Arquivo da tag: Culpa

SP, MG e Rio: 87% atribuem crise hídrica aos governantes, diz pesquisa (O Globo)

Na Grande São Paulo, segundo a consultoria Expertise, 92,5% colocam na conta do governo o problema

POR LEONARDO GUANDELINE

11/02/2015 6:00 / ATUALIZADO 11/02/2015 12:23

SÃO PAULO – Aumentou entre paulistas, cariocas e mineiros o número de pessoas que atribuem a responsabilidade pela atual crise hídrica ao governo (municipal, estadual e federal). É o que mostra pesquisa inédita sobre o tema realizada via internet pela consultoria mineira Expertise. Num primeiro levantamento, feito em outubro passado, 75% dos entrevistados colocavam a crise na conta dos governantes. Em fevereiro deste ano, esse número subiu para 87%. Na Grande São Paulo, região que enfrenta problemas no abastecimento de água há mais de um ano, 92,5% dos entrevistados acreditam que os governantes têm muita responsabilidade pela crise – eram 78% na pesquisa anterior.

Dos 2.138 entrevistados em São Paulo (interior e região metropolitana da capital), Minas (interior e Grande Belo Horizonte) e Rio, 75% responsabilizam a população (ante 78% da pesquisa anterior) pela crise e 74% as empresas responsáveis pelo abastecimento (eram 62% no levantamento anterior) pelo problema.

Em outubro, os entrevistados diziam que o principal fator que levou à crise foi o mau uso da água e dos recursos naturais pela população (o item agora ocupa a segunda posição, segundo 21% dos entrevistados). Na pesquisa atual, a falta de planejamento dos governantes (na opinião de 29% dos internautas), que ficava em terceiro lugar, lidera. Segunda posição no levantamento de outubro, a falta de chuva hoje ocupa o quinto lugar, segundo 13% dos entrevistados.

Segundo a pesquisa, 48% dos internautas disseram ter tido pelo menos um corte de água nos últimos dias. Na região metropolitana da capital paulista, esse número sobe para 70%.

À consultoria Expertise, 91% dos entrevistados acham que o governo poderia ter evitado que a crise chegasse a tal ponto. Outros 89% acreditam que a crise hídrica vai afetar o fornecimento de energia. Dos internautas, 87% demonstram estar “bem preocupados” com a falta d’água.

Para 66%, a tendência é de piora no quadro nos próximos 12 meses. E 90% disseram acreditar que o preço da água vai subir.

A Expertise realizou as entrevistas online em janeiro e fevereiro deste ano, com homens e mulheres de todas as classes sociais. A margem de erro da pesquisa é de 2,1 pontos percentuais, para mais ou para menos.

AUMENTO NO ESTOQUE DE ÁGUA

Se em outubro o número de entrevistados ouvidos pela consultoria que disseram estar estocando ou pensando em estocar água era de 64%, em fevereiro esse percentual subiu para 73%.

À consultoria Expertise, os entrevistados ainda responderam sobre uma série de mudanças no comportamento. 83% disseram ter diminuído o tempo no banho e 72% passaram a fechar a torneira ao escovar os dentes ou lavar a louça. Dos internautas, 60% contaram que estão, de alguma forma, reutilizando água e 57% passaram a lavar menos roupa.

Os favoráveis ao racionamento somam 73% ante 77% do levantamento feito pela consultoria em outubro.

VEJA TAMBÉM

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Mudança climática (Folha de S.Paulo)

7/11/2014

Eduardo Giannetti

Em “Reasons and Persons”, uma das mais inovadoras obras de filosofia analítica dos últimos 30 anos, o filósofo Derek Parfit propõe um intrigante “experimento mental”. A situação descrita é hipotética, mas ajuda a explicitar um ponto nevrálgico do maior desafio humano: limitar o aquecimento global a 2°C acima do nível pré-industrial até o final do século 21.

Imagine uma pessoa afivelada a uma cama com eletrodos colados em suas têmporas. Ao se girar um botão situado em outro local a corrente nos eletrodos aumenta em grau infinitesimal, de modo que o paciente não chegue a sentir. Um Big Mac gratuito é então ofertado a quem girar o botão. Ocorre, contudo, que quando milhares de pessoas fazem isso –sem que cada uma saiba dos outros– a descarga de energia produzida é suficiente para eletrocutar a vítima.

Quem é responsável pelo que? Algo tenebroso foi perpetrado, mas a quem atribuir a culpa? O efeito isolado de cada giro do botão é por definição imperceptível –são todos “torturadores inofensivos”. Mas o resultado conjunto dessa miríade de ações é ofensivo ao extremo. Até que ponto a somatória de ínfimas partículas de culpa se acumula numa gigantesca dívida moral coletiva?

A mudança climática em curso equivale a uma espécie de eletrocussão da biosfera. Quem a deseja? Até onde sei, ninguém. Trata-se da alquimia perversa de inumeráveis atos humanos, cada um deles isoladamente ínfimo, mas que não resulta de nenhuma intenção humana. E quem assume –ou deveria assumir– a culpa por ela? A maioria e ninguém, ainda que alguns sejam mais culpados que outros.

Os 7 bilhões de habitantes do planeta pertencem a três grupos: cerca de 1 bilhão respondem por 50% das emissões totais de gases-estufa, ao passo que os 3 bilhões seguintes por 45%. Os 3 bilhões na base da pirâmide de energia (metade sem acesso a eletricidade) respondem por apenas 5%. Por seu modo de vida e vulnerabilidade, este grupo –o único inocente– será o mais tragicamente afetado pelo “giro de botão” dos demais.

Descarbonizar é preciso. Segundo o recém-publicado relatório do painel do clima da ONU, limitar o aquecimento a 2°C exigirá cortar as emissões antropogênicas de 40% a 70% em relação a 2010 até 2050 e zerá-las até o final do século. Como chegar lá?

A complexidade do desafio é esmagadora. Contar com a gradual conscientização dos “torturadores inocentes” parece irrealista. Pagar para ver e apostar na tecnologia como tábua de salvação seria temerário ao extremo. O protagonista da ação, creio eu, deveria ser a estrutura de incentivos: precificar o carbono e colocar a força do sistema de preços para trabalhar no âmbito da descarbonização.

You should be ashamed — or maybe not (Science Daily)

Date: March 13, 2014

Source: University of California – Santa Barbara

Summary: Shame on you. These three simple words can temporarily — or, when used too often, permanently — destroy an individual’s sense of value and self-worth.

Shame on you. These three simple words can temporarily — or, when used too often, permanently — destroy an individual’s sense of value and self-worth. Credit: © Mitarart / Fotolia

Shame on you. These three simple words can temporarily — or, when used too often, permanently — destroy an individual’s sense of value and self-worth.

“In modernity, shame is the most obstructed and hidden emotion, and therefore the most destructive,” said Thomas Scheff, professor emeritus of sociology at UC Santa Barbara. “Emotions are like breathing — they cause trouble only when obstructed.”

When hidden, he continued, shame causes serious struggles not only for individuals but also for groups. In an article published in the current issue of the journal Cultural Sociology, Scheff examines the ubiquity of hidden shame and suggests it may be one of the keys to understanding contemporary society.

According to Scheff a society that fosters individualism (ours, for example) provides a ripe breeding ground for the emotion of shame because people are encouraged to “go it alone, no matter the cost to relationships,” he said. “People learn to act as if they were complete in themselves and independent of others. This feature has constructive and creative sides, but it has at least two other implications: alienation and the hiding of shame.”

Scheff noted that while shame is no less prevalent now than in previous years or decades or generations, it is more hidden. “Shame is a biological entity like other emotions, but people are more ashamed of it than they are of the others,” he said. “The hiding of emotions is more widespread in modern societies than in traditional ones.”

In exploring the connection between shame and aggression, Scheff cites research conducted by sociologist Neil Websdale, author of “Familicidal Hearts: The Emotional Styles of 211 Killers.” Familicide, the act of one spouse killing the other as well as their children and often himself or herself, stems from unacknowledged shame, Scheff said. “It’s about humiliation and hiding behind aggression or violence,” he explained. “The most interesting thing about the study is there’s a group of non-angry people — a minority — who lose their job and feel humiliated. So they pretend they’re going to work every day but are really planning the killing. Websdale describes them as ‘civic respectable.’

