Arquivo mensal: junho 2016

A política indigenista e o malogrado projeto de aldeamento indígena do século XIX (Pesquisa Fapesp)

30 de junho de 2016

José Tadeu Arantes  |  Agência FAPESP – Existe uma expressiva produção historiográfica sobre os primeiros 250 anos de contato dos indígenas com os conquistadores europeus do atual território brasileiro. O escambo entre forasteiros e nativos, as várias tentativas de escravização dos índios, a catequese jesuíta, o protagonismo indígena em grandes episódios, como a Guerra dos Tamoios, são razoavelmente conhecidos. Mas, após a derrota dos Guarani das Missões Jesuíticas em meados do século XVIII, escasseiam os relatos. Eles só irão reaparecer no século XX, com a intensificação do processo de interiorização. O século XIX, em especial, parece desprovido de índios. Presente na poesia e na prosa da literatura romântica, o indígena é o grande ausente nas páginas da história.

Com a ajuda de frades capuchinhos italianos, o Império procurou enquadrar os índios geográfica e culturalmente, mas a resistência velada que estes opuseram redimensionou o empreendimento (imagem: Cacique Pahi Kaiowá, Aldeamento de Santo Inácio do Paranapanema. Franz Keller, 1865 / Carneiro, Newton: Iconografia Paranaense, Curitiba, Impressora Paranaense, 1950)

No entanto, o século XIX foi palco da primeira política indigenista do Estado brasileiro. O fenômeno é o objeto do livro Terra de índio: imagens em aldeamentos do Império, de Marta Amoroso, publicado com o apoio da FAPESP. A obra resultou das pesquisas de doutorado e pós-doutorado de Amoroso – ambas apoiadas pela FAPESP.

“Esta política de Estado, baseada no “Programa de Catequese e Civilização dos Índios”, e instituída por decreto do imperador Pedro II, consistia no aldeamento das populações indígenas. E atendia a dois objetivos principais: por um lado, integrar o índio, como trabalhador rural, à jovem nação brasileira; por outro, liberar terras, antes utilizadas pelos indígenas, para os imigrantes europeus, que começavam a chegar nas colônias do Sudeste do país”, disse a pesquisadora à Agência FAPESP.

Pedro II tinha apenas 19 anos quando assinou, em 24 de junho de 1845, o decreto que criou os aldeamentos. Estes perduraram até o final do Segundo Reinado, em 1889. Aldeamentos foram criados em todas as províncias brasileiras. Para administrá-los e dirigi-los, o Império solicitou à Propaganda Fide, do Vaticano, precursora da atual Congregação para a Evangelização dos Povos, que enviasse ao Brasil frades italianos da Ordem Menor dos Capuchinhos. Cerca de cem missionários capuchinhos desembarcaram no país, logo enviados aos quatro cantos do Império, ao encontro das populações indígenas.

“Os capuchinhos não tinham frente aos índios um projeto de autonomia como o dos jesuítas, que atuaram nos primeiros séculos da colonização. Eram pragmáticos e burocráticos, a maioria deles de origem rural, mal falando o português. E foram contratados como funcionários do governo, com salário pago. Estavam envolvidos no programa de criação da nação brasileira, de construir um povo a partir da mistura. Era um programa de apagamento da identidade indígena, e os capuchinhos se empenharam ao máximo em levá-lo à prática”, informou Amoroso.

A maior parte da documentação utilizada por ela em seu livro veio de um arquivo dessa ordem religiosa, localizado no Rio de Janeiro. “Os capuchinhos deixaram relatórios e cartas absolutamente circunstanciados, com detalhes administrativos ultraminuciosos. Além dos relatos dos viajantes do século XIX, foram esses documentos religiosos, e ao mesmo tempo oficiais, que forneceram a base de dados para o meu trabalho”, afirmou.

Inicialmente a pesquisadora fez um levantamento da cartografia dos aldeamentos do Império. Depois, fechou o foco da pesquisa no sistema de aldeamentos do Paraná, especialmente em seu núcleo central, São Pedro de Alcântara, localizado às margens do rio Tibagi, para o qual havia uma documentação muito substanciosa. “Esse aldeamento, próximo da cidade de Castro, reuniu cerca de 4 mil índios, de quatro etnias: os Kaingang, do tronco linguístico Macro-Jê, e os Kaiowá, Nhandeva e Mbyá, que são falantes da língua Guarani. Considerados agricultores dóceis, os Guarani-Kaiowá, que atualmente sofrem violências brutais devido a conflitos de terras, foram trazidos do Mato Grosso para o Paraná, com a perspectiva de que povoassem os aldeamentos do governo e pudessem produzir mantimentos para abastecer o exército brasileiro na chamada Guerra do Paraguai [1864 – 1870]”, relatou Amoroso.

Segundo a pesquisadora, foram feitas várias tentativas para tornar o aldeamento de São Pedro de Alcântara economicamente produtivo: mantimentos, café, tabaco etc. Mas todas elas fracassaram. Até que o empreendimento finalmente prosperou com a instalação de uma destilaria de aguardente. “Houve todo um esforço, muito bem documentado, dos capuchinhos na montagem dessa destilaria. É incrível que uma das maiores calamidades vividas pelas populações indígenas, que é o alcoolismo, tenha sido oficialmente promovida”, comentou.

Programa de Catequese

O “Programa de Catequese e Civilização dos Índios” inspirou-se em uma ideia de tutela das populações indígenas que remontava aos Apontamentos para a civilização dos índios bravos do Império do Brasil, produzidos em 1823 por José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva. E, antes deles, às diretrizes definidas pelo Marquês de Pombal após a expulsão dos jesuítas do Império Português, na segunda metade do século XVIII.

Como escreveu Amoroso, o modelo do indigenismo pombalino, retomado nos aldeamentos indígenas do Império, contrastava na sua concepção com o ideal de autonomia buscada pelas missões jesuíticas. Daí a ênfase na mistura dos índios com os demais habitantes das vilas e povoados, na migração dos colonos para as regiões tradicionalmente habitadas pelos indígenas, e nos deslocamentos forçados dos índios. Bem como nas tentativas de proibição do uso das línguas indígenas e do nheengatu, a chamada “língua geral”, resultante da mistura de idiomas indígenas com o português.

Até por isso, os aldeamentos do Império não eram áreas de confinamento. Os índios não permaneciam reclusos em seu interior. “Os aldeamentos eram concebidos como colônias agrícolas, em cujas sedes ficavam lotados os missionários e funcionários contratados e instaladas as unidades produtivas mais importantes. E essas sedes administravam aldeias indígenas localizadas relativamente perto. Apesar de os deslocamentos serem admitidos pela ideologia associada aos aldeamentos, na maioria dos casos, estes traslados forçados de população de fato não ocorreram. Os frades tutelavam aldeias que já existiam e continuaram existindo”, acrescentou a pesquisadora.

A própria ideia da tutela parece ter sido encarada como uma solução provisória. Em carta enviada pelo Palácio Imperial ao presidente da Província de São Paulo em 1847, dois anos após a assinatura do decreto que criou os aldeamentos, assim foi exposto o princípio que os orientava: “arrancar à vida errante a multidão de selvagens que vaga pelos nossos bosques para reuni-los em sociedade, inspirar-lhes o amor ao trabalho e proporcionar-lhes os cômodos da vida civil, até que possam apreciar as suas vantagens e viver de qualquer trabalho ou indústria”. Essa mesma correspondência ordenava ao presidente provincial que impedisse que o aldeamento acolhesse indígenas e descendentes já integrados à sociedade, “confundidos na massa geral da população”.

Um aspecto para o qual a pesquisadora chamou a atenção foi o fato de que, ao lado de cada aldeamento, o Império instalou também uma guarnição militar. “As Colônias Militares são a evidência de uma política de guerra nas fronteiras internas do Império, em contraponto à ‘brandura para com os índios’ da propaganda imperial”, disse.

O livro destaca as estratégias indígenas diante do “Programa de Catequese e Civilização dos Índios”, encenando uma resistência não declarada nos territórios então administrados pelo Governo. “Tomando como exemplo a participação Guarani em um desses aldeamentos, vislumbram-se conflitos interétnicos e a grande mobilidade de indivíduos e grupos familiares em torno dos equipamentos instalados. O abandono frequente de São Pedro de Alcântara pelos Guarani foi muitas vezes motivado pela impossibilidade de compartilharem o espaço do aldeamento com os funcionários e religiosos e com outros coletivos indígenas aldeados. Já os Kaingang, além de terem imposto sua presença nos aldeamentos originalmente concebidos para os Guarani-Kaiowá, permaneceram em algumas das unidades criadas mesmo depois de estas serem abandonadas pelos órgãos públicos”, descreveu Amoroso.

Moeda de troca

Mas, de maneira geral, o que a pesquisa destacou foi a grande mobilidade dos grupos indígenas que permaneceram em suas aldeias, frequentando eventualmente os aldeamentos.

“Isso era favorecido pelo fato de que, no século XIX, havia ainda uma grande área disponível para a circulação. Logo depois da Lei de Terras de 1850, as fazendas privadas estavam sendo implantadas, os colonos europeus estavam chegando, mas os índios ainda podiam circular por vastas extensões. E frequentavam a civilização apenas quando lhes convinha. Indivíduos que já haviam sido batizados em um aldeamento apresentam-se em outro como ‘selvagens’, em busca de ajuda. E usavam os equipamentos fornecidos pelos missionários como ‘moeda de troca’ nos relacionamentos com outros grupos indígenas. Os frades comentavam e se indispunham contra essa mobilidade, mas nada podiam fazer, porque, sem dizer ‘não’, fazendo-se muitas vezes de desentendidos, os índios opunham uma resistência velada, que acabou se impondo”, argumentou Amoroso.

Assim, a despeito do zelo gerencial dos capuchinhos, a política de aldeamento fracassou. As atividades produtivas não prosperaram, as verbas foram minguando, os equipamentos se degradaram, e as políticas indígenas triunfaram sobre a normatização burocrática. “Nem mesmo a orientação de que os índios deviam se comunicar apenas na língua portuguesa deu certo”, acrescentou a pesquisadora.

Algo importante que a pesquisa buscou destacar foi o “outro lado” dessa história, isto é, como os grupos indígenas vivenciaram o processo. “O trabalho com a documentação, na tentativa de compor uma etnografia, me permitiu perceber que houve todo tipo de arranjo: grupos inteiros foram exterminados, como os Guarani-Kaiowá de São Pedro de Alcântara, que morreram devido a uma epidemia de cólera na década de 1860; grupos permaneceram, como os Kaingang, que até hoje habitam a região; grupos transitaram pelos aldeamentos, sendo registrada ao longo das quatro décadas grande mobilidade dos Nhandeva e os Mbyá”, informou.

Muitos aldeamentos do Império são agora terras indígenas. É o caso do Aldeamento São Jerônimo, atualmente Posto Indígena São Jerônimo da Serra, na margem do rio Tigre, afluente do Tibagi, no Paraná. Criado em 1859, a partir da doação da Fazenda de São Jerônimo pelo Barão de Antonina, teve sua área original, de 33.880 hectares, drasticamente reduzida para pouco mais de 1.339 hectares. Mas sua modesta população vem apresentando consistente crescimento demográfico: 133 pessoas, em 1945; 285, em 1975; 380, em 2005, de acordo com informações do Portal Kaingang.

Também a população Guarani do Estado de São Paulo, computada, em 2013, em 3.593 indígenas das etnias Nhandeva e Mbyá, vem crescendo a uma taxa de 4,5% ao ano, muito superior à da média da população brasileira (de 0,9%, em 2013, e de 0,8%, em 2016) (fonte: www.rau.ufscar.br/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/vol5no1_03.Juracilda.pdf).

Essa tendência de recuperação demográfica de populações altamente devastadas é um fenômeno conhecido e registrado hoje em dia na África. No território brasileiro, cuja população indígena foi reduzida de estimados 5 milhões em 1500 para 400 mil atualmente (distribuídos em cerca de 200 etnias e 170 línguas), isso também está ocorrendo.

“Ainda mais persistente do que a sobrevivência física tem sido a sobrevivência das práticas culturais. O fio da meada que parece desaparecer em um ponto volta a aparecer adiante, muitas vezes de forma surpreendente. Descobri, por exemplo, que o núcleo Guarani que, em 1906, acolheu em São Paulo o célebre etnólogo alemão Curt Unckel (1883 – 1945) provinha exatamente daquele aldeamento estudado, no Paraná. Foram eles que lhe deram o nome Nimuendajú, pelo qual o alemão trocou seu sobrenome Unckel ao se naturalizar brasileiro. Em seu trabalho de campo, Curt Nimuendajú entrevistou grandes xamãs Guarani, que passaram pela experiência dos aldeamentos. Estes lhe falaram do trabalho extenuante que tinham que realizar sob a direção dos capuchinhos. E também relataram seus primeiros contatos com as drogas da civilização: o açúcar e a cachaça.”

Curt Nimuendajú tornou-se um marco da etnologia, quase tão lendário em vida quanto o foi o etnólogo groenlandês Knud Rasmussen (1879 – 1933). É revelador que a busca de uma perspectiva indígena sobre a política de aldeamento tenha convergido para a trajetória do etnólogo. E que uma abordagem antropológica da tentativa de enquadramento institucional dos indígenas tenha vindo desembocar na figura daquele que testemunhou com os próprios olhos, na década de 1920, a mais impressionante manifestação da fidelidade do povo Guarani a suas raízes culturais: a última grande migração para o Leste, em busca da mítica “Terra sem Males” (Yvy marã e’ỹ).

Anúncios

Médiuns têm perfil diferente daquele apresentado na literatura científica (USP Notícias)

11/05/2005

Estudo com 115 médiuns kardecistas de São Paulo indica que a maioria possui alto nível socioeducacional, perfil que se enquadra no último censo do IBGE. Segundo a pesquisa, eles não apresentam problemas mentais

Na literatura científica, muitas vezes os médiuns (que se comunicam com espíritos) são descritos como pessoas de baixa escolaridade e renda. Sua mediunidade deve ser entendida como um “mecanismo de defesa contra as opressões sociais”, ou como manifestação de algum quadro dissociativo ou psicótico.

No entanto, um estudo realizado pelo psiquiatra Alexander Moreira de Almeida com médiuns espíritas da cidade de São Paulo mostrou um perfil diferente: os médiuns apresentaram um alto nível socioeducacional e uma prevalência de transtornos mentais menor do que a encontrada na população em geral.

Almeida constatou que 46,5% das pessoas tinham curso superior, 76,5% eram mulheres, menos de 3% estavam desempregados, e a idade média era de 48 anos. A maioria era espírita há mais de 16 anos, vieram de famílias não-espíritas e as vivências mediúnicas começaram na infância.

“Esse perfil sociodemográfico se encaixa no último censo do Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), que mostra um crescimento da proporção de espíritas conforme aumenta a escolaridade da população”, comenta o psiquiatra, que apresentou sua tese de doutorado à Faculdade de Medicina (FMUSP), com orientação do professor Francisco Lotufo Neto.

Os participantes do estudo atuam em nove centros espíritas kardecistas da Capital, pertencentes à Aliança Espírita Evangélica. O médico aplicou um questionário sóciodemográfico a 115 médiuns antes e depois das sessões espíritas. Eles também responderam a questões referentes à atividade mediúnica. Almeida ainda utilizou os questionários SRQ (Self-Report Psychiatric Screening Questionnaire), que rastreia a presença de transtornos mentais, e o EAS (Escala de Adequação Social), que mostra como a pessoa se relaciona em sociedade.

A partir dos resultados foram selecionados 24 médiuns. Eles foram analisados pelo SCAN (Schedules for Clinical Assessment in Neuropsychiatry), um tipo de entrevista psiquiátrica padrão e pelo DDIS (Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule), um questionário que detecta transtornos dissociativos (quando uma parte da mente funciona de forma independente). “É nessa categoria que os transes mediúnicos são habitualmente encaixados”, explica o médico.

“Os médiuns apresentaram, em média, quatro sintomas de primeira ordem para diagnóstico de esquizofrenia, mas a presença desses sintomas não indicou a existência de nenhuma doença mental”

Transes X esquizofrenia

A escala DDIS investiga a presença de 11 sintomas de primeira ordem para o diagnóstico de esquizofrenia – vozes dialogando na sua cabeça, vozes comentando as suas ações, ter suas ações produzidas ou controladas por alguém ou algo fora de você, entre outros. “Os médiuns apresentaram, em média, quatro deles, mas a presença dos sintomas não indicou a existência de nenhuma doença mental”, afirma. “Além disso, eles também apresentaram uma boa adequação social e demonstraram ter uma saúde mental melhor que a da população em geral”. Não houve correlação entre freqüência de atividade mediúnica e problemas mentais ou desajuste social.

