Arquivo da tag: História

For Decades, Our Coverage Was Racist. To Rise Above Our Past, We Must Acknowledge It (National Geographic)

We asked a preeminent historian to investigate our coverage of people of color in the U.S. and abroad. Here’s what he found.

In a full-issue article on Australia that ran in 1916, Aboriginal Australians were called “savages” who “rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.” PHOTOGRAPHS BY C.P. SCOTT (MAN); H.E. GREGORY (WOMAN); NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE (BOTH)

This story helps launch a series about racial, ethnic, and religious groups and their changing roles in 21st-century life. The series runs through 2018 and will include coverage of Muslims, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans.


 “Cards and clay pipes amuse guests in Fairfax House’s 18th-century parlor,” reads the caption in a 1956 article on Virginia history. Although slave labor built homes featured in the article, the writer contended that they “stand for a chapter of this country’s history every American is proud to remember.” PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT F. SISSON AND DONALD MCBAIN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE (RIGHT)

I’m the tenth editor of National Geographic since its founding in 1888. I’m the first woman and the first Jewish person—a member of two groups that also once faced discrimination here. It hurts to share the appalling stories from the magazine’s past. But when we decided to devote our April magazine to the topic of race, we thought we should examine our own history before turning our reportorial gaze to others.

Race is not a biological construct, as writer Elizabeth Kolbert explains in this issue, but a social one that can have devastating effects. “So many of the horrors of the past few centuries can be traced to the idea that one race is inferior to another,” she writes. “Racial distinctions continue to shape our politics, our neighborhoods, and our sense of self.”

How we present race matters. I hear from readers that National Geographic provided their first look at the world. Our explorers, scientists, photographers, and writers have taken people to places they’d never even imagined; it’s a tradition that still drives our coverage and of which we’re rightly proud. And it means we have a duty, in every story, to present accurate and authentic depictions—a duty heightened when we cover fraught issues such as race.

Photographer Frank Schreider shows men from Timor island his camera in a 1962 issue. The magazine often ran photos of “uncivilized” native people seemingly fascinated by “civilized” Westerners’ technology. PHOTOGRAPH BY FRANK AND HELEN SCHREIDER, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

We asked John Edwin Mason to help with this examination. Mason is well positioned for the task: He’s a University of Virginia professor specializing in the history of photography and the history of Africa, a frequent crossroads of our storytelling. He dived into our archives.

What Mason found in short was that until the 1970s National Geographicall but ignored people of color who lived in the United States, rarely acknowledging them beyond laborers or domestic workers. Meanwhile it pictured “natives” elsewhere as exotics, famously and frequently unclothed, happy hunters, noble savages—every type of cliché.

Unlike magazines such as Life, Mason said, National Geographic did little to push its readers beyond the stereotypes ingrained in white American culture.

editors-page-pacific-islanders.adapt.280.1National Geographic of the mid-20th century was known for its glamorous depictions of Pacific islanders. Tarita Teriipaia, from Bora-Bora, was pictured in July 1962—the same year she appeared opposite Marlon Brando in the movie Mutiny on the Bounty. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUIS MARDEN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE (RIGHT)

“Americans got ideas about the world from Tarzan movies and crude racist caricatures,” he said. “Segregation was the way it was. National Geographic wasn’t teaching as much as reinforcing messages they already received and doing so in a magazine that had tremendous authority. National Geographic comes into existence at the height of colonialism, and the world was divided into the colonizers and the colonized. That was a color line, and National Geographic was reflecting that view of the world.”

Some of what you find in our archives leaves you speechless, like a 1916 story about Australia. Underneath photos of two Aboriginal people, the caption reads: “South Australian Blackfellows: These savages rank lowest in intelligence of all human beings.”

Questions arise not just from what’s in the magazine, but what isn’t. Mason compared two stories we did about South Africa, one in 1962, the other in 1977. The 1962 story was printed two and a half years after the massacre of 69 black South Africans by police in Sharpeville, many shot in the back as they fled. The brutality of the killings shocked the world.

An article reporting on apartheid South Africa in 1977 shows Winnie Mandela, a founder of the Black Parents’ Association and wife of Nelson. She was one of some 150 people the government prohibited from leaving their towns, speaking to the press, and talking to more than two people at a time. PHOTOGRAPH BY JAMES P. BLAIR, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

National Geographic’s story barely mentions any problems,” Mason said. “There are no voices of black South Africans. That absence is as important as what is in there. The only black people are doing exotic dances … servants or workers. It’s bizarre, actually, to consider what the editors, writers, and photographers had to consciously not see.”

Contrast that with the piece in 1977, in the wake of the U.S. civil rights era: “It’s not a perfect article, but it acknowledges the oppression,” Mason said. “Black people are pictured. Opposition leaders are pictured. It’s a very different article.”

Fast-forward to a 2015 story about Haiti, when we gave cameras to young Haitians and asked them to document the reality of their world. “The images by Haitians are really, really important,” Mason said, and would have been “unthinkable” in our past. So would our coverage now of ethnic and religious conflicts, evolving gender norms, the realities of today’s Africa, and much more.

“I buy bread from her every day,” Haitian photographer Smith Neuvieme said of fellow islander Manuela Clermont. He made her the center of this image, published in 2015PHOTOGRAPH BY SMITH NEUVIEME, FOTOKONBIT

Mason also uncovered a string of oddities—photos of “the native person fascinated by Western technology. It really creates this us-and-them dichotomy between the civilized and the uncivilized.” And then there’s the excess of pictures of beautiful Pacific-island women.

“If I were talking to my students about the period until after the 1960s, I would say, ‘Be cautious about what you think you are learning here,’ ” he said. “At the same time, you acknowledge the strengths National Geographic had even in this period, to take people out into the world to see things we’ve never seen before. It’s possible to say that a magazine can open people’s eyes at the same time it closes them.”

April 4 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s a worthy moment to step back, to take stock of where we are on race. It’s also a conversation that is changing in real time: In two years, for the first time in U.S. history, less than half the children in the nation will be white. So let’s talk about what’s working when it comes to race, and what isn’t. Let’s examine why we continue to segregate along racial lines and how we can build inclusive communities. Let’s confront today’s shameful use of racism as a political strategy and prove we are better than this.

For us this issue also provided an important opportunity to look at our own efforts to illuminate the human journey, a core part of our mission for 130 years. I want a future editor of National Geographic to look back at our coverage with pride—not only about the stories we decided to tell and how we told them but about the diverse group of writers, editors, and photographers behind the work.

We hope you will join us in this exploration of race, beginning this month and continuing throughout the year. Sometimes these stories, like parts of our own history, are not easy to read. But as Michele Norris writes in this issue, “It’s hard for an individual—or a country—to evolve past discomfort if the source of the anxiety is only discussed in hushed tones.”


Climate Change – Catastrophic or Linear Slow Progression? (Armstrong Economics)

woolyrhinoIndeed, science was turned on its head after a discovery in 1772 near Vilui, Siberia, of an intact frozen woolly rhinoceros, which was followed by the more famous discovery of a frozen mammoth in 1787. You may be shocked, but these discoveries of frozen animals with grass still in their stomachs set in motion these two schools of thought since the evidence implied you could be eating lunch and suddenly find yourself frozen, only to be discovered by posterity.


The discovery of the woolly rhinoceros in 1772, and then frozen mammoths, sparked the imagination that things were not linear after all. These major discoveries truly contributed to the “Age of Enlightenment” where there was a burst of knowledge erupting in every field of inquisition. Such finds of frozen mammoths in Siberia continue to this day. This has challenged theories on both sides of this debate to explain such catastrophic events. These frozen animals in Siberia suggest strange events are possible even in climates that are not that dissimilar from the casts of dead victims who were buried alive after the volcanic eruption of 79 AD at Pompeii in ancient Roman Italy. Animals can be grazing and then suddenly freeze abruptly. That climate change was long before man invented the combustion engine.

Even the field of geology began to create great debates that perhaps the earth simply burst into a catastrophic convulsion and indeed the planet was cyclical — not linear. This view of sequential destructive upheavals at irregular intervals or cycles emerged during the 1700s. This school of thought was perhaps best expressed by a forgotten contributor to the knowledge of mankind, George Hoggart Toulmin in his rare 1785 book, “The Eternity of the World“:

” ••• convulsions and revolutions violent beyond our experience or conception, yet unequal to the destruction of the globe, or the whole of the human species, have both existed and will again exist ••• [terminating] ••• an astonishing succession of ages.”

Id./p3, 110


In 1832, Professor A. Bernhardi argued that the North Polar ice cap had extended into the plains of Germany. To support this theory, he pointed to the existence of huge boulders that have become known as “erratics,” which he suggested were pushed by the advancing ice. This was a shocking theory for it was certainly a nonlinear view of natural history. Bernhardi was thinking out of the box. However, in natural science people listen and review theories unlike in social science where theories are ignored if they challenge what people want to believe. In 1834, Johann von Charpentier (1786-1855) argued that there were deep grooves cut into the Alpine rock concluding, as did Karl Schimper, that they were caused by an advancing Ice Age.

This body of knowledge has been completely ignored by the global warming/climate change religious cult. They know nothing about nature or cycles and they are completely ignorant of history or even that it was the discovery of these ancient creatures who froze with food in their mouths. They cannot explain these events nor the vast amount of knowledge written by people who actually did research instead of trying to cloak an agenda in pretend science.

Glaciologists have their own word, jökulhlaup(from Icelandic), to describe the spectacular outbursts when water builds up behind a glacier and then breaks loose. An example was the 1922 jökulhlaup in Iceland. Some seven cubic kilometers of water, melted by a volcano under a glacier, had rushed out in a few days. Still grander, almost unimaginably events, were floods that had swept across Washington state toward the end of the last ice age when a vast lake dammed behind a glacier broke loose. Catastrophic geologic events are not generally part of the uniformitarian geologist’s thinking. Rather, the normal view tends to be linear including events that are local or regional in size

One example of a regional event would be the 15,000 square miles of the Channeled Scablands in eastern WashingtonInitially, this spectacular erosion was thought to be the product of slow gradual processes. In 1923, JHarlen Bretz presented a paper to the Geological Society of America suggesting the Scablands were eroded catastrophically. During the 1940s, after decades of arguing, geologists admitted that high ridges in the Scablands were the equivalent of the little ripples one sees in mud on a streambed, magnified ten thousand times. Finally, by the 1950s, glaciologists were accustomed to thinking about catastrophic regional floods. The Scablands are now accepted to have been catastrophically eroded by the “Spokane Flood.” This Spokane flood was the result of the breaching of an ice dam which had created glacial Lake Missoula. Now the United States Geological Survey estimates the flood released 500 cubic miles of water, which drained in as little as 48 hours. That rush of water gouged out millions of tons of solid rock.

When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, this too produced a catastrophic process whereby two hundred million cubic yards of material was deposited by volcanic flows at the base of the mountain in just a matter of hours. Then, less than two years later, there was another minor eruption, but this resulted in creating a mudflow, which carved channels through the recently deposited material. These channels, which are 1/40th the size of the Grand Canyon, exposed flat segments between the catastrophically deposited layers. This is what we see between the layers exposed in the walls of the Grand Canyon. What is clear, is that these events were relatively minor compared to a global flood. For example, the eruption of Mount St. Helens contained only 0.27 cubic miles of material compared to other eruptions, which have been as much as 950 cubic miles. That is over 2,000 times the size of Mount St. Helens!

With respect to the Grand Canyon, the specific geologic processes and timing of the formation of the Grand Canyon have always sparked lively debates by geologists. The general scientific consensus, updated at a 2010 conference, maintains that the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon beginning 5 million to 6 million years ago. This general thinking is still linear and by no means catastrophic. The Grand Canyon is believed to have been gradually eroded. However, there is an example cyclical behavior in nature which demonstrates that water can very rapidly erode even solid rock. An example of this took place in the Grand Canyon region back on June 28th, 1983. There emerged an overflow of Lake Powell which required the use of the Glen Canyon Dam’s 40-foot diameter spillway tunnels for the first time. As the volume of water increased, the entire dam started to vibrate and large boulders spewed from one of the spillways. The spillway was immediately shut down and an inspection revealed catastrophic erosion had cut through the three-foot-thick reinforced concrete walls and eroded a hole 40 feet wide, 32 feet deep, and 150 feet long in the sandstone beneath the dam. Nobody thought such catastrophic erosion that quick was even possible.

Some have speculated that the end of the Ice Age resulted in a flood of water which had been contained by an ice dam. Like that of the Scablands, it is possible that a sudden catastrophic release of water originally carved the Grand Canyon. It is clear that both the formation of the Scablands and the evidence of how Mount St Helens unfolded, may be support for the catastrophic formation of events rather than nice, slow, and linear formations.

Then there is the Biblical Account of the Great Flood and Noah. Noah is also considered to be a Prophet of Islam. Darren Aronofsky’s film Noah was based on the biblical story of Genesis. Some Christians were angry because the film strayed from biblical Scripture. The Muslim-majority countries banned the film Noah from screening in theaters because Noah was a prophet of God in the Koran. They considered it to be blasphemous to make a film about a prophet. Many countries banned the film entirely.

The story of Noah predates the Bible. There exists the legend of the Great Flood rooted in the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia. The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh dates back nearly 5,000 years which is believed to be perhaps the oldest written tale on Earth. Here too, we find an account of the great sage Utnapishtim, who is warned of an imminent flood to be unleashed by wrathful gods. He builds a vast circular-shaped boat, reinforced with tar and pitch, and carries his relatives, grains along with animals. After enduring days of storms, Utnapishtim, like Noah in Genesis, releases a bird in search of dry land. Since there is evidence that there were survivors in different parts of the world, it is merely logical that there should be more than just one.

Archaeologists generally agree that there was a historical deluge between 5,000 and 7,000 years ago which hit lands ranging from the Black Sea to what many call the cradle of civilization, which was the floodplain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The translation of ancient cuneiform tablets in the 19th century confirmed the Mesopotamian Great Flood myth as an antecedent of the Noah story in the Bible.

The problem that existed was the question of just how “great” was the Great Flood? Was it regional or worldwide? The stories of the Great Flood in Western Culture clearly date back before the Bible. The region implicated has long been considered to be the Black Sea. It has been suggested that the water broke through the land by Istanbul and flooded a fertile valley on the other side much as we just looked at in the Scablands. Robert Ballard, one of the world’s best-known underwater archaeologists, who found the Titanic, set out to test that theory to search for an underwater civilization. He discovered that some four hundred feet below the surface, there was an ancient shoreline, proving that there was a catastrophic event did happen in the Black Sea. By carbon dating shells found along the underwater shoreline, Ballard dated this catastrophic event to around 5,000 BC. This may match around the time when Noah’s flood could have occurred.

Given the fact that for the entire Earth to be submerged for 40 days and 40 nights is impossible for that much water to simply vanish, we are probably looking at a Great Flood that at the very least was regional. However, there are tales of the Great Floodwhich spring from many other sources. Various ancient cultures have their own legends of a Great Flood and salvation. According to Vedic lore, a fish tells the mythic Indian king Manu of a Great Flood that will wipe out humanity. In turn, Manu also builds a ship to withstand the epic rains and is later led to a mountaintop by the same fish.

We also find an Aztec story that tells of a devout couple hiding in the hollow of a vast tree with two ears of corn as divine storms drown the wicked of the land. Creation myths from Egypt to Scandinavia also involve tidal floods of all sorts of substances purging and remaking the earth. The fact that we have Great Flood stories from India is not really a surprise since there was contact between the Middle East and India throughout recorded history. However, the Aztec story lacks the ship, but it still contains punishing the wicked and here there was certainly no direct contact, although there is evidence of cocaine use in Egypt implying there was some trade route probably through island hopping in the Pacific to the shores of India and off to Egypt. Obviously, we cannot rule out that this story of the Great Flood even made it to South America. 

Then again, there is the story of Atlantis – the island that sunk beath the sea. The Atlantic Ocean covers approximately one-fifth of Earth’s surface and second in size only to the Pacific Ocean. The ocean’s name, derived from Greek mythology, means the “Sea of Atlas.” The origin of names is often very interesting clues as well. For example. New Jersey is the English Translation of Latin Nova Caesarea which appeared even on the colonial coins of the 18th century. Hence, the state of New Jersey is named after the Island of Jersey which in turn was named in the honor of Julius Caesar. So we actually have an American state named after the man who changed the world on par with Alexander the Great, for whom Alexandria of Virginia is named after with the location of the famous cemetery for veterans, where John F. Kennedy is buried.

So here the Atlantic Ocean is named after Atlas and the story of Atlantis. The original story of Atlantis comes to us from two Socratic dialogues called Timaeus and Critias, both written about 360 BC by the Greek philosopher Plato. According to the dialogues, Socrates asked three men to meet him: Timaeus of Locri, Hermocrates of Syracuse, and Critias of Athens. Socrates asked the men to tell him stories about how ancient Athens interacted with other states. Critias was the first to tell the story. Critias explained how his grandfather had met with the Athenian lawgiver Solon, who had been to Egypt where priests told the Egyptian story about Atlantis. According to the Egyptians, Solon was told that there was a mighty power based on an island in the Atlantic Ocean. This empire was called Atlantis and it ruled over several other islands and parts of the continents of Africa and Europe.

Atlantis was arranged in concentric rings of alternating water and land. The soil was rich and the engineers were technically advanced. The architecture was said to be extravagant with baths, harbor installations, and barracks. The central plain outside the city was constructed with canals and an elaborate irrigation system. Atlantis was ruled by kings but also had a civil administration. Its military was well organized. Their religious rituals were similar to that of Athens with bull-baiting, sacrifice, and prayer.

Plato told us about the metals found in Atlantis, namely gold, silver, copper, tin and the mysterious Orichalcum. Plato said that the city walls were plated with Orichalcum (Brass). This was a rare alloy metal back then which was found both in Crete as well as in the Andes, in South America. An ancient shipwreck was discovered off the coast of Sicily in 2015 which contained 39 ingots of Orichalcum. Many claimed this proved the story of AtlantisOrichalcum was believed to have been a gold/copper alloy that was cheaper than gold, but twice the value of copper. Of course, Orichalcum was really a copper-tin or copper-zinc brass. We find in Virgil’s Aeneid, the breastplate of Turnus is described as “stiff with gold and white orichalc”.

The monetary reform of Augustus in 23BC reintroduced bronze coinage which had vanished after 84BC. Here we see the introduction of Orichalcum for the Roman sesterius and the dupondius. The Roman As was struck in near pure copper. Therefore, about 300 years after Plato, we do see Orichalcum being introduced as part of the monetary system of Rome. It is clear that Orichalcum was rare at the time Plato wrote this. Consequently, this is similar to the stories of America that there was so much gold, they paved the streets with it.

As the story is told, Atlantis was located in the Atlantic Ocean. There have been bronze-age anchors discovered at the Gates of Hercules (Straights of Gibralter) and many people proclaimed this proved Atlantis was real. However, what these proponents fail to take into account is the Minoans. The Minoans were perhaps the first International Economy. They traded far and wide even with Britain seeking tin to make bronze – henceBronze Age. Their civilization was of the Bronze Age rising civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC – nearly 12,000 years. Their trading range and colonization extended to Spain, Egypt, Israel (Canaan), Syria (Levantine), Greece, Rhodes, and of course to Turkey (Anatolia). Many other cultures referred to them as the people from the islands in the middle of the sea. However, the Minoans had no mineral deposits. They lacked gold as well as silver or even the ability to produce large mining of copper. They appear to have copper mines in Anatolia (Turkey) in colonized cities. What has survived are examples of copper ingots that served as MONEY in trade. Keep in mind that gold at this point was rare, too rare to truly serve as MONEY. It is found largely as jewelry in tombs of royal dignitaries.

The Bronze Age emerged at different times globally appearing in Greece and China around 3,000BC but it came late to Britain reaching there about 1900BC. It is known that copper emerged as a valuable tool in Anatolia (Turkey) as early as 6,500BC, where it began to replace stone in the creation of tools. It was the development of casting copper that also appears to aid the urbanization of man in Mesopotamia. By 3,000BC, copper is in wide use throughout the Middle East and starts to move up into Europe. Copper in its pure stage appears first, and tin is eventually added creating actual bronze where a bronze sword would break a copper sword. It was this addition of tin that really propelled the transition of copper to bronze and the tin was coming from England where vast deposits existed at Cornwall. We know that the Minoans traveled into the Atlantic for trade. Anchors are not conclusive evidence of Atlantis.

As the legend unfolds, Atlantis waged an unprovoked imperialistic war on the remainder of Asia and Europe. When Atlantis attacked, Athens showed its excellence as the leader of the Greeks, the much smaller city-state the only power to stand against Atlantis. Alone, Athens triumphed over the invading Atlantean forces, defeating the enemy, preventing the free from being enslaved, and freeing those who had been enslaved. This part may certainly be embellished and remains doubtful at best. However, following this battle, there were violent earthquakes and floods, and Atlantis sank into the sea, and all the Athenian warriors were swallowed up by the earth. This appears to be almost certainly a fiction based on some ancient political realities. Still, the explosive disappearance of an island some have argued is a reference to the eruption of MinoanSantorini. The story of Atlantis does closely correlate with Plato’s notions of The Republic examining the deteriorating cycle of life in a state.


There have been theories that Atlantiswas the Azores, and still, others argue it was actually South America. That would explain to some extent the cocaine mummies in Egypt. Yet despite all these theories, usually, when there is an ancient story, despite embellishment, there is often a grain of truth hidden deep within. In this case, Atlantis may not have completely submerged, but it could have partially submerged from an earthquake at least where some people survived. Survivors could have made to either the Americas or to Africa/Europe. What is clear, is that a sudden event could have sent a  tsunami into the Mediterranean which then broke the land mass at Istanbul and flooded the valley below transforming this region into the Black Sea becoming the story of Noah.

We also have evidence which has surfaced that the Earth was struck by a comet around 12,800 years ago. Scientific American has published that sediments from six sites across North America—Murray Springs, Ariz.; Bull Creek, Okla.; Gainey, Mich.; Topper, S.C.; Lake Hind, Manitoba; and Chobot, Alberta, have yielded tiny diamonds, which only occur in sediment exposed to extreme temperatures and pressures. The evidence surfacing implies that the Earth moved into an Ice Age killing off large mammals and setting the course for Global Cooling for the next 1300 years. This may indeed explain that catastrophic freezing of Wooly Mammoths in Siberia. Such an event could have also been responsible for the legend of Atlantis where the survivors migrated taking their stories with them.

There is also evidence surfacing from stone carvings at one of the oldest sites recorded located in Anatolia (Turkey). Using a computer programme to show where the constellations would have appeared above Turkey thousands of years ago, researchers were able to pinpoint the comet strike to 10,950BC, the exact time the Younger Dryas,which was was a return to glacial conditions and Global Cooling which temporarily reversed the gradual climatic warming after the Last Glacial Maximum that began to recede around 20,000 BC, utilizing ice core data from Greenland.

Now, there is a very big asteroid which passed by the Earth on September 16th, 2013. What is most disturbing is the fact that its cycle is 19 years so it will return in 2032. Astronomers have not been able to swear it will not hit the Earth on the next pass in 2032. It was discovered by Ukrainian astronomers with just 10 days to go back in 2013.  The 2013 pass was only a distance of 4.2 million miles (6.7 million kilometers). If anything alters its orbit, then it will get closer and closer. It just so happens to line up on a cyclical basis that suggests we should begin to look at how to deflect asteroids and soon.

It definitely appears that catastrophic cooling may also be linked to the Earth being struck by a meteor, asteroids, or a comet. We are clearly headed into a period of Global Cooling and this will get worse as we head into 2032. The question becomes: Is our model also reflecting that it is once again time for an Earth change caused by an asteroid encounter? Such events are not DOOMSDAY and the end of the world. They do seem to be regional. However, a comet striking in North America would have altered the comet freezing animals in Siberia.

If there is a tiny element of truth in the story of Atlantis, the one thing it certainly proves is clear – there are ALWAYS survivors. Based upon a review of the history of civilization as well as climate, what resonates profoundly is that events follow the cyclical model of catastrophic occurrences rather than the linear steady slow progression of evolution.

O Brasil deveria mudar o modo como lida com a memória da escravidão? (BBC Brasil)

29 outubro 2016

Exposição 'Mãe Preta', no Rio de Janeiro

O Brasil recebeu a maioria dos africanos escravizados enviados às Américas

Uma sala com peças de um navio que levava para o Brasil 500 mulheres, crianças e homens escravizados é a principal atração do novo museu sobre a história dos americanos negros, em Washington.

Numa segunda-feira de outubro, era preciso passar 15 minutos na fila para entrar na sala com objetos do São José – Paquete de África, no subsolo do Museu de História e Cultura Afroamericana.

Inaugurado em setembro pelo Smithsonian Institution, o museu custou o equivalente a R$ 1,7 bilhão se tornou o mais concorrido da capital americana: os ingressos estão esgotados até março de 2017.

Em 1794, o São José deixou a Ilha de Moçambique, no leste africano, carregado de pessoas que seriam vendidas como escravas em São Luís do Maranhão. A embarcação portuguesa naufragou na costa da África do Sul, e 223 cativos morreram.

Visitantes – em sua maioria negros americanos – caminhavam em silêncio pela sala que simula o porão de um navio negreiro, entre lastros de ferro do São José e algemas usadas em outras embarcações (um dos pares, com circunferência menor, era destinado a mulheres ou crianças).

“Tivemos 12 negros que se afogaram voluntariamente e outros que jejuaram até a morte, porque acreditam que quando morrem retornam a seu país e a seus amigos”, diz o capitão de outro navio, em relato afixado na parede.

Prova de existência

Expor peças de um navio negreiro era uma obsessão do diretor do museu, Lonnie Bunch. Em entrevista ao The Washington Post, ele disse ter rodado o mundo atrás dos objetos, “a única prova tangível de que essas pessoas realmente existiram”.

Destroços do São José foram descobertos em 1980, mas só entre 2010 e 2011 pesquisadores localizaram em Lisboa documentos que permitiram identificá-lo. Um acordo entre arqueólogos marinhos sul-africanos e o Smithsonian selou a vinda das peças para Washington.

Museu de História e Cultura Afroamericana

Inaugurado em setembro, o Museu de História e Cultura Afroamericana custou US$ 1,7 bilhão. DIVULGAÇÃO/SMITHSONIAN

Que o destino do São José fosse o Brasil não era coincidência, diz Luiz Felipe de Alencastro, professor emérito da Universidade de Paris Sorbonne e um dos maiores especialistas na história da escravidão transatlântica.

Ele afirma à BBC Brasil que fomos o paradeiro de 43% dos africanos escravizados enviados às Américas, enquanto os Estados Unidos acolheram apenas 0,5%.

Segundo um estudo da Universidade de Emory (EUA), ao longo da escravidão ingressaram nos portos brasileiros 4,8 milhões de africanos, a maior marca entre todos os países do hemisfério.

Esse contingente, oito vezes maior que o número de portugueses que entraram no Brasil até 1850, faz com que Alencastro costume dizer que o Brasil “não é um país de colonização europeia, mas africana e europeia”.

O fluxo de africanos também explica porque o Brasil é o país com mais afrodescendentes fora da África (segundo o IBGE, 53% dos brasileiros se consideram pretos ou pardos).

Por que, então, o Brasil não tem museus ou monumentos sobre a escravidão comparáveis ao novo museu afroamericano de Washington?

Apartheid e pilhagem da África

Para Alencastro, é preciso considerar as diferenças nas formas como Brasil e EUA lidaram com a escravidão e seus desdobramentos.

Ele diz que, nos EUA, houve uma maior exploração de negros nascidos no país, o que acabaria resultando numa “forma radical de racismo legal, de apartheid”.

Crianças brincam no Museu de História e Cultura Afroamericana

Museu virou um dos mais concorridos da capital americana e está com os ingressos esgotados até março. BBC BRASIL / JOÃO FELLET

Até a década de 1960, em partes do EUA, vigoravam leis que segregavam negros e brancos em espaços públicos, ônibus, banheiros e restaurantes. Até 1967, casamentos inter-raciais eram ilegais em alguns Estados americanos.

No Brasil, Alencastro diz que a escravidão “se concentrou muito mais na exploração dos africanos e na pilhagem da África”, embora os brasileiros evitem assumir responsabilidade por esses processos.

Ele afirma que muitos no país culpam os portugueses pela escravidão, mas que brasileiros tiveram um papel central na expansão do tráfico de escravos no Atlântico.

Alencastro conta que o reino do Congo, no oeste da África, foi derrubado em 1665 em batalha ordenada pelo governo da então capitania da Paraíba.

“O pelotão de frente das tropas era formado por mulatos pernambucanos que foram barbarizar na África e derrubar um reino independente”, ele diz.

Vizinha ao Congo, Angola também foi invadida por milicianos do Brasil e passou vários anos sob o domínio de brasileiros, que a tornaram o principal ponto de partida de escravos destinados ao país.

“Essas histórias são muito ocultadas e não aparecem no Brasil”, ele afirma.

Reparações históricas

Para a brasileira Ana Lucia Araújo, professora da Howard University, em Washington, “o Brasil ainda está muito atrás dos EUA” na forma como trata a história da escravidão.

“Aqui (nos EUA) se reconhece que o dinheiro feito nas costas dos escravos ajudou a construir o país, enquanto, no Brasil, há uma negação disso”, ela diz.

Autora de vários estudos sobre a escravidão nas Américas, Araújo afirma que até a ditadura (1964-1985) era forte no Brasil a “ideologia da democracia racial”, segundo a qual brancos e negros conviviam harmonicamente no país.

São recentes no Brasil políticas para atenuar os efeitos da escravidão, como cotas para negros em universidades públicas e a demarcação de territórios quilombolas.