“Our society — our civilization — is civic respectable,” Scheff continued. “You’re not to be angry and you’re not to be ashamed.”

The problem with that kind of thinking, however, is that shame is, in reality, a very useful emotion. “Shame is the basis of morality,” Scheff said. “You can’t have a moral society without shame. It provides the weight for morality. There are a hundred things in your head about what you should or shouldn’t do, but the one that hits you is the one that has shame behind it.”

Scheff suggests that shame — or the reaction to it — can manifest itself in larger acts of aggression, such as wars and other military conflicts. “Especially for leaders, both shame and anger are carefully hidden behind a veil of rationality,” he writes in the article. “The Bush administration may have been deeply embarrassed by the 9/11 attack during their watch and their helplessness to punish the attackers. The invasion of Iraq on the basis of false premises might have served to hide their shame behind anger and aggression.”

While some people are more susceptible to the effects of shame, for others the emotion is more manageable. “Those lucky rascals who as children were treated with sympathetic attention from at least one of their caregivers feel more pride — accepted as they are — and, therefore, less shame and rejection,” Scheff said.

So how does one resolve hidden shame? The answer, according to Scheff, is to have a good laugh. “That is, laugh at yourself or at the universe or at your circumstances, but not at other people. Most of the laughing we do in comedy is good. No matter the actors, we are really laughing at our own selves that we see in their foolishness.”

Journal Reference:

  1. T. Scheff. The Ubiquity of Hidden Shame in ModernityCultural Sociology, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/1749975513507244

People tend to blame fate when faced with a hard decision (Science Daily)

Date: February 19, 2014

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Summary: We tend to deal with difficult decisions by shifting responsibility for the decision to fate, according to new research. Life is full of decisions. Some, like what to eat for breakfast, are relatively easy. Others, like whether to move cities for a new job, are quite a bit more difficult. Difficult decisions tend to make us feel stressed and uncomfortable — we don’t want to feel responsible if the outcome is less than desirable. New research suggests that we deal with such difficult decisions by shifting responsibility for the decision to fate.

Life is full of decisions. Some, like what to eat for breakfast, are relatively easy. Others, like whether to move cities for a new job, are quite a bit more difficult. Difficult decisions tend to make us feel stressed and uncomfortable — we don’t want to feel responsible if the outcome is less than desirable. New research suggests that we deal with such difficult decisions by shifting responsibility for the decision to fate.

The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Fate is a ubiquitous supernatural belief, spanning time and place,” write researchers Aaron Kay, Simone Tang, and Steven Shepherd of Duke University. “It exerts a range of positive and negative effects on health, coping, and both action and inaction.”

Kay, Tang, and Shepherd hypothesized that people may invoke fate as a way of assuaging their own stress and fears — a way of saying “It’s out of my hands now, there’s nothing I can do.”

“Belief in fate, defined as the belief that whatever happens was supposed to happen and that outcomes are ultimately predetermined, may be especially useful when one is facing these types of difficult decisions,” they explain.

To test their hypothesis, the researchers capitalized on a current event of considerable significance: the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

They conducted an online survey with 189 participants and found that the greater difficulty participants reported in choosing between Obama and Romney (e.g., “both candidates seem equally good,” “I am not sure how to compare the candidates’ plans”), the more likely they were to believe in fate (e.g., “Fate will make sure that the candidate that eventually gets elected is the right one”).

In a second online survey, the researchers actually manipulated participants’ decision difficulty by making it harder to distinguish between the candidates.

Participants read real policy statements from the two presidential candidates — some read quotes from the candidates that emphasized the similarities in their policy positions, others read quotes that emphasized the differences.

As predicted, participants who read statements that highlighted similarities viewed the decision between the candidates as more difficult and reported greater belief in fate than the participants that read statements focused on differences.

“The two studies presented here provide consistent and converging evidence that decision difficulty can motivate increased belief in fate,” write Kay and colleagues.

The researchers note that these findings raise additional questions that still need to be answered.

For example, do people invoke fate when they have to make decisions that are personally but not societally significant, such as where to invest money? And are we just as likely to invoke luck or other supernatural worldviews when faced with a difficult decision?

“Belief in fate may ease the psychological burden of a difficult decision, but whether that comes at the cost of short-circuiting an effective decision-making process is an important question for future research,” the researchers conclude.

Journal Reference:

  1. S. Tang, S. Shepherd, A. C. Kay. Do Difficult Decisions Motivate Belief in Fate? A Test in the Context of the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election.Psychological Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0956797613519448

Renee Lertzman: the difficulty of knowledge

By Renee Lertzman / December 16, 2012

The notion that one can feel deeply, passionately about a particular issue – and not do anything in practically about it – seems to have flummoxed the broader environmental community.

Why else would we continue to design surveys and polls gauging public opinions about climate change (or other serious ecological threats)? Such surveys – even high profile, well funded mass surveys – continue to reproduce pernicious myths regarding both human subjectivity and the so-called gaps between values and actions.

It is no surprise that data surfacing in a survey or poll will stand in stark contrast to the ‘down and dirty’ world of actions. We all know that surveys invoke all sorts of complicated things like wanting to sound smart/good/moral, one’s own self-concept vs. actual feelings or thoughts, and being corralled into highly simplistic renderings of what are hugely complex topics or issues (“do you worry about climate change/support carbon tax/drive to work each day etc?”). So there is the obvious limitation right now. However, more important is this idea that the thoughts or ideas people hold will translate into their daily life. Reflect for a moment on an issue you care very deeply about. Now consider how much in alignment your practices are, in relation with this issue. It takes seconds to see that in fact, we can have multiple and competing desires and commitments, quite easily.

So why is it so hard for us to carry this over into how we research environmental values, perceptions or beliefs?

If we accept from the get-go that we are complicated beings living in hugely complicated contexts, woven into networks extending far beyond our immediate grasp, it makes a lot of sense that I can care deeply for my children’s future quality of life (and climatic conditions), and still carry on business as usual. I may experience deep conflict, guilt, shame and pain, which I can shove to the edges of consciousness. I may manage to not even think about these issues, or create nifty rationalizations for my consumptive behaviors.

However, this does not mean I don’t care, have deep concern, and even profound anxieties.

Until we realize this basic fact – that we are multiple selves in social contexts, and dynamic and fluid – our communications work will be limited. Why? Because we continue to speak with audiences, design messaging, and carry out research with the mythical unitary self in mind. We try to trick, cajole, seduce people into caring about our ecological treasures. This is simply the wrong track. Rather than trick, why not invite? Rather than overcome ‘barriers,’ why not presume dilemmas, and set out to understand them?

There is also the fact that some knowledge is just too difficult to bear.

The concept of “difficult knowledge” relates to the fact that when we learn, we also let go of cherished beliefs or concepts, and this can be often quite painful. How we handle knowledge, in other words, can and should be done with this recognition. How can we best support one another to bear difficult knowledge?

One of the tricks of the trade for gifted psychotherapists is the ability to listen and converse. The therapist listens; not only for the meaning, but where there may be resistance. The places that make us squirm or laugh nervously or change the topic. This is regarded as where the riches lie – where we may find ourselves stuck despite our best intentions. If we were to practice a bit of this in our own work in environmental communications, my guess is we’d see less rah-rah cheerleading engagement styles, and more ‘let’s be real and get down to business’ sort of work.

And this is what we need, desperately.

Blame, Responsibility and Demand for Change Following Floods (Science Daily)

Nov. 25, 2012 — New research shows concerns about governmental failure to act effectively and fairly in the aftermath of extreme weather events can affect the degree to which residents are willing to protect themselves.

Published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the findings of a team led by scientists at the University could prove key to establishing how society should evolve to cope with more turbulent weather and more frequent mega storms.

The team examined attitudes in Cumbria in north west England and Galway in western Ireland, which were both hit by heavy flooding in November 2009. Record rainfall was recorded in both countries, resulting in a number of deaths, properties being severely damaged and economic disruption.

Professor Neil Adger of Geography at the University of Exeter, who led the research, said: “The flooding of 2009 was devastating to both communities. Our study is the first to track the impacts of floods across two countries and how communities and individuals demand change after such events. When people in both studies felt that government had fallen short of their expectations, we found that the resulting perception of helplessness leads to an unwillingness to take personal action to prevent flooding in future.”

Scientists at the University of Exeter worked with colleagues at the National University of Ireland Maynooth and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, which also provided funding for the study.

