Arquivo da tag: discurso ambiental

The Opportunistic Apocalypse (Savage Minds)

by  on December 14th, 2012

The third in a guest series about the “Mayan Apocalypse” predicted for Dec. 21, 2012.  The first two posts are here and here.

There are opportunities in the apocalypse.  The end of the world has been commodified.  A few are seriously investing in bunkers, boats, and survival supplies. Tourism is up, not only to Mayan archaeological sites, but also to places like Bugarach, France and Mt. Rtanj, Serbia.  But even those of us on a budget can afford at least a book, a T-shirt or a handbag.

There are opportunities here for academics, too. Many scholars have been quoted in the press lately saying that nothing will happen on Dec 21 , in addition to those who have written comprehensive books and articles discrediting the impending doom. Obviously publishing helps individual careers, and that does not detract from our collective responsibility to debunk ideas that might lead people to physical or financial harm.  But neither can we divorce our work from its larger social implications.

It is telling that the main scholarly players in debunking the Mayan Apocalypse in the U.S. are NASA (which is facing budget cuts) and anthropologists.  Both groups feel the need to prove they are relevant because our collective jobs depend on it. I don’t need to go into great detail with this crowd about academia’s current situation. Academia has gone from being a well-respected, stable job to one where most classes are taught by underpaid, uninsured part-time adjuncts, and many Ph.D.s never find work in academia at all. Tuition fees for undergraduates have skyrocketed while full-time faculty salaries have stagnated.

Among the public (too often talked about as being in “the real world,” as if academics were somehow immune to taxes or swine flu), there seems to be a general distrust of intellectuals. That, combined with the current economic situation, has translated into a loss of research funding, such as cuts to the Fulbright program and NSF. Some public officials specifically state that science and engineering are worth funding, but anthropology is not.  To add insult to injury, the University of California wants to move away from that whole “reading” thing and rebrand itself as a web startup.

Articles, books with general readership, being quoted in the newspaper, and yes, blogging are all concrete ways to show funding agencies and review committees that what we do matters. The way to get exposure among those general audiences is to engage with what interests them — like the end of the world.  Dec. 21, 2012 has become an internet meme. Many online references to it are debunkings or tongue-in-cheek. Newspaper articles on unrelated topics make passing references in jest, stores offer just-in-case-it’s-real sales, people are planning parties.  There seems to be more written to discredit the apocalypse, or make fun on it, than to prepare for it.

We need to remember that this non-believer attention has a purpose, and that purpose is not just (or even primarily) about convincing believers that nothing is going to happen. Rather, it serves to demonstrate something about non-believers themselves.  “We” are sensible and logical, while “they” are superstitious and credulous. “We” value science and data, while “they” turn to astrology, misreadings of ancient texts, and esoteric spirituality.   ”We” remember the non-apocalypses of the past, while “they” have forgotten.

I would argue that discrediting the Mayan Apocalypse is part of an ongoing process of creating western modernity (cue Latour). That modernity requires an “other,” and here that “other” is defined in this case primarily by religious/spiritual belief in the Mayan apocalypse.  The more “other” these Apocalypse believers are, the more clearly they reflect the modernity of non-believers.  (Of course, there are also the “others” of the Maya themselves, and I’ll address that issue in my next post.)

This returns us to the difference I drew in my first post between “Transitional Apocalyptic Expectations” (TAE) and “Catastrophic Apocalyptic Expectations” (CAE).  I suspect the majority of believers are expecting something like a TAE-type event, but media attention focuses on discrediting CAE beliefs, such as a rogue planet hitting the Earth or massive floods. These would be dire catastrophes, but they will also be far easier to disprove. We will all notice if a planet does or does not hit the Earth next week, but many of us — myself included — will miss a transformation in human consciousness among the enlightened.

By providing the (very real) scientific data to discredit the apocalypse, scholars are incorporated into this project of modernity.  Much of the scholarly work on this phenomenon is fascinating and subtle, but the press picks up on two main themes.  One is scientific proof that the apocalypse will not happen, such as astronomical data that Earth is not on a collision course with another planet, Mayan epigraphy that shows the Long Count does not really end, and ethnography that suggests most Maya themselves are not worried about any of this.  The other scholarly theme the press circulates is the long history of apocalyptic beliefs in the west.  In the logic of the metanarrative of western progress, this connects contemporary Apocalypse believers to the past, nonmodernity and “otherness.”

I now find myself in an uncomfortable position, although it is an intellectually interesting corner to be backed into. I agree with my colleagues that the world will not end, that Mayan ideas have been misappropriated, and that we have a responsibility to address public concerns.  At the same time, I can’t help but feel we are being drawn, either reluctantly or willingly, into a larger project than extends far beyond next week.

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2012, the movie we love to hate

by  on December 11th, 2012

The second in a guest series about the “Mayan Apocalypse” predicted for Dec. 21, 2012.  The first post is here.

Last summer, I traveled to Philadelphia to visit the Penn Museum exhibit “Maya: the Lords of Time.” It was, as one might expect given the museum collection and the scholars involved, fantastic.  I want to comment on just the beginning of the exhibit, however. On entering, one is immediately greeted by a wall crowded with TV screens, all showing different clips of predicted disasters and people talking fearfully about the end of the world. The destruction, paranoia, and cacophony create a ambiance of chaos and uncertainty. Turning the corner, these images are replaced by widely spaced Mayan artifacts and stela. The effect is striking.  One moves from media-induced insanity to serenity, from endless disturbing jump-cuts to the well-lit, quiet contemplation of beautiful art.

Among these images were scenes from Director Roland Emmerich’s blockbuster film 2012 (2009). This over-the-top disaster film is well used in that context.  Still, it is interesting how often 2012 is mentioned by academics and other debunkers — almost as often as they mention serious alternative thinkers about the Mayan calendar, such as Jose Arguelles (although the film receives less in-depth coverage than he does).

I find this interesting because 2012 is clearly not trying to convince us to stockpile canned goods or build boats to prepare for the end of the Maya Long Count, any more than Emmerich’s previous films were meant to prepare us for alien invasion (Independence Day, 1996) or the effects of global climate change (The Day After Tomorrow, 2004).  Like Emmerich’s previous films,2012 is a chance to watch the urban industrialized world burn (in that way, it has much in common with the currently popular zombie film genre). If you want to see John Cusack survive increasingly implausible crumbling urban landscapes, this film is for you.

The Maya, however, are barely mentioned in 2012. There are no Mayan characters, no one travels to Mesoamerica, there is no mention of the Long Count.  Emmerich’s goal for 2012 was, in his own words (here and here), “a modern retelling of Noah’s Ark.” In fact, he claims that the movie originally had nothing to do with the 2012 phenomenon at all.  Instead, he was convinced – reluctantly – to include the concept because of public interest in the Maya calendar.

This explains why the Maya only receive two passing mentions in 2012 — one is a brief comment that even “they” had been able to predict the end of the world, the other a short news report on a cult suicide in Tikal. The marketing aspect of the film emphasized these Maya themes (all of the film footage about the Maya is in the trailer, the movie website starts with a rotating image of the Maya calendar, and there are related extras on the DVD), but the movie itself had basically nothing to do with the Maya, the Mayan Long Count, or Dec 21.

Nevertheless, this film’s impact on public interest in Dec 21 is measurable.  Google Trends, which gives data on the number of times particular search terms are used, gives us a sense of the impact of this $200,000,000  film. I looked at a number of related terms, but have picked the ones that show thegeneral pattern: There is a spike of interest in 2012 apocalyptic ideas when the 2012 marketing campaign starts (November 2008), a huge spike when the film is released (November 2009), and a higher baseline of interest from then until now. Since January, interest in the Mayan calendar/apocalypse has been steadily climbing (and in fact, is higher every time I check this link; it automatically updates). In other words, the 2012 movie both responded to, and reinforced, public interest in the 2012 phenomenon.

Here I return to Michael D. Gordin’s The Pseudoscience Wars (2012).  This delightful book deals with the scientific response to Velikovsky, who believed that the miracles of the Old Testament and other ancient myths documented the emergence of a comet from Jupiter, its traumatic interactions with Earth, and its eventual settling into the role of the planet Venus. (The final chapter also discusses the 2012 situation.)  Gordin’s main focus is understanding why Velikovsky — unlike others labeled “crackpots” before him — stirred the public ire of astronomers and physicists. Academics’ real concern was not Velikovsky’s ideas per se, but how much attention he received by being published by MacMillan — a major publisher of science textbooks — which implied the book had scientific legitimacy. Velikovsky’s “Worlds in Collision” was a major bestseller when it was released in 1950, and academics felt the ideas had to be addressed so that the public would not be misled.

With the Mayan Apocalypse, no major academic publisher is lending legitimacy to these theories.   Books about expected events of 2012 (mainly TAE ideas) are published by specialty presses that focus on the spiritual counterculture, such as Evolver EditionsInner Traditions/Bear & CompanyShambhala, and John Hunt Publishing.  Instead, film media has become the battleground for public attention (perhaps because reading is declining?). The immense amount of money put into movies, documentaries, and TV shows about the Mayan Apocalypse is creating public interest today, and in some ways this parallels what Macmillan did for Velikovsky in the 1950s.

One example of this is the viral marketing campaign for 2012 conducted in November 2008.   Columbia pictures created webpages that were not clearly marked as advertising (these no longer appear to be available), promoting the idea that scientists really did know the world would end and were preparing.  This type of advertising was not unique to this film, but in this case it reinforced already existing fears that the end really was nigh.  NASA began responding to public fears about 2012 as a result of this marketing campaign, and many of the academics interested in addressing these concerns also published after this time.

Academics are caught in something of a bind here.  Do we respond to public fears, in the hopes of debunking them, but no doubt also increasing the public interest in the very ideas we wish to discredit?  Should we respond in the hopes of selling a few more books or receiving a few more citations, thus generating interest in the rest of what our discipline does?  As anthropologists we are not immune to the desires of public interest, certainly (obviously I’m not — here I am, blogging away), nor should we be.  Perhaps something good can come of the non-end-of-the-world.  I’ll turn to this question next time.

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The End is Nigh. Start blogging.

by  on December 4th, 2012

Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Clare A. Sammells.

My thanks to the editors of Savage Minds for allowing me to guest blog this month. Hopefully I will not be among the last of Savage Mind’s guests, given that the End of the World is nigh.

You hadn’t heard? On or around Dec 21, 2012, the Maya Long Count will mark the end of a 5125 year cycle. Will this be a mere a calendrical turn, no more inherently eventful that the transition from Dec 31, 2012 to Jan 1, 2013? Will this be a moment of astronomical alignments, fiery conflagrations, and social upheavals? Or will there be a shift in human consciousness, an opportunity for the prepared to improve their lives and achieve enlightenment?

I am going to bet with the house: I do not think the world is going to end in a few weeks.  That way, either the world doesn’t end — another victory for predictive anthropology! — or the world does end, and nothing I write here will matter much anyway. (More seriously, I don’t think our world is destined to end with a bang).

I am not a Mayanist, an archaeologist, or an astronomer. I won’t be discussing conflicting interpretations of Maya long count dates, astronomical observations, or Classical-era Maya stela inscriptions. Books by David Stuart,Anthony Aveni, and Matthew Restall and Amara Solari all provide detailed arguments using those data, and analyze the current phenomenon in light of the long history of western fascinations with End Times.  Articles by John HoopesKevin Whitesides, and Robert Sitler, among others, address “New Age” interpretations of the Maya.  Many ethnographers have considered how Maya peoples understand their complex interactions with “New Age” spiritualists and tourists, among them Judith MaxwellQuetzil Casteneda and Walter Little.

My own interest lies in how indigenous timekeeping is interpreted in the Andes. I conducted ethnographic research focusing on tourism in Tiwanaku, Bolivia — a pre-Incan archaeological site near Lake Titicaca, and a contemporary Aymara village.  One of the first things I noticed was that every tour guide tells visitors about multiple calendars inscribed in the stones of the site, most famously in the Puerta del Sol.  These calendrical interpretations are meaningful to Bolivian visitors, foreign tourists, and local Tiwanakenos for understanding the histories, ethnicities, and politics centered in this place. I took a stab at addressing some of these ideas in a recent article, where I considered how interconnected archaeological theories and political projects of the 1930s fed into what is today accepted conventional knowledge about Tiwanakota calendars.  I’m now putting together a book manuscript about temporal intersections in Tiwanaku.  The parallels between that situation and the Maya 2012 Phenomena led me to consider the prophecies, expectations, YouTube videos, blog posts, scholarly debunkings, and tourist travels motivated by the end of the Maya Long Count.

survey by the National Geographic Channel suggested that 27% of those in the United States think the Maya may have predicted a catastrophe for December 21.  But it is important to note that there is no agreement, even among believers, about what will happen. I tend to think of these beliefs as collecting into two broad (and often overlapping) camps.

Many believe that “something” will happen on (or around) Dec 21, 2012, but do not anticipate world destruction. I think of these beliefs as “Transitional Apocalyptic Expectations” (TAE). Writers such as José Argüelles and John Major Jenkins, for example, believe that there will be a shift in human consciousness, and tend to view the end of the 13th baktun as an opportunity for human improvement.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that the world will end abruptly, in fire, flood, cosmic radiation, or collision with other planets. I think of these beliefs as “Catastrophic Apocalyptic Expectations” (CAE).  While some share my belief that the numbers of serious CAE-ers is small, there are panics and survivalists reported by the press in RussiaFrance, and Los Angeles.  Tragically, there has been at least one suicide.  And of course, there has been a major Hollywood movie (“2012″), which I’ll be discussing more in my next post.

As anthropologists, we certainly should respond to public fears.  But we should also wonder why this fear, out of so many possible fears, is the one to capture public imagination.  Beliefs in paranormal activities, astrology, and the like are historically common, although the specifics change over time.  Michael D. Gordin’s excellent book The Pseudoscience Wars (2012) convincingly suggests that there are larger societal reasons why some fringe theories attract scholarly and public attention while others go ignored.  The Mayan Apocalypse has certainly attracted massive attention, from scholarly rebuttals from anthropologists, NASA, and others, to numerous popular parodies such as GQ’s survival tipsLOLcats, and my personal favorite, an advertisement for Mystic Mayan Power Cloaks.

There seems to be a general fascination with the Mayan calendar — even among those who know relatively little about the peoples that label refers to.  Some are anxiously watching the calendar count down, others are trying to reassure them, and many more simply watching, cracking jokes, or even selling supplies.  But there is something interesting about the fact that so many in the United States and Europe are talking about it at all.  I look forward to exploring these questions further with all of you.

Clare A. Sammells is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Bucknell University. She is currently living in Madrid, where she is writing about concepts of time in Tiwanaku and conducting ethnographic research on food among Bolivian migrants.  She is not stockpiling canned goods.

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’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.

Monbiot: The Gift of Death (The Guardian)

December 10, 2012

Pathological consumption has become so normalised that we scarcely notice it.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 11th December 2012

There’s nothing they need, nothing they don’t own already, nothing they even want. So you buy them a solar-powered waving queen; a belly button brush; a silver-plated ice cream tub holder; a “hilarious” inflatable zimmer frame; a confection of plastic and electronics called Terry the Swearing Turtle; or – and somehow I find this significant – a Scratch Off World wall map.

They seem amusing on the first day of Christmas, daft on the second, embarrassing on the third. By the twelfth they’re in landfill. For thirty seconds of dubious entertainment, or a hedonic stimulus that lasts no longer than a nicotine hit, we commission the use of materials whose impacts will ramify for generations.

Researching her film The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard discovered that of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale(1). Even the goods we might have expected to hold onto are soon condemned to destruction through either planned obsolescence (breaking quickly) or perceived obsolesence (becoming unfashionable).

But many of the products we buy, especially for Christmas, cannot become obsolescent. The term implies a loss of utility, but they had no utility in the first place. An electronic drum-machine t-shirt; a Darth Vader talking piggy bank; an ear-shaped i-phone case; an individual beer can chiller; an electronic wine breather; a sonic screwdriver remote control; bacon toothpaste; a dancing dog: no one is expected to use them, or even look at them, after Christmas Day. They are designed to elicit thanks, perhaps a snigger or two, and then be thrown away.

The fatuity of the products is matched by the profundity of the impacts. Rare materials, complex electronics, the energy needed for manufacture and transport are extracted and refined and combined into compounds of utter pointlessness. When you take account of the fossil fuels whose use we commission in other countries, manufacturing and consumption are responsible for more than half of our carbon dioxide production(2). We are screwing the planet to make solar-powered bath thermometers and desktop crazy golfers.

People in eastern Congo are massacred to facilitate smart phone upgrades of ever diminishing marginal utility(3). Forests are felled to make “personalised heart-shaped wooden cheese board sets”. Rivers are poisoned to manufacture talking fish. This is pathological consumption: a world-consuming epidemic of collective madness, rendered so normal by advertising and the media that we scarcely notice what has happened to us.

In 2007, the journalist Adam Welz records, 13 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa. This year, so far, 585 have been shot(4). No one is entirely sure why. But one answer is that very rich people in Vietnam are now sprinkling ground rhino horn on their food or snorting it like cocaine to display their wealth. It’s grotesque, but it scarcely differs from what almost everyone in industrialised nations is doing: trashing the living world through pointless consumption.

This boom has not happened by accident. Our lives have been corralled and shaped in order to encourage it. World trade rules force countries to participate in the festival of junk. Governments cut taxes, deregulate business, manipulate interest rates to stimulate spending. But seldom do the engineers of these policies stop and ask “spending on what?”. When every conceivable want and need has been met (among those who have disposable money), growth depends on selling the utterly useless. The solemnity of the state, its might and majesty, are harnessed to the task of delivering Terry the Swearing Turtle to our doors.

Grown men and women devote their lives to manufacturing and marketing this rubbish, and dissing the idea of living without it. “I always knit my gifts”, says a woman in a television ad for an electronics outlet. “Well you shouldn’t,” replies the narrator(5). An advertisement for Google’s latest tablet shows a father and son camping in the woods. Their enjoyment depends on the Nexus 7’s special features(6). The best things in life are free, but we’ve found a way of selling them to you.

The growth of inequality that has accompanied the consumer boom ensures that the rising economic tide no longer lifts all boats. In the US in 2010 a remarkable 93% of the growth in incomes accrued to the top 1% of the population(7). The old excuse, that we must trash the planet to help the poor, simply does not wash. For a few decades of extra enrichment for those who already possess more money than they know how to spend, the prospects of everyone else who will live on this earth are diminished.

So effectively have governments, the media and advertisers associated consumption with prosperity and happiness that to say these things is to expose yourself to opprobrium and ridicule. Witness last week’s Moral Maze programme, in which most of the panel lined up to decry the idea of consuming less, and to associate it, somehow, with authoritarianism(8). When the world goes mad, those who resist are denounced as lunatics.

Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for god’s sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care. All it shows is that you don’t.


2. It’s 57%. See

3. See the film Blood in the Mobile.




7. Emmanuel Saez, 2nd March 2012. Striking it Richer: the Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States (Updated with 2009 and 2010 estimates).


