Arquivo da tag: participatividade

The secret of scientists who impact policy (Science Daily)

For influence, engaging stakeholders is key, study shows

February 21, 2017
University of Vermont
Researchers analyzed 15 policy decisions worldwide, with outcomes ranging from new coastal preservation laws to improved species protections, to produce the first quantitative analysis of how environmental knowledge impacts the attitudes and decisions of conservation policymakers.

Environmental scholars have greater policy influence when they engage directly with stakeholders, a UVM-led study says. Credit: Natural Capital Project

Why does some research lead to changes in public policy, while other studies of equal quality do not?

That crucial question — how science impacts policy — is central to the research of University of Vermont (UVM) Prof. Taylor Ricketts and recent alum Stephen Posner.

According to their findings, the most effective way environmental scholars can boost their policy influence — from protecting wildlife to curbing pollution — is to consult widely with stakeholders during the research process.

Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting talk, The Effectiveness of Ecosystem Services Science in Decision-Making, on Feb 18., the team briefed scientists and policy experts on their 2016 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Outreach trumps findings

Surprisingly, the study finds that stakeholder engagement is a better predictor of future policy impacts than perceived scientific credibility, says Ricketts, Director of UVM’s Gund Institute and Gund Professor in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.

The study is the first quantitative analysis of how environmental knowledge impacts the attitudes and decisions of conservation policymakers. Researchers from the UVM, World Wildlife Fund and Natural Capital Project analyzed 15 policy decisions worldwide, with outcomes ranging from new coastal preservation laws to improved species protections.

One hand clapping, academic style

Stephen Posner, a Gund researcher and COMPASS policy engagement associate, characterizes policy-related research without outreach as the academic equivalent of “the sound of one hand clapping.”

“Scholars may have the best policy intentions and important research, but our results suggest that decision-makers are unlikely to listen without meaningful engagement of them and various stakeholders,” he says.

When scholars meet with constituent groups — for example, individual landowners, conservation organizations, or private businesses — it improves policymakers’ perception of scientific knowledge as unbiased and representative of multiple perspectives, the study finds.

“For decision-makers, that made research more legitmate and worthy of policy consideration,” Ricketts adds.

Ways to improve consultation

The research team suggests research institutions offer scholars more time and incentives to improve engagement. They also encourage researchers to seek greater understanding of policy decision-making in their fields, and include stakeholder outreach plans in research projects.

“For those working on policy-related questions, we hope these findings offer a reminder of the value of engaging directly with policy makers and stakeholders, ” Posner says. “This will be crucial as we enter the new political reality of the Trump administration.”

Previous research on science-policy decision-making used qualitative approaches, or focused on a small number of case studies.


The study is called “Policy impacts of ecosystem services knowledge” by Stephen Posner, Emily McKenzie, and Taylor H. Ricketts.

Co-author Emily McKenzie hails from WWF and the Natural Capital Project.

The study used a global sample of regional case studies from the Natural Capital Project, in which researchers used the standardized scientific tool InVest to explore environmental planning and policy outcomes.

Data included surveys of decision-makers and expert review of 15 cases with different levels of policy impact. The forms of engagement studied included emails, phone conversations, individual and group meetings, as well as decision-maker perceptions of the scientific knowledge.

Journal Reference:

  1. Stephen M. Posner, Emily McKenzie, Taylor H. Ricketts. Policy impacts of ecosystem services knowledgeProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016; 113 (7): 1760 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1502452113

Sociedade civil integrará Comissão de REDD+ (MMA)

JC 5369, 8 de março de 2016

Seleção será nesta sexta-feira (11/03), em Brasília, durante reunião ampliada do Fórum Brasileiro de Mudanças Climáticas

Serão selecionados, nesta sexta-feira (11/03), os dois representantes da sociedade civil que participarão da Comissão Nacional para Redução das Emissões de Gases de Efeito Estufa Provenientes do Desmatamento e da Degradação Florestal, Conservação dos Estoques de Carbono Florestal, Manejo Sustentável de Florestas e Aumento de Estoques de Carbono Florestal – REDD+ (CONAREDD).