Researchers surveyed 356 residents in both areas eight months after the flooding. They measured perceptions of governments’ performances in dealing with the aftermath, as well as perceptions of fairness in that response and the willingness of individuals to take action.

Dr Irene Lorenzoni of the Tyndall Centre comments: “Residents in Galway were significantly more likely to believe that their property would be flooded again than those in Cumbria. Yet it was Cumbrians who believed they had more personal responsibility to adapt to reduce future incidents.

“Whether people felt responses were fair also diverged. In our survey in Cumbria three quarters of respondents agreed that everyone in their community had received prompt help following the flooding, while in Galway it was less than half.”

Dr Conor Murphy of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth said: “The strong perception in Galway that authorities failed to deliver on the expectations of flooded communities in late 2009 is a wakeup call. Given the high exposure of development in flood prone areas it is clear that both England and Ireland need to make major investments in building flood resilience with changing rainfall patterns induced by climate change. Political demand for those investments will only grow.”

Professor Adger says: “Our research shows that climate change is likely to lead to a series of crises which will cause major disruption as instant short-term solutions are sought. We need to consider the implicit contract between citizens and government agencies when planning for floods, to enable fairer and smoother processes of adaptation.”

Journal Reference:

  1. W. Neil Adger, Tara Quinn, Irene Lorenzoni, Conor Murphy, John Sweeney. Changing social contracts in climate-change adaptationNature Climate Change, 2012; DOI:10.1038/nclimate1751

Moral Injuries and the Environment: Healing the Soul Wounds of the Body Politic (Science & Environmental Health Network)

By Carolyn Raffensperger – December 6th, 2012

I have a hypothesis about the lack of public support for environmental action. I suspect that many people suffer from a sense of moral failure over environmental matters. They know that we are in deep trouble, that their actions are part of it, but there is so little they or anyone can do individually. Anne Karpf writing about climate change in the Guardian said this: “I now recycle everything possible, drive a hybrid car and turn down the heating. Yet somewhere in my marrow I know that this is just a vain attempt to exculpate myself – it wasn’t me, guv.”

To fully acknowledge our complicity in the problem but to be unable to act at the scale of the problem creates cognitive dissonance. Renee Aron Lertzman describes this as “environmental melancholia”, a form of hopelessness.  It is not apathy.  It is sorrow. The moral failure and the inability to act leads to what some now identify in other spheres as a moral injury, which is at the root of some post-traumatic stress disorders or ptsd.

The US military has been investigating the causes of soldiers’ ptsd because the early interpretations of it being fear-based didn’t match what psychologists were hearing from the soldiers themselves. What psychologists heard wasn’t fear, but sorrow and loss. Soldiers suffering from ptsd expressed enormous grief over things like killing children and civilians or over not being able to save a fellow soldier. They discovered that at the core of much of ptsd was a moral injury, which author Ed Tick calls a soul wound.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “[e]vents are considered morally injurious if they “transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations”. Thus, the key precondition for moral injury is an act of transgression, which shatters moral and ethical expectations that are rooted in religious or spiritual beliefs, or culture-based, organizational, and group-based rules about fairness, the value of life, and so forth.”

The moral injury stemming from our participation in destruction of the planet has two dimensions: knowledge of our role and an inability to act. We know that we are causing irreparable damage. We are both individually and collectively responsible. But we are individually unable to make systemic changes that actually matter. The moral injury isn’t so much a matter of the individual psyche, but a matter of the body politic. Our culture lacks the mechanisms for taking account of collective moral injuries and then finding the vision and creativity to address them.  The difference between a soldier’s moral injury and our environmental moral injuries is that environmental soul wounds aren’t a shattering of moral expectations but a steady, grinding erosion, a slow-motion relentless sorrow.

My environmental lawyer friend Bob Gough says that he suffers from pre-traumatic stress disorder. Pre-traumatic stress disorder is short hand for the fact that he is fully aware of the future trauma, the moral injury that we individually and collectively suffer, the effects on the Earth of that injury and our inability to act in time.  Essentially pre-traumatic stress disorder, the environmentalist’s malady, is a result of our inability to prevent harm.

James Hillman once wrote a book with Michael Ventura called “We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World’s getting Worse.” In it Hillman said that for years people would go into a therapist and say “the traffic in L.A. is making me crazy” and the therapist would say “let’s deal with your mother issues.” Hillman said “deal with the traffic in L.A.”

So much of environmental or health messaging speaks to us as individuals.  “Stop smoking, get more exercise, change your light bulbs.”  We take on the individual responsibility for the moral failure.  Sure, we need to do all that we can as individuals–that is part of preventing any further damage to the planet or our own souls.  But that isn’t enough.  We all know it.  We have to overcome our assumption that the problem is our mother issues (or the equivalent) and deal with the traffic in L.A., climate change, the loss of the pollinators.  These are not things we can address individually.  We have to do them together.

Healing the moral injury we suffer individually and collectively from our participation in destruction of the planet will require strong intervention in all spheres of life. Actions like creating a cabinet level office of the guardian of future generations or 350.org’s campaign for colleges to divest of oil stocks, or revamping public transportation are beginning steps. Can we think of a hundred more bold moves to make reparations and give future generations a sporting chance? Our moral health, our sanity—and our survival—depend on it.

De Sandy a Deus (FSP)

WALTER CENEVIVA

Algo me diz que a aproximação de Brasil, África do Sul e Austrália será boa para os três países

SE HOUVESSE um supremo tribunal interplanetário para julgar a culpa pelos efeitos dramáticos do furacão Sandy, gerados pelos habitantes da Terra contra a natureza, talvez a decisão fosse condenatória. As mortes e a destruição decorrentes do Sandy justificariam uma pergunta hoje de uso comum: como ficaria a dosimetria? Quem foi, e em que grau, responsável pelo mau uso da superfície, do ar e das entranhas do planeta no hemisfério norte?

O limite da pergunta se explica. Nós, do hemisfério sul, começamos a intervir na vida dos continentes há menos de 600 anos. Os do norte assinalaram sua presença há uns 12.000 anos -boa parte do hemisfério sul era desconhecida pelo menos até o século 16.

Esses 600 anos marcaram a ocupação de todo planeta. Mesmo assim, só no século 20 surgiram muitas das duas centenas de nações novas, com independência ao menos formal. Desapareceram colônias de países europeus e asiáticos nos cinco continentes.

O avanço dos conquistadores eurasiáticos nessa área marcou a história da Terra. O remanescente apenas alcançou o nível de vida civilizada, segundo os padrões ocidentais, quando conquistadores europeus se instalaram no México e nos Estados Unidos e igualmente com a verificação da terra que se sabia existir na latitude atingida por Pedro Álvares Cabral.

Percebo a pergunta do leitor: por qual a razão uma coluna jurídica precisa dar tantas referências geográficas? Simples: a Constituição brasileira enuncia princípios que, favorecendo relações internacionais, preservam, no art. 4º, a independência nacional; garantem regras de autodeterminação dos povos e de não intervenção. O mesmo resulta do art. 21, I (relações com outros Estados e organizações internacionais), colocando sob o presidente da República a condução do relacionamento externo.

O aprofundamento do exame impõe o conhecimento das áreas envolvidas. Existem três países de grande extensão territorial ao sul do Equador -Austrália, África do Sul e Brasil- com expressão bem marcada no cenário internacional. Os 50 milhões de sul-africanos ocupam 1,2 milhões de quilômetros quadrados, muito menos que os 7,7 milhões da amplitude australiana, mas de população rarefeita e modesta, na casa dos 21 milhões. Ambos menores que o Brasil nos dois quesitos, pois somos 192 milhões espalhados em 8,3 milhões de quilômetros quadrados, com milhares de cidades.

Dois outros pontos diferenciam os três países: hoje se pode dizer que o território brasileiro está inteiramente ocupado. Não a Austrália, nem tanto por ser o país mais plano do mundo, mas pelos seus quatro grandes desertos. A África do Sul ainda vive consequências da política da separação entre brancos a negros, até a segunda metade do século 20.

Dentre os três, se for o caso de composição uniforme dos interesses multinacionais, nosso país tem presença marcante, o que não obsta a associação dos três para percorrer caminho mais adequado para o futuro comum. A composição dos instrumentos legais para viabilizar a aproximação tem a vantagem de facilitar o acesso marítimo, pelo Oceano Atlântico e pelo Indico, só no hemisfério sul. Algo me diz que, de Sandy a Deus, a aproximação do sul será boa para os três na linha reta do trópico de Capricórnio.

