered ecologies are inherited not only by subsequent generations of humans but by all the sympatric species residing within them. The ways in which humans and other organisms coexist (and/or conflict) within these anthropogenic ecologies shape the perceptions, interactions, histories, and futures of the inhabitants” (Fuentes 2012:110). Essentially, Fuentes points out that humans have dominated ecosystems on a global scale; however, this has impacted not only human populations but also various plant and animals species, as well as entire ecosystems. It is only within the understanding of the symbiotic relationship between human/plants/animals/ecosystems that people will realize their impact on the environment on a global scale.

Lives With Others: Climate Change and Human-Animal Relations

In Lives With Others: Climate Change and Human-Animal Relations, Rebecca Cassidy ties together Fuentes’s arguments with Crate’s by demonstrating how climate change not only impacts people’s physical livelihood, but also their sociocultural lives. Cassidy states that people with animal-centered livelihoods experience climate change on many different levels, and subsequently, climate change may see those animals (or plants) become incapable of fulfilling their existing functions. Societies that are most frequently geopolitically marginalized often are left reeling from the impacts that climate change has on their social, political, economic, and environmental lives (Cassidy 2012:24). The impacts that climate change has on marginalized societies often affects their ability to live symbiotically and sustainably with other species. Human/animal “persons” are conceived to be reciprocal and equal, living in a symbiotic world system, in which their sustenance, reproduction, life, and death are all equally important. The extinction of particular species of animals and plants can cause cosmological crises, as well as disrupt the potential for future adaptability.

Cassidy’s claim that humans, animals, plants, and their environments are reciprocal and symbiotic ties in with Crate’s plea for an anthropology that rids itself of the old dichotomy of the natural and cultural. Crate’s idea for new ethnographies that consider the human ecology of climate change begin by utilizing what Lazrus calls Traditional Environmental Knowledge, or TEK. TEK is “a cumulative body of knowledge, practice, and belief, evolving by adaptive process and handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment” (Lazrus 2012:290). TEK utilizes the spiritual, cosmological, and moral practices that condition human relationships with their surrounding physical environments. Such ethnographies should reflect all of the potential contributors to climate change in the Anthropocene, but they should also infuse new urgency to anthropological approaches. As Crate states “anthropologists need to become more globalized agents for change by being more active as public servants and engaging more with nonanthropological approaches regarding climate change” (Crate 2011: 183).

As made evident by the work of Sandweiss and Kelley, anthropology has early roots in climate change research dating back to the 1960s. Since then, anthropology’s contribution to climate change research has been significant, and is now sparking a new generation of engaged anthropology in the Anthropocene.

Cannibal Metaphysics

synthetic zero

Cannibal Metaphysics
By Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

I once had the intention of writing a book that would have been something of a homage to Deleuze and Guattari from the point of view of my discipline; it would have been called Anti-Narcissus: Anthropology as Minor Science. The project was to characterize the conceptual tensions animating contemporary anthropology. From the moment I had the title, however, the problems began. I quickly realized that the project verged on complete contradiction, and the least misstep on my part could have resulted in a mess of not-so anti-narcissistic provocations about the excellence of the positions to be professed.

It was then that I decided to raise the book to the rank of those fictional works (or, rather, invisible works) that Borges was the best at commenting on and that are often far more interesting than the visible works themselves (as one can be…

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No escaping the Blue Marble (The Conversation)

August 20, 2015 6.46pm EDT

The Earth seen from Apollo, a photo now known as the “Blue Marble”. NASA

It is often said that the first full image of the Earth, “Blue Marble”, taken by the Apollo 17 space mission in December 1972, revealed Earth to be precious, fragile and protected only by a wafer-thin atmospheric layer. It reinforced the imperative for better stewardship of our “only home”.

But there was another way of seeing the Earth revealed by those photographs. For some the image showed the Earth as a total object, a knowable system, and validated the belief that the planet is there to be used for our own ends.

In this way, the “Blue Marble” image was not a break from technological thinking but its affirmation. A few years earlier, reflecting on the spiritual consequences of space flight, the theologian Paul Tillich wrote of how the possibility of looking down at the Earth gives rise to “a kind of estrangement between man and earth” so that the Earth is seen as a totally calculable material body.

For some, by objectifying the planet this way the Apollo 17 photograph legitimised the Earth as a domain of technological manipulation, a domain from which any unknowable and unanalysable element has been banished. It prompts the idea that the Earth as a whole could be subject to regulation.

This metaphysical possibility is today a physical reality in work now being carried out on geoengineering – technologies aimed at deliberate, large-scale intervention in the climate system designed to counter global warming or offset some of its effects.

While some proposed schemes are modest and relatively benign, the more ambitious ones – each now with a substantial scientific-commercial constituency – would see humanity mobilising its technological power to seize control of the climate system. And because the climate system cannot be separated from the rest of the Earth System, that means regulating the planet, probably in perpetuity.

Dreams of escape

Geoengineering is often referred to as Plan B, one we should be ready to deploy because Plan A, cutting global greenhouse gas emissions, seems unlikely to be implemented in time. Others are now working on what might be called Plan C. It was announced last year in The Times:

British scientists and architects are working on plans for a “living spaceship” like an interstellar Noah’s Ark that will launch in 100 years’ time to carry humans away from a dying Earth.

This version of Plan C is known as Project Persephone, which is curious as Persephone in Greek mythology was the queen of the dead. The project’s goal is to build “prototype exovivaria – closed ecosystems inside satellites, to be maintained from Earth telebotically, and democratically governed by a global community.”

NASA and DARPA, the US Defense Department’s advanced technologies agency, are also developing a “worldship” designed to take a multi-generational community of humans beyond the solar system.

Paul Tillich noticed the intoxicating appeal that space travel holds for certain kinds of people. Those first space flights became symbols of a new ideal of human existence, “the image of the man who looks down at the earth, not from heaven, but from a cosmic sphere above the earth”. A more common reaction to Project Persephone is summed up by a reader of the Daily Mail: “Only the ‘elite’ will go. The rest of us will be left to die.”

Perhaps being left to die on the home planet would be a more welcome fate. Imagine being trapped on this “exovivarium”, a self-contained world in which exported nature becomes a tool for human survival; a world where there is no night and day; no seasons; no mountains, streams, oceans or bald eagles; no ice, storms or winds; no sky; no sunrise; a closed world whose occupants would work to keep alive by simulation the archetypal habits of life on Earth.

Into the endless void

What kind of person imagines himself or herself living in such a world? What kind of being, after some decades, would such a post-terrestrial realm create? What kind of children would be bred there?

According to Project Persephone’s sociologist, Steve Fuller: “If the Earth ends up a no-go zone for human beings [sic] due to climate change or nuclear or biological warfare, we have to preserve human civilisation.”

Why would we have to preserve human civilisation? What is the value of a civilisation if not to raise human beings to a higher level of intellectual sophistication and moral responsibility? What is a civilisation worth if it cannot protect the natural conditions that gave birth to it?

Those who blast off leaving behind a ruined Earth would carry into space a fallen civilisation. As the Earth receded into the all-consuming blackness those who looked back on it would be the beings who had shirked their most primordial responsibility, beings corroded by nostalgia and survivor guilt.

He’s now mostly forgotten, but in the 1950s and 1960s the Swedish poet Harry Martinson was famous for his haunting epic poem Aniara, which told the story of a spaceship carrying a community of several thousand humans out into space escaping an Earth devastated by nuclear conflagration. At the end of the epic the spaceship’s controller laments the failure to create a new Eden:

“I had meant to make them an Edenic place,

but since we left the one we had destroyed

our only home became the night of space

where no god heard us in the endless void.”

So from the cruel fantasy of Plan C we are obliged to return to Plan A, and do all we can to slow the geological clock that has ticked over into the Anthropocene. If, on this Earthen beast provoked, a return to the halcyon days of an undisturbed climate is no longer possible, at least we can resolve to calm the agitations of “the wakened giant” and so make this new and unwanted epoch one in which humans can survive.

Laymert Garcia dos Santos: ‘Hoje, xamanismo é alta tecnologia de acesso’ (O Globo)

Doutor pela Sorbonne e estudioso dos ianomâmis, paulista que montou ópera com cosmologia indígena em Munique veio ao Rio para aula na EAV Parque Lage


Na oca do Parque Lage, Laymert capta energias ianomami Foto: Marcelo Carnaval / Agência O Globo

“Nasci numa cidade que mal conheço, Itápolis, mistura de pedra, (‘ita’), do guarani, e cidade (‘polis’), do grego: um pouco a essência brasileira. Estudei no Rio e passei décadas na França. Lecionei muitos anos no Brasil, trabalhando relações entre tecnologia, cultura, ambiente e arte. Sou casado, tenho um filho patologista”

Conte algo que não sei. 

Hoje, o que a gente considerava o sobrenatural indígena, o xamanismo, é uma alta tecnologia de acesso o a mundos virtuais, com lógicas que não são ocidentais, mas no final acabam chegando, cada vez mais, a uma espécie de cruzamento com a perspectiva tecnocientífica racional.

Em que ponto se dá esse cruzamento?

A ciência já sabe que existe, na Amazônia, um apocalipse anunciado, se a devastação persistir. Há um milênio os ianomâmis falam de um apocalipse mítico: quando não houver mais xamãs, o céu vai cair… pois são eles que seguram o céu, junto com os espíritos auxiliares humanimais.

As profecias convergem para a ecologia de ponta… 

Sim. E na ópera que fizemos essas duas perspectivas acabam convergindo para um final catastrófico. Na perspectiva ianomâmi, o homem branco é inumano, um vetor de destruição, e produz a xawara, espécie de fumaça canibal, que vai devorando florestas, espalhando as doenças e epidemias, contaminando rios.

Deve ser complexo transpor uma cosmologia dessas para os palcos de Munique…

Ficamos um tempo na aldeia Demini, semi-isolada, e trabalhamos com os xamãs, em parceria com o Instituto Goethe, o Sesc São Paulo, o ZKM (maior centro de arte e tecnologia da Europa), a Bienal de Teatro Música de Munique e gente da comunidade científica.

Como levar o espírito da aldeia a uma cena de ópera? 

Depois de todo o trabalho conceitual na aldeia, chegamos a uma encenação do conflito entre a xawara e o xamã. O público assistia circulando no próprio palco, um labirinto. O xamã era representado pelo cantor suíço Christian Zehnder, que já trabalhou na África e na Ásia e é um dos raros no mundo a usar a técnica do voice over, que permite emitir duas vozes ao mesmo tempo, recurso gutural. Quem fazia a xawara era um grande cantor de idade já, o inglês Phil Minton, cantor de jazz.

E tal da tecnologia,era só coadjuvante da tragédia? 

Num espaço comprid se dispunha uma sequência de telas, e eram projetadas imagens e luzes que traduziam os fenômenos da selvada através de algoritmos. O público ficava perdido na “floresta,” o xamã numa ponta, xawara na outra, além de um político, um missionário e um cientista.

Os ianomâmis assistiram?

A maioria, não. A ópera não foi feita para eles. Mesmo assim, foram a Munique o chefe Davi Kopenawa e dois xamãs.

E como reagiram? 

Primeiro, ficaram satisfeitos com o fato de um público tomar conhecimento, de maneira séria, do que são a cosmologia e o pensamento deles. O caráter estratégico. Mas da a apresentação em si eles riram: acham que arte é coisa de criança, não é o sentido profundo do fenômeno. Que aquela ópera era uma brincadeira perto do xamanismo. Um professor de filosofia percebeu aí uma simetria: os brancos acham os índios infantis por suas crenças, e eles nos acham infantis por nossas representações de sua realidade.

O que a experiência trouxe a você como pessoa?

Fui muitas vezes. Nos começo dos anos 2000 presidi uma ONG que lutou pela defesa e preservação do território ianomami. Estar com eles ajuda a gente a entender não só o que é o outro, mas o que somos. É um tipo de privilégio. Pena que pouca gente teve ou tem um contato de pura positividade com esse mundo que, para nós, é quase sempre vivido na esfera do negativo. Pela educação que a gente tem, pela tradição histórica do modo como os brasileiros tratam os índios. No Japão, seriam seres preciosos, sagrados.

Cortar emissões aumenta PIB (Observatório do Clima)


 O biodiesel é uma das tecnologias de mitigação propostas. Foto: Agência Brasil

O biodiesel é uma das tecnologias de mitigação propostas. Foto: Agência Brasil

Por Cíntya Feitosa, do OC – 

Relatório produzido por grupo de 80 especialistas indica que economia cresce quase 4% mais com políticas mais ambiciosas de redução de gases-estufa até 2030.

Se o governo brasileiro ampliar medidas de redução de emissões de gases de efeito estufa em sua economia, o país pode crescer mais e com menos desigualdades sociais em 2030. A conclusão é de um grande estudo realizado durante um ano por um grupo de 80 especialistas, sob coordenação do Fórum Brasileiro de Mudanças Climáticas.

Segundo o estudo, o PIB (Produto Interno Bruto) do país pode chegar a R$ 5,68 trilhões em 2030 se forem adotadas medidas adicionais de redução de emissões no cenário mais ambicioso. A cifra é 3,98% maior do que o PIB previsto se forem adotadas apenas ações de mitigação já em curso, do atual Plano Nacional de Mudanças Climáticas. Com as ações sugeridas pelo relatório, o país pode chegar a 2030 emitindo 1 bilhão de toneladas de gás carbônico equivalente (CO2e), 39% a menos que o estimado com a adoção de ações governamentais já previstas (1,6 bilhão de toneladas) e 25% menos do que o país emitia em 1990. No cenário menos ambicioso, a redução de emissões é de 5% em relação a 1990, as emissões chegam a 1,3 bilhão de toneladas e o PIB fica 3,91% maior do que sem medidas adicionais.

De acordo com o “IES Brasil: Implicações Econômicas e Sociais: Cenários de Mitigação de GEE 2030”, 75% do potencial de abatimento de emissões tem custo abaixo de US$ 20 por tonelada de CO2e. O setor com maior margem de redução de emissões é o de agricultura, florestas e uso da terra – que também é o setor que mais emite gases causadores do efeito estufa no Brasil. As medidas mais caras são as de mudança em infraestrutura urbana, como melhorias no sistema de transporte.

A taxa de desemprego também cai com os cenários de mitigação adicional – com mais medidas de redução de emissões do que o Plano Nacional de Mudanças Climáticas. A projeção é que, com a adoção de medidas mais ousadas do que as previstas, a taxa varie entre 3,5% e 4,08%, enquanto a taxa de acordo com o cenário projetado pelo governo deve ser de 4,35%.

“A nossa projeção considera que o governo vai reduzir o custo Brasil, aumentar a nossa produtividade, investir em educação e inclusão social”, ressaltou William Wills, coordenador de modelagem do IES Brasil. “Se o governo brasileiro fizer o que tem que ser feito, não são políticas mais ambiciosas de redução de emissões que vão reduzir o potencial de crescimento”, disse. Ele apresentou os dados nesta terça-feira, durante audiência pública na Comissão Mista de Mudança Climática do Congresso.



Os cenários de mitigação adicional preveem investimentos que variam entre R$ 164 bilhões, com adoção de medidas de baixo custo, e R$ 524 bilhões, contemplando medidas de maior custo, de 2015 e 2030. Em 2030, o valor investido poderia variar entre R$ 20,7 bilhões e R$ 82,9 bilhões – de 0,37% a 1,46% do PIB previsto para aquele ano.

Aumento de renda e poder de compra

O estudo também projeta um aumento de renda e poder de compra em todas as classes sociais. De acordo com o estudo, alguns setores produtivos em uma economia de baixo carbono – com menos emissões – empregam mais que os setores que emitem gases de efeito estufa. O relatório do IES Brasil destaca a oportunidade de geração de empregos no setor energético, em especial na produção de biomassa e biocombustíveis.

Se as negociações climáticas internacionais adotarem a taxação de carbono como medida de mitigação, a economia brasileira também pode ser beneficiada, de acordo com o estudo. Apesar de uma leve queda na projeção do PIB, a taxa de desemprego pode ser menor. Além disso, a imposição de uma taxa de carbono global pode beneficiar a indústria brasileira, que utiliza fontes mais limpas de energia, aumentando a competitividade no mercado.

Os técnicos responsáveis pelo relatório sugerem alocar a receita da taxa imposta aos setores que emitem mais gases de efeito estufa na desoneração da folha de pagamento dos que emitem menos, estimulando a criação de empregos. “É possível crescer economicamente, reduzir desigualdades e reduzir emissões, em todos os cenários estudados”, concluiu Wills. (Observatório do Clima/ #Envolverde)

* Publicado originalmente no site Observatório do Clima.

Micro biomes of human throat may be linked to schizophrenia (Science Daily)

Studying microbiomes in throat may help identify causes and treatments of brain disorder

August 25, 2015
George Washington University
In the most comprehensive study to date, researchers have identified a potential link between microbes (viruses, bacteria and fungi) in the throat and schizophrenia. This link may offer a way to identify causes and develop treatments of the disease and lead to new diagnostic tests.

In the most comprehensive study to date, researchers at the George Washington University have identified a potential link between microbes (viruses, bacteria and fungi) in the throat and schizophrenia. This link may offer a way to identify causes and develop treatments of the disease and lead to new diagnostic tests.

“The oropharynx of schizophrenics seems to harbor different proportions of oral bacteria than healthy individuals,” said Eduardo Castro-Nallar, a Ph.D. candidate at GW’s Computational Biology Institute (CBI) and lead author of the study. “Specifically, our analyses revealed an association between microbes such as lactic-acid bacteria and schizophrenics.”

Recent studies have shown that microbiomes — the communities of microbes living within our bodies — can affect the immune system and may be connected to mental health. Research linking immune disorders and schizophrenia has also been published, and this study furthers the possibility that shifts in oral communities are associated with schizophrenia.