A seleção ocorrerá em reunião ampliada do Fórum Brasileiro de Mudanças Climáticas (FBMC), marcada para ocorrer no Ministério do Meio Ambiente (MMA), em Brasília. A expectativa é que a seleção contemple a participação dos diversos setores interessados na implantação de REDD+ pelo Brasil, em especial comunidades tradicionais e povos indígenas. O encontro incluirá a escolha de dois suplentes para a comissão.


O Decreto no 8.576, de 26 de novembro de 2015, instituiu a CONAREDD, que tem a responsabilidade de coordenar, acompanhar e monitorar a implantação da Estratégia Nacional para REDD+. A comissão também tem a finalidade de coordenar a elaboração dos requisitos para o acesso a pagamentos por resultados de políticas e ações de REDD+ no Brasil, reconhecidos pela Convenção-Quadro das Nações Unidas sobre Mudança do Clima.

De acordo com o decreto, a CONAREDD contará com dois representantes titulares e dois suplentes da sociedade civil organizada brasileira. Conforme determinação do MMA, caberá ao o FBMC nominar esses representantes, buscando assegurar o maior grau possível de representatividade entre os diversos segmentos da sociedade civil.


Reunião do Fórum Brasileiro de Mudanças Climáticas (FBMC)

Data: Sexta-feira, 11 de março, às 10h

Local: Auditório do Edifício Anexo do Ministério do Meio Ambiente – SEPN 505, Bloco B, Edifício Marie Prendi Cruz, Asa Norte, Brasília-DF.


– Discussão da implantação da Comissão Nacional para REDD+;

– Mapeamento do perfil necessário à representação da sociedade civil na CONAREDD;

– Indicação de dois representantes titulares e dois suplentes da sociedade civil organizada brasileira de acordo com o Decreto no 8.576.


Climate policy: Democracy is not an inconvenience (Nature)


Nico Stehr

22 September 2015

Climate scientists are tiring of governance that does not lead to action. But democracy must not be weakened in the fight against global warming, warns Nico Stehr.

Illustration by David Parkins

There are many threats to democracy in the modern era. Not least is the risk posed by the widespread public feeling that politicians are not listening. Such discontent can be seen in the political far right: the Tea Party movement in the United States, the UK Independence Party, the Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) demonstrators in Germany, and the National Front in France.

More surprisingly, a similar impatience with the political elite is now also present in the scientific community. Researchers are increasingly concerned that no one is listening to their diagnosis of the dangers of human-induced climate change and its long-lasting consequences, despite the robust scientific consensus. As governments continue to fail to take appropriate political action, democracy begins to look to some like an inconvenient form of governance. There is a tendency to want to take decisions out of the hands of politicians and the public, and, given the ‘exceptional circumstances’, put the decisions into the hands of scientists themselves.

This scientific disenchantment with democracy has slipped under the radar of many social scientists and commentators. Attention is urgently needed: the solution to the intractable ‘wicked problem’ of global warming is to enhance democracy, not jettison it.

Voices of discontent

Democratic nations seem to have failed us in the climate arena so far. The past decade’s climate summits in Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban and Warsaw were political washouts. Expectations for the next meeting in Paris this December are low.

Academics increasingly point to democracy as a reason for failure. NASA climate researcher James Hansen was quoted in 2009 in The Guardian as saying: “the democratic process doesn’t quite seem to be working”1. In a special issue of the journal Environmental Politics in 2010, political scientist Mark Beeson argued2 that forms of ‘good’ authoritarianism “may become not only justifiable, but essential for the survival of humanity in anything approaching a civilised form”. The title of an opinion piece published earlier this year in The Conversation, an online magazine funded by universities, sums up the issue: ‘Hidden crisis of liberal democracy creates climate change paralysis’ (see

The depiction of contemporary democracies as ill-equipped to deal with climate change comes from a range of considerations. These include a deep-seated pessimism about the psychological make-up of humans; the disinclination of people to mobilize on issues that seem far removed; and the presumed lack of intellectual competence of people to grasp complex issues. On top of these there is the presumed scientific illiteracy of most politicians and the electorate; the inability of governments locked into short-term voting cycles to address long-term problems; the influence of vested interests on political agendas; the addiction to fossil fuels; and the feeling among the climate-science community that its message falls on the deaf ears of politicians.

