Arquivo da tag: Ecologia

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

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

By Bill McKibben

NOVEMBER 30, 2016

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

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

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

Jonathan Schell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

In my own case over the last decade, that’s meant helping to organize several large-scale campaigns or social movements. Some have used civil disobedience in particular—I circulated the call for arrestees at the start of the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrations in 2011, and observers said the resulting two weeks of nonviolent direct action resulted in more arrests than any such demonstration on any issue in many years. Others have focused on large-scale rallies—some in this audience attended the massive climate march in New York in the autumn of 2014, organized in part by 350.org, which was apparently the largest demonstration about anything in this country in a long time. Others have been scattered: The fossil-fuel divestment campaign we launched in 2012 has been active on every continent, incorporated a wide variety of tactics, and has become the largest anticorporate campaign of its kind in history, triggering the full or partial divestment of endowments and portfolios with nearly $5 trillion in assets. These actions have helped spur many more such actions: Keystone represented a heretofore very rare big loss for Big Oil, and its success helped prompt many others to follow suit; now every pipeline, fracking well, coal mine, liquid-natural-gas terminal, and oil train is being fought. As an executive at the American Petroleum Institute said recently—and ruefully—to his industry colleagues, they now face the “Keystone-ization” of all their efforts.

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quando a tecnociência vê um pixel mas ignora a paisagem. A agricultura convencional mata o solo. Entrevista especial com Antonio Donato Nobre (Unisinos)

Segunda, 16 de maio de 2016

“Mais importante do que ser multidisciplinar é ser não-disciplinar, isto é, integrar e dissolver as ‘disciplinas’ em um saber amplo e articulado, sem fronteiras artificiais e domínios de egos”, afirma o cientista do CCST/Inpe

O conhecimento científico não pode cegar a complexa relação entre os inúmeros ecossistemas presentes no planeta. “Tal abordagem gera soluções autistas que não se comunicam, tumores exuberantes cuja expansão danifica tudo que está em volta. Assim, a tecnociência olha o mundo com um microscópio grudado em seus olhos, vê pixel, mas ignora a paisagem”, afirma Antonio Donato Nobre, cientista do Centro de Ciência do Sistema Terrestre do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais – CCST/Inpe.

“A maior parte da agricultura tecnificada adotada pelo agronegócio é pobre em relação à complexidade natural. Ela elimina de saída a capacidade dos organismos manejados de interferir beneficamente no ambiente, introduzindo desequilíbrios e produzindo danos em muitos níveis”, analisa, em entrevista concedida por e-mail à IHU On-Line.

Para Nobre, a saída não é abandonar a ciência e a tecnologia produtiva de alimentos, mas sim associá-las e integrá-las a sistemas complexos de vidas em ecossistemas do Planeta. É entender, por exemplo, que a criação de áreas de plantio e produção agropecuária impactarão na chamada “equação do clima”. “É preciso remover os microscópios dos olhos, olhar o conjunto, perceber as conexões e, assim, aplicar o conhecimento de forma sábia e benéfica”, aponta.

Antonio Donato Nobre é cientista do Centro de Ciência do Sistema Terrestre do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais – CCST/Inpe, autor do relatório O Futuro Climático da Amazônia, lançado no final de 2014.

Tem atuado na divulgação e popularização da ciência, em temas como a Bomba biótica de umidade e sua importância para a valorização das grandes florestas, e os Rios Aéreos de vapor, que transferem umidade da Amazônia para as regiões produtivas do Brasil.

Foi relator nos estudos sobre o Código Florestal promovidos pela Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência – SBPC e Academia Brasileira de Ciências. Possui graduação em Agronomia pela Universidade de São Paulo, mestrado em Biologia Tropical (Ecologia) pelo Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia e é PhD em Earth System Sciences (Biogeochemistry) pela University of New Hampshire.

Atualmente é pesquisador titular do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia e pesquisador Visitante no Centro de Ciência do Sistema Terrestre, do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais.

Confira a entrevista.

IHU On-Line – Quais os impactos da produção agrícola nas mudanças climáticas? Quais os riscos que o modelo do agronegócio (baseado nas grandes propriedades e produção em larga escala de uma só cultura por vez) representa?

Antonio Donato Nobre – A ocupação desordenada das paisagens produz pesados impactos no funcionamento do sistema de suporte à vida na Terra. A expansão das atividades agrícolas — quase sempre associada à devastação das florestas que têm maior importância na regulação climática — tem consequências que se fazem sentir cada vez mais, e serão devastadoras se não mudarmos a prática da agricultura.

A natureza, ao longo de bilhões de anos, evoluiu um sofisticadíssimo sistema vivo de condicionamento do conforto ambiental. Biodiversidade é o outro nome para competência tecnológica na regulação climática. A maior parte da agricultura tecnificada adotada pelo agronegócio é pobre em relação à complexidade natural. Ela elimina de saída a capacidade dos organismos manejados de interferir beneficamente no ambiente, introduzindo desequilíbrios e produzindo danos em muitos níveis.

IHU On-Line – Como aliar agricultura e pecuária à preservação de florestas e outros ecossistemas? Como o novo Código Florestal  brasileiro se insere nesse contexto?

Antonio Donato Nobre – Extensa literatura científica mostra muitos caminhos para unir com vantagens agricultura, criação de animais e a preservação das florestas e de outros importantes ecossistemas. Esse conhecimento disponível assevera não haver conflito legítimo entre proteção dos ecossistemas e produção agrícola. Muito ao contrário, a melhor ciência demonstra a dependência umbilical da agricultura aos serviços ambientais providos pelos ecossistemas nativos.

Em 2012, contrariando a vontade da sociedade, o congresso revogou o código florestal de 1965. A introdução de uma nova lei florestal lasciva e juridicamente confusa já está produzindo efeitos danosos, como aumentos intoleráveis no desmatamento e a eliminação da exigência, ou o estímulo à procrastinação, no que se refere à recuperação de áreas degradadas. Mas a proteção e recuperação de florestas tem direto impacto sobre o regime de chuvas.

Incrível, portanto, que a agricultura, atividade que primeiro sofrerá com o clima inóspito que já bate às portas do Brasil, tenha sido justamente aquela que destruiu e continua destruindo os ecossistemas produtores de clima amigo. Enquanto estiver em vigor essa irresponsável e inconstitucional nova lei florestal, a degradação ambiental somente vai piorar.

IHU On-Line – De que forma o conhecimento mais detalhado sobre as formas de vida, e a relação entre elas, em florestas, como a amazônica, pode inspirar formas mais eficientes de produção de alimentos e, ao mesmo tempo, minimizar impactos ambientais?

Antonio Donato Nobre – A biomimética  é uma nova área da tecnologia que copia e adapta soluções engenhosas encontradas pelos organismos para resolver desafios existenciais. Janine Benyus, a pioneira popularizadora desse saber, antes ignorado, costuma dizer que os designs encontrados na natureza são resultados de 3,8 bilhões de anos de evolução tecnológica. Durante esse tempo, somente subsistiram soluções efetivas e eficazes, que de saída determinaram a superioridade da tecnologia natural.

Ora, a agricultura precisa redescobrir a potência sustentável e produtiva que é o manejo inteligente de agroecossistemas inspirados nos ecossistemas naturais, ao invés de se divorciar deste vasto campo de conhecimento e soluções, como fez com seus agrossistemas empobrecidos, envenenados e que exploram organismos geneticamente aberrantes.

IHU On-Line – Qual o papel do solo na “composição da equação do clima” no planeta? Em que medida o desequilíbrio do solo pode influenciar nas mudanças climáticas?

Antonio Donato Nobre – Microrganismos e plantas têm incrível capacidade para adaptar-se ao substrato, seja solo, sedimento ou mesmo rocha. Essa adaptação gera simultaneamente uma formação e condicionamento do substrato, o que o torna fértil para a vida vicejar ali. O metabolismo dos ecossistemas, incluindo sua relação com o substrato, tem íntima relação com os ciclos globais de elementos químicos. A composição e funcionamento da atmosfera depende, para sua estabilidade dinâmica, portanto, para o conforto e favorecimento da própria vida, do funcionamento ótimo dos ecossistemas naturais.

Na equação do clima, os ecossistemas são os órgãos indispensáveis que geram a homeostase  ou equilíbrio planetário. A agricultura convencional extermina aquela vida que tem capacidade regulatória, mata o solo, fator chave para sua própria sustentação, e introduz de forma reducionista e irresponsável nutrientes hipersolúveis, substâncias tóxicas desconhecidas da natureza e organismos que podem ser chamados de Frankensteins genéticos.

Todos estes insumos tornam as monoculturas do agronegócio sem qualquer função reguladora para o clima, e muito pior, devido à pesada emissão de gases-estufa e perturbações as mais variadas nos ciclos globais de nutrientes, a agricultura tecnificada é extremamente prejudicial para a estabilidade climática.

IHU On-Line – Desde a perspectiva do antropoceno , como avalia a relação do ser humano com as demais formas de vida do planeta hoje? Qual o papel da tecnologia e da ciência nessa relação?

Antonio Donato Nobre – Esta nova era foi batizada de antropoceno porque os seres humanos tornaram-se capazes de alterações massivas na delgada película esférica que nos permitiu a existência e nos dá abrigo. O maior drama da ocupação humana do ambiente superficial da Terra é que tal capacidade está destruindo o sistema de suporte à vida, sistema esse dependente 100% de todas demais espécies as quais o ser humano tem massacrado em sua expansão explosiva.

Infelizmente, na expansão do antropoceno, o conhecimento científico tem sido apropriado de forma gananciosa por mentes limitadas e arrogantes, e empregado no desenvolvimento sinistro de tecnologias e engenharias que por absoluta ignorância tornaram-se incapazes de valorizar o capital natural da Terra. Este comportamento autodestrutivo tem direta relação com a visão de ganho em curto prazo e a ilusão de poder auferida na aplicação autista de agulhas tecnológicas.

IHU On-Line – Em que medida a aproximação entre ciência e saberes indígenas pode contribuir para um novo caminho em termos de preservação do planeta e produção de alimentos?

Antonio Donato Nobre – Cada pesquisador sincero, inteligente e com mente aberta deve reconhecer a máxima milenar da sabedoria socrática: “somente sei que nada sei”. O conhecimento verdadeiro e sem limites internos impõe uma postura sóbria e humilde diante da enormidade da complexidade do mundo e da natureza. Hoje, a ciência mais avançada dá inteiro e detalhado suporte ao saber ancestral de sociedades tribais, que perduraram por milênios. Descer do salto alto da arrogância que fermentou graças ao individualismo permitirá reconhecer essa sabedoria básica de sustentabilidade, preservada no saber indígena.

Para a ciência, a aprender com o saber nativo está a veneração pela sabedoria da Mãe Terra; a intuição despretensiosa que capta o essencial da complexidade em princípios simples e elegantes; e sua capacidade holística e lúdica de articular a miríade de componentes do ambiente em uma constelação coerente e funcional de elos significativos.

IHU On-Line – De que forma a tecnociência e a tecnocracia impactam na forma de observar o planeta? O que isso significa para a humanidade?

Antonio Donato Nobre – A ciência é esta fascinante aventura humana na busca do conhecimento, evoluída aceleradamente a partir do renascimento na Europa. Muitas são suas virtudes e incríveis suas aplicações. No entanto, tais brilhos parecem infelizmente vir acompanhados quase sempre de alucinantes danos colaterais, nem sempre reconhecidos como tal. Na ciência, que gera o conhecimento básico; na tecnologia, que aplica criativamente esse conhecimento; e na engenharia, que transforma conhecimento em realidade, grassa uma anomalia reducionista que permite a hipertrofia de soluções pontuais, desconectadas entre si e do conjunto.

Tal abordagem gera soluções autistas que não se comunicam, tumores exuberantes cuja expansão danifica tudo que está em volta. Assim, a tecnociência olha o mundo com um microscópio grudado em seus olhos, vê pixel, mas ignora a paisagem. Abre caminhos para que ânimos restritos se apropriem de conhecimentos parciais e destruam o mundo. É preciso remover os microscópios dos olhos, olhar o conjunto, perceber as conexões e, assim, aplicar o conhecimento de forma sábia e benéfica.

IHU On-Line – De que forma conceitos como a Ecologia Integral, presentes na Encíclica Laudato Si’, do papa Francisco, contribuem para o desenvolvimento de uma visão sistêmica do ser humano sobre o planeta? Qual a importância de uma perspectiva multidisciplinar acerca da temática ambiental?

Antonio Donato Nobre – Ecologia Integral deve significar o que o nome diz. Aliás, se não for integral não pode ser denominada ecologia. Isso porque na natureza não existe isolamento, cada partícula, cada componente, cada organismo e cada sistema interage com os demais, sob o sábio comando das leis fundamentais. Por isso a ação humana pode gerar um acorde harmonioso na grande sinfonia universal, ou — se desrespeitar as leis — tornar-se fonte de perturbação e destruição.

Mais importante do que ser multidisciplinar é ser não-disciplinar, isto é, integrar e dissolver as “disciplinas” em um saber amplo e articulado, sem fronteiras artificiais e domínios de egos. A ciência verdadeira é aquela oriunda do livre pensar, do profundo sentir e do intuir espontâneo. A busca da verdade está ao alcance de todas as pessoas, não é nem deveria ser território exclusivo dos iniciados na ciência. Todos somos dotados da capacidade de inquirir e temos como promessa de realização o dom da consciência. Cientistas são facilitadores, e como tal deveriam servir aos semelhantes com boa vontade, iluminando o caminho do conhecimento, guiando na direção do saber.

IHU On-Line – Como avalia a agroecologia no Brasil hoje? O que a ciência e a tecnologia oferecem em termos de avanços para esse campo?

Antonio Donato Nobre – Agroecologia, agrofloresta sintrópica, sistemas agroflorestais, agricultura biodinâmica, trofobiose, agricultura orgânica, agricultura sustentável etc. compõem um rico repertório de abordagens que convergem na aspiração de emular em agroecossistemas a riqueza e funcionamento dos ecossistemas naturais. Uma parte dos desenvolvimentos científicos e tecnológicos autistas de até então pode ser aproveitada para essa nova era de agricultura produtiva, iluminada, respeitadora, harmônica e saudável.

É preciso, porém, que o isolamento acabe, que os conhecimentos sejam transparentes, integrados, articulados, simplificados e recolocados em perspectiva. Se as agulhas tecnológicas foram danosas, como os transgênicos, por exemplo, ainda assim serão úteis para sabermos o que “não” fazer. Na compreensão em detalhe das bases moleculares da vida, abrindo portais para consciência sobre a complexidade astronômica existente e atuante em todos os organismos, a humanidade terá finalmente a prova irrefutável para o acerto das abordagens holísticas e ecológicas.

IHU On-Line – Deseja acrescentar algo?

Antonio Donato Nobre – É preciso iluminar e revelar a imensa teia de mentiras criada em torno da revolução verde com seus exuberantes tumores tecnológicos. As falsidades suportadas por corporações, governos, mídia e educação bitoladora desde a mais tenra idade, implantaram um sistema mundial de dominação que, literalmente, enfia goela abaixo da humanidade um menu infernal de alimentos portadores de doenças.

Esse triunfante modelo de negócio não se contenta em somente alimentar mal, o faz via quantidades crescentes de produtos animais, os quais requerem imensas áreas e grandes quantidades de água e outros insumos para serem produzidos.

Com isso a pegada humana no planeta torna-se destrutiva e insuportável, e a consequência já se faz sentir no clima como falência múltipla de órgãos. Apesar disso, creio que ainda temos uma pequena chance de evitar o pior se, como humanidade, dermos apoio irrestrito para a busca da verdade.

Precisamos de uma operação Lava Jato no campo, e a ciência tem todas as ferramentas para apoiar esse esforço de sobrevivência.

Instituto Humanitas Unisinos

Teamwork enables bacterial survival (Science Daily)

Strains of E. coli resistant to one antibiotic can protect other bacteria growing nearby

Date:
May 16, 2016
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
Researchers have found that two strains of E. coli bacteria, each resistant to one antibiotic, can protect each other in an environment where both drugs are present.

Mutualism, a phenomenon in which different species benefit from their interactions with each other, can help bacteria form drug-resistant communities. Pictured is an artist’s interpretation of mutualism among bacteria. Credit: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

A new study from MIT finds that two strains of bacteria that are each resistant to one antibiotic can protect each other in an environment containing both drugs.

The findings demonstrate that mutualism, a phenomenon in which different species benefit from their interactions with each other, can help bacteria form drug-resistant communities. This is the first experimental demonstration in microbes of a type of mutualism known as cross-protection, which is more commonly seen in larger animals.

The researchers focused on two strains of E. coli, one resistant to ampicillin and the other resistant to chloramphenicol. These bacteria and many others defend themselves from antibiotics by producing enzymes that break down the antibiotics. As a side effect, this also protects cells that don’t produce those enzymes, by removing the antibiotic from the environment.

“Any time that you’re breaking down an antibiotic, there’s this potential for cross-protection,” says Jeff Gore, the Latham Family Career Development Associate Professor of Physics and the senior author of the study, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of May 16.

The MIT team found that, indeed, both strains could survive in an environment where both antibiotics were present, even though each was only resistant to one of the drugs. This type of situation is likely also found in the natural world, especially in soil where many strains of bacteria live together.

“Each of them is making different toxins and each of them is resistant to different toxins,” Gore says. “A lot of antibiotics are produced by microbes as part of the combat that is taking place between microorganisms in the soil.”

Gore and co-first authors Eugene Yurtsev and Arolyn Conwill, both MIT graduate students, also found that the populations of the two strains oscillate over time. Population oscillations are common in predator-prey interactions but rare in mutualistic interactions such as the cross-protection seen in this study.

Throughout their experiments, the researchers diluted the bacterial population each day by transferring about 1 percent of the population to a new test tube, to which new antibiotics were added. They found that while the total size of the bacterial population remained about the same, there were large oscillations in the relative percentages of each strain, which varied by nearly 1,000 percent over a period of about three days.

For example, if the ampicillin-resistant strain was more abundant in the beginning of a cycle, it rapidly deactivated ampicillin in the environment, allowing the chloramphenicol-resistant strain to begin growing. The ampicillin-resistant strain only began growing once the other strain had expanded enough to deactivate most of the chloramphenicol, at which point the chloramphenicol-resistant strain had already overtaken the ampicillin-resistant strain.

“The mutualism exhibits oscillations because the strain that is more abundant at the beginning of a growth cycle might end up less abundant at the end of that cycle,” Gore says.

At lower antibiotic concentrations, the bacterial population can survive in this oscillating pattern indefinitely, but at higher drug concentrations, the oscillations destabilize the population, and it eventually collapses.

Gore suspects that similar population oscillations may also be seen in natural environments such as the human gut, as bacteria exit the body along with bowel movements, or in soil as bacteria are washed away by rainfall.

Gore’s lab is now looking at this type of mutualism in bacteria living in the gut of the worm C. elegans. The researchers are also studying how these types of population oscillations can become synchronized over large geographic areas, and how migration between populations influences this synchronization.


Journal Reference:

  1. Saurabh R. Gandhi, Eugene Anatoly Yurtsev, Kirill S. Korolev, and Jeff Gore. Range expansions transition from pulled to pushed waves as growth becomes more cooperative in an experimental microbial populationPNAS, 2016 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1521056113

Hurricanes key to carbon uptake by forests (Science Daily)

Increases in carbon uptake by southeast US forests in response to tropical cyclone activity alone exceed carbon emissions by American vehicles each year.

Date:
May 2, 2016
Source:
Duke University
Summary:
New research reveals that the increase in forest photosynthesis and growth made possible by tropical cyclones in the southeastern United States captures hundreds of times more carbon than is released by all vehicles in the US in a given year.

This map shows the total increase of photosynthesis and carbon uptake by forests caused by all hurricanes in 2004. The dotted gray lines represent the paths of the individual storms. Credit: Lauren Lowman, Duke University

While hurricanes are a constant source of worry for residents of the southeastern United States, new research suggests that they have a major upside — counteracting global warming.

Previous research from Duke environmental engineer Ana Barros demonstrated that the regular landfall of tropical cyclones is vital to the region’s water supply and can help mitigate droughts.

Now, a new study from Barros reveals that the increase in forest photosynthesis and growth made possible by tropical cyclones in the southeastern United States captures hundreds of times more carbon than is released by all vehicles in the U.S. in a given year.

The study was published online on April 20, 2016, in the Journal of Geophysical Research — Biogeosciences.

“Our results show that, while hurricanes can cause flooding and destroy city infrastructure, there are two sides to the story,” said Barros, the James L. Meriam Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Duke University. “The other side is that hurricanes recharge the aquifers and have an enormous impact on photosynthesis and taking up carbon from the atmosphere.”

In the study, Lauren Lowman, a doctoral student in Barros’s laboratory, used a hydrological computer model to simulate the ecological impacts of tropical cyclones from 2004-2007. The earlier years of that time period had a high number of tropical cyclone landfall events, while the latter years experienced relatively few.

By comparing those disparate years to simulations of a year without tropical cyclone events, Lowman was able to calculate the effect tropical cyclones have on the rates of photosynthesis and carbon uptake in forests of the southeastern United States.

“It’s easy to make general statements about how much of an impact something like additional rainfall can have on the environment,” said Lowman. “But we really wanted to quantify the amount of carbon uptake that you can relate to tropical cyclones.”

According to Barros and Lowman, it is difficult to predict what effects climate change will have on the region’s future. Even if the number of tropical cyclones that form in the Atlantic increases, that doesn’t guarantee that the number making landfall will also rise. And long-term forecasts for the region’s temperature and rainfall currently show less change than normal year-to-year variability.

But no matter what the future brings, one thing is clear — the regularity and number of tropical cyclones making landfall will continue to be vital.

“There are a lot of regional effects competing with large worldwide changes that make it very hard to predict what climate change will bring to the southeastern United States,” said Barros. “If droughts do become worse and we don’t have these regular tropical cyclones, the impact will be very negative. And regardless of climate change, our results are yet one more very good reason to protect these vast forests.”

This research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation Coupled Human and Natural Systems Program (CNH-1313799) and an earlier grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NA08OAR4310701).


Journal Reference:

  1. Lauren E. L. Lowman, Ana P. Barros. Interplay of Drought and Tropical Cyclone Activity in SE US Gross Primary ProductivityJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 2016; DOI: 10.1002/2015JG003279

Why E O Wilson is wrong about how to save the Earth (AEON)

01 March, 2016

Robert Fletcher is an associate professor at the Sociology of Development and Change Group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. His most recent book is Romancing the Wild: Cultural Dimensions of Ecotourism (2014).

Bram Büscher is a professor and Chair at the Sociology of Development and Change Group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. His most recent book is Transforming the Frontier: Peace Parks and the Politics of Neoliberal Conservation in Southern Africa (2013).

Edited by Brigid Hains

Opinion sized gettyimages 459113790

A member of the military-style Special Ranger Patrol talks to a suspected rhino poacher on 7 November 2014 at the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Photo by James Oatway/Sunday Times/Getty

Edward O Wilson is one of the world’s most revered, reviled and referenced conservation biologists. In his new book (and Aeon essayHalf-Earth, he comes out with all guns blazing, proclaiming the terrible fate of biodiversity, the need for radical conservation, and humanity’s centrality in both. His basic message is simple: desperate times call for desperate measures, ‘only by setting aside half the planet in reserve, or more, can we save the living part of the environment and achieve the stabilisation required for our own survival’. Asserting that ‘humanity’ behaves like a destructive juggernaut, Wilson is deeply concerned that the current ‘sixth extinction’ is destroying many species before scientists have even been able to identify them.

Turning half of the Earth into a series of nature parks is a grand utopian vision for conservation, perhaps even a hyperbolic one, yet Wilson seems deadly serious about it. Some environmental thinkers have been arguing the exact opposite, namely that conservation should give up its infatuation with parks and focus on ‘mixing’ people and nature in mutually conducive ways. Wilson defends a traditional view that nature needs more protection, and attacks them for being ‘unconcerned with what the consequences will be if their beliefs are played out’. As social scientists who study the impact of international conservation on peoples around the world, we would argue that it is Wilson himself who has fallen into this trap: the world he imagines in Half-Earth would be a profoundly inhumane one if ever his beliefs were ‘played out’.

The ‘nature needs half’ idea is not entirely new – it is an extreme version of a more widespread ‘land sparing’ conservation strategy. This is not about setting aside half the Earth as a whole but expanding the world’s current network of protected areas to create a patchwork grid encompassing at least half the world’s surface (and the ocean) and hence ‘about 85 per cent’ of remaining biodiversity. The plan is staggering in scale: protected areas, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, currently incorporate around 10-15 per cent of the Earth’s terrain, so would need to more than triple in extent.

Wilson identifies a number of causes of the current ecological crisis, but is particularly concerned by overpopulation. ‘Our population,’ he argues, ‘is too large for safety and comfort… Earth’s more than 7 billion people are collectively ravenous consumers of all the planet’s inadequate bounty.’ But can we talk about the whole of humanity in such generalised terms? In reality, the world is riven by dramatic inequality, and different segments of humanity have vastly different impacts on the world’s environments. The blame for our ecological problems therefore cannot be spread across some notion of a generalised ‘humanity’.

Although Wilson is careful to qualify that it is the combination ofpopulation growth and ‘per-capita consumption’ that causes environmental degradation, he is particularly concerned about places he identifies as the remaining high-fertility problem spots – ‘Patagonia, the Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, plus all of sub-Saharan Africa exclusive of South Africa’. These are countries with some of the world’s lowest incomes. Paradoxically, then, it is those consuming the least that are considered the greatest problem. ‘Overpopulation’, it seems, is the same racialised bogeyman as ever, and the poor the greatest threat to an environmentally-sound future.

Wilson’s Half-Earth vision is offered as an explicit counterpoint to so-called ‘new’ or ‘Anthropocene’ conservationists, who are loosely organised around the controversial Breakthrough Institute. For Wilson, these ‘Anthropocene ideologists’ have given up on nature altogether. In her book, Rambunctious Garden (2011), Emma Marris characteristically argues that there is no wilderness left on the Earth, which is everywhere completely transformed by the human presence. According to Anthropocene thinking, we are in charge of the Earth and must manage it closely whether we like it or not. Wilson disagrees, insisting that ‘areas of wilderness… are real entities’. He contends that an area need not be ‘pristine’ or uninhabited to be wilderness, and ‘[w]ildernesses have often contained sparse populations of people, especially those indigenous for centuries or millennia, without losing their essential character’.

Research across the globe has shown that many protected areas once contained not merely ‘sparse’ inhabitants but often quite dense populations – clearly incompatible with the US Wilderness Act’s classic definition of wilderness as an area ‘where man himself is a visitor who does not remain’. Most existing ‘wilderness’ parks have required the removal or severe restriction of human beings within their bounds. Indeed, one of Wilson’s models for conservation success – Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique – sidelined local people despite their unified opposition. In his book Conservation Refugees (2009), Mark Dowie estimates that 20-50 million people have been displaced by previous waves of protected-area creation. To extend protected areas to half of the Earth’s surface would require a relocation of human populations on a scale that could dwarf all previous conservation refugee crises.

Would these people include Montana cattle ranchers? Or Australian wheat growers? Or Florida retirees? The answer, most likely, is no, for the burden of conservation has never been shared equitably across the world. Those who both take the blame and pay the greatest cost of environmental degradation are, almost always, those who do not have power to influence either their own governments or international politics. It is the hill tribes of Thailand, the pastoralists of Tanzania, and the forest peoples of Indonesia who are invariably expected to relocate, often at gunpoint, as Dowie and many scholars, including Dan Brockington in his book Fortress Conservation (2002), have demonstrated.

How will human society withstand the shock of removing so much land and ocean from food-growing and other uses? Wilson criticises the Anthropocene worldview’s faith that technological innovation can solve environmental problems or find substitutes for depleted resources, but he simultaneously promotes his own techno-fix in a vision of ‘intensified economic evolution’ in which ‘the free market, and the way it is increasingly shaped by high technology’ will solve the problem seemingly automatically. According to Wilson, ‘products that win competition today… are those that cost less to manufacture and advertise, need less frequent repair and replacement, and give highest performance with a minimum amount of energy’. He thus invokes a biological version of Adam Smith’s invisible hand in maintaining that ‘[j]ust as natural selection drives organic evolution by competition among genes to produce more copies of themselves per unit cost in the next generation, raising benefit-to-cost of production drives the evolution of the economy’ and asserting, without any evidence, that ‘[a]lmost all of the competition in a free market, other than in military technology, raises the average quality of life’.

Remarkably, this utopian optimism about technology and the workings of the free market leads Wilson to converge on a position rather like that of the Anthropocene conservationists he so dislikes, advocating a vision of ‘decoupling economic activity from material and environmental throughputs’ in order to create sustainable livelihoods for a population herded into urban areas to free space for self-willed nature. The Breakthrough Institute has recently promoted its own, quite similar, manifesto for land sparing and decoupling to increase terrain for conservation.

In this vision, science and technology can compensate for some of humanity’s status as the world’s ‘most destructive species’. And at the pinnacle of science stands (conservation) biology, according to Wilson. He argues: ‘If people are to live long and healthy lives in the sustainable Eden of our dreams, and our minds are to break free and dwell in the far more interesting universe of reason triumphant over superstition, it will be through advances in biology.’ How exactly humans are to ‘break free’ is not explained and is, in fact, impossible according to Wilson himself, given ‘the Darwinian propensity in our brain’s machinery to favour short-term decisions over long-range planning’. As far as Wilson is concerned, any worldview that does not favour protected-area expansion as the highest goal is by definition an irrational one. In this way, the world’s poor are blamed not only for overpopulating biodiversity hotspots but also for succumbing to the ‘religious belief and inept philosophical thought’ standing in the way of environmental Enlightenment.

Let us finish by making a broader point, drawing on Wilson’s approving quotation of Alexander von Humboldt, the 19th-century German naturalist who claimed that ‘the most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world’. In viewing the world, we also construct it, and the world Wilson’s offers us in Half-Earth is a truly bizarre one. For all his zeal, (misplaced) righteousness and passion, his vision is disturbing and dangerous, and would have profoundly negative ‘consequences if played out’. It would entail forcibly herding a drastically reduced human population into increasingly crowded urban areas to be managed in oppressively technocratic ways. How such a global programme of conservation Lebensraum would be accomplished is left to the reader’s imagination. We therefore hope readers will not take Wilson’s proposal seriously. Addressing biodiversity loss and other environmental problems must proceed by confronting the world’s obscene inequality, not by blaming the poor and trusting the ‘free market’ to save them.


Half-Earth (AEON)

29 February, 2016

Half of the Earth’s surface and seas must be dedicated to the conservation of nature, or humanity will have no future

by Edward O Wilson

Header essay nationalgeographic 381719

The Serengeti National Park. Photo by Medford Taylor/National Geographic

Edward O Wilson is a professor emeritus in entomology at Harvard. Half-Earth concludes Wilson’s trilogy begun by The Social Conquest of Earth and The Meaning of Human Existence, a National Book Award finalist. 

Edited by Pam Weintraub

Unstanched haemorrhaging has only one end in all biological systems: death for an organism, extinction for a species. Researchers who study the trajectory of biodiversity loss are alarmed that, within the century, an exponentially rising extinction rate might easily wipe out most of the species still surviving at the present time.

The crucial factor in the life and death of species is the amount of suitable habitat left to them. When, for example, 90 per cent of the area is removed, the number that can persist sustainably will descend to about a half. Such is the actual condition of many of the most species-rich localities around the world, including Madagascar, the Mediterranean perimeter, parts of continental southwestern Asia, Polynesia, and many of the islands of the Philippines and the West Indies. If 10 per cent of the remaining natural habitat were then also removed – a team of lumbermen might do it in a month – most or all of the surviving resident species would disappear.

Today, every sovereign nation in the world has a protected-area system of some kind. All together the reserves number about 161,000 on land and 6,500 over marine waters. According to the World Database on Protected Areas, a joint project of the United Nations Environmental Program and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, they occupied by 2015 a little less than 15 per cent of Earth’s land area and 2.8 per cent of Earth’s ocean area. The coverage is increasing gradually. This trend is encouraging. To have reached the existing level is a tribute to those who have led and participated in the global conservation effort.

But is the level enough to halt the acceleration of species extinction? Unfortunately, it is in fact nowhere close to enough. The declining world of biodiversity cannot be saved by the piecemeal operations in current use alone. The extinction rate our behaviour is now imposing on the rest of life, and seems destined to continue, is more correctly viewed as the equivalent of a Chicxulub-sized asteroid strike played out over several human generations.

The only hope for the species still living is a human effort commensurate with the magnitude of the problem. The ongoing mass extinction of species, and with it the extinction of genes and ecosystems, ranks with pandemics, world war, and climate change as among the deadliest threats that humanity has imposed on itself. To those who feel content to let the Anthropocene evolve toward whatever destiny it mindlessly drifts, I say please take time to reconsider. To those who are steering the growth of reserves worldwide, let me make an earnest request: don’t stop, just aim a lot higher.

see just one way to make this 11th-hour save: committing half of the planet’s surface to nature to save the immensity of life-forms that compose it. Why one-half? Why not one-quarter or one-third? Because large plots, whether they already stand or can be created from corridors connecting smaller plots, harbour many more ecosystems and the species composing them at a sustainable level. As reserves grow in size, the diversity of life surviving within them also grows. As reserves are reduced in area, the diversity within them declines to a mathematically predictable degree swiftly – often immediately and, for a large fraction, forever. A biogeographic scan of Earth’s principal habitats shows that a full representation of its ecosystems and the vast majority of its species can be saved within half the planet’s surface. At one-half and above, life on Earth enters the safe zone. Within half, existing calculations from existing ecosystems indicate that more than 80 per cent of the species would be stabilised.

There is a second, psychological argument for protecting half of Earth. The current conservation movement has not been able to go the distance because it is a process. It targets the most endangered habitats and species and works forward from there. Knowing that the conservation window is closing fast, it strives to add increasing amounts of protected space, faster and faster, saving as much as time and opportunity will allow.

The key is the ecological footprint, defined as the amount of space required to meet the needs of an average person

Half-Earth is different. It is a goal. People understand and prefer goals. They need a victory, not just news that progress is being made. It is human nature to yearn for finality, something achieved by which their anxieties and fears are put to rest.

The Half-Earth solution does not mean dividing the planet into hemispheric halves or any other large pieces the size of continents or nation-states. Nor does it require changing ownership of any of the pieces, but instead only the stipulation that they be allowed to exist unharmed. It does, on the other hand, mean setting aside the largest reserves possible for nature, hence for the millions of other species still alive.

The key to saving one-half of the planet is the ecological footprint, defined as the amount of space required to meet all of the needs of an average person. It comprises the land used for habitation, fresh water, food production and delivery, personal transportation, communication, governance, other public functions, medical support, burial, and entertainment. In the same way the ecological footprint is scattered in pieces around the world, so are Earth’s surviving wildlands on the land and in the sea. The pieces range in size from the major desert and forest wildernesses to pockets of restored habitats as small as a few hectares.

But, you may ask, doesn’t a rising population and per-capita consumption doom the Half-Earth prospect? In this aspect of its biology, humanity appears to have won a throw of the demographic dice. Its population growth has begun to decelerate autonomously, without pressure one way or the other from law or custom. In every country where women have gained some degree of social and financial independence, their average fertility has dropped by a corresponding amount through individual personal choice.

There won’t be an immediate drop in the total world population. An overshoot still exists due to the longevity of the more numerous offspring of earlier, more fertile generations. There also remain high-fertility countries, with an average of more than three surviving children born to each woman, thus higher than the 2.1 children per woman that yields zero population growth. Even as it decelerates toward zero growth, population will reach between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion, up from the 7.2 billion existing in 2014. That is a heavy burden for an already overpopulated planet to bear, but unless women worldwide switch back from the negative population trend of fewer than 2.1 children per woman, a turn downward in the early 22nd century is inevitable.

And what of per-capita consumption? The footprint will evolve, not to claim more and more space, as you might at first suppose, but less. The reason lies in the evolution of the free market system, and the way it is increasingly shaped by high technology. The products that win are those that cost less to manufacture and advertise, need less frequent repair and replacement, and give highest performance with a minimum amount of energy. Just as natural selection drives organic evolution by competition among genes to produce more copies of themselves per unit cost in the next generation, raising benefit-to-cost of production drives the evolution of the economy. Teleconferencing, online purchase and trade, ebook personal libraries, access on the Internet to all literature and scientific data, online diagnosis and medical practice, food production per hectare sharply raised by indoor vertical gardens with LED lighting, genetically engineered crops and microorganisms, long-distance business conferences and social visits by life-sized images, and not least the best available education in the world free online to anyone, anytime, and anywhere. All of these amenities will yield more and better results with less per-capita material and energy, and thereby will reduce the size of the ecological footprint.

In viewing the future this way, I wish to suggest a means to achieve almost free enjoyment of the world’s best places in the biosphere that I and my fellow naturalists have identified. The cost-benefit ratio would be extremely small. It requires only a thousand or so high-resolution cameras that broadcast live around the clock from sites within reserves. People would still visit any reserve in the world physically, but they could also travel there virtually and in continuing real time with no more than a few keystrokes in their homes, schools, and lecture halls. Perhaps a Serengeti water hole at dawn? Or a teeming Amazon canopy? There would also be available streaming video of summer daytime on the coast in the shallow offshore waters of Antarctica, and cameras that continuously travel through the great coral triangle of Indonesia and New Guinea. With species identifications and brief expert commentaries unobtrusively added, the adventure would be forever changing, and safe.

The spearhead of this intensive economic evolution, with its hope for biodiversity, is contained in the linkage of biology, nanotechnology, and robotics. Two ongoing enterprises within it, the creation of artificial life and artificial minds, seem destined to preoccupy a large part of science and high technology for the rest of the present century.

The creation of artificial life forms is already a reality. On 20 May 2010, a team of researchers at the J Craig Venter Institute in California announced the second genesis of life, this time by human rather than divine command. They had built live cells from the ground up. With simple chemical reagents off the shelf, they assembled the entire genetic code of a bacterial species, Mycoplasma mycoides, a double helix of 1.08 million DNA base pairs. During the process they modified the code sequence slightly, implanting a statement made by the late theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, ‘What I cannot create, I do not understand,’ in order to detect daughters of the altered mother cells in future tests.

If our minds are to break free and dwell in the far more interesting universe of reason triumphant over superstition, it will be through advances in biology

The textbook example of elementary artificial selection of the past 10 millennia is the transformation of teosinte, a species of wild grass with three races in Mexico and Central America, into maize (corn). The food found in the ancestor was a meagre packet of hard kernels. Over centuries of selective breeding it was altered into its modern form. Today maize, after further selection and widespread hybridisation of inbred strains that display ‘hybrid vigour’ is the principal food of hundreds of millions.

The first decade of the present century thus saw the beginning of the next new major phase of genetic modification beyond hybridisation: artificial selection and even direct substitution in single organisms of one gene for another. If we use the trajectory of progress in molecular biology during the previous half century as a historical guide, it appears inevitable that scientists will begin routinely to build cells of wide variety from the ground up, then induce them to multiply into synthetic tissues, organs, and eventually entire independent organisms of considerable complexity.

If people are to live long and healthy lives in the sustainable Eden of our dreams, and our minds are to break free and dwell in the far more interesting universe of reason triumphant over superstition, it will be through advances in biology. The goal is practicable because scientists, being scientists, live with one uncompromising mandate: press discovery to the limit. There has already emerged a term for the manufacture of organisms and parts of organisms: synthetic biology. Its potential benefits, easily visualised as spreading through medicine and agriculture, are limited only by imagination. Synthetic biology will also bring onto centre stage the microbe-based increase of food and energy.

Each passing year sees advances in artificial intelligence and their multitudinous applications – advances that would have been thought distantly futuristic a decade earlier. Robots roll over the surface of Mars. They travel around boulders and up and down slopes while photographing, measuring minutiae of topography, analysing the chemical composition of soil and rocks, and scrutinising everything for signs of life.

In the early period of the digital revolution, innovators relied on machine design of computers without reference to the human brain, much as the earliest aeronautical engineers used mechanical principles and intuition to design aircraft instead of imitating the flight of birds. But with the swift growth of both fields, one-on-one comparisons are multiplying. The alliance of computer technology and brain science has given birth to whole brain emulation as one of the ultimate goals of science.

From the time of the ancient human-destined line of amphibians, then reptiles, then mammals, the neural pathways of every part of the brain were repeatedly altered by natural selection to adapt the organism to the environment in which it lived. Step-by-step, from the Paleozoic amphibians to the Cenozoic primates, the ancient centres were augmented by newer centres, chiefly in the growing cortex, that added to learning ability. All things being equal, the ability of organisms to function through seasons and across different habitats gave them an edge in the constant struggle to survive and reproduce.

Little wonder, then, that neurobiologists have found the human brain to be densely sprinkled with partially independent centres of unconscious operations, along with all of the operators of rational thought. Located through the cortex in what might look at first like random arrays are the headquarters of process variously for numbers, attention, face-recognition, meanings, reading, sounds, fears, values, and error detection. Decisions tend to be made by the brute force of unconscious choice in these centres prior to conscious comprehension.

Next in evolution came consciousness, a function of the human brain that, among other things, reduces an immense stream of sense data to a small set of carefully selected bite-size symbols. The sampled information can then be routed to another processing stage, allowing us to perform what are fully controlled chains of operations, much like a serial computer. This broadcasting function of consciousness is essential. In humans, it is greatly enhanced by language, which lets us distribute our conscious thoughts across the social network.

What has brain science to do with biodiversity? At first, human nature evolved along a zigzag path as a continually changing ensemble of genetic traits while the biosphere continue to evolve on its own. But the explosive growth of digital technology transformed every aspect of our lives and changed our self-perception, bringing the ‘bnr’ industries (biology, nanotechnology, robotics) to the forefront of the modern economy. These three have the potential either to favour biodiversity or to destroy it.

I believe they will favour it, by moving the economy away from fossil fuels to energy sources that are clean and sustainable, by radically improving agriculture with new crop species and ways to grow them, and by reducing the need or even the desire for distant travel. All are primary goals of the digital revolution. Through them the size of the ecological footprint will also be reduced. The average person can expect to enjoy a longer, healthier life of high quality yet with less energy extraction and raw demand put on the land and sea. If we are lucky (and smart), world population will peak at a little more than 10 billion people by the end of the century followed by the ecological footprint soon thereafter. The reason is that we are thinking organisms trying to understand how the world works. We will come awake.

Silicon Valley dreamers of a digitised humanity have failed to give much thought at all to the biosphere

That process is already under way, albeit still far too slowly – with the end in sight in the 23rd century. We and the rest of life with us are in the middle of a bottleneck of rising population, shrinking resources, and disappearing species. As its stewards we need to think of our species as being in a race to save the living environment. The primary goal is to make it through the bottleneck to a better, less perilous existence while carrying through as much of the rest of life as possible. If global biodiversity is given space and security, most of the large fraction of species now endangered will regain sustainability on their own. Furthermore, advances made in synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, whole brain emulation, and other similar, mathematically based disciplines can be imported to create an authentic, predictive science of ecology. In it, the interrelations of species will be explored as fervently as we now search through our own bodies for health and longevity. It is often said that the human brain is the most complex system known to us in the universe. That is incorrect. The most complex is the individual natural ecosystem, and the collectivity of ecosystems comprising Earth’s species-level biodiversity. Each species of plant, animal, fungus, and microorganism is guided by sophisticated decision devices. Each is intricately programmed in its own way to pass with precision through its respective life cycle. It is instructed on when to grow, when to mate, when to disperse, and when to shy away from enemies. Even the single-celled Escherichia coli, living in the bacterial paradise of our intestines, moves toward food and away from toxins by spinning its tail cilium one way, then the other way, in response to chemosensory molecules within its microscopic body.

How minds and decision-making devices evolve, and how they interact with ecosystems is a vast area of biology that remains mostly uncharted – and still even undreamed by those scientists who devote their lives to it. The analytic techniques coming to bear on neuroscience, on Big Data theory, on simulations with robot avatars, and on other comparable enterprises will find applications in biodiversity studies. They are ecology’s sister disciplines.

It is past time to broaden the discussion of the human future and connect it to the rest of life. The Silicon Valley dreamers of a digitised humanity have not done that, not yet. They have failed to give much thought at all to the biosphere. With the human condition changing so swiftly, we are losing or degrading to uselessness ever more quickly the millions of species that have run the world independently of us and free of cost. If humanity continues its suicidal ways to change the global climate, eliminate ecosystems, and exhaust Earth’s natural resources, our species will very soon find itself forced into making a choice, this time engaging the conscious part of our brain. It is as follows: shall we be existential conservatives, keeping our genetically-based human nature while tapering off the activities inimical to ourselves and the rest of the biosphere? Or shall we use our new technology to accommodate the changes important solely to our own species, while letting the rest of life slip away? We have only a short time to decide.

The beautiful world our species inherited took the biosphere 3.8 billion years to build. The intricacy of its species we know only in part, and the way they work together to create a sustainable balance we have only recently begun to grasp. Like it or not, and prepared or not, we are the mind and stewards of the living world. Our own ultimate future depends upon that understanding. We have come a very long way through the barbaric period in which we still live, and now I believe we’ve learned enough to adopt a transcendent moral precept concerning the rest of life.

Reprinted from ‘Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life’ by Edward O Wilson. Copyright © 2016 by Edward O Wilson. With permission of the publisher, Liveright Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

Impactos visíveis no mar (Pesquisa Fapesp)

Poluentes chegam a 200 km ao norte e ao sul da foz do rio Doce, atingem unidades de conservação, alteram equilíbrio ecológico e se acumulam no assoalho marinho

CARLOS FIORAVANTI | ED. 242 | ABRIL 2016

Poluição à vista: os resíduos que vazaram do reservatório de Mariana formam mancha acastanhada na foz do rio DocePoluição à vista: os resíduos que vazaram do reservatório de Mariana formam mancha acastanhada na foz do rio Doce.

Em janeiro deste ano, ao sobrevoarem o litoral do Espírito Santo e do sul da Bahia, biólogos, oceanógrafos e técnicos de órgãos ambientais do governo federal reconheceram os borrões escuros na superfície do mar formados pelo acúmulo de resíduos metálicos que vazaram do reservatório da mineradora Samarco em Mariana, Minas Gerais, em novembro de 2015. A mancha de resíduos, também chamada de pluma, aproximava-se do arquipélago de Abrolhos, uma das principais reservas de vida silvestre marinha da costa brasileira.

Os borrões não eram apenas os indesejados resquícios da extração de minério de ferro de Minas Gerais, mas uma de suas consequências, como se verificou logo depois. Em meio às manchas verde-escuro havia colônias de algas e outros organismos marinhos microscópicos – o fitoplâncton – com dezenas de quilômetros de extensão, muito maiores que as observadas nos anos anteriores, de acordo com as análises de pesquisadores da Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo (Ufes).

Outra peculiaridade é que os organismos cresciam e se multiplicavam rapidamente, em decorrência do excesso de ferro dos rejeitos da mineradora de Mariana que se espalham pelo mar a partir da foz do rio Doce, onde chegaram no final de novembro. Desde então, levados continuamente ao mar pelo rio, os resíduos formam uma mancha móvel que oscila ao longo de 200 quilômetros (km) ao norte e ao sul da foz do rio Doce, que alterou o equilíbrio marinho, como indicado pela massa de fitoplâncton, e atingiu pelo menos três unidades de conservação de organismos marinhos.

“As manchas de fitoplâncton são comuns no verão, mas não desse modo”, explica Alex Bastos, professor de oceanografia da Ufes, no final de fevereiro. Análises preliminares indicaram que as colônias de algas são constituídas por organismos que se formam e morrem em poucos dias, mais rapidamente que o habitual. A decomposição acelerada dos organismos consome oxigênio da água do mar, com consequências imprevisíveis sobre as comunidades de organismos marinhos.

Além disso, a diversidade de espécies havia sido reduzida quase à metade. Camilo Dias Júnior, com sua equipe de oceanografia da Ufes, encontrou no máximo 40 espécies de fitoplâncton por amostra analisada; antes da chegada dos resíduos os pesquisadores reconheciam de 50 a 70 espécies. A hipótese dos pesquisadores e técnicos é de que já poderia ter ocorrido uma seleção de variedades mais adaptadas ao excesso de ferro trazido com a descarga dos resíduos no mar.

Nos sobrevoos do litoral do Espírito Santo e da Bahia, Claudio Dupas, coordenador do Núcleo de Geoprocessamento e Monitoramento Ambiental da Superintendência do Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Ibama) em São Paulo, observou muitos barcos de pesca próximos às manchas de fitoplâncton na foz do rio Doce. Atraídos pela abundância de alimento, o grande número de peixes chamou a atenção dos pescadores.

Em Governador Valadares, MG: a lama ocupou o rio Doce em novembro, prejudicando o abastecimento de água para os moradores da cidade

Com base nas análises preliminares da qualidade de água e na observação do cenário, a equipe do Ibama elaborou um relatório técnico alertando sobre alterações na qualidade da água, prejudicada com a descarga de resíduos no mar. Com base no documento e no princípio da precaução – para evitar que a população seja prejudicada pelo consumo de peixes contaminados –, no dia 22 de fevereiro um juiz federal de Vitória proibiu por tempo indeterminado a pesca na região da foz do rio Doce. “Assim que saiu a decisão do juiz, o superintendente do Ibama em Vitória, Guanadir Gonçalves, pediu-me para fazer um mapa com a delimitação da área de proibição, que foi para a internet e para os celulares dos fiscais em campo no mesmo dia”, diz Dupas.

Desde janeiro os movimentos da mancha de resíduos podem ser acompanhados por meio de mapas gerados pelo Ibama a partir de imagens de satélites no site governancapelodoce.com.br, mantido pela Samarco. Já o site siscom.ibama.gov.br/mariana contém imagens de satélite de alta resolução de antes e depois do incidente, da barragem à foz. Os mapas indicam que os resíduos já chegaram a 50 km ao sul de Vitória, capital do Espírito Santo, e atingiram três unidades de conservação do ambiente marinho, o Refúgio de Vida Silvestre de Santa Cruz, a Área de Proteção Ambiental (APA) Costa das Algas e uma das principais áreas de desova da tartaruga-cabeçuda (Caretta caretta), uma faixa de 37 km de praias conhecida como Reserva Biológica Comboios. “Ainda não é possível avaliar o impacto sobre o ambiente, a vida dos organismos marinhos e dos moradores da região”, diz Dupas.

Desde que vazou da barragem de Fundão, em 5 de novembro, até chegar ao mar, a enorme massa de resíduos da extração de minério de ferro causou uma transformação profunda. Destruiu casas e matas às margens do rio Doce, provocando a morte de 18 pessoas e de toneladas de peixes e outros organismos aquáticos. A bióloga Flávia Bottino participou das expedições do Grupo Independente para Análise do Impacto Ambiental (Giaia) ao longo do rio Doce em novembro e observou uma intensa turbidez da água, que dificultava a penetração da luz e a sobrevivência dos organismos. Os biólogos encontraram camarões de água doce que sobreviveram ao desastre, mas os organismos bentônicos, que viviam no fundo do rio, tinham sido soterrados.

Limites incertos 
A alta concentração de partículas sólidas que absorvem calor pode ter causado o aumento da temperatura da água para cerca de 30º Celsius. “A água do rio estava quente”, ela notou. As análises das amostras de água coletadas em dezembro ao longo de um trecho de cerca de 800 km do rio, realizadas nas unidades das universidades de São Paulo (USP) em Ribeirão Preto, Federal de São Carlos (UFSCar) em São Carlos e Sorocaba, Estadual Paulista (Unesp) em São Vicente, e na de Brasília (UnB), indicaram concentrações elevadas de manganês, ferro, arsênio e chumbo. As chuvas podem agravar a situação ao lavar as margens dos rios, cobertas de resíduos, e transportá-los ao mar.

Por meio de coletas realizadas com o navio Vital de Oliveira Moura, da Marinha, a equipe da Ufes verificou que 25 km a leste da foz do Rio Doce os resíduos formam uma camada de 1 a 2 centímetros sobre a lama do fundo do mar, a 25 metros de profundidade. “Está havendo um acúmulo rápido do rejeito no assoalho marinho”, diz Bastos, da Ufes, com base em coletas realizadas desde novembro, logo após o rompimento da barragem (ver Pesquisa FAPESP no 239). “Nem nas maiores cheias o acúmulo de sedimentos no rio no fundo do mar foi tão alto.”

042-047_Poluentes_242No início de fevereiro, em uma reunião dos pesquisadores da Ufes com representantes do Ibama, Instituto Estadual do Meio Ambiente (Iema) e Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio), Bastos comentou que a concentração de ferro no fundo do mar havia aumentado 20 vezes, em comparação com os níveis de antes do acidente, a de alumínio 10 vezes e a de cromo e manganês, cinco. Outro professor da Ufes, Renato Rodrigues Neto, observou que a vazão do rio passou de 300 metros cúbicos por segundo (m³/s), antes do rompimento da barragem, para cerca de 4.000 m³/s, aumentando a quantidade de lama com resíduos metálicos despejada no mar.

As imagens de satélite indicam que os resíduos metálicos podem ter chegado até o arquipélago de Abrolhos no início de janeiro, embora, ressalta Dupas, ainda não seja possível diferenciar os sedimentos vindos do rio Doce, a cerca de 200 km de distância, dos do rio Caravelas, que deságua na região. Segundo ele, os resultados das análises em andamento devem ser anunciados em abril.

Vários estudos em outras áreas marinhas têm indicado que os resíduos industriais podem ir muito além dos lugares onde foram produzidos, misturar-se com os sedimentos do fundo do mar, aflorando se revolvidos por redes de pesca, ou ser absorvidos por organismos marinhos. Uma equipe do Instituto Oceanográfico (IO) da USP identificou metais pesados (chumbo, cobre e zinco) e compostos orgânicos derivados de petróleo produzidos na zona industrial de Santos e do polo industrial de Cubatão, a 15 km do mar, misturados com a lama do assoalho marinho a uma profundidade de 100 metros e a uma distância de 200 km da costa. Não se pensava que a poluição gerada em terra pudesse chegar tão longe.

Condições ambientais 
As conclusões ajudam a pensar o que poderia se passar no litoral do Espírito Santo e dos estados vizinhos, à medida que a lama da mineradora se espalha. “Os eventos, a rigor, não têm conexão à primeira vista”, disse Michel Mahiques, professor de oceanografia do IO-USP que coordenou os estudos em Santos. O vazamento da Samarco em Mariana foi um fenômeno agudo, com uma descarga intensa de resíduos, enquanto Santos e outros, como a baía da Guanabara, são casos crônicos, de décadas de liberação contínua de poluentes. “O fato comum”, ele diz, “é que existem porções do fundo marinho nas quais as condições ambientais permitem a deposição de materiais gerados pela atividade humana, ainda que a grandes distâncias”.

Em um estudo anterior no litoral de Santos, seu grupo identificou isótopos de césio 137 originários de explosões atômicas ou de usinas nucleares, nas quais esse tipo de material é gerado. “O césio foi transportado pela atmosfera e aderiu a partículas muito pequenas do fundo do mar”, conta. “Podemos chamar esses casos de teleconexões, em que um evento em um determinado ponto do planeta pode afetar regiões muito distantes.” Segundo ele, os casos clássicos são os acidentes das usinas nucleares de Chernobyl em 1986 e de Fukushima em 2011.

Vila de Mariana devastada pela lama da barragem de Fundão: efeito a mais de 800 km de distância na terra, no rio e no mar

“Precisamos lançar outro olhar para o potencial de acumulação de material no meio marinho”, comenta Mahiques. Seus estudos indicaram que os poluentes se acumulam principalmente nos cinturões de lama, faixas em geral com 3 a 4 km de largura e dezenas de quilômetros de extensão, na chamada plataforma continental, sobre estruturas antigas de relevo. “Há um efeito a distância. Os sedimentos permanecem em pontos bem distantes da origem. Duzentos quilômetros foi o limite a que chegamos, mas ainda não sabemos se poderiam ir mais longe.” Mahiques argumenta que dois conceitos básicos sobre o funcionamento da plataforma continental deveriam ser revistos. O primeiro é que a quantidade de materiais do continente que chega ao mar seria pequena. O segundo é que os ambientes costeiros retêm a sujeira. “A quantidade não é pequena, nem os estuários são um filtro perfeito dos resíduos gerados no continente.”

Os pesquisadores analisaram 21 amostras de sedimentos coletadas em 2005 e outras, mais recentes, reunidas por meio do navio oceanográfico Alpha Crucis. Os resultados indicaram que os níveis de chumbo, zinco e cobre a 100 metros de profundidade a mais de 100 km da costa eram próximos aos encontrados na baía de Santos, embora mais baixos que os limites mais altos do estuário santista, um ambiente próximo à terra que mistura água de rios e do mar. No estuário, a concentração de chumbo no sedimento marinho variava de 9 miligramas por quilograma (mg/kg) em áreas não contaminadas a 59 mg/kg em amostras do fundo do porto, indicando um aumento de cinco a 10 vezes em comparação com os valores anteriores ao processo de industrialização. Os autores desse trabalho afirmaram que os poluentes industriais misturados com a lama no fundo do mar poderiam facilmente voltar à circulação, como resultado de movimentos intensos da água ou de atividade humana como a dragagem para a ampliação de portos ou a pesca com redes pesadas que revolvem o fundo do mar.

Estudos anteriores de pesquisadores do IO-USP já haviam mostrado que a descarga contínua de esgotos domésticos e de poluentes industriais na baía de Santos era provavelmente uma das causas da reduzida diversidade de organismos marinhos na região, em comparação com áreas menos poluídas.

Em paralelo, uma equipe da Unesp em São Vicente encontrou níveis acima dos permitidos em lei de quatro metais pesados – cádmio, cobre, chumbo e mercúrio – em amostras de água, sedimento e em caranguejos-uçá dos manguezais dos municípios de Cubatão, Bertioga, Iguape, São Vicente e Cananeia. Nas regiões com maior concentração desses metais, os caranguejos apresentavam uma proporção maior de células com alterações genéticas associadas à ocorrência de malformações (verPesquisa FAPESP no 225). Estudo de uma equipe da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande publicado em novembro de 2015 associou a contaminação por metal como possível causa da fibropapilomatose, uma doença específica de tartarugas marinhas, caracterizada pela formação de tumores benignos sobre a pele, em tartarugas-verde (Chelonia mydas) de Ubatuba, SP, já que os animais examinados apresentavam um nível acima do normal de cobre, ferro e chumbo, em comparação com animais saudáveis.

“Quando pensarmos em legislação e políticas públicas, para fazer uma projeção do impacto de eventuais acidentes ambientais, temos de olhar mais longe e rever o conceito de área de influência, já que o efeito pode ser muito maior do que o imaginado”, disse Mahiques. Bastos, da Ufes, observou que os danos ambientais podem ser intensos em consequência de pequenas alterações na concentração de metais na água do mar, mesmo que os limites ainda estejam abaixo dos máximos estabelecidos pela legislação ambiental.

Artigos científicos
FIGUEIRA, R.C.L. et alDistribution of 137Cs, 238Pu and 239 + 240Pu in sediments of the southeastern Brazilian shelf – SW Atlantic marginScience of the Total Environment. v. 357, p. 146-59. 2006.
MAHIQUES, M.M. et alMud depocentres on the continental shelf: a neglected sink for anthropogenic contaminants from the coastal zone. EnvironmentalEarth Sciences. v. 75, n. 1, p. 44-55. 2016.
SILVA, C.C. da et alMetal contamination as a possible etiology of fibropapillomatosis in juvenile female green sea turtles Chelonia mydas from the southern Atlantic OceanAquatic Toxicology. v. 170, p. 42-51. 2016.

Words for snow revisited: Languages support efficient communication about the environment (Carnegie Mellon University)

13-APR-2016

CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY

 

The claim that Eskimo languages have many words for different types of snow is well known among the public, but it has been greatly exaggerated and is therefore often dismissed by scholars of language. However, a new study published in PLOS ONE supports the general idea behind the original claim.

The claim that Eskimo languages have many words for different types of snow is well known among the public, but it has been greatly exaggerated and is therefore often dismissed by scholars of language.

However, a new study published in PLOS ONE supports the general idea behind the original claim. Carnegie Mellon University and University of California, Berkeley researchers found that languages that use the same word for snow and ice tend to be spoken in warmer climates, reflecting lower communicative need to talk about snow and ice.

“We wanted to broaden the investigation past Eskimo languages and look at how different languages carve up the world into words and meanings,” said Charles Kemp, associate professor of psychology in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

For the study, Kemp, and UC Berkeley’s Terry Regier and Alexandra Carstensen analyzed the connection between local climates, patterns of language use and word(s) for snow and ice across nearly 300 languages. They drew on multiple sources of data including library reference works, Twitter and large digital collections of linguistic and meteorological data.

The results revealed a connection between temperature and snow and ice terminology, suggesting that local environmental needs leave an imprint on languages. For example, English originated in a relatively cool climate and has distinct words for snow and ice. In contrast, the Hawaiian language is spoken in a warmer climate and uses the same word for snow and for ice. These cases support the claim that languages are adapted to the local communicative needs of their speakers — the same idea that lies behind the overstated claim about Eskimo words for snow. The study finds support for this idea across language families and geographic areas.

“These findings don’t resolve the debate about Eskimo words for snow, but we think our question reflects the spirit of the initial snow claims — that languages reflect the needs of their speakers,” said Carstensen, a psychology graduate student at UC Berkeley.

The researchers suggest that in the past, excessive focus on the specific example of Eskimo words for snow may have obscured the more general principle behind it.

Carstensen added, “Here, we deliberately asked a somewhat different question about a broader set of languages.”

The study also connects with previous work that explores how the sounds and structures of language are shaped in part by a need for efficiency in communication.

“We think our study reveals the same basic principle at work, modulated by local communicative need,” said Regier, professor of linguistics and cognitive science at UC Berkeley.

###

Read the full study at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0151138.

 

As nuvens marcam as fronteiras dos ecossistemas (El País)

Padrões de nebulosidade desenham o mapa das paisagens bioclimáticas e a distribuição das espécies

MIGUEL ÁNGEL CRIADO

Clique na imagem para ver vídeo.

 

O geógrafo Adam Wilson e o ecologista Walter Jetz observaram as nuvens para saber a vida que existe sob elas. Os dois cientistas usaram imagens de satélites tiradas duas vezes ao dia durante os últimos 15 anos para criar um atlas das nuvens e relacionaram esse mapa com a biodiversidade do planeta, desenhando desde os limites dos grandes biomas (paisagens bioclimáticas) até a distribuição geográfica das diferentes espécies.

Suspensas lá em cima, as nuvens são um elemento fundamental da climatologia. Sua presença anuncia umidade, chuvas, água para as plantas, bosques e florestas, explosão de vida… Por outro lado, sua ausência caracteriza paisagens mais secas e desoladas, seja nos desertos ou no interior da Antártida. Foi essa conexão entre clima e biodiversidade que levou Wilson, professor da Universidade de Buffalo, e Jetz, pesquisador de Yale (ambas nos EUA), a buscar uma forma de detectar os padrões e dinâmica globais das nuvens mais eficiente do que os sistemas atuais.

Encontraram a solução nas fotografias da Terra tiradas há anos pela NASA. Concretamente, eles usaram os dados acumulados pela missão MODIS, siglas do espectroradiômetro de imagens de resolução média, um instrumento científico que vai a bordo de dois satélites chamados Terra e Aqua. O primeiro foi colocado em órbita em 1999, o segundo, quatro anos depois. Os dois circundam o planeta em uma órbita de polo a polo tirando fotografias sincronizadas para que Terra sobrevoe o equador de manhã e Aqua o faça pela tarde em sentido oposto. A cada dois dias fotografam todo o planeta em alta resolução.

As regiões equatoriais são as de maior concentração anual de nuvens e menor variação mensal

Com esse alcance global e uma resolução de até menos de um quilômetro, os dois pesquisadores criaram seu atlas das nuvens. Em sua versão online é possível observar a frequência anual de nebulosidade, entendida como a porcentagem de dias com mais nuvens do que claros, em cada latitude. Também se observa a variação mensal, por estação e anual.

Em um primeiro olhar (ver fotografia), é possível observar uma correlação entre a latitude e padrões de nebulosidade. Dessa forma, a América equatorial, a bacia do rio Congo na África e o sudeste da Ásia são as regiões com mais nuvens do planeta, até 80% dos dias são nublados. Mesmo que as espécies que habitam esses grandes biomas possam ser diferentes, são ecossistemas que possuem diversas características em comum.

O mapa permite observar também a variação inter-anual. Enquanto as selvas equatoriais apresentam poucas variações que nunca superam 5% de um mês ao outro, os biomas monçônicos da Índia e o sahel africano são os que sofrem maiores diferenças entre os meses nublados e os claros, o que corresponde à temporada de chuvas e a temporada seca.

“Quando visualizamos os dados, destacou-se a claridade com a qual pudemos ver os muitos e diferentes biomas da Terra tendo por base a frequência e o momento dos dias nublados dos últimos 15 anos”, diz Wilson. “Quando passamos de um ecossistema a outro, essas transições mostram-se muito claramente e o melhor é que esses dados permitem observar diretamente esses padrões com uma resolução de um quilômetro”, acrescenta.

O mapa mostra a distribuição das nuvens desde 1999. Em negro as áreas com maior nebulosidade anual. As diferentes cores e sua intensidade mostram as variações mensais.

O mapa mostra a distribuição das nuvens desde 1999. Em negro as áreas com maior nebulosidade anual. As diferentes cores e sua intensidade mostram as variações mensais. Adam Wilson

Essa resolução é uma das maiores contribuições da pesquisa. Pode ser óbvio que a bacia do Congo tenha muitos dias com nuvens, mas com as imagens de satélites é possível observar as diferenças locais, entre a margem norte e sul de um rio e as encostas leste e oeste de uma montanha, por exemplo. Era possível conseguir esse grau de detalhamento nas áreas mais desenvolvidas do planeta, mas não nas menos, que são exatamente as que possuem maior riqueza biológica.

Até agora, os estudos sobre biodiversidade eram baseados na observação direta dos pesquisadores (e, portanto, muito parcial) e as extrapolações de outros sistemas de coleta de dados. Um dos maiores são as estações meteorológicas que, com seus dados de umidade, vento, precipitações, desenham a paisagem climática nas quais vivem as diferentes espécies. Mas a rede de estações também não é suficientemente compacta, de modo que os cientistas precisam interpolar a partir de dados às vezes muito locais e dispersos.

O atlas das nuvens indicou a distribuição geográfica da protea real (sua flor na imagem), um arbusto da faixa de clima mediterrâneo da África do Sul.

O atlas das nuvens indicou a distribuição geográfica da protea real (sua flor na imagem), um arbusto da faixa de clima mediterrâneo da África do Sul. Adam Wilson

“Compreender os padrões espaciais da biodiversidade é fundamental se queremos tomar decisões balizadas sobre como proteger as espécies e gerir a biodiversidade e seus muitos serviços para o futuro”, diz Jetz. Mas acrescenta: “para as regiões que possuem mais diversidade biológica, existe uma escassez real de dados dos locais”.

Esse estudo original, publicado na PLoS Biology, mostra também a íntima e frágil relação entre as nuvens e os chamados bosques nublados. É que essas selvas com a presença constante ou pelo menos regular de nuvens baixas como nevoeiro também não escapam à detecção dos satélites. Essas regiões são ricas em endemismos, de modo que a alteração dos padrões de nebulosidade pela ação humana e a mudança climática pode ter consequências catastróficas.

Os pesquisadores, que não pretendem substituir os modelos existentes, mas acrescentar mais uma camada de conhecimento, quiseram comprovar a validade de seu atlas das nuvens para indicar não só os limites de um determinado ecossistema, mas a distribuição geográfica de duas espécies. Uma é o pequeno trepatroncos montano, um pássaro das selvas montanhosas do norte da América do Sul. A outra é a protea real, um arbusto da região de clima mediterrâneo da África do Sul. Nos dois casos, o que viram nas nuvens foi mais preciso do que os dados oferecidos pelos modelos baseados em registros de precipitações e temperatura.

A guerra científica contra os gatos (El País)

Como a eliminação dos felinos em 83 ilhas do mundo todo beneficiou centenas de espécies

MANUEL ANSEDE

28 MAR 2016 – 17:06 CEST

Gato selvagem ataca uma ave na Austrália.

Gato selvagem ataca uma ave na Austrália. Brisbane City Council

Em 25 de abril de 2006, há quase dez anos, um gato de rua apareceu na praia do Inglês, nas Ilhas Canárias (Espanha), carregando na boca o cadáver de um lagarto gigante de La Gomera. Havia apenas 50 animais em liberdade dessa espécie, que sofre uma grave ameaça de extinção. E não se tratava de uma exceção. Os gatos que invadem as matas e vagueiam pelas ilhas no mundo todo têm levado ao desaparecimento de pelo menos 22 espécies de aves, nove de mamíferos e duas de répteis, representando 14% do total de extinções de animais vertebrados registradas pela União Internacional de Preservação da Natureza.

Autoridades de todo o planeta iniciaram uma guerra secreta aos gatos das ilhas. Eles são capturados com armadilhas, envenenados com ceva de peixe, caçados com cães adestrados ou até mesmos mortos com tiros de espingarda, como já ocorreu em algumas ilhas do arquipélago equatoriano dos Galápagos. Os gatos selvagens já foram extintos em pelo menos 83 ilhas, como Santa Catalina (México), Baltra (Equador), Trindade (Brasil), além das ilhotas espanholas de Lobos e Alegranza, segundo o relatório mais recente, produzido há cinco anos.

Agora, um novo estudo atesta a eficácia dessa estratégia, que não deixa de ser polêmica de certa forma. O trabalho, encabeçado pela bióloga norte-americana Holly Jones, mostra que a extinção de mamíferos invasores (principalmente ratos, cabras e gatos) beneficiou 236 espécies animais nativas de 181 ilhas em todo o mundo. Quatro delas tiveram o seu nível de risco de extinção diminuído na Lista Vermelha de espécies ameaçadas da IUCN (sigla em inglês para União Internacional para a Conservação da Natureza e dos Recursos Naturais), segundo o detalhado estudo publicado na revista científica PNAS.

Na ilha Natividad, no México, a eliminação dos gatos selvagens foi crucial para a recuperação da pardela-culinegra, uma ave de 80 centímetros existente em algumas poucas ilhas do Oceano Pacífico. “Essa intervenção foi importante para que a espécie passasse da classificação de vulnerável para quase ameaçada” na Lista Vermelha, como destaca Heath Packard, porta-voz da ONG norte-americana Island Conservation, que participa do estudo. O mesmo aconteceu na ilha britânica de Asunción, no Atlântico, onde a eliminação dos gatos permitiu que o rabiforcado-de-Ascensão, uma ave em ameaça crítica de extinção, reocupasse o seu território.

“Nós, biólogos da preservação, também amamos os animais. A maior parte de nós tem dedicado suas carreiras a proteger a biodiversidade, mas também avaliamos que aceitar a persistência de mamíferos invasores nas ilhas é uma decisão que permite que as espécies nativas sejam atacadas e, em alguns casos, levadas à extinção”, explica Jones, da Universidade do Norte de Illinois.

O comum é fazer a eutanásia dos gatos retirados das ilhas, mas no Japão os gatos capturados foram esterilizados e colocados para doação

A bióloga lembra o caso de uma gata de um homem que chegou em 1894 à ilha de Stephens, na Nova Zelândia, para cuidar de seu farol. A gata, prenhe, fugiu e a sua prole acabou em poucos meses com todos os exemplares de garrinchas de Stephens, uma ave arredondada e incapaz de voar, que era própria daquela ilha. Hoje em dia restam apenas exemplares empalhados dessa espécie extinta.

As ilhas são paraísos da biodiversidade. São a casa de 15% das espécies terrestres do planeta, e nelas sobrevivem 37% das espécies sob ameaça crítica de extinção, segundo destaca a equipe de Jones.

Uma garrincha de Stephens empalhado.

Uma garrincha de Stephens empalhado. Te Papa

 O biólogo espanhol Manuel Nogales, do Grupo de Ecologia e Evolução em Ilhas do Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, vem propondo há anos a erradicação total de gatos selvagens nas ilhas com menos de 200 quilômetros quadrados. Sua equipe, quando trabalhava na Universidade de la Laguna, na Espanha, capturou com ceva de sardinhas, há mais de dez anos, os dez gatos que tinham invadido a ilhota de Alegranza, um refúgio para aves marinhas como a águia pescadora e a pardela-de-bico-amarelo. Em Lobos, também na Espanha, o único gato do local foi retirado.

Os gatos têm levado ao desaparecimento de pelo menos 22 espécies de aves, nove de mamíferos e duas de répteis

“Na Espanha e na Europa de um modo geral, as autoridades resistem em organizar campanhas pela erradicação dos gatos. Em outros países, a conscientização está mais avançada”, lamenta. Nogales, que não participou do novo estudo, faz um chamamento à ação: “Não podemos ficar de braços cruzados”. Ele e seu colega Félix Medina estão envolvidos em um estudo inicial para avaliar a possível eliminação dos gatos de La Graciosa, uma ilha canária, onde se realizaria a maior eliminação de felinos na Espanha. La Graciosa tem uma área de 30 quilômetros quadrados, o triplo de Alegranza e seis vezes mais do que a superfície da ilhota de Lobos.

Nogales admite que o comum é fazer a eutanásia dos gatos retirados das ilhas, mas aponta outras possíveis alternativas. “No Japão, os gatos capturados na ilha de Okinawa foram levados a Tóquio, esterilizados e colocados para doação”, relata.

“Em muitas ilhas do mundo onde há esses gatos invasores é imprescindível eliminá-los, para que acabar com a pressão que eles fazem sobre muitas espécies nativas ameaçadas por esse predador. Em outras ilhas, seria praticamente impossível, mas é possível adotar outras medidas, como a esterilização, a marcação ou mesmo a reclusão em casa, o que é quase impossível”, acrescenta Medina.

Profetas das chuvas e a ecologia (Diário do Nordeste)

00:00 · 17.01.2016

Participar do XX Encontro dos Profetas da Chuva foi uma experiência única. Foi uma manhã de grande aprendizado em Quixadá, pois tive uma verdadeira “aula magna” sobre a sabedoria popular camponesa e a cultura sertaneja. Grandes intelectuais da atualidade, como Edgard Morin (Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique de Paris), da corrente do pensamento complexo, ou Boaventura Santos (Universidade de Coimbra), defensor da ecologia dos saberes, apreciariam muito a experiência. Os relatos das previsões guardam uma riqueza e diversidade nos seus métodos.

A maioria dos profetas é idosa e, portanto, afirma que suas experiências têm, no mínimo, 40 anos de aplicação. Seus parâmetros de análise se baseiam nos astros, nas nuvens, na observação da fauna e da flora, com testes da pedra de sal em datas específicas e nos seus próprios sentidos. Alguns se autodenominam cientistas populares ou da natureza, pois suas previsões partem de uma rigorosa observação cotidiana da mesma. É importante destacar que a maioria, além do vínculo com a terra, é também poeta e há até alguns escritores.

Que lições os profetas da chuva podem dar aos cientistas?

Fazendo o diálogo com Morin, podemos adiantar que eles nos ajudam a pensar de forma complexa. A ciência moderna, a título de simplificar para captar o real, muitas vezes adota práticas de recortar tanto seu objeto de análise que acaba ficando com sua análise limitada.

Não é fácil controlar tantas variáveis como as envolvidas no clima, mas vejam como os profetas lidam com vários indicadores. É evidente que existem limitações em todas as abordagens, tanto a científica quanto a popular. Nesse momento é oportuna a prática da ecologia dos saberes. Ela não nega os avanços da ciência moderna, mas não trata o conhecimento popular como algo inferior ou folclórico.

Ambos cumprem papéis muito importantes na nossa sociedade e o desafio é fazer esses conhecimentos dialogarem em prol de um mundo melhor. Será que existe possibilidade de complementaridade nos prognósticos meteorológicos científicos com os dos Profetas da Chuva? Em vez de competição haverá espaço para um diálogo de saberes onde existe um respeito e uma relação horizontal, cujo objetivo maior é orientar os agricultores a encontrar o momento certo para plantar?

A Fiocruz decidiu priorizar, em seu âmbito nacional, o tema da relação água e saúde para ações de pesquisa, formação e cooperação. No Ceará, um de seus focos também será o de fomentar o desenvolvimento de tecnologias socioambientais de cuidados com a água voltado para o convívio com a seca. Está sendo elaborada uma proposta de mestrado profissional sobre saúde, saneamento e direitos humanos em rede com as universidades públicas do Nordeste e o desenvolvimento de linhas de pesquisa para a produção de conhecimento que promovam esse diálogo de saberes. Recebemos uma homenagem no encontro e assumimos a honraria como um símbolo de nosso compromisso com essa causa tão importante para o povo do sertão. Finalmente, tivemos uma manhã animada, regada de alegria e esperança de que este ano vai ser possível plantar e colher no sertão do Ceará. Para alguns até com fartura, pois estamos vivendo a pior seca dos timos 50 anos no Nordeste. A última profecia terminou com um canto de um profeta: e naquele momento, literalmente, começou a chover.

FERNANDO FERREIRA CARNEIRO

Biólogo e pós-doutor em sociologia

Scientists call for national effort to understand and harness Earth’s microbes (Science Daily)

Berkeley Lab researchers co-author Science article proposing Unified Microbiome Initiative

Date:
October 29, 2015
Source:
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Summary:
To understand and harness the capabilities of Earth’s microbial ecosystems, nearly fifty scientists propose a national effort in the US called the Unified Microbiome Initiative.

This colorized microscopy image hints at the complexity of microbial life. It shows two bacterial cells in soil. The bacteria glue clay particles together and protect themselves from predators. This also stabilizes soil and stores carbon that could otherwise enter the atmosphere. Credit: Manfred Auer, Berkeley Lab

Microbes are essential to life on Earth. They’re found in soil and water and inside the human gut. In fact, nearly every habitat and organism hosts a community of microbes, called a microbiome. What’s more, microbes hold tremendous promise for innovations in medicine, energy, agriculture, and understanding climate change.

Scientists have made great strides learning the functions of many microbes and microbiomes, but this research also highlights how much more there is to know about the connections between Earth’s microorganisms and a vast number of processes. Deciphering how microbes interact with each other, their hosts, and their environment could transform our understanding of the planet. It could also lead to new antibiotics, ways to fight obesity, drought-resistant crops, or next-gen biofuels, to name a few possibilities.

To understand and harness the capabilities of Earth’s microbial ecosystems, nearly fifty scientists from Department of Energy national laboratories, universities, and research institutions have proposed a national effort called the Unified Microbiome Initiative. The scientists call for the initiative in a policy forum entitled “A unified initiative to harness Earth’s microbiomes” published Oct. 30, 2015, in the journal Science.

The Unified Microbiome Initiative would involve many disciplines, including engineering, physical, life, and biomedical sciences; and collaborations between government institutions, private foundations, and industry. It would also entail the development of new tools that enable a mechanistic and predictive understanding of Earth’s microbial processes.

Among the authors of the Science article are several scientists from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). These are Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos; Eoin Brodie, Deputy Director of the Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division; Mary Maxon, the Biosciences Area Principal Deputy; Eddy Rubin, Director of the Joint Genome Institute; and Peidong Yang, a Faculty Scientist in the Materials Sciences Division. Alivisatos is also the Director of the Kavli Energy Nanoscience Institute, and Yang is the Co-Director.

Berkeley Lab has a long history of microbial research, from its pioneering work in metagenomics at the Joint Genome Institute, to the more recent Microbes to Biomes initiative, which is designed to harness microbes in ways that protect fuel and food supplies, environmental security, and health.

The call for the Unified Microbiome Initiative comes at a critical time in microbial research. DNA sequencing has enabled scientists to detect microbes in every biological system, thriving deep underground and inside insects for example, and in mind-boggling numbers: Earth’s microbes outnumber the stars in the universe. But to benefit from this knowledge, this descriptive phase must transition to a new phase that explores how microbial communities function, how to predict their actions, and how to make use of them.

“Technology has gotten us to the point where we realize that microbes are like dark matter in the universe. We know microbes are everywhere, and are far more complex than we previously thought, but we really need to understand how they communicate and relate to the environment,” says Brodie.

“And just like physicists are trying to understand dark matter, we need to understand the functions of microbes and their genes. We need to study what life is like at the scale of microbes, and how they relate to the planet,” Brodie adds.

This next phase of microbiome research will require strong ties between disciplines and institutions, and new technologies that accelerate discovery. The scientists map out several opportunities in the Science article. These include:

  • Tools to understand the biochemical functions of gene products, a large portion of which are unknown.
  • Technologies that quickly generate complete genomes from individual cells found in complex microbiomes.
  • Imaging capabilities that visualize individual microbes, along with their interactions and chemical products, in complex microbial networks.
  • Adaptive models that capture the complexity of interactions from molecules to microbes, and from microbial communities to ecosystems.

Many of these new technologies would be flexible platforms, designed initially for microbial research, but likely to find uses in other fields.

Ten years after the launch of the Unified Microbiome Initiative, the authors of the Science article envision an era in which a predictive understanding of microbial processes enables scientists to manage and design microbiomes in a responsible way–a key step toward harnessing their capabilities for beneficial applications.

“This is an incredibly exciting time to be involved in microbial research,” says Brodie. “It has the potential to contribute to so many advances, such as in medicine, energy, agriculture, biomanufacturing, and the environment.”


Journal Reference:

  1. A. P. Alivisatos, M. J. Blaser, E. L. Brodie, M. Chun, J. L. Dangl, T. J. Donohue, P. C. Dorrestein, J. A. Gilbert, J. L. Green, J. K. Jansson, R. Knight, M. E. Maxon, M. J. McFall-Ngai, J. F. Miller, K. S. Pollard, E. G. Ruby, S. A. Taha. A unified initiative to harness Earth’s microbiomesScience, 2015; 350 (6260): 507 DOI: 10.1126/science.aac8480

Animal spirits (The Economist)

Releasing animals into the wild is in vogue—with unwelcome consequences

Sep 12th 2015  | SHANGHAI

The Huangpu: hardly loach heaven

EVERY Saturday morning hundreds of devotees gather by Shanghai’s Huangpu river to liberate fish. Over three hours some 2,000 loach are tipped into the murky waters to the sound of chants.

This is fang sheng, or “animal release”, an East Asian Buddhist ritual in which captive creatures are freed. The point is to demonstrate compassion and earn merit. The practice is ancient, though along with everything else, it was condemned as so much superstition under Mao Zedong. Today fang sheng is making a comeback, especially among the young and well-off. Officials estimate around 200m fish, snakes, turtles, birds and even ants are released each year—though no one really has a clue.

Fang sheng associations can rake in around 1m yuan ($157,000) in annual donations. For some monks it has become a racket. The greatest price, however, is paid by the animals themselves and the ecosystems from which they come and into which they go.

A vast and mainly illegal wildlife trade caters to the demand for animals. Figures are hard to come by, but one paper estimated that in Hong Kong two markets sold over 630,000 birds a year, most destined for fang sheng. Many animals—perhaps half of all the birds—die during capture or transit from stress, disease or mishandling.

Nor does using reared or exotic species help. They create havoc in local ecosystems. Zhou Zhuocheng, chairman of China’s main body on aquatic ecology, cites the case of the mosquito fish from North America, a popular fish for fang sheng. It feeds on the eggs of the native Japanese rice fish, causing the latter to disappear completely in some areas. To add to the grimness, many animals, once released, are hoovered up and sold again to fresh devotees. Animals that do not survive the trauma are often sold as food.

Wang Tianbao, a 26-year-old programmer and evangelical Buddhist, admits that paying for animals that have only recently been released is “a waste of money”. Yet still he is prepared to spend oodles on fang sheng, through whose associations he can disseminate Buddhist information and reach new followers. He says he first practised fang sheng as a student, releasing two turtles that cost him 98 yuan, his food budget for three weeks. Today he spends 5,000-7,000 yuan, or about 5% of his annual salary. There may just be better ways to earn merit.

Fungi: Key to tree survival in warming forest (Science Daily)

Date:
July 22, 2015
Source:
Northern Arizona University
Summary:
Much like healthy bacteria in one’s gut supports health of the human body, fungus in soil can be integral to survival of trees, according to a new study.

Pinyon pine test plot east of Flagstaff, Ariz. Credit: Photo by Thomas Whitham

Much like healthy bacteria in one’s gut supports health of the human body, fungus in soil can be integral to survival of trees. Northern Arizona University researcher Catherine Gehring reached this conclusion while studying pinyon-juniper woodlands in northern Arizona, which support nearly 1,000 unique species.

“Just like the human microbiome, plants have a micro biome. It just tends to be fungi instead of bacteria,” Gehring said. “Every tissue of a plant that you look at has fungi inside of it and we are trying to figure out what they do and if they are going to be important for allowing plants to survive climate change.”

Along with a team of researchers, Gehring is studying pinyon pine trees and their susceptibility to severe drought conditions. While many tree species become vulnerable to insects during drought conditions, Gehring’s team discovered a twist: the pinyons that were insect-resistant were not surviving the drought.

“That group of trees had 60 percent mortality and the group susceptible to insects had only 20 percent mortality,” Gehring said.

The answers to this mystery were underground. The group of drought-tolerant trees a different community of beneficial fungi than the trees that died during drought.

Offspring from the two groups, when planted in a greenhouse without fungi, grow to the same size. When the beneficial fungus is included in the soil, the community of fungi associated with drought tolerant trees allowed their seedlings to grow much larger in drought conditions.

Fungi often manifest above ground as mushrooms, but in northern Arizona’s pinyon habitat, the microorganisms are primarily below ground. The species of fungi that are so important during drought are new to science, Gehring said.

There is an interchange after fungi set up residence among roots: fungus gives the tree nutrients and water from the soil and the tree takes sugar from photosynthesis and shares it with the fungi.

Gehring believes understanding the processes and contributions of fungi could have consequences for many species. As warming conditions kill off families of trees, restoration best practices could include replanting and supplementing with fungi-rich soil.

Experiments are conducted in a greenhouse, at field sites and a research garden northwest of Flagstaff.

Da crise emergirá o pós-capitalismo? (Outras Palavras)

150728-Banksy2

Jornalista britânico que cobriu levantes pós-2011 em todo o mundo aposta: sistema não suportará sociedade conectada em rede que ajudou a criar

28/07/2015

Entrevista a Jonathan Derbyshire, em Prospect | Tradução: Gabriela Leite Inês Castilho | Imagem: Banksy

Ao cobrir, para a TV britânica, a fase mais recente da crise na Grécia, o jornalista Paul Mason alcançou quase-onipresença em seu país: Mason falando com Alexis Tsipras e outros membros do Syriza; Mason em mangas de camisa diante da câmera, diante do banco central da Grécia; Mason desviando de bombas em outro confronto entre anarquistas e a polícia — isso forma parte da iconografia da crise grega para muitos britânicos.

Agora, enquanto a Grécia e o resto da Europa recuperam seu fôlego, Mason retornou para a Inglaterra para lançar seu novo livro: “Post-Capitalism: a guide to our future” [“Pós-capitalismo: um guia para nosso futuro”]. Não é um trabalho de reportagem, mas uma ampla análise histórica e econômica. Inspirada pela análise de Marx sore relações sociais capitalistas, ela vai, no entanto, além disso — de uma maneira que, reconhece o autor, talvez não agrade alguns de seus amigos na extrema esquerda. O livro é uma análise do “neoliberalismo” — o capitalismo altamente financeirizado que dominou a maior parte do mundo desenvolvido nos últimos 30 anos — e, ao mesmo tempo, uma tentativa de imaginar o que poderia substituí-lo.

“Pós-Capitalismo: Um Guia para Nosso Futuro”, de Paul Mason, foi publicado por Allen Lane.

O capitalismo, escreve Mason, é um sistema altamente adaptativo: “Nos grandes momentos de encruzilhada, ele se transforma e muda, em resposta ao perigo”. Seu instinto mais básico de sobrevivência, ele argumenta, “é impulsionar mudanças tecnológicas”. Mas o autor acredita que as tecnologias de informação que o capitalismo desenvolveu nos últimos vinte anos ou mais não são, apesar das aparências, compatíveis com o capitalismo — não em sua forma presente, e talvez nem em qualquer outra forma. “Quando o capitalismo não puder mais se adaptar à mudança tecnológica, o pós-capitalismo irá se tornar necessário”.

Mason não está sozinho ao acreditar que a humanidade está à beira de uma profunda revolução tecnológica, é claro. Ouve-se isso de outras vozes: que falam, por exemplo, sobre a “Segunda Era da Máquina” e a promessa (assim como a ameaça) de máquinas inteligentes e da “internet das coisas”. O que torna singular a análise de Mason é, no entanto, a maneira pela qual ele funde um balanço das mutações tecnológicas do que costumava ser chamado de “capitalismo tardio” com uma tentativa de identificar o que Engels chamou, no final do século XIX, de a “parteira da sociedade”, a classe capaz de liderar a transformação social. Segundo o livro, não será a velha classe trabalhadora, como Marx e Engels pensaram, mas o que Mason chama de “rede”. Ao colocar em contato permanente milhões de pessoas, Mason escreve, “o capitalismo da informação criou um novo agente de mudança na história: o ser humano bem formado e conectado”.

Encontrei-me com Mason em Londres e comecei a entrevista pedindo a ele:

Paul Mason: para ele, "indivíduos em rede"  são um novo sujeito histórico, que substituíram a velha classe trabalhadora do marxismo, e se converteram no que Engels chamava de "parteiros da história"

Descreva, por favor, o modelo “neoliberal”, que segundo você chegou a um ponto de ruptura

O neoliberalismo é tanto uma ideologia quanto um modelo econômico. O capitalismo precisa ser compreendido em seu conjunto em cada fase de sua existência. Vivemos o que podemos chamar de capitalismo neoliberal. Este sistema que funciona com um núcleo que opera de acordo com valores neoliberais e uma periferia que não opera. Argumento que o neoliberalismo, como sistema funcional, está em crise porque sua mola central — o amplo consumo financeirizado, combinado com baixo crescimento dos salários — é uma máquina para produzir bolhas e seu estouro. No livro, sustento que uma eventual saída para o sistema (rumar para um info-capitalismo bem sucedido) pode ser viável em certas circunstâncias, mas esta transição é improvável.

Lado a lado com o que você identifica como as características negativas do neoliberalismo (financeirização excessiva e desestabilizadora), também há a revolução tecnológica.

O neoliberalismo foi a forma econômica na qual ocorreram os avanços mais dramáticos da técnica humana sobre a natureza. Em segundo lugar, foi o período no qual países como China e Índia desenvolveram-se de modo surpreendente, um fenômeno que ainda precisa ser compreendido em sua totalidade. Argumento, porém, que esta forma econômica não é mais capaz de conter os níveis do dinamismo tecnológico que conseguiu liberar. Não acredito que o próprio neoliberalismo, eu seus próprios valores neoliberais, seja o condutor da mudança tecnológica. A economista Mariana Mazzicato prova esse ponto: não são apenas o Vale do Silício, o empreendedorismo e o dinheiro dos fundos de hedge que produzem o iPhone — é a Nasa, são as grandes universidades como Stamford.

O que estamos vendo hoje é que a rapidez da inovação não está sendo combinada com implementação de políticas ou evolução de modelos de negócios. Isso impõe uma questão: até que ponto o poder de transformação destas novas tecnologias resultará numa terceira revolução industrial? Eu não vejo isso acontecer sob paradigma neoliberal.

Mas, como você mesmo aponta, a nova tecnologia também foi possibilitadora do neoliberalismo, por ter aprimorado a capacidade de explorar o que é chamado algumas vezes de “capital humano”.

A era Keynesiana produziu a última geração de indivíduos hierarquizados, coletivizados. Eu fui produzido por ela e sei que este mundo acabou. Uma das virtudes de se ter 55 anos é ter visto o novo mundo nascer. Hoje, como Foucault afirma, somos empreendedores do self. A internet permitiu que as massas fossem parte do laboratório social do self. Ela nos permite fazê-lo de uma maneira que nem começamos a entender. Ela criou um novo sujeito humano.

A divergência entre eu e os apoiadores do neoliberalismo é em torno de uma questão: o sujeito humano vai transcender o sistema atual, romper com ele e reformar a sociedade humana? Todas as visões de transformação social têm, a partir de agora, de enxergar o que eu chamo de “indivíduo em rede”. Acredito que as revoltas que narrei em meu livro anterior, Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere (“Por que está começando em todo lugar”, em tradução livre), são revoltas destas pessoas. Se elas são um novo sujeito histórico, que substitui a velha classe trabalhadora do marxismo, essa é uma grande coisa. É uma grande novidade que devemos buscar compreender.

Você lamenta o mundo que perdemos? O mundo keynesiano de coletividades e solidariedades? Poucas partes de seu livro têm tom de elegia. A nota dominante é mais de excitação com as possibilidades econômicas e políticas que as novas tecnologias e novos modos de subjetividade humana oferecem.

Eu lamento, sim. Escrevi em meu primeiro livro, Live Working or Die Fighting (Viva trabalhando ou morra lutando”, em tradução livre), que o que estamos lamentando, e o que ficou para trás, foi uma anomalia na história do movimento dos trabalhadores. Foi um movimento de trabalhadores socialmente estável, que construiu um caminho de coexistência pacífica com o capital. O que fiz foi cavar na história e descobrir que a indisciplinada história do trabalho foi a de pessoas que foram, elas mesmas e de sua própria maneira, empreendedoras de si mesmas. E tiveram um nível de quase total oposição ao mundo que viveram, coisa que a geração do meu pai, a da era keynesiana, não teve.

De que tradições você está falando, especificamente?

Anarquismo na comuna de Paris. Anarco-sindicalismo nos EUA — os Wobblies. O que o comunismo acrescentou a essas histórias foi a coletividade. Mas se você esquecer as histórias oficiais marxistas sobre a Comuna ou os Wobblies, descobrirá que é uma história de indivíduos rebeldes. Quando comecei a mergulhar nessa história, percebi que a era Keynesiana, apesar do nosso luto, foi uma anomalia.

Também foi uma anomalia na história do capitalismo, não? Não é essa uma das mensagens do livro de Thomas Pikkety, O Capital no Século XXI?

É uma anomalia na história do capitalismo. Também é uma anomalia da história da classe trabalhadora.

Vamos nos voltar ao aspecto econômico de sua argumentação no livro. Sua afirmação é que o capitalismo não consegue “capturar o ‘valor’ gerado pela nova tecnologia.” Você pode desenvolver isso um pouco?

Assim que soubemos que estávamos em uma economia da informação, ficou óbvio que a categoria das coisas chamadas pelos economistas de “externalidades” seriam importantes. O teorista do capital cognitivo, Yann Moulier-Boutang, coloca desta maneira (e eu concordo): toda a questão do capitalismo do século XXI é saber quem captura as externalidades. Devem ser as empresas, que vão ter posse delas e utilizá-las, como faz o Google? A externalidade positiva para o Google é que ele pode ver o que estamos buscando, mas nós não conseguimos ver o que nós mesmo estamos. Então ele pode, agora, construir um modelo de negócio monopolizado, com base nos segredos revelados por sua mineração de dados.

Você quer dizer que, sob os atuais arranjos, o capitalismo só pode capturar o valor gerado pelas novas tecnologias por meio do monopólio? Google, Apple e outros estão ganhando muito dinheiro com isso.

Eles estão ganhando dinheiro. Criaram um monopólio da informação. E, especialmente no que diz respeito aos bens de informação, têm conseguido suprimir o mecanismo de formação de preços. Ele iria, em condições naturais, reduzir o preço da informação que estão vendendo a zero. Eu digo no livro que a declaração da missão da Apple deveria ser, na verdade: “Existimos para prevenir a abundância de música!” Ou, do Google: “Existimos para prevenir a abundância do autoconhecimento das pessoas sobre o que elas fazem na internet”.

Existem dois problemas com isso. Primeiro, é lógico sugerir que nenhum desse monopólios pode sobreviver. Certamente, seu valor de mercado não reflete sua capacidade para continuar monopolizando o que fazem. Segundo: portanto, você não pode ter a completa utilização da informação. A próxima questão é: Existe um meio termo? Haverá algum espaço, que possamos explorar, entre o monopólio e a liberdade? Acredito realmente que sim. Não estou dizendo que tudo deve ser de graça. Estou dizendo que deve haver múltiplos modelos de negócio entre o monopólio e a liberdade.

Você não está dizendo, então, que os mercados vão desaparecer em um futuro pós-capitalista? Afinal, mercados e capitalismo não são a mesma coisa. Mercados são apenas mecanismos para alocar recursos.

É natural — e está acontecendo — que a natureza social da informação leve a formas de atividade de não-mercado. A Wikipédia é uma forma de atividade não mercantil — é um buraco de 3 milhões de dólares no mundo da propaganda.

Você escreve, em certo ponto, que os membros “mais perspicazes” da elite global já são lúcidos a ponto de abordar algumas das questões com as quais você lida no livro — por exemplo, a desigualdade, seu impacto sobre o crescimento, a “estagnação secular” e o papel da negociação coletiva na garantia de salários maiores. O antigo secretário do Tesouro dos EUA, Larry Summers, escreveu vastamente sobre todos estes três problemas, oferecendo diagnósticos não tão diferentes dos seus.

Há pessoas na elite global que se permitiram entender o que estamos passando. Uma das coisas que compreendem é que a desigualdade vai ser desfuncional. Não apenas não querem ser linchados em suas camas, mas também entendem que o dinamismo das economias capitalistas só será retomado se houver um aumento dos salários. Também compreenderam a chamada questão do limite de juro zero — a ideia de que, em uma economia onde as taxas de juros reais estão constantemente zeradas, será constantemente necessário adotar políticas monetárias não-ortodoxas. Políticas monetária não-ortodoxas são arenosas. Qualquer um que entendeu a crítica de Keynes nos anos 1920 e começo dos 1930 vai entender o problema da “viscosidade”. Nos anos trinta, os salários eram pegajosos — eles não iriam cair o suficiente. Agora, é a política monetária que é pegajosa. O problema é: de onde o novo dinamismo da economia virá? Larry Summers entende isso. E pessoas nos mercados de títulos também.

O passo final é que eles olham aos choques exógenos e isso os aterroriza. Isso me aterroriza também. As pessoas no poder, nos ministérios da Fazenda, não vão se autorizar a quantificar a gravidade dos choques que estão a caminho. Se 60% dos títulos emitidos pelos Tesouros nacionais tornarem-se insolventes devido aos custos relacionados com o envelhecimento das populações, algo que as agências de risco consideram provável; se a imigração acontecer na escala que se espera; se tivermos nove bilhões de pessoas clamando para entrar no mundo desenvolvido…

Se o neoliberalismo fosse um sistema funcional, como era nos idos de 2001, e não tivesse deixado esta condição, você provavelmente poderia dizer: “Droga, as coisas vão ficar realmente difíceis, mas provavelmente será possível resolver.” Mas esse capitalismo eclerosado, estagnado e fibrilado sob o qual vivemos desde 2008, não tem chance alguma de sobreviver às tormentas. E mesmo que eu esteja errado sobre a transição que vejo e desejo, seus defensores teriam de aparecer e dizer o que um info-capitalismo dinâmico, o que uma terceira revolução industrial poderia ser.

Mas me parece que Summers ou alguém como o economista Robert Gordon teriam que aceitar a parte de diagnóstico de sua análise…

Certo. Mas a razão pela qual não atravessei o caminho até o território do Robert Gordon é que lá está a produtividade potencial. Sua visão da produtividade potencial inerente à tecnologia da informação transbordando para o mundo real … Acho que é maior do que ele aceita ser.

Por que você pensa que ele subestima isso?

É porque pessoas como Gordon não estão preparadas para entrar nesse mundo inferior, entre valor de uso e valor de troca, que as externalidades representam. Não acho que lendo meu livro a maioria das pessoas aceitarão que a transição, potencialmente, se dá em direção ao  mundo não-mercantil, centralizado na informação, de baixa intensidade de trabalho, pós-capitalista. Mas se pensam que estamos indo em direção a uma forma de info-capitalismo com uma terceira revolução industrial, eles precisam contar para nós qual é a síntese de alto-valor. Que cara terá essa era eduardiana da terceira revolução industrial?

Haverá sinais desse futuro na chamada economia do compartilhamento? Em empreendimentos como Airbnb e Uber?

Meu palpite é que eles são o AltaVista da economia de partilha. O teórico social francês André Gorz explorou isso. Disse que é perfeitamente possível imaginar o capitalismo colonizando as relações interpessoais. O Uber é isso – a questão não são os motoristas de taxi, mas as pessoas darem carona umas às outras. Gorz prevê que nos tornaríamos provedores mútuos de microsserviços. Mas disse: “Essa não pode ser uma economia de alto-valor”. Esse é o problema. Você não pode construir um negócio garimpando a reserva da capacidade automobilística de todos, sua capacidade para fazer massagem Reiki, a meia hora sobressalente de cada eletricista. Você pode fazê-lo, e a economia da partilha é a maneira perfeita para fazê-lo, mas isso simplesmente não resulta na era eduardiana, na Belle Epoque. A Belle Epoque será o sequenciamento de genes e a possibilidade de gastar metade do dia jogando squash.

A maioria dos marxistas detestará esta hipótese. Significa dizer, contra Marx, que a humanidade se liberta por si própria, que as pessoas podem descobrir, dentro do capitalismo, recursos mentais para imaginar um novo futuro e ir direto a ele de um modo que, de 1844 em diante, Marx pensou ser impossível.

Você toma emprestada a ideia de “ciclo longo” do economista soviético Nikolai Kondratieff. Ele argumentava que a história do capitalismo pode ser entendida como uma sucessão de ciclos, cada um deles com uma ascensão turbinada por inovação tecnológica com duração de aproximadamente 25 anos, seguida de uma queda com aproximadamente a mesma duração e que geralmente acaba numa depressão. Esses longos ciclos são muito mais longos que os ciclos de negócio identificados com a economia convencional. Por que você considera proveitosa a abordagem de Kondratieff?

Penso que necessitamos de teorias maiores que os ciclos de negócio e menores que a destruição completa do sistema. Quando você aplica a teoria de Kondratieff ao período pós 1945, percebe o sistema funcionando perfeitamente até 1973. E então ele desmorona. O neoliberalismo vem junto e resolve o problema destruindo o poder de barganha do trabalho. Olhar para as coisas através das lentes de Kondratieff força você a colocar a questão: será o neoliberalismo a forma bem sucedida do novo capitalismo ou o fim da linha que prolongou o ciclo por tempo demais? Escolho a segunda alternativa.

Em que parte do ciclo nos encontramos agora?

Estamos bem no fim de um quarto longo ciclo muito prolongado. Estamos na fase de depressão do quarto longo ciclo, que coincidiu com a ascensão tecnológica do quinto. De modo que acredito que os longos ciclos podem sobrepor-se. Penso que estamos numa posição incomum, do ponto de vista histórico. Claramente, a revolução da informação está ai e as bases de um tipo de capitalismo completamente novo podem estar emergindo. O que aconteceu é que as velhas relações sociais da metade passada da onda anterior não irão adiante. Não há Keynes, apenas o reminiscente do velho. Se você olha para Mark Zuckerberg, do Facebook, ou Jeff Bezos, da Amazon, verá que são pessoas agnósticas sobre o futuro de todo o sistema. Eles veem apenas o futuro de sua própria corporação.

Meu uso de Kondratieff é para tentar responder a pergunta sobre onde estamos. As outras periodicidades – o ciclo de negócio de dez anos e a época, de 500 anos – não são suficientes. Não há uma cadeira de Estudos Pós Capitalistas na Universidade de Wolverhampton! Eles estão na infância.

Você mencionou André Gorz. No livro, você cita um trecho em que ele diz, em 1980, que a classe trabalhadora está morta. Se estava certo, quem será o agente de mudança social?

O fato terrível e desafiante pode ser que, se o capitalismo tem um início, um meio e um fim, então o movimento dos trabalhadores também. Em outras palavras, o declínio da luta trabalhista organizada, com base no trabalho manual, especializado, branco e masculino, parece-me partedo que está acontecendo ao capitalismo. Sou alguém que veio deste background e viveu mergulhado nele. Mas argumento que o sujeito histórico que trará o pós-capitalismo já existe e é o indivíduo em rede. A noção de Antonio Negri de “fábrica social” era arrogante nos anos 1970s, porque era muito cedo. Mas me parece ser justa agora – todos nós participamos na criação de marcas, no estabelecimento de escolhas de consumo, estamos alimentando o capitalismo financeiro por meio do nosso uso das finanças. Por isso, consigo comprar a ideia de que existe uma fábrica social. Se quiser desligá-la, deve fazer como William Benbow sugeriu na década de 1820, parando a “grande festa”. Agora, duvido que isso vá acontecer. Portanto, a maneira menos utópica de fazer isso é lutando pelos interesses dos indivíduos em rede, para que eles não tenham suas informações roubadas, arbitrariamente acessadas pelo Estado, para seus estilos de vida poderem florescer, para que eles tenham escolhas.

São tantos os levantes que cobri – Turquia e Brasil são bons exemplos. São assalariados em rede que não aguentam os níveis de corrupção e intromissão em suas vidas – o islamismo na Turquia, corrupção no Brasil. Que tipo de revolução é essa? Há uma discussão entre aqueles que se envolveram com meu livro: se este é o agente, é “por si” ou “em si”, como diria Marx. Seriam essas pessoas capazes de adquirir um nível espontâneo de entendimento da situação que os levasse a tomar algumas das medidas políticas insinuadas neste livro como um caminho a seguir? Neste momento eles ainda não chegaram lá, claramente. O que são é muito hábeis em construir seu espaço pessoal. Podemos zombar disso, por ser em pequena escala. Mas, ao construir um espaço que é simultaneamente econômico e pessoal, penso que esta geração está fazendo algo muito significativo.

Será que os impregno com a mesma inevitabilidade e teleologia com que o marxismo impregnou a classe trabalhadora? Não. No livro, gasto muito tempo desmontando a compreensão marxista de classe trabalhadora. Sempre senti, como alguém que tem essa bagagem, que o kit de ferramentas que o marxismo tinha para descrever a classe trabalhadora era dos menos convincentes – sobretudo para a própria classe trabalhadora.

A certa altura, você altura escreve que o marxismo é uma grande “teoria da história”, porm se equivoca como “teoria da crise”. O que quer dizer com isso?

Quero dizer que é uma grande teoria para analisar a sociedade de classes. Por exemplo, durante a revolução do Egito em 2011, tendo lido O 18 Brumário de Luis Bonaparte, de Marx, eu poderia dizer aos radicais egípcios que, quando o caos se instalasse, as mesmas pessoas que estavam ao lado deles dariam as boas vindas à ditadura. É provável que o capitalismo evocasse algo novo, capaz de impor ordem. O que impôs desordem foi a Irmandade Muçulmana. Ver as mesmas pessoas que tinham apoiado a revolução chamando o general Sisi para derrubar a Irmandade faz sentido, se você leu O 18 Brumário.

Eu perguntei a Alexis Tsipras antes de o Syriza ser eleito: “Quais seriam as ameaças para um governo de esquerda, se você conquistasse o poder?” Contei a ele: “Você se lembra que [Salvador] Allende nomeou [Augusto] Pinochet [no Chile]? Allende nomeou o general para deter um golpe militar. Nós rimos. A questão, você poderia argumentar, é que o governo da Grécia está sendo colonizado pelas mesmas forças que ele imaginou estar ali para combater. Neste momento, a elite empresarial está pensando: “Apenas Tsipras pode governar a Grécia.” Eles prefeririam que ele governasse a Grécia sem a extrema esquerda do próprio partido. Sempre encontro capitalistas gregos que me dizem: “Se Tsipras nos escutasse, a Grécia seria um grande país.”

O marxismo força você a fazer perguntas que não são feitas pelos jornalistas mainstream. Neste momento, a questão mais importante para os gregos é: o que está acontecendo com as massas? As massas não estão derrotadas. Elas não acreditam que Tsipras é Luis Bonaparte. Muitos fazem objeção ao que ele fez, mas não acreditam que ele seja uma força da reação. Eles acreditam no que está dizendo – que está fazendo algo contra a própria vontade e que irá compensar isso com um ataque à oligarquia. Esperam que esse ataque à oligarquia aconteça. Minha observação é de que houve uma grande radicalização, na Grécia. Quando o verão terminar, veremos uma renovação real tanto das lutas de base como do radicalismo do governo.

O foco naquilo que as pessoas estão dizendo nos pubs é algo que interessa muito a dois tipos de pessoas: às forças da polícia secreta e aos marxistas! Eu gasto o maior tempo possível ouvindo as pessoas.

Qual é o desafio jornalístico para ventilar esse tipo de questão? Trabalhar para uma rede de TV como o Channel Four impõe certamente certas restrições ao modo como você opera.

Um bom jornalista de assuntos sociais, que é o que penso ser, irá, na Grécia por exemplo, conversar com primeiros-ministros, ministros de Estado, mas irá também atrás dos estivadores, dos anarquistas. Ainda por cima, você tem somente dois minutos e trinta segundos. Essa é a razão por que gastei os últimos seis meses buscando recursos e realizando um grande documentário que virá a público, espero, no final deste ano, e que conta a história do Syriza desde as bases, a partir das ruas. Queria fazer isso porque no meu trabalho diário nunca poderia contar essa história. É simplesmente impossível.

E sobre a acusação, frequentemente dirigida a você (e feita várias vezes, durante os últimos meses na Grécia) de que, ao operar dessa forma, você excede os limites da propriedade jornalística ou da isenção?

Penso que todos estão errados! A realidade é que o mundo é governado por uma elite dedicada a reforçar, de modo às vezes completamente aberto, a desigualdade e tudo o que a acompanha. Na Grécia, a “austeridade” é uma forma de coerção. Fico feliz de dizer isso porque essa é a minha análise da realidade. Muita gente no Financial Times ou no Wall Street Journal não compartilha dessa minha visão. Mas estou muito feliz, e meus patrões estão permanentemente felizes com o modo como pratico o jornalismo. As pessoas que não gostam devem simplesmente acostumar-se a ele.

Com ideias como as que estão neste livro, a razão de divulgar uma ideia radical é que você não espera que Andy Burnham ou Tim Farron, [dirigentes do Partido Trabalhista britânico] irão telefonar e dizer, “gosto disso, Paul. Vamos incluir na política do partido.” A questão é ser um pouco do contra. Há pensamento único demais. Meu desejo com esse livro é fazer como num workshop de teatro – levar as pessoas a uma experiência fora do corpo, a ficar largadas no chão, na piscina das próprias lágrimas. Então, quando elas voltarem à segurança do grupo, talvez possam fazer alguma coisa mais honesta.

The Magna Carta of integral ecology: cry of the Earth-cry of the poor (Leonardo Boff)

18/06/2015

Before making any comment it is worth highlighting some peculiarities of the Laudato si encyclical of Pope Francis.

It is the first time a pope addresses the issue of ecology in the sense of an integral ecology (as it goes beyond the environment) in such a complete way. Big surprise: he elaborates the subject on the new ecological paradigm, which no official document of the UN has done so far. He bases his speech with the safest data of life sciences and Earth. He reads the data affectionately (with a sensitive or cordial intelligence), as he discerns that behind them hides human tragedy and suffering and also for Mother Earth. The current situation is serious, but Pope Francis always finds reasons for hope and trust that human beings can find viable solutions. He links to the Popes who preceded him, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, quoting them frequently. And something absolutely new: the text is part of collegiality, as it values ​​the contributions of dozens of bishops’ conferences around the world, from the US to Germany, that of Brazil, Patagonia-Comahue, and Paraguay. He gathers the contributions of other thinkers, such as Catholics Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Romano Guardini, Dante Alighieri, the Argentinian maestro Juan Carlos Scannone, Protestant Paul Ricoeur and the Sufi Muslim Ali Al-Khawwas. The recipients are all of us human beings, we are all inhabitants of the same common house (commonly used term by the Pope) and suffer the same threats.