Saúde mental, outra vítima da mudança climática (IPS)

23/11/2012 – 10h05

por Patricia Grogg, da IPS

clima Saúde mental, outra vítima da mudança climática

As tensões e angústias acompanham toda pessoa que sofre um desastre. Foto: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, 23/11/2012 – “A cidade parecia bombardeada. Caminho para meu escritório, cruzo com pessoas que levavam em seus rostos o mesmo – diria dramático – espanto que eu. Nos olhávamos e, sem nos conhecermos, nos perguntávamos: como foi com você? Aconteceu alguma coisa com sua casa? Foi uma solidariedade afetiva muito importante para mim”. Este testemunho dado à IPS, por uma jornalista de Santiago de Cuba, coloca na balança um dos lados bons da reação coletiva após um desastre como o sofrido por esta cidade na madrugada do dia 25 de outubro, quando o furacão Sandy, apesar do alerta meteorológico e das advertências oficiais, surpreendeu boa parte de seus habitantes.

O valor econômico dos prejuízos ainda são desconhecidos hoje, quando a parte mais oriental do país cura suas feridas, graves de todos os ângulos. Mas existe também o impacto psicológico, do qual se fala menos e se vê nos olhos das pessoas quando contam: “perdemos nossa casa com móveis, eletrodomésticos, até as lembranças”. “Tive muito medo, me enfiei no armário quando o vento levou o telhado do meu quarto. Meus vizinhos me tiraram de casa e me ajudaram a atravessar a rua até onde haviam se refugiado outras famílias cujas casas estavam em muito mau estado”, contou à IPS Isabel da Cruz, de 70 anos, moradora de Guantânamo, outra área afetada.

Depressão, tristeza, angústia, desespero, incerteza e agressividade, todas estas são manifestações que acompanham as pessoas depois de um desastre em qualquer parte do mundo. “Imagine, nos deitamos com a bela e acordamos com a fera”, comparou um trabalhador do setor turístico cujo hotel onde é empregado foi totalmente destruído. “As pessoas estão deprimidas e desorientadas. Em muitas nota-se o desequilíbrio psíquico pelas perdas sofridas”, disse à IPS o sacerdote católico Eugenio Castellanos, reitor do Santuário da Caridad del Cobre, virgem padroeira de Cuba. O padre estima que 90% das casas do Cobre, localidade vizinha a esta cidade, sofreram o impacto do Sandy.

Juan González Pérez, por sua vez, disse à IPS que dias antes do furacão houve focos de violência em alguns lugares, especialmente na hora de comprar artigos em falta. “Ficamos muitos dias sem energia elétrica e começaram a vender ‘luz brilhante’ (querosene) para cozinhar. Embora houvesse o suficiente para todos, aconteceram discussões e brigas na fila. Quando as pessoas se desesperam, costumam ficar agressivas”, observou Pérez, mais conhecido por Madelaine, líder do espiritismo cruzado “muertero”, uma expressão de religiosidade popular nesse lugar. Segundo contou, aconselha aos seus seguidores “unirem-se, se lavar bem, dar a quem não tem e não se desesperar”.

Em Mar Verde, a praia por onde o Sandy tocou o território cubano a 15 quilômetros de Santiago, a médica Elizabeth Martínez atende mais de cem pessoas, abrigadas em cabanas de veraneio que, por estarem mais afastadas do mar, se salvaram do desastre. “O impacto psicológico é grande, mas não houve mortes e nem temos pessoas doentes”, contou. Pouco mais de uma semana depois da passagem do furacão, os esforços em matéria de saúde se concentravam fundamentalmente em conter focos epidêmicos. “Estamos dando informações sanitárias aos moradores, ensinando como cuidar de doenças transmissíveis, sobre a importância de descontaminar a água antes de beber”, informou a médica.

Segundo meios especializados, estima-se que entre um terço e metade de uma população exposta a desastres sofre algum tipo de problema psicológico, embora na maioria dos casos se deva entender como reações normais diante de eventos extremos, que sob o impacto da mudança climática ameaçam aumentar em intensidade.

“Quando encontrei meus vizinhos no abrigo, estávamos em choque. Mas alguém disse: vamos limpar a entrada que está bloqueada por essas árvores caídas. Então, começamos a trabalhar, embora no começo ninguém falasse”, contou uma mulher do setor turístico. Nos primeiros dias era possível ver muitas pessoas recolhendo escombros e varrendo as ruas de suas vizinhanças.

Diante da frequência e da maior intensidade dos ciclones tropicais, as autoridades de saúde, desde a década de 1990, começaram a se preocupar com o impacto psicológico dos desastres causados por esses e outros fenômenos naturais. Em 2008, quando o país sofreu três furacões, uma indicação ministerial fortaleceu a inclusão do tema nos planos sanitários. Em um artigo sobre o assunto, o médico cubano Alexis Lorenzo Ruiz explica que os aspectos psicossociais dos desastres são considerados tanto na capacitação do pessoal como na organização dos programas que chegam a todo o país e enfatizam a atenção a setores mais vulneráveis, como menores de idade, adolescentes e idosos.

Do ponto de vista da saúde mental, nos desastres toda a população “sofre tensões e angústias em maior ou menor medida, direta ou indiretamente”, afirmaram Katia Villamil e Orlando Fleitas, que recomendaram não se esquecer que o impacto nessas circunstâncias é mais acentuado em populações de escassos recursos. Estes profissionais afirmam que as reações mais frequentes vão desde as consideradas normais, como ansiedade controlável, depressão leve ou quadros “histeriformes”, até estresse “peritraumático”, embotamento, redução do nível de atenção, descompensação de transtornos psiquiátricos pré-existentes, bem como “reação coletiva de agitação”.

O furacão Sandy causou estragos não apenas em Santiago de Cuba, mas também nas províncias de Guantânamo e Holguín, com saldo de 11 mortos. O governo de Raúl Castro ainda não divulgou as perdas econômicas, embora dados preliminares e incompletos dos primeiros dias indicassem uma estimativa de US$ 88 milhões.

Hardtalk: Vandana Shiva, environmentalist (BBC)

Duration: 25 minutes / First broadcast: Monday 19 November 2012

Hardtalk speaks to the original tree hugger. The phrase was coined back in the 1970s when she – along with a group of women in India – hugged trees to stop them from being chopped down. In the decades since, Vandana Shiva has become known throughout the world for her environmental campaigns. She says a billion people go hungry in the world because of the way greedy international companies go about their business. So is it a naïve world view or could we really end poverty and improve everyone’s life by returning to old fashioned ways of farming?

We Can’t Put a Price on Nature (Huffington Post)

Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch

Posted: 07/24/2012 6:37 pm

A group of international scientists says that the Earth is dangerously close to its tipping point of irreversible damage. Clearly, we need a way out of the mess we’ve made of the planet.

The so-called “green economy,” which governments, business leaders, and some environmental organizations touted at last month’s United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, is actually a greenwashed economy. Its proponents ask questions such as: how can we put a price on nature so as to better manage it? Or, how can we make it financially undesirable to pollute? Those are the wrong questions, and they don’t lead us to real solutions.

Putting a price on nature — as if it were a widget to be bought and sold on the market — devalues its life-giving properties. It partitions the environment off as a commodity, leaving it for sale to the highest bidder. And pollution trading is like paying a robber not to steal from your home. Neither gets to the root causes of our environmental problems: the failure to take meaningful regulatory actions and the undemocratic means by which our natural resources are managed worldwide.

As our access to the planet’s resources that once seemed endless has become limited, corporations, multinational institutions, industry-funded non-profits, and policymakers are eagerly offering market-based solutions. They typically position private interests to profit from our increased need for shared natural resources.

Calling this dangerous trend “the green economy” just isn’t appropriate. It’s more accurate to say that these special interests are promoting the same old dirty economy under a new banner. And this failure to prevent pollution threatens our ability to pursue sustainable development.

Through clever greenwashing campaigns, huge companies have somehow created the ability to buy and trade credits that they claim will curb pollution. These cap-and-trade programs do little but encourage larger companies with deeper pockets to continue with business as usual. That ultimately leads to the continued disposal of contaminants into our waterways and our atmosphere.

Likewise, thanks to relentless lobbying and a hefty advertising campaign, the oil and gas industry has managed to convince key lawmakers and consumers alike that fracking for natural gas is the key to energy independence. However, that process — formally called hydraulic fracturing or shale-gas drilling — requires large quantities of water and a cocktail of toxic chemicals. Fracking can poison drinking water supplies, air, and farmland, endangering public health.

Meanwhile, some of us are struggling to protect the marine environment from pollution and overfishing of endangered species, while large commercial interests try to privatize access to fishor acquire permits to establish aquaculture enterprises in federal waters. These factory fish farmsthreaten the health of ocean ecosystems. What’s “green” about that?

And while we struggle to maintain that water is a human right, multinational corporations are privatizing public water utilities in communities around the world and profiting in places where safe drinking water is scarce.

Our food system is also rigged to benefit a select few companies who monopolize markets and profit from farmers who have no choice but to sell their goods cheaply. Wal-Mart, for example, says it wants to offer healthier food options at affordable prices, but until it changes its business model — which squeezes farmers and workers and drives food production to become more consolidated and industrialized — highly processed foods will remain more accessible than healthier, better quality food.

We must promote real solutions that involve communities in the decision making, not just companies. We must protect the land and our water and decrease carbon emissions for the benefit of the public — not for the profits of private interests.

This post originally appeared at

What’s wrong with putting a price on nature? (The Guardian)

Pricing the financial value of services nature provides for free – such as clean water – may be the best way to save species

Richard Conniff for Yale Environment 360, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Thursday 18 October 2012 16.44 BST

Give a Price on Nature : A bird of prey glides through the sky

A bird of prey glides through the sky at sunrise in Bilbao, northern Spain, 14 October 2012, while the rain threatens from the distance. Photograph: Alfredo Aldai/EPA

Ecosystem services is not exactly a phrase to stir the human imagination. But over the past few years, it has managed to dazzle both diehard conservationists and bottom-line business types as the best answer to global environmental decline.

For proponents, the logic is straightforward: Old-style protection of nature for its own sake has badly failed to stop the destruction of habitats and the dwindling of species. It has failed largely because philosophical and scientific arguments rarely trump profits and the promise of jobs. And conservationists can’t usually put enough money on the table to meet commercial interests on their own terms. Pointing out the marketplace value of ecosystem services was initially just a way to remind people what was being lost in the process — benefits like flood control, water filtration, carbon sequestration, and species habitat. Then it dawned on someone that, by making it possible for people to buy and sell these services, we could save the world and turn a profit at the same time.

But the rising tide of enthusiasm for PES (or payment for ecosystem services) is now also eliciting alarm and criticism. The rhetoric is at times heated, particularly in Britain, where a government plan to sell off national forests had to be abandoned in the face of fierce public opposition. (The government’s own expert panel also found that it had “greatly undervalued” what it was proposing to sell.) Writing recently inThe Guardian, columnist and land rights activist George Monbiot denounced PES schemes as “another transfer of power to corporations and the very rich.” Also writing in The Guardian, Tony Juniper, a conservationist and corporate consultant, replied in effect that Monbiot and other critics should shut up, on the grounds that campaigning against payment for ecosystem services “could inadvertently strengthen the hand of those who believe nature has little or no value, moral, economic or otherwise.”

Not all critics reject the PES idea outright. Some say they’re merely making constructive criticisms of what they see as blind faith in new financial markets, and in global initiatives like the United Nations’ REDD mechanism (for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries).

The first mistake, says Kent H. Redford, an environmental consultant, is to assume that old-style conservation methods have failed. “They’ve worked in certain circumstances, in certain ways, for certain things.” They’re the reason, for instance, that state-sponsored protected areas now cover 25 percent of the land in Costa Rica, 27 percent in the United States (at the federal level alone), 30 percent in Tanzania and Guatemala, and 50 percent in Belize.

Writing in Conservation Biology, Redford and co-author William M. Adams catalogued some of the ways PES transactions can go wrong, beginning with the whole question of price. Traditional conservationists sought to protect forests and other landscapes primarily for their intrinsic value, says Redford. But those values are likely to carry less weight when even conservationists think first in economic terms. Many ecosystem services are also likely to be hard to price — for instance, the arguably beneficial effects on climate and agriculture (minus the deleterious impacts on health) when atmospheric dust from the African Sahel drifts across the Atlantic. And even if you can put a price on an ecosystem service, Redford and Adams argue, figuring out who has a legitimate right to sell it means picking winners and losers. In developing countries, indigenous communities may lack the documentation or the political clout to assert their ownership.

Payment schemes also risk creating perverse incentives, Redford and Adams warn. If the system pays landowners to bank carbon, they may plant non-native species, or genetically “improved” trees, to bank carbon faster. Or they may discourage natural phenomena that happen to be good for biodiversity, but bad for people, including such ecosystemdisservices as fire, drought, disease, or flood. Finally, Redford and Adams point out, the effects of climate change, “always the joker in the pack,” could toss carefully constructed economic schemes — and natural habitats — into disarray.

Stuart H. M. Butchart, a researcher at BirdLife International, replies that embracing the ecosystem services idea doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning the argument that species and habitats have intrinsic value. But making the economic case often “has more resonance” for decision-makers.

A study published last week in Science, co-authored by Butchart, also suggests why the PES idea now seems so urgent. To determine what it would cost to meet current targets set for the year 2020 under the international Convention on Biological Diversity, the study looked at the cost of protecting and down-listing threatened bird species. Then it extrapolated that preventing further loss of species across all plant and animal groups would cost $78 billion a year. That’s an order of magnitude above current conservation spending — but the study noted that it was only between 1 and 4 percent of the value of the ecosystem services being lost through habitat destruction every year.

PES proponents can also point to early success stories: Vittel-Nestlé Waters recognized a few years ago that its aquifer in northern France was being polluted by nitrate fertilizers and pesticides from nearby farms. It devised a scheme to pay farmers to change their methods and deliver the ecosystem service of unpolluted water. Beijing undertook a similar scheme in the catchment around one of its reservoirs, ahead of the 2008 Olympics. (It had previously tried anti-growth regulations and resettlements.)

But there isn’t always a wealthy corporation or a big city nearby willing to pick up the tab (for Vittel, $31.4 million over the first seven years), and other transactions are more complex. Norway, for instance, pledged $1 billion each to Brazil and Indonesia for forest preservation efforts under the REDD mechanism, partly to compensate for failing to meet its own greenhouse gas emissions targets. But the Norwegian government recently felt compelled to issue a public warning to both countries against backsliding on their forest preservation commitments.

Monbiot adds that making nature fungible, so one asset can be substituted for another, guarantees that they will be: “If a quarry company wants to destroy a rare meadow, for example, it can buy absolution by paying someone to create another somewhere else.” When governments and PES proponents talk about employing marketplace solutions instead of traditional regulatory approaches, he says, “what they are really talking about is shrinking democracy, shrinking public involvement in decision making, shrinking transparency and accountability. By handing it over to the market you are in effect handing it over to corporations and the very rich,” and to “a very plutocratic” decision-making process.

Pavan Sukhdev, a former international banker who has pioneered efforts to highlight the economic importance of biodiversity, says none of these criticisms is especially new. He has raised many of them himself and says the marketplace is working to address them. “It’s useful to hear criticisms, but the critics must remember one basic fact. It wasn’t Christopher Columbus who discovered America, it was the Native Indians who lived there. So critics should not think that they have invented knowledge. They should be a little more humble in their attitude. And understand that the people on the ground are professionals who have been working on this and thinking about this for quite some time.”

But no amount of financial tweaking or social engineering is likely to allay the deeper discomfort voiced by many PES critics with the whole idea of nature, in the words of one recent paper, “as a service provider fit to be incorporated into the global capital markets.” Or the notion, expressed by Jean-Christophe Vié, of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, that nature is “the largest company on Earth.” When you view nature in economic terms, as a provider in a sort of “master-servant” relationship, they suggest, you make a fundamental change not just in the world around us, but in ourselves.

Sian Sullivan, a University of London anthropologist, warns that past revolutions in capital investment, like the enclosure of common lands in eighteenth-century Britain, and the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century, resulted in “the shattering of peoples’ relationships with landscapes” and the conversion of rural folk into factory workers and service-providers for capital. In the ecosystem services movement, Sullivan warns, we are seeing “a major new wave of capture and enclosure of Nature by capital.” And it will come, she says, at the cost of profound cultural and psychological upheaval.

It may be, as some argue, that we have no better way to save the world. But the danger in the process is that we may lose our souls.

País ‘concorre’ a troféu por travar negociações na COP 11 (O Estado de São Paulo)

JC e-mail 4605, de 17 de Outubro de 2012

Brasil é indicado pela segunda vez, durante a Convenção da Diversidade Biológica, a prêmio organizado por rede internacional de ONGs.

Pela segunda edição seguida da Convenção da Diversidade Biológica (CDB), o Brasil figura hoje entre os indicados para o Troféu Dodô, que “premia” os países que menos têm evoluído nas negociações durante o encontro para evitar perdas de biodiversidade. Canadá, China, Paraguai e a Grã-Bretanha são os outros indicados pela CBD Alliance, uma rede internacional de ONGs que participa da convenção.

O pássaro dodô é o escolhido para dar nome ao prêmio por estar extinto há cerca de quatro séculos – a espécie vivia na costa leste da África, na Ilha Maurício. Nas convenções do clima, o equivalente é o Troféu Fóssil do Dia – o País foi “agraciado” em Durban, há quase um ano.

Entre as razões para a presença do País na lista está a falta de preocupação do governo com a biodiversidade na negociação de mecanismos de Redução de Emissões por Desmatamento e Degradação Florestal (Redd+) – sistema de compensação financeira para atividades que diminuam a emissão de carbono.

Na 11ª conferência das partes (COP-11) da CBD em Hyderabad, na Índia, o Brasil quer evitar a definição de salvaguardas de biodiversidade nos textos, fazendo pressão para que haja diferenças claras entre os acordos da CBD e os estabelecidos nas Convenções sobre Mudanças Climáticas (UNFCCC).

O governo brasileiro se alinhou a outros países descontentes, como Colômbia e Argentina, para criticar o texto que está sendo trabalhado na conferência da Índia. Em nota, o bloco afirmou que o documento está atrasado e não leva em conta as resoluções alcançadas nas Conferências do Clima de Cancún e de Durban.

“Muitas das recomendações que estamos vendo na COP-11 ou são redundantes ou colocam barreiras para a implementação dessa importante ferramenta (de Redd+)”, dizem os países. Além disso, o Brasil foi indicado ao troféu pelo fato de o governo não ter, segundo a rede de ONGs, uma boa relação com comunidades locais e tribos indígenas que vivem em áreas de relevância ecológica e biológica.

Nova indicação – Há dois anos, o País havia sido indicado por outro motivo: durante o encontro na cidade japonesa de Nagoya, os representantes brasileiros promoveram de forma escancarada os biocombustíveis e foram criticados por tentar abafar os possíveis impactos sobre a biodiversidade e as populações.

Os vencedores de 2010, porém, foram o Canadá e a União Europeia. O Canadá voltou a ser indicado neste ano, também acusado de tentar evitar a discussão sobre os biocombustíveis.