Mr. Castro-Nallar’s research sought to identify microbes associated with schizophrenia, as well as components that may be associated with or contribute to changes in the immune state of the person. In this study, the group found a significant difference in the microbiomes of healthy and schizophrenic patients.

“Our results suggesting a link between microbiome diversity and schizophrenia require replication and expansion to a broader number of individuals for further validation,” said Keith Crandall, director of the CBI and contributing author of the study. “But the results are quite intriguing and suggest potential applications of biomarkers for diagnosis of schizophrenia and important metabolic pathways associated with the disease.”

The study helps to identify possible contributing factors to schizophrenia. With additional studies, researchers may be able to determine if microbiome changes are a contributing factor to schizophrenia, are a result of schizophrenia or do not have a connection to the disorder.

Journal Reference:

  1. Eduardo Castro-Nallar, Matthew L. Bendall, Marcos Pérez-Losada, Sarven Sabuncyan, Emily G. Severance, Faith B. Dickerson, Jennifer R. Schroeder, Robert H. Yolken, Keith A. Crandall. Composition, taxonomy and functional diversity of the oropharynx microbiome in individuals with schizophrenia and controlsPeer J, August 25th, 2015 [link]

‘Targeted punishments’ against countries could tackle climate change (Science Daily)

August 25, 2015
University of Warwick
Targeted punishments could provide a path to international climate change cooperation, new research in game theory has found.

This is a diagram of two possible strategies of targeted punishment studied in the paper. Credit: Royal Society Open Science

Targeted punishments could provide a path to international climate change cooperation, new research in game theory has found.

Conducted at the University of Warwick, the research suggests that in situations such as climate change, where everyone would be better off if everyone cooperated but it may not be individually advantageous to do so, the use of a strategy called ‘targeted punishment’ could help shift society towards global cooperation.

Despite the name, the ‘targeted punishment’ mechanism can apply to positive or negative incentives. The research argues that the key factor is that these incentives are not necessarily applied to everyone who may seem to deserve them. Rather, rules should be devised according to which only a small number of players are considered responsible at any one time.

The study’s author Dr Samuel Johnson, from the University of Warwick’s Mathematics Institute, explains: “It is well known that some form of punishment, or positive incentives, can help maintain cooperation in situations where almost everyone is already cooperating, such as in a country with very little crime. But when there are only a few people cooperating and many more not doing so punishment can be too dilute to have any effect. In this regard, the international community is a bit like a failed state.”

The paper, published in Royal Society Open Science, shows that in situations of entrenched defection (non-cooperation), there exist strategies of ‘targeted punishment’ available to would-be punishers which can allow them to move a community towards global cooperation.

“The idea,” said Dr Johnson, “is not to punish everyone who is defecting, but rather to devise a rule whereby only a small number of defectors are considered at fault at any one time. For example, if you want to get a group of people to cooperate on something, you might arrange them on an imaginary line and declare that a person is liable to be punished if and only if the person to their left is cooperating while they are not. This way, those people considered at fault will find themselves under a lot more pressure than if responsibility were distributed, and cooperation can build up gradually as each person decides to fall in line when the spotlight reaches them.”

For the case of climate change, the paper suggests that countries should be divided into groups, and these groups placed in some order — ideally, according roughly to their natural tendencies to cooperate. Governments would make commitments (to reduce emissions or leave fossil fuels in the ground, for instance) conditional on the performance of the group before them. This way, any combination of sanctions and positive incentives that other countries might be willing to impose would have a much greater effect.

“In the mathematical model,” said Dr Johnson, “the mechanism works best if the players are somewhat irrational. It seems a reasonable assumption that this might apply to the international community.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Samuel Johnson. Escaping the Tragedy of the Commons through Targeted PunishmentRoyal Society Open Science, 2015 [link]

California levees’ vulnerability (Science Daily)

August 25, 2015
Mississippi State University
With the ongoing extreme drought in California posing a threat to the state’s levee systems, there is an urgent need to invest in research regarding the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure under extreme climatic events. Experts warn that current drought conditions pose “a great risk to an already endangered levee system.”

A Mississippi State University assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering is the lead author on a letter published last week [Aug. 21] in Sciencemagazine.

Farshid Vahedifard, an MSU faculty member since 2012, is lead author on the letter titled “Drought threatens California’s levees.”

The letter discusses the threats that ongoing extreme drought poses on California’s levee systems and highlights an urgent need to invest in research regarding the vulnerabilities of these systems under extreme climatic events. Earthen levees protect dry land from floods and function as water storage and management systems, the letter states. Vahedifard points to a 2011 report by the California Department of Water Resources which says that over 21,000 kilometers of earthen levees deliver approximately two-thirds of potable water to more than 23 million Californians and protect more than $47 billion worth of homes and businesses from flooding.

However, current drought conditions pose “a great risk to an already endangered levee system,” the authors warn. Drought conditions — and particularly drought ensued by heavy rainfall and flooding — may cause similar catastrophic failures in California’s levee systems as seen in 2008 along river banks of the Murray River at the peak of Australia’s Millennium Drought and in 2003 in the Netherlands’ Wilnis Levee.

Vahedifard, who completed a second master’s degree and his doctoral work in civil engineering at the University of Delaware after completing previous academic work in Iran, said the commentary is important because there is very little information published about the effect of drought on the performance of critical infrastructures. The civil engineer who specializes in geotechnical engineering added that the National Levee Database shows that only around 10 percent of U.S. levees are rated as “acceptable,” with the rest being rated as “minimally acceptable” or “unacceptable,” indicating that the levee has a minor deficiency or the levee cannot serve as a reliable flood protection structure, respectively.

In California, a vast quantity of levee systems are currently rated as “high hazard,” meaning they are in serious danger of failing during an earthquake or flood event. This indicates that the resilience of these levee systems is a major concern without even considering the effects of the ongoing extreme drought, Vahedifard said. Prolonged droughts threaten the stability of levee systems by inducing soil cracking, increased water seepage through soil, soil strength reduction, soil organic carbon decomposition, land subsidence and erosion, he explained.

“When you have a marginal system, then you just need the last straw to create a failure,” Vahedifard said.

He began research related to climate change and its impact on critical infrastructure with his colleague AghaKouchak, a hydrologist, since 2013. They hypothesized that California’s current extreme drought will accelerate the ongoing land subsidence — or sinking. Recently, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology published a report that shows the Central Valley is undergoing an unprecedented subsidence period of as much as two inches per month in some locations. “This is exactly what we predicted, that this drought would lead to increased land subsidence,” Vahedifard said. The danger, he explained, is that it increases the risk of water rising over the top of the levees.

“At MSU, I have been working on quantitatively assessing the resilience and vulnerability of critical infrastructure to extreme events under a changing climate. While several large-scale studies have been conducted to evaluate various aspects and implications of climate change, there is a clear gap in the state of our knowledge in terms of characterizing uncertainty in climate trends and incorporating such findings into engineering practice for planning and designing critical infrastructure,” Vahedifard said.

“An improved understanding of the resilience of critical infrastructure under a changing climate indisputably involves many authoritative and complex technical aspects. It also requires close collaboration between decision makers, engineers, and scientists from various fields including climate science, social science, economics and disaster science. Community engagement and public risk education also are key to enhancing the resilience of infrastructure to climate change,” he added.

“The impacts of climate change on infrastructure pose a multi-physics problem involving thermo-hydro-mechanical processes in different scales. Further research can help communities and decision makers toward developing appropriate climate change adaptation and risk management approaches,” he said.

He emphasized that design and monitoring guidelines may need to be modified to ensure resilient infrastructure against extreme events under a changing climate.

Journal Reference:

  1. F. Vahedifard, A. AghaKouchak, J. D. Robinson. Drought threatens California’s leveesScience, 2015; 349 (6250): 799 DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6250.799-a

Urânio contamina água na Bahia (Estadão)

JC, 5246, 24 de agosto de 2015

Há 15 anos extração em única mina explorada na América Latina é feita pela Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil, estatal federal que sempre negava problema

Uma tampa de ferro cobre a boca do poço, no sítio de Osvaldo Antônio de Jesus. A proteção enferrujada tem um furo no meio. Abaixo dela, um reservatório com 90 metros de profundidade está cheio d’água. Osvaldo ergue a tampa e aponta o líquido, um bem precioso para quem vive por esses cantos de Lagoa Real, no sertão da Bahia. Por cerca de um ano, foi esse o poço que garantiu boa parte do consumo diário de sua família. Há poucas semanas, porém, nenhuma gota pôde mais ser retirada dali. Sua água está contaminada por urânio.

Veja o texto na íntegra:,uranio-contamina-agua-na-bahia,1748686

(André Borges e Dida Sampaio/O Estado de S.Paulo)

Artigos de pesquisadores do INPE diagnosticam as condições de seca no Sudeste (INPE)

JC, 5246, 24 de agosto de 2015

O texto foi publicado na versão online da revista Theoretical and Applied Climatology

Publicado na versão online da revista Theoretical and Applied Climatology, o artigo Precipitation diagnostics of an exceptionally dry event in São Paulo, Brazil apresenta um diagnóstico das condições de déficit de chuva observadas sobre o sudeste do Estado de São Paulo, incluindo sua região metropolitana, durante os dois últimos verões (2013/2014 e 2014/2015).

Segundo Caio Coelho, do Centro de Previsão do Tempo e Estudos Climáticos (CPTEC) do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE) e um dos autores do trabalho, o artigo responde a uma série de questões sobre a manifestação de eventos extremos de seca.

Os resultados obtidos pelos pesquisadores da Divisão de Operações do CPTEC/INPE revelam a excepcionalidade do déficit de chuva observado durante o verão 2013/2014, quando comparado a outros verões desde 1961/62, e que a região estudada vem sofrendo com déficit de chuva desde o final da década de 1990. Eventos de seca semelhantes foram observados no passado, porém de menor magnitude em termos de déficit de chuva. Um dos fatores que contribuiu para o déficit expressivo de precipitação durante o verão 2013/2014 foi o término exageradamente antecipado da estação chuvosa.

Outro trabalho do CPTEC/INPE publicado na versão online da revista Climate Dynamics, realizado em colaboração com pesquisadores da Universidade de São Paulo e Universidade Federal de Itajubá, destaca que a seca sobre o Sudeste durante o verão 2014 teve como raiz as condições de chuvas anômalas na região tropical ao norte da Austrália, desencadeando uma sequência de processos entre a região tropical e extratropical do oceano Pacífico, até atingir a região Sudeste do Brasil e oceano Atlântico adjacente.

Este trabalho, intitulado The 2014 southeast Brazil austral summer drought: regional scale mechanisms and teleconnections, revela o estabelecimento de um sistema anômalo de alta pressão sobre o oceano Atlântico adjacente aquecido, que forçou os sistemas frontais a realizar trajetórias oceânicas, favoreceu a manutenção do aquecimento oceânico através da incidência de radiação solar, transportou umidade da Amazônia para o sul do Brasil, e desfavoreceu a formação de eventos de Zona de Convergência do Atlântico Sul, um dos principais mecanismos de produção de chuva sobre a região Sudeste do Brasil.

Mais detalhes sobre os estudos na página:


Eduardo Viveiros de Castro: ‘O que se vê no Brasil hoje é uma ofensiva feroz contra os índios’ (O Globo)

Antropólogo lança livro ‘Metafísicas canibais’ e expõe fotografias na mostra ‘Variações do corpo selvagem’


Índio com filmadora de Viveiros de Castro no Alto Xingu, em 1976. – Divulgação/Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

RIO – Certa vez, ao dar uma palestra em Manaus, o antropólogo Eduardo Viveiros de Castro deparou-se com uma plateia dividida entre cientistas e índios. Enquanto apresentava suas teses sobre o perspectivismo ameríndio, conceito desenvolvido a partir da cosmologia dos povos com que estudou na Amazônia, notou que a metade branca da plateia ia perdendo o interesse. No fim da palestra, diante do silêncio dos cientistas, uma índia pediu a palavra para alertá-los: “Vocês precisam prestar atenção ao que o professor aí está dizendo. Ele está dizendo o que a gente sempre disse”.

A cena, relembrada por Viveiros de Castro em entrevista ao GLOBO, remete a uma das teses centrais de seu novo livro, “Metafísicas canibais” (Cosac Naify e n-1 Edições). O autor descreve-o como a “resenha” ou “sinopse” de uma obra que nunca conseguirá concluir e que se chamaria “O Anti-Narciso”. Nela, aproximaria filosofia e antropologia, Deleuze e Lévi-Strauss, para investigar a pergunta: “o que deve conceitualmente a antropologia aos povos que estuda?”. As culturas e sociedades pesquisadas pelos antropólogos, escreve, “influenciam, ou, para dizer de modo mais claro, coproduzem” as teses formuladas a partir dessas pesquisas.

Um dos mais influentes antropólogos hoje, autor de “A inconstância da alma selvagem” (Cosac Naify, 2002) e professor do Museu Nacional da UFRJ, Viveiros de Castro desenvolve em “Metafísicas canibais” suas ideias sobre o perspectivismo, formadas a partir de ideias presentes em sociedades amazônicas sobre como humanos, animais e espíritos veem-se a si mesmos e aos outros. Ele descreve a antropologia como uma forma de “tradução cultural” e pleiteia que seu ideal é ser “a teoria-prática da descolonização permanente do pensamento”. O que implica reconhecer a diferença e a autonomia do pensamento indígena: “não podemos pensar como os índios; podemos, no máximo, pensar com eles”.Os primeiros contatos de Viveiros de Castro com esse universo estão registrados nas fotografias que fez durante o trabalho de campo com os índios Araweté, Yanomami, Yawalapiti e Kulina, entre meados dos anos 1970 e início dos 1990. Parte dessas fotos será exibida pela primeira vez na exposição “Variações do corpo selvagem”, no Sesc Ipiranga, em São Paulo, a partir do dia 29 de agosto. Com curadoria da escritora e crítica de arte Veronica Stigger e do poeta e crítico literário Eduardo Sterzi, a mostra reúne ainda fotos feitas pelo antropólogo nos anos 1970, quando trabalhava com o cineasta Ivan Cardoso, mestre do gênero “terrir” e diretor de filmes como “O segredo da múmia” (1982) e “As sete vampiras” (1986).

Em entrevista por e-mail, Viveiros de Castro, de 64 anos, fala sobre o livro e a exposição e discute outros temas de sua obra e sua atuação pública, como a crise climática, abordada em “Há mundo por vir?” (Cultura e Barbárie, 2014), que escreveu com a filósofa Déborah Danowski, com quem é casado. Fala também sobre a resistência dos índios contra o “dispositivo etnocida” armado contra eles no Brasil, que mira “suas terras, seu modo de vida, os fundamentos ecológicos e morais de sua economia e sua autonomia política interna”.

Numa nota em “Metafísicas canibais”, você comenta que, sempre que expôs a ouvintes ameríndios suas teses sobre o perspectivismo, eles perceberam as implicações que elas poderiam ter para “as relações de força em vigor entre as ‘culturas’ indígenas e as ‘ciências’ ocidentais que as circunscrevem e administram”. Quais seriam essas implicações? O que interlocutores ameríndios costumam lhe dizer sobre o perspectivismo?

“Sempre que” é um pouco exagerado; dá impressão que eu faço tours de seminários sobre o pensamento indígena para ouvintes indígenas… Eu tinha em mente, naquela nota, uma ocasião em particular. Em 2006, a convite do Instituto Socioambiental, fiz uma palestra para uma plateia de cientistas do INPA, em Manaus, sobre as cosmologias amazônicas e as concepções indígenas da natureza da natureza, por assim dizer. Ao entrar na sala, descobri, com não pouca ansiedade, que apenas metade da plateia era composta de cientistas (biólogos, botânicos, pedólogos etc.) — e que a outra metade da sala estava cheia de índios do Rio Negro. Falar do que pensam os índios diante de uma plateia de índios não é exatamente uma situação confortável. Decidi então apresentar uma versão esquemática do que eu sabia a respeito do modo como o que chamei de “perspectivismo ameríndio” se manifestava nas culturas rionegrinas (povos Tukano e Aruaque, principalmente). No meio da palestra fui percebendo os cientistas cada vez menos interessados naquilo, e os índios cada vez mais agitados. Na hora das perguntas, nenhum cientista falou nada. Os índios, com sua cortesia habitual, esperaram os brancos presentes pararem de não dizer nada até que eles começassem a falar. Uma senhora então se levantou e, dirigindo-se à metade branca e científica da plateia, disse: “vocês precisam prestar atenção ao que o professor aí está dizendo. Ele está dizendo o que a gente sempre disse: que vocês não veem as coisas direito; que, por exemplo, os peixes, quando fazem a piracema (a desova) estão na verdade, lá no fundo do rio, transformados em gente como nós, fazendo um grande dabucuri (cerimônia indígena típica da região)”. E outro índio perguntou: “aquilo que o professor disse, sobre os morros da região serem habitados por espíritos protetores da caça, é verdade. Mas isso quer dizer então que destruir esses morros com garimpo e mineração é perigoso, não é mesmo? E não quereria dizer também que índio não pode ser capitalista?” Percebi, naquele confronto entre cientistas que estudam a Amazônia e os índios que vivem lá, que os primeiros estão interessados apenas no saber indígena que interessa ao que eles, cientistas, já sabem, isto é, àquilo que se encaixa na moldura do conhecimento científico normalizado. Os índios são “úteis” aos cientistas na medida em que podem servir de informantes sobre novas espécies, novas associações ecológicas etc. Mas a estrutura metafísica que sustenta esse conhecimento indígena não lhes dizia absolutamente nada, ou era apenas um ornamento pitoresco para os fenômenos reais. E os índios, ao contrário, se interessaram precisamente pelo interesse de um branco (eu) sobre isso. O que me deu muita coisa a pensar.

Mais geralmente, porém, tenho tido notícia da difusão lenta e episódica, mas real, de meus escritos (e os de meus colegas) sobre isso que chamei de “perspectivismo” junto a pensadores indígenas, ou muito próximos politicamente a eles, em outros países da América Latina (o livro foi traduzido para o espanhol, assim como diversos artigos de mesmo teor). Isso me alegra e, por que não dizer, envaidece muito. Mil vezes poder servir, com esses meus escritos aparentemente tão abstratos, à luta indígena pela autonomia política e filosófica que ser lido e comentado nos círculos acadêmicos — o que também não faz mal nenhum, bem entendido.

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro na Flip 2014 – Arquivo/André Teixeira/2-8-2014

No livro, você pergunta: “O que acontece quando se leva o pensamento nativo a sério?”. E continua: “Levar a sério é, para começar, não neutralizar”. Partindo destes termos, quais são as maiores ameaças de “neutralização” do pensamento indígena no Brasil hoje?

‘O que se pretende é transformar o índio em pobre, tirando dele o que tem — suas terras, seu modo de vida, os fundamentos ecológicos e morais de sua economia, sua autonomia política interna — para obrigá-lo a desejar consumir o que não tem.’


Neutralizar este pensamento significa reduzi-lo ao efeito de um complexo de causas ou condições cuja posse conceitual não lhes pertence. Significa, como escrevi no livro, pôr entre parênteses a questão de saber se e como tal pensamento ilustra universais cognitivos da espécie humana, explica-se por certos modos de transmissão socialmente determinada do conhecimento, exprime uma visão de mundo culturalmente particular, valida funcionalmente a distribuição do poder político, e outras tantas formas de neutralização do pensamento alheio. Trata-se de suspender tais explicações-padrão, típicas das ciências humanas, ou, pelo menos, evitar encerrar a antropologia nela. Trata-se de decidir, em suma, pensar o outro pensamento como uma atualização de virtualidades insuspeitas do pensamento em geral, o “nosso” inclusive. Tratá-lo como tratamos qualquer sistema intelectual ocidental: como algo que diz algo que deve ser tratado em seus próprios termos, se quisermos respeitá-lo e incorporá-lo como uma contribuição singular e valiosa à nossa própria e orgulhosa tradição intelectual. Só depois disso poderemos, se tal for nossa veleidade, anatomizá-lo e dissecá-lo segundo os instrumentos usuais da redução científica das práticas de sentido humano.

Mas sua pergunta acrescentava “no Brasil hoje”. No Brasil hoje o que se vê é muito mais que uma “neutralização do pensamento nativo”. O que se vê é uma ofensiva feroz para acabar com os nativos, para varrer suas formas de vida (e portanto de pensamento) da face do território nacional. O que se pretende hoje — o que sempre se pretendeu, mas hoje os métodos são ao mesmo tempo cada vez mais sutis e eficazes sem deixarem de ser brutais como sempre foram — é silenciar os índios, desindianizar todo pensamento nativo, de modo a transformar aquela caboclada atrasada toda que continua a “rexistir” (este é o modo de existência dos índios no Brasil hoje: a “rexistência”) em pobre, isto é, em “bom brasileiro”, mal assistencializado, mal alfabetizado, convertido ao cristianismo evangélico por um exército de missionários fanáticos, transformado em consumidor dócil do estoque infinito de porcarias produzidas pela economia mundial. Em suma: fazer do índio (os que não tiverem sido exterminados antes) um “cidadão”. Cidadão pobre, é claro. Índio rico seria uma ofensa praticamente teológica, uma heresia, à ideologia nacional. Para fazê-lo passar de índio a pobre, é preciso primeiro tirar dele o que ele tem — suas terras, seu modo de vida, os fundamentos ecológicos e morais de sua economia, sua autonomia política interna —‚ para obrigá-lo a desejar consumir o que ele não tem — o que é produzido na terra dos outros (no país do agronegócio, por exemplo, ou nas fábricas chinesas).

Como avalia o estado atual das mobilizações indígenas contra intervenções do Estado em seus modos de vida, como na região do Xingu, com a construção da usina de Belo Monte?

Os índios fazem o que podem. Estão lutando contra uma máquina tecnológica, econômica, politica e militar infinitamente mais poderosa do que eles. No caso de Belo Monte, já perderam. Mas não sem dar um bocado de trabalho ao “programa” que esse governo, cujo ódio estúpido aos índios só é comparável ao que se via nos sombrios tempos da ditadura, vai implantando a ferro e a fogo na Amazônia inteira, inclusive fora do Brasil. Mas a luta continua, e ainda tem muito índio disposto a resistir (a “rexistir”) ao dispositivo etnocida armado contra eles, no Mato Grosso do Sul, no Tapajós, no Xingu, no Rio Negro e por aí afora.

Você tem trabalhado com o conceito de Antropoceno (que já definiu como o momento em que “o capitalismo passa a ser um episódio da paleontologia”) para alertar sobre os efeitos destrutivos da ação humana sobre o planeta. O que precisa mudar no debate público sobre a crise climática?

Muito. Isso tudo vai descrito no livro que coautorei com a filósofa Déborah Danowski, “Há mundo por vir? Ensaio sobre os medos e os fins”, onde comparamos, de um lado, os efeitos já instalados e aqueles por vir da catástrofe ecológica desencadeada pela economia movida a combustíveis fósseis, e tudo o que vem com ela (inclusive o capitalismo financeiro e cognitivo), com os modos com que esse tema arquimilenar, o “fim do mundo”, vem sendo tematizado pela imaginação estética, política e mitológica de nossa própria civilização moderna, de outro lado. E por fim, tecemos considerações sobre como a “mudança de Era” (como dizem os camponeses nordestinos para se referir aos efeitos já palpáveis das mudanças climáticas) por que passamos hoje é pensada pelos índios, em suas mitologias e em sua prática ecopolítica concreta. Penso que as ciências humanas têm sido lentas em assumir que esta questão, que a palavra “Antropoceno” resume, é a questão mais grave e urgente da história humana desde o começo da era Neolítica, e que estamos entrando em uma situação inédita para a espécie como um todo. O debate na esfera pública tem sido laboriosamente mitigado, quando não silenciado, por uma poderosíssima máquina de propaganda financiada pelos principais interessados no status quo, a saber, as grandes corporações petroleiras e outras, como a Monsanto, a Nestlé, a Bunge, a Dow, a Vale, a Rio Tinto etc. Sem falarmos nos governos nacionais, meros instrumentos de polícia desses atores econômicos. Mas as coisas começam a mudar, devagar, mas mudando. Infelizmente, “devagar” é péssimo. Porque a aceleração dos processos de desequilíbrio termodinâmico do planeta marcha em ritmo crescente. O tempo e o espaço entraram em crise, escapam-nos por todos os lados. Hoje a luta política fundamental, a ser levada a nível mundial, é a luta pela liberação do espaço e do tempo.

Você afirma que o perspectivismo não é uma forma de relativismo cultural e, ao conceito corrente de “multiculturalismo”, contrapõe a noção de “multinaturalismo”. Quais são os problemas do relativismo cultural e como o multinaturalismo os evita?

‘O problema que se coloca não é o da “tolerância” (só os donos do poder são “tolerantes”), mas o da diplomacia’


O relativismo cultural é, ao menos como costumeiramente divulgado pela vulgata ideológica dominante, meramente a ideia de que existem várias opiniões sobre o mundo, o universo ou a “realidade”, mas que esta “coisa lá fora” (o mundo etc.) é uma só. Entre essas várias opiniões, há uma certa — a nossa, ou melhor, aquela que acreditamos ser a verdade cientifica (e 99,99% dos que acreditam nela não sabem em que estão acreditando). O resto é “cultura”, superstição, visões exóticas de gente que vive “fora da realidade”. Em relação a essa gente, podemos e até devemos mostrar um pouco de tolerância (afinal, são apenas opiniões, “visões de mundo”), devemos ser “multiculturalistas”. Mas a Natureza, com N maiúsculo, é uma só, e independe de nossas opiniões (exceto da minha, isto é, a da “Ciência” que nos serve de religião laica). O que chamei de “multinaturalismo” ou de “perspectivismo multinaturalista”, para caracterizar as metafísicas indígenas, supõe a indissociabilidade radical, ou pressuposição recíproca, entre “mundo” e “visão”. Não existem “visões de mundo” (muitas visões de um só mundo), mas mundos de visão, mundos compostos de uma multiplicidade de visões eles próprios, onde cada ser, cada elemento do mundo é uma visão no mundo, do mundo — é mundo. Para este tipo de ontologia, o problema que se coloca não é o da “tolerância” (só os donos do poder são “tolerantes”), mas o da diplomacia ou negociação intermundos.

Você defende uma concepção de antropologia como “descolonização permanente do pensamento”. Como ela pode fazer isso? Quais são os maiores impasses da disciplina hoje?

Vou responder rapidamente, ou os leitores não precisarão ler o livro… Trata-se de tomar o discurso dos povos que estudamos (os “nativos”, sejam quem forem) como interlocutores horizontalmente situados em relação ao discurso dos “observadores” (os “antropólogos”). O que a antropologia estuda são sempre outras antropologias, as antropologias dos outros, que articulam conceitos radicalmente diversos dos nossos sobre o que é o anthropos, o “humano”, e sobre o que é o logos (o conhecimento). Descolonizar o pensamento é explodir a distinção entre sujeito e objeto de conhecimento, e aceitar que só existe entreconhecimento, conhecimento comparativo, e que a antropologia como “estudo do outro” é sempre uma tradução (e uma tradução sempre equívoca) para nosso vocabulário conceitual do estudo do outro. O maior desafio vivido hoje pela antropologia é o de aceitar isso e tirar daí todas as consequências, inclusive as consequências políticas.

As fotografias reunidas em “Variações do corpo selvagem” remetem ao seu trabalho de campo com os Araweté, Yanomami, Yawalapiti e Kulina. Quais foram suas maiores descobertas nos encontros com esses povos?

Tudo o que eu escrevi sobre eles.

Kuyawmá se pintando com tabatinga para o javari. Aldeia Wauja, Alto Xingu, 1977.Foto: Divulgação/Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

Mapukayaka pinta Sapaim que pinta Ayupu. Aldeia Yawalapíti, Alto Xingu, 1977.Foto: Divulgação/Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

Combatente yawalapíti pinta-se para ritual do Javari, Alto Xingu, 1977.Foto: Divulgação/Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

Os Araweté assistindo a fime sobre eles, no Xingu, em 1992Foto: Divulgação/Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

Índio com filmadora do antropólogo em aldeia yawalapíti no Alto Xingu, em 1976.Foto: Divulgação/Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

Yuruawï-do no jirau da casa de farinha. Aldeia do médio Ipixuna, 1982.Foto: Divulgação/Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

Foto inédita do filme O Segredo da Múmia, de Ivan Cardoso. Floresta da Tijuca, 1981.Foto: Divulgação/Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

Anselmo Vasconcelos, Ivan Cardoso, Oscar Ramos e a múmia, em O Segredo da Múmia, de Ivan Cardoso,…Foto: Divulgação/Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

Hélio Oiticica como adepto de Dionísio. Filmagem de O Segredo da MúmiaFoto: Divulgação/Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

Wilson Grey e Felipe Falcão em O Segredo da Múmia, de Ivan Cardoso, 1981.Foto: Divulgação/Eduardo Viveiros de Castro


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California Drought Is Made Worse by Global Warming, Scientists Say (New York Times)

Visitors along the recessed shores of Beal’s Point in California’s Folsom Lake State Recreation Area. A new study has found that inevitable droughts in California were made worse by global warming. CreditDamon Winter/The New York Times 

Global warming caused by human emissions has most likely intensified the drought in California by 15 to 20 percent, scientists said on Thursday, warning that future dry spells in the state are almost certain to be worse than this one as the world continues to heat up.

Even though the findings suggest that the drought is primarily a consequence of natural climate variability, the scientists added that the likelihood of any drought becoming acute is rising because of climate change. The odds of California suffering droughts at the far end of the scale, like the current one that began in 2012, have roughly doubled over the past century, they said.

“This would be a drought no matter what,” said A. Park Williams, a climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and the lead author of a paperpublished by the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “It would be a fairly bad drought no matter what. But it’s definitely made worse by global warming.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also reportedThursday that global temperatures in July had been the hottest for any month since record-keeping began in 1880, and that the first seven months of 2015 had also been the hottest such period ever. Heat waves on several continents this summer have killed thousands of people.

Dry grassland south of the El Dorado Freeway near Folsom, Calif. The study credited human-caused climate change for between 8 percent and 27 percent of the state’s soil moisture deficit. CreditDamon Winter/The New York Times 

The paper on the California drought echoes a growing body of research that has cited the effects of human emissions, but scientists not involved in the work described it as more thorough than any previous effort because it analyzed nearly every possible combination of data on temperature, rainfall, wind speed and other factors that could be influencing the severity of the drought. The research, said David B. Lobell, a Stanford University climate scientist, is “probably the best I’ve seen on this question.”

The paper provides new scientific support for political leaders, including President Obama and Gov. Jerry Brown of California, who have cited human emissions and the resulting global warming as a factor in the drought. As he races around his battered state, from massive forest fires to parched farms, Mr. Brown has been trying to cajole the Republican presidential candidates into explaining what they would do about climate change.

“To say you’re going to ignore that there’s a huge risk here, the way we’re filling the atmosphere with heat-trapping gases, is folly, ignorance and totally irresponsible,” Mr. Brown said Thursday in a telephone interview. “And virtually the entire Republican Party in Congress is saying exactly that. It’s inexplicable.”

Several Republican presidential candidates, including Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio, do acknowledge that climate change poses risks, but they are skeptical of the way Mr. Obama has gone about trying to limit emissions, with a planexpected to force the shutdown of many coal-fired power plants.

Chris Schrimpf, a spokesman for Mr. Kasich, said Thursday that political leaders confronting questions about climate change “can’t stick their heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening. Instead we need to be about the business of taking action, but action that doesn’t throw the economy and jobs out the window at the same time.”

However, many of the leading Republican candidates are openly skeptical of climate science and play down the risks. In response to a letter from Mr. Brown asking about their plans, several of the candidates retorted last week that California should be building more dams to store water for future droughts. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said that “alarmists” about global warming were trying to gain “more power over the economy and our lives.”

report this week by researchers at the University of California, Davis, projected that the drought would cost the California economy some $2.7 billion this year. Much of that pain is being felt in the state’s huge farming industry, which has been forced to idle a half-million acres and has seen valuable crops like almond trees and grape vines die.

As climate scientists analyze the origins of the drought, they have been tackling two related questions: What caused the dearth of rain and snow that began in 2012? And, regardless of the cause, how have the effects been influenced by global warming?

The immediate reason for the drought is clear enough: For more than three years, a persistent ridge of high pressure in the western Pacific Ocean has blocked storms from reaching California in the winter, when the state typically gets most of its moisture. That pattern closely resembles past California droughts.

Some scientists have argued that the ocean and atmospheric factors that produced the ridge have become somewhat more likely because of global warming, but others have disputed that, and the matter remains unresolved.

On the question of the effects, scientists have been much clearer. Rising temperatures dry the soil faster and cause more rapid evaporation from streams and reservoirs, so they did not need any research to tell them that the drought was probably worse because of the warming trend over the past century. The challenge has been to quantify how much worse.

The group led by Dr. Williams concluded that human-caused climate change was responsible for between 8 and 27 percent of the deficit in soil moisture that California experienced from 2012 to 2014.

But, in an interview, Dr. Williams said the low number was derived from a method that did not take account of the way global warming had sped up since the 1970s. That led him and his colleagues to conclude that climate change was most likely responsible for about 15 to 20 percent of the moisture deficit.

Since 1895, California has warmed by a little more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit. That increase sounds small, but as an average over an entire state in all seasons, scientists say, it is a large number. The warmer air can hold more water vapor, and the result is that however much rain or snow falls in a given year, the atmosphere will draw it out of the soil more aggressively.

“It really is quite simple,” said Richard Seager, a senior climate scientist at Lamont and a co-author on the Williams paper. “When the atmosphere is as warm as it is, the air is capable of holding far more water. So more of the precipitation that falls on the ground is evaporated, and less is in the soil, and less gets into streams.”

Dr. Williams calculated that the air over California can absorb about 8.5 trillion more gallons of water in a typical year than would have been the case in the cooler atmosphere at the end of the 19th century. The air does not always manage to soak up that much, however, because evaporation slows as the soils dry out.

How much more California will warm depends on how high global emissions of greenhouse gases are allowed to go, but scientists say efforts to control the problem have been so ineffective that they cannot rule out another 5 or 6 degrees of warming over the state in this century, a level that could turn even modest rainfall deficits into record-shattering droughts.

For politicians like Mr. Obama and Mr. Brown, the emerging question is whether Americans will awaken to the risks and demand stronger action before emissions reach such catastrophic levels.

“I don’t think climate change is anywhere near the issue that it’s going to be, but the concern is rising in the public mind,” Mr. Brown said Thursday. “The facts can’t be concealed forever.”

Europe hit by one of the worst droughts since 2003 (Science Daily)

August 20, 2015
European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)
Much of the European continent has been affected by severe drought in June and July 2015, one of the worst since the drought and heat wave of summer of 2003, according to the latest reports.

Areas with the lowest soil moisture content since 1990 in July 2015 (in red) and in July 2003 (in blue). Credit: JRC-EDEA database (EDO). © EU, 2015

Much of the European continent has been affected by severe drought in June and July 2015, one of the worst since the drought and heat wave of summer of 2003, according to the latest report by the JRC’s European Drought Observatory (EDO). The drought, which particularly affects France, Benelux, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, northern Italy and northern Spain, is caused by a combination of prolonged rain shortages and exceptionally high temperatures.