Scientific Illiteracy: Why The Italian Earthquake Verdict is Even Worse Than it Seems (Time)

By Jeffrey Kluger – Oct. 24, 2012

image: An aerial view of the destruction in the city of L'Aquila, central Italy, April 6, 2009. GUARDIA FORESTALE HANDOUT / AP. An aerial view of the destruction in the city of L’Aquila, central Italy, April 6, 2009.

Yesterday was a very good day for stupid — better than any it’s had in a while. Stupid gets fewer good days in the 21st century than it used to get, but it enjoyed a great ride for a long time — back in the day when there were witches to burn and demons to exorcise and astronomers to put on trial for saying that the Earth orbits around the sun.

But yesterday was a reminder of stupid’s golden era, when an Italian court sentenced six scientists and a government official to six years in prison on manslaughter charges, for failing to predict a 2009 earthquake that killed 300 people in the town of l’Aquila. The defendants are also required to pay €7.8 million ($10 million) in damages. “I’m dejected, despairing,” said one of the scientists, Enzo Boschi, in a statement to Italian media. “I still don’t understand what I’m accused of.”

As well he shouldn’t. The official charge brought against the researchers, who were members of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), was based on a meeting they had in the week leading up to the quake, at which they discussed the possible significance of recent seismic rumblings that had been detected  in the vicinity of l’Aquila. They concluded that it was “unlikely,” though not impossible, that a serious quake would occur there and thus did not order the evacuation of the town. This was both sound science and smart policy.

The earthquake division of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that the world is shaken by several million earthquakes each year, most of which escape notice either because they are too small or are in remote areas that are poorly monitored. An average of 50 earthquakes do manage to register on global seismographs every day, or about 18,000 annually. The overwhelming majority do not lead to major quakes and the technology does not exist to determine which ones will. The best earthquake forecasters can do is apply their knowledge and experience to each case, knowing that you can’t evacuate 50 towns or cities every day — and knowing too that sometimes you will unavoidably, even tragically, be wrong.

“If scientists can be held personally and legally responsible for situations where predictions don’t pan out, then it will be very hard to find scientists to stick their necks out in the future,” said David Oglesby, an associate professor on the earth sciences faculty of the University of California, Riverside, according to CNN.com.

The Italian seismologists are appealing their sentences and the global outcry over the wrong-headedness of the ruling will likely weigh in their favor. But whatever the outcome of their case, they’re really just the most recent victims of  the larger, ongoing problem of scientific illiteracy.

Just the day after the ruling came down, University of Michigan researchers released the latest results from the Generation X Report, a longitudinal study funded by the National Science Foundation that has been tracking the Gen X cohort since 1986. One of the smaller but more troubling data points in the new release was the finding that only 43% of Gen Xers (53% of males and 32% of females) can correctly identify a picture of a spiral galaxy — or know that we live in one.

Certainly, it’s possible to move successfully through life without that kind of knowledge. “Knowing your cosmic address is not a necessary job skill,” concedes study author Jon D. Miller of the University of Michigan, in a release accompanying the report. But not knowing it does suggest a certain lack of familiarity with the larger themes of the physical universe — and that has implications. It’s of a piece with the people who believe humans and dinosaurs co-existed, or the 50% of Americans who do not believe that human beings evolved from apes, or the 1 on 5 who, like Galileo’s inquisitors, don’t believe the Earth revolves around the sun.

More troubling than these types of individual illiteracy are the larger, population-wide ones that have a direct impact on public policy. As my colleague Bryan Walsh observed, the issue of climate change received not a single mention in all three of this year’s presidential debates, and has barely been flicked at on the campaign trail. Part of that might simply be combat fatigue; we’ve been having the climate argument for 25 years. But the fact is there shouldn’t be any argument at all. Serious scientists who doubt that climate change is a real threat are down to just a handful of wild breeding pairs. But sowing doubt about the matter has been a thriving industry of conservatives for decades — most recently in the form of a faux scientific study published by the Cato Institute, that purports to debunk climate science as fatally flawed at best or a hoax at worst. Speaking of a federally funded and Congressionally mandated report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program that responsibly reviewed the state of climate science, the Cato publication argues:

It is immediately obvious that the intent of the report is not to provide a accurate [sic] scientific assessment of the current and future impacts of climate change in the United States, but to confuse the reader with a loose handling of normal climate[italics theirs]…presented as climate change events.

Well, no, but never mind. Our willingness to believe in junk science like this exacts a very real price — in an electorate that won’t demand action from its leaders on a matter of global significance; in parents who leave their babies unvaccinated because someone sent them a blog post fraudulently linking vaccines to autism; in young gays and lesbians forced to submit to “conversion therapy” to change the unchangeable; in a team of good Italian scientists who may spend six years in jail for failing to predict the unpredictable. No one can make us get smart about things we don’t want to get smart about. But every day we fail to do so is another good day for stupid — and another very bad one for all of us.

Itália condena sete cientistas por não prever terremoto (Folha de São Paulo)

JC e-mail 4609, de 23 de Outubro de 2012.

Em 2009, o abalo sísmico em L’Aquila matou mais de 300 pessoas e deixou cerca de 65 mil desabrigadas. Justiça alega que os especialistas foram negligentes.

Um tribunal da Itália condenou ontem (22) sete cientistas a cumprir seis anos de prisão por não terem previsto o terremoto que atingiu o país em 2009, na cidade de L’Aquila, região de Abruzzo. Mais de 300 pessoas morreram.

Todos os cientistas, que vão recorrer em liberdade, eram membros da Comissão Nacional para Previsão e Prevenção de Riscos. Foram acusados de negligência, por não terem analisado corretamente as possibilidades do terremoto acontecer e, assim, alertar as autoridades.

Entre os sete condenados estão grandes nomes da ciência italiana, como o professor Enzo Boschi, que presidiu o Instituto Nacional de Geofísica e Vulcanologia, e o vice-diretor da Defesa Civil, Bernardo de Bernardinis.

Cientistas de diversas partes do mundo protestaram contra a decisão do tribunal em condená-los por homicídio culposo (quando não há intenção de matar). Em protesto, uma carta com mais de 5.000 assinaturas de cientistas foi entregue ao presidente italiano, Giorgio Napolitano, alegando que a ciência não possui meios para prever terremotos, e que o processo pode impedir que futuramente especialistas aconselhem governos a respeito de riscos sísmicos.

Imprevisível – Segundo a técnica de sismologia do Instituto de Astronomia, Geofísica e Ciências Atmosféricas da USP (IAG-USP) Célia Fernandes, é muito difícil identificar o momento exato em que irá acontecer um abalo sísmico. “Todos os profissionais de sismologia trabalham com o objetivo de prever terremotos, mas não existe regra na natureza. Mesmo a recorrência de sismos não é garantia de que um terremoto de grande magnitude está prestes a acontecer”, afirma.

Os cientistas se reuniram na cidade de L’Aquila em 31 de março de 2009, seis dias antes do terremoto, e não comunicaram sobre a chance de um abalo sísmico. Para o tribunal, eles falharam por terem subestimado os riscos, limitando a ação das autoridades públicas, que não tiveram tempo suficiente para tomar medidas necessárias para proteger a população.

Segundo os promotores, uma série de tremores de baixo nível atingiu a região nos meses que antecederam o terremoto e isso deveria ter sido interpretado pelos especialistas como um sinal do que estava para acontecer.

O terremoto de magnitude 6,3 graus atingiu L’Aquila em abril de 2009. Além das mortes, também feriu outras 1.500 pessoas. Estima-se que 65 mil tenham ficado desabrigadas. A condenação dos cientistas ainda não é definitiva. Eles devem entrar com um recurso.

*   *   *

Artigos:

David Alexander. An evaluation of medium-term recovery processes after the 6 April 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, Central Italy. Environmental Hazards, iFirst.

Abstract

This article uses the earthquake of 6 April 2009 at L’Aquila, central Italy (magnitude 6.3) as a case history of processes of recovery from disaster. These are evaluated according to criteria linked to both vulnerability analysis and disaster risk-reduction processes. The short- and medium-term responses to the disaster are evaluated, and 11 criticisms are made of the Italian Government’s policy on transitional shelter, which has led to isolation, social fragmentation and deprivation of services. Government policy on disaster risk is further evaluated in the light of the UNISDR Hyogo Framework for Action. Lack of governance and democratic participation is evident in the response to disasters. It is concluded that without an adequately planned strategy for managing the long-term recovery process, events such as the L’Aquila earthquake open up Pandora’s box of unwelcome consequences, including economic stagnation, stalled reconstruction, alienation of the local population, fiscal deprivation and corruption. Such phenomena tend to perpetuate rather than reduce vulnerability to disasters.

“[…] science and scientists were not on trial. The hypothesis of culpability being tested in the courts referred to the failure to adopt a precautionary approach in the face of clear indications of impending seismic impact, not failure to predict an earthquake, and this is amply documented in official records”.

David E. Alexander. The L’Aquila Earthquake of 6 April 2009 and Italian Government Policy on Disaster Response. Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research, Vol. 2, Iss. 4, 2010

Abstract

This paper describes the impact of the earthquake that struck the central Italian city of L’Aquila on 6 April 2009, killing 308 people and leaving 67 500 homeless. The pre-impact, emergency, and early recovery phases are discussed in terms of the nature and effectiveness of government policy. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) in Italy is evaluated in relation to the structure of civil protection and changes wrought by both the L’Aquila disaster and public scandals connected with the misappropriation of funds. Six of the most important lessons are derived from this analysis and related to DRR needs both in Italy and elsewhere in the world.

“As articulated at the meeting of the Commission on Major Risks on 31 March 2009, the Italian Government’s position was unequivocal: there was no cause for alarm. This attitude permeated its way down the ranks of the civil protection system. Then, at 00:30 hrs on Monday 6 April 2010, a tremor that was larger than usual shook L’Aquila. Residents rushed out of their houses in alarm. The strategy adopted by civil protection authorities was to tour the streets with loudspeakers advising people to calm down and return home. In the town of Pagánica, less than 10 km northeast of L’Aquila, residents did exactly that: in the ensuing main shock three hours later, eight of them died and 40 were seriously injured. In L’Aquila city I investigated one case in which a young lady had decided to remain out of doors after the foreshock, while her parents returned home. Their bodies were recovered by firemen from a space barely 15 cm wide into which the building had compressed as it collapsed”.

L’Aquila quake: Italy scientists guilty of manslaughter (BBC)

22 October 2012

The BBC’s Alan Johnston in Rome says the prosecution argued that the scientists were “just too reassuring”

Six Italian scientists and an ex-government official have been sentenced to six years in prison over the 2009 deadly earthquake in L’Aquila.

A regional court found them guilty of multiple manslaughter.

Prosecutors said the defendants gave a falsely reassuring statement before the quake, while the defence maintained there was no way to predict major quakes.

The 6.3 magnitude quake devastated the city and killed 309 people.

Many smaller tremors had rattled the area in the months before the quake that destroyed much of the historic centre.

It took Judge Marco Billi slightly more than four hours to reach the verdict in the trial, which had begun in September 2011.

Lawyers have said that they will appeal against the sentence. As convictions are not definitive until after at least one level of appeal in Italy, it is unlikely any of the defendants will immediately face prison.

‘Alarming’ case

The seven – all members of the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks – were accused of having provided “inaccurate, incomplete and contradictory” information about the danger of the tremors felt ahead of 6 April 2009 quake, Italian media report.

In addition to their sentences, all have been barred from ever holding public office again, La Repubblica reports.

In the closing statement, the prosecution quoted one of its witnesses, whose father died in the earthquake.

It described how Guido Fioravanti had called his mother at about 11:00 on the night of the earthquake – straight after the first tremor.

“I remember the fear in her voice. On other occasions they would have fled but that night, with my father, they repeated to themselves what the risk commission had said. And they stayed.”

‘Hasty sentence’

The judge also ordered the defendants to pay court costs and damages.

Reacting to the verdict against him, Bernardo De Bernardinis said: “I believe myself to be innocent before God and men.”

“My life from tomorrow will change,” the former vice-president of the Civil Protection Agency’s technical department said, according to La Repubblica.

“But, if I am judged by all stages of the judicial process to be guilty, I will accept my responsibility.”

Another, Enzo Boschi, described himself as “dejected” and “desperate” after the verdict was read.

“I thought I would have been acquitted. I still don’t understand what I was convicted of.”

One of the lawyers for the defence, Marcello Petrelli, described the sentences as “hasty” and “incomprehensible”.

‘Inherently unpredictable’

The case has alarmed many in the scientific community, who feel science itself has been put on trial.

Some scientists have warned that the case might set a damaging precedent, deterring experts from sharing their knowledge with the public for fear of being targeted in lawsuits, the BBC’s Alan Johnston in Rome reports.

Among those convicted were some of Italy’s most prominent and internationally respected seismologists and geological experts.

Earlier, more than 5,000 scientists signed an open letter to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in support of the group in the dock.

After the verdict was announced, David Rothery, of the UK’s Open University, said earthquakes were “inherently unpredictable”.

“The best estimate at the time was that the low-level seismicity was not likely to herald a bigger quake, but there are no certainties in this game,” he said.

Malcolm Sperrin, director of medical physics at the UK’s Royal Berkshire Hospital said that the sentence was surprising and could set a worrying precedent.

“If the scientific community is to be penalised for making predictions that turn out to be incorrect, or for not accurately predicting an event that subsequently occurs, then scientific endeavour will be restricted to certainties only and the benefits that are associated with findings from medicine to physics will be stalled.”

Analysis

by Jonathan Amos – Science correspondent

The Apennines, the belt of mountains that runs down through the centre of Italy, is riddled with faults, and the “Eagle” city of L’Aquila has been hammered time and time again by earthquakes. Its glorious old buildings have had to be patched up and re-built on numerous occasions.

Sadly, the issue is not “if” but “when” the next tremor will occur in L’Aquila. But it is simply not possible to be precise about the timing of future events. Science does not possess that power. The best it can do is talk in terms of risk and of probabilities, the likelihood that an event of a certain magnitude might occur at some point in the future.

The decision to prosecute some of Italy’s leading geophysicists drew condemnation from around the world. The scholarly bodies said it had been beyond anyone to predict exactly what would happen in L’Aquila on 6 April 2009.

But the authorities who pursued the seven defendants stressed that the case was never about the power of prediction – it was about what was interpreted to be an inadequate characterisation of the risks; of being misleadingly reassuring about the dangers that faced their city.

Nonetheless, the verdicts will come as a shock to all researchers in Italy whose expertise lies in the field of assessing natural hazards. Their pronouncements will be scrutinised as never before, and their fear will be that they too could find themselves embroiled in legal action over statements that are inherently uncertain.

THOSE CONVICTED

Bernardo De Bernardinis, former deputy chief of Italy's civil protection department

Franco Barberi, head of Serious Risks Commission

Enzo Boschi, former president of the National Institute of Geophysics

Giulio Selvaggi, director of National Earthquake Centre

Gian Michele Calvi, director of European Centre for Earthquake Engineering

Claudio Eva, physicist

Mauro Dolce, director of the the Civil Protection Agency’s earthquake risk office

Bernardo De Bernardinis, former vice-president of Civil Protection Agency’s technical department

 

*   *   *

Scientists in the dock over L’Aquila earthquake

By Susan Watts 

BBC Newsnight Science editor

20 September 2011

Next week six scientists and an official go on trial in Italy for manslaughter over the earthquake in L’Aquila that killed 309 people two years ago.

This extraordinary case has attracted international attention because science itself seemed to be on trial, with the seven defendants apparently charged for failing to predict the magnitude 6.3 earthquake that struck on the night of 6 April 2009.

Scientists cannot yet say when an earthquake is going to happen with any precision, even in a seismically active zone. And over 5,000 scientists from around the world have signed a letter supporting those on trial.

Quake damaged buildings in OnnaThe earthquake was felt throughout central Italy

“I’m afraid that like an earthquake, nothing in this case is predictable. Let’s not forget, this trial is happening in L’Aquila, where the entire population has been personally affected, and awaiting a sentence that should not happen, but could happen,” Marcello Milandri said.Yet the lawyer for one of the scientists, in an interview with Newsnight, said it is possible his client will be convicted:

Seismologists can assess only the probability that a quake may happen, and then with a large degree of uncertainty about its properties.

