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Anthropologist, professor at the Federal University of São Paulo

Nobody understands what consciousness is or how it works. Nobody understands quantum mechanics either. Could that be more than coincidence? (BBC)

What is going on in our brains? (Credit: Mehau Kulyk/Science Photo Library)

What is going on in our brains? (Credit: Mehau Kulyk/Science Photo Library)

Quantum mechanics is the best theory we have for describing the world at the nuts-and-bolts level of atoms and subatomic particles. Perhaps the most renowned of its mysteries is the fact that the outcome of a quantum experiment can change depending on whether or not we choose to measure some property of the particles involved.

When this “observer effect” was first noticed by the early pioneers of quantum theory, they were deeply troubled. It seemed to undermine the basic assumption behind all science: that there is an objective world out there, irrespective of us. If the way the world behaves depends on how – or if – we look at it, what can “reality” really mean?

The most famous intrusion of the mind into quantum mechanics comes in the “double-slit experiment”

Some of those researchers felt forced to conclude that objectivity was an illusion, and that consciousness has to be allowed an active role in quantum theory. To others, that did not make sense. Surely, Albert Einstein once complained, the Moon does not exist only when we look at it!

Today some physicists suspect that, whether or not consciousness influences quantum mechanics, it might in fact arise because of it. They think that quantum theory might be needed to fully understand how the brain works.

Might it be that, just as quantum objects can apparently be in two places at once, so a quantum brain can hold onto two mutually-exclusive ideas at the same time?

These ideas are speculative, and it may turn out that quantum physics has no fundamental role either for or in the workings of the mind. But if nothing else, these possibilities show just how strangely quantum theory forces us to think.

The famous double-slit experiment (Credit: Victor de Schwanberg/Science Photo Library)

The famous double-slit experiment (Credit: Victor de Schwanberg/Science Photo Library)

The most famous intrusion of the mind into quantum mechanics comes in the “double-slit experiment”. Imagine shining a beam of light at a screen that contains two closely-spaced parallel slits. Some of the light passes through the slits, whereupon it strikes another screen.

Light can be thought of as a kind of wave, and when waves emerge from two slits like this they can interfere with each other. If their peaks coincide, they reinforce each other, whereas if a peak and a trough coincide, they cancel out. This wave interference is called diffraction, and it produces a series of alternating bright and dark stripes on the back screen, where the light waves are either reinforced or cancelled out.

The implication seems to be that each particle passes simultaneously through both slits

This experiment was understood to be a characteristic of wave behaviour over 200 years ago, well before quantum theory existed.

The double slit experiment can also be performed with quantum particles like electrons; tiny charged particles that are components of atoms. In a counter-intuitive twist, these particles can behave like waves. That means they can undergo diffraction when a stream of them passes through the two slits, producing an interference pattern.

Now suppose that the quantum particles are sent through the slits one by one, and their arrival at the screen is likewise seen one by one. Now there is apparently nothing for each particle to interfere with along its route – yet nevertheless the pattern of particle impacts that builds up over time reveals interference bands.

The implication seems to be that each particle passes simultaneously through both slits and interferes with itself. This combination of “both paths at once” is known as a superposition state.

But here is the really odd thing.

The double-slit experiment (Credit: GIPhotoStock/Science Photo Library)

The double-slit experiment (Credit: GIPhotoStock/Science Photo Library)

If we place a detector inside or just behind one slit, we can find out whether any given particle goes through it or not. In that case, however, the interference vanishes. Simply by observing a particle’s path – even if that observation should not disturb the particle’s motion – we change the outcome.

The physicist Pascual Jordan, who worked with quantum guru Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in the 1920s, put it like this: “observations not only disturb what has to be measured, they produce it… We compel [a quantum particle] to assume a definite position.” In other words, Jordan said, “we ourselves produce the results of measurements.”

If that is so, objective reality seems to go out of the window.

And it gets even stranger.

Particles can be in two states (Credit: Victor de Schwanberg/Science Photo Library)

Particles can be in two states (Credit: Victor de Schwanberg/Science Photo Library)

If nature seems to be changing its behaviour depending on whether we “look” or not, we could try to trick it into showing its hand. To do so, we could measure which path a particle took through the double slits, but only after it has passed through them. By then, it ought to have “decided” whether to take one path or both.

The sheer act of noticing, rather than any physical disturbance caused by measuring, can cause the collapse

An experiment for doing this was proposed in the 1970s by the American physicist John Wheeler, and this “delayed choice” experiment was performed in the following decade. It uses clever techniques to make measurements on the paths of quantum particles (generally, particles of light, called photons) after they should have chosen whether to take one path or a superposition of two.

It turns out that, just as Bohr confidently predicted, it makes no difference whether we delay the measurement or not. As long as we measure the photon’s path before its arrival at a detector is finally registered, we lose all interference.

It is as if nature “knows” not just if we are looking, but if we are planning to look.

(Credit: Emilio Segre Visual Archives/American Institute Physics/Science Photo Library)

Eugene Wigner (Credit: Emilio Segre Visual Archives/American Institute of Physics/Science Photo Library)

Whenever, in these experiments, we discover the path of a quantum particle, its cloud of possible routes “collapses” into a single well-defined state. What’s more, the delayed-choice experiment implies that the sheer act of noticing, rather than any physical disturbance caused by measuring, can cause the collapse. But does this mean that true collapse has only happened when the result of a measurement impinges on our consciousness?

It is hard to avoid the implication that consciousness and quantum mechanics are somehow linked

That possibility was admitted in the 1930s by the Hungarian physicist Eugene Wigner. “It follows that the quantum description of objects is influenced by impressions entering my consciousness,” he wrote. “Solipsism may be logically consistent with present quantum mechanics.”

Wheeler even entertained the thought that the presence of living beings, which are capable of “noticing”, has transformed what was previously a multitude of possible quantum pasts into one concrete history. In this sense, Wheeler said, we become participants in the evolution of the Universe since its very beginning. In his words, we live in a “participatory universe.”

To this day, physicists do not agree on the best way to interpret these quantum experiments, and to some extent what you make of them is (at the moment) up to you. But one way or another, it is hard to avoid the implication that consciousness and quantum mechanics are somehow linked.

Beginning in the 1980s, the British physicist Roger Penrosesuggested that the link might work in the other direction. Whether or not consciousness can affect quantum mechanics, he said, perhaps quantum mechanics is involved in consciousness.

Physicist and mathematician Roger Penrose (Credit: Max Alexander/Science Photo Library)

Physicist and mathematician Roger Penrose (Credit: Max Alexander/Science Photo Library)

What if, Penrose asked, there are molecular structures in our brains that are able to alter their state in response to a single quantum event. Could not these structures then adopt a superposition state, just like the particles in the double slit experiment? And might those quantum superpositions then show up in the ways neurons are triggered to communicate via electrical signals?

Maybe, says Penrose, our ability to sustain seemingly incompatible mental states is no quirk of perception, but a real quantum effect.

Perhaps quantum mechanics is involved in consciousness

After all, the human brain seems able to handle cognitive processes that still far exceed the capabilities of digital computers. Perhaps we can even carry out computational tasks that are impossible on ordinary computers, which use classical digital logic.

Penrose first proposed that quantum effects feature in human cognition in his 1989 book The Emperor’s New Mind. The idea is called Orch-OR, which is short for “orchestrated objective reduction”. The phrase “objective reduction” means that, as Penrose believes, the collapse of quantum interference and superposition is a real, physical process, like the bursting of a bubble.

Orch-OR draws on Penrose’s suggestion that gravity is responsible for the fact that everyday objects, such as chairs and planets, do not display quantum effects. Penrose believes that quantum superpositions become impossible for objects much larger than atoms, because their gravitational effects would then force two incompatible versions of space-time to coexist.

Penrose developed this idea further with American physician Stuart Hameroff. In his 1994 book Shadows of the Mind, he suggested that the structures involved in this quantum cognition might be protein strands called microtubules. These are found in most of our cells, including the neurons in our brains. Penrose and Hameroff argue that vibrations of microtubules can adopt a quantum superposition.

But there is no evidence that such a thing is remotely feasible.

Microtubules inside a cell (Credit: Dennis Kunkel Microscopy/Science Photo Library)

Microtubules inside a cell (Credit: Dennis Kunkel Microscopy/Science Photo Library)

It has been suggested that the idea of quantum superpositions in microtubules is supported by experiments described in 2013, but in fact those studies made no mention of quantum effects.

Besides, most researchers think that the Orch-OR idea was ruled out by a study published in 2000. Physicist Max Tegmark calculated that quantum superpositions of the molecules involved in neural signaling could not survive for even a fraction of the time needed for such a signal to get anywhere.

Other researchers have found evidence for quantum effects in living beings

Quantum effects such as superposition are easily destroyed, because of a process called decoherence. This is caused by the interactions of a quantum object with its surrounding environment, through which the “quantumness” leaks away.

Decoherence is expected to be extremely rapid in warm and wet environments like living cells.

Nerve signals are electrical pulses, caused by the passage of electrically-charged atoms across the walls of nerve cells. If one of these atoms was in a superposition and then collided with a neuron, Tegmark showed that the superposition should decay in less than one billion billionth of a second. It takes at least ten thousand trillion times as long for a neuron to discharge a signal.

As a result, ideas about quantum effects in the brain are viewed with great skepticism.

However, Penrose is unmoved by those arguments and stands by the Orch-OR hypothesis. And despite Tegmark’s prediction of ultra-fast decoherence in cells, other researchers have found evidence for quantum effects in living beings. Some argue that quantum mechanics is harnessed by migratory birds that use magnetic navigation, and by green plants when they use sunlight to make sugars in photosynthesis.

Besides, the idea that the brain might employ quantum tricks shows no sign of going away. For there is now another, quite different argument for it.

Could phosphorus sustain a quantum state? (Credit: Phil Degginger/Science Photo Library)

Could phosphorus sustain a quantum state? (Credit: Phil Degginger/Science Photo Library)

In a study published in 2015, physicist Matthew Fisher of the University of California at Santa Barbara argued that the brain might contain molecules capable of sustaining more robust quantum superpositions. Specifically, he thinks that the nuclei of phosphorus atoms may have this ability.

Phosphorus atoms are everywhere in living cells. They often take the form of phosphate ions, in which one phosphorus atom joins up with four oxygen atoms.

Such ions are the basic unit of energy within cells. Much of the cell’s energy is stored in molecules called ATP, which contain a string of three phosphate groups joined to an organic molecule. When one of the phosphates is cut free, energy is released for the cell to use.

Cells have molecular machinery for assembling phosphate ions into groups and cleaving them off again. Fisher suggested a scheme in which two phosphate ions might be placed in a special kind of superposition called an “entangled state”.

Phosphorus spins could resist decoherence for a day or so, even in living cells

The phosphorus nuclei have a quantum property called spin, which makes them rather like little magnets with poles pointing in particular directions. In an entangled state, the spin of one phosphorus nucleus depends on that of the other.

Put another way, entangled states are really superposition states involving more than one quantum particle.

Fisher says that the quantum-mechanical behaviour of these nuclear spins could plausibly resist decoherence on human timescales. He agrees with Tegmark that quantum vibrations, like those postulated by Penrose and Hameroff, will be strongly affected by their surroundings “and will decohere almost immediately”. But nuclear spins do not interact very strongly with their surroundings.

All the same, quantum behaviour in the phosphorus nuclear spins would have to be “protected” from decoherence.

Quantum particles can have different spins (Credit: Richard Kail/Science Photo Library)

Quantum particles can have different spins (Credit: Richard Kail/Science Photo Library)

This might happen, Fisher says, if the phosphorus atoms are incorporated into larger objects called “Posner molecules”. These are clusters of six phosphate ions, combined with nine calcium ions. There is some evidence that they can exist in living cells, though this is currently far from conclusive.

I decided… to explore how on earth the lithium ion could have such a dramatic effect in treating mental conditions

In Posner molecules, Fisher argues, phosphorus spins could resist decoherence for a day or so, even in living cells. That means they could influence how the brain works.

The idea is that Posner molecules can be swallowed up by neurons. Once inside, the Posner molecules could trigger the firing of a signal to another neuron, by falling apart and releasing their calcium ions.

Because of entanglement in Posner molecules, two such signals might thus in turn become entangled: a kind of quantum superposition of a “thought”, you might say. “If quantum processing with nuclear spins is in fact present in the brain, it would be an extremely common occurrence, happening pretty much all the time,” Fisher says.

He first got this idea when he started thinking about mental illness.

A capsule of lithium carbonate (Credit: Custom Medical Stock Photo/Science Photo Library)

A capsule of lithium carbonate (Credit: Custom Medical Stock Photo/Science Photo Library)

“My entry into the biochemistry of the brain started when I decided three or four years ago to explore how on earth the lithium ion could have such a dramatic effect in treating mental conditions,” Fisher says.

At this point, Fisher’s proposal is no more than an intriguing idea

Lithium drugs are widely used for treating bipolar disorder. They work, but nobody really knows how.

“I wasn’t looking for a quantum explanation,” Fisher says. But then he came across a paper reporting that lithium drugs had different effects on the behaviour of rats, depending on what form – or “isotope” – of lithium was used.

On the face of it, that was extremely puzzling. In chemical terms, different isotopes behave almost identically, so if the lithium worked like a conventional drug the isotopes should all have had the same effect.

Nerve cells are linked at synapses (Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki/Science Photo Library)

Nerve cells are linked at synapses (Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki/Science Photo Library)

But Fisher realised that the nuclei of the atoms of different lithium isotopes can have different spins. This quantum property might affect the way lithium drugs act. For example, if lithium substitutes for calcium in Posner molecules, the lithium spins might “feel” and influence those of phosphorus atoms, and so interfere with their entanglement.

We do not even know what consciousness is

If this is true, it would help to explain why lithium can treat bipolar disorder.

At this point, Fisher’s proposal is no more than an intriguing idea. But there are several ways in which its plausibility can be tested, starting with the idea that phosphorus spins in Posner molecules can keep their quantum coherence for long periods. That is what Fisher aims to do next.

All the same, he is wary of being associated with the earlier ideas about “quantum consciousness”, which he sees as highly speculative at best.

Consciousness is a profound mystery (Credit: Sciepro/Science Photo Library)

Consciousness is a profound mystery (Credit: Sciepro/Science Photo Library)

Physicists are not terribly comfortable with finding themselves inside their theories. Most hope that consciousness and the brain can be kept out of quantum theory, and perhaps vice versa. After all, we do not even know what consciousness is, let alone have a theory to describe it.

We all know what red is like, but we have no way to communicate the sensation

It does not help that there is now a New Age cottage industrydevoted to notions of “quantum consciousness“, claiming that quantum mechanics offers plausible rationales for such things as telepathy and telekinesis.

As a result, physicists are often embarrassed to even mention the words “quantum” and “consciousness” in the same sentence.

But setting that aside, the idea has a long history. Ever since the “observer effect” and the mind first insinuated themselves into quantum theory in the early days, it has been devilishly hard to kick them out. A few researchers think we might never manage to do so.

In 2016, Adrian Kent of the University of Cambridge in the UK, one of the most respected “quantum philosophers”, speculated that consciousness might alter the behaviour of quantum systems in subtle but detectable ways.

We do not understand how thoughts work (Credit: Andrzej Wojcicki/Science Photo Library)

We do not understand how thoughts work (Credit: Andrzej Wojcicki/Science Photo Library)

Kent is very cautious about this idea. “There is no compelling reason of principle to believe that quantum theory is the right theory in which to try to formulate a theory of consciousness, or that the problems of quantum theory must have anything to do with the problem of consciousness,” he admits.

Every line of thought on the relationship of consciousness to physics runs into deep trouble

But he says that it is hard to see how a description of consciousness based purely on pre-quantum physics can account for all the features it seems to have.

One particularly puzzling question is how our conscious minds can experience unique sensations, such as the colour red or the smell of frying bacon. With the exception of people with visual impairments, we all know what red is like, but we have no way to communicate the sensation and there is nothing in physics that tells us what it should be like.

Sensations like this are called “qualia”. We perceive them as unified properties of the outside world, but in fact they are products of our consciousness – and that is hard to explain. Indeed, in 1995 philosopher David Chalmers dubbed it “the hard problem” of consciousness.

How does our consciousness work? (Credit: Victor Habbick Visions/Science Photo Library)

How does our consciousness work? (Credit: Victor Habbick Visions/Science Photo Library)

“Every line of thought on the relationship of consciousness to physics runs into deep trouble,” says Kent.

This has prompted him to suggest that “we could make some progress on understanding the problem of the evolution of consciousness if we supposed that consciousnesses alters (albeit perhaps very slightly and subtly) quantum probabilities.”

“Quantum consciousness” is widely derided as mystical woo, but it just will not go away

In other words, the mind could genuinely affect the outcomes of measurements.

It does not, in this view, exactly determine “what is real”. But it might affect the chance that each of the possible actualities permitted by quantum mechanics is the one we do in fact observe, in a way that quantum theory itself cannot predict. Kent says that we might look for such effects experimentally.

He even bravely estimates the chances of finding them. “I would give credence of perhaps 15% that something specifically to do with consciousness causes deviations from quantum theory, with perhaps 3% credence that this will be experimentally detectable within the next 50 years,” he says.

If that happens, it would transform our ideas about both physics and the mind. That seems a chance worth exploring.

Torcida única nos clássicos do Rio divide opiniões entre entidades e especialistas (O Globo)

Comandante do Gepe admite que comportamento das organizadas passou do tolerável


16/02/2017 12:25 / atualizado 16/02/2017 17:22

Torcedores socorrem um ferido no confronto entre organizadas de Flamengo e Botafogo – Marcelo Theobald / Agência O Globo

A ação civil pública, do Minstério Público Estadual (MPE), que pede torcida única nos clássicos cariocas ainda será apreciada pelo Juizado do Torcedor e Grandes Eventos. Porém, as autoridades envolvidas diretamente nos casos de brigas entre facções organizadas tendem a concordar com a proibição, ou alguma solução mais efetiva. O argumento voltou à tona após os episódios de violência no confronto entre Botafogo e Flamengo, no último domingo, no Engenhão, que terminaram com a morte de um torcedor e deixaram oito feridos.

A decisão será do juiz Guilherme Schilling, que assumiu o Juizado do Torcedor e Grandes Eventos, este mês. O ex ocupante do cargo, o juiz Marcelo Rubioli, agora no Tribunal de Justiça do Rio, considera que esse pode ser o primeiro degrau para se chegar a um modelo mais seguro para os torcedores.

– Acho que é um caminho. O próximo, talvez, seja inserir os espetáculos esportivos no planjemanto das forças armadas, que estão em caráter excepcional no Rio até o fim do Carnaval. A possibilidade de jogo com portões fechados não é viável do ponto de vista dos clubes. Mas estamos tratando do Estatuto, que prevê a proteção dos torcedores – sugere Rubioli, acrescentando que o interior dos estádios não tem tido problemas graves de segurança, salvo o caso recente do jogo entre Flamengo e Corinthians, no Maracanã. – Hoje, o estádio é um local seguro. No caso de torcida única em clássicos, não haveria aglomeração daquela que não vai entrar nas proximidades. Não tem como garantir qual medida vai ser mais eficaz.

Comandante do Grupamento Especial de Policiamente em Estádios (Gepe), o Major Silvio Luís, informou que vai conversar com o MPE e o Juizado para saber detalhes do pedido, antes de emitir uma opinião sobre o assunto. Porém, o responsável pelo policiamento nos estádios e acompanhamento das organizadas em dias de jogo, ressalta que, diante do comportamento das torcidas, algo precisa ser feito.

– Preciso avaliar o que estão propondo, mas o que posso dizer é que o comportamento das torcidas já passou do tolerável – afirmou o Major, destacando que os clássicos do Rio só não são com torcida dividida igualmente quando a configuração do estádio não permite. – Já tivemos casos assim em São Januário e na Arena da Ilha, onde os visitantes só podem receber 10% dos ingressos.