O médico ressalva que os resultados da pesquisa se referem especificamente a médiuns em atividades regulares em centros espíritas. “Para eles trabalharem nos centros são necessários dois anos de cursos, além da participação semanal nas reuniões mediúnicas”, afirma.

Almeida é membro do Núcleo de Estudos de Problemas Espirituais e Religiosos (Neper) do Instituto de Psiquiatria do Hospital das Clínicas da FMUSP. O núcleo tem como objetivo estudar as questões religiosas e espirituais segundo o enfoque científico, sem vínculo com nenhuma corrente filosófica ou religiosa.

“Durante muito tempo a Psiquiatria encarou a mediunidade como um transtorno mental”, conta. “Só a partir das décadas de 50 e 60 é que houve uma mudança de mentalidade, e essas manifestações passaram a ser vistas como sendo não-patológicas quando vivenciadas dentro de uma religião.” De acordo com Almeida, o último censo do IBGE mostrou que o espiritismo ocupa a quarta posição entre as religiões praticadas no Brasil, país com a maior população espírita do mundo. A tese está disponível para consultas no Portal Conhecimento.

Sequestro de CO2 (Pesquisa Fapesp)

Reunimos o que já publicamos sobre o processo de captura de dióxido de carbono da atmosfera, que se dá sobretudo em florestas e oceanos e ajuda a manter equilibrados os níveis de CO2 na atmosfera

Edição Online 13:10 27 de junho de 2016

 

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Estocagem de água no solo no período de chuvas é crucial nesse processo, segundo estudo publicado na revista Science |Fevereiro/2016|
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Ausência de espécies frugívoras de grande porte pode interferir no processo de sequestro de CO2 da atmosfera |Dezembro/2015|
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Trepadeiras estão remodelando a Amazônia, e os bambus, a mata atlântica |Outubro/2014|
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Manguezais ganham importância diante de alterações no clima |Fevereiro/2014|
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Mata recuperada absorve menos gás carbônico do que até agora se pensava |Abril/2000|

The Violence of Forgetting (New York Times)

Brad Evans: Throughout your work you have dealt with the dangers of ignorance and what you have called the violence of “organized forgetting.” Can you explain what you mean by this and why we need to be attentive to intellectual forms of violence?

Henry Giroux: Unfortunately, we live at a moment in which ignorance appears to be one of the defining features of American political and cultural life. Ignorance has become a form of weaponized refusal to acknowledge the violence of the past, and revels in a culture of media spectacles in which public concerns are translated into private obsessions, consumerism and fatuous entertainment. As James Baldwin rightly warned, “Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

The warning signs from history are all too clear. Failure to learn from the past has disastrous political consequences. Such ignorance is not simply about the absence of information. It has its own political and pedagogical categories whose formative cultures threaten both critical agency and democracy itself.

What I have called the violence of organized forgetting signals how contemporary politics are those in which emotion triumphs over reason, and spectacle over truth, thereby erasing history by producing an endless flow of fragmented and disingenuous knowledge. At a time in which figures like Donald Trump are able to gain a platform by promoting values of “greatness” that serve to cleanse the memory of social and political progress achieved in the name of equality and basic human decency, history and thought itself are under attack.

Once ignorance is weaponized, violence seems to be a tragic inevitability. The mass shooting in Orlando is yet another example of an emerging global political and cultural climate of violence fed by hate and mass hysteria. Such violence legitimates not only a kind of inflammatory rhetoric and ideological fundamentalism that views violence as the only solution to addressing social issues, it also provokes further irrational acts of violence against others. Spurrned on by a complete disrespect for those who affirm different ways of living, this massacre points to a growing climate of hate and bigotry that is unapologetic in its political nihilism.

It would be easy to dismiss such an act as another senseless example of radical Islamic terrorism. That is too easy. Another set of questions needs to be asked. What are the deeper political, educational, and social conditions that allow a climate of hate, racism, and bigotry to become the dominant discourse of a society or worldview? What role do politicians with their racist and aggressive discourses play in the emerging landscapes violence? How can we use education, among other resources, to prevent politics from being transformed into a pathology? And how might we counter these tragic and terrifying conditions without retreating into security or military mindsets?

Violence maims not only the body, but also the mind and the spirit.

B.E.: You insist that education is crucial to any viable critique of oppression and violence. Why?

H.G.: I begin with the assumption that education is fundamental to democracy. No democratic society can survive without a formative culture, which includes but is not limited to schools capable of producing citizens who are critical, self-reflective, knowledgeable and willing to make moral judgments and act in a socially inclusive and responsible way. This is contrary to forms of education that reduce learning to an instrumental logic that too often and too easily can be perverted to violent ends.

So we need to remember that education can be both a basis for critical thought and a site for repression, which destroys thinking and leads to violence. Michel Foucault wrote that knowledge and truth not only “belong to the register of order and peace,” but can also be found on the “side of violence, disorder, and war.” What matters is the type of education a person is encouraged to pursue.

It’s not just schools that are a site of this struggle. “Education” in this regard not only includes public and higher education, but also a range of cultural apparatuses and media that produce, distribute and legitimate specific forms of knowledge, ideas, values and social relations. Just think of the ways in which politics and violence now inform each other and dominate media culture. First-person shooter video games top the video-game market while Hollywood films ratchet up representations of extreme violence and reinforce a culture of fear, aggression and militarization. Similar spectacles now drive powerful media conglomerates like 21st Century Fox, which includes both news and entertainment subsidiaries.

As public values wither along with the public spheres that produce them, repressive modes of education gain popularity and it becomes easier to incarcerate people than to educate them, to model schools after prisons, to reduce the obligations of citizenship to mere consumption and to remove any notion of social responsibility from society’s moral registers and ethical commitments.

B.E.: Considering Hannah Arendt’s warning that the forces of domination and exploitation require “thoughtlessness” on behalf of the oppressors, how is the capacity to think freely and in an informed way key to providing a counter to violent practices?

H.G.: Young people can learn to challenge violence, like those in the antiwar movement of the early ’70s or today in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Education does more than create critically minded, socially responsible citizens. It enables young people and others to challenge authority by connecting individual troubles to wider systemic concerns. This notion of education is especially important given that racialized violence, violence against women and the ongoing assaults on public goods cannot be solved on an individual basis.

Violence maims not only the body but also the mind and spirit. As Pierre Bourdieu has argued, it lies “on the side of belief and persuasion.” If we are to counter violence by offering young people ways to think differently about their world and the choices before them, they must be empowered to recognize themselves in any analysis of violence, and in doing so to acknowledge that it speaks to their lives meaningfully.

There is no genuine democracy without an informed public. While there are no guarantees that a critical education will prompt individuals to contest various forms of oppression and violence, it is clear that in the absence of a formative democratic culture, critical thinking will increasingly be trumped by anti-intellectualism, and walls and war will become the only means to resolve global challenges.

Creating such a culture of education, however, will not be easy in a society that links the purpose of education with being competitive in a global economy.

B.E.: Mindful of this, there is now a common policy in place throughout the education system to create “safe spaces” so students feel comfortable in their environments. This is often done in the name of protecting those who may have their voices denied. But given your claim about the need to confront injustice, does this represent an ethically responsible approach to difficult subject matters?

Critical education should be viewed as the art of the possible rather than a space organized around timidity, caution and fear.

H.G.: There is a growing culture of conformity and quietism on university campuses, made evident in the current call for safe spaces and trigger warnings. This is not just conservative reactionism, but is often carried out by liberals who believe they are acting with the best intentions. Violence comes in many forms and can be particularly disturbing when confronted in an educational setting if handled dismissively or in ways that blame victims.

Yet troubling knowledge cannot be condemned on the basis of making students uncomfortable, especially if the desire for safety serves merely to limit access to difficult knowledge and the resources needed to analyze it. Critical education should be viewed as the art of the possible rather than a space organized around timidity, caution and fear.

Creating safe spaces runs counter to the notion that learning should be unsettling, that students should challenge common sense assumptions and be willing to confront disturbing realities despite discomfort. The political scientist Wendy Brown rightly argues that the “domain of free public speech is not one of emotional safety or reassurance,” and is “ not what the public sphere and political speech promise.” A university education should, Brown writes, “ call you to think, question, doubt” and “ incite you to question everything you assume, think you know or care about.”

This is particularly acute when dealing with pedagogies of violence and oppression. While there is a need to be ethically sensitive to the subject matter, our civic responsibility requires, at times, confronting truly intolerable conditions. The desire for emotionally safe spaces can be invoked to protect one’s sense of privilege — especially in the privileged sites of university education. This is further compounded by the frequent attempts by students to deny some speakers a platform because their views are controversial. While the intentions may be understandable, this is a dangerous road to go down.

Confronting the intolerable should be challenging and upsetting. Who could read the testimonies of Primo Levi and not feel intellectually and emotionally exhausted? Or Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, not to mention those of Malcolm X? It is the conditions that produce violence that should upset us ethically and prompt us to act responsibly, rather than to capitulate to a privatized emotional response that substitutes a therapeutic language for a political and worldly one.

There is more at work here than the infantilizing notion that students should be protected rather than challenged in the classroom; there is also the danger of creating a chilling effect on the part of faculty who want to address controversial topics such as war, poverty, spectacles of violence, racism, sexism and inequality. If American society wants to invest in its young people, it has an obligation to provide them with an education in which they are challenged, can learn to take risks, think outside the boundaries of established ideologies, and expand the far reaches of their creativity and critical judgment. This demands a pedagogy that is complicated, taxing and disruptive.

B.E.: You place the university at the center of a democratic and civil society. But considering that the university is not a politically neutral setting separate from power relations, you are concerned with what you term “gated intellectuals” who become seduced by the pursuit of power. Please explain this concept.

H.G.: Public universities across the globe are under attack not because they are failing, but because they are they are considered discretionary — unlike K-12 education for which funding is largely compulsory. The withdrawal of financial support has initiated a number of unsavory responses: Universities have felt compelled to turn towards corporate management models. They have effectively hobbled academic freedom by employing more precarious part-time instead of full-time faculty, and they increasingly treat students as consumers to be seduced by various campus gimmicks while burying the majority in debt.

My critique of what I have called “gated intellectuals” responds to these troubling trends by pointing to an increasingly isolated and privileged full-time faculty who believe that higher education still occupies the rarefied, otherworldly space of disinterested intellectualism of Cardinal Newman’s 19th century, and who defend their own indifference to social issues through appeals to professionalism or by condemning as politicized those academics who grapple with larger social issues. Some academics have gone so far as to suggest that criticizing the university is tantamount to destroying it. There is a type of intellectual violence at work here that ignores and often disparages the civic function of education while forgetting Hannah Arendt’s incisive admonition that “education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it.”

Supported by powerful conservative foundations and awash in grants from the defense and intelligence agencies, such gated intellectuals appear to have forgotten that in a democracy it is crucial to defend the university as a crucial democratic public sphere. This is not to suggest that they are silent. On the contrary, they provide the intellectual armory for war, the analytical supports for gun ownership, and lend legitimacy to a host of other policies that lead to everyday forms of structural violence and poverty. Not only have they succumbed to official power, they collude with it.

B.E.: I feel your recent work provides a somber updating of Arendt’s notion of “dark times,” hallmarked by political and intellectual catastrophe. How might we harness the power of education to reimagine the future in more inclusive and less violent terms?

H.G.: The current siege on higher education, whether through defunding education, eliminating tenure, tying research to military needs, or imposing business models of efficiency and accountability, poses a dire threat not only to faculty and students who carry the mantle of university self-governance, but also to democracy itself.

The solutions are complex and cannot be addressed in isolation from a range of other issues in the larger society such as the defunding of public goods, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, poverty and the reach of the prison-industrial complex into the lives of those marginalized by class and race.

We have to fight back against a campaign, as Gene R. Nichol puts it, “to end higher education’s democratizing influence on the nation.” To fight this, faculty, young people and others outside of higher education must collectively engage with larger social movements for the defense of public goods. We must address that as the welfare state is defunded and dismantled, the state turns away from enacting social provisions and becomes more concerned about security than social responsibility. Fear replaces compassion, and a survival-of-the-fittest ethic replaces any sense of shared concern for others.

Lost in the discourse of individual responsibility and self-help are issues like power, class and racism. Intellectuals need to create the public spaces in which identities, desires and values can be encouraged to act in ways conducive to the formation of citizens willing to fight for individual and social rights, along with those ideals that give genuine meaning to a representative democracy.

Any discussion of the fate of higher education must address how it is shaped by the current state of inequality in American society, and how it perpetuates it. Not only is such inequality evident in soaring tuition costs, inevitably resulting in the growing exclusion of working- and middle-class students from higher education, but also in the transformation of over two-thirds of faculty positions into a labor force of overworked and powerless adjunct faculty members. Faculty need to take back the university and reclaim modes of governance in which they have the power to teach and act with dignity, while denouncing and dismantling the increasing corporatization of the university and the seizing of power by administrators and their staff, who now outnumber faculty on most campuses.

In return, academics need to fight for the right of students to be given an education not dominated by corporate values. Higher education is a right, and not an entitlement. It should be free, as it is in many other countries, and as Robin Kelley points out, this should be true particularly for minority students. This is all the more crucial as young people have been left out of the discourse of democracy. Rather than invest in prisons and weapons of death, Americans need a society that invests in public and higher education.

There is more at stake here than making visible the vast inequities in educational and economic opportunities. Seeing education as a political form of intervention, offering a path toward racial and economic justice, is crucial in reimagining a new politics of hope. Universities should be subversive in a healthy society. They should push against the grain, and give voice to the voiceless the powerless and the whispers of truth that haunt the apostles of unchecked power and wealth. Pedagogy should be disruptive and unsettling, while pushing hard against established orthodoxies. Such demands are far from radical, and leave more to be done, but they point to a new beginning in the struggle over the role of higher education in the United States.

‘Estudos de neurociência superaram a psicanálise’, diz pesquisador brasileiro (Folha de S.Paulo)

Juliana Cunha, 18.06.2016

Com 60 anos de carreira, 22.794 citações em periódicos, 60 premiações e 710 artigos publicados, Ivan Izquierdo, 78, é o neurocientista mais citado e um dos mais respeitados da América Latina. Nascido na Argentina, ele mora no Brasil há 40 anos e foi naturalizado brasileiro em 1981. Hoje coordena o Centro de Memória do Instituto do Cérebro da PUC-RS.

Suas pesquisas ajudaram a entender os diferentes tipos de memória e a desmistificar a ideia de que áreas específicas do cérebro se dedicariam de maneira exclusiva a um tipo de atividade.

Ele falou à Folha durante o Congresso Mundial do Cérebro, Comportamento e Emoções, que aconteceu esta semana, em Buenos Aires. Izquierdo foi o homenageado desta edição do congresso.

Na entrevista, o cientista fala sobre a utilidade de memórias traumáticas, sua descrença em métodos que prometem apagar lembranças e diz que a psicanálise foi superada pelos estudos de neurociência e funciona hoje como mero exercício estético.

Bruno Todeschini
O neurocientista Ivan Izquierdo durante congresso em Buenos Aires
O neurocientista Ivan Izquierdo durante congresso em Buenos Aires

*

Folha – É possível apagar memórias?
Ivan Izquierdo – É possível evitar que uma memória se expresse, isso sim. É normal, é humano, inclusive, evitar a expressão de certas lembranças. A falta de uso de uma determinada memória implica em desuso daquela sinapse, que aos poucos se atrofia.

Fora disso, não dá. Não existe uma técnica para escolher lembranças e então apagá-las, até porque a mesma informação é salva várias vezes no cérebro, por um mecanismo que chamamos de plasticidade. Quando se fala em apagamento de memórias é pirotecnia, são coisas midiáticas e cinematográficas.

O senhor trabalha bastante com memória do medo. Não apagá-las é uma pena ou algo a ser comemorado?
A memória do medo é o que nos mantém vivos. É a que pode ser acessada mais rapidamente e é a mais útil. Toda vez que você passa por uma situação de ameaça, a informação fundamental que o cérebro precisa guardar é que aquilo é perigoso. As pessoas querem apagar memórias de medo porque muitas vezes são desconfortáveis, mas, se não estivessem ali, nos colocaríamos em situações ruins.

Claro que esse processo causa enorme estresse. Para me locomover numa cidade, meu cérebro aciona inúmeras memórias de medo. Entre tê-las e não tê-las, prefiro tê-las, foram elas que me trouxeram até aqui, mas se pudermos reduzir nossa exposição a riscos, melhor. O problema muitas vezes é o estímulo, não a resposta do medo.