De acordo com as ONGs, a China tem desencorajado o desenvolvimento de áreas marinhas em países vizinhos, enquanto o Paraguai tem bloqueado qualquer progresso em assuntos socioeconômicos nas questões de biossegurança. Já a Grã-Bretanha estaria trabalhando para evitar discussões sobre biologia sintética e geoengenharia.


The Anthropocene? Planet Earth in the Age of Humans (AAA)

Posted on October 16, 2012 by Joslyn O.

Today’s guest blog post is by AAA member Shirley J Fiske. Fiske is an environmental anthropologist and Research Professor at University of Maryland’s College Park campus.  She is the Chair of the American Anthropological Association ’s task force on Global Climate Change. 

The first in a series of Grand Challenges symposia organized by the Smithsonian for the public (at least the highly educated, concerned public from what I could tell)—a full day with stellar speakers and response panels.  Invigorating discussion and ideas.  Kudos!  Many well-known names Charles Mann (1491, 1493 ), Richard Alley, Andrew Revkin, Senator Tim Wirth and incredibly moving & convincing presentation by photographer Chris Jordan whose images of “the infrastructure of our mass consumption” are familiar to many – as well as his photos of the stomach contents of dead baby Albatrosses on Midway Island, showing them starved with their bellies full of plastic debris.

Environmental humanities were well-represented and exciting, but the social sciences less so – disappointingly, economist Sabine O’Hara did nothing to illuminated the human aspects of the changes in the Anthropocene but chose to talk about “internalizing the economy.”  However, two archaeologists, both at the Smithsonian, did an excellent job as panelists-rapporteurs, ensuring that the audience kept the long dimension of human evolution and development in mind.  Rick Potts, (National Museum of Natural History, Human Origins Program Director), a paleo-anthropologist, offered a tantalizing insight, roughly paraphrased as a lot of change took place during periods of high climate variability (unstable periods)—such as innovations in lithic technology and other things.  He also stated that he’s in the process of getting a long core that will show us 500,000 years of climate change in East Africa during the time period of the development of our species.  Torben C. Rick (NMNH Director of the Program in Human Ecology and Archaeobiology)  focused on the “mid-term time frame”—the last 1,000 years!  and offered that sustainability rests on reconciling the short term developments with long term cycles.  The last 10,000 years has been a series of changes, re-organizations—not collapses.

The symposium was titled as a declarative, but there was a necessary and good discussion about whether naming it the Anthropocene showed abundant human hubris in our assumed agency in changing the world and the course of the earth .  In that vein, some concluded that whatever we do at this point won’t have any effect on the ‘big picture’ of the earth’s 4-billion year existence and that the Anthropocene is wrongly named.  Highlights and some familiar assumptions, brought to the fore, were that nature can no longer be studied in isolation from humans and human systems. (check!), that ‘homogenization’ of the planet started well before the industrial revolution (Mann), that we’re the first species that recognizes who recognizes that we’re having a global impact (compared with, say, cyanobacteria);  and that we need to move away from trying to “manage” the system and focus on monitoring and adapting;  the recognition that science-based decision have inherently imbedded values within them  (Revkin).

Richard Alley has re-focused his energy onto renewables, pointing out that is the direction we need to go, that all the easy oil is gone.  His talk made abundantly clear that the argument that encouraging renewable energy means loss of jobs is a blatant red herring; that the way to start such a massive transformation is to jettison the dirtiest and most dangerous (i.e. the work of coal mining is one of the most dangerous jobs in the US) of fossil fuel resources, coal, and develop the others.  He de-bunked the ‘myth of intermittency’ (my words) with wind and solar energy quite effectively.  One of the panelists aptly said Alley is a “radical center of an environmental view of the world.”  Glad to have him there.

The culture concept was constantly invoked, as it is almost universally these days.  “How do we change culture?”   (away from consumption, from “need,” from capitalism or communism)  The most insightful answers (although not necessarily action-oriented) came from photographer Chris Jordan, who argued that we should do essentially nothing, in the short term;  we should let our human-created disaster settle in and we should grieve.  It is only by grieving fully that we will reconnect with our spiritual side and with love, the fundamental emotion of humans.  The symposium was organized to begin a dialogue around the meaning of the Anthropocene, and it accomplished those goals.  The symposium led me to conclude, similar to one of the speakers (Alley?) who said that the meaning of the Anthropocene is ethical and moral – how do we want the future to look and what can we do with the knowledge we have?

País ‘concorre’ a troféu por travar negociações na COP 11 (OESP)

JC e-mail 4605, de 17 de Outubro de 2012

Brasil é indicado pela segunda vez, durante a Convenção da Diversidade Biológica, a prêmio organizado por rede internacional de ONGs.

Pela segunda edição seguida da Convenção da Diversidade Biológica (CDB), o Brasil figura hoje entre os indicados para o Troféu Dodô, que “premia” os países que menos têm evoluído nas negociações durante o encontro para evitar perdas de biodiversidade. Canadá, China, Paraguai e a Grã-Bretanha são os outros indicados pela CBD Alliance, uma rede internacional de ONGs que participa da convenção.

O pássaro dodô é o escolhido para dar nome ao prêmio por estar extinto há cerca de quatro séculos – a espécie vivia na costa leste da África, na Ilha Maurício. Nas convenções do clima, o equivalente é o Troféu Fóssil do Dia – o País foi “agraciado” em Durban, há quase um ano.

Entre as razões para a presença do País na lista está a falta de preocupação do governo com a biodiversidade na negociação de mecanismos de Redução de Emissões por Desmatamento e Degradação Florestal (Redd+) – sistema de compensação financeira para atividades que diminuam a emissão de carbono.

Na 11ª conferência das partes (COP-11) da CBD em Hyderabad, na Índia, o Brasil quer evitar a definição de salvaguardas de biodiversidade nos textos, fazendo pressão para que haja diferenças claras entre os acordos da CBD e os estabelecidos nas Convenções sobre Mudanças Climáticas (UNFCCC).

O governo brasileiro se alinhou a outros países descontentes, como Colômbia e Argentina, para criticar o texto que está sendo trabalhado na conferência da Índia. Em nota, o bloco afirmou que o documento está atrasado e não leva em conta as resoluções alcançadas nas Conferências do Clima de Cancún e de Durban.

“Muitas das recomendações que estamos vendo na COP-11 ou são redundantes ou colocam barreiras para a implementação dessa importante ferramenta (de Redd+)”, dizem os países. Além disso, o Brasil foi indicado ao troféu pelo fato de o governo não ter, segundo a rede de ONGs, uma boa relação com comunidades locais e tribos indígenas que vivem em áreas de relevância ecológica e biológica.

Nova indicação – Há dois anos, o País havia sido indicado por outro motivo: durante o encontro na cidade japonesa de Nagoya, os representantes brasileiros promoveram de forma escancarada os biocombustíveis e foram criticados por tentar abafar os possíveis impactos sobre a biodiversidade e as populações.

Os vencedores de 2010, porém, foram o Canadá e a União Europeia. O Canadá voltou a ser indicado neste ano, também acusado de tentar evitar a discussão sobre os biocombustíveis.

De acordo com as ONGs, a China tem desencorajado o desenvolvimento de áreas marinhas em países vizinhos, enquanto o Paraguai tem bloqueado qualquer progresso em assuntos socioeconômicos nas questões de biossegurança. Já a Grã-Bretanha estaria trabalhando para evitar discussões sobre biologia sintética e geoengenharia.

(O Estado de São Paulo)

O esvaziamento da discussão ecológica atual que não questiona o modelo econômico e de desenvolvimento (EcoDebate)

Publicado em setembro 6, 2012 por 

“A pergunta passa a ser ‘o que eu devo fazer para ajudar?’ (…) enquanto a questão principal deveria ser ‘contra quem e contra o quê eu devo lutar?’”

 Vladimir Safatle faz parte de uma nova leva de intelectuais de esquerda que não se intimida diante da diversidade de questões trazidas pelo mundo contemporâneo. Nessa entrevista, o professor do Departamento de Filosofia da Universidade de São Paulo (USP) mostra que a crise da democracia representativa pode ser a chave para compreender melhor fatos que à primeira vista não estão relacionados, desvelando mecanismos que ligam islandeses a pescadores brasileiros, ecologistas a jovens que voltam a reivindicar as ruas como espaço do fazer político. Um dos autores de ‘Occupy’ (Boitempo, 2012), Safatle defende que vivemos um momento em que a crítica da democracia, longe de balizar o totalitarismo, reacende a capacidade de reinvenção democrática na perspectiva da soberania popular. Com o lançamento de ‘A esquerda que não teme dizer seu nome’ (Três Estrelas, 2012), o filósofo propõe a urgência da saída do “cômodo e depressivo fatalismo”, que, desde a queda do muro de Berlim, alimenta a falsa impressão de que nenhuma ruptura radical está na pauta do campo político.

No seu livro, o senhor defende que falta à esquerda mostrar o que é inegociável. Abandonar o pragmatismo, superar os impasses da ‘governabilidade’, dentre outros elementos, seriam caminhos para isso. Em contrapartida, paira uma dúvida sobre os próprios partidos, sindicatos e estruturas semelhantes: será que serão capazes de se transformar? Os jovens que ocupam as ruas do mundo parecem não se identificar com esse tipo de organização da vida política. Por que isso acontece?

O que aconteceu com os partidos de esquerda?

Os partidos de esquerda passaram por duas fases. A primeira, muito marcada pela polaridade entre os partidos socialdemocratas e os partidos comunistas, sustentou o desenvolvimento dos Estados de bem-estar social na Europa nos anos 1950 e 1960. O segundo momento dos partidos de esquerda é resultado das ideias libertárias de maio de 1968, que vai gerar uma miríade de partidos libertários, sendo o mais importante deles o partido verde. Os partidos verdes vão conseguir impor uma pauta ecológica fundamental no debate político, mas este movimento também se esgotou. Talvez o último relance dele esteja acontecendo na Alemanha com o Partido Pirata. Só que falta uma terceira leva de partidos que sejam capazes de processar a situação fim de linha da crise de 2008, que ainda vai se perpetuar durante muito tempo.

Como esses partidos se caracterizariam?

Falta uma geração de partidos que tenha consciência de problemas vinculados à desigualdade econômica, coisa que esses partidos de segunda geração não têm. Diga-se de passagem, o Partido Verde alemão foi responsável pela lei que desregulamentou e flexibilizou o mercado de trabalho, votada na época do Gerhard Schröder [premier alemão de 1998 a 2005]. Falta uma geração de partidos com a coragem de radicalizar os processos de institucionalização da soberania popular. Partidos que não funcionem como partidos. Isso pode parecer uma coisa estranha, mas no fundo é muito importante. Partidos que não tenham essa estrutura centralizada, estrategicamente orientada, em que as discussões se submetem às estratégias político-partidárias eleitorais do dia. Por que os jovens não querem entrar em partidos hoje? Porque não querem ter a sua capacidade crítica instrumentalizada por cálculos eleitorais. Ninguém mais quer ficar fazendo uma aliança política com fulano para garantir a eleição de sicrano. Esse tipo de raciocínio de mercador, que conseguiu monopolizar a política em todos os seus níveis – inclusive no campo das esquerdas – é o que boa parte dos jovens de hoje se recusa veementemente a seguir, com todas as razões.

O que se coloca no lugar disso?

É fundamental encontrar um modelo de participação eleitoral em que esse tipo de posição não seja rifada. Ninguém aqui está fazendo a profissão de fé que vigorou nos anos 1990 de mudar o mundo sem tomar o poder. Isso não funcionou nem funcionará, o Egito é um exemplo. O grupo que realmente mobilizou o processo revolucionário chama-se Movimento 6 de abril. Eles decidiram não entrar no jogo eleitoral e estão cada vez mais isolados. Essa coisa da força que vem das ruas e vai pressionar o regime de fora tem limite. Então, não se trata de uma crítica abstrata do processo eleitoral, mas da constatação de que é necessário saber entrar nesse processo de uma maneira diferente da que vimos até hoje. Talvez a criação de alianças flexíveis para uma eleição que depois se dissolvem, como a Frente de Esquerda na França, coisas desse tipo. É difícil saber o que vai aparecer, mas uma coisa é certa: o que temos hoje não dá mais conta. Há uma fixação muito grande na democracia representativa. Desde os anos 1970 vivemos nas Ciências Políticas uma espécie de deleite em ficar discutindo como deve ser o jogo democrático, a estrutura dos partidos, dos poderes e blá, blá, blá. Esse tipo de perspectiva bloqueia radicalmente a ideia de que uma das questões centrais da democracia é fazer a crítica da democracia. Quando a democracia perde sua capacidade de reinvenção, ela morre. É o que está acontecendo agora.

O que contribuiu para a recomposição do espaço público das ruas e por que ele foi abandonado durante tanto tempo?

Para você ter crítica social e mobilização é necessário desencanto. Vários níveis de desencanto foram necessários para que as pessoas voltassem às ruas. Quando eu tinha vinte e poucos anos, o discurso era de que nunca mais veríamos grandes mobilizações populares. Poderia haver mobilizações pontuais sobre questões pontuais, mas nunca uma mobilização que colocasse em xeque o modelo de funcionamento e gestão da vida social no interior das sociedades capitalistas avançadas. Hoje vemos que quem fez essas previsões não só errou como tinha interesses ideológicos inconfessáveis. As pessoas que saíram às ruas em 2011 queriam discutir o modelo de funcionamento da estrutura econômica e social das nossas sociedades. No momento em que isso aconteceu, muitos, principalmente da imprensa, se deleitaram em dizer que eles não tinham propostas, o que é falso. Quem foi às ruas buscou o direito de colocar os problemas em questão. Muitas vezes, a pior maneira de se pensar em um problema é “solucioná-lo” muito rapidamente. Também houve quem não tenha ido às ruas e, diante da crise financeira, apareceu com soluções prontas. Essas ‘soluções’ só pioraram os problemas.

No que diz respeito à agenda ambiental, existem muitas ‘soluções’ que, na verdade, provocam um esvaziamento deliberado do potencial político das questões ecológicas. Vemos a individualização da responsabilidade pela poluição presente no discurso das sacolas plásticas, do tempo que as pessoas devem gastar tomando banho, etc. e também um esforço em afastar a população da discussão travestindo-a como eminentemente técnica. Como vê isso?

É uma tentativa de retirar a força política da questão ecológica transformando-a em uma questão moral. A discussão gira em torno dos atos dos indivíduos, que precisam ser modificados. Você precisa gastar menos tempo no banho, comprar produtos bio e coisas desse tipo. É uma maneira muita astuta de operar um deslocamento que é mortal para o problema ecológico, porque a pergunta passa a ser “o que eu devo fazer para ajudar?” – e, a princípio, parece legal todo mundo fazer alguma coisa para ajudar –, enquanto a questão principal deveria ser “contra quem e contra o quê eu devo lutar?”. Sem isso, a tendência é esvaziar completamente a dimensão da discussão ecológica, não se questiona o modelo econômico e de desenvolvimento. E o forte potencial político dessa discussão reside justamente nesse questionamento do modelo de desenvolvimento das sociedades capitalistas avançadas, colocando em xeque o modelo de organização e gestão das cidades, dos transportes, dos resíduos, da energia… Como resultado desse deslocamento da dimensão política para a moral, nada disso é colocado em questão, por mais que todo mundo defenda com a mão no coração “as florestas”, a questão que a ecologia trouxe está fora do debate.

A retórica do discurso técnico na qual as pessoas não conseguem ter acesso aos fatos sem a mediação de especialistas é um obstáculo para a reconstrução do campo político nas bases dessa democracia direta, estreitamente ligada aos reais interesses das populações, não?

Posso dar um exemplo sobre esse tipo de problema. A Islândia foi um dos primeiros países a entrar na crise financeira de 2008. Bancos islandeses venderam fundos de investimento na Holanda e na Inglaterra e quando esses bancos quebraram, os governos holandês e inglês exigiram que o governo da Islândia bancasse a dívida dos bancos. Diante disso, o parlamento islandês resolveu votar uma lei de ajuda aos bancos falidos e a lei passou. Mas o presidente da Islândia, que era um sujeito mais esclarecido, lembrou que a Constituição do país previa a convocação de um referendo popular em casos como aquele. Resumindo, ele lembrou que o princípio central da democracia é: quem paga a orquestra, escolhe a música. Quem pagaria aquela dívida não seria o parlamento, mas a população, que teria seus recursos e salários expropriados por uma série de impostos destinados ao pagamento da dívida dos bancos. A população islandesa decidiu que não queria isso. Depois do resultado do referendo, aconteceu a coisa mais fantástica, que é a essência da democracia parlamentar atual: o parlamento votou e aprovou mais uma vez a mesma lei de ajuda aos bancos. Então, novamente, o presidente acionou o mecanismo do referendo popular e, pela segunda vez, os islandeses disseram não. O que isso significa? Alguns podem questionar “como uma questão ‘técnica’ dessas vai parar em referendo popular?”, acusar o presidente de demagogia, etc., o que é absolutamente surreal. Não é possível que parlamentares que têm suas campanhas pagas por bancos definam o que vai acontecer com o dinheiro da população em relação ao pagamento ou não da dívida destes bancos. Não faltaram economistas prevendo que a Islândia iria quebrar. No entanto, de todos os países que entraram na crise, a Islândia é um dos que está em melhor situação atualmente. A tentativa de retirar a força política da decisão era simplesmente uma construção ideológica para legitimar os “técnicos”, que, no fundo, de técnicos não têm nada porque representantes do poder financeiro que conseguiu tomar conta de todas as instituições das democracias avançadas. Esse é o limite da democracia atual. O sistema financeiro é o grande inimigo da democracia.

Existe um tipo de agenda ambiental apoiada na entrada de bens comuns para o mercado que vem sendo denunciada como a solução encontrada pelo sistema financeiro para sair da crise ao mesmo tempo em que, também apoiada na retórica da crise, Angela Merkel lidera na zona do Euro políticas de austeridade que deslegitimam a vontade soberana dos povos, como no caso grego. Como ‘a esquerda que não teme dizer seu nome’ se coloca nesse processo?

Os problemas ligados à ecologia têm um forte potencial não só mobilizador como também transformador. No entanto, nós temos hoje duas ecologias. Uma tem um potencial transformador, mas a outra é conservadora. O capitalismo vê na ecologia um dos elementos de sua renovação. Hoje, qualquer liberal, qualquer analista de Wall Street vai admitir o discurso ecológico. Há alguns autores que falam que depois da bolha imobiliária, nós temos agora a bolha verde. Uma vez escrevi um pequeno texto sobre o filme Wall Street [2010], de Oliver Stone, que me impressionou pela agudez da metáfora. Um jovem analista do mercado aposta no potencial financeiro das energias renováveis. Ele era um visionário porque, de certa maneira, pregava uma reconciliação entre o setor mais rentista da economia e algumas exigências presentes na pauta ecológica. Isso só pode ser feito rifando completamente a dimensão em que a reflexão ecológica aparece como um elemento fundamental de afirmação da soberania popular. Existe uma tendência bizarra, mas muito concreta, de articulação entre um determinado setor de lutas ecológicas e o capital financeiro. Inclusive, do ponto de vista eleitoral, acontece muita coisa complicada. Os partidos verdes europeus preferem se aliar a partidos de centro do que aos partidos de esquerda. Por exemplo, na Alemanha, o Partido Verde prefere uma aliança com a CDU [partido democrata-cristão da primeira-ministra Angela Merkel] do que uma aliança com a Die LINK, que é um partido de esquerda mais dura. Na França foi a mesma coisa. Tudo isso me parece muito preocupante. É necessário livrar a agenda ecológica dessa tendência à justificativa de um liberalismo renovado para recolocá-la no lugar onde ela sempre esteve, ou seja, como elemento fundamental da reflexão da esquerda sobre o caráter deletério dos processos de desenvolvimento do capitalismo avançado.