Satellite imagery and modelling revealed that the drought, caused by prolonged rainfall shortage since April, had already affected soil moisture content and vegetation conditions in June. Furthermore, the areas with the largest rainfall deficits also recorded exceptionally high maximum daily temperatures: in some cases these reached record values.

Another characteristic of this period was the persistence of the thermal anomalies: in the entire Mediterranean region, and particularly in Spain, the heat wave was even longer than that of 2003, with maximum daily temperatures consistently above 30°C for durations of 30 to 35 days (even more than 40 days in Spain).

While sectors such as tourism, viticulture and solar energy benefited from the unusual drought conditions, many environmental and production sectors suffered due to water restrictions, agricultural losses, disruptions to inland water transport, increased wildfires, and threats to forestry, energy production, and human health.

Rainfall is urgently needed in the coming months to offset the negative impacts of the 2015 drought situation. The current seasonal weather forecast envisages more abundant rains for the Mediterranean region in September, but no effective improvement is yet foreseen for parts of western, central and eastern Europe.

California drought causing valley land to sink (Science Daily)

August 20, 2015
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
As Californians continue pumping groundwater in response to the historic drought, the California Department of Water Resources has released a new NASA report showing land in the San Joaquin Valley is sinking faster than ever before, nearly 2 inches (5 centimeters) per month in some locations.

Total subsidence in California’s San Joaquin Valley for the period May 3, 2014 to Jan. 22, 2015, as measured by Canada’s Radarsat-2 satellite. Two large subsidence bowls are evident, centered on Corcoran and south of El Nido. Credit: Canadian Space Agency/NASA/JPL-Caltech

As Californians continue pumping groundwater in response to the historic drought, the California Department of Water Resources has released a new NASA report showing land in the San Joaquin Valley is sinking faster than ever before, nearly 2 inches (5 centimeters) per month in some locations.

“Because of increased pumping, groundwater levels are reaching record lows — up to 100 feet (30 meters) lower than previous records,” said Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin. “As extensive groundwater pumping continues, the land is sinking more rapidly and this puts nearby infrastructure at greater risk of costly damage.”

Sinking land, known as subsidence, has occurred for decades in California because of excessive groundwater pumping during drought conditions, but the new NASA data show the sinking is happening faster, putting infrastructure on the surface at growing risk of damage.

NASA obtained the subsidence data by comparing satellite images of Earth’s surface over time. Over the last few years, interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) observations from satellite and aircraft platforms have been used to produce maps of subsidence with approximately centimeter-level accuracy. For this study, JPL researchers analyzed satellite data from Japan’s PALSAR (2006 to 2010); and Canada’s Radarsat-2 (May 2014 to January 2015), and then produced subsidence maps for those periods. High-resolution InSAR data were also acquired along the California Aqueduct by NASA’s Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) (2013 to 2015) to identify and quantify new, highly localized areas of accelerated subsidence along the aqueduct that occurred in 2014. The California Aqueduct is a system of canals, pipelines and tunnels that carries water collected from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Northern and Central California valleys to Southern California.

Using multiple scenes acquired by these systems, the JPL researchers were able to produce time histories of subsidence at selected locations, as well as profiles showing how subsidence varies over space and time.

“This study represents an unprecedented use of multiple satellites and aircraft to map subsidence in California and address a practical problem we’re all facing,” said JPL research scientist and report co-author Tom Farr. “We’re pleased to supply the California DWR with information they can use to better manage California’s groundwater. It’s like the old saying: ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’.”

Land near Corcoran in the Tulare basin sank 13 inches (33 centimeters) in just eight months — about 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) per month. One area in the Sacramento Valley was sinking approximately half-an-inch (1.3 centimeters) per month, faster than previous measurements.

Using the UAVSAR data, NASA also found areas near the California Aqueduct sank up to 12.5 inches (32 centimeters), with 8 inches (20 centimeters) of that occurring in just four months of 2014.

“Subsidence is directly impacting the California Aqueduct, and this NASA technology is ideal for identifying which areas are subsiding the most in order to focus monitoring and repair efforts,” said JPL research scientist and study co-author Cathleen Jones. “Knowledge is power, and in this case knowledge can save water and help the state better maintain this critical element of the state’s water delivery system.” UAVSAR flies on a C-20A research aircraft based at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center facility in Palmdale, California.

The increased subsidence rates have the potential to damage local, state and federal infrastructure, including aqueducts, bridges, roads and flood control structures. Long-term subsidence has already destroyed thousands of public and private groundwater well casings in the San Joaquin Valley. Over time, subsidence can permanently reduce the underground aquifer’s water storage capacity.

“Groundwater acts as a savings account to provide supplies during drought, but the NASA report shows the consequences of excessive withdrawals as we head into the fifth year of historic drought,” Director Cowin said. “We will work together with counties, local water districts, and affected communities to identify ways to slow the rate of subsidence and protect vital infrastructure such as canals, pumping stations, bridges and wells.”

NASA will also continue its subsidence monitoring, using data from the European Space Agency’s recently launched Sentinel-1 mission to cover a broader area and identify more vulnerable locations.

DWR also completed a recent land survey along the Aqueduct — which found 70-plus miles (113-plus kilometers) in Fresno, Kings and Kern counties sank more than 1.25 feet (0.4 meters) in two years — and will now conduct a system-wide evaluation of subsidence along the California Aqueduct and the condition of State Water Project facilities. The evaluation will help the department develop a capital improvement program to repair damage from subsidence. Past evaluations found that segments of the Aqueduct from Los Banos to Lost Hills sank more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) since construction.

NASA and the Indian Space Research Organisation are jointly developing the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission. Targeted to launch in 2020, NISAR will make global measurements of the causes and consequences of land surface changes. Potential areas of research include ecosystem disturbances, ice sheet collapse and natural hazards. The NISAR mission is optimized to measure subtle changes of Earth’s surface associated with motions of the crust and ice surfaces. NISAR will improve our understanding of key impacts of climate change and advance our knowledge of natural hazards.

The report, Progress Report: Subsidence in the Central Valley, California, prepared for DWR by researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, is available at: (14 MB)

Warming climate is deepening California drought (Science Daily)

Scientists say increasing heat drives moisture from ground

August 20, 2015
The Earth Institute at Columbia University
A new study says that global warming has measurably worsened the ongoing California drought. While scientists largely agree that natural weather variations have caused a lack of rain, an emerging consensus says that rising temperatures may be making things worse by driving moisture from plants and soil into the air. The new study is the first to estimate how much worse: as much as a quarter.

Drought in California. Credit: © Tupungato / Fotolia

A new study says that global warming has measurably worsened the ongoing California drought. While scientists largely agree that natural weather variations have caused a lack of rain, an emerging consensus says that rising temperatures may be making things worse by driving moisture from plants and soil into the air. The new study is the first to estimate how much worse: as much as a quarter. The findings suggest that within a few decades, continually increasing temperatures and resulting moisture losses will push California into even more persistent aridity. The study appears this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

“A lot of people think that the amount of rain that falls out the sky is the only thing that matters,” said lead author A. Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “But warming changes the baseline amount of water that’s available to us, because it sends water back into the sky.”

The study adds to growing evidence that climate change is already bringing extreme weather to some regions. California is the world’s eighth-largest economy, ahead of most countries, but many scientists think that the nice weather it is famous for may now be in the process of going away. The record-breaking drought is now in its fourth year; it is drying up wells, affecting major produce growers and feeding wildfires now sweeping over vast areas.

The researchers analyzed multiple sets of month-by-month data from 1901 to 2014. They looked at precipitation, temperature, humidity, wind and other factors. They could find no long-term rainfall trend. But average temperatures have been creeping up–about 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the 114-year period, in step with building fossil-fuel emissions. Natural weather variations have made California unusually hot over the last several years; added to this was the background trend. Thus, when rainfall declined in 2012, the air sucked already scant moisture from soil, trees and crops harder than ever. The study did not look directly at snow, but in the past, gradual melting of the high-mountain winter snowpack has helped water the lowlands in warm months. Now, melting has accelerated, or the snowpack has not formed at all, helping make warm months even dryer according to other researchers.

Due to the complexity of the data, the scientists could put only a range, not a single number, on the proportion of the drought caused by global warming. The paper estimates 8 to 27 percent, but Williams said that somewhere in the middle–probably 15 to 20 percent–is most likely.

Last year, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sponsored a study that blamed the rain deficit on a persistent ridge of high-pressure air over the northeast Pacific, which has been blocking moisture-laden ocean air from reaching land. Lamont-Doherty climatologist Richard Seager, who led that study (and coauthored the new one), said the blockage probably has nothing to do with global warming; normal weather patterns will eventually push away the obstacle, and rainfall will return. In fact, most projections say that warming will eventually increase California’s rainfall a bit. But the new study says that evaporation will overpower any increase in rain, and then some. This means that by around the 2060s, more or less permanent drought will set in, interrupted only by the rainiest years. More intense rainfall is expected to come in short bursts, then disappear.

Many researchers believe that rain will resume as early as this winter. “When this happens, the danger is that it will lull people into thinking that everything is now OK, back to normal,” said Williams. “But as time goes on, precipitation will be less able to make up for the intensified warmth. People will have to adapt to a new normal.”

This study is not the first to make such assertions, but it is the most specific. A paper by scientists from Lamont-Doherty and Cornell University, published this February, warned that climate change will push much of the central and western United States into the driest period for at least 1,000 years. A March study out of Stanford University said that California droughts have been intensified by higher temperatures, and gives similar warnings for the future.

A further twist was introduced in a 2010 study by researchers at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. They showed that massive irrigation from underground aquifers has been offsetting global warming in some areas, because the water cools the air. The effect has been especially sharp in California’s heavily irrigated Central Valley–possibly up to 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit during some seasons. Now, aquifers are dropping fast, sending irrigation on a downward trajectory. If irrigation’s cooling effect declines, this will boost air temperatures even higher, which will dry aquifers further, and so on. Scientists call this process “positive feedback.”

Climatologist Noah Diffenbaugh, who led the earlier Stanford research, said the new study is an important step forward. It has “brought together the most comprehensive set of data for the current drought,” he said. “It supports the previous work showing that temperature makes it harder for drought to break, and increases the long-term risk.”

Jonathan Overpeck, co-director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona, said, “It’s important to have quantitative estimates of how much human-caused warming is already making droughts more severe.” But, he said, “it’s troubling to know that human influence will continue to make droughts more severe until greenhouse gas emissions are cut back in a big way.”

Journal Reference:

  1. A.P. Williams et al. Contribution of anthropogenic warming to California drought during 2012–2014Geophysical Research Letters, 2015 DOI: 10.1002/2015GL064924

Brazil’s Mediums Channel Dead Artists. Is It Worship Or Just Delusion? (NPR)

AUGUST 12, 2015 4:39 AM ET

Valdelice Da Silva Dias Salum, 77, says she channels the spirits of famous painters to create her artwork.

Valdelice Da Silva Dias Salum, 77, says she channels the spirits of famous painters to create her artwork. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro/NPR

Unlike most art exhibitions, this one starts with a prayer.

A heavyset 77-year-old woman with girlishly pinned blond hair stands behind a table. An array of colored chalk and oil paints fan out in front of her. She puts her head in her hands and concentrates.

Her demeanor changes.

Then, to the sound of eerie music, she begins to draw. Her hands are nimble and decisive, and very quickly, something begins to take shape: a face with a bright green 19th century hat.

After 18 minutes and change — they timed it — she is finished. She signs the work, “Renoir.”

The woman who is painting is actually called Valdelice Da Silva Dias Salum.

She tells me spirits began manifesting themselves around her when she was a child. But it wasn’t until years later that it really began to get frightening, kind of like the movie Poltergeist. The TV would suddenly switch on; the radio would blare at full volume.

Salum drew this picture in 18 minutes and signed it "Renoir."i

Salum drew this picture in 18 minutes and signed it “Renoir.” Lourdes Garcia-Navarro/NPR

She says the spirits of long-dead painters were trying to make contact: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Degas.

Salum says she grew up poor and illiterate. She didn’t even know who these painters were. She says she had no artistic talent. But the spirits selected her.

All this might sound odd outside Brazil, but here it is fairly common and widely accepted.

Salum follows Spiritism, which is basically a religious offshoot of the 19th century practice of communicating with the dead via table-rapping and seances. Spiritism is hugely popular in Brazil, with more than 4 million followers.

Spiritists believe in Jesus’ Gospel, and in reincarnation. They believe that the dead can communicate with the living through mediums — and not only communicate, but create through the living, too.

“I don’t know what they are going to do and what they are going to paint,” Salum says. “I’m totally enveloped by them. I don’t have a sense of time passing.”

Unique Challenges

It’s not only paintings that get channeled.

At a Spiritist bookstore in downtown Sao Paulo, I’m shown five books — including one by famed Brazilian spiritist Divaldo Franco — that carry Victor Hugo’s name.

It’s a Saturday and the place is packed with readers and books. There are more than 220 Spiritist publishing houses in Brazil.

One of the star authors is Sandra Guedes Marques Carneiro. Her books have sold more than 250,000 copies. She writes romances — of a kind. Her latest is called Salome, and she tells me she thinks it’s a “sign” that I am interviewing her. The book is about a female journalist who travels to the war-torn Middle East and then comes to Brazil — kind of like me.

Carneiro emphasizes that the books are basically religious texts. The spirits are writing to try to bring about enlightenment and understanding to the earth. It makes the message more entertaining if it’s wrapped in a good love story.

Her spirit author, for the record, is called Lucius, and he has a huge following — so much so that other author mediums channel him as well.

Alexandre Marques edits and publishes the work of his wife, Sandra. He says this part of the publishing industry presents some unique challenges.

“We don’t have a way of commissioning books,” Marques says. “They come from the other side to us.”

Another difference from traditional publishing? Editing.

Surprisingly, Marques says it’s actually easier to edit a dead author than a living one. Apparently, the dead are less defensive about the integrity of their work.

“The spirits are easier going, actually,” he says.

Still, it’s a labor-intensive process. It is pretty difficult to get approval for your edits from a spirit.

“We send the suggested alterations to the medium,” Marques explains. “The medium consults the spiritual author. They answer if they agree or not.”

Spiritual Copyright

This all gets into some strange legal ground. There was a case in which the widow of a famous dead author sued a medium for royalties because he was supposedly channeling her dead husband’s spirit and writing new blockbusters.

We consulted a lawyer who’s an expert in spiritual copyright. Renata Soltanovich says that as long as the consumer who buys the work understands that it’s been channeled through a medium, it’s not fraud.

Salum says she created these paintings under the influence of the spirits of (from left) Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet.

Salum says she created these paintings under the influence of the spirits of (from left) Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro/NPR

Back at the painting exhibition, Salum is channeling another dead painter. I’m not an art critic, but the paintings, in my opinion, are not ready to be hung in the Louvre.

I ask her why her works don’t quite match the standard of some of the originals.

She explains it’s hard for the spirits to cross into the corporeal world.

“It’s because of my lack of knowledge,” she says. “They are using me as an instrument, but I am weak.”

In the end, she says, it’s all about faith.

Editorial: Fogo, índios e folclore (Folha de S.Paulo)


A notícia de que a Fundação Nacional do Índio (Funai) está financiando a viagem de um grupo de índios a Roraima a fim de realizar o “ritual da chuva” para combater o fogo mereceria ser tratada como uma anedota. Mereceria, não fosse ela o relato de um exemplo caricatural da inépcia que vem caraterizando a atuação do poder público brasileiro diante da devastação das reservas naturais e da pequena economia do Estado.

É um disparate que um órgão público como a Funai desperdice os seus poucos recursos dando chancela a crenças e práticas que só fazem sentido dentro do universo cultural dos índios. Isto é, se está considerando que não há hipótese de que algum funcionário da fundação realmente acredite que o ritual caiapó possa levar chuva para Roraima.

Considerações sobre o absurdo à parte, o que está em jogo é um problema que precisa ser enfrentado de modo racional, com o auxílio de conhecimentos científicos e o uso de tecnologia adequada. Embora a Funai não esteja nem de longe no centro do combate ao fogo, a atitude da fundação parece, no entanto, ser equivalente à de um ministro da Saúde que resolvesse agora recorrer ao poder dos pajés para combater a expansão da dengue ou da malária.

A atitude da Funai dá tintas lamentavelmente folclóricas a uma série de negligências e irresponsabilidades que contribuíram para agravar a catástrofe ambiental em Roraima.

O governo federal demorou muito a agir, apesar de ter sido alertado há meses para a existência do problema. Recusou a ajuda internacional, mostrando desconhecer a gravidade do incêndio. Agora, ao nacionalismo injustificado, que, seja dito, ainda parece imperar em amplos setores das Forças Armadas, vem se somar o primitivismo da Funai, que no episódio infelizmente se inspira mais na magia do que na ciência.

*   *   *

Ianomâmis afirmam que a fundação deveria usar os pajés locais e não caiapós, como será feito
Funai “importa’ índios para dança da chuva (Folha de S.Paulo)

da Agência Folha, em Boa Vista

São Paulo, segunda, 30 de março de 1998

Lideranças indígenas de Roraima criticaram ontem a Funai (Fundação Nacional do Índio) por se valer de supostos poderes sobrenaturais de dois pajés e duas crianças da etnia caiapó para fazer chover na região.

A equipe para celebrar o “ritual da chuva”, liderada pelo cacique Mengaron, estava sendo aguardada ontem em Boa Vista por funcionários da Funai. Hoje ou amanhã, a equipe será transportada de avião à reserva ianomâmi.

“Não faz sentido gastar dinheiro público com algo um tanto absurdo, quando a estiagem e o fogo estão deixando os índios sem ter o que comer”, disse Adalberto Silva, 39, vice-presidente do CIR (Conselho Indígena de Roraima).

Silva diz que teria sido melhor se a Funai tivesse comprado comida ou remédio com a verba que será gasta com a equipe do “ritual da chuva”. “O Mengaron é um funcionário da Funai e certamente os outros também são e moram em Brasília”, disse o diretor do CIR.

A decisão da Funai deixou perplexos os ianomâmis, que têm seus próprios xaboris (pajés). “Nós não vamos entender xabori caiapó, porque caiapó é uma nação diferente”, disse João Davi, 36, líder da aldeia Papiú Novo (a 285 km de Boa Vista). “Não entendemos por que vão trazer crianças.”

Davi, que está sendo iniciado como pajé, disse que sua etnia faz rituais durante os quais recorre aos “espíritos da natureza” para fazer chover. “A Funai quer aparecer à custa de nosso sofrimento. A gente nem sabia que iam fazer isso.”

“Ainda pedimos aos espíritos para mandar chuva. A Funai podia reunir os xaboris ianomâmis num mesmo lugar, e não trazer de uma nação diferente”, disse.

O administrador da Funai, Walter Blos, considerou “natural” a realização do “ritual da chuva”. O chefe da Operação Ianomâmi, Marcos Vinícius Ferreira, 30, diz que a sugestão de fazer chover em Roraima teria sido de Mengaron. “Decidimos facilitar essa ajuda espiritual aos ianomâmis”, disse.

O Exército também estuda fazer chover, mas usando técnicas científicas. A 1ª Brigada de Infantaria de Selva pediu à Funceme (Fundação Cearense de Meteorologia) um técnico para avaliar a possibilidade de provocar chuva na região.

A assessoria de comunicação da brigada informou que o representante da fundação deve chegar durante a semana. De acordo com a brigada, a Funceme é conhecida no Nordeste por suas técnicas de bombardeamento de nuvens para provocar chuva.

Alarme falso
Ontem, às 18h50 (horário local, 19h50 no horário de Brasília), choveu em Boa Vista por cerca de dois minutos. A chuva chegou a animar alguns pedestres e motoristas que estavam na rua.

Cinco pessoas que viajavam na caçamba de uma camionete em frente ao Palácio do Governo, gritaram “Viva! Olha a chuva!”.

Alguns pedestres aplaudiram, e alguns motoristas buzinaram. Mas a alegria durou pouco. A quantidade de chuva não possibilitou nem mesmo a formação de poças ou de enxurrada.

A água da chuva apenas deixou marcas esparsas sobre o chão e as capotas dos carros. O céu continua encoberto, como está há alguns dias devido à fumaça dos incêndios que cobre Boa Vista.

Hoje deve chegar a Roraima o deputado federal Fernando Gabeira (PV-SP), membro da comissão de meio ambiente da Câmara.

*   *   *

O saber e a pose (Folha de S.Paulo)

Os índios são no Brasil de hoje um dos últimos redutos de uma espiritualidade autêntica



Escrevendo na Folha, uma cientista social (ah, como é rico em cientistas sociais este Brasil!) explica-nos que a eficácia dos ritos indígenas para produzir chuva é um resultado do consenso social. Não é maravilhoso? Pressionadas pela opinião pública, as nuvens fazem pipi de medo. Já a “Veja”, com seu característico ar de menininho primeiro da classe, alerta contra o ressurgimento das crendices, como se fosse muito mais  racional e científico acreditar na “Veja” do que nos pajés de Roraima.

Da minha parte, não me lembro de jamais ter acreditado piamente numa única linha dessa revista. Não vai nisso nenhuma ofensa aos coleguinhas: um jornalismo saudável não dá por pressuposta a sua própria infalibilidade, sobretudo em assuntos tão estranhos à mente jornalística como o é a arte de fazer chover.

Havendo motivos de sobra para duvidar de que citadinos incapazes de extrair um pingo d’água de um coco seco tenham grande autoridade para opinar em questões de pluviosidade ritual, parece-me que as classes falantes têm oferecido ao público, no que dizem da chuva que salvou Roraima, um triste espetáculo de ignorância presunçosa.

Enquanto os pajés davam com modéstia exemplar um show de eficiência e poder, os ditos civilizados procuravam esconder sua vergonhosa impotência por trás de pedantismos verbais, recriminações mútuas, acusações ao “governo ladro” que não produz chuva e, “last but not least”, despeitadíssimas tentativas de diminuir e aviltar o grande feito dos dois admiráveis sacerdotes.

Mas que mais poderiam fazer? Que entende de diálogos com o céu essa gente imersa na “completa terrestrialidade e mundanização do pensamento” preconizada por Antônio Gramsci?

A “Veja”, por exemplo, está tão longe do assunto que, quando fala de “renascimento da fé”, não entende por essa expressão nada mais que um fenômeno de marketing. Crendice, no sentido rigoroso do termo, seria acreditar que mentalidades lacradas na atualidade jornalística mais compressiva, incapazes de desligar-se mesmo hipoteticamente dos preconceitos contemporâneos, pudessem nos ensinar alguma coisa sobre o supratemporal e o eterno.

Para quem enxerga alguma coisa nesses domínios, há uma diferença abissal entre o mero “sentimento religioso”, fato imanente à psique humana, e o ato espiritual propriamente dito, cujo alcance se prolonga para muito além dos limites da subjetividade individual ou coletiva e chega a tocar um outro plano de existência, que nem por invisível é menos real e objetivo do que este mundo nosso de pedra e sangue.

Uma das mais notórias ilustrações dessa distinção é, precisamente, a diferença entre a pura força auto-hipnótica da sugestão coletiva e o efeito físico que certas preces e ritos determinam sobre a natureza em torno, imune, por definição, às flutuações da opinião pública.

Em última instância, como já ensinava o episódio de Moisés ante os magos do Egito, é o domínio sobre o mundo físico que atesta a diferença entre o carisma em sentido estrito – dom de Deus e poder espiritual autêntico – e o “carisma” em sentido sociológico, redutivo e caricatural, vulgar atração mútua entre as massas e seu ídolo.

Mas essa diferença é, por definição, invisível à mentalidade radicalmente mundanizada das classes falantes, um clero leigo empenhado em tampar o céu para que, na escuridão resultante, sua potência iluminista de meio watt pareça um verdadeiro sol.

Eis por que essas pessoas chegam ao supremo ridículo de atribuir o efeito dos ritos sobre a natureza ao funcionamento imanente da psique e da sociedade, como se árvores e nuvens, bichos e galáxias fossem regidos pelas leis da nossa vã sociologia. Explicar o objeto pelo sujeito, o transcendente pelo imanente é o mesmo que conferir às leis da eletrotelefonia o poder de determinar o que se diz numa conversa telefônica.

Mas, na ânsia de negar, o orgulho moderno não hesita em afundar no ilogismo mais estúpido. O apego à modernidade científica torna-se, então, uma crendice supersticiosa que faz um sujeito regredir à noite dos tempos e pensar como um neandertalóide.

Não, caros intelectuais, vocês não têm nenhuma explicação válida para a chuva produzida em Roraima pelas preces dos dois pajés, e o ar de superioridade fingida com que falam do que não entendem só mostra que sua ciência é bem menos confiável que a deles.

Certas tribos brasileiras conservam uma intensidade de vida religiosa e o domínio de conhecimentos espirituais que de há muito se tornaram, para a intelectualidade citadina, misteriosos e incompreensíveis. Os índios não fazem mistério algum em torno desses conhecimentos, assim como os santos da igreja, os gurus vedantinos, os grandes mestres do budismo. É a malícia temerosa do observador que torna obscuro e ameaçador o luminoso e evidente e que, não suportando a luz, busca reduzi-la à refração das suas próprias trevas.

Malgrado o empobrecimento de suas culturas, os índios são no Brasil de hoje um dos últimos redutos de uma espiritualidade autêntica, feita de um conhecimento que é objetividade, simplicidade e poder; nada tem a ver com o misto de sentimentalismo e exaltação ideológica apresentado como a única religião possível por uma pseudociência cega e pretensiosa, por todo um cortejo desprezível de padrecos e acadêmicos incapazes de enxergar além das paredes do poço gnosiológico em que se enfurnam.

Se os dois pajés fizeram o que a gente da cidade não pôde fazer, o mais elementar bom senso aconselharia admitir a hipótese de que sabem algo que ela não sabe. Se ela exclui essa hipótese “in limine” e ainda fala deles com despeito, isso, além de constituir uma ingratidão para com benfeitores – um dos “cinco pecados que bradam aos céus”, segundo a Bíblia -, é um vexame intelectual que ilustra de maneira especialmente eloquente a distância invencível que existe entre o saber e a pose.

EUA apresentam programa mais ambicioso de sua História contra as mudanças climáticas (O Globo)

Obama anuncia o Plano Energia Limpa, para reduzir emissões em usinas termelétricas e incentivar uso de fontes renováveis


03/08/2015 6:00

Alvo. Usina termelétrica em Nova York: projeto apresentado por Obama obrigará instalações a acelerarem desenvolvimento em fontes de energia renováveis, como a eólica e a solar; – LUKE SHARRETT / NYT

WASHINGTON – Na investida mais forte já tomada pelos EUA para combater as mudanças climáticas, o presidente Barack Obama apresentará hoje o Plano de Energia Limpa, uma série de medidas concebidas para reduzir drasticamente as emissões de usinas termelétricas, substituindo o uso de combustíveis fósseis por fontes renováveis, como a eólica e a solar.

O plano será uma visão final e mais ambiciosa dos regulamentos esboçados em 2012 e 2014 pela Agência de Proteção Ambiental (EPA, na sigla em inglês) do país. O novo regulamento pode culminar no fechamento de usinas de energia movidas a carvão, que ainda movimentam uma fatia significativa da economia americana.

Obama elegeu o combate às mudanças climáticas como uma prioridade em seu segundo mandato à frente da Casa Branca. Em um vídeo postado na madrugada de domingo na conta da Casa Branca no Facebook, ele avaliou que o clima afeta a “economia, a segurança e a saúde”.

“Todos os desastres estão se tornando mais frequentes, caros e perigosos. As mudanças climáticas não são um problema para outra geração. Não mais”, ressaltou, enquanto o vídeo exibia uma foto de sua família.

O presidente destacou que, até agora, o governo americano nunca impôs limites para a quantidade de carbono emitida pelas usinas termelétricas.

O plano exige que as usinas termelétricas reduzam em 32% suas emissões até 2030, em relação aos níveis medidos em 2005. No rascunho do plano, este índice era de 30%.

Outra novidade é a imposição de que as usinas acelerem a transição para energias renováveis, aumentando de 22% para 28% o uso das fontes que não emitem carbono na atmosfera.

Os climatologistas alertam que a atual emissão de gases-estufa está levando o planeta à escalada da temperatura média global para mais de 2 graus Celsius, deixando-o vulnerável à ocorrência de eventos extremos, como a elevação do nível do mar, tempestades devastadoras e estiagens.


Os novos mandamentos de Obama não serão suficientes para tirar o planeta do caos climático. Os cientistas, no entanto, avaliam que é possível evitar uma catástrofe. Para isso, regras semelhantes às propostas pelo presidente americano devem ser adotadas por governantes de outros grandes países poluidores, como a Índia e a China. E o sucessor de Obama deve ser ainda mais intolerante com os gases-estufa, aprimorando o projeto divulgado hoje.

Obama pretende usar seu novo plano para pressionar outros países a assumirem metas ambiciosas para reduzir suas emissões de carbono. De acordo com o Painel Intergovernamental de Mudanças Climáticas, todas as nações devem apresentar compromissos voluntários sobre seus cortes de emissões nos próximos meses. Os documentos, então, serão discutidos em dezembro na Conferência do Clima de Paris, um encontro de chefes de Estado de todo o mundo que discutirão um acordo global contra as mudanças do clima.

Os primeiros passos do presidente americano foram traçados ainda no ano passado, em Pequim. Obama anunciou que os EUA cortariam a emissão de gases-estufa em 28% até 2025, em relação aos níveis de 2005. Já o mandatário chinês, Xi Jinping, afirmou que o país atingiria o pico da liberação de carbono até, no máximo, 2030. Somados, os países são responsáveis por 45% das emissões de poluentes no planeta.

— (O Plano de Energia Limpa) é um sinal do esforço interno do governo e de seu esforço internacional contra as mudanças climáticas — avaliou Durwood Zaelke, presidente do Instituto para Governança e Desenvolvimento Sustentável. — É um passo diplomático relevante dos EUA nos últimos meses antes da Conferência de Paris. Isso pode servir como alavanca para as outras grandes economias: China, Índia, Brasil, África do Sul, Indonésia.

Opositores do projeto o classificam como um instrumento que aumentará o desemprego, o preço do consumo de energia e a pressão sobre a credibilidade das usinas de energia. Governadores republicanos classificam o plano como uma intromissão do governo federal em assuntos econômicos que não estão em sua esfera.

A Casa Branca rebate as acusações. Segundo o governo, o novo plano levará a uma economia familiar anual de US$ 85 no consumo de energia e trará benefícios à saúde, como a redução dos poluentes que causam asma — cuja incidência mais do que duplicou nos últimos 30 anos — e doenças pulmonares. Obama assegura que considerou os argumentos de seus adversários políticos e, por isso, aumentou em dois anos, até 2022, o prazo para o corte almejado das emissões.


Em um encontro na Alemanha em junho, os líderes do G7 concordaram que as emissões de gases de efeito estufa devem ser zeradas até o fim do século. Para isso, a liberação de poluentes deveria ser reduzida de 40% a 70% até 2050, em relação aos níveis de 2010.

Os chefes de Estado das sete nações mais ricas do mundo também garantiram que doarão US$ 100 bilhões por ano, até 2020, para ajudar as nações mais pobres do planeta a desenvolver tecnologia para mitigação e adaptação contra as mudanças climáticas — a prioridade seria os países africanos e insulares, que receberiam US$ 400 milhões para criar sistemas de alerta precoce que prevenissem sua população de eventos extremos. A iniciativa, porém, não é nova. O Fundo Verde, como atende o programa, foi criado em 2009, mas jamais saiu do papel.

O Brasil também já anunciou sua primeira ação. Em visita à Casa Branca em julho, a presidente Dilma Rousseff analisou a restauração de 12 milhões de hectares degradados até 2030.

Protocolo de Paris será maior acordo climático do mundo com 190 signatários (Agência Brasil)

01/08/2015 08h36

Alana Gandra – Repórter da Agência Brasil

A pouco mais de 100 dias para o início da 21ª Conferência das Partes da Convenção das Nações Unidas sobre Mudança do Clima (COP21), que ocorrerá entre 30 de novembro e 11 de dezembro próximo, em Paris, na França, a perspectiva é de assinatura do maior acordo climático do mundo. O Protocolo de Paris vai substituir o Protocolo de Kyoto, que entrou em vigor em fevereiro de 2005. Mas ao contrário do acordo anterior, que tinha metas específicas para um grupo de menos de 40 países desenvolvidos, o Protocolo de Paris será um acordo global que envolverá mais de 190 países que fazem parte da Convenção do Clima da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU).

Para o coordenador do Observatório do Clima, rede de organizações não governamentais (ONGs) e movimentos sociais que atuam na agenda climática brasileira, André Ferretti, a realidade do mundo mudou bastante de lá para cá. “Muitos países que naquela época tinham um papel bem menor nas emissões globais assumiram posições de mais emissões – como a China – e a economia dos países emergentes evoluiu na economia global em relação ao que ocorria nos anos de 1990. Isso por si só já exige novas formas de tratar da questão”, disse.

O novo acordo será uma espécie de guia de desenvolvimento para o futuro. Ferretti explicou que, por mais que se trate o protocolo como uma discussão ambiental, ele é, na verdade, uma discussão de desenvolvimento, já que vai estabelecer parâmetros para os países signatários seguirem durante as próximas décadas, “até a metade do século, pelo menos”. O intuito é estabilizar as emissões de gases de efeito estufa (GEE), “para que, ao final do século, não ultrapasse aquecimento superior a 2 graus Celsius (°C) em relação ao que havia no período pré-industrial”.

O coordenador do Observatório do Clima disse que a temperatura da Terra já subiu cerca de 0,8% desde a revolução industrial até hoje. “Estamos falando de um máximo de 1,2 graus. Acima disso, as consequências poderiam ser desastrosas para a humanidade”. Cientistas alertam que nem a espécie humana, nem muitas espécies de animais e plantas passaram por uma temperatura média tão alta. “Então, os riscos são muito maiores”.

Por essa razão, Ferretti afirmou que os países precisam entrar em um acordo. Eles devem apontar medidas domésticas que pretendem colocar em prática para um horizonte de curto prazo, entre 2025 e 2030 e, depois, para um horizonte mais longo, até 2050. A ONU estabeleceu o prazo até 1º de outubro para que os países apresentem suas propostas de redução das emissões de GEE, que constituem a principal causa do aquecimento global. Poucos países encaminharam suas propostas até agora, entre eles estão Noruega, Gabão, Suíça, México e Estados Unidos.

O Brasil, segundo Ferretti, está atrasado no envio de suas metas porque, embora o prazo final seja o início de outubro, havia uma solicitação formal do secretariado da Convenção do Clima para que as propostas fossem enviadas até o final de março, para facilitar a evolução das negociações, uma vez que as propostas terão de ser traduzidas para as seis línguas oficiais da ONU (inglês, francês, espanhol, árabe, chinês e russo). Além disso, o esforço de cada país pode ser apresentado em bases distintas umas das outras e ele terá de ser colocado em uma mesma base, para ver o que a população global pretende fazer. “Se o Brasil e outros países deixarem para outubro, corre-se o risco de se chegar no dia 30 de novembro com esses números [de emissões] ainda não muito claros”.

Na avaliação do Observatório do Clima, o Brasil – que esteve sempre na liderança nas negociações internacionais de clima, desde a assinatura da Convenção do Clima, em 1992, no Rio de Janeiro, durante a Conferência das Nações Unidas sobre Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento (Rio 92) – “nos últimos anos se acomodou”. O governo brasileiro conseguiu reduzir o desmatamento na Amazônia, principal fonte de emissões no país, após 2004, mas a partir daí “ficou em uma situação muito confortável”. Ferretti lembrou, porém, que o Brasil continua emitindo gases de efeito estufa por desmatamento na Amazônia, no Cerrado, na Caatinga e em outros biomas.

A última estimativa feita pela Rede Observatório do Clima, com base em dados de 2013, mostra que a mudança de uso da terra equivale a 34,6% das emissões brasileiras; energia, 30,2%; agropecuária, 26,6%; indústria, 5,5%; e resíduos, 3,1%. “A gente vê que agropecuária, energia e mudança de uso da terra, juntas, representam mais de 90% das emissões. Infelizmente, o Brasil, nessa última década, aumentou suas emissões em todos os setores avaliados. Só conseguiu reduzir na mudança do uso da terra. E mesmo aí, nós aumentamos um pouco, de novo, nos dois últimos anos”, alertou.

Para o ambientalista, o Brasil está na contramão dos investimentos em fontes limpas de energia. Enquanto países como China e Coreia estão investindo muito em fontes renováveis, como solar e eólica (dos ventos), o Brasil, de acordo com o Plano de Expansão Decenal de Energia 2014/2023, prevê investir em torno de 71% dos investimentos projetados de R$ 1,263 trilhão em combustíveis fósseis e apenas 9,2% em fontes renováveis.

Todas essas questões serão debatidas no 8º Congresso Brasileiro de Unidades de Conservação (Cbuc), que ocorrerá no período de 21 a 25 de setembro próximo, em Curitiba (PR). Está programado um simpósio com participação de especialistas internacionais, para discutir o tema da adaptação às mudanças climáticas, de forma a reduzir os impactos delas para a sociedade em geral.

Edição: Denise Griesinger

Assassinatos de indígenas disparam no Brasil, comprova relatório do Cimi (Agência Senado)

Da Redação | 05/08/2015, 18h08 – ATUALIZADO EM 05/08/2015, 20h20

O relatório Violência contra os Povos Indígenas do Brasil, referente a 2014, aponta um aumento dos casos de violência e violações contra integrantes das comunidades indígenas. No período, 138 índios foram assassinados, contra 97 casos no ano anterior. Um dos dados mais alarmantes é o número de suicídios, que chegou a 135, ante 73 ocorrências em 2013.

Produzido pelo Conselho Indigenista Missionário (Cimi), organismo vinculado à Conferência Nacional dos Bispos do Brasil (CNBB), o relatório foi debatido em audiência pública nesta quarta-feira (5), na Comissão de Direitos Humanos e Legislação Participativa (CDH). A antropóloga Lúcia Helena Rangel salientou que o relatório ainda é uma expressão parcial da realidade, pois o Cimi não consegue captar todas as ocorrências em todo o país.

— Mesmo assim, os registros são assustadores — comentou a antropóloga, coordenadora da pesquisa.

Questão da terra

O debate foi proposto pelo senador Telmário Mota (PDT-RR), que se revezou na direção dos trabalhos da audiência com o presidente da comissão, Paulo Paim (PT-RS). Na avaliação dos convidados, os fatores de estímulo à violência são antigos e decorrem fundamentalmente da negação do direito à terra, da disputa em torno de áreas indígenas e conflitos possessórios.

— O que vemos é o não reconhecimento, por parte do Estado, às comunidades indígenas, que permanecem tendo seus direitos negados — observou Lúcia Rangel.

Mesmo no caso dos suicídios, o entendimento é de que em grande medida as ocorrências estão relacionadas à falta de perspectivas para indivíduos que precisam da terra para viver e trabalhar, em harmonia com suas culturas. Os 135 casos de 2014 configuram o maior número em 29 anos, com predomínio de ocorrências no Mato Grosso do Sul (48), notadamente entre índios Guarani-kaiowá.

A mortalidade na infância foi ainda apontada como indicador de situação de violação de direitos: o relatório registra 785 mortes de crianças indígenas, na faixa de 0 a 5 anos, contra 693 no ano anterior. A situação mais grave se situa entre os índios Xavantes, no Mato Grosso, com a taxa de mortalidade chegando a impressionantes 141,64 mortes por mil crianças. Já média nacional registrada pelo IBGE, em 2013, foi de 17 por mil.

Segundo o relatório, em 2014 mais do que dobraram os registros de invasões possessórias, exploração ilegal de terras indígenas e outros danos ao patrimônio. Enquanto em 2013 foram 36 ocorrências, em 2014 aconteceram 84 casos.


O ex-senador João Pedro Gonçalves da Costa (PT), que assumiu em junho passado o comando da Fundação Nacional do Índio (Funai), destacou a importância da audiência diante da “dívida histórica” que o país tem com os povos indígenas. Reconheceu que é essencial avançar na questão das terras indígenas.

— Não pode haver índio sem terra; os povos indígenas não podem viver sem história do lugar ponde pisaram seus ancestrais — defendeu.

João Pedro anunciou a intenção de percorrer de imediato as aldeias de todo o país, começando pelo Mato Grosso, lugar de conflitos possessórios mais graves. Também salientou o papel do Congresso e do Judiciário, além de estados e prefeituras, na solução dos problemas. Depois, apelou aos senadores por apoio para reforçar o orçamento da Funai, por meio de emendas parlamentares.

Entre os senadores, as manifestações foram de solidariedade às demandas dos povos indígenas. Para a senadora Simone Tebet (PMDB-MT), existe a perspectiva de solução para os conflitos sobre terras. Mostrou otimismo com a aprovação de proposta de emenda constitucional (PEC 71/2011) que prevê pagamento de indenizações a produtores que estejam em posse “mansa e pacífica” das terras, o que agilizará a devolução das áreas aos índios.

“Estratégia de ataque” 

O secretário-executivo do Cimi, Kleber Cesar Buzato, denunciou o que definiu como a “estratégia anti-indígena” no país. Um dos objetivos seria impedir o reconhecimento e a demarcação das terras tradicionais que continuam invadidas, na posse de não-índios. Outro seria reabrir e rever procedimentos de demarcação já finalizados. Por fim, disse que há ainda o interesse em invadir, explorar e mercantilizar as terras já demarcadas e sob a posse de índios.

— Se não tomarmos iniciativas muito firmes, coordenadas e articuladas, a tendência é de se aprofundar ainda mais esse quadro de violências contra os povos indígenas — alertou.

Em seguida, Buzato listou iniciativas e decisões adotadas, em separado, pelo Executivo, Legislativo e o Judiciário que, a seu ver, traduzem interesses de ruralistas, mineradoras e empreiteiras, entre outros segmentos do mercado. Uma delas seria o Decreto 7.957/2013), que regulamenta a atuação das Forças Armadas no “combate a povos e comunidades locais” que resistirem a empreendimentos em seus territórios. Outra veio por meio da Portaria Interministerial 60/2015, que define procedimentos a serem seguidos pela Funai para licenciamento ambiental de empreendimentos que impactam essas terras.


No âmbito do Legislativo, um dos projetos é o PL 161/1996, da Câmara dos Deputados, que regulamenta a mineração em terras indígenas, com abertura à exploração pelo setor privado, que hoje é vedada. Foi citada ainda uma Proposta de Emenda à Constituição (PEC 215/2000), que transfere ao Congresso o poder de demarcar e rever a processos de terras indígenas já demarcadas.

— Na prática, significa atribuir à bancada ruralista o poder de decidir ou não sobre a demarcação das terras. Se aprovada, a tendência é não passa mais nada — comentou.

Quanto ao Judiciário, Buzato mencionou julgamento da 2ª Turma do Supremo Tribunal Federal que atribuiu interpretação mais restritiva a dispositivo constitucional que define o conceito de “terra tradicionalmente ocupada pelos povos”. Com base nessa decisão, segundo ele, foi possível anular atos administrativos de demarcação de terras de povos Guarani-Kaiowá e Terena, no Mato Grosso do Sul, e do povo Canela-Apãniekra, no Maranhão.


Alberto Terena, representante do Povo Terena e da Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (Apib), afirmou que os povos indígenas e seus líderes vivem uma situação de desespero diante do permanente desrespeito a seus direitos. Segundo ele, a luta não começou com a atual geração nem as anteriores, mas desde que os colonizadores europeus ocuparam o país.  Lembrou que os Terena, hoje com mais de seis mil indivíduos, dispõem de reserva com pouco mais de 2 mil hectares e esperam longamente pela devolução de terras esbulhadas.

— Achavam que éramos poucos e que seríamos exterminados ou intregados à sociedade. Mas isso não aconteceu, e a nova geração se multiplica; por isso, precisamos das nossas terras — comentou.

Outro líder, Kâhu Pataxó, da Federação Indígena das Nações Pataxó e Tupinambá do Extremo Sul da Bahia, relatou a ocorrência de regulares conflitos na região e o assassinato de índios que lutam pela recuperação de suas terras. Também denunciou o uso excessivo de força, seja por efetivos da Polícia Federal ou da Polícia Militar do estado, na tentativa de retiradas dos índios das terras. A seu ver, esses conflitos vão de fato se agravar se vier a ser aprovada a PEC 215.

— O que vamos ver o extermínio final dos índios — comentou, antecipando que as comunidades estão dispostas a dar a vida para garantir suas terras.


Antonio Carlos Moura, que falou pela Comissão Brasileira de Justiça e Paz, também vinculada à CNBB, também apontou ações de “conluio” entre o Estado brasileiro e segmento econômicos na continuidade do esbulho de terras e direitos dos índios. Destacou a recente encíclica do papa Francisco como fonte de inspiração para luta pelo reconhecimento desses direitos.

Participou ainda da audiência a antropóloga Patrícia de Mendonça Rodrigues, que comoveu colegas e plateia com o relato da história dos Avá-Canoeiro do Araguaia, também mencionada no relatório da Comissão Nacional da Verdade, de 2014. Caçadores, eles chegaram à região fugindo das frentes de colonização. Por seguidas gerações, foram atingidos por incêndios de aldeias, ações de caçadores de índios e ataques de tribos inimigas, com sucessivos massacres.

Já reduzidos a menos de dez indivíduos, foram então pegos, com a ajuda de agentes do aparelho de repressão. Passaram a viver em área de uma fazenda do Bradesco, submetidos a violências e privações. Só não desapareceram completamente porque se reproduziram, por meio de uniões com indivíduos de outras etnias (Javaé, Tuxá e Karajá). Hoje somam pouco mais de 20 pessoas.

Fungi: Key to tree survival in warming forest (Science Daily)

July 22, 2015
Northern Arizona University
Much like healthy bacteria in one’s gut supports health of the human body, fungus in soil can be integral to survival of trees, according to a new study.

Pinyon pine test plot east of Flagstaff, Ariz. Credit: Photo by Thomas Whitham

Much like healthy bacteria in one’s gut supports health of the human body, fungus in soil can be integral to survival of trees. Northern Arizona University researcher Catherine Gehring reached this conclusion while studying pinyon-juniper woodlands in northern Arizona, which support nearly 1,000 unique species.

“Just like the human microbiome, plants have a micro biome. It just tends to be fungi instead of bacteria,” Gehring said. “Every tissue of a plant that you look at has fungi inside of it and we are trying to figure out what they do and if they are going to be important for allowing plants to survive climate change.”

Along with a team of researchers, Gehring is studying pinyon pine trees and their susceptibility to severe drought conditions. While many tree species become vulnerable to insects during drought conditions, Gehring’s team discovered a twist: the pinyons that were insect-resistant were not surviving the drought.

“That group of trees had 60 percent mortality and the group susceptible to insects had only 20 percent mortality,” Gehring said.

The answers to this mystery were underground. The group of drought-tolerant trees a different community of beneficial fungi than the trees that died during drought.

Offspring from the two groups, when planted in a greenhouse without fungi, grow to the same size. When the beneficial fungus is included in the soil, the community of fungi associated with drought tolerant trees allowed their seedlings to grow much larger in drought conditions.

Fungi often manifest above ground as mushrooms, but in northern Arizona’s pinyon habitat, the microorganisms are primarily below ground. The species of fungi that are so important during drought are new to science, Gehring said.

There is an interchange after fungi set up residence among roots: fungus gives the tree nutrients and water from the soil and the tree takes sugar from photosynthesis and shares it with the fungi.

Gehring believes understanding the processes and contributions of fungi could have consequences for many species. As warming conditions kill off families of trees, restoration best practices could include replanting and supplementing with fungi-rich soil.

Experiments are conducted in a greenhouse, at field sites and a research garden northwest of Flagstaff.

King Coal, Long Besieged, Is Deposed by the Market (New York Times)

A miner at a coal processing facility near Gilbert, W.Va. This year the number of coal miners in the United States dropped more than 10 percent, to just over 80,000 workers.Credit Robert Galbraith/Reuters 

In April 2005, President George W. Bush hailed “clean coal” as a key to “greater energy independence,” pledging $2 billion in research funds that promised a new golden age for America’s most abundant energy resource.

But a decade later, the United States coal industry is reeling as never before in its history, the victim of new environmental regulations, intensifying attacks by activists, collapsing coal prices, and — above all — the rise of cheap alternative fuels, especially natural gas.

This week President Obama slammed the industry with tougher-than-expected rules from the Environmental Protection Agency limiting power plant carbon emissions, which will accelerate an already huge shift from coal to natural gas and other alternatives.

“Clean coal” remains an expensive and thus far impractical pipe dream. Coal is the world’s biggest source of carbon emissions by far and the leading culprit in global warming. Coal advocates like Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky senator and Republican majority leader, have accused the president of an out-and-out “war on coal.”

But it’s collapsing prices and heavy debt loads that are driving the industry into bankruptcy. Alpha Natural Resources, the nation’s fourth-largest coal producer after it doubled down on coal four years ago in acquiring Massey Coal for $7.1 billion, filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday. It follows Walter Energy, which filed last month; Patriot Coal, which sought court protection in May; and numerous smaller mining companies.

The demise of the two biggest surviving publicly traded coal companies — Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, the nation’s two largest producers — may just be a matter of time, based on their recent stock performance. Peabody shares, which traded at more than $16 less than a year ago, hit 99 cents this week, and Arch shares have fallen to $1 from more than $33, making them among the biggest losers this year in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.

“This has been a storm gathering for a very long time,” said Jeff Goodell, author of the 2006 book “Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future.” “When I wrote my book, coal looked indomitable. But below the surface you could see all these issues coming at them. You can only hold off the larger forces of progress and science for so long. The bottom line is that it’s a 19th-century fuel very badly suited for the 21st century. There’s no way you can wash or scrub coal to make that essential fact go away.”

Market forces have accomplished in just a few years what environmentalists and social advocates have struggled for decades to achieve. Coal prices have plunged about 70 percent in the last four years. This year the number of underground and surface coal miners in the United States dropped more than 10 percent, to just over 80,000 workers. There are now more than twice as many workers in the fast-growing solar power industry than there are coal miners.

Mountaintop removal, the poster child for environmental destruction, has all but ground to a halt as coal companies continue to close mines, lay off workers and slash capital spending on expensive new mining operations. Meantime, natural gas production has soared and electric utilities have built up gas-fired generation to replace aging coal-fired power plants.

“It’s kind of the ultimate irony that market forces, and not the administration or environmentalists, have displaced coal,” said Jorge Beristain, head of Americas metals and mining equity research for Deutsche Bank. “It’s human ingenuity that found a cheaper, cleaner way to skin the cat, which is by producing natural gas from fracking. They’re both fossil fuels, of course, but burning natural gas puts out a lot less carbon than coal.”

Burning coal produces nearly twice as much carbon dioxide as does natural gas, according to the United States Energy Information Administration.

Anthony Young, a mining analyst at the Macquarie Group, agreed. “There have been a lot of protests and animosity towards the coal industry, but lo and behold, it was the natural gas industry that has stopped many of the worst mining practices,” he said. “There are concerns about fracking, but it’s way better than cutting down mountains.”

Environmentalists are starting to notice that financial arguments may prove more effective than moral or social ones at persuading major investors to shun coal. Stanford University, which announced last May that it would divest itself of direct investments in coal producers, looks at least as much like a shrewd investor as an environmental steward, given the subsequent plunge in coal prices and coal company stock prices, and other big investors have taken notice.

In June, Norway’s government pension fund — considered the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund with $890 billion in assets, much of it generated from oil revenue — said it would divest itself of coal holdings. A spokeswoman for the fund said this was a financial decision, not a political one, with the goal of “building financial wealth for future generations.”

“I think you’re seeing a generational shift where the activists are getting more market-savvy,” said Mr. Beristain of Deutsche Bank. “They’re targeting Wall Street and the analysts. It’s becoming part of the environmental agenda to kneecap the coal sector at the source of its cash.”

Carbon Tracker, a London-based think tank, is among those trying to use financial data to affect climate change. “We try to stay out of the political discussion,” said Luke Sussams, a senior researcher and co-author of “The US Coal Crash,” a report arguing that coal faces a long-term, and not just cyclical, decline. “We look at it purely from a risk versus return perspective,” he said. “Our stance is: It’s a bad investment.”

Environmentalists still have their work cut out for them. The coal industry may be in dire straits, but it’s not going to vanish overnight. In 2013 the United States produced 985 million tons of coal, although it was the first time in 20 years that production fell below one billion tons. The United States consumed 924 million tons, 93 percent of it accounted for by the electric power industry, according to government statistics. In 2011, the United States consumed 1.1 billion tons.

“It’s premature to say the industry is dead,” said Mr. Young, the Macquarie analyst. He estimated the industry needs to shrink by about 25 percent to meet current demand, and more if electric utilities accelerate the shift to natural gas. But as coal companies “go through bankruptcy, their assets aren’t going to shut down. Mismanagement will be addressed, and their balance sheets will be restructured, but viable assets will re-emerge and be profitable.”

But it seems safe to say that the coal industry will never wield the enormous economic and political clout that it had even 10 years ago. “In the aftermath of the Bush-Cheney administration, there was this resurgence of the idea that coal was the American rock,” Mr. Goodell said. “America’s industrial strength was built on burning coal. No politician wanted to mess with coal.”

But with the shrinking of the industry, coal interests “are losing their clout, and they’re not going to get it back,” Mr. Goodell said. “It’s becoming clear where the future is going. The politically smart thing is to jump on the renewables bandwagon.”

Correction: August 10, 2015
The Common Sense column on Friday, about the declining fortunes of the coal industry, misstated the number of years ago that the coal company Alpha Natural Resources acquired a rival, Massey Energy. It was four years ago, not two.

Do the Amazon’s Last Isolated Tribes Have a Future? (New York Times)

Shuri, known as Epa, goes back and forth between his tribe and rural communities on the Curanja River in Peru’s Amazon region. CreditJason Houston 

HIS name is Shuri, but everyone calls him Epa, which means father in the indigenous Pano language family. His wizened face and bare, gnomish feet are familiar to the villagers who live along the Curanja River, which flows through some of the densest rain forest of Peru’s vast Amazon region.

Most of Epa’s tribe remains deep in the jungle, unclothed, hunting with bows and arrows, picking medicinal plants to ward off illness, and avoiding outsiders. But such isolated peoples can no longer depend on the forest as a refuge. In the past year, throughout the Amazon, they have begun to emerge in settled areas in unpredictable, disturbing and occasionally violent ways, often because of hunger or desperation.

I met Epa at his camp just upstream from the last village, where the unbroken jungle begins. He boasts of his hunting prowess. But he also wears a soccer shirt and nylon shorts and spends time among and near the settled people on the river — indigenous people, only a generation or two removed from forest life, who have welcomed him into their villages.

Last October, the villagers traveled in wooden canoes to vote in local elections. When they returned, one hut had burned to the ground and many of the machetes, clothes, pots and pans, mosquito nets, hammocks and drying fruits and nuts in villages along the river were gone. Epa, who had stayed behind, admitted that he had set fire to the hut, saying it was an accident, but denied any other involvement. Villagers blame his tribe for the raid.

Villagers have spotted the people they call “the nakeds” stealing fruit from orchards. Even the clothes on scarecrows go missing. Some villagers suspect that the mild-mannered Epa is a spy, feeding intelligence to his tribe.

In other parts of the rain forest, violence by and against once-isolated people is suddenly on the rise. In May, just outside the Manú National Park south of the Curanja, a man from the isolated Mashco Piro tribe shot an arrow that killed a 20-year-old indigenous villager. Last year, several members of Peru’s isolated Xinane group waded across a river to seek help at a Brazilian settlement. A few of their relatives, they said, had died when they were attacked, possibly by drug traffickers.

There are other groups living beyond the reach of the global economy, in places like the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean and the mountains of New Guinea. But the planet’s largest and most diverse isolated cultures are centered in the Amazon, primarily in western Brazil and eastern Peru. They lack immunity from many Western diseases, modern weapons to defend themselves from armed intruders like drug smugglers and illegal loggers, and a voice in national politics.

They have good reason to stay hidden. European and African diseases killed tens of millions of Native Americans after Columbus landed. A century ago, thousands were coerced into working for the rubber barons. Even seemingly benevolent outsiders proved angels of death. In the 1950s, a visiting German ethnographer left behind a pathogen that killed some 200 people.

Anthropologists and nongovernmental organizations warn that drug trafficking, logging, mining and petroleum extraction, along with a changing climate, vanishing species and a shrinking forest, put these tribes at risk. Even TV crews searching for “uncontacted” natives pose a threat; according to a 2008 report by a Peruvian anthropologist, one crew that strayed beyond its permitted area has been implicated in the deaths of some 20 native people from flu.

The indigenous people who remain appear to be fighting among themselves for dwindling resources, like turtle eggs and piglike peccaries. Lifting his shirt, Epa showed me a scar on his torso — inflicted during an attack by tribal enemies, he said. He and his two wives and a mother-in-law live part time in their camp, close to a guard post staffed by indigenous people. He said he had avoided having children because he was always on the run.

Brazil and Peru have taken radically different approaches toward isolated peoples. For Brazil, which has pursued the sort of engagement pioneered by late 19th-century missionaries, the Amazon has long been a frontier to be tamed. Officials built small frontier posts in the jungle, planted gardens and let tribes gather the harvest. Enticed into contact, the isolated people would trade ornaments and forest products for metal tools and objects, and be drawn gradually into the labor force.

But abrupt contact with outsiders spread devastating disease and created debilitating dependence. The Nambikwara, for example, were about 5,000 strong around 1900. By the late 1960s, only 550 remained. Anthropologists and Brazilian frontiersmen called sertanistas likened the policy to genocide. One of them, Sydney Possuelo, who went on to head the isolated tribes unit of Funai, the Brazilian agency on indigenous affairs, persuaded the government in the late 1980s to impose a policy of no contact to protect the isolated peoples.

Recently, however, Brazil has slashed funding for Funai. Angry Brazilian anthropologists, indigenous groups and sertanistas cite the Amazonian land rush as the reason. Once land is protected, it cannot be sold to private or public developers. Under President Dilma Rousseff’s leadership, approval of applications to set aside land for indigenous peoples — both isolated and not — has virtually ceased.

Peru, by contrast, has only recently admitted that its isolated peoples even exist. It traditionally looks to the Pacific rather than its rain forest hinterland. Nine out of 10 Peruvians live in the Andes or along the coastal plain, but most of the country’s land is within the Amazon basin. As recently as 2007, Alan García, then the president, dismissed “the figure of the uncontacted native jungle dweller” as a fiction created by zealous environmentalists.

Since then, as evidence of their existence has become impossible to dispute, the government has moved to set up five reserves, covering an area larger than Massachusetts, as safety zones for the tribes, with more planned. But even if a reserve is created and adequately policed, petroleum companies can explore for and extract oil if it is considered in the national interest. “The region has seen massive death of isolated peoples due to contact with oil prospectors,” said the Peruvian anthropologist Beatriz Huertas.

Both nations see the Amazon as a treasure house of oil, timber and gold. Two continentwide projects crossing Brazil and Peru — the $2.8 billion, 1,600-mile Interoceanic Highway and the Chinese-sponsored $10 billion, 3,300-mile Twin Ocean Railroad — will no doubt stimulate both economies, but at a steep cost. The railroad, which China’s premier, Li Keqiang, lobbied for during a May visit to South America, would plow through tropical savanna and thick forest, cutting across Peru’s remote Madre de Dios region, home to hundreds of indigenous communities.

Development can’t be halted, but it can be carried out more intelligently and humanely than what happened in the 19th century in the United States. We know what works. Small frontier posts on rivers can protect reserves from intruders. Immunized health care workers can provide emergency care and snuff out potential epidemics among isolated peoples who emerge for help. Illegal loggers and miners can be prosecuted. Road and railroad construction and oil prospecting can respect the borders of reserves and parks. None require a huge financial investment. They do require an inclusive political approach and an awareness of history.

Last month the Peruvian government announced that it would help a small group of Mashco Piro that has appeared more than 100 times in the past year on the banks of the Madre de Dios River, the same group responsible for the May death of a villager. Tribe members accepting food and clothing from tourists and missionaries are at serious risk of disease and death, and villagers fear more violence. Advocates of isolated peoples are watching closely to see if Peru can ensure the long-term health of the Mashco Piro while protecting their land from outsiders.

Half a millennium after Columbus arrived, we have an opportunity — really one last chance — to avoid repeating the catastrophes endured by so many native peoples in the Americas. This is no longer the 19th century: We have more than enough information. We understand pathogens and can immunize those who might contact isolated peoples. We can acknowledge that some people don’t want to join the global economy. And we can protect them until they are ready to enter the modern mainstream, while extracting the resources that we need. We don’t have to commit another genocide.

It’s everything change (Matter/Medium)

By Margaret Atwood, Jul 27, 2015

Animations by Carl Burton

Oil! Our secret god, our secret sharer, our magic wand, fulfiller of our every desire, our co-conspirator, the sine qua non in all we do! Can’t live with it, can’t — right at this moment — live without it. But it’s on everyone’s mind.

Back in 2009, as fracking and the mining of the oil/tar sands in Alberta ramped up — when people were talking about Peak Oil and the dangers of the supply giving out — I wrote a piece for the German newspaper Die Zeit. In English it was called “The Future Without Oil.” It went like this:

The future without oil! For optimists, a pleasant picture: let’s call it Picture One. Shall we imagine it?

There we are, driving around in our cars fueled by hydrogen, or methane, or solar, or something else we have yet to dream up. Goods from afar come to us by solar-and-sail-driven ship — the sails computerized to catch every whiff of air — or else by new versions of the airship, which can lift and carry a huge amount of freight with minimal pollution and no ear-slitting noise. Trains have made a comeback. So have bicycles, when it isn’t snowing; but maybe there won’t be any more winter.

(Frank Carroll/NBCU Photo Bank; Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images; J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

We’ve gone back to small-scale hydropower, using fish-friendly dams. We’re eating locally, and even growing organic vegetables on our erstwhile front lawns, watering them with greywater and rainwater, and with the water saved from using low-flush toilets, showers instead of baths, water-saving washing machines, and other appliances already on the market. We’re using low-draw lightbulbs — incandescents have been banned — and energy-efficient heating systems, including pellet stoves, radiant panels, and long underwear. Heat yourself, not the room is no longer a slogan for nutty eccentrics: it’s the way we all live now.

(The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images; Getty Images; Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images)

Due to improved insulation and indoor-climate-enhancing practices, including heatproof blinds and awnings, air-conditioning systems are obsolete, so they no longer suck up huge amounts of power every summer. As for power, in addition to hydro, solar, geothermal, wave, and wind generation, and emissions-free coal plants, we’re using almost foolproof nuclear power. Even when there are accidents it isn’t all bad news, because instant wildlife refuges are created as Nature invades those high-radiation zones where Man now fears to tread. There’s said to be some remarkable wildlife and botany in the area surrounding Chernobyl.

(Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images; Terry O’Neill/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

What will we wear? A lot of hemp clothing, I expect: hemp is a hardy fiber source with few pesticide requirements, and cotton will have proven too costly and destructive to grow. We might also be wearing a lot of recycled tinfoil — keeps the heat in — and garments made from the recycled plastic we’ve harvested from the island of it twice the size of Texas currently floating around in the Pacific Ocean. What will we eat, besides our front-lawn vegetables? That may be a problem — we’re coming to the end of cheap fish, and there are other shortages looming. Abundant animal protein in large hunks may have had its day. However, we’re an inventive species, and when push comes to shove we don’t have a lot of fastidiousness: being omnivores, we’ll eat anything as long as there’s ketchup. Looking on the bright side: obesity due to over-eating will no longer be a crisis, and diet plans will not only be free, but mandatory.

(Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images; Arcaid/UIG via Getty Images)

That’s Picture One. I like it. It’s comforting. Under certain conditions, it might even come true. Sort of. More or less.

Then there’s Picture Two. Suppose the future without oil arrives very quickly. Suppose a bad fairy waves his wand, and poof! Suddenly there’s no oil, anywhere, at all.

Everything would immediately come to a halt. No cars, no planes; a few trains still running on hydroelectric, and some bicycles, but that wouldn’t take very many people very far. Food would cease to flow into the cities, water would cease to flow out of the taps. Within hours, panic would set in.

(Feng Li/Getty Images; Tim Pershing/AFP/Getty Images; Wolfgang Simlinger/ASAblanca via Getty Images)

The first result would be the disappearance of the word “we”: except in areas with exceptional organization and leadership, the word “I” would replace it, as the war of all against all sets in. There would be a run on the supermarkets, followed immediately by food riots and looting. There would also be a run on the banks — people would want their money out for black market purchasing, although all currencies would quickly lose value, replaced by bartering. In any case the banks would close: their electronic systems would shut down, and they’d run out of cash.

(Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images; Dave Einsel/Getty Images)

Having looted and hoarded some food and filled their bathtubs with water, people would hunker down in their houses, creeping out into the backyards if they dared because their toilets would no longer flush. The lights would go out. Communication systems would break down. What next? Open a can of dog food, eat it, then eat the dog, then wait for the authorities to restore order. But the authorities — lacking transport — would be unable to do this.

(Richard Blanshard/Getty Images; Giles Clarke/Getty Images)

Other authorities would take over. These would at first be known as thugs and street gangs, then as warlords. They’d attack the barricaded houses, raping, pillaging and murdering. But soon even they would run out of stolen food. It wouldn’t take long — given starvation, festering garbage, multiplying rats, and putrefying corpses — for pandemic disease to break out. It will quickly become apparent that the present world population of six and a half billion people is not only dependent on oil, but was created by it: humanity has expanded to fill the space made possible to it by oil, and without that oil it would shrink with astounding rapidity. As for the costs to “the economy,” there won’t be any “economy.” Money will vanish: the only items of exchange will be food, water, and most likely — before everyone topples over — sex.

(Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Picture Two is extreme, and also unlikely, but it exposes the truth: we’re hooked on oil, and without it we can’t do much of anything. And since it’s bound to run out eventually, and since cheap oil is already a thing of the past, we ought to be investing a lot of time, effort, and money in ways to replace it.

Unfortunately, like every other species on the planet, we’re conservative: we don’t change our ways unless necessity forces us. The early lungfish didn’t develop lungs because it wanted to be a land animal, but because it wanted to remain a fish even as the dry season drew down the water around it. We’re also self-interested: unless there are laws mandating conservation of energy, most won’t do it, because why make sacrifices if others don’t? The absence of fair and enforceable energy-use rules penalizes the conscientious while enriching the amoral. In business, the laws of competition mean that most corporations will extract maximum riches from available resources with not much thought to the consequences. Why expect any human being or institution to behave otherwise unless they can see clear benefits?

Inaddition to Pictures One and Two, there’s Picture Three. In Picture Three, some countries plan for the future of diminished oil, some don’t. Those planning now include — not strangely — those that don’t have any, or don’t need any. Iceland generates over half its power from abundant geothermal sources: it will not suffer much from an oil dearth. Germany is rapidly converting, as are a number of other oil-poor European countries. They are preparing to weather the coming storm.

(Rolf Schulten/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Then there are the oil-rich countries. Of these, those who were poor in the past, who got rich quick, and who have no resources other than oil are investing the oil wealth they know to be temporary in technologies they hope will work for them when the oil runs out. But in countries that have oil, but that have other resources too, such foresight is lacking. It does exist in one form: as a Pentagon report of 2003 called “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and its Implications for United States National Security” put it, “Nations with the resources to do so may build virtual fortresses around their countries, preserving resources for themselves.” That’s already happening: the walls grow higher and stronger every day.

(Kurita Kaku/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images; Phil Inglis/Getty Images)

But the long-term government planning needed to deal with diminishing oil within rich, mixed-resource countries is mostly lacking. Biofuel is largely delusional: the amount of oil required to make it is larger than the payout. Some oil companies are exploring the development of other energy sources, but by and large they’re simply lobbying against anything and anyone that might cause a decrease in consumption and thus impact on their profits. It’s gold-rush time, and oil is the gold, and short-term gain outweighs long-term pain, and madness is afoot, and anyone who wants to stop the rush is deemed an enemy.

My own country, Canada, is an oil-rich country. A lot of the oil is in the Athabasca oil sands, where licenses to mine oil are sold to anyone with the cash, and where CO2 is being poured into the atmosphere, not only from the oil used as an end product, but also in the course of its manufacture. Also used in its manufacture is an enormous amount of water. The water mostly comes from the Athabasca River, which is fed by a glacier. But due to global warming, glaciers are melting fast. When they’re gone, no more water, and thus no more oil from oil sands. Maybe we’ll be saved — partially — by our own ineptness. But we’ll leave much destruction in our wake.

(Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images [2]; Ben Nelms/Bloomberg via Getty Images [2])

The Athabasca oil-sand project has now replaced the pyramids as the must-see manmade colossal sight, although it’s not exactly a monument to hopes of immortality. There has even been a tour to it: the venerable Canadian company Butterfield & Robinson ran one in 2008 as part of its series “Places on the Verge.”

Destinations at risk: first stop, the oil sands. Next stop, the planet. If we don’t start aiming for Picture One, we’ll end up with some version of Picture Two. So hoard some dog food, because you may be needing it.

It’s interesting to look back on what I wrote about oil in 2009, and to reflect on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years. Much of what most people took for granted back then is no longer universally accepted, including the idea that we could just go on and on the way we were living then, with no consequences. There was already some alarm back then, but those voicing it were seen as extreme. Now their concerns have moved to the center of the conversation. Here are some of the main worries.

Planet Earth — the Goldilocks planet we’ve taken for granted, neither too hot or too cold, neither too wet or too dry, with fertile soils that accumulated for millennia before we started to farm them –- that planet is altering. The shift towards the warmer end of the thermometer that was once predicted to happen much later, when the generations now alive had had lots of fun and made lots of money and gobbled up lots of resources and burned lots of fossil fuels and then died, are happening much sooner than anticipated back then. In fact, they’re happening now.

(DeAgostini/Getty Images [3])

Here are three top warning signs. First, the transformation of the oceans. Not only are these being harmed by the warming of their waters, in itself a huge affector of climate. There is also the increased acidification due to CO2 absorption, the ever-increasing amount of oil-based plastic trash and toxic pollutants that human beings are pouring into the seas, and the overfishing and destruction of marine ecosystems and spawning grounds by bottom-dragging trawlers. Most lethal to us — and affected by warming, acidification, toxins, and dying marine ecosystems — would be the destruction of the bluegreen marine algae that created our present oxygen-rich atmosphere 2.45 billion years ago, and that continue to make the majority of the oxygen we breathe. If the algae die, that would put an end to us, as we would gasp to death like fish out of water.

(Michael Blann/Getty Images; Rosemary Calvert/Getty Images)

A second top warning sign is the drought in California, said to be the worst for 1,200 years. This drought is now in its fourth year; it is mirrored by droughts in other western U.S. states, such as Utah and Idaho. The snowpack in the mountains that usually feeds the water supplies in these states was only 3% of the norm this winter. It’s going to be a long, hot, dry summer. The knockon effect of such widespread drought on such things as the price of fruit and vegetables has yet to be calculated, but it will be extensive. As drought conditions spread elsewhere, we may expect water wars as the world’s supply of fresh water is exhausted.

(David McNew/Getty Images)

A third warning sign is the rise in ocean levels. There have already been some noteworthy flooding events, the most expensive in North America being Hurricane Katrina, and the inundation of lower Manhattan at the time of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Should the predicted sea-level rise of a foot to two feet take place, the state of Florida stands to lose most of its beaches, and the city of Miami will be wading. Many other lowlying cities around the world will be affected.

(Christos Pathiakis/Getty Images)

This result, however, is not accepted by some of the politicians who are supposed to be alert to dangers threatening the welfare of their constituents. The present governor of Florida, Rick Scott, is said to have issued a memo to all government of Florida employees forbidding them to use the terms “climate change” and “global warming,” because he doesn’t believe in them (though Scott has denied this to the press). I myself would like to disbelieve in gravitational forces, because then I could fly, and also in viruses, because then I would never get colds. Makes sense: you can’t see viruses or gravity, and seeing is believing, and when you’ve got your head stuck in the sand you can’t see a thing, right?

The Florida government employees also aren’t allowed to talk about sea-level rise: when things get very wet inside people’s houses, it’s to be called “nuisance flooding.” (If the city of Miami gets soaked, as it will should the level rise the two feet predicted in the foreseeable future, it will indeed be a nuisance, especially in the real-estate sector; so the governor isn’t all wrong.) What a practical idea for solving pesky problems: let’s not talk about it, and maybe it will go away.

(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The Canadian federal government, not to be outdone in the area of misleading messages, has just issued a new map that shows more Arctic sea ice than the previous map did. Good news! The sea ice is actually increasing! So global warming and climate change doesn’t exist? How reassuring for the population, and how convenient for those invested in carbon fuels!

But there’s some fine print. It seems that this new map shows an averageamount of sea ice, and the averaging goes back thirty years. As the Globe and Mail article on this new map puts it:

In reality, climate change has been gnawing away at the planet’s permanent polar ice cap and it is projected to continue doing so.

‘It’s a subtle way, on a map, to change the perspective on the way something is viewed,’ said Christopher Storie, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg and president of the Canadian Cartographic Association.

(2006; 2015)

Whereas the older version of the map showed only that part of the sea ice that permanently covered Arctic waters year round at that time, the new edition uses a 30-year median of September sea-ice extent from 1981 through 2010. September sea ice hit a record low in 2012 and is projected to decline further. The change means there is far more ice shown on the 2015 version of the map than on its predecessor.

‘Both are correct,’ Dr. Storie said. ‘They’ve provided the right notation for the representation, but not many people will read that or understand what it means.’

Cute trick, wouldn’t you say? Not as cute as Florida’s trick, but cute. And both tricks emphasize the need for scientific literacy. Increasingly, the public needs to know how to evaluate the worth of whatever facts they’re being told. Who’s saying it? What’s their source? Do they have a bias? Unfortunately, very few people have the expertise necessary to decode the numbers and statistics that are constantly being flung at us.

(Photo via Tumblr)

Both the Florida cute trick and the Canadian map one originate in worries about the Future, and the bad things that may happen in that future; also the desire to deny these things or sweep them under the carpet so business can go on as usual, leaving the young folks and future generations to deal with the mess and chaos that will result from a changed climate, and then pay the bill. Because there will be a bill: the cost will be high, not only in money but in human lives. The laws of chemistry and physics are unrelenting, and they don’t give second chances. In fact, that bill is already coming due.

There are many other effects, from species extinction to the spread of diseases to a decline in overall food production, but the main point is that these effects are not happening in some dim, distant future. They are happening now.

(Xurxo Lobato/Cover/Getty Images; Bhaskar Paul/The India Today Group/Getty Images)

In response to our growing awareness of these effects, there have been some changes in public and political attitudes, though these changes have not been universal. Some acknowledge the situation, but shrug and go about their daily lives taking a “What can I do?” position. Some merely despair. But only those with their heads stuck so firmly into the sand that they’re talking through their nether ends are still denying that reality has changed.

Even if the deniers can be brought reluctantly to acknowledge the facts on the ground, they display two fallback positions: 1) The changes are natural. They have nothing to do with humankind’s burning of fossil fuels. Therefore we can keep on having our picnic, such as it is, perhaps making a few gestures in the direction of “adaptation” — a seawall here, the building of a desalination plant there — without worrying about our own responsibility. 2) The changes are divine. They are punishments being inflicted on humankind for its sins by supernatural agency. In extreme form, they are part of a divine plan to destroy the world, send most of its inhabitants to a hideous death, and make a new world for those who will be saved. People who believe this kind of thing usually number themselves among the lucky few. It would, however, be a mistake to vote for them, as in a crisis they would doubtless simply head for higher ground or their own specially equipped oxygen shelters, and then cheer while billions die, rather than lifting a finger to save their fellow citizens.

Back in 2009, discussion of the future of energy and thus of civilization as we know it tended to be theoretical. Now, however, action is being taken and statements are being made, some of them coming from the usual suspects — “left-wingers” and “artists” and “radicals,” and other such dubious folks — but others now coming from directions that would once have been unthinkable. Some are even coming — mirabile dictu! — from politicians. Here are some examples of all three kinds:

In September 2014, the international petition site Avaaz (over 41 million members) pulled together a Manhattan climate march of 400,000 people, said to be the largest climate march in history. On April 11, 2015, approximately 25,000 people congregated in Quebec City to serve notice on Canadian politicians that they want them to start taking climate change seriously. Five years ago, that number would probably have been 2,500. Just before that date, Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, announced that it was bringing in a cap-and-trade plan. The chances of that happening five years ago were nil.

(Andrew Burton/Getty Images; Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images; Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

In case anyone thinks that it’s only people on the so-called political left that are concerned, there are numerous straws in the wind that’s blowing from what might once have been considered the resistant right. Henry Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush, has just said that there are two threats to our society that are even greater than the 2008 financial meltdown he himself helped the world navigate: environmental damage due to climate change, and the possible failure of China. (Chinese success probably means China can tackle its own carbon emissions and bring them under control; Chinese failure means it probably can’t.)

(ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images [2])

In Canada, an organization called the Ecofiscal Commission has been formed; it includes representatives from the erstwhile Reform Party (right), the Liberal Party (centrist), and the NDP (left), as well as members from the business community. Its belief is that environmental problems can be solved by business sense and common sense, working together; that a gain for the environment does not have to be a financial loss, but can be a gain. In America, the Tesla story would certainly bear this out: this electric plug-in is doing a booming business among the rich. Meanwhile, there are other changes afoot. Faith-based environmental movements such as A Rocha are gaining ground; others, such as Make Way For Monarchs, engage groups of many vocations and political stripes. The coalition of the well-intentioned and action-oriented from finance, faith, and science could prove to be a very powerful one indeed.

But will all of this, in the aggregate, be enough?

(Howard R. Hollem via The Library of Congress; ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

Two writers have recently contributed some theorizing about overall social and energy systems and the way they function that may be helpful to us in our slowly unfolding crisis. One is from art historian and energetic social thinker Barry Lord; it’s called Art and Energy (AAM Press). Briefly, Lord’s thesis is that the kind of art a society makes and values is joined at the hip with the kind of energy that society depends on to keep itself going. He traces the various forms of energy we have known as a species throughout our pre-history — our millennia spent in the Pleistocene — and in our recorded history — sexual energy, without which societies can’t continue; the energy of the body while hunting and foraging; wood for fire; slaves; wind and water; coal; oil; and “renewables” — and makes some cogent observations about their relationship to art and culture. In his Prologue, he says:

Everyone knows that all life requires energy. But we rarely consider how dependent art and culture are on the energy that is needed to produce, practice and sustain them. What we fail to see are the usually invisible sources of energy that make our art and culture(s) possible and bring with them fundamental values that we are all constrained to live with (whether we approve of them or not). Coal brought one set of values to all industrialized countries; oil brought a very different set… I may not approve of the culture of consumption that comes with oil… but I must use [it] if I want to do anything at all.

(Photo via

Those living within an energy system, says Lord, may disapprove of certain features, but they can’t question the system itself. Within the culture of slavery, which lasted at least 5,000 years, nobody wanted to be a slave, but nobody said slavery should be abolished, because what else could keep things going?

(Sébastien Bonaimé/Getty Images; Viktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images)

Coal, says Lord, produced a culture of production: think about those giant steel mills. Oil and gas, once they were up and running, fostered a culture of consumption. Lord cites “the widespread belief of the 1950s and early ’60s in the possibility of continuing indefinitely with unlimited abundance and economic growth, contrasted with the widespread agreement today that both that assumption and the world it predicts are unsustainable.” We’re in a transition phase, he says: the next culture will be a culture of “stewardship,” the energy driving it will be renewables, and the art it produces will be quite different from the art favored by production and consumption cultures.

(Gadtan Rossier/Getty Images)

What are the implications for the way we view both ourselves and the way we live? In brief: in the coal energy culture — a culture of workers and production — you are your job. “I am what I make.” In an oil and gas energy culture — a culture of consumption — you are your possessions. “I am what I buy.” But in a renewable energy culture, you are what you conserve. “I am what I save and protect.” We aren’t used to thinking like this, because we can’t see where the money will come from. But in a culture of renewables, money will not be the only measure of wealth. Well-being will factor as an economic positive, too.

The second book I’ll mention is by anthropologist, classical scholar, and social thinker Ian Morris, whose book, Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve, has just appeared from Princeton University Press. Like Barry Lord, Morris is interested in the link between energy-capture systems and the cultural values associated with them, though in his case it’s the moral values, not only the aesthetic ones — supposing these can be separated — that concern him. Roughly, his argument runs that each form of energy capture favors values that maximize the chance of survival for those using both that energy system and that package of moral values. Hunter-gatherers show more social egalitarianism, wealth-sharing, and more gender equality than do farmer societies, which subordinate women — men are favored, as they must do the upper-body-strength heavy lifting — tend to practice some form of slavery, and support social hierarchies, with peasants at the low end and kings, religious leaders, and army commanders at the high end. Fossil fuel societies start leveling out gender inequalities — you don’t need upper body strength to operate keyboards or push machine buttons — and also social distinctions, though they retain differences in wealth.

(Kevin Frayer/Getty Images; John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)

The second part of his argument is more pertinent to our subject, for he postulates that each form of energy capture must hit a “hard ceiling,” past which expansion is impossible; people must either die out or convert to a new system and a new set of values, often after a “great collapse” that has involved the same five factors: uncontrolled migration, state failure, food shortages, epidemic disease, and “always in the mix, though contributing in unpredictable ways–- climate change.” Thus, for hunting societies, their way of life is over once there are no longer enough large animals to sustain their numbers. For farmers, arable land is a limiting factor. The five factors of doom combine and augment one another, and people in those periods have a thoroughly miserable time of it, until new societies arise that utilize some not yet exhausted form of energy capture.


And for those who use fossil fuels as their main energy source — that would be us, now — is there also a hard ceiling? Morris says there is. We can’t keep pouring carbon into the air — nearly 40 billion tons of CO2 in 2013 alone — without the consequences being somewhere between “terrible and catastrophic.” Past collapses have been grim, he says, but the possibilities for the next big collapse are much grimmer.

We are all joined together globally in ways we have never been joined before, so if we fail, we all fail together: we have “just one chance to get it right.” This is not the way we will inevitably go, says he, though it is the way we will inevitably go unless we choose to invent and follow some less hazardous road.

But even if we sidestep the big collapse and keep on expanding at our present rate, we will become so numerous and ubiquitous and densely packed that we will transform both ourselves and our planet in ways we can’t begin to imagine. “The 21st century, he says, “shows signs of producing shifts in energy capture and social organization that dwarf anything seen since the evolution of modern humans.”

(Jonas Bendiksen/Magnum)

Science fiction? you may say. Or you may say “speculative fiction.” For a final straw in the wind, let’s turn to what the actual writers of these kinds of stories (and films, and television series, and video games, and graphic novels) have been busying themselves with lately.

A British author called Piers Torday has just come out with a Young Adult book called The Wild Beyond. In April, he wrote a piece in The Guardian that summarizes the field, and explains the very recent term, “cli-fi:”

“Cli‐fi” is a term coined by blogger Dan Bloom to describe fiction dealing with the current and projected effects of climate change. … Cli-fi as a new genre has taken off in a big way and is now being studied by universities all over the world. But don’t make the mistake of confusing it with sci-fi. If you think stories showing the effects of climate change are still only futuristic fantasies, think again. For example, I would argue that the only truly fantastical element in my books is that the animals talk. To one boy. Other cli‐fi elements of my story that are often described as fantastical or dystopian, include the death of nearly all the animals in the world. That’s just me painting an extreme picture, right, to make a good story? I wish.

(FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The recent 2014 WWF Living Planet Report revealed that the entire animal population of the planet had in fact halved over the last 40 years. 52% of our wildlife, gone, just like that. Whether through the effects of climate change to the growth in human population to the depredation of natural habitats, the children reading my books now might well find themselves experiencing middle‐age in a world without the biodiversity we once took for granted. A world of humans and just a few pigeons, rats and cockroaches scratching around… So, how about the futuristic vision of a planet where previously inhabited areas become too hot and dry to sustain human life? That’s standard dystopian world-building fare, surely?

(Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images; Nichole Sobecki for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Yes, except that right now, as you read this, super developed and technological California — the eighth largest economy in the world, bigger than Russia — is suffering a record breaking drought. The lowest rainfall since 1885 and enforced water restrictions of up to 25%. They can track every mouse click ever made from Palo Alto apparently, but they can’t figure out how to keep the taps running. That’s just California — never mind Africa or Australia.

Every effect of climate change in the books — from the rising sea levels of The Dark Wild to the acidic and jelly‐fish filled oceans in The Wild Beyond, is happening right now, albeit on a lesser level.

(Lynne Rostochil/Getty Images)

Could cli-fi be a way of educating young people about the dangers that face them, and helping them to think through the problems and divine solutions? Or will it become just another part of the “entertainment business”? Time will tell. But if Barry Lord is right, the outbreak of such fictions is in part a response to the transition now taking place — from the consumer values of oil to the stewardship values of renewables. The material world should no longer be treated as a bottomless cornucopia of use-and-toss endlessly replaceable mounds of “stuff”: supplies are limited, and must be conserved and treasured.

Can we change our energy system? Can we change it fast enough to avoid being destroyed by it? Are we clever enough to come up with some viable plans? Do we have the political will to carry out such plans? Are we capable of thinking about longer-term issues, or, like the lobster in a pot full of water that’s being brought slowly to the boil, will we fail to realize the danger we’re in until it’s too late?

(Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images)

Not that the lobster can do anything about it, once in the pot. But we might. We’re supposed to be smarter than lobsters. We’ve committed some very stupid acts over the course of our history, but our stupidity isn’t inevitable. Here are three smart things we’ve managed to do:

First, despite all those fallout shelters built in suburban backyards during the Cold War, we haven’t yet blown ourselves up with nuclear bombs. Second, thanks to Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book on pesticides, Silent Spring, not all the birds were killed by DDT in the ’50s and ’60s. And, third, we managed to stop the lethal hole in the protective ozone layer that was being caused by the chlorofluorocarbons in refrigerants and spray cans, thus keeping ourselves from being radiated to death. As we head towards the third decade of the 21st century, it’s hopeful to bear in mind that we don’t always act in our own worst interests.


For everything to stay the same, everything has to change,” says a character in Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s 1963 novel, The Leopard. What do we need to change to keep our world stable? How do we solve for X+Y+Z — X being our civilization’s need for energy, without which it will fall swiftly into anarchy; Y being the finite nature of the earth’s atmosphere, incapable of absorbing infinite amounts of CO2 without destroying us; and Z being our understandable wish to live full and happy lives on a healthy planet, followed by future human generations doing the same. One way of solving this equation is to devise more efficient ways of turning sunlight into electrical energy. Another way is to make oil itself — and the CO2 it emits — part of a cyclical process rather than a linear one. Oil, it seems, does not have to come out of the ground, and it doesn’t have to have pollution as its end product.

There are many smart people applying themselves to these problems, and many new technologies emerging. On my desk right now is a list of 15 of them. Some take carbon directly out of the air and turn it into other materials, such as cement. Others capture carbon by regenerating degraded tropical rainforests — a fast and cheap method — or sequestering carbon in the soil by means of biochar, which has the added benefit of increasing soil fertility. Some use algae, which can also be used to make biofuel. One makes a carbon-sequestering asphalt. Carbon has been recycled ever since plant life emerged on earth; these technologies and enterprises are enhancing that process.

Meanwhile, courage: homo sapiens sapiens sometimes deserves his double plus for intelligence. Let’s hope we are about to start living in one of those times.

An earlier version of this article appeared in the Norwegian magazine Samtiden.

Appendix: Companies that take CO2 out of the air

by Margaret Atwood