Ferragens usadas em navios negreiros

Expor peças de um navio negreiro era uma obsessão do diretor do museu. DIVULGAÇÃO/SMITHSONIAN

Ela diz que ainda poucos museus no Brasil abordam a escravidão, “e, quando o fazem, se referem à população afrobrasileira de maneira negativa, inferiorizante”.

Segundo a professora, um dos poucos espaços a celebrar a cultura e a história afrobrasileira é o Museu Afro Brasil, em São Paulo, mas a instituição deve sua existência principalmente à iniciativa pessoal de seu fundador, o artista plástico Emanoel Araújo.

E só nos últimos anos o Rio de Janeiro passou a discutir o que fazer com o Cais do Valongo, maior porto receptor de escravos do mundo. Mantido por voluntários por vários anos, o local se tornou neste ano candidato ao posto de Patrimônio da Humanidade na Unesco.

Para a professora, museus e monumentos sobre a escravidão “não melhoram as vidas das pessoas, mas promovem um tipo de reparação simbólica ao fazer com que a história dessas populações seja reconhecida no espaço público”.

Visibilidade e representação

Para o jornalista e pesquisador moçambicano Rogério Ba-Senga, a escravidão e outros pontos da história entre Brasil a África têm pouca visibilidade no país, porque “no Brasil os brancos ainda têm o monopólio da representação social dos negros”.

“Há muitos negros pensando e pesquisando a cultura negra no Brasil, mas o centro decisório ainda é branco”, diz Ba-Senga, que mora em São Paulo desde 2003.

Para ele, o cenário mudará quando negros forem mais numerosos na mídia brasileira – “para que ponham esses assuntos em pauta” – e nos órgãos públicos.

Para Alencastro, mesmo que o Estado brasileiro evite tratar da escravidão, o tema virá à tona por iniciativa de outros grupos.

“Nações africanas que foram pilhadas se tornaram independentes. Há nesses países pessoas estudando o tema e uma imigração potencialmente crescente de africanos para o Brasil”, ele diz.

Em outra frente, o professor afirma que movimentos brasileiros em periferias e grupos quilombolas pressionam para que os assuntos ganhem espaço.

“Há hoje uma desconexão entre a academia e o debate no movimento popular, mas logo, logo tudo vai se juntar, até porque a maioria da população brasileira é afrodescentente. Os negros são maioria aqui.”

Catálogo traz à tona História Indígena e Escravidão Negra no Brasil (Nossa Ciência)

PESQUISA Segunda, 31 de Outubro de 2016

Mônica Costa

Crédito: Acervo pessoal

Pesquisa investigou documentos referentes ao Brasil, no período colonial, que constam do Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino, em Lisboa/Portugal

“Temos uma imensa documentação fantástica vinculada ao Quilombo dos Palmares, ao tráfico negreiro. Em relação à questão indígena, temos inúmeros povos e grupos étnicos que souberam negociar com a Coroa Portuguesa, lideranças indígenas que souberam lutar em favor do seu próprio povo.” A afirmação é da professora Juciene Ricarte, da Universidade Federal e Campina Grande (UFCG) sobre o conteúdo dos Catálogos Gerais dos Manuscritos Avulsos e em Códices referentes à História Indígena e à Escravidão Negra no Brasil Existentes no Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino, recentemente lançados em Campina Grande (PB)

Durante quatro anos, o projeto analisou 136.506 mil verbetes/documentos entre os anos de 1581 e 1843 que constam do Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino (AHU), de Lisboa, em Portugal. Foram analisadas cartas relatórios, requerimentos, cartas régias, alvarás, provisões, consultas, relatos de viagens, entre outros documentos geridos pela burocracia administrativa portuguesa e que lidavam com as questões indígenas e da escravidão no Brasil Colonial. Segundo a coordenadora do projeto, os documentos falam do cotidiano da Colônia. “Tem situações e narrativas de luta em mocambos, mocambos com indígenas e negros, levantes em aldeamentos, da vida desses protagonistas”, explica.

Guerra dos Bárbaros

Ao final, o projeto catalogou 6.009 verbetes, sendo 3.052 sobre a História Indígena e 2.957 referentes à escravidão negra em todas as regiões do País. Professora do Programa de Pós-Graduação em História, Juciene garante que muitas monografias, dissertações, teses e livros poderão surgir a partir dessas duas coleções, que contêm ainda todos os documentos digitalizados. “Pesquisadores, antropólogos, historiadores, memorialistas poderão usar esses documentos porque tem mais do que os livros-catálogos com o resumo. Por exemplo, se a pessoa quiser pesquisar sobre os Potiguaras com os Janduis, na Guerra dos Bárbaros, procura no DVD e com o número do verbete, ela vai encontrar a imagem digitalizada do manuscrito. Então, ela pode imprimir, arquivar no próprio computador, ampliar, reduzir e ainda tem acessibilidade para cegos.”

Além da produção dos livros-catálogos, o projeto realizou a gravação dos verbetes em áudio para promover a acessibilidade aos deficientes visuais “Esse formato é extremamente necessário e importante para o que objetivamos de acessibilidade no tocante às fontes históricas. Nenhum outro sistema de informação no trato com documentação de questões étnicas foi produzido com a possibilidade não só da leitura de verbetes, mas da escuta dos resumos”, ressaltou.

Povos exterminados

Tendo concluído o Pós-Doutorado na Universidade Nova de Lisboa, em 2015, Juciene afirma que os pesquisadores encontraram histórias e memórias sobre o cotidiano de diversos grupos indígenas que nem existem mais. São lutas e resistências de muitos que deram a própria vida, etnocídios, povos que foram exterminados lutando por seus territórios tradicionais, outros se adaptando à nova realidade colonial para também sobreviver.

Ela explica que é no período colonial que ocorrem as primeiras relações interétnicas entre indígenas e não-indígenas, entre negros e não-negros, entre senhores e escravos e entre missionários e indígenas. São as primeiras relações do que iria constituir o povo brasileiro. A etnohistoriadora argumenta que a documentação recolhida mostra homens e mulheres que são sujeitos do seu tempo e que tanto indígenas, quanto os homens e mulheres negros conseguiram construir relações e sociabilidade num mundo que, muitas vezes, era de dominação. “Quando se constituiu os aldeamentos indígenas sob a tutela de missionários, da Igreja e depois, com a Lei do Marquês de Pombal, quando expulsaram os jesuítas, esses indígenas sabiam muito bem construir novos espaços nesse mundo colonial, mesmo deixando de falar a própria língua, porque eram obrigados, continuavam sendo indígenas, resistiam, lutavam e ao mesmo tempo, tentavam sobreviver naquela realidade que lhe era imposta. Assim também os homens e mulheres negros. A ideia de escravidão negra é que fossem submetidos. Absolutamente! Eles construíam negociações ou atos de violências numa tentativa de sobreviver num mundo de escravidão”, narra.


Relacionado ao que hoje compreende o nordeste, a coordenadora do projeto esclarece que foi catalogada importante documentação sobre grupos étnicos que já não existem mais no Rio Grande do Norte ou na Paraíba. São os indígenas do sertão, da chamada Guerra dos Bárbaros, além de outros grupos étnicos que viviam ao longo do Rio São Francisco, muitos mocambos e quilombos. Esses documentos podem inclusive ser usados em laudos antropológicos para identificação de territórios tradicionais tanto indígenas, quanto negros.

Justificando a importância do trabalho, a professora afirma que ele não fala apenas do passado, porque negros e indígenas continuam existindo hoje, lutando por inclusão étnico-racial. “Nos próprios livros didáticos de História, é como se a História Indígena e a História do Negro no Brasil não fosse importante e com um instrumento de pesquisa como esse, a gente muda a historiografia nacional, contribui para que esses protagonistas, reais sujeitos históricos do Brasil, tenham vez na escrita da História”, ressalta.

Os produtos culturais – compostos por livros-catálogos e DVD´s – foram realizados por uma equipe de 43 pesquisadores da Universidade Federal de Campina Grande (UFCG) em parceria com a Fundação Parque Tecnológico da Paraíba (PaqTcPB), através do Edital Cultural da Petrobrás/2010. Os recursos foram de R$ 500 mil. A tiragem de cada Catálogo é de dois mil exemplares, a serem distribuídos para todas as universidades brasileiras, arquivos históricos, Movimento Negro e Movimento Indígena. A distribuição será gratuita e exclusivamente para instituições.

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

30 de junho de 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Programa de Catequese

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moeda de troca

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

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

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

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

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

Também a população Guarani do Estado de São Paulo, computada, em 2013, em 3.593 indígenas das etnias Nhandeva e Mbyá, vem crescendo a uma taxa de 4,5% ao ano, muito superior à da média da população brasileira (de 0,9%, em 2013, e de 0,8%, em 2016) (fonte:

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

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

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

50 anos de calamidades na América do Sul (Pesquisa Fapesp)

Terremotos e vulcões matam mais, mas secas e inundações atingem maior número de pessoas 


Um estudo sobre os impactos de 863 desastres naturais registrados nas últimas cinco décadas na América do Sul indica que fenômenos geológicos relativamente raros, como os terremotos e o vulcanismo, produziram quase o dobro de mortes do que eventos climáticos e meteorológicos de ocorrência mais frequente, como inundações, deslizamento de encostas, tempestades e secas. Dos cerca de 180 mil óbitos decorrentes dos desastres, 60% foram em razão de tremores de terra e da atividade de vulcões, um tipo de ocorrência que se concentra nos países andinos, como Peru, Chile, Equador e Colômbia. Os terremotos e o vulcanismo representaram, respectivamente, 11% e 3% dos eventos contabilizados no trabalho.

Aproximadamente 32% das mortes ocorreram em razão de eventos associados a ocorrências meteorológicas ou climáticas, categoria que engloba quatro de cada cinco desastres naturais registrados na região entre 1960 e 2009. Epidemias de doenças – um tipo de desastre biológico com dados escassos sobre a região, segundo o levantamento – levaram 15 mil pessoas a perder a vida, 8% do total. No Brasil, 10.225 pessoas morreram ao longo dessas cinco décadas em razão de desastres naturais, pouco mais de 5% do total, a maioria em inundações e deslizamentos de encostas durante tempestades.

Seca no Nordeste...

O trabalho foi feito pela geógrafa Lucí Hidalgo Nunes, professora do Instituto de Geociências da Universidade Estadual de Campinas (IG-Unicamp) para sua tese de livre-docência e resultou no livro Urbanização e desastres naturais – Abrangência América do Sul (Oficina de Textos), lançado em meados do ano passado. “Desde os anos 1960, a população urbana da América do Sul é maior do que a rural”, diz Lucí. “O palco maior das calamidades naturais tem sido o espaço urbano, que cresce em área ocupada pelas cidades e número de habitantes.”

A situação se inverteu quando o parâmetro analisado foi, em vez da quantidade de mortos, o número de indivíduos afetados em cada tipo de desastre. Dos 138 milhões de vítimas não fatais atingidas por esses eventos, 1% foi alvo de epidemias, 11% de terremotos e vulcanismo, 88% de fenômenos climáticos ou meteorológicos. As secas e as inundações foram as ocorrências que provocaram impactos em mais indivíduos. As grandes estiagens atingiram 57 milhões de pessoas (41% de todos os afetados), e as enchentes, 52,5 milhões de habitantes (38%). O Brasil respondeu por cerca de 85% das vítimas não fatais de secas, essencialmente moradores do Nordeste, e por um terço dos atingidos por inundações, fundamentalmente habitantes das grandes cidades do Sul-Sudeste.

...inundação em Caracas, na Venezuela: esses dois tipos de desastres são os que afetam o maior número de pessoas

Estimados em US$ 44 bilhões ao longo das cinco décadas, os prejuízos materiais associados aos quase 900 desastres contabilizados foram decorrentes, em 80% dos casos, de fenômenos de natureza climática ou meteorológica. “O Brasil tem quase 50% do território e mais da metade da população da América do Sul. Mas foi palco de apenas 20% dos desastres, 5% das mortes e 30% dos prejuízos econômicos associados a esses eventos”, diz Lucí. “O número de pessoas afetadas aqui, no entanto, foi alto, 53% do total de atingidos por desastres na América do Sul. Ainda temos vulnerabilidades, mas não tanto quanto países como Peru, Colômbia e Equador.”

Para escrever o estudo, a geógrafa com-pilou, organizou e analisou os registros de desastres naturais das últimas cinco décadas nos países da América do Sul, além da Guiana Francesa (departamento ultramarino da França), que estão armazenados no Em-Dat – International Disaster Database. Essa base de dados reúne informações sobre mais de 21 mil desastres naturais ocorridos em todo o mundo desde 1900 até hoje. Ela é mantida pelo Centro de Pesquisa em Epidemiologia de Desastres (Cred, na sigla em inglês), que funciona na Escola de Saúde Pública da Universidade Católica de Louvain, em Bruxelas (Bélgica). “Não há base de dados perfeita”, pondera Lucí. “A do Em-Dat é falha, por exemplo, no registro de desastres biológicos.” Sua vantagem é juntar informações oriundas de diferentes fontes – agências não governamentais, órgãos das Nações Unidas, companhias de seguros, institutos de pesquisa e meios de comunicação – e arquivá-las usando sempre a mesma metodologia, abordagem que possibilita a realização de estudos comparativos.

O que caracteriza um desastre
Os eventos registrados no Em-Dat como desastres naturais devem preencher ao menos uma de quatro condições: provocar a morte de no mínimo 10 pessoas; afetar 100 ou mais indivíduos; motivar a declaração de estado de emergência; ou ainda ser a razão para um pedido de ajuda internacional. No trabalho sobre a América do Sul, Lucí organizou os desastres em três grandes categorias, subdivididas em 10 tipos de ocorrências. Os fenômenos de natureza geofísica englobam os terremotos, as erupções vulcânicas e os movimentos de massa seca (como a queda de uma pedra morro abaixo em um dia sem chuva). Os eventos de caráter meteorológico ou climático abarcam as tempestades, as inundações, os deslocamentos de terra em encostas, os extremos de temperatura (calor ou frio fora do normal), as secas e os incêndios. As epidemias representam o único tipo de desastre biológico contabilizado (ver quadro).

062-065_Desastres climáticos_241O climatologista José Marengo, chefe da divisão de pesquisas do Centro Nacional de Monitoramento e Alertas de Desastres Naturais (Cemaden), em Cachoeira Paulista, interior de São Paulo, afirma que, além de eventos naturais, existem desastres considerados tecnológicos e casos híbridos. O rompimento em novembro passado de uma barragem de rejeitos da mineradora Samarco, em Mariana (MG), que provocou a morte de 19 pessoas e liberou toneladas de uma lama tóxica na bacia hidrográfica do rio Doce, não tem relação com eventos naturais. Pode ser qualificado como um desastre tecnológico, em que a ação humana está ligada às causas da ocorrência. Em 2011, o terremoto de 9.0 graus na escala Richter, seguido de tsunamis, foi o maior da história do Japão. Matou quase 16 mil pessoas, feriu 6 mil habitantes e provocou o desaparecimento de 2.500 indivíduos. Destruiu também cerca de 138 mil edificações. Uma das construções afetadas foi a usina nuclear de Fukushima, de cujos reatores vazou radioatividade. “Nesse caso, houve um desastre tecnológico causado por um desastre natural”, afirma Marengo.

Década após década, os registros de desastres naturais têm aumentado no continente, seguindo uma tendência que parece ser global. “A qualidade das informações sobre os desastres naturais melhorou muito nas últimas décadas. Isso ajuda a engrossar as estatísticas”, diz Lucí. “Mas parece haver um aumento real no número de eventos ocorridos.” Segundo o estudo, grande parte da escalada de eventos trágicos se deveu ao número crescente de fenômenos meteorológicos e climáticos de grande intensidade que atingiram a América do Sul. Na década de 1960, houve 51 eventos desse tipo. Nos anos 2000, o número subiu para 257. Ao longo das cinco décadas, a incidência de desastres geofísicos, que provocam muitas mortes, manteve-se mais ou menos estável e os casos de epidemias diminuíram.

Risco urbano 
O número de mortes em razão de eventos extremos parece estar diminuindo depois de ter atingido um pico de 75 mil óbitos nos anos 1970. Na década passada, houve pouco mais de 6 mil mortes na América do Sul causadas por desastres naturais, de acordo com o levantamento de Lucí. Historicamente, as vítimas fatais se concentram em poucas ocorrências de enormes proporções, em especial os terremotos e as erupções vulcânicas. Os 20 eventos com mais fatalidades (oito ocorridos no Peru e cinco na Colômbia) responderam por 83% de todas as mortes ligadas a fenômenos naturais entre 1960 e 2009. O pior desastre foi um terremoto no Peru em maio de 1970, com 66 mil mortes, seguido de uma inundação na Venezuela em dezembro de 1999 (30 mil mortes) e uma erupção vulcânica na Colômbia em novembro de 1985 (20 mil mortes). O Brasil contabiliza o 9º evento com mais fatalidades (a epidemia de meningite em 1974, com 1.500 óbitos) e o 19° (um deslizamento de encostas, em razão de fortes chuvas, que matou 436 pessoas em março de 1967 em Caraguatatuba, litoral de São Paulo).

Também houve declínio na quantidade de pessoas afetadas nos anos mais recentes, mas as cifras continuam elevadas. Nos anos 1980, os desastres produziram cerca de 50 milhões de vítimas não fatais na América do Sul. Na década passada e também na retrasada, o número caiu para cerca de 20 milhões.

062-065_Desastres climáticos_241-02Sete em cada 10 latino-americanos moram atualmente em cidades, onde a ocupação do solo sem critérios e algumas características geoclimáticas específicas tendem a aumentar a vulnerabilidade da população local a desastres naturais. Lucí comparou a situação de 56 aglomerados urbanos com mais de 750 mil habitantes da América do Sul em relação a cinco fatores que aumentam o risco de calamidades: seca, terremoto, inundação, deslizamento de encostas e vulcanismo. Quito, capital do Equador, foi a única metrópole que estava exposta aos cinco fatores. Quatro cidades colombianas (Bogotá, Cáli, Cúcuta e Medellín) e La Paz, na Bolívia, vieram logo atrás, com quatro vulnerabilidades. As capitais brasileiras apresentaram no máximo dois fatores de risco, seca e inundação (ver quadro). “Os desastres resultam da junção de ameaças naturais e das vulnerabilidades das áreas ocupadas”, diz o pesquisador Victor Marchezini, do Cemaden, sociólogo que estuda os impactos de longo prazo desses fenômenos extremos. “São um evento socioambiental.”

É difícil mensurar os custos de um desastre. Mas a partir de dados da edição de 2013 do Atlas brasileiro de desastres naturais, que usa uma metodologia dife-rente da empregada pela geógrafa da Unicamp para contabilizar calamidades na América do Sul, o grupo de Carlos Eduardo Young, do Instituto de Economia da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), fez no final do ano passado um estudo. Baseado em estimativas do Banco Mundial de perdas provocadas por desastres em alguns estados brasileiros, Young calculou que enxurradas, inundações e movimentos de massa ocorridos entre 2002 e 2012 provocaram prejuízos econômicos de ao menos R$ 180 bilhões para o país. Em geral, os estados mais pobres, como os do Nordeste, sofreram as maiores perdas econômicas em relação ao tamanho do seu PIB. “A vulnerabilidade a desastres pode ser inversamente proporcional ao grau de desenvolvimento econômico dos estados”, diz o economista. “As mudanças climáticas podem acirrar a questão da desigualdade regional no Brasil.”

Pesquisadoras mapeiam ocupação indígena no Sertão nordestino desde século 16 (Diário de Pernambuco)

Considerados nômades, índios que viviam mais ao oeste do Brasil são pouco estudados se comparados aqueles da região litorânea e da Zona da Mata

Por: Fellipe Torres – Diario de Pernambuco

Publicado em: 19/01/2016 17:53 Atualizado em: 19/01/2016 19:22

A obra revela como o Sertão era habitado pelos índios, considerados nômades pelo fato de precisarem de todo o espaço necessário para sobreviver à ocupação violenta dos colonizadores brancos. Crédito: Arquivo/DP
A obra revela como o Sertão era habitado pelos índios, considerados nômades pelo fato de precisarem de todo o espaço necessário para sobreviver à ocupação violenta dos colonizadores brancos. Crédito: Arquivo/DP

A escassez de informações sobre o passado histórico do Sertão nordestino abre espaço para a reprodução de preconceitos com séculos de existência. Um conhecido mapa criado no século 16 pelo cartógrafo espanhol Diego Gutiérrez, por exemplo, generaliza a população sertaneja da época a índios canibais, representados em ilustrações de esquartejamento e assado humano. Para dar contornos mais claros à história brasileira, em especial referente ao território pernambucano mais ao oeste do país, duas gerações se uniram em um vasto estudo, agora disponível em livro. Mãe e filha, as historiadoras Socorro Ferraz e Bartira Ferraz Barbosa lançam, nesta quarta-feira (20), às 19h, na Arte Plural Galeria (Rua da Moeda, 140, Bairro do Recife), Sertão – Fronteira do medo (Editora UFPE, 283 páginas, R$ 75).

Crédito: Editora UFPE/divulgação
Crédito: Editora UFPE/divulgação

Na publicação, o Sertão dos tempos coloniais é descrito como uma fronteira física e, ao mesmo tempo, imaginária para a população do litoral. Era, portanto, representada graficamente pelos colonizadores, interessados em conquistar terras e riquezas em um local com características peculiares. “Há muitos trabalhos sobre a ocupação indígena litorânea e da Zona da Mata, mas muito poucas a respeito do Sertão, uma região onde a sobrevivência é mais difícil e, portanto, as informações não são tão fáceis de serem obtidas. Foi uma grande surpresa encontrar nos cartórios pesquisados livros de batismo de índios, negros e escravos brancos, com dados sobre como se batizava na época, sobre relações de parentesco, posse das terras”, relata Socorro Ferraz, doutora em história econômica pela Universidade de São Paulo e professora da UFPE.

Segundo a pesquisadora, a obra revela como o Sertão era habitado pelos índios, considerados nômades pelo fato de precisarem de todo o espaço necessário para sobreviver à ocupação violenta dos brancos. Esses colonizadores, ela esclarece, impingiram o medo para que a população indígena cedesse em muitos aspectos. Boa parte dela cedeu, negociou, tentou sobreviver de toda forma possível. Grande parte, contudo, foi extinta. Nesse contexto de adaptação, alguns índios chegaram, inclusive, a ter presença ativa no sistema colonial. Alguns foram capitães de milícias, outros tiveram cargos políticos, militares, serviram de intermediários para a própria conquista.
Para Bartira Ferraz, desde o século 16 os portugueses impuseram uma nova ordem política baseada em mecanismo de ocupação e controle, do vigiar e punir. “Os colonizadores vão primeiro punir, taxando os indígenas de selvagens, canibais, instalando um caos, que dá origem a guerras coloniais. Ocorreu a implantação brutal do sistema político por meio de um controle feito pela cruz e pela espada, com apoio do missionário e de tropas que controlavam essas populações”.

Hatfield The Rainmaker (The Journal of San Diego History)

The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1970, Volume 16, Number 4 
Linda Freischlag, Editorial Assistant


By Thomas W. Patterson

Images from this Article

Oh Mister Hatfield, you’ve been good to us:
You’ve made it rain in ways promiscuous!
From Saugus down to San Diego’s Bay
They bless you for the rains of yesterday.
But Mister Hatfield, listen now;
Make us this vow:
Oh, please, kind sir, don’t let it rain on Monday!And other doings full of fun and glee
For New Year’s Day are planned abundantly
From Saugus down to San Diego’s Bay
And they will bless you on tomorrow’s day,
Great moistener, if you will listen now
And make this vow:
Oh, please, kind sir, don’t let it rain on Monday!*

* At the conclusion of the drouth-ridden year 1904 the citizens of the Los Angeles area, who had raised money to hire him, were sing­ing praises of the rainmaker Charley Hatfield, their savior. He had achieved success. The rains had come—and come—and come.    As the New Year approached, however, an ugly thought crept into the minds of some o/ the populace. What if Charley Hatfield made it rain on the day of that stupendous event, the Tournament of Roses Parade? This anon­ymous piece of doggerel, appealing to him for charity on Monday, January 2, the date of the parade, appeared in several newspapers.    Evidently the plea was heard. Although it rained earlier in the day and still sprinkled where Charley was working five miles from the parade, no rain fell during the procession.


The best remembered facts about Hatfield The Rainmaker are that when he ministered to the sky it rained tor­rents and when he tried to collect $10,000 from the City of San Diego the mayor and council welshed.

There will always be room for a query: Was the rain really a coinci­dence? Did he really believe what he claimed, or was he a fellow with a knowing wink?

Some wrote delightedly that he was a scoundrel. Others, especially David Starr Jordan, wrote as though they thought him a cruel fraud against whom the public needed protection.

Nobody ever got behind his mask, and, in fact it may never have been a mask. The actual record of Hatfield’s activities explodes some commonly held truths, but the strangest facts and coincidences persist. The record makes no real headway against the legend.

Charles Mallory Hatfield got into the public’s attention when the Los Angeles Times on February 2, 1904, misspelling his name, said:

Charles Hadfield, expert rain manufacturer, has been sent out by a number of South Spring Street merchants to bring down the recreant showers. For the consideration of $50 Hadfield has planted his instruments in the foothill district near Pasadena and with a new process of chemical evaporation promises abundant moisture in five days. The magician holds himself responsible for the abundant rain in San Diego County late last spring, and says he has tried 17 times, scoring only one fail­ure. Barnett & Gude, H. E. Memory, H. G. Ackley and others stand sponsor to this com­mander of nature.

It was no credulous account, but rain­makers were a discredited lot. They had had their vogue in the Midwest in the 1880’s and 1890’s. The ancient world had known a theory that noxious fumes, such as the stench of bodies after a major battle, caused rain. After artil­lery became a significant part of war, Benvenuto Cellini wrote of explosions causing rain. This theory lasted several centuries and explained, to the satisfac­tion of some, the storm that handicapped the Spanish Armada and the mud at Waterloo. It was Americanized after the Civil War by a man named Edward Powers,who wrote War and The Weather contending that most of the Civil War battles caused rain. Then there was a belief that prairie fires caused rain and that the Chicago fire drenched itself, although tardily.

Congress, pressed by influential senators who owned Western land and hoped there might be something to it, spent over $20,000 testing the explosion theory by some spectacular Texas balloon busting and cannonading, supervised by a flamboyant character named Robert St. George Dyrenforth. The explosion theory faded out after that, but the fume theory returned. A whole school of rainmakers practiced in the Midwest, each with a secret formula.

The biggest names among the fume men were those of Frank Melbourne, known as the Australian Wizard, and G. B. Jewell, who operated originally under auspices of the Rock Island Rail­road and practiced from a specially equipped boxcar. These men never oper­ated in California, but in 1899 one of Jewell’s disciples sought a rainmaking contract at Pasadena. In 1900 another persuaded a group of San Diegans to pay the cost of sending aloft the fumes of zinc dissolved in sulphuric acid, and this was described as the great Jewell’s secret formula.

There had been three terrible years of drouth at the end of the century, drying up irrigation canals in the Central Valley and leaving Southern California as brown in winter as in summer. Now, in January 1904, no rain had fallen since early December and precious little since the previous spring. Matters were so bad that Catholic and Protestant churches appealed through the newspapers for a day of prayer for rain on Sunday, January 31.

In the brown Los Angeles hinterland no one was far removed from the tra­ditional grazing economy. Jotham Bixby, the big cattleman of Long Beach, com­plained in the public prints: “This is the first time since 1872 that we have not had any green grass at this time of year.” Those who looked far ahead were talking, quietly as yet, about a prepos­terously long aqueduct from Owens River Valley, but for the present there was water in the city mains, as far as they reached.

Hatfield set up shop two days after the day of prayer. In another two days there was rain in the northern part of the state, but forecaster George E. Franklin of the Los Angeles office of the U. S. Weather Bureau predicted there would be none for Los Angeles. He was wrong. At 6 o’clock that evening it started raining heavily, continuing off and on for the rest of the night and most of the following week. It rained well over an inch downtown, more in the foothills.

Franklin explained that it was the tail-end of the Northern California storm that had come over the Tehachapi. Still there was the coincidence that it had followed quickly after Hatfield’s pre­sumed activity.

The newspapers had almost forgotten the prayers as a possible cause. All of them saw fit to mention Hatfield and his manipulations, but the Herald left no bases uncovered, saying:

In answer to the prayers of the church, as a result of Rainmaker Hatfield’s manipulation or from natural causes, rain began falling last evening….

The coincidence was so interesting that the papers did not drop it for several days. Although they could not find Hatfield, the Herald located friends who believed he set up a tank on a high point near Newhall. They understood he mixed chemicals and sent vapor into the clouds, requiring not less than three hours or more than five days to bring rain. This last was stressed in all reports—five days, not more.

The papers also learned that Hatfield was a young man and a sewing machine salesman. The Times located the family home in Inglewood, but the rainmaker was not there and the family did not know or would not tell where he was. The Times photographed his mother and printed her statement:

The people’s prayers for rain have been answered through my son. For five years he has studied alone against prejudices. His determination is simply marvelous. Some divine power must aid him.

The rainmaker’s base of operation was neither at Pasadena nor Newhall. It was midway between the two at the foot of the present New York Avenue in La Crescenta. There in the brush coun­try at the base of the mountains a tower some 20 feet high had been erected, surmounted by a platform 10 feet square. What appears in photographs to resemble a fume hood, somewhat narrower than those over stoves or laboratory cookers, protruded several feet upward from the platform. Beside it was a small pedestal surmounted by a narrow can—a rain gauge. At the base of the tower, Charley Hatfield and his young brother Paul camped in a tent.

Hatfield might have been seen, but for the isolation of the place, first helping to build the tower, then climbing up and down the ladder carrying loads. For hours at a time he might have been seen busy with something near the fume hood, out of the line of vision of anyone watch­ing from the ground nearby.

He was 28, thin and of medium height. His hair was thinning slightly in front and receding at the corners. His face was narrow and the impression was sharpened by a long, thin nose. He wore a business suit as though he were in an office or ringing a doorbell in search of a sewing machine prospect. Before he was long in camp his suit had sadly lost its press and sometimes was soaked with rain.

Paul, a boy of 17, was working equally hard—fetching, carrying, tending the camp and caring for the horses.

An elderly Englishman named Metcalf had a cabin a quarter mile away from which he tended a bee apiary. When he called at the tower to pay his respects and possibly to promote a conversation, Charley and Paul were too busy for more than a casual greeting. Later, after a walk, they returned to find Met­calf inside their tent. Charley promptly ordered him out. When Metcalf protested that his intentions were friendly and sociable, in keeping with Western custom, Paul leveled the shotgun and commanded, with all the authority a youth could muster, “Get out of here!”

A week after they arrived, with the rain stopped, Charley and Paul disman­tled the tower and stowed the lumber and some heavy trunks and the tent into their wagon. They drove southeasterly, following the dirt road that is now Honolulu Avenue, to Verdugo Road, then turned onto Colorado Avenue where they stopped at the little grocery operated by Joe Olivas. Charley bought a  Times and for the first time saw himself dis­cussed in a news story. Despite the doubting tone, it did report that Hatfield had gone forth and that rain had fallen. They drove on to Inglewood.


Charley and Paul went back to their routine at the Robert B. Moorhead Agency, dealer in New Home Sewing Machines, 349 South Spring Street. Within the year reporters would be seeking the rainmaker in greater ex­citement than ever, but in the spring, summer and fall of 1904 he was back in the business where he had been recognized as a young man with a big future. His salary then, or so he said a few months later, was $125 a month, a very respectable figure in 1904.

He was city manager, supervising other salesmen including Paul. For a brief interlude their father, Stephen E. Hatfield, was also working in the office of his old friend Bob Moorhead, who was one of the sponsors of Hatfield’s efforts to produce rain at La Crescenta.

Stephen Hatfield had owned a sewing machine agency in Fort Scott, Kansas. He sold it in 1875, the year Charley was born, then moved with his family to Minneapolis where he built homes and traded in real estate. Late in 1886 they moved to San Diego, then enjoying a boom as the original Pacific Coast terminus of the Santa Fe railroad. Among his San Diego operations was the building of three substantial homes at Sixteenth and Broadway, one of which the family occupied for a time.

The Hatfield brothers all learned to take sewing machine heads apart, adjust or repair them. Nevertheless, for the greater part of his economic life the elder Hatfield engaged in building and trading property.

Charley and his elder brother, Stephen G., were born in Fort Scott. Paul and the only daughter, Phoebe, were born in Minneapolis. Joel, the youngest, was born in San Diego. Young Charley, aged 11, became Newsboy No. 9 for Hanley’s News-stand at Fifth and F Streets, sell­ing the San Diego Union. He made big money when Gen. John A. Logan, founder of the GAR, died on December 26, 1886. Charley sold 65 newspapers bearing that headline.

The San Diego boom fell off after 1886 when the Santa Fe reached Los Angeles, opening its rate-cutting war with the Southern Pacific. Los Angeles then ex­perienced its wildest real estate boom while San Diego felt cruelly sold out.

The Hatfields acquired ten acres at Melrose and Vermont Avenues, far out west and north of Los Angeles, in 1890. The beach cities farther west were well established by then. Hollywood was only an unsuccessful subdivision and other in-between areas were beginning to acquire a scattering of people in place of cattle and sheep. The Hatfields with their imposing suburban house, sur­rounded by a young orchard, were the second family to live in what was then called Cahuenga Valley. In 1893 they sold and moved to Mission Road in South Pasadena and from there to Pasadena. In that area Charley finished his formal schooling by attending high school. There also, filled with the nation’s surge of patriotic fervor and notwithstanding a Quaker background, Charley tried to enlist for the 1898 war with Spain. He was rejected as too thin to be a soldier.

By that time he was a full-time salesman, but he had a consuming side interest. In the pursuit of it he haunted the Pasadena and Los Angeles public libraries, pouring over tables of rainfall statistics and probably reading popular disputations about the science ­discredited rainmakers. He was im­pressed most, according to his later recollections, by a book named  Elementary Meteorology by the Harvard professor of geology and science popularizer, William Morris Davis.

In later years, Hatfield repeatedly gave his reason for dedicating himself to rainmaking. He said he was prompted by the terrible years of drouth near the end of the century. In fact, drouth had been chronic since the mid-nineties despite occasional local floods and pas­sable seasons. The suffering was not confined to those who lived on farms or herded grazing animals. It reached into business, town and family life.

Hatfield denied that his rainmaking method was akin to any other, old-time or contemporary. Nevertheless he was well acquainted with the big rainmaking names of the past. He was familiar with Edward Powers’ War and the Weather—The Artificial Production of Rain, which served as the chief inspiration to that movement. He would have known of the publicized efforts of the G. B. Jewell disciple, W B. Hughes, to secure a contract from Pasadena in 1899. Secretary Frank Wiggins of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce rejected Hughes’ offer to work for a fee of $5,000.

Hatfield often told how he first tried his own theories. The Hatfield family had taken up residence in 1902 on a ranch in Gopher Canyon at Bonsall in northern San Diego County. Charley re­mained a resident of Los Angeles, but he performed his first rainmaking from the top of the windmill tower on the ranch. Its use might have been sug­gested by earlier towers in Europe from which explosions were set off.

Later there were reports that Hatfield himself had set off explosions at Bon­sall and the reports were to persist for years. He always denied it and the stories lack confirmation. One account persisting in many versions quotes Fred Hanson, a longtime friend of the Hat­fields. It relates that Mrs. Hatfield mysteriously referred to explosions and said that some day her son would be a great man. Hanson, in a letter in 1958, said he could recall hearing nothing about explosions. Charley consistently said he evaporated a fluid from shallow pans.

There is no doubt, however, that Mrs. Hatfield thought her second son would be a great man, and later that he had indeed become great. Charley had a self-assured rather than a boastful manner. More than one acquaintance of his early rainmaking years, Fred Han­son included, recalled later that he had an almost religious zeal. Not that he claimed special dispensation or higher calling. He did have the attitude of a man with a mission. Those who could not be convinced, he allowed to go in error rather than labor to correct them. He never condemned.

The Hatfields were proud of their lineage, which was traceable for some 300 years. They carried their Quaker beliefs into manners and morality. They were in firm disagreement with one forbear, Elder Elias Hicks who founded the Hicksite sect of Quakers. They favored the orthodox outlook.

Quakers, especially orthodox ones, held tenaciously to the doctrine of in­dividuality. The teachings of George Fox, founding theorist, were strong with the Reformation spirit, decrying a con­ventional authority and proclaiming the wisdom of the individual’s own inter­pretation of the Scriptures.

To be sure, a Quaker was expected to bring every revelation of a religious character to meeting and submit it to his peers, who might dissuade him. But Quakers also set themselves apart in manners and dress, resisting easier ways of those not subject to the disci­pline. Some carried the doctrine of individuality into secular matters, with a strong sense of being right. Certain tough-minded Quakers had reputations for inpervious individualistic views on politics, science, commerce or the state of the nation.

Young Charley conducted himself in the business world with application, diligence and neatness becoming a gentleman and a Quaker. His suit was always pressed, his linen fresh and his manner alert as he went about his selling. While the practice of business could be combative and deceptive, Charley sold an honest product in an approved way. On the other hand he knew that business does not operate by Sunday school rules. Fred Hanson once asked him what he did when a house was posted “No Peddlers or Agents” and when the woman of the house inquired if he could not read. Charley replied that he would say, “Yes, but I don’t believe in signs,” and added that he had sold more than one sewing machine following just such an introduction.

The elder Hatfield wore the tradi­tional broad Quaker hat to church. The Hatfields attended traditional meetings where men and women sat on opposite sides. Charley attended regularly as a boy. Although he was seldom seen in church after 30, his strong sense of being right remained with him.

There was no public knowledge of Charley’s doings on Bonsall tower and probably there was no surprise at sev­eral small showers that fell in parts of the coastal region of San Diego County in April and May of 1902. In July, how­ever, .92 of an inch fell in San Diego. That was rare, although old-timers know that if it rains at all in July in Southern California it’s likely to rain hard. Charley later said it was his work, based on his own theories, that caused all the spring and summer rains in the coastal San Diego area.

Before he took his first paid engage­ment early in 1904, Charley built, with Paul’ s help, at least three other towers for experimentation. The first and most successful, according to Charley, was near the mouth of Big Tujunga Canyon, November 6 through November 9, 1902. He said rains of three inches or more fell along the west-east line from La Crescenta through Pasadena, and 1.95 inches fell on downtown Los Angeles. Another higher tower was erected in Big Tujunga, near the present dam, and still another was at Inglewood, the Hat­field family home after Bonsall. At Inglewood he claimed to have induced a modest .43 inch in September, 1903….


Between the years 1903 in Bonsall where he performed his first rainmaking experiments and 1912 when he was in­vited by a group of ranchers in northern San Diego County to break a severe drouth, Charley Hatfield’s activities carried him as far north as Alaska and all through central California. He achieved much success in the San Joa­quin Valley “West Side” and in that part of the West Side between Los Banos at the foot of Pacheco Pass and Westley, some 40 miles to the north—including the towns of Volta, Gustine, Newman, Crows Landing and Patterson.

In 1907 Oregon’s grain farmers called upon him for help. His reputation spread into Texas, Idaho, Arizona, Kansas and other areas west of the Mississippi River.

Still he never was far in heart from San Diego, for after Inglewood, in 1903, the elder Hatfields bought a home and olive grove at Fallbrook, ten miles north of the Bonsall Gopher Canyon ranch where Charley had experimented in 1902. A few years later he married a San Diego girl.

The year 1912 found him living in Fallbrook, near San Diego. He had two assignments during that time, at least one of which paid him more than he received for his most successful efforts in the San Joaquin Valley West Side. The first one was at Hemet, in northern San Diego County. The second was near Carlsbad, Texas, whose grain farmers, hearing of Charley’s success at Hemet, wired him to come to Carlsbad to assist with their cotton crop farming, which drouth had hampered.

The invitation to make rain at Hemet came from Tommy Rawson, dominant personality among dry farmers. Several Rawson brothers together farmed some 15,000 acres. The initiative may have come from W. P. Whittier, the San Francisco investor and sportsman who founded Hemet. The two publicly an­nounced men serving on the committee with Rawson were W. Alger Fast, manager of several of Whittier’s Hemet enterprises, and John Shaver, longtime member of the county board of super­visors. Shaver lived in San Jacinto, the smaller and older town of the valley, where he ran a hardware store.

Up to March 1 it was an extremely dry season at most points in Southern California. Charley, at Hemet, February 21, in negotiation with Rawson, called to mind the great moistening of Los Angeles in 1904-05.

“Will you guarantee to produce rain?” asked the Hemet News reporter, to which Charley replied, “I certainly will, or it won’t cost the people a cent.”

He had prepared a draft contract, the heading of which put squarely the impression he wanted to convey: “Four Inches of Rain for Four Thousand Dol­lars. No Rain, No Pay.” In it he agreed to set up a “rain precipitation and at­traction plant” and to operate it from March 1 to May 1. For each inch of rain falling during that time he was to receive $1,000, up to four inches. There would be no pay for any additional amount. Three gauges, one in Menifee Valley, one near San Jacinto and the third at the Hatfield tower were to govern the payoff. Signers were obtained to underwrite the $4,000.

Charley returned to Hemet March 1. A. K. Whidden, county bee inspector, chanced to meet him in a lumberyard. It was already raining, a circumstance that scoffers assumed would be em­barrassing to a rainmaker who hadn’t yet started working.

“I wish I was out under this with my apparatus,” Charley said, and Whidden asked, “What could you do?” Charley answered, “You may get three inches from this storm. I could give you three and a half.” This was Whidden’s recol­lection, in which he said he might not be exactly right as to the figures but was sure of the substance of the re­marks. Whidden was a doubter, recalling that Charley “could talk more and say less than anyone I had ever known.”

Whittier’s carpenters built the tower at Little Lake, three miles southeast of the town. An inch had fallen before Charley proclaimed himself at work Despite the unassisted start of the rain and Whidden’s skepticism, Hemet har­bored few publicly identified doubters. The News reported the rainmaking and the rain extensively, without a sour note. As to the rain itself, it was like Esper­anza or one of the bigger years at Crows Landing.

Again the coincidence was repeated that rain elsewhere in Southern Cali­fornia was only average or less. Poor Crows Landing had a bad year. Hemet got 3.12 inches in April compared to a 40-year average for that month of 2.5. After his start of operations, Hatfield got credit for more than seven inches. In summation the News reported:

So well pleased are the ranchers in Mr. Hatfield’s work here that he has been prevailed upon to store his apparatus in Hemet until next season, when he will likely come back and take a bigger contract…Mr. Hatfield has had 15 contracts…and he has not failed in one instance…(his theory) is proving beyond doubt that rain can be produced.

Charley did not return, possibly be­cause Hemet was not troubled by drouth in the next several seasons. The recep­tacles he left behind were still on hand at the Rawson ranch in 1960, when a series of dry years and an ultra-dry one caused old-timers to recall the Hatfield visit.

Close on the heels of Hemet, from June 10 through July 22, the brothers practiced the art with the aid of three towers alongside a slough of the Concho River in Water Valley near Carlsbad, Texas.

Among Paul’s troubles as a commis­sary chief at that location were the opossums that invaded the larder, reaching even the ham and bacon hang­ing on wire from the tent ridgepole, and Texas ants three quarters of an inch long.

Carlsbad, Texas is one of the Hatfield engagements where the published recol­lections, in spite of Hatfield’s denials and other opposing evidence, have it that rocket-like streaks of smoke were seen and that balloons were exploded at high altitudes. There is basis for confusion of recollection. The Dyrenforth experi­ments of 1892-93 had started at Midland, Texas, including balloon explosions at high altitudes.

In 1910 and 1911 there were latter­day experiments in rainmaking by ex­plosions near Post City in the Texas Panhandle, north of Carlsbad. C. W;. Post, the breakfast food man, owned a ranch there and was impatient with drouth conditions. Several bombard­ments at widely spaced intervals brought no results. Finally in August of 1911 his men exploded 1,000 two-pound charges of dynamite in rapid succession, soon after which an inch of rain fell. Post claimed he was satisfied of success. He scheduled another demonstration for the spring of 1912 at Santa Barbara, Calif., but it didn’t materialize.

The Hatfield records have it that 3.37 inches of rain fell at Carlsbad during the engagement there. The cotton crop should have thrived on that.


Following his successful experiments in Texas, Charley came back to Calif­ornia and more particularly, to San Diego which was beginning to view its situation, water-wise. In rapid fashion the com­munity, initially concerned about not enough water, switched to a worry about too much, after Charley was hired in December 1915, for soon after that came the disasterous floods of January 1916.

These floods left scars on the moun­tains and hills of San Diego County for years, and scoured river channels to bedrock. Washouts tore out miles of tracks and trains were stopped for 32 days. Highways and the telephone and telegraph were cut off, leaving only the sea for transportation and Marconi’s wireless for direct communication.

Brush-covered hillsides, probably overgrazed, were saturated to the con­sistency of slush and the soil gave way in great slides. The scars permanently changed the contour of hills and disappeared only as new brush grew and the new contours became familiar. Springs previously unknown to the back country flowed for years afterward. Lower Otay Dam went out and loosed a flood that demolished everything in front of it. Many lives were lost.

Old residents with an ingrained habit of hoping for rain remember today that for the first time they were fearful. It seemed the rains would never end and the damage would never stop mounting. On the high land of San Diego itself life seemed to be perched, wet and insecure, above raging disaster. The San Diego River was a mile-wide torrent covering Mission Valley from the Kearny Mesa to the mesa of the city and sending back-waters between the jutting fingers of both. Great trees tumbled root over branch. Sticks of lumber, railroad ties and parts of houses floated crazily. Out of the gullies from the east and south came droves of cattle, horses, sheep and goats.

All of it would be known thereafter as Hatfield’s flood, comparable only to San Diego’s great flood of 1862 in stream flow. Despite the tragedy, it would also suggest the plot of comedies in which a little man made hocus pocus at the sky and the rain fell in torrents.

San Diego has since assumed the strained air of amused tolerance as it views the simplicity of its 1916 city council. No other government body except the rambunctious Yukon Terri­torial Council ever employed Hatfield. San Diego has a vague discomfort be­cause it agreed to pay Charles M. Hatfield $10,000 if Morena Reservoir was filled. Morena was filled until a thundering cataract went over the spill­way, but San Diego behaved like the town of Hamlin after the deal with the Pied Piper.

Toward the winter of 1915, San Diego was talking of drouth, although the rainfall record in the city fails to ex­plain why. The year 1915 had started with good rains. Others came at reasonable intervals. In early December there was rain, before the deal was made with Hatfield on December 13. More came before he got into action. The calendar year 1915 ended with 13.62 inches compared to an average of 9.90. The average of five calendar years, 1909 through 1914, was 9.25.

Even in the Laguna Mountains to the east, from which came most of the water supply, the city’s shortage was not critical. Although Morena Reservoir had not been filled since it was built in 1897, by the end of 1915 it was calcu­lated to be holding five billion gallons of its fifteen billion capacity.

However, other reservoirs had not been filled either, and the city’s growth had placed increased demands on the supply. The area’s potential growth was a bigger factor in creating concern over possible shortages. It was well under­stood that water shortages in Southern California must be anticipated. Legal battles over water in the Southwest have frequently been accompanied by maneuvers to suggest that the tank is already dry.

Acutely aware of future needs, its lack of reserve supply and its present shortage, the City of San Diego had decided in 1913 to gather in all its potential water supply. It engaged a city attorney expert in water matters. He declared in 1914 that the city, by virtue of a grant in the name of the Spanish king, had the right to the full flow of the San Diego River. In December of 1915 hearings were started in Los Angeles on the Capitan Grande Case, against ranch owners and pro­moters who had appropriated much of the stream’s flow. These circumstances made San Diego receptive to the claims of Charley Hatfield and set in motion a series of events that the city would regret.

San Diego knew Charley Hatfield. Some had said harsh things about him when he declared, two years after the fact, that he caused the big rain of July, 1902. Rain in July is the last thing a California dry farmer wants. However, Charley’s wife was a San Diego woman, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Rulon, and their family visits kept some of the Hatfields’ old San Diego contacts on the list of active acquaintances. One of the most presistent and faithful was Fred A. Binney.

Fred Binney was well known in San Diego, only partly because of his active interest in the San Diego rainmakers of 1900. He was a large, lean man with an ample set of whiskers, a squeaky voice, an English accent, a belief in socialism and an evangelistic tendency. He made his living as a real estate broker. He painted his own “for sale” signs with an amateur hand and took liberties as to where he set them up. The houses he advertised were “pretty homes with nice gardens and pretty flowers.” He was an indefatigable walker. The 15 miles from downtown San Diego to La Jolla were for him an easy stroll.

Binney believed in Charley Hatfield’s ability to cause rain. He took pains to say he was not Charley’s agent, but was taking his own initiative. In all but one matter Charley was a conservative man, who wanted no conventions upset. He would have preferred an advocate with more standing, but he accepted such help as he could get.

Binney knew the feeling of rejection. Once he was regaling City Councilman Don Stewart concerning Hatfield when the councilman may have given facial expression to his reaction. Or perhaps Binney already sensed the rejection and knew what was meant by an attitude of polite listening. In any case he broke off suddenly and said: “There are all sorts of wonders you believe in, like wireless and Burbank’s new plants, and automobiles. But when a man comes in with a simple, sensible idea, you treat him as though he were a lunatic!” With that he arose to his full dignified height and stalked out.

As early as 1912, soon after the city acquired Morena Dam and Reservoir from the Southern California Mountain Water Company, Binney wrote to the council asking it to engage Hatfield. Late in 1915 he made a public appeal in newspaper advertising. While he was too much associated with lost causes to be impelling, he helped dramatize and sell the idea. The councilmen, however much some of them pretended later it was a kind of jest, were interested enough to give it a whirl and not skep­tical enough to reject it. Still, there might have been a certain cunning in­volved, not necessarily recognized by them.

Early in December, Charley appeared before the council in conference. Shelley Higgins, assistant city attorney and later judge, was to spend a large share of his time thereafter defending, morally and legally, the city’s treatment of Hatfield, and indirectly his own conspicuous but hardly heroic role in it. He said in his memoirs many years later that the councilmen in a jocular spirit, after exchanging knowing smiles, said “If you can fill the lake, we’ll be glad to pay you.”

Since the council probably did not chant this sentence in unison, like a Greek chorus, we will assume it was merely Higgins’ interpretation of the councilmanic attitude. But in the same memoirs Higgins also said Charley “bore himself importantly and had what salesmen term impressive presence.” What the council actually did was to ask Charley to put his proposition in writing and to come again.

Charley drew up his own contracts, without the benefit of an attorney. As usual he offered alternate propositions. His first written proposal stated that by June 1, he would “produce 40 inches of rain (at Morena Reservoir) free gratis, I to be compensated from the 40th to the 50th inch by $1,000 per inch.”

On December 8 the council asked Fred Lockwood, manager of operations, for a recommendation. Next day Charley re-submitted his first written offer plus two alternatives, also in writing, to another councilmanic conference. He offered to fill Morena Reservoir, without reference to the amount of rain necessary to do it, by December 20, 1916. Or he would cause a rainfall of 50 inches by June 1, 1916, for which he would require either $500 per inch from the 30th to the 50th inch or $1, 000 per inch from the 40th to the 50th. Each of these alternatives meant $10,000 for completion.

On December 13 the council voted, four to one, to accept Charley’s offer to fill the reservoir by December 20, 1916, and asked the city attorney’s office to prepare a written contract. The lone and adamant opponent on the council was Herbert R. Fay. The one council­man outspoken in favor of Charley’s proposition was Walter P. Moore. Mayor Edward P. Capps and Councilmen P. J. Benbough, Henry M. Manney and Otto M. Schmidt did not disclose their rea­soning but voted to engage Hatfield.

On the ninth, when Charley submitted his three alternatives, Councilman Moore explained, “If he fills Morena, he will have put 10 billion gallons into it, which would cost the city one tenth of a cent per thousand gallons; if he fails to fulfill his contract, the city isn’t out anything. It’s heads the city wins, tails Hatfield loses.” This was Charley’s own reasoning.

One man did take a superior attitude—City Attorney Terence Byrne Cos­grove, 34-year-old graduate of Notre Dame University and Yale Law School. He was a rising star in the profession, winning a name in water litigation. He was an advocate, a fighter for the client who retained him, shrewd in conference and able on occasion to seem like Patrick Henry striking an attitude. Cur­rently he was spending a good deal of time in Los Angeles on the Capitan Grande Case.

At the December 9 meeting Cosgrove was asked if the proposed contract would be legal. It was recorded that he grinned broadly when he replied, “If Hatfield fills Morena, I guess there would be no doubt about the legality.” It was a nice parrying of an honest and perhaps simple question. Obviously there was a pre­formed doubt in Cosgrove’s mind that Hatfield would be responsible if Morena should be filled. One can almost see the lawyer’s mind looking ahead. He also could have had in mind that it would do no harm, during the current water liti­gation, to dramatize the city’s water shortage as though it were clear and present instead of clearly potential. Negotiations with Hatfield tended to do this. Hatfield at work could do it even better. Cosgrove, of course, would have had no part in explicitly or publicly encouraging a deal with Hatfield, but he pointedly said nothing to discourage it.

Charley was his own attorney, and, as must have been apparent to Cosgrove, his legal footwork was amateurish even for a layman. If Morena overflowed, how would he prove he did it?

Whatever else he was thinking, Cos­grove must have reasoned that it would be a long day in January before either Hatfield or God filled Morena. It had been there since 1897, a big overbuilt reservoir, one that could hold 15 billion gallons and had never been full. Indeed the city had been able to acquire it along with Lower Otay Reservoir be­cause the Southern California Mountain Water Company discovered itself to be overbuilt, paying taxes out of proportion to income. The city purchase had enabled the backers to recover their capital and something extra.

Charley did not wait for the written agreement, which Cosgrove and Higgins were in no hurry to draft, but was at work by January 1. His assistant was not Paul as usual, but Joel, the youngest of the brothers. Having had no rain­making contracts since the spring of 1914, Charley and Paul had returned to selling sewing machines. Paul continued to sell, to keep the camp supplied pend­ing the day Charley would take home the prize.

The tower was built on a slope, along­ side the road leading to the dam, just beyond the city’s present Morena Reservoir headquarters. Despite the attention it received from 60 miles away in San Diego, the tower had few visitors. Shelley Higgins in his memoirs speaks of seeing it from a mountain road, although the road at that point is not mountainous and the deluge very quickly made it impassable to cars.

Probably the only visitors to the tower were Seth Swenson, the dam keeper, and his wife, Maggie. They lived not at the later lake headquarters, which was then non-existent, but in a cottage at the dam. >From there Mrs. Swenson answered the telephone and relayed messages to Charley, two miles away by road and a little over a mile as the crow flies.

For a man who spent so much time contentiously embroiled with Hatfield, Shelley Higgins was elaborately casual about his visit to Morena. He said in his memoirs that he was passing on a “field trip” in his Model T when he saw the tower and occassional puffs of smoke and heard muffled explosions. Where­upon, he continued, “I smiled—I hope indulgently—and went on about my business.”

But the Swensons were in sight of the tower all the time and were curious about it and keenly interested. They could have heard shots and seen puffs of smoke and would have remembered them. Charley Hatfield told them he was evaporating something from shallow pans. Shelley Higgins’ description of the Hatfield tower, especially the smoke puffs and the explosions, must have been a visualization of something he read.


The headlines in San Diego newspapers that December and January told of many things. Apart from the rain they talked of the current Panama-California In­ternational Exposition, starting its second year in San Diego, the war in Europe and Pancho Villa’s depredations in northern Mexico.

Charley Hatfield’s verbal agreement with the council caused little initial excitement, although it proved of some interest to columnists and other discur­sive people. One who wrote in the Sunday San Diego Union under the name of Yorick adopted a good journeyman air of superiority, calling it:

… an excellent business proposition from the city’s standpoint. The publicity alone is worth $10,000.

There was snow in the mountains and a light sprinkle in the city near the year’s end, and water flowed in the San Diego River through Mission Valley—a rare sight since upstream diversion had become so extensive.

On January 5 a good rain was re­ported at Morena Reservoir and the water department said 48-1/2 million gallons had been impounded since De­cember 27. Though welcome, it was not enough to change the round number of five billion gallons Morena was esti­mated to have been holding December 20.

The Union published a feature story January 9 on the Weather Bureau’s San Diego office and its chief forecaster, E. Herbert Nimmo, and his young as­sistant, Dean Blake. There was a dis­cussion of storm centers and their movements from the north Pacific southeastward across California. There was talk of the basis of weather pre­dictions and their uncertainty. Nimmo’s opinion of Hatfield was already publicly known: he thought Charley a mountebank. But in the Sunday article both Nimmo and the Union writer ignored him.

The weather played fewer tricks on Nimmo than it practiced on the unfor­tunate George Franklin of Los Angeles in 1904 and 1905. The San Diego rains of 1915-16 arrived as predicted, but in much greater volume.

Rain of a genuinely remarkable quan­tity began January 10. For 24 hours in San Diego itself it rained off and on, but reports from the back country said it rained hard and almost continuously. From then until the 18th it was rainy weather. On the 14th it rained torrents and continued to rain heavily for several days. Roofs leaked. Storm drains that had not been taxed for years overflowed.

The San Diego River went over its banks and spread across Mission Valley in the early hours of the 17th. Real tragedy developed on the 18th in the valley of the Tijuana River, a little north of the international border. There, some 40 families, 100 persons or more, con­stituted a colony known as the Little Landers. It was based on the semi-­utopian idea of W. E. Smythe, who claimed that a family could make a modest and healthful living on an acre of ground and turned real estate pro­moter to demonstrate it.

The river left its channel and over­flowed the Little Landers’ homes and gardens. It cut a new channel and not only destroyed many of the homes but literally carried the land away. Two women were drowned. In San Diego a fund was started for the Little Landers’ relief.

The Santa Fe and the San Diego-­Arizona rail connections with the north and east respectively, were put out of operation at that time. Main highways and most by-ways were closed. On one day mail went out to only six of the county’s 36 post offices. Tall tales were told of the kind experienced Southwest­erners have learned not to reject too quickly, even when they are as tall as Rex Clark’s silo story. Clark said the flood picked up a cement silo from one of his Mission Valley ranches and set it down upright, with contents intact, on another of his ranches a mile distant.

Lower Otay Reservoir on Dulzura Creek filled to the lip of its spillway and started flowing over.

With the rains that started on the 10th, it became apparent that people were interested in the activities of Hatfield. The Union‘s main headline of the 17th read: “Is Rainmaker at Work?”

Unfortunately it was not possible to get the kind of details a newspaper story needs in such a situation. The obvious need was a description of the tower and the activities around it, together with interviews with the busy rainmakers. By the time it became apparent that this was a big story—science or not—the roads were impassable. Through telephone calls to the Swensons the Union was able to report on the 17th:

The mysterious Hatfield, rainmaker, was said to be particularly active in the vicinity of Morena Sunday…. While engaged in his experiments, Hatfield is not altogether socia­ble, but persons watching his work from a distance said he seemed to be on the job at all hours of the day and considers the down­pour due to his efforts. Incidentally, it was said that Hatfield himself is getting a good soaking.

Hatfield’s scheme was on almost every tongue yesterday. Many were inclined to jest, but all agreed that things were going his way.

Nimmo’s office pointed out that the storm was general along the West Coast, which did not fully explain the propor­tions of the San Diego County rainfall.

The sun came out indecisively and repair crews went to work on railways and highways. By the 24th automobiles were able to drive north on the inland highway, but the damaged rail lines and the coast highway could not be repaired that quickly.

Nimmo on the evening of January 25 anticipated rain next day. He was right, and as a conventional general storm approaching from the northwest it was a heavy one. But according to the Weather Bureau’s later analysis it was overlapped by another and more rare type of rainstorm that affected the San Diego area—a storm from farther south in the Pacific. The distinction was lost on plain people, who viewed it as one terrifying rain.

It was worst in the back country, but in San Diego it was frightening enough. A veritable river rushed out of the canyons of Balboa Park, down Fifteenth Street, requiring pedestrian ferry service by a horse-drawn fire wagon. The confused stray animals and the pelting rain made a strange noise, night and day. Business was suspended and nothing was normal. People gathered at Mission Cliffs Gardens and other vantage points overlooking Mission Valley to watch the strange torrent pitch, roll and toss.

The Santa Fe bridge spans only the normal channel of the river, and even that is usually dry. With the valley running full from mesa to mesa, rail­road crews weighted down the bridge with loaded freight cars and relieved pressure by cutting the dirt fill ap­proaches on both sides. Water then flowed around as well as under the bridge, which stood isolated in mid­stream. City crews tried to save the approaches to the new concrete bridge on the coast highway, assuming the bridge itself could stand the strain. They piled the approaches with sand bags, so effectively that the unrelieved pressure of the stream lifted the con­crete spans off their piers and left them fallen, broken and askew.

Corresponding episodes took place where other rivers and creeks came out of the interior to the sea. The coast highway and Santa Fe rail line were cut in several places. When the flow of a stream increased rapidly it developed a wall of water advancing downstream. The Fallbrook station in the canyon of the Santa Margarita River and the house of the station master were carried away. Miles of the Fallbrook branch line were destroyed and rolling stock isolated.

Debris of all kinds including broken parts of buildings, piled up 20 feet high at obstructions on the beaches at the mouths of canyons.

The adobe bell tower at the Pala mis­sion outpost in the valley of the San Luis Rey River, a relic of Spanish times, was undermined and toppled. More than 200 bridges were washed out. Roads were severed in places where no noticeable water channel existed. Landslides were greatest in the vicinity of Dulzura summit above the doomed Lower Otay Lake.

R. C. Wueste, superintendent of the city impounding system, was worried about Lower Otay from the start of the second storm. The lake was already full and the stream in the spillway began to rise. For the better part of the two days the spillway managed it, but precariously.

Soon after 4 p. m. on the 27th, Wueste walked along the dam from the north to the south side. At 4:30 the first tiny stream trickled across the middle. Wueste had to jump a sizeable stream a few minutes later when he returned to the north side. It was cutting into the two feet of earth and gravel that lay on top of the coarser rock and earth. With the soft top gone and more than two feet of water pouring over, the momentum of the flowing lake was added to the cutting force. The heavy rock fill was soon tumbling. When Wueste next looked at his watch it was 5:05. The dam was disintegrating rapidly.

It had been built with concrete abut­ments, to which a wall of thin steel plate was anchored as a core for the fill material. Wueste described the flow as a torrent, not a waterfall, rushing through the breach and into the narrow gorge below. The principal noise was made by the torn remainder of the steel plate, banging against the rocks.

Downstream the released head of water behaved characteristically. Although not released through a toppling wall but as a rapidly increasing flow, its advancing front soon took the shape of a wall of water. It was 40 feet high, someone said, and the figure appeared in print next day—40 feet high and no one testified it was not. It must have looked that high and it might have been. It roared like a passing train with a monumental roll of thunder in the background. When the headwall passed, the pursuing current raged and boiled. Hit­ting obstructions it shot spray hundreds of feet upwards, some of it seeming to merge with the overcast sky.

Wueste had dispatched four men down the valley to warn the several hundred who lived there. Others from San Diego were trying to warn those who had tele­phones. F. E. Baird, one of the mes­sengers, saw the headwall approaching when he was six miles below the dam. He cleared its main impact, but was caught in the following rise. He reached safety after swimming and clinging to trees.

Next morning Don Stewart, then city treasurer and a Naval Reserve officer, went out onto San Diego Bay off the mouth of Otay River. There he saw many small boats, manned by Japanese who lived in Otay Valley. Isolated from the general population, telling its trou­bles to no one, the Japanese colony was searching for its dead.

On the beach the flood had fanned out and made a delta several hundred yards wide covered with debris. There, rolled up and battered, was the bulk of the sheet core from the dam, twelve miles distant.

How many lives were lost, Japanese and other, was promptly confused among newspaper headlines and counter-head­lines. When the flood subsided the  Union sought to encourage visitors to come to the exposition. In the excitement it had been forgotten that the nation was listen­ing and San Diego was being made to seem impossible to reach and extremely dangerous on arrival. In the manner of newspapers of the day, the Union ac­cused the Scripps-owned Sun and the United Press of frightening the East with scare headlines announcing as many as 65 dead. The Sunreplied in kind.

The coroner’s office on the 28th had estimated the dead at 50. Later esti­mates have placed it in the vicinity of 20 and some lower. This refers only to deaths resulting from the dam failure.

The fund started for the relief of the Little Landers expanded into a larger appeal for the relief of the disaster victims throughout the county.

In the listing of the casualties, bizarre events, damages and ironies, one item is almost never omitted. Jim Coffroth, a show-type personality and erstwhile boxing promoter, had finished construc­tion of his new Tijuana race track. On the eve of its opening the flood overran it, making channels across the track and entering the buildings. The opening was postponed for weeks.

From Morena Dam between the big rains, Charley Hatfield telephoned San Diego and was quoted by the Union: “I understand the newspapers are saying I didn’t make the rain. All I have to say is that Morena has had 17½ inches of rain in the last five days and that beats any similar record for the place that I have been able to find.”

That was the last remark directly attributed to him until after the storm. He may have been in touch with his mother-in-law and Fred Binney, each of whom issued a statement that ap­peared to have knowledge of his wants and intentions.

Mrs. Rulon said, as Charley had said many times himself, that her son-in­law did not “make” rain, but released it when conditions were favorable. She also said: “If Morena has overflowed we may expect him shortly. If it has not, he will remain until it does.”

Binney in a letter to the Union said that Lake Cuyamaca, higher in the moun­tains, usually had 36 inches of rain in a year compared to Morena’s 21-1/2. But up to the 27th Cuyamaca was still 4.79 short of its yearly average while Morena had exceeded its by 4.50.

“Here we have scientific proof,” he explained, and expanded on the theme. The  Union was accustomed to him and his letters. This one it entitled: “What Hatfield Has Done, as F. A Binney Sees It.”

One of the many telephone messages Mrs. Swenson relayed to Charley was from a man she assumed was his at­torney. It might have been Fred Binney. The voice advised him to go back to San Diego at once and sign an agreement with the council, without which he would not be paid. Charley did not appear to take the message seriously.

Charley and Joel had cleared the brush from the soft ground under and near their tower. With a hand rake they frequently combed the ground immedi­ately under the platform, leading Mrs. Swenson to suppose they were trying to avoid identification of their chemical. When the Swensons approached the tower, Charley would come down the ladder or emerge from the tent, to meet them some 20 feet away. This they found to be amusing, being sure they could not identify anything so mysterious, but they kept their respectful distance.

Of many conversations with Charley, Mrs. Swenson remembers most vividly one during the first of the two storms. She said, “It’s sure raining now!” and Charley replied, “You haven’t seen any­thing yet. Wait two weeks and it will really rain.”

When the big storm got underway on the 26th the telephone failed, but not before Mrs. Swenson received a message for her husband from George Cromwell, city engineer and Wueste’s superior. The city council, he said, was deter­mined to impound all possible water. Swenson was instructed to keep the spillway gates closed until the water level reached the very top. The gates when closed were virtually as high as the dam itself.

All day on the 26th the rain came down heavily and steadily, out of a light gray sky. It was odd, the Swensons noted, that the overcast did not seem heavy and dark, notwithstanding the downpour.

Toward midnight the lake level was rising faster. Swenson gauged it fre­quently and timed its rise at two feet per hour. Considering the expanse of the lake, this must have required an enor­mous inflow. Enough engineers’ con­versation had rubbed off on Swenson to indicate that the problem involved common sense. He estimated that the spillway, even wide open, would not handle the flow at the rate the lake was rising. The telephone being out, he de­cided to use his own judgment.

Just before midnight, with the lake level still twelve feet below the spillway lip, (according to his recollection a little over 40 years later) he rowed to the outlet tower, climbed the outside and descended the slippery inside ladder to open two 24-inch outlet valves, far be­low the surface. Despite this outflow, the level continued to rise rapidly, and continued to rise after spilling started. By dawn the spillway was an impressive waterfall, with nearly five feet of water tumbling over its crest.

Topping the upstream face of the dam was a coping, two feet high, intended more as a guard rail than as a part of the dam. With all the outflow, the water level at daylight on the 27th was only five inches below the top of the coping. By virtue of this scant five inches, Morena Dam and many human lives were saved.

For the rest of his life, Charley Hatfield claimed that more than enough water flowed over the dam in the next few days to have filled Morena a second time. With this the Swensons agree, and it must have seemed that way, although the estimate of the San Diego water department is that only a little over three billion gallons spilled in the month of January. Overflowing continued into April, however.

Charley and Joel stayed at the lake until three days after the storm. They had reduced the tower to a neat pile of lumber and had carefully raked the ground where it had stood.

On the 30th the telephone in the Swensons’ cottage came to life again and a message was relayed from Dul­zura headquarters below and to the west. Then they heard that Lower Otay Dam was gone and that damage through­out the back country was unbelievable. Someone was even talking of organizing a party to come up to Morena and lynch Hatfield.

How seriously to take that report was a question, but for all the Swensons knew, their informant seemed to be serious. Charley had seemed in no hurry to leave, but when they told him what they had heard he decided to go at once, on foot. Swenson pointed out the trail leading down the canyon from the dam. As he watched them go he saw two men far below, upward bound on the same trail. They proved to be Wueste and Cromwell, and when they arrived, Wueste asked for Hatfield.

When Swenson expressed surprise that they had not met on the trail, Wueste recalled seeing downward bound footprints and wondering why they had not met the men who made them. Charley and Joel had evidently gone off the trail to dodge the unknown upward bound men.

Wueste and Cromwell arrived in time to cope with a new threat to the dam. The east wind had blown to the spillway everything that floated—dead trees and brush, fence posts, dismembered barns and outhouses and other lumber. It formed a heavy jam covering the narrow neck of the lake in front of the dam. It blocked much of the overflow, and the lake level was rising.

A guard of steel rails had been in­stalled on the lake side of the spillway to keep the debris away from the lip. Instead the pressure had forced the debris under and against the guard rails, forming a semi-effective water seal.

Cromwell walked nine miles through mud to Campo where he obtained dyna­mite and recruited men from an im­mobilized railroad construction crew. Two sticks of dynamite broke the jam, and the crew was put to work building a road to the dam, the old one having been covered by the risen lake.

Wueste and Cromwell and other en­gineers agreed that Swenson’s judgment and action, contrary to instructions, saved the dam.

It took Charley and Joel two days to cover the 60 miles to San Diego, walking all the way, fording fast streams and climbing in and out of new gullies. They stayed overnight at Jamul.

Charley held a press conference in Fred Binney’s office on the afternoon of February 4, explaining that he and Joel had arrived tired the day before and had taken a night’s rest and cleaned up. In the group photo taken at the confer­ence all three seemed well rested, well scrubbed and happy as larks.

Charley may have felt out the state of the public mind before he made a public appearance. He was surprised at the devastation and did not entirely discount the lynch threat. By the time of the press conference, however, he was aware that his chief enemies were those who proposed to deny payment of his fee on the ground that he had nothing to do with the rain.


For a man of Cosgrove’s shrewdness and combative instinct, Charley Hatfield was a sitting duck. Charley’s contracts would have distressed any attorney who tried to have them enforced at law. They were designed, if the word applies at all, principally for selling, as indicated by the contract title at Hemet: “Four Inches of Rain for $4,000; No Rain, No pay.”

Perhaps a lawyer might have designed one with fewer holes. It might have been stipulated that performance was established if a specific amount of rain fell while Charley was functioning, without qualification as to cause. With dry farmers he probably got more con­tracts and more fees by his own way of putting it. They understood that he would do his work, whatever it was, and that if the agreed amount of rail fell they would pay. That was enough for most of them, and those who dodged paying did not have to hire lawyers to shoot holes in the contracts. He never sued anyone except the City of San Diego, and that half-heartedly.

In the February 4 press conference Charley reviewed his career and as much concerning his ideas and methods as he was willing to disclose. Again he said he would be willing to give his secret to the U.S. government. When Fred Binney tried to enter the conver­sation, he firmly kept on talking.

How much time had he spent on the job at Morena?

Charley would not tell, but he pointed out that he had spent his own money and added that he would have continued to do so for the full year of the contract if filling Morena had taken that long. Now he expected the city to pay as agreed.

There were reports that the council did not intend to pay. Would Charley sue?

He said he did not want to cross that bridge before he reached it. He assumed the council would pay according to the agreement.

If Hatfield had caused the rain, then why had it also rained all along the coast, beyond the claimed limits of his influence?

Charley said it usually rains more in Los Angeles than in San Diego. This time it was the other way around. He did not claim to be a rainmaker, but only that he could increase the amount.

The questioners were primed with the city’s tactical line:

If Hatfield were to get credit for the rain, would he accept liability for the damage?

Charley said the benefits would ex­ceed the damages, and that the benefits included not only the water but the employment in repairing roads and bridges, which would put money into circulation and stimulate business. He was an economist ahead of his time!

How about the deaths?

Charley said the deaths were deplor­able, but he did not feel responsible.

From the press conference Charley proceeded not to the city treasurer but to the man everybody said he had to see—City Attorney Cosgrove. That gentleman was cordial, businesslike, and disarming. He advised Charley to file a written statement setting forth in detail what he claimed to have accom­plished, in how much time. In short, what exactly did he expect to be paid for?

Charley had always been willing, for simplicity’s sake and good salesman­ship, to allow clients to think he had caused the entire rain by himself. If challenged with the observation that rain had been general and that rains had been known to fall without his help, he was quick to deflate the challenge, not to counter it.

The payoff point in Hatfield contracts was usually set above normal expectancy, and this was especially true of all three propositions offered to the San Diego city council. His pay was conditional on an extraordinary amount of rain. Oddly, it appeared that the council had accepted the alternative that involved least rainfall. During that eventful January, according to city water depart­ment records, 28.01 inches fell at Morena and that amount caused a tremendous overflow. If 50 inches had fallen, as provided by either of the alternative propositions, the theoretical results are too horrifying to contemplate.

Charley’s claim was seven pages long and consisted largely of sales talk. He argued that while he was operating the city had only three days of sunshine. Since he stopped, the sun had been shining daily. He said the council would be dishonorable to evade payment by reason of the city attorney’s failure to draw up a written contract as he had been instructed.

Possibly Charley was disarmed by Cosgrove’s gentle approach. Indeed Cosgrove even appeared to be completely understanding about Charley’s right to the secrecy of his method. In any case Charley made the mistake of attempting to put on paper what he had always managed to keep conveniently indistinct, probably in his own mind as well as in the minds of his clients. He claimed to have been directly responsible for four billion gallons of what ran into Morena.

The climax came when Charley ap­peared before a council conference February 17. Mayor Edwin Capps asked him to state his business. He said: “The essence of my contract was to fill Morena Reservoir. That has been done. I have fulfilled my contract and I desire that the city should fulfill its contract to pay me $10, 000.”

“How much,” asked Cosgrove, “do you claim to have put into Morena?”

Charley had already put his foot into it in writing, and he repeated verbally: “Four billion gallons, if not more.”

“But you agreed to put in 10 billion gallons,” said Cosgrove. Charley was indeed bound up in a contradiction of his own making. He answered:

“There were five billion gallons when I started work and it required 15 billions to fill the reservoir. I claim that through the instrumentality of my work four billion gallons were put into the reser­voir and the other was the indirect result of my work.”

This was too easy. Charley was already in a bad position and Cosgrove pushed him harder: “You want the city to pay you only for what you yourself did? You do not want the city to pay you for what nature did, do you?”

” No.”

“Well, why do you ask the city to pay you for 10 billion gallons when you put in only four billion gallons?”

The inept opponent was vanquished as the attorney turned in triumph to the council:

“According to his own statements, this man has admitted that he put only four billion gallons of water into the reservoir. He offered to deliver 10 billion gallons. Therefore he had not fulfilled his contract, and there is no liability on the part of the city. He should have waited until he fulfilled his contract.”

Councilman Moore did not like to argue with a man so sharp and so emphatic as young Cosgrove, but he had a dogged sense of honesty.

“If Morena overflowed,” he said, “I think he should be paid his money.”

Cosgrove fixed Moore, and through him any other vacillator, with a stern look and proceeded:

“If I give a ruling it will be based solely upon the facts as shown by the records, and not upon any understanding or upon anybody’s sympathy. The records all show that Hatfield made three propositions to the city. The first was to fill Morena for $10,000; the second was to produce 40 inches of rain gratis and to receive $1,000 an inch for every inch between 40 and 50 inches and the third was to produce 30 inches of rain gratis and to receive $500 an inch for every inch between 30 and 50 inches. The resolution which was passed by the council simply said that Hatfield’s offer was accepted, but it did not say which of the propositions was accepted.

“This gentleman, according to my opinion, cannot collect his money in the courts. Under the constitution and the statutes of the state and the charter of the city, a claim that is unenforceable is invalid.”

So the council voted to refer the matter to the city attorney, which meant to deny payment. Moore said nothing further, but Benbough spoke in the sim­pler language of the council’s discussions with Charley. He said: “Four councilmen voted to accept the man’s proposition and told him to go ahead. He ought to be paid.”

For such disputations Charley had neither ability nor stomach. He was best when he held forth in his own terms on his own claims. Most of those who talked to him for any reasonable length of time were convinced that he had convinced himself.

Of course the reasons for refusing to pay Charley, as every San Diegan knows, was that if Charley really caused the rain then the city presumably could be held responsible for the damage it caused.

It might have been interesting if Charley had retained an equally belli­cose lawyer to insist as Councilmen Moore and Benbough insisted that a contract was in force regardless of the absence of a written version. Ultimately Cosgrove and Higgins did draft one in writing, although probably only for dis­play purposes. It was never presented to the council or Hatfield for approval. Higgins wrote, years later, that it was based on the alternative of filling Morena Reservoir rather than on the fall of 50 inches of rain. Despite Cos­grove’s quibble, they too understood as Charley and the newspapers and the council understood, which proposition had been accepted.

If Charley’s verbal deal with the council was a deal at all, it is hard to imagine what evidence of performance could have been given other than the simple fact of Morena’s overflow. If Charley had made a fuzzy contract, so had the city council. It is doubtful that any of them reasoned in the four-to-­one vote as Cosgrove reasoned after the fact. Who wanted Morena to overflow more than it had already?

Charley got an attorney to file suit, but the suit appeared to be merely an effort to urge settlement. He had al­ready offered to compromise for $4,000. Later the attorney implied a willingness to settle for even less.

Then, said Higgins, he and Cosgrove offered to recommend that the city pay all of the $10,000 if Charley would sign a statement assuming responsibility for the flood, absolving the city. One might wonder what would have been the out­come if Charley had solemnly signed such a statement and accepted the $10,000. If a damage suit had prevailed and if Hatfield had been without assets to cover, would the city have been liable anyway? It is a matter for spec­ulation only. Charley refused to sign.

Perhaps on examining the perform­ance of legal counsel it is fair only to ask if the client was victorious. San Diego and most of Cosgrove’s clients were. Three years later he resigned as city attorney and entered private practice in Los Angeles. As Southern California’s best known water specialist, he served many clients in a long and distinguished career. Among his greater victories was the triumph for his client and former employer, the City of San Diego, in the Paramount Rights Case completed in 1926.

Ultimately two damage suits against San Diego in the matter of the Hatfield flood reached trial, under change of venue. Courts in Orange and San Ber­nardino Counties ruled that the rain was an act of God, not of Hatfield. However, the city made cash settlements to some claimants who were willing to settle out of court. Altogether, it was not Cos­grove’s most brilliant undertaking, but who would have expected it to rain like that?

He himself was soon removed from the Hatfield problem by affairs of greater moment. Shelley Higgins continued as assistant city attorney through the Hat­field flood cases. It was Higgins who had to defend the city and it was Higgins who had to explain and find dignity in the Cosgrove-Higgins role, where there was really no dignity to be found. He worked very hard at it.

Charley’ s suit against the city lingered on the court calendar nearly twenty-two years and finally was dismissed in 1938 for lack of prosecution.

For most modern San Diegans, the refusal to pay was justified in view of the damage suits against the city, of which there could have been many more. Still it does seem a pity to some that Charley could not have been paid, since he did seem to make good on the kind of deal the council made with him.

Possibly it is this touch of bad con­science that accounts for a verbal tra­dition in San Diego that Charley was paid $5,000 from an under-the-table fund the city fathers maintained for confidential purposes best understood by practicing politicians. But Charley was scrupulous. Higgins himself had testified to the refusal of one back door payment proposition. If Charley had taken any payment he probably would not have continued to say, as he did, that the city had not paid him.

“To this day,” he told a newspaper reporter 30 years later, “I’ve never felt right about that San Diego city council.” For him it was a strongly worded complaint.


The San Diego City Council discus­sions with and about Hatfield, including the direct quotations, are based princi­pally on contemporary news stories from the San Diego Union. The Union of January 21, 1951, is the source of Al Wueste’s recollection of the failure of Lower Otay Dam.

Paul Hatfield of Pearblossom, Calif., brother of the rainmaker, supplied dates, locations and routine details on all the Hatfield rainmaking engagements. At most of them, but not at Morena Reservoir, he was his brother’s helper.

Three eye witnesses to the 1916 floods were especially helpful through personal interviews. Don Stewart, former San Diego city councilman, city treasurer and postmaster, was interviewed on August 20, 1958, in Riverside. He was the most informative of a delegation from the San Diego History Center, the other members of which were Edgar F. Hastings, Joe Silvers and Wilmer B. Shields. Stewart especially recalled Fred A. Binney. The other two key recollections came from Seth and Maggie Swenson, who tended the dam at Morena Reservoir. They were interviewed, probably no later than 1959, at their home in San Diego.

Rainfall figures were obtained from or checked against Climatological Data, published by the Department of Commerce.

The following books were consulted with particular reference to the Hatfield story: McGrew, Clarence A., San Diego and San Diego County, American His­torical Society, N.Y., 1922; Hopkins, Harry C., History of San Diego, City Printing Co., San Diego; Higgins, Shelley, This Fantastic City; Hensley, H. C., Early San Diego, Vol III (in ms. form, San Diego Public Library).

Thomas W. Patterson’s article on Charles M. Hatfield’s activities relating to San Diego and the disasterous floods of 1916 is part of a 43,000-word manuscript in which Patterson analyzes the myths and legends, and evaluates the facts in Hatfield’s interesting career as rainmaker.Mr. Patterson is a newspaper reporter. In 1945 he worked for the San Diego Journal, and since 1946 he has been a reporter for the Riverside Press Enterprise. He was born on April 1, 1909, in Yuma, Arizona.

Mr. Patterson is also the author of Land­marks of Riverside and co-author of Riverman, Desertman (on Palo Alto Valley), both of which have been published by the Press En­terprise Company.

Mr. Patterson was recently honored by the San Diego History Center at their Second Annual Institute of History for his contributions to San Diego history through the Hatfield article.

Privilégios ancestrais (Pesquisa Fapesp)


Autor do livro Direito e justiça em terras d’el rei na São Paulo colonial 1709 – 1822, Adelto Gonçalves fala sobre como a organização das estruturas de poder na sociedade, o funcionamento da Justiça paulista e a formação de privilégios da elite naquela época descrevem as raízes dos desmandos públicos no Brasil.

The Skeleton Trade: Life, Death, and Commerce in Early Modern Europe (Objects in Motion: Material Culture in Transition)

JULY 9, 2015

Anita Guerrini, Horning Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History at Oregon State University, discusses the fascinating research which she presented at Objects in Motion: Material Culture in Transition.

Although the human skeleton was well known as a symbol before 1500, the articulated skeleton does not seem to have come into its own as an object – scientific and artistic as well as symbolic – until the time of Vesalius. Curiously ubiquitous, since everyone has one, but yet largely invisible, anatomists revealed the skeleton to view. The well-known illustrations of Vesalius were plagiarized over and over for two centuries after their publication in 1543.

Vesalius, "De humani corporis fabrica", 1543. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Vesalius was the first to give detailed instructions on how to make a skeleton, for although it was a natural object, it was also a crafted object whose construction entailed a lot of work. The human body became an object in motion as it travelled from the scaffold to the dissection table to the grisly cauldron where the bones were boiled to remove their flesh. While artists and anatomists employed skeletons for instruction, little evidence of their collection appears before the mid-seventeenth century, when they begin to appear in cabinets and collections. Both the Royal Society and the Paris Academy of Sciences owned several. At the Paris Academy, André Colson, described as an “ébeniste” or furniture maker, was charged with the making and maintenance of the skeleton room, while the physician Nehemiah Grew, who catalogued the Royal Society’s collections in 1681, may also have made its skeletons. By the end of the seventeenth century, a vigorous skeleton trade flourished across Europe, and they often appear in auction catalogues alongside books, works of art, and scientific instruments. At the same time, relics, both old and new, retained their potency in both Catholic and Protestant countries.

After Vesalius, detailed instructions for making a skeleton appeared in many anatomical texts and manuals as part of the education of a physician or surgeons; in the eighteenth century, William Hunter took it for granted that each of his students would need to construct a skeleton for his own use and in addition procure “several skulls.” While such a process would seem to confer anonymity to the finished skeleton, provenance and even identity often clung to the bones along with religious resonances. Most skeletons were of executed criminals, some of them widely known. The skeleton of the “Thief-taker General” Jonathan Wild, executed in 1725, still hangs in the gallery of the College of Surgeons in London, and Hogarth’s famous 1751 “Fourth Stage of Cruelty” shows the skeletons of other malefactors on display in niches at Surgeons’ Hall while a cauldron awaits the bones of Tom Nero, who is being dissected by the surgeons after his conviction for murder.

William Hogarth's "The Fourth Stage of Cruelty", 1751. Credit: Wikimedia.

Widespread demand and changing scientific contexts expanded the market for skeletons (as well as skulls) beyond Europe to encompass much of the known world by the mid-eighteenth century. The prodigious collector Hans Sloane received skulls and bones from contacts throughout the world, including native bones that his Jamaican contacts apparently stumbled across in caves. Sloane’s meticulous catalogues of his collections allow one to trace the provenance of many of his human specimens though other collectors and agents. Such catalogues, along with account books, advertisements, and illustrations, reveal this worldwide commerce in skeletons alongside a continued trade in skeletal relics. Traveling across time and place, skeletons embodied beauty and deformity, crime and punishment, sin and sanctity, science and colonial power, often simultaneously.

18th-century trade card for the skeleton seller and preparator Nathaniel Longbottom of London. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Ora pois, uma língua bem brasileira (Pesquisa Fapesp)

Análise de textos antigos e de entrevistas expõe as marcas próprias do idioma no país, o alcance do R caipira e os lugares que preservam modos antigos de falar


Estudo para Partida da monção, 1897, de Almeida Júnior (Acervo Pinacoteca do Estado de SP). Os bandeirantes saíam de Porto Feliz rumo ao Centro-Oeste

Estudo para Partida da monção, 1897, de Almeida Júnior (Acervo Pinacoteca do Estado de SP). Os bandeirantes saíam de Porto Feliz rumo ao Centro-Oeste

A possibilidade de ser simples, dispensar elementos gramaticais teoricamente essenciais e responder “sim, comprei”, quando alguém pergunta “você comprou o carro?”, é uma das características que conferem flexibilidade e identidade ao português brasileiro. A análise de documentos antigos e de entrevistas de campo ao longo dos últimos 30 anos está mostrando que o português brasileiro já pode ser considerado único, diferente do português europeu, do mesmo modo que o inglês americano é distinto do inglês britânico. O português brasileiro ainda não é, porém, uma língua autônoma: talvez seja – na previsão de especialistas, em cerca de 200 anos – quando acumular peculiaridades que nos impeçam de entender inteiramente o que um nativo de Portugal diz.

A expansão do português no Brasil, as variações regionais com suas possíveis explicações, que fazem o urubu de São Paulo ser chamado de corvo no Sul do país, e as raízes das inovações da linguagem estão emergindo por meio do trabalho de cerca de 200 linguistas. De acordo com estudos da Universidade de São Paulo (USP), uma inovação do português brasileiro, por enquanto sem equivalente em Portugal, é o Rcaipira, às vezes tão intenso que parece valer por dois ou três, como em porrrta ou carrrne.

Associar o R caipira apenas ao interior paulista, porém, é uma imprecisão geográfica e histórica, embora o R desavergonhado tenha sido uma das marcas do estilo matuto do ator Amácio Mazzaropi em seus 32 filmes, produzidos de 1952 a 1980. Seguindo as rotas dos bandeirantes paulistas em busca de ouro, os linguistas encontraram o Rsupostamente típico de São Paulo em cidades de Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Paraná e oeste de Santa Catarina e do Rio Grande do Sul, formando um modo de falar similar ao português do século XVIII. Quem tiver paciência e ouvido apurado poderá encontrar também na região central do Brasil – e em cidades do litoral – o S chiado, uma característica hoje típica do falar carioca que veio com os portugueses em 1808 e era um sinal de prestígio por representar o falar da Corte. Mesmo os portugueses não eram originais: os especialistas argumentam que o Schiado, que faz da esquina uma shquina, veio dos nobres franceses, que os portugueses admiravam.

A história da língua portuguesa no Brasil está trazendo à tona as características preservadas do português, como a troca do L pelo R, resultando em pranta em vez deplanta. Camões registrou essa troca em Os lusíadas – lá está um frautas no lugar de flautas – e o cantor e compositor paulista Adoniran Barbosa a deixou registrada em diversas composições, em frases como “frechada do teu olhar”, do samba Tiro ao Álvaro. Em levantamentos de campo, pesquisadores da USP observaram que moradores do interior tanto do Brasil quanto de Portugal, principalmente os menos escolarizados, ainda falam desse modo. Outro sinal de preservação da língua identificado por especialistas do Rio de Janeiro e de São Paulo, dessa vez em documentos antigos, foi a gente ou as gentes como sinônimo de “nós” e hoje uma das marcas próprias do português brasileiro.

Célia Lopes, da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), encontrou registros de a gente em documentos do século XVI e, com mais frequência, a partir do século XIX. Era uma forma de indicar a primeira pessoa do plural, no sentido de todo mundo com a inclusão necessária do eu. Segundo ela, o emprego de a gente pode passar descompromisso e indefinição: quem diz a gente em geral não deixa claro se pretende se comprometer com o que está falando ou se se vê como parte do grupo, como em “a gente precisa fazer”. Já o pronome nós, como em “nós precisamos fazer”, expressa responsabilidade e compromisso. Nos últimos 30 anos, ela notou, a gente instalou-se nos espaços antes ocupados pelo nós e se tornou um recurso bastante usado por todas as idades e classes sociais no país inteiro, embora nos livros de gramática permaneça na marginalidade.

Linguistas de vários estados do país estão desenterrando as raízes do português brasileiro ao examinar cartas pessoais e administrativas, testamentos, relatos de viagens, processos judiciais, cartas de leitores e anúncios de jornais desde o século XVI, coletados em instituições como a Biblioteca Nacional e o Arquivo Público do Estado de São Paulo. A equipe de Célia Lopes tem encontrado também na feira de antiguidades do sábado da Praça XV de Novembro, no centro do Rio, cartas antigas e outros tesouros linguísticos, nem sempre valorizados. “Um estudante me trouxe cartas maravilhosas encontradas no lixo”, ela contou.

Sem título da série Estudo para bandeirantes, sem data, de Henrique Bernardelli, (Acervo Pinacoteca do Estado de SP) paulistas expandiram a língua portuguesa conquistando  outras regiões

De vossa mercê para 
Os documentos antigos evidenciam que o português falado no Brasil começou a se diferenciar do europeu há pelo menos quatro séculos. Uma indicação dessa separação é o Memórias para a história da capitania de São Vicente, de 1793, escrito por frei Gaspar da Madre de Deus, nascido em São Vicente, e depois reescrito pelo português Marcelino Pereira Cleto, que foi juiz em Santos. Comparando as duas versões, José Simões, da USP, encontrou 30 diferenças entre o português brasileiro e o europeu. Uma delas é encontrada ainda hoje: como usuários do português brasileiro, preferimos explicitar os sujeitos das frases, como em “o rapaz me vendeu o carro, depois ele saiu correndo e ao atravessar a rua ele foi atropelado”. Em português europeu, seria mais natural omitir o sujeito, já definido pelo tempo verbal – “o rapaz vendeu-me o carro, depois saiu a correr…” –, resultando em uma construção gramaticalmente impecável, embora nos soe um pouco estranha.

Um morador de Portugal, se lhe perguntarem se comprou um carro, responderá com naturalidade “sim, comprei-o”, explicitando o complemento do verbo, “mesmo entre falantes pouco escolarizados”, observa Simões. Ele nota que os portugueses usam mesóclise – “dar-lhe-ei um carro, com certeza!” –, que soaria pernóstica no Brasil. Outra diferença é a distância entre a língua falada e a escrita no Brasil. Ninguém fala muito, mas muinto. O pronome você, que já é uma redução de vossa mercê e de vosmecê, encolheu ainda mais, para , e grudou no verbo: cevai?

“A língua que falamos não é a que escrevemos”, diz Simões, com base em exemplos como esses. “O português escrito e o falado em Portugal são mais próximos, embora também existam diferenças regionais.” Simões complementa as análises textuais com suas andanças por Portugal. “Há 10 anos meus parentes de Portugal diziam que não entendiam o que eu dizia”, ele observa. “Hoje, provavelmente por causa da influência das novelas brasileiras na televisão, dizem que já estou falando um português mais correto.”

“Conservamos o ritmo da fala, enquanto os europeus começaram a falar mais rápido a partir do século XVIII”, observa Ataliba Castilho, professor emérito da USP, que, nos últimos 40 anos, planejou e coordenou vários projetos de pesquisa sobre o português falado e a história do português do Brasil. “Até o século XVI”, diz ele, “o português brasileiro e o europeu eram como o espanhol, com um corte silábico duro. A palavra falada era muito próxima da escrita”. Célia Lopes acrescenta outra diferença: o português brasileiro conserva a maioria das vogais, enquanto os europeus em geral as omitem, ressaltando as consoantes, e diriam tulfón para se referir ao telefone.

Há também muitas palavras com sentidos diferentes de um lado e de outro do Atlântico. Os estudantes das universidades privadas não pagam mensalidade, mas propina. Bolsista é bolseiro. Como os europeus não adotaram algumas palavras usadas no Brasil, a exemplo de bunda, de origem africana, podem surgir situações embaraçosas. Vanderci Aguilera, professora sênior da Universidade Estadual de Londrina (Uel) e uma das linguistas empenhadas no resgate da história do português brasileiro, levou uma amiga portuguesa a uma loja. Para ver se um vestido que acabava de experimentar caía bem às costas, a amiga lhe perguntou: “O que achas do meu rabo?”.

016-023_CAPA_Portugues_230O soldado e a filha do fazendeiro
No acervo de documentos sobre a evolução do português paulista, está uma carta de 1807, escrita pelo soldado Manoel Coelho, que teria seduzido a filha de um fazendeiro. Quando soube, o pai da moça, enfurecido, forçou o rapaz a se casar com ela. O soldado, porém, bateu o pé: não se casaria, como ele escreveu, “nem por bem nem por mar”. Simões estranhou a citação ao mar, já que o quiproquó se passava na então vila de São Paulo, mas depois percebeu: “Olha o Rcaipira! Ele quis dizer ‘nem por bem nem por mal!’”. O soldado escrevia como falava, não se sabe se casou com a filha do fazendeiro, mas deixou uma prova valiosa de como se falava no início do século XIX.

“O R caipira era uma das características da língua falada na vila de São Paulo, que aos poucos, com a crescente urbanização e a chegada de imigrantes europeus, foi expulsa para a periferia ou para outras cidades”, diz Simões. “Era a língua dos bandeirantes.” Os especialistas acreditam que os primeiros moradores da vila de São Paulo, além de porrta, pulavam consoantes no meio das palavras, falando muié em vez de mulher, por exemplo. Para aprisionar índios e, mais tarde, para encontrar ouro, os bandeirantes conquistaram inicialmente o interior paulista, levando seu vocabulário e seu modo de falar. O R exagerado ainda pode ser ouvido nas cidades do chamado Médio Tietê como Santana de Parnaíba, Pirapora do Bom Jesus, Sorocaba, Itu, Tietê, Porto Feliz e Piracicaba, cujos moradores, principalmente os do campo, o pintor ituano José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior retratou, até ser assassinado pelo marido de sua amante em Piracicaba. Os bandeirantes seguiram depois para outras matas da imensa Capitania de São Paulo, constituída em 1709 com os territórios dos atuais estados de São Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso, Rondônia, Tocantins, Minas Gerais, Paraná e Santa Catarina (ver mapa).

Manoel Mourivaldo Almeida, também da USP, encontrou sinais do português paulista antigo em Cuiabá, a capital de Mato Grosso, que permaneceu com relativamente pouca interação linguística e cultural com outras cidades depois do fim do auge da mineração de ouro, há dois séculos. “O português culto dos séculos XVI ao XVII tinha um Schiado”, conclui Almeida. “Os paulistas, quando foram para o Centro-Oeste, falavam como os cariocas hoje!” O ator e diretor teatral cuiabano Justino Astrevo de Aguiar reconhece a herança paulista e carioca, mas considera um traço mais evidente do falar local o hábito de acrescentar um J ou um T antes ou no meio das palavras, como em djeitocadju ou tchuva, uma característica da pronúncia típica do século XVII, que Almeida identificou também entre moradores de Goiás, Minas Gerais, Maranhão e na região da Galícia, na Espanha.

Almeida apurou o ouvido para as variações do português no Brasil por conta de sua própria história. Filho de portugueses, nasceu em Piritiba, interior da Bahia, saiu de lá aos 7 anos, morou em Jaciara, interior de Mato Grosso, e depois 25 anos em Cuiabá, foi professor da universidade federal e se mudou para São Paulo em 2003. Ele reconhece que fala como paulista nos momentos mais formais – embora prefira falar éxtra em vez de êxtra como os paulistas –, mas quando descontrai assume o ritmo de falar baiano e o vocabulário matogrossense. Ele estuda o modo de falar cuiabano desde 1991, por sugestão de um colega professor, Leônidas Querubim Avelino, especialista em Camões, que havia verificado sinais do português arcaico por lá. Avelino lhe contou que um roceiro cego de Livramento, a 30 quilômetros de Cuiabá, comentou que ele estava “andando pusilo”, no sentido de fraco. Avelino reconheceu uma forma reduzida de pusilânime, que não era mais usada em Portugal.

“Os moradores de Cuiabá e de algumas outras cidades, como Cáceres e Barão de Melgado, em Mato Grosso, e Corumbá, em Mato Grosso do Sul, preservam o português paulista do século XVIII mais do que os próprios paulistas. Paulistas do interior e também da capital hoje falam dia, com um d seco, enquanto na maior parte do Brasil se diz djia”, observou Almeida. “O modo de falar pode mudar dependendo do acesso à cultura, da motivação e da capacidade de perceber e articular sons de modo diferente. Quem procurar nos lugares mais distantes dos grandes centros urbanos vai encontrar sinais de preservação do português antigo.”

Rua 25 de março, 1894, de Antonio Ferrigno (Acervo Pinacoteca do Estado de SP). A cidade de São Paulo tinha um sotaque próprio

Rua 25 de março, 1894, de Antonio Ferrigno (Acervo Pinacoteca do Estado de SP). A cidade de São Paulo tinha um sotaque próprio

De 1998 a 2003, uma equipe coordenada por Heitor Megale, da USP, seguiu a rota das bandeiras do século XVI em busca de traços da língua portuguesa antiga que tenham permanecido ao longo de quatro séculos. As entrevistas com moradores com 60 anos a 90 anos de quase 40 cidades ou povoados de Minas Gerais, Goiás e Mato Grosso trouxeram à tona termos esquecidos como mamparra(fingimento) e mensonha (mentira), uma palavra de um dos poemas de Francisco de Sá de Miranda do século XV, treição, usada no interior de Goiás no sentido de surpresa, e termos da linguagem popular ainda usados em Portugal, como despoispercisão e tristura, comuns no sul de Minas. O que parecia anacronismo ganhou valor. Dizer sancristia em vez de sacristia não era um erro, “mas uma influência preservada do passado, quando a pronúncia era assim”, relatou o Jornal da Manhã, de Paracatu, Minas, em 20 de dezembro de 2001.

Ao norte, a língua portuguesa expandiu-se para o interior a partir da cidade de Salvador, que foi a capital do Brasil Colônia durante três séculos. Salvador era também um centro de fermentação da língua, por receber multidões de escravos africanos, que aprendiam o português como língua estrangeira, mas também ofereciam seu vocabulário, ao qual já haviam se somado as palavras indígenas.

Para impedir que a língua de Camões se desfigurasse ao cruzar com os dialetos nativos, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, o Marquês de Pombal, secretário de Estado do reino, resolveu agir. Em 1757, Pombal expulsou os jesuítas, entre outras razões de ordem política, porque estavam ensinando a doutrina cristã em língua indígena, e, por decreto, fez do português a língua oficial do Brasil. O português se impôs sobre as línguas nativas e ainda hoje é a língua oficial, embora os linguistas alertem que não possa ser chamada de nacional por causa das 180 línguas indígenas faladas no país (eram 1.200, estima-se, quando os portugueses chegaram). A miscigenação linguística, que reflete a mistura de povos formadores do país, explica em boa parte as variações regionais de vocabulário e de ritmos, sintetizadas em um mapa dos falares do Museu da Língua Portuguesa, em São Paulo. É fácil encontrar variações em um mesmo estado: os moradores do norte de Minas falam como os baianos, os da região central mantêm o autêntico mineirês, no sul a influência paulista é intensa e a leste o modo de falar assemelha-se ao sotaque carioca.

A pandorga e o bigato
Há 10 anos um grupo de linguistas estuda um dos resultados da miscigenação linguística: os diferentes nomes com que um mesmo objeto pode ser chamado, registrados por meio de entrevistas com 1.100 pessoas em 250 localidades. Brasil afora, o brinquedo feito de papel e varetas que se empina ao vento por meio de uma linha é chamado de papagaio, pipa, raia ou pandorga – ou ainda coruja em Natal e João Pessoa –, de acordo com o primeiro volume do Atlas linguístico do Brasil, publicado em outubro de 2014 com os resultados das entrevistas nas capitais (Editora UEL). Já o aparelho com luzes vermelha, amarela e verde usado em cruzamentos de ruas para regular o trânsito é chamado apenas de sinal no Rio de Janeiro e em Belo Horizonte e também de semáforo nas capitais do Norte e Nordeste. Goiânia registrou os quatro nomes para o mesmo objeto: sinal, semáforo, sinaleiro e farol.

Começa agora a busca de explicações para essas diferenças. “Onde nasci, em Sertanópolis, a 42 quilômetros de Londrina”, disse Vanderci Aguilera, uma das coordenadoras do Atlas, “chamamos bicho de goiaba de bigato por influência dos colonizadores, que eram imigrantes italianos vindos do interior paulista”. Segundo ela, os moradores dos três estados do Sul chamam urubu de corvo por influência dos europeus, enquanto os do Sudeste mantiveram o nome tupi, urubu.

Cena de família de Adolfo Augusto Pinto, 1891, de Almeida Júnior (Acervo Pinacoteca do Estado de SP).No final do século XIX o pronome você já era mais formal que o tu

Cena de família de Adolfo Augusto Pinto, 1891, de Almeida Júnior (Acervo Pinacoteca do Estado de SP). No final do século XIX o pronome você já era mais formal que o tu

Cada estado – ou região – tem seu próprio patrimônio linguístico, que deve ser respeitado, enfatizam os especialistas. Os professores de português, alerta Vanderci, não deveriam repreender os alunos por chamarem beija-flor de cuitelo, como é comum no interior do Paraná, nem recriminar os que dizem carochurascoou baranco, como é comum entre os descendentes de poloneses e alemães no Sul, mas ensinar outras formas de falar e deixar a meninada se expressar como quiser quando estiver com a família ou com os amigos. “Ninguém fala errado”, ela enfatiza. “Todo mundo fala de acordo com sua história de vida, com o que foi transmitido pelos pais e depois modificado pela escola. Nossa fala é nossa identidade, não temos por que nos envergonhar.”

A diversidade do português brasileiro é tão grande que, apesar do empenho dos locutores de telejornais de alcance nacional em tentar criar uma língua neutra, despida de sotaques locais, “não há um padrão nacional”, assegura Castilho. “Há diferenças de vocabulário, gramática, sintaxe e pronúncia mesmo entre pessoas que adotam a norma culta”, diz ele. Insatisfeito com as teorias importadas, Castilho criou a abordagem multissistêmica da linguagem, segundo a qual qualquer expressão linguística mobiliza simultaneamente quatro planos (léxico, semântica, discurso e gramática), que deveriam ser vistos de modo integrado e não mais separadamente. Ao lado de Verena Kewitz, da USP, ele tem debatido essa abordagem com estudantes de pós-graduação e com outros especialistas do Brasil e no exterior.

Também está claro que o português brasileiro se refaz continuamente. As palavras podem morrer ou ganhar novos sentidos. Almeida contou que Celciane Vasconcelos, uma das estudantes de seu grupo, verificou que somente os moradores mais antigos do litoral paranaense conheciam a palavra sumaca, um tipo de barco antes comum, que hoje não se constrói mais, tirando a antiga serventia da palavra que hoje nomeia uma praia em Paraty (RJ). Os modos antigos de falar podem ressurgir. O R caipira, asseguram os linguistas, está voltando, até mesmo em São Paulo, e readquirindo status, na esteira dos cantores de música sertaneja. “Hoje ser caipira é chique”, assegura Vanderci. Ou ao menos é aceitável e parte do estilo pessoal, como o da apresentadora de TV Sabrina Sato.

Bilhetes de amor
Os linguistas têm notado a expansão do tratamento informal. “Tenho 78 anos e devia ser tratado por senhor, mas meus alunos mais jovens me tratam por você”, diz Castilho, aparentemente sem se incomodar com a informalidade, inconcebível em seus tempos de estudante. O você, porém, não reinará sozinho. Célia Lopes, com sua equipe da UFRJ, verificou que o tu predomina em Porto Alegre e convive com o você no Rio de Janeiro e em Recife, enquanto você é o tratamento predominante em São Paulo, Curitiba, Belo Horizonte e Salvador. O tu já era mais próximo e menos formal que vocênas quase 500 cartas do acervo on-line da UFRJ, quase todas de poetas, políticos e outras personalidades do final do século XIX e início do XX.

Como ainda faltava a expressão do falar das pessoas comuns, Célia e sua equipe exultaram ao encontrar 13 bilhetes escritos em 1908 por Robertina de Souza para seu amante e para seu marido. Esse material era parte de um processo-crime movido contra o marido, que expulsou de sua casa um amigo e a própria mulher ao saber que tinham tido um caso extraconjungal e depois matou o ex-amigo. Em um dos 11 bilhetes para o amante, Álvaro Mattos, Robertina, que assinava como Chininha, escreveu: “Eu te adoro te amo até a morte sou tua só tu é meu só o meu coracao e teu e o teu coracao é meu. Chininha e todinha tua ate a morte”. Já o marido, Arthur Noronha, que recebeu apenas dois bilhetes, ela tratava de modo mais formal: “Eu rezo pedindo a Deus para você me perdoar, mas creio que voce não tem coragem de ver morrer um filho o filha”. E mais adiante: “Não posso me separar de voce e do meu filho a não ser com a morte”. Não se sabe se ela voltou para casa, mas o marido foi absolvido, por alegar que matou o outro homem em defesa da honra.

Outro sinal da evolução do português brasileiro são as construções híbridas, com um verbo que não concorda mais com o pronome, do tipo tu não sabe?, e a mistura dos pronomes de tratamento você e tu, como em “se você precisar, vou te ajudar”. Os portugueses europeus poderiam alegar que se trata de mais uma prova de nossa capacidade de desfigurar a língua lusitana, mas talvez não tenham tanta razão para se queixar. Célia Lopes encontrou a mistura de pronomes de tratamento, que ela e outros linguistas não consideram mais um erro, em cartas do marquês do Lavradio, que foi vice-rei do Brasil de 1769 a 1796, e, mais de dois séculos depois, em uma entrevista do ex-presidente Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Projeto de história do português paulista (PHPP – Projeto Caipira) (nº 11/51787-5); Modalidade Projeto Temático; Pesquisador responsável Manoel Mourivaldo Santiago Almeida(USP); Investimento R$ 87.372,10 (FAPESP).

Além do butim (Pesquisa Fapesp)


A pirataria ganhou força no século XVI, segundo o historiador Jean Marcel Carvalho França, professor da Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp) em Franca. As frotas de Espanha e Portugal eram atacadas com frequência, resultando em perdas imensas de ouro, pau-brasil e marfim. Mesmo que não tenham conseguido se fixar no Brasil, franceses e ingleses formaram colônias nas Américas Central e do Norte. Mais do que uma simples aventura, esse tipo de invasão representava uma contestação de governos da Europa à divisão das terras do Novo Mundo entre Espanha e Portugal, formalizada por meio do Tratado de Tordesilhas em 1494. Veja no vídeo produzido pela equipe de Pesquisa FAPESP como reinos europeus apoiavam os ataques de corsários à costa brasileira.

Preternatural machines (AEON)


Robots came to Europe before the dawn of the mechanical age. To a medieval world, they were indistinguishable from magic

E R Truitt is a medieval historian at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. Her book, Medieval Robots: Mechanism, Magic, Nature, and Art, is out in June.

Edited by Ed Lake

In 807 the Abbasid caliph in Baghdad, Harun al-Rashid, sent Charlemagne a gift the like of which had never been seen in the Christian empire: a brass water clock. It chimed the hours by dropping small metal balls into a bowl. Instead of a numbered dial, the clock displayed the time with 12 mechanical horsemen that popped out of small windows, rather like an Advent calendar. It was a thing of beauty and ingenuity, and the Frankish chronicler who recorded the gift marvelled how it had been ‘wondrously wrought by mechanical art’. But given the earliness of the date, what’s not clear is quite what he might have meant by that.

Certain technologies are so characteristic of their historical milieux that they serve as a kind of shorthand. The arresting title credit sequence to the TV series Game of Thrones (2011-) proclaims the show’s medieval setting with an assortment of clockpunk gears, waterwheels, winches and pulleys. In fact, despite the existence of working models such as Harun al-Rashid’s gift, it was another 500 years before similar contraptions started to emerge in Europe. That was at the turn of the 14th century, towards the end of the medieval period – the very era, in fact, whose political machinations reportedly inspired the plot of Game of Thrones.

When mechanical clockwork finally took off, it spread fast. In the first decades of the 14th century, it became so ubiquitous that, in 1324, the treasurer of Lincoln Cathedral offered a substantial donation to build a new clock, to address the embarrassing problem that ‘the cathedral was destitute of what other cathedrals, churches, and convents almost everywhere in the world are generally known to possess’. It’s tempting, then, to see the rise of the mechanical clock as a kind of overnight success.

But technological ages rarely have neat boundaries. Throughout the Latin Middle Ages we find references to many apparent anachronisms, many confounding examples of mechanical art. Musical fountains. Robotic servants. Mechanical beasts and artificial songbirds. Most were designed and built beyond the boundaries of Latin Christendom, in the cosmopolitan courts of Baghdad, Damascus, Constantinople and Karakorum. Such automata came to medieval Europe as gifts from foreign rulers, or were reported in texts by travellers to these faraway places.

In the mid-10th century, for instance, the Italian diplomat Liudprand of Cremona described the ceremonial throne room in the Byzantine emperor’s palace in Constantinople. In a building adjacent to the Great Palace complex, Emperor Constantine VII received foreign guests while seated on a throne flanked by golden lions that ‘gave a dreadful roar with open mouth and quivering tongue’ and switched their tails back and forth. Next to the throne stood a life-sized golden tree, on whose branches perched dozens of gilt birds, each singing the song of its particular species. When Liudprand performed the customary prostration before the emperor, the throne rose up to the ceiling, potentate still perched on top. At length, the emperor returned to earth in a different robe, having effected a costume change during his journey into the rafters.

The throne and its automata disappeared long ago, but Liudprand’s account echoes a description of the same marvel that appears in a Byzantine manual of courtly etiquette, written – by the Byzantine emperor himself, no less – at around the same time. The contrast between the two accounts is telling. The Byzantine one is preoccupied with how the special effects slotted into certain rigid courtly rituals. It was during the formal introduction of an ambassador, the manual explains, that ‘the lions begin to roar, and the birds on the throne and likewise those in the trees begin to sing harmoniously, and the animals on the throne stand upright on their bases’. A nice refinement of royal protocol. Liudprand, however, marvelled at the spectacle. He hazarded a guess that a machine similar to a winepress might account for the rising throne; as for the birds and lions, he admitted: ‘I could not imagine how it was done.’

Other Latin Christians, confronted with similarly exotic wonders, were more forthcoming with theories. Engineers in the West might have lacked the knowledge to copy these complex machines or invent new ones, but thanks to gifts such as Harun al-Rashid’s clock and travel accounts such as Liudprand’s, different kinds of automata became known throughout the Christian world. In time, scholars and philosophers used their own scientific ideas to account for them. Their framework did not rely on a thorough understanding of mechanics. How could it? The kind of mechanical knowledge that had flourished since antiquity in the East had been lost to Europe following the decline of the western Roman Empire.

Instead, they talked about what they knew: the hidden powers of Nature, the fundamental sympathies between celestial bodies and earthly things, and the certainty that demons existed and intervened in human affairs. Arthur C Clarke’s dictum that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic was rarely more apposite. Yet the very blurriness of that boundary made it fertile territory for the medieval Christian mind. In time, the mechanical age might have disenchanted the world – but its eventual victory was much slower than the clock craze might suggest. And in the meantime, there were centuries of magical machines.

In the medieval Latin world, Nature could – and often did – act predictably. But some phenomena were sufficiently weird and rare that they could not be considered of a piece with the rest of the natural world. They therefore were classified as preternatural: literally, praeter naturalis or ‘beyond nature’.

What might fall into this category? Pretty much any freak occurrence or deviation from the ordinary course of things: a two-headed sheep, for example. Then again, some phenomena qualified as preternatural because their causes were not readily apparent and were thus difficult to know. Take certain hidden – but essential – characteristics of objects, such as the supposedly fire-retardant skin of the salamander, or the way that certain gems were thought to detect or counteract poison. Magnets were, of course, a clear case of the preternatural at work.

If the manifestations of the preternatural were various, so were its causes. Nature herself might be responsible – just because she often behaved predictably did not mean that she was required to do so – but so, equally, might demons and angels. People of great ability and learning could use their knowledge, acquired from ancient texts, to predict preternatural events such as eclipses. Or they might harness the secret properties of plants or natural laws to bring about certain desired outcomes. Magic was largely a matter of manipulating this preternatural domain: summoning demons, interpreting the stars, and preparing a physic could all fall under the same capacious heading.

All of which is to say, there were several possible explanations for the technological marvels that were arriving from the east and south. Robert of Clari, a French knight during the disastrous Fourth Crusade of 1204, described copper statues on the Hippodrome that moved ‘by enchantment’. Several decades later, Franciscan missionaries to the Mongol Empire reported on the lifelike artificial birds at the Khan’s palace and speculated that demons might be the cause (though they didn’t rule out superior engineering as an alternative theory).

Does a talking statue owe its powers to celestial influence or demonic intervention?

Moving, speaking statues might also be the result of a particular alignment of planets. While he taught at the cathedral school in Reims, Gerbert of Aurillac, later Pope Sylvester II (999-1003), introduced tools for celestial observation (the armillary sphere and the star sphere) and calculation (the abacus and Arabic numerals) to the educated elites of northern Europe. His reputation for learning was so great that, more than 100 years after his death, he was also credited with making a talking head that foretold the future. According to some accounts, he accomplished this through demonic magic, which he had learnt alongside the legitimate subjects of science and mathematics; according to others, he used his superior knowledge of planetary motion to cast the head at the precise moment of celestial conjunction so that it would reveal the future. (No doubt he did his calculations with an armillary sphere.)

Because the category of the preternatural encompassed so many objects and phenomena, and because there were competing, rationalised explanations for preternatural things, it could be difficult to discern the correct cause. Does a talking statue owe its powers to celestial influence or demonic intervention? According to one legend, Albert the Great – a 13th-century German theologian, university professor, bishop, and saint – used his knowledge to make a prophetic robot. One of Albert’s brothers in the Dominican Order went to visit him in his cell, knocked on the door, and was told to enter. When the friar went inside he saw that it was not Brother Albert who had answered his knock, but a strange, life-like android. Thinking that the creature must be some kind of demon, the monk promptly destroyed it, only to be scolded for his rashness by a weary and frustrated Albert, who explained that he had been able to create his robot because of a very rare planetary conjunction that happened only once every 30,000 years.

In legend, fiction and philosophy, writers offered explanations for the moving statues, artificial animals and musical figures that they knew were part of the world beyond Latin Christendom. Like us, they used technology to evoke particular places or cultures. The golden tree with artificial singing birds that confounded Liudprand on his visit to Constantinople appears to have been a fairly common type of automaton: it appears in the palaces of Samarra and Baghdad and, later, in the courts of central India. In the early 13th century, the sultan of Damascus sent a metal tree with mechanical songbirds as a gift to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. But this same object also took root in the Western imagination: we find writers of fiction in medieval Europe including golden trees with eerily lifelike artificial birds in many descriptions of courts in Babylon and India.

In one romance from the early 13th century, sorcerers use gemstones with hidden powers combined with necromancy to make the birds hop and chirp. In another, from the late 12th century, the king harnesses the winds to make the golden branches sway and the gilt birds sing. There were several different species of birds represented on the king’s fabulous tree, each with its own birdsong, so exact that real birds flocked to the tree in hopes of finding a mate. ‘Thus the blackbirds, skylarks, jaybirds, starlings, nightingales, finches, orioles and others which flocked to the park in high spirits on hearing the beautiful birdsong, were quite unhappy if they did not find their partner!’

Of course, the Latin West did not retain its innocence of mechanical explanations forever. Three centuries after Gerbert taught his students how to understand the heavens with an armillary sphere, the enthusiasm for mechanical clocks began to sweep northern Europe. These giant timepieces could model the cosmos, chime the hour, predict eclipses and represent the totality of human history, from the fall of humankind in the Garden of Eden to the birth and death of Jesus, and his promised return.

Astronomical instruments, like astrolabes and armillary spheres, oriented the viewer in the cosmos by showing the phases of the moon, the signs of the zodiac and the movements of the planets. Carillons, programmed with melodies, audibly marked the passage of time. Large moving figures of people, weighted with Christian symbolism, appear as monks, Jesus, the Virgin Mary. They offered a master narrative that fused past, present and future (including salvation). The monumental clocks of the late medieval period employed cutting-edge technology to represent secular and sacred chronology in one single timeline.

Secular powers were no slower to embrace the new technologies. Like their counterparts in distant capitals, European rulers incorporated mechanical marvels into their courtly pageantry. The day before his official coronation in Westminster Abbey in 1377, Richard II of England was ‘crowned’ by a golden mechanical angel – made by the goldsmiths’ guild – during his coronation pageant in Cheapside.

And yet, although medieval Europeans had figured out how to build the same kinds of complex automata that people in other places had been designing and constructing for centuries, they did not stop believing in preternatural causes. They merely added ‘mechanical’ to the list of possible explanations. Just as one person’s ecstatic visions might equally be attributed to divine inspiration or diabolical trickery, a talking or moving statue could be ascribed to artisanal or engineering know-how, the science of the stars, or demonic art. Certainly the London goldsmiths in 1377 were in no doubt about how the marvellous angel worked. But because a range of possible causes could animate automata, reactions to them in this late medieval period tended to depend heavily on the perspective of the individual.

At a coronation feast for the queen at the court of Ferdinand I of Aragon in 1414, theatrical machinery – of the kind used in religious Mystery Plays – was used for part of the entertainment. A mechanical device called a cloud, used for the arrival of any celestial being (gods, angels and the like), swept down from the ceiling. The figure of Death, probably also mechanical, appeared above the audience and claimed a courtier and jester named Borra for his own. Other guests at the feast had been forewarned, but nobody told Borra. A chronicler reported on this marvel with dry exactitude:
Death threw down a rope, they [fellow guests] tied it around Borra, and Death hanged him. You would not believe the racket that he made, weeping and expressing his terror, and he urinated into his underclothes, and urine fell on the heads of the people below. He was quite convinced he was being carried off to Hell. The king marvelled at this and was greatly amused.

Such theatrical tricks sound a little gimcrack to us, but if the very stage machinery might partake of uncanny forces, no wonder Borra was afraid.

Nevertheless, as mechanical technology spread throughout Europe, mechanical explanations of automata (and machines in general) gradually prevailed over magical alternatives. By the end of the 17th century, the realm of the preternatural had largely vanished. Technological marvels were understood to operate within the boundaries of natural laws rather than at the margins of them. Nature went from being a powerful, even capricious entity to an abstract noun denoted with a lower-case ‘n’: predictable, regular, and subject to unvarying law, like the movements of a mechanical clock.

This new mechanistic world-view prevailed for centuries. But the preternatural lingered, in hidden and surprising ways. In the 19th century, scientists and artists offered a vision of the natural world that was alive with hidden powers and sympathies. Machines such as the galvanometer – to measure electricity – placed scientists in communication with invisible forces. Perhaps the very spark of life was electrical.

Even today, we find traces of belief in the preternatural, though it is found more often in conjunction with natural, rather than artificial, phenomena: the idea that one can balance an egg on end more easily at the vernal equinox, for example, or a belief in ley lines and other Earth mysteries. Yet our ongoing fascination with machines that escape our control or bridge the human-machine divide, played out countless times in books and on screen, suggest that a touch of that old medieval wonder still adheres to the mechanical realm.

30 March 2015

Imagining the Anthropocene (AEON)

The Anthropocene idea has been embraced by Earth scientists and English professors alike. But how useful is it?

Jedediah Purdy is Professor of Law at Duke University in North Carolina. His forthcoming book is After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene.

Edited by Ross Andersen

Officially, for the past 11,700 years we have been living in the Holocene epoch. From the Greek for ‘totally new’, the Holocene is an eyeblink in geological time. In its nearly 12,000 years, plate tectonics has driven the continents a little more than half a mile: a reasonably fit person could cover the scale of planetary change in a brisk eight-minute walk. It has been a warm time, when temperature has mattered as much as tectonics. Sea levels rose 115 feet from ice melt, and northern landscapes rose almost 600 feet, as they shrugged off the weight of their glaciers.

But the real news in the Holocene has been people. Estimates put the global human population between 1 million and 10 million at the start of the Holocene, and keep it in that range until after the agricultural revolution, some 5,000 years ago. Since then, we have made the world our anthill: the geological layers we are now laying down on the Earth’s surface are marked by our chemicals and industrial waste, the pollens of our crops, and the absence of the many species we have driven to extinction. Rising sea levels are now our doing. As a driver of global change, humanity has outstripped geology.

This is why, from the earth sciences to English departments, there’s a veritable academic stampede to declare that we live in a new era, the Anthropocene – the age of humans. Coined by the ecologist Eugene Stoermer in the 1980s and brought to public attention in 2000 by the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric scientist Paul Crutzen, the term remains officially under consideration at the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London.

The lack of an official decision has set up the Anthropocene as a Rorschach blot for discerning what commentators think is the epochal change in the human/nature relationship. The rise of agriculture in China and the Middle East? The industrial revolution and worldwide spread of farming in the Age of Empire? The Atomic bomb? From methane levels to carbon concentration, from pollen residue to fallout, each of these changes leaves its mark in the Earth’s geological record. Each is also a symbol of a new set of human powers and a new way of living on Earth.

The most radical thought identified with the Anthropocene is this: the familiar contrast between people and the natural world no longer holds. There is no more nature that stands apart from human beings. There is no place or living thing that we haven’t changed. Our mark is on the cycle of weather and seasons, the global map of bioregions, and the DNA that organises matter into life. The question is no longer how to preserve a wild world from human intrusion; it is what shape we will give to a world we can’t help changing.

The discovery that nature is henceforth partly a human creation makes the Anthropocene the latest of three great revolutions: three kinds of order once thought to be given and self-sustaining have proved instead to be fragile human creations. The first to fall was politics. Long seen as part of divine design, with kings serving as the human equivalents of eagles in the sky and oaks in the forest, politics proved instead a dangerous but inescapable form of architecture – a blueprint for peaceful co‑existence, built with crooked materials. Second came economics. Once presented as a gift of providence or an outgrowth of human nature, economic life, like politics, turned out to be a deliberate and artificial achievement. (We are still debating the range of shapes it can take, from Washington to Greece to China.) Now, in the Anthropocene, nature itself has joined the list of those things that are not natural. The world we inhabit will henceforth be the world we have made.

The revolution in ideas that the Anthropocene represents is rooted in hundreds of eminently practical problems. The conversation about climate change has shifted from whether we can keep greenhouse-gas concentrations below key thresholds to how we are going to adapt when they cross those thresholds. Geo‑engineering, deliberately intervening in planetary systems, used to be the unspeakable proposal in climate policy. Now it is in the mix and almost sure to grow more prominent. As climate change shifts ecological boundaries, issues such as habitat preservation come to resemble landscape architecture. We can’t just pen in animals to save them; they need landscape-scale corridors and other help in migrating as their habitats move. There is open talk in law-and-policy circles about triage in species preservation – asking what we can save, and what we most want to save.

What work is this idea of the Anthropocene doing in culture and politics? As much as a scientific concept, the Anthropocene is a political and ethical gambit. Saying that we live in the Anthropocene is a way of saying that we cannot avoid responsibility for the world we are making. So far so good. The trouble starts when this charismatic, all-encompassing idea of the Anthropocene becomes an all-purpose projection screen and amplifier for one’s preferred version of ‘taking responsibility for the planet’.

Peter Kareiva, the controversial chief scientist of the Nature Conservancy, uses the theme ‘Conservation in the Anthropocene’ to trash environmentalism as philosophically naïve and politically backward. Kareiva urges conservationists to give up on wilderness and embrace what the writer Emma Marris calls the ‘rambunctious garden’. Specifically, Kareiva wants to rank ecosystems by the quality of ‘ecosystem services’ they provide for human beings instead of ‘pursuing the protection of biodiversity for biodiversity’s sake’. He wants a pro‑development stance that assumes that ‘nature is resilient rather than fragile’. He insists that: ‘Instead of scolding capitalism, conservationists should partner with corporations in a science-based effort to integrate the value of nature’s benefits into their operations and cultures.’ In other words, the end of nature is the signal to carry on with green-branded business as usual, and the business of business is business, as the Nature Conservancy’s partnerships with Dow, Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, J P Morgan, Goldman Sachs and the mining giant Rio Tinto remind us.

Kareiva is a favourite of Andrew Revkin, the roving environmental maven of The New York Times Magazine, who touts him as a paragon of responsibility-taking, a leader among ‘scholars and doers who see that new models for thinking and acting are required in this time of the Anthropocene’. This pair and their friends at the Breakthrough Institute in California can be read as making a persistent effort to ‘rebrand’ environmentalism as humanitarian and development-friendly (and capture speaking and consultancy fees, which often seem to be the major ecosystem services of the Anthropocene). This is itself a branding strategy, an opportunity to slosh around old plonk in an ostentatiously shiny bottle.

Elsewhere in The New York Times Magazine, you can enjoy the other end of the Anthropocene projection screen, from business-as-usual to this-changes-everything. In his essay ‘Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene’ (2013), the Princeton scholar and former soldier Roy Scranton writes: ‘this civilisation is already dead’ (emphasis original) and insists that the only way forward is ‘to realise there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves’ and therefore ‘get down to the hard work … without attachment or fear’. He concludes: ‘If we want to learn to live in the Anthropocene, we must first learn how to die.’

Other humanists bring their own preoccupations to a sense of gathering apocalypse. In his influential essay ‘The Climate of History’ (2008), Dipesh Chakrabarty, a theory-minded historian at the University of Chicago, proposes that the Anthropocene throws into question all received accounts of human history, from Whiggish optimism to his own post-colonial postmodernism. He asks anxiously: ‘Has the period from 1750 to the present been one of freedom or that of the Anthropocene?’ and concludes that the age requires a new paradigm of thought, a ‘negative universal history’.

In their introduction to Ecocriticism (2012), a special issue of American Literature, the English scholars Monique Allewaert of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michael Ziser of the University of California Davis describe the Anthropocene as best captured in ‘a snapshot of the anxious affect of the modern world as it destroys itself – and denies even its own traces’.

The Anthropocene does not seem to change many minds. But it does turn them up to 11

All of these people (except for the branding opportunists) are trying, with more or less success, to ask how the Anthropocene changes the projects to which they’ve given chunks of their lives. Some far-ranging speculation and sweeping summaries are to be expected, and forgiven. Nonetheless, something in the Anthropocene idea seems to provoke heroic thinking, a mood and rhetoric of high stakes, of the human mind pressed up against the wall of apocalypse or arrived at the end of nature and history.

In this provocative defect, Anthropocene talk is a discourse of responsibility, to borrow a term from Mark Greif’s study of mid-20th-century American thought, The Age of the Crisis of Man (2015). Greif argues that a high-minded (but often middle-brow) strain of rhetoric responded to the horrors of the world wars and the global struggles thereafter with a blend of urgent language and sweeping concepts (or pseudo-concepts): responsibility, the fate of man, the urgency of now. Greif describes discourses of responsibility as attempts to turn words and thoughts, uttered in tones of utmost seriousness, into a high form of action. All of this is recognisable in Anthropocene talk. The Anthropocene does not seem to change many minds, strictly speaking, on point of their cherished convictions. But it does turn them up to 11.

On the whole, this is the inevitable and often productive messiness that accompanies a new way of seeing, one that unites many disparate events into a single pattern. As an offer to unify what might seem unrelated, ‘the Anthropocene’ is an attempt to do the same work that ‘the environment’ did in the 1960s and early ’70s: meld problems as far-flung as extinction, sprawl, litter, national parks policy, and the atom bomb into a single phenomenon called ‘the ecological crisis’. Such a classification is always somewhat arbitrary, though often only in the trivial sense that there are many ways to carve up the world. However arbitrary, it becomes real if people treat it as real, by forming movements, proposing changes, and passing laws aimed at ‘the environment’.

We know what the concept ‘the environment’ has wrought but what will the Anthropocene be like? To put this over-dramatised idea in the least heroic garb possible, what will the weather be like in the Anthropocene? And how will we talk about the weather there?

For all the talk of crisis that swirls around the Anthropocene, it is unlikely that a changing Earth will feel catastrophic or apocalyptic. Some environmentalists still warn of apocalypse to motivate could-be, should-be activists; but geologic time remains far slower than political time, even when human powers add a wobble to the planet. Instead, the Anthropocene will be like today, only more so: many systems, from weather to soil to your local ecosystem, will be in a slow-perennial crisis. And where apocalyptic change is a rupture in time, a slow crisis feels normal. It feels, in fact, natural.

So the Anthropocene will feel natural. I say this not so much because of the controversial empirics-cum-mathematics of the climate-forecasting models as because of a basic insight of modernity that goes back to Rousseau: humanity is the adaptable species. What would have been unimaginable or seemed all but unintelligible 100 years ago, let alone 500 (a sliver of time in the evolutionary life of a species), can become ordinary in a generation. That is how long it took to produce ‘digital natives’, to accustom people to electricity and television, and so on for each revolution in our material and technological world. It takes a great deal of change to break through this kind of adaptability.

This is all the more so because rich-country humanity already lives in a constant technological wrestling match with exogenous shocks, which are going to get more frequent and more intense in the Anthropocene. Large parts of North America regularly experience droughts and heat waves that would devastate a simpler society than today’s US. Because the continent is thoroughly engineered, from the water canals of the West to the irrigation systems of the Great Plains to air conditioning nearly everywhere, these are experienced as inconvenience, as mere ‘news’. The same events, in poorer places, are catastrophes.

Planetary changes will amplify the inequalities that sort out those who get news from those who get catastrophes; but these inequalities, arising as they do from a post-natural nature, will feel as if they were built into the world itself. Indeed, nature has always served to launder the inequalities that humans produce. Are enslaved people kept illiterate and punished brutally when they are not servile? Then ignorance and servility must be in their nature, an idea that goes back in a continuous line to Aristotle. The same goes for women, with some edits to their nature: docile, nurturing, delicate, hysterical, etc. It was not until Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill worked together on The Subjection of Women (published under his name alone in 1869), that English-language philosophy produced a basic challenge to millennia of nature-talk about sexual difference.

The expulsion of Native Americans was ‘justified’ on several versions of nature. Maybe they were racially different. Maybe their climate made them weak and irrational, unable to cultivate the land or resist European settlement. (Colonists briefly embraced this idea, then grew uneasy when they realised that the North American climate was now theirs; by the time of American independence, they raced to reject climatic theories of racial character.) Maybe Native Americans had simply failed to fulfil the natural duty of all mankind, to clear and plant the wilderness and make it bloom like an English garden, an idea that many theorists of natural law advanced in the 17th and 18th centuries. One way or another, nature was a kind of ontological insurance policy for human injustice.

And now? Well, it’s common wisdom that rising sea levels will first affect some of the world’s poorest people, notably in Bangladesh and coastal India. But it’s much worse than that grim geographic coincidence. Wealth has always meant some protection from nature’s cruel measures. In fact, that is the first spur to technology and development of all kinds: not to be killed. Tropical diseases with changing range will find some populations well-equipped with vaccination and medicine, others struggling with bad government and derelict health systems. When seas rise fast, even the feckless but rich US will begin adapting fast, and coastal flooding will be classified in the rich-world mind as a catastrophe of the poor.

So will starvation. A legal regime of unequal Anthropocene vulnerability is well underway. Take the vast, long-term leases that Chinese companies have entered into for some of Africa’s richest farmland. When drought, soil exhaustion or crop crisis puts a pinch on global food supply, contracts and commerce will pull trillions of calories to fat-and-happy Beijing. This is, of course, only the latest chapter in centuries of imperialism and post-imperial, officially voluntary global inequality. But it is the chapter that we the living are writing.

Neoliberal environmentalism aims to bring nature fully into the market, merging ecology and economy

For the moment, Anthropocene inequality has a special affinity with neoliberalism, the global extension of a dogmatic market logic and increasingly homogenous market forms, along with an accompanying ideology insisting that, if the market is not beyond reproach, it is at least beyond reform: there is no alternative. Where previous episodes of global ecological inequality took place under direct imperial administration – witness the Indian famines of the late 19th century, suffered under British rule – ours is emerging under the sign of free contract. Anthropocene inequality is thus being doubly laundered: first as natural, second as the voluntary (and presumptively efficient) product of markets. Because human activity now shapes the ‘natural’ world at every point, it is especially convenient for that world-shaping activity to proceed in its own pseudo-natural market.

But Anthropocene problems also put pressure on the authority of economics. Much of environmental economics has been built on the concept of the externality, economist-speak for a side-effect, a harm or benefit that has no price tag, and so is ignored in market decisions. Air pollution – free to the polluter – is the classic bad side-effect, or ‘negative externality’. Wetlands – not valued on the real-estate market, but great sources of filtration, purification and fertility, which would otherwise cost a lot to replicate – are the model positive externality. So neoliberal environmentalism, which Kareiva’s Nature Conservancy has been cultivating, aims to bring nature fully into the market, finding a place in the bottom line for all former side-effects, and fully merging ecology and economy.

In a climate-changed Anthropocene, the side-effects overwhelm the ‘regular’ market in scale and consequence. And there is no ‘neutral’, purely market-based way to put a value on side-effects. Take the example of carbon emissions. It is possible to create a market for emissions, as Europe, California and other jurisdictions have done; but at the base of that market is a political decision about how to value the economic activity that emits carbon against all the (uncertain and even speculative) effects of the emissions. The same point holds for every (post-)natural system on an Anthropocene planet. Ultimately, the question is the value of life, and ways of life. There is no correct technocratic answer.

The shape of the Anthropocene is a political, ethical and aesthetic question. It will answer questions about what life is worth, what people owe one another, and what in the world is awesome or beautiful enough to preserve or (re)create. Either the answers will reproduce and amplify existing inequality or they will set in motion a different logic of power. Either the Anthropocene will be democratic or it will be horrible.

A democratic Anthropocene would start from a famous observation of the economics Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen: no minimally democratic society has ever suffered a famine. Natural catastrophes are the joint products of natural and human systems. Your vulnerability to disaster is often a direct expression of your standing in a political (and economic) order. The Anthropocene stands for the intensifying merger of ecology, economics and politics, and one’s standing in those systems will increasingly be a single question.

But talk of democracy here is – like much about the Anthropocene – in danger of becoming abstract and moralising. Reflecting on a democratic Anthropocene becomes an inadvertent meditation on the devastating absence of any agent – a state, or even a movement – that could act on the scale of the problem. Indeed, it reveals that there is no agent that could even define the problem. If the Anthropocene is about the relationship between humanity and the planet, well, there is no ‘humanity’ that agrees on any particular meaning and imperative of climate change, extinction, toxification, etc. To think about the Anthropocene is to think about being able to do nothing about everything. No wonder the topic inspires compensatory fantasies that the solution lies in refining the bottom line or honing personal enlightenment – always, to be sure, in the name of some fictive ‘we’.

This returns us to the basic problem that the Anthropocene drives home: as Hannah Arendt observed in The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), the idea of human rights – such as the right to democratic standing in planetary change – is a chimera and a cruel taunt without a political community that can make it good through robust institutions and practices. The Anthropocene shows how far the world is from being such a polity, or a federation of such polities, and how much is at stake in that absence. The world is too much with us. Worse, there is no ‘we’ to be with it.

In the face of all these barriers, what could all this talk about the Anthropocene possibly accomplish? Ironically, a useful comparison lies in Arendt’s target, the mere idea of human rights. While mere ideas are in fact sorry comforts in an unmanageable situation, they can be the beginning of demands, projects, even utopias, that enable people to organise in new ways to pursue them. The idea of human rights has gained much of its force this way, as a prism through which many efforts are focused and/or refracted.

A democratic Anthropocene is just a thought for now, but it can also be a tool that activists, thinkers and leaders use to craft challenges and invitations that bring some of us a little closer to a better possible world, or a worse one. The idea that the world people get to inhabit will only be the one they make is, in fact, imperative to the development of a political and institutional programme, even if the idea itself does not tell anyone how to do that. There might not be a world to win, or even save, but there is a humanity to be shaped and reshaped, freely and always in partial and provisional ways, that can begin intending the world it shapes.

31 March 2015

Popular now

Anthropocene: The human age (Nature)

Momentum is building to establish a new geological epoch that recognizes humanity’s impact on the planet. But there is fierce debate behind the scenes.

Richard Monastersky

11 March 2015

Illustration by Jessica Fortner

Almost all the dinosaurs have vanished from the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. The fossil hall is now mostly empty and painted in deep shadows as palaeobiologist Scott Wing wanders through the cavernous room.

Wing is part of a team carrying out a radical, US$45-million redesign of the exhibition space, which is part of the Smithsonian Institution. And when it opens again in 2019, the hall will do more than revisit Earth’s distant past. Alongside the typical displays of Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops, there will be a new section that forces visitors to consider the species that is currently dominating the planet.

“We want to help people imagine their role in the world, which is maybe more important than many of them realize,” says Wing.

This provocative exhibit will focus on the Anthropocene — the slice of Earth’s history during which people have become a major geological force. Through mining activities alone, humans move more sediment than all the world’s rivers combined. Homo sapiens has also warmed the planet, raised sea levels, eroded the ozone layer and acidified the oceans.

Given the magnitude of these changes, many researchers propose that the Anthropocene represents a new division of geological time. The concept has gained traction, especially in the past few years — and not just among geoscientists. The word has been invoked by archaeologists, historians and even gender-studies researchers; several museums around the world have exhibited art inspired by the Anthropocene; and the media have heartily adopted the idea. “Welcome to the Anthropocene,” The Economist announced in 2011.

The greeting was a tad premature. Although the term is trending, the Anthropocene is still an amorphous notion — an unofficial name that has yet to be accepted as part of the geological timescale. That may change soon. A committee of researchers is currently hashing out whether to codify the Anthropocene as a formal geological unit, and when to define its starting point.

But critics worry that important arguments against the proposal have been drowned out by popular enthusiasm, driven in part by environmentally minded researchers who want to highlight how destructive humans have become. Some supporters of the Anthropocene idea have even been likened to zealots. “There’s a similarity to certain religious groups who are extremely keen on their religion — to the extent that they think everybody who doesn’t practise their religion is some kind of barbarian,” says one geologist who asked not to be named.

The debate has shone a spotlight on the typically unnoticed process by which geologists carve up Earth’s 4.5 billion years of history. Normally, decisions about the geological timescale are made solely on the basis of stratigraphy — the evidence contained in layers of rock, ocean sediments, ice cores and other geological deposits. But the issue of the Anthropocene “is an order of magnitude more complicated than the stratigraphy”, says Jan Zalasiewicz, a geologist at the University of Leicester, UK, and the chair of the Anthropocene Working Group that is evaluating the issue for the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS).

Written in stone

For geoscientists, the timescale of Earth’s history rivals the periodic table in terms of scientific importance. It has taken centuries of painstaking stratigraphic work — matching up major rock units around the world and placing them in order of formation — to provide an organizing scaffold that supports all studies of the planet’s past. “The geologic timescale, in my view, is one of the great achievements of humanity,” says Michael Walker, a Quaternary scientist at the University of Wales Trinity St David in Lampeter, UK.

Walker’s work sits at the top of the timescale. He led a group that helped to define the most recent unit of geological time, the Holocene epoch, which began about 11,700 years ago.

Sources: Dams/Water/Fertilizer, IGBP; Fallout, Ref. 5; Map, E. C. Ellis Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 369, 1010–1035 (2011); Methane, Ref. 4

The decision to formalize the Holocene in 2008 was one of the most recent major actions by the ICS, which oversees the timescale. The commission has segmented Earth’s history into a series of nested blocks, much like the years, months and days of a calendar. In geological time, the 66 million years since the death of the dinosaurs is known as the Cenozoic era. Within that, the Quaternary period occupies the past 2.58 million years — during which Earth has cycled in and out of a few dozen ice ages. The vast bulk of the Quaternary consists of the Pleistocene epoch, with the Holocene occupying the thin sliver of time since the end of the last ice age.

When Walker and his group defined the beginning of the Holocene, they had to pick a spot on the planet that had a signal to mark that boundary. Most geological units are identified by a specific change recorded in rocks — often the first appearance of a ubiquitous fossil. But the Holocene is so young, geologically speaking, that it permits an unusual level of precision. Walker and his colleagues selected a climatic change — the end of the last ice age’s final cold snap — and identified a chemical signature of that warming at a depth of 1,492.45 metres in a core of ice drilled near the centre of Greenland1. A similar fingerprint of warming can be seen in lake and marine sediments around the world, allowing geologists to precisely identify the start of the Holocene elsewhere.

“The geologic timescale, in my view, is one of the great achievements of humanity.”

Even as the ICS was finalizing its decision on the start of the Holocene, discussion was already building about whether it was time to end that epoch and replace it with the Anthropocene. This idea has a long history. In the mid-nineteenth century, several geologists sought to recognize the growing power of humankind by referring to the present as the ‘anthropozoic era’, and others have since made similar proposals, sometimes with different names. The idea has gained traction only in the past few years, however, in part because of rapid changes in the environment, as well as the influence of Paul Crutzen, a chemist at the Max Plank Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany.

Crutzen has first-hand experience of how human actions are altering the planet. In the 1970s and 1980s, he made major discoveries about the ozone layer and how pollution from humans could damage it — work that eventually earned him a share of a Nobel prize. In 2000, he and Eugene Stoermer of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor argued that the global population has gained so much influence over planetary processes that the current geological epoch should be called the Anthropocene2. As an atmospheric chemist, Crutzen was not part of the community that adjudicates changes to the geological timescale. But the idea inspired many geologists, particularly Zalasiewicz and other members of the Geological Society of London. In 2008, they wrote a position paper urging their community to consider the idea3.

Those authors had the power to make things happen. Zalasiewicz happened to be a member of the Quaternary subcommission of the ICS, the body that would be responsible for officially considering the suggestion. One of his co-authors, geologist Phil Gibbard of the University of Cambridge, UK, chaired the subcommission at the time.

Although sceptical of the idea, Gibbard says, “I could see it was important, something we should not be turning our backs on.” The next year, he tasked Zalasiewicz with forming the Anthropocene Working Group to look into the matter.

A new beginning

Since then, the working group has been busy. It has published two large reports (“They would each hurt you if they dropped on your toe,” says Zalasiewicz) and dozens of other papers.

The group has several issues to tackle: whether it makes sense to establish the Anthropocene as a formal part of the geological timescale; when to start it; and what status it should have in the hierarchy of the geological time — if it is adopted.

When Crutzen proposed the term Anthropocene, he gave it the suffix appropriate for an epoch and argued for a starting date in the late eighteenth century, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Between then and the start of the new millennium, he noted, humans had chewed a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, doubled the amount of methane in the atmosphere and driven up carbon dioxide concentrations by 30%, to a level not seen in 400,000 years.

When the Anthropocene Working Group started investigating, it compiled a much longer long list of the changes wrought by humans. Agriculture, construction and the damming of rivers is stripping away sediment at least ten times as fast as the natural forces of erosion. Along some coastlines, the flood of nutrients from fertilizers has created oxygen-poor ‘dead zones’, and the extra CO2 from fossil-fuel burning has acidified the surface waters of the ocean by 0.1 pH units. The fingerprint of humans is clear in global temperatures, the rate of species extinctions and the loss of Arctic ice.

The group, which includes Crutzen, initially leaned towards his idea of choosing the Industrial Revolution as the beginning of the Anthropocene. But other options were on the table.

Some researchers have argued for a starting time that coincides with an expansion of agriculture and livestock cultivation more than 5,000 years ago4, or a surge in mining more than 3,000 years ago (see ‘Humans at the helm’). But neither the Industrial Revolution nor those earlier changes have left unambiguous geological signals of human activity that are synchronous around the globe (see ‘Landscape architecture’).

This week in Nature, two researchers propose that a potential marker for the start of the Anthropocene could be a noticeable drop in atmospheric CO2 concentrations between 1570 and 1620, which is recorded in ice cores (see page 171). They link this change to the deaths of some 50 million indigenous people in the Americas, triggered by the arrival of Europeans. In the aftermath, forests took over 65 million hectares of abandoned agricultural fields — a surge of regrowth that reduced global CO2.

Landscape architecture

A model of land use, based on human-population estimates, suggests that people modified substantial parts of the continents even thousands of years ago.

Land used intensively by humans.

8,000 years before present (bp)

8,000 years before present (bp)

1,000 years before present (bp)




Source: E. C. Ellis Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 369, 1010–1035 (2011).

In the working group, Zalasiewicz and others have been talking increasingly about another option — using the geological marks left by the atomic age. Between 1945 and 1963, when the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty took effect, nations conducted some 500 above-ground nuclear blasts. Debris from those explosions circled the globe and created an identifiable layer of radioactive elements in sediments. At the same time, humans were making geological impressions in a number of other ways — all part of what has been called the Great Acceleration of the modern world. Plastics started flooding the environment, along with aluminium, artificial fertilizers, concrete and leaded petrol, all of which have left signals in the sedimentary record.

In January, the majority of the 37-person working group offered its first tentative conclusion. Zalasiewicz and 25 other members reported5 that the geological markers available from the mid-twentieth century make this time “stratigraphically optimal” for picking the start of the Anthropocene, whether or not it is formally defined. Zalasiewicz calls it “a candidate for the least-worst boundary”.

The group even proposed a precise date: 16 July 1945, the day of the first atomic-bomb blast. Geologists thousands of years in the future would be able to identify the boundary by looking in the sediments for the signature of long-lived plutonium from mid-century bomb blasts or many of the other global markers from that time.

A many-layered debate

The push to formalize the Anthropocene upsets some stratigraphers. In 2012, a commentary published by the Geological Society of America6 asked: “Is the Anthropocene an issue of stratigraphy or pop culture?” Some complain that the working group has generated a stream of publicity in support of the concept. “I’m frustrated because any time they do anything, there are newspaper articles,” says Stan Finney, a stratigraphic palaeontologist at California State University in Long Beach and the chair of the ICS, which would eventually vote on any proposal put forward by the working group. “What you see here is, it’s become a political statement. That’s what so many people want.”

Finney laid out some of his concerns in a paper7 published in 2013. One major question is whether there really are significant records of the Anthropocene in global stratigraphy. In the deep sea, he notes, the layer of sediments representing the past 70 years would be thinner than 1 millimetre. An even larger issue, he says, is whether it is appropriate to name something that exists mainly in the present and the future as part of the geological timescale.

“It’s become a political statement. That’s what so many people want.”

Some researchers argue that it is too soon to make a decision — it will take centuries or longer to know what lasting impact humans are having on the planet. One member of the working group, Erle Ellis, a geographer at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, says that he raised the idea of holding off with fellow members of the group. “We should set a time, perhaps 1,000 years from now, in which we would officially investigate this,” he says. “Making a decision before that would be premature.”

That does not seem likely, given that the working group plans to present initial recommendations by 2016.

Some members with different views from the majority have dropped out of the discussion. Walker and others contend that human activities have already been recognized in the geological timescale: the only difference between the current warm period, the Holocene, and all the interglacial times during the Pleistocene is the presence of human societies in the modern one. “You’ve played the human card in defining the Holocene. It’s very difficult to play the human card again,” he says.

Walker resigned from the group a year ago, when it became clear that he had little to add. He has nothing but respect for its members, he says, but he has heard concern that the Anthropocene movement is picking up speed. “There’s a sense in some quarters that this is something of a juggernaut,” he says. “Within the geologic community, particularly within the stratigraphic community, there is a sense of disquiet.”

Zalasiewicz takes pains to make it clear that the working group has not yet reached any firm conclusions.“We need to discuss the utility of the Anthropocene. If one is to formalize it, who would that help, and to whom it might be a nuisance?” he says. “There is lots of work still to do.”

Any proposal that the group did make would still need to pass a series of hurdles. First, it would need to receive a supermajority — 60% support — in a vote by members of the Quaternary subcommission. Then it would need to reach the same margin in a second vote by the leadership of the full ICS, which includes chairs from groups that study the major time blocks. Finally, the executive committee of the International Union of Geological Sciences must approve the request.

At each step, proposals are often sent back for revision, and they sometimes die altogether. It is an inherently conservative process, says Martin Head, a marine stratigrapher at Brock University in St Catharines, Canada, and the current head of the Quaternary subcommission. “You are messing around with a timescale that is used by millions of people around the world. So if you’re making changes, they have to be made on the basis of something for which there is overwhelming support.”

Some voting members of the Quaternary subcommission have told Nature that they have not been persuaded by the arguments raised so far in favour of the Anthropocene. Gibbard, a friend of Zalasiewicz’s, says that defining this new epoch will not help most Quaternary geologists, especially those working in the Holocene, because they tend not to study material from the past few decades or centuries. But, he adds: “I don’t want to be the person who ruins the party, because a lot of useful stuff is coming out as a consequence of people thinking about this in a systematic way.”

If a proposal does not pass, researchers could continue to use the name Anthropocene on an informal basis, in much the same way as archaeological terms such as the Neolithic era and the Bronze Age are used today. Regardless of the outcome, the Anthropocene has already taken on a life of its own. Three Anthropocene journals have started up in the past two years, and the number of papers on the topic is rising sharply, with more than 200 published in 2014.

By 2019, when the new fossil hall opens at the Smithsonian’s natural history museum, it will probably be clear whether the Anthropocene exhibition depicts an official time unit or not. Wing, a member of the working group, says that he does not want the stratigraphic debate to overshadow the bigger issues. “There is certainly a broader point about human effects on Earth systems, which is way more important and also more scientifically interesting.”

As he walks through the closed palaeontology hall, he points out how much work has yet to be done to refashion the exhibits and modernize the museum, which opened more than a century ago. A hundred years is a heartbeat to a geologist. But in that span, the human population has more than tripled. Wing wants museum visitors to think, however briefly, about the planetary power that people now wield, and how that fits into the context of Earth’s history. “If you look back from 10 million years in the future,” he says, “you’ll be able to see what we were doing today.”

Nature 519, 144–147 (12 March 2015), doi:10.1038/519144a


  1. Walker, M. et alJ. Quat. Sci. 24317 (2009).
  2. Crutzen, P. J. & Stoermer, E. F. IGBP Newsletter 411718 (2000).
  3. Zalasiewicz. J. et alGSA Today 18(2), 48 (2008).
  4. Ruddiman, W. F. Ann. Rev. Earth. Planet. Sci. 414568 (2013).
  5. Zalasiewicz, J. et alQuatern. Int. (2015).
  6. Autin, W. J. & Holbrook, J. M. GSA Today 22(7), 6061 (2012).
  7. Finney, S. C. Geol. Soc. Spec. Publ. 3952328 (2013).

On pi day, how scientists use this number (Science Daily)

Date: March 12, 2015

Source: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Summary: If you like numbers, you will love March 14, 2015. When written as a numerical date, it’s 3/14/15, corresponding to the first five digits of pi (3.1415) — a once-in-a-century coincidence! Pi Day, which would have been the 136th birthday of Albert Einstein, is a great excuse to eat pie, and to appreciate how important the number pi is to math and science.

Take JPL Education’s Pi Day challenge featuring real-world questions about NASA spacecraft — then tweet your answers to @NASAJPL_Edu using the hashtag #PiDay. Answers will be revealed on March 16. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

If you like numbers, you will love March 14, 2015. When written as a numerical date, it’s 3/14/15, corresponding to the first five digits of pi (3.1415) — a once-in-a-century coincidence! Pi Day, which would have been the 136th birthday of Albert Einstein, is a great excuse to eat pie, and to appreciate how important the number pi is to math and science.

Pi is the ratio of circumference to diameter of a circle. Any time you want to find out the distance around a circle when you have the distance across it, you will need this formula.

Despite its frequent appearance in math and science, you can’t write pi as a simple fraction or calculate it by dividing two integers (…3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3…). For this reason, pi is said to be “irrational.” Pi’s digits extend infinitely and without any pattern, adding to its intrigue and mystery.

Pi is useful for all kinds of calculations involving the volume and surface area of spheres, as well as for determining the rotations of circular objects such as wheels. That’s why pi is important for scientists who work with planetary bodies and the spacecraft that visit them.

At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, pi makes a frequent appearance. It’s a staple for Marc Rayman, chief engineer and mission director for NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Dawn went into orbit around dwarf planet Ceres on March 6. Rayman uses a formula involving pi to calculate the length of time it takes the spacecraft to orbit Ceres at any given altitude. You can also use pi to think about Earth’s rotation.

“On Pi Day, I will think about the nature of a day, as Earth’s rotation on its axis carries me on a circle 21,000 miles (34,000 kilometers) in circumference, which I calculated using pi and my latitude,” Rayman said.

Steve Vance, a planetary chemist and astrobiologist at JPL, also frequently uses pi. Lately, he has been using pi in his calculations of how much hydrogen might be available for chemical processes, and possibly biology, in the ocean beneath the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa.

“To calculate the hydrogen produced in a given unit area, we divide by Europa’s surface area, which is the area of a sphere with a radius of 970 miles (1,561 kilometers),” Vance said.

Luisa Rebull, a research scientist at NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, also considers pi to be important in astronomy. When calculating the distance between stars in a projection of the sky, scientists use a special kind of geometry called spherical trigonometry. That’s an extension of the geometry you probably learned in middle school, but it takes place on a sphere rather than a flat plane.

“In order to do these calculations, we need to use formulae, the derivation of which uses pi,” she said. “So, this is pi in the sky!”

Make sure to note when the date and time spell out the first 10 digits of pi: 3.141592653. On 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 a.m., it is literally the most perfectly “pi” time of the century — so grab a slice of your favorite pie, and celebrate math!

For more fun with pi, check out JPL Education’s second annual Pi Day challenge, featuring real-world NASA math problems. NASA/JPL education specialists, with input from scientists and engineers, have crafted questions involving pi aimed at students in grades 4 through 11, but open to everyone. Take a crack at them at:

Share your answers on Twitter by tweeting to @NASAJPL_Edu with the hashtag #PiDay. Answers will be revealed on March 16 (aka Pi + 2 Day!).

Resources for educators, including printable Pi Day challenge classroom handouts, are available at:

Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Trama ultramarina (Fapesp)

Projeto evidencia a importância da ideia profética de “esperança” nas relações entre Portugal, Holanda e Inglaterra no século XVII


Alegorias e símbolos da esperança deixaram seu registro na iconografia. A gravura em papel Esperança (c. 1559-1562), de Philips Galle, a partir de um desenho de Brueghel, é uma das primeiras nas quais a âncora e o mar estão relacionados com a virtude da esperança em tempos turbulentos (225 mm × 293 mm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdã)

Era o despertar de um sonho. Um sonho impulsionado pelo padre português Antônio Vieira no século XVII: a esperança profética de um “Quinto Império”, inspirada no livro bíblico de Daniel, considerado apocalíptico por tratar dos acontecimentos relacionados ao fim do mundo. Vieira acreditava que, após os domínios dos assírios, dos persas, dos gregos e dos romanos, era o momento do último reino na Terra, o Império Português. A essa trama ultramarina se dedicou o historiador Luís Filipe Silvério Lima, professor de História Moderna desde 2007 na Escola de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas da Universidade Federal de São Paulo (Unifesp), campus de Guarulhos. “No século XVII ocidental, principalmente europeu, o sonho era uma ideia muito poderosa para explicar o próprio mundo. Era uma metáfora do que é a vida. Diversos autores, entre dramaturgos, filósofos, políticos, padres, pintores e poetas, usavam o sonho para dar sentido à realidade”, diz Lima.

Durante suas investigações, o pesquisador observou conexões entre a ideia de Quinto Império proposta por Portugal e a Quinta Monarquia idealizada na Inglaterra e partiu para um novo projeto de estudo sobre interpretações e leituras das profecias no século XVII. “Na época da elaboração do projeto, discutiam-se muito os limites metodológicos da história comparada. Eram propostas outras abordagens que permitissem pensar para além das fronteiras nacionais, como as histórias conectadas, as histórias cruzadas, emaranhadas. Assim, a partir dessas perspectivas, pretendi identificar possibilidades de conexões entre Portugal e Inglaterra nesse período, em torno das expectativas proféticas e os projetos de Quinta Monarquia que, quase simultaneamente, apareceram durante a Restauração Portuguesa e a Revolução Inglesa”, explica o historiador, autor de Padre Vieira: Sonhos proféticos, profecias oníricas. O tempo do Quinto Império nos sermões de Xavier Dormindo (Humanitas, 2004) e O império dos sonhos: Narrativas proféticas, sebastianismo e messianismo brigantino (Alameda, 2010), desdobramentos, respectivamente, de sua dissertação de mestrado e sua tese de doutorado, orientadas por José Carlos Sebe Bom Meihy e defendidas na Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas da Universidade de São Paulo.

fac-símile de Esperança de Israel

O rabino e o padre
Nesse contexto, Lima identificou a Holanda como espaço privilegiado para vincular Portugal e Inglaterra. “O que é marcante, por exemplo, com o papel desempenhado pelo rabino Menasseh Ben Israel, um judeu de origem portuguesa que viveu na primeira metade do século XVII”, ilustra. Menasseh era de família cristã-nova portuguesa, cristãos de origem judaica convertidos compulsoriamente ao catolicismo. Assim como muitos judeus radicados em países católicos, como Portugal e Espanha, Menasseh migrou para França e depois para a Holanda para se reconverter ao judaísmo. Ali ajudou a fundar a Talmud Torá, também conhecida como Sinagoga Portuguesa. Nos tempos dominados pelo catolicismo, Amsterdã era uma das cidades onde se podia viver “publicamente” como judeu. “Era um porto relativamente seguro para quem quisesse professar a fé judaica. Muitos cristãos-novos portugueses foram para lá, fugidos ou não da Inquisição.”

O rabino Menasseh Ben Israel tornou-se uma referência para católicos e protestantes, reconhecido por seus conhecimentos bíblicos. Dialogou com outros expoentes da época, como o jesuíta Antônio Vieira, com quem certa vez teve um encontro e uma longa conversa sobre o fim do mundo, um tópico dominante nas discussões vigentes. Menasseh ainda despertou interesse de importantes círculos políticos, como os de Vasco Luís da Gama, conde de Vidigueira, depois marquês de Nisa, descendente direto do almirante português que descobriu o caminho marítimo para as Índias no século XV. Esses círculos estavam preocupados, entre outras coisas, com o papel possível dos judeus para a restauração da independência de Portugal de 1640, com a nova dinastia de dom João IV de Bragança, destacando o impacto negativo dos tribunais do Santo Ofício contra os cristãos-novos, alguns deles importantes mercadores. “A questão tinha uma dimensão religiosa e teológica, mas também política”, pondera.

A partir de suas pesquisas nos arquivos de Amsterdã, Lisboa, Londres e Washington, o historiador traçou conexões que permitem compreender as inquietações religiosas e políticas no século XVII, dominadas por uma ideia principal: a esperança. Entre 1649 e 1650, Menasseh Ben Israel escreveu o pequeno tratado Miqveh Israel ou esperança de Israel, por conta do interesse de milenaristas ingleses na suposta “descoberta”, relatada pelo cristão-novo Antonio de Montesinos, de uma das 10 tribos perdidas de Israel na América espanhola, mais especificamente na Amazônia. Na interpretação das páginas bíblicas, indicaria a vinda do Messias, a instauração do Quinto Império e, assim, a iminência do fim do mundo. A “notícia” parece não ter comovido particularmente a comunidade dos judeus-portugueses na Holanda, mas mobilizou os protestantes na Inglaterra. O livro do rabino foi traduzido para o latim (Spes Israelis) e para o inglês (Hope of Israel). “A América era o novo mundo, uma terra ainda desconhecida que se ‘encaixava’ perfeitamente na profecia. Quem eram esses americanos? Eram ou não descendentes de judeus? Se a Bíblia tinha todas as respostas, mas não tinha menções à América, quem eram então esses povos?”, diz o pesquisador, reverberando as questões que intrigavam os personagens daquele período. “Isso atraiu as atenções do mundo protestante, pois alguns milenaristas ingleses pensavam que também seria possível que os índios do norte da América fossem descendentes das tribos judaicas, além dos supostamente encontrados na Amazônia. Em parte devido a essas discussões, passou-se a reconsiderar a readmissão dos judeus na Inglaterra.”

L’Espérance, gravura sobre papel de Abraham Bosse (1636), publicada por Hernan Weyen (7,3 x 4,6 cm, Metropolitan)

Além do tratado Esperança de Israel impresso na Holanda, outros escritos da época se pautaram pela esperança profética, que se traduziram em projetos políticos diferentes. Em Portugal, a carta Esperanças de Portugal, escrita pelo padre Antônio Vieira em 1659, consolando a rainha por conta da morte do rei dom João IV, anunciava sua ressurreição e o início do reino de Cristo na terra com o Quinto Império português. Na Inglaterra, o panfleto Door of hope, documento de autoria desconhecida divulgado em 1661, anunciava o reino dos santos para derrubar o rei Carlos II, recém-restaurado no trono inglês, conclamando um levante da Quinta Monarquia liderado pelo tanoeiro Thomas Venner.

Um ponto comum desses escritos era a fonte bíblica: as visões e os sonhos do livro de Daniel sobre os cinco reinos. Segundo Lima, porém, eram diferentes interpretações, que serviram para diferentes propostas e justificativas teórico-ideológicas para intervenções políticas. “A discussão teológica tinha um rebatimento político muito forte. No fundo, a questão era: qual é o espaço da ação humana para um projeto de Deus? Qual é o cálculo político possível? Parafraseando uma narrativa de Vieira: o capitão perdeu a hora e não chegou a tempo no porto, assim o navio demorou e a frota se atrasou, assim a esquadra não chegou a tempo na Índia e não conseguiu socorrer um forte, assim se perdeu o domínio do campo, se perdeu o dinheiro e, por fim, se perdeu o império. Isto é, o império seria um projeto divino, mas a ação humana era importante para realizá-lo”, exemplifica.

Nos três casos – Portugal, Inglaterra e Holanda –, a esperança era a palavra-chave. Na pesquisa iconográfica, o historiador descobriu ainda alegorias, emblemas e símbolos para a esperança, intrinsecamente relacionados ao mar desbravado pelas navegações. Ao longo dos séculos XVI e XVII, a esperança era retratada com uma mulher e uma âncora, que simbolizariam um porto seguro e, ao mesmo tempo, uma bússola para atravessar os mares tempestuosos. “A esperança, afinal, era uma virtude que implicava a ‘espera’ de algo. Para os cristãos católicos e protestantes, era a espera pela segunda volta de Cristo, pela salvação ou pelo Juízo Final. Para os judeus, a vinda do Messias”, diz Lima. “Na bibliografia, muitas vezes os termos ‘messianismo’ e ‘milenarismo’ são usados indistintamente. Mas há diferenças”, diz o pesquisador. Por “messianismo” compreende-se a volta do Messias. “Milenarismo” refere-se à volta de Jesus Cristo para um reino de mil anos na Terra, o millenium. No século XVII, os movimentos do Quinto Império português e da Quinta Monarquia inglesa se fundamentavam nesses pensamentos proféticos. Essas diferenças entre messianismo e milenarismo, no entanto, alerta o pesquisador, não são tão importantes ou operacionais para a pesquisa.

A partir desse projeto de estudo, encerrado em 2014, Luís Filipe Silvério Lima desdobrou outras iniciativas. Por um lado, pretende escrever um novo livro sobre as considerações já desenvolvidas. Por outro, na Unifesp, consolidou o Grupo de Pesquisa CNPq Poder e Política na Época Moderna. O objetivo é estimular mais estudos e consolidar a área de História Moderna no campus da universidade federal. Também desse projeto saiu um colóquio em 2012 sobre messianismo no mundo ibérico, que deve resultar em um livro publicado no exterior, organizado com a professora Ana Paula Megiani, da Universidade de São Paulo (USP).

As interpretações e leituras das profecias dos cinco reinos no século XVII (nº 09/53257-3); Modalidade Jovem Pesquisador; Pesquisador responsável Luís Filipe Silvério Lima (EFLCH-Unifesp); Investimento R$ 93.023,00 (FAPESP).

Anthropocene: New dates proposed for the ‘Age of Man’ (BBC)

Old World New World Map

Scientists believe the collision between the Old and New Worlds led to the start of the Anthropocene 

The Anthropocene – a new geological time period that marks the “Age of man” – began in 1610, a study suggests.

Scientists believe that the arrival of Europeans in the Americas had an unprecedented impact on the planet, marking the dawn of this new epoch.

The findings are published in the journal Nature.

Others say that the industrial revolution or the first nuclear tests better signal the start of the Anthropocene.

While some believe the exact date for a new epoch can only be determined with the benefit of thousands or even millions of years of hindsight.

An international Anthropocene Working Group is currently reviewing the evidence and will announce its favoured start date next year.

We look for these golden spikes – a real point in time when you can show in a record when the whole Earth has changed” – Prof Mark Maslin, University College London

Golden spikes

Geologists carve up Earth’s history into chunks that reflect times of significant change on the planet, perhaps as a result of continental movement, a big asteroid strike, or a major shift in climate.

We are still formally in the Holocene Epoch. It started more than 11,500 years ago as the last Ice Age came to an end.

But now scientists say that humanity has dramatically altered the Earth again.

To pinpoint the start of this new phase, geologists are looking for a clear signal, described as a “golden spike”, that will be captured in rocks, sediments or ice.

Prof Mark Maslin, from University College London, a co-author of the paper, said: “We look for these golden spikes – a real point in time when you can show in a record when the whole Earth has changed.

“If you look back through the entire, wonderful geological timescale, we have defined almost every boundary in that way.”

Painting of Columbus arrives in the Americas, 1492

The arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas started an exchange of people, crops – and disease

The study suggests that one such golden spike places the start of the Anthropocene in 1610.

The researchers say the arrival of the Europeans in the Americas 100 years earlier was the start of a major global transformation.

We saw these species jump continents, which is a geologically unprecedented impact, setting Earth off on a new evolutionary trajectory” – Dr Simon Lewis, UCL

Co-author Dr Simon Lewis, also from UCL, said: “The rapid global trade after that time moved species around.

“Maize from Central America was grown in southern Europe and Africa and China. Potatoes from South America were grown in the UK, and all the way through Europe to China. Species went the other way: wheat came to North America and sugar came to South America – a real mixing of species around the world.

“We saw these species jump continents, which is a geologically unprecedented impact, setting Earth off on a new evolutionary trajectory.”

Ancient pollen found in sediments provides a record of this change, but the team says another golden spike relates to deadly diseases brought into the Americas from Europe.

“Around 50 million people (in the Americas) died, and most of those people were farmers,” Dr Lewis told the BBC World Service’s Science in Action programme.

“And this farmland grew back to the original vegetation – tropical forest, dry forest or savannah. And about half the dry weight of a tree is carbon, so all that growing vegetation removed enough carbon from the atmosphere to see a pronounced dip in the global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration that can be seen in ice core records.

“It provides an exact marker of the Anthropocene at 1610, the lowest point of CO2 in the ice-core record at that time.”

Atomic bomb

Nuclear weapons tests in the mid-20th Century have also left a clear signal of humanity’s impact on the Earth

The researchers also said another date for the new epoch could be 1964, when the nuclear tests of the 1940s, 50s and early 60s came to an end after a ban came into force.

A golden spike is provided by an increase in radioactive carbon in the atmosphere while the tests were taking place, followed by a very sharp drop off when they stopped.

It certainly adds positively to the overall debate on the Anthropocene, and to the growing number of suggestions about where it should start” – Dr Jan Zalasiewicz, Anthropocene Working Group

But Prof Maslin said that while the signal was very sharp, the radioactivity was not related to other great changes taking place at that time.

He explained: “In the mid-1960s, there is a huge change in everything around the planet, which is called the ‘great acceleration’ – with the population increasing by 2% per year, unprecedented changes in agriculture and food production – but the marker doesn’t link to that in any shape or form.”

Commenting on the research, Dr Jan Zalasiewicz, from the University of Leicester, who chairs the Anthropocene Working Group, said it was an interesting piece of work with some “intriguing ideas”.

“The working group will certainly be discussing them,” he told BBC News.

“It adds positively to the overall debate on the Anthropocene, and to the growing number of suggestions about where it should start.

“The 1610 suggestion clearly reflects a historically important event, though it would need more evidence, I think, whether the criteria they suggest would work better than the multiple signals now known to be associated with the mid-20th century ‘great acceleration’.”

Related Stories

Inuits do Canadá: uma longa jornada de volta (Estadão)

The Economist

04 Março 2015 | 03h 00

Esqueletos foram descobertos há pouco tempo em um museu francês, mas caminho para repatriá-los não é fácil

Em agosto de 1880, oito Inuits da costa nordeste do Canadá aceitaram viajar para a Europa a fim de serem exibidos em um zoológico humano. Pouco depois, morriam de varíola, antes de retornar ao seu lar. Os esqueletos de Abraham Ulrikab e da maior parte dos seus companheiros foram descobertos há pouco tempo, montados completamente nos depósitos de um museu francês para serem exibidos. Os anciãos Inuits querem que os restos mortais de seu povo, até mesmo dos que morreram longe dos territórios de caça do Norte, nos séculos 19 e 20, voltem para o seu país. Mas isso levará muito tempo.

O governo de Nunatsiavut, uma região Inuit do norte do Labrador criada em 2005, já recuperou restos humanos de museus de Chicago e da Terranova. David Lough, vice-ministro da Cultura de Nunatsiavut, não sabe ao certo quantos outros há para serem reclamados. Mas ele acredita que, em 500 anos de contato entre o Labrador e o mundo exterior, muitas pessoas e artefatos foram parar do outro lado do oceano. Nancy Columbia fez parte de um grupo encarregado de apresentar a cultura Inuit na Feira Mundial de Chicago, e chegou a Hollywood, onde estrelou filmes western como princesa americana nativa.

The New York Times

Governo procura descendentes para definir o que será feito

Até pouco tempo atrás, os museus resistiam a devolver restos humanos, em nome da ciência e da preservação da cultura. As múmias egípcias do Museu Britânico e as tsantsas (cabeças encolhidas) do Amazonas, do Museu Pitt Rivers de Oxford, são as peças mais importantes de suas coleções. Mas, pressionados por grupos indígenas, começaram a ceder. A Declaração sobre os Direitos das Nações Indígenas da ONU, adotada em 2007, consagra o direito de reclamar restos humanos, assim como a legislação em Grã-Bretanha, Austrália e Estados Unidos (mas não a do Canadá). Dezenas de museus (incluindo o Museu Britânico e o Pitt Rivers) elaboraram políticas de repatriação e códigos éticos sobre o tratamento a ser dado a restos mortais. O Museu do Homem da França, onde os esqueletos de Abraham Ulrikab e seus companheiros estão guardados, pretende devolvê-los, afirma France Rivet, autora de um novo livro sobre a saga do grupo. “Eles aguardam apenas uma solicitação do Canadá”, afirma.

A solicitação não chegou, diz Lough, em parte porque “os Inuits querem que todos sejam consultados”. A frágil situação das comunidades Inuit torna isso difícil. Hebron, terra natal da família Ulrikab, foi fundada por missionários da Morávia. Mas o assentamento foi abandonado em 1959, quando a missão fechou; os descendentes da família se dispersaram. Eles deverão ser encontrados para ajudar a decidir onde os restos deverão ser sepultados e o tipo de cerimônia que será realizado. Nakvak, local de origem de outros integrantes do grupo original, agora fica no Parque Nacional das Montanhas Torngat, e existem obstáculos burocráticos para utilizá-lo como local de sepultamento.

Somente depois que os Inuits decidirem o que fazer com os restos mortais as negociações poderão começar entre os governos do Canadá e da França a respeito de sua devolução e do pagamento dos custos da repatriação. Em 2013, Stephen Harper, primeiro-ministro do Canadá, e o presidente da França, François Hollande, concordaram em colaborar para a repatriação. Mas a África do Sul esperou oito anos por Saartjie Baartman, a “Vênus hotentote”, depois que Nelson Mandela solicitou seu regresso, em 1994. Para Abraham Ulrikab e seus amigos, pelo menos, a jornada de volta começou.


The West without Water: What Can Past Droughts Tell Us About Tomorrow? (Origins)

vol. 8, issue 6 – march 2015


Editor’s Note:
Almost as soon as European settlers arrived in California they began advertising the place as the American Garden of Eden. And just as quickly people realized it was a garden with a very precarious water supply. Currently, California is in the middle of a years-long drought and the water crisis is threatening the region’s vital agricultural economy, not to mention the quality of life of its people, plants, and animals. This month B. Lynn Ingram, Professor of Geography and Earth & Planetary Science, examines how a deep historical account of California’s water patterns can help us plan for the future.

The state of California is beginning its fourth year of a serious drought, with no end in sight.

The majority of water in the western United States is delivered by winter storms from the Pacific, and over the past year, those storms were largely blocked by an enormous ridge of high pressure. A relatively wet December has given way to the driest January on record, and currently over 90 percent of California is in severe to exceptional drought.

The southwestern states are also experiencing moderate to severe drought, and this comes on the heels of a very dry decade. This long drought has crept up on the region, partly because droughts encroach slowly and they lack the visual and visceral effects of other, more immediate natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, or tsunamis.

Meteorologists define drought as an abnormally long period of insufficient rainfall adversely affecting growing or living conditions. But this bland definition belies the devastation wrought by these natural disasters. Drought can lead to failed crops, desiccated landscapes, wildfires, dehydrated livestock, and in severe cases, water wars, famine, and mass migration.

Although the situation in the West has not yet reached such epic proportions, the fear is that if it continues much longer, it could.

Lake Powell, in 2009, showing a white calcium carbonate “bathtub ring” exposed after a decade of drought lowered the level of the reservoir to 60 percent of its capacity. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.)

In California, reservoirs are currently at only 38 percent of capacity, and the snowpack is only 25 percent of normal for late January. Elsewhere in the Southwest, Lake Powell, the largest reservoir on the Colorado River, is at 44 percent of capacity.

The amount of water transported through irrigation systems to California’s Central Valley—the most productive agricultural region in the world—has been reduced to only 20 percent of customary quantities, forcing farmers to deepen groundwater wells and drill new ones.

Over the past year, 410,000 acres have been fallowed in this vast agricultural region that provides 30 percent of all the produce grown in the United States and virtually all of the world’s almonds, walnuts, and pistachios. As California dries up, food prices might well rise across the nation.

The question on everyone’s mind is when will this dry period finally come to an end and rainfall return to normal—and just what is normal for the U.S. Southwest when it comes to rain?

And with a growing and more urban population and an ever-changing climate, will we ever be free from the threat of long dry periods, with their disruptive effects on food production and the plants and animals that rely on water to survive?

A glance into the history of the Southwest reminds us that the climate and rainfall patterns have varied tremendously over time, with stretches of drought many decades longer than the one we are experiencing now.

Long dry stretches during the Medieval centuries (especially between 900 and 1350 CE) had dramatic effects on the native peoples of the Southwest (the ancestral Pueblo, Hohokam, and Sinagua), including civilizational collapse, violence, malnutrition, and forced social dislocation.

These earlier Americans are a warning to us.

The past 150 years, which we have used as our baseline for assumptions about rainfall patterns, water availability for agriculture, water laws, and infrastructure planning, may in fact be an unusually wet period.

Let’s look at the past few hundred years first and then explore the region’s climate in geological time.

Recent Droughts and the Arid Regions of the United States

John Wesley Powell stands as one of the most extraordinary scientists and explorers in America in the second half of the 19th century.

In 1869 he became the first white man to lead an expedition down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon, a feat all the more remarkable considering Powell had lost most of his right arm during the Civil War.

Ten years later, Powell published Report on the Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States, a careful assessment of the region’s capacity to be developed.

In it, Powell argued that very little of the West could sustain agriculture. In fact, his calculations suggested that even if all the water in western streams were harnessed, only a tiny fraction of the land could be irrigated.

Further, Powell believed that growth and development ought to be carefully planned and managed, and that boundaries drawn for new western states ought to follow watersheds to avoid inter-state fighting over precious water resources.

When Powell presented his findings to Congress, politicians howled. Powell found himself denounced by pro-development forces, including railroads and agricultural interests.

Prescient as Powell’s study has proved to be, it was almost entirely ignored at the time.

Instead, those development boosters responded to Powell’s data about the aridity of the west with a novel climatological theory: “Rain follows the plow.” They insisted that agriculture could cause the rains to fall, so like magic the more acres brought under cultivation the more rain farmers would enjoy.

The years surrounding the turn of the 20th century turned out to be unusually wet across much of the region. Hopeful pioneers continued to flock to the West, despite the visible signs of aridity.

They still do. The past century and a half in California and the West has been a period of steady population growth. And today the U.S. Southwest is the fastest-growing region in the United States (which itself is the world’s fourth-fastest-growing nation).

The Dirty Thirties and Beyond

The relatively wet period of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries gave way to drought in the late 1920s with the start of the Dust Bowl—now considered to be the United States’ worst climate tragedy.

The years between 1928 and 1939 were among the driest of the 20th century in the American West. This drought had particularly severe effects on California’s developing agricultural industry that were only mitigated by the extensive pumping of groundwater that eventually caused the ground surface in California’s Central Valley to drop by several feet.

Donner Lake, Sierra Nevada Range, California (Photo taken by B. Lynn Ingram).

In the 20th century, the single driest year (rivaling the 2013-2014 water year) was the drought of 1976-1977, extending across the entire state of California and into the Northwest, the Midwest, and the Canadian Prairie region north of Montana.

In California, precipitation levels dropped to less than a quarter of average. Reservoirs dropped to one-third their normal levels, and 7.5 million trees in the Sierra Nevada weakened by drought succumbed to insect related diseases, fueling massive wildfires. Snowfall was extremely sparse, forcing ski areas to close.

The following decade, another six-year drought occurred from 1987 to 1992, and while no single year was as severe as the drought of 1976-1977, the cumulative effects were ultimately more devastating. Annual precipitation attained only 50 percent of the 20th century average, with far-ranging impacts.

In the Sierra Nevada, water-stressed trees suffered widespread mortality from pine bark beetle infestations. Reduced stream flow caused major declines in fish populations, affecting commercial and recreational fisheries by lowering populations of Chinook salmon and striped bass.

By the fourth year of the drought, reservoir storage statewide was down 60 percent, causing a decline in hydroelectric power generation and the imposition of water restrictions including a decrease in agricultural water delivery by 75 percent.

Farmers relied more on groundwater, with private well owners deepening existing wells or drilling new ones. In the San Joaquin Valley, 11 million acre-feet more groundwater was extracted than could be replenished naturally, further lowering already low groundwater levels.

Measuring Droughts over Geological Time

As bad and worrisome as these more recent historical droughts in California and the West were, they pale in comparison to events uncovered in the geological record.

In recent years, earth scientists have been discovering that the climate and weather in the West over the past 100 to 150 years represents only a narrow part of the full range of climate in the region.

By peering deeper into Earth’s history—the past centuries and millennia—the frequency and magnitude of extreme climate events like drought can be better understood.

The evidence comes in various forms, such as mud from the bottom of lakes and ponds, microscopic organisms living in the oceans, bubbles frozen in glaciers, pencil-thin wood cores drilled from trees, and salts precipitating in dried-up lake bottoms.

A cut section of a Giant Sequoia trunk from Tuolumne Grove, Yosemite National Park, California, showing AD dates of fires (photo courtesy of Thomas Swetnam, Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona).

One of the earliest records of past climate change comes from the rings of the long-lived Douglas fir. Trees are particularly effective recorders of climate because they respond every year to conditions of temperature and precipitation, responses recorded in the growth rings of their trunks.

In a landmark study during the early 1940s, a 600-year record of Colorado River flow using Douglas firs revealed several sustained periods of low water flow and these periods recurred with some regularity.

The reconstruction showed a particularly severe drought in the late 1500s, a drought lasting over a decade that has since shown up in multiple records from throughout the West.

These records also reveal that the driest single year over the past millennium (even drier than the parched 1976-1977 drought) occurred in 1580 CE. Trees across the West either had a narrow ring, or even a missing ring, that year.

Looking at an even broader picture, evidence from the past 10 millennia—a relatively warm era since the last Ice Age, which we call the Holocene—informs us that the severity of past extreme events (including droughts and floods) far exceeds those experienced over the past century and a half.

One of the longest dry periods for California and the West occurred during what is known as the mid-Holocene climatic optimum, a time when much of the earth experienced warmer than average conditions from about 4,500 to 7,500 years ago.

In the American West, there are numerous clues showing that this time period was drier than average for upwards of 1,400 years. These climate extremes caused significant human dislocations and forced native populations to migrate from the desert interiors of the West to the coastal regions.

The Tools for Uncovering Climate History

One of the most vivid clues for understanding the patterns of past drought in the West was revealed in Lake Tahoe toward the end of the Great Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s. At that time, Tahoe’s water level dropped fourteen inches, exposing a mysterious clustering of tree stumps sticking up from the water’s surface along the lake’s southern shore.

These trees attracted the attention of Samuel Harding, an engineering Professor from the University of California, Berkeley. Harding discovered that the trees were large, with trunks as wide as three feet in diameter, and appeared to be firmly rooted in the lake bottom.

Harding reasoned that the trees had grown in this location for a long time to attain such sizes, and since they were now submerged in over twelve feet of water, he surmised that at some time in the past the lake level had been much lower.

Frances Malamud-Roam, B. Lynn Ingram, and Christina Brady coring a small oxbow lake in the Sacramento Valley, California. (Photo taken by Anders Noren, University of Minnesota, LaCore curator.)

After collecting cores through their trunks, he counted up to 150 rings, concluding that it was a dry spell of over a century that caused the lake level to drop, allowing the trees to grow along the former shoreline.

Harding had to wait two decades before he could date this drought, after the invention of radiocarbon dating in the 1950s. Radiocarbon measurements of the outermost rings of the tree stumps showed that these trees died approximately 4,800 years ago.

Decades later, more evidence emerged from Lake Tahoe during another of California’s droughts in the late 1980s, when the lake’s surface dropped again, exposing even more tree stumps.

This time, it was an archaeologist, Susan Lindstrom, who noticed the tops of trees sticking out of the water along Tahoe’s southern shore. Donning scuba gear, Lindstrom was able to find fifteen submerged tree stumps that had escaped Harding’s attention, some measuring up to three and a half feet in diameter.

The radiocarbon dates from this much larger population of trees refined and extended the boundaries of the mid-Holocene drought, moving the beginning to as early as 6,290 years ago, and the ending to 4,840 years ago.

These stumps, located deeper in the lake, showed that the lake level had dropped by even more than Harding originally thought – by more than 20 feet. Lindstrom and other researchers have since located tree stumps in more places around the shores of Lake Tahoe and in other Sierran lakes.

Sediment core taken by Frances Malamud-Roam and B. Lynn Ingram from beneath San Francisco Bay, California. (Photo taken by B. Lynn Ingram.)

Geologists have also discovered more evidence from sediment cores taken from beneath lakes revealing the wide extent of this drought—across California and the Great Basin.

The archaeological records show that native populations migrated from the inland desert regions to the California coast at this time, likely in search of water and other resources during this prolonged drought.

Another dry millennium began about 3,000 years after the mid-Holocene drought ended. Evidence for this prolonged drought was found throughout California and the West.

One study, conducted in my laboratory at UC Berkeley, examined sediments accumulating beneath the San Francisco Bay estuary. These sediments contain information about precipitation over the entire drainage basin of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers—an area that covers 40 percent of California.

Frances Malamud-Roam and Anders Noren coring marsh sediments adjacent to San Francisco Bay (Photo taken by B. Lynn Ingram)

Rivers draining the Sierra Nevada Range and Central Valley flow through San Francisco Bay and out the Golden Gate to the Pacific Ocean. In the Bay, fresh river water meets and mixes with the incoming ocean water, producing a range of salinity: fresh at the Delta, saline in the Central bay near the Golden Gate, and brackish in between.

Organisms growing in the Bay record the salinity in their shells, which then sink to the bottom and are preserved in the sediments. We took sediment cores from beneath the Bay and analyzed the chemistry of the fossil shells, allowing us to reconstruct past salinity, and therefore past river flow.

These studies showed that droughts lasting over a decade occurred regularly over the past two millennia, at intervals of 50 to 90 years. The cores also revealed a period of high salinity that began about 1,700 years ago and ending about 700 years ago, suggesting another prolonged drought.

We conducted a related study with Professor Roger Byrne in the Geography Department at UC Berkeley, coring the tidal marshlands surrounding the bay to assess the impact of this drought on this ecosystem.

These marshes have grown up around the edges of San Francisco Bay for the past 5,000 years or so, forming peat. The marsh peats contain fossil plants and chemical evidence for past periods of wetter and drier conditions in the watershed.

A drought in the watershed, if prolonged and severe, can cause higher salinity downstream in the estuary as the inflow of fresh water drops. In response, salt-tolerant species in the marshes expand further inland toward the Delta and the fresh water species retreat. Conversely, unusually wet winters generate fresher conditions in the estuary, leading to an expansion of freshwater-adapted species.

We analyzed the pollen and plant remains, carbon chemistry of the peats, and diatoms—the microscopic phytoplankton that grow in the marshes and produce tiny silica shells.

All of this evidence showed that the average freshwater inflow to San Francisco Bay was significantly lower than today’s levels for a thousand years, between 1,750 and 750 years ago.

The peak of this low-inflow interval, with freshwater flows 40 percent below average levels, occurred approximately 900 to 1,200 years ago, during a time when global temperatures were high, known as the Medieval Warm Period.

Mono Lake, showing calcium carbonate “tufa tower” formations that originally formed beneath the lake but are now exposed after the water level dropped. The eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada range is shown in the background. (Photo by D. J. DePaolo.)

Evidence for this drought was also discovered in an ancient lake situated east of the Sierra Nevada. Geography Professor Scott Stine analyzed the sedimentary sequences in Mono Lake, delineating patterns of alternately higher and lower lake levels for the past 4,000 years.

Mono Lake experienced an extended low stand that began about 1,600 years ago, dropping to an even lower level 700 to 1,200 years ago. During the 1980s drought, Stine also discovered large tree stumps submerged in Mono Lake.

Much like the tree stumps discovered in Lake Tahoe, these submerged trees indicated that at one time the lake was so small that its shoreline was several tens of feet lower than the present shoreline, when the trees now underwater could grow on dry ground. Stine went on to discover similar submerged tree stumps in lakes, marshes, and rivers throughout the central and southern Sierra Nevada Range.

By counting their growth rings, Stine determined that they had lived up to 160 years. Based on the amount the lake level dropped, he calculated that the average annual river flows in the region were only 40 to 60 percent of what they were in the late 20th century.

Radiocarbon dates of the outer growth layers of these tree stumps revealed that these trees clustered around two distinct periods, now known as the “Medieval Megadroughts”: CE 900 to 1100 and CE 1200 to 1350.

An ancient tree stump submerged in the West Walker River, eastern Sierra Nevada. (Photo courtesy of D. J. DePaolo.)

Across North America, tree-ring studies indicate that climate conditions over the past two millennia became steadily more variable (shifting between drier and wetter periods), with especially severe droughts between CE 900 and 1400.

These records show that over half the American West suffered severe drought between CE 1021 and CE 1051, and from CE 1130-1170, CE1240-1265 and CE 1360-1382.

The warm and dry conditions of the Medieval period spawned larger and more frequent wildfires, as recorded in the trunks of Giant sequoias—the massive redwoods growing in about 75 distinct groves along the mid-elevations of the western Sierra Nevada. These spectacular trees can live up to 3,200 years or more, and have exceeded 250 feet in height and 35 feet in diameter.

Thomas Swetnam, the current Director of the Laboratory of Tree Ring Research at the University of Arizona, discovered that the trees carry scars on their annual growth rings that indicate past fires in the region.

Swetnam sampled giant sequoias from five groves between Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park, far enough apart that individual fires could not have spread from one grove to the next. He dated the trees using ring-width patterns, and recorded the fire scars contained within annual rings.

His analysis reveals that during the Medieval period, from 1,200 to 700 years ago, an average of thirty-six fires burned every century.

During the centuries preceding the Medieval period (from about 1,500 to 1,200 years ago) and immediately following it (from about 700 years ago to the current century), the fire frequency was substantially lower, with an average of 21 fires per century.

The Human Costs of Droughts Then and Now

The archaeological record suggests that the extended periods of drought in the Medieval era caused severe hardship for both coastal and inland peoples— particularly the ancestral Pueblo communities—as dwindling resources increased disease, malnutrition, and warfare. Long inhabited sites were abandoned as the desperate populations wandered in search of new water sources.

Ancient pueblo cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde, southwestern Colorado. (Photo taken by B. Lynn Ingram)

Much of what archaeologists know about the ancestral Pueblo comes from pueblo and cliff dwellings from the four corners region, including Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico, Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado, and Canyon de Chelly in northeastern Arizona.

Chaco Canyon in New Mexico was the site of one of the most extensive of the ancestral Pueblo settlements. At its peak, during the 11th and early 12th centuries CE, Chaco Canyon had great pueblos the size of apartment blocks housing hundreds of residents in large, high-ceilinged rooms.

These settlements were supported by agriculture, allowing people to settle in one place year-round. Most of the farming depended on annual rains, supplemented by water from nearby streams and groundwater.

But over time, the climate became increasingly arid and unpredictable. The ancestral Pueblo farmers were forced to build an extensive system of diversion dams and canals, directing rainwater from the mesa tops to fields on the canyon floor, allowing them to expand the area of arable land.

The population in the four corners region swelled throughout the 11th and 12th centuries CE—but then collapsed.

Another ancient society, the Hohokam, lived in central Arizona near the confluence of Arizona’s only three rivers, the Gila, Verde, and Salt. The Hohokam civilization thrived in central Arizona for a thousand years, building an extensive network of integrated canal systems, capable of transporting large volumes of water long distances.

At their peak, an estimated 40,000 Hohokam lived in Arizona, but they suddenly vanished in the mid-15th century.

Montezuma’s Castle, a cliff dwelling occupied by the Sinagua, located just north of Camp Verde in central Arizona. (Photo by B. Lynn Ingram.)

In northern Arizona, between Phoenix and Flagstaff, the Sinagua culture also thrived during this period. As the climate turned drier, they built cliff dwellings in central Arizona, suggesting that resources became scarce, forcing them to build fortified dwellings with hidden food storage areas. The Sinagua also disappeared about the same time as the Hohokam.

All of these societies were flourishing prior to a rather abrupt collapse. The archaeological record of the last decades of the ancestral Pueblo in Chaco Canyon abounds with signs of suffering.

Skeletal remains show signs of malnutrition, starvation and disease; life spans declined and infant mortality rates increased. Evidence of violence, possibly warfare, was found in mass graves containing bones penetrated with arrowheads and teeth marks, and skulls bearing the scars of scalping.

Piles of belongings were found, apparently left behind as the people abandoned their settlements and fled, some to live in fortified hideouts carved in the cliff faces, protecting their hoarded food from enemies.

The unusually dry climate of the Medieval period also appeared to have tested the endurance and coping strategies of even the well-adapted native populations in California.

The skeletal remains show that life in the interior of California was particularly difficult, as the drought severely reduced sources of food (nuts, plants, deer, and other game). Settlements along rivers were abandoned, and trade between inland and coastal groups broke down. As water supplies dried up, conflicts – even battles – between groups arose over territory and food and water resources.

The Watery Lessons of the Past

The “Medieval Drought” serves as a model for what can happen in the West. It also provides an important impetus for water sustainability planning. And the hardships suffered by the first human inhabitants in the West provide important lessons.

For instance, during extended periods of abundant moisture, some societies experienced rapid population growth, leaving them vulnerable to collapse when the climate inevitably turned dry again.

Modern societies in the West have followed a similar path over the past century— after a century of fairly abundant moisture, the population in this region has exploded (and become more urbanized).

Modern engineering has allowed the exploitation of all available water sources for human use, and western water policy has favored water development for power, cities, and farms over sustainability of the environment and ecosystems.

These policies have allowed populations to grow to the limit that this region can support, leaving us vulnerable during extended drier conditions.

The longest six-year droughts experienced by the West over the past century are meager by comparison, despite the extreme hardship they brought to the region.

In fact, in the context of the longer-term climate history, the 20th century actually stands out as one of the wettest over the past 1,300 years, yet the droughts of the mid-1920s, 1977 and the late 1980s caused immense hardship for our society, based as it is upon heavy water usage.

In addition, future changes in the global climate will interact with the natural cycles of drought in California and the West in ways that are difficult to predict. Climate models predict that warming will likely make the extreme events, particularly floods and droughts, even larger and more frequent.

Some of these impacts have already begun. Over the past two decades, warming and an earlier start of the spring season have caused forest fires to become more frequent and intense.

A warmer climate will also bring less precipitation that falls as snow. The American West depends on snow-bearing winter storms for a natural water reservoir. This snow begins melting in the late spring, and continues into the summer, filling streams, lakes, and reservoirs that sustain natural ecosystems throughout the dry summer months.

The snow pack supports cities and irrigated agriculture, providing up to 80 percent of the year’s water supply across the West. As the region warms, the snow that does fall will melt faster and earlier in the spring, rather than melting during the late spring and summer, when it is so critically needed.

The message of past climates is that the range of “normal” climate is enormous—and we have experienced only a relatively benign portion of it in recent history. The region’s climate over the past decade has been dry when compared to the 20th century average, suggesting a return to a drier period.

This past year was also the warmest on record in the American West, and the ten hottest years on record occurred since 1997. The position of inhabitants of the West is precarious now and growing more so.

As we continue with an unsustainable pattern of water use, we become more vulnerable each year to a future we cannot control. It is time for policy makers in the West to begin taking action toward preparing for drier conditions and decreased water availability.

Read more from Origins on Water and the Environment: The World Water CrisisThe River JordanWho Owns the Nile?The Changing ArcticOver-Fishing in American WatersClimate Change and Human Population; and the Global Food Crisis.

Suggested Reading

Benson, L., Kashgarian, M., Rye, R., Lund, S., Paillet, F., Smoot, J., Kester, C., Mensing, S., Meko, D. and Lindstrom, S., 2002. “Holocene Multidecadal and Multi-centennial Droughts Affecting Northern California and Nevada.” Quaternary Science Reviews 21, 659-682.

Bradley, R.S., Briffa, K.R., Cole, J., Hughes, M.K., and Osborn, T.J., 2003. “The climate of the last millennium.” In: Alverson, K, Bradley, R.S., and Pedersen, T.F. (Eds.), Paleoclimate, Global Change and the Future, Springer Verlag, Berlin, pp. 105-49.

Brunelle, A. and Anderson, R.S., 2003. “Sedimentary charcoal as an indicator of late-Holocene drought in the Sierra Nevada, California, and its relevance to the future. “ The Holocene 13(1), 21-28.

Cayan, D. R., S. A. Kammerdiener, M. D. Dettinger, J. M. Caprio, and D. H. Peterson, 2001. “Changes in the onset of spring in the Western United States.” Bull. Am. Met. Soc., 82, 399-415.

Fagan, B., 2003. Before California: an Archaeologist Looks at Our Earliest Inhabitants. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc, Lanham, MD. 400 p.

Gleick, P.H. and E.L. Chalecki. 1999.” The impacts of climatic changes for water resources of the Colorado and Sacramento-San Joaquin river basins.” Journal of the American Water Resources Association, Vol. 35, No. 6, pp.

Hughes, M.K. and Brown, P.M., 1992. “Drought frequency in central California since 101 B.C. recorded in giant sequoia tree rings.” Climate Dynamics 6,161-197

Ingram, B. Lynn and Malamud-Roam, F. (2013) The West without Water: What past floods, droughts, and other climatic clues tell us about tomorrow. UC Press, 256 pages.

Ingram, B. L., Conrad, M.E., and Ingle, J.C., 1996. “A 2000-yr record of Sacramento-San Joaquin River inflow to San Francisco Bay estuary, California.” Geology 24, 331-334.

Lightfoot, K., 1997. “Cultural construction of coastal landscapes: A middle Holocene perspective from San Francisco Bay.” In: Erlandson, J. and Glassow, M. (eds), Archaeology of the California Coast during the Middle Holocene, 129-141. Series, Perspectives in California Archaeology 4, Institute of Archaeology, Univ. of California.

Malamud-Roam, F. and B.L. Ingram. 2004. “Late Holocene d13C and pollen records of paleosalinity from tidal marshes in the San Francisco estuary.” Quaternary Research 62, 134-145.

Stahle, D. W., Cook, E. R., Cleaveland, M. K., Therrell, M. D., Meko, D. M., Grissino-Mayer, H. D., Watson, E., and Luckman, B., 2000. “Tree-ring data document 16th century megadrought over North America.” EOS Transactions of the American Geophysical Union 81 (12), 121-125.

Stine, S., 1990. “Past Climate At Mono Lake.” Nature 345: 391.

Stine, S., 1994. “Extreme and persistent drought in California and Patagonia during mediaeval time.” Nature 369: 546-549.

Swetnam, T.W. 1993. “Fire history and climate change in Giant Sequoia groves.” Science 262, 885.

Indo-European languages emerged roughly 6,500 years ago on Russian steppes, new research suggests (LSA)


Linguists have long agreed that languages from English to Greek to Hindi, known as ‘Indo-European languages‘, are part of a language family which first emerged from a common ancestor spoken thousands of years ago. Now, a new study gives us more information on when and where it was most likely used. Using data from over 150 languages, linguists at the University of California, Berkeley provide evidence that this ancestor language originated 5,500 – 6,500 years ago, on the Pontic-Caspian steppe stretching from Moldova and Ukraine to Russia and western Kazakhstan.

Ancestry-constrained phylogenetic analysis supports the Indo-European steppe hypothesis“, by Will Chang, Chundra Cathcart, David Hall and Andrew Garrett, will appear in the March issue of the academic journal LanguageA pre-print version of the article is available on the LSA website.

Chang et al. abstract

This article provides new support for the “steppe hypothesis” or “Kurgan hypothesis”, which proposes that Indo-European languages first spread with cultural developments in animal husbandry around 4500 – 3500 BCE. (An alternate theory proposes that they spread much earlier, around 7500 – 6000 BCE, in Anatolia in modern-day Turkey.)

Chang et al. examined over 200 sets of words from living and historical Indo-European languages; after determining how quickly these words changed over time through statistical modeling, they concluded that the rate of change indicated that the languages which first used these words began to diverge approximately 6,500 years ago, in accordance with the steppe hypothesis.

This is one of the first quantitatively-based academic papers in support of the steppe hypothesis, and the first to use a model with “ancestry constraints” which more directly incorporate previously discovered relationships between languages. Discussion of prior studies in favor of and against the steppe hypothesis can be found in the paper.

Members of the media who are interested in discussing the article and its findings may contact Brice Russ, LSA Director of Communications, and Andrew Garrett, Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Seca faz cidade submersa há 45 anos ressurgir em SP (OESP)

Em Igaratá Velha (SP)

31/01/201509h00 Atualizada 31/01/201512h58 

Carlos de Almeida, 50, morador de Igaratá (SP), exibe uma foto da antiga cidade, inundada desde março de 1969

Carlos de Almeida, 50, morador de Igaratá (SP), exibe uma foto da antiga cidade, inundada desde março de 1969. Tiago Queiroz/Estadão

A seca que atinge o rio Jaguari fez reaparecer as ruínas de uma cidade que estava submersa desde março de 1969, quando começou a construção dos reservatórios usados na geração de energia para a região do Vale do Paraíba e do Sistema Cantareira.

No fundo de uma represa, que está 30 metros abaixo do nível normal, entre Joanópolis e São José dos Campos, no interior paulista, a igreja matriz, a praça e a rua principal da Igaratá Velha ressurgiram e se transformaram em ponto turístico.

Os 2 mil moradores do antigo povoado de Igaratá Velha, formado em meados de 1865 em uma confluência dos Rios Jaguari e do Peixe, foram removidos para uma nova cidade homônima um século depois. Criada em dezembro de 1969 a 3 quilômetros da antiga cidade, a nova Igaratá nasceu em um terreno da antiga Centrais Elétricas de São Paulo (Cesp), doado aos moradores. Hoje, o município tem cerca de 9 mil habitantes.

O reaparecimento das ruínas da Igreja Nossa Senhora do Patrocínio emociona quem viveu no antigo povoado. Um grupo colocou uma nova cruz onde ficava a igreja. “O pessoal mais velho vem e passa o domingo rezando em volta da cruz. Não querem que a água cubra de volta a igreja”, diz o agricultor Edilson Cardoso, de 32 anos.

Com um quadro da Igaratá Velha debaixo dos braços, o pescador José Carlos de Almeida, de 50 anos, cobra R$ 5 para levar turistas de canoa até as ruínas do antigo grupo escolar, no meio da represa. “Se a represa baixar os 10 metros que faltam, vai reaparecer a cidade inteira.”

A prefeitura de Igaratá também fez melhorias na pista de terra que dá acesso às ruínas, para facilitar a visitação. “Uma pena não ter dinheiro para fazer a preservação das peças encontradas. Muita coisa as pessoas já levaram embora”, diz o secretário de Obras de Igaratá, Emerson Rodrigues, de 35 anos.


Na época da remoção promovida pela Cesp, a maior parte dos moradores concordava com a mudança. “Era muita enchente. No período das chuvas todo mundo tinha de sair de casa. Só os mais antigos não queriam mudar”, recorda José Rodrigues, de 72 anos.

Na nova Igaratá, a emoção pelo ressurgimento da antiga igreja parece ter anestesiado a preocupação com a seca. Mesmo entre os mais jovens a curiosidade é grande. Muitos querem descobrir onde ficava a casa da avó, da tia que morreu, do prefeito.

Telhas dos anos 1940, escadarias, tanques de lavar roupa e restos das cadeiras da praça podem ser observados sobre o solo seco. No meio da represa estão estacas das casas demolidas na época da inundação.

“Toda semana aparece uma coisa nova. Muito velhinho vem aqui e se emociona, chora mesmo”, conta Fabio Saltonato, de 28 anos. “Quero achar a casa que era do meu pai. Pelo que vi nas fotos, se baixar mais 2 metros ela vai aparecer. Quem sabe depois do carnaval.”

Mas a seca derrubou o turismo, principal atividade econômica de Igaratá. Na beira da represa, dezenas de chácaras e sítios de veraneio estão à venda. Pontos que funcionavam como marinas estão vazios. “Com essa transposição de água da represa, a cidade vai ‘morrer’ economicamente. Esse é nosso medo”, diz o secretário de Obras.

Matemática evolutiva (Folha de S.Paulo)

Hélio Schwartsman

26 de janeiro de 2015

SÃO PAULO – Para quem gosta de matemática, uma boa leitura é “Mathematics and the Real World” (matemática e o mundo real), de Zvi Artstein, professor do Instituto Weizmann, de Israel.

O autor começa dividindo a matemática em duas, uma mais natural, que a evolução nos preparou (e também a outros bichos) para compreender, e outra totalmente abstrata, cuja intelecção exige refrear todas as nossas intuições. No primeiro grupo estão a aritmética e parte da geometria. No segundo, destacam-se lógica formal, estatística, teoria dos conjuntos e o grosso do material sobre o qual se debruçam hoje os matemáticos.

Egípicios, babilônios, indianos e outros povos da Antiguidade desenvolveram razoavelmente bem a matemática natural. Fizeram-no por razões práticas, como facilitar o comércio e o cálculo astrológico. Foram os gregos, contudo, que, tentando escapar ao que consideravam ilusões de ótica do mundo sensível, resolveram fiar-se na matemática para descobrir o “real”. É aqui que a matemática ganha autonomia para florescer para além das intuições.

Na sequência, Artstein traça uma interessantíssima história da ciência, destacando quais transformações foram necessárias na matemática para que pudessem firmar-se teorias e modelos como heliocentrismo, gravitação universal, relatividade, mecânica quântica, cordas etc. Não foge, embora nem sempre desenvolva muito, das implicações filosóficas.

O autor discute também assuntos mais classicamente matemáticos, como incerteza, caos, infinito, os teoremas da incompletude de Gödel. Numa concessão ao mundo prático, aborda quase apressadamente algumas questões da sociologia e da computação. Finaliza advogando por reformas no ensino da matemática.

O bacana do livro é que Artstein consegue transformar um assunto potencialmente árido num texto que se lê com a fluidez de um romance. Não é para qualquer um.