In some circumstances, they may be able to say that the likelihood of an event has gone up, to help authorities prepare for an emergency, perhaps by concentrating on particularly vulnerable buildings or sectors of the population, such as school-children.

Weighing the risks

The signatories to the letter say the authorities should focus on earthquake protection, instead of pursuing scientists in what some feel is a Galileo-style inquisition.

The Commission calmed the local population down following a number of earth tremors. After the quake, we heard people’s accounts and they told us they changed their behaviour following the advice of the commission 

Inspector Lorenzo Cavallo

Newsnight went to L’Aquila to find out why this case has come about.

The prosecution team said they never intended to put science on trial, that they know it is not possible to predict an earthquake.

What they are questioning is whether the six scientists and the official on trial, who together constitute Italy’s Commission of Grand Risks, did their jobs properly.

That is, did they weigh up all the risks, and communicate these clearly to the authorities seeking their advice?

The local investigator, Inspector Lorenzo Cavallo, said: “The Commission calmed the local population down following a number of earth tremors. After the quake, we heard people’s accounts and they told us they changed their behaviour following the advice of the commission.

“It is our duty to investigate what has been said in each case and pass it on to the legal authority.”

Radon gas claims

A local journalist, Giustino Parisse, who lived in Onna, a small hamlet outside L’Aquila at the time, is one of those bringing the case.

In the weeks leading up to the major quake there had been a series of tremors. On the night of 5 April, several large shocks kept his children awake.

They were anxious, but he told them to go back to bed, that there was no need to worry, the scientists had said so.

Rescuers carrying bodyThe quake was the deadliest to hit Italy since 1980

His 16-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son both died in the earthquake that night, along with his father, when the family home collapsed.

He told Newsnight that people had been becoming increasingly anxious, in part because of warnings from a local nuclear scientist, Giampaolo Giuliani, that raised levels of radon gas in the area suggested to him an earthquake might be imminent.

How valuable this is as an indicator is widely disputed, and most experts in this field believe it is unreliable.

At the time the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Guido Bertolaso,took the unusual step of asking his Commission of Grand Risks to fly to L’Aquila to discuss the situation.

They held a meeting that lasted only an hour or so, then the official now on trial, Bernardo de Bernadinis, who was then deputy director of the civil protection department, held a hurried press briefing, in reassuring tones.

Two of those on trial are linked to Italy’s National institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV).

The institute’s head of public affairs, Pasquale de Santis, told Newsnight that the trial is a distraction, that seismologists have been saying since 1998 that this is a high risk area, and that people should instead be focussing on those who failed properly to enforce building codes in L’Aquila.

Funding needed

We put this to the mayor of L’Aquila, Massimo Cialente. He hopes the trial will prompt a national debate, and make it easier for him to raise the funds and support he needs to protect people against future earthquakes.

He said six days before the major quake he moved local children from a school damaged in an earlier tremor. He said he had no official budget to do that, because prevention is not a national priority.

“We closed the school and we had to transfer 500 pupils. I needed money, but I started the work without the money. If the quake did not happen I would be charged for that.”

Those bringing the case say the people of L’Aquila have a right to know what happened. Many hope the trial will bring some peace of mind.

But some of those who signed the letter of support told Newsnight they fear the case will dissuade scientists from leaving their labs to engage with politicians and the public.

John McCloskey, professor of geophysics at Ulster University, said these scientists have spent their lives producing some of the most sophisticated seismic maps in the world.

He said it is an “outrage” that they are now on trial for manslaughter, adding that he signed the letter because “their peril is our peril”.

*   *   *

Can we predict when and where quakes will strike?

By Leila Battison – Science reporter

20 September 2011

l'Aquila earthquakeSeismologists try to manage the risk of building damage and loss of life

This week, six seismologists go on trial for the manslaughter of 309 people, who died as a result of the 2009 earthquake in l’Aquila, Italy.

The prosecution holds that the scientists should have advised the population of l’Aquila of the impending earthquake risk.

But is it possible to pinpoint the time and location of an earthquake with enough accuracy to guide an effective evacuation?

There are continuing calls for seismologists to predict where and when a large earthquake will occur, to allow complete evacuation of threatened areas.

Predicting an earthquake with this level of precision is extremely difficult, because of the variation in geology and other factors that are unique to each location.

Attempts have been made, however, to look for signals that indicate a large earthquake is about to happen, with variable success.

Historically, animals have been thought to be able to sense impending earthquakes.

Noticeably erratic behaviour of pets, and mass movement of wild animals like rats, snakes and toads have been observed prior to several large earthquakes in the past.

Following the l’Aquila quake, researchers published a study in the Journal of Zoology documenting the unusual movement of toads away from their breeding colony.

But scientists have been unable to use this anecdotal evidence to predict events.

The behaviour of animals is affected by too many factors, including hunger, territory and weather, and so their erratic movements can only be attributed to earthquakes in hindsight.

Precursor events

When a large amount of stress is built up in the Earth’s crust, it will mostly be released in a single large earthquake, but some smaller-scale cracking in the build-up to the break will result in precursor earthquakes.

“There is no scientific basis for making a prediction” – Richard Walker, University of Oxford

These small quakes precede around half of all large earthquakes, and can continue for days to months before the big break.

Some scientists have even gone so far as to try to predict the location of the large earthquake by mapping the small tremors.

The “Mogi Doughnut Hypothesis” suggests that a circular pattern of small precursor quakes will precede a large earthquake emanating from the centre of that circle.

While half of the large earthquakes have precursor tremors, only around 5% of small earthquakes are associated with a large quake.

So even if small tremors are felt, this cannot be a reliable prediction that a large, devastating earthquake will follow.

“There is no scientific basis for making a prediction”, said Dr Richard Walker of the University of Oxford.

In several cases, increased levels of radon gas have been observed in association with rock cracking that causes earthquakes.

Leaning buildingSmall ground movements sometimes precede a large quake

Radon is a natural and relatively harmless gas in the Earth’s crust that is released to dissolve into groundwater when the rock breaks.

Similarly, when rock cracks, it can create new spaces in the crust, into which groundwater can flow.

Measurements of groundwater levels around earthquake-prone areas see sudden changes in the level of the water table as a result of this invisible cracking.

Unfortunately for earthquake prediction, both the radon emissions and water level changes can occur before, during, or after an earthquake, or not at all, depending on the particular stresses a rock is put under.

Advance warning systems

The minute changes in the movement, tilt, and the water, gas and chemical content of the ground associated with earthquake activity can be monitored on a long term scale.

Measuring devices have been integrated into early warning systems that can trigger an alarm when a certain amount of activity is recorded.

Prediction will only become possible with a detailed knowledge of the earthquake process. Even then, it may still be impossible” – Dr Dan Faulkner, University of Liverpool

Such early warning systems have been installed in Japan, Mexico and Taiwan, where the population density and high earthquake risk pose a huge threat to people’s lives.

But because of the nature of all of these precursor reactions, the systems may only be able to provide up to 30 seconds’ advance warning.

“In the history of earthquake study, only one prediction has been successful”, explains Dr Walker.

The magnitude 7.3 earthquake in 1975 in Haicheng, North China was predicted one day before it struck, allowing authorities to order evacuation of the city, saving many lives.

But the pattern of seismic activity that this prediction was based on has not resulted in a large earthquake since, and just a year later in 1976 a completely unanticipated magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck nearby Tangshan causing the death of over a quarter of a million people.

The “prediction” of the Haicheng quake was therefore just a lucky unrepeatable coincidence.

A major problem in the prediction of earthquake events that will require evacuation is the threat of issuing false alarms.

Scientists could warn of a large earthquake every time a potential precursor event is observed, however this would result in huge numbers of false alarms which put a strain on public resources and might ultimately reduce the public’s trust in scientists.

“Earthquakes are complex natural processes with thousands of interacting factors, which makes accurate prediction of them virtually impossible,” said Dr Walker.

Seismologists agree that the best way to limit the damage and loss of life resulting from a large earthquake is to predict and manage the longer-term risks in an earthquake-prone area. These include the likelihood of building collapsing and implementing emergency plans.

“Detailed scientific research has told us that each earthquake displays almost unique characteristics, preceded by foreshocks or small tremors, whereas others occur without warning. There simply are no rules to utilise in order to predict earthquakes,” said Dr Dan Faulkner, senior lecturer in rock mechanics at the University of Liverpool.

“Earthquake prediction will only become possible with a detailed knowledge of the earthquake process. Even then, it may still be impossible.”

What causes an earthquake?

An earthquake is caused when rocks in the Earth’s crust fracture suddenly, releasing energy in the form of shaking and rolling, radiating out from the epicentre.

The rocks are put under stress mostly by friction during the slow, 1-10 cm per year shuffling of tectonic plates.

The release of this friction can happen at any time, either through small frequent fractures, or rarer breaks that release a lot more energy, causing larger earthquakes.

It is these large earthquakes that have devastating consequences when they strike in heavily populated areas.

Attempts to limit the destruction of buildings and the loss of life mostly focus on preventative measures and well-communicated emergency plans.

*   *   *

Long-range earthquake prediction – really?

By Megan Lane – BBC News

11 May 201

Model figures on shaky jigsaw

In Italy, Asia and New Zealand, long-range earthquake predictions from self-taught forecasters have recently had people on edge. But is it possible to pinpoint when a quake will strike?

It’s a quake prediction based on the movements of the moon, the sun and the planets, and made by a self-taught scientist who died in 1979.

But on 11 May 2011, many people planned to stay away from Rome, fearing a quake forecast by the late Raffaele Bendandi – even though his writings contained no geographical location, nor a day or month.

In New Zealand too, the quake predictions of a former magician who specialises in fishing weather forecasts have caused unease.

“The date is not there, nor is the place” – Paola Lagorio, of the foundation that honours Bendandi

After a 6.3 quake scored a direct hit on Christchurch in February, Ken Ring forecast another on 20 March, caused by a “moon-shot straight through the centre of the earth”. Rattled residents fled the city.

Predicting quakes is highly controversial, says Brian Baptie, head of seismology at the British Geological Survey. Many scientists believe it is impossible because of the quasi-random nature of earthquakes.

“Despite huge efforts and great advances in our understanding of earthquakes, there are no good examples of an earthquake being successfully predicted in terms of where, when and how big,” he says.

Many of the methods previously applied to earthquake prediction have been discredited, he says, adding that predictions such as that in Rome “have little basis and merely cause public alarm”.

Woman holding pet cat in a tsunami devastated street in JapanCan animals pick up quake signals?

Seismologists do monitor rock movements around fault lines to gauge where pressure is building up, and this can provide a last-minute warning in the literal sense, says BBC science correspondent Jonathan Amos.

“In Japan and California, there are scientists looking for pre-cursor signals in rocks. It is possible to get a warning up to 30 seconds before an earthquake strikes your location. That’s enough time to get the doors open on a fire station, so the engines can get out as soon as it is over.”

But any longer-range prediction is much harder.

“It’s like pouring sand on to a pile, and trying to predict which grain of sand on which side of the pile will cause it to collapse. It is a classic non-linear system, and people have been trying to model it for centuries,” says Amos.

In Japan, all eyes are on the faults that lace its shaky islands.

On Monday, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda urged that the Hamaoka nuclear plant near a fault line south-west of Tokyo be shut down, pending the construction of new tsunami defences.

Seismologists have long warned that a major earthquake is overdue in this region.

But overdue earthquakes can be decades, if not centuries, in coming. And this makes it hard to prepare, beyond precautions such as construction standards and urging the populace to lay in emergency supplies that may never be needed.

Later this year, a satellite is due to launch to test the as-yet unproven theory that there is a link between electrical disturbances on the edge of our atmosphere and impending quakes on the ground below.

Toad warning

Then there are the hypotheses that animals may be able to sense impending earthquakes.

Last year, the Journal of Zoology published a study into a population of toads that left their breeding colony three days before a 6.3 quake struck L’Aquila, Italy, in 2009. This was highly unusual behaviour.

But it is hard to objectively and quantifiably study how animals respond to seismic activity, in part because earthquakes are rare and strike without warning.

A man in Christchurch carrying a young girl through stricken streetsCountries in the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire”, like New Zealand, are regularly shaken by quakes

“At the moment, we know the parts of the world where earthquakes happen and how often they happen on average in these areas,” says Dr Baptie.

This allows seismologists to make statistical estimates of probable ground movements that can be use to plan for earthquakes and mitigate their effects. “However, this is still a long way from earthquake prediction,” he says.

And what of the “prophets” who claim to predict these natural disasters?

“Many regions, such as Indonesia and Japan, experience large earthquakes on a regular basis, so vague predictions of earthquakes in these places requires no great skill.”

 

Who was Raffaele Bendandi?

  • Born in 1893 in central Italy
  • In November 1923, he predicted a quake would strike on January 2, 1924
  • Two days after this date, it did, in Italian province of Le Marche
  • Mussolini made him a Knight of the Order of the Crown of Italy
  • But he also banned Bendandi from making public predictions, on pain of exile

British Met Office facing legal action over pessimistic forecasts (Independent.ie)

Wednesday October 03 2012

A tourist attraction is considering suing The Met Office after it claims a string of pessimistic forecasts kept visitors away.

Rick Turner owner of the Big Sheep in Abbotsham, Devon, said poor forecasting was to blame for lower attendance at his farm attraction business.

Mr Turner is so angry he says he’ll take the agency to court unless its forecasts improve.

He said: “The Met Office seems to come up with such pessimistic forecasts predicting chances of rain when we’re enjoying sunshine.

“We’ve had a lot rain – that’s why it’s nice and green.

“But it’s important for the tourist industry that when we do have sunshine we need to be shouting about it rather than saying there might be some chance of rain.

“The Met Office forecasters need to realise that everything they say has an impact on whether people go on holiday or go for a day out.”

The Met Office insists that forecasters have no reason to dampen spirits and are simply doing their best with the data available.

But the weather service admitted ‘No weather forecaster is going to get it 100 per cent right all the time.’

“We have to tell the weather as it is that’s what our job is. This summer has been thoroughly disappointing,” said forecaster Dave Britton.

“It’ll be hard to find someone who hasn’t found that. It’s been the wettest summer in 100 years.

“The UK is lucky enough to have one of the best weather forecasting services in the world – we should recognise that.

“We have to remember Devon is the third or fourth wettest county in England. The Met Office can’t stop it raining. We get it right 87 or 88 per cent of the time which is absolutely phenomenal.”

Malcolm Bell a tourism expert in the south west said forecasts needed to be more balanced: “The challenge is that in the forecasts the Met office says there could be showers here or there when in fact it could be dry for 90 per cent of the time.

“People just hear the word rain and that puts them off going somewhere for the day.

“There’s a difference between that goes on for two or three hours and rain that lasts ten minutes in a shower and then passes through.

“I know it’s an incredibly difficult task for the Met Office but I always advise people to look at the websites – you have to get quite local to get more accurate.”

In June Claire Jeavons, who runs the Beverley Park holiday site in Paignton, Devon, said “alarmist” forecasts which often proved groundless were having a major impact on bookings across the West Country.

Claire Jeavons, who runs the Beverley Park holiday site in Paignton, Devon, said “alarmist” forecasts which often proved groundless were having a major impact on bookings across the West Country.

“It is already causing holiday-makers to stay away,” she said. “Just a few days ago we were hearing that all caravan parks in the West Country were on flood alert, and this simply wasn’t the case.”

Tony Clish, director of Park Holidays UK which owns 700 caravans in Suffolk, said he believes weather forecasters are afraid of being caught out after recent predictions of a “barbecue summer” were proved to be inaccurate.

He said: “Coastal holiday parks in Suffolk often stay dry when it is raining inland, yet forecasters frequently tarnish the whole county with a single wet-weather symbol.

“We’re not asking them to bend the truth, but just to be more careful with phrasing. For example, they could say that while inland areas may have showers, coastal areas are expected to be dry.”

Should Bad Predictions Be Punished? (Freakonomics.com)

SUZIE LECHTENBERG

08/09/2011 | 8:33 pm

Government corn predictions are based on the work of people like Phil Friedrichs, gathering data in a corn field in Hiawatha, Kansas. (Photo: Stephen Koranda)

What do Wall Street forecasters and Romanian witches have in common? They usually get away, scot-free, with making bad predictions. Our world is awash in poor prediction — but for some reason, we can’t stop, even though accuracy rates often barely beat a coin toss.

But then there’s the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s crop forecasting. Predictions covering a big crop like corn (U.S. farmers have planted the second largest crop since WWII this year) usually fall within five percent of the actual yield. So how do they do it? Every year, the U.S.D.A. sends thousands of enumerators into cornfields across the country where they inspect the plants, the conditions, and even “animal loss.”

This week on Marketplace, Stephen J. Dubner and Kai Ryssdal talk about the supply and demand of predictions. You’ll hear from Joseph Prusacki, the head of U.S.D.A’s Statistics Division, who’s gearing up for his first major crop report of 2011 (the street is already “sweating” it); Phil Friedrichs, who collects cornfield data for the USDA; and our trusted economist and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt.

We’ll also hear from journalist Vlad Mixich in Bucharest, who tells us why those Romanian witchesmight not be getting away with bad fortune telling for much longer.

Ghana aims to abolish witches’ camps (The Christian Science Monitor)

For years, Ghanaians have banished women from their villages who were suspected of witchcraft. Now, Ghana is trying to ban this practice.

By Clair MacDougall, Correspondent / September 15, 2011

ACCRA, GHANA
Ghanaian leaders and civil society groups met in the nation’s capital, Accra earlier this week to develop a plan to abolish the witches’ camps in the northern region, where over a thousand women and children who have been accused of sorcery are currently living in exile.

Deputy Minister for Women and Children’s Affairs Hajia Hawawu Boya Gariba said the ministry would be doing everything that it could to ensure the practice of families and neighbors banishing women from communities whom they suspected of being witches is abolished by developing legislation that would make it illegal to accuse someone of being a witch and gradually closing down camps and reintegrating women back into their communities.

“This practice has become an indictment on the conscience of our society,” Ms. Gariba said at the conference called Towards Banning “Witches” Camps. “The labeling of some of our kinsmen and women as witches and wizards and banishing them into camps where they live in inhuman and deplorable conditions is a violation of their fundamental human rights.”

Supreme Court Justice Rose Owusu also said that the practice violated numerous clauses in section 5 of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution. That section protects human rights and outlaws cultural practices which “dehumanize or are injurious to the physical and mental well-being of a person.” Ms. Owusu also called for the development of new legislation to outlaw the camps and the practice.

The witch camps of Ghana’s north

There are currently around 1,000 women and 700 children living in 6 of the witches’ camps in Ghana’s northern region.

Many of them are elderly women who have been accused of inflicting death, misfortune, and calamity on their neighbors and villages through sorcery, witchcraft, or “juju,” a term used throughout West Africa.

The women enjoy a certain degree of protection within these camps, located some distance from their communities in which they could be tortured, beaten to death, or lynched, but the conditions of the camps are often poor. The “accused witches,” as they are sometimes referred to, live in tiny thatched mud huts, and have limited access to food and must fetch water from nearby streams and creeks.

Forced to flee

An elderly woman named Bikamila Bagberi who has lived in Nabule witch camp in Gushegu a district in the Northern Region for the past 13 years, told the story of how she was forced to leave her village. Dressed in a headscarf, faded T-shirt, and cotton skirt, Ms. Bagberi spoke softly with her head bowed as a district assemblyman translated for the conference delegates.

Bagberi’s nephew, her brother-in-law’s son, had died unexpectedly and after the village soothsayer said she caused the death of the child her family tried make her confess to murdering him through sorcery. She said that when she refused she was beaten with an old bicycle chain, and later her nephew’s family members rubbed Ghanaian pepper sauce into her eyes and open wounds.

When asked whether she could return back to her village she said the family couldn’t bring her back into the community because of the fear that she will harm others. Bagberi said she expected to spend the rest of her life in the camp.

Catalyst for action

Human rights groups have been campaigning for the closure of the witches’ camps since the 1990s, but have had little success in abolishing the practice of sending women suspected of witchcraft into exile, in part because of lack of political will and the pervasiveness of the belief in witchcraft throughout Ghana. But the brutal murder of 72-year-old Ama Hemmah in the city of Tema in Novermber of last year, allegedly by six people, among them a Pentecostal pastor and his neighbors who are accused of dousing her with kerosene and setting her alight, caused public outrage and made headlines across the world. Since Hemmah’s death, opinion pieces and articles about the issue have featured in Ghana’s major newspapers, along with feature stores on local news programs.

Emmanuel Anukun-Dabson from Christian Outreach Fellowship, a group working with the accused witches at the Nabule camp and one of the organizers of the conference, suggested that a broader cultural shift needed to take place if the camps were to be abolished.

“In Ghana, we know that when a calamity happens or something befalls a family or a community the question is not what caused it, but rather who caused it?” Anukun-Dabson said. “We are a people who do not take responsibility for our actions; rather we find scapegoats and women are the targets.”

Chief Psychiatrist of Ghana’s Health Services Dr. Akwesi Osei, who spearheaded the conference, argued that a public awareness campaign on psychological disorders, dementia, and the mental and behavioral changes associated with menopause might help the public understand behaviors and perceived eccentricities that are often associated with witchcraft.

Belief in witchcraft and supernatural powers is common throughout Ghana, and Africa countries and is often encouraged by pastors who preach in the nation’s many charismatic churches. Supernatural themes and sorcery also feature strongly in Ghanaian and West African films and television programs.

Deputy Minister Gariba has called for another meeting to develop a more concrete road map and said that the National Disaster Management Organisation would be providing the witches’ camps with water tanks and additional food supplies.

Joojo Eenstua, another organizer of the camp who works with Christian Outreach Fellowship at Nabule, said the conference marked a new era in activism on the issue and believed that significant changes and improvements to the livelihoods of the women and children living in these witches camps would follow.

“There is more public awareness than before and there is more political will and momentum around this issue,” Ms. Eenstua says.

Shooting the messenger (The Miami Herald)

Environment
Posted on Monday, 08.29.11
BY ANDREW DESSLER

Texas Gov. Rick Perry stirred up controversy on the campaign trail recently when he dismissed the problem of climate change and accused scientists of basically making up the problem.

As a born-and-bred Texan, it’s especially disturbing to hear this now, when our state is getting absolutely hammered by heat and drought. I’ve got to wonder how any resident of Texas – and particularly the governor who not so long ago was asking us to pray for rain – can be so cavalier about climate change.

As a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, I can also tell you from the data that the current heat wave and drought in Texas is so bad that calling it “extreme weather” does not do it justice. July was the single hottest month in the observational record, and the 12 months that ended in July were drier than any corresponding period in the record. I know that climate change does not cause any specific weather event. But I also know that humans have warmed the climate over the last century, and that this warming has almost certainly made the heat wave and drought more extreme than it would have otherwise been.

I am not alone in these views. There are dozens of atmospheric scientists at Texas institutions like Rice, the University of Texas, and Texas A&M, and none of them dispute the mainstream scientific view of climate change. This is not surprising, since there are only a handful of atmospheric scientists in the entire world who dispute the essential facts – and their ranks are not increasing, as Gov. Perry claimed.

And I can assure Gov. Perry that scientists are not just another special interest looking to line their own pockets. I left a job as an investment banker on Wall Street in 1988 to go to graduate school in chemistry. I certainly didn’t make that choice to get rich, and I didn’t do it to exert influence in the international arena either.

I went into science because I wanted to devote my life to the search for scientific knowledge. and to make the world a better place. That’s the same noble goal that motivates most scientists. The ultimate dream is to make a discovery so profound and revolutionary that it catapults one into the pantheon of the greatest scientific minds of history: Newton, Einstein, Maxwell, Planck, etc.

This is just one of the many reasons it is inconceivable for an entire scientific community to conspire en masse to mislead the public. In fact, if climate scientists truly wanted to maximize funding, we would be claiming that we had no idea why the climate is changing – a position that would certainly attract bipartisan support for increased research.

The economic costs of the Texas heat wave and drought are enormous. The cost to Texas alone will be many billion dollars (hundreds of dollars for every resident), and these costs will ripple through the economy so that everyone will eventually pay for it. Gov. Perry needs to squarely face the choice confronting us; either we pay to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, or we pay for the impacts of a changing climate. There is no free lunch.

Economists have looked at this problem repeatedly over the last two decades, and virtually every mainstream economist has concluded that the costs of reducing emissions are less than the costs of unchecked climate change. The only disagreement is on the optimal level of emissions reductions.

I suppose it should not be surprising when politicians like Gov. Perry choose to shoot the messenger rather than face this hard choice. He may view this as a legitimate policy on climate change, but it’s not one that the facts support.

Read more here.