“It is dangerous to blindly believe that science and scientists alone can tell us what to do.”

Such views can be heard from the highest ranks of climate science. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change, said of the inaction in a 2011 interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel: “comfort and ignorance are the biggest flaws of human character. This is a potentially deadly mix”.

What, then, is the alternative? The solution hinted at by many people leans towards a technocracy, in which decisions are made by those with technical knowledge. This can be seen in a shift in the statements of some co-authors of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, who are moving away from a purely advisory role towards policy prescription (see, for example, ref. 3).

We must be careful what we wish for. Nations that have followed the path of ‘authoritarian modernization’, such as China and Russia, cannot claim to have a record of environmental accomplishments. In the past two or three years, China’s system has made it a global leader in renewables (it accounts for more than one-quarter of the planet’s investment in such energies4). Despite this, it is struggling to meet ambitious environmental targets and will continue to lead the world for some time in greenhouse-gas emissions. As Chinese citizens become wealthier and more educated, they will surely push for more democratic inclusion in environmental policymaking.

Broad-based support for environmental concerns and subsequent regulations came about in open democratic argument on the value of nature for humanity. Democracies learn from mistakes; autocracies lack flexibility and adaptability5. Democratic nations have forged the most effective international agreements, such as the Montreal Protocol against ozone-depleting substances.

Global stage

Impatient scientists often privilege hegemonic players such as world powers, states, transnational organizations, and multinational corporations. They tend to prefer sweeping policies of global mitigation over messier approaches of local adaptation; for them, global knowledge triumphs over local know-how. But societal trends are going in the opposite direction. The ability of large institutions to impose their will on citizens is declining. People are mobilizing around local concerns and efforts6.

The pessimistic assessment of the ability of democratic governance to cope with and control exceptional circumstances is linked to an optimistic assessment of the potential of large-scale social and economic planning. The uncertainties of social, political and economic events are treated as minor obstacles that can be overcome easily by implementing policies that experts prescribe. But humanity’s capacity to plan ahead effectively is limited. The centralized social and economic planning concept, widely discussed decades ago, has rightly fallen into disrepute7.

The argument for an authoritarian political approach concentrates on a single effect that governance ought to achieve: a reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions. By focusing on that goal, rather than on the economic and social conditions that go hand-in-hand with it, climate policies are reduced to scientific or technical issues. But these are not the sole considerations. Environmental concerns are tightly entangled with other political, economic and cultural issues that both broaden the questions at hand and open up different ways of approaching it. Scientific knowledge is neither immediately performative nor persuasive.

Enhance engagement

There is but one political system that is able to rationally and legitimately cope with the divergent political interests affected by climate change and that is democracy. Only a democratic system can sensitively attend to the conflicts within and among nations and communities, decide between different policies, and generally advance the aspirations of different segments of the population. The ultimate and urgent challenge is that of enhancing democracy, for example by reducing social inequality8.

If not, the threat to civilization will be much more than just changes to our physical environment. The erosion of democracy is an unnecessary suppression of social complexity and rights.

The philosopher Friedrich Hayek, who led the debate against social and economic planning in the mid-twentieth century9, noted a paradox that applies today. As science advances, it tends to strengthen the idea that we should “aim at more deliberate and comprehensive control of all human activities”. Hayek pessimistically added: “It is for this reason that those intoxicated by the advance of knowledge so often become the enemies of freedom”10. We should heed his warning. It is dangerous to blindly believe that science and scientists alone can tell us what to do.