As evidências, contudo, apontam que o problema vai além dos estádios. Antes do caso no Engenhão, a última briga de grandes proporções entre torcedores de Flamengo e Botafogo havia acontecido em julho de 2016, terminando com um morto. O conflito ocorreu em Bento Ribeiro, bairro da Zona Norte localizado a mais de 20 km do Estádio Luso-Brasileiro, onde os times se enfrentavam naquele dia.

Para o antropólogo Renzo Taddei, professor da Unifesp e autor de pesquisas sobre torcidas organizadas no futebol, o problema principal não é sequer a falta de policiamento, seja dentro ou fora de estádios. Na avaliação do especialista, torcedores e polícia desenvolveram, ao longo de décadas, uma relação turbulenta que tem questões sociais como pano de fundo:

– Não é à toa que a maior parte da violência a que uma torcida é submetida ou se submete em sua existência são conflitos contra a polícia, e não contra alguma torcida inimiga. O Estado impõe a segmentos inteiros da população um código de comunicação onde não há palavras, apenas brutalidade – avalia.

Torcedores exibem bandeirão pedindo a paz nos estádios em clássico entre Botafogo x Flamengo, marcado por cenas de violência no Engenhão – Marcelo Theobald / Agência O Globo

Taddei argumenta que o distanciamento entre torcidas organizadas e o restante da sociedade tende, na verdade, a acentuar a presença de membros que infringem a lei. Na opinião do antropólogo, lidar com a questão da violência no futebol depende de mais diálogo.

– Se houvesse uma interlocução saudável entre as comunidades das torcidas e o poder público, a mídia e a sociedade em geral, essas situações seriam mais fáceis de serem evitadas. O que eu estou dizendo é que muito menos do que 1% dos integrantes das torcidas causam problemas. Veja só: os Gaviões da Fiel tem cerca de 25 mil associados; as torcidas do Flamengo são também imensas. E qual o saldo do problema com as torcidas? Em 2016 foram 9 mortos em estádios. É muito mais perigoso andar de bicicleta do que ir ao estádio.


Segundo o blog Gente Boa, a Procuradoria Geral do Estado vai contestar na Justiça o pedido do Ministério Público para que os clássicos do Rio tenham torcida única nos estádios.

– É uma medida inadequada – diz o procurador-geral do Estado, Leonardo Espíndola – O Fla-Flu, por exemplo, é um patrimônio nacional que não pode ser banido por conta da ação de vândalos.

O Botafogo, por meio de nota da assessoria de imprensa, elogiou o trabalho do Gepe, mas se mostrou aberto a experiências que possam tornar os estádios mais seguros.

“Apesar de considerar que no último domingo houve um ponto fora da curva, pois o Gepe sabe fazer escolta, chegada e saída de organizadas, o Botafogo é favorável a experiências no sentido de melhorar as condições de segurança do futebol. Esse tipo de experiência, de torcida única, já deu certo em outros estados. O que o Botafogo não considera simples é ter a responsabilidade de cadastramento de membros de organizadas. É uma premissa quase impossível, porque os clubes não têm poder de fichar torcedores nem tem como controlar acesso a um local. Para o poder público, pode ser mais viável. Se for a decisão dos órgãos competentes, o Botafogo estará pronto para colaborar”, diz a nota.

Já o Flamengo, através de seu presidente Eduardo Bandeira de Mello, disse ser “totalmente contra” a torcida única em clássicos. O Fluminense, por sua vez, mostrou preocupação de que a medida acabe adotada de forma definitiva.

Além do veto à divisão das arquibancadas em clássicos, o promotor Rodrigo Terra também pede aos clubes que “se abstenham de fornecer gratuitamente ingressos às suas torcidas organizadas”. O Botafogo garante que não distribui bilhetes para as organizadas.

Veja também

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Long Before Making Enigmatic Earthworks, People Reshaped Brazil’s Rain Forest (N.Y.Times)

By   FEB. 10, 2017

New research suggests people were sustainably managing the Amazon rain forest much earlier than was previously thought. Credit: Jenny Watling 

Deep in the Amazon, the rain forest once covered ancient secrets. Spread across hundreds of thousands of acres are massive, geometric earthworks. The carvings stretch out in circles and squares that can be as big as a city block, with trenches up to 12 yards wide and 13 feet deep. They appear to have been built up to 2,000 years ago.

Were the broken ceramics found near the entrances used for ritual sacrifices? Why were they here? The answer remains a mystery.

There are 450 geoglyphs concentrated in Brazil’s Acre State. Credit: Jenny Watling 

For centuries, the enigmatic structures remained hidden to all but a few archaeologists. Then in the 1980s, ranchers cleared land to raise cattle, uncovering the true extent of the earthworks in the process. More than 450 of these geoglyphs are concentrated within Acre State in Brazil.

Since the discovery, archaeological study of the earthworks and other evidence has challenged the notion that the rain forests of the Amazon were untouched by human hands before the arrival of European explorers in the 15th century. And while the true purpose of the geoglyphs remains unknown, a study published on Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences offers new insight into the lives of the ancient people who lived in the Amazon. Thousands of years before the earthworks were built, humans were managing the forests, using what appear to be sustainable agricultural practices.

“Our study was looking at the environmental impact that the geoglyph builders had on the landscape,” said Jennifer Watling, an archaeologist at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, who conducted the research while a student at the University of Exeter in Britain. “A lot of people have the idea that the Amazon forests are pristine forests, never touched by humans, and that’s obviously not the case.”

Dr. Watling and her team reconstructed a 6,000-year-old environmental history of two geoglyph sites in the Amazon rain forest. To do this, they searched for clues in soil samples in and around the sites. Microscopic plant fossils called phytoliths told them about ancient vegetation. Bits of charcoal revealed evidence of burnings. And a kind of carbon dating gave them a sense of how open the vegetation had been in the past.

About 4,000 years ago, people started burning the forest, which was mostly bamboo, just enough to make small openings. They may have planted maize or squash, weeded out some underbrush, and transported seeds or saplings to create a partly curated forest of useful tree products that Dr. Watling calls a “prehistoric supermarket.” After that, they started building the geoglyphs. The presence of just a few artifacts, and the layout of the earthworks, suggest they weren’t used as ancient villages or for military defenses. They were likely built for rituals, some archaeologists suspect.

Dr. Watling and her colleagues found that in contrast with the large-scale deforestation we see today — which threatens about 20 percent of the largest rain forest in the world — ancient indigenous people of the Amazon practiced something more akin to what we now call agroforestry. They restricted burns to site locations and maintained the surrounding landscape, creating small, temporary clearings in the bamboo and promoting the growth of plants like palm, cedar and Brazil nut that were, and still are, useful commodities. Today, indigenous groups around the world continue these sustainable practices in forests.

“Indigenous communities have actually transformed the ecosystem over a very long time,” said Dr. Watling. “The modern forest owes its biodiversity to the agroforestry practices that were happening during the time of the geoglyph builders.”

Entidade esotérica que controla o tempo faz parceria com Doria (Região Noroeste)


08/02/2017 – as 17:00:00

Pouca gente sabe no Brasil, mas no Rio de Janeiro o povo se acostumou a ver um espírito tendo contrato com a prefeitura para controlar o tempo e evitar enchentes e outras tragédias. O contrato com a Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral começou com o prefeito César Maia em 2001 e durou até a última gestão, de Eduardo Paes.

O novo prefeito, bispo evangélico Marcelo Crivella, não renovou o contrato. Mas o que será de Cobra Coral, o espírito que encarna na médium Adelaide Scritori e já teria encarnado antes no cientista Galileu Galilei e no ex-presidente dos Estados Unidos, Abraham Lincoln?

Segundo o jornal O Globo, o espírito de Cobra Coral, por meio de seu porta-voz Osmar Santos, firmou parceria com o prefeito de São Paulo, João Doria Júnior, para diminuir os impactos das chuvas na maior cidade do país.

“São Paulo vai exigir mais esforço e empenho pessoal do cacique. É muito mais difícil atuar para dispersar as chuvas por ser uma cidade mais plana. No Rio, o relevo ajuda, pois tem como desviar as nuvens para regiões montanhosas ou o mar”, disse Santos ao jornal.

João Doria apela para o ‘sobrenatural’ em São Paulo (Encontro)

O prefeito anunciou um contrato com a fundação Cacique Cobra Coral, que, supostamente, consegue controlar o tempo

por Marcelo Fraga  08/02/2017 08:14


O prefeito de São Paulo, João Dória Júnior, já causou polêmica com seu projeto Cidade Linda e, agora, acaba de fechar uma parceria com uma entidade “sobrenatural” que diz controlar o tempo (foto: Instagram/jdoriajr/Reprodução)

Recém-empossado prefeito de São Paulo, o empresário João Doria Júnior começou sua trajetória à frente da capital paulista com medidas polêmicas. Logo nos primeiros dias no poder, ele já se vestiu de Gari, simulou ser cadeirante e mandou apagar grafites em pontos famosos de SP. Agora, a mais nova ação de Doria também promete causar controvérsia.

De acordo com a jornalista Cleo Guimarães, responsável pela coluna Gente Boa, do jornal O Globo, o prefeito fechou uma parceria com a fundação Cacique Cobra Coral (FCCC), conhecida por, supostamente, conseguir “intervir” no tempo de forma mediúnica – teria “poderes sobrenaturais”.

De acordo com Cleo Guimarães, a FCCC estaria de mudança para a China, mas, a entidade decidiu permanecer no Brasil porque pretende dar “atenção especial a São Paulo”. Ainda segundo a jornalista, a fundação negociou com os chineses um trabalho à distância. Não se sabe qual função terá a Cacique Cobra Coral no país mais populoso do mundo.

Em seu site oficial, a FCCC afirma que sua missão é “minimizar catástrofes que podem ocorrer em razão dos desequilíbrios provocados pelo homem na natureza”. Isso, segundo a entidade, é feito por meio de sua presidente, Adelaide Scritori, filha do fundador, Ângelo Scritori. Ela, supostamente, incorpora o espírito do Cacique Cobra Coral e, assim, consegue intervir no clima.

Um dos casos famosos de atuação da fundação se deu em 2009, quando a médium Adelaide Scritori foi convocada pela prefeitura do Rio de Janeiro para usar seus supostos poderes para evitar a tempestade que prevista para a tradicional festa de Réveillon em Copacabana.

Prefeito de São Paulo firma parceria com a Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral (O Globo)


05/02/2017 13:05

Osmar Santos e João Dória

Osmar Santos e João Dória | Divulgação

João Doria, prefeito de São Paulo, fechou parceria com a Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral, a entidade esotérica que teria o poder de controlar o clima. O contrato com a prefeitura paulista havia sido firmado na gestão José Serra e finalizado com Gilberto Kassab. A fundação estava de mudanças para a China, mas desistiu porque quer dar uma atenção especial a SP. No entanto, negociou com os chineses de trabalhar à distância.

Sem convênio com Crivella, Cobra Coral vai priorizar SP no ‘controle do tempo’ (O Globo)

Assessor da médium diz que cidade vai exigir mais ‘esforço e empenho pessoal’ do cacique. Fundação ainda recebe dados meteorológicos do Alerta Rio

Forte chuva alaga a Estrada do Itanhangá, em 31/01/2015 Foto: Pablo Jacob / Agência O Globo

Forte chuva alaga a Estrada do Itanhangá, em 31/01/2015 – Pablo Jacob / Agência O Globo


07/02/2017 8:21 / atualizado 07/02/2017 16:54RIO — Depois de quase duas décadas dando prioridade ao trabalho espiritual de tentar desviar nuvens de chuva que pairam sobre o Rio e expõem a cidade aos riscos de enchentes e deslizamentos, a Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral informa que mudou seu foco. Decidiu centrar seus esforços no controle do clima em São Paulo, após um pedido pessoal do prefeito João Doria Júnior, feito no fim de janeiro à fundação, conforme adiantou a Coluna Gente Boa no domingo. No entanto, a médium Adelaide Scritori, que diz incorporar o espírito do Cacique Cobra Coral, entidade que teria a capacidade de controlar o tempo, não abandonará os cariocas, apesar do convênio da fundação com a prefeitura do Rio ter expirado com o fim do governo do ex-prefeito Eduardo Paes.

— São Paulo vai exigir mais esforço e empenho pessoal do cacique. É muito mais difícil atuar para dispersar as chuvas por ser uma cidade mais plana. No Rio, o relevo ajuda, pois tem como desviar as nuvens para regiões montanhosas ou o mar. O objetivo será atuar para que as precipitações que acabam provocando enchentes na capital paulista se concentrem no Vale do Paraíba, junto à Serra da Cantareira, para permitir um aumento do volume de água nos reservatórios que atendem Rio e São Paulo. A situação nesses reservatórios melhorou este ano após a estiagem de 2014/2015, mas ainda não voltou aos níveis antigos— disse o porta-voz da Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral, Osmar Santos.

No Rio, a parceria com a prefeitura começou em 2001 por iniciativa do ex-prefeito Cesar Maia. Nesses anos, a parceria que era sem ônus para a prefeitura, vinha sendo renovada. A Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral só exigia que recebesse dados sobre investimentos na prevenção a enchentes e pudesse fazer publicidade do acordo. Em janeiro de 2009, quando o ex-prefeito Eduardo Paes assumiu o comando da cidade pela primeira vez, o município chegou a anunciar que dispensaria a fundação, mas voltou atrás 15 dias depois, após o primeiro temporal que atingiu a cidade.

Adelaide Scritori, médium que diz incorporar o espírito do Cacique Cobra Coral – Luiz Ernesto Magalhães / O Globo

Osmar Santos acrescentou que o Cacique Cobra Coral vai continuar a monitorar o Rio, porque, apesar de o prefeito Marcelo Crivella não ter renovado o convênio, a entidade continua a atuar como consultora. Isso porque a ajuda espiritual se dá também com o apoio da tecnologia. Sempre que a prefeitura decreta estado de alerta de risco dos temporais, os meteorologistas do Alerta Rio repassam dados detalhados sobre as condições climáticas por e-mail. O GLOBO teve acesso a alguns desses informes, que são repassados para um grupo limitado de pessoas na prefeitura.

Eventos no Rio em que Cacique Cobra Coral trabalhou

Edições do Rock in Rio desde 2005

Durante o show do A-ha, chuva castigou público do festival em 27/09/2015 Foto: Marcelo Theobald / Extra / Agência O Globo

A Fundação foi chamada para evitar temporais que atrapalhassem os shows. Em alguns dias dos eventos, no entanto, choveu bastante, como durante o show do Ah-a em 2015, última edição do festival.

Réveillons desde 2000

Queima de fogos do réveillon de Copacabana em 2015 Foto: Gabriel de Paiva / Agência O Globo

A Fundação foi chamada para evitar temporais na virada do ano em Copacabana desde o ano 2000.

Encerramento da Copa do Mundo de 2014

Alemães comemoram conquista da Copa do Mundo de 2014 no Maracanã Foto: Guito Moreto em 13/07/2014 / Agência O Globo

A final da Copa do Mundo no Brasil foi no Maracanã: uma partida entre Alemanha e Argentina. Os alemães conquistaram seu tetracampeonato.

Carnavais no Rio desde 2000

Guga e Nadal sob chuva no desfile da Viradouro em 15/02/2015 Foto: Marcio Alves / Agência O Globo

A Fundação monitorou os carnavais da cidade desde o ano 2000. A única exceção foi 2015, quando o estado vivia uma crise hídrica. Exatamente naquele ano, um temporal atrapalhou os desfiles da Mocidade, da Mangueira e da Viradouro, que até foi rebaixada.

Olímpiada no Rio

Cerimônia de Encerramento da Rio 2016 Foto: Jae C. Hong / AP

A Fundação Cobra Coral foi chamada para os Jogos Olímpicos no Rio. Na cerimônia de encerramento da Olimpíada, um temporal caiu sobre a cidade.

— Nós somos a melhor prova de que, com convênio formalizado ou não, assim como diz o prefeito Marcelo Crivella, nós não misturamos política com religião. Nosso objetivo é atender às cidades e não aos políticos. Mas não resolvemos tudo. Nós somos uma espécie de air bag do tempo que minimiza os danos. Problemas podem continuar a ocorrer — disse Osmar Santos.


Apesar de anos de dedicação ao Rio, Osmar e Adelaide têm residência também em São Paulo, onde passam a maior parte do tempo. Antes do acordo com João Doria, a Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral já havia prestado consultoria climática e espiritual à cidade. O acordo acabou rompido em 1999 devido a um desentendimento com o ex-prefeito Gilberto Kassab. Segundo Osmar Santos, o Cacique se irritou com o fato de os recursos para o combate a enchentes na cidade ter sido remanejado para outros investimentos.

Antes do convite de Doria, a médium fazia planos de passar alguns anos na China e monitor o clima brasileiro à distância. O acordo foi renegociado, e agora Adelaide vai passar apenas 40 dias por ano na Ásia.

Segundo a ONG divulga, o Cacique Cobra Coral é uma entidade que em outras encarnações já teria vivido na pele de personalidades como o cientista Galileu Galilei e o ex-presidente dos Estados Unidos, Abraham Lincoln. Um dos ex-diretores da Fundação é o escritor Paulo Coelho.

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Ciência climática é ferramenta no combate à seca no Nordeste, afirma Carlos Nobre (ABIPTI)

JC 5593, 7 de fevereiro de 2017

“O entendimento das causas subjacentes às secas do Nordeste tem permitido se prever com antecedência de alguns meses a probabilidade de uma particular estação de chuvas no semiárido do Nordeste”, afirmou

O relatório oriundo da última reunião do Grupo de Trabalho de Previsão Climática Sazonal (GTPCS) do Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia, Inovações e Comunicações (MCTIC) aponta para um cenário preocupante: até o início de 2018, é esperado que os grandes e médios reservatórios nordestinos sequem. Por isso, é preciso criar novas oportunidades para a população.

Reconhecido como um dos principais pesquisadores mundiais sobre clima, Carlos Nobre destacou o papel das ciências climáticas para mitigar os impactos econômicos e sociais da seca na Região Nordeste. O pesquisador do Centro Nacional de Monitoramento e Alertas de Desastres Naturais e professor de pós-graduação do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe) ressaltou que o conhecimento do clima cria alternativas econômicas e sociais para os moradores da região.

Na avaliação do pesquisador, a ciência climática evoluiu rapidamente nas últimas décadas, sendo uma ferramenta eficaz no combate à seca. “O entendimento das causas subjacentes às secas do Nordeste tem permitido se prever com antecedência de alguns meses a probabilidade de uma particular estação de chuvas no semiárido do Nordeste de fevereiro a maio ser deficiente, normal ou abundante. Estas previsões climáticas vêm sendo aperfeiçoadas ao longo do tempo e utilizadas para apoio ao planejamento agrícola, à gestão hídrica e à mitigação de desastres naturais”, afirmou Nobre.

Entre as ações propostas pelo cientista, está o investimento na criação de uma economia regional baseada em recursos naturais renováveis. Uma das alternativas sugeridas é a criação de parques de geração de energia eólica e solar fotovoltaica.

“O Nordeste tem um enorme potencial de energia eólica e solar, capaz de atender a todas suas necessidades e ainda exportar grandes volumes para o restante do Brasil. Estas formas de energia renovável distribuídas geram empregos permanentes localmente, mais numerosos do que aqueles gerados por hidrelétricas ou termelétricas e que poderiam beneficiar populações urbanas e rurais da região”, informou.

Carlos Nobre tem extensa atuação na área climática. Além de ocupar vários cargos no governo referentes ao setor climático, foi vencedor do Volvo Environment Prize – um dos principais prêmios internacionais sobre clima – e membro do Conselho Científico sobre Sustentabilidade Global da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU).

Agência ABIPTI, com informações do MCTI e Valor Econômico

Decision-making process of viruses could lead to new antibiotic treatments (Science Daily)

February 6, 2017
Texas A&M AgriLife Communications
Humans face hundreds of decisions every day. But we’re not alone. Even the tiniest viruses also make decisions, and scientists are researching how they do so, to help lead to better treatments for some diseases. A team of scientists has discovered how the lambda phage decides what actions to take in its host, the E. coli bacterium.

The lambda phage prefers to destroy E. coli bacteria, which makes it a prime target for researchers. Dr. Lanying Zeng, left, and her graduate student Jimmy Trinh developed a four-color fluorescence reporter system to track it at the single-virus level. Credit: Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Kathleen Phillips

Humans face hundreds of decisions every day. But we’re not alone. Even the tiniest viruses also make decisions, and scientists are researching how they do so, to help lead to better treatments for some diseases.

In a study published Feb. 6 in the journal Nature Communications, Dr. Lanying Zeng and her team at Texas A&M AgriLife Research discovered how the lambda phage decides what actions to take in its host, the E. coli bacterium.

A phage is a virus that infects and replicates within a bacterium. Phages were first discovered about 100 years ago, but recently scientists have begun to study how they can be used to attack disease-causing bacteria, especially strains that have become more resistant to antibiotics.

So numerous and diverse are phages — numbering into the billions, according to various reports in the U.S. National Library of Medicine — that researchers are now hot on the trail of phages that have the potential for curing specific bacterial maladies.

The lambda phage, for example, prefers to destroy E. coli bacteria, which makes it a prime target for researchers. In tracking that target, Zeng’s graduate student Jimmy Trinh developed a four-color fluorescence reporter system to track it at the single-virus level. This was combined with computational models devised by Dr. Gábor Balázsi, a biomedical engineer and collaborator at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York, “to unravel both the interactions between phages and how individual phages determine” the fate of a cell.

What they found was not unlike the decision-making process of humans. Sometimes the lambda phage cooperates with others. Sometimes it competes.

“Instead of just the cell making a decision, we found the phage DNAs themselves also make decisions,” Zeng said.

Through the process they developed, the scientists were able to determine that timing played a role in decision-making.

Zeng explained that some phages can have two cycles of reproduction: lytic and lysogenic.

In the lytic cycle, full copies of the virus are made inside of a cell, say an E. coli cell. When the phage-infected cell becomes full of the replicating viruses, it bursts open and is destroyed. In the lysogenic cycle, the phage’s DNA lives as part of the bacterium itself and both continue to reproduce as one. In short, lysis involves competition while lysogeny involves cooperation, she said.

So, a key to using phages to destroy bacteria, Zeng said, is to understand how and when a phage decides to “go lytic” on the pathogen.

“Say you have two lambda phages that infect one cell,” she said. “Each phage DNA within the cell is capable of making a decision. We want to know how they make a decision, whether one is more dominant than the other, whether they have any interactions and compete to see who will win, or whether they compromise.”

“They may even coexist for some time and then finally choose one decision,” she said. “But the phage is making a subcellular decision — and that is very important. There could be a lot of implications.”

The four-color fluorescence reporter system helped the researchers visualize that many factors contribute to the decision and that “from the evolutionary point of view, the phages want to optimize their own fitness or survival,” she said. “So that is why they choose either lytic or lysogenic to maximize or optimize their survival.”

The team identified some of the factors that led to competition and others that led to cooperation.

Zeng said because phage therapy is a growing field for seeking ways to treat bacteria, the results of this study will help other scientists advance their research.

“This is a paradigm for bacteriophages,” she said. “When we understand the mechanism of the decision more, that can lead to more applications and better characterization of other systems.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Jimmy T. Trinh, Tamás Székely, Qiuyan Shao, Gábor Balázsi, Lanying Zeng. Cell fate decisions emerge as phages cooperate or compete inside their hostNature Communications, 2017; 8: 14341 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14341

Hundreds of ancient earthworks built in the Amazon (Science Daily)

February 7, 2017
University of Exeter
The Amazonian rainforest was transformed over 2,000 years ago by ancient people who built hundreds of large, mysterious earthworks.

Geoglyph photos. Credit: Jenny Watling

The Amazonian rainforest was transformed over two thousand years ago by ancient people who built hundreds of large, mysterious earthworks.

Findings by Brazilian and UK experts provide new evidence for how indigenous people lived in the Amazon before European people arrived in the region.

The ditched enclosures, in Acre state in the western Brazilian Amazon, were concealed for centuries by trees. Modern deforestation has allowed the discovery of more than 450 of these large geometrical geoglyphs.

The function of these mysterious sites is still little understood — they are unlikely to be villages, since archaeologists recover very few artefacts during excavation. The layout doesn’t suggest they were built for defensive reasons. It is thought they were used only sporadically, perhaps as ritual gathering places.

The structures are ditched enclosures that occupy roughly 13,000 km2. Their discovery challenges assumptions that the rainforest ecosystem has been untouched by humans.

The research was carried out by Jennifer Watling, post-doctoral researcher at the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography, University of São Paulo, when she was studying for a PhD at the University of Exeter.

Dr Watling said: “The fact that these sites lay hidden for centuries beneath mature rainforest really challenges the idea that Amazonian forests are ‘pristine ecosystems`.

“We immediately wanted to know whether the region was already forested when the geoglyphs were built, and to what extent people impacted the landscape to build these earthworks.”

Using state-of-the-art methods, the team members were able to reconstruct 6000 years of vegetation and fire history around two geoglyph sites. They found that humans heavily altered bamboo forests for millennia and small, temporary clearings were made to build the geoglyphs.

Instead of burning large tracts of forest — either for geoglyph construction or agricultural practices — people transformed their environment by concentrating on economically valuable tree species such as palms, creating a kind of ‘prehistoric supermarket’ of useful forest products. The team found tantalizing evidence to suggest that the biodiversity of some of Acre’s remaining forests may have a strong legacy of these ancient ‘agroforestry’ practices.

Dr. Watling said: “Despite the huge number and density of geoglyph sites in the region, we can be certain that Acre’s forests were never cleared as extensively, or for as long, as they have been in recent years.

“Our evidence that Amazonian forests have been managed by indigenous peoples long before European Contact should not be cited as justification for the destructive, unsustainable land-use practiced today. It should instead serve to highlight the ingenuity of past subsistence regimes that did not lead to forest degradation, and the importance of indigenous knowledge for finding more sustainable land-use alternatives.”

The full article will be released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA and involved researchers from the universities of Exeter, Reading and Swansea (UK), São Paulo, Belém and Acre (Brazil). The research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, National Geographic, and the Natural Environment Research Council Radiocarbon Facility.

To conduct the study, the team extracted soil samples from a series of pits dug within and outside of the geoglyphs. From these soils, they analysed ‘phytoliths’, a type of microscopic plant fossil made of silica, to reconstruct ancient vegetation; charcoal quantities, to assess the amount of ancient forest burning; and carbon stable isotopes, to indicate how ‘open’ the vegetation was in the past.

Journal Reference:

  1. Jennifer Watling, José Iriarte, Francis E. Mayle, Denise Schaan, Luiz C. R. Pessenda, Neil J. Loader, F. Alayne Street-Perrott, Ruth E. Dickau, Antonia Damasceno, Alceu Ranzi. Impact of pre-Columbian “geoglyph” builders on Amazonian forestsProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 201614359 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1614359114

O falso dilema do “infanticídio indígena”: por que o PL 119/2015 não defende a vida de crianças, mulheres e idosos indígenas (Combate Racismo Ambiental)

Protesto “contra o infanticídio” organizado por grupos religiosos em frente ao prédio do governo do RJ. Foto: Gazeta do Povo, 2015.

29 de janeiro de 2017

O Projeto de Lei 119/2015, que trata do chamado “infanticídio indígena”, está agora tramitando no Senado. Não por acaso, no início da semana que se encerrou ontem, 28, voltaram a ser publicadas matérias tendenciosas sobre a questão. Considerando a atual conjuntura, na qual mais que nunca é fundamental estarmos alertas e atuantes, convidamos a antropóloga Marianna Holanda a escrever um artigo que dialogasse conosco e nos oferecesse os necessários argumentos para mais esta luta. O resultado é o excelente texto que socializamos abaixo. (Tania Pacheco).

Por Marianna A. F. Holanda*, especial para Combate Racismo Ambiental

Desde 2005, acompanhamos no Brasil uma campanha que se pauta na afirmação de que os povos indígenas teriam tradições culturais nocivas e arcaicas que precisam ser mudadas por meio de leis e da punição tanto dos indígenas responsáveis como de quaisquer funcionários do Estado, agentes de organizações indigenistas e/ou profissionais autônomos que trabalhem junto a estes povos.

Afirma-se que há dados alarmantes de infanticídio entre os povos indígenas de modo a fazer parte da sociedade pensar que, incapazes de refletir sobre as suas próprias dinâmicas culturais, os povos indígenas – sobretudo as mulheres – matariam sem pudor dezenas de crianças. As notícias de jornal, as pautas sensacionalistas da grande mídia, organizações de fins religiosos e políticos “em favor da vida” fazem crer que não estamos falando de pessoas humanas – no sentido mais tradicional dos termos –, mas de sujeitos que devido à sua ignorância cultural cometem sem ética, afeto e dúvidas crimes contra seus próprios filhos, contra seu próprio povo.

Me pergunto por que um argumento como esse transmite credibilidade entre aqueles que não conhecem as realidades indígenas – pois quem trabalha junto aos povos indígenas e em prol de seus direitos não dissemina este tipo de desinformação. A maior parte da sociedade brasileira não indígena é profundamente ignorante sobre os povos indígenas que aqui habitam e sobre seus modos de vida, mantendo imagens estereotipadas e caricaturadas sobre os índios carregadas de preconceito e discriminação.

Alguns dados importantes sobre infanticídio, abandono de crianças e adoção

Desde os tempos de Brasil império há registros de infanticídios entre os povos indígenas – como também havia inúmeros registros de infanticídio nas cidades da colônia: historiadores apontam a normalidade com que recém-nascidos eram abandonados nas ruas de cidades como Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Recife e Florianópolis. Realidade que também era comum na Europa e que a igreja católica passou a combater a partir do século VIII d.C por meio de bulas papais e pela criação de Casas de Expostos – lugares aonde podia-se abandonar legalmente crianças neonatas que mais tarde vieram a se tornar o que conhecemos como orfanatos. Não apenas os infanticídios não cessaram como os índices de mortalidade nesses locais foram estarrecedores, beirando a 70% no caso europeu e 95% no caso brasileiro. Recém-nascidos eram retirados da exposição pública para morrer entre quatro paredes, com aval das leis, dos registros estatais e da moralidade cristã da época. (Sobre este tema, ver: Marcílio e Venâncio 1990, Trindade 1999, Valdez 2004 e Faleiros 2004).

Ainda hoje, centenas de crianças no Brasil são abandonadas em instituições públicas e privadas de caráter semelhante, aguardando anos por uma adoção. A maioria – em geral as crianças pardas e negras, mais velhas e/ou com algum tipo de deficiência – esperam por toda a infância e adolescência, até tornarem-se legalmente adultas e serem novamente abandonadas, agora pelo Estado. Os dados do Cadastro Nacional de Adoção (CNA) e do Cadastro Nacional de Crianças e Adolescentes Acolhidos (CNCA), administrados pelo Conselho Nacional de Justiça (CNJ) apontam que das seis mil crianças nesta situação, 67% são pardas e negras.

Apesar da rejeição à adoção de crianças negras e pardas ter caído na última década, o quadro de discriminação permanece. Entre as crianças indígenas, acompanhamos um fenômeno crescente de pedidos de adoção por não indígenas, sobretudo casais heterossexuais, brancos, evangélicos e, em muitos casos, estrangeiros. Contudo, há mais de 100 processos no Ministério Público envolvendo denúncias a violações de direitos nestes casos. O Estatuto da Criança e do Adolescente, prevê o direito à permanência da criança com a própria família e ao esforço conjunto e multidisciplinar de profissionais para que isto ocorra. Esgotada esta possibilidade, a criança tem o direito de ser encaminhada para família substituta na própria comunidade indígena de origem ou junto a família substituta de outra aldeia ou comunidade, mas ainda da mesma etnia.

Vale mencionar que estas estratégias de realocação e adoção de crianças ocorre tradicionalmente entre diversos povos indígenas, independente das leis e da intervenção estatal. É muito comum que avós, tias ou primas adotem crianças quando pais e mães passam por qualquer espécie de dificuldade, ou ainda, seguindo articulações próprias das relações de parentesco que vão muito além de pai e mãe biológicos.

Contudo, sob estas recentes acusações de “risco de infanticídio” famílias indígenas são colocadas sob suspeita e dezenas de crianças têm sido retiradas de sua comunidade, terra e povo e adotadas por famílias não indígenas sem ter direitos básicos respeitados. Juízes são levados por esta argumentação falha, que carece de base concreta na realidade, nas estatísticas, nas etnografias. Em alguns casos, pleiteia-se apenas a guarda provisória da criança e não a adoção definitiva, o que significa que a guarda é válida somente até os 18 anos, não garantindo vínculo de parentesco e direito à herança, por exemplo. Quantas violações uma criança indígena retirada de seu povo e de seus vínculos ancestrais enfrenta ao ser lançada ao mundo não indígena como adulta?

Infâncias indígenas no Brasil e crescimento demográfico

Nos últimos 50 anos, as etnografias junto a povos indígenas – importante método de pesquisa e registro de dados antropológicos – vem demonstrando que as crianças indígenas são sujeitos criativos e ativos em suas sociedades tendo diversos graus de autonomia. Aprendemos que as práticas de cuidado e a pedagogia das mulheres indígenas envolvem um forte vínculo com as crianças, que são amamentadas até os 3, 4, 5 anos. Envolvem uma relação de presença e afeto que deixa a desejar para muitas mães modernas. Aprendemos também que a rede de cuidados com as crianças envolve relações de parentesco e afinidade que extrapolam a consanguinidade.

Enquanto a maior parte das populações no mundo está passando pela chamada “transição demográfica”, ou seja, queda e manutenção de baixos níveis de fecundidade, os povos indígenas na América Latina, se encontram num processo elevado de crescimento populacional. De acordo com o último censo do IBGE (2010), a população indígena no Brasil cresceu 205% desde 1991, uma dinâmica demográfica com altos níveis de fecundidade, levando à duplicação da população em um período de 15 anos (Azevedo 2008).

A partir dos anos 2000, começaram a tomar corpo pesquisas etnográficas que apontam o número crescente de nascimentos gemelares entre os povos indígenas, de crianças indígenas albinas e de crianças com deficiência (Verene 2005, Bruno e Suttana 2012, Araújo 2014). Apesar de suas diferenças, estas crianças são estimuladas a participar do cotidiano da aldeia, e muitas delas, ao tornarem-se adultas, casam-se e constituem família.

Há 54 milhões de indígenas com deficiência ao redor do globo (ONU 2013). No Brasil, segundo o censo do IBGE de 2010, 165 mil pessoas – ou seja, 20% da população autodeclarada indígena – possuem ao menos uma forma de deficiência (auditiva, visual, motora, mental ou intelectual). Um número que relaciona-se também às políticas públicas e de transferência de renda para as famílias indígenas nessa situação (Araújo 2014). Tanto o crescimento demográfico acelerado quanto os dados de que 20% da população indígena brasileira tem alguma deficiência nos permitem demonstrar que a afirmação de que há uma prescrição social para que estas crianças sejam mortas por seus pais e familiares não se sustenta.

Como morrem as crianças e adultos indígenas?

A mortalidade infantil entre os povos indígenas é quatro vezes maior do que a média nacional. A quantidade de mortes de crianças indígenas por desassistência subiu 513% nos últimos três anos. Os dados parciais da Secretaria Especial de Saúde Indígena (Sesai) de 2015 revelaram a morte de 599 crianças menores de 5 anos. As principais causas são: desnutrição, diarreia, viroses e infecções respiratórias, falta de saneamento básico além de um quadro preocupante de desassistência à saúde. Ora, sabemos que pneumonia, diarreia e gastroenterite são doenças facilmente tratáveis desde que estas crianças tenham acesso às políticas de saúde. A região Norte do país concentra o maior número de óbitos.

Quando abordamos os números relativos ao suicídio a situação é igualmente alarmante. De acordo com dados da Sesai, 135 indígenas cometeram suicídio em 2014 – o maior número em 29 anos. Sabemos que os quadros de suicídio se agravam em contextos de luta pelos direitos territoriais quando populações inteiras vivem em condições de vulnerabilidade extrema.

Jovens e adultos do sexo masculino também são as principais vítimas dos conflitos territoriais que resultam do omissão e letargia do Estado brasileiro nos processos de demarcação das terras indígenas. Em 2014, 138 indígenas foram assassinados; em 2015, foram 137. No período de 2003 a 2016, 891 indígenas foram assassinados em solo brasileiro, em uma média anual de 68 casos (Cimi 2016). Esses assassinatos acontecem em contextos de lutas e retomadas de terras, tendo como alvo principal as lideranças indígenas à frente dos movimentos reivindicatórios de direitos.

Diante desse cenário de permanente e impune genocídio contra os povos indígenas no Brasil, é importante refletirmos sobre o histórico de atuação dos senadores responsáveis pela votação do PL 119/2015: quais deles atuam ou já atuaram na proteção e no resguardo dos direitos indígenas? Quais deles são financiados pelo agronegócio, pela mineração, pelos grandes empreendimentos em terras indígenas? Como um Projeto de Lei que criminaliza os próprios povos indígenas pela vulnerabilidade e violências causadas pelo Estado e por terceiros pode ajudar na proteção e promoção de seus direitos?

O falso dilema da noção de “infanticídio indígena”

O PL 119/2015 – outrora PL 1057/2007 – supõe que há um embate entre “tradições culturais” que prescrevem a morte de crianças e o princípio básico e universal do direito à vida. Ao afirmar que o infanticídio é uma tradição cultural indígena – como se ele não ocorresse, infelizmente, em toda a humanidade – o texto e o parlamento brasileiros agem com racismo e discriminação, difamando povos e suas organizações socioculturais. Todos nós temos direito à vida e não há nenhuma comunidade indígena no Brasil e no mundo que não respeite e pleiteie esse direito básico junto às instâncias nacionais e internacionais.

Ao invés de buscarem aprovar o novo texto do Estatuto dos Povos Indígenas que vem sendo discutido no âmbito da Comissão Nacional de Política Indigenista (CNPI) desde 2008, utilizando como base o Estatuto o Substitutivo ao Projeto de Lei 2057, de 1994, que teve ampla participação indígena em sua formulação, o parlamento está optando por remendar a obsoleta Lei 6.001 – conhecida como Estatuto do Índio – datada de 1973, carregada de vícios próprios da ditadura militar, como as noções de tutela e de integração dos povos indígenas à comunidade nacional, pressupondo que com o tempo, eles deixariam de “ser índios”.

O PL também equivoca-se ao afirmar que há uma obrigatoriedade de morte a qualquer criança gêmea, albina e/ou com algum tipo de deficiência física e mental, além de mães solteiras. Trata-se de situações que desafiam qualquer família, indígena ou não, mas que em comunidades com fortes vínculos sociais tendem a ser melhor sanadas pois há níveis de solidariedade maior do que os de individualismo.

O dilema do infanticídio também é falso quando afirma que trata-se de uma demanda por “relativismo cultural” diante do direito à vida e dos Direitos Humanos; mas afirmamos que violência, tortura e opressão não se relativizam. A demanda posta pelos povos indígenas é historicamente a de respeito à diversidade cultural – o que implica no reparo, por parte do Estado, da expropriação territorial garantindo a regularização de todas as terras indígenas no País e o acesso a direitos essenciais como saúde e educação diferenciadas. Também é direito das comunidades indígenas o acesso à informação e ao amparo do Estado para lidar com situações em que a medicina biomédica já encontrou cura ou tratamento adequado. A Declaração Universal sobre Bioética e Direitos Humanos, ratificada em 2005 pela UNESCO, é enfática quando trata a diversidade cultural como patrimônio comum da humanidade, e isso inclui, portanto, o direito das crianças indígenas a permanecerem junto à sua família e de receberem suporte médico dentro de suas comunidades.

Há 10 anos acompanhamos a exposição midiática das mesmas crianças – algumas hoje já adolescentes – bem como os depoimentos de indígenas adultos que afirmam que sobreviveram, em condições diversas, ao infanticídio. São histórias que precisamos ouvir e que nos ensinam que os povos indígenas têm encontrado novas estratégias para lidar com seus dilemas éticos e morais. Sabemos que a transformação é uma característica cultural dos povos indígenas; ao mesmo tempo em que lutamos pelo respeito aos Direitos Humanos, lutamos para que as Dignidades Humanas dos povos indígenas sejam respeitadas a partir de seu tempo de transformação.

Nenhum caso de infanticídio e qualquer outra forma de violência, entre povos indígenas ou não, pode ser afirmado como uma “tradição cultural”; ou podemos dizer que a nossa própria cultura é infanticida generalizando tal grau de acusação e julgamento para todas as pessoas? Se a resposta é um sonoro “não”, porque o PL 119/2015 pretende fazer isso com os povos indígenas?

O mesmo exercício pode ser feito com as outras tipificações de violência e atentados à Dignidade Humana no texto do PL como: homicídio, abuso sexual, estupro individual e coletivo, escravidão, tortura em todas as suas formas, abandono de vulneráveis e violência doméstica. Estaríamos nós transferindo os nossos preconceitos e violências para os povos indígenas, transformando isso em parte da sua cultura? Ao fazer isso, afirmamos que violências tão características da colonialidade do poder são o que fazem dos índios, índios.

Por fim, é importante mencionar que o texto inicial do PL 1057/2007 que foi aprovado na Câmara sofreu alterações ao transformar-se no PL 119/2015 que tramita no Senado. O que antes era “combate a práticas tradicionais nocivas” mudou de retórica para “defesa da vida e da dignidade humana” mas não nos enganemos: seu conteúdo permanece afirmando a existência violências tratadas como práticas tradicionais exclusivas e características dos povos indígenas.

Igualdade, equidade e isonomia de direitos

Por uma questão de isonomia e igualdade de direitos, os povos indígenas estão submetidos à legislação brasileira, podendo ser julgados e punidos como qualquer cidadão deste país. Hoje, aproximadamente 750 indígenas estão cumprindo pena em sistema de regime fechado, dos quais cerca de 65% não falam ou não compreendem a língua portuguesa. Portanto, as leis que punem infanticídio, maus tratos de crianças e qualquer forma de violação de direitos, inclusive os Direitos Humanos, também incidem sobre os indígenas, ainda que suas prisões não sejam por estes motivos.

Qual a justificativa de um PL que verse especificamente sobre estas violações entre os povos indígenas e que promove interpretações equivocadas e sem embasamento científico e técnico, difamando as realidades dos povos indígenas? Ao tornar a pauta redundante, os indígenas seriam, duas vezes, julgados e condenados por um mesmo crime?

Não se trata apenas da defesa do direito individual. Um direito fundamental de toda pessoa é precisamente o de ser parte de um povo, isto é, o direito de pertencimento. E um povo criminalizado tem a sua dignidade ferida.

Durante o último Acampamento Terra Livre (ATL) que aconteceu em Brasília durante os dias 10 e 13 de maio de 2016 e reuniu cerca de 1.000 lideranças dos povos e organizações indígenas de todas as regiões do Brasil, a Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB) publicou o “Manifesto do 13º Acampamento Terra Livre” denunciando “os ataques, ameaças e retrocessos” orquestrados contra seus direitos fundamentais “sob comando de representantes do poder econômico nos distintos âmbitos do Estado e nos meios de comunicação”. A nota manifesta ainda “repúdio às distintas ações marcadamente racistas, preconceituosas e discriminatórias protagonizadas principalmente por membros da bancada ruralista no Congresso Nacional contra os nossos povos, ao mesmo tempo em que apresentam e articulam-se para aprovar inúmeras iniciativas legislativas, propostas de emenda constitucional e projetos de lei para retroceder ou suprimir os nossos direitos”.

O manifesto encerra-se afirmando: “PELO NOSSO DIREITO DE VIVER!”, pois é de vida e não de morte que se trata a defesa dos direitos indígenas. Se os nobres parlamentares estão preocupados com a defesa da vida e da dignidade indígenas, que retrocedam neste PL e em tantos outros que os violentam diretamente e que foram elaborados sem sua participação, consentimento e consulta.



AZEVEDO, Marta Maria. Diagnóstico da População Indígena no Brasil. Em: Ciência e Cultura, vol.60 nº4 São Paulo. Out. 2008

ARAÚJO, Íris Morais. Osikirip: os “especiais” Karitiana e a noção de pessoa ameríndia. Tese de doutorado aprovada pelo Programa de Pós-Graduação em Antropologia Social do Departamento de Antropologia da Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas da Universidade de São Paulo. 2014.

BRUNO, Marilda Moraes Garcia; SUTTANA, Renato (Org.). Educação, diversidade e fronteiras da in/exclusão. Dourados: Ed. UFGD, 2012. 224 p.

BURATTO, Lúcia Gouvêa. A educação escolar indígena na legislação e os indígenas com necessidades educacionais especiais. s.d. Disponível em: Acesso em: 25 jan. 2017.

FALEIROS, Vicente de P. 2004. “Infância e adolescência: trabalhar, punir, educar, assistir, proteger”. In: Revista Ágora: Políticas Públicas e Serviço Social, ano 1, nº 1. Disponível em:


MARCÍLIO, Maria L. e VENÂNCIO, Renato P. 1990. “Crianças Abandonadas e primitivas formas de sua proteção” In: Anais do VII Encontro de Estudos Populacionais ou

QUERMES, Paulo Afonso de Araújo & ALVES DE CARVALHO, Jucelina. Os impactos dos benefícios assistenciais para os povos indígenas: estudo de caso em aldeias Guaranis. Revista Serviço Social & Sociedade, São Paulo (SP), n.116, p. 769-791, 2013.

SEGATO, Rita Laura. Que cada povo teça os fios da sua história: o pluralismo jurídico em diálogo didático com legisladores. Revista Direito. UnB, janeiro–junho de 2014, v. 01, n.01 66.

TRINDADE. 1999. Trindade, Judite M. B. 1999. “O abandono de crianças ou a negação do óbvio” In: Revista Brasileira de História, Vol. 19, nº 37. São Paulo. p. 1-18.

VENERE, Mario Roberto. 2005. Políticas públicas para populações indígenas com necessidades especiais em Rondônia: o duplo desafio da diferença. 2005. 139 f. Dissertação (Mestrado em Desenvolvimento Regional e Meio Ambiente) ‒ NCT, UNIR, RO, [2005].

* Marianna Holanda é antropóloga, doutora em Bioética e pesquisadora associada da Cátedra Unesco de Bioética – UnB.

¿Adiós al Servicio Meteorológico? Un biólogo argentino predice el clima estudiando hormigas (y acierta) (La Nación)

Jorge Finardi anticipa lluvias y tormentas a partir del comportamiento de insectos


JUEVES 26 DE ENERO DE 2017 • 17:44

¿Chau Servicio Meteorológico? El biólogo argentino que predice el clima estudiando hormigas

¿Chau Servicio Meteorológico? El biólogo argentino que predice el clima estudiando hormigas. Foto: Archivo 

Jorge Finardi predice el clima a través de las hormigas. Estudia sus movimientos, los registra, los compara y llega a la conclusión, por ejemplo, de que mañana a la tarde lloverá. Y acierta. Esta semana, Finardi anticipó con su método el calor sofocante del lunes, la tormenta del martes, y la caída de la temperatura del miércoles. Nada mal.

Finardi es químico, biólogo, y lleva adelante la cuenta de Twitter @GeorgeClimaPron. En ella, comunica sus pronósticos climatológicos. En una entrevista con LA NACION, explica su sistema.

-¿Cómo funciona tu método de análisis?

-En primer lugar, determino el grado de actividad de las hormigas en una escala del 1 al 10. Para armar la escala tengo en cuenta la cantidad de interacciones entre las hormigas, el número de hormigas involucradas, y el tipo y tamaño de carga que llevan, además, de la clase de hormiga que trabaja.

-¿Y de qué manera se relaciona con el clima? ¿Más actividad es indicativa de lluvia?

-En parte sí, pero depende de la carga que lleven. Por ejemplo, cuando las hormigas llevan palitos y barritas, es porque tienen que fortalecer el hormiguero, debido a que se aproxima lluvia o frío. Cuando hay movilización de tierra es porque se viene una lluvia fuerte. Cuando llevan cereal, viene frío, porque el cereal fermenta dentro del hormiguero y produce calor para que nazcan los hongos que ellas comen.

Para las altas temperaturas, por otro lado, se acondicionan los túneles: las hormigas empiezan a abrir “chimeneas”, que son como agujeritos esparcidos dentro del hormiguero, que puede llegar a tener metros de profundidad. Cuando pasa eso, se viene una ola de calor.

-¿Cómo te interesaste por el tema?

-Desde los tres años me paso horas mirando las hormigas y todo tipo de insectos. Por otro lado, mi profesión me ayudó a profundizar estos temas, y también a hablar con gente de edad avanzada que vive en el campo y no se fija en los pronósticos. No los necesita. Así avancé. Así y con un poco de prueba y error. Al principio introduje hormigas en un terrario para poder observarlas más cómodo. Pero ellas se comportaban de otra manera, por el aislamiento. Ahora las sigo con una cámara.

-¿Además de las hormigas, analizás otros insectos?

-Sí. Las arañas, por ejemplo, tienen la capacidad de detectar actividad eléctrica, cuando aparecen y están muy activas. Las libélulas pueden anticipar una tormenta o viento. Las cigarras anuncian calor. Los gallos, cuando cantan a media noche, anuncian neblinas. También hay que prestar atención a las hormigas cuando están desorientadas, porque pueden captar actividad sísmica a grandes distancias.

-¿Este tipo de análisis es científico?

-No. Hay que destacar que el método no es científico, no es positivista, pero sí es cualitativo, experimental y observacional. Y sirve. Los hombres estamos acá desde el período cuaternario, pero las hormigas, por ejemplo, están desde la época de los dinosaurios. Están muy adaptadas, son muy sensibles a los cambios de ambiente. Y la naturaleza, así, nos habla, nos presenta síntomas. Hay que saber leerlos.

What Did Neanderthals Leave to Modern Humans? Some Surprises (New York Times)

Geneticists tell us that somewhere between 1 and 5 percent of the genome of modern Europeans and Asians consists of DNA inherited from Neanderthals, our prehistoric cousins.

At Vanderbilt University, John Anthony Capra, an evolutionary genomics professor, has been combining high-powered computation and a medical records databank to learn what a Neanderthal heritage — even a fractional one — might mean for people today.

We spoke for two hours when Dr. Capra, 35, recently passed through New York City. An edited and condensed version of the conversation follows.

Q. Let’s begin with an indiscreet question. How did contemporary people come to have Neanderthal DNA on their genomes?

A. We hypothesize that roughly 50,000 years ago, when the ancestors of modern humans migrated out of Africa and into Eurasia, they encountered Neanderthals. Matings must have occurred then. And later.

One reason we deduce this is because the descendants of those who remained in Africa — present day Africans — don’t have Neanderthal DNA.

What does that mean for people who have it? 

At my lab, we’ve been doing genetic testing on the blood samples of 28,000 patients at Vanderbilt and eight other medical centers across the country. Computers help us pinpoint where on the human genome this Neanderthal DNA is, and we run that against information from the patients’ anonymized medical records. We’re looking for associations.

What we’ve been finding is that Neanderthal DNA has a subtle influence on risk for disease. It affects our immune system and how we respond to different immune challenges. It affects our skin. You’re slightly more prone to a condition where you can get scaly lesions after extreme sun exposure. There’s an increased risk for blood clots and tobacco addiction.

To our surprise, it appears that some Neanderthal DNA can increase the risk for depression; however, there are other Neanderthal bits that decrease the risk. Roughly 1 to 2 percent of one’s risk for depression is determined by Neanderthal DNA. It all depends on where on the genome it’s located.

Was there ever an upside to having Neanderthal DNA?

It probably helped our ancestors survive in prehistoric Europe. When humans migrated into Eurasia, they encountered unfamiliar hazards and pathogens. By mating with Neanderthals, they gave their offspring needed defenses and immunities.

That trait for blood clotting helped wounds close up quickly. In the modern world, however, this trait means greater risk for stroke and pregnancy complications. What helped us then doesn’t necessarily now.

Did you say earlier that Neanderthal DNA increases susceptibility to nicotine addiction?

Yes. Neanderthal DNA can mean you’re more likely to get hooked on nicotine, even though there were no tobacco plants in archaic Europe.

We think this might be because there’s a bit of Neanderthal DNA right next to a human gene that’s a neurotransmitter implicated in a generalized risk for addiction. In this case and probably others, we think the Neanderthal bits on the genome may serve as switches that turn human genes on or off.

Aside from the Neanderthals, do we know if our ancestors mated with other hominids?

We think they did. Sometimes when we’re examining genomes, we can see the genetic afterimages of hominids who haven’t even been identified yet.

A few years ago, the Swedish geneticist Svante Paabo received an unusual fossilized bone fragment from Siberia. He extracted the DNA, sequenced it and realized it was neither human nor Neanderthal. What Paabo found was a previously unknown hominid he named Denisovan, after the cave where it had been discovered. It turned out that Denisovan DNA can be found on the genomes of modern Southeast Asians and New Guineans.

Have you long been interested in genetics?

Growing up, I was very interested in history, but I also loved computers. I ended up majoring in computer science at college and going to graduate school in it; however, during my first year in graduate school, I realized I wasn’t very motivated by the problems that computer scientists worked on.

Fortunately, around that time — the early 2000s — it was becoming clear that people with computational skills could have a big impact in biology and genetics. The human genome had just been mapped. What an accomplishment! We now had the code to what makes you, you, and me, me. I wanted to be part of that kind of work.

So I switched over to biology. And it was there that I heard about a new field where you used computation and genetics research to look back in time — evolutionary genomics.

There may be no written records from prehistory, but genomes are a living record. If we can find ways to read them, we can discover things we couldn’t know any other way.

Not long ago, the two top editors of The New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial questioning “data sharing,” a common practice where scientists recycle raw data other researchers have collected for their own studies. They labeled some of the recycling researchers, “data parasites.” How did you feel when you read that?

I was upset. The data sets we used were not originally collected to specifically study Neanderthal DNA in modern humans. Thousands of patients at Vanderbilt consented to have their blood and their medical records deposited in a “biobank” to find genetic diseases.

Three years ago, when I set up my lab at Vanderbilt, I saw the potential of the biobank for studying both genetic diseases and human evolution. I wrote special computer programs so that we could mine existing data for these purposes.

That’s not being a “parasite.” That’s moving knowledge forward. I suspect that most of the patients who contributed their information are pleased to see it used in a wider way.

What has been the response to your Neanderthal research since you published it last year in the journal Science?

Some of it’s very touching. People are interested in learning about where they came from. Some of it is a little silly. “I have a lot of hair on my legs — is that from Neanderthals?”

But I received racist inquiries, too. I got calls from all over the world from people who thought that since Africans didn’t interbreed with Neanderthals, this somehow justified their ideas of white superiority.

It was illogical. Actually, Neanderthal DNA is mostly bad for us — though that didn’t bother them.

As you do your studies, do you ever wonder about what the lives of the Neanderthals were like?

It’s hard not to. Genetics has taught us a tremendous amount about that, and there’s a lot of evidence that they were much more human than apelike.

They’ve gotten a bad rap. We tend to think of them as dumb and brutish. There’s no reason to believe that. Maybe those of us of European heritage should be thinking, “Let’s improve their standing in the popular imagination. They’re our ancestors, too.’”

Researchers say they’ve figured out what makes people reject science, and it’s not ignorance (Science Alert)

Why some people believe Earth is flat.


23 JAN 2017

A lot happened in 2016, but one of the biggest cultural shifts was the rise of fake news – where claims with no evidence behind them (e.g. the world is flat) get shared as fact alongside evidence-based, peer-reviewed findings (e.g. climate change is happening).

Researchers have coined this trend the ‘anti-enlightenment movement‘, and there’s been a lot of frustration and finger-pointing over who or what’s to blame. But a team of psychologists has identified some of the key factors that can cause people to reject science – and it has nothing to do with how educated or intelligent they are.

In fact, the researchers found that people who reject scientific consensus on topics such as climate change, vaccine safety, and evolution are generally just as interested in science and as well-educated as the rest of us.

The issue is that when it comes to facts, people think more like lawyers than scientists, which means they ‘cherry pick’ the facts and studies that back up what they already believe to be true.

So if someone doesn’t think humans are causing climate change, they will ignore the hundreds of studies that support that conclusion, but latch onto the one study they can find that casts doubt on this view. This is also known as cognitive bias.

“We find that people will take a flight from facts to protect all kinds of belief including their religious belief, their political beliefs, and even simple personal beliefs such as whether they are good at choosing a web browser,” said one of the researchers, Troy Campbell from the University of Oregon.

“People treat facts as relevant more when the facts tend to support their opinions. When the facts are against their opinions, they don’t necessarily deny the facts, but they say the facts are less relevant.”

This conclusion was based on a series of new interviews, as well as a meta-analysis of the research that’s been published on the topic, and was presented in a symposium called over the weekend as part of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual convention in San Antonio.

The goal was to figure out what’s going wrong with science communication in 2017, and what we can do to fix it.

The research has yet to be published, so isn’t conclusive, but the results suggest that simply focussing on the evidence and data isn’t enough to change someone’s mind about a particular topic, seeing as they’ll most likely have their own ‘facts’ to fire back at you.

“Where there is conflict over societal risks – from climate change to nuclear-power safety to impacts of gun control laws, both sides invoke the mantel of science,” said one of the team, Dan Kahan from Yale University.

Instead, the researchers recommend looking into the ‘roots’ of people’s unwillingness to accept scientific consensus, and try to find common ground to introduce new ideas.

So where is this denial of science coming from? A big part of the problem, the researchers found, is that people associate scientific conclusions with political or social affiliations.

New research conducted by Kahan showed that people have actually always cherry picked facts when it comes to science – that’s nothing new. But it hasn’t been such a big problem in the past, because scientific conclusions were usually agreed on by political and cultural leaders, and promoted as being in the public’s best interests.

Now, scientific facts are being wielded like weapons in a struggle for cultural supremacy, Kahan told Melissa Healy over at the LA Times, and the result is a “polluted science communication environment”.

So how can we do better?

“Rather than taking on people’s surface attitudes directly, tailor the message so that it aligns with their motivation,” said Hornsey. “So with climate skeptics, for example, you find out what they can agree on and then frame climate messages to align with these.”

The researchers are still gathering data for a peer-reviewed publication on their findings, but they presented their work to the scientific community for further dissemination and discussion in the meantime.

Hornsey told the LA Times that the stakes are too high to continue to ignore the ‘anti-enlightenment movement’.

“Anti-vaccination movements cost lives,” said Hornsey. “Climate change skepticism slows the global response to the greatest social, economic and ecological threat of our time.”

“We grew up in an era when it was just presumed that reason and evidence were the ways to understand important issues; not fear, vested interests, tradition or faith,” he added.

“But the rise of climate skepticism and the anti-vaccination movement made us realise that these enlightenment values are under attack.”

Summer Field School in Ethnographic Methods in New York City

10th CIFAS Field School in Ethnographic Research Methods, June 12 to 22, 2017


The Comitas Institute for Anthropological Study (CIFAS) is pleased to announce the 10th CIFAS Field School in Ethnographic Research Methods, in New York City.

The goal of the Field School is to offer training in the foundations and practice of ethnographic methods. The faculty works closely with participants to identify the required field methods needed to address their academic or professional needs. The Field School is suitable for graduate and undergraduate students in social sciences and other fields of study that use qualitative approaches (such as education, communication, cultural studies, health, social work, human ecology, development studies, consumer behavior, among others), applied social scientists, professionals, and researchers who have an interest in learning more about ethnographic methods and their applications.

The total work load of the course is 30 hours. Students interested in earning credits for the course may have additional assignments in order to totalize 45 hours of activities (what is equivalent to 3 credits).

Course venue: Classes will take place at the Institute for Latin American Studies at Columbia University.


Renzo Taddei (Assistant Professor, Federal University of São Paulo/Affiliated Researcher, Columbia University).

Lambros Comitas (Gardner Cowles Professor of Anthropology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University).

Registration and other costs: Places are limited. The tuition fee is US$ 900. The tuition fee does not cover accommodation, meals or transportation.

For more information or to register, see link attached, or please write to Renzo Taddei at


Participants and instructors of the 9th CIFAS field school (July 2016). 

Cultural differences may leave their mark on DNA (Science Daily)

January 10, 2017
University of California – San Francisco
Signatures of ethnicity in the genome appear to reflect an ethnic group’s shared culture and environment, rather than their common genetic ancestry, report scientists. Epigenetic signatures distinguishing Mexican and Puerto Rican children in this study cannot be explained by genetic ancestry alone, the researchers say.

The researchers identified several hundred differences in methylation associated with either Mexican or Puerto Rican ethnicity, but discovered that only three-quarters of the epigenetic difference between the two ethnic subgroups could be accounted for by differences in the children’s genetic ancestry. Credit: © DigitalGenetics / Fotolia

A UC San Francisco-led study has identified signatures of ethnicity in the genome that appear to reflect an ethnic group’s shared culture and environment, rather than their common genetic ancestry.

The study examined DNA methylation — an “annotation” of DNA that alters gene expression without changing the genomic sequence itself — in a group of diverse Latino children. Methylation is one type of “epigenetic mark” that previous research has shown can be either inherited or altered by life experience. The researchers identified several hundred differences in methylation associated with either Mexican or Puerto Rican ethnicity, but discovered that only three-quarters of the epigenetic difference between the two ethnic subgroups could be accounted for by differences in the children’s genetic ancestry. The rest of the epigenetic differences, the authors suggest, may reflect a biological stamp made by the different experiences, practices, and environmental exposures distinct to the two ethnic subgroups.

The discovery could help scientists understand how social, cultural, and environmental factors interact with genetics to create differences in health outcomes between different ethnic populations, the authors say, and provides a counterpoint to long-standing efforts in the biomedical research community to replace imprecise racial and ethnic categorization with genetic tests to determine ancestry.

“These data suggest that the interplay between race and ethnicity as social constructs and genetic ancestry as a biological construct is more complex than we had realized,” said Noah Zaitlen, PhD, a UCSF assistant professor of medicine and co-senior author on the new study. “In a medical context both elements may provide valuable information.”

The research — published January 3, 2017 in the online journal eLife — was led by Joshua Galanter, MD, MAS, formerly an assistant professor of medicine, of bioengineering and therapeutic sciences, and of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF, who is now a scientist at Genentech. The research was jointly supervised by Zaitlen and co-senior author Esteban Burchard, MD, MPH, a professor of bioengineering and therapeutic sciences and of medicine in UCSF’s schools of Pharmacy and Medicine and the Harry Wm. and Diana V. Hind Distinguished Professorship in Pharmaceutical Sciences II at UCSF.

“This is a big advancement of our understanding of race and ethnicity,” Burchard said. “There’s this whole debate about whether race is fundamentally genetic or is just a social construct. To our knowledge this is the first time anyone has attempted to quantify the molecular signature of the non-genetic components of race and ethnicity. It demonstrates in a whole new way that race combines both genetics and environment.”

Teasing apart roles of genetics, environment in ethnic differences in disease

Researchers and clinicians have known for many years that different racial and ethnic populations get diseases at different rates, respond differently to medications, and show very different results on standard clinical tests: “For a whole range of medical tests, whether your physician is told that your lab result is normal or abnormal depends entirely on the race/ethnicity box that you tick on an intake form,” Zaitlen said.

It’s tempting to assume that such health disparities between races and ethnicities all stem from inherited genetic differences, but that’s not necessarily the case. Different racial and ethnic groups also eat different diets, live in neighborhoods with more or less pollution, experience different levels of poverty, and are more or less likely to smoke tobacco, all of which could also impact their health outcomes.

“A lot of our research involves trying to tease apart how much of health differences between populations are genetic and how much are environmental,” Zaitlen said.

The researchers turned to epigenetics to search for answers to these questions because these molecular annotations of the genetic code have a unique position between genetic ancestry and environmental influence. Unlike the rest of the genome, which is only inherited from an individual’s parents (with random mutations here and there), methylation and other epigenetic annotations can be modified based on experience. These modifications influence when and where particular genes are expressed and appear to have significant impacts on disease risk, suggesting explanations for how environmental factors such as maternal smoking during pregnancy can influence a child’s risk of later health problems.

Epigenetic signatures of ethnicity could be biomarkers for shared cultural experiences

In the new study, the team examined methylation signatures in 573 children of self-identified Mexican or Puerto-Rican identity drawn from the GALA II study, a cohort previously developed by Burchard to study environmental and genetic components of asthma risk in Latino children. They identified 916 methylation sites that varied with ethnic identity, but found that only 520 of these differences could be completely explained by genetic ancestry — 109 could be partially explained by ancestry, while 205 could not be explained by ancestry at all.

Overall, the researchers found that about 76 percent of the effect of ethnicity on DNA methylation could be accounted for by controlling for genetic ancestry, suggesting that nearly a quarter of the effect must be due to other, unknown factors. The researchers found that many of these additional methylation sites corresponded to sites that previous studies had shown to be sensitive to environmental and social factors such as maternal smoking, exposure to diesel exhaust, and psychosocial stress. This led the team to hypothesize that a large fraction of their newly disovered epigenetic markers of ethnicity likely reflect biological signatures of environmental, social, or cultural differences between ethnic subgroups.

“This suggests that using epigenetics as a biomarker could give you a lot of information about environmental exposures within particular populations that’s not captured by genetics,” Zaitlen said. “Our next step will be to understand how specific epigenetic signatures are linked to particular environmental exposures, and use those signals to understand patient risk.”

Scientists and clinicians have increasingly tried to move away from simplistic racial and ethnic categories in disease research, the authors say, and — with the rise of precision medicine — in clinical diagnosis and treatment as well. Studies by the Burchard group and others have found that using genetic ancestry rather than ethnic self-identification significantly improves diagnostic accuracy for certain diseases.

But the new data showing that a large fraction of epigenetic signatures of ethnicity reflect something other than ancestry suggests that abandoning the idea of race and ethnicity altogether could sacrifice a lot of valuable information about the drivers of differences in health and disease between different communities.

“Like a standard family history, ethnicity is association with disease for both genetic and environmental reasons,” Zaitlen said. “If your dad or mom had a heart attack, that tells doctors a lot about your risk for a heart attack. Part of that is genetic, but part of it is that your lifestyle is influenced heavily by your parents’ lifestyle. Your ethnic group is like a much bigger family — it’s partly a matter of genetics, but it also reflects the environment of your broader community.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Joshua M Galanter, Christopher R Gignoux, Sam S Oh, Dara Torgerson, Maria Pino-Yanes, Neeta Thakur, Celeste Eng, Donglei Hu, Scott Huntsman, Harold J Farber, Pedro C Avila, Emerita Brigino-Buenaventura, Michael A LeNoir, Kelly Meade, Denise Serebrisky, William Rodríguez-Cintrón, Rajesh Kumar, Jose R Rodríguez-Santana, Max A Seibold, Luisa N Borrell, Esteban G Burchard, Noah Zaitlen. Differential methylation between ethnic sub-groups reflects the effect of genetic ancestry and environmental exposureseLife, 2017; 6 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.20532

How the Active Many Can Overcome the Ruthless Few (The Nation)

Nonviolent direct action was the 20th century’s greatest invention—and it is the key to saving the earth in the 21st century.

By Bill McKibben

NOVEMBER 30, 2016

know what you want from me—what we all want—which is some small solace after the events of Election Day. My wife Sue Halpern and I have been talking nonstop for days, trying to cope with the emotions. I fear I may not be able to provide that balm, but I do offer these remarks in the spirit of resistance to that which we know is coming. We need to figure out how to keep the lights on, literally and figuratively, and all kinds of darkness at bay.

I am grateful to all those who asked me to deliver this inaugural Jonathan Schell Lecture—grateful most of all because it gave me an excuse for extended and happy recollection of one of the most generous friendships of my early adulthood. I arrived at The New Yorker at the age of 21, two weeks out of college, alone in New York City for the first time. The New Yorker was wonderfully quirky, of course, but one of its less wonderful quirks was that most people didn’t talk to each other very much, and especially to newcomers 50 years their junior. There were exceptions, of course, and the foremost exception was Jonathan. He loved to talk, and we had long colloquies nearly every day, mostly about politics.

Ideas—not abstract ideas, but ideas drawn from the world as it wound around him—fascinated him. He always wanted to dig a layer or two deeper; there was never anything superficial or trendy about his analysis. I understood better what he was up to when I came, at the age of 27, to write The End of Nature. It owes more than a small debt to The Fate of the Earth, which let me feel it was possible and permitted to write about the largest questions in the largest ways.

Jonathan Schell

In the years that followed, having helped push action on his greatest cause—the danger of nuclear weapons—that issue began to seem a little less urgent. That perception, of course, is mistaken: Nuclear weapons remain a constant peril, perhaps more than ever in an increasingly multipolar world. But with the end of the Cold War and the build-down of US and Russian weapon stocks, the question compelled people less feverishly. New perils—climate change perhaps chief among them—emerged. Post-9/11, smaller-bore terrors informed our nightmares. We would have been wise, as the rise of a sinister Vladimir Putin and a sinister and clueless Donald Trump remind us, to pay much sharper attention to this existential issue, but the peace dividend turned out mostly to be a relaxing of emotional vigilance.

However, for the moment, we have not exploded nuclear weapons, notwithstanding Trump’s recent query about what good they are if we don’t use them. Our minds can compass the specter of a few mushroom clouds obliterating all that we know and love; those images have fueled a fitful but real effort to contain the problem, resulting most recently in the agreement with Iran. We have not been able to imagine that the billion tiny explosions of a billion pistons in a billion cylinders every second of every day could wreak the same damage, and hence we’ve done very little to ward off climate change.

We are destroying the earth every bit as thoroughly as Jonathan imagined in the famous first chapter of The Fate of the Earth, just a little more slowly. By burning coal and oil and gas and hence injecting carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, we have materially changed its heat-trapping properties; indeed, those man-made greenhouse gases trap the daily heat equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima-size explosions. That’s enough extra heat that, in the space of a few decades, we have melted most of the summer sea ice in the Arctic—millennia old, meters thick, across a continent-size stretch of ocean that now, in summer, is blue water. (Blue water that absorbs the sun’s incoming rays instead of bouncing them back to space like the white ice it replaced, thus exacerbating the problem even further.) That’s enough heat to warm the tropical oceans to the point where Sue and I watched with our colleagues in the South Pacific as a wave of record-breaking warm water swept across the region this past spring, killing in a matter of weeks vast swaths of coral that had been there since before the beginning of the human experiment. That’s enough heat to seriously disrupt the planet’s hydrological cycles: Since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, we’ve seen steady increases in drought in arid areas (and with it calamities like wildfire) and steady, even shocking, increases in downpour and flood in wet areas. It’s been enough to raise the levels of the ocean—and the extra carbon in the atmosphere has also changed the chemistry of that seawater, making it more acidic and beginning to threaten the base of the marine food chain. We are, it bears remembering, an ocean planet, and the world’s oceanographers warn that we are very rapidly turning the seven seas “hot, sour, and breathless.” To the “republic of insects and grass” that Jonathan imagined in the opening of The Fate of the Earth, we can add a new vision: a hypoxic undersea kingdom of jellyfish.

This is not what will happen if something goes wrong, if some maniac pushes the nuclear button, if some officer turns a key in a silo. This is what has already happened, because all of us normal people have turned the keys to our cars and the thermostat dials on our walls. And we’re still in the relatively early days of climate change, having increased the planet’s temperature not much more than 1 degree Celsius. We’re on a trajectory, even after the conclusion of the Paris climate talks last year, to raise Earth’s temperature by 3.5 degrees Celsius—or more, if the feedback loops we are triggering take full hold. If we do that, then we will not be able to maintain a civilization anything like the one we’ve inherited. Our great cities will be underwater; our fields will not produce the food our bodies require; those bodies will not be able to venture outside in many places to do the work of the world. Already, the World Health Organization estimates, increased heat and humidity have cut the labor a human can perform by 10 percent, a number that will approach 30 percent by midcentury. This July and August were the hottest months in the history of human civilization measured globally; in southern Iraq, very near where scholars situate the Garden of Eden, the mercury in cities like Basra hit 129 degrees—among the highest reliably recorded temperatures in history, temperatures so high that human survival becomes difficult.

Against this crisis, we see sporadic action at best. We know that we could be making huge strides. For instance, engineers have managed to cut the cost of solar panels by 80 percent in the last decade, to the point where they are now among the cheapest methods of generating electricity. A Stanford team headed by Mark Jacobson has shown precisely how all 50 states and virtually every foreign nation could make the switch to renewable energy at an affordable cost in the course of a couple of decades. A few nations have shown that he’s correct: Denmark, for instance, now generates almost half of its power from the wind.

In most places, however, the progress has been slow and fitful at best. In the United States, the Obama administration did more than its predecessors, but far less than physics requires. By reducing our use of coal-fired power, it cut carbon-dioxide emissions by perhaps 10 percent. But because it wouldn’t buck the rest of the fossil-fuel industry, the Obama administration basically substituted fracked natural gas for that coal. This was a mistake: The leakage of methane into the atmosphere means that America’s total greenhouse-gas emissions held relatively steady or perhaps even increased. This willingness to cater to the industry is bipartisan, though in the horror of this past election that was easy to overlook. Here’s President Obama four years ago, speaking to an industry group in Oklahoma: “Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. That’s important to know. Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some.” Hillary Clinton opened an entire new wing at the State Department charged with promoting fracking around the world. So much for the establishment, now repudiated.

Trump, of course, has famously insisted that global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese and has promised to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. His election win is more than just a speed bump in the road to the future—it’s a ditch, and quite likely a crevasse. Even as we gather tonight, international negotiators in Marrakech, stunned by our elections, are doing their best to salvage something of the Paris Agreement, signed just 11 months ago with much fanfare.

* * *

But the real contest here is not between Democrats and Republicans; it’s between human beings and physics. That’s a difficult negotiation, as physics is not prone to compromise. It also imposes a hard time limit on the bargaining; if we don’t move very, very quickly, then any progress will be pointless. And so the question for this lecture, and really the question for the geological future of the planet, becomes: How do we spur much faster and more decisive action from institutions that wish to go slowly, or perhaps don’t wish to act at all? One understands that politicians prize incremental action—but in this case, winning slowly is the same as losing. The planet is clearly outside its comfort zone; how do we get our political institutions out of theirs?

And it is here that I’d like to turn to one of Jonathan’s later books, one that got less attention than it deserved. The Unconquerable World was published in 2003. In it, Jonathan writes, in his distinctive aphoristic style: “Violence is the method by which the ruthless few can subdue the passive many. Nonviolence is a means by which the active many can overcome the ruthless few.” This brings us, I think, to the crux of our moment. Across a wide variety of topics, we see the power of the ruthless few. This is nowhere more evident than in the field of energy, where the ruthless few who lead the fossil-fuel industry have more money at their disposal than any humans in the past. They’ve been willing to deploy this advantage to maintain the status quo, even in the face of clear scientific warnings and now clear scientific proof. They are, for lack of a better word, radicals: If you continue to alter the chemistry of the atmosphere past the point where you’re melting the polar ice caps, then you are engaging in a radicalism unparalleled in human history.

And they’re not doing this unknowingly or out of confusion. Exxon has known all there is to know about climate change for four decades. Its product was carbon, and it had some of the best scientists on earth on its staff; they warned management, in clear and explicit terms, how much and how fast the earth would warm, and management believed them: That’s why, for instance, Exxon’s drilling rigs were built to accommodate the sea-level rise it knew was coming. But Exxon didn’t warn any of the rest of us. Just the opposite: It invested huge sums of money in helping to build an architecture of deceit, denial, and disinformation, which meant humankind wasted a quarter of a century in a ludicrous argument about whether global warming was “real,” a debate that Exxon’s leaders knew was already settled. The company continues to fund politicians who deny climate change and to fight any efforts to hold it accountable. At times, as Steve Coll makes clear in his remarkable book Private Empire, the oil industry has been willing to use explicit violence—those attack dogs in North Dakota have their even more brutal counterparts in distant parts of the planet. More often, the industry has been willing to use the concentrated force of its money. Our largest oil and gas barons, the Koch brothers—two of the richest men on earth, and among the largest leaseholders on Canada’s tar sands—have promised to deploy three-quarters of a billion dollars in this year’s contest. As Jane Mayer put it in a telling phrase, they’ve been able to “weaponize” their money to achieve their ends. So the “ruthless few” are using violence—power in its many forms.

But the other half of that aphorism is hopeful: “Nonviolence is the means by which the active many can overcome the ruthless few.” When the history of the 20th century is written, I’m hopeful that historians will conclude that the most important technology developed during those bloody hundred years wasn’t the atom bomb, or the ability to manipulate genes, or even the Internet, but instead the technology of nonviolence. (I use the word “technology” advisedly here.) We had intimations of its power long before: In a sense, the most resounding moment in Western history, Jesus’s crucifixion, is a prototype of nonviolent action, one that launched the most successful movement in history. Nineteenth-century America saw Thoreau begin to think more systematically about civil disobedience as a technique. But it really fell to the 20th century, and Gandhi, to develop it as a coherent strategy, a process greatly furthered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his associates in this country, and by adherents around the world: Otpor in Eastern Europe, various participants in the Arab Spring, Buddhist monks in Burma, Wangari Maathai’s tree-planters, and so on.

We have done very little systematic study of these techniques. We have no West Point or Sandhurst for the teaching of nonviolence; indeed, it’s fair to say that the governments of the world have spent far more time figuring out how to stamp out such efforts than to promote them. (And given the level of threat they represent to governments, that is perhaps appropriate.) What we know is what we’ve learned by experience, by trial and error.

In my own case over the last decade, that’s meant helping to organize several large-scale campaigns or social movements. Some have used civil disobedience in particular—I circulated the call for arrestees at the start of the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrations in 2011, and observers said the resulting two weeks of nonviolent direct action resulted in more arrests than any such demonstration on any issue in many years. Others have focused on large-scale rallies—some in this audience attended the massive climate march in New York in the autumn of 2014, organized in part by, which was apparently the largest demonstration about anything in this country in a long time. Others have been scattered: The fossil-fuel divestment campaign we launched in 2012 has been active on every continent, incorporated a wide variety of tactics, and has become the largest anticorporate campaign of its kind in history, triggering the full or partial divestment of endowments and portfolios with nearly $5 trillion in assets. These actions have helped spur many more such actions: Keystone represented a heretofore very rare big loss for Big Oil, and its success helped prompt many others to follow suit; now every pipeline, fracking well, coal mine, liquid-natural-gas terminal, and oil train is being fought. As an executive at the American Petroleum Institute said recently—and ruefully—to his industry colleagues, they now face the “Keystone-ization” of all their efforts.

And we have by no means been the only, or even the main, actor in these efforts. For instance, indigenous activists have been at the forefront of the climate fight since its inception, here and around the world, and the current fight over the Dakota Access pipeline is no exception. They and the residents of what are often called “frontline” communities, where the effects of climate change and pollution are most intense, have punched far above their weight in these struggles; they have been the real leaders. These fights will go on. They’ll be much harder in the wake of Trump’s election, but they weren’t easy to begin with, and I confess I see little alternative—even under Obama, the chance of meaningful legislation was thin. So, using Jonathan’s template, I’ll try to offer a few lessons from my own experience over the last decade.

* * *

Lesson one: Unearned suffering is a potent tool. Volunteering for pain is an unlikely event in a pleasure-based society, and hence it gets noticed. Nonviolent direct action is just one tool in the activist tool kit, and it should be used sparingly—like any tool, it can easily get dull, both literally and figuratively. But when it is necessary to underline the moral urgency of a case, the willingness to go to jail can be very powerful, precisely because it goes against the bent of normal life.

It is also difficult for most participants. If you’ve been raised to be law-abiding, it’s hard to stay seated in front of, say, the White House when a cop tells you to move. Onlookers understand that difficulty. I remember Gus Speth being arrested at those initial Keystone demonstrations. He’d done everything possible within the system: co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council, chaired the president’s Council on Environmental Quality, ran the entire UN Development Program, been a dean at Yale. But then he concluded that the systems he’d placed such faith in were not coming close to meeting the climate challenge—so, in his 70s, he joined that small initial demonstration. Because his son was a high-powered lawyer, Gus was the only one of us able to get a message out during our stay in jail. What he told the press stuck with me: “I’ve held many important positions in this town,” he said. “But none seem as important as the one I’m in today.” Indeed, his witness pulled many of the nation’s environmental groups off the sidelines; when we got out, he and I wrote a letter to the CEOs of all those powerful green groups, and in return they wrote a letter to the president saying, “There is not an inch of daylight between our position and those of the people protesting on your lawn.” Without Gus’s willingness to suffer the indignity and discomfort of jail, that wouldn’t have happened, and the subsequent history would have been different.

Because it falls so outside our normal search for comfort, security, and advancement, unearned suffering can be a powerful tool. Whether this will be useful against a crueler White House and a nastier and more empowered right wing remains to be seen, but it will be seen. I imagine that the first place it will see really widespread use is not on the environment, but in regard to immigration. If Trump is serious about his plans for mass deportation, he’ll be met with passive resistance of all kinds—or at least he should be. All of us have grown up with that Nazi-era bromide about “First they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew…” In this case, there’s no mystery: First they’re coming for the undocumented. It will be a real fight for the soul of our nation, as the people who abstractly backed the idea of a wall with Mexico are forced to look at the faces of the neighbors they intend to toss over it.

Lesson two: These tactics are useful to the degree that they attract large numbers of people to the fight. Those large numbers don’t need to engage in civil disobedience; they just need to engage in the broader battle. If you think about it, numbers are the currency of movements, just as actual cash is the currency of the status quo—at least until such time as the status quo needs to employ the currency of violence. The point of civil disobedience is rarely that it stops some evil by itself; instead, it attracts enough people and hence attention to reach the public at large.

When the Keystone demonstrations began, for instance, no one knew what the pipeline was, and it hadn’t occurred to people to think about climate change in terms of infrastructure. Instead, we thought about it in the terms preferred by politicians, i.e., by thinking about “emissions reductions” far in the future from policies like increased automobile efficiency, which are useful but obviously insufficient. In the early autumn of 2011, as we were beginning the Keystone protests, the National Journal polled its DC “energy insiders,” and 93 percent of them said TransCanada would soon have its permit for the pipeline. But those initial arrests attracted enough people to make it into a national issue. Soon, 15,000 people were surrounding the White House, and then 50,000 were rallying outside its gates, and before long it was on the front pages of newspapers. The information spread, and more importantly the analysis did too: Infrastructure became a recognized point of conflict in the climate fight, because enough people said it was. Politicians were forced to engage on a ground they would rather have avoided.

In much the same way, the divestment movement managed to go from its infancy in 2012 to the stage where, by 2015, the governor of the Bank of England was repeating its main bullet points to the world’s insurance industry in a conference at Lloyd’s of London: The fossil-fuel industry had more carbon in its reserves than we could ever hope to burn, and those reserves posed the financial risk of becoming “stranded assets.” Note that it doesn’t take a majority of people, or anywhere close, to have a significant—even decisive—impact: In an apathetic world, the active involvement of only a few percentage points of the citizenry is sufficient to make a difference. No more than 1 percent of Americans, for instance, ever participated in a civil-rights protest. But it does take a sufficient number to make an impression, whether in the climate movement or the Tea Party.

Lesson three: The real point of civil disobedience and the subsequent movements is less to pass specific legislation than it is to change the zeitgeist. The Occupy movement, for instance, is often faulted for not having produced a long list of actionable demands, but its great achievement was to make, by dint of recognition and repetition, the existing order illegitimate. Once the 99 percent and the 1 percent were seen as categories, our politics began to shift. Bernie Sanders, and to a lesser extent Donald Trump, fed on that energy. That Hillary Clinton was forced to say that she too opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal was testimony to the power of the shift in the zeitgeist around inequality. Or take LGBTQ rights: It’s worth remembering that only four years ago, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton still opposed same-sex marriage. That’s difficult to recall now, since at this point you’d think they had jointly invented the concept. But it was skillful organizing for many years that changed less the laws of the land than the zeitgeist of the culture. Yes, some of those battles were fought over particular statutes; but the battles in Hollywood, and at high-school proms, and in a dozen other such venues were as important. Once movements shift the zeitgeist, then legislative victory becomes the mopping-up phase; this one Trump won’t even attempt to turn back.

This is not how political scientists tend to see it—or politicians, for that matter. Speaking to Black Lives Matter activists backstage in the course of the primary campaign, Hillary Clinton laid out her essential philosophy: “I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate.” This is, I think, utterly backward, and it explains much of the intuitive sense among activists of all stripes that Clinton wouldn’t have been a leader. As Monica Reyes, one of the young immigration activists in the Dreamer movement—great organizers who did much to shift public opinion—put it: “You need to change the culture before you can change laws.” Or as that guy Abraham Lincoln once put it: “Public sentiment is everything.”

By forever straddling the middle, centrist politicians delay changes in public sentiment. The viewpoint of the establishment—an appellation that in this case includes everyone from oil companies to presidents—is always the same: We need to be “realistic”; change will come slowly if it comes at all; and so forth. In normal political debates, this is reasonable. Compromise on issues is the way we progress: You want less money in the budget for X, and I want more, and so we meet in the middle and live to fight another day. That’s politics, as distinct from movement politics, which is about changing basic feelings over the great issues of the day. And it’s particularly true in the case of climate change, where political reality, important as it is, comes in a distinct second to reality reality. Chemistry and physics, I repeat, do what they do regardless of our wishes. That’s the difference between political science and science science.

* * *

There are many other points that Jonathan gets at in his book, but there’s one more that bears directly on the current efforts to build a movement around climate change. It comes in his discussion of Hannah Arendt and Mohandas Gandhi. Despite widespread agreement on the sources of power and the possibilities for mobilization, he finds one large difference between the two: Whereas Gandhi saw “spiritual love as the source and inspiration of nonviolent action, Arendt was among those who argued strenuously against introducing such love into the political sphere.” Hers was not an argument against spiritual love, but rather a contention that it mostly belonged in the private sphere, and that “publicity, which is necessary for politics, will coarsen and corrupt it by turning it into a public display, a show.” I will not attempt to flesh out the illuminating arguments on both sides, but I will say that I have changed my mind somewhat over the years on this question, at least as it relates to climate change.

Gandhi, like Thoreau before him, was an ascetic, and people have tended to lump their political and spiritual force together—and, in certain ways, they were very closely linked. Gandhi’s spinning wheel was a powerful symbol, and a powerful reality, in a very poor nation. He emphasized individual action alongside political mobilization, because he believed that Indians needed to awaken a sense of their own agency and strength. This was a necessary step in that movement—but perhaps a trap in our current dilemma. By this I mean that many of the early efforts to fight climate change focused on a kind of personal piety or individual action, reducing one’s impact via lightbulbs or food choices or you name it. And these are useful steps. The house that Sue and I inhabit is covered with solar panels. I turn off lights so assiduously that our daughter, in her Harry Potter days, referred to me as “the Dark Lord.” Often in my early writing, I fixed on such solutions. But in fact, given the pace with which we now know climate change is advancing, they seem not irrelevant but utterly ill-equipped for the task at hand.

Let’s imagine that truly inspired organizing might somehow get 10 percent of the population to become really engaged in this fight. That would be a monumental number: We think 10 percent of Americans participated in some fashion in the first Earth Day in 1970, and that was doubtless the high point of organizing on any topic in my lifetime. If the main contribution of this 10 percent was to reduce its own carbon footprint to zero— itself an impossible task—the total impact on America’s contribution to atmospheric carbon levels would be a 10 percent reduction. Which is helpful, but not very. But that same 10 percent—or even 2 or 3 percent—actually engaged in the work of politics might well be sufficient to produce structural change of the size that would set us on a new course: a price on carbon, a commitment to massive subsidies for renewable energy, a legislative commitment to keep carbon in the ground.

Some people are paralyzed by the piety they think is necessary for involvement. You cannot imagine the anguished and Talmudic discussions I’ve been asked to adjudicate on whether it’s permissible to burn gasoline to attend a climate rally. (In my estimation, it’s not just permissible, it’s very nearly mandatory—the best gas you will burn in the course of a year.) It has also become—and this is much more dangerous—the pet argument of every climate denier that, unless you’re willing to live life in a dark cave, you’re a hypocrite to stand for action on climate change. This attempt to short-circuit people’s desire to act must be rejected. We live in the world we wish to change; some hypocrisy is the price of admission to the fight. In this sense, and this sense only, Gandhi is an unhelpful example, and a bludgeon used to prevent good-hearted people from acting.

In fact, as we confront the blunt reality of a Trump presidency and a GOP Congress, it’s clearer than ever that asceticism is insufficient, and maybe even counterproductive. The only argument that might actually discover a receptive audience in the new Washington is one that says, “We need a rapid build-out of solar and wind power, as much for economic as environmental reasons.” If one wanted to find the mother lode of industrial jobs that Trump has promised, virtually the only possible source is the energy transformation of our society.

I will end by saying that movement-building—the mobilization of large numbers of people, and of deep passion, through the employment of all the tools at a nonviolent activist’s disposal—will continue, though it moves onto very uncertain ground with our new political reality. This work of nonviolent resistance is never easy, and it’s becoming harder. Jonathan’s optimism in The Unconquerable World notwithstanding, more and more countries are moving to prevent real opposition. China and Russia are brutally hard to operate in, and India is reconfiguring its laws to go in the same direction. Environmentalists are now routinely assassinated in Honduras, Brazil, the Philippines. Australia, where mining barons control the government, has passed draconian laws against protest; clearly Trump and his colleagues would like to do the same here, and will doubtless succeed to one extent or another. The savagery of the police response to Native Americans in North Dakota reminds us how close to a full-bore petro-state we are.

And yet the movement builds. I don’t know whether it builds fast enough. Unlike every other challenge we’ve faced, this one comes with a time limit. Martin Luther King would always say, quoting the great Massachusetts abolitionist Theodore Parker, that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”—meaning that it may take a while, but we are going to win. By contrast, the arc of the physical universe is short and it bends toward heat. I will not venture to predict if we can, at this point, catch up with physics. Clearly, it has a lot of momentum. It’s a bad sign when your major physical features begin to disappear—that we no longer have the giant ice cap in the Arctic is disconcerting, to say the least. So there’s no guarantee of victory. But I can guarantee that we will fight, in every corner of the earth and with all the nonviolent tools at our disposal. And in so doing, we will discover if these tools are powerful enough to tackle the most disturbing crisis humans have ever faced. We will see if that new technology of the 20th century will serve to solve the greatest dilemma of our new millennium.

The end of a People: Amazon dam destroys sacred Munduruku “Heaven” (Mongabay)

5 January 2017 / Sue Branford and Maurício Torres

Brazil dynamited an indigenous sacred site, the equivalent of Christian “Heaven,” to make way for Teles Pires dam; desecration is devastating to Munduruku culture.

The end of a People: Amazon dam destroys sacred Munduruku “Heaven”

  • Four dams are being built on the Teles Pires River — a major tributary of the Tapajós River — to provide Brazil with hydropower, and to possibly be a first step toward constructing an industrial waterway to transport soy and other commodities from Mato Grosso state, in the interior, to the Atlantic coast.
  • Those dams are being built largely without consultation with impacted indigenous people, as required by the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, an agreement which Brazil signed.
  • A sacred rapid, known as Sete Quedas, the Munduruku “Heaven”, was dynamited in 2013 to build the Teles Pires dam. A cache of sacred artefacts was also seized by the dam construction consortium and the Brazilian state.
  • The Indians see both events as callous attacks on their sacred sites, and say that these desecrations will result in the destruction of the Munduruku as a people — 13,000 Munduruku Indians live in 112 villages, mainly along the upper reaches of the Tapajós River and its tributaries in the heart of the Amazon.

(Leia essa matéria em português no The Intercept Brasil. You can also read Mongabay’s series on the Tapajós Basin in Portuguese at The Intercept Brasil after January 10, 2017)

The Tapajós River Basin lies at the heart of the Amazon, and at the heart of an exploding controversy: whether to build 40+ large dams, a railway, and highways, turning the Basin into a vast industrialized commodities export corridor; or to curb this development impulse and conserve one of the most biologically and culturally rich regions on the planet. 

Those struggling to shape the Basin’s fate hold conflicting opinions, but because the Tapajós is an isolated region, few of these views get aired in the media. Journalist Sue Branford and social scientist Mauricio Torres travelled there recently for Mongabay, and over coming weeks hope to shed some light on the heated debate that will shape the future of the Amazon. 

“It is a time of death. The Munduruku will start dying. They will have accidents. Even simple accidents will lead to death. Lightning will strike and kill an Indian. A branch will fall from a tree and kill an Indian. It’s not chance. It’s all because the government interfered with a sacred site,” says Valmira Krixi Biwūn with authority.

Valmira Krixi Munduruku, as she was baptized, is an indigenous Munduruku woman warrior living in the village of Teles Pires beside the river of the same name on the border between the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Pará. A leader and a sage, she speaks with great confidence about a variety of subjects ranging from the old stories of her people, to the plant-based concoctions in which young girls must bathe in order to transform into warriors.

The sacred site she speaks about is a stretch of rapids known as Sete Quedas located on the Teles Pires River. In 2013, the consortium responsible for the construction of a large hydroelectric power station obtained judicial authorization to dynamite the rapids to make way for the Teles Pires dam.

Rapids on the Teles Pires River. The cultural impacts of the destruction of Sete Quedas, a sacred site comparable to the Christian “Heaven” continues to reverberate throughout Munduruku society. Future dams and reservoirs are planned that will likely impact other sacred indigenous sacred sites. Photo by Thais Borges

Rapids on the Teles Pires River. The cultural impacts of the destruction of Sete Quedas, a sacred site comparable to the Christian “Heaven” continue to reverberate throughout Munduruku society. Future dams and reservoirs are planned that will likely impact other sacred indigenous sacred sites. Photo by Thais Borges
The Teles Pires hydroelectric dam under construction. Photo courtesy of Brent Millikan / International Rivers. Photo by Thais Borges

The Teles Pires hydroelectric dam under construction. Photo courtesy of Brent Millikan / International Rivers. Photo by Brent Millikan

In 2013 the companies involved blew up Sete Quedas, and in so doing also destroyed — in the cosmology of the region’s indigenous people — the equivalent of the Christian “Heaven”, the sacred sanctuary inhabited by spirits after death. Known in as Paribixexe, Sete Quedas is a sacred site for all the Munduruku.

Dynamiting Heaven

The destruction of the sacred rapids was a lethal blow for the Indians: “The dynamiting of the sacred site is the end of religion and the end of culture. It is the end of the Munduruku people. When they dynamited the waterfall, they dynamited the Mother of the Fish and the Mother of the Animals we hunt. So these fish and these animals will die. All that we are involved with will die. So this is the end of the Munduruku”, says a mournful indigenous elder, Eurico Krixi Munduruku.

The message Valmira Krixi delivers is equally chilling: “We will come to an end, and our spirits too.” It is double annihilation, in life and in death.

In all, today, more than 13,000 Munduruku Indians live in 112 villages, mainly along the upper reaches of the Tapajós River and its tributaries, including the Teles Pires River. This indigenous group once occupied and completely dominated such an extensive Amazonian region that “in colonial Brazil the whole of the Tapajós River Basin was known by the Europeans as Mundurukânia”, explains Bruna Rocha, a lecturer in archaeology at the Federal University of the West of Pará.

A traditional Munduruku dance. Photo by Thais Borges

A traditional Munduruku dance. Photo by Thais Borges
Valmira Krixi Munduruku: “It is a time of death. The Munduruku will start dying. They will have accidents. Even simple accidents will lead to death.… It’s not chance. It’s all because the government interfered with a sacred site.” Photo by Mauricio Torres

Valmira Krixi Munduruku: “It is a time of death. The Munduruku will start dying. They will have accidents. Even simple accidents will lead to death.… It’s not chance. It’s all because the government interfered with a sacred site.” Photo by Thais Borges

The sudden appearance of rubber-tapping across Amazonia during the second half of the 19th century shattered the power of “Mundurukânia,” and deprived the Munduruku of most of their territory. “They just kept fragments in the lower Tapajós and larger areas in the upper reaches of the river, but even so it was only a fraction of what they occupied in the past”, says Rocha.

Now even these fragments are being seriously impacted by the hydroelectric power stations being built around them. Of the more than 40 dams proposed in the Tapajós Basin, four are already under construction or completed on the Teles Pires River. These dams are all key to a proposed industrial waterway that would transport soy from Mato Grosso state, north along the Teles Pires and Tapajós rivers, then east along the Amazon to the coast for export.

The time before

The 90 families in Teles Pires village, which we visited, love talking about the past, a time, they say, when they could roam at will through their immense territory to hunt and harvest from the forest. In part, these nostalgic recollections are mythical in that, for at least two centuries and probably longer, the people have lived in fixed communities. But they continue to collect many products from the forest — seeds, tree bark, fibers, timber, fruit and more; using the materials to build their houses, to feed themselves, to make spears for hunting, to concoct herbal remedies, and so on.

Their territory ­— the Indigenous Territory of Kayabi, which they share, not always happily, with the Apiaká and Kayabi people — was created in 2004. Bizarrely, the sacred site of Sete Quedas lay just outside its legal limits, an oversight that was to have tragic consequences for the Indians.

Over the centuries, the Munduruku have adapted well to changes in the world around them, changes that intensified after they made contact with white society in the 18th century. On some occasions, the people readily incorporated new technological and social elements into their culture, seizing on their advantages. The British Museum has a “very traditional” Munduruku waistband, probably created in the late 19th century, which utilizes cotton fabric imported from Europe. The Indians clearly realized that cotton fabric was far more resilient than the textiles they made from forest products, and they happily incorporated the cotton into the decorative garment.

Munduruku warriors. A proud indigenous group today numbering 13,000, the Munduuku are making a defiant stand against the Brazilian government’s plan to build dozens of dams on the Tapajós River and its tributaries. Photo by Mauricio Torres

Munduruku warriors. A proud indigenous society, today numbering 13,000, the Munduuku are making a defiant stand against the Brazilian government’s plan to build dozens of dams on the Tapajós River and its tributaries. Photo by Mauricio Torres

Today that custom continues. Almost all young people have mobile phones, and appreciate their usefulness. But at times the Munduruku have found, just as many of us do in our city lives, that modern technology can go wrong, with frustrating results. The Munduruku have, for example, installed an artesian well in Teles Pires village and now have running water in their houses. That advance makes life easier, except when the system breaks down, which is not infrequent. During the four days of our visit, for instance, there was no water, as the pump had quit working.

In similar fashion, their religion has also changed, at least superficially. Franciscan friars have had a mission (Missão Cururu) in the heart of Munduruku territory for over a century, and Catholicism has left its mark. The Munduruku say, for instance, that the creator of the world, the warrior Karosakaybu, fashioned everyone and everything “in his own image”, a direct quote from the Bible.

Even so, the Indians have a strong ethnic identity, which they fiercely protect. When we asked to film them, they said yes, but many insisted on speaking their own language on camera, even though they often could speak Portuguese far better than our translator.

Moreover, their cosmology is rock-solid; every Indian to whom we spoke shared Krixi Biwūn’s belief in the hereafter and the paramount importance of the sacred sites in guaranteeing their life after death. This faith forms the foundation of their cosmology, and is essential to their existence. It is this fundamental belief that has now been blasted — making adaptation almost impossible.

Eurico Krixi Munduruku: “When they dynamited the waterfall, they dynamited the Mother of the Fish and the Mother of the Animals we hunt. So these fish and these animals will die. All that we are involved with will die. So this is the end of the Munduruku.” Photo by Mauricio Torres

Eurico Krixi Munduruku: “When they dynamited the waterfall, they dynamited the Mother of the Fish and the Mother of the Animals we hunt. So these fish and these animals will die. All that we are involved with will die. So this is the end of the Munduruku.” Photo by Mauricio Torres

The dams the people didn’t want

National governments are obliged to directly consult with indigenous groups before launching any project that will affect their wellbeing, according to The International Labor Organization’s Convention 169. Brazil is a signatory of this agreement, so how is it possible that indigenous sacred sites could be demolished on the Teles Pires River to make way for Amazon dams?

The answer is clear-cut, according to Brent Millikan, Amazon Program Director for International Rivers. After the 2011 approval for the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam on the Xingu River — a major Amazon tributary —, the government’s next hydroelectric target in Amazonia was on the Teles Pires River. “Four dams are being simultaneously built [there]. Two are close to indigenous people — the Teles Pires and Sāo Manoel. The São Manoel is 300 meters from the federally demarcated border of an indigenous reserve where the Munduruku, Kayabi and Apiaká live,” Millikan told Mongabay. The sacred site of Sete Quedas, left outside the boundary of the indigenous territory, lay in the way of the São Manoel dam.

Map showing the reservoirs created by the Teles Pires River dams and their encroachment on indigenous lands. Map by Mauricio Torres

Map showing the reservoirs created by the Teles Pires River dams and their encroachment on indigenous lands. Map by Mauricio Torres

Unlike the building of the Belo Monte mega-dam, which was extensively covered by the Brazilian and international press, the Teles Pires “projects were ignored”, Millikan says. “This was due to various factors — their geographic isolation, the fact that they were less ‘grandiose’ than Belo Monte, and that there was very little involvement from civil society groups, who generally help threatened [indigenous] groups.”

Even so, the government carried out a form of consultation with the indigenous population and other local inhabitants. On 6 October 2010, it announced in the official gazette that it had received the environmental impact study for the Teles Pires dam from the environmental agency, Ibama, and that the public had 45 days in which to request an audiência pública (public hearing) in which to raise questions about the dam.

A hearing was, in fact, held on 23 November 2010 in the town of Jacareacanga. Although the event was organised in a very formal way, alien to indigenous culture, contributions from 24 people, almost all indigenous, were permitted. According to the Federal Public Ministry (MPF), an independent body of federal prosecutors within the Brazilian state, every speaker expressed opposition to the dam. Even so, the project went ahead. Over time, the Munduruku became increasingly reluctant to take part in these consultations, saying that their views were simply ignored.

Although the Munduruku were always opposed to the dams, they were ill prepared for the scale of the damage they have suffered.

Cacique Disma Muõ told us: “The government didn’t inform us. The government always spoke of the good things that would happen. They didn’t tell us about the bad things.” When they protested, the Munduruku were told: “The land belongs to the government, not to the Indians. There is no way the Indians can prevent the dams.”

This is, at best, a half-truth. Although indigenous land belongs to the Brazilian state, the indigenous people have the right to the “exclusive” and “perpetual” use of this land, in accordance with the Brazilian Constitution.

Cacique Disma Muõ: “The government didn’t inform us. The government always spoke of the good things that would happen. They didn’t tell us about the bad things.” Photo by Mauricio Torres

Cacique Disma Muõ: “The government didn’t inform us. The government always spoke of the good things that would happen. They didn’t tell us about the bad things.” Photo by Mauricio Torres

Moreover, the ILO’s Convention 169 says that indigenous groups must be consulted if they will suffer an impact, even if the cause of the impact is located beyond their land. Rodrigo Oliveiraan adviser in Santarém to the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) made this clear in an interview with Mongabay: “As it was evident before the dams were licensed that the Munduruku and other communities would be affected, the Brazilian government had the obligation to consult these groups in a full and informed way in accordance with the ILO’s Convention 169.”

The Brazilian government repeatedly claimed that its public hearings amounted to the “full, informed and prior” consultation required by the ILO, but the MPF challenged this assertion. It sued the Brazilian government, and the federal courts on several occasions stopped work on the dam. However, unfortunately for the Munduruku and other local indigenous groups, each time the MPF won in a lower court, the powerful interests of the energy sector — both within government and outside it — had the decision overturned in a higher court.

This was largely possible because the Workers’ Party government (which ruled from 2003-16) had revived a legal instrument known as Suspensão de Segurança (Suspension of Security), which was instituted and widely used by Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-85). Suspension of Security allows any judicial decision, even when based on sound legal principles, to be reversed in a higher court without further legal argument, using a trump card that simply invokes “national security”, “public order” or the “national economy”.

The Prosecutor Luís de Camões Lima Boaventura told Mongabay: “Figures collected by the MPF show that, just with respect to the hydroelectric dams in the Teles Pires-Tapajós Basin, we were victorious in 80 percent of the actions we took, but all of the rulings in our favor were reversed by suspensions.”

Marcelo Munduruku: “The ethnocide continues, in the way people look at us, the way they want us to be like them, subjugating our organizations, the way they tell us that our religion isn’t worth anything, that theirs is what matters, the way they tell us our behavior is wrong. They are obliterating the identity of the Indian as a human being.” Photo by Thais Borges

Marcelo Munduruku: “The ethnocide continues, in the way people look at us, the way they want us to be like them, subjugating our organizations, the way they tell us that our religion isn’t worth anything, that theirs is what matters, the way they tell us our behavior is wrong. They are obliterating the identity of the Indian as a human being.” Photo by Thais Borges

According to Prosecutor Boaventura, the root of the problem is that the Brazilian authorities have always adopted a colonial mentality towards the Amazon: “I would say that Amazonia hasn’t been seen as a territory to be conquered. Rather, it’s been seen as a territory to be plundered. Predation is the norm.”

Instead of democratically engaging the Munduruku, and debating the various options for the future of the Tapajós region, federal authorities imposed the dams, without discussion. The Teles Pires dam was built in record time — 41 months — and is already operating. According to a recent press interview, the São Manoel dam, due to come on stream in May 2018, is also on course to be completed ahead of schedule.

Almost every week now, local indigenous villages feel another impact from the large construction projects. The Indians say that the building of the São Manoel dam made the river dirty, more silted and turbid. Although their claims may be exaggerated, there seems little doubt that aquatic life will suffer serious, long-term harm. This is serious for a people whose diet largely consists of fish.

In November, crisis came in the form of an oil spill on the river, possibly originating at the dam construction site, an event that deprived some villages of drinking water.

“We will have to pay the price”

The destruction of the sacred Sete Quedas rapids was not the only blow inflicted on the Munduruku by the consortium building the Sao Manoel dam. Workers also withdrew 12 funeral urns and archaeological artefacts from a nearby site, a violation of sacred tradition that has done further spiritual harm. The Munduruku cacique, or leader, Disma Mou, who is also a shaman, explains: “We kept arrows, clubs, ceramics, there, all buried under the ground in urns, all sacred. Many were war trophies, placed there when we were at war, travelling from region to region. Our ancestors chose this place to be sacred and now it is being destroyed by the dam.”

A creek flowing into the Teles Pires River. With the building of more than 40 dams in the region, these small waterways will be drowned, destroying fishing grounds and vastly altering ecosystems. Photo by Thais Borges

A creek flowing into the Teles Pires River. With the building of more than 40 dams in the region, these small waterways will be drowned, destroying fishing grounds and vastly altering ecosystems. Photo by Thais Borges

Francisco Pugliese, an archaeologist from the University of São Paulo, told Mongabay that he had been horrified by the behavior of the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (Iphan), the body in charge of the protection of archaeological sites. He said that the institute had broken the law by exempting the hydroelectric company from the obligation to work with the Munduruku to determine the best way of protecting their sacred site. Worse, Iphan had decided that, as the urns and other material were discovered outside the boundary of the indigenous reserve, they were the property of the government and should be sent to a museum.

“Imagine what it’s like for a traditional people to see its ancestors taken to a place with which it has no emotional link or even knows”, he said. “It’s within this perverse logic of dispossession that archaeological research takes place, in the context of the implementation of the dam. It exacerbates the process of expropriation and the destruction of the cultural references of the people and it reinforces the process of genocide of the original inhabitants of the Amazon basin”, he concluded. Mongabay requested an interview with Iphan but was not granted one.

The elder Eurico Krixi Munduruku finds it painful to describe what this sacrilege means for the people: “Those urns should never have been touched. And it’s not the white man who will pay for this. It is us, the living Munduruku, who will have to pay, in the form of accidents, in the form of death…. Our ancestors left them there for us to protect. It was our duty and we have failed. And now we, the Munduruku, will have to pay the price.”

The harm done to the Munduruku psyche by these desecrations hit home in the aftermath of a 2012 federal police operation known as Operação Eldorado, during which an Indian was killed. Krixi Biwun, the sister of the dead man, told us of her brother’s restless spirit: “He went to Sete Quedas because, when people die, that is where our ancestors take them so they can live there. But now Sete Quedas is destroyed and he is suffering.”

“The ethnocide continues”

Is there a way forward for the Munduruku people, a way that the perceived blasphemy done by the consortium and federal government can be reversed? Everyone we talked to in the village is certain that, as long as the urns and other artefacts rest outside the sacred site, one catastrophe will follow another; even small wounds will cause death.

But it is not simply a case of returning the urns to the Indians so they can rebury them. “They can’t give the urns back to us”, explains Krixi Biwun. “We can’t touch them. They have to find a way of getting them returned to a sacred place [without us].”

This seems unlikely to happen. The urns are currently held by the Teles Pires company in the town of Alta Floresta, waiting to be taken to a museum at the request of Iphan. Mongabay asked to see the artefacts but our request was turned down.

Munduruku Indians outside the Teles Pires company gate where the Munduruku sacred relics have been stored by the dam construction consortium. Photo by Thais Borges

Munduruku Indians outside the Teles Pires company gate where the Munduruku sacred relics have been stored by the dam construction consortium. Photo by Thais Borges

Even if the holy relics were eventually returned to a sacred place in one of the rapids along the Teles Pires River, that respite is likely to be short-lived. The next step in the opening up of the region to agribusiness and mining is to turn the Teles Pires into an industrial waterway, transforming it with dams, reservoirs, canals and locks. This will mean the destruction of all the river’s rapids, leaving no sacred sites.

The indefatigable MPF has carried on fighting. In December, it won another court victory, with a judge ruling that the license for the installation of the Teles Pires dam — granted by the environmental agency, Ibama — was invalid, given the failure to consult the Indians.

Once again, however, this court order is likely to be reversed by a higher court using the “Suspension of Security” instrument. Indeed, no judicial decision regarding the dams will likely be respected by the government until the case is judged by the Supreme Federal Tribunal, which will probably take decades. In practical terms, what the Tribunal decides will be irrelevant, for the Teles Pires dam is already operational and the São Manoel dam will come on stream later this year.

The Indians are outraged by the lack of respect with which they are being treated. A statement issued jointly by the Munduruku, Kayabi and Apiaká in 2011, and quoted in the book-length report, Ocekadi, asks: “What would the white man say if we built our villages on the top of his buildings, his holy places and his cemeteries?” It is, the Munduruku say, the equivalent of razing St. Peters in Rome to construct a nuclear power plant, or digging up your grandmother’s grave to build a parking lot.

The researcher, Rosamaria Loures, who has been studying the Munduruku’s opposition to the hydroelectric projects, told Mongabay that their experience reveals one of the weaknesses of Brazilian society: “The Nation-State has established a hierarchy of values based on criteria like class, color and ethnic origin. In this categorization, certain groups ‘count less’ and can be simply crushed,” she explains.

A Munduruku Indian, Marcelo, who we spoke to within an indigenous territory near the town of Juara, expressed the same notion in the graphic terms of someone who experiences discrimination every day of his life:

“The ethnocide continues, in the way people look at us, the way they want us to be like them, subjugating our organizations, the way they tell us that our religion isn’t worth anything, that theirs is what matters, the way they tell us our behavior is wrong. They are obliterating the identity of the Indian as a human being.”


(Leia essa matéria em português no The Intercept Brasil. You can also read Mongabay’s series on the Tapajós Basin in Portuguese at The Intercept Brasil after January 10, 2017)

The recently built Miritituba soy processing port on the Tapajós River. It was financed and constructed by Brazilian and international commodities traders in anticipation of the approval by the Brazilian Congress of a vast industrial waterway, new paved highways and a railroad. If that construction goes forward, it will cause major deforestation and ecological damage to the Tapajós Basin, while also impoverishing indigenous cultures. Photo by Thais Borges

The recently built Miritituba soy processing port on the Tapajós River. It was financed and constructed by Brazilian and international commodities traders in anticipation of the approval by the Brazilian Congress of a vast industrial waterway, new paved highways and a railroad. If that construction goes forward, it will cause major deforestation and ecological damage to the Tapajós Basin, while also impoverishing indigenous cultures. Photo by Walter Guimarães

Morre na Flórida a orca Tilikum, que inspirou o documentário “Blackfish” (Correio Brasiliense)

A fama internacional de Tilikum começou em 2010, quando, durante uma acrobacia, matou sua treinadora

Postado em 06/01/2017 16:38

A orca Tilikum, estrela do SeaWorld e protagonista do aclamado documentário “Blackfish”, que denunciou o sofrimento dos animais em cativeiro em atrações do gênero, morreu nesta sexta-feira após sofrer uma infecção bacteriana, anunciou o parque temático da Flórida em um comunicado.

A orca macho de 36 anos sofria de “graves problemas de saúde” e ainda se não pode determinar exatamente a causa da morte, segundo a empresa. Entre outros problemas, seus veterinários detectaram uma infecção bacteriana nos pulmões.

“Tilikum tinha, e ainda tem, um lugar especial no coração da família SeaWorld, assim como nos corações de milhões de pessoas ao redor do mundo que inspirou”, disse Joel Manby, presidente do parque de Orlando, no centro da Flórida.

A fama internacional de Tilikum começou em 2010, quando, durante uma acrobacia, matou sua treinadora.

“A vida de Tilikum estará sempre ligada à perda de nossa amiga e colega Dawn Bancheau”, escreveu a empresa no texto publicado em seu site. “Enquanto todos nós sofremos grande tristeza por essa perda, continuamos oferecendo a Tilikum o melhor cuidado possível”.

A morte de Dawn é mencionada no filme de 2013, que ganhou o prêmio Bafta de Melhor Documentário, como um efeito do estresse sofrido por orcas em cativeiro por viver em pequenos tanques e com pouca luz.

A empresa sofreu uma avalanche de críticas após o filme e multiplicaram-se as chamadas para o fechamento desses parques aquáticos.

Finalmente, em março de 2016, SeaWorld anunciou que iria parar a criação de orcas e que sua atual geração desses mamíferos em cativeiro seria a última. A decisão foi aplaudida por organizações de defesa dos animais.

“Tilikum estava perto do fim da expectativa média de vida de baleias orcas do sexo masculino, de acordo com um estudo científico independente”, disse o SeaWorld nesta sexta-feira, relatando ainda que as bactérias que atingiram o animal são encontradas “em hábitats naturais e instalações de zoológicos”.

Com a perda de Tilikum, o SeaWorld tem agora 22 orcas em seus três parques em Orlando, San Antonio (Texas) e San Diego (Califórnia).

Por France Presse

Custos com desastres naturais em 2016 registram recorde em 4 anos (Correio Brasiliense)

No total, foram registrados 750 fenômenos climáticos ou geológicos extremos no ano passado

Postado em 04/01/2017 10:24


O estudo também registra 160 catástrofes na América do Norte, incluindo o furacão Matthew, em outubro, que deixou 550 vítimas no Haiti

Os desastres naturais causaram danos no valor de 175 bilhões de dólares em 2016, um recorde desde 2012, mas foram menos mortíferos que no ano anterior, segundo um estudo publicado nesta quarta-feira pela companhia resseguradora alemã Munich Re.

Destes 175 bilhões de dólares, apenas 50 bilhões estavam assegurados, segundo o estudo, considerado uma referência no setor.

Por outro lado, as catástrofes naturais deixaram 8,7 mil mortos no ano recém-terminado, comparado com os 25,4 mil mortos em 2015, fazendo de 2016 o segundo ano menos mortífero desde 1986, atrás de 2014 e suas 8.050 mortes por desastres naturais.

No total, foram registrados 750 fenômenos climáticos ou geológicos extremos em 2016, muito mais que os 590 casos constatados em média nos últimos dez anos.

A Munich Re destaca que duas catástrofes – vários terremotos no Japão em abril e uma onda de inundações na China em junho e julho – foram as mais caras, provocando respectivamente 31 bilhões e 20 bilhões de dólares em danos.

O estudo também registra 160 catástrofes na América do Norte, incluindo o furacão Matthew, em outubro, que deixou 550 vítimas no Haiti e provocou 10,2 bilhões de dólares em danos em sua passagem.

No Canadá, os incêndios das florestas em Alberta, em maio, provocaram cerca de 4 bilhões de dólares em danos, enquanto os danos causados pelas inundações de agosto no sul dos Estados Unidos custaram 10 bilhões de dólares.

Na Europa, uma série de tempestades no final de maio e início de junho, principalmente na França e na Alemanha, com inundações e cheias de rios comportaram perdas no valor de 6 bilhões de dólares.

Por France Presse

Assim a sociedade de consumo destrói a biodiversidade do planeta (El País)

Pesquisa correlaciona a extinção de espécies com a origem dos produtos do comércio global

Os orangotangos de Bornéu estão ameaçados pela produção de óleo de palma.

Os orangotangos de Bornéu estão ameaçados pela produção de óleo de palma.  JEFTA IMAGES / BARCROFT


5 JAN 2017 – 00:53 CET 

Os humanos começam a admitir que somos como um meteorito que vai provocar a nova megaextinção de espécies no planeta Terra. Mas ainda nos falta muita informação sobre o tamanho desse meteorito coletivo e o alcance da devastação que juntos causaremos. Sabemos, por exemplo, que a exploração maciça dos recursos naturais é um dos grandes fatores associados à devastação da biodiversidade, mas são necessários mais dados para conectar esse fenômeno com nosso consumo desmesurado.

Um estudo pioneiro, divulgado nesta quarta-feira, mostra a grande responsabilidade do comércio global na extinção maciça de espécies no mundo, traçando uma clara correlação entre a cesta de compras dos países mais consumidores e as selvagens pressões que massacram os tesouros naturais. O cafezinho que alguém toma nos EUA, por exemplo, está ligado ao desmatamentoda América Central – onde esse café é cultivado –, e esse é o habitat do acuado macaco-aranha, o mais ameaçado do planeta.

“Pelo menos um terço das ameaças à biodiversidade em todo o mundo estão vinculadas à produção para o comércio internacional”, dizem os autores do estudo publicado na Nature Ecology & Evolution. Em seu trabalho, eles mapearam locais do planeta onde há quase 7.000 espécies ameaçadas, estabelecendo sua conexão com a cadeia de consumo nos EUA, China e Japão. Desse modo, pode-se ver facilmente como os animais sob risco em determinados pontos do planeta sofrem com a demanda de bens por parte dos grandes consumidores.

Mapa dos lugares com espécies ameaçadas em relação com o consumo de bens nos EUA.

Mapa dos lugares com espécies ameaçadas em relação com o consumo de bens nos EUA.  NATURE

 Por exemplo, o lince e dúzias de outras espécies sofrem na península Ibérica pela pressão da produção agrícola que abastece os mercados europeus e norte-americanos. “É digno de menção o importante rastro dos EUA na biodiversidade do sul da Espanha e Portugal, ligado aos impactos sobre uma série de espécies ameaçadas de peixes e aves, já que esses países raramente são percebidos como pontos de ameaça”, afirmam os autores no estudo.

No Brasil, a principal ameaça está no sul, no planalto brasileiro, devido à agropecuária extensiva, e não na Amazônia

“O que este trabalho nos mostra é que os humanos estão assaltando o planeta”, resume David Nogués-Bravo, especialista em macroecologia da Universidade de Copenhague. Nogués-Bravo, que não participou do estudo, diz que os impactos humanos sobre a natureza podem ser representados como um redemoinho que engole a diversidade de seres vivos sobre a Terra. “Esse turbilhão é constituído por três nós: poder, comida e dinheiro. A capacidade da nossa espécie de sugar energia e recursos do planeta é quase ilimitada, e é o que está provocando a sexta extinção maciça na história da Terra”, denúncia o ecologista.

Para ele, tanto o enfoque como os resultados são muito pertinentes, porque põem em perspectiva as perdas de biodiversidade, principalmente em países tropicais em vias de desenvolvimento, e os fluxos de demanda que se originam nos países mais ricos e industrializados.

“O planeta inteiro se tornou uma fazenda, tudo está a serviço de fornecer cada vez mais bens”, critica Juan Carlos del Olmo, secretário-geral da organização conservacionista WWF na Espanha. “O maior vetor de destruição da biodiversidade é a produção de alimentos numa escala brutal”, aponta. Os autores do estudo relatam, por exemplo, sua surpresa ao comprovar que o principal foco de ameaça aos tesouros naturais do Brasil não está na Amazônia. “Apesar da grande atenção dedicada à selva amazônica, o rastro norte-americano no Brasil é maior no sul, no planalto brasileiro, onde há práticas agropecuárias extensivas”, ressalta o trabalho.

“Os humanos estão assaltando o planeta. A capacidade da nossa espécie de sugar energia e recursos no planeta é quase ilimitada”, resume Nogués-Bravo

“E o rastro ecológico não para de crescer”, acrescenta Del Olmo, “mas reduzir esse rastro não é fácil; não podemos fomentar um consumo responsável se depois vamos jogar fora 25% do que se produz”. Como alterar a influência negativa destes fluxos? “Com este enfoque, do rastro de cima para baixo, examinamos todas as espécies ameaçadas e a atividade econômica em conjunto, razão pela qual pode ser difícil estabelecer vínculos claros entre consumo, comércio e impacto”, admitiu ao EL PAÍS um dos autores do estudo, Keiichiro Kanemoto, da Universidade de Shinshu.

“Precisamos ver de onde importamos e onde estão as espécies ameaçadas. Nosso mapa pode ajudar as empresas a fazerem uma cuidadosa seleção dos seus insumos e assim aliviar os impactos sobre a biodiversidade”, diz Kanemoto. Segundo o pesquisador, se as empresas oferecerem informações em seus produtos sobre as ameaças a espécies nas cadeias de suprimento, os consumidores poderão escolher em seu cotidiano produtos favoráveis à biodiversidade.

Os morangos que afogam o lince

“Esperamos que as empresas comparem nossos mapas e seus lugares de aquisição e então reconsiderem suas cadeias de suprimento, e queremos trabalhar com elas para começar a tomar medidas reais”, afirma Kanemoto. Neste sentido, Del Olmo diz que o trabalho do WWF há bastante tempo vem se voltando para esse foco: fazer com que todos os participantes da cadeia conheçam o impacto sobre a biodiversidade, para que a indústria, os fornecedores e os consumidores evitem os bens que mais causam danos na sua origem. Em outras palavras, que todos estejam conscientes de que o café coloca em risco o macaco-arranha, assim como o óleo de palma (dendê) ameaça o orangotango na Indonésia.

O estudo de Kanemoto e seus colegas ressalta como é inesperada a aparição da Espanha como uma região com grandes problemas de biodiversidade por culpa do consumo fora das suas fronteiras. Apontam especificamente o lince, que reina no Parque Nacional e Natural de Doñana, no sul do país, e que chegou a ser o felino mais ameaçado da Terra, entre outros motivos pela perda de hábitat. “Do ponto de vista da biodiversidade, a Espanha é o Bornéu da Europa. Nas grandes espécies a briga está acontecendo, mas a biodiversidade pequena – anfíbios, aves e peixes – está desaparecendo a uma velocidade brutal”, lamenta Del Olmo.

O diretor do WWF na Espanha cita como exemplo os morangos: a água que dava de beber à marisma de Doñana é atualmente usada nos milhares de hectares de cultivo de morangos. Essa área responde por 60% do cultivo da fruta na Espanha, e metade da água usada vem de poços ilegais, que secam o entorno. “O uso brutal da água e do território, o impacto da agricultura para exportar produtos a todo o mundo, deixa os aquíferos secos. Não notamos, mas o impacto é impressionante”, explica Del Olmo. E acrescenta: “Por isso dizemos às grandes redes varejistas: não comprem de quem usa poços ilegais e está destruindo a biodiversidade. Premiem quem faz direito”.

Corrente do Golfo pode parar, diz estudo (Observatório do Clima)

JC, 5571, 5 de janeiro de 2017

Novo modelo mostra que esteira oceânica que transporta calor à Europa é mais vulnerável ao aquecimento global do que se imaginava, mas só pararia em séculos não de anos; Brasil seria afetado

Cientistas chineses trabalhando nos EUA trouxeram nesta quarta-feira uma notícia agridoce sobre um dos efeitos mais temidos do aquecimento global. Um modelo climático feito por eles mostra que a corrente oceânica que leva calor dos trópicos à Europa é mais vulnerável do que se imaginava às mudanças do clima, e desligará completamente caso a quantidade de gás carbônico na atmosfera siga aumentando. Por outro lado, esse desligamento ocorreria em séculos, não em anos ou décadas.

Conhecida como circulação termoalina do Atlântico, essa imensa esteira oceânica é um dos principais sistemas de regulação do clima da Terra. Sua face mais conhecida é a Corrente do Golfo, uma corrente quente que migra pela superfície do Atlântico tropical até as imediações do Ártico. No Atlântico Norte, ela fica mais fria e mais salgada (devido à evaporação da água no caminho), afundando e retornando aos trópicos na forma de uma corrente fria submarina. A dissipação de calor dessa corrente é o que mantém a Inglaterra e o norte da Europa com um clima relativamente tépido, mesmo estando em uma latitude elevada.

Desde os anos 1980 os cientistas têm postulado que o aquecimento global, ao derreter o gelo e a neve do Ártico, lançaria grande quantidade de água doce no oceano, diluindo o sal da corrente e impedindo que ela afundasse. O efeito imediato seria a suspensão do transporte da calor para a Europa, que mergulharia numa espécie de era do gelo. Isso já aconteceu há 8.200 anos e resfriou o Velho Continente por dois séculos. Poderia acontecer de novo de forma rápida e causar problemas sérios à civilização, caricaturados no filme-catástrofe O Dia Depois de Amanhã, de 2004.

Observações feitas até aqui, que são esparsas, têm mostrado que justamente desde 2004 esteira oceânica está em sua menor potência nos últimos mil anos, provavelmente por causa do aquecimento global. Alguns cientistas temem que o colapso já tenha começado.

Ocorre que os modelos computacionais que simulam o clima da Terra no futuro, usados pelo IPCC (o painel do clima da ONU), têm falhado sistematicamente em apontar instabilidade no sistema. Por consequência, o desligamento repentino da corrente é considerado pouco provável pelo painel.

Entram em cena Wei Liu, da Universidade da Califórnia em San Diego (hoje na outra costa do país, na Universidade Yale), e colegas. Em estudo publicado nesta quarta-feira no site da revista Science Advances, o grupo aponta que os modelos padecem de um viés: uma distorção faz a corrente parecer artificialmente mais estável do que é de fato.

A origem do problema está longe da Europa, no Atlântico Sul. Essa região do oceano tropical, perto do equador, recebe chuvas constantes na chamada Zona de Convergência Intertropical, o cinturão de tempestades onde massas de ar aquecido dos dois hemisférios se encontram.

Liu e colegas dizem que os modelos do IPCC assumem que há mais água doce oriunda dessas chuvas na corrente do que há de fato. Isso causaria nos modelos uma ilusão de estabilidade – quanto mais água doce no trópico, menor a diferença de salinidade perto do Ártico, portanto, menos suscetível a perturbações a corrente seria. Esse viés, afirma Liu, já havia sido sugerido por outros estudos no passado.

O que o chinês e seu grupo fizeram foi ajustar um dos modelos de acordo com parâmetros de salinidade que eles consideravam mais realistas. Mas não apenas isso: a correção do viés tornou a corrente mais instável e vulnerável ao próprio aquecimento da água do mar – algo que casa melhor com as observações. “O aquecimento reduz a densidade da água e impede a convecção”, disse Liu ao OC.  “O método não é perfeito, mas é o melhor que podemos fazer agora para corrigir o viés e fazer uma projeção mais confiável.”

Os pesquisadores usaram o modelo ajustado para estimar o que acontece com a esteira oceânica caso o nível de CO2 na atmosfera duplique – algo que acontecerá por volta de meados do século se medidas radicais de controle de emissões não forem tomadas.

Aqui vem a nota de alívio do estudo: o colapso da corrente ocorre nas simulações apenas 300 anos após a quantidade de CO2 dobrar na atmosfera. Questionado sobre se isso era uma boa notícia, Liu foi cauteloso: “Sim, 300 anos são muita coisa comparado a uma vida humana, mas mudanças notáveis podem ocorrer antes de a circulação colapsar”, disse. “Além disso, nosso resultado é baseado em um modelo e em um cenário simples de aquecimento.” Liu e seus colegas não consideraram, por exemplo, o fator que até agora tem sido invocado para explicar a redução da corrente: o efeito do degelo da Groenlândia. Ao lançar excesso de água doce sobre o oceano no Ártico, o derretimento poderia agravar a situação de uma corrente que já seria impactada pelo aquecimento da superfície.

Um efeito esperado dessa redução na corrente, por exemplo, é uma mudança nos padrões de chuva em várias regiões do planeta. Um dos lugares que seriam afetados é o Brasil. Estudos do grupo do geólogo de Francisco Cruz, da USP, já mostraram que fases de redução da circulação termoalina no passado corresponderam a chuvas torrenciais no Brasil, devido ao deslocamento da Zona de Convergência Intertropical para o sul.

“Precisamos aplicar essa metodologia a mais modelos climáticos e a cenários de aquecimento global mais realistas”, afirmou Liu.

Observatório do Clima

Global warming hiatus disproved — again (Science Daily)

Study confirms steady warming of oceans for past 45 years

January 4, 2017
University of California – Berkeley
Scientists calculated average ocean temperatures from 1999 to 2015, separately using ocean buoys and satellite data, and confirmed the uninterrupted warming trend reported by NOAA in 2015, based on that organization’s recalibration of sea surface temperature recordings from ships and buoys. The new results show that there was no global warming hiatus between 1998 and 2012.

A new UC Berkeley analysis of ocean buoy (green) and satellite data (orange) show that ocean temperatures have increased steadily since 1999, as NOAA concluded in 2015 (red) after adjusting for a cold bias in buoy temperature measurements. NOAA’s earlier assessment (blue) underestimated sea surface temperature changes, falsely suggesting a hiatus in global warming. The lines show the general upward trend in ocean temperatures. Credit: Zeke Hausfather, UC Berkeley

A controversial paper published two years ago that concluded there was no detectable slowdown in ocean warming over the previous 15 years — widely known as the “global warming hiatus” — has now been confirmed using independent data in research led by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Berkeley Earth, a non-profit research institute focused on climate change.

The 2015 analysis showed that the modern buoys now used to measure ocean temperatures tend to report slightly cooler temperatures than older ship-based systems, even when measuring the same part of the ocean at the same time. As buoy measurements have replaced ship measurements, this had hidden some of the real-world warming.

After correcting for this “cold bias,” researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded in the journal Science that the oceans have actually warmed 0.12 degrees Celsius (0.22 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade since 2000, nearly twice as fast as earlier estimates of 0.07 degrees Celsius per decade. This brought the rate of ocean temperature rise in line with estimates for the previous 30 years, between 1970 and 1999.

This eliminated much of the global warming hiatus, an apparent slowdown in rising surface temperatures between 1998 and 2012. Many scientists, including the International Panel on Climate Change, acknowledged the puzzling hiatus, while those dubious about global warming pointed to it as evidence that climate change is a hoax.

Climate change skeptics attacked the NOAA researchers and a House of Representatives committee subpoenaed the scientists’ emails. NOAA agreed to provide data and respond to any scientific questions but refused to comply with the subpoena, a decision supported by scientists who feared the “chilling effect” of political inquisitions.

The new study, which uses independent data from satellites and robotic floats as well as buoys, concludes that the NOAA results were correct. The paper is published Jan. 4 in the online, open-access journal Science Advances.

“Our results mean that essentially NOAA got it right, that they were not cooking the books,” said lead author Zeke Hausfather, a graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group.

Long-term climate records

Hausfather said that years ago, mariners measured the ocean temperature by scooping up a bucket of water from the ocean and sticking a thermometer in it. In the 1950s, however, ships began to automatically measure water piped through the engine room, which typically is warm. Nowadays, buoys cover much of the ocean and that data is beginning to supplant ship data. But the buoys report slightly cooler temperatures because they measure water directly from the ocean instead of after a trip through a warm engine room.

NOAA is one of three organizations that keep historical records of ocean temperatures — some going back to the 1850s — widely used by climate modelers. The agency’s paper was an attempt to accurately combine the old ship measurements and the newer buoy data.

Hausfather and colleague Kevin Cowtan of the University of York in the UK extended that study to include the newer satellite and Argo float data in addition to the buoy data.

“Only a small fraction of the ocean measurement data is being used by climate monitoring groups, and they are trying to smush together data from different instruments, which leads to a lot of judgment calls about how you weight one versus the other, and how you adjust for the transition from one to another,” Hausfather said. “So we said, ‘What if we create a temperature record just from the buoys, or just from the satellites, or just from the Argo floats, so there is no mixing and matching of instruments?'”

In each case, using data from only one instrument type — either satellites, buoys or Argo floats — the results matched those of the NOAA group, supporting the case that the oceans warmed 0.12 degrees Celsius per decade over the past two decades, nearly twice the previous estimate. In other words, the upward trend seen in the last half of the 20th century continued through the first 15 years of the 21st: there was no hiatus.

“In the grand scheme of things, the main implication of our study is on the hiatus, which many people have focused on, claiming that global warming has slowed greatly or even stopped,” Hausfather said. “Based on our analysis, a good portion of that apparent slowdown in warming was due to biases in the ship records.”

Correcting other biases in ship records

In the same publication last year, NOAA scientists also accounted for changing shipping routes and measurement techniques. Their correction — giving greater weight to buoy measurements than to ship measurements in warming calculations — is also valid, Hausfather said, and a good way to correct for this second bias, short of throwing out the ship data altogether and relying only on buoys.

Another repository of ocean temperature data, the Hadley Climatic Research Unit in the United Kingdom, corrected their data for the switch from ships to buoys, but not for this second factor, which means that the Hadley data produce a slightly lower rate of warming than do the NOAA data or the new UC Berkeley study.

“In the last seven years or so, you have buoys warming faster than ships are, independently of the ship offset, which produces a significant cool bias in the Hadley record,” Hausfather said. The new study, he said, argues that the Hadley center should introduce another correction to its data.

“People don’t get much credit for doing studies that replicate or independently validate other people’s work. But, particularly when things become so political, we feel it is really important to show that, if you look at all these other records, it seems these researchers did a good job with their corrections,” Hausfather said.

Co-author Mark Richardson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena added, “Satellites and automated floats are completely independent witnesses of recent ocean warming, and their testimony matches the NOAA results. It looks like the NOAA researchers were right all along.”

Other co-authors of the paper are David C. Clarke, an independent researcher from Montreal, Canada, Peter Jacobs of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and Robert Rohde of Berkeley Earth. The research was funded by Berkeley Earth.

Journal Reference:

  1. Zeke Hausfather, Kevin Cowtan, David C. Clarke, Peter Jacobs, Mark Richardson, Robert Rohde. Assessing recent warming using instrumentally homogeneous sea surface temperature recordsScience Advances, 2017; 3 (1): e1601207 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601207

Climate change could trigger strong sea level rise (Science Daily)

International research team presents findings from frozen ‘climate archive’ of Antarctica

January 5, 2017
University of Bonn
About 15,000 years ago, the ocean around Antarctica has seen an abrupt sea level rise of several meters. It could happen again.

Iceberg in the southeastern Weddell Sea region. Credit: Photo: Dr. Michael Weber

About 15,000 years ago, the ocean around Antarctica has seen an abrupt sea level rise of several meters. It could happen again. An international team of scientists with the participation of the University of Bonn is now reporting its findings in the magazine Scientific Reports.

University of Bonn’s climate researcher Michael E. Weber is a member of the study group. He says, “The changes that are currently taking place in a disturbing manner resemble those 14,700 years ago.” At that time, changes in atmospheric-oceanic circulation led to a stratification in the ocean with a cold layer at the surface and a warm layer below. Under such conditions, ice sheets melt more strongly than when the surrounding ocean is thoroughly mixed. This is exactly what is presently happening around the Antarctic.

The main author of the study, the Australian climate researcher Chris Fogwill from the Climate Change Research Center in Sydney, explains the process as follows: “The reason for the layering is that global warming in parts of Antarctica is causing land based ice to melt, adding massive amounts of freshwater to the ocean surface. At the same time as the surface is cooling, the deeper ocean is warming, which has already accelerated the decline of glaciers in the Amundsen Sea Embayment.” It appears global warming is replicating conditions that, in the past, triggered significant shifts in the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet.

To investigate the climate changes of the past, the scientists are studying drill cores from the eternal ice. Layer by layer, this frozen “climate archive” reveals its secrets to the experts. In previous studies, the scientists had found evidence of eight massive melting events in deep sea sediments around the Antarctic, which occurred at the transition from the last ice age to the present warm period. Co-author Dr. Weber from the Steinmann Institute of the University of Bonn says: “The largest melt occurred 14,700 years ago. During this time the Antarctic contributed to a sea level rise of at least three meters within a few centuries.”

The present discovery is the first direct evidence from the Antarctic continent which confirms the assumed models. The research team used isotopic analyzes of ice cores from the Weddell Sea region, which now flows into the ocean about a quarter of the Antarctic melt.

Through a combination with ice sheet and climate modeling, the isotopic data show that the waters around the Antarctic were heavily layered at the time of the melting events, so that the ice sheets melted at a faster rate. “The big question is whether the ice sheet will react to these changing ocean conditions as rapidly as it did 14,700 years ago,” says co-author Nick Golledge from the Antarctic Research Center in Wellington, New Zealand.

Journal Reference:

  1. C. J. Fogwill, C. S. M. Turney, N. R. Golledge, D. M. Etheridge, M. Rubino, D. P. Thornton, A. Baker, J. Woodward, K. Winter, T. D. van Ommen, A. D. Moy, M. A. J. Curran, S. M. Davies, M. E. Weber, M. I. Bird, N. C. Munksgaard, L. Menviel, C. M. Rootes, B. Ellis, H. Millman, J. Vohra, A. Rivera, A. Cooper. Antarctic ice sheet discharge driven by atmosphere-ocean feedbacks at the Last Glacial TerminationScientific Reports, 2017; 7: 39979 DOI: 10.1038/srep39979