Mas algumas memórias de medo são paralisantes, e podem ser mais arriscadas do que a situação que evitam. Como lidar com elas?
Antes parado do que morto. O cérebro atua para nos preservar, essa é a prioridade. Claro que esse mecanismo é sujeito a falhas. Se entendemos que a resposta a uma memória de medo é exagerada, podemos tentar fazer com que o cérebro ressignifique um estímulo. É possível, por exemplo, expor o paciente repetidas vezes aos estímulos que criaram aquela memória, mas sem o trauma. Isso dissocia a experiência do medo.

Isso não seria parecido com o que Freud tentava fazer com as fobias?
Sim, Freud foi um dos primeiros a usar a extinção no tratamento de fobias, embora ele não acreditasse exatamente em extinção. Com a extinção, a memória continua, não é apagada, mas o trauma não está mais lá.

Mas muitos neurocientistas consideram Freud datado.
Toda teoria envelhece. Freud é uma grande referência, deu contribuições importantes. Mas a psicanálise foi superada pelos estudos em neurociência, é coisa de quando não tínhamos condições de fazer testes, ver o que acontecia no cérebro. Hoje a pessoa vai me falar em inconsciente? Onde fica? Sou cientista, não posso acreditar em algo só porque é interessante.

Para mim, a psicanálise hoje é um exercício estético, não um tratamento de saúde. Se a pessoa gosta, tudo bem, não faz mal, mas é uma pena quando alguém que tem um problema real que poderia ser tratado deixa de buscar um tratamento médico achando que psicanálise seria uma alternativa.

E outros tipos de análise que não a freudiana?
Terapia cognitiva, seguramente. Há formas de fazer o sujeito mudar sua resposta a um estímulo.

O senhor veio para o Brasil com a ditadura na Argentina. Agora, vivemos um processo no Brasil que alguns chamam de golpe, é uma memória em disputa. O que o senhor acha disso enquanto cientista?
Eu vim por conta de uma ameaça. Não considero um golpe, mas é um processo muito esperto. Mudar uma palavra ressignifica toda uma memória. Há de fato uma disputa de como essa memória coletiva vai ser construída. A esquerda usa o termo golpe para evocar memórias de medo de um país que já passou por um golpe. Conforme essa palavra é repetida, isso cria um efeito poderoso. Ainda não sabemos como essa memória será consolidada, mas a estratégia é muito esperta.

A jornalista JULIANA CUNHA viajou a convite do Congresso Mundial do Cérebro, Comportamento e Emoções

O bichinho que desafia Deus (El País)

Organismo marinho mostra por que o ser humano não está no topo da evolução

MANUEL ANSEDE

Barcelona 13 JUN 2016 – 21:07 CEST

Os biólogos Ricard Albalat e Cristian Cañestro, com exemplares do 'Oikopleura'.

Os biólogos Ricard Albalat e Cristian Cañestro, com exemplares do ‘Oikopleura’. JUAN BARBOSA 

“Só o acaso pode ser interpretado como uma mensagem. Aquilo que acontece por necessidade, aquilo que é esperado e que se repete todos os dias, não é senão uma coisa muda. Somente o acaso tem voz”, escreveu Milan Kundera em A Insustentável Leveza do Ser. E tem algo que fala, ou melhor, grita, numa praia de Badalona, perto de Barcelona: a que é dominada pela Ponte do Petróleo. Por esse dique de 250 metros, que penetra no mar Mediterrâneo, eram descarregados produtos petrolíferos até o final do século XX. E a seus pés se levanta desde 1870 a fábrica do Anís del Mono, o licor em cujo rótulo aparece um símio com cara de Charles Darwin em referência à teoria da evolução, que gerava polêmica na época.

Hoje, a Ponte do Petróleo é um belo mirante com uma estátua de bronze dedicada ao macaco com rosto darwinista. E, por um acaso que fala, entre seus frequentadores se encontra uma equipe de biólogos evolutivos do departamento de Genética da Universidade de Barcelona. Os cientistas caminham pela passarela sobre o oceano e lançam um cubo para fisgar um animal marinho, o Oikopleura dioica, de apenas três centímetros, mas que possui boca, ânus, cérebro e coração. Parece insignificante, mas, como Darwin, faz estremecer o discurso das religiões. Coloca o ser humano no lugar que lhe corresponde: com o resto dos animais.

“Temos sido mal influenciados pela religião, pensando que estávamos no topo da evolução. Na verdade, estamos no mesmo nível que o dos outros animais”, diz o biólogo Cristian Cañestro. Ele e o colega Ricard Albalat dirigem um dos únicos três centros científicos do mundo dedicados ao estudo do Oikopleura dioica. Os outros dois estão na Noruega e no Japão. O centro espanhol é uma salinha fria, com centenas de exemplares praticamente invisíveis colocados em recipientes de água, num canto da Faculdade de Biologia da Universidade de Barcelona.

O organismo marinho ‘Oikopleura dioica’ indica que a perda de genes ancestrais, compartilhados com os humanos, seria o motor da evolução

“A visão até agora era que, ao evoluir, ganhávamos em complexidade, adquirindo genes. Era o que se pensava quando os primeiros genomas foram sequenciados: de mosca, de minhoca e do ser humano. Mas vimos que não é assim. A maioria de nossos genes está também nas medusas. Nosso ancestral comum os possuía. Não que tenhamos ganhado genes; eles é que perderam. A complexidade genética é ancestral”, diz Cañestro.

Em 2006, o biólogo pesquisava o papel de um derivado da vitamina A, o ácido retinoico, no desenvolvimento embrionário. Essa substância indica às células de um embrião o que têm que fazer para se transformar num corpo adulto. O ácido retinoico ativa os genes necessários, por exemplo, para formar as extremidades, o coração, os olhos e as orelhas dos animais. Cañestro estudava esse processo no Oikopleura. E ficou de boca aberta.

Uma fêmea de 'Oikopleura dioica' cheia de ovos.

Uma fêmea de ‘Oikopleura dioica’ cheia de ovos. CAÑESTRO & ALBALAT LAB

“Os animais utilizam uma grande quantidade de genes para sintetizar o ácido retinoico. Percebi que no Oikopleura dioica faltava um desses genes. Depois vi que faltavam outros. Não encontramos nenhum”, recorda. Esse animal de três milímetros fabrica seu coração, de maneira inexplicável, sem ácido retinoico. “Se você vê um carro se mover sem rodas, nesse dia sua percepção sobre as rodas muda”, diz Cañestro.

O último ancestral comum entre nós e esse minúsculo habitante do oceano viveu há cerca de 500 milhões de anos. Desde então, o Oikopleura perdeu 30% dos genes que nos uniam. E fez isso com sucesso. Se você entrar em qualquer praia do mundo, ali estará ele rodeando o seu corpo. Na batalha da seleção natural, os Oikopleura ganharam. Sua densidade atinge 20.000 indivíduos por metro cúbico de água em alguns ecossistemas marinhos. São perdedores, mas só de genes.

Nosso último ancestral comum viveu há 500 milhões de anos. Desde então, o ‘Oikopleura’ perdeu 30% dos genes que nos uniam

Albalat e Cañestro acabam de publicar na revista especializada Nature Reviews Genetics um artigo que analisa a perda de genes como motor da evolução. Seu texto despertou interesse mundial. Foi recomendado pela F1000Prime, uma publicação internacional que aponta os melhores artigos sobre biologia e medicina. O trabalho começa com uma frase do imperador romano Marco Aurelio, filósofo estoico: “A perda nada mais é do que mudança, e a mudança é um prazer da natureza”.

Os dois biólogos afirmam que a perda de genes pode inclusive ter sido essencial para a origem da espécie humana. “O chimpanzé e o ser humano compartilham mais de 98% do seu genoma. Talvez tenhamos que procurar as diferenças nos genes que foram perdidos de maneira diferente durante a evolução dos humanos e dos demais primatas. Alguns estudos sugerem que a perda de um gene fez com que a musculatura de nossa mandíbula ficasse menor, o que permitiu aumentar o volume do nosso crânio”, diz Albalat. Talvez, perder genes nos tornou mais inteligentes que o resto dos mortais.

Pesquisadores do laboratório de Cristian Cañestro e Ricard Albalat.Pesquisadores do laboratório de Cristian Cañestro e Ricard Albalat. UB

 Em 2012, um estudo do geneticista norte-americano Daniel MacArthur mostrou que, em média, qualquer pessoa saudável tem 20 genes desativados. E isso aparentemente não importa. Albalat e Cañestro, do Instituto de Pesquisa da Biodiversidade (IRBio) da Universidade de Barcelona, citam dois exemplos muito estudados. Em algumas pessoas, os genes que codificam as proteínas CCR5 e DUFFY foram anulados por mutações. São as proteínas usadas, respectivamente, pelo vírus HIV e o parasita causador da malária para entrar nas células. A perda desses genes torna os humanos resistentes a essas doenças.

No laboratório de Cañestro e Albalat, há um cartaz que imita o do filme Cães de Aluguel (“Reservoir Dogs”, em inglês), de Quentin Tarantino: os cientistas e outros membros de sua equipe aparecem vestidos com camisa branca e gravata preta. A montagem se chama Reservoir Oiks, em alusão ao Oikopleura. Os dois biólogos acreditam que o organismo marinho permitirá formular e responder perguntas novas sobre nosso manual de instruções comum: o genoma.

O ‘Oikopleura’ permite estudar quais genes são essenciais: por que algumas mutações são irrelevantes e outras provocam efeitos devastadores em nossa saúde

O cérebro do Oikopleura tem cerca de 100 neurônios e o dos humanos, 86 bilhões. Mas somos muito mais semelhantes do que à primeira vista. Entre 60% e 80% das famílias de genes humanos têm um claro representante no genoma do Oikopleura. “Esse animal nos permite estudar quais genes humanos são essenciais”, diz Albalat. Em outras palavras: por que algumas mutações são irrelevantes e outras provocam efeitos terríveis em nossa saúde.

Os seres vivos possuem um sistema celular que repara as mutações surgidas no DNA. O Oikopleura doica perdeu 16 dos 83 genes ancestrais que regulam esse processo. Essa incapacidade para a autorreparação poderia explicar sua perda extrema de genes, segundo o artigo da Nature Reviews Genetics.

O olhar de Cañestro se ilumina quando ele fala dessas ausências. Os genes costumam atuar em grupo para levar a cabo uma função. Se de um grupo conhecido de oito genes faltam sete no Oikopleura, pois a função foi perdida, a permanência do oitavo gene pode revelar uma segunda função essencial que teria passado despercebida. Esse gene seria como um cruzamento de estradas. Desmantelada uma rodovia, ele sobrevive porque é fundamental em outra. “Essa segunda função já estava no ancestral comum e pode ser importante nos humanos”, diz Cañestro.

“Não existem animais superiores ou inferiores. Nossas peças de Lego são basicamente as mesmas, embora com elas possamos construir coisas diferentes”, afirma. Pense no seu lugar no mundo da próxima vez que mergulhar no mar. Essa neve branca que flutua na água e pode ser vista contra a luz são os excrementos do Oikopleura.

2016 é um dos anos mais secos do Ceará e o pior começa agora (O Povo)

CHUVA 14/06/2016

Os meteorologistas afirmam que não há previsão de precipitações para os últimos seis meses do ano 

Igor Cavalcante

Os próximos meses serão de mais escassez hídrica para o Ceará. Quando o assunto é chuva, o segundo semestre é o mais crítico para o Estado. As precipitações que ainda acontecem são causadas por instabilidades meteorológicas e não devem impactar no cenário de estiagem.

Em coletiva de imprensa ontem, a Fundação Cearense de Meteorologia e Recursos Hídricos (Funceme) informou que, de 2012 para cá, a estiagem deste ano é a segunda pior. Em algumas regiões não choveu nem metade do esperado. O cenário faz de 2016 um dos dez anos mais secos da história.

Contudo, monitoramento do Oceano Pacífico indica que águas estão resfriando. É um sinal de que precipitações podem aumentar no próximo ano. O aquecimento oceânico, fenômeno conhecido como El Niño, impacta na formação da Zona de Convergência Intertropical, principal responsável pelas chuvas na costa cearense. Quando parte do Pacífico está aquecida, as nuvens tendem a se formar e precipitar no mar.

De acordo com Eduardo Sávio Martins, presidente da Funceme, ainda é cedo para garantir boa quadra chuvosa para 2017. “É um aspecto positivo, mas temos de aguardar como vai ser o padrão desse resfriamento”, pondera.

O meteorologista Raul Fritz também é cauteloso quanto às previsões. Segundo ele, mesmo num cenário em que não haja El Niño, bom inverno é incerto.

A preocupação dos meteorologistas é com os meses até a próxima quadra chuvosa.. “A gente tem certeza da chuva no primeiro semestre e certeza de que não chove no segundo semestre”, cita o presidente da Funceme. Historicamente, mais de 90% do volume anual de chuva no Estado acontece no primeiro semestre.

Abaixo do esperado

Também foram as temperaturas elevadas das águas do Pacífico que contribuíram para as poucas precipitações no Estado. Conforme O POVO havia adiantado na edição do último dia 1°, a quadra chuvosa deste ano terminou como a segunda pior desde 2012, quando começou a sequência de cinco anos de estiagem.

Entre fevereiro e maio deste ano, as chuvas ficaram 45,2% abaixo do esperado. Fevereiro foi o período mais crítico, quando o volume no Estado ficou 55,3% abaixo da expectativa. Os meses de março e abril — historicamente de mais chuva — também tiveram precipitações inferiores à média.

As regiões Jaguaribana e do Sertão dos Inhamuns foram as de maior escassez. Nos municípios, as chuvas sequer atingiram metade do esperado, ficando 54,5% e 52,3% abaixo da média, respectivamente.

Segundo o presidente da Funceme, desde o início do ano, o Estado trabalha com o cenário da seca e promove ações para garantir licitações de poços e adutoras emergenciais na tentativa de suprir a necessidade hídrica do Interior.

Saiba mais 

Uma das alternativas para amenizar a escassez hídrica, o Projeto de Integração do rio São Francisco será concluído em dezembro, com previsão de abastecer os reservatórios em janeiro do próximo ano.

No último fim de semana, comitiva do Ministério da Integração vistoriou os eixos Norte e Leste do Projeto. Além do Ceará, Pernambuco e Paraíba devem ser beneficiados a partir de 2017.

Anthropology’s Storyteller-Shaman-Sorcerer Strikes Again With ‘The Corn Wolf’ (Pop Matters)

BY HANS ROLLMAN

27 January 2016

MICHAEL TAUSSIG’S WORK BOTH ATTRACTS AND ANGERS OTHER ANTHROPOLOGISTS. IT ALSO RE-ENCHANTS A DISCIPLINE THAT IS IN DESPERATE NEED OF IT.

cover artTHE CORN WOLF MICHAEL TAUSSIG

(UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS)
DEC 2015

“So who is telling stories nowadays? And who is telling the story about stories?”

Michael Taussig was once dubbed “anthropology’s alternative radical” (by the New York Times, no less). It’s tempting to call him iconoclastic, but his latest collection, The Corn Wolf, problematizes the term ‘iconoclasm’ (it even features an ‘Iconoclasm Dictionary’) so thoroughly that a writer would deploy it at his peril.

Nevertheless, the dilemma sets the mood: Taussig’s work remains as genre-bending today as when he published the book that first raised eyebrows—and ire, among many colleagues in the field—back in 1987.

That book, Shamanism, Colonialism and the Wild Man(University of Chicago Press, 1991), launched a multi-pronged attack on some of the discipline’s most sacred conventions, and remains a controversial (and widely used) text in graduate and upper-level undergraduate anthropology courses today. While undergrads found Taussig’s unapologetic accounts of partaking in drug binges with Amazonian shamans titillating, it was the reflexive critique of anthropologists’ obsession with violence and terror, coupled with the experimental and often poetic style of composition, that put other scholars on edge.

Over a quarter century later, his ability to confound cultural critics and confront convention hasn’t waned. His latest collection of essays written over the past decade, The Corn Wolf, squarely tackles many of the key controversies of our time—the academic industrial complex, Occupy Wall Street, the intensification and precarity of neoliberal capitalist culture, the plight of Occupied Palestine, and more—in Taussig’s characteristically poetic, storyteller style.

Finding Magic in the Corporate Academy

Taussig’s work is the sort of bewilderingly beautiful prose (one is often tempted to call it poetry) that’s able to operate on multiple intellectual levels. The first essay in the collection, “The Corn Wolf: Writing Apotropaic Texts”, immerses the reader fully and mercilessly in the style. It opens with a poor graduate student realizing that writing up their fieldwork is the most difficult and important task of graduate school, and also the one thing graduate school teaches you nothing about. Fieldwork and writing; “they are both rich, ripe, secret-society-type shenanigans. Could it be that both are based on impossible-to-define talents, intuitions, tricks, and fears?”