Nature 525, 449–450 (24 September 2015) dos:10.1038/525449a


  1. Adam, D. ‘Leading climate scientist: “democratic process isn’t working”’ The Guardian (18 March 2009).
  2. Beeson, M. Environ. Politics 19276294 (2010).
  3. Hansen, J. et alPLoS ONE (2013).
  4. REN21Renewables 2015 Global Status Report (REN21, 2015).
  5. Runciman, D. The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present (Princeton Univ. Press, 2013).
  6. Stehr, N. Information, Power and Democracy, Liberty is a Daughter of Knowledge (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2015).
  7. Pierre, J. Debating Governance: Authority, Steering, and Democracy (Oxford Univ. Press, 2000).
  8. Rosanvallon, P. The Society of Equals (Harvard Univ. Press, 2013).
  9. Hayek, F. A. Nature 148580584 (1941).
  10. Hayek, F. A. The Constitution of Liberty (Routledge, 1960).

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

Journal #59, 11/2014

Marjetica Potrč

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Statement #2: We must grow up strong together!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sabesp inicia obras às pressas sem avaliar risco (OESP)

Fabio Leite – O Estado de S. Paulo

15 Março 2015 | 02h 01

Companhia de Saneamento Básico do Estado de São Paulo desengavetou planos sem ter tempo de estudar impacto ambiental

SÃO PAULO – A busca por novos mananciais para suprir a escassez hídrica a curto prazo e tentar evitar o rodízio oficial de água na Grande São Paulo levou a Companhia de Saneamento Básico do Estado de São Paulo (Sabesp) a tirar do papel uma série de projetos engavetados há anos e a executá-los a toque de caixa sem Estudo de Impacto Ambiental (EIA), aprovação em comitês ou decreto de estado de emergência.

Até o momento, são seis obras (uma já concluída) que envolvem transposições entre rios e reservatórios com o objetivo de aumentar a oferta de água para conseguir abastecer 20 milhões de pessoas durante o período seco (que vai de abril a setembro) sem decretar racionamento generalizado. A principal delas é a interligação do Sistema Rio Grande com o Alto Tietê, o segundo manancial mais crítico (21% da capacidade), melhor só que o Cantareira.

Segundo a Sabesp, já foi iniciada a construção de 11 quilômetros de adutora e uma estação de bombeamento para levar até 4 mil litros por segundo da Billings, no ABC, para a Represa Taiaçupeba, em Suzano. A conclusão está prevista para julho. Técnicos do governo Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB) afirmam, contudo, que uma obra desse porte precisaria de EIA, aprovação no Comitê da Bacia do Alto Tietê, além da outorga do Departamento de Águas e Energia Elétrica de São Paulo (DAEE).

A principal das obras é a interligação do Sistema Rio Grande com o Alto Tietê, o segundo manancial mais crítico (21% da capacidade), melhor só que o Cantareira.

A principal das obras é a interligação do Sistema Rio Grande com o Alto Tietê, o segundo manancial mais crítico (21% da capacidade), melhor só que o Cantareira.

Com a provável reversão das águas do poluído corpo central da Billings para o Braço Rio Grande, já manifestada pela Sabesp, seria preciso ainda aprovação prévia do Conselho Estadual do Meio Ambiente (Consema) e de outorga da Agência Nacional de Energia Elétrica (Aneel), já que a represa também fornece água para geração de energia na Usina Henry Borden, em Cubatão. Todo esse trâmite teve de ser seguido para a execução da ligação Billings-Guarapiranga, pelo Braço Taquacetuba, na crise de 2000.

“Ou o governo decreta estado de emergência para tocar as chamadas obras emergenciais sem licitação e estudo de impacto ambiental, com perda de capacidade de concorrência e de participação social, ou então licita e produz os relatórios necessários. Do jeito que está, há uma incoerência brutal”, afirmou o engenheiro Darcy Brega Filho, especialista em gestão de sustentabilidade e ex-funcionário da Sabesp.

Mar. No pacote de obras emergenciais estão a interligação de dois rios de vertente marítima (que deságuam no mar), Itatinga e Capivari, para rios que são afluentes das Represas Jundiaí (Alto Tietê) e Guarapiranga. As duas intervenções recém-anunciadas pela Sabesp já constavam do Plano Diretor de Águas e Abastecimento (PDAA) de 2004 e ficaram engavetadas. Cada uma deve aumentar a vazão dos sistemas em 1 mil litros por segundo e também precisariam de aprovação do Comitê da Bacia da Baixada Santista.

“Sem dúvida, é preciso de obras emergenciais para trazer água para a região metropolitana, mas isso não anula uma avaliação mais acurada desse conjunto de transposições para calcular a eficiência desses projetos e seus efeitos indiretos”, afirmou o especialista em recursos hídricos José Galizia Tundisi, presidente do Instituto Internacional de Ecologia e vice-presidente do Instituto Acqua.

Um exemplo citado por funcionários do governo sobre a falta de avaliação dos projetos é a construção de 9 quilômetros de adutora para levar 1 mil litros por segundo do Rio Guaió para a Represa Taiaçupeba. As obras começaram em fevereiro e devem ser concluídas em maio, segundo a Sabesp. Técnicos da área afirmam que durante o período de estiagem a vazão média desse rio é de apenas 300 litros por segundo, ou seja, 70% menor do que a pretendida.

Citizen science network produces accurate maps of atmospheric dust (Science Daily)

Date: October 27, 2014

Source: Leiden University

Summary: Measurements by thousands of citizen scientists in the Netherlands using their smartphones and the iSPEX add-on are delivering accurate data on dust particles in the atmosphere that add valuable information to professional measurements. The research team analyzed all measurements from three days in 2013 and combined them into unique maps of dust particles above the Netherlands. The results match and sometimes even exceed those of ground-based measurement networks and satellite instruments.

iSPEX map compiled from all iSPEX measurements performed in the Netherlands on July 8, 2013, between 14:00 and 21:00. Each blue dot represents one of the 6007 measurements that were submitted on that day. At each location on the map, the 50 nearest iSPEX measurements were averaged and converted to Aerosol Optical Thickness, a measure for the total amount of atmospheric particles. This map can be compared to the AOT data from the MODIS Aqua satellite, which flew over the Netherlands at 16:12 local time. The relatively high AOT values were caused by smoke clouds from forest fires in North America, which were blown over the Netherlands at an altitude of 2-4 km. In the course of the day, winds from the North brought clearer air to the northern provinces. Credit: Image courtesy of Leiden, Universiteit

Measurements by thousands of citizen scientists in the Netherlands using their smartphones and the iSPEX add-on are delivering accurate data on dust particles in the atmosphere that add valuable information to professional measurements. The iSPEX team, led by Frans Snik of Leiden University, analyzed all measurements from three days in 2013 and combined them into unique maps of dust particles above the Netherlands. The results match and sometimes even exceed those of ground-based measurement networks and satellite instruments.

The iSPEX maps achieve a spatial resolution as small as 2 kilometers whereas satellite data are much courser. They also fill in blind spots of established ground-based atmospheric measurement networks. The scientific article that presents these first results of the iSPEX project is being published in Geophysical Research Letters.

The iSPEX team developed a new atmospheric measurement method in the form of a low-cost add-on for smartphone cameras. The iSPEX app instructs participants to scan the blue sky while the phone’s built-in camera takes pictures through the add-on. The photos record both the spectrum and the linear polarization of the sunlight that is scattered by suspended dust particles, and thus contain information about the properties of these particles. While such properties are difficult to measure, much better knowledge on atmospheric particles is needed to understand their effects on health, climate and air traffic.

Thousands of participants performed iSPEX measurements throughout the Netherlands on three cloud-free days in 2013. This large-scale citizen science experiment allowed the iSPEX team to verify the reliability of this new measurement method.

After a rigorous quality assessment of each submitted data point, measurements recorded in specific areas within a limited amount of time are averaged to obtain sufficient accuracy. Subsequently the data are converted to Aerosol Optical Thickness (AOT), which is a standardized quantity related to the total amount of atmospheric particles. The iSPEX AOT data match comparable data from satellites and the AERONET ground station at Cabauw, the Netherlands. In areas with sufficiently high measurement densities, the iSPEX maps can even discern smaller details than satellite data.

Team leader Snik: “This proves that our new measurement method works. But the great strength of iSPEX is the measurement philosophy: the establishment of a citizen science network of thousands of enthusiastic volunteers who actively carry out outdoor measurements. In this way, we can collect valuable information about atmospheric particles on locations and/or at times that are not covered by professional equipment. These results are even more accurate than we had hoped, and give rise to further research and development. We are currently investigating to what extent we can extract more information about atmospheric particles from the iSPEX data, like their sizes and compositions. And of course, we want to organize many more measurement days.”

With the help of a grant that supports public activities in Europe during the International Year of Light 2015, the iSPEX team is now preparing for the international expansion of the project. This expansion provides opportunities for national and international parties to join the project. Snik: “Our final goal is to establish a global network of citizen scientists who all contribute measurements to study the sources and societal effects of polluting atmospheric particles.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Frans Snik, Jeroen H. H. Rietjens, Arnoud Apituley, Hester Volten, Bas Mijling, Antonio Di Noia, Stephanie Heikamp, Ritse C. Heinsbroek, Otto P. Hasekamp, J. Martijn Smit, Jan Vonk, Daphne M. Stam, Gerard van Harten, Jozua de Boer, Christoph U. Keller. Mapping atmospheric aerosols with a citizen science network of smartphone spectropolarimeters. Geophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2014GL061462

Coping with water scarcity: Effectiveness of water policies aimed at reducing consumption evaluated (Science Daily)

Date: October 23, 2014

Source: University of California, Riverside

Summary: Southern California water agencies have turned to new pricing structures, expanded rebate programs and implemented other means to encourage their customers to reduce consumption. Some of those policies have greatly reduced per capita consumption, while others have produced mixed results.

As California enters its fourth year of severe drought, Southern California water agencies have turned to new pricing structures, expanded rebate programs and implemented other means to encourage their customers to reduce consumption.

Some of those policies have greatly reduced per capita consumption, while others have produced mixed results, according to a report published in the UC Riverside School of Public Policy journal Policy Matters. The journal is published quarterly by the School of Public Policy, and provides timely research and guidance on issues that are of concern to policymakers at the local, state, and national levels.

Water policy experts Kurt Schwabe, Ken Baerenklau and Ariel Dinar reviewed some of their recent research that was presented at a UCR workshop on urban water management in June 2014. Schwabe and Baerenklau are associate professors and Dinar is professor of environmental economics and policy. The workshop highlighted efforts by Southern California water agencies to promote water conservation, relevant research findings by UC faculty, and challenges that remain to further reduce water demand.

“California is a water-scarce state and needs to have policy tools to deal with scarcity whether in drought years or otherwise,” Dinar said. Water policy research in the School of Public Policy focuses on strategies that agencies and California can take to help reduce vulnerability to drought.

Water utilities throughout California are working to satisfy a 2010 state mandate to reduce per capita urban water demand 20 percent by 2020. Reducing residential water demand is an appealing response to water scarcity as approaches such as building more storage and conveyance systems have become increasingly expensive, the authors wrote in “Coping with Water Scarcity: The Effectiveness of Allocation-Based Pricing and Conservation Rebate Programs in California’s Urban Sector.”

“Reducing residential water demand is also attractive given it is a local solution to relieving water stress with seemingly much recent success,” they wrote.

Efforts to reduce water demand by changing behavior fall into two categories: price and non-price, the researchers said. Price-based approaches focus on adjusting the price of water while non-price approaches include other demand-management strategies such as the use of water-conserving technologies and conversion of lawns to drought-tolerant landscape, often promoted with rebates, and mandatory restrictions.

“Price-based instruments for water management … have proven to be very effective when compared to non-price instruments,” the researchers found.

One such instrument is the “water budget,” which has been adopted by more than 25 Southern California water agencies in recent years. Water budgets typically are defined as an indoor allocation based on the number of people in the house and an outdoor allocation based on the amount of irrigable land, special needs, and local weather conditions, according to the report. The sum of the indoor and outdoor allocations is a household’s water budget. Staying within that budget is deemed efficient use. Water use that exceeds a household’s budget is considered inefficient, and is priced at a higher rate to encourage conservation.

“Recent empirical evidence within southern California suggests that this sort of pricing structure can be very effective for reducing residential water demand while securing the financial cash-flow of the water utility,” the researchers reported.

Non-price efforts to reduce water consumption have not been as effective, however. For example, the researchers refer to a study of 13 groundwater-dependent California cities in which modest water price increases were more effective and more cost-effective than promoting technology standards to curb water consumption.

Some studies have found that rebate programs, in particular, have shown smaller-than-expected water savings, the researchers said in the report. For example, studies show that low-flow showerheads tend to result in longer showers and frontloading washing machines result in more cycles.

“This does not mean that such measures should be abandoned, but rather suggests that achieving real water savings in a cost-effective manner requires more research and partnerships between agencies and the research community to find an optimal mix between these two approaches,” the researchers said.

Journal Reference:

  1. Kurt Schwabe, Ben Baerenklau, and Ariel Dinar. Coping With Water Scarcity: The Effectiveness of Allocation-Based Pricing and Conservation Rebate Program in California’s Urban Sector.. Policy Matters, Volume 6, Issue 1, 2014 [link]

The rise of data and the death of politics (The Guardian)

Tech pioneers in the US are advocating a new data-based approach to governance – ‘algorithmic regulation’. But if technology provides the answers to society’s problems, what happens to governments?

The Observer, Sunday 20 July 2014

US president Barack Obama with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg

Government by social network? US president Barack Obama with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

On 24 August 1965 Gloria Placente, a 34-year-old resident of Queens, New York, was driving to Orchard Beach in the Bronx. Clad in shorts and sunglasses, the housewife was looking forward to quiet time at the beach. But the moment she crossed the Willis Avenue bridge in her Chevrolet Corvair, Placente was surrounded by a dozen patrolmen. There were also 125 reporters, eager to witness the launch of New York police department’s Operation Corral – an acronym for Computer Oriented Retrieval of Auto Larcenists.

Fifteen months earlier, Placente had driven through a red light and neglected to answer the summons, an offence that Corral was going to punish with a heavy dose of techno-Kafkaesque. It worked as follows: a police car stationed at one end of the bridge radioed the licence plates of oncoming cars to a teletypist miles away, who fed them to a Univac 490 computer, an expensive $500,000 toy ($3.5m in today’s dollars) on loan from the Sperry Rand Corporation. The computer checked the numbers against a database of 110,000 cars that were either stolen or belonged to known offenders. In case of a match the teletypist would alert a second patrol car at the bridge’s other exit. It took, on average, just seven seconds.

Compared with the impressive police gear of today – automatic number plate recognition, CCTV cameras, GPS trackers – Operation Corral looks quaint. And the possibilities for control will only expand. European officials have considered requiring all cars entering the European market to feature a built-in mechanism that allows the police to stop vehicles remotely. Speaking earlier this year, Jim Farley, a senior Ford executive, acknowledged that “we know everyone who breaks the law, we know when you’re doing it. We have GPS in your car, so we know what you’re doing. By the way, we don’t supply that data to anyone.” That last bit didn’t sound very reassuring and Farley retracted his remarks.

As both cars and roads get “smart,” they promise nearly perfect, real-time law enforcement. Instead of waiting for drivers to break the law, authorities can simply prevent the crime. Thus, a 50-mile stretch of the A14 between Felixstowe and Rugby is to be equipped with numerous sensors that would monitor traffic by sending signals to and from mobile phones in moving vehicles. The telecoms watchdog Ofcom envisionsthat such smart roads connected to a centrally controlled traffic system could automatically impose variable speed limits to smooth the flow of traffic but also direct the cars “along diverted routes to avoid the congestion and even [manage] their speed”.

Other gadgets – from smartphones to smart glasses – promise even more security and safety. In April, Apple patented technology that deploys sensors inside the smartphone to analyse if the car is moving and if the person using the phone is driving; if both conditions are met, it simply blocks the phone’s texting feature. Intel and Ford are working on Project Mobil – a face recognition system that, should it fail to recognise the face of the driver, would not only prevent the car being started but also send the picture to the car’s owner (bad news for teenagers).

The car is emblematic of transformations in many other domains, from smart environments for “ambient assisted living” where carpets and walls detect that someone has fallen, to various masterplans for the smart city, where municipal services dispatch resources only to those areas that need them. Thanks to sensors and internet connectivity, the most banal everyday objects have acquired tremendous power to regulate behaviour. Even public toilets are ripe for sensor-based optimisation: the Safeguard Germ Alarm, a smart soap dispenser developed by Procter & Gamble and used in some public WCs in the Philippines, has sensors monitoring the doors of each stall. Once you leave the stall, the alarm starts ringing – and can only be stopped by a push of the soap-dispensing button.

In this context, Google’s latest plan to push its Android operating system on to smart watches, smart cars, smart thermostats and, one suspects, smart everything, looks rather ominous. In the near future, Google will be the middleman standing between you and your fridge, you and your car, you and your rubbish bin, allowing the National Security Agency to satisfy its data addiction in bulk and via a single window.

This “smartification” of everyday life follows a familiar pattern: there’s primary data – a list of what’s in your smart fridge and your bin – and metadata – a log of how often you open either of these things or when they communicate with one another. Both produce interesting insights: cue smart mattresses – one recent model promises to track respiration and heart rates and how much you move during the night – and smart utensils that provide nutritional advice.

In addition to making our lives more efficient, this smart world also presents us with an exciting political choice. If so much of our everyday behaviour is already captured, analysed and nudged, why stick with unempirical approaches to regulation? Why rely on laws when one has sensors and feedback mechanisms? If policy interventions are to be – to use the buzzwords of the day – “evidence-based” and “results-oriented,” technology is here to help.

This new type of governance has a name: algorithmic regulation. In as much as Silicon Valley has a political programme, this is it. Tim O’Reilly, an influential technology publisher, venture capitalist and ideas man (he is to blame for popularising the term “web 2.0”) has been its most enthusiastic promoter. In a recent essay that lays out his reasoning, O’Reilly makes an intriguing case for the virtues of algorithmic regulation – a case that deserves close scrutiny both for what it promises policymakers and the simplistic assumptions it makes about politics, democracy and power.

To see algorithmic regulation at work, look no further than the spam filter in your email. Instead of confining itself to a narrow definition of spam, the email filter has its users teach it. Even Google can’t write rules to cover all the ingenious innovations of professional spammers. What it can do, though, is teach the system what makes a good rule and spot when it’s time to find another rule for finding a good rule – and so on. An algorithm can do this, but it’s the constant real-time feedback from its users that allows the system to counter threats never envisioned by its designers. And it’s not just spam: your bank uses similar methods to spot credit-card fraud.

In his essay, O’Reilly draws broader philosophical lessons from such technologies, arguing that they work because they rely on “a deep understanding of the desired outcome” (spam is bad!) and periodically check if the algorithms are actually working as expected (are too many legitimate emails ending up marked as spam?).

O’Reilly presents such technologies as novel and unique – we are living through a digital revolution after all – but the principle behind “algorithmic regulation” would be familiar to the founders of cybernetics – a discipline that, even in its name (it means “the science of governance”) hints at its great regulatory ambitions. This principle, which allows the system to maintain its stability by constantly learning and adapting itself to the changing circumstances, is what the British psychiatrist Ross Ashby, one of the founding fathers of cybernetics, called “ultrastability”.

To illustrate it, Ashby designed the homeostat. This clever device consisted of four interconnected RAF bomb control units – mysterious looking black boxes with lots of knobs and switches – that were sensitive to voltage fluctuations. If one unit stopped working properly – say, because of an unexpected external disturbance – the other three would rewire and regroup themselves, compensating for its malfunction and keeping the system’s overall output stable.

Ashby’s homeostat achieved “ultