Arquivo mensal: novembro 2015

clown army defending climate in Paris

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Isabelle Stengers’ new book available open access

the anthropo.scene

Isabelle Stengers’ new book, In Catastrophic Times, is available for free as a .pdf download at this site. Here is a description of the book (which you can also buy in hard copy as well following the link above):

There has been an epochal shift: the possibility of a global climate crisis is now upon us. Pollution, the poison of pesticides, the exhaustion of natural resources, falling water tables, growing social inequalities – these are all problems that can no longer be treated separately. The effects of global warming have a cumulative impact, and it is not a matter of a crisis that will “pass” before everything goes back to “normal.”

Our governments are totally incapable of dealing with the situation. Economic warfare obliges them to stick to the goal of irresponsible, even criminal, economic growth, whatever the cost. It is no surprise that people were so struck…

Ver o post original 32 mais palavras

Ancient viral molecules essential for human development (Science Daily)

Date: November 23, 2015

Source: Stanford University Medical Center

Summary: Genetic material from ancient viral infections is critical to human development, according to researchers.


Rendering of a virus among blood cells. Credit: © ysfylmz / Fotolia

Genetic material from ancient viral infections is critical to human development, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

They’ve identified several noncoding RNA molecules of viral origins that are necessary for a fertilized human egg to acquire the ability in early development to become all the cells and tissues of the body. Blocking the production of this RNA molecule stops development in its tracks, they found.

The discovery comes on the heels of a Stanford study earlier this year showing that early human embryos are packed full of what appear to be viral particles arising from similar left-behind genetic material.

“We’re starting to accumulate evidence that these viral sequences, which originally may have threatened the survival of our species, were co-opted by our genomes for their own benefit,” said Vittorio Sebastiano, PhD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology. “In this manner, they may even have contributed species-specific characteristics and fundamental cell processes, even in humans.”

Sebastiano is a co-lead and co-senior author of the study, which will be published online Nov. 23 in Nature Genetics. Postdoctoral scholar Jens Durruthy-Durruthy, PhD, is the other lead author. The other senior author of the paper is Renee Reijo Pera, PhD, a former professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford who is now on the faculty of Montana State University.

Sebastiano and his colleagues were interested in learning how cells become pluripotent, or able to become any tissue in the body. A human egg becomes pluripotent after fertilization, for example. And scientists have learned how to induce other, fully developed human cells to become pluripotent by exposing them to proteins known to be present in the very early human embryo. But the nitty-gritty molecular details of this transformative process are not well understood in either case.

An ancient infection

The researchers knew that a type of RNA molecules called long-intergenic noncoding, or lincRNAs, have been implicated in many important biological processes, including the acquisition of pluripotency. These molecules are made from DNA in the genome, but they don’t go on to make proteins. Instead they function as RNA molecules to affect the expression of other genes.

Sebastiano and Durruthy-Durruthy used recently developed RNA sequencing techniques to examine which lincRNAs are highly expressed in human embryonic stem cells. Previously, this type of analysis was stymied by the fact that many of the molecules contain highly similar, very repetitive regions that are difficult to sequence accurately.

They identified more than 2,000 previously unknown RNA sequences, and found that 146 are specifically expressed in embryonic stem cells. They homed in on the 23 most highly expressed sequences, which they termed HPAT1-23, for further study. Thirteen of these, they found, were made up almost entirely of genetic material left behind after an eons-ago infection by a virus called HERV-H.

HERV-H is what’s known as a retrovirus. These viruses spread by inserting their genetic material into the genome of an infected cell. In this way, the virus can use the cell’s protein-making machinery to generate viral proteins for assembly into a new viral particle. That particle then goes on to infect other cells. If the infected cell is a sperm or an egg, the retroviral sequence can also be passed to future generations.

HIV is one common retrovirus that currently causes disease in humans. But our genomes are also littered with sequences left behind from long-ago retroviral infections. Unlike HIV, which can go on to infect new cells, these retroviral sequences are thought to be relatively inert; millions of years of evolution and accumulated mutations mean that few maintain the capacity to give instructions for functional proteins.

After identifying HPAT1-23 in embryonic stem cells, Sebastiano and his colleagues studied their expression in human blastocysts — the hollow clump of cells that arises from the egg in the first days after fertilization. They found that HPAT2, HPAT3 and HPAT5 were expressed only in the inner cell mass of the blastocyst, which becomes the developing fetus. Blocking their expression in one cell of a two-celled embryo stopped the affected cell from contributing to the embryo’s inner cell mass. Further studies showed that the expression of the three genes is also required for efficient reprogramming of adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells.

Sequences found only in primates

“This is the first time that these virally derived RNA molecules have been shown to be directly involved with and necessary for vital steps of human development,” Sebastiano said. “What’s really interesting is that these sequences are found only in primates, raising the possibility that their function may have contributed to unique characteristics that distinguish humans from other animals.”

The researchers are continuing their studies of all the HPAT molecules. They’ve learned that HPAT-5 specifically affects pluripotency by interacting with and sequestering members of another family of RNAs involved in pluripotency called let-7.

“Previously retroviral elements were considered to be a class that all functioned in basically the same way,” said Durruthy-Durruthy. “Now we’re learning that they function as individual elements with very specific and important roles in our cells. It’s fascinating to imagine how, during the course of evolution, primates began to recycle these viral leftovers into something that’s beneficial and necessary to our development.”


Journal Reference:

  1. Jens Durruthy-Durruthy, Vittorio Sebastiano, Mark Wossidlo, Diana Cepeda, Jun Cui, Edward J Grow, Jonathan Davila, Moritz Mall, Wing H Wong, Joanna Wysocka, Kin Fai Au, Renee A Reijo Pera. The primate-specific noncoding RNA HPAT5 regulates pluripotency during human preimplantation development and nuclear reprogrammingNature Genetics, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/ng.3449

Army ants’ ‘living’ bridges span collective intelligence, ‘swarm’ robotics (Science Daily)

Date: November 24, 2015

Source: Princeton University

Summary: Researchers report for the first time that the ‘living’ bridges army ants of the species Eciton hamatum build with their bodies are more sophisticated than scientists knew. The ants automatically assemble with a level of collective intelligence that could provide new insights into animal behavior and even help in the development of intuitive robots that can cooperate as a group.


Researchers from Princeton University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology report for the first time that the “living” bridges army ants of the species Eciton hamatum (pictured) build with their bodies are more sophisticated than scientists knew. The ants automatically assemble with a level of collective intelligence that could provide new insights into animal behavior and even help in the development of intuitive robots that can cooperate as a group. Credit: Courtesy of Matthew Lutz, Princeton University, and Chris Reid, University of Sydney

 Columns of workers penetrate the forest, furiously gathering as much food and supplies as they can. They are a massive army that living things know to avoid, and that few natural obstacles can waylay. So determined are these legions that should a chasm or gap disrupt the most direct path to their spoils they simply build a new path — out of themselves.

Without any orders or direction, individuals from the rank and file instinctively stretch across the opening, clinging to one another as their comrades-in-arms swarm across their bodies. But this is no force of superhumans. They are army ants of the species Eciton hamatum, which form “living” bridges across breaks and gaps in the forest floor that allow their famously large raiding swarms to travel efficiently.

Researchers from Princeton University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) report for the first time that these structures are more sophisticated than scientists knew. The ants exhibit a level of collective intelligence that could provide new insights into animal behavior and even help in the development of intuitive robots that can cooperate as a group, the researchers said.

Ants of E. hamatum automatically form living bridges without any oversight from a “lead” ant, the researchers report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences. The action of each individual coalesces into a group unit that can adapt to the terrain and also operates by a clear cost-benefit ratio. The ants will create a path over an open space up to the point when too many workers are being diverted from collecting food and prey.

“These ants are performing a collective computation. At the level of the entire colony, they’re saying they can afford this many ants locked up in this bridge, but no more than that,” said co-first author Matthew Lutz, a graduate student in Princeton’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

“There’s no single ant overseeing the decision, they’re making that calculation as a colony,” Lutz said. “Thinking about this cost-benefit framework might be a new insight that can be applied to other animal structures that people haven’t thought of before.”

The research could help explain how large groups of animals balance cost and benefit, about which little is known, said co-author Iain Couzin, a Princeton visiting senior research scholar in ecology and evolutionary biology, and director of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and chair of biodiversity and collective behavior at the University of Konstanz in Germany.

Previous studies have shown that single creatures use “rules of thumb” to weigh cost-and-benefit, said Couzin, who also is Lutz’s graduate adviser. This new work shows that in large groups these same individual guidelines can eventually coordinate group-wide, he said — the ants acted as a unit although each ant only knew its immediate circumstances.

“They don’t know how many other ants are in the bridge, or what the overall traffic situation is. They only know about their local connections to others, and the sense of ants moving over their bodies,” Couzin said. “Yet, they have evolved simple rules that allow them to keep reconfiguring until, collectively, they have made a structure of an appropriate size for the prevailing conditions.

“Finding out how sightless ants can achieve such feats certainly could change the way we think of self-configuring structures in nature — and those made by man,” he said.

Ant-colony behavior has been the basis of algorithms related to telecommunications and vehicle routing, among other areas, explained co-first author Chris Reid, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Sydney who conducted the work while at NJIT. Ants exemplify “swarm intelligence,” in which individual-level interactions produce coordinated group behavior. E. hamatum crossings assemble when the ants detect congestion along their raiding trail, and disassemble when normal traffic has resumed.

Previously, scientists thought that ant bridges were static structures — their appearance over large gaps that ants clearly could not cross in midair was somewhat of a mystery, Reid said. The researchers found, however, that the ants, when confronted with an open space, start from the narrowest point of the expanse and work toward the widest point, expanding the bridge as they go to shorten the distance their compatriots must travel to get around the expanse.

“The amazing thing is that a very elegant solution to a colony-level problem arises from the individual interactions of a swarm of simple worker ants, each with only local information,” Reid said. “By extracting the rules used by individual ants about whether to initiate, join or leave a living structure, we could program swarms of simple robots to build bridges and other structures by connecting to each other.

“These robot bridges would exhibit the beneficial properties we observe in the ant bridges, such as adaptability to local conditions, real-time optimization of shape and position, and rapid construction and deconstruction without the need for external building materials,” Reid continued. “Such a swarm of robots would be especially useful in dangerous and unpredictable conditions, such as natural disaster zones.”

Radhika Nagpal, a professor of computer science at Harvard University who studies robotics and self-organizing biological systems, said that the findings reveal that there is “something much more fundamental about how complex structures are assembled and adapted in nature, and that it is not through a supervisor or planner making decisions.”

Individual ants adjusted to one another’s choices to create a successful structure, despite the fact that each ant didn’t necessarily know everything about the size of the gap or the traffic flow, said Nagpal, who is familiar with the research but was not involved in it.

“The goal wasn’t known ahead of time, but ‘emerged’ as the collective continually adapted its solution to the environmental factors,” she said. “The study really opens your eyes to new ways of thinking about collective power, and has tremendous potential as a way to think about engineering systems that are more adaptive and able to solve complex cost-benefit ratios at the network level just through peer-to-peer interactions.”

She compared the ant bridges to human-made bridges that automatically widened to accommodate heavy vehicle traffic or a growing population. While self-assembling road bridges may be a ways off, the example illustrates the potential that technologies built with the same self-assembling capabilities seen in E. hamatum could have.

“There’s a deep interest in creating robots that don’t just rely on themselves, but can exploit the group to do more — and self-assembly is the ultimate in doing more,” Nagpal said. “If you could have small simple robots that were able to navigate complex spaces, but could self-assemble into larger structures — bridges, towers, pulling chains, rafts — when they face something they individually did not have the ability to do, that’s a huge increase in power in what robots would be capable of.”

The spaces E. hamatum bridges are not dramatic by human standards — small rifts in the leaf cover, or between the ends of two sticks. Bridges will be the length of 10 to 20 ants, which is only a few centimeters, Lutz said. That said, E. hamatum swarms form several bridges during the course of a day, which can see the back-and-forth of thousands of ants.

“The bridges are something that happen numerous times every day. They’re creating bridges to optimize their traffic flow and maximize their time,” Lutz said.

“When you’re moving hundreds of thousands of ants, creating a little shortcut can save a lot of energy,” he said. “This is such a unique behavior. You have other types of ants forming structures out of their bodies, but it’s not such a huge part of their lives and daily behavior.”

The research also included Scott Powell, an army-ant expert and assistant professor of biology at George Washington University; Albert Kao, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard who received his doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton in 2015; and Simon Garnier, an assistant professor of biological sciences at NJIT who studies swarm intelligence and was once a postdoctoral researcher in Couzin’s lab at Princeton.

To conduct their field experiments, Lutz and Reid constructed a 1.5-foot-tall apparatus with ramps on both sides and adjustable arms in the center with which they could adjust the size of the gap. They then inserted the apparatus into active E. hamatum raiding trails that they found in the forests of Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Because ants follow one another’s chemical scent, Lutz and Reid used sticks and leaves from the ants’ trail to get them to reform their column across the device.

Lutz and Reid observed how the ants formed bridges across gaps that were set at angles of 12, 20, 40 and 60 degrees. They gauged how much travel-distance the ants saved with their bridge versus the surface area (in centimeters squared) of the bridge itself. Twelve-degree angles shaved off the most distance (around 11 centimeters) while taking up the fewest workers. Sixty-degree angles had the highest cost-to-benefit ratio. Interestingly, the ants were willing to expend members for 20-degree angles, forming bridges up to 8 centimeters squared to decrease their travel time by almost 12 centimeters, indicating that the loss in manpower was worth the distance saved.

Lutz said that future research based on this work might compare these findings to the living bridges of another army ant species, E. burchellii, to determine if the same principles are in action.

The paper, “Army ants dynamically adjust living bridges in response to a cost-benefit trade-off,” was published Nov. 23 by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation (grant nos. PHY-0848755, IOS0-1355061 and EAGER IOS-1251585); the Army Research Office (grant nos. W911NG-11-1-0385 and W911NF-14-1-0431); and the Human Frontier Science Program (grant no. RGP0065/2012).


Journal Reference:

  1. Chris R. Reid, Matthew J. Lutz, Scott Powell, Albert B. Kao, Iain D. Couzin, Simon Garnier. Army ants dynamically adjust living bridges in response to a cost–benefit trade-offProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 201512241 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1512241112

Congresso pode votar projetos que fragilizam proteção ambiental a desastres como o de Mariana (ISA)

JC 5309, 25 de novembro de 2015

Proposta de “rito sumário” para licenciamento ambiental de empreendimentos “estratégicos” do governo pode ser votada nesta quarta (25/11). Novo Código de Mineração também pode ser votado nas próximas semanas sem garantir proteção ao meio ambiente e populações afetadas pela atividade minerária

Uma comissão do Senado pode votar, na tarde desta quarta (25/11), um projeto que fragiliza o principal instrumento para evitar desastres ambientais, o licenciamento ambiental. A Câmara também pode apreciar, nas próximas semanas, o novo Código de Mineração, que promete estimular como nunca a atividade no País, mas não traz salvaguardas que protejam efetivamente o meio ambiente e populações afetadas.

As duas votações podem acontecer poucos dias depois do rompimento de uma barragem de rejeitos de mineração da empresa Samarco, que destruiu o distrito de Bento Rodrigues, em Mariana (MG), afetou dezenas de outros municípios entre Minas Gerais e Espírito Santo, lançou uma onda de lama ao longo do Rio Doce, praticamente destruindo seus ecossistemas, e agora deverá causar impactos ambientais graves na costa capixaba, naquela que já é considerada a maior tragédia ambiental do País. Denúncias dão conta de que o licenciamento ambiental da barragem deveria ter sido mais rigoroso. A Samarco pertence à Vale e à mineradora anglo-australiana BHP Billiton.

Por enquanto, já foram registradas 12 mortes e 11 pessoas continuam desaparecidas. A onda de lama interrompeu o fornecimento de água de pelos menos 500 mil pessoas entre os dois estados. Ainda não se sabe toda a extensão dos danos, mas os custos de reparação devem passar do patamar de bilhões de reais. Não há previsão para a recuperação dos ecossistemas ao longo do rio.

A proposta que pode ser votada nesta quarta é o Projeto de Lei do Senado (PLS) 654/2015, de autoria do senador Romero Jucá (PMDB-RR). Ele cria um “rito sumário” para o licenciamento ambiental de empreendimentos que sejam considerados “estratégicos” pelo Poder Executivo federal ou estadual, por meio de decreto. A proposta estabelece uma licença ambiental única a ser concedida em torno de oito meses, sem previsão de audiências públicas. Poderiam ser classificados como “estratégicos” empreendimentos como extração de minério, estradas, ferrovias, aeroportos, hidrelétricas, portos e linhas de comunicação.

A tendência é que, se aprovado o projeto, teriam um licenciamento acelerado obras complexas com grandes impactos, justamente aquelas que especialistas e organizações da sociedade civil consideram que necessitam de processos de licenciamento mais cautelosos e eficazes.

“É um completo contrassenso que o Senado possa aprovar um projeto que pretende reduzir drasticamente a prevenção de danos socioambientais como os ocorridos após o rompimento da barragem da Samarco”, critica Maurício Guetta, advogado do ISA. “O caso de Mariana, a exemplo de outros tantos, deveria servir de lição para que o Congresso e o Poder Executivo aprimore o licenciamento ambiental, evitando a ocorrência de danos irreparáveis. Flexibilizá-lo será prejudicial a todos: meio ambiente, populações afetadas, governos e o próprio empresariado.”

O relator da matéria é o senador Blairo Maggi (PR-MT). O projeto está na Comissão Especial de Desenvolvimento Nacional em caráter terminativo, ou seja, se aprovado segue diretamente para a Câmara sem passar pelo plenário do Senado. Os parlamentares podem, porém, aprovar um recurso para levar a proposta ao plenário. Essa comissão recebeu as propostas da chamada “Agenda Brasil”, iniciativa do presidente do Senado, Renan Calheiros (PMDB-AL), que supostamente visaria a enfrentar a crise econômica.

As assessorias do líder do governo no Senado, Delcídio Amaral (PT-S), e de Maggi responderam que os parlamentares não poderiam conceder entrevistas até o fechamento desta reportagem.

Código de Mineração

O presidente da Câmara, Eduardo Cunha (PMDB-RJ), manifestou, há alguns dias, a intenção de levar o Projeto de Lei 37/2011, o novo Código de Mineração, diretamente ao plenário, atalhando sua tramitação (saiba mais). O parecer sobre a proposta ainda não foi oficialmente apresentado e discutido pelos deputados na Comissão Especial que o analisava.

Sob a justificativa de simplificar e liberalizar a burocracia relacionada à mineração, o relator, deputado Leonardo Quintão (PMDB-MG), apresentou um parecer preliminar que aprofunda retrocessos para o meio ambiente e os direitos de comunidades indígenas e tradicionais impactadas pela atividade. Segundo Quintão, esse relatório teria sido elaborado junto com técnicos do Ministério de Minas e Energia e teria apoio do Planalto (leia mais). A assessoria do líder do governo na Câmara, José Guimarães (PT-CE), informou que ele só vai se pronunciar sobre o projeto quando for apresentado um relatório final.

Quintão vem argumentando que sua proposta não reforça salvaguardas ambientais, sociais e trabalhistas porque já há legislações específicas que as garantiriam. Ele também afirma que o parecer assegura recursos para as comunidades afetadas por meio de verbas que serão destinadas aos municípios que abrigam empreendimentos de mineração. Sem explicitar e detalhar formas de compensação e proteção socioambientais, no entanto, o relatório não garante os direitos de populações específicas diretamente atingidas.

Depois do desastre de Mariana, ao invés de adiar a votação de seu parecer para reavaliá-la, Quintão vem empenhando esforços para acelerar a tramitação da matéria. O deputado limitou-se a prometer algumas mudanças em seu relatório. O site do parlamentar afirma que ele irá incluir na proposta um “seguro antidanos” obrigatório para “cobrir prejuízos ao meio ambiente, às pessoas, à infraestrutura urbana e à economia local em caso de catástrofes”. Também promete estabelecer a exigência de que as mineradoras apresentem planos para o tratamento de resíduos de barragem que permitam sua reutilização.

Para Maurício Guetta, essas medidas são insuficientes e deixam de contemplar ações preventivas para evitar tragédias como a de Mariana. “Faz mais de dois anos que cobramos do relator alterações substanciais no texto, para que sejam incluídas medidas de prevenção de danos decorrentes das atividades minerárias e para que sejam garantidos os direitos das populações afetadas e dos trabalhadores. Mesmo após o desastre de Mariana, ele continua a ignorar as demandas apresentadas”, denuncia Guetta.

(Instituto Socioambiental)

Gut microbes signal to the brain when they’re full (Science Daily)

Date: November 24, 2015

Source: Cell Press

Summary: Don’t have room for dessert? The bacteria in your gut may be telling you something. Twenty minutes after a meal, gut microbes produce proteins that can suppress food intake in animals, reports a study. The researchers also show how these proteins injected into mice and rats act on the brain reducing appetite, suggesting that gut bacteria may help control when and how much we eat.


These are neurons (c-fos, green) in the rat central amygdala activated by E. coli proteins in stationary phase and surrounded by nerve terminals (calcitonin gene-related peptide, red) originating from anorexigenic brainstem projections. Credit: J. Breton, N. Lucas & D. Schapman.

Don’t have room for dessert? The bacteria in your gut may be telling you something. Twenty minutes after a meal, gut microbes produce proteins that can suppress food intake in animals, reports a study published November 24 in Cell Metabolism. The researchers also show how these proteins injected into mice and rats act on the brain reducing appetite, suggesting that gut bacteria may help control when and how much we eat.

The new evidence coexists with current models of appetite control, which involve hormones from the gut signalling to brain circuits when we’re hungry or done eating. The bacterial proteins–produced by mutualistic E. coli after they’ve been satiated–were found for the first time to influence the release of gut-brain signals (e.g., GLP-1 and PYY) as well as activate appetite-regulated neurons in the brain.

“There are so many studies now that look at microbiota composition in different pathological conditions but they do not explore the mechanisms behind these associations,” says senior study author Sergueï Fetissov of Rouen University and INSERM’s Nutrition, Gut & Brain Laboratory in France. “Our study shows that bacterial proteins from E. coli can be involved in the same molecular pathways that are used by the body to signal satiety, and now we need to know how an altered gut microbiome can affect this physiology.”

Mealtime brings an influx of nutrients to the bacteria in your gut. In response, they divide and replace any members lost in the development of stool. The study raises an interesting theory: since gut microbes depend on us for a place to live, it is to their advantage for populations to remain stable. It would make sense, then, if they had a way to communicate to the host when they’re not full, promoting host to ingest nutrients again.

In the laboratory, Fetissov and colleagues found that after 20 minutes of consuming nutrients and expanding numbers, E. coli bacteria from the gut produce different kinds of proteins than they did before their feeding. The 20 minute mark seemed to coincide with the amount of time it takes for a person to begin feeling full or tired after a meal. Excited over this discovery, the researcher began to profile the bacterial proteins pre- and post-feeding.

They saw that injection of small doses of the bacterial proteins produced after feeding reduced food intake in both hungry and free-fed rats and mice. Further analysis revealed that “full” bacterial proteins stimulated the release of peptide YY, a hormone associated with satiety, while “hungry” bacterial hormones did not. The opposite was true for glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a hormone known to simulate insulin release.

The investigators next developed an assay that could detect the presence of one of the “full” bacterial proteins, called ClpB in animal blood. Although blood levels of the protein in mice and rats detected 20 minutes after meal consumption did not change, it correlated with ClpB DNA production in the gut, suggesting that it may link gut bacterial composition with the host control of appetite. The researchers also found that ClpB increased firing of neurons that reduce appetite. The role of other E.coli proteins in hunger and satiation, as well as how proteins from other species of bacteria may contribute, is still unknown.

“We now think bacteria physiologically participate in appetite regulation immediately after nutrient provision by multiplying and stimulating the release of satiety hormones from the gut,” Fetisov says. “In addition, we believe gut microbiota produce proteins that can be present in the blood longer term and modulate pathways in the brain.”


Journal Reference:

  1. Jonathan Breton, Naouel Tennoune, Nicolas Lucas, Marie Francois, Romain Legrand, Justine Jacquemot, Alexis Goichon, Charlène Guérin, Johann Peltier, Martine Pestel-Caron, Philippe Chan, David Vaudry, Jean-Claude do Rego, Fabienne Liénard, Luc Pénicaud, Xavier Fioramonti, Ivor S. Ebenezer, Tomas Hökfelt, Pierre Déchelotte, Sergueï O. Fetissov. Gut Commensal E. coli Proteins Activate Host Satiety Pathways following Nutrient-Induced Bacterial GrowthCell Metabolism, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2015.10.017

Pecuária é responsável por 15% dos gases do efeito estufa (O Globo)

Renato Grandelle, 24/11/2015

Desmatamento na Região de Xapuri no Acre – Gustavo Stephan/ 05-12-2013

RIO— Parte expressiva da liberação de carbono na atmosfera fica bem longe da fumaça liberada por usinas ou carros. Um novo estudo do Chatham House, o Real Instituto de Relações Internacionais do Reino Unido, indica que cerca de 15% dos poluentes que levam ao aquecimento global são provenientes da pecuária — seja pelo metano da digestão e estrume dos animais, ou pela produção de culturas para alimentação. De acordo com o relatório “Mudanças climáticas, mudanças na alimentação”, reduzir a quantidade de carne no prato é fundamental para assegurar que a temperatura global não avance mais do que 2 graus Celsius neste século.

O planeta, porém, ignora a recomendação. Estima-se que, com o aumento da classe média nos países em desenvolvimento — especialmente na China e no Brasil —, o consumo de carne crescerá até 76% nos próximos 35 anos.

Mudar a alimentação pode cortar pela metade os custos das futuras medidas contra o aquecimento global. E o clima não será a única área favorecida pela nova dieta. Coautora do estudo, Laura Wellesley ressalta que conter o consumo exagerado de carne também traz benefícios imediatos à saúde.

— Não estamos sugerindo que todo mundo deve se tornar vegetariano. A carne, consumida com moderação, pode fazer parte de uma dieta saudável para o indivíduo e o meio ambiente — ressalta. — De acordo com a Escola de Medicina de Harvard, a porção diária não deve ultrapassar 70 gramas, que é um hambúrguer de tamanho médio. Se nada for feito para nos limitarmos a este valor, os padrões alimentares atuais serão incompatíveis com o aumento de temperatura de apenas 2 graus Celsius.

DIETA SAUDÁVEL FORA DA COP-21

Atualmente, o consumo dos brasileiros é de duas vezes e meia a quantidade diária recomendada; nos EUA, é de três vezes mais. Um estudo divulgado em outubro pela Organização Mundial de Saúde alertou que a ingestão exagerada de carnes vermelhas e processadas pode levar à ocorrência de doenças não transmissíveis, principalmente o câncer.

— Mudanças de alimentação devem estar no topo da lista das discussões na Conferência do Clima de Paris (COP-21). É uma estratégia rápida e econômica para conter as emissões de gases-estufa — avalia Laura.

Ainda assim, o debate sobre a dieta mundial deve ficar fora da mesa de negociações da COP-21. Para os pesquisadores do Chatham House, os governos temem que campanhas reivindicando limitações ao consumo de carne desagradem a opinião pública e a indústria de alimentos.

Desde o início do ano, cerca de 150 países apresentaram à ONU metas voluntárias para cortar a emissão de gases de efeito estufa. A diminuição do consumo de carne não foi mencionada em nenhum projeto.

— Como são cautelosos em assumir um risco, os governos têm favorecido a inércia e permanecem em silêncio sobre a questão das dietas sustentáveis — lamenta Laura. — As pesquisas revelam que inicialmente muitas pessoas não gostam da ideia de comer menos carne, e por isso são resistentes à ideia de intervenção do poder público. No entanto, depois que são informadas sobre a relação entre dieta e clima, a maioria recomenda que o governo promova intervenções e forneça orientações e incentivos para a mudança na alimentação.

No Brasil, diz o levantamento, a população sente orgulho da pecuária, mas demonstra preocupação com sua potencial expansão desordenada para a Floresta Amazônica. A pecuária é uma das atividades econômicas mais importantes do país — representa 6,8% do PIB —, mas também corresponde a uma das mais ineficientes do mundo, já que é baseada na prática extensiva. Os lucros estão no tamanho da área usada, e não na eficiência produtiva. No Cerrado há, em média, apenas 1 boi por hectare — estima-se que é possível triplicar esta ocupação sem qualquer comprometimento dos rendimentos do setor.

A força econômica da pecuária e o hábito do consumo exagerado de carne — a “tradição do churrasco de fim de semana”, como destaca o Chatham House — são os maiores obstáculos para que o governo federal desenvolva projetos que promovam a alimentação saudável e, ao mesmo tempo, aumente o alerta da população contra as mudanças climáticas. O brasileiro é conhecido como um dos povos mais preocupados no mundo com o aquecimento global, mas nunca foi informado sobre sua ligação com mudanças na dieta.

Climate policy: Democracy is not an inconvenience (Nature)

NATURE | COMMENT

Nico Stehr

22 September 2015

Climate scientists are tiring of governance that does not lead to action. But democracy must not be weakened in the fight against global warming, warns Nico Stehr.

Illustration by David Parkins

There are many threats to democracy in the modern era. Not least is the risk posed by the widespread public feeling that politicians are not listening. Such discontent can be seen in the political far right: the Tea Party movement in the United States, the UK Independence Party, the Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) demonstrators in Germany, and the National Front in France.

More surprisingly, a similar impatience with the political elite is now also present in the scientific community. Researchers are increasingly concerned that no one is listening to their diagnosis of the dangers of human-induced climate change and its long-lasting consequences, despite the robust scientific consensus. As governments continue to fail to take appropriate political action, democracy begins to look to some like an inconvenient form of governance. There is a tendency to want to take decisions out of the hands of politicians and the public, and, given the ‘exceptional circumstances’, put the decisions into the hands of scientists themselves.

This scientific disenchantment with democracy has slipped under the radar of many social scientists and commentators. Attention is urgently needed: the solution to the intractable ‘wicked problem’ of global warming is to enhance democracy, not jettison it.

Voices of discontent

Democratic nations seem to have failed us in the climate arena so far. The past decade’s climate summits in Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban and Warsaw were political washouts. Expectations for the next meeting in Paris this December are low.

Academics increasingly point to democracy as a reason for failure. NASA climate researcher James Hansen was quoted in 2009 in The Guardian as saying: “the democratic process doesn’t quite seem to be working”1. In a special issue of the journal Environmental Politics in 2010, political scientist Mark Beeson argued2 that forms of ‘good’ authoritarianism “may become not only justifiable, but essential for the survival of humanity in anything approaching a civilised form”. The title of an opinion piece published earlier this year in The Conversation, an online magazine funded by universities, sums up the issue: ‘Hidden crisis of liberal democracy creates climate change paralysis’ (see go.nature.com/pqgysr).

The depiction of contemporary democracies as ill-equipped to deal with climate change comes from a range of considerations. These include a deep-seated pessimism about the psychological make-up of humans; the disinclination of people to mobilize on issues that seem far removed; and the presumed lack of intellectual competence of people to grasp complex issues. On top of these there is the presumed scientific illiteracy of most politicians and the electorate; the inability of governments locked into short-term voting cycles to address long-term problems; the influence of vested interests on political agendas; the addiction to fossil fuels; and the feeling among the climate-science community that its message falls on the deaf ears of politicians.

“It is dangerous to blindly believe that science and scientists alone can tell us what to do.”

Such views can be heard from the highest ranks of climate science. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change, said of the inaction in a 2011 interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel: “comfort and ignorance are the biggest flaws of human character. This is a potentially deadly mix”.

What, then, is the alternative? The solution hinted at by many people leans towards a technocracy, in which decisions are made by those with technical knowledge. This can be seen in a shift in the statements of some co-authors of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, who are moving away from a purely advisory role towards policy prescription (see, for example, ref. 3).

We must be careful what we wish for. Nations that have followed the path of ‘authoritarian modernization’, such as China and Russia, cannot claim to have a record of environmental accomplishments. In the past two or three years, China’s system has made it a global leader in renewables (it accounts for more than one-quarter of the planet’s investment in such energies4). Despite this, it is struggling to meet ambitious environmental targets and will continue to lead the world for some time in greenhouse-gas emissions. As Chinese citizens become wealthier and more educated, they will surely push for more democratic inclusion in environmental policymaking.

Broad-based support for environmental concerns and subsequent regulations came about in open democratic argument on the value of nature for humanity. Democracies learn from mistakes; autocracies lack flexibility and adaptability5. Democratic nations have forged the most effective international agreements, such as the Montreal Protocol against ozone-depleting substances.

Global stage

Impatient scientists often privilege hegemonic players such as world powers, states, transnational organizations, and multinational corporations. They tend to prefer sweeping policies of global mitigation over messier approaches of local adaptation; for them, global knowledge triumphs over local know-how. But societal trends are going in the opposite direction. The ability of large institutions to impose their will on citizens is declining. People are mobilizing around local concerns and efforts6.

The pessimistic assessment of the ability of democratic governance to cope with and control exceptional circumstances is linked to an optimistic assessment of the potential of large-scale social and economic planning. The uncertainties of social, political and economic events are treated as minor obstacles that can be overcome easily by implementing policies that experts prescribe. But humanity’s capacity to plan ahead effectively is limited. The centralized social and economic planning concept, widely discussed decades ago, has rightly fallen into disrepute7.

The argument for an authoritarian political approach concentrates on a single effect that governance ought to achieve: a reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions. By focusing on that goal, rather than on the economic and social conditions that go hand-in-hand with it, climate policies are reduced to scientific or technical issues. But these are not the sole considerations. Environmental concerns are tightly entangled with other political, economic and cultural issues that both broaden the questions at hand and open up different ways of approaching it. Scientific knowledge is neither immediately performative nor persuasive.

Enhance engagement

There is but one political system that is able to rationally and legitimately cope with the divergent political interests affected by climate change and that is democracy. Only a democratic system can sensitively attend to the conflicts within and among nations and communities, decide between different policies, and generally advance the aspirations of different segments of the population. The ultimate and urgent challenge is that of enhancing democracy, for example by reducing social inequality8.

If not, the threat to civilization will be much more than just changes to our physical environment. The erosion of democracy is an unnecessary suppression of social complexity and rights.

The philosopher Friedrich Hayek, who led the debate against social and economic planning in the mid-twentieth century9, noted a paradox that applies today. As science advances, it tends to strengthen the idea that we should “aim at more deliberate and comprehensive control of all human activities”. Hayek pessimistically added: “It is for this reason that those intoxicated by the advance of knowledge so often become the enemies of freedom”10. We should heed his warning. It is dangerous to blindly believe that science and scientists alone can tell us what to do.

Nature 525, 449–450 (24 September 2015) dos:10.1038/525449a

References

  1. Adam, D. ‘Leading climate scientist: “democratic process isn’t working”’ The Guardian (18 March 2009).
  2. Beeson, M. Environ. Politics 19276294 (2010).
  3. Hansen, J. et alPLoS ONE http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0081648 (2013).
  4. REN21Renewables 2015 Global Status Report (REN21, 2015).
  5. Runciman, D. The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present (Princeton Univ. Press, 2013).
  6. Stehr, N. Information, Power and Democracy, Liberty is a Daughter of Knowledge (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2015).
  7. Pierre, J. Debating Governance: Authority, Steering, and Democracy (Oxford Univ. Press, 2000).
  8. Rosanvallon, P. The Society of Equals (Harvard Univ. Press, 2013).
  9. Hayek, F. A. Nature 148580584 (1941).
  10. Hayek, F. A. The Constitution of Liberty (Routledge, 1960).

What Became of America’s Water-Cure Towns? (City Lab/The Atlantic)

The 19th-century craze for “taking the waters” produced hundreds of spa towns across America. Many fell on hard times. Now some are looking to revive.

HENRY GRABAR

 

Nov 16, 2015

Image Library of Congress

Relaxing at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, c. 1888 (Library of Congress)

It’s easy to imagine the burgeoning business of “wellness” as a product of our time, sold on narcissism and exhaustion from punishing work schedules.

In fact, the wellness craze has deep roots. Beginning in the middle of the 19th century, the leisure class grew infatuated with a particular type of healthy getaway: the water cure. By the 1850s, a constellation of spa villages had emerged across 20 states. By 1930, the country had over 2,000 hot- and cold-spring resorts.

Neither the practice nor the result of the treatment—which evolved out of a newfound enthusiasm for bathing—was strictly defined. Hydropathy encompassed everything from a spell in the tub to highly regimented procedures supervised by water doctors with stopwatches. According to its boosters, who were some of the most distinguished medical men of the day, water could cure everything from hiccups to cancer (and even hydrophobia!).Renowned water-lovers included John Roebling, the engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, who liked to wrap himself in a damp, cold sheet, and most famously, President Franklin Roosevelt, whose interest in taking the waters long predated his visits to Warm Springs, Georgia.

Most of these “procedures” could have been performed at public baths, or at suburban facilities like the Harrogate spa, four miles out of Philadelphia. But part of the lure was always to get out of the city. For one thing, hydropathy was cast as a cure for the peculiar ailments of the well-off urbanite—a remedy for bourgeois decadence, to heal, as Carl Smith writes in City Water, City Life, the ill effects of the “overly refined life characteristic of cities.” (The equivalent of a modern farm vacation, maybe.)

“Taking the Waters at Saratoga”—a Harper’s cover in 1890 (Yates Collection of Saratogiana, Skidmore College)

For another thing, as Thomas Chambers suggests in Drinking the Waters, “taking the waters” was simply an excuse to have fun. And so a vast network of scenic spa towns emerged along the railroads. Built around grand bathhouses, they offered a much more social experience than bathing at home.

Some of these places, like Saratoga Springs, New York, or Palm Springs, California, blossomed into small cities, with diverse leisure cultures and other economic engines. But most fell into a state of prolonged decline in the 20th century. The trains stopped running; the visitors stopped arriving; the grand hotels closed, collapsed, or burned.

Not surprisingly, the perceived medical value of hydropathy dropped after the discovery of penicillin and the polio vaccine. But there were other factors at work, too. Bathing, like other old-time leisure pursuits, simply wasn’t cool anymore. Americans had taken up other, more exhilarating physical activities. And the automobile and the airplane opened up exciting new vacation possibilities.

But some spa towns are turning around, finding renewed interest in their quaint charms—and their water.

Hot Springs c. 1888 (Library of Congress)

The Buckstaff today (Zack Frank / Shutterstock.com)

Hot Springs, Arkansas, is one of those places. A town of 35,000 about halfway between Memphis and Dallas, Hot Springs was once a major destination for high rollers from Chicago and St. Louis.

In 1946, visitors took 649,000 baths on Bathhouse Row, the parade of elegant spas abutting the main drag. By 1979, that number had fallen to just 79,000. Retail occupancy downtown in the 1980s was below 10 percent. All but one of the bathhouses closed between 1962 and 1985.

That surviving establishment, the Buckstaff, continues to offer an old-time water-cure to visitors. But it’s no longer the only game in town: In 2007, investors rehabilitated the neighboring Quapaw into a luxe modern spa. Three years ago, the Superior spa reopened as a brewery, producing the world’s only thermal beer.

The number of visitors to Hot Springs is steadily rising, and the retail occupancy rate is now over 90 percent. Historic architecture is no small part of its charm. “It’s totally a nostalgic story,” says Cole McCaskill, the downtown development director for the Hot Springs Metro Partnership. But, he adds, the city has done a good job diversifying its water-tourism offerings: A stay in Hot Springs now might include a trip to a nearby water park or aquarium.

Earlier visitors would have supplemented their health vacation with a little gambling, or a visit to an ostrich or alligator farm. This was typical, Chambers explains. “People wanted to find ways to have leisure, but culture told them they couldn’t do anything wasteful or not productive. You could say you were going to the springs for your health, but you were really going there to try and find a spouse or gamble.”

The Vanderbilts moved on years ago from Sharon Springs, New York, one of a handful of smaller, quieter resort towns west of Saratoga Springs. Now small-town appeal has drawn investors to revitalize the bathing industry there. A Korean investment group is restoring a long-dormant spa complex for Korean tourists, which has coincided with a general sense of civic renewal.

“We’re thrilled they’re doing something,” says Ron Ketelson, a California transplant who purchased the nearby Roseboro Hotel last year. “The bathhouse is being saved.”

For Ketelson, New York’s spa-town past represents something more personal than moth-balled grandeur. Not long after he purchased the Roseboro, Ketelson found an old postcard revealing that—unbeknownst to him—his own grandfather, suffering from breathing problems, had come to take the waters in Sharon Springs.

Ibama concede licença e Belo Monte pode começar a operar (Greenpeace)

25/11/2015

Obras do canteiro da hidrelétrica de Belo Monte, em março de 2015. Foto: Greenpeace/Fábio Nascimento

Apesar de todos os impactos socioambientais causados por Belo Monte até agora e de grande parte das condicionantes estipuladas no licenciamento não terem sido cumpridas, o Ibama concedeu, nesta terça-feira, dia 24, a licença de operação permitindo que a Norte Energia, empresa responsável pela construção da hidrelétrica, inicie o enchimento do reservatório da usina.

Em Brasília, um grupo de cerca de 70 índios do Xingu protestou contra a decisão do Ibama, durante a coletiva de imprensa com a presidente do órgão, Marilene Ramos, organizada para anunciar a licença.

“Belo Monte não tem e nem nunca teve viabilidade ambiental. A Licença de Operação agora concedida apenas coroa um processo de licenciamento questionável, baseado na pressão do setor elétrico para que o projeto seja realizado a qualquer custo. Infelizmente esse fato evidencia que o licenciamento ambiental hoje no Brasil funciona como um jogo de cartas marcadas para viabilizar uma decisão política já tomada previamente, que subestima o gigantismo dos impactos socioambientais causados na região”, afirma Danicley de Aguiar, da Campanha da Amazônia do Greenpeace.

Em junho, um levantamento batizado de “Dossiê Belo Monte – Não há condições para a Licença de Operação”, publicado pelo Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) apontou sérias consequências resultantes do não cumprimento de grande parte das condicionantes. Entre os principais impactos estão o aumento da exploração ilegal de madeira, a inviabilização do modo de vida ribeirinho e indígena, a destruição da atividade pesqueira da região e um atropelado do processo de reassentamento compulsório de populações urbanas e rurais. (Greenpeace Brasil/ #Envolverde)

* Publicado originalmente no site Greenpeace Brasil.

*   *   *

Após multa de R$ 5 milhões, Belo Monte terá licença (O Globo)

Balsa no Rio Xingu transporta materiais para construção de dique da Belo Monte: projeto previa que, quando a usina entrasse em operação, as condicionantes socioambientais já deveriam estar resolvidas – Dado Galdieri / Bloomberg

Danilo Farelo, 24/11/2015

BRASÍLIA – Mesmo com o descumprimento de uma série de condicionantes ambientais pela Norte Energia, empresa responsável pela hidrelétrica no Rio Xingu (PA), o Ibama vai publicar nos próximos dias a licença de operação da usina de Belo Monte. Com isso, a empresa terá aval para encher o reservatório e começar a gerar energia, o que deve ocorrer a partir de fevereiro. A permissão foi precedida de um auto de infração de R$ 5,087 milhões aplicado na sexta-feira à Norte Energia pelo descumprimento de condicionantes previstas na licença anterior, que permitiu a construção da obra.

No dia 12 de novembro, em ofício enviado ao Ibama dando anuência para a emissão da licença, a Fundação Nacional do Índio (Funai) destacou uma série de condicionantes descumpridas pela Norte Energia. Mas, para assegurar que, mesmo com a usina em operação, a batalha pelos indígenas continuará, o presidente da Funai, João Pedro Gonçalves da Costa, assinou com a Norte Energia no mesmo dia 12 um termo de cooperação, no qual a empresa se compromete a cumprir as exigência que ficaram pelo caminho.

PRAZO DE 90 DIAS

Segundo o termo, ao qual o GLOBO teve acesso, algumas previsões têm meta de cumprimento em até 90 dias, como a contratação de serviços especializados para utilização de ferramentas computacionais e sistema de gerenciamento de projetos do Componente Indígena. O termo também prevê a criação de um fundo de R$ 6 milhões para ser revertido em ações de sustentabilidade a serem destinadas exclusivamente às comunidades afetadas. Procurada para comentar sobre a assinatura do termo com a Funai e auto de infração, a Norte Energia não se manifestou.

— É um bom termo e nos dá elementos para continuar brigando. Nós não vamos abrir mão dos direitos dos povos indígenas. A Norte Energia tem de se comprometer, e nós conseguimos isso. Há um diferencial aqui, pelas multas. Antes, multa era só para o Ibama, mas nós conseguimos aqui um padrão de rigor que nos dá essa tranquilidade — disse o presidente da Funai.

O projeto leiloado previa que, quando a usina entrasse em operação, as condicionantes socioambientais, nas quais está incluída a questão indígena, já deveriam estar resolvidas.

— Lamentavelmente, não está (resolvida a questão indígena). Mas a Funai continua brigando e criando condições para que nada seja esquecido e que a Norte Energia faça aquilo que tem que ser feito para os povos indígenas.

Em setembro, o Ibama havia encaminhado à Norte Energia exigências para a emissão da licença operacional, que já se encontra livre de pendências. Uma das maiores obras do Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento (PAC), Belo Monte terá capacidade total de 11,2 mil Megawatts.

As contradições da Funai em Belo Monte (ISA)

Editorial do Instituto Socioambiental

Contradições, falta de um posicionamento claro e contundente por parte da Funai quanto a importantes ações de mitigação de impactos socioambientais da usina de Belo Monte (PA), colocam os povos indígenas da região em uma situação de absoluta vulnerabilidade e incertezas. Leia o Editorial do ISA sobre assunto

O presidente da Fundação Nacional do Índio (Funai), João Pedro Costa, enviou à presidente do Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente (Ibama), Marilene Ramos, no dia 12/11, um ofício com a síntese da avaliação da Funai a respeito da última etapa do licenciamento ambiental da hidrelétrica de Belo Monte (PA). Cabe ao presidente da Funai neste momento recomendar ou não ao Ibama o Licenciamento da Obra no tocante ao seu componente indígena. Cabe ao Ibama ponderar as recomendações da Funai e o parecer de seus técnicos sobre outros componentes socioambientais e decidir sobre a concessão da licença de operação da usina.

O documento da Funai, por um lado, pede sanções à empresa Norte Energia, dona da obra, pelas falhas na execução do componente indígena das condicionantes socioambientais da hidrelétrica. Certifica uma lista de impactos agravados com o não cumprimento de medidas de proteção às Terras Indígena e de saúde dos povos indígenas que vivem na região. Ainda verifica as consequências das ações mal sucedidas da empresa nas áreas atingidas. Solicita a reelaboração integral da matriz de impactos da obra e das correspondentes medidas de mitigação para os povos indígenas afetados. No entanto, surpreendentemente, o ofício afirma que “todas as demais ações relacionadas ao Componente Indígena necessárias, precedentes e preparatórias para o enchimento do reservatório e para implementação do trecho de vazão reduzida (TVR) também foram integralmente cumpridas”.

A contradição entre a existência de inúmeras e graves vulnerabilidades que ainda pesam sobre os povos indígenas e o indicativo de que é possível iniciar o enchimento do reservatório foi denunciada na imprensa e coloca em questão o papel do órgão na proteção dos povos indígenas da região. A Presidência da Funai posicionou-se hoje sobre as reportagens publicadas (veja aqui). O posicionamento da Funai sinaliza positivamente ao Ibama, no tocante ao componente indígena, para a emissão da Licença de Operação de Belo Monte, que permitirá o enchimento do reservatório e o inicio da geração de energia, mesmo sem haver as condições necessárias para enfrentar os impactos da finalização da obra.

A usina está em fase final de instalação, já tendo iniciado os planos de demissão de trabalhadores e desarticulação dos canteiros. Os Estudos de Impacto Ambiental da obra preveem para esta fase um aumento da população desempregada e pressões sobre recursos naturais das Terras Indígenas e Unidades de Conservação, com possibilidade de grave acirramento de conflitos interétnicos caso essas áreas não estejam adequadamente protegidas.

O documento enviado pelo presidente da Funai aponta que o Plano de Fiscalização e Vigilância das Terras Indígenas não foi executado. Faz referência ainda a obrigações de competência exclusiva do poder publico, relacionadas à garantia dos direitos territoriais dos povos indígenas atingidos pela obra que ainda não foram executadas. O exemplo mais gritante dessa situação diz respeito à Terra Indígena Cachoeira Seca. A área aguarda a homologação da Presidência da República e responde por um dos maiores índices de desmatamento do Brasil. Além das invasões de grileiros, a área tem sido palco de saques de exploração ilegal de madeireira sem precedentes (saiba mais).

Além de condicionantes estratégicas não cumpridas pelo empreendedor, existem ações complexas de responsabilidade do governo federal, que demandam articulação institucional e estão totalmente paralisadas, como os processos de retirada de moradores não indígenas das terras Apyterewa, Arara da Volta Grande, Cachoeira Seca e Paquiçamba. O próprio fortalecimento da Funai na região é uma questão de extrema importância que está sendo desconsiderada pelo presidente da instituição. Ao invés de reforçar a estrutura física e de profissionais que atuam na sede da Funai em Altamira, face aos inúmeros desafios colocados por Belo Monte, a Funai sofreu uma redução do número de servidores de 72%, entre os anos de 2011 e 2015, passando de 60 para apenas 23 servidores.

A dívida de Belo Monte com os povos indígenas do Xingu é grande e está sintetizada no Dossiê Belo Monte: Não há condições para a Licença de Operação, assim como no parecer técnico da Diretoria de Licenciamento da Funai emitido em setembro.

A falta de um posicionamento mais claro e contundente por parte da Funai, neste momento, quanto a importantes ações de mitigação de impactos socioambientais e de estruturação do órgão na região, coloca os povos indígenas numa situação de alta vulnerabilidade para encarar esses impactos negativos da usina apontados pelos Estudos de Impacto Ambiental (EIA) para a fase de operação do empreendimento.

(Instituto Socioambiental)

Hatfield The Rainmaker (The Journal of San Diego History)

The Journal of San Diego History
SAN DIEGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY QUARTERLY
Winter 1970, Volume 16, Number 4 
Linda Freischlag, Editorial Assistant

HATFIELD THE RAINMAKER

By Thomas W. Patterson

Images from this Article

Oh Mister Hatfield, you’ve been good to us:
You’ve made it rain in ways promiscuous!
From Saugus down to San Diego’s Bay
They bless you for the rains of yesterday.
But Mister Hatfield, listen now;
Make us this vow:
Oh, please, kind sir, don’t let it rain on Monday!And other doings full of fun and glee
For New Year’s Day are planned abundantly
From Saugus down to San Diego’s Bay
And they will bless you on tomorrow’s day,
Great moistener, if you will listen now
And make this vow:
Oh, please, kind sir, don’t let it rain on Monday!*

* At the conclusion of the drouth-ridden year 1904 the citizens of the Los Angeles area, who had raised money to hire him, were sing­ing praises of the rainmaker Charley Hatfield, their savior. He had achieved success. The rains had come—and come—and come.    As the New Year approached, however, an ugly thought crept into the minds of some o/ the populace. What if Charley Hatfield made it rain on the day of that stupendous event, the Tournament of Roses Parade? This anon­ymous piece of doggerel, appealing to him for charity on Monday, January 2, the date of the parade, appeared in several newspapers.    Evidently the plea was heard. Although it rained earlier in the day and still sprinkled where Charley was working five miles from the parade, no rain fell during the procession.

I. WHOSE DISCIPLE?

The best remembered facts about Hatfield The Rainmaker are that when he ministered to the sky it rained tor­rents and when he tried to collect $10,000 from the City of San Diego the mayor and council welshed.

There will always be room for a query: Was the rain really a coinci­dence? Did he really believe what he claimed, or was he a fellow with a knowing wink?

Some wrote delightedly that he was a scoundrel. Others, especially David Starr Jordan, wrote as though they thought him a cruel fraud against whom the public needed protection.

Nobody ever got behind his mask, and, in fact it may never have been a mask. The actual record of Hatfield’s activities explodes some commonly held truths, but the strangest facts and coincidences persist. The record makes no real headway against the legend.

Charles Mallory Hatfield got into the public’s attention when the Los Angeles Times on February 2, 1904, misspelling his name, said:

Charles Hadfield, expert rain manufacturer, has been sent out by a number of South Spring Street merchants to bring down the recreant showers. For the consideration of $50 Hadfield has planted his instruments in the foothill district near Pasadena and with a new process of chemical evaporation promises abundant moisture in five days. The magician holds himself responsible for the abundant rain in San Diego County late last spring, and says he has tried 17 times, scoring only one fail­ure. Barnett & Gude, H. E. Memory, H. G. Ackley and others stand sponsor to this com­mander of nature.

It was no credulous account, but rain­makers were a discredited lot. They had had their vogue in the Midwest in the 1880’s and 1890’s. The ancient world had known a theory that noxious fumes, such as the stench of bodies after a major battle, caused rain. After artil­lery became a significant part of war, Benvenuto Cellini wrote of explosions causing rain. This theory lasted several centuries and explained, to the satisfac­tion of some, the storm that handicapped the Spanish Armada and the mud at Waterloo. It was Americanized after the Civil War by a man named Edward Powers,who wrote War and The Weather contending that most of the Civil War battles caused rain. Then there was a belief that prairie fires caused rain and that the Chicago fire drenched itself, although tardily.

Congress, pressed by influential senators who owned Western land and hoped there might be something to it, spent over $20,000 testing the explosion theory by some spectacular Texas balloon busting and cannonading, supervised by a flamboyant character named Robert St. George Dyrenforth. The explosion theory faded out after that, but the fume theory returned. A whole school of rainmakers practiced in the Midwest, each with a secret formula.

The biggest names among the fume men were those of Frank Melbourne, known as the Australian Wizard, and G. B. Jewell, who operated originally under auspices of the Rock Island Rail­road and practiced from a specially equipped boxcar. These men never oper­ated in California, but in 1899 one of Jewell’s disciples sought a rainmaking contract at Pasadena. In 1900 another persuaded a group of San Diegans to pay the cost of sending aloft the fumes of zinc dissolved in sulphuric acid, and this was described as the great Jewell’s secret formula.

There had been three terrible years of drouth at the end of the century, drying up irrigation canals in the Central Valley and leaving Southern California as brown in winter as in summer. Now, in January 1904, no rain had fallen since early December and precious little since the previous spring. Matters were so bad that Catholic and Protestant churches appealed through the newspapers for a day of prayer for rain on Sunday, January 31.

In the brown Los Angeles hinterland no one was far removed from the tra­ditional grazing economy. Jotham Bixby, the big cattleman of Long Beach, com­plained in the public prints: “This is the first time since 1872 that we have not had any green grass at this time of year.” Those who looked far ahead were talking, quietly as yet, about a prepos­terously long aqueduct from Owens River Valley, but for the present there was water in the city mains, as far as they reached.

Hatfield set up shop two days after the day of prayer. In another two days there was rain in the northern part of the state, but forecaster George E. Franklin of the Los Angeles office of the U. S. Weather Bureau predicted there would be none for Los Angeles. He was wrong. At 6 o’clock that evening it started raining heavily, continuing off and on for the rest of the night and most of the following week. It rained well over an inch downtown, more in the foothills.

Franklin explained that it was the tail-end of the Northern California storm that had come over the Tehachapi. Still there was the coincidence that it had followed quickly after Hatfield’s pre­sumed activity.

The newspapers had almost forgotten the prayers as a possible cause. All of them saw fit to mention Hatfield and his manipulations, but the Herald left no bases uncovered, saying:

In answer to the prayers of the church, as a result of Rainmaker Hatfield’s manipulation or from natural causes, rain began falling last evening….

The coincidence was so interesting that the papers did not drop it for several days. Although they could not find Hatfield, the Herald located friends who believed he set up a tank on a high point near Newhall. They understood he mixed chemicals and sent vapor into the clouds, requiring not less than three hours or more than five days to bring rain. This last was stressed in all reports—five days, not more.

The papers also learned that Hatfield was a young man and a sewing machine salesman. The Times located the family home in Inglewood, but the rainmaker was not there and the family did not know or would not tell where he was. The Times photographed his mother and printed her statement:

The people’s prayers for rain have been answered through my son. For five years he has studied alone against prejudices. His determination is simply marvelous. Some divine power must aid him.

The rainmaker’s base of operation was neither at Pasadena nor Newhall. It was midway between the two at the foot of the present New York Avenue in La Crescenta. There in the brush coun­try at the base of the mountains a tower some 20 feet high had been erected, surmounted by a platform 10 feet square. What appears in photographs to resemble a fume hood, somewhat narrower than those over stoves or laboratory cookers, protruded several feet upward from the platform. Beside it was a small pedestal surmounted by a narrow can—a rain gauge. At the base of the tower, Charley Hatfield and his young brother Paul camped in a tent.

Hatfield might have been seen, but for the isolation of the place, first helping to build the tower, then climbing up and down the ladder carrying loads. For hours at a time he might have been seen busy with something near the fume hood, out of the line of vision of anyone watch­ing from the ground nearby.

He was 28, thin and of medium height. His hair was thinning slightly in front and receding at the corners. His face was narrow and the impression was sharpened by a long, thin nose. He wore a business suit as though he were in an office or ringing a doorbell in search of a sewing machine prospect. Before he was long in camp his suit had sadly lost its press and sometimes was soaked with rain.

Paul, a boy of 17, was working equally hard—fetching, carrying, tending the camp and caring for the horses.

An elderly Englishman named Metcalf had a cabin a quarter mile away from which he tended a bee apiary. When he called at the tower to pay his respects and possibly to promote a conversation, Charley and Paul were too busy for more than a casual greeting. Later, after a walk, they returned to find Met­calf inside their tent. Charley promptly ordered him out. When Metcalf protested that his intentions were friendly and sociable, in keeping with Western custom, Paul leveled the shotgun and commanded, with all the authority a youth could muster, “Get out of here!”

A week after they arrived, with the rain stopped, Charley and Paul disman­tled the tower and stowed the lumber and some heavy trunks and the tent into their wagon. They drove southeasterly, following the dirt road that is now Honolulu Avenue, to Verdugo Road, then turned onto Colorado Avenue where they stopped at the little grocery operated by Joe Olivas. Charley bought a  Times and for the first time saw himself dis­cussed in a news story. Despite the doubting tone, it did report that Hatfield had gone forth and that rain had fallen. They drove on to Inglewood.

II. THE SEWING MACHINE SALESMAN

Charley and Paul went back to their routine at the Robert B. Moorhead Agency, dealer in New Home Sewing Machines, 349 South Spring Street. Within the year reporters would be seeking the rainmaker in greater ex­citement than ever, but in the spring, summer and fall of 1904 he was back in the business where he had been recognized as a young man with a big future. His salary then, or so he said a few months later, was $125 a month, a very respectable figure in 1904.

He was city manager, supervising other salesmen including Paul. For a brief interlude their father, Stephen E. Hatfield, was also working in the office of his old friend Bob Moorhead, who was one of the sponsors of Hatfield’s efforts to produce rain at La Crescenta.

Stephen Hatfield had owned a sewing machine agency in Fort Scott, Kansas. He sold it in 1875, the year Charley was born, then moved with his family to Minneapolis where he built homes and traded in real estate. Late in 1886 they moved to San Diego, then enjoying a boom as the original Pacific Coast terminus of the Santa Fe railroad. Among his San Diego operations was the building of three substantial homes at Sixteenth and Broadway, one of which the family occupied for a time.

The Hatfield brothers all learned to take sewing machine heads apart, adjust or repair them. Nevertheless, for the greater part of his economic life the elder Hatfield engaged in building and trading property.

Charley and his elder brother, Stephen G., were born in Fort Scott. Paul and the only daughter, Phoebe, were born in Minneapolis. Joel, the youngest, was born in San Diego. Young Charley, aged 11, became Newsboy No. 9 for Hanley’s News-stand at Fifth and F Streets, sell­ing the San Diego Union. He made big money when Gen. John A. Logan, founder of the GAR, died on December 26, 1886. Charley sold 65 newspapers bearing that headline.

The San Diego boom fell off after 1886 when the Santa Fe reached Los Angeles, opening its rate-cutting war with the Southern Pacific. Los Angeles then ex­perienced its wildest real estate boom while San Diego felt cruelly sold out.

The Hatfields acquired ten acres at Melrose and Vermont Avenues, far out west and north of Los Angeles, in 1890. The beach cities farther west were well established by then. Hollywood was only an unsuccessful subdivision and other in-between areas were beginning to acquire a scattering of people in place of cattle and sheep. The Hatfields with their imposing suburban house, sur­rounded by a young orchard, were the second family to live in what was then called Cahuenga Valley. In 1893 they sold and moved to Mission Road in South Pasadena and from there to Pasadena. In that area Charley finished his formal schooling by attending high school. There also, filled with the nation’s surge of patriotic fervor and notwithstanding a Quaker background, Charley tried to enlist for the 1898 war with Spain. He was rejected as too thin to be a soldier.

By that time he was a full-time salesman, but he had a consuming side interest. In the pursuit of it he haunted the Pasadena and Los Angeles public libraries, pouring over tables of rainfall statistics and probably reading popular disputations about the science ­discredited rainmakers. He was im­pressed most, according to his later recollections, by a book named  Elementary Meteorology by the Harvard professor of geology and science popularizer, William Morris Davis.

In later years, Hatfield repeatedly gave his reason for dedicating himself to rainmaking. He said he was prompted by the terrible years of drouth near the end of the century. In fact, drouth had been chronic since the mid-nineties despite occasional local floods and pas­sable seasons. The suffering was not confined to those who lived on farms or herded grazing animals. It reached into business, town and family life.

Hatfield denied that his rainmaking method was akin to any other, old-time or contemporary. Nevertheless he was well acquainted with the big rainmaking names of the past. He was familiar with Edward Powers’ War and the Weather—The Artificial Production of Rain, which served as the chief inspiration to that movement. He would have known of the publicized efforts of the G. B. Jewell disciple, W B. Hughes, to secure a contract from Pasadena in 1899. Secretary Frank Wiggins of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce rejected Hughes’ offer to work for a fee of $5,000.

Hatfield often told how he first tried his own theories. The Hatfield family had taken up residence in 1902 on a ranch in Gopher Canyon at Bonsall in northern San Diego County. Charley re­mained a resident of Los Angeles, but he performed his first rainmaking from the top of the windmill tower on the ranch. Its use might have been sug­gested by earlier towers in Europe from which explosions were set off.

Later there were reports that Hatfield himself had set off explosions at Bon­sall and the reports were to persist for years. He always denied it and the stories lack confirmation. One account persisting in many versions quotes Fred Hanson, a longtime friend of the Hat­fields. It relates that Mrs. Hatfield mysteriously referred to explosions and said that some day her son would be a great man. Hanson, in a letter in 1958, said he could recall hearing nothing about explosions. Charley consistently said he evaporated a fluid from shallow pans.

There is no doubt, however, that Mrs. Hatfield thought her second son would be a great man, and later that he had indeed become great. Charley had a self-assured rather than a boastful manner. More than one acquaintance of his early rainmaking years, Fred Han­son included, recalled later that he had an almost religious zeal. Not that he claimed special dispensation or higher calling. He did have the attitude of a man with a mission. Those who could not be convinced, he allowed to go in error rather than labor to correct them. He never condemned.

The Hatfields were proud of their lineage, which was traceable for some 300 years. They carried their Quaker beliefs into manners and morality. They were in firm disagreement with one forbear, Elder Elias Hicks who founded the Hicksite sect of Quakers. They favored the orthodox outlook.

Quakers, especially orthodox ones, held tenaciously to the doctrine of in­dividuality. The teachings of George Fox, founding theorist, were strong with the Reformation spirit, decrying a con­ventional authority and proclaiming the wisdom of the individual’s own inter­pretation of the Scriptures.

To be sure, a Quaker was expected to bring every revelation of a religious character to meeting and submit it to his peers, who might dissuade him. But Quakers also set themselves apart in manners and dress, resisting easier ways of those not subject to the disci­pline. Some carried the doctrine of individuality into secular matters, with a strong sense of being right. Certain tough-minded Quakers had reputations for inpervious individualistic views on politics, science, commerce or the state of the nation.

Young Charley conducted himself in the business world with application, diligence and neatness becoming a gentleman and a Quaker. His suit was always pressed, his linen fresh and his manner alert as he went about his selling. While the practice of business could be combative and deceptive, Charley sold an honest product in an approved way. On the other hand he knew that business does not operate by Sunday school rules. Fred Hanson once asked him what he did when a house was posted “No Peddlers or Agents” and when the woman of the house inquired if he could not read. Charley replied that he would say, “Yes, but I don’t believe in signs,” and added that he had sold more than one sewing machine following just such an introduction.

The elder Hatfield wore the tradi­tional broad Quaker hat to church. The Hatfields attended traditional meetings where men and women sat on opposite sides. Charley attended regularly as a boy. Although he was seldom seen in church after 30, his strong sense of being right remained with him.

There was no public knowledge of Charley’s doings on Bonsall tower and probably there was no surprise at sev­eral small showers that fell in parts of the coastal region of San Diego County in April and May of 1902. In July, how­ever, .92 of an inch fell in San Diego. That was rare, although old-timers know that if it rains at all in July in Southern California it’s likely to rain hard. Charley later said it was his work, based on his own theories, that caused all the spring and summer rains in the coastal San Diego area.

Before he took his first paid engage­ment early in 1904, Charley built, with Paul’ s help, at least three other towers for experimentation. The first and most successful, according to Charley, was near the mouth of Big Tujunga Canyon, November 6 through November 9, 1902. He said rains of three inches or more fell along the west-east line from La Crescenta through Pasadena, and 1.95 inches fell on downtown Los Angeles. Another higher tower was erected in Big Tujunga, near the present dam, and still another was at Inglewood, the Hat­field family home after Bonsall. At Inglewood he claimed to have induced a modest .43 inch in September, 1903….

III. WHIDDEN WAS A DOUBTER

Between the years 1903 in Bonsall where he performed his first rainmaking experiments and 1912 when he was in­vited by a group of ranchers in northern San Diego County to break a severe drouth, Charley Hatfield’s activities carried him as far north as Alaska and all through central California. He achieved much success in the San Joa­quin Valley “West Side” and in that part of the West Side between Los Banos at the foot of Pacheco Pass and Westley, some 40 miles to the north—including the towns of Volta, Gustine, Newman, Crows Landing and Patterson.

In 1907 Oregon’s grain farmers called upon him for help. His reputation spread into Texas, Idaho, Arizona, Kansas and other areas west of the Mississippi River.

Still he never was far in heart from San Diego, for after Inglewood, in 1903, the elder Hatfields bought a home and olive grove at Fallbrook, ten miles north of the Bonsall Gopher Canyon ranch where Charley had experimented in 1902. A few years later he married a San Diego girl.

The year 1912 found him living in Fallbrook, near San Diego. He had two assignments during that time, at least one of which paid him more than he received for his most successful efforts in the San Joaquin Valley West Side. The first one was at Hemet, in northern San Diego County. The second was near Carlsbad, Texas, whose grain farmers, hearing of Charley’s success at Hemet, wired him to come to Carlsbad to assist with their cotton crop farming, which drouth had hampered.

The invitation to make rain at Hemet came from Tommy Rawson, dominant personality among dry farmers. Several Rawson brothers together farmed some 15,000 acres. The initiative may have come from W. P. Whittier, the San Francisco investor and sportsman who founded Hemet. The two publicly an­nounced men serving on the committee with Rawson were W. Alger Fast, manager of several of Whittier’s Hemet enterprises, and John Shaver, longtime member of the county board of super­visors. Shaver lived in San Jacinto, the smaller and older town of the valley, where he ran a hardware store.

Up to March 1 it was an extremely dry season at most points in Southern California. Charley, at Hemet, February 21, in negotiation with Rawson, called to mind the great moistening of Los Angeles in 1904-05.

“Will you guarantee to produce rain?” asked the Hemet News reporter, to which Charley replied, “I certainly will, or it won’t cost the people a cent.”

He had prepared a draft contract, the heading of which put squarely the impression he wanted to convey: “Four Inches of Rain for Four Thousand Dol­lars. No Rain, No Pay.” In it he agreed to set up a “rain precipitation and at­traction plant” and to operate it from March 1 to May 1. For each inch of rain falling during that time he was to receive $1,000, up to four inches. There would be no pay for any additional amount. Three gauges, one in Menifee Valley, one near San Jacinto and the third at the Hatfield tower were to govern the payoff. Signers were obtained to underwrite the $4,000.

Charley returned to Hemet March 1. A. K. Whidden, county bee inspector, chanced to meet him in a lumberyard. It was already raining, a circumstance that scoffers assumed would be em­barrassing to a rainmaker who hadn’t yet started working.

“I wish I was out under this with my apparatus,” Charley said, and Whidden asked, “What could you do?” Charley answered, “You may get three inches from this storm. I could give you three and a half.” This was Whidden’s recol­lection, in which he said he might not be exactly right as to the figures but was sure of the substance of the re­marks. Whidden was a doubter, recalling that Charley “could talk more and say less than anyone I had ever known.”

Whittier’s carpenters built the tower at Little Lake, three miles southeast of the town. An inch had fallen before Charley proclaimed himself at work Despite the unassisted start of the rain and Whidden’s skepticism, Hemet har­bored few publicly identified doubters. The News reported the rainmaking and the rain extensively, without a sour note. As to the rain itself, it was like Esper­anza or one of the bigger years at Crows Landing.

Again the coincidence was repeated that rain elsewhere in Southern Cali­fornia was only average or less. Poor Crows Landing had a bad year. Hemet got 3.12 inches in April compared to a 40-year average for that month of 2.5. After his start of operations, Hatfield got credit for more than seven inches. In summation the News reported:

So well pleased are the ranchers in Mr. Hatfield’s work here that he has been prevailed upon to store his apparatus in Hemet until next season, when he will likely come back and take a bigger contract…Mr. Hatfield has had 15 contracts…and he has not failed in one instance…(his theory) is proving beyond doubt that rain can be produced.

Charley did not return, possibly be­cause Hemet was not troubled by drouth in the next several seasons. The recep­tacles he left behind were still on hand at the Rawson ranch in 1960, when a series of dry years and an ultra-dry one caused old-timers to recall the Hatfield visit.

Close on the heels of Hemet, from June 10 through July 22, the brothers practiced the art with the aid of three towers alongside a slough of the Concho River in Water Valley near Carlsbad, Texas.

Among Paul’s troubles as a commis­sary chief at that location were the opossums that invaded the larder, reaching even the ham and bacon hang­ing on wire from the tent ridgepole, and Texas ants three quarters of an inch long.

Carlsbad, Texas is one of the Hatfield engagements where the published recol­lections, in spite of Hatfield’s denials and other opposing evidence, have it that rocket-like streaks of smoke were seen and that balloons were exploded at high altitudes. There is basis for confusion of recollection. The Dyrenforth experi­ments of 1892-93 had started at Midland, Texas, including balloon explosions at high altitudes.

In 1910 and 1911 there were latter­day experiments in rainmaking by ex­plosions near Post City in the Texas Panhandle, north of Carlsbad. C. W;. Post, the breakfast food man, owned a ranch there and was impatient with drouth conditions. Several bombard­ments at widely spaced intervals brought no results. Finally in August of 1911 his men exploded 1,000 two-pound charges of dynamite in rapid succession, soon after which an inch of rain fell. Post claimed he was satisfied of success. He scheduled another demonstration for the spring of 1912 at Santa Barbara, Calif., but it didn’t materialize.

The Hatfield records have it that 3.37 inches of rain fell at Carlsbad during the engagement there. The cotton crop should have thrived on that.

IV. COSGROVE’S DROUTH

Following his successful experiments in Texas, Charley came back to Calif­ornia and more particularly, to San Diego which was beginning to view its situation, water-wise. In rapid fashion the com­munity, initially concerned about not enough water, switched to a worry about too much, after Charley was hired in December 1915, for soon after that came the disasterous floods of January 1916.

These floods left scars on the moun­tains and hills of San Diego County for years, and scoured river channels to bedrock. Washouts tore out miles of tracks and trains were stopped for 32 days. Highways and the telephone and telegraph were cut off, leaving only the sea for transportation and Marconi’s wireless for direct communication.

Brush-covered hillsides, probably overgrazed, were saturated to the con­sistency of slush and the soil gave way in great slides. The scars permanently changed the contour of hills and disappeared only as new brush grew and the new contours became familiar. Springs previously unknown to the back country flowed for years afterward. Lower Otay Dam went out and loosed a flood that demolished everything in front of it. Many lives were lost.

Old residents with an ingrained habit of hoping for rain remember today that for the first time they were fearful. It seemed the rains would never end and the damage would never stop mounting. On the high land of San Diego itself life seemed to be perched, wet and insecure, above raging disaster. The San Diego River was a mile-wide torrent covering Mission Valley from the Kearny Mesa to the mesa of the city and sending back-waters between the jutting fingers of both. Great trees tumbled root over branch. Sticks of lumber, railroad ties and parts of houses floated crazily. Out of the gullies from the east and south came droves of cattle, horses, sheep and goats.

All of it would be known thereafter as Hatfield’s flood, comparable only to San Diego’s great flood of 1862 in stream flow. Despite the tragedy, it would also suggest the plot of comedies in which a little man made hocus pocus at the sky and the rain fell in torrents.

San Diego has since assumed the strained air of amused tolerance as it views the simplicity of its 1916 city council. No other government body except the rambunctious Yukon Terri­torial Council ever employed Hatfield. San Diego has a vague discomfort be­cause it agreed to pay Charles M. Hatfield $10,000 if Morena Reservoir was filled. Morena was filled until a thundering cataract went over the spill­way, but San Diego behaved like the town of Hamlin after the deal with the Pied Piper.

Toward the winter of 1915, San Diego was talking of drouth, although the rainfall record in the city fails to ex­plain why. The year 1915 had started with good rains. Others came at reasonable intervals. In early December there was rain, before the deal was made with Hatfield on December 13. More came before he got into action. The calendar year 1915 ended with 13.62 inches compared to an average of 9.90. The average of five calendar years, 1909 through 1914, was 9.25.

Even in the Laguna Mountains to the east, from which came most of the water supply, the city’s shortage was not critical. Although Morena Reservoir had not been filled since it was built in 1897, by the end of 1915 it was calcu­lated to be holding five billion gallons of its fifteen billion capacity.

However, other reservoirs had not been filled either, and the city’s growth had placed increased demands on the supply. The area’s potential growth was a bigger factor in creating concern over possible shortages. It was well under­stood that water shortages in Southern California must be anticipated. Legal battles over water in the Southwest have frequently been accompanied by maneuvers to suggest that the tank is already dry.

Acutely aware of future needs, its lack of reserve supply and its present shortage, the City of San Diego had decided in 1913 to gather in all its potential water supply. It engaged a city attorney expert in water matters. He declared in 1914 that the city, by virtue of a grant in the name of the Spanish king, had the right to the full flow of the San Diego River. In December of 1915 hearings were started in Los Angeles on the Capitan Grande Case, against ranch owners and pro­moters who had appropriated much of the stream’s flow. These circumstances made San Diego receptive to the claims of Charley Hatfield and set in motion a series of events that the city would regret.

San Diego knew Charley Hatfield. Some had said harsh things about him when he declared, two years after the fact, that he caused the big rain of July, 1902. Rain in July is the last thing a California dry farmer wants. However, Charley’s wife was a San Diego woman, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Rulon, and their family visits kept some of the Hatfields’ old San Diego contacts on the list of active acquaintances. One of the most presistent and faithful was Fred A. Binney.

Fred Binney was well known in San Diego, only partly because of his active interest in the San Diego rainmakers of 1900. He was a large, lean man with an ample set of whiskers, a squeaky voice, an English accent, a belief in socialism and an evangelistic tendency. He made his living as a real estate broker. He painted his own “for sale” signs with an amateur hand and took liberties as to where he set them up. The houses he advertised were “pretty homes with nice gardens and pretty flowers.” He was an indefatigable walker. The 15 miles from downtown San Diego to La Jolla were for him an easy stroll.

Binney believed in Charley Hatfield’s ability to cause rain. He took pains to say he was not Charley’s agent, but was taking his own initiative. In all but one matter Charley was a conservative man, who wanted no conventions upset. He would have preferred an advocate with more standing, but he accepted such help as he could get.

Binney knew the feeling of rejection. Once he was regaling City Councilman Don Stewart concerning Hatfield when the councilman may have given facial expression to his reaction. Or perhaps Binney already sensed the rejection and knew what was meant by an attitude of polite listening. In any case he broke off suddenly and said: “There are all sorts of wonders you believe in, like wireless and Burbank’s new plants, and automobiles. But when a man comes in with a simple, sensible idea, you treat him as though he were a lunatic!” With that he arose to his full dignified height and stalked out.

As early as 1912, soon after the city acquired Morena Dam and Reservoir from the Southern California Mountain Water Company, Binney wrote to the council asking it to engage Hatfield. Late in 1915 he made a public appeal in newspaper advertising. While he was too much associated with lost causes to be impelling, he helped dramatize and sell the idea. The councilmen, however much some of them pretended later it was a kind of jest, were interested enough to give it a whirl and not skep­tical enough to reject it. Still, there might have been a certain cunning in­volved, not necessarily recognized by them.

Early in December, Charley appeared before the council in conference. Shelley Higgins, assistant city attorney and later judge, was to spend a large share of his time thereafter defending, morally and legally, the city’s treatment of Hatfield, and indirectly his own conspicuous but hardly heroic role in it. He said in his memoirs many years later that the councilmen in a jocular spirit, after exchanging knowing smiles, said “If you can fill the lake, we’ll be glad to pay you.”

Since the council probably did not chant this sentence in unison, like a Greek chorus, we will assume it was merely Higgins’ interpretation of the councilmanic attitude. But in the same memoirs Higgins also said Charley “bore himself importantly and had what salesmen term impressive presence.” What the council actually did was to ask Charley to put his proposition in writing and to come again.

Charley drew up his own contracts, without the benefit of an attorney. As usual he offered alternate propositions. His first written proposal stated that by June 1, he would “produce 40 inches of rain (at Morena Reservoir) free gratis, I to be compensated from the 40th to the 50th inch by $1,000 per inch.”

On December 8 the council asked Fred Lockwood, manager of operations, for a recommendation. Next day Charley re-submitted his first written offer plus two alternatives, also in writing, to another councilmanic conference. He offered to fill Morena Reservoir, without reference to the amount of rain necessary to do it, by December 20, 1916. Or he would cause a rainfall of 50 inches by June 1, 1916, for which he would require either $500 per inch from the 30th to the 50th inch or $1, 000 per inch from the 40th to the 50th. Each of these alternatives meant $10,000 for completion.

On December 13 the council voted, four to one, to accept Charley’s offer to fill the reservoir by December 20, 1916, and asked the city attorney’s office to prepare a written contract. The lone and adamant opponent on the council was Herbert R. Fay. The one council­man outspoken in favor of Charley’s proposition was Walter P. Moore. Mayor Edward P. Capps and Councilmen P. J. Benbough, Henry M. Manney and Otto M. Schmidt did not disclose their rea­soning but voted to engage Hatfield.

On the ninth, when Charley submitted his three alternatives, Councilman Moore explained, “If he fills Morena, he will have put 10 billion gallons into it, which would cost the city one tenth of a cent per thousand gallons; if he fails to fulfill his contract, the city isn’t out anything. It’s heads the city wins, tails Hatfield loses.” This was Charley’s own reasoning.

One man did take a superior attitude—City Attorney Terence Byrne Cos­grove, 34-year-old graduate of Notre Dame University and Yale Law School. He was a rising star in the profession, winning a name in water litigation. He was an advocate, a fighter for the client who retained him, shrewd in conference and able on occasion to seem like Patrick Henry striking an attitude. Cur­rently he was spending a good deal of time in Los Angeles on the Capitan Grande Case.

At the December 9 meeting Cosgrove was asked if the proposed contract would be legal. It was recorded that he grinned broadly when he replied, “If Hatfield fills Morena, I guess there would be no doubt about the legality.” It was a nice parrying of an honest and perhaps simple question. Obviously there was a pre­formed doubt in Cosgrove’s mind that Hatfield would be responsible if Morena should be filled. One can almost see the lawyer’s mind looking ahead. He also could have had in mind that it would do no harm, during the current water liti­gation, to dramatize the city’s water shortage as though it were clear and present instead of clearly potential. Negotiations with Hatfield tended to do this. Hatfield at work could do it even better. Cosgrove, of course, would have had no part in explicitly or publicly encouraging a deal with Hatfield, but he pointedly said nothing to discourage it.

Charley was his own attorney, and, as must have been apparent to Cosgrove, his legal footwork was amateurish even for a layman. If Morena overflowed, how would he prove he did it?

Whatever else he was thinking, Cos­grove must have reasoned that it would be a long day in January before either Hatfield or God filled Morena. It had been there since 1897, a big overbuilt reservoir, one that could hold 15 billion gallons and had never been full. Indeed the city had been able to acquire it along with Lower Otay Reservoir be­cause the Southern California Mountain Water Company discovered itself to be overbuilt, paying taxes out of proportion to income. The city purchase had enabled the backers to recover their capital and something extra.

Charley did not wait for the written agreement, which Cosgrove and Higgins were in no hurry to draft, but was at work by January 1. His assistant was not Paul as usual, but Joel, the youngest of the brothers. Having had no rain­making contracts since the spring of 1914, Charley and Paul had returned to selling sewing machines. Paul continued to sell, to keep the camp supplied pend­ing the day Charley would take home the prize.

The tower was built on a slope, along­ side the road leading to the dam, just beyond the city’s present Morena Reservoir headquarters. Despite the attention it received from 60 miles away in San Diego, the tower had few visitors. Shelley Higgins in his memoirs speaks of seeing it from a mountain road, although the road at that point is not mountainous and the deluge very quickly made it impassable to cars.

Probably the only visitors to the tower were Seth Swenson, the dam keeper, and his wife, Maggie. They lived not at the later lake headquarters, which was then non-existent, but in a cottage at the dam. >From there Mrs. Swenson answered the telephone and relayed messages to Charley, two miles away by road and a little over a mile as the crow flies.

For a man who spent so much time contentiously embroiled with Hatfield, Shelley Higgins was elaborately casual about his visit to Morena. He said in his memoirs that he was passing on a “field trip” in his Model T when he saw the tower and occassional puffs of smoke and heard muffled explosions. Where­upon, he continued, “I smiled—I hope indulgently—and went on about my business.”

But the Swensons were in sight of the tower all the time and were curious about it and keenly interested. They could have heard shots and seen puffs of smoke and would have remembered them. Charley Hatfield told them he was evaporating something from shallow pans. Shelley Higgins’ description of the Hatfield tower, especially the smoke puffs and the explosions, must have been a visualization of something he read.

V. HATFIELD’S FLOOD

The headlines in San Diego newspapers that December and January told of many things. Apart from the rain they talked of the current Panama-California In­ternational Exposition, starting its second year in San Diego, the war in Europe and Pancho Villa’s depredations in northern Mexico.

Charley Hatfield’s verbal agreement with the council caused little initial excitement, although it proved of some interest to columnists and other discur­sive people. One who wrote in the Sunday San Diego Union under the name of Yorick adopted a good journeyman air of superiority, calling it:

… an excellent business proposition from the city’s standpoint. The publicity alone is worth $10,000.

There was snow in the mountains and a light sprinkle in the city near the year’s end, and water flowed in the San Diego River through Mission Valley—a rare sight since upstream diversion had become so extensive.

On January 5 a good rain was re­ported at Morena Reservoir and the water department said 48-1/2 million gallons had been impounded since De­cember 27. Though welcome, it was not enough to change the round number of five billion gallons Morena was esti­mated to have been holding December 20.

The Union published a feature story January 9 on the Weather Bureau’s San Diego office and its chief forecaster, E. Herbert Nimmo, and his young as­sistant, Dean Blake. There was a dis­cussion of storm centers and their movements from the north Pacific southeastward across California. There was talk of the basis of weather pre­dictions and their uncertainty. Nimmo’s opinion of Hatfield was already publicly known: he thought Charley a mountebank. But in the Sunday article both Nimmo and the Union writer ignored him.

The weather played fewer tricks on Nimmo than it practiced on the unfor­tunate George Franklin of Los Angeles in 1904 and 1905. The San Diego rains of 1915-16 arrived as predicted, but in much greater volume.

Rain of a genuinely remarkable quan­tity began January 10. For 24 hours in San Diego itself it rained off and on, but reports from the back country said it rained hard and almost continuously. From then until the 18th it was rainy weather. On the 14th it rained torrents and continued to rain heavily for several days. Roofs leaked. Storm drains that had not been taxed for years overflowed.

The San Diego River went over its banks and spread across Mission Valley in the early hours of the 17th. Real tragedy developed on the 18th in the valley of the Tijuana River, a little north of the international border. There, some 40 families, 100 persons or more, con­stituted a colony known as the Little Landers. It was based on the semi-­utopian idea of W. E. Smythe, who claimed that a family could make a modest and healthful living on an acre of ground and turned real estate pro­moter to demonstrate it.

The river left its channel and over­flowed the Little Landers’ homes and gardens. It cut a new channel and not only destroyed many of the homes but literally carried the land away. Two women were drowned. In San Diego a fund was started for the Little Landers’ relief.

The Santa Fe and the San Diego-­Arizona rail connections with the north and east respectively, were put out of operation at that time. Main highways and most by-ways were closed. On one day mail went out to only six of the county’s 36 post offices. Tall tales were told of the kind experienced Southwest­erners have learned not to reject too quickly, even when they are as tall as Rex Clark’s silo story. Clark said the flood picked up a cement silo from one of his Mission Valley ranches and set it down upright, with contents intact, on another of his ranches a mile distant.

Lower Otay Reservoir on Dulzura Creek filled to the lip of its spillway and started flowing over.

With the rains that started on the 10th, it became apparent that people were interested in the activities of Hatfield. The Union‘s main headline of the 17th read: “Is Rainmaker at Work?”

Unfortunately it was not possible to get the kind of details a newspaper story needs in such a situation. The obvious need was a description of the tower and the activities around it, together with interviews with the busy rainmakers. By the time it became apparent that this was a big story—science or not—the roads were impassable. Through telephone calls to the Swensons the Union was able to report on the 17th:

The mysterious Hatfield, rainmaker, was said to be particularly active in the vicinity of Morena Sunday…. While engaged in his experiments, Hatfield is not altogether socia­ble, but persons watching his work from a distance said he seemed to be on the job at all hours of the day and considers the down­pour due to his efforts. Incidentally, it was said that Hatfield himself is getting a good soaking.

Hatfield’s scheme was on almost every tongue yesterday. Many were inclined to jest, but all agreed that things were going his way.

Nimmo’s office pointed out that the storm was general along the West Coast, which did not fully explain the propor­tions of the San Diego County rainfall.

The sun came out indecisively and repair crews went to work on railways and highways. By the 24th automobiles were able to drive north on the inland highway, but the damaged rail lines and the coast highway could not be repaired that quickly.

Nimmo on the evening of January 25 anticipated rain next day. He was right, and as a conventional general storm approaching from the northwest it was a heavy one. But according to the Weather Bureau’s later analysis it was overlapped by another and more rare type of rainstorm that affected the San Diego area—a storm from farther south in the Pacific. The distinction was lost on plain people, who viewed it as one terrifying rain.

It was worst in the back country, but in San Diego it was frightening enough. A veritable river rushed out of the canyons of Balboa Park, down Fifteenth Street, requiring pedestrian ferry service by a horse-drawn fire wagon. The confused stray animals and the pelting rain made a strange noise, night and day. Business was suspended and nothing was normal. People gathered at Mission Cliffs Gardens and other vantage points overlooking Mission Valley to watch the strange torrent pitch, roll and toss.

The Santa Fe bridge spans only the normal channel of the river, and even that is usually dry. With the valley running full from mesa to mesa, rail­road crews weighted down the bridge with loaded freight cars and relieved pressure by cutting the dirt fill ap­proaches on both sides. Water then flowed around as well as under the bridge, which stood isolated in mid­stream. City crews tried to save the approaches to the new concrete bridge on the coast highway, assuming the bridge itself could stand the strain. They piled the approaches with sand bags, so effectively that the unrelieved pressure of the stream lifted the con­crete spans off their piers and left them fallen, broken and askew.

Corresponding episodes took place where other rivers and creeks came out of the interior to the sea. The coast highway and Santa Fe rail line were cut in several places. When the flow of a stream increased rapidly it developed a wall of water advancing downstream. The Fallbrook station in the canyon of the Santa Margarita River and the house of the station master were carried away. Miles of the Fallbrook branch line were destroyed and rolling stock isolated.

Debris of all kinds including broken parts of buildings, piled up 20 feet high at obstructions on the beaches at the mouths of canyons.

The adobe bell tower at the Pala mis­sion outpost in the valley of the San Luis Rey River, a relic of Spanish times, was undermined and toppled. More than 200 bridges were washed out. Roads were severed in places where no noticeable water channel existed. Landslides were greatest in the vicinity of Dulzura summit above the doomed Lower Otay Lake.

R. C. Wueste, superintendent of the city impounding system, was worried about Lower Otay from the start of the second storm. The lake was already full and the stream in the spillway began to rise. For the better part of the two days the spillway managed it, but precariously.

Soon after 4 p. m. on the 27th, Wueste walked along the dam from the north to the south side. At 4:30 the first tiny stream trickled across the middle. Wueste had to jump a sizeable stream a few minutes later when he returned to the north side. It was cutting into the two feet of earth and gravel that lay on top of the coarser rock and earth. With the soft top gone and more than two feet of water pouring over, the momentum of the flowing lake was added to the cutting force. The heavy rock fill was soon tumbling. When Wueste next looked at his watch it was 5:05. The dam was disintegrating rapidly.

It had been built with concrete abut­ments, to which a wall of thin steel plate was anchored as a core for the fill material. Wueste described the flow as a torrent, not a waterfall, rushing through the breach and into the narrow gorge below. The principal noise was made by the torn remainder of the steel plate, banging against the rocks.

Downstream the released head of water behaved characteristically. Although not released through a toppling wall but as a rapidly increasing flow, its advancing front soon took the shape of a wall of water. It was 40 feet high, someone said, and the figure appeared in print next day—40 feet high and no one testified it was not. It must have looked that high and it might have been. It roared like a passing train with a monumental roll of thunder in the background. When the headwall passed, the pursuing current raged and boiled. Hit­ting obstructions it shot spray hundreds of feet upwards, some of it seeming to merge with the overcast sky.

Wueste had dispatched four men down the valley to warn the several hundred who lived there. Others from San Diego were trying to warn those who had tele­phones. F. E. Baird, one of the mes­sengers, saw the headwall approaching when he was six miles below the dam. He cleared its main impact, but was caught in the following rise. He reached safety after swimming and clinging to trees.

Next morning Don Stewart, then city treasurer and a Naval Reserve officer, went out onto San Diego Bay off the mouth of Otay River. There he saw many small boats, manned by Japanese who lived in Otay Valley. Isolated from the general population, telling its trou­bles to no one, the Japanese colony was searching for its dead.

On the beach the flood had fanned out and made a delta several hundred yards wide covered with debris. There, rolled up and battered, was the bulk of the sheet core from the dam, twelve miles distant.

How many lives were lost, Japanese and other, was promptly confused among newspaper headlines and counter-head­lines. When the flood subsided the  Union sought to encourage visitors to come to the exposition. In the excitement it had been forgotten that the nation was listen­ing and San Diego was being made to seem impossible to reach and extremely dangerous on arrival. In the manner of newspapers of the day, the Union ac­cused the Scripps-owned Sun and the United Press of frightening the East with scare headlines announcing as many as 65 dead. The Sunreplied in kind.

The coroner’s office on the 28th had estimated the dead at 50. Later esti­mates have placed it in the vicinity of 20 and some lower. This refers only to deaths resulting from the dam failure.

The fund started for the relief of the Little Landers expanded into a larger appeal for the relief of the disaster victims throughout the county.

In the listing of the casualties, bizarre events, damages and ironies, one item is almost never omitted. Jim Coffroth, a show-type personality and erstwhile boxing promoter, had finished construc­tion of his new Tijuana race track. On the eve of its opening the flood overran it, making channels across the track and entering the buildings. The opening was postponed for weeks.

From Morena Dam between the big rains, Charley Hatfield telephoned San Diego and was quoted by the Union: “I understand the newspapers are saying I didn’t make the rain. All I have to say is that Morena has had 17½ inches of rain in the last five days and that beats any similar record for the place that I have been able to find.”

That was the last remark directly attributed to him until after the storm. He may have been in touch with his mother-in-law and Fred Binney, each of whom issued a statement that ap­peared to have knowledge of his wants and intentions.

Mrs. Rulon said, as Charley had said many times himself, that her son-in­law did not “make” rain, but released it when conditions were favorable. She also said: “If Morena has overflowed we may expect him shortly. If it has not, he will remain until it does.”

Binney in a letter to the Union said that Lake Cuyamaca, higher in the moun­tains, usually had 36 inches of rain in a year compared to Morena’s 21-1/2. But up to the 27th Cuyamaca was still 4.79 short of its yearly average while Morena had exceeded its by 4.50.

“Here we have scientific proof,” he explained, and expanded on the theme. The  Union was accustomed to him and his letters. This one it entitled: “What Hatfield Has Done, as F. A Binney Sees It.”

One of the many telephone messages Mrs. Swenson relayed to Charley was from a man she assumed was his at­torney. It might have been Fred Binney. The voice advised him to go back to San Diego at once and sign an agreement with the council, without which he would not be paid. Charley did not appear to take the message seriously.

Charley and Joel had cleared the brush from the soft ground under and near their tower. With a hand rake they frequently combed the ground immedi­ately under the platform, leading Mrs. Swenson to suppose they were trying to avoid identification of their chemical. When the Swensons approached the tower, Charley would come down the ladder or emerge from the tent, to meet them some 20 feet away. This they found to be amusing, being sure they could not identify anything so mysterious, but they kept their respectful distance.

Of many conversations with Charley, Mrs. Swenson remembers most vividly one during the first of the two storms. She said, “It’s sure raining now!” and Charley replied, “You haven’t seen any­thing yet. Wait two weeks and it will really rain.”

When the big storm got underway on the 26th the telephone failed, but not before Mrs. Swenson received a message for her husband from George Cromwell, city engineer and Wueste’s superior. The city council, he said, was deter­mined to impound all possible water. Swenson was instructed to keep the spillway gates closed until the water level reached the very top. The gates when closed were virtually as high as the dam itself.

All day on the 26th the rain came down heavily and steadily, out of a light gray sky. It was odd, the Swensons noted, that the overcast did not seem heavy and dark, notwithstanding the downpour.

Toward midnight the lake level was rising faster. Swenson gauged it fre­quently and timed its rise at two feet per hour. Considering the expanse of the lake, this must have required an enor­mous inflow. Enough engineers’ con­versation had rubbed off on Swenson to indicate that the problem involved common sense. He estimated that the spillway, even wide open, would not handle the flow at the rate the lake was rising. The telephone being out, he de­cided to use his own judgment.

Just before midnight, with the lake level still twelve feet below the spillway lip, (according to his recollection a little over 40 years later) he rowed to the outlet tower, climbed the outside and descended the slippery inside ladder to open two 24-inch outlet valves, far be­low the surface. Despite this outflow, the level continued to rise rapidly, and continued to rise after spilling started. By dawn the spillway was an impressive waterfall, with nearly five feet of water tumbling over its crest.

Topping the upstream face of the dam was a coping, two feet high, intended more as a guard rail than as a part of the dam. With all the outflow, the water level at daylight on the 27th was only five inches below the top of the coping. By virtue of this scant five inches, Morena Dam and many human lives were saved.

For the rest of his life, Charley Hatfield claimed that more than enough water flowed over the dam in the next few days to have filled Morena a second time. With this the Swensons agree, and it must have seemed that way, although the estimate of the San Diego water department is that only a little over three billion gallons spilled in the month of January. Overflowing continued into April, however.

Charley and Joel stayed at the lake until three days after the storm. They had reduced the tower to a neat pile of lumber and had carefully raked the ground where it had stood.

On the 30th the telephone in the Swensons’ cottage came to life again and a message was relayed from Dul­zura headquarters below and to the west. Then they heard that Lower Otay Dam was gone and that damage through­out the back country was unbelievable. Someone was even talking of organizing a party to come up to Morena and lynch Hatfield.

How seriously to take that report was a question, but for all the Swensons knew, their informant seemed to be serious. Charley had seemed in no hurry to leave, but when they told him what they had heard he decided to go at once, on foot. Swenson pointed out the trail leading down the canyon from the dam. As he watched them go he saw two men far below, upward bound on the same trail. They proved to be Wueste and Cromwell, and when they arrived, Wueste asked for Hatfield.

When Swenson expressed surprise that they had not met on the trail, Wueste recalled seeing downward bound footprints and wondering why they had not met the men who made them. Charley and Joel had evidently gone off the trail to dodge the unknown upward bound men.

Wueste and Cromwell arrived in time to cope with a new threat to the dam. The east wind had blown to the spillway everything that floated—dead trees and brush, fence posts, dismembered barns and outhouses and other lumber. It formed a heavy jam covering the narrow neck of the lake in front of the dam. It blocked much of the overflow, and the lake level was rising.

A guard of steel rails had been in­stalled on the lake side of the spillway to keep the debris away from the lip. Instead the pressure had forced the debris under and against the guard rails, forming a semi-effective water seal.

Cromwell walked nine miles through mud to Campo where he obtained dyna­mite and recruited men from an im­mobilized railroad construction crew. Two sticks of dynamite broke the jam, and the crew was put to work building a road to the dam, the old one having been covered by the risen lake.

Wueste and Cromwell and other en­gineers agreed that Swenson’s judgment and action, contrary to instructions, saved the dam.

It took Charley and Joel two days to cover the 60 miles to San Diego, walking all the way, fording fast streams and climbing in and out of new gullies. They stayed overnight at Jamul.

Charley held a press conference in Fred Binney’s office on the afternoon of February 4, explaining that he and Joel had arrived tired the day before and had taken a night’s rest and cleaned up. In the group photo taken at the confer­ence all three seemed well rested, well scrubbed and happy as larks.

Charley may have felt out the state of the public mind before he made a public appearance. He was surprised at the devastation and did not entirely discount the lynch threat. By the time of the press conference, however, he was aware that his chief enemies were those who proposed to deny payment of his fee on the ground that he had nothing to do with the rain.

VI. SAN DIEGO’S DILEMMA

For a man of Cosgrove’s shrewdness and combative instinct, Charley Hatfield was a sitting duck. Charley’s contracts would have distressed any attorney who tried to have them enforced at law. They were designed, if the word applies at all, principally for selling, as indicated by the contract title at Hemet: “Four Inches of Rain for $4,000; No Rain, No pay.”

Perhaps a lawyer might have designed one with fewer holes. It might have been stipulated that performance was established if a specific amount of rain fell while Charley was functioning, without qualification as to cause. With dry farmers he probably got more con­tracts and more fees by his own way of putting it. They understood that he would do his work, whatever it was, and that if the agreed amount of rail fell they would pay. That was enough for most of them, and those who dodged paying did not have to hire lawyers to shoot holes in the contracts. He never sued anyone except the City of San Diego, and that half-heartedly.

In the February 4 press conference Charley reviewed his career and as much concerning his ideas and methods as he was willing to disclose. Again he said he would be willing to give his secret to the U.S. government. When Fred Binney tried to enter the conver­sation, he firmly kept on talking.

How much time had he spent on the job at Morena?

Charley would not tell, but he pointed out that he had spent his own money and added that he would have continued to do so for the full year of the contract if filling Morena had taken that long. Now he expected the city to pay as agreed.

There were reports that the council did not intend to pay. Would Charley sue?

He said he did not want to cross that bridge before he reached it. He assumed the council would pay according to the agreement.

If Hatfield had caused the rain, then why had it also rained all along the coast, beyond the claimed limits of his influence?

Charley said it usually rains more in Los Angeles than in San Diego. This time it was the other way around. He did not claim to be a rainmaker, but only that he could increase the amount.

The questioners were primed with the city’s tactical line:

If Hatfield were to get credit for the rain, would he accept liability for the damage?

Charley said the benefits would ex­ceed the damages, and that the benefits included not only the water but the employment in repairing roads and bridges, which would put money into circulation and stimulate business. He was an economist ahead of his time!

How about the deaths?

Charley said the deaths were deplor­able, but he did not feel responsible.

From the press conference Charley proceeded not to the city treasurer but to the man everybody said he had to see—City Attorney Cosgrove. That gentleman was cordial, businesslike, and disarming. He advised Charley to file a written statement setting forth in detail what he claimed to have accom­plished, in how much time. In short, what exactly did he expect to be paid for?

Charley had always been willing, for simplicity’s sake and good salesman­ship, to allow clients to think he had caused the entire rain by himself. If challenged with the observation that rain had been general and that rains had been known to fall without his help, he was quick to deflate the challenge, not to counter it.

The payoff point in Hatfield contracts was usually set above normal expectancy, and this was especially true of all three propositions offered to the San Diego city council. His pay was conditional on an extraordinary amount of rain. Oddly, it appeared that the council had accepted the alternative that involved least rainfall. During that eventful January, according to city water depart­ment records, 28.01 inches fell at Morena and that amount caused a tremendous overflow. If 50 inches had fallen, as provided by either of the alternative propositions, the theoretical results are too horrifying to contemplate.

Charley’s claim was seven pages long and consisted largely of sales talk. He argued that while he was operating the city had only three days of sunshine. Since he stopped, the sun had been shining daily. He said the council would be dishonorable to evade payment by reason of the city attorney’s failure to draw up a written contract as he had been instructed.

Possibly Charley was disarmed by Cosgrove’s gentle approach. Indeed Cosgrove even appeared to be completely understanding about Charley’s right to the secrecy of his method. In any case Charley made the mistake of attempting to put on paper what he had always managed to keep conveniently indistinct, probably in his own mind as well as in the minds of his clients. He claimed to have been directly responsible for four billion gallons of what ran into Morena.

The climax came when Charley ap­peared before a council conference February 17. Mayor Edwin Capps asked him to state his business. He said: “The essence of my contract was to fill Morena Reservoir. That has been done. I have fulfilled my contract and I desire that the city should fulfill its contract to pay me $10, 000.”

“How much,” asked Cosgrove, “do you claim to have put into Morena?”

Charley had already put his foot into it in writing, and he repeated verbally: “Four billion gallons, if not more.”

“But you agreed to put in 10 billion gallons,” said Cosgrove. Charley was indeed bound up in a contradiction of his own making. He answered:

“There were five billion gallons when I started work and it required 15 billions to fill the reservoir. I claim that through the instrumentality of my work four billion gallons were put into the reser­voir and the other was the indirect result of my work.”

This was too easy. Charley was already in a bad position and Cosgrove pushed him harder: “You want the city to pay you only for what you yourself did? You do not want the city to pay you for what nature did, do you?”

” No.”

“Well, why do you ask the city to pay you for 10 billion gallons when you put in only four billion gallons?”

The inept opponent was vanquished as the attorney turned in triumph to the council:

“According to his own statements, this man has admitted that he put only four billion gallons of water into the reservoir. He offered to deliver 10 billion gallons. Therefore he had not fulfilled his contract, and there is no liability on the part of the city. He should have waited until he fulfilled his contract.”

Councilman Moore did not like to argue with a man so sharp and so emphatic as young Cosgrove, but he had a dogged sense of honesty.

“If Morena overflowed,” he said, “I think he should be paid his money.”

Cosgrove fixed Moore, and through him any other vacillator, with a stern look and proceeded:

“If I give a ruling it will be based solely upon the facts as shown by the records, and not upon any understanding or upon anybody’s sympathy. The records all show that Hatfield made three propositions to the city. The first was to fill Morena for $10,000; the second was to produce 40 inches of rain gratis and to receive $1,000 an inch for every inch between 40 and 50 inches and the third was to produce 30 inches of rain gratis and to receive $500 an inch for every inch between 30 and 50 inches. The resolution which was passed by the council simply said that Hatfield’s offer was accepted, but it did not say which of the propositions was accepted.

“This gentleman, according to my opinion, cannot collect his money in the courts. Under the constitution and the statutes of the state and the charter of the city, a claim that is unenforceable is invalid.”

So the council voted to refer the matter to the city attorney, which meant to deny payment. Moore said nothing further, but Benbough spoke in the sim­pler language of the council’s discussions with Charley. He said: “Four councilmen voted to accept the man’s proposition and told him to go ahead. He ought to be paid.”

For such disputations Charley had neither ability nor stomach. He was best when he held forth in his own terms on his own claims. Most of those who talked to him for any reasonable length of time were convinced that he had convinced himself.

Of course the reasons for refusing to pay Charley, as every San Diegan knows, was that if Charley really caused the rain then the city presumably could be held responsible for the damage it caused.

It might have been interesting if Charley had retained an equally belli­cose lawyer to insist as Councilmen Moore and Benbough insisted that a contract was in force regardless of the absence of a written version. Ultimately Cosgrove and Higgins did draft one in writing, although probably only for dis­play purposes. It was never presented to the council or Hatfield for approval. Higgins wrote, years later, that it was based on the alternative of filling Morena Reservoir rather than on the fall of 50 inches of rain. Despite Cos­grove’s quibble, they too understood as Charley and the newspapers and the council understood, which proposition had been accepted.

If Charley’s verbal deal with the council was a deal at all, it is hard to imagine what evidence of performance could have been given other than the simple fact of Morena’s overflow. If Charley had made a fuzzy contract, so had the city council. It is doubtful that any of them reasoned in the four-to-­one vote as Cosgrove reasoned after the fact. Who wanted Morena to overflow more than it had already?

Charley got an attorney to file suit, but the suit appeared to be merely an effort to urge settlement. He had al­ready offered to compromise for $4,000. Later the attorney implied a willingness to settle for even less.

Then, said Higgins, he and Cosgrove offered to recommend that the city pay all of the $10,000 if Charley would sign a statement assuming responsibility for the flood, absolving the city. One might wonder what would have been the out­come if Charley had solemnly signed such a statement and accepted the $10,000. If a damage suit had prevailed and if Hatfield had been without assets to cover, would the city have been liable anyway? It is a matter for spec­ulation only. Charley refused to sign.

Perhaps on examining the perform­ance of legal counsel it is fair only to ask if the client was victorious. San Diego and most of Cosgrove’s clients were. Three years later he resigned as city attorney and entered private practice in Los Angeles. As Southern California’s best known water specialist, he served many clients in a long and distinguished career. Among his greater victories was the triumph for his client and former employer, the City of San Diego, in the Paramount Rights Case completed in 1926.

Ultimately two damage suits against San Diego in the matter of the Hatfield flood reached trial, under change of venue. Courts in Orange and San Ber­nardino Counties ruled that the rain was an act of God, not of Hatfield. However, the city made cash settlements to some claimants who were willing to settle out of court. Altogether, it was not Cos­grove’s most brilliant undertaking, but who would have expected it to rain like that?

He himself was soon removed from the Hatfield problem by affairs of greater moment. Shelley Higgins continued as assistant city attorney through the Hat­field flood cases. It was Higgins who had to defend the city and it was Higgins who had to explain and find dignity in the Cosgrove-Higgins role, where there was really no dignity to be found. He worked very hard at it.

Charley’ s suit against the city lingered on the court calendar nearly twenty-two years and finally was dismissed in 1938 for lack of prosecution.

For most modern San Diegans, the refusal to pay was justified in view of the damage suits against the city, of which there could have been many more. Still it does seem a pity to some that Charley could not have been paid, since he did seem to make good on the kind of deal the council made with him.

Possibly it is this touch of bad con­science that accounts for a verbal tra­dition in San Diego that Charley was paid $5,000 from an under-the-table fund the city fathers maintained for confidential purposes best understood by practicing politicians. But Charley was scrupulous. Higgins himself had testified to the refusal of one back door payment proposition. If Charley had taken any payment he probably would not have continued to say, as he did, that the city had not paid him.

“To this day,” he told a newspaper reporter 30 years later, “I’ve never felt right about that San Diego city council.” For him it was a strongly worded complaint.

BIBLIOGRAPHIC NOTE

The San Diego City Council discus­sions with and about Hatfield, including the direct quotations, are based princi­pally on contemporary news stories from the San Diego Union. The Union of January 21, 1951, is the source of Al Wueste’s recollection of the failure of Lower Otay Dam.

Paul Hatfield of Pearblossom, Calif., brother of the rainmaker, supplied dates, locations and routine details on all the Hatfield rainmaking engagements. At most of them, but not at Morena Reservoir, he was his brother’s helper.

Three eye witnesses to the 1916 floods were especially helpful through personal interviews. Don Stewart, former San Diego city councilman, city treasurer and postmaster, was interviewed on August 20, 1958, in Riverside. He was the most informative of a delegation from the San Diego History Center, the other members of which were Edgar F. Hastings, Joe Silvers and Wilmer B. Shields. Stewart especially recalled Fred A. Binney. The other two key recollections came from Seth and Maggie Swenson, who tended the dam at Morena Reservoir. They were interviewed, probably no later than 1959, at their home in San Diego.

Rainfall figures were obtained from or checked against Climatological Data, published by the Department of Commerce.

The following books were consulted with particular reference to the Hatfield story: McGrew, Clarence A., San Diego and San Diego County, American His­torical Society, N.Y., 1922; Hopkins, Harry C., History of San Diego, City Printing Co., San Diego; Higgins, Shelley, This Fantastic City; Hensley, H. C., Early San Diego, Vol III (in ms. form, San Diego Public Library).

Thomas W. Patterson’s article on Charles M. Hatfield’s activities relating to San Diego and the disasterous floods of 1916 is part of a 43,000-word manuscript in which Patterson analyzes the myths and legends, and evaluates the facts in Hatfield’s interesting career as rainmaker.Mr. Patterson is a newspaper reporter. In 1945 he worked for the San Diego Journal, and since 1946 he has been a reporter for the Riverside Press Enterprise. He was born on April 1, 1909, in Yuma, Arizona.

Mr. Patterson is also the author of Land­marks of Riverside and co-author of Riverman, Desertman (on Palo Alto Valley), both of which have been published by the Press En­terprise Company.

Mr. Patterson was recently honored by the San Diego History Center at their Second Annual Institute of History for his contributions to San Diego history through the Hatfield article.

God of Thunder (NPR)

October 17, 201411:09 AM ET

In 1904, Charles Hatfield claimed he could turn around the Southern California drought. Little did he know, he was going to get much, much more water than he bargained for.

GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:

From PRX and NPR, welcome back to SNAP JUDGMENT the Presto episode. Today we’re calling on mysterious forces and we’re going to strap on the SNAP JUDGMENT time machine. Our own Eliza Smith takes the controls and spins the dial back 100 years into the past.

ELIZA SMITH, BYLINE: California, 1904. In the fields, oranges dry in their rinds. In the ‘burbs, lawns yellow. Poppies wilt on the hillsides. Meanwhile, Charles Hatfield sits at a desk in his father’s Los Angeles sewing machine business. His dad wants him to take over someday, but Charlie doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life knocking on doors and convincing housewives to buy his bobbins and thread. Charlie doesn’t look like the kind of guy who changes the world. He’s impossibly thin with a vanishing patch of mousy hair. He always wears the same drab tweed suit. But he thinks to himself just maybe he can quench the Southland’s thirst. So when he punches out his timecard, he doesn’t go home for dinner. Instead, he sneaks off to the Los Angeles Public Library and pores over stacks of books. He reads about shamans who believed that fumes from a pyre of herbs and alcohols could force rain from the sky. He reads modern texts too, about the pseudoscience of pluvo culture – rainmaking, the theory that explosives and pyrotechnics could crack the clouds. Charlie conducts his first weather experiment on his family ranch, just northeast of Los Angeles in the city of Pasadena. One night he pulls his youngest brother, Paul, out of bed to keep watch with a shotgun as he climbs atop a windmill, pours a cocktail of chemicals into a shallow pan and then waits.

He doesn’t have a burner or a fan or some hybrid, no – he just waits for the chemicals to evaporate into the clouds. Paul slumped into a slumber long ago and is now leaning against the foundation of the windmill, when the first droplet hits Charlie’s cheek. Then another. And another.

Charlie pulls out his rain gauge and measures .65 inches. It’s enough to convince him he can make rain.

That’s right, Charlie has the power. Word spreads in local papers and one by one, small towns Hemet, Volta, Gustine, Newman, Crows Landing, Patterson come to him begging for rain. And wherever Charlie goes, rain seems to follow. After he gives their town seven more inches of water than his contract stipulated, the Hemet News raves, Mr. Hatfield is proving beyond doubt that rain can be produced.

Within weeks he’s signing contracts with towns from the Pacific Coast to the Mississippi. Of course, there are doubters who claim that he tracks the weather, who claim he’s a fool chasing his luck.

But then Charlie gets an invitation to prove himself. San Diego, a major city, is starting to talk water rations and they call on him. Of course, most of the city councilmen are dubious of Charlie’s charlatan claims. But still, cows are keeling over in their pastures and farmers are worrying over dying crops. It won’t hurt to hire him. They reason if Charlie Hatfield can fill San Diego’s biggest reservoir, Morena Dam, with 10 billion gallons of water, he’ll earn himself $10,000. If he can’t, well then he’ll just walk away and the city will laugh the whole thing off.

One councilman jokes…

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It’s heads – the city wins. Tails – Hatfield loses.

SMITH: Charlie and Paul set up camp in the remote hills surrounding the Morena Reservoir. This time they work for weeks building several towers. This is to be Charlie’s biggest rain yet. When visitors come to observe his experiments, Charlie turns his back to them, hiding his notebooks and chemicals and Paul fingers the trigger on his trusty rifle. And soon enough it’s pouring. Winds reach record speeds of over 60 miles per hour. But that isn’t good enough – Charlie needs the legitimacy a satisfied San Diego can grant him. And so he works non-stop dodging lightning bolts, relishing thunderclaps. He doesn’t care that he’s soaked to the bone – he can wield weather. The water downs power lines, floods streets, rips up rail tracks.

A Mission Valley man who had to be rescued by a row boat as he clung to a scrap of lumber wraps himself in a towel and shivers as he suggests…

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Let’s pay Hatfield $100,000 to quit.

SMITH: But Charlie isn’t quitting. The rain comes down harder and harder. Dams and reservoirs across the county explode and the flood devastates every farm, every house in its wake. One winemaker is surfacing from the protection of his cellar when he spies a wave twice the height of a telephone pole tearing down his street. He grabs his wife and they run as fast as they can, only to turn and watch their house washed downstream.

And yet, Charlie smiles as he surveys his success. The Morena Reservoir is full. He grabs Paul and the two leave their camp to march the 50 odd miles to City Hall. He expects the indebted populist to kiss his mud-covered shoes. Instead, he’s met with glares and threats. By the time Charlie and Paul reach San Diego’s city center, they’ve stopped answering to the name Hatfield. They call themselves Benson to avoid bodily harm.

Still, when he stands before the city councilman, Charlie declares his operations successful and demands his payment. The men glower at him.

San Diego is in ruins and worst of all – they’ve got blood on their hands. The flood drowned more than 50 people. It also destroyed homes, farms, telephone lines, railroads, streets, highways and bridges. San Diegans file millions of dollars in claims but Charlie doesn’t budge. He folds his arms across his chest, holds his head high and proclaims, the time is coming when drought will overtake this portion of the state. It will be then that you call for my services again.

So the city councilman tells Charlie that if he’s sure he made it rain, they’ll give him his $10,000 – he’ll just have to take full responsibility for the flood. Charlie grits his teeth and tells them, it was coincidence. It rained because Mother Nature made it so. I am no rainmaker.

And then Charlie disappears. He goes on selling sewing machines and keeping quiet.

WASHINGTON: I’ll tell you what, California these days could use a little Charlie Hatfield. Big thanks to Eliza Smith for sharing that story and thanks as well to Leon Morimoto for sound design. Mischief managed – you’ve just gotten to the other side by means of other ways.

If you missed any part of this show, no need for a rampage – head on over to snapjudgment.org. There you’ll find the award-winning podcast – Mark, what award did we win? Movies, pictures, stuff. Amazing stories await. Get in on the conversation. SNAP JUDGMENT’s on Facebook, Twitter @snapjudgment.

Did you ever wind up in the slithering sitting room when you’re supposed to be in Gryffindor’s parlor? Well, me neither, but I’m sure it’s nothing like wandering the halls of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Completely different, but many thanks to them. PRX, Public Radio Exchange, hosts a similar annual Quidditch championships but instead of brooms they ride radios. Not quite the same visual effect, but it’s good clean fun all the same – prx.org.

WBEZ in Chicago has tricks up their sleeve and you may have reckoned that this is not the news. No way is this the news. In fact, if you’d just thrown that book with Voldemort trapped in it, thrown it in the fire, been done with the nonsense – and you would still not be as far away from the news as this is. But this is NPR.

Hit Steyerl | Politics of Post-Representation (Dis Blog)

[Accessed Nov 23, 2015]

In conversation with Marvin Jordan

From the militarization of social media to the corporatization of the art world, Hito Steyerl’s writings represent some of the most influential bodies of work in contemporary cultural criticism today. As a documentary filmmaker, she has created multiple works addressing the widespread proliferation of images in contemporary media, deepening her engagement with the technological conditions of globalization. Steyerl’s work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions including documenta 12, Taipei Biennial 2010, and 7th Shanghai Biennial. She currently teaches New Media Art at Berlin University of the Arts.

Hito Steyerl, How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File (2013)

Hito Steyerl, How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File (2013)

Marvin Jordan I’d like to open our dialogue by acknowledging the central theme for which your work is well known — broadly speaking, the socio-technological conditions of visual culture — and move toward specific concepts that underlie your research (representation, identification, the relationship between art and capital, etc). In your essay titled “Is a Museum a Factory?” you describe a kind of ‘political economy’ of seeing that is structured in contemporary art spaces, and you emphasize that a social imbalance — an exploitation of affective labor — takes place between the projection of cinematic art and its audience. This analysis leads you to coin the term “post-representational” in service of experimenting with new modes of politics and aesthetics. What are the shortcomings of thinking in “representational” terms today, and what can we hope to gain from transitioning to a “post-representational” paradigm of art practices, if we haven’t arrived there already?

Hito Steyerl Let me give you one example. A while ago I met an extremely interesting developer in Holland. He was working on smart phone camera technology. A representational mode of thinking photography is: there is something out there and it will be represented by means of optical technology ideally via indexical link. But the technology for the phone camera is quite different. As the lenses are tiny and basically crap, about half of the data captured by the sensor are noise. The trick is to create the algorithm to clean the picture from the noise, or rather to define the picture from within noise. But how does the camera know this? Very simple. It scans all other pictures stored on the phone or on your social media networks and sifts through your contacts. It looks through the pictures you already made, or those that are networked to you and tries to match faces and shapes. In short: it creates the picture based on earlier pictures, on your/its memory. It does not only know what you saw but also what you might like to see based on your previous choices. In other words, it speculates on your preferences and offers an interpretation of data based on affinities to other data. The link to the thing in front of the lens is still there, but there are also links to past pictures that help create the picture. You don’t really photograph the present, as the past is woven into it.

The result might be a picture that never existed in reality, but that the phone thinks you might like to see. It is a bet, a gamble, some combination between repeating those things you have already seen and coming up with new versions of these, a mixture of conservatism and fabulation. The paradigm of representation stands to the present condition as traditional lens-based photography does to an algorithmic, networked photography that works with probabilities and bets on inertia. Consequently, it makes seeing unforeseen things more difficult. The noise will increase and random interpretation too. We might think that the phone sees what we want, but actually we will see what the phone thinks it knows about us. A complicated relationship — like a very neurotic marriage. I haven’t even mentioned external interference into what your phone is recording. All sorts of applications are able to remotely shut your camera on or off: companies, governments, the military. It could be disabled for whole regions. One could, for example, disable recording functions close to military installations, or conversely, live broadcast whatever you are up to. Similarly, the phone might be programmed to auto-pixellate secret or sexual content. It might be fitted with a so-called dick algorithm to screen out NSFW content or auto-modify pubic hair, stretch or omit bodies, exchange or collage context or insert AR advertisement and pop up windows or live feeds. Now lets apply this shift to the question of representative politics or democracy. The representational paradigm assumes that you vote for someone who will represent you. Thus the interests of the population will be proportionally represented. But current democracies work rather like smartphone photography by algorithmically clearing the noise and boosting some data over other. It is a system in which the unforeseen has a hard time happening because it is not yet in the database. It is about what to define as noise — something Jacques Ranciere has defined as the crucial act in separating political subjects from domestic slaves, women and workers. Now this act is hardwired into technology, but instead of the traditional division of people and rabble, the results are post-representative militias, brands, customer loyalty schemes, open source insurgents and tumblrs.

Additionally, Ranciere’s democratic solution: there is no noise, it is all speech. Everyone has to be seen and heard, and has to be realized online as some sort of meta noise in which everyone is monologuing incessantly, and no one is listening. Aesthetically, one might describe this condition as opacity in broad daylight: you could see anything, but what exactly and why is quite unclear. There are a lot of brightly lit glossy surfaces, yet they don’t reveal anything but themselves as surface. Whatever there is — it’s all there to see but in the form of an incomprehensible, Kafkaesque glossiness, written in extraterrestrial code, perhaps subject to secret legislation. It certainly expresses something: a format, a protocol or executive order, but effectively obfuscates its meaning. This is a far cry from a situation in which something—an image, a person, a notion — stood in for another and presumably acted in its interest. Today it stands in, but its relation to whatever it stands in for is cryptic, shiny, unstable; the link flickers on and off. Art could relish in this shiny instability — it does already. It could also be less baffled and mesmerised and see it as what the gloss mostly is about – the not-so-discreet consumer friendly veneer of new and old oligarchies, and plutotechnocracies.

MJ In your insightful essay, “The Spam of the Earth: Withdrawal from Representation”, you extend your critique of representation by focusing on an irreducible excess at the core of image spam, a residue of unattainability, or the “dark matter” of which it’s composed. It seems as though an unintelligible horizon circumscribes image spam by image spam itself, a force of un-identifiability, which you detect by saying that it is “an accurate portrayal of what humanity is actually not… a negative image.” Do you think this vacuous core of image spam — a distinctly negative property — serves as an adequate ground for a general theory of representation today? How do you see today’s visual culture affecting people’s behavior toward identification with images?

HS Think of Twitter bots for example. Bots are entities supposed to be mistaken for humans on social media web sites. But they have become formidable political armies too — in brilliant examples of how representative politics have mutated nowadays. Bot armies distort discussion on twitter hashtags by spamming them with advertisement, tourist pictures or whatever. Bot armies have been active in Mexico, Syria, Russia and Turkey, where most political parties, above all the ruling AKP are said to control 18,000 fake twitter accounts using photos of Robbie Williams, Megan Fox and gay porn stars. A recent article revealed that, “in order to appear authentic, the accounts don’t just tweet out AKP hashtags; they also quote philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and movies like PS: I Love You.” It is ever more difficult to identify bots – partly because humans are being paid to enter CAPTCHAs on their behalf (1,000 CAPTCHAs equals 50 USD cents). So what is a bot army? And how and whom does it represent if anyone? Who is an AKP bot that wears the face of a gay porn star and quotes Hobbes’ Leviathan — extolling the need of transforming the rule of militias into statehood in order to escape the war of everyone against everyone else? Bot armies are a contemporary vox pop, the voice of the people, the voice of what the people are today. It can be a Facebook militia, your low cost personalized mob, your digital mercenaries. Imagine your photo is being used for one of these bots. It is the moment when your picture becomes quite autonomous, active, even militant. Bot armies are celebrity militias, wildly jump cutting between glamour, sectarianism, porn, corruption and Post-Baath Party ideology. Think of the meaning of the word “affirmative action” after twitter bots and like farms! What does it represent?

MJ You have provided a compelling account of the depersonalization of the status of the image: a new process of de-identification that favors materialist participation in the circulation of images today.  Within the contemporary technological landscape, you write that “if identification is to go anywhere, it has to be with this material aspect of the image, with the image as thing, not as representation. And then it perhaps ceases to be identification, and instead becomes participation.” How does this shift from personal identification to material circulation — that is, to cybernetic participation — affect your notion of representation? If an image is merely “a thing like you and me,” does this amount to saying that identity is no more, no less than a .jpeg file?

HS Social media makes the shift from representation to participation very clear: people participate in the launch and life span of images, and indeed their life span, spread and potential is defined by participation. Think of the image not as surface but as all the tiny light impulses running through fiber at any one point in time. Some images will look like deep sea swarms, some like cities from space, some are utter darkness. We could see the energy imparted to images by capital or quantified participation very literally, we could probably measure its popular energy in lumen. By partaking in circulation, people participate in this energy and create it.
What this means is a different question though — by now this type of circulation seems a little like the petting zoo of plutotechnocracies. It’s where kids are allowed to make a mess — but just a little one — and if anyone organizes serious dissent, the seemingly anarchic sphere of circulation quickly reveals itself as a pedantic police apparatus aggregating relational metadata. It turns out to be an almost Althusserian ISA (Internet State Apparatus), hardwired behind a surface of ‘kawaii’ apps and online malls. As to identity, Heartbleed and more deliberate governmental hacking exploits certainly showed that identity goes far beyond a relationship with images: it entails a set of private keys, passwords, etc., that can be expropriated and detourned. More generally, identity is the name of the battlefield over your code — be it genetic, informational, pictorial. It is also an option that might provide protection if you fall beyond any sort of modernist infrastructure. It might offer sustenance, food banks, medical service, where common services either fail or don’t exist. If the Hezbollah paradigm is so successful it is because it provides an infrastructure to go with the Twitter handle, and as long as there is no alternative many people need this kind of container for material survival. Huge religious and quasi-religious structures have sprung up in recent decades to take up the tasks abandoned by states, providing protection and survival in a reversal of the move described in Leviathan. Identity happens when the Leviathan falls apart and nothing is left of the commons but a set of policed relational metadata, Emoji and hijacked hashtags. This is the reason why the gay AKP pornstar bots are desperately quoting Hobbes’ book: they are already sick of the war of Robbie Williams (Israel Defense Forces) against Robbie Williams (Electronic Syrian Army) against Robbie Williams (PRI/AAP) and are hoping for just any entity to organize day care and affordable dentistry.

heartbleed

But beyond all the portentous vocabulary relating to identity, I believe that a widespread standard of the contemporary condition is exhaustion. The interesting thing about Heartbleed — to come back to one of the current threats to identity (as privacy) — is that it is produced by exhaustion and not effort. It is a bug introduced by open source developers not being paid for something that is used by software giants worldwide. Nor were there apparently enough resources to audit the code in the big corporations that just copy-pasted it into their applications and passed on the bug, fully relying on free volunteer labour to produce their proprietary products. Heartbleed records exhaustion by trying to stay true to an ethics of commonality and exchange that has long since been exploited and privatized. So, that exhaustion found its way back into systems. For many people and for many reasons — and on many levels — identity is just that: shared exhaustion.

MJ This is an opportune moment to address the labor conditions of social media practice in the context of the art space. You write that “an art space is a factory, which is simultaneously a supermarket — a casino and a place of worship whose reproductive work is performed by cleaning ladies and cellphone-video bloggers alike.” Incidentally, DIS launched a website called ArtSelfie just over a year ago, which encourages social media users to participate quite literally in “cellphone-video blogging” by aggregating their Instagram #artselfies in a separately integrated web archive. Given our uncanny coincidence, how can we grasp the relationship between social media blogging and the possibility of participatory co-curating on equal terms? Is there an irreconcilable antagonism between exploited affective labor and a genuinely networked art practice? Or can we move beyond — to use a phrase of yours — a museum crowd “struggling between passivity and overstimulation?”

HS I wrote this in relation to something my friend Carles Guerra noticed already around early 2009; big museums like the Tate were actively expanding their online marketing tools, encouraging people to basically build the museum experience for them by sharing, etc. It was clear to us that audience participation on this level was a tool of extraction and outsourcing, following a logic that has turned online consumers into involuntary data providers overall. Like in the previous example – Heartbleed – the paradigm of participation and generous contribution towards a commons tilts quickly into an asymmetrical relation, where only a minority of participants benefits from everyone’s input, the digital 1 percent reaping the attention value generated by the 99 percent rest.

Brian Kuan Wood put it very beautifully recently: Love is debt, an economy of love and sharing is what you end up with when left to your own devices. However, an economy based on love ends up being an economy of exhaustion – after all, love is utterly exhausting — of deregulation, extraction and lawlessness. And I don’t even want to mention likes, notes and shares, which are the child-friendly, sanitized versions of affect as currency.
All is fair in love and war. It doesn’t mean that love isn’t true or passionate, but just that love is usually uneven, utterly unfair and asymmetric, just as capital tends to be distributed nowadays. It would be great to have a little bit less love, a little more infrastructure.

MJ Long before Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations reshaped our discussions of mass surveillance, you wrote that “social media and cell-phone cameras have created a zone of mutual mass-surveillance, which adds to the ubiquitous urban networks of control,” underscoring the voluntary, localized, and bottom-up mutuality intrinsic to contemporary systems of control. You go on to say that “hegemony is increasingly internalized, along with the pressure to conform and perform, as is the pressure to represent and be represented.” But now mass government surveillance is common knowledge on a global scale — ‘externalized’, if you will — while social media representation practices remain as revealing as they were before. Do these recent developments, as well as the lack of change in social media behavior, contradict or reinforce your previous statements? In other words, how do you react to the irony that, in the same year as the unprecedented NSA revelations, “selfie” was deemed word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries?

HS Haha — good question!

Essentially I think it makes sense to compare our moment with the end of the twenties in the Soviet Union, when euphoria about electrification, NEP (New Economic Policy), and montage gives way to bureaucracy, secret directives and paranoia. Today this corresponds to the sheer exhilaration of having a World Wide Web being replaced by the drudgery of corporate apps, waterboarding, and “normcore”. I am not trying to say that Stalinism might happen again – this would be plain silly – but trying to acknowledge emerging authoritarian paradigms, some forms of algorithmic consensual governance techniques developed within neoliberal authoritarianism, heavily relying on conformism, “family” values and positive feedback, and backed up by all-out torture and secret legislation if necessary. On the other hand things are also falling apart into uncontrollable love. One also has to remember that people did really love Stalin. People love algorithmic governance too, if it comes with watching unlimited amounts of Game of Thrones. But anyone slightly interested in digital politics and technology is by now acquiring at least basic skills in disappearance and subterfuge.

Hito Steyerl, How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File (2013)

Hito Steyerl, How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File (2013)

MJ In “Politics of Art: Contemporary Art and the Transition to Post-Democracy,” you point out that the contemporary art industry “sustains itself on the time and energy of unpaid interns and self-exploiting actors on pretty much every level and in almost every function,” while maintaining that “we have to face up to the fact that there is no automatically available road to resistance and organization for artistic labor.” Bourdieu theorized qualitatively different dynamics in the composition of cultural capital vs. that of economic capital, arguing that the former is constituted by the struggle for distinction, whose value is irreducible to financial compensation. This basically translates to: everyone wants a piece of the art-historical pie, and is willing to go through economic self-humiliation in the process. If striving for distinction is antithetical to solidarity, do you see a possibility of reconciling it with collective political empowerment on behalf of those economically exploited by the contemporary art industry?

HS In Art and Money, William Goetzmann, Luc Renneboog, and Christophe Spaenjers conclude that income inequality correlates to art prices. The bigger the difference between top income and no income, the higher prices are paid for some art works. This means that the art market will benefit not only if less people have more money but also if more people have no money. This also means that increasing the amount of zero incomes is likely, especially under current circumstances, to raise the price of some art works. The poorer many people are (and the richer a few), the better the art market does; the more unpaid interns, the more expensive the art. But the art market itself may be following a similar pattern of inequality, basically creating a divide between the 0,01 percent if not less of artworks that are able to concentrate the bulk of sales and the 99,99 percent rest. There is no short term solution for this feedback loop, except of course not to accept this situation, individually or preferably collectively on all levels of the industry. This also means from the point of view of employers. There is a long term benefit to this, not only to interns and artists but to everyone. Cultural industries, which are too exclusively profit oriented lose their appeal. If you want exciting things to happen you need a bunch of young and inspiring people creating a dynamics by doing risky, messy and confusing things. If they cannot afford to do this, they will do it somewhere else eventually. There needs to be space and resources for experimentation, even failure, otherwise things go stale. If these people move on to more accommodating sectors the art sector will mentally shut down even more and become somewhat North-Korean in its outlook — just like contemporary blockbuster CGI industries. Let me explain: there is a managerial sleekness and awe inspiring military perfection to every pixel in these productions, like in North Korean pixel parades, where thousands of soldiers wave color posters to form ever new pixel patterns. The result is quite something but this something is definitely not inspiring nor exciting. If the art world keeps going down the way of raising art prices via starvation of it’s workers – and there is no reason to believe it will not continue to do this – it will become the Disney version of Kim Jong Un’s pixel parades. 12K starving interns waving pixels for giant CGI renderings of Marina Abramovic! Imagine the price it will fetch!

kim jon hito

kim hito jon

“Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought”

CITATION:

Colin P. Kelly et al. 2015. PNAS, Vol. 112, No. 11, pp. 3241-326.

ON-LINE AVAILABILITY:

DOI: www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1421533112

ABSTRACT:

Before the Syrian uprising that began in 2011, the greater Fertile Crescent experienced the most severe drought in the instrumental record. For Syria, a country marked by poor governance and unsustainable agricultural and environmental policies, the drought had a catalytic effect, contributing to political unrest. We show that the recent decrease in Syrian precipitation is a combination of natural variability and a long-term drying trend, and the unusual severity of the observed drought is here shown to be highly unlikely without this trend. Precipitation changes in Syria are linked to rising mean sea-level pressure in the Eastern Mediterranean, which also shows a long-term trend. There has been also a long-term warming trend in the Eastern Mediterranean, adding to the drawdown of soil moisture. No natural cause is apparent for these trends, whereas the observed drying and warming are consistent with model studies of the response to increases in greenhouse gases. Furthermore, model studies show an increasingly drier and hotter future mean climate for the Eastern Mediterranean. Analyses of observations and model simulations indicate that a drought of the severity and duration of the recent Syrian drought, which is implicated in the current conflict, has become more than twice as likely as a consequence of human interference in the climate system.

See more at: “Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought”

A ‘New Deal’ of sorts for religion (The Daily Climate)

November 19, 2015

Science alone can’t force behavior change. Religion needs to step up.

By Douglas Fischer
The Daily Climate

RIETI, Italy – Religion needs a revolutionary shift, taking responsibility for our “common home” and rejecting fundamentalism, to point humanity to better, wiser solutions for problems like climate change.

Reason alone can’t handle the job.

The message came from a panel convened here in Italy, where the papal encyclical issued this summer and the Paris attacks over the weekend were both very much present.

“Any fundamentalism breaks our common home,” said Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council of Family. “This is the most important message stemming from Pope Francis and his encyclical.”

Italy Panel

Paglia spoke via a translator at the 12th International Media Forum on the Protection of Nature, an annual gathering of scientists and journalists in Italy. Environmental Health Sciences, publisher of The Daily Climate and Environmental Health News, is being honored at the conference with the International Greenaccord Media Award.

At a discussion on religion and science, several theological experts called for more than a simple rethinking in the longstanding, antagonistic relationship between the two.

“What are our values that shape our individual behavior? From where do we receive our onus on responsibility?” asked former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato, a member of the Constitutional Court, one of two supreme courts in Italy. “Religions are an irrenouncable moral guide for a free society.”

But for too long, Amato added via a translator, religion has stood as the antithesis to free society – a force that “darkens the mind,” the enemy of science.

What’s needed, said Paglia and others, is an ecological revolution “in the broadest possible sense.”

“We have to rethink our relationship with this common home,” Paglia said. “Humans are not the masters.”

That message was explicit in Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, the Laudato Si, issued earlier this year. Almost 200 pages long, the landmark document mapped a more holistic ecology—one wrapping environmentalism, economics, science and faith together in an integral effort.

It calls, said Giancarlo Bosetti, director of Reset Dialogues on Civilization, an Italian nonprofit focused on intercultural understanding, not simply for a shift in “tone or style,” but in “theological substance.”

“This is a post-secular philosophy, open to dialogue, that allows us to produce many syntheses between faith and reason.”-Giancarlo Bosetti, Reset Dialogues on Civilization

“It explicitly abandons dogmatic expression of faith,” Bosetti said. “This is a post-secular philosophy, open to dialogue, that allows us to produce many syntheses between faith and reason.”

And that pairing, Amato added, is crucial to breaking the “gigantic oxymoron” between unfettered economic growth and expression on one hand, and ecological preservation on the other.

“There is nothing more beautiful, more momentous, than the fact that we are able to choose, to design and build, our life project,” Amato said. “But we are so often focused on desires centered around ourselves…. We have endangered our relationship with our collective interest.”

Science has pointed out the folly of such choices. But it has little power to shift the underlying ethics and morals, panelists agreed.

“Science is telling us we are living as if we were ill,” Amato said. “And science is helpless … in telling us what we should do. “We need a form of ethics that can reset our relationship with ourselves and with our world.”

Mudanças climáticas e suas consequências já causam milhares de mortes (ONU Brasil)

Doenças associadas à poluição do ar deixaram sete milhões de pessoas mortas em 2012, segundo a OMS. Foto: Banco Mundial / Curt Carnemark

Doenças associadas à poluição do ar deixaram sete milhões de pessoas mortas em 2012, segundo a OMS. Foto: Banco Mundial / Curt Carnemark

Doenças relacionadas à presença de partículas na atmosfera provocaram a morte 7 milhões de pessoas em 2012. Aumento dos preços dos combustíveis poderia reduzir emissões de carbono, cortar pela metade mortes causadas por poluição e gerar 3 trilhões de dólares por ano, mais da metade dos gastos de saúde do planeta.

A Organização Mundial da Saúde (OMS) destacou nesta terça-feira (17) que as mudanças climáticas já causam milhares de mortes todos os anos, provocadas por fenômenos extremos, enchentes e secas e pela degradação da qualidade do ar, da água e dos alimentos. Segundo a agência da ONU, a situação tende a se agravar, caso os Estados-membros não adotem ações decisivas na Conferência do Clima de Paris, em dezembro.

De acordo com previsões da OMS, as mudanças climáticas poderão provocar, entre 2030 e 2050, 25 mil mortes por ano, associadas a infecções como malária e diarreia, a ondas de calor e a subnutrição. Outro fator preocupante é a poluição do ar. Doenças relacionadas à presença de partículas na atmosfera deixaram 7 milhões de pessoas mortas em 2012. Mulheres, crianças e os mais pobres em países de baixa renda serão os mais afetados no futuro.

Para a OMS, ações de combate às mudanças climáticas, como o investimento em desenvolvimento de baixo carbono e o uso de energias renováveis, trazem ganhos tanto para o meio ambiente, quanto para a saúde de todos. Segundo a agência, intervenções que reduzam as emissões de poluentes como o carbono negro e o metano e que restrinjam as emissões de veículos podem salvar 2,4 milhões de vidas por ano e reduzir em 0,5ºC o aquecimento do planeta até 2050.

A agência também afirmou que a atribuição de preços mais altos para combustíveis poluentes, de modo a compensar impactos de saúde negativos, pode reduzir as emissões de dióxido de carbono em 20% e cortar pela metade o número de mortes causadas pela poluição do ar. As restrições poderiam gerar lucros de 3 trilhões de dólares por ano, valor que representa mais da metade dos gastos de saúde de todos os governos do mundo. (ONU Brasil/ #Envolverde)

* Publicado originalmente no site ONU Brasil.

Video: Drought, Climate, Security, and Syria (Skeptical Science)

Posted on 13 November 2015 by greenman3610

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

 

Drought, water, war, and climate change” is the title of this month’s Yale ClimateConnections video exploring expert assessments of the interconnections between and among those issues.

With historic 1988 BBC television footage featuring Princeton University scientist Syukuru (“Suki”) Manabe and recent news clips and interviews with MIT scientist Kerry Emanuel, Ohio State University scientist Lonnie Thompson, CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour, and New York Times columnist and book author Tom Friedman, the six-minute video plumbs the depths of growing climate change concerns among national security experts.

Friedman, in footage from the 2014 Showtime “Years of Living Dangerously” nine-episode documentary, points to a NOAA analysis that climate change has caused the Mediterranean region, in Friedman’s words, “to dry up . . . . leading to longer and more severe droughts.” Friedman in that piece pointed out that severe droughts struck Syria – “which is right at the epicenter” of the worst impacts — in the four years leading up to the Syrian revolution.

MIT scientist Kerry Emanuel points to increasing concerns among military experts over climate change. “These are not sandal-wearing, fruit juice-drinking hippies from the sixties,” he says. “These are serious folk” concerned about “significant geopolitical impacts around the world.”

CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour reports that climate change and dwindling water supplies “may have helped fuel Syria’s war.” She says drought in Syria from 2006 through 2010 “scorched 60 percent of Syria’s land, and it killed 80 percent of livestock in some regions, putting three-quarters of the farmers out of work, and ultimately displacing 1.5 million people.”

“While no one’s claiming a direct cause and effect” relationship, Amanpour says, “the drought did bring on the diaspora from dying farms and over-crowded cities, and thereby put enormous economic and social pressures on an already fractured society.”

The video ends with Lonnie Thompson pointing to Tibet’s numerous glaciers and the Indus River flowing through China, Pakistan, and India.  All, he says, are “nuclear-powered countries,” each of them dependent on the Indus for water supplies . . . “all geopolitical hot-spots in the future” with a big stake on the glaciers increasingly under stress in a warming climate.

James Cameron wants you to fight global warming by changing what you eat (Washington Post)

 November 18

James Cameron speaking during a forum at the 2012 Beijing Film Academy. AFP/Getty Images)

There are few films more environmentally infused than the highest grossing one in history, “Avatar” — in which a highly militarized mining company seeks to exploit the resources of the rich forest world of Pandora. But less known is how the film’s director, James Cameron, has also used some of the money made from “Avatar” to champion an array of green causes, even as he’s also using clean energy to power the film’s three planned sequels.

“We put in a 1 megawatt solar array on the roof of the soundstages where we’re doing the ‘Avatar’ sequels, so we’ll be net energy neutral there,” Cameron told The Washington Post recently. “We’ll sell back to the grid and it will balance back over the time when we’re working and when we’re not working.”

It’s just one of the many green initiatives the director has undertaken. Heck, he even designed his own solar sunflowers, and they’re pretty cool looking.

(He’s also a noted underwater explorer: In 2012 Cameron undertook a historic dive 35,787 feet deep into the Mariana Trench.)

Cameron spoke Wednesday morning in Washington at Greenbuild, a major conference on green buildings sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council. Projected population growth means there will be massive construction in new cities around the world, Cameron told The Post. “If all those buildings are constructed the way we’ve traditionally constructed buildings it will be an enormous spike in greenhouse gas emissions,” he adds.

But one of his most unique recent environmental causes has focused on what we eat — meat and dairy, particularly — and how it relates to climate change. This topic has long been a kind of elephant in the room of environmental discussions – and now Cameron is pointing straight at the elephant.

“When you add it all up, it comes up to about 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas comes from the animal agriculture sector,” Cameron says. “That’s bigger than all transportation combined.”

Granted, the gases aren’t just carbon dioxide — the leading, long-lived atmospheric greenhouse gas. They also include methane, which is harder hitting but dissipates much faster — and in this context chiefly comes from so-called “enteric fermentation” (digestion and subsequent burps) in cows and other livestock — and nitrous oxide, emitted by fertilizers and manure. The 14.5 percent figure was affirmed by Chatham House, a London-based think tank, which also calculated that livestock drives 39 percent of human-caused global methane emissions and 65 percent of human induced nitrous oxide emissions.

You can’t fix global warming without fixing carbon dioxide — it has a longer atmospheric residence time than these other gases, and is the dominant greenhouse gas in general. But Cameron observes that because agriculture is so closely tied to deforestation — in many places around the globe, forests are being cleared for cattle and other agricultural activities — it’s also in effect a major source of CO2 to the atmosphere.

Moreover, given global goals to keep global warming between 2 degrees Celsius, it has often been observed that taking action on non-CO2 gases with greater immediate warming consequences, like methane, can buy us some time.

There have been proposed techno-fixes to the problem of agricultural emissions — including the intriguing idea of changing the chemistry going on in cows’ rumens (one chamber of their stomachs)  by feeding them a “methane inhibitor” powder, which has been proved in published research to work. DSM, the Dutch life-sciences company, is developing this product.

[Meet the ‘clean cow’ technology that could help fight climate change]

But there’s also changing what we consume and, in effect, driving market-based changes on a global scale. On the latter front, Cameron and his wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, founded the Food Choice Taskforce, seeking to change our diets, and thereby, lessen climate change and other environmental impacts. “It’s a viable choice, it’s essentially a thermostat that’s being handed to us that we can use to turn down climate change,” Cameron says.

The group is supported in part by the private Avatar Alliance Foundation, which Cameron endowed with some of the film’s proceeds. The foundation has also supported Chatham House’s research on agriculture and the environment.

According to Chatham House, international negotiations to address climate change naturally target the energy and transportation sectors, and the forest and land use sector — but for a complex set of reasons, they have just as traditionally overlooked agriculture. The report contended that “dietary change is essential if global warming is not to exceed two degrees Celsius – the stated objective of the international community.”

“I think they’re basically unachievable goals if we don’t embrace the way we eat as well as part of it. But nobody’s talking about it,” says Cameron.

Granted, there are signs of momentum lately. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, for instance, recently made major waves when it included environmental concerns to its assessment of our diets. “Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use,” the report noted, compared with more plant-based diets. Meanwhile,   the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer recently declared processed meats a carcinogen.

When it comes to the U.S. dietary guidelines committee — a group of scientists who provide advice, but do not set official policy, it seems a particularly auspicious sign. “For the first time, the issue that I’ve been screaming about has been codified as advice to the government,” says Cameron.

More general, Cameron — who is just as much a wonk  about climate change and ocean science as one presumes that he is about the technical aspects of filmmaking — thinks the tide is turning.

“It feels like climate denialism is starting to look like it’s really on the wrong side of history for a greater majority every day,” says Cameron. “Momentum is building in a great direction.”

Conta das mudanças climáticas é mais alta para nações ricas (O Globo)

ActionAid calcula que países desenvolvidos devem doar 0,1% do PIB a fundo comum

POR O GLOBO

18/11/2015 6:00

 

Mulheres polonesas conversam em frente à usina: países desenvolvidos não pagam valores justos para atenuar mudanças climáticas, diz ONG – JOE KLAMAR/AFP

RIO — Um novo estudo da ONG ActionAid denunciou ontem a diferença abissal entre as quantias exigidas e as doadas pelos países desenvolvidos para que as nações mais pobres criem medidas de adaptação contra as mudanças climáticas. Em 2013, foram destinados cerca de US$ 5 bilhões para o combate ao aquecimento global. Na próxima década, serão necessários US$ 150 bilhões por ano para combater os eventos extremos. O debate sobre financiamento está entre as prioridades da Conferência do Clima de Paris, a partir do dia 30.

De acordo com o instituto, as nações ricas deveriam dedicar pelo menos 0,1% de seu PIB a um fundo climático internacional. É um índice 70 vezes menor do que o gasto em 2008 para a adoção de políticas contra a recessão econômica.

Os EUA deveriam aumentar suas contribuições aos países pobres em mais de 154 vezes, passando dos US$ 440 milhões gastos em 2013 para US$ 67,5 bilhões em 2025.

A União Europeia precisa multiplicar os seus investimentos em 11 vezes, passando dos US$ 3,2 bilhões vistos em 2013 para US$ 36,9 bilhões em 2025.

Os cálculos são baseados nas emissões históricas — a contribuição atribuída a cada país para provocar as mudanças climáticas — e em sua capacidade de ajudar financeiramente, levando em conta os dados da Organização para a Cooperação e Desenvolvimento Econômico (OCDE).

Especialista em financiamento climático da ActionAid, Brandon Wu acredita que os países em desenvolvimento estão enfrentando sozinhos “uma crise que não causaram”.

— O problema não é falta de dinheiro — assegura. — Os EUA, por exemplo, gastam muito mais em subsídios para os combustíveis fósseis do que em medidas de adaptação ao clima. É falta de vontade política.

IMPASSE HISTÓRICO

Wu avalia que o financiamento contra as mudanças climáticas pode ser o item mais polêmico entre os discutidos na Conferência do Clima. Tradicionalmente, os países ricos e pobres discordam sobre o tamanho do rombo, e as nações desenvolvidas não concordam em assumir totalmente as indenizações contra o aquecimento global, eximindo economias emergentes, como China e Brasil, de qualquer compromisso financeiro.

— Um novo acordo (global sobre o clima) não é possível sem esclarecimento sobre como serão as finanças — pondera. — Os países em desenvolvimento não podem adaptar suas economias, livrando-as das emissões de carbono, sem apoio internacional. Talvez não consigamos saber exatamente quanto será investido por cada país, mas precisamos impor novos prazos e objetivos. Aqueles discutidos até agora são vagos demais.

Já Osvaldo Stella, diretor do Programa de Mudanças Climáticas do Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia, acredita que as negociações financeiras não devem ser uma prioridade.

— O mais importante é discutir que metas podem impedir o avanço da temperatura global — defende. — O financiamento é um jogo político. Resistimos a abandonar o petróleo, da mesma forma como, antes, não queríamos largar o carvão. Mais do que abrir o cofre, precisamos pensar em um novo modelo econômico, que tipo de capitalismo devemos adotar.

Barragens de alto risco ameaçam 540 mil pessoas (O Globo)

por Mariana Sanches

Barragem da Imerys na cidade de Barcarena, no Pará: vazamento de cerca de 450 mil metros cúbicos de rejeitos de caulim já aconteceu em 2007 – Arquivo/“O Liberal”

SÃO PAULO – A análise de documentos do Departamento Nacional de Produção Mineral (DNPM), órgão responsável pela fiscalização de barragens de mineração em todo o Brasil, revela que a tragédia que atingiu Mariana (MG) pode se repetir em pelo menos 16 outras barragens de quatro estados do país. O drama que matou 11 pessoas, desapareceu com outras 12 e atravessou Minas Gerais e Espírito Santo em direção ao mar ameaça mais meio milhão de pessoas. O Cadastro Nacional de Barragens de Mineração de abril de 2014 mostra que 16 reservatórios e uma cava de garimpo possuem categoria de risco alto — quando a estrutura não oferece condições ideais de segurança e pode colapsar — e alto dano potencial associado — quando pode afetar e matar populações, contaminar rios, destruir biomas e causar graves danos socioeconômicos.

De acordo com cálculos feitos pelo GLOBO, se essas barragens rompessem, os rejeitos potencialmente atingiriam 14 municípios, cuja população soma 540 mil habitantes. Incluindo-se na conta a cava de Serra Pelada, no Pará, são 780 mil pessoas em risco. As unidades possuem volume de 84 milhões de metros cúbicos para abrigar o material descartado no processo de mineração de ferro, estanho, manganês, caulim e ouro. O montante é 50% maior que a quantidade de lama que vazou da Samarco, que pertence à Vale e à australiana BHP.

Os rejeitos ameaçam três das maiores bacias hidrográficas brasileiras: a do Rio Paraguai, no coração do Pantanal sul-matogrossense; a do Rio Amazonas, que irriga a floresta amazônica; e a do Rio São Francisco, que banha o Nordeste.

EMPRESAS NÃO FORNECEM DOCUMENTOS

A estimativa foi feita a partir da localização das barragens, dos cursos d’água e da localização da jusante — o sentido da vazão dos rios. Foram considerados municípios em risco imediato aqueles que estão a menos de 50 quilômetros das barragens e no caminho da correnteza de igarapés, riachos e rios que banham a área.

Apenas para comparação, a lama que saiu de Mariana já percorreu cerca de dez vezes a distância de 50 quilômetros usada na estimativa e partiu do reservatório a uma velocidade de cerca de 70 km/h. Repetidas as condições da barragem de Fundão, vilarejos desses municípios seriam afetados em menos de uma hora.

Os dados usados são do DNPM e do Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE). Nenhuma das empresas responsáveis pelas barragens de alto risco forneceu laudos técnicos sobre o que aconteceria com seus rejeitos se as estruturas colapsassem, o que permitiria traçar uma rota mais certeira do impacto nos municípios e até dos atingidos indiretamente, por falta d’água, por exemplo. Esses estudos compõem os Planos de Ações Emergenciais de Barragens de Mineração, que incluem também a lista de procedimentos para salvamento de pessoas e contenção de desastres em caso de emergência, cuja formulação é obrigatória por lei.

— Não há porque as empresas não tornarem esses documentos públicos, é uma informação importante para a população. O comportamento é estranho e preocupante. Sugere que o plano possa não existir ou que tenha sido feito de qualquer maneira — alertou o geólogo Álvaro dos Santos, do Instituto de Pesquisas Tecnológicas.

O plano de contingência da Samarco só foi apresentado mais de uma semana após o incidente e criticado pelo Ministério Público de Minas Gerais. O documento não previa alerta sonoro nem treinamento de pessoas que moravam na área de risco.

Entre as barragens listadas como potencialmente perigosas, há empresas reincidentes em acidentes. Uma delas, a Imerys Rio Capim Caulim S/A, é responsável pelo vazamento de cerca de 450 mil metros cúbicos de rejeitos de caulim — mistura de água e barro esbranquiçado — de uma das bacias, em 2007. Os rejeitos atingiram igarapés e rios do município de Barcarena (PA). Em 2014, o Ministério Público Federal investigou pelo menos outros dois vazamentos dos tanques da companhia. Agora, a empresa aparece como controladora de três barragens de classificação A: alto risco quanto à conservação e alto dano potencial. Ainda assim, sua produção não foi reduzida nem paralisada.

O Brasil está entre os dez maiores produtores mundiais de caulim, minério fundamental para a produção de papel. A Imerys afirmou, em nota, que não paralisou as atividades porque a lei não obriga, e negou que as estruturas estejam fora de controle. “Entre 2013 e 2015 foram investidos cerca de R$ 15 milhões na segurança de operações de barragem”, disse a nota, que ressaltou ainda que sistematicamente são tomadas “medidas como monitoramento do nível das bacias, acompanhamento do nível dos lençóis freáticos e estudos de estabilidade dos maciços das bacias”. A empresa reconheceu que “onde está a planta de beneficiamento da Imerys, existem pessoas” e disse ter plano de emergência voltada para elas, mas não apresentou documentos nem detalhes.

— É óbvio que as atividades deveriam ser suspensas nesses casos, mas a fiscalização não obriga. Aliás, não há nem prazo para que a empresa melhore suas estruturas, ela pode fazer quando quiser — diz a procuradora Zani Cajueiro, especialista no assunto.

Em Corumbá (MS), a Vale controla a Urucum Mineração, dona de dois reservatórios de classificação A, usados na extração de manganês. Esse tipo de atividade costuma produzir como rejeito quantidades de arsênio, substância altamente tóxica, de acordo com o Centro de Tecnologia Mineral (Cetem), do Ministério da Tecnologia. A Vale negou que o rejeito seja perigoso e disse que manteve as operações a despeito do resultado negativo das condições das estruturas. Afirmou ainda que inspeções feitas em 2015 reenquadraram as bacias para baixo e médio risco, mas não apresentou documentos que comprovem isso.

Já a Gerdau AçoMinas, controladora da Barragem Bocaina em Ouro Preto (MG), disse que, em análise do fim de 2014, o reservatório foi considerado de baixo risco e que está fora de operação. Apresentou um documento do DNPM que mostra a mudança de classificação para nível C. No entanto, a página não tem data.

Dona de bacias de água barrenta encravadas no meio da floresta amazônica, a Taboca Mineração é a empresa com maior número de barragens na lista: são dez, usadas para mineração de estanho. A empresa admitiu que, em caso de rompimento, a maior delas poderia provocar uma onda de cinco metros de rejeitos, que atingiria áreas indígenas. Afirmou que nas bacias há água e areia de granito. As estruturas não estão em operação e passam por recuperação ambiental. A Taboca afirmou que adota criteriosos padrões de segurança, “inclusive com mais rigor que o exigido pela legislação”.

Especialistas, no entanto, questionam as condições das barragens, mesmo daquelas que não estão em situação de alto risco. Em Mariana, a barragem rompida era considerada de baixo risco.

— Quem produz os laudos são as próprias empresas ou consultorias contratadas por elas. A raposa cuida do galinheiro — disse Francisco Fernandes, pesquisador do Cetem.

O DNPM não respondeu à reportagem.

Menos de 3% das multas ambientais cobradas no Brasil são pagas (El País)

DESASTRE EM MARIANA »

Empresas poluidoras ou responsáveis por desastres protelam pagamento por meio judicial

 /  

Brasília / São Paulo 21 NOV 2015 – 13:43 BRST

Localidade de Bento Rodrigues devastada após rompimento de barragem. / ROGÉRIO ALVES (FOTOS PÚBLICAS)

De cada 100 reais em multas aplicadas pelo Instituto Brasileiro de Meio Ambiente (Ibama) desde 2011 para quem infringiu regras ambientais, menos de três reais entraram nos caixas do Governo federal. Os dados constam de um relatório do órgão que é entregue ao Tribunal de Contas da União (TCU) anualmente. Entre janeiro 2011 e setembro de 2015, foram aplicados 16,5 bilhões de reais em punições, por exemplo, a empresas que emitiram gases poluidores acima do limite aceitável, petroleiras responsáveis por derramamento de óleo no mar ou madeireiras que desmataram áreas proibidas, entre outros. Desse valor, apenas 494,2 milhões acabaram sendo efetivamente pagos pelas empresas infratoras.

O assunto ganha fôlego depois do acidente de Mariana que matou aos menos 11 pessoas, número que pode subir para 23, uma vez que outras 12 estão desaparecidas. No cálculo do Ibama ainda não está relacionada a multa de 250 milhões de reais aplicada à mineradora Samarco, responsável pelo desastre na cidade mineira de Mariana e no rio Doce, que atinge os Estados de Minas Gerais e o Espírito Santo. O rompimento de uma barragem desta mineradora, que é controlada pela Vale, a maior mineradora do Brasil, e pela australiana BHP (a maior do mundo), resultou em um tsunami de lama que devastou ao menos três municípios mineiros e já alcançou o estado do Espírito Santo.

Entre os motivos para se ter uma arrecadação tão baixa, em comparação com os valores de multas aplicados, é o excesso de recursos judiciais a que tem direito as companhias. Quando uma empresa recebe um auto de infração ela tem ao menos duas instâncias administrativas para recorrer dentro do próprio Ibama. Além disso, pode buscar um aparo do Judiciário para evitar ou protelar o pagamento.

O baixo número de autoridades julgadoras das ações administrativas – hoje são sete servidores com essa função nas últimas instâncias, em Brasília, para analisar cerca de 14.000 casos anuais –, também colabora para a lentidão nos julgamentos. Conforme fontes do Ibama, na área administrativa, um processo leva até três anos para ser concluído. Ou seja, com mais recursos financeiros, as empresas colocam seus advogados para brecar as punições com mais velocidade que os fiscais podem empregar para cobrar respeito à legislação. Assim, o Governo fica atrás com um funil para lidar com as agressões ao meio ambiente, que podem desembocar em tragédias como a de Mariana. A lentidão levou a milhares de crimes prescritos entre 2012 e 2013, quando 8.580 processos perderam o prazo legal para condenar os autores das infrações, segundo o relatório de gestão entregue ao TCU.

O Ibama tem defendido mudanças nas regras ambientais para alterar o limite de 50 milhões de reais.

Há um esforço pela melhoria desse quadro há alguns anos. Em 2013, por exemplo, a média de tempo para a conclusão da análise de um auto de infração era de quatro anos e três meses. Em 2012, cinco anos e sete meses.

Os dados dos relatórios obtidos pelo EL PAÍS somados ao, em alguns casos, reduzido valor da multa em comparação com o tamanho do dano ambiental  – o teto das multas no Brasil é de 50 milhões de reais – implicam na precipitada sensação de impunidade. Ocorre que as multas não são o único instrumento para punir as empresas poluidoras ou responsáveis por desmatamentos. Para interferir no patrimônio das infratoras, o Ibama pode sugerir o embargo, a interdição ou a suspensão do registro de funcionamento. Sem poder funcionar, ela não consegue fazer o dinheiro circular e, algumas vezes, se vê forçada a pagar as multas e se adequar às regras ambientais. Isso tem ocorrido com frequência em relação às madeireiras que atuam principalmente na Amazônia.

Uma outra frente é inscrever as infratoras no Cadastro dos Inadimplentes do Governo Federal (Cadin). Uma vez com o nome sujo, as empresas não podem assinar contratos com a União nem obter uma série de benefícios como isenções fiscais ou créditos em bancos públicos.

Mas, quando se compara o valor da multa inicial da Samarco (250 milhões de reais, somando cinco infrações, que vão da poluição dos rios ao lançamento de resíduos danosos à biodiversidade) com a paga pela British Petroleum, por exemplo, de 20,7 bilhões de reais pelo vazamento de petróleo no Golfo do México em 2010, a impressão é que o Brasil precisa ser mais rigoroso no assunto.

O Ibama tem defendido mudanças nas regras ambientais para alterar o limite de 50 milhões de reais. Na última quarta-feira, em uma audiência na Câmara dos Deputados que discutiu o desastre de Mariana, o diretor de proteção ambiental do órgão, Luciano Evaristo, externou essa posição do instituto. “Quando se limita uma autuação a 50 milhões de reais, o empreendedor que tem um custo de 500 milhões de reais para segurança vai preferir deixar tudo cair, porque o valor da multa será menor. Temos que rever esse valor máximo”, afirmou.

Apesar do valor das multas aplicadas pelo Ibama parecer pequeno diante do dano causado pela tragédia, o presidente da Comissão de Direito Ambiental da OAB Minas, Mário Werneck, ressalta que não se pode confundir essa penalidade com a indenização total que a Samarco terá que pagar. “Só com a finalização da ação civil pública será possível mensurar o que terá que ser repassado pela empresa para a recuperação ambiental da região afetada e a reparação dos danos às vítimas”, explica Mário Werneck.

“O que acontece aqui é que temos apenas 4 fiscais, estamos em cima de uma bomba atômica em Minas Gerais”. – Presidente da Comissão de Direito Ambiental da OAB Minas, Mário Wernek

Nesta quarta-feira, a mineradora recebeu uma nova notificação de multa. Dessa vez ,ela foi notificada pela Subsecretaria Estadual de Fiscalização de Meio Ambiente de Minas, que penalizou a mineradora em 112, 69 milhões de reais pelos danos ambientais causados pelo rompimento da Barragem Fundão, no início do mês. A Samarco confirmou o recebimento da notificação e terá o prazo de até 20 dias do recebimento do auto de infração para pagar a multa ou apresentar a defesa.

A pressão sobre a mineradora deve crescer com uma ação conjunta que deve ser impetrada pelo Governo de Minas Gerais e Espírito Santo na Justiça, segundo informa o O Estado de S. Paulo deste sábado. O governador capixaba Paulo Hartung afirmou ao jornal que um processo do gênero foi adotado nos Estados Unidos pelos Estados atingidos pelo vazamento da BP em 2010. O desastre de Mariana ganhou a boca do povo no Brasil e a cobrança por uma punição tem sido crescente. Nesta sexta, o vocalista da banda Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder, que se apresentava em Belo Horizonte, capital mineira, leu um texto em português para falar do desastre de Mariana. “Esperamos que eles sejam punidos, duramente punidos para que nunca esqueçam o triste desastre causado por eles”, disse ele, para delírio da plateia.

Multas anistiadas

Com um programa de concessões em infraestrutura lançado este ano, que prevê investimentos de até 200 bilhões de reais, o Governo brasileiro deve ser cada vez mais cobrado por uma legislação ambiental eficiente diante dos problemas que tendem a surgir nesses empreendimentos. Atualmente, além das multas ambientais não serem pagas pela maioria das empresas, algumas infrações são anistiadas por falta de recursos para bancar os custos dos processos judiciais. Em agosto, o governador mineiro, Fernando Pimentel (PT), sancionou uma lei que permite ao Sistema Estadual do Meio Ambiente e Recursos Hídricos (Sisema) anistiar multas ambientais de até 15.000 reais que foram emitidas até o fim de 2012. A medida também será aplicada para infrações de até 5.000 reais que foram notificadas em 2013 e 2014 e deve anistiar cerca de 120 mil multas.

“Um processo de cobrança judicial, hoje, para o Estado de Minas Gerais, custa em torno de 16 mil reais, segundo cálculos da Advocacia Geral do Estado. Qualquer cobrança de crédito abaixo desse valor significa que o Estado paga para receber”, explicou o secretário de Estado do Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento Sustentável, Sávio Souza Cruz por meio de nota enviada pelo Sisema.

Werneck é contra a medida já que, segundo ele, muitas empresas já deixam de pagar porque sabem que serão anistiadas. “Se eu aplico multas elas precisam ser cobradas, mas a verdade é que não há um corpo técnico para atuar. Se eles resgatassem essas multas poderiam inclusive aumentar o pessoal, a fiscalização. É um absurdo”, explica.

Para o presidente da Comissão de Direito Ambiental da OAB Minas, Mário Werneck, é preciso estudar um novo modelo de barragem e aplicar uma maior fiscalização da atividade já que, segundo ele, Minas Gerais possui 450 barragens de rejeitos e 45 delas estão com as licenças desatualizadas, à espera de revalidação. “Mas o que acontece aqui é que temos apenas quatro fiscais. Estamos em cima de uma bomba atômica em Minas Gerais”.

MAIS INFORMAÇÕES

Preventing famine with mobile phones (Science Daily)

Date: November 19, 2015

Source: Vienna University of Technology, TU Vienna

Summary: With a mobile data collection app and satellite data, scientists will be able to predict whether a certain region is vulnerable to food shortages and malnutrition, say experts. By scanning Earth’s surface with microwave beams, researchers can measure the water content in soil. Comparing these measurements with extensive data sets obtained over the last few decades, it is possible to calculate whether the soil is sufficiently moist or whether there is danger of droughts. The method has now been tested in the Central African Republic.


Does drought lead to famine? A mobile app helps to collect information. Credit: Image courtesy of Vienna University of Technology, TU Vienna

With a mobile data collection app and satellite data, scientists will be able to predict whether a certain region is vulnerable to food shortages and malnutrition. The method has now been tested in the Central African Republic.

There are different possible causes for famine and malnutrition — not all of which are easy to foresee. Drought and crop failure can often be predicted by monitoring the weather and measuring soil moisture. But other risk factors, such as socio-economic problems or violent conflicts, can endanger food security too. For organizations such as Doctors without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), it is crucial to obtain information about vulnerable regions as soon as possible, so that they have a chance to provide help before it is too late.

Scientists from TU Wien in Vienna, Austria and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria have now developed a way to monitor food security using a smartphone app, which combines weather and soil moisture data from satellites with crowd-sourced data on the vulnerability of the population, e.g. malnutrition and other relevant socioeconomic data. Tests in the Central African Republic have yielded promising results, which have now been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Step One: Satellite Data

“For years, we have been working on methods of measuring soil moisture using satellite data,” says Markus Enenkel (TU Wien). By scanning Earth’s surface with microwave beams, researchers can measure the water content in soil. Comparing these measurements with extensive data sets obtained over the last few decades, it is possible to calculate whether the soil is sufficiently moist or whether there is danger of droughts. “This method works well and it provides us with very important information, but information about soil moisture deficits is not enough to estimate the danger of malnutrition,” says IIASA researcher Linda See. “We also need information about other factors that can affect the local food supply.” For example, political unrest may prevent people from farming, even if weather conditions are fine. Such problems can of course not be monitored from satellites, so the researchers had to find a way of collecting data directly in the most vulnerable regions.

“Today, smartphones are available even in developing countries, and so we decided to develop an app, which we called SATIDA COLLECT, to help us collect the necessary data,” says IIASA-based app developer Mathias Karner. For a first test, the researchers chose the Central African Republic- one of the world’s most vulnerable countries, suffering from chronic poverty, violent conflicts, and weak disaster resilience. Local MSF staff was trained for a day and collected data, conducting hundreds of interviews.

“How often do people eat? What are the current rates of malnutrition? Have any family members left the region recently, has anybody died? — We use the answers to these questions to statistically determine whether the region is in danger,” says Candela Lanusse, nutrition advisor from Doctors without Borders. “Sometimes all that people have left to eat is unripe fruit or the seeds they had stored for next year. Sometimes they have to sell their cattle, which may increase the chance of nutritional problems. This kind of behavior may indicate future problems, months before a large-scale crisis breaks out.”

A Map of Malnutrition Danger

The digital questionnaire of SATIDA COLLECT can be adapted to local eating habits, as the answers and the GPS coordinates of every assessment are stored locally on the phone. When an internet connection is available, the collected data are uploaded to a server and can be analyzed along with satellite-derived information about drought risk. In the end a map could be created, highlighting areas where the danger of malnutrition is high. For Doctors without Borders, such maps are extremely valuable. They help to plan future activities and provide help as soon as it is needed.

“Testing this tool in the Central African Republic was not easy,” says Markus Enenkel. “The political situation there is complicated. However, even under these circumstances we could show that our technology works. We were able to gather valuable information.” SATIDA COLLECT has the potential to become a powerful early warning tool. It may not be able to prevent crises, but it will at least help NGOs to mitigate their impacts via early intervention.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Vienna University of Technology, TU ViennaNote: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Markus Enenkel, Linda See, Mathias Karner, Mònica Álvarez, Edith Rogenhofer, Carme Baraldès-Vallverdú, Candela Lanusse, Núria Salse. Food Security Monitoring via Mobile Data Collection and Remote Sensing: Results from the Central African RepublicPLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (11): e0142030 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0142030

Áreas de alto e muito alto risco (IPT)

Instituto de Pesquisas Tecnológicas assina contrato com Defesa Civil de SP para identificação de áreas de deslizamentos e inundações em 10 cidades

Um novo contrato assinado entre o Instituto de Pesquisas Tecnológicas (IPT) e a Coordenaria Estadual de Defesa Civil do Estado de São Paulo prevê o mapeamento das áreas de alto e muito alto risco a deslizamentos e inundações em 10 municípios. A relação contempla os municípios que apresentaram incidência e recorrência de eventos de ordem meteorológica, hidrológica e geológica, de acordo com dados estatísticos registrados no Sistema Integrado de Defesa Civil (SIDEC) e que ainda não possuem instrumentos de identificação de risco abrangidos no Plano Preventivo de Defesa Civil do estado.

O projeto de três meses será realizado pela Seção de Investigações, Riscos e Desastres Naturais do IPT por meio de visitas técnicas aos municípios e posterior organização das informações em mapas, imagens e documentação fotográfica em um Sistema de Informações Geográficas (SIG), a fim de subsidiar o gerenciamento das áreas e estabelecer parâmetros técnicos e sociais.

Os graus de risco considerados seguem o método desenvolvido em 2007 pelo Ministério das Cidades e IPT, o qual estabelece quatro condições potenciais de risco – “é importante ressaltar que o projeto tratará dos setores classificados como de risco alto (R3) e muito alto (R4) das 10 cidades”, afirma Marcelo Fischer Gramani, coordenador do projeto e pesquisador da Seção.

As cidades incluídas no projeto estão localizadas nas Regiões Administrativas de Presidente Prudente (Adamantina, Caiabu, Inúbia Paulista e Presidente Prudente), de Campinas (Caconde e Divinolândia), de Itapeva (Paranapanema e Tejupá), de Marília (Tupã) e de Barretos (Olímpia). Estes municípios foram indicados como prioritários por não terem informações atualizadas sobre riscos de deslizamento e/ou inundações.

As principais atividades desenvolvidas pelo IPT incluem a pesquisa bibliográfica dos levantamentos de áreas de riscos existentes, a consulta às equipes das Coordenadorias Municipais de Defesa Civil sobre o número de atendimentos efetuados nos locais que serão avaliados, a realização de vistorias de campo para levantamento de indicadores de risco e tipologias dos processos, e a elaboração de documentação fotográfica.

Os dados coletados serão analisados para fundamentar o relatório técnico, que irá conter informações como descrição da área avaliada, delimitação dos setores de risco identificados em imagem de sensores remotos, quantidade de imóveis em risco, quantidade de pessoas em risco, tipologia do processo (deslizamento, inundação, solapamento de margem) e sugestões de intervenções para minimizar ou eliminar os riscos identificados.

(IPT)