Como o novo pensamento de esquerda pode articular uma mirada filosófica diferente para a questão do uso produtivista da natureza, característico do neodesenvolvimentismo aqui no Brasil?

Eu reconheço que esse produtivismo em relação à natureza também esteve muito presente em certos setores da esquerda que, durante muito tempo, entenderam a natureza como fonte de recursos e só. Basta lembrar que nos países comunistas a política ambiental foi catastrófica. Isso, inclusive, tem base teórica, vem de uma leitura do pensamento marxista em que a natureza era um discurso reificado, sem realidade ontológica em si. Em última instância, a natureza era o fruto do trabalho humano então a intervenção humana na natureza já estava justificada de antemão, sem maiores contradições. Mas acredito que do ponto de vista da esquerda hoje existe uma consciência tácita a respeito da centralidade da agenda ecológica. Não foram poucos os filósofos no século 20 que nos alertaram para o impacto negativo da redução da relação com a natureza a sua dimensão eminentemente técnica. Por mais que o desenvolvimento técnico pareça nos assegurar a dominação da natureza, o fato de compreender a relação humana com a natureza sob o signo da dominação já é um problema grave. Então, essa ideia de que, sim, vivemos em um país que tem necessidades de desenvolvimento maiores porque há urgências de inclusão social não invalida o fato de estarmos no interior de um processo de reflexão sobre o que significa riqueza social. Será que riqueza social significa ter um conjunto determinado de bens de consumo, ter transporte individual, ter uma relação extrativista da energia natural? Ou significa ser capaz de criar um modelo de relação com a natureza que garanta de maneira fundamental a qualidade de vida? Essa é uma bela questão que só o debate ecológico foi capaz de colocar.

Assim como em movimentos urbanos, a exemplo do Ocuppy, a pauta ecológica delineia um horizonte onde outro modelo de sociedade é possível, fazendo cada vez mais a crítica ao poder do sistema financeiro para bloqueá-lo?

A pauta ecológica atinge o modelo na sua esfera econômica mais clara ao afirmar que nós não queremos uma situação na qual todos os agentes econômicos estejam submetidos aos interesses de uma meia dúzia de multinacionais que detém não só a estrutura de produção, mas também o desenvolvimento da técnica. Quando se fala em agricultura familiar, o que isso quer dizer? Que, enquanto modelo econômico, não é possível estabelecer uma brutal concentração de terras, de tecnologia, de insumos. Insistir na agricultura familiar é, dentre outras coisas, insistir na pulverização radical da posse não só da terra, mas dos bens e das técnicas. Porque se isso não ocorrer, você tem não só consequências demográficas muito brutais, como o inchaço das periferias urbanas, mas também uma espécie de situação na qual a criatividade inerente à pulverização das técnicas é perdida. Milhares de produtores não vão produzir as mesmas coisas, nem sob as mesmas condições.

Por exemplo?

Por exemplo, quando essas questões ecológicas se vinculam ao problema da soberania alimentar. O fato de que você tem uma política agrícola que vai eliminando completamente a diversidade alimentar não é só uma questão de garantia das tradições – eu seria o último a fazer aqui a defesa abstrata da particularidade das tradições. Dentre outras coisas, é preciso reconhecer que a tradição tem uma dimensão de experiência que será muito importante para nós quando tivermos condições de compreender como os saberes alimentares se constituíram e o que eles garantem. Há uma tendência monopolista muito forte, nós vemos nas últimas décadas algo que está na base da tradição marxista, a ideia de que vai chegar um momento em que a própria noção de concorrência começa a desaparecer. Esse processo concentracionista toma a relação com a natureza de assalto, da maneira mais brutal possível. Todos esses movimentos camponeses, como a Via Campesina, insistem que há um risco não só econômico como social em se permitir a concentração das atividades agrícolas na mão de multinacionais. As sociedades pagarão caro se não conseguirem bloquear esse processo.

Pegando carona nesse exemplo da Via Campesina, cada vez mais surgem relatos de populações tradicionais emparedadas por esse modelo de desenvolvimento, mas, ainda sim, estes relatos bastante concretos e verificáveis são deslegitimados…

Tenta-se desqualificar essas resistências como uma espécie de arcaísmo. É como se dissessem “vocês precisam entender que têm uma visão absolutamente romântica do mundo”. É um discurso que condena “a crítica às luzes”, no final das contas. Diz muito a tentativa de retirar dessas lutas uma espécie de prova maior do conservadorismo de certas populações que no fundo são as populações mais vulneráveis, pois sabem que quando essas empresas chegam eles vão para o espaço simplesmente. Quando a Petrobrás chega para fazer a exploração de petróleo nas bacias, a vida dos pescadores é a última coisa na qual ela vai pensar. “Imagina você ficar preocupado com peixe quando o país quer se transformar em uma grande potência petrolífera?”. Ou seja, eles querem vender essa perspectiva, mas uma questão fundamental da esquerda é saber defender as alas mais vulneráveis da sociedade. Existe um modelo retórico que procura nos fazer acreditar que toda resistência seja, no fundo, uma recusa do progresso. Acho importante recolocar de maneira clara o que significa ‘progresso’ no interior desse contexto. O progresso procuraria dar conta de certas exigências fundamentais de bem-estar. O progresso científico não é simplesmente um processo de dominação da natureza, mas também um processo de otimização do bem-estar humano. Mas esse dito ‘progresso’ promete uma maior qualidade de vida para as populações e acaba produzindo o inverso. Para que essa inversão não ocorra, é necessária uma reconstituição brutal dos modelos de relação com a natureza. E, nesse processo, o interessante é que nasce outra consciência da organização social.

* Entrevista realizada por Maíra Mathias para a revista Poli n° 24, de julho e agosto de 2012

** Entrevista socializada pela Escola Politécnica de Saúde Joaquim Venâncio(EPSJV/Fiocruz), publicada pelo EcoDebate, 06/09/2012

[ O conteúdo do EcoDebate é “Copyleft”, podendo ser copiado, reproduzido e/ou distribuído, desde que seja dado crédito ao autor, ao Ecodebate e, se for o caso, à fonte primária da informação ]

Research Reveals Contrasting Consequences of a Warmer Earth (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Sep. 3, 2012) — A new study, by scientists from the Universities of York, Glasgow and Leeds, involving analysis of fossil and geological records going back 540 million years, suggests that biodiversity on Earth generally increases as the planet warms.

New research involving analysis of fossil and geological records going back 540 million years suggests that biodiversity on Earth generally increases as the planet warms. (Credit: © mozZz / Fotolia)

But the research says that the increase in biodiversity depends on the evolution of new species over millions of years, and is normally accompanied by extinctions of existing species. The researchers suggest that present trends of increasing temperature are unlikely to boost global biodiversity in the short term because of the long timescales necessary for new forms to evolve. Instead, the speed of current change is expected to cause diversity loss.

The study which is published inProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) says that while warm periods in the geological past experienced increased extinctions, they also promoted the origination of new species, increasing overall biodiversity.

The new research is a refinement of an earlier study that analysed biodiversity over the same time interval, but with a less sophisticated data set, and concluded that a warming climate led to drops in overall diversity. Using the improved data that are now available, the researchers re-examined patterns of marine invertebrate biodiversity over the last 540 million years.

Lead author, Dr Peter Mayhew, of the Department of Biology at York, said: “The improved data give us a more secure picture of the impact of warmer temperatures on marine biodiversity and they show that, as before, there is more extinction and origination in warm geological periods. But, overall, warm climates seem to boost biodiversity in the very long run, rather than reducing it.”

Dr Alistair McGowan, of the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow said: “The previous findings always seemed paradoxical. Ecological studies show that species richness consistently increases towards the Equator, where it is warm, yet the relationship between biodiversity and temperature through time appeared to be the opposite. Our new results reverse these conclusions and bring them into line with the ecological pattern.”

Professor Tim Benton, of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds, added: “Science progresses by constantly re-examining conclusions in the light of better data. Our results seem to show that temperature improves biodiversity through time as well as across space. However, they do not suggest that current global warming is good for existing species. Increases in global diversity take millions of years, and in the meantime we expect extinctions to occur.”

Biodiversity Conservation Depends On Scale: Lessons from the Science–policy Dialogue (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 30, 2012) — The year 2010 marked the deadline for the political targets to significantly reduce and halt biodiversity loss. The failure to achieve the 2010 goal stimulated the setting up of new targets for 2020. In addition, preventing the degradation of ecosystems and their services has been incorporated in several global and the EU agendas for 2020. To successful meet these challenging targets requires a critical review of the existing and emerging biodiversity policies to improve their design and implementation, say a team scientists in a paper published in the open access journal Nature Conservation.

These and other questions of increasing the “scale-awareness” of policy makers have been actively discussed at a special SCALES symposium at the 3rd European Congress of Conservation Biology (ECCB) in Glasgow on 28th-31st of August 2012. The lead author Dr Riikka Paloniemi from the Environmental Policy Centre, Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), in Helsinki, Finland, said: “The policies that regulate biodiversity protection and management operate at many administrative levels, employ a range of instruments at different scales, and involve a variety of governmental and non-governmental actors. These actors often have different insights as to what constitutes a scale-challenge and how to deal with it, inevitably leading to contrasting opinions.”

“The question of scale has never been so acute before. Neglecting the spatial and temporal scale at which ecosystems functions when designing conservation measures may lead to long-standing negative consequences, and the failure of the 2010 target is one of the best examples of that” added Dr Klaus Henle from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research — UFZ in Leipzig, Germany and coordinator of SCALES.

The main conclusion of the scientists is that scale-related problems, and their potential solutions, are all about improving our understanding of complexity of the processes. Dealing with a number of different scales and scale-mismatches in biodiversity conservation is challenging; it requires an analytical and political framework that is able to assess the adverse impacts of global change, and to implement the relevant policies at the relevant scale.

Journal Reference:

  1. Riikka Paloniemi, Evangelia Apostolopoulou, Eeva Primmer, Malgorzata Grodzinska-Jurcak, Klaus Henle, Irene Ring, Marianne Kettunen, Joseph Tzanopoulos, Simon Potts, Sybille van den Hove, Pascal Marty, Andrew McConville, Jukka Simila. Biodiversity conservation across scales: lessons from a science–policy dialogueNature Conservation, 2012; 2 (0): 7 DOI:10.3897/natureconservation.2.3144

Intriguing Habitats, and Careful Discussions of Climate Change (N.Y.Times)


Gretchen Ertl for The New York TimesPacific Sea nettle jellyfish at the New England Aquarium in Boston. Zoos and aquariums are working to include educational elements about the environment without alienating visitors.


Published: August 26, 2012

BOSTON — Sitting on an artificial mangrove island in the middle of the ray and shark “touch tank,” Lindsay Jordan, a staff member at the New England Aquarium, explained the rays’ eating habits as children and their parents trailed fingers through the water. “Does anyone know how we touch these animals when we are not at the aquarium?” she asked.

The children’s faces turned up expectantly.

“The ocean absorbs one-third of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions,” Ms. Jordan said, explaining that it upsets the food chain. “When you turn on your car, it affects them.”

Downstairs, next to the jellyfish tanks, a rhyming video told how the jellyfish population was exploding in the wild because they thrive in warmer waters. In the main room, a staff member pointed to a rare blue lobster, saying that some lobsters have been scuttling out of Massachusetts and settling in cooler climes to the north.

With many zoos and aquariums now working with conservation organizations and financed by individuals who feel strongly about threatened habitats and species, managers have been wrestling with how aggressive to be in educating visitors on the perils of climate change.

Surveys show that American zoos and aquariums enjoy a high level of public trust and are ideally positioned to teach.

Yet many managers are fearful of alienating visitors — and denting ticket sales — with tours or wall labels that dwell bleakly on damaged coral reefs, melting ice caps or dying trees.

“You don’t want them walking away saying, ‘I paid to get in, I bought my kid a hot dog, I just want to show my kid a fish — and you are making me feel bad about climate change,’ ” said Paul Boyle, the senior vice president for conservation and education at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Some zoos and aquariums have therefore held back, relegating the theme to, say, a sign about Arctic melting in the polar bear exhibit. But many have headed in the other direction, putting climate change front and center in a way that they hope will inspire a young generation of zoogoers.

Working with cognitive scientists and experts in linguistics and anthropology, a coalition of aquariums set out in 2008 to develop a patter that would intrigue rather than daunt or depress the average visitor. After the group was pleased with the script, it secured a grant of about $1 million last year from the National Science Foundation to train staffs across the nation. This month, the foundation awarded the group an additional $5.5 million for a five-year education effort.

Dr. Boyle said that most of the association’s 224 members now have some sort of climate message.

The form varies from subtle to pointed. The zoos in Cincinnati and Toledo, Ohio, for instance, have installed prominent solar arrays over their parking lots to power exhibits and set an example. The San Diego Zoo and the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago have made their exhibits of polar bears and other Arctic species more direct about the threats posed by global warming.

So far the feedback has largely been positive, officials at most zoos say.

Ariella Camera, a counselor with a summer program run by Boston Rising, an antipoverty group, said some of her charges recently took part in a game at the New England Aquarium that taught them what emits carbon dioxide (many factories, most cars) and what absorbs it (trees and the ocean). They were then challenged to balance the two.

Afterward the students struck up a lively conversation about their carbon footprints, Ms. Camera said. “It was a very engaging presentation,” she said.

Such anecdotes gratify Howard Ris, the aquarium’s president. “We would like as many people, if not everyone, to leave encouraged to take action,” he said.

Others are dubious that it will work. “Zoos have been making claims about their educational value for 150 years,” said Jeffrey Hyson, a cultural historian and the director of the American studies program at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. The zoos “say a lot more about what they think they are doing than they can really demonstrate.”

Zoo managers acknowledge that they initially struggled with the challenge of delivering bad news.

In the 1980s and ’90s, Dr. Boyle noted, some zoos and aquariums made a big push to emphasize threats like the depletion of the earth’s ozone layer, the razing of rain forests by loggers and farmers and the overfishing of the Pacific. Electronic boards toted up the numbers of acres being cleared, and enlarged photographs depicted denuded landscapes.

Surveys of visitors showed a backlash. “For lots of reasons, the institutions tended to approach the issues by talking about the huge scale of the problems,” Dr. Boyle said. “They wanted to attract people’s attention, but what we saw happening over time was that everyday people were overwhelmed.” It did not help that a partisan split had opened in the United States over whether global warming was under way, and whether human activity was the leading cause.

At the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, Brian Davis, the vice president for education and training, says to this day his institution ensures its guests will not hear the term global warming. Visitors are “very conservative,” he said. “When they hear certain terms, our guests shut down. We’ve seen it happen.”

Such hesitancy inspired the group of leading aquariums to develop, test and refine their model, which comes off as casual and chatty.

Word choices matter, research showed. The FrameWorks Institute, a nonprofit organization that studies how people process abstract concepts, found the phrase “greenhouse gas effect” perplexed people. “They think it is a nice place for plants to grow,” said FrameWorks’ president, Susan Bales. So her group advised substituting “heat-trapping blanket” to describe the accumulation of gases in the atmosphere.

Today’s guides also make a point of encouraging groups to focus first on the animals, leaving any unpleasant message for later.

At the New England Aquarium’s giant reef tank, visitors peered over the side and watched sand tiger sharks, sea turtles and tropical fish swim around a giant coral reef. As a diver entered the tank to feed the fish, a guide explained that the smaller ones tend to hide in coral for safety.

A few minutes passed before she told the crowd that corals around the world are bleaching and dying because of a pronounced rise in ocean temperature and acidity.

Upon leaving, the visitors were briefed on positive steps they could take, like using public transportation or bikes and being cautious about energy consumption.

Yet sometimes, the zoo animals are so entrancing that a climate-related message may fall on deaf ears.

Leanne Gaffney, who recently brought four high school students from a summer enrichment program to the New England Aquarium, said they were fascinated by creatures like leafy sea dragons and tropical snakes, but not so much by how their habitats were faring.

“They are teenage boys,” she said. “Mostly they just wanted to see the anacondas.”

Climate Science as Culture War (Stanford Social Innovation Review)


The public debate around climate change is no longer about science—it’s about values, culture, and ideology.

By Andrew J. Hoffman | 18 | Fall 2012

earth_first_members_environmentSouth Florida Earth First members protest outside the Platts Coal Properties and Investment Conference in West Palm Beach. (Photo by Bruce R. Bennett/Zum Press/Newscom)

In May 2009, a development officer at the University of Michigan asked me to meet with a potential donor—a former football player and now successful businessman who had an interest in environmental issues and business, my interdisciplinary area of expertise. The meeting began at 7 a.m., and while I was still nursing my first cup of coffee, the potential donor began the conversation with “I think the scientific review process is corrupt.” I asked what he thought of a university based on that system, and he said that he thought that the university was then corrupt, too. He went on to describe the science of climate change as a hoax, using all the familiar lines of attack—sunspots and solar flares, the unscientific and politically flawed consensus model, and the environmental benefits of carbon dioxide.

As we debated each point, he turned his attack on me, asking why I hated capitalism and why I wanted to destroy the economy by teaching environmental issues in a business school. Eventually, he asked if I knew why Earth Day was on April 22. I sighed as he explained, “Because it is Karl Marx’s birthday.” (I suspect he meant to say Vladimir Lenin, whose birthday is April 22, also Earth Day. This linkage has been made by some on the far right who believe that Earth Day is a communist plot, even though Lenin never promoted environmentalism and communism does not have a strong environmental legacy.)

I turned to the development officer and asked, “What’s our agenda here this morning?” The donor interrupted to say that he wanted to buy me a ticket to the Heartland Institute’s Fourth Annual Conference on Climate Change, the leading climate skeptics conference. I checked my calendar and, citing prior commitments, politely declined. The meeting soon ended.

I spent the morning trying to make sense of the encounter. At first, all I could see was a bait and switch; the donor had no interest in funding research in business and the environment, but instead wanted to criticize the effort. I dismissed him as an irrational zealot, but the meeting lingered in my mind. The more I thought about it, the more I began to see that he was speaking from a coherent and consistent worldview—one I did not agree with, but which was a coherent viewpoint nonetheless. Plus, he had come to evangelize me. The more I thought about it, the more I became eager to learn about where he was coming from, where I was coming from, and why our two worldviews clashed so strongly in the present social debate over climate science. Ironically, in his desire to challenge my research, he stimulated a new research stream, one that fit perfectly with my broader research agenda on social, institutional, and cultural change.