No wonder many careerist academics dislike him.

Of course the essay isn’t so much about graduate writing as about his own writing, and about the act of writing—the magical act of writing—itself.

For example, Taussig considers anthropology’s treatment of magic and shamanic sorcery: “Pulling the wool over one’s eyes is a simpler way of putting it… What we have generally done in anthropology is really pretty amazing in this regard, piggybacking on their magic and on their conjuring—their tricks—so as to come up with explanations that seem nonmagical and free of trickery.”

This seemingly nonmagical academic form of writing—or mode of production, as he calls it—is what he refers to as ‘agribusiness writing’: “Agribusiness writing is what we find throughout the university and everyone knows it when they don’t see it.” Against it he pitches the idea of ‘apotropaic writing’, a magic that connives with the prosaic to produce a counter-magic of its own.

When anthropologists demystify shamanic sorcery, for instance, the ‘wolfing’ moves of apotropaic magic would reveal the sorcery implicit in the act of the ‘scientific’ anthropologist’s recasting of shamanism. Indeed, the fact that the wonder and magic of the everyday world has been demystified by science is a sort of magical transformation itself. Is this how we re-enchant the world? By the use of story-telling and writing to re-position what seems like the boring, unmagical workaday world of everyday capitalist drudgery and expose it as the magical sleight-of-hand and tricksterism that it is? “I have long felt that agribusiness writing is more magical than magic ever could be and that what is required is to counter the purported realism of agribusiness writing with apotropaic writing as countermagic, apotropaic from the ancient Greek meaning the use of magic to protect one from harmful magic.”

The point emerges again, perhaps unintentionally, in Taussig’s essay “The Stories Things Tell and Why They Tell Them”, as he discusses our collective yearning for “the old days”.

“‘The old days’ is actually a talismanic phrase and phase that ushers in prehistory and hence the enchanted world when things spoke to man… it goes along with what is felt to be a certain lack or loss of poetry—of poetry and ritual—in workaday life. But, you ask, has that really disappeared? Does enchantment not resurface under certain conditions, maybe extreme conditions, as in our contemporary world of machines, corporate control, and heady consumerism?”

Our world seems devoid of magic, comprised of boring realities that brook no alternatives: from the academic industrial complex to neoliberal capitalism. The hegemonic mode of thinking which makes us think that way, is perhaps the most magical and insidious form of sorcery there is.

Winnie-the-Pooh, and Wittgenstein, Too

The essays cover a broad range. Taussig discusses the literary work of B. Traven, that enigmatic, socio-political novelist who wrote under a pseudonym in early 20th century Mexico but is believed to have been an exiled German anarchist. Walter Benjamin appears repeatedly; Adorno and Wittgenstein, too. But to follow the startling trajectory of Taussig’s thought requires more than intellectual reference points: he weaves a sort of magic in his storytelling designed to disrupt the reader’s familiar mode of analysis; that agribusiness reading and writing model that underpins not just the academy but so much of our society’s accepted ways of configuring knowledge. A shaman-scholar, indeed. It’s Taussig’s particular talent: not just anyone can develop an essay drawing together bumblebees, the dialectics of humming, Theodor Adorno and Winnie-the-Pooh. Or produce serious, thought-provoking reflections on what a zebra in a zoo must think of a man riding by on a bicycle.

The value of Taussig’s work is that it can often be read on multiple levels; as enriching to return to as when it provokes for the first time, although the experience and what one gains from it is often quite different each time. The essay “Excelente Zona Social”, originally written to commemorate the anniversary of an anthropological classic, meanders through a set of reflections on the nature of ethnographic fieldwork, set against the backdrop of Taussig’s own time spent with peasants battling the Colombian state for control of occupied land. The peasants and their legal advisors compete with the state and the owners of capital (the palmeros, or palm plantation owners) to produce maps of the territory in dispute: on the state’s side, maps demonstrating ownership and property rights; on the peasants’ side, maps demonstrating usage and community history.

What emerges is a struggle over contesting frames of reference, and even over the language used to articulate the politics of presence. The state and palmeros speak in a legal, bureaucratic language; the peasants in a language of anecdotes and shared stories. Their legal advisor puts it bluntly: “’We have to create a new language,’ says Juan Felipe. ‘The palmeros have theirs, and we need to show the world an alternate model.’” The dispute echoes a broader one that is emerging in indigenous studies today, between competing histories of culture and the ways we recognize knowledge. In recent years, this trend has involved challenging the ways in which oral histories are traditionally devalued in western legal and intellectual culture.

Food for thought. But Taussig—like his spirit-guide, Walter Benjamin—takes it a step further and implicates the reader in this process, as well: “the origin of storytelling lies in the encounter between the traveler and those who stay at home,” he reminds us. The reader is not an innocent bystander; a point to which Taussig returns in subsequent essays.

The Politics of Field Notes

Another recurring theme in The Corn Wolf appears in the form of valuable reflections on the nature of the field journal, used by anthropologists to collect notes—sketches, snatches of conversation, reflections, vague impressions—and which is then typically translated into more standard form for reader consumption: books or journal articles. But in this process of translation it loses much of its magic, and that includes the capacity of the field journal to convey actual experience. When an anthropologist ‘writes up’ their fieldnotes, muses Taussig, after-thoughts kick in and infuse and suffuse the process. “By afterthoughts I mean secondary elaborations that arise on top of the original notes, photographs, and drawings. Through stops, starts, sudden swerves, the original is pulled into a wider and wilder landscape. To reread and to rewrite is to tug at the memories buried therein as well as engage with the gaps, questions, connections, conundrums, and big ideas that lie latent and in turn generate more of the same.”

The point of this reflection, Taussig continues, is to challenge the conventional trajectory of field-notes-to-publication. “I feel impelled to ask, therefore, if anthropology has sold itself short in conforming to the idea that its main vehicle of expression is an academic book or journal article? This is not a plea for exact reproduction of the fieldwork notebook but rather a plea for following its furtive forms and mix of private and public…”

There’s a revealing clue here to the circuitous and unorthodox nature of Taussig’s own writing style. It’s a form of “magical anthropology”, for lack of a better term. Critics speak of magical realism in fiction and literature as involving the use of magical elements to achieve a deeper insight into reality (well-known examples include the work of Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Salman Rushdie, Isabel Allende).  Adam Hothschild, writing in the New York Review of Books, famously referred to the reportage of Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski as comprising a form of “magical journalism”. Such labels describe the use of writing not to convey facts but to communicate experience, by provoking ideas and states of mind that more accurately reflect the perceived reality of a situation, even if the process of doing so requires the storyteller (be they author, journalist or anthropologist) to sometimes run rough-shod over the facts as they might be conventionally presented.

This is also a form of what is referred to as ‘fictocriticism’—the combination of fictive and non-fictive elements in a single text. Its application has particular merit in anthropology. What many of us consider reality—“the facts”, or those details which are intended to convey and communicate reality—can sometimes themselves prove to be a barrier to comprehending reality as it is experienced by another. Facts are consumed and ordered by the reader within their own frame of reference, neatly reinforcing the reader’s pre-existing sense of reality; the experience of the Other those facts are intended to relay remains uncommunicated.

However,  by playing with the presentation of those facts, some storytellers (journalists, social scientists) might manage to more accurately share the insights and experience of the Other, by provoking a deeper, experiential resonance in the reader. Or so a magical anthropology, like magical journalism or magical storytelling of any genre, might suggest.

At any rate, the fact is there’s another thread here worth following: the power of storytelling and the role of the reader, as Taussig explains best in his travelogue-essay,  “My Two Weeks in Palestine”. A recurring theme in Taussig’s work is humanity’s fascination with violence and terror. Anthropologists (and other academics) are often criticized for their fly-in, fly-out method of witnessing violence, and of the careers built on our society’s fascination with violence. Like politicians, diplomats, journalists, humanitarians, and others, they are often criticized for writing about violence and terror without (seemingly) actually being able to do anything to stop it or cause it to abate. The academic, therefore, becomes implicated in the culture of violence, helping to stoke humanity’s fascination with the abominable. Yet the complicity of the academic, the anthropologist, is as nothing compared with the complicity of the reader, suggests Taussig.

This alone makes such storytelling and retelling a treacherous activity. Joseph Conrad called it ‘the fascination of the abomination,’ an accurate if ponderous rendering of the stock in trade of war journalists and war photographers, especially the latter, wild men and wild women to the core, too much in love with their work which soon settles into banality. But that is as nothing compared with the conceit of the reader of their work, secure at one remove from the action, yet no less likely to be buoyed up by the tempestuous currents of attraction and repulsion inflaming it before succumbing to indifference or turning the page or clicking the mouse.

In the face of this, what is to be done? Taussig suggests the act of witnessing is important, but it must lead to something more than mere consumption on the part of the reader. Thus the imperative for the writer, the storyteller, to find a way to write their stories (or articles, or books) in such a way as to provoke a more reactive reading that transcends mere passive consumption. Here the unorthodox anthropologist, open to the creative and experimental potential of the field journal medium or other types of experimental writing, might stumble upon ways of provoking such responses.

(I)t is my hope that the flexibility and “multi-tasking” to be found in the fieldworker’s diary can reconfigure this otherwise paralyzing ‘fascination of the abomination.’ Like the magical shield of Perseus, a diary allows of witness without being turned to stone. Like Walter Benjamin’s Denkbilden or ‘thought-images,’ the diary form facilitates grasping those images that flare up at a moment of danger when the potential for innervating the body is at its highest.

In Palestine he is struck by the way people tell him their stories: horrifying, terrible stories, but told thoughtfully and even with humour. “[T]he point was that people were capable, precisely because of their circumstance, of combining the unthinkable with the sayable—that was the miracle—and hence pass the baton of witnessing along to me, to pass on to you in the hope, vain as it may be, that witnessing becomes something more than consumption. Like travel and anthropology, reading has not only its passions but responsibilities, too.”

Occupying Anthropology

Taussig’s storytelling, in this collection, include an arc of stories on the pace of modern life: the speed-up of global capitalism, the precarious and destroyed lives it leaves in its ever-present wake, and the protest it sparks as workers and intellectuals and all those left in the margins (which is to say, the majority) struggle to pull the emergency brakes on a society speeding out of control. In “I’m So Angry I Made a Sign”, those brakes take the form of the Occupy Wall Street protests, which Taussig witnessed first-hand, and reflects upon in a thoughtful photo-essay.

Even more powerful is the essay that follows: “The Go Slow Party”, a moving cry for resistance against the great speed-up that plagues modern society (including academia). Taussig realizes that “the only time I really go slow is in the shower and having a shit. Both are fine examples of what Hakim Bey called ‘the temporary autonomous zone.’ Both free the mind and stimulate creative thinking…” He proceeds to reflect on the right to be lazy and the need to decolonize play and leisure. His own intervention—fighting for the right to install hammocks in his university department—was denied in favour of his colleagues’ more abstract approaches to the issue, but his reflections on the topic offer a powerful provocation.

In the final essay, “Don Miguel”, he offers some parting advice for anthropologists on the nature of fieldwork.

You learn after a long, long time, that the famous ‘method’ of participant-observation tends to be weighted toward the observation end of things and, what’s more, tends not, according to the profession, to allow much by way of self-observation. What you learn is that because of class and race barriers, what I would call ‘true’ participation is rare and unforgettable, but that the ‘stranger-effect,’ being a foreigner, makes this a lot easier. Some anthropologists, perhaps the great majority, make these barriers into a virtue, claiming that such participation is irrelevant and romantic, that we should study not ourselves, not psychology, not the anthropologist-native interaction, but something as vast and nebulous as ‘culture.’

Not so, asserts Taussig, and he offers a lifetime of examples to the contrary. The particular story he tells in the final essay is an amusing and engaging one: as a student, he made the poor decision to follow the advice of more senior academics and, against his own instincts, reach out to those at the top of the social hierarchy in the region of Colombia in which he was working, instead of simply ignoring them and focusing on the peasants he felt more comfortable with. The result was his being targeted by the local secret police (who had previously ignored him), setting off a frenzied dash around the country to convince the necessary authorities that he and his colleague were, after all, harmless researchers. His point, however, was that his own memory of this incident and the insights it opened up became a unique and different form of participant-observation, because “we had become objects in our own story”.

The Corn Wolf essays are prime Taussig: assuming a form that is both whimsical and yet deadly provocative at the same time. Michael Taussig: anthropology’s trickster magician, poet and storyteller, casts his spell again.

Hans Rollmann is a writer and editor based in Eastern Canada. He’s a columnist, writer and opinions editor with the online news magazine TheIndependent.ca. His work has appeared in a range of other publications both print and online, from Briarpatch Magazine to Feral Feminisms. In addition to a background in radio-broadcasting, union organizing and archaeology, he’s currently completing a PhD in Gender, Feminist & Women’s Studies in Toronto. He can be reached by email at hansnf@gmail.com or @hansnf on Twitter.

Ethnography as Improv (How to Anthropology)

NOVEMBER 02, 2015

By Cheryl Deutsch

“Anthropology is not a social science tout court, but something else. What that something else is has been notoriously difficult to name, precisely because it involves less a subject matter … than a sensibility.”

— Liisa Malkki, Improvising Theory (2007: 63)

 

In this post, I take inspiration from the book Improvising Theory to articulate three aspects of ethnographic practice that often go unnamed in anthropology.  I also follow up with the book’s authors, Allaine Cerwoncka and Liisa Malkki, to share their thoughts on doing ethnography today.

Most of the book consists of email exchanges from the year Cerwoncka spent in fieldwork as a graduate student and Malkki was her faculty mentor.  The conceit is that Malkki, an anthropologist, must explain to Cerwoncka, a political scientist, what “goes without saying” in anthropology; the customs and quirks that make up the discipline’s sensibility.  But as Malkki writes, “the ‘common sense’ of anthropology is a complicated matter,” and she struggles to articulate its nuances (2007: 163).

Through this exchange and the authors’ reflections, the book offers an intimate view of what ethnographic fieldwork is, in practice, as well as what it amounts to in theory.  Cerwoncka and Malkki conclude that it is ethnography’s improvisational nature that makes it challenging to teach but also special in its theoretical power.

Here are three insights I drew from the book and my subsequent exchange with them:

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1. Ethnography is Improvised

Improv comedy is a form of collaborative story-telling whose humor derives from the uncertainty of its own story line. Improv actors must say yes to whatever comes their way, trusting their training and adrenaline to make a story out of surprise.  The result is comedy.

Improvisational jazz is likewise a form of story-telling whose energy derives from its unrehearsed riffs on popular melodies and classic standards.  Jazz musicians construct improvised melodies out of notes that are spontaneous but not random: they have to make sense with the original song or melody.  Just playing fast, for example, is no guarantee that an improvised solo will succeed: the notes have to make emotional sense.

Both improv comedy and jazz employ skills that can be taught and practiced.  They benefit from excellent technique.  But in all forms of improvisation, training and expertise only go so far.  The rest requires a certain sensibility.

In their book, Improvising Theory: Process and Temporality in Ethnographic Fieldwork, Allaine Cerwoncka and Liisa Malkki make the case for ethnography as a form of improvisation.

As Cerwoncka reflected in an email exchange with me: “choices made about a research project are shaped out of intellectual, practical and professional considerations… [They] are inevitably made without full information and require constant adjustment and courage to follow one’s rational and intuitive best judgment.”

Courage is a key word here.  All forms of improv involve risk.  But it’s the vulnerability of such creative acts that give them heart and soul.

As recounted in the book, Cerwoncka scheduled a formal interview with a sergeant in the police station where she was conducting her fieldwork.  Before the interview, he talked openly about the groups that they, as cops, hated having to deal with.  “I acted casual about all this information,” she wrote to Malkki, “not jotting any of it down in front of him…  When I went back for the ‘real’ interview, he was much more formal and immediately asked if I wanted to tape the conversation” (2007: 85).  The formal interview had a different tone; he talked about “safe” topics like his family background, and then he was called away.

Reflecting on this experience in her email to Malkki, Cerwoncka decided not to tape further conversations with the police officers.  “It strikes me that they are in the position of taping people (in the interrogation room),” she wrote, “and their context for that is to use the information people give them against the people they arrest.  So I think the recorder will color the interviews too much” (2007: 85).

Later in her fieldwork, however, she found that one sergeant was particularly eager to set up taped interviews for her, so she continued with them.  She began to see that they helped those in the station feel more comfortable with her. “They don’t even seem to mind when I drift and ask them questions about their taste in music or whether they garden,” she wrote (2007: 120).  Hers is a lesson in improvised field practice.

Formal recorded interviews are an important tool in the ethnographer’s toolbox.  But in this exchange, we see that the ethnographer often has to make decisions about when and where, as well as how, to employ such tools in the field.  Ethnographers are also engaged in a form of collaborative story-telling with the people they interact with.  It takes attention and care for ethnography – as improvisation – to make sense.

 

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2. Ethnography Takes Time

Improvising Theory’s greatest strength is its portrayal – in real time – of the year-long process of ethnographic fieldwork.  It illustrates not only the tempo of fieldwork but its many temporalities.  As Malkki writes in her concluding chapter to the book, “ethnography as process demands a critical awareness of the invisible social fact that multiple, different temporalities might be at play simultaneously… [There are] quotidian routines, events that become Events (see Malkki 1997), the panic time of deadlines, the elongated time of boredom, the cyclical time of the return of the expected, the spiral time of returns to the recognizable or the remembered, and so on” (2007: 177).

In their email exchange, we read about Cerwoncka’s uncertainties, her successes, as well as her false starts and trails gone cold.  It’s a messy process through which Malkki’s advice offers perspective and rhythm: some situations require action and attention, others call for patience and meditation.

Before she began her interviews at the police station, for example, Cerwoncka was unsure exactly where she would locate her research exploring Australian national identity.  So she made inroads with a gardening club and with officers at the police station, as well as with the pastor of a church.

In an early email to Malkki, Cerwoncka worried that she was contacting people from too many organizations at once and that she’d be overwhelmed with all their necessary follow-up.  Malkki responded: “Anthropological fieldwork is what you are doing, and therefore regular contact with informants should not just be a goal, but should be built into your everyday schedule.  It’s taxing, embarrassing, etc., but you need the material… Strike while the iron is hot” (2007: 54).  She encouraged her to choose the organizations she wanted to work with thoughtfully and then to make a schedule that would allow her to follow up on interactions and opportunities when they arose.

Later, Cerwoncka dropped the church as a site.  Then, when she was deep in fieldwork with the gardening club and the police officers, one of her political science advisers recommended she add a third site.  So she spent time talking to landscape architects.

At this point, Malkki advised her: “It’s important not to let the third site become something that allows you to escape the pressures of the sites in which you have deep investments already… Another related issue (related to the question of what’s the best use of your time): sometimes downtime is best, taking a week away from the fieldwork.  Then you return to things fresh” (2007: 126).

In this case, the right temporal strategy was patience and perserverance.

When I asked Malkki for her thoughts on ethnography today, she reiterated the importance of time: “If I were to add something… One point would be a warning against the overprofessionalization of graduate students in Anthropology.  Easy for me to say since I’ve got a job!  But anthropology does take time, and I think one has to have the time to ‘grow into it’ somehow without having career milestones always hovering at the edges of one’s attention.  One grows into fieldwork according to one’s temperament and in deep relation with people.  That is transformative.  And then, after fieldwork, one grows into writing.  That too is transformative.  It takes time (and simple grit).  This is very much a mind game.  There are many brilliant people – everyone knows they’re brilliant and their work truly original – but they just can’t let it go, or, sometimes, can’t get over writing blocks.  More time.  One should always be humane toward oneself (and everyone, of course).”

It seems that ethnography not only takes time but many different times: striking while the iron is hot, having patience when fieldwork gets tedious, and time for transformation in the writing phase.

3. Improvisation + Time = Theoretical Insight

Cerwoncka started grad school with the goal of becoming a “theorist,” and this book reflects that ambition.  As helpful as it is in illustrating ethnographic practice, it is equally effective in articulating ethnography’s theoretical power.

In our email exchange, Cerwoncka wrote, “Social analysts need more than description of phenomena, and this thing we call theory helps us try to identify patterns and associations.  However, ethnographic fieldwork and life has reinforced for me the conviction that theory serves us intellectually best when it is in dialogue with activity, data, and a variety of possible material.”

The email exchange with Malkki that documents her fieldwork experience bears this out: theoretical concepts help guide her research questions and observations.  It was Benedict Anderson’s concept of imagined communities that inspired her to look for national identity in the ordinary lives of Australian gardeners and police officers.  But these interlocutors – and Cerwoncka’s improvised engagements with them – also gave shape to the project.  Finally, time and distance add their own maturing effects. What results are the project’s theoretical insights.

Cerwoncka writes about this process of conceptual development in Native to the Nation, based on her dissertation research.  Writing about the police sergeant who eagerly arranged her formal interviews, she writes:  “These arrangements developed into a strange kind of ritual where each interview began with the sergeant ‘joking’ that the junior officer about to be interviewed ‘mustn’t give away the shop secrets’ before I was left alone with him or her” (cited in Cerwoncka and Malkki 2007: 90-1).  Such jests caused her quite a bit of anxiety: uncovering police brutality or corruption would put her and her research in a uncomfortable ethical position.  Only much later, in writing, did she conclude that the sergeant’s comments pointed to in-group boundary policing more so than any real “heart of darkness” within the station (2007: 91).  And it was much longer into writing that she came to believe “that there was another story one could write about the police besides a journalistic-type exposé or a romantic narrative about un-sung heroes” (2007: 92).

The theoretical insights of ethnographic fieldwork take time.  Improvisation in the field is what shakes up one’s orientation to theoretical concepts, but it can take time for that orientation to mature into new conceptualizations.

Postscript: Ethnography and Professionalization

In addition to producing theoretical insights, Cerwoncka also stressed to me the ways in which ethnography has served her as a faculty member and university administrator:

Cerwoncka: “Every time I move to a different institution, role and, or discipline, I find myself doing a version of ethnographic fieldwork!  Fieldwork taught me the techniques and instilled confidence in me to map and analyze patterns of community, be it a police station or a School of Social Sciences.  I think the professional skills I learned through ethnographic fieldwork … are as useful to me as a Dean of Social Sciences at University of East London as they were to my dissertation.”

These thoughts neatly illustrate the challenge and promise of ethnography: that one has to let go and accept in order to reap its creative potential.  Much of the advice embodied in the book revolves around the need for both confidence and acceptance.  One can’t seek out theory but can trust that it will result.  One can’t seek out professionalization but can trust that it will happen.  Just as in improv comedy there is no magic formula for making something funny, so the ethnographer that tells a compelling story can let the scene do its magic.

Thank you to Nikhil Anand for first suggesting Improvising Theory to me.  Thank you, as well, to Allaine Cerwoncka and Liisa Malkki for taking the time to share their thoughts.  And a final thanks to Ethan Hein for his explanation of improvisational jazz.

Final Kyoto analysis shows 100% compliance (Science Daily)

Date:
June 10, 2016
Source:
Taylor & Francis
Summary:
All 36 countries that committed to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change complied with their emission targets, according to a new scientific study.

Global warming is a real threat for our civilization. All 36 countries that committed to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change complied with their emission targets, according to a recent report in Climate Policy. Credit: © sergei_fish13 / Fotolia

All 36 countries that committed to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change complied with their emission targets, according to a scientific study released today. In addition, the Kyoto process and climate-related policies, represented a low cost for the countries involved — up to 0.1% of GDP for the European Union and an even lower fraction of Japan’s GDP. This is around one quarter to one tenth of what experts had estimated after the agreement was reached in 1997, for delivering the targets set 15 years ahead. The US never ratified the Treaty and Canada withdrew, but all the rest continued and Kyoto came into force in 2005.

The results, reported in the Climate Policy journal, are the first published results to use the final data for national GHG emissions and exchanges in carbon units which only became available at the end of 2015. They show that overall, the countries who signed up to the Kyoto Protocol surpassed their commitment by 2.4 GtCO2e yr -1 (giga-tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year).

“There is often skepticism about the importance of international law, and many critics claim that the Kyoto Protocol failed. The fact that countries have fully complied is highly significant, and it helps to raise expectations for full adherence to the Paris Agreement,” said Prof. Michael Grubb, Editor-in-Chief of the Climate Policy journal and co-founder of research network Climate Strategies.

The researchers found that most of these countries reduced their GHG emissions to the levels required by the Kyoto Protocol, with only nine (Austria, Denmark, Iceland, Japan, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain and Switzerland) emitting higher levels. The nine countries only just overshot their targets — in total by around 1% of the average annual emissions capped under Kyoto — and were able to comply with the Protocol using the “flexibility” mechanisms. The researchers also found that overall compliance would have also been achieved even without the so-called ‘hot-air,’ (windfall emission reductions from Eastern Bloc countries).


Journal Reference:

  1. Igor Shishlov, Romain Morel, Valentin Bellassen. Compliance of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in the first commitment periodClimate Policy, 2016; 1 DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2016.1164658

How altered gut microbes cause obesity (Science Daily)

Date:
June 8, 2016
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
Obesity is linked to changes in our gut microbes — the trillions of tiny organisms that inhabit our intestines. But the mechanism has not been clear to date. In a new study, a team of researchers has identified how an altered gut microbiota causes obesity.

Obesity is linked to changes in our gut microbes — the trillions of tiny organisms that inhabit our intestines. But the mechanism has not been clear. In a new study published in Nature, a Yale-led team of researchers has identified how an altered gut microbiota causes obesity.

In an earlier study, Gerald I. Shulman, M.D., the George R. Cowgill Professor of Medicine, observed that acetate, a short-chain fatty acid, stimulated the secretion of insulin in rodents. To learn more about acetate’s role, Shulman, who is also an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and a team of Yale researchers conducted a series of experiments in rodent models of obesity.

The research team compared acetate to other short-chain fatty acids and found higher levels of acetate in animals that consumed a high-fat diet. They also observed that infusions of acetate stimulated insulin secretion by beta cells in the pancreas, but it was unclear how.

Next, the researchers determined that when acetate was injected directly into the brain, it triggered increased insulin by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. “Acetate stimulates beta cells to secrete more insulin in response to glucose through a centrally mediated mechanism,” said Shulman. “It also stimulates secretion of the hormones gastrin and ghrelin, which lead to increased food intake.”

Finally, the research team sought to establish a causal relationship between the gut microbiota and increased insulin. After transferring fecal matter from one group of rodents to another, they observed similar changes in the gut microbiota, acetate levels, and insulin.

“Taken together these experiments demonstrate a causal link between alterations in the gut microbiota in response to changes in the diet and increased acetate production,” said Shulman. The increased acetate in turn leads to increased food intake, setting off a positive feedback loop that drives obesity and insulin resistance, he explained.

The study authors suggest that this positive feedback loop may have served an important role in evolution, by prompting animals to fatten up when they stumbled across calorically dense food in times of food scarcity.

“Alterations in the gut microbiota are associated with obesity and the metabolic syndrome in both humans and rodents,” Shulman noted. “In this study we provide a novel mechanism to explain this biological phenomenon in rodents, and we are now examining whether this mechanism translates to humans.”


Journal Reference:

  1. Rachel J. Perry, Liang Peng, Natasha A. Barry, Gary W. Cline, Dongyan Zhang, Rebecca L. Cardone, Kitt Falk Petersen, Richard G. Kibbey, Andrew L. Goodman, Gerald I. Shulman. Acetate mediates a microbiome–brain–β-cell axis to promote metabolic syndromeNature, 2016; 534 (7606): 213 DOI: 10.1038/nature18309

O voo dos Gaviões pela liberdade e critica social nas arquibancadas do Brasil (Le Monde Diplomatique Brasil)

Por Sandro Barbosa de Oliveira

04 de Março de 2016

O estopim para que ocorressem tais manifestações talvez seja o fato do deputado estadual Fernando Capez (PSDB) estar envolvido em denúncias sobre o esquema de desvio de verbas das merendas das escolas públicas do estado de São Paulo. Não por acaso que os Gaviões miram em Capez: o inimigo número um das torcidas.

Muito tem se falado sobre as manifestações políticas da torcida Gaviões da Fiel nos jogos do Campeonato Paulista, mas pouco sobre a história que fundamenta tais manifestações. Por isso, esse artigo pretende apresentar alguns elementos que possam contribuir para elucidar esse fenômeno e problematizar os aspectos que envolvem o seu desenvolvimento. Para tanto, inicia com a seguinte pergunta: quando foi que a torcida realizou a primeira manifestação em 2016?

Final da Copa São Paulo de Futebol Júnior de 2016. Os Gaviões da Fiel Torcida, que tomaram parte das arquibancadas do lendário estádio do Pacaembu, decidiram realizar uma festa popular ao acenderem sinalizadores e gás de fumaça para festejar a partida decisiva entre Corinthians e Flamengo, com a presença das duas maiores torcidas do país. Até aí tudo bem se não fosse o fato de sinalizadores e fumaça serem proibidos pela Federação Paulista de Futebol (FPF) e coibidos pela Polícia Militar (PM) do estado de São Paulo. Mas essa não foi uma simples festa popular. Com essa ação, a torcida corinthiana iniciou uma série de protestos políticos contra FPF, o preço dos ingressos e as proibições que sofrem as torcidas para ingressar com bandeiras, faixas e sinalizadores inofensivos nas arquibancadas, fato que fez com que a torcida sofresse outra punição: ficar 60 dias proibida de entrar com faixas e bandeiras nos estádios.

Esse processo de proibições vem desde 1995 e se institucionalizou na forma de punição sobre as torcidas organizadas (elas que representam a organização coletiva e política de seus torcedores) após o infeliz acontecimento decorrente da briga entre torcidas dos times São Paulo e Palmeiras, também na final da Copa São Paulo daquele ano. De lá para cá a imprensa esportiva, o Ministério Público (sob ações do promotor Fernando Capez), a PM e a FPF construíram um discurso e passaram a criminalizar as torcidas organizadas ao realizar ações para que elas perdessem seu espaço nos estádios, com o objetivo de consolidar o padrão de outro tipo de torcedor: o torcedor “família”, consumidor e individual do chamado “futebol moderno”, aquele que consome, porém, não questiona enquanto sujeito político os problemas do esporte nas arquibancadas.

Nesse meio tempo, com as torcidas banidas por um período das arquibancadas e com o discurso da violência nos estádios, a Rede Globo de televisão, aliada de cartolas e dirigentes de clubes, federações e da CBF, estabeleceu a compra das transmissões para consolidar um sistema de transmissão fechado em canais pago, e deter preferência nas transmissões em canal aberto através de privilégios. Ela negociou diretamente com cada clube e estabeleceu contratos que amarram futuras decisões. Com isso, criou-se um público de torcedores que não iam mais ao estádio (com medo das torcidas) e que assistiam no conforto de suas casas, com seus familiares e amigos até que os estádios voltassem a ser “seguros” e compatíveis com certos interesses de classes desses agentes. Ao retornarem aos estádios, as torcidas foram fichadas pela PM e ficaram impedidas de entrar com bandeiras de bambu, sinalizadores inofensivos e com outros adereços.

Recentemente e não por acaso, foi perceptível que antes, durante e após a Copa do Mundo no Brasil em 2014 organizado pela Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) – entidade maior do futebol que também está manchada por escândalos de corrupção tal como a CBF e a FPF – construiu-se um discurso sobre o tal padrão de torcedor e estádio que deveria ser consolidado no país. A organização local desse torneio impediu que manifestantes se aproximassem dos estádios (chamados agora de arenas) por meio de um forte aparato repressor, ao se passar uma imagem para o mundo de que o país vivia alegre e festivamente a Copa (imagem veiculada pela transmissão oficial). No entanto, outros meios mostravam a real situação nas ruas através das manifestações organizadas pelos Comitês Populares da Copa e que foram reprimidas com violência e prisões, imagens estas veiculadas pelas mídias alternativas na Internet. Nesse momento, os Gaviões da Fiel estiveram calados e sequer se manifestaram contra o processo de elitização no futebol que vinha antes da Copa e que se potencializou com o torneio. Se tivessem se posicionado, teriam o apoio das organizações populares que estavam nas ruas lutando por uma Copa popular.

Mas por que os Gaviões da Fiel se manifestaram somente agora em 2016?

Um dos aspectos que chamam a atenção é o posicionamento da atual diretoria dos Gaviões através de seu presidente Rodrigo Fonseca, o Diguinho, que disse em entrevista ao jornal Brasil de Fato que “Não podemos assistir omissos ao processo de elitização do futebol”. De fato, ele reconhece que “não apenas o Corinthians está passando faz anos e tornando a arquibancada um lugar mais branco e rico que outrora”, e destaca que “CBF, FPF, Rede Globo, diretoria do Corinthians e os tais promotores, todos eles trabalham em conjunto para fazer do futebol um espetáculo de elite”.