Pope Francis does not write as a Master or Doctor of faith, but as a zealous pastor who cares for the common home of all beings, not just humans, that inhabit it.

One element deserves to be highlighted, as it reveals the “forma mentis” (the way he organizes hi thinking) of Pope Francis. This is a contribution of the pastoral and theological experience of Latin American churches in the light of the documents of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) in Medellin (1968), Puebla (1979) and Aparecida (2007), that were an option for the poor against poverty and in favor of liberation.

The wording and tone of the encyclical are typical of Pope Francis, and the ecological culture that he has accumulated, but I also realize that many expressions and ways of speaking refer to what is being thought and written mainly in Latin America. The themes of the “common home”, of “Mother Earth”, the “cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor”, the “care” of the “interdependence of all beings”, of the “poor and vulnerable “, the” paradigm shift, “the” human being as Earth “that feels, thinks, loves and reveres, the” integral ecology “among others, are recurrent among us.

The structure of the encyclical obeys to the methodological ritual used by our churches and theological reflection linked to the practice of liberation, now taken over and consecrated by the Pope: see, judge, act and celebrate.

First, he begins revealing his main source of inspiration: St. Francis of Assisi, whom he calls “the quintessential example of comprehensive care and ecology, who showed special concern for the poor and the abandoned” (n.10, n.66).

Then he moves on to see “What is happening in our home” (nn.17-61). The Pope says, “just by looking at the reality with sincerity we can see that there is a deterioration of our common home” (n.61). This part incorporates the most consistent data on climate change (nn.20-22), the issue of water (n.27-31), erosion of biodiversity (nn.32-42), the deterioration of the quality of human life and the degradation of social life (nn.43-47), he denounces the high rate of planetary inequality, which affects all areas of life (nn.48-52), with the poor as its main victims (n. 48).

In this part there is a phrase which refers to the reflection made in Latin America: “Today we cannot ignore that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach and should integrate justice in discussions on the environment to hear both the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor “(n.49). Then he adds: “the cries of the Earth join the cries of the abandoned of this world” (n.53). This is quite consistent since the beginning he has said that “we are Earth” (No. 2; cf. Gen 2.7.), Very in line with the great singer and poet Argentine indigenous Atahualpa Yupanqui: “humans beings are the Earth walking, feeling, thinking and loving.”

He condemns the proposed internationalization of the Amazon that “only serves the interests of multinationals” (n.38). There is a great statement of ethical force, “it is severely grave to obtain significant benefits making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay for the high costs of environmental degradation” (n.36).

He acknowledges with sadness: “We had never mistreated and offended our common home as much as in the last two centuries” (n.53). Faced with this human offensive against Mother Earth that many scientists have denounced as the beginning of a new geological era -the antropocene- he regrets the weakness of the powers of this world, that deceived, “believed that everything can continue as it is, as an alibi to “maintain its self-destructive habits” (n.59) with “a behavior that seems suicidal” (n.55).

Prudently, he recognizes the diversity of opinions (nn.60-61) and that “there is no single way to solve the problem” (n.60). However, “it is true that the global system is unsustainable from many points of view because we have stopped thinking about the purpose of human action” (n.61) and we get lost in the construction of means for unlimited accumulation at the expense of ecological injustice (degradation of ecosystems) and social injustice (impoverishment of populations). Mankind simply disappointed the divine hope “(n.61).

The urgent challenge, then, is “to protect our common home” (n.13); and for that we need, quoting Pope John Paul II, “a global ecological conversion” (n.5); “A culture of caring that permeates all of society” (n.231).
Once the seeing dimension is realized, the dimension of judgment prevails. This judging is done in two aspects, the scientific and the theological.

Let´s see the scientific. The encyclical devoted the entire third chapter to the analysis “of the human root of the ecological crisis” (nn.101-136). Here the Pope proposes to analyze techno-science, without prejudice, recognizing what it has brought such as “precious things to improve the quality of human life” (n. 103). But this is not the problem, but the independence, submitted to the economy, politics and nature in view of the accumulation of material goods (cf.n.109). Technoscience nourishes on a mistaken assumption that there is an “infinite availability of goods in the world” (n.106), when we know that we have surpassed the physical limits of the Earth and that much of the goods and services are not renewable. Technoscience has turned into technocracy, which has become a real dictatorship with a firm logic of domination over everything and everyone (n.108).

The great illusion, dominant today, lies in believing that technoscience can solve all environmental problems. This is a misleading idea because it “involves isolating the things that are always connected” (n.111). In fact, “everything is connected” (n.117) “everything is related” (n.120), a claim that appears throughout the encyclical text of the as a refrain, as it is a new contemporary paradigm key concept. The great limitation of technocracy is the fact of ‘knowledge fragmentation and losing the sense of wholeness “(n.110). The worst thing is “not to recognize the intrinsic value of every being and even denying a peculiar value to the human being” (n.118).

The intrinsic value of each being, even if it is minuscule, it is permanently highlighted in the encyclical (N.69), as does the Earth Charter. By denying the intrinsic value we are preventing “each being to communicate its message and to give glory to God” (n.33).

The largest deviation of technocracy is anthropocentrism. This means an illusion that things have value only insofar as they are ordered to human use, forgetting that its existence is valuable by itself (n.33). If it is true that everything is related, then “we humans are united as brothers and sisters and join with tender affection to Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother river and Mother Earth” (n.92). How can we expect to dominate them and view them within the narrow perspective of domination by humans?

All these “ecological virtues” (n.88) are lost by the will of power and domination of others to nature. We live a distressing “loss of meaning of life and the desire to live together” (n.110). He sometimes quotes the Italian-German Romano Guardini (1885-1968) theologist, one of the most read in the middle of the last century, who wrote a critical book against the claims of the modernity (n.105 note 83: Das Ende der Neuzeit, The decline of the Modern Age, 1958).

The other side of judgment is the theological. The encyclical reserves an important space for the “Gospel of Creation” (nos. 62-100). It begins justifying the contribution of religions and Christianity, as it is global crisis, each instance must, with its religious capital contribute to the care of the Earth (n.62). He does not insists in doctrines but on this wisdom in the various spiritual paths. Christianity prefers to speak of creation rather than nature, because “creation is related to a project of love of God” (n.76). Quote, more than once, a beautiful text of the Book of Wisdom (21.24) where it is clear that “the creation of the order of love” (n.77) and God emerges as “the Lord lover of life “(Wis 11:26).

The text opens for an evolutionary view of the universe without using the word, but doing a circumlocution referring to the universe “consisting of open systems that come into communion with each other” (n.79). It uses the main texts that link Christ incarnated and risen with the world and with the whole universe, making all matters of the Earth sacred (n.83). In this context he quotes Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955, n.83 note 53) as a precursor of this cosmic vision.
The fact that Trinity-God is divine and it related with people means that all things are related resonances of the divine Trinity (n.240).

Quoting the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of the Orthodox Church “recognizes that sins against creation are sins against God” (n.7). Hence the urgency of a collective ecological conversion to repair the lost harmony.

The encyclical concludes well with this part “The analysis showed the need for a change of course … we must escape the spiral of self-destruction in which we are sinking” (n.163). It is not a reform, but, citing the Earth Charter, but to seek “a new beginning” (n.207). The interdependence of all with all leads us to believe “in one world with a common project” (n.164).

Since reality has many aspects, all closely related, Pope Francis proposes an “integral ecology” that goes beyond the environmental ecology to which we are accustomed (n.137). It covers all areas, the environmental, economic, social, cultural and everyday life (n.147-148). Never forget the poor who also testify human and social ecology living ties of belonging and solidarity with each other (n.149).

The third methodological step is to act. In this part, the Encyclical observes the major issues of the international, national and local politics (nn.164-181). It stresses the interdependence of the social and educational aspect with ecological and sadly states the difficulties that bring the prevalence of technocracy, creating difficulty for the changes that restrain the greed of accumulation and consumption, that can be opened again (n.141) . He mentions again the theme of economics and politics that should serve the common good and create conditions for a possible human fulfillment (n.189-198). He re-emphasizes on the dialogue between science and religion, as it is being suggested by the great biologist Edward O.Wilson (cf. the book Creation: how to save life on Earth, 2008). All religions “should seek the care of nature and the defense of the poor” (n.201).

Still in the aspect of acting, he challenges education in the sense of creating “ecological citizenship” (n.211) and a new lifestyle, seated on caring, compassion, shared sobriety, the alliance between humanity and the environment, since both are umbilically linked, and the co-responsibility for everything that exists and lives and our common destiny (nn.203-208).

Finally, the time to celebrate. The celebration takes place in a context of “ecological conversion” (n.216), it involves an “ecological spirituality” (n.216). This stems not so much from theological doctrines but the motivations that faith arises to take care of the common house and “nurture a passion for caring for the world” (216). Such a mystical experience is what mobilizes people to live the ecological balance, “to those who are solidary inside themselves, with others, with nature and with all living and spiritual beings and God” (n.210). That appears to be the truth that “less is more” and that we can be happy with little.

In the sense of celebrating “the world is more than something to be solved, it is a joyous mystery to be contemplated in joy and with love” (n.12).

The tender and fraternal spirit of St. Francis of Assisi is present through the entire text of the encyclical Laudato. The current situation does not mean an announced tragedy, but a challenge for us to care for the common house and for each other. The text highlights poetry and joy in the Spirit and indestructible hope that if the threat is big, greater is the opportunity for solving our environmental problems.

The text poetically ends with the words “Beyond the Sun”, saying: “let’s walk singing. That our struggles and our concerns about this planet do not take away our joy of hope “(n.244).
I would like to end with the final words of the Earth Charter which the Pope quotes himself (n.207): ” Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life.¨

 This text is a chapter of a book in italien Curare la Madre Terra, EMI, Bologna 2015

Leonardo Boff is theologist and ecologist

Study explores how past Native American settlement modified WNY forests (Buffalo University)

June 2, 2015

Charlotte Hsu

Fire-tolerant trees that bear edible nuts were unusually abundant near the historical sites of Native American villages, research suggests

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A new study by University at Buffalo geographers explores how humans altered the arboreal make-up of Western New York forests before European settlers arrived in large numbers.

The research looked at land survey data from around 1799-1814, and used this information to model which tree species were present in different areas of Chautauqua County, New York, at that time.

The analysis placed hickory, chestnut and oak trees in larger-than-expected numbers near the historical sites of Native American villages, said co-author Steve Tulowiecki, who conducted the research as a geography PhD candidate at the University at Buffalo and is now an adjunct lecturer of geography at SUNY Geneseo. This finding is important because these species produce edible nuts, and are also more likely than many other trees to survive fires.

PHOTOS: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2015/05/048.html

“Our results contribute to the conversation about how natural or humanized the landscape of America was when Europeans first arrived,” Tulowiecki said. “Our society has competing views about this: On one hand, there is the argument that it was a wilderness relatively untouched by man. Recently, we’ve had this perspective challenged, with some saying that the landscape was dramatically altered, particularly through burning and other clearance practices.”

The findings of the new research — more fire-tolerant, large-nut-bearing trees than expected within about 15 kilometers of village sites — suggest that Native American communities in the study area modified the forest in ways that favored those species, Tulowiecki said. He noted that flame-sensitive beech and sugar maples, which burn readily in forest fires, appeared in smaller numbers than expected near village sites.

Forest modifications may have impacted upwards of 20 percent of total land area in modern-day Chautauqua County, according to Tulowiecki’s analysis.

The research is important, he said, because it uses data to address questions surrounding historical forest modification.

“There have been contentious debates over the past few decades regarding the spatial extent of Native American impacts upon pre-European landscapes,” he said. “Yet, very few studies have offered exhaustive methods to understand or quantify these impacts. Our study utilizes advanced quantitative models, geographic information systems, original land survey data, and historical-archaeological records of Native American settlement in order to understand these impacts.”

Tulowiecki, who finished his PhD in 2015, conducted the study with his advisor, UB Associate Professor of Geography Chris Larsen, PhD. The research was published online on May 19 in Ecological Monographs, a journal of the Ecological Society of America.

Picturing a 19th-century forest

To predict how the forest looked 200 years ago, Tulowiecki and Larsen synthesized several sources of information.

They began with the observations of surveyors from the Holland Land Company, who documented the terrain of Chautauqua County between 1799 and 1814. These assessors included details on which types of trees they found at thousands of locations in the region.

Tulowiecki and Larsen mapped this information, then overlaid it with data showing the temperature, precipitation, soil conditions and other environmental variables at different locations. This helped the researchers understand what types of trees typically grew under various conditions, and they used this information to build predictive models showing how all of Chautauqua County would have looked, tree-wise, at the turn of the 19th century if environmental conditions were the only factor at play.

Apparently, they were not, because in some places the distribution of tree species predicted by the model didn’t match the reality of what surveyors saw.

The sites where these discrepancies occurred coincided with the historical location of Native American villages as mapped or described by various sources, Tulowiecki says. This suggested that Native American societies – particularly the Seneca – modified the areas surrounding their communities.

To account for this possibility, the researchers refined their predictive models. In addition to the original environmental variables, they incorporated a new variable that captured information related to proximity to village sites.

The models improved as a result.

New Territories in Acre and Why They Matter (E-flux)

Journal #59, 11/2014

Marjetica Potrč

The Croa River community consists of approximately four hundred families spread out across eighty thousand hectares of Amazonian forest. They aspire to see the land they inhabit become an extraction reserve, and in fact, it is in the process of becoming precisely this: one of the new territories in Acre. As such, it is a good example of the current trend toward territorialization in the Brazilian state. It is also a good example of what territories stand for: self-organization, sustainable growth, and local knowledge.


Territorialization of Acre State (1988, 1999, 2006), Courtesy the artist

The Croa community’s land is located a few hours’ drive and a short boat ride from Cruzeiro do Sul. A small city, Cruzeiro do Sul is a major center for the western part of Acre and the region around the Jurua River. There are daily flights from Rio Branco, and the town is accessible by road from Rio Branco six months of the year and by the Jurua River throughout the year. From Cruzeiro do Sul it takes two to three weeks to travel by boat to Manaus. In short, the Croa community is nestled in the western corner of Brazil’s Amazonian forest and, from the perspective of São Paulo, seems a remote and isolated place—something that, in our world of excessive connectivity, is considered a negative. But from the perspective of the people who live there, relative isolation can be a bonus. The communities I saw, including the Croa community, draw strength from their cultural identity and a sustainable economy. Not all these communities are strong, but they understand clearly that both these conditions are necessary if they are to thrive. The communities are well connected among themselves and, beyond Acre, with the world—strangely enough, many of the things that concern them are, in fact, more closely related to world issues than to specifically Brazilian ones.


Left: Ashanika Indian, Acre. Photo by Mauro Almeida. Right: Marjetica Potrč, Drawing No.1/7: Pattern Protects, 2007, 7 drawings. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Nordenhake, Berlin.

When such communities reach out to others, they want to do it on their own terms. They want to interact in a positive way with others and at the same time remain separate. By reaffirming their own territories, they are actively participating in the creation of twenty-first-century models of coexistence, where the melting pot of global cities is balanced by centers where people voluntarily segregate themselves. After all, one of the most successful and sought-after models of living together today is the gated community—the small-scale residential entity. But unlike gated communities, which represent static strategies of retreat and self-enclosure, the new territories in Acre are dynamic and proactive: they reach out to others.


Isolation and Connectivity, Left: Marjetica Potrč, drawing for project The Struggle for Spatial Justice (A luta por justiça espacial) for 27a. Bienal de São Paulo. Right: Marjetica Potrč, Drawing No.5/12, Florestania, 2006, 12 drawings. Courtesy the artist and Max Protetch Gallery, New York.

Statement #1: The world must be pixelized! Democracy is particles!

Over the past two decades, Acre has been pixelizing itself into new territories, such as extraction reserves and Indian territories, along with sustainable urban territories. The government supports the territorialization of the state. These new territories are the result of collaboration between the government and local communities. The communities are self-organized entities and, basically, bottom-up initiatives. Their focus is on empowering their own people (education is a primary concern); practicing the sustainable extraction of forest-based resources; and developing a small-scale economy as both a tool for their communities’ survival (several communities have been successfully selling their goods on the global market) and as a counter-model to the globalized economy created by multinational companies and organizations. The Acrean communities have a particular approach to land ownership. In the new territories, the emphasis is not on the individual owning land and extracting resources from it solely for his own benefit, but on the collective ownership and sustainable management of natural resources for the benefit of the whole community. Here, the existence of an individual is understood essentially as coexistence. Being always means “being with,” and “I” does not take precedence over “we.”1 In short, the new territories suggest forms of living together that go beyond neoliberalism and its understanding of individualism, liberal democracy, and market capitalism.

Notice that the new territories of Acre represent a social and economic alternative to China’s new territories, which are characterized by fast-growing, large-scale economies and an ideology of progress. The territories of Acre, by contrast, are grounded in a small-scale economy; the people who live there feel a personal responsibility both toward their own communities and toward the world community.

In fact, in their dynamics of deregulation and strategies of transition, Acre’s new territories suggest a different comparison: with the European Union as it is today. As a geopolitical entity, Europe is constantly expanding. It is a body in flux. Within its shifting boundaries, the consequences of the gradual dissolution of the social state and the ideology of multiculturalism can be seen in territories consolidated around ethnic groups and other kinds of communities. As last year’s rejection of the EU constitution by French and Dutch voters indicates, people want to live in a more localized European Union; similarly, the EU explores a paradigm in which regional entities serve as a counterbalance to the nation-state. An emphasis on the local means that more decisions are taken at the local level and bottom-up initiatives are on the increase. The state of “transition” is accepted as a working model, and there is a civil society in the making that is quite different not only from the society of twentieth-century modernism, which feared any threat to unity, but also from the present-day ideology of globalization. As regionalism and localism gain ground, new models of coexistence emerge, such as urban villages and urban villas, new typologies of residential architecture. In the heyday of the modernist national state, a residential community could mean some ten thousand people. Today, an urban village means two thousand people—a dramatic shrinkage from the earlier model. Another important distinction is that today’s urban villages are, again, bottom-up initiatives, while the modernist residential community was organized from the top down. The question is: just how far is it possible to “downscale” the world community?

The territories in Acre are the result of “degrowth,” the process by which society fragments and pixelizes itself down to the level of the local community, and sometimes even further, to the level of the individual.2 Age-old wisdom tells us that when individuals take responsibility for building their own lives, they also build their communities, and beyond that, the world community: “When I build my life, I build the world.” As the Acrean territories show, communities see the consequences of such practices very clearly: they see “upscaling”—the scaling down of the economy and the pixelation of territories produce a new kind of connectedness: “upgrowth.” In Acre, particles and group identities are forces of democracy.

Statement #2: We must grow up strong together!

A precondition for communities in the new territories to thrive is that they draw strength from a sustainable economy, local experience—a loose notion that embraces the importance of cultural identity—and education. The communities believe that territories which are strong in these areas have the best chance to prosper. Although the emphasis is clearly on the local (they see rural communities as guaranteeing greater dignity, in contrast to the kind of life migrants to urban centers experience), they do not romanticize localness. They see themselves as players in the contemporary world: they had to overcome both the colonial past and the dominant globalizing pressures of the present. Theirs is a post-colonial, post-neoliberal practice. From where they stand, they see the future as their present.

Universidade da Floresta (University of the Forest), Acre. Left: video still by Garret Linn, in Marjetica Potrč, Florestania: A New Citizenship, video, 2006. Courtesy the artist and Max Protetch Gallery, New York. Right: Marjetica Potrč, drawing for project The Struggle for Spatial Justice (A luta por justiça espacial) for 27a. Bienal de São Paulo.

Practice #1: We are growing up together strong; we are connected! But first, let’s isolate ourselves. Only then we will be able to connect on our own terms.

The new territories of Acre are, indeed, strong and well aware of the benefits that come from being connected. Clearly, local emphasis, self-esteem, and connectedness make a perfect match, not a contradiction. I am thinking in particular of an ongoing initiative by Indian tribes to connect their remote areas via satellite through solar-powered communication centers. Representatives from the tribes are traveling all the time—at least this was the impression I received from encountering them on the streets of Rio Branco and at airports, or, for that matter, not seeing them because they were in São Paulo while I was in Rio Branco, or in Rio Branco when I was in Cruzeiro do Sul. Indeed, I had the feeling that they traveled more than Paulistas. An Acrean can with justice say to a Paulista: “I know you, but you don’t know me.” The general feeling one gets in São Paulo is that Acre is very far away, an unknown, isolated region, not well connected at all. This perspective of the center toward the periphery is overturned in Acre, where territories are understood as centers that want to connect on their own terms. Acreans don’t see themselves as being too isolated. They like their degree of isolation. They draw on the wisdom of the forest: the “center” is a place in the forest where the “game”—the chance to make a good life for oneself thanks to the proximity of natural resources and community infrastructure—is strong and multiple connections to the outside world are not necessarily a bonus; the “periphery,” meanwhile, is along the river, where a person may be more connected to the world outside but the “game” is not so strong. As always—and as common wisdom tells us—the center is what’s most important.


School Bus, Croa Community, Acre. Left: video still by Garret Linn, in Marjetica Potrč, Florestania: A New Citizenship, video, 2006. Courtesy the artist and Max Protetch Gallery, New York. Right: Marjetica Potrč, drawing for project The Struggle for Spatial Justice (A luta por justiça espacial) for 27a. Bienal de São Paulo.

Practice #2: We marry local experience with hi-tech knowledge!

The new territories of Acre are strong “centers” with rich local experience; they balance connectedness and isolation well. In a way, these territories are perfect islands: you can reach anyone from here but not everyone can reach you. The next most important thing is their practice of self-sustainable management—the result of blending local experience and hi-tech knowledge. Hi-tech sustainable solutions help them upgrade their living conditions, and allow them to communicate and trade from remote locations with little or no energy infrastructure. Advanced technology (such as solar-powered satellite dishes) means that at last, in the twenty-first century, the remote territories of Acre can themselves become centers, no less than other places, by using self-generated energy, which in turn gives them greater freedom in communicating. Without a doubt, the combination of local experience (from the territories) with hi-tech knowledge (from Brazil) is potentially a geopolitical advantage. But can it really work without the support of the state?

Practice #3: Happiness is: growing in small steps! Ours is a dignified life! We are accountable for ourselves and to others!