Scientific vs. Social Consensus

Today, there is no doubt that a scientific consensus exists on the issue of climate change. Scientists have documented that anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gases are leading to a buildup in the atmosphere, which leads to a general warming of the global climate and an alteration in the statistical distribution of localized weather patterns over long periods of time. This assessment is endorsed by a large body of scientific agencies—including every one of the national scientific agencies of the G8 + 5 countries—and by the vast majority of climatologists. The majority of research articles published in refereed scientific journals also support this scientific assessment. Both the US National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science use the word “consensus” when describing the state of climate science.

And yet a social consensus on climate change does not exist. Surveys show that the American public’s belief in the science of climate change has mostly declined over the past five years, with large percentages of the population remaining skeptical of the science. Belief declined from 71 percent to 57 percent between April 2008 and October 2009, according to an October 2009 Pew Research Center poll; more recently, belief rose to 62 percent, according to a February 2012 report by the National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change. Such a significant number of dissenters tells us that we do not have a set of socially accepted beliefs on climate change—beliefs that emerge, not from individual preferences, but from societal norms; beliefs that represent those on the political left, right, and center as well as those whose cultural identifications are urban, rural, religious, agnostic, young, old, ethnic, or racial.

Why is this so? Why do such large numbers of Americans reject the consensus of the scientific community? With upwards of two-thirds of Americans not clearly understanding science or the scientific process and fewer able to pass even a basic scientific literacy test, according to a 2009 California Academy of Sciences survey, we are left to wonder: How do people interpret and validate the opinions of the scientific community? The answers to this question can be found, not from the physical sciences, but from the social science disciplines of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and others.

To understand the processes by which a social consensus can emerge on climate change, we must understand that people’s opinions on this and other complex scientific issues are based on their prior ideological preferences, personal experience, and values—all of which are heavily influenced by their referent groups and their individual psychology. Physical scientists may set the parameters for understanding the technical aspects of the climate debate, but they do not have the final word on whether society accepts or even understands their conclusions. The constituency that is relevant in the social debate goes beyond scientific experts. And the processes by which this constituency understands and assesses the science of climate change go far beyond its technical merits. We must acknowledge that the debate over climate change, like almost all environmental issues, is a debate over culture, worldviews, and ideology.

This fact can be seen most vividly in the growing partisan divide over the issue. Political affiliation is one of the strongest correlates with individual uncertainty about climate change, not scientific knowledge.1 The percentage of conservatives and Republicans who believe that the effects of global warming have already begun declined from roughly 50 percent in 2001 to about 30 percent in 2010, while the corresponding percentage for liberals and Democrats increased from roughly 60 percent in 2001 to about 70 percent in 2010.2 (See “The Growing Partisan Divide over Climate Change,” below.)


Climate change has become enmeshed in the so-called culture wars. Acceptance of the scientific consensus is now seen as an alignment with liberal views consistent with other “cultural” issues that divide the country (abortion, gun control, health care, and evolution). This partisan divide on climate change was not the case in the 1990s. It is a recent phenomenon, following in the wake of the 1997 Kyoto Treaty that threatened the material interests of powerful economic and political interests, particularly members of the fossil fuel industry.3 The great danger of a protracted partisan divide is that the debate will take the form of what I call a “logic schism,” a breakdown in debate in which opposing sides are talking about completely different cultural issues.4

This article seeks to delve into the climate change debate through the lens of the social sciences. I take this approach not because the physical sciences have become less relevant, but because we need to understand the social and psychological processes by which people receive and understand the science of global warming. I explain the cultural dimensions of the climate debate as it is currently configured, outline three possible paths by which the debate can progress, and describe specific techniques that can drive that debate toward broader consensus. This goal is imperative, for without a broader consensus on climate change in the United States, Americans and people around the globe will be unable to formulate effective social, political, and economic solutions to the changing circumstances of our planet.

Cultural Processing of Climate Science

When analyzing complex scientific information, people are “boundedly rational,” to use Nobel Memorial Prize economist Herbert Simon’s phrase; we are “cognitive misers,” according to UCLA psychologist Susan Fiske and Princeton University psychologist Shelley Taylor, with limited cognitive ability to fully investigate every issue we face. People everywhere employ ideological filters that reflect their identity, worldview, and belief systems. These filters are strongly influenced by group values, and we generally endorse the position that most directly reinforces the connection we have with others in our referent group—what Yale Law School professor Dan Kahan refers to as “cultural cognition.” In so doing, we cement our connection with our cultural groups and strengthen our definition of self. This tendency is driven by an innate desire to maintain a consistency in beliefs by giving greater weight to evidence and arguments that support preexisting beliefs, and by expending disproportionate energy trying to refute views or arguments that are contrary to those beliefs. Instead of investigating a complex issue, we often simply learn what our referent group believes and seek to integrate those beliefs with our own views.

Over time, these ideological filters become increasingly stable and resistant to change through multiple reinforcing mechanisms. First, we’ll consider evidence when it is accepted or, ideally, presented by a knowledgeable source from our cultural community; and we’ll dismiss information that is advocated by sources that represent groups whose values we reject. Second, we will selectively choose information sources that support our ideological position. For example, frequent viewers of Fox News are more likely to say that the Earth’s temperature has not been rising, that any temperature increase is not due to human activities, and that addressing climate change would have deleterious effects on the economy.5 One might expect the converse to be true of National Public Radio listeners. The result of this cultural processing and group cohesion dynamics leads to two overriding conclusions about the climate change debate.

First, climate change is not a “pollution” issue. Although the US Supreme Court decided in 2007 that greenhouse gases were legally an air pollutant, in a cultural sense, they are something far different. The reduction of greenhouse gases is not the same as the reduction of sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, or particulates. These forms of pollution are man-made, they are harmful, and they are the unintended waste products of industrial production. Ideally, we would like to eliminate their production through the mobilization of economic and technical resources. But the chief greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, is both man-made and natural. It is not inherently harmful; it is a natural part of the natural systems; and we do not desire to eliminate its production. It is not a toxic waste or a strictly technical problem to be solved. Rather, it is an endemic part of our society and who we are. To a large degree, it is a highly desirable output, as it correlates with our standard of living. Greenhouse gas emissions rise with a rise in a nation’s wealth, something all people want. To reduce carbon dioxide requires an alteration in nearly every facet of the economy, and therefore nearly every facet of our culture. To recognize greenhouse gases as a problem requires us to change a great deal about how we view the world and ourselves within it. And that leads to the second distinction.

Climate change is an existential challenge to our contemporary worldviews. The cultural challenge of climate change is enormous and threefold, each facet leading to the next. The first facet is that we have to think of a formerly benign, even beneficial, material in a new way—as a relative, not absolute, hazard. Only in an imbalanced concentration does it become problematic. But to understand and accept this, we need to conceive of the global ecosystem in a new way.

This challenge leads us to the second facet: Not only do we have to change our view of the ecosystem, but we also have to change our view of our place within it. Have we as a species grown to such numbers, and has our technology grown to such power, that we can alter and manage the ecosystem on a planetary scale? This is an enormous cultural question that alters our worldviews. As a result, some see the question and subsequent answer as intellectual and spiritual hubris, but others see it as self-evident.

If we answer this question in the affirmative, the third facet challenges us to consider new and perhaps unprecedented forms of global ethics and governance to address it. Climate change is the ultimate “commons problem,” as ecologist Garrett Hardin defined it, where every individual has an incentive to emit greenhouse gases to improve her standard of living, but the costs of this activity are borne by all. Unfortunately, the distribution of costs in this global issue is asymmetrical, with vulnerable populations in poor countries bearing the larger burden. So we need to rethink our ethics to keep pace with our technological abilities. Does mowing the lawn or driving a fuel-inefficient car in Ann Arbor, Mich., have ethical implications for the people living in low-lying areas of Bangladesh? If you accept anthropogenic climate change, then the answer to this question is yes, and we must develop global institutions to reflect that recognition. This is an issue of global ethics and governance on a scale that we have never seen, affecting virtually every economic activity on the globe and requiring the most complicated and intrusive global agreement ever negotiated.

Taken together, these three facets of our existential challenge illustrate the magnitude of the cultural debate that climate change provokes. Climate change challenges us to examine previously unexamined beliefs and worldviews. It acts as a flash point (albeit a massive one) for deeper cultural and ideological conflicts that lie at the root of many of our environmental problems, and it includes differing conceptions of science, economics, religion, psychology, media, development, and governance. It is a proxy for “deeper conflicts over alternative visions of the future and competing centers of authority in society,” as University of East Anglia climatologist Mike Hulme underscores in Why We Disagree About Climate Change. And, as such, it provokes a violent debate among cultural communities on one side who perceive their values to be threatened by change, and cultural communities on the other side who perceive their values to be threatened by the status quo.

Three Ways Forward

If the public debate over climate change is no longer about greenhouse gases and climate models, but about values, worldviews, and ideology, what form will this clash of ideologies take? I see three possible forms.

The Optimistic Form is where people do not have to change their values at all. In other words, the easiest way to eliminate the common problems of climate change is to develop technological solutions that do not require major alterations to our values, worldviews, or behavior: carbon-free renewable energy, carbon capture and sequestration technologies, geo-engineering, and others. Some see this as an unrealistic future. Others see it as the only way forward, because people become attached to their level of prosperity, feel entitled to keep it, and will not accept restraints or support government efforts to impose restraints.6Government-led investment in alternative energy sources, therefore, becomes more acceptable than the enactment of regulations and taxes to reduce fossil fuel use.

The Pessimistic Form is where people fight to protect their values. This most dire outcome results in a logic schism, where opposing sides debate different issues, seek only information that supports their position and disconfirms the others’, and even go so far as to demonize the other. University of Colorado, Boulder, environmental scientist Roger Pielke in The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics describes the extreme of such schisms as “abortion politics,” where the two sides are debating completely different issues and “no amount of scientific information … can reconcile the different values.” Consider, for example, the recent decision by the Heartland Institute to post a billboard in Chicago comparing those who believe in climate change with the Unabomber. In reply, climate activist groups posted billboards attacking Heartland and its financial supporters. This attack-counterattack strategy is symptomatic of a broken public discourse over climate change.

The Consensus-Based Form involves a reasoned societal debate, focused on the full scope of technical and social dimensions of the problem and the feasibility and desirability of multiple solutions. It is this form to which scientists have the most to offer, playing the role of what Pielke calls the “honest broker”—a person who can “integrate scientific knowledge with stakeholder concerns to explore alternative possible courses of action.” Here, resolution is found through a focus on its underlying elements, moving away from positions (for example, climate change is or is not happening), and toward the underlying interests and values at play. How do we get there? Research in negotiation and dispute resolution can offer techniques for moving forward.

Techniques for a Consensus-Based Discussion

In seeking a social consensus on climate change, discussion must move beyond a strict focus on the technical aspects of the science to include its cultural underpinnings. Below are eight techniques for overcoming the ideological filters that underpin the social debate about climate change.

Know your audience | Any message on climate change must be framed in a way that fits with the cultural norms of the target audience. The 2011 study Climate Change in the American Mind segments the American public into six groups based on their views on climate change science. (See “Six Americas,” below.) On the two extremes are the climate change “alarmed” and “dismissive.” Consensus-based discussion is not likely open to these groups, as they are already employing logic schism tactics that are closed to debate or engagement. The polarity of these groups is well known: On the one side, climate change is a hoax, humans have no impact on the climate, and nothing is happening; on the other side, climate change is an imminent crisis that will devastate the Earth, and human activity explains all climate changes.


The challenge is to move the debate away from the loud minorities at the extremes and to engage the majority in the middle—the “concerned,” the “cautious,” the “disengaged,” and the “doubtful.” People in these groups are more open to consensus-based debate, and through direct engagement can be separated from the ideological extremes of their cultural community.

Ask the right scientific questions | For a consensus-based discussion, climate change science should be presented not as a binary yes or no question,7 but as a series of six questions. Some are scientific in nature, with associated levels of uncertainty and probability; others are matters of scientific judgment.

  • Are greenhouse gas concentrations increasing in the atmosphere? Yes. This is a scientific question, based on rigorous data and measurements of atmospheric chemistry and science.
  • Does this increase lead to a general warming of the planet? Yes. This is also a scientific question; the chemical mechanics of the greenhouse effect and “negative radiative forcing” are well established.
  • Has climate changed over the past century? Yes. Global temperature increases have been rigorously measured through multiple techniques and strongly supported by multiple scientific analyses.In fact, as Yale University economist William Nordhaus wrote in the March 12, 2012, New York Times, “The finding that global temperatures are rising over the last century-plus is one of the most robust findings in climate science and statistics.”
  • Are humans partially responsible for this increase? The answer to this question is a matter of scientific judgment. Increases in global mean temperatures have a very strong correlation with increases in man-made greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution. Although science cannot confirm causation, fingerprint analysis of multiple possible causes has been examined, and the only plausible explanation is that of human-induced temperature changes. Until a plausible alternative hypothesis is presented, this explanation prevails for the scientific community.
  • Will the climate continue to change over the next century? Again, this question is a matter of scientific judgment. But given the answers to the previous four questions, it is reasonable to believe that continued increases in greenhouse gases will lead to continued changes in the climate.
  • What will be the environmental and social impact of such change? This is the scientific question with the greatest uncertainty. The answer comprises a bell curve of possible outcomes and varying associated probabilities, from low to extreme impact. Uncertainty in this variation is due to limited current data on the Earth’s climate system, imperfect modeling of these physical processes, and the unpredictability of human actions that can both exasperate or moderate the climate shifts. These uncertainties make predictions difficult and are an area in which much debate can take place. And yet the physical impacts of climate change are already becoming visible in ways that are consistent with scientific modeling, particularly in Greenland, the Arctic, the Antarctic, and low-lying islands.

In asking these questions, a central consideration is whether people recognize the level of scientific consensus associated with each one. In fact, studies have shown that people’s support for climate policies and action are linked to their perceptions about scientific agreement. Still, the belief that “most scientists think global warming is happening” declined from 47 percent to 39 percent among Americans between 2008 and 2011.8

Move beyond data and models | Climate skepticism is not a knowledge deficit issue. Michigan State University sociologist Aaron McCright and Oklahoma State University sociologist Riley Dunlap have observed that increased education and self-reported understanding of climate science have been shown to correlate with lower concern among conservatives and Republicans and greater concern among liberals and Democrats. Research also has found that once people have made up their minds on the science of the climate issue, providing continued scientific evidence actually makes them more resolute in resisting conclusions that are at variance with their cultural beliefs.9 One needs to recognize that reasoning is suffused with emotion and people often use reasoning to reach a predetermined end that fits their cultural worldviews. When people hear about climate change, they may, for example, hear an implicit criticism that their lifestyle is the cause of the issue or that they are morally deficient for not recognizing it. But emotion can be a useful ally; it can create the abiding commitments needed to sustain action on the difficult issue of climate change. To do this, people must be convinced that something can be done to address it; that the challenge is not too great nor are its impacts preordained. The key to engaging people in a consensus-driven debate about climate change is to confront the emotionality of the issue and then address the deeper ideological values that may be threatened to create this emotionality.

Focus on broker frames | People interpret information by fitting it to preexisting narratives or issue categories that mesh with their worldview. Therefore information must be presented in a form that fits those templates, using carefully researched metaphors, allusions, and examples that trigger a new way of thinking about the personal relevance of climate change. To be effective, climate communicators must use the language of the cultural community they are engaging. For a business audience, for example, one must use business terminology, such as net present value, return on investment, increased consumer demand, and rising raw material costs.

More generally, one can seek possible broker frames that move away from a pessimistic appeal to fear and instead focus on optimistic appeals that trigger the emotionality of a desired future. In addressing climate change, we are asking who we strive to be as a people, and what kind of world we want to leave our children. To gain buy-in, one can stress American know-how and our capacity to innovate, focusing on activities already under way by cities, citizens, and businesses.10

This approach frames climate change mitigation as a gain rather than a loss to specific cultural groups. Research has shown that climate skepticism can be caused by a motivational tendency to defend the status quo based on the prior assumption that any change will be painful. But by encouraging people to regard pro-environmental change as patriotic and consistent with protecting the status quo, it can be framed as a continuation rather than a departure from the past.

Specific broker frames can be used that engage the interests of both sides of the debate. For example, when US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu referred in November 2010 to advances in renewable energy technology in China as the United States’ “Sputnik moment,” he was framing climate change as a common threat to US scientific and economic competitiveness. When Pope Benedict XVI linked the threat of climate change with threats to life and dignity on New Year’s Day 2010, he was painting it as an issue of religious morality. When CNA’s Military Advisory Board, a group of elite retired US military officers, called climate change a “threat multiplier” in its 2006 report, it was using a national security frame. When the Lancet Commission pronounced climate change to be the biggest global health threat of the 21st century in a 2009 article, the organization was using a quality of life frame. And when the Center for American Progress, a progressive Washington, D.C., think tank, connected climate change to the conservation ideals of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, they were framing the issue as consistent with Republican values.

One broker frame that deserves particular attention is the replacement of uncertainty or probability of climate change with the risk of climate change.11 People understand low probability, high consequence events and the need to address them. For example, they buy fire insurance for their homes even though the probability of a fire is low, because they understand that the financial consequence is too great. In the same way, climate change for some may be perceived as a low risk, high consequence event, so the prudent course of action is to obtain insurance in the form of both behavioral and technological change.

Recognize the power of language and terminology | Words have multiple meanings in different communities, and terms can trigger unintended reactions in a target audience. For example, one study has shown that Republicans were less likely to think that the phenomenon is real when it is referred to as “global warming” (44 percent) rather than “climate change” (60 percent), but Democrats were unaffected by the term (87 percent vs. 86 percent). So language matters: The partisan divide dropped from 43 percent under a “global warming” frame to 26 percent under a “climate change” frame.12

Other terms with multiple meanings include “climate denier,” which some use to refer to those who are not open to discussion on the issue, and others see as a thinly veiled and highly insulting reference to “Holocaust denier”; “uncertainty,” which is a scientific concept to convey variance or deviation from a specific value, but is interpreted by a lay audience to mean that scientists do not know the answer; and “consensus,” which is the process by which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forms its position, but leads some in the public to believe that climate science is a matter of “opinion” rather than data and modeling.

Overall, the challenge becomes one of framing complex scientific issues in a language that a lay and highly politicized audience can hear. This becomes increasingly challenging when we address some inherently nonintuitive and complex aspects of climate modeling that are hard to explain, such as the importance of feedback loops, time delays, accumulations, and nonlinearities in dynamic systems.13 Unless scientists can accurately convey the nature of climate modeling, others in the social debate will alter their claims to fit their cultural or cognitive perceptions or satisfy their political interests.