Outro aspecto importante é que em 2015 os Gaviões soltaram notas em apoio à greve dos professores da rede pública estadual que durou 90 dias, e aos estudantes que lutaram contra a reorganização escolar e ocuparam com ousadia o coração do espaço público na sociedade – as escolas públicas do estado de São Paulo. Ambas as lutas contra o governo do estado que também puniu as torcidas com uma visão elitista de criminalizá-las. Essas lutas sem dúvida influenciaram os Gaviões e os fez alçar novos voos pela liberdade também nas arquibancadas, ao buscarem em sua própria história e origem o legado da luta contra um sistema opressor em defesa da liberdade e da crítica social nas arquibancadas por meio de um despertar político. Os Gaviões nasceram para fiscalizar e lutar contra os autoritarismos e as censuras impostas pela arbitrariedade de dirigentes e federações no clube e no futebol durante a ditadura militar. Foi a primeira (e talvez única) torcida a levantar em 1979 a faixa pela Anistia ampla aos presos políticos.

Regressando um pouco ao ano de 2007, ano em que a torcida corinthiana protagonizou o Movimento Fora Dualib, o futebol do Corinthians enfrentava crises sem tréguas que culminou com o rebaixamento no Campeonato Brasileiro daquele ano. A crise que estourou no clube foi resultado das tramas entre dirigentes que agiam de maneira oligárquica e o setor financeiro. No ano de 2005 eles realizaram uma parceria com a Media Sports Investment (MSI), representada pelo iraniano Kia Joorabchian, parceria que expressou a chegada de capitais britânicos e russos de origem duvidosa ao futebol brasileiro. A MSI estabeleceu um contrato em que iria realizar investimentos por dez anos no futebol do Corinthians ao contratar jogadores renomados e construir o estádio para o clube. Ela formou um time que auto intitulou de “galácticos” que conquistou o Campeonato Brasileiro de 2005, mas que na temporada seguinte, devido ao desgaste pelo controle do futebol do clube entre Kia e Dualib, deixou de enviar recursos ao clube que gerenciou o departamento de futebol por conta própria e acumulou uma dívida superior aos R$ 70 milhões. A parceria, que ganhou as manchetes e elevou o clube aos noticiários esportivos do mundo, terminou em 2007 nas páginas policiais com a intervenção do Ministério Público Federal e o bloqueio das contas da MSI e de seus representantes acusados de lavagem de dinheiro e formação de quadrilha, aspectos que fizeram com que os Gaviões e as demais torcidas corinthianas se mobilizarem para retirar da presidência o responsável por essa trama: Alberto Dualib.

Mas o que esse episódio na história do Corinthians pode dizer sobre o futebol brasileiro? Em primeiro lugar, o futebol é a expressão da formação social, econômica e política da sociedade brasileira organizada para exportar “produtos primários”, aspecto estrutural de uma economia “voltada para fora” e que foi devidamente analisada pelo historiador Caio Prado Júnior quando desvelou o seu caráter dependente. No caso do futebol, isso implica em dizer que parte dos jogadores preparados aqui tem seus passes “vendidos” precocemente em transações financeiras para os grandes clubes da Europa, o que atribui um papel decisivo a um agente que não existia antes no futebol – o empresário de jogador, aquele que faz a ponte entre o clube daqui com os clubes estrangeiros de lá. O futebol expressa a desigualdade social já que 0,80% dos jogadores recebem salários entre R$ 50 mil a R$ 500 mil e 82,40% não recebem mais que R$ 1.000,00.[1] Em segundo lugar, os clubes que querem formar grandes elencos para a conquista de títulos e não criaram condições próprias para isso, acabam por depender de recursos externos e recorrem aos investidores, patrocinadores e parceiros na execução dos chamados “projetos” para aquela temporada ou para um período maior. O fato é que os clubes de futebol, que são entidades sem fins lucrativos e/ou associações, passaram a depender de agentes do setor financeiro que visam com os seus “investimentos” encontrar fontes mais rentáveis para suas receitas e viram nos clubes um jeito de gerar rentabilidade aos seus capitais livres de impostos. O problema é o descompasso entre os clubes, já que parte ainda são geridos de maneira oligárquica por seus dirigentes, e os agentes financeiros, empresas e pessoas físicas que investem recursos para obter lucro.

Em tal cenário de investimentos de capitais e mercantilização sem riscos as torcidas organizadas passaram a ser um problema, pois elas querem ver seus times com elencos fortes e disputando títulos, e questionam com força quando isso não acontece. Elas entraram também no jogo do “mercado” e deixaram de lado as manifestações política que marcaram suas trajetórias. Então, como o futebol não é uma ciência exata e depende da dinâmica dos jogos e da organização das equipes, nem sempre é provável que o elenco mais caro e forte saia vencedor daquele campeonato. Mas como os clubes brasileiros foram integrados em um mundo de economia globalizada, financeirizada e midiatizada, precisam lidar com “a propaganda como a alma do negócio”. Mesmo que não vençam campeonatos, o importante é a marca aparecer e se autovalorizar, e para isso o marketing dos clubes grandes foi ampliado. Outro aspecto é que as brigas entre as torcidas que expressava a organização das classes populares teria afastado o torcedor-consumidor do ideário liberal-econômico que manteria essa engrenagem funcionando.

Nesse sentido, estaria aí um nexo que articula uma explicação possível para a proibição das torcidas nos estádios em São Paulo: por um lado, altos investimentos de empresas e emissoras de televisão nos clubes grandes e nas federações, para que garantam o monopólio e o privilégio de valorização e transmissão das partidas, por outro, pacificação e aburguesamento nas arquibancadas, expresso inclusive no programa Fiel Torcedor que exclui e individualiza o acesso ao estádio, duplo movimento chamado pelas torcidas de “futebol moderno”, o qual é possível defini-lo por futebol elitizado. O futebol paulista e brasileiro, portanto, faz então um movimento de regresso às suas origens direto para a elitização, mas com os conflitos de nosso tempo histórico, já que o mesmo se popularizou a partir da década de 1930 e se tornou paixão nacional na década de 1950 entre as classes populares nos processos de industrialização da sociedade.

Por isso, e retomando a importância das recentes manifestações, por que os atos nas arquibancadas protagonizados pelos Gaviões ganharam ressonância geral para além do clubismo? Talvez porque a torcida corinthiana decidiu atacar de maneira politizada as raízes do problema que determinou a sua punição no estádio com uma pauta clara e direta. Com faixas nas partidas contra o Capivariano e o São Paulo no Campeonato Paulista de 2016 estabeleceu o seguinte diálogo com a sociedade: “Rede Globo, o Corinthians não é o seu quintal”; “Cadê as contas do estádio?”; “CBF, FPF a vergonha do futebol”; “Futebol refém da Rede Globo”; “Quem vai punir o ladrão de merendas?”; “Ingresso mais barato”. Foi a primeira vez que uma torcida se manifestou explicitamente nas arquibancadas contra essas entidades e emissora. Entretanto, ao denunciar os causadores da falta de liberdade de expressão e de sua punição das arquibancadas, os Gaviões enfrentaram a PM e a FPF que impediam que as torcidas se manifestassem politicamente nos estádios. Ao derrubarem os argumentos das “autoridades” com referência ao próprio Estatuto do Torcedor que seus algozes utilizavam, demonstraram conhecimento de causa e puderam deslegitimar a tentativa da FPF e da PM de criminalizá-los.

Cabe destacar que o primeiro movimento de torcedores corinthianos contra o “futebol moderno” dentro e fora do Itaquerão (estádio do Corinthians) foi protagonizado por um pequeno grupo de dissidentes dos Gaviões e torcedores comuns em 2014, quando resgataram o movimento criado pelas organizadas “Andrés aqui não tem burguês”. Eles se manifestaram com faixas e dizeres do tipo “Ingresso caro = corinthiano de fora”, ao se posicionar contra os ingressos caros no novo estádio e chamar a atenção para a exclusão dos corinthianos das classes populares (preto, pobre e periférico). Contudo, sofreram represália da PM e tiveram suas faixas tomadas sob alegação de que estavam violando a lei. Esse movimento ficou restrito a este grupo pequeno e não teve visibilidade como ocorreu agora com as ações dos Gaviões que sempre foi referência política e de canto na arquibancada. De qualquer maneira, o grupo criticou o ex-presidente Andrés Sanchez, responsável pela gestão do estádio, e conseguiu uma conquista importante já que foi ano de eleição: uma pequena baixa no preço dos ingressos. Só que o preço dos ingressos continuou alto para as condições de vida das classes populares que historicamente frequentaram os estádios, não só em jogos no Itaquerão, mas também em jogos com mando de campo de times do interior.

Mas no atual momento o que defendem os Gaviões?

Os Gaviões defendem o direito à liberdade de expressão e à livre manifestação da coletividade nas arquibancadas desse Brasil a fora. Essa liberdade foi garantida pela Constituição Federal de 1988 que diz que “a manifestação do pensamento, a criação, a expressão e a informação, sob qualquer forma, processo ou veículo, não sofrerão qualquer restrição”. Todavia, segundo o Estatuto do Torcedor e o regulamento da FPF, os torcedores podem se manifestar pacificamente nas arquibancadas. Por isso, como disse o jornalista José Trajano “tudo o que eles manifestaram, através das faixas, tem o apoio da maioria da população brasileira. Eles são os nossos porta-vozes. Assino embaixo”. Esse sentimento particular de uma torcida que luta por sua liberdade de crítica social é o sentimento geral de maior parte da população brasileira que se reconhece e se identifica nesse tipo de manifestação, já que o futebol enquanto paixão nacional se tornou um lazer mercantilizado e gerido por dirigentes mafiosos que estão imersos em esquemas de corrupção e lavagem de dinheiro, dominado por uma emissora de TV e que parecem desconsiderar os valores afetivos e de sociabilidade que os torcedores têm por esse esporte popular.

Ademais, talvez o estopim para que ocorressem tais manifestações agora seja o fato de haver chegado ao público denúncias sobre o esquema de desvio de verbas das merendas das escolas públicas do estado de São Paulo, esquema que teria como principal articulador o promotor e deputado estadual Fernando Capez (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira – PSDB). Não por acaso que os Gaviões miram em Capez: o inimigo número um das torcidas e que agora se encontra imerso em denúncias sobre atitudes ilícitas e criminosas de desvio de verbas, aspecto que sempre atribuiu em seus discursos às torcidas organizadas. Ironias da história que não só gira, mas, sobretudo, se desenvolve em um movimento espiral de contradições e conflitos sociais em que os agentes e os acontecimentos se convertem no seu contrário, o bom moço da promotoria está no banco dos réus enquanto que os Gaviões procuram resgatar sua imagem de torcida que faz a festa e manifestações legítimas com forte apelo social.

Por fim, os Gaviões apresentam uma crítica social e não só do futebol ao que ocorreu nas escolas públicas com a chamada propina da merenda escolar e parece conclamar as torcidas, os estudantes e os trabalhadores, já que entoaram o canto “Eu não roubo merenda, eu não sou deputado. Trabalho todo dia, não roubo meu Estado” e de “Ladrão, ladrão, devolve o futebol pro povão”, para lutar contra os desmandos e arbitrariedades da FPF e do partido do governo estadual nesses 21 anos de mandatos, o mesmo partido que proibiu as torcidas de se manifestarem nos estádios, os estudantes de se manifestarem nas escolas e os professores de se manifestarem nas ruas. Tal como analisou Marx, podemos inferir também que a história ocorre por assim dizer duas vezes: a primeira como tragédia, com a proibição das torcidas, reorganização escolar e derrota da greve dos professores, e a segunda como farsa, predominância de torcedores “coxinhas” nas arquibancadas, desorganização escolar camuflada e precarização do trabalho de professores nas escolas. É preciso então haver lutas pela liberdade e crítica social nas arquibancadas, nas escolas e nas ruas para que haja a transformação efetiva da sociedade. As demais torcidas do Corinthians e de outros clubes já estão seguindo o exemplo de politização dos Gaviões e se manifestando nas arquibancadas. Tomara que essas manifestações construa um movimento para além do clubismo e por um futebol que retorne ao poder e apropriação das classes populares.

Sandro Barbosa de Oliveira 

Sandro Barbosa de Oliveira é professor, educador popular, bacharel em Ciências Sociais pelo Centro Universitário Fundação Santo André (CUFSA), mestre em Ciências Sociais pela Universidade Federal de São Paulo (Unifesp) e doutorando em Sociologia pela Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp). Participa do Grupo de Pesquisa Classes Sociais e Trabalho da Unifesp. É também associado e cientista social da Usina Centro de Trabalhos para o Ambiente Habitado.

 

Foto: André Lucas Almeida, Jornalistas Livres

 

You’re witnessing the death of neoliberalism – from within (The Guardian)

What does it look like when an ideology dies? As with most things, fiction can be the best guide. In Red Plenty, his magnificent novel-cum-history of the Soviet Union, Francis Spufford charts how the communist dream of building a better, fairer society fell apart.

Even while they censored their citizens’ very thoughts, the communists dreamed big. Spufford’s hero is Leonid Kantorovich, the only Soviet ever to win a Nobel prize for economics. Rattling along on the Moscow metro, he fantasises about what plenty will bring to his impoverished fellow commuters: “The women’s clothes all turning to quilted silk, the military uniforms melting into tailored grey and silver: and faces, faces the length of the car, relaxing, losing the worry lines and the hungry looks and all the assorted toothmarks of necessity.”

But reality makes swift work of such sandcastles. The numbers are increasingly disobedient. The beautiful plans can only be realised through cheating, and the draughtsmen know it better than any dissidents. This is one of Spufford’s crucial insights: that long before any public protests, the insiders led the way in murmuring their disquiet. Whisper by whisper, memo by memo, the regime is steadily undermined from within. Its final toppling lies decades beyond the novel’s close, yet can already be spotted.

When Red Plenty was published in 2010, it was clear the ideology underpinning contemporary capitalism was failing, but not that it was dying. Yet a similar process as that described in the novel appears to be happening now, in our crisis-hit capitalism. And it is the very technocrats in charge of the system who are slowly, reluctantly admitting that it is bust.

You hear it when the Bank of England’s Mark Carney sounds the alarm about “a low-growth, low-inflation, low-interest-rate equilibrium”. Or when the Bank of International Settlements, the central bank’s central bank, warns that “the global economy seems unable to return to sustainable and balanced growth”. And you saw it most clearly last Thursday from the IMF.

What makes the fund’s intervention so remarkable is not what is being said – but who is saying it and just how bluntly. In the IMF’s flagship publication, three of its top economists have written an essay titled “Neoliberalism: Oversold?”.

The very headline delivers a jolt. For so long mainstream economists and policymakers have denied the very existence of such a thing as neoliberalism, dismissing it as an insult invented by gap-toothed malcontents who understand neither economics nor capitalism. Now here comes the IMF, describing how a “neoliberal agenda” has spread across the globe in the past 30 years. What they mean is that more and more states have remade their social and political institutions into pale copies of the market. Two British examples, suggests Will Davies – author of the Limits of Neoliberalism – would be the NHS and universities “where classrooms are being transformed into supermarkets”. In this way, the public sector is replaced by private companies, and democracy is supplanted by mere competition.

The results, the IMF researchers concede, have been terrible. Neoliberalism hasn’t delivered economic growth – it has only made a few people a lot better off. It causes epic crashes that leave behind human wreckage and cost billions to clean up, a finding with which most residents of food bank Britain would agree. And while George Osborne might justify austerity as “fixing the roof while the sun is shining”, the fund team defines it as “curbing the size of the state … another aspect of the neoliberal agenda”. And, they say, its costs “could be large – much larger than the benefit”.

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde with George Osborne.

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde with George Osborne. ‘Since 2008, a big gap has opened up between what the IMF thinks and what it does.’ Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA

Two things need to be borne in mind here. First, this study comes from the IMF’s research division – not from those staffers who fly into bankrupt countries, haggle over loan terms with cash-strapped governments and administer the fiscal waterboarding. Since 2008, a big gap has opened up between what the IMF thinks and what it does. Second, while the researchers go much further than fund watchers might have believed, they leave in some all-important get-out clauses. The authors even defend privatisation as leading to “more efficient provision of services” and less government spending – to which the only response must be to offer them a train ride across to Hinkley Point C.

Even so, this is a remarkable breach of the neoliberal consensus by the IMF. Inequality and the uselessness of much modern finance: such topics have become regular chew toys for economists and politicians, who prefer to treat them as aberrations from the norm. At last a major institution is going after not only the symptoms but the cause – and it is naming that cause as political. No wonder the study’s lead author says that this research wouldn’t even have been published by the fund five years ago.

From the 1980s the policymaking elite has waved away the notion that they were acting ideologically – merely doing “what works”. But you can only get away with that claim if what you’re doing is actually working. Since the crash, central bankers, politicians and TV correspondents have tried to reassure the public that this wheeze or those billions would do the trick and put the economy right again. They have riffled through every page in the textbook and beyond – bank bailouts, spending cuts, wage freezes, pumping billions into financial markets – and still growth remains anaemic.

And the longer the slump goes on, the more the public tumbles to the fact that not only has growth been feebler, but ordinary workers have enjoyed much less of its benefits. Last year the rich countries’ thinktank, the OECD, made a remarkable concession. It acknowledged that the share of UK economic growth enjoyed by workers is now at its lowest since the second world war. Even more remarkably, it said the same or worse applied to workers across the capitalist west.

Red Plenty ends with Nikita Khrushchev pacing outside his dacha, to where he has been forcibly retired. “Paradise,” he exclaims, “is a place where people want to end up, not a place they run from. What kind of socialism is that? What kind of shit is that, when you have to keep people in chains? What kind of social order? What kind of paradise?”

Economists don’t talk like novelists, more’s the pity, but what you’re witnessing amid all the graphs and technical language is the start of the long death of an ideology.

Cientistas propõem projeto para criar genoma humano sintético (O Globo)

O Globo, 02/06/2016

Imagem de reprodução de DNA de hélice quádrupla – Divulgação/Jean-Paul Rodriguez

WASHINGTON — Um grupo de cientistas propôs, nesta quinta-feira, um projeto ambicioso para criar um genoma humano sintético, que tornaria possível a criação de seres humanos sem a necessidade de pais biológicos. Esta possibilidade levanta polêmica sobre o quanto a vida humana pode ou deve ser manipulada.

O projeto, que surgiu em uma reunião de cientistas da Universidade Harvard, nos EUA, no mês passado, tem como objetivo desenvolver e testar o genoma sintético em células dentro de laboratório ao longo de dez anos. O genoma sintético humano envolve a utilização de produtos químicos para criar o DNA presente nos cromossomas humanos. A meta foi relatada na revista “Science” pelos 25 especialistas envolvidos.

Os cientistas propuseram lançar, ainda este ano, o que chamaram de Projeto de Escrita do Genoma Humano e afirmaram que iriam envolver o público nessa discussão, que incluiria questões éticas, legais e sociais.

Os especialistas esperam arrecadar US$ 100 milhões — o equivalente a R$ 361 milhões — em financiamento público e privado para lançar o projeto este ano. No entanto, eles consideram que os custos totais serão inferiores aos US$ 3 milhões utilizados no Projeto do Genoma Humano original, que mapeou pela primeira vez o DNA humano.

O novo projecto “incluirá a engenharia completa do genoma de linhas de células humanas e de outros organismos importantes para a agricultura e saúde pública, ou aqueles que interpretar as funções biológicas humanas”, escreveram na “Science” os 25 cientistas, liderados pelo geneticista Jef Boeke, do Centro Médico Langone, da Universidade de Nova York.

Ensayan un dron que ‘siembra’ nubes para provocar lluvia (El Mundo)

El dron Savant pesa 24 kilos y tiene 3 metros de envergadura. KEVIN CLIFFORD

El vuelo experimental ha sido en Nevada (EEUU), azotada por la sequía

EUROPA PRESS

25/05/2016 19:46

Un avión no tripulado ha probado por primera vez con éxito la conocida como ‘siembra’ de nubes, con la que los científicos pretenden provocar lluvia en épocas de sequía. El vuelo experimental, de Desert Research Institute (DRI) se ha llevado a cabo en Nevada (Estados Unidos).

Este dron, conocido como Savant, alcanzó una altitud de más de 120 metros y voló durante aproximadamente 18 minutos. “Es un gran logro”, ha apuntado el científico principal del proyecto, Adam Watts, experto en aplicaciones ecológicas y de recursos naturales.

Este proyecto, primero en su tipo, está ayudando al Estado de Nevada abordar los impactos continuos de sequía y a explorar soluciones innovadoras para luchar contra la ausencia de recursos, tales como aumentar el abastecimiento de agua regionales.

El equipo de investigación lleva más de 30 años de investigación y experiencia en la modificación del clima con experiencia probada en operaciones de fabricación aeroespacial y de vuelo de aviones no tripulados, según apunta el DRI en su página web.

“Hemos alcanzado otro hito importante en nuestro esfuerzo por reducir los riesgos y los costes en la industria de la siembra de nubes y ayudar a mitigar los desastres naturales causados por la sequía, el granizo y la niebla extrema“, ha señalado el CEO de la asociación de aviones no tripulados de América, Mike Richards.

“Con una envergadura de 3 metros de ancho y unos 24 kilos de peso, Savant es el vehículo perfecto para llevar a cabo este tipo de operaciones, debido a su perfil de vuelo superior, el tiempo que permanece en el aire y su resistencia al viento y a otras condiciones climáticas adversas”, ha apuntado Richards.


¿Quién está disolviendo las nubes en Andalucía?

Miguel del Pino, de Asaja Granada, muestra una foto de una de las avionetas. M. RODRÍGUEZ

La patronal agraria Asaja denuncia la ‘siembra’ de yoduro de plata

Piden que su actividad esté regulada por ley para evitar los daños

RAMÓN RAMOS, Granada

07/04/2016 19:31

No es leyenda urbana ni ciencia ficción: las avionetas ‘rompenubes’ existen y su actividad es dañina para los cultivos en las zonas en las que actúan. El último episodio tiene lugar fecha y hora. Fue detectado el pasado lunes día 4 a las 15,50 horas en la comarca granadina del Marquesado. Ese día el pronóstico del tiempo anunciaba lluvias de hasta 30 litros por metro cuadrado y las nubes negras que presidían los cielos parecían certificar el augurio. A la hora citada apareció por el norte una avioneta, sobrevoló la comarca de Este a Oeste y desapareció. Las nubes cambiaron de color, del blanco al negro, y sus efectos de lluvia se quedaron en solo seis litros por metro cuadrado, apunta Luis Ramírez, un agricultor de Huéneja afectado por la actividad de estos vuelos ‘fantasma’.

El efecto cromático en las nubes y su consecuente disminución en la descarga de unas lluvias muy esperadas en la comarca tiene una explicación para los agricultores: la ‘siembra’ entre las nubes de yoduro de plata, una sustancia química actúa cristalizando el agua condensada en las nubes.

Asaja, organización patronal agraria, ha estallado contra esta práctica, que no es exclusiva de la provincia de Granada y se enmarca en los posibles intereses de empresas de energía solar y grandes extensiones agrarias, habitualmente instaladas en las zonas donde actúan las avionetas: el Levante español y también Soria.

La organización ha iniciado una recogida de firmas que aspira a reunir las 500.000 necesarias para promover una iniciativa legislativa que prohíba por ley estas intervenciones ‘rompenubes’ que alteran los ciclos hidrológicos, agravando la sequía y dañando los cultivos.

Los pastos para animales, afectados

En esta línea se constituyó el pasado año la Plataforma para la Defensa del Medio Ambiente y la Naturaleza de la Comarca del Marquesado y del Río Nacimiento, donde la acción de las avionetas ‘rompenubes’ está afectando a los cultivos de cereales y almendros, perjudicando además al crecimiento de los pastos para alimentación del ganado.

Asaja advierte de que la posible intervención en la fase atmosférica del ciclo integral del agua está recogida en la Ley de Aguas y en el Reglamento del Dominio Público Hidráulico con la finalidad de evitar precipitaciones en forma de granizo o pedrisco que causen daños.

En los llanos del Marquesado y otras zonas limítrofes como Guadix, Gor, Los Montes Orientales y río Nacimiento, Almería, una extensión de terrenos cultivables que abarca más de 30.000 hectáreas, están acostumbradas al ruido de avionetas de baja altitud ocultas entre las nubes cuando hay aviso de tormenta, “y es un hecho que desde hace cinco años allí no cae apenas agua”, relata el presidente provincial de Asaja, Manuel del Pino.

En esa zona, el cultivo del cereal ha desaparecido porque cosecha era cero e intentan salvar la actividad agrícola transformando las hectáreas baldías en almendro, más resistente y con mejores posibilidades técnicas de producción, y la ganadería extensiva también se resiente por la ausencia de pastos. Son tierras áridas, pero con la intervención artificial en el régimen de lluvias que se está practicando en ellas, “legal o no”, se están desertizando aun más.

El vuelo de las avionetas ‘rompenubes’ fue detectado en el norte de la provincia de Granada a mediados de los años 90, en plena sequía. Su actividad se ha reanudado en los últimos cinco años. La denuncia de los agricultores ante la Guardia Civil no ha dado fruto porque no es obligatorio comunicar los vuelos a menos de 3.000 metros de altura y se trata, además, de una práctica permitida y regulada en las leyes españolas con la finalidad de evitar precipitaciones en forma de granizo o pedrisco que causen daños.

Asaja asegura que los gobiernos conocen esta práctica pero “no aclaran ciertas cuestiones, como de dónde proceden, quién está detrás y qué intereses se buscan, sean compañías de seguros que pretenden evitar indemnizaciones, grandes corporaciones que quieren proteger sus cultivos, empresas de energía solar, la industria farmacéutica o incluso temas de seguridad”.

How philosophy came to disdain the wisdom of oral cultures (AEON)

01 June 2016

Justin E H Smith is a professor of history and philosophy of science at the Université Paris Diderot – Paris 7. He writes frequently for The New York Times and Harper’s Magazine. His latest book is The Philosopher: A History in Six Types(2016).

Published in association with Princeton University Press, an Aeon Partner

Edited by Marina Benjamin

ESSAY: We learn more about our language by listening to the wolves

IDEA: Why science needs to break the spell of reductive materialism

VIDEO: Does the meaning of words rest in our private minds or in our shared experience?

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Ahron de Leeuw/Flickr

A poet, somewhere in Siberia, or the Balkans, or West Africa, some time in the past 60,000 years, recites thousands of memorised lines in the course of an evening. The lines are packed with fixed epithets and clichés. The bard is not concerned with originality, but with intonation and delivery: he or she is perfectly attuned to the circumstances of the day, and to the mood and expectations of his or her listeners.

If this were happening 6,000-plus years ago, the poet’s words would in no way have been anchored in visible signs, in text. For the vast majority of the time that human beings have been on Earth, words have had no worldly reality other than the sound made when they are spoken.

As the theorist Walter J Ong pointed out in Orality and Literacy: Technologizing the Word (1982), it is difficult, perhaps even impossible, now to imagine how differently language would have been experienced in a culture of ‘primary orality’. There would be nowhere to ‘look up a word’, no authoritative source telling us the shape the word ‘actually’ takes. There would be no way to affirm the word’s existence at all except by speaking it – and this necessary condition of survival is important for understanding the relatively repetitive nature of epic poetry. Say it over and over again, or it will slip away. In the absence of fixed, textual anchors for words, there would be a sharp sense that language is charged with power, almost magic: the idea that words, when spoken, can bring about new states of affairs in the world. They do not so much describe, as invoke.

As a consequence of the development of writing, first in the ancient Near East and soon after in Greece, old habits of thought began to die out, and certain other, previously latent, mental faculties began to express themselves. Words were now anchored and, though spellings could change from one generation to another, or one region to another, there were now physical traces that endured, which could be transmitted, consulted and pointed to in settling questions about the use or authority of spoken language.

Writing rapidly turned customs into laws, agreements into contracts, genealogical lore into history. In each case, what had once been fundamentally temporal and singular was transformed into something eternal (as in, ‘outside of time’) and general. Even the simple act of making everyday lists of common objects – an act impossible in a primary oral culture – was already a triumph of abstraction and systematisation. From here it was just one small step to what we now call ‘philosophy’.

Homer’s epic poetry, which originates in the same oral epic traditions as those of the Balkans or of West Africa, was written down, frozen, fixed, and from this it became ‘literature’. There are no arguments in the Iliad: much of what is said arises from metrical exigencies, the need to fill in a line with the right number of syllables, or from epithets whose function is largely mnemonic (and thus unnecessary when transferred into writing). Yet Homer would become an authority for early philosophers nonetheless: revealing truths about humanity not by argument or debate, but by declamation, now frozen into text.

Plato would express extreme concern about the role, if any, that poets should play in society. But he was not talking about poets as we think of them: he had in mind reciters, bards who incite emotions with living performances, invocations and channellings of absent persons and beings.

It is not orality that philosophy rejects, necessarily: Socrates himself rejected writing, identifying instead with a form of oral culture. Plato would also ensure the philosophical canonisation of his own mentor by writing down (how faithfully, we don’t know) what Socrates would have preferred to merely say, and so would have preferred to have lost to the wind. Arguably, it is in virtue of Plato’s recording that we might say, today, that Socrates was a philosopher.

Plato and Aristotle, both, were willing to learn from Homer, once he had been written down. And Socrates, though Plato still felt he had to write him down, was already engaged in a sort of activity very different from poetic recitation. This was dialectic: the structured, working-through of a question towards an end that has not been predetermined – even if this practice emerged indirectly from forms of reasoning only actualised with the advent of writing.

The freezing in text of dialectical reasoning, with a heavy admixture (however impure or problematic) of poetry, aphorism and myth, became the model for what, in the European tradition, was thought of as ‘philosophy’ for the next few millennia.

Why are these historical reflections important today? Because what is at stake is nothing less than our understanding of the scope and nature of philosophical enquiry.

The Italian philosopher of history Giambattista Vico wrote in his ScienzaNuova (1725): ‘the order of ideas must follow the order of institutions’. This order was, namely: ‘First the woods, then cultivated fields and huts, next little houses and villages, thence cities, finally academies and philosophers.’ It is implicit for Vico that the philosophers in these academies are not illiterate. The order of ideas is the order of the emergence of the technology of writing.

Within academic philosophy today, there is significant concern arising from how to make philosophy more ‘inclusive’, but no interest at all in questioning Vico’s order, in going back and recuperating what forms of thought might have been left behind in the woods and fields.

The groups ordinarily targeted by philosophy’s ‘inclusivity drive’ already dwell in the cities and share in literacy, even if discriminatory measures often block their full cultivation of it. No arguments are being made for the inclusion of people belonging to cultures that value other forms of knowledge: there are no efforts to recruit philosophers from among Inuit hunters or Hmong peasants.

The practical obstacles to such recruitment from a true cross-section of humanity are obvious. Were it to happen, the simple process of moving from traditional ways of life into academic institutions would at the same time dilute and transform the perspectives that are deserving of more attention. Irrespective of such unhappy outcomes, there is already substantial scholarship on these forms of thought accumulated in philosophy’s neighbouring disciplines – notably history, anthropology, and world literatures – to which philosophers already have access. It’s a literature that could serve as a corrective to the foundational bias, present since the emergence of philosophy as a distinct activity.

As it happens, there are few members of primary oral cultures left in the world. And yet from a historical perspective the great bulk of human experience resides with them. There are, moreover, members of literate cultures, and subcultures, whose primary experience of language is oral, based in storytelling, not argumentation, and that is living and charged, not fixed and frozen. Plato saw these people as representing a lower, and more dangerous, use of language than the one worthy of philosophers.

Philosophers still tend to disdain, or at least to conceive as categorically different from their own speciality, the use of language deployed by bards and poets, whether from Siberia or the South Bronx. Again, this disdain leaves out the bulk of human experience. Until it is eradicated, the present talk of the ideal of inclusion will remain mere lip-service.

A New Origin Story for Dogs (The Atlantic)

 

June 2, 2016

The first domesticated animals may have been tamed twice.

Katie Salvi

ED YONG

Tens of thousands of years ago, before the internet, before the Industrial Revolution, before literature and mathematics, bronze and iron, before the advent of agriculture, early humans formed an unlikely partnership with another animal—the grey wolf. The fates of our two species became braided together. The wolves changed in body and temperament. Their skulls, teeth, and paws shrank. Their ears flopped. They gained a docile disposition, becoming both less frightening and less fearful. They learned to read the complex expressions that ripple across human faces. They turned into dogs.

Today, dogs are such familiar parts of our lives—our reputed best friends and subject of many a meme—that it’s easy to take them, and what they represent, for granted. Dogs were the first domesticated animals, and their barks heralded the Anthropocene. We raised puppies well before we raised kittens or chickens; before we herded cows, goats, pigs, and sheep; before we planted rice, wheat, barley, and corn; before we remade the world.

“Remove domestication from the human species, and there’s probably a couple of million of us on the planet, max,” says archaeologist and geneticist Greger Larson. “Instead, what do we have? Seven billion people, climate change, travel, innovation and everything. Domestication has influenced the entire earth. And dogs were the first.” For most of human history, “we’re not dissimilar to any other wild primate. We’re manipulating our environments, but not on a scale bigger than, say, a herd of African elephants. And then, we go into partnership with this group of wolves. They altered our relationship with the natural world.”

Larson wants to pin down their origins. He wants to know when, where, and how they were domesticated from wolves. But after decades of dogged effort, he and his fellow scientists are still arguing about the answers. They agree that all dogs, from low-slung corgis to towering mastiffs, are the tame descendants of wild ancestral wolves. But everything else is up for grabs.

Some say wolves were domesticated around 10,000 years ago, while others say 30,000. Some claim it happened in Europe, others in the Middle East, or East Asia. Some think early human hunter-gatherers actively tamed and bred wolves. Others say wolves domesticated themselves, by scavenging the carcasses left by human hunters, or loitering around campfires, growing tamer with each generation until they became permanent companions.

Dogs were domesticated so long ago, and have cross-bred so often with wolves and each other, that their genes are like “a completely homogenous bowl of soup,” Larson tells me, in his office at the University of Oxford. “Somebody goes: what ingredients were added, in what proportion and in what order, to make that soup?” He shrugs his shoulders. “The patterns we see could have been created by 17 different narrative scenarios, and we have no way of discriminating between them.”

The only way of doing so is to look into the past. Larson, who is fast-talking, eminently likable, and grounded in both archaeology and genetics, has been gathering fossils and collaborators in an attempt to yank the DNA out of as many dog and wolf fossils as he can. Those sequences will show exactly how the ancient canines relate to each other and to modern pooches. They’re the field’s best hope for getting firm answers to questions that have hounded them for decades.

And already, they have yielded a surprising discovery that could radically reframe the debate around dog domestication, so that the big question is no longer when it happened, or where, but how many times.

*    *   *

On the eastern edge of Ireland lies Newgrange, a 4,800-year-old monument that predates Stonehenge and the pyramids of Giza. Beneath its large circular mound and within its underground chambers lie many fragments of animal bones. And among those fragments, Dan Bradley from Trinity College Dublin found the petrous bone of a dog.

Press your finger behind your ear. That’s the petrous. It’s a bulbous knob of very dense bone that’s exceptionally good at preserving DNA. If you try to pull DNA out of a fossil, most of it will come from contaminating microbes and just a few percent will come from the bone’s actual owner. But if you’ve got a petrous bone, that proportion can be as high as 80 percent. And indeed, Bradley found DNA galore within the bone, enough to sequence the full genome of the long-dead dog.

Larson and his colleague Laurent Frantz then compared the Newgrange sequences with those of almost 700 modern dogs, and built a family tree that revealed the relationships between these individuals. To their surprise, that tree had an obvious fork in its trunk—a deep divide between two doggie dynasties. One includes all the dogs from eastern Eurasia, such as Shar Peis and Tibetan mastiffs. The other includes all the western Eurasian breeds, and the Newgrange dog.

The genomes of the dogs from the western branch suggest that they went through a population bottleneck—a dramatic dwindling of numbers. Larson interprets this as evidence of a long migration. He thinks that the two dog lineages began as a single population in the east, before one branch broke off and headed west. This supports the idea that dogs were domesticated somewhere in China.

But there’s a critical twist.

The team calculated that the two dog dynasties split from each other between 6,400 and 14,000 years ago.  But the oldest dog fossils in both western and eastern Eurasia are older than that. Which means that when those eastern dogs migrated west into Europe, there were already dogs there.

To Larson, these details only make sense if dogs were domesticated twice.

Here’s the full story, as he sees it. Many thousands of years ago, somewhere in western Eurasia, humans domesticated grey wolves. The same thing happened independently, far away in the east. So, at this time, there were two distinct and geographically separated groups of dogs. Let’s call them Ancient Western and Ancient Eastern. Around the Bronze Age, some of the Ancient Eastern dogs migrated westward alongside their human partners, separating from their homebound peers and creating the deep split in Larson’s tree. Along their travels, these migrants encountered the indigenous Ancient Western dogs, mated with them (doggy style, presumably), and effectively replaced them.

Today’s eastern dogs are the descendants of the Ancient Eastern ones. But today’s western dogs (and the Newgrange one) trace most of their ancestry to the Ancient Eastern migrants. Less than 10 percent comes from the Ancient Western dogs, which have since gone extinct.

This is a bold story for Larson to endorse, not least because he himself has come down hard on other papers suggesting that cows, sheep, or other species were domesticated twice. “Any claims for more than one need to be substantially backed up by a lot of evidence,” he says. “Pigs were clearly domesticated in Anatolia and in East Asia. Everything else is once.” Well, except maybe dogs.

*   *   *

Katie Salvi

Other canine genetics experts think that Larson’s barking up the wrong tree. “I’m somewhat underwhelmed, since it’s based on a single specimen,” says Bob Wayne from the University of California, Los Angeles. He buys that there’s a deep genetic division between modern dogs. But, it’s still possible that dogs were domesticated just once, creating a large, widespread, interbreeding population that only later resolved into two distinct lineages.

In 2013, Wayne’s team compared the mitochondrial genomes (small rings of DNA that sit outside the main set) of 126 modern dogs and wolves, and 18 fossils. They concluded that dogs were domesticated somewhere in Europe or western Siberia, between 18,800 and 32,100 years ago. And genes aside, “the density of fossils from Europe tells us something,” says Wayne. “There are many things that look like dogs, and nothing quite like that in east Asia.”

Peter Savolainen from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm disagrees. By comparing the full genomes of 58 modern wolves and dogs, his team has shown that dogs in southern China are the most genetically diverse in the world. They must have originated there around 33,000 years ago, he says, before a subset of them migrated west 18,000 years later.

That’s essentially the same story that Larson is telling. The key difference is that Savolainen doesn’t buy the existence of an independently domesticated group of western dogs. “That’s stretching the data very much,” he says. Those Ancient Western dogs might have just been wolves, he says. Or perhaps they were an even earlier group of migrants from the east. “I think the picture must seem a bit chaotic,” he says understatedly. “But for me, it’s pretty clear. It must have happened in southern East Asia. You can’t interpret it any other way.”

Except, you totally can. Wayne does (“I’m certainly less dogmatic than Peter,” he says). Adam Boyko from Cornell University does, too: after studying the genes of village dogs—free-ranging mutts that live near human settlements—he argued for a single domestication in Central Asia, somewhere near India or Nepal. And clearly, Larson does as well.

Larson adds that his gene-focused peers are ignoring one crucial line of evidence—bones. If dogs originated just once, there should be a neat gradient of fossils with the oldest ones at the center of domestication and the youngest ones far away from it. That’s not what we have. Instead, archaeologists have found 15,000-year-old dog fossils in western Europe, 12,500-year-old ones in east Asia, and nothing older than 8,000 years in between.

“If we’re wrong, then how on earth do you explain the archaeological data?” says Larson. “Did dogs jump from East Asia to Western Europe in a week, and then go all the way back 4,000 years later?” No. A dual domestication makes more sense. Mietje Genompré, an archaeologist from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, agrees that the bones support Larson’s idea. “For me, it’s very convincing,” she says.

But even Larson is hedging his bets. When I ask him how strong his evidence is, he says, “Like, put a number on it? If was being bold, I’d say it’s a 7 out of 10. We lack the smoking gun.”

Why is this is so hard? Of all the problems that scientists struggle with, why has the origin of dogs been such a bitch to solve?

For starters, the timing is hard to pin down because no one knows exactly how fast dog genomes change. That pace—the mutation rate—underpins a lot of genetic studies. It allows scientists to compare modern dogs and ask: How long ago must these lineages have diverged in order to build up this many differences in their genes? And since individual teams use mutation rate estimates that are wildly different, it’s no wonder they’ve arrive at conflicting answers.

Regardless of the exact date, it’s clear that over thousands of years, dogs have mated with each other, cross-bred with wolves, travelled over the world, and been deliberately bred by humans. The resulting ebb and flow of genes has turned their history into a muddy, turbid mess—the homogeneous soup that Larson envisages.

Wolves provide no clarity. Grey wolves used to live across the entire Northern Hemisphere, so they could have potentially been domesticated anywhere within that vast range (although North America is certainly out). What’s more, genetic studies tell us that no living group of wolves is more closely related to dogs than any other, which means that the wolves that originally gave rise to dogs are now extinct. Sequencing living wolves and dogs will never truly reveal their shrouded past; it’d be, as Larson says, like trying to solve a crime when the culprit isn’t even on the list of suspects.

“The only way to know for sure is to go back in time,” he adds.

*    *   *

Katie Salvi

The study informally known as the Big Dog Project was born of frustration. Back in 2011, Larson was working hard on the origin of domestic pigs, and became annoyed that scientists studying dogs were getting less rigorous papers in more prestigious journals, simply because their subjects were that much more charismatic and media-friendly. So he called up his longstanding collaborator Keith Dobney. “Through gritted teeth, I said: We’re fucking doing dogs. And he said: I’m in.”

Right from the start, the duo realized that studying living dogs would never settle the great domestication debate. The only way to do that was to sequence ancient DNA from fossil dogs and wolves, throughout their range and at different points in history. While other scientists were studying the soup of dog genetics by tasting the finished product, Larson would reach back in time to taste it at every step of its creation, allowing him to definitively reconstruct the entire recipe.

In recent decades, scientists have become increasingly successful at extracting and sequencing strands of DNA from fossils. This ancient DNA has done wonders for our understanding of our own evolution. It showed, for example, how Europe was colonized 40,000 years ago by hunter-gatherers moving up from Africa, then 8,000 years ago by Middle Eastern farmers, and 5,000 years ago by horse-riding herders from the Russian steppes. “Everyone in Europe today is a blend of those three populations,” says Larson, who hopes to parse the dog genome in the same way, by slicing it into its constituent ingredients.

Larson originally envisaged a small project—just him and Dobney analyzing a few fossils. But he got more funding, collaborators, and samples than he expected. “It just kind of metastasized out of all proportion,” he says. He and his colleagues would travel the world, drilling into fossils and carting chips of bone back to Oxford. They went to museums and private collections. (“There was a guy up in York who had a ton of stuff in his garage.”) They grabbed bones from archaeological sites.

The pieces of bone come back to a facility in Oxford called the Palaeo-BARN—the Palaeogenomics and Bioarchaeology Research Network. When I toured the facility with Larson, we wore white overalls, surgical masks, oversoles, and purple gloves, to keep our DNA (and that of our skin microbes) away from the precious fossil samples. Larson called them ‘spacesuits.’ I was thinking ‘thrift-store ninja.’

In one room, the team shoves pieces of bone into a machine that pounds it with a small ball bearing, turning solid shards into fine powder. They then send the powder through a gauntlet of chemicals and filters to pull out the DNA and get rid of everything else. The result is a tiny drop of liquid that contains the genetic essence of a long-dead dog or wolf. Larson’s freezer contains 1,500 such drops, and many more are on the way. “It’s truly fantastic the kind of data that he has gathered,” says Savolainen.

True to his roots in archaeology, Larson isn’t ignoring the bones. His team photographed the skulls of some 7,000 prehistoric dogs and wolves at 220 angles each, and rebuilt them in virtual space. They can use a technique called geometric morphometrics to see how different features on the skulls have evolved over time.

The two lines of evidence—DNA and bones—should either support or refute the double domestication idea. It will also help to clear some confusion over a few peculiar fossils, such as a 36,000 year old skull from Goyet cave in Belgium. Genompré thinks it’s a primitive dog. “It falls outside the variability of wolves: it’s smaller and the snout is different,” she says. Others say it’s too dissimilar to modern dogs. Wayne has suggested that it represents an aborted attempt at domestication—a line of dogs that didn’t contribute to modern populations and is now extinct.

Maybe the Goyet hound was part of Larson’s hypothetical Ancient Western group, domesticated shortly after modern humans arrived in Europe. Maybe it represented yet another separate flirtation with domestication. All of these options are on the table, and Larson thinks he has the data to tell them apart. “We can start putting numbers on the difference between dogs and wolves,” he says. “We can say this is what all the wolves at this time period look like; does the Goyet material fall within that realm, or does it look like dogs from later on?”

Larson hopes to have the first big answers within six to twelve months. “I think it’ll clearly show that some things can’t be right, and will narrow down the number of hypotheses,” says Boyko. “It may narrow it down to one but I’m not holding my breath on that.” Wayne is more optimistic. “Ancient DNA will provide much more definitive data than we had in the past,” he says. “[Larson] convinced everyone of that. He’s a great diplomat.”

Indeed, beyond accumulating DNA and virtual skulls, Larson’s greatest skill is in gathering collaborators. In 2013, he rounded up as many dog researchers as he could and flew them to Aberdeen, so he could get them talking. “I won’t say there was no tension,” he says. “You go into a room with someone who has written something that sort of implies you aren’t doing very good science… there will be tension. But it went away very quickly. And, frankly: alcohol.”

“Everyone was like: You know what? If I’m completely wrong and I have to eat crow on this, I don’t give a shit. I just want to know.”

The Value of a Gorilla vs. a Human (Huff Post Green)

 05/31/2016 05:11 pm ET

Bron Taylor

Author, ‘Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future’

2016-05-31-1464655672-641876-8973697544_4c3ba00731_oLowlandGorillaCreativeCommons.jpg

An individual gorilla is more valuable than an individual human being.

What is your response to that statement?

I have seen no such argument in response to the death of Harambe, the Western Lowland Gorilla who was shot on 28 May at the Cincinnati Zoo. Zookeepers understandably feared for the life of a child who entered his enclosure. The incident has created furor.

Mainstream media depicted the shooting as a tragic necessity because the child was at risk of grievous harm or death. Whether implicitly felt or explicitly stated, the assumption was that the life of this child was more valuable than the life of this gorilla.

This was the view of Jack Hannah, the well-known conservationist and former director of the Columbus Zoo. In a host of interviews he clearly stated that the decision to kill Harambe was an easy call because every human life is more valuable than any animal life.

For her part, the child’s mother, after insisting that she is a responsible parent, asserted on Facebook, “God protected my child until the authorities were able to get to him.” Then she thanked those who saved her son and “most importantly God for being the awsome (sic) God that he is.” She apparently believed that God had intervened, even at the price of the Gorilla’s life.

She did not explain why God did not elect to protect her son by more peaceful means, such as, by preventing him from climbing into the enclosure.

In contrast, a host of critics was outraged by the killing and what they considered the mother’s negligence.

Especially upset were animal rights proponents, who base the value of animals on emotional, or cognitive traits they are believed to share with us, or on their capacity to suffer. For them, the great apes, our closest biological cousins, have rights that deserve respect, foremost, the right to life.

But I could find no one making a reasoned argument that this gorilla’s life was more valuable than that of this human child.

Some environmental philosophers and scientists, however, contend that an individual member of an endangered species is more valuable than an individual human being. Or, as conservation biologist Reed Noss put it to me recently, the value of an individual decreases proportionately with the size of its population.

Such arguments are premised upon an understanding that the viability of a species is associated with the variety of genes in its population: With few exceptions, the greater its genetic diversity the greater will be a species’ resilience in the face of diseases or environmental threats. But the smaller the population is, the higher is the risk of extinction. Consequently, every individual matters.

So, if one starts from an ethical claim that humanity ought not drive other species off the planet, and add scientific understandings about the value of an individual organism to the viability of its species, an endangered animal such as Harambe could be considered more valuable than one that is not valuable in this way.

The argument is as worth pondering . . . and so are our reactions to it.

Our reactions to the value of humans and other animals are typically shaped by culturally deep religious roots.

Put simply, most large human civilizations have religious roots and strong constituencies, which either view humans as a special creation of God, or consider humans to have become the highest and most valuable life forms by leading meritorious past lives.

Whatever ground for felt ethical obligations toward non-human organisms there might be given such premises, when push comes to shove, human lives come first.

In contemporary environmental philosophy, such views are termed anthropocentrism or literally, human-centered ethics.

That is a nice way of putting it.

But it is really the ideology of human supremacy.

Harambe’s demise may not provide a perfect fit for considering the proposition with which I began my provocation. The Zoo had frozen semen taken from him because it is part an international consortium that understands the importance of genetic diversity for efforts to save endangered species. Moreover, Western Lowland Gorillas have more habitat and greater numbers than great apes that are on the very brink of extinction.

But Harambe may have a greater conservation legacy than his genes being posthumously passed on through an endangered species breeding program. Hopefully, this tragic event will increase public awareness of the accelerating extinction crisis and the importance of preserving habitat for wild Gorillas, and protecting endangered species in captive breeding programs.

And perhaps, this case will help those who are skeptical of the religious ideas that undergird human supremacy to leave them behind, once and for all.

It may be that corresponding conservation policies and efforts would follow is such a value transformation spreads.

Indeed, there are signs just such a transformation is under way. It can be seen in the work of Dian Fossey who risked her life and was killed while trying to protect endangered Gorillas, and as rangers are empowered by law to use lethal force against poachers. So, we have examples where the lives of endangered species are considered to be more valuable than at least some human lives.

I hope that zoos will soon, and universally, be on the leading edge of this transformation, rather than reinforcing ancient and self-serving human conceits.