Those who manage the sustainable extraction of forest-based resources see the small-scale economy both as a tool for their own survival as well as a new economic model that is necessary for the survival of the planet and society at large. In Acre, clichés acquire real meaning: “The survival of the rain forest is the survival of the earth; the rain forest is the final frontier; the world is one community.” It feels as if Acre’s government and its people are on a mission. Does the future of the world depend on locally managed territories and small-scale economies providing a balance to the globalizing forces of multinational companies and organizations? The people I spoke with in Acre are convinced of this. But there’s a Catch-22, an obvious contradiction that resides in the very notion of sustainability. While any nonsustainable extraction of forest resources would have dire consequences not only to these communities but also to the entire world, efforts to achieve self-sustainable management of the forest through a small-scale economy present important challenges. Can the territories really survive and even thrive on this? Apart from natural resources, how well does local knowledge trade on the global market?

Practice #4: We protect what belongs to us! Cupuaçu is ours!

The new territories of Acre are strong centers and well connected; they practice self-sustainability and self-protection. The protection of the new territories is a must, not only because of the long history of their cultures being abused—which means self-protection comes naturally to those who live here—but also because of the ongoing threat of bio-piracy. The unlawful theft of natural resources in a region whose greatest wealth is biodiversity ranges from famous incidents involving the theft of rubber tree seeds (which led to the collapse of the region’s rubber extraction economy), to recent cases of a Japanese company, among others, attempting to patent the indigenous fruit known as cupuaçu (the Japanese patent has recently been revoked). So it’s no surprise, really, that Acre’s efforts to protect the territories from outsiders may seem excessive. The remoteness of their location does not guarantee sufficient protection for the Indian territories. If visitors to an extraction reserve are viewed with healthy suspicion because of fears that they might be involved with bio-piracy, a visit to an Indian tribe is extremely difficult to arrange. The main reason for this is to shield indigenous cultures. In theory, all would-be visitors to an Indian tribe must state their reasons for wanting to travel there, and visits must then be approved by the community. In this way, the territories remind us of the fortified city-states of Renaissance Italy or today’s contested territories in the West Bank. Indeed, the Acrean practice of planting trees as border protection in defense of one’s territory mirrors practices by Palestinians and Jewish settlers before the erection of the Israeli Barrier Wall halted negotiations between the two communities. A major difference, however, is that, while the Acrean territories may recall walled cities, they are not closed off. Today, the borders of these fragile and contested territories are porous. They permit and even welcome negotiations. And as for any precise demarcation of these territories’ borders, this remains in flux for the simple reason that rivers change their course and villages relocate themselves in the search for natural resources. And here is a contradiction: these strong territories are in fact fragile territories. To be able to exist and prosper, they need to be constantly communicating with the world and negotiating with their neighbors.

Practice #5: We are not objects of study! We want to share our knowledge on equal terms! In a horizontal world, education must be horizontal! To each group, their own education! We are unique!

Education—learning and sharing knowledge—is a crucial issue for the new territories, but the same may be said for the whole of Brazil and beyond. We have learned that the riches of education, though seemingly immaterial, are what guarantee the material wealth of nations. Today, the richest countries are those with the strongest educational systems. This awareness is even more important in the context of Brazil, ranked first in the world in the gap between rich and poor—which also means there is an immense gap where education is concerned. The new territories of Acre, although wealthy in both natural and intellectual resources, cannot hope to provide the kind of high-quality education the rich world demands. But being so inventive, the people of Acre organize things differently. The goal is to customize education for particular groups in the community. Established hierarchies are put in question, and education is organized in a way that makes sense for the community. Schools and local knowledge are cherished and protected—just as the territories themselves are. It struck me that the demands that shape education are, in a way, similar to those that shape the territories. Both exist for their people and both are necessary for people’s prosperity and aspirations, framing the life of the community.

Two collaborations are under way in Acre that I find especially inspiring. One involves the building of schools in remote areas for primary education; this is a collaboration between the local communities and the government. A typical school of this sort is equipped with extensive solar paneling and a satellite dish—in other words, an energy supply and a means of communication with the world. The second collaboration concerns higher education. This is the University of the Forest, whose goal is to bring together the knowledge of rubber-tappers, Indians, academics, and scientists so as to marry local experience with Western science. This makes sense. Brazil, after all, is a hi-tech country where the knowledge of those who live in the forest is not taught in the classroom but experienced directly. Indians and rubber-tappers, the caretakers of the forest, don’t want to be objects of research. They want to contribute to our shared knowledge on an equal basis. They want to trade their knowledge as they see fit. I see the University of the Forest as a new and important model for higher education.

Statement #3: The people of the ’60s were thinkers; we are doers!

My aim in writing this was to make sense of what I experienced during my stay in Acre in March and April 2006. I know that my assessment of the situation is far from thorough, but so be it. For me, it all comes down to the question: “What does it mean to live a dignified and responsible life today?” I realize that the community structures in Acre are not intended as models for other communities. The things I have mentioned here are simply their practice—the practice of sustainable existence. For me, their strategies recall other twenty-first-century experiences, such as the new states of the Western Balkans, which were formed when the region collapsed in the wars in the 1990s; like Acre, this region, too, has become pixelized into small territories—territories that are rejuvenating themselves by implementing practices and pursuing aspirations similar to those of the people of Acre. In both cases, downscaling is producing a scaling up: these particles and group identities are not static and self-enclosed, but dynamic and open to the world. I believe that faster and slower worlds can exist simultaneously in parallel realities, and the Western Balkans and Acre seem to me to be fast worlds, in some ways ahead of the rest. So it’s possible for us to learn from their practices.

I loved what I saw in Acre. It would be nice to think that the proposals of Constant and Yona Friedman, as well as other thinkers of the 1960s, such as Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark, who dreamed of a world community, provided inspiration for the people who are today forging Acre’s new territories, but I know that the Acreans have very likely never heard of them. Still, it’s beautiful to see that the doers of today are materializing the ideas of the thinkers of the ’60s. I thought it was fantastic how everyone we talked with in Acre saw clearly the benefits of their practices, for both themselves and the world community, and understood how to implement them. The new Acrean territories make me hopeful for our future coexistence. Their success is evidence that humanity can function as an intelligent organism. As it reaches critical mass, the world community, combined with a free-market economy, is generating alternative approaches to today’s neoliberalism, whether this means an emphasis on small-scale economies or a society based on local communities. Most importantly, those who live in the Acrean territories understand themselves as particles in, and contributors to, the world community.


Rural School “Luiz Placido Fernandes,” Acre. Left: Courtesy of Seplands and Prodeem, the State of Acre, Brazil. Right: Marjetica Potrč, drawing for project The Struggle for Spatial Justice (A luta por justiça espacial) for 27a. Bienal de São Paulo.

For sharing their vision and experience, I am particularly grateful to Camila Sposati, who provided me with a superb introduction to Acre and its people, to Sergio de Carvalho e Souza, who was an incredible guide for understanding the new territories, to members of the Croa community (Gean Carlos de Oliveira and Silvana Rossi), to representatives of the Indians (Luiz Waldenir Silva de Souza and Mutsa Katukina), the extraction reserves, and the government (Chico Genu and Marcus Vinicius), as well as to Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, co-author of the Enciclopédia da Floresta and a key figure in the University of the Forest, and many others besides.

Confessions of a Shark Anthropologist (Anthropology News)

Anthropology and Environment Society

April 22, 2015

Patrick Nason

Earlier this year I received a phone call from an unknown number. “This is the National Geographic Channel. Is it true that you are a shark anthropologist?” I paused— “Yes, I guess you can say that.” “Great, we are doing a program about sharks and are asking experts why sharks attack at certain times and in certain places more than others. Can you tell me a bit about your work?”

My interest in sharks began in 2005 during an internship at a resort in Papua New Guinea. Ten miles from shore and ninety feet below the surface, a twelve-foot hammerhead shark swam straight at me, stopping only three feet away before turning to rejoin its group. As it moved gracefully into the deep, I caught my breath and returned to the surface.

Four years later, I was working on a dive boat in South Florida when a sport-fishing boat motored past with a large grey hammerhead hung from its rigging. For a brief moment, I thought it was the shark I encountered years before. And why couldn’t it be? Like whales, most species of sharks are highly migratory. They have little respect for exclusive economic zones, marine protected areas, or any other enclosures. What might appear as absolute freedom in these animals has led to the production of an abstract image of sharks as transgressive predators, menaces to society, and worthy targets of sport. Regardless of what the category of the shark has become, the individual animal hanging from that fishing boat was certainly dead—no longer a terrible monster.

Sharks Arranged for Sale at Fish Market, Indonesia (Photo credit: Patrick Nason)

Sharks Arranged for Sale at Fish Market, Indonesia (Photo credit: Patrick Nason)

This incident took place in 2009, just after Rob Stewart’s film Sharkwater revealed the decimation of global shark populations by the finning industry. Considering the importance of sharks to healthy marine ecosystems, surely it was wrong to continue killing them for sport. Thinking I might do some good, I spoke with the captain of the boat about their catch.

“Couldn’t you release them from now on?” I asked.

“They normally die during the fight.”

“Well, what about fishing for something else?”

“Sailfish and marlin are not in season,” he said. “And besides, the clients are paying for the experience, and they want their photo taken with the big sharks.”

“Yes but hammerhead populations are in serious decline.” I said.

“We catch plenty of them, and easily too. More this year than last.”

I was stuck. How could I prove something was threatened when local knowledge suggests otherwise? Even worse, how could anyone prove sharks were in decline when, as free-roaming marine animals, they cannot be easily counted?

That same year, National Geographic aired a documentary entitled Drain the OceanThe promotional abstract read: “In this special, we look at what most call ‘The Final Frontier.’ Using the newest data from scientists all over the world and the latest advancements in computer generated imaging, we are able to explore some of the most dramatic landscapes the Earth has to offer.” This was exactly what my argument lacked—quantitative support through technological innovation. If computers could reveal the geological truths of this invisible realm, perhaps they could also reveal the ecological truths of a planet in decline—dolphins tangled in drift nets, massive whales with harpoons rusting in their backs, and dwindling populations of sharks swishing their tales through the muddy terrain. If this could be done, then maybe I could convince the fisherman that killing sharks for money was wrong.

But draining the ocean is not yet possible, nor should it be. Even if through some technological means we could illuminate the other seventy percent of our planet, the lives and the forms of relationality between humans and marine animals (however contentious they may be) would change at the moment of discovery. In trying to protect sharks, neither scientific nor emotional appeals alone are sufficient to effect social change. There remains a mystery of what oceanic animals do, how they do it, and exactly how many are required to keep doing what they do. If this mystery were completely resolved, the result would be equally harmful to marine life and to those who make their living upon the sea; for this unknown marks the distinction between our terrestrial selves and aquatic others, and is therefore what makes knowledge of the ocean (and thus ourselves) possible.

 An Anthropology of the Ocean

My phone call with National Geographic didn’t last long. The producer ended it by saying, “Your work sounds interesting, but we are looking for more evidence about why these attacks are occurring. Could you recommend a good marine biologist?” I did, and promptly hung up. I thought about our conversation—I don’t even know what a shark anthropologist is, and I’m supposed to be one! 

As human interests are directed into the sea in the form of extractive industry, state securitization, renewable energy, and conservation enclosure, we find ourselves as a species grappling with the politics and hermeneutics of the life aquatic. Responding to this with continued interest in the protection of marine life and forms of relationality, I have begun to sketch an Anthropology of the OceanWorking alongside indigenous fishing communities, ecologists, oceanographers, and drawing on the work of fellow anthropologists like Stefan Helmreich, such an approach examines how oceanic spaces and bodies are imagined, explored, and controlled, and how rights to marine resources are established and translated across social, spatial, and categorical boundaries

Within this framework, an Anthropology of Sharks could do the following: 1) draw upon the history of anthropological theory and method to ask how valuable spaces become ‘final frontiers,’ 2) describe how these produced frontiers are explored, claimed, enclosed—in short, how they are settled, and 3) reveal the forms of dispossession and disenchantment that occur when such settlement attempts to cultivate spaces have already been occupied by other ways of being and knowing. Putting a multispecies twist on subaltern studies and postcolonial anthropology, this approach would not only ask if the shark could “speak,” but if and how it might be heard amid the cacophony of other voices.

Patrick Nason is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University, and a blogger at the Shark Research Institute.

Colombian tribe scores ‘historic’ victory versus Big Gas (The Guardian)

State company Ecopetrol pulls out of drilling site in territories belonging to the indigenous U’wa people

U'was in north-east Colombia protesting against operations by state oil and gas company Ecopetrol.

U’was in north-east Colombia protesting against operations by state oil and gas company Ecopetrol. Photograph: Asou’wa/Asou’wa

The indigenous U’wa people living in north-east Colombia have won what observers call an “historic” and “decisive” victory after state oil and gas company Ecopetrol dismantled a gas drilling site in their territories.

The U’wa Association of Traditional Authorities and Councils (Asou’wa) reported in February last year the arrival of an “avalanche of heavy machinery” and increasing numbers of soldiers at the site, called Magallanes, where Ecopetrol intended to drill three wells. After statements fiercely opposing operations and a series of meetings with government and company representatives, Ecopetrol agreed to suspend operations last May and announced a decision in July to withdraw equipment – but only finished doing so in January this year.

“It’s a triumph,” Asou’wa vice-president Heber Tegria Uncaria told the Guardian. “It’s one more battle we’ve won over the last 20 to 30 years, and it’s thanks to the U’wa people themselves, national and international support, and the role of the media in drawing people’s attention to what is happening.”

“We feel extremely happy about the Magallanes victory and it gives us strength to continue fighting for our lives, for our rights and for Mother Earth,” says U’wa lawyer Aura Tegria Cristancho. “Ecopetrol’s decision was a very intelligent one. It knows the U’was and knew we wouldn’t stop fighting.”

Asou’wa issued a statement calling Ecopetrol’s withdrawal an “act of respect” for U’wa rights and an “important achievement” in the defence of their territories, and acknowledging the importance of support from organisations and individuals working on human rights and environmental issues, particularly the US-based NGO Amazon Watch.

Andrew Miller, Amazon Watch’s advocacy director, describes Ecopetrol’s decision as a “decisive victory” and says it is “very significant” that “one of Latin America’s largest corporations” would dismantle a gas drilling site following pressure.

“I can’t say this is unprecedented, but we’ve never seen a similar circumstance in the last 20 years,” he says. “Once actual construction starts, it is extremely difficult to force corporations, especially one with the full backing of the state, to reverse course.”

Carlos Andres Baquero, a lawyer from Bogota-based Dejusticia, told the Guardian Ecopetrol’s decision was “historic.”

“It’s been several decades since the U’wa started their fight to protect their territory and although it has not been easy, the withdrawal from Magallanes is a testament to their strength and capacity to mobilise,” he says.

The United Nations’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, calls it an “important victory” for indigenous peoples in Colombia.

“Such victories are far too rare,” she told the Guardian. “Too often projects see indigenous peoples driven from their lands. I hope other corporations can draw lessons from these conflicts and obtain the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples before making use of their territories.”

Camila Mariño, a Colombian lawyer with Earthrights International, describes Ecopetrol’s decision as “in line” with the agreements made with the U’was last May, as well as recent commitments by the government – made during peace talks with Farc guerrillas in Cuba – to take human rights and indigenous communities fully into account.

Asked by the Guardian if it had pulled out of Magallanes because of U’wa opposition, Ecopetrol emailed a statement saying it had agreed to meet with them in June last year but they had failed to show up.

“Since this led to delays, Ecopetrol decided to remove the drilling equipment and facilities from the area, as has effectively happened,” the company states.

However, as Tegria Uncaria points out, Ecopetrol retains its environmental license to operate at Magallanes, and the company itself has called the suspension “temporary.” In correspondence last August Ecopetrol emphasised that suspension “didn’t imply a definite termination of the project”, and told the Guardian it “would like to continue exploring in the area, but respecting the U’wa nation and all the agreements made with them.”

The U’was have now taken legal action to have the environmental license annulled.

“We won the political battle, but the license remains in force,” says Tegria Uncaria.

The Magallanes site is roughly 270ms beyond the northern boundary of a 220,000 hectare reserve established for the U’was in 1999, but remains within their ancestral territories.

Asou’wa warns that, Magallanes aside, the U’was continue to face other serious threats. These include mining concessions in their reserve, the Cano Limon-Covenas oil pipeline which has been attacked 100s of times, and armed conflict between guerrillas, paramilitaries and the Colombian army.

The pipeline, owned by Cenit, an Ecopetrol subsidiary, mainly transports oil from the Cano Limon oil fields in which, says Ecopetrol, it has a 55% stake and US oil firm Occidental has 45%. According to Adam Isacson, from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), some of the US’s multi-billion dollar “Plan Colombia” “aid” package – ostensibly about combating the drugs trade – has been spent on Colombian army brigades in this region in order to protect the pipeline, with the “bulk of it” going to “Black Hawk helicopters, pilot training, maintenance training, communications equipment and fuel sustenance.” According to a 2011 WOLA report co-authored by Isacson, “Plan Colombia” aid was delivered during a period of “severe human rights abuses” by security forces and paramilitary and army violence spiralling “tragically upwards”, while US officials, he says, “downplayed human rights groups’ constant warnings about military-paramilitary collaboration” and the “false positives” scandal in which Colombian soldiers dressed victims like guerrillas and claimed them killed during fighting.

“The military presence is far greater than it used to be, especially in that part of the pipeline [Arauca to Santander, through U’wa territories],” Isacson says. “Who really benefits? The oil companies getting free security would be the main ones, and all their investors. This is not designed to protect citizens.”

The U’was have repeatedly denounced the militarisation of their territories, and are now requesting that the pipeline is either buried or re-routed.

“Given the constant blowing-up of the pipeline and the environmental and human rights dangers this causes, we have requested that studies are done on the possibility of burying it underground between the points where it crosses our reserve, or finding another route outside the reserve,” says Tegria Uncaria. “To date, it hasn’t been buried, but according to Ecopetrol they’re doing technical studies.”

Ecopetrol told the Guardian that it was doing such studies and says “it is hoped they will be finished by the first half of 2015.”

In the 1990s the U’was issued a series of threats to commit mass suicide if operations went ahead at another drilling site in their territories, called Gibraltar, just to the east of Magallanes.

Climate change: at last a breakthrough to our catastrophic political impasse? (The Guardian)

Expecting the Paris talks to succeed is a pious hope: but the Oslo principles, launched today, argue that governments are already in flagrant breach of their legal obligations to the planet

climate change conference in peru 2014

‘The dismal pace of international negotiations is why the Guardian has thrown its weight behind a divestment campaign.’ The South Korea delegation are all smiles at the 2014 UN climate change conference in Peru, intended to produce a draft deal to be adopted in Paris in December. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Today a group of eminent jurists accuse governments and enterprises of being in clear and flagrant breach of their legal obligations on climate change – under human rights law, international law, environmental law, and tort law.

Human ravaging of our planet and climate through relentless fossil fuel extraction and greenhouse gas emissions is undoubtedly the defining existential challenge of our time. Our collective failure to commit to meaningful reductions in emissions is a political and moral travesty, with catastrophic implications, particularly for the poorest and most marginalised, domestically and globally.

The dismal pace of international negotiations – and the prospect of yet more disappointment at the UN Paris conference in December – is why the Guardian has thrown its weight behind a divestment campaign, pressurising moral investors to take a stand against those responsible for the greatest emissions. After all, two-thirds of all greenhouse emissions come from just 90 coal, oil and gas companies.

But in the Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations – launching in London today – a working group of current and ex-judges, advocates and professors, drawn from each region of the world, argue that any new international agreement will just be a coda to obligations already present, pressing and unavoidable in existing law.

What the Oslo principles offer is a solution to our infuriating impasse in which governments – especially those from developed nations, responsible for 70% of the world’s emissions between 1890 and 2007 – are in effect saying: “We all agree that something needs to be done, but we cannot agree on who has to do what and how much. In the absence of any such agreement, we have no obligation to do anything.” The Oslo principles bring a battery of legal arguments to dispute and disarm that second claim. In essence, the working group asserts that governments are violating their legal duties if they each act in a way that, collectively, is known to lead to grave harms.

Governments will retort that they cannot know their obligations to reduce emissions in the absence of an international agreement. The working group’s response is that they can know this, already, and with sufficient precision.

There is a clear answer to the question of each country’s reasonable share, based on a permissible quantum of emissions per capita that never threatens the perilous 2C mean temperature increase that would profoundly and irreversibly affect all life on earth. This reasonable share is what nations owe on the basis of their common but differentiated responsibilities for contributing to climate change. The Oslo principles duly incorporate mechanisms to accommodate the differential impacts and demands on nations and enterprises, particularly in the least developed countries.

Backed by distinguished international lawyers, professors and judges, the principles are a template for courts, advocates and lawmakers to act swiftly, embodying the urgency, conviction and black-letter reasoning required if humanity is to turn the corner before it is too late.

The document is the product of an independent, rigorous, multi-year effort led by Yale University’s Professor Thomas Pogge, and Jaap Spier, the advocate-general of the Netherlands supreme court. It is championed by, among others, Antonio Benjamin, the Brazilian high court justice; Michael Kirby, a former Australian high court justice; Dinah Shelton, a former president of the inter-American commission on human rights; and Elisabeth Steiner, a judge at the European court of human rights.

These principles deserve detailed consideration by lawyers, scientists, advocates and – critically – the policymakers engaged in last-ditch negotiations in Paris in December to divert us from the path towards climate catastrophe. They provide some opinio juris that allows judges to prohibit conduct that, practised by many or all states, will cause enormous damage to people and the planet.

But the working group’s core message is that we simply cannot wait in the pious hope that short-term-minded governments and enterprises will save us; and that when we act it must be on the basis of equity and justice, according to law. Every year that we miss increases the challenge and risk. We’ve squandered decades already, and our window for action is closing. We must act now.

Multi species Epistemes (Knowledge Ecology)

March 23, 2015

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The epistemic import of camouflage vis-a-vis notions of realism is an under researched area of inquiry.

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Camouflaged critters bring to mind not just the intersubjective character of perception but also its interspecies reality.

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Different organisms hide not just from us humans but also from a wide variety of other species, playing on appearances.

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This means that we humans encounter phenomena in terms of specific perceptual capacities, but not in a way entirely alien to other species.

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The point is not to efface differences across species but to explore multispecies entanglements in perception.

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Because the aesthetic play of appearances can be life or death in multispecies epistemes.

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Earth is halfway to being inhospitable to life, scientist says (RT)

Published time: March 20, 2015 04:02

Edited time: March 21, 2015 10:25 

Reuters / NASA

Reuters / NASA

A Swedish scientist claims in a new theory that humanity has exceeded four of the nine limits for keeping the planet hospitable to modern life, while another professor told RT Earth may be seeing an impending human-made extinction of various species.

Environmental science professor Johan Rockstrom, the executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden, argues that there are nine “planetary boundaries” in a new paper published in Science – and human beings have already crossed four of them.

Those nine include carbon dioxide concentrations, maintaining biodiversity at 90 percent, the use of nitrogen and phosphorous, maintaining 75 percent of original forests, aerosol emissions, stratospheric ozone depletion, ocean acidification, fresh water use and the dumping of pollutants.

The planet has been our best friend by buffering our actions and showing its resilience,” said Rockstrom. “But for the first time ever, we might shift the planet from friend to foe.”

Image from ideas.ted.com

Image from ideas.ted.com

Rockstrom’s planetary boundary theory was first conceived in 2007. His new paper reveals that because of climate stability, which began when the Ice Age ended 11,000 years ago, a planetary calm helped our ancestors to cultivate wheat, domesticate animals, and launch industrial and communications revolutions. But those advances have strained the stability of the planet, and Rockstrom says we have broken four boundaries: too much nitrogen has been added to ecosystems, too many forests have been cut down, the climate is changing too quickly and species are going extinct at too great a rate.

Speaking to RT’s Ben Swann, Professor of Ethics Bron Taylor from the University of Florida said that we have accelerated the extinction crisis through deforestation and ocean acidification, a development which is driving species to extinction.

“[Human] beings have increased, even from 1925, from 2 billion – which is considered to be a sustainable population for human beings, according to northern European consumption standards – to 7.2 billion at this point,” he said.

What we have also done is increased the number of domestic animals, the ones we eat and the ones that are companion animals. We have 4.3 domestic animals one for every two human beings on the planet. Cultivating the land they need creates species extinction because where they are, other organism are not. Where we cut down forests for cattle, other species are not there.”

We are losing literally tens of thousands of endemic or native species to these trends.”

Professor Taylor told RT that scientists say we entering the Sixth extinction, but that this an anthropogenic extinction caused by human beings.

If you don’t have control over something, there is no moral obligation,” said Taylor. “In this case, we are doing it. So we have to ask the question: If we are doing something that is driving species off the planet, are we in some sense morally culpable?”

“What right do we have to drive [out] other species, who got here in precisely in the same way that we have, who have participated in the long struggle for existence just as we have?”

Meanwhile, Professor Rockstrom is using his planetary boundary theory not as a doomsday message but as analysis to keep the planet “safe” for humanity. He said nations can cut their carbon emissions to almost nothing and pull the Earth back across the climate boundary.

“For the first time,” he said, “we have a framework for growth, for eradicating poverty and hunger, and for improving health.”

Mais um peixe-leão é encontrado no Brasil (Estadão)

Herton Escobar

04 março 2015 | 08:45

Espécie invasora já se espalhou por todo o Caribe e ameaça avançar também pela costa brasileira. Peixe foi avistado por mergulhadores em Arraial do Cabo, no RJ

Peixe-leão encontrado em Arraial do Cabo (RJ) no dia 1 de março. Foto: Queiroz Diver/Divulgação, via Facebook 

Peixe-leão encontrado em Arraial do Cabo (RJ) no dia 1 de março. Foto: Queiroz Diver/Divulgação, via Facebook

Uma das maiores ameaças à biodiversidade marinha do Caribe pode ter chegado de fato à costa brasileira. Está circulando no Facebook o vídeo de um segundo peixe-leão encontrado em Arraial do Cabo, no Rio de Janeiro, por um grupo de mergulhadores da empresa Queiroz Divers: http://goo.gl/0S5DAu

O peixe-leão é uma espécie invasora do Indo-Pacífico que se espalhou pelo Caribe ao longo dos últimos 20 anos, causando sérios danos à biodiversidade nativa dos recifes de coral da região. Ele é um predador voraz, que come tudo que encontra pela frente e se multiplica numa velocidade espantosa. Em pouco tempo, torna-se o peixe dominante do ecossistema, em detrimento de todas as outras espécies que habitam os recifes. Tanto que, em muitos recifes de coral do Caribe hoje, a única coisa que você encontra é o peixe-leão. Os outros peixes nativos do ecossistema tiveram suas populações drasticamente reduzidas ou desapareceram por completo, devorados por ele.

Segundo as informações postadas no Facebook, esse segundo peixe foi avistado no dia 1/3, no ponto de mergulho Anequim. O vídeo foi postado no dia seguinte. “Assim que o encontramos, informamos aos órgãos competentes: AMA – IEAPM – ICMBio. Feito isso nos solicitaram que postássemos o vídeo e divulgássemos para que podéssemos (sic) unir nossas forças em prol da nossa região e capturá-lo”, diz o post da Queiroz Diver.

O primeiro peixe-leão do Brasil foi avistado pouco menos de um ano atrás, em maio de 2014, também em Arraial do Cabo, como relatei aqui no blog na ocasião: Peixe-leão é encontrado no Brasil

Em 2011 fiz uma reportagem especial sobre a invasão do peixe-leão no Caribe e venho acompanhando esse assunto desde então. É um problema seríssimo. Se esse bicho começar a se reproduzir e se espalhar de fato pela costa brasileira, o estrago causado à nossa biodiversidade marinha (que já é, naturalmente, bem menor do que a do Caribe) será imenso. No Caribe, faz 20 anos que tentam erradicar o bicho e não conseguem. Ele é muito resiliente e se reproduz rápido demais. O que se pode fazer é apenas controlar a expansão da população, por meio da caça.

Reportagem especial sobre a invasão do Caribe pelo peixe-leão, publicada no Estadão em 2011. 

Reportagem especial sobre a invasão do Caribe pelo peixe-leão, e já alertando sobre o risco de invasão no Brasil, publicada no Estadão em 2011.

Suspeita-se que a invasão do Caribe tenha começado no sul da Flórida, com alguns poucos peixes que foram soltos no mar por aquaristas, depois que os bichos se tornaram grandes demais para os seus aquários. Espero que seja este o caso também em Arraial do Cabo, e que esses dois peixes avistados até agora sejam indivíduos isolados, que não tiveram parceiros ou tempo suficiente para se reproduzirem. É improvável que eles sejam da mesma população do Caribe, pois neste caso o natural seria que a invasão tivesse começado pelo Norte e Nordeste do Brasil, e não pelo Sudeste. Mas nunca se sabe … Mergulhadores e autoridades ambientais precisam estar alertas para combater a invasão imediatamente e impedir que ela se alastre pela costa brasileira, caso novos peixes apareçam por aí.

Espero também que não seja alguma jogada publicitária ou brincadeira de mau gosto (tipo, alguém botou o peixe lá de propósito …). O peixe foi avistado no mesmo dia que o Fantástico, da Rede Globo, veiculou uma grande reportagem sobre o assunto, feita pelo meu camarada Ernesto Paglia: http://glo.bo/1E7VaFh

Um peixe-leão arpoado nas Bahamas. Foto: Herton Escobar/Estadão (2011) 

Um peixe-leão arpoado nas Bahamas. Foto: Herton Escobar/Estadão (2011)

Para ver um vídeográfico que mostra a evolução da invasão do peixe-leão no Caribe, clique aqui: http://migre.me/jbH3B

Para saber mais sobre o peixe-leão, leia também: De olho no peixe-leãoPeixe-Leão nos Recifes de Bonaire e Temporada de caça

Por fim, um estudo que analisa o risco de invasão do peixe-leão no Brasil: http://migre.me/jbH6Q

Abaixo, um vídeo postado de Arraial do Cabo, mostrando o primeiro peixe encontrado lá:

E dois feitos por mim, em Bonaire e nas Bahamas, quando estive lá pesquisando esse assunto para o jornal em 2011:

Dahr Jamail | The “Mega-Drought Future,” the Disappearance of Coral Reefs and the Unwillingness to Listen (Truthout)

Monday, 02 March 2015 00:00

By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report 

Since 2011, destruction of the oceans has not only continued, but it has increased dramatically. A World Resources report states that all coral reefs will be gone by 2050 "if no actions are taken," a study published in BioScience states that oysters are already "functionally extinct" since their populations are decimated by overharvesting and disease, and the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico, and others around the globe, continue to break size records. (Photo via Shutterstock)

Since 2011, destruction of the oceans has not only continued, but it has increased dramatically. (Photo: Dead Coral Reef via Shutterstock)

Scientists are now mapping a world that is changing rapidly in often-terrifying ways. Climate disruption and world leaders’ unwillingness to act have put us at risk of experiencing mega-droughts, the disappearance of coral reefs and other ecological impacts of an anthropogenically warming planet.

The UN World Meteorological Organization recently announced that 14 of the 15 hottest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000. Ponder that for a moment before reading further.

In what is perhaps eerily prophetic timing, this February marked the 50th anniversary of US President Lyndon B. Johnson’s warning about carbon dioxide. In a 1965 special message to Congress, he warned about the buildup of carbon dioxide and said, in what would become the harbinger warning of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD):

Air pollution is no longer confined to isolated places. This generation has altered the composition of the atmosphere on a global scale through radioactive materials and a steady increase in carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.

The potential consequences of this warming are also multiplying, as witnessed by a recent NASA study that shows that the United States is “at risk of [a] mega-drought future.” The research shows that the Southwest and Central Plains are both on course for super-droughts, which have not been witnessed in over 1,000 years.

To see more stories like this, visit “Planet or Profit?”

In this month’s climate dispatch, we document a wide range of research along similar lines: Scientists are now mapping a world that is changing rapidly in often terrifying ways.

Earth

After the single worst mountaineering accident in history took place last summer on Mount Everest, the standard climbing route for that mountain has become off limits. Many mountaineers, including this writer, credit ACD with making the section of the route where the deadly accident occurred more dangerous than ever before.

Climate Disruption DispatchesAn increasing number of reports now demonstrate that ACD is leading to new disease outbreaks around the world. In fact, many scientists fear that ACD is already creating the ecological basis for infectious deadly diseases to spread to both new places and new hosts as the planet’s atmosphere changes.

Other scientists are warning of a coming “climate plague,” and say that exotic diseases like Ebola, SARS and West Nile virus will become “increasingly common” as ACD progresses. Less dramatically but equally pertinent, recent studies are already linking ACD to longer and more intense hay fever seasons in the United States.

Wildlife is reflecting the changes to the climate as well. Grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park emerged several weeks early from their winter hibernation due to the arrival of spring-like weather, with warmer temperatures and rain falling instead of the usual snow, according to a park spokesperson.

Dramatic acceleration of ACD and its impacts on agriculture mean that “profound” societal changes are needed in order to feed the world’s ever-growing population.

Madagascar’s lemur species, most of them already imperiled, are now being severely impacted by the effects of ACD, which will cause an average of half of their current habitats to be removed over the next 70 years.

Although it’s not as though we needed any further evidence that ACD is real and progressing rapidly, a study recently published in Nature, drawn from evidence taken from ancient plankton fossils drilled from the ocean floor, supports current predictions about ACD, as it verifies what we are seeing today, and where it will lead, since it has happened in the past.

On the human front, a recent report shows how disasters resulting from ACD are pushing India’s poorest children further into poverty and sometimes human trafficking, as parents are displaced.

Lastly, researchers at an annual American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in the United States reported that the dramatic acceleration of ACD and its impacts on agriculture mean that “profound” societal changes are needed in order to feed the world’s ever-growing population. One example of these changes is the fact that, according to one of the scientists at the conference, in order to feed the planet between 2000 and 2050, agricultural output would have to produce the same amount of food as was produced in the last 500 years.

Water

As usual, the impact of ACD is extremely clear when it comes to water and water-related issues around the globe.

In Alaska, the annual Iditarod sled dog race is in increasing jeopardy, as warmer temperatures and dwindling snow cover are making it more challenging to run the race. Mushers are having to skirt open-water sections of previously frozen rivers, run their teams and sleds over long sections of bare ground, and run their dogs at night because daytime temperatures are sometimes too warm.

In the Pacific Northwest, a possibly record-setting bad snow year is in full swing, as mountain snowfalls remain at record low levels, and forecasts for the rest of the season are calling for more of the same. By way of example, the snowpack in the Olympic Mountains is at only 8 percent of its usual level.

The planet is experiencing “unabated planetary warming” when one includes the vast amounts of greenhouse-trapped heat in the oceans.

recent report revealed that anthropogenic air pollution in the northern hemisphere is reducing rainfall over Central America. Scientists explained that sun-masking pollution cools the northern hemisphere where most global industry is based. This then pushes the intertropical convergence zone (a rain band that encircles the globe) south because it moves toward the warmer hemisphere.

Researchers from the University of Arizona have shown that melting ice is causing the land to rise up in Iceland, and possibly elsewhere. The result of this could be a dramatic increase in the number of volcanic eruptions around the globe – yet another unintended consequence of ACD.

While it’s no secret that glaciers are melting in Antarctica and Greenland, a recently published study provided new evidence that the carbon from melting glaciers is impacting the downstream food chains and having a significant impact on those ecosystems. This means substantial changes to the base of the food web, changes that will have clear ramifications for global fisheries and ultimately, humans’ ability to feed themselves.

A recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, titled “Smothered Oceans: Extreme Oxygen Loss in Oceans Accompanied Past Global Climate Change,” revealed that abrupt, extensive loss of oxygen occurred in the oceans when the global ice sheets melted approximately 10,000 to 17,000 years ago. These findings explain similar changes that are already occurring in the oceans right now.

New analysis of thousands of temperature measurements taken during deep ocean probes confirmed that the planet is experiencing “unabated planetary warming” when one includes the vast amounts of greenhouse-trapped heat in the oceans.

Life in the oceans is being impacted in what are increasingly obvious ways. Rutgers University professor Malin Pinsky, who studies the effects of ACD on fisheries, recently announced a study showing species redistribution (having to move to new areas due to temperature changes) of fluke, which are being pushed north toward cooler waters. Pinsky has already studied a similar phenomenon happening with flounder.

In California, nearly 1,000 sea lions have been washed ashore this year in what rehabilitation centers state is a growing crisis for the animals. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials are blaming warming ocean temperatures for the problem.

ACD-fueled drought continues to plague the planet, as the major vacillations between extreme dryness and floods grow increasingly common.

It’s important to place this distressing news for the planet’s oceans in a larger – and even more distressing – context. Now is a good time to recall an alarming 2011 report, in which the International Program on the State of the Ocean warned of mass extinction, based on the then-current rate of marine distress. The expert panel of scientists warned that a mass extinction event “unlike anything human history has ever seen” was coming, if the multifaceted degradation of the world’s oceans continues.

Since 2011, destruction of the oceans has not only continued, but it has increased dramatically. A World Resources report states that all coral reefs will be gone by 2050 “if no actions are taken,” a study published in BioScience states that oysters are already “functionally extinct” since their populations are decimated by overharvesting and disease, and the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, and others around the globe, continue to break size records.

Other water-related effects of climate disruption abound.

The massive snowfall in Boston this winter set all-time records for snow within 14, 20, and 30-day periods, and has been tied to ACD.

ACD-fueled drought continues to plague the planet, as the major vacillations between extreme dryness and floods grow increasingly common.

Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest and wealthiest city that typically has access to one-eighth of the fresh water on the planet, is now seeing its taps run dry as the region struggles to cope with “an unprecedented water crisis.” And in the United States, California’s drought continues to make front-page news, as usual. The state suffered one of its driest Januarys on record, indicating that, without a doubt, the state is headed into a fourth straight year of drought.

Also in California, scientists are seeing that state’s shrinking snowpack as a harbinger of things to come. They are expecting the snowpack to shrink by at least one-third as the climate continues to warm in the coming decades, and expect that by the end of this century, more than half of what now functions as a massive natural freshwater reservoir could be gone.

Indeed, a recent NASA study warns us of an “unprecedented” North American drought, and shows that California is currently in the midst of its worst drought in more than 1,200 years. The study also shows how things are only going to get worse.

Meanwhile, the distress signals from the Arctic continue to make themselves known, in the form of melting ice.

A study recently published in the Journal of Climate shows that the amount of ice already lost in the Arctic dwarfs any of the ice gains that have occurred around Antarctica. ACD deniers had pointed toward increasing ice buildup in parts of the Antarctic as a sign that ACD was not happening, but this study blows that “argument” out of the water. “I hope that these results will make it clear that, globally, the Earth has lost sea ice over the past several decades, despite the Antarctic gains,” wrote study author Claire Parkinson, a sea ice researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Seattle-based urban planner Jeffrey Linn produced a series of maps that show what is going to occur as sea levels continue to rise and major cities are submerged in hundreds of feet of water. They are worth looking at closely.

A study just published in the journal Nature Communications shows that sea levels north of New York City “jumped by 128mm (5 inches)” in just two years. This is an unprecedented rate in the history of tide gauge records. The US scientists who authored the study warned that coastal areas now need to prepare for “short term and extreme sea level events.”

Lastly, on the subject of rising sea levels, researchers recently reported that rising sea levels are already impacting Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the historic and iconic launch pads 39A and 39B are under threat as nearby beachfront is washing away at an alarming rate.

Fire

A recent state-commissioned study in the US projects between a 2.5 to 5.5-degree Fahrenheit temperature increase by 2050, which would bring more disease, crop damage and wildfires to the state of Colorado, along with other states in the center of the country.

To make matters worse, another recent report makes it clear that wildfire season in the United States, which used to be confined to the months of July and August, has grown two and a half months longer in the last 40 years – and continues to expand.

Beyond the US, a recent study in the New Scientist revealed that ACD-augmented wildfires could begin releasing radioactive material locked in contaminated forest soils around Chernobyl, allowing them to spread all over Europe.

Air

A recent study published in Scientific Reports reveals that the forests’ ability to suck carbon from the atmosphere is likely slowing down. The ramifications for this are obvious: With forests’ ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere compromised, the impacts of ACD speed up dramatically.

Climate Central recently published an interactive tool called Winter Loses Its Cool, which allows you to see how daily low temperature projections for US cities are being impacted by ACD.

A modeling study published in LiveScience in February shows how ACD is spawning even more tornadoes in the US Southeast.

Another report – which shouldn’t surprise anyone living in the frigid northeastern US – shows how ACD is clearly shifting the jet stream that drives the weather for that region. This has been evident throughout most of February, where record-breakingbitterly cold air from Siberia wracked the region, along with the eastern half of Canada, with incredibly low temperatures and record snowfalls. It is obvious that something is amiss with the planet’s atmosphere when the US Northeast is getting weather, regularly now, that used to be found only within the Arctic Circle. As global temperatures slowly equalize as a result of ACD, the jet stream is no longer contained to its previous patterns.

January 2015 showed that worldwide temperatures are showing little sign of relenting from 2014’s record high levels, as January matched the warmest records for the month in 125 years of data records, according to Japan’s Meteorological Agency.

Lastly, the giant craters in Siberia that are believed to have been caused by methane gas eruptions in melting permafrost are now sparking fears of the unfolding of an Arctic natural disaster. That disaster would look like increasingly escalating temperatures that cause self-reinforcing feedback loops to kick in, and cause the permafrost in the Arctic to continue melting, hence releasing the rest of the trapped methane.

Denial and Reality

There is some big news on the ACD-denial front this month, as it was recently revealed how the deniers’ favorite scientist, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’ Wei-Hock Soon, has been taking cash from corporate interests – and the documents are there to prove it. He has accepted more than a cool $1.2 million in money from the fossil fuel industry, and opted not to disclose that minor conflict of interest in the vast majority of his so-called scientific papers.

Nevertheless, others who are taking massive amounts of cash from the fossil fuel industry, like the infamous Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), continue to spout onabout how only God can cause climate change.

A recently published op-ed in LiveScience asks the question, “Is it safe to be a climate scientist?” given how aggressive and even dangerous the pushback has been against scientists for simply doing their jobs.

It’s a legitimate question because given the fact that 2014 was the hottest year on record and all the other overwhelming evidence that ACD is in full swing and accelerating by the day, the denial movement has began to reach new heights of lying and propagandizing. By way of example, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s top business advisor Maurice Newman says that he believes ACD is a “myth.”

“We are conditioning ourselves to ignore the information coming into our ears.”

Meanwhile, talk of “geoengineering” as a “solution” for ACD continues to grow in frequency and volume, to the extent that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently issued two firmly pessimistic reports on the subject. The NAS refused to call it “geoengineering,” however, instead calling it “climate intervention.” The NAS panel rejects the use of the term “geoengineering” because, “We felt ‘engineering’ implied a level of control that is illusory,” according to Dr. Marcia McNutt, who led the report committee.

Another, little-noticed factor that may be driving denial: noise pollution. A senior US scientist recently expressed concerns about how human-created noise is making us oblivious to the sound of nature. Rising background noise in some areas threatens to make people deaf to the sounds of birds, flowing water and wind blowing through trees, and the problem is exacerbated by people opting to use iPods during their hikes. “We are conditioning ourselves to ignore the information coming into our ears,” the scientist said. Along with the fact that the majority of the global population now lacks regular access to wilderness, it is becoming ever easier for people to avoid thinking about ACD, since they are out of touch with the planet.

There have been important recent developments on the reality front for this section.

As a mitigation option, a recent Reuters story reminds us, “Giving more women who want it access to birth control to limit their family size, in both rich and poor countries, could be a hugely effective way to curb climate change, according to experts.”

Truthout also recently published an analytical piece on this topic, noting that there are 225,000 people at the dinner table tonight who weren’t there last night – and that the vast majority of carbon emissions are coming from so-called developed countries, rather than poorer “developing” countries.

In an action geared toward raising global awareness, Catholics in 45 countries aim to send an ACD message through their Lenten chain of fasting this year. In addition, Pope Francis’ scheduled address to a joint session of Congress this fall is aiming to put Republican lawmakers who are ACD deniers square on the hot seat.

Given recent reports and events, let us remember the shockwaves caused in the global scientific community when, in 2010, Australian emeritus professor of microbiology Frank Fenner, who helped eradicate smallpox from the planet, predicted the human race would be extinct within the next 100 years. Believing humans will be unable to survive the ongoing twin-headed dragon of unbridled population explosion and overconsumption, Fenner stated unequivocally, “It’s an irreversible situation. I think it’s too late. I try not to express that because people are trying to do something, but they keep putting it off.”

On that note, researchers at Oxford University recently compiled a “scientific assessment about the possibility of oblivion” that predicts various scenarios of how human civilization will most likely end.

With ACD listed as the No. 1 most likely way we perish, the list goes on to include other possibilities like global thermonuclear war, a global pandemic, ecological catastrophe and global system catastrophe. Only two of the 12 scenarios – major asteroid impact and a super volcano – were not anthropogenic.

Regarding ACD, the researchers believe the possibility of global coordination to mitigate the impacts to be the largest controllable factor in whether or not catastrophe can be prevented. However, they also warned that the impact of ACD would be strongest in poorer countries, and that large human die-offs stemming from migrations and famines would cause major global instability.

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