Employ climate brokers | People are more likely to feel open to consider evidence when a recognized member of their cultural community presents it.14 Certainly, statements by former Vice President Al Gore and Sen. James Inhofe evoke visceral responses from individuals on either side of the partisan divide. But individuals with credibility on both sides of the debate can act as what I call climate brokers. Because a majority of Republicans do not believe the science of climate change, whereas a majority of Democrats do, the most effective broker would come from the political right. Climate brokers can include representatives from business, the religious community, the entertainment industry, the military, talk show hosts, and politicians who can frame climate change in language that will engage the audience to whom they most directly connect. When people hear about the need to address climate change from their church, synagogue, mosque, or temple, for example, they w ill connect the issue to their moral values. When they hear it from their business leaders and investment managers, they will connect it to their economic interests. And when they hear it from their military leaders, they will connect it to their interest in a safe and secure nation.

Recognize multiple referent groups | The presentation of information can be designed in a fashion that recognizes that individuals are members of multiple referent groups. The underlying frames employed in one cultural community may be at variance with the values dominant within the communities engaged in climate change debate. For example, although some may reject the science of climate change by perceiving the scientific review process to be corrupt as part of one cultural community, they also may recognize the legitimacy of the scientific process as members of other cultural communities (such as users of the modern health care system). Although someone may see the costs of fossil fuel reductions as too great and potentially damaging to the economy as members of one community, they also may see the value in reducing dependence on foreign oil as members of another community who value strong national defense. This frame incongruence emerged in the 2011 US Republican primary as candidate Jon Huntsman warned that Republicans risk becoming the “antiscience party” if they continue to reject the science on climate change. What Huntsman alluded to is that most Americans actually do trust the scientific process, even if they don’t fully understand it. (A 2004 National Science Foundation report found that two thirds of Americans do not clearly understand the scientific process.)

Employ events as leverage for change | Studies have found that most Americans believe that climate change will affect geographically and temporally distant people and places. But studies also have shown that people are more likely to believe in the science when they have an experience with extreme weather phenomena. This has led climate communicators to link climate change to major events, such as Hurricane Katrina, or to more recent floods in the American Midwest and Asia, as well as to droughts in Texas and Africa, to hurricanes along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico, and to snowstorms in Western states and New England. The cumulative body of weather evidence, reported by media outlets and linked to climate change, will increase the number of people who are concerned about the issue, see it as less uncertain, and feel more confident that we must take actions to mitigate its effects. For example, in explaining the recent increase in belief in climate change among Americans, the 2012 National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change noted that “about half of Americans now point to observations of temperature changes and weather as the main reasons they believe global warming is taking place.”15

Ending Climate Science Wars

Will we see a social consensus on climate change? If beliefs about the existence of global warming are becoming more ideologically entrenched and gaps between conservatives and liberals are widening, the solution space for resolving the issue will collapse and the debate will be based on power and coercion. In such a scenario, domination by the science-based forces looks less likely than domination by the forces of skepticism, because the former has to “prove” its case while the latter merely needs to cast doubt. But such a polarized outcome is not a predetermined outcome. And if it were to form, it can be reversed.

Is there a reason to be hopeful? When looking for reasons to be hopeful about a social consensus on climate change, I look to public opinion changes around cigarette smoking and cancer. For years, the scientific community recognized that the preponderance of epidemiological and mechanistic data pointed to a link between the habit and the disease. And for years, the public rejected that conclusion. But through a process of political, economic, social, and legal debate over values and beliefs, a social consensus emerged. The general public now accepts that cigarettes cause cancer and governments have set policy to address this. Interestingly, two powerful forces that many see as obstacles to a comparable social consensus on climate change were overcome in the cigarette debate.

The first obstacle is the powerful lobby of industrial forces that can resist a social and political consensus. In the case of the cigarette debate, powerful economic interests mounted a campaign to obfuscate the scientific evidence and to block a social and political consensus. Tobacco companies created their own pro-tobacco science, but eventually the public health community overcame pro-tobacco scientists.

The second obstacle to convincing a skeptical public is the lack of a definitive statement by the scientific community about the future implications of climate change. The 2007 IPCC report states that “Human activities … are modifying the concentration of atmospheric constituents … that absorb or scatter radiant energy. … [M]ost of the observed warming over the last 50 years is very likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.” Some point to the word “likely” to argue that scientists still don’t know and action in unwarranted. But science is not designed to provide a definitive smoking gun. Remember that the 1964 surgeon general’s report about the dangers of smoking was equally conditional. And even today, we cannot state with scientific certainty that smoking causes lung cancer. Like the global climate, the human body is too complex a system for absolute certainty. We can explain epidemiologically why a person could get cancer from cigarette smoking and statistically how that person will likely get cancer, but, as the surgeon general report explains, “statistical methods cannot establish proof of a causal relationship in an association [between cigarette smoking and lung cancer]. The causal significance of an association is a matter of judgment, which goes beyond any statement of statistical probability.” Yet the general public now accepts this causal linkage.

What will get us there? Although climate brokers are needed from all areas of society—from business, religion, military, and politics—one field in particular needs to become more engaged: the academic scientist and particularly the social scientist. Too much of the debate is dominated by the physical sciences in defining the problem and by economics in defining the solutions. Both fields focus heavily on the rational and quantitative treatments of the issue and fail to capture the behavioral and cultural aspects that explain why people accept or reject scientific evidence, analysis, and conclusions. But science is never socially or politically inert, and scientists have a duty to recognize its effect on society and to communicate that effect to society. Social scientists can help in this endeavor.

But the relative absence of the social sciences in the climate debate is driven by specific structural and institutional controls that channel research work away from empirical relevance. Social scientists limit involvement in such “outside” activities, because the underlying norms of what is considered legitimate and valuable research, as well as the overt incentives and reward structures within the academy, lead away from such endeavors. Tenure and promotion are based primarily on the publication of top-tier academic journal articles. This is the signal of merit and success. Any effort on any other endeavor is decidedly discouraged.

The role of the public intellectual has become an arcane and elusive option in today’s social sciences. Moreover, it is a difficult role to play. The academic rules are not clear and the public backlash can be uncomfortable; many of my colleagues and I are regular recipients of hostile e-mail messages and web-based attacks. But the lack of academic scientists in the public debate harms society by leaving out critical voices for informing and resolving the climate debate. There are signs, however, that this model of scholarly isolation is changing. Some leaders within the field have begun to call for more engagement within the public arena as a way to invigorate the discipline and underscore its investment in the defense of civil society. As members of society, all scientists have a responsibility to bring their expertise to the decision-making process. It is time for social scientists to accept this responsibility.


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About Anthropogenic Climate Change
,” Global Environmental Change, August 2011.
2 Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap, “The Politicization of Climate Change and Polarization
in the American Public’s Views of Global Warming, 2001-2010
,” The Sociological
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3 Clive Hamilton, “Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change,” paper presented
to the Climate Controversies: Science and Politics conference, Brussels, Oct. 28, 2010.
4 Andrew Hoffman, “Talking Past Each Other? Cultural Framing of Skeptical and Convinced
Logics in the Climate Change Debate
,” Organization & Environment 24(1), 2011.
5 Jon Krosnick and Bo MacInnis, “Frequent Viewers of Fox News Are Less Likely to
Accept Scientists’ Views of Global Warming
,” Woods Institute for the Environment,
Stanford University, 2010.
6 Jeffrey Rachlinski, “The Psychology of Global Climate Change,” University of Illinois
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 1, 2000.
7 Max Boykoff, “The Real Swindle,” Nature Climate Change, February 2008.
8 Ding Ding et al., “Support for Climate Policy and Societal Action Are Linked to Perceptions
About Scientific Agreement
,” Nature Climate Change 1, 2011.
9 Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer, “Apocalypse Soon? Dire Messages Reduce Belief in
Global Warming by Contradicting Just-World Beliefs
,” Psychological Science 22(1), 2011.
10 Thomas Vargish, “Why the Person Sitting Next to You Hates Limits to Growth,”
Technological Forecasting and Social Change 16, 1980.
11 Nick Mabey, Jay Gulledge, Bernard Finel, and Katherine Silverthorne, Degrees of Risk:
Defining a Risk Management Framework for Climate Security
, Third Generation Environmentalism,
12 Jonathan Schuldt, Sara H. Konrath, and Norbert Schwarz, “‘Global Warming’ or
‘Climate Change’? Whether the Planet Is Warming Depends on Question Wording
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13 John Sterman, “Communicating Climate Change Risks in a Skeptical World,” Climatic
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14 Dan Kahan, Hank Jenkins-Smith, and Donald Braman, “Cultural Cognition of Scientific
,” Journal of Risk Research 14, 2010.
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,” Brookings Institution, Issues in Governance Studies,
Report No. 45, Feb. 2012.

George Will, Doomsday, and the Straw-Man Sighting (

by Brian Czech

A funny thing happened on the way to this column. Right when I was ready to accuseWashington Post columnist George Will of building another straw man to tear apart, one of Will’s straw men appeared! It’s as if Will himself cued it up, as I’ll describe in a bit.

Meanwhile don’t get me wrong. Will isn’t right about a lot. He has long been loose with the facts on environmental issues, denying the causes and effects of resource scarcity, pollution, and climate change. His vision of perpetual economic growth is neoclassical naiveté. He displayed it again with “Calls for doomsday remain unheeded.”

Will stubbornly remains a fawning fan of the late perpetual growther Julian Simon. No one likes to criticize the deceased, and Will counts on this and other social conventions to protect himself from critique. (Recently he hid behind society’s respect for Native American tribes to shoot at federal government clean-air efforts.) But it’s not a fair tactic, I’m not falling for it, and Simon was no saint anyway. Simon’s culminating book (The Ultimate Resource 2) was the shoddiest semblance of “scholarship” I’ve ever seen, as I described at length in Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train. For Will to stick with Simon after all this time is a red flag over the teeny terrain of his scientific credentials.

Will has even been sucked into the junk-science vortex of Bjorn Lomborg, Simon’s disciple and darling of pro-growth propagandists like the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Will thinks “potential U.S. gas resources have doubled in the last six years,” as if even potential (not just economic) gas resources change with technology! No stranger to bad facts, Will says, “One of [Paul] Ehrlich’s advisers, John Holdren, is President Barack Obama’s science adviser.” In reality it was the other way around: Ehrlich was Holdren’s adviser. In other words Will uses a mistaken claim to unleash a twice-removed, guilt-by-association attack, all in one sentence!

Despite the fact that Will has the combined credibility of Barry Bonds and BP Oil on environmental and sustainability affairs, there are reasons for empathizing with him at times. In fact, one reason plopped in my inbox this morning! The sender, a sustainability activist, first quoted from a website of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, “The CASSE position calls for a desirable solution — a steady state economy with stabilized population and consumption — beginning in the wealthiest nations and not with extremist tactics.” Then he went on to complain:

“Unfortunately, there is no ‘desirable solution’ — I wish there were… Industrialism is by its very nature a temporary phenomenon; in the process of perpetuating it we consume the natural resources — primarily finite, non-replenishing, and increasingly scarce NNRs — that enable it. Unfortunately the chickens are coming home to roost now — instead of 1,000 years from now — and there’s nothing that we as a species can or will do about it, except suffer the inevitable consequences.”

So when George Will talks pejoratively about “calls for doomsday,” he’s got that one legitimate point, at least. For someone (a sustainability activist no less) to claim there is no desirable solution to the problem of uneconomic growth is defeatist at best, and patently false besides. Just because a solution — such as a steady state economy running at optimal size — is difficult to achieve does not mean it is out of the question or undesirable. What we should all agree on is that perpetual growth is out of the question, and then strive for the best alternative, handling the growing pains (or in this case, the de-growing pains) along the way.

Next, to paint “industrialism” with such a broad brush that it cannot be sustained, period, is another target on the straw man’s back. We should expect Mr. Will to hit that bulls-eye every time. First of all, de-industrializing is no panacea; it’s easy to envision an unsustainable, non-industrial economy hell-bent on growth. More to the point, who is to say we cannot sustain some industrial capital and production, especially with the use of renewable resources (picture a sawmill running on hydropower), for such a very long time that no one would consider it unsustainable. The problem is perpetual growth — always expanding the capital base and trying to produce more — regardless of the mechanical means by which that growth occurs.

And then, to top it off with, “there’s nothing that we as a species can or will do about it, except suffer the inevitable consequences,” almost makes me wonder who is farther from the truth: Will or the sustainability activist. After all, the activist is either not doing anything “about it” after all, or considers himself too exceptional to be part of the human species. But I don’t, and CASSE doesn’t. We are trying to do something about it. That is, we’re advancing the steady state economy — a desirable solution — instead of sitting on our doomed derrières while lamenting the forces of “industrialism.”

I never thought I’d agree with George Will on a matter of sustainability, but I’ll admit one thing: The caricatures he constructs are not always comprised of straw. Doomsday straw does exist but, unfortunately, some sustainability activists wear it too well.

Calls for doomsday remain unheeded (Washington Post)

By George Will

11:15 PM, Aug 20, 2012

WASHINGTON — Sometimes the news is that something was not newsworthy. The United Nation’s Rio+20 conference — 50,000 participants from 188 nations — occurred in June, without consequences. A generation has passed since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, which begat other conferences and protocols (e.g., Kyoto). And, by now, apocalypse fatigue — boredom from being repeatedly told the end is nigh.

This began two generations ago, in 1972, when we were warned (by computer models developed at MIT) that we were doomed. We were supposed to be pretty much extinct by now, or at least miserable. We are neither. So, what when wrong?

That year begat “The Limits to Growth,” a book from the Club of Rome, which called itself “a project on the predicament of mankind.” It sold 12 million copies, staggered The New York Times (“one of the most important documents of our age”) and argued that economic growth was doomed by intractable scarcities. Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish academic and “skeptical environmentalist,” writing in Foreign Affairs, says it “helped send the world down a path of worrying obsessively about misguided remedies for minor problems while ignoring much greater concerns,” such as poverty, which only economic growth can ameliorate.

MIT’s models foresaw the collapse of civilization because of “nonrenewable resource depletion” and population growth. “In an age more innocent of and reverential toward computers,” Lomborg writes, “the reams of cool printouts gave the book’s argument an air of scientific authority and inevitability” that “seemed to banish any possibility of disagreement.” Then — as now, regarding climate change — respect for science was said to require reverential suspension of skepticism about scientific hypotheses. Time magazine’s story about “The Limits to Growth” exemplified the media’s frisson of hysteria:

“The furnaces of Pittsburgh are cold; the assembly lines of Detroit are still. In Los Angeles, a few gaunt survivors of a plague desperately till freeway center strips … Fantastic? No, only grim inevitability if society continues its present dedication to growth and ‘progress.’”

The modelers examined 19 commodities and said 12 would be gone long before now — aluminum, copper, gold, lead, mercury, molybdenum, natural gas, oil, silver, tin, tungsten and zinc. Lomborg says:

Technological innovations have replaced mercury in batteries, dental fillings and thermometers, mercury consumption is down 98 percent and its price was down 90 percent by 2000. Since 1970, when gold reserves were estimated at 10,980 tons, 81,410 tons have been mined and estimated reserves are 51,000 tons. Since 1970, when known reserves of copper were 280 million tons, about 400 million tons have been produced globally and reserves are estimated at almost 700 million tons. Aluminum consumption has increased 16-fold since 1950, the world has consumed four times the 1950 known reserves, and known reserves could sustain current consumption for 177 years. Potential U.S. gas resources have doubled in the last six years. And so on.

The modelers missed something — human ingenuity in discovering, extracting and innovating. Which did not just appear after 1972.

Aluminum, Lomborg writes, is one of earth’s most common metals. But until the 1886 invention of the Hall-Heroult process, it was so difficult and expensive to extract that “Napoleon III had bars of aluminum exhibited alongside the French crown jewels, and he gave his honored guests aluminum forks and spoons while lesser visitors had to make do with gold utensils.”

Forty years after “The Limits to Growth” imparted momentum to environmentalism, that impulse now is often reduced to children indoctrinated to “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” Lomborg calls recycling “a feel-good gesture that provides little environmental benefit at a significant cost.” He says “we pay tribute to the pagan god of token environmentalism by spending countless hours sorting, storing and collecting used paper, which, when combined with government subsidies, yields slightly lower-quality paper in order to secure a resource” — forests — “that was never threatened in the first place.”

In 1980, economist Julian Simon made a wager in the form of a complex futures contract. He bet Paul Ehrlich (whose 1968 book “The Population Bomb” predicted “hundreds of millions of people” would starve to death in the 1970s as population growth swamped agricultural production) that by 1990 the price of any five commodities Ehrlich and his advisers picked would be lower than in 1980. Ehrlich’s group picked five metals. All were cheaper in 1990.

The bet cost Ehrlich $576.07. But that year he was awarded a $345,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant and half of the $240,000 Crafoord Prize for ecological virtue. One of Ehrlich’s advisers, John Holdren, is President Barack Obama’s science adviser.

George F. Will writes about foreign and domestic politics and policy for the Washington Post Writers Group.

Democracy Works for Endangered Species Act, Study Finds; Citizen Involvement Key in Protecting and Saving Threatened Species (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 16, 2012) — When it comes to protecting endangered species, the power of the people is key, an analysis of listings under the U.S. Endangered Species Act finds.

Desert Tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, in Mojave of Utah. The FWS turned down a petition to list the Mojave Desert population of the Desert Tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, but that decision was reversed. The Desert Tortoise is now in the ESA highest threat category, and populations of the entire species are thought to have declined by more than 90 percent during the past 20 years. (Credit: © mattjeppson / Fotolia)

The journal Science is publishing the analysis comparing listings of “endangered” and “threatened” species initiated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that administers the Endangered Species Act, to those initiated by citizen petition.

“We found that citizens, on average, do a better job of picking species that are threatened than does the Fish and Wildlife Service. That’s a really interesting and surprising finding,” says co-author Berry Brosi, a biologist and professor of environmental studies at Emory University.

Brosi conducted the analysis with Eric Biber, a University of California, Berkeley School of Law professor who specializes in environmental law.

Controversy has surrounded the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since it became law nearly 40 years ago. A particular flashpoint is the provision that allows citizens to petition the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list any unprotected species, and use litigation to challenge any FWS listing decision. Critics of this provision say the FWS wastes time and resources processing the stream of citizen requests. Another argument is that many citizen-initiated listings are driven less by concern for a species than by political motives, such as blocking a development project.

The study authors counter that their findings bolster the need to keep the public highly involved.

“There are some 100,000 species of plants and animals in North America, and asking one federal agency to stay on top of that is tough,” Biber says. “If there were restrictions on the number of citizen-initiated petitions being reviewed, the government would lose a whole universe of people providing high-quality information about species at risk, and it is likely that many species would be left unprotected.”

The researchers built a database of the 913 domestic and freshwater species listed as “threatened” or “endangered” under the ESA from 1986 on. They examined whether citizens or the FWS initiated the petition, whether it was litigated, and whether it conflicted with an economic development project. They also looked at the level of biological threat to each of the species, using FWS threat scores in reports the agency regularly makes to Congress.

The results showed that listings resulting from citizen-initiated petitions are more likely to pose conflicts with development, but those species are also significantly more threatened, on average, than the species in FWS-initiated petitions.

“The overriding message is that citizen involvement really does work in combination with the oversight of the FWS,” Brosi says. “It’s a two-step system of checks and balances that is important to maintain.”

The public brings diffuse and specialized expertise to the table, from devoted nature enthusiasts to scientists who have spent their whole careers studying one particular animal, insect or plant. Public involvement can also help counter the political pressure inherent in large development projects. The FWS, however, is unlikely to approve the listing of a species that is not truly threatened or endangered, so some petitions are filtered out.

“You could compare it to the trend of crowdsourcing that the Internet has spawned,” Brosi says. “It’s sort of like crowdsourcing what species need to be protected.”

Many people associate the success of the ESA with iconic species like the bald eagle and the whooping crane.

“To me,” Brosi says, “the greater accomplishment of the act is its protection of organisms that don’t get the same amount of attention as a beautiful bird or mammal.”

For example, the FWS turned down a petition to list the Mojave Desert population of the Desert Tortoise, Gopherus agassizii,but that decision was reversed. The Desert Tortoise is now in the ESA highest threat category, and populations of the entire species are thought to have declined by more than 90 percent during the past 20 years.

“One of the biggest threats it faces is urban and suburban expansion, which could have made it politically challenging for the FWS,” Brosi notes. “And yet, the Desert Tortoise is a keystone species that helps support dozens of other species by creating habitats in its burrows and dispersing seeds.”

Para antropólogo, a ideia do “eu” precisa dar lugar à de rede (Valor)

Por Carla Rodrigues | Para o Valor, do Rio

7 de agosto de 2012

Divulgação / DivulgaçãoPremiado por sua teoria ator-rede, o francês Bruno Latour discute a relação entre seres humanos e não-humanos

Ele se autodefine como um antropólogo filosófico trabalhando sobre a sociologia. Na prática, o francês Bruno Latour, 65 anos, faz o que ele chama de “antropologia da modernidade”, ao voltar seu olhar para os discursos e práticas desse período, principalmente as científicas.

Dessa pesquisa resultou um de seus livros mais famosos, “Jamais Fomos Modernos – Ensaios de Antropologia Simétrica”, lançado no Brasil em 1994 (Editora 34).

Latour, que está no Brasil pela terceira vez, apresenta na quinta uma palestra gratuita em São Paulo, no Fronteiras do Pensamento, e acaba de participar do simpósio internacional “A Vida Secreta dos Objetos: Novos Cenários da Comunicação”, realizado em São Paulo, Rio e Salvador e que acabou ontem.

Para ele, é aqui que se dará a disputa pelo debate ambiental no século XXI. Hoje empenhado na causa ecológica, Latour é conhecido e premiado por sua teoria ator-rede, uma forma de pensar a relação entre humanos e não-humanos.

Diretor científico da área de pesquisas do Instituto de Estudos Políticos de Paris, integrante de uma geração de franceses formados no pós-guerra, Latour é frequentemente acusado de ser um relativista, crítica que ele rebate com facilidade. “Eu não conheço um ator participante da ciência que não seja um relativista”, afirma.

Valor: O senhor acredita que o Brasil ocupa um lugar especial no cenário mundial neste momento em que a Europa vive uma crise?

Bruno Latour: O Brasil faz parte de minha vida desde a minha infância, pois tive três irmãs que moraram no país, por razões diferentes. Acredito que a questão ecológica do século XXI vai ser decidida aqui. Há coisas que podem ser melhoradas na Europa, do ponto de vista ambiental, mas o verdadeiro cenário desse jogo será o Brasil, porque já é muito tarde para a Ásia e a África. A questão é saber se os intelectuais e os políticos brasileiros poderão ir além dos fundamentos da modernidade. Mas a grande questão ecológica se desenrolará aqui.

Valor: Sua teoria ator-rede se refere a seres humanos e não-humanos. É uma crítica ao humanismo? O que o legado humanista nos proporcionou de tão criticável?

Latour: O humanismo é uma forma limitada de pensar o grupo dos humanos, que vejo como dependentes de muitos outros seres que não são humanos. Uma definição que isole o humano dos seres que o fabricam – tanto as divindades religiosas quanto as coisas com as quais os humanos vivem, como as árvores, mas também o alumínio para fazer estes talheres – é uma visão estreia. A perspectiva humanista foi legítima em uma determinada época, se falarmos do humanismo da metade do século XIX até a metade do século XX, antes que os ecologistas tenham chamado nossa atenção para o problema ambiental. Mas hoje não há mais nenhum sentido falar em humanismo. Este tipo de humanismo não tem os elementos necessários para absorver as grandes questões políticas atuais. Não se pode, por exemplo, fazer uma teoria consciente do problema do clima com o pensamento moral de Kant. Precisamos pensar na composição na qual seres humanos e não-humanos se relacionam. O humanismo é uma versão ultrapassada dos problemas políticos que nos dizem respeito. Hoje, trata-se de ser inteiramente humanista, ou seja, incluir todos os seres que são necessários para a existência humana.

Valor: Um dos postulados da teoria ator-rede é que, quando uma pessoa age, mais alguém está agindo junto. O senhor poderia explicar como isso funciona?

Latour: Os humanos são envolvidos por muitos outros seres, e a ideia de que uma pessoa age autonomamente, com seus próprios objetivos, não funciona nem na economia, nem na religião, nem na psicologia nem em nenhuma outra situação. Portanto, a pergunta que a teoria ator-rede coloca é: quais são os outros seres ativos no momento em que alguém age? A antropologia e a sociologia que tento desenvolver se ocupa da pesquisa desses seres. Eu posso colocar a questão de um modo inverso: como, apesar das evidências de todos os numerosos seres que participam de uma ação, continua-se a pensar como se o único ator fosse o humano dotado de uma psicologia, ciente de si mesmo, calculador, autônomo, responsável? A antropologia no Brasil é particularmente capaz de entender que não há esse “eu”, esse sujeito individual e autônomo que age no mundo, o que é uma visão muito estreita. Tenho muito contato com outros antropólogos brasileiros, como o Eduardo Viveiros de Castro (UFRJ).

Valor: O senhor veio ao Brasil para participar de um simpósio sobre novas tecnologias de comunicação. Qual é a grande afinidade entre a sua teoria ator-rede e as teorias da comunicação?

Latour: Elas são próximas porque a teoria ator-rede é essencialmente uma teoria da multiplicidade de mediações, e esses pesquisadores estão interessados em discutir o domínio da mídia e das mediações. Aqueles que se interessam por mediação – de modo positivo, e não negativamente – encontram conceitos e métodos para trabalhar com a teoria ator-rede.

Valor: Por que os jornalistas estão sempre mencionados entre os integrantes importantes da teoria ator-rede?

Latour: A formatação de informações desempenha um papel muito importante no espaço público, no qual se situa o espaço político. Não conheço muitos estudos sobre jornalismo que sejam feitos a partir da teoria ator-rede, porque essas pesquisas geralmente são feitas do ponto de vista crítico, e a teoria ator-rede não é uma crítica. Muito frequentemente, os jornalistas são simplesmente acusados de deturpar um ideal de verdade que, se não houvesse a mediação, chegaria ao público a partir de uma transmissão transparente e direta. Cientistas, políticos e economistas gostam de dizer que, se não houvesse os jornalistas, a informação seria mais transparente, mais direta, menos comprometida.

Valor: A teoria ator-rede se transformou em muitas outras coisas – cada um dos pesquisadores do grupo original seguiu por um lado, e houve uma diáspora. O senhor ainda se reconhece como um teórico da ator-rede?

Latour: O grupo original nunca foi muito unido, mas se reuniu em um momento em que a sociologia percebeu que havia negligenciado a técnica, a ciência, e os seres não-humanos. Foi uma tomada de consciência das ciências sociais de que o século XX nos legou uma série de questões – como a da dominação e a da exploração -, mas sempre com uma visão sociocentrada. A teoria ator-rede vem a ser a evidência de que é preciso se interessar pela vida secreta dos objetos.

Valor: Refaço ao senhor uma pergunta que está no livro “A Esperança de Pandora” (Edusc): de onde provém a oposição entre o campo da razão e o campo da força?

Latour: Fiz uma genealogia dessa oposição, que remonta à falsa disputa entre os sofistas e os filósofos e organizou o debate nos países ocidentais. Pretendi suspender essa separação e colocar a questão sobre qual é a força dos dispositivos racionais. Foi assim que comecei minha antropologia da ciência. E há uma segunda pergunta: quais são as razões da relação de força política, religiosa, econômica? A distinção entre força e razão faz parte de um conjunto de antigas dicotomias que não são mais capazes de nos orientar quando falamos da questão científica. Nessa dicotomia, supõe-se que a razão vai unificar a discussão. Mas, se a razão já teve esse poder, atualmente não tem mais, e precisamos encontrar outras ferramentas intelectuais para nos orientar nessa disputa. É o que eu chamo de cartografia da controvérsia. Essa é hoje uma grande questão para a democracia.

Valor: Afirmar que a ciência é social é uma forma de relativizar os resultados científicos?

Latour: Esse é um mal-entendido sobre o significado da palavra social. Evidentemente, dizer que os fatos são sociais não equivale a dizer que esse garfo é uma fabricação social – isso não faria sentido. Eu digo que esse garfo é resultado de um processo industrial que inclui uma legislação, empresas, indústrias – o que é totalmente diferente. A ciência faz parte de um coletivo – estou propositalmente evitando usar a palavra social – do mundo. Há quem acredite que a ciência, particularmente as ciências naturais, é absoluta. Mas esses são os religiosos da ciência, não os participantes da ciência. Não conheço um ator participante da ciência que não seja um relativista ou, melhor dizendo, um relacionista, porque ele sabe que conhecer é estabelecer relações dentro de um quadro de referências. A crítica aos relativistas, feita pelos absolutistas, é frequente, mas essa não é uma discussão produtiva. A discussão que me interessa é: como estabelecer as relações entre os quadros de referência, as culturas, os modos de existência, as formas de vida? Não conheço quem que, desse ponto de vista, critique o relativismo.

Valor: Pode-se resumir seu livro “Jamais Fomos Modernos” como uma crítica à modernidade. O senhor mantém as mesmas críticas em relação aos pós-modernos?

Latour: Sim. Os pós-modernos tiveram a sensibilidade de perceber que havia qualquer coisa de complicada na modernidade, mas é o mesmo movimento. Simplesmente há um retorno a alguns dos problemas que a modernidade não havia tratado, mas não há um retorno às raízes da modernidade.

Carla Rodrigues, professora da Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF) e da Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio (PUC-Rio), é doutora em filosofia e pesquisadora do CNPq

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Post Normal Science: Deadlines (Climate Etc.)

Posted on August 3, 2012

by Steven Mosher

Science has changed. More precisely, in post normal conditions the behavior of people doing science has changed.

Ravetz describes a post normal situation by the following criteria:

  1. Facts are uncertain
  2. Values are in conflict
  3. Stakes are high
  4. Immediate action is required

The difference between Kuhnian normal science, or the behavior of those doing science under normal conditions, and post normal science is best illustrated by example. We can use the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson as an example. Facts were uncertain–they always are to a degree; no values were in conflict; the stakes were not high; and, immediate action was not required. What we see in that situation is those doing science acting as we expect them to, according to our vague ideal of science. Because facts are uncertain, they listen to various conflicting theories. They try to put those theories to a test. They face a shared uncertainity and in good faith accept the questions and doubts of others interested in the same field. Their participation in politics is limited to asking for money. Because values are not in conflict no theorist takes the time to investigate his opponent’s views on evolution or smoking or taxation. Because the field of personal values is never in play, personal attacks are minimized. Personal pride may be at stake, but values rarely are. The stakes for humanity in the discovery of the Higgs are low: at least no one argues that our future depends upon the outcome. No scientist straps himself to the collider and demands that it be shut down. And finally, immediate action is not required; under no theory is the settling of the uncertainty so important as to rush the result. In normal science, according to Kuhn,  we can view the behavior of those doing science as puzzle solving. The details of a paradigm are filled out slowly and deliberately.

The situation in climate science are close to the polar opposite of this. That does not mean and should not be construed as a criticism of climate science or its claims. The simple point is this: in a PNS situation, the behavior of those doing science changes. To be sure much of their behavior remains the same. They formulate theories; they collect data, and they test their theories against the data. They don’t stop doing what we notional  describe as science. But, as foreshadowed above in the description of how high energy particle physicists behave, one can see how that behavior changes in a PNS situation. There is uncertainty, but the good faith that exists in normal science, the faith that other people are asking questions because they actually want the answer is gone. Asking questions, raising doubts, asking to see proof becomes suspect in and of itself. And those doing science are faced with a question that science cannot answer: Does this person really want the answer or are they amerchant of doubt? Such a question never gets asked in normal science. Normal science doesn’t ask this question because science cannot answer it.

Because values are in conflict the behavior of those doing science changes. In normal science no one would care if Higgs was a Christian or an atheist. No one would care if he voted liberal or conservative; but because two different value systems are in conflict in climate science, the behavior of those doing science changes. They investigate each other. They question motives. They form tribes.  And because the stakes are high the behavior of those doing science changes as well. They protest; they take money from lobby groups on both sides and worse of all they perform horrendous raps on youTube. In short, they become human; while those around them canonize them or demonize them and their findings become iconized or branded as hoaxes.

This brings us to the last aspect of a PNS situation: immediate action is required. This perhaps is the most contentious aspect of PNS, in fact I would argue it is thedefining characteristic. In all PNS situations it is almost always the case the one side sees the need for action, given the truth of their theory, while the doubtersmust of necessity see no need for immediate action. They must see no need for immediate action because their values are at risk and because the stakes are high. Another way to put this is as follows. When you are in a PNS situation, all sides must deny it. Those demanding immediate action, deny it by claiming more certainty*than is present; those refusing immediate action, do so by increasing demands for certainty. This leads to a centralization and valorization of the topic of uncertainty, and epistemology becomes a topic of discussion for those doing science. That is decidedly not normal science.

The demand for immediate action, however, is broader than simply a demand that society changes. In a PNS situation the behavior of those doing science changes. One of the clearest signs that you are in PNS is the change in behavior around deadlines. Normal science has no deadline. In normal science, the puzzle is solved when it is solved. In normal science there may be a deadline to shut down the collider for maintenance. Nobody rushes the report to keep the collider running longer than it should. And if a good result is found, the schedules can be changed to accommodate the scienceBroadly speaking, science drives the schedule; the schedule doesn’t drive the science.

The climategate mails are instructive here. As one reads through the mails it’s clear that the behavior of those doing science is not what one would call disinterested patient puzzle solving. Human beings acting in a situation where values are in conflict and stakes are high will engage in behavior that they might not otherwise. Those changes are most evident in situations surrounding deadlines. The point here is not to rehash The Crutape Lettersbut rather to relook at one incident ( there are others, notably around congressional hearings ) where deadlines came into play. The deadline in question was the deadline for submitting papers for consideration. As covered in The Crutape Letters and in The Hockeystick Illusion, the actions taken by those doing science around the“Jesus Paper” is instructive. In fact, were I to rewrite the Crutape letters I would do it from the perspective of PNS, focusing on how the behavior of those doing science deviated from the ideals of openness, transparency and letting truth come on its own good time.

Climategate is about FOIA. There were two critical paths for FOIA: one sought data, the other sought the emails of scientists. Not quite normal. Not normal in that data is usually shared; not normal in that we normally respect the privacy of those doing science. But this is PNS, and all bets are off. Values and practices from other fields, such as business and government,  are imported into the culture of science: Data hoarding is defended using IP and confidentiality agreements. Demanding private mail is defended using values imported from performing business for the public. In short, one sign that a science is post normal, is the attempt to import values and procedures from related disciplines. Put another way, PNS poses the question of governance. Who runs science and how should they run it.

The “Jesus paper” in a nutshell can be explained as follows. McIntyre and McKittrick had a paper published in the beginning of 2005. That paper needed to be rebutted in order to make Briffa’s job of writing chapter 6 easier. However, there was a deadline in play. Papers had to be accepted by a date certain. At one point Steven Schneider suggested the creation of a new category, a novelty–  provisionally accepted — so that the “jesus paper” could make the deadline. McIntyre covers the issue here. One need not re-adjudicate whether or not the IPCC rules were broken. And further these rules have nothing whatsoever ever to do with the truth of the claims in that paper. This is not about the truth of the science. What is important is the importation of the concept of a deadline into the search for truth. What is important is that the behavior of those doing science changes. Truth suddenly cares about a date. Immediate action is required. In this case immediate action is taken to see to it that the paper makes it into the chapter. Normal science takes no notice of deadlines. In PNS, deadlines matter.

Last week we saw another example of deadlines and high stakes changing the behavior of those doing science. The backstory here explains .   It appears to me that the behavior of those involved changed from what I have known it to be. It changed because they perceived that immediate action was required. A deadline had to be met. Again, as with the Jesus paper, the facts surrounding the releasedo not go to the truth of the claims. In normal science, a rushed claimed might very well get the same treatment as an unrushed claim: It will be evaluated on its merits. In PNS, either the rush to meet an IPCC deadline– as in the case of the Jesus paper, or the rush to be ready for congress –as in the Watts case, is enoughfor some doubt the science.  What has been testified to in Congress by Christy, a co author, may very well be true. But in this high stakes arena, where facts are uncertain and values are in conflict, the behavior of those doing science can and does change. Not all their behavior changes. They still observe and test and report. But the manner in which they do that changes. Results are rushed and data is held in secret. Deadlines change everything. Normal science doesn’t operate this way; if it does, quality can suffer. And yet, the demand for more certainty than is needed, the bad faith game of delaying action by asking questions, precludes a naïve return to science without deadlines.

The solution that Ravetz suggests is extended peer review and a recognition of the importance of quality. In truth, the way out of a PNS situation is not that simple. The first step out of a PNS situation is the recognition that one is in the situation to begin with. Today, few people embroiled in this debate would admit that the situation has changed how they would normally behave. An admission that this isn’t working is a cultural crisis for science. No one has the standing to describe how one should conduct science in a PNS situation. No one has the standing to chart the path out of a PNS situation. The best we can do is describe what we see. Today, I observe that deadlines change the behavior of those doing science. We see that in climategate; we see that in the events of the past week. That’s doesn’t entail anything about the truth of science performed under pressure. But it should make us pause and consider if truth will be found any faster by rushing the results and hiding the data.

*I circulated a copy of this to Michael Tobis to get his reaction. MT took issue with this characterization. MT, I believe, originated the argument that our uncertainty is a reason for action. It is true that while the certainty about the science  has been a the dominant piece of the rhetoric, there has been a second thread of rhetoric that bases action in the uncertainty about sensitivity. I would call this certainty shifting. While the uncertainty about facts of sensitivity are accepted in this path of argument the certainty is shifted to certainty about values and certainty about impacts. In short, the argument becomes that while we are uncertain about sensitivity the certainty we have about large impacts and trans-generational obligations necessitates action.

The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic (N.Y.Times)



Published: July 28, 2012

Berkeley, Calif.

CALL me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming. In its 2007 report, the I.P.C.C. concluded only that most of the warming of the prior 50 years could be attributed to humans. It was possible, according to the I.P.C.C. consensus statement, that the warming before 1956 could be because of changes in solar activity, and that even a substantial part of the more recent warming could be natural.

Our Berkeley Earth approach used sophisticated statistical methods developed largely by our lead scientist, Robert Rohde, which allowed us to determine earth land temperature much further back in time. We carefully studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone), from data selection (prior groups selected fewer than 20 percent of the available temperature stations; we used virtually 100 percent), from poor station quality (we separately analyzed good stations and poor ones) and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off). In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects unduly biased our conclusions.

The historic temperature pattern we observed has abrupt dips that match the emissions of known explosive volcanic eruptions; the particulates from such events reflect sunlight, make for beautiful sunsets and cool the earth’s surface for a few years. There are small, rapid variations attributable to El Niño and other ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream; because of such oscillations, the “flattening” of the recent temperature rise that some people claim is not, in our view, statistically significant. What has caused the gradual but systematic rise of two and a half degrees? We tried fitting the shape to simple math functions (exponentials, polynomials), to solar activity and even to rising functions like world population. By far the best match was to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide, measured from atmospheric samples and air trapped in polar ice.

Just as important, our record is long enough that we could search for the fingerprint of solar variability, based on the historical record of sunspots. That fingerprint is absent. Although the I.P.C.C. allowed for the possibility that variations in sunlight could have ended the “Little Ice Age,” a period of cooling from the 14th century to about 1850, our data argues strongly that the temperature rise of the past 250 years cannot be attributed to solar changes. This conclusion is, in retrospect, not too surprising; we’ve learned from satellite measurements that solar activity changes the brightness of the sun very little.

How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does. Adding methane, a second greenhouse gas, to our analysis doesn’t change the results. Moreover, our analysis does not depend on large, complex global climate models, the huge computer programs that are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters. Our result is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase.

It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.

Hurricane Katrina cannot be attributed to global warming. The number of hurricanes hitting the United States has been going down, not up; likewise for intense tornadoes. Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going to melt by 2035. And it’s possible that we are currently no warmer than we were a thousand years ago, during the “Medieval Warm Period” or “Medieval Optimum,” an interval of warm conditions known from historical records and indirect evidence like tree rings. And the recent warm spell in the United States happens to be more than offset by cooling elsewhere in the world, so its link to “global” warming is weaker than tenuous.

The careful analysis by our team is laid out in five scientific papers now online That site also shows our chart of temperature from 1753 to the present, with its clear fingerprint of volcanoes and carbon dioxide, but containing no component that matches solar activity. Four of our papers have undergone extensive scrutiny by the scientific community, and the newest, a paper with the analysis of the human component, is now posted, along with the data and computer programs used. Such transparency is the heart of the scientific method; if you find our conclusions implausible, tell us of any errors of data or analysis.

What about the future? As carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise. I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, about one and a half degrees over land in the next 50 years, less if the oceans are included. But if China continues its rapid economic growth (it has averaged 10 percent per year over the last 20 years) and its vast use of coal (it typically adds one new gigawatt per month), then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years.

Science is that narrow realm of knowledge that, in principle, is universally accepted. I embarked on this analysis to answer questions that, to my mind, had not been answered. I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes. Then comes the difficult part: agreeing across the political and diplomatic spectrum about what can and should be done.

Richard A. Muller, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former MacArthur Foundation fellow, is the author, most recently, of “Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines.”

*   *   *

Climate change study forces sceptical scientists to change minds (The Guardian)

Earth’s land shown to have warmed by 1.5C over past 250 years, with humans being almost entirely responsible

Leo Hickman, Sunday 29 July 2012 14.03 BST

Prof Richard MullerProf Richard Muller considers himself a converted sceptic following the study’s surprise results. Photograph: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

The Earth’s land has warmed by 1.5C over the past 250 years and “humans are almost entirely the cause”, according to a scientific study set up to address climate change sceptics’ concerns about whether human-induced global warming is occurring.

Prof Richard Muller, a physicist and climate change sceptic who founded the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (Best) project, said he was surprised by the findings. “We were not expecting this, but as scientists, it is our duty to let the evidence change our minds.” He added that he now considers himself a “converted sceptic” and his views had undergone a “total turnaround” in a short space of time.

“Our results show that the average temperature of the Earth’s land has risen by 2.5F over the past 250 years, including an increase of 1.5 degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases,” Muller wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

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The team of scientists based at the University of California, Berkeley, gathered and merged a collection of 14.4m land temperature observations from 44,455 sites across the world dating back to 1753. Previous data sets created by Nasa, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Met Office and the University of East Anglia’s climate research unit only went back to the mid-1800s and used a fifth as many weather station records.

The funding for the project included $150,000 from the Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation, set up by the billionaire US coal magnate and key backer of the climate-sceptic Heartland Institute thinktank. The research also received $100,000 from the Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research, which was created by Bill Gates.

Unlike previous efforts, the temperature data from various sources was not homogenised by hand – a key criticism by climate sceptics. Instead, the statistical analysis was “completely automated to reduce human bias”. The Best team concluded that, despite their deeper analysis, their own findings closely matched the previous temperature reconstructions, “but with reduced uncertainty”.

Last October, the Best team published results that showed the average global land temperature has risen by about 1C since the mid-1950s. But the team did not look for possible fingerprints to explain this warming. The latest data analysis reached much further back in time but, crucially, also searched for the most likely cause of the rise by plotting the upward temperature curve against suspected “forcings”. It analysed the warming impact of solar activity – a popular theory among climate sceptics – but found that, over the past 250 years, the contribution of the sun has been “consistent with zero”. Volcanic eruptions were found to have caused short dips in the temperature rise in the period 1750–1850, but “only weak analogues” in the 20th century.

“Much to my surprise, by far the best match came to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide, measured from atmospheric samples and air trapped in polar ice,” said Muller. “While this doesn’t prove that global warming is caused by human greenhouse gases, it is currently the best explanation we have found, and sets the bar for alternative explanations.”

Muller said his team’s findings went further and were stronger than the latest report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on ClimateChange.

In an unconventional move aimed at appeasing climate sceptics by allowing “full transparency”, the results have been publicly released before being peer reviewed by the Journal of Geophysical Research. All the data and analysis is now available to be freely scrutinised at the Bestwebsite. This follows the pattern of previous Best results, none of which have yet been published in peer-reviewed journals.

When the Best project was announced last year, the prominent climate sceptic blogger Anthony Watts was consulted on the methodology. He stated at the time: “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.” However, tensions have since arisen between Watts and Muller.

Early indications suggest that climate sceptics are unlikely to fully accept Best’s latest results. Prof Judith Curry, a climatologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology who runs a blog popular with climate sceptics and who is a consulting member of the Best team, told the Guardian that the method used to attribute the warming to human emissions was “way over-simplistic and not at all convincing in my opinion”. She added: “I don’t think this question can be answered by the simple curve fitting used in this paper, and I don’t see that their paper adds anything to our understanding of the causes of the recent warming.”

Prof Michael Mann, the Penn State palaeoclimatologist who has faced hostility from climate sceptics for his famous “hockey stick” graph showing a rapid rise in temperatures during the 20th century, said he welcomed the Best results as they “demonstrated once again what scientists have known with some degree of certainty for nearly two decades”. He added: “I applaud Muller and his colleagues for acting as any good scientists would, following where their analyses led them, without regard for the possible political repercussions. They are certain to be attacked by the professional climate change denial crowd for their findings.”

Muller said his team’s analysis suggested there would be 1.5 degrees of warming over land in the next 50 years, but if China continues its rapid economic growth and its vast use of coal then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years.

“Science is that narrow realm of knowledge that, in principle, is universally accepted,” wrote Muller. “I embarked on this analysis to answer questions that, to my mind, had not been answered. I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes. Then comes the difficult part: agreeing across the political and diplomatic spectrum about what can and should be done.”

Uma leitura de antropólogos e sociólogos sobre o futuro da Amazônia (Jornal da Ciência)

JC e-mail 4549, de 27 de Julho de 2012.

O enfraquecimento de agências multilaterais de cooperação internacional começa a ameaçar as políticas para conservação da Amazônia Legal. A afirmativa é do presidente do Programa Nova Cartografia Social, Alfredo Wagner de Almeida, que ministrou conferência ontem (26) na 64ª Reunião Anual da Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência (SBPC), realizada na Universidade Federal do Maranhão (UFMA), em São Luís.

Sob o tema “Povos e comunidades tradicionais atingidos por projetos militares”, o antropólogo alertou sobre a ação de sete estados que buscam reduzir a Amazônia Legal, cujos projetos tramitam no Legislativo. Dentre os quais estão o Mato Grosso que prevê retirar a participação de sua área como Amazônia Legal, igualmente a Rondônia, que quer retirar esse título de suas terras da região. Outros estados como Maranhão e Tocantins querem tirar o título de todas suas áreas consideradas Amazônia Legal.

A região engloba uma superfície de aproximadamente 5.217.423 km², o equivalente a cerca de 61% do território brasileiro. Foi instituída com objetivo de definir a delimitação geográfica da região política captadora de incentivos fiscais para promoção do desenvolvimento regional.

“Essa é uma primeira tentativa de reduzir a Amazônia Legal, pois esses estados agora não gozam mais dos benefícios concedidos pelas agências internacionais multilaterais”, analisou Almeida, também conselheiro da SBPC e professor da Universidade do Estado do Amazonas (UEA).

Segundo o pesquisador, os organismos internacionais, até então, eram fontes de recursos para programas de proteção à Amazônia. Tais como, o Projeto Integrado de Proteção às Populações e Terras Indígenas da Amazônia Legal (PPTAL), destinado à demarcação de terras indígenas, fomentado principalmente pelo governo da Alemanha. E o PPG7 (Programa Piloto para Proteção das Florestas Tropicais do Brasil). Foram essas políticas que fortaleceram a criação do Ministério do Meio Ambiente. “Sem o apoio das agências multilaterais as políticas para a Amazônia encolheram”, disse, sem citar valores.

Conforme o antropólogo, a decisão dos estados que querem sair da Amazônia Legal significa para eles “liderar mais terras segundo as quais consideram ser produtivas”, em detrimento da conservação das florestas.

As declarações do antropólogo são baseadas no dossiê “Amazônia: sociedade, fronteiras e políticas”, produzido por Edna Maria Ramos de Castro, socióloga do Núcleo de Altos Estudos Amazônicos, da Universidade Federal do Pará (UFPA), e diretora da SBPC, que intermediou a conferência. A íntegra do documento foi publicada recentemente no Caderno CRH da Bahia.

Terras indígenas – Na avaliação da autora do dossiê, os dispositivos jurídicos desses estados ameaçam as terras indígenas – protagonistas na conservação da biodiversidade que precisam da natureza para sobreviver. “São dispositivos legais, são claros na Constituição, mas essa prática pode levar a uma situação de impasse [da sociedade]”, analisou. Edna citou o caso da polêmica obra da hidrelétrica de Belo Monte que se tornou um ícone de um processo de resistência da sociedade brasileira.

Mudança de paradigma – O antropólogo fez uma leitura sobre o atual modelo político brasileiro administrativo. Ele vê uma mudança de uma política “de proteção” para uma “ideia de protecionismo”. “A distinção entre proteção e protecionismo revela em primeiro lugar o enfraquecimento das agências multilaterais internacionais”, disse. Segundo ele, o protecionismo “erige” fora do âmbito da proteção.

Do ponto de vista de Alfredo Wagner, os sinais de mudança refletem principalmente os desacordos na reunião da Organização Mundial do Comércio (OMC) em dezembro de 2011 em Genebra. Na ocasião, houve sinais de ruptura de acordos internacionais – até então chamados de mercado comum. Um exemplo “é o engavetamento” da chamada Rodada de Doha, em razão de divergência entre as partes sobre subsídios agrícolas concedidos por países desenvolvidos.

Expansão da área militar e infraestrutura – O antropólogo lembra que no auge dos organismos multilaterais a área de segurança, isto é, a dos militares, não era fomentada porque não fazia parte de uma política de mercado único. Ele observa, entretanto, uma mudança a partir de 2009 quando há um deslocamento do modelo e problemas com os militares começam a aparecer, em decorrência da reedição de projetos de fronteiras militarizadas. “A partir daí inicia um capítulo de conflitos”.

Afastamento de fundos internacionais e órgãos reguladores – Segundo ele, o que mais sobressai na “ideia do protecionismo” é a identificação de recursos naturais estratégicos, como commodities agrícolas e minérios, que – sob o argumento de desenvolvimento sustentável – podem ser utilizados para o incremento de grandes obras de infraestrutura.

“Tudo passa a ser interpretado como interesses nacionais. A ideia de bloco vai perdendo força, o que pode explicar as próprias tensões no Mercosul, quando a Venezuela é levada ao bloco em momentos de crise. Esses interesses nacionais passam a se articular de maneira disciplinada sem passar pelas entidades multilaterais”, considera o antropólogo.

Segundo ele, atual ação do Estado brasileiro não passa pelas entidades multilaterais. Reflexo é o afastamento do Fundo Monetário Internacional (FMI) e de duas normas estrangeiras. Uma delas é a Lei de Direitos Humanos Internacional da OEA (Organização dos Estados Americanos). Ele lembra que o Brasil deixou de investir “nessa corte” a partir do momento em que a hidrelétrica de Belo Monte foi condenada pelo órgão. “O Brasil passa a ter uma posição unilateral, semelhante a dos norte-americanos na Guerra do Golfo”, observa o antropólogo. “A ideia do protecionismo vem de forma bastante forte”.

Alfredo Wagner também observa sinais de afastamento da Convenção 169 em que obriga a consulta prévia de comunidades prejudicadas por grandes obras de infraestrutura, por exemplo. Segundo ele, o Brasil é condenado a seis violações em projetos militares. Uma é pela construção do Centro de Lançamentos de Alcântara (CLA) em comunidades quilombolas no Maranhão, sem licenciamento ambiental e sem consulta às comunidades “afetadas”.

Ele alerta também sobre quatro medidas preocupantes em andamento segundo as quais preveem a construção emergencial de hidrelétricas. Um exemplo é a Medida Provisória 558 de 18 de janeiro de 2012 em que prevê redução de unidades protegidas e de conservação de florestas sob o argumento de desenvolvimento. Segundo ele, o Ibama aprovou em apenas cinco dias uma minuta de termo de referência da Eletronorte para construção de uma hidrelétrica em São Luiz de Tapajós. Na prática, foi aprovado o plano de trabalho encaminhado para diagnosticar as obras. “Com o ritmo emergencial para essas obras parece que os direitos são colocados em suspenso”.

Recursos de inconstitucionalidade – Tal MP foi questionada pela Procuradoria Geral da República por uma ADIN (Ação Direta de Inconstitucionalidade). O Ministério Público Federal considerou que as unidades de conservação nas áreas de hidrelétricas são essenciais para minimizar os impactos ambientais dos projetos; e argumentou que qualquer discussão sobre a redução dessas áreas florestais deve ser realizada no Congresso Nacional, a fim de evitar a edição de uma MP. “O Brasil hoje vive o império das Medidas Provisórias que impedem a ampla discussão da sociedade. Isso dá uma ideia de capitalismo autoritário”, disse o antropólogo.

Privatização de terras na Amazônia – Ele também alerta sobre a privatização das terras públicas na Amazônia sob o “eufemismo” de regularização fundiária, via o programa Terra Legal, pela Lei 11.952 de julho de 2009. Encaminhada pela Presidência da República, a medida prevê privatizar 70 milhões de hectares de terras públicas, um volume considerável em relação ao total de 850 milhões de hectares de terras que compõem o Brasil, segundo o antropólogo. Alfredo Wagner alerta sobre a agilidade na titularidade das terras para grandes propriedades que a MP permite, em detrimento dos pequenos proprietários.

Inicialmente, a medida foi questionada pelo Ministério Público por uma ADIN pela justificativa de que ela estabelece “privilégios injustificáveis” em favor de grileiros que no passado se beneficiaram de terras públicas e houve concentração de terras. “Essa MP é tão cruel quanto a Lei de Terras Sarney de 1969”, disse o antropólogo.

Judicialização do Estado – Buscando tranquilizar os ânimos da plateia lotada por alunos, pesquisadores, cientistas, dentre outros – estimada em cerca de 140 pessoas – que temia ser a volta da ditadura militar, o antropólogo respondeu sobre o atual modelo: “Ele não é igual à ditadura militar”, respondeu o atribuindo a um “judicialização do Estado” e de “uma coisa esquisita”.

Na ocasião, o antropólogo usou a frase de sociólogos para explicar uma crise: “O velho ainda não morreu e o novo ainda não nasceu. Mas está havendo uma transformação.”

(Viviane Monteiro – Jornal da Ciência)

Texas judge rules atmosphere, air to be protected like water, may aid climate change lawsuits (Washington Post)

By Associated Press, Published: July 11

HOUSTON — A Texas judge has ruled that the atmosphere and air must be protected for public use, just like water, which could help attorneys tasked with arguing climate change lawsuits designed to force states to cut emissions.

The written ruling, issued in a letter Monday by Texas District Court Judge Gisela Triana, shot down arguments by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that only water is a “public trust,” a doctrine that dates to the Roman Empire stating a government must protect certain resources — usually water, sometimes wildlife — for the common good.

Adam Abrams, one of the attorneys arguing the case against TCEQ, said Triana’s ruling could be used as a persuasive argument in lawsuits pending in 11 other states.

In Texas, though, a ruling to protect air and the atmosphere has added significance. Republican Gov. Rick Perry is one of the most vocal opponents against widely accepted scientific research that fossil fuel emissions are causing global warming. And the state has refused to regulate greenhouse gases, forcing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to work directly with industries to ensure they comply with federal law.

“The commission’s conclusion that the public trust doctrine is exclusively limited to the conservation of water is legally invalid,” Triana wrote.

She also wants the case brought to a standstill, saying that so long as Texas has open-ended litigation on similar issues on the federal level, she cannot compel the TCEQ to write rules to protect the atmosphere and the air.

The TCEQ said in an emailed comment that it was reviewing the judge’s letter and is awaiting her final order, but it appears Triana will support the agency’s move to deny the request for new rules.

The lawsuit was brought by the Texas Environmental Law Center, and is part of a court campaign in a dozen states by an Oregon-based nonprofit, Our Children’s Trust. The group is using children and young adults as plaintiffs in the lawsuits — some state and some federal — filed in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

By relying on “common law” theories, the group hopes to have the atmosphere declared a public trust for the first time, granting it special protection. The doctrine has been used to clean up rivers and coastlines, but many legal experts have been unsure if it could be used successfully to combat climate change.

Still, Abrams, who has handled the Texas case on behalf of the Texas Environmental Law Center, believes Triana’s ruling can be used to argue the cases in other states. So far, he said, this is the first judge to back the group, though a New Mexico court recently allowed the case to go forward.

“I think it’s huge that we got a judge to acknowledge that the atmosphere is a public trust asset and the air is a public trust asset,” Abrams said. “It’s the first time we’ve had verbage like this come out of one of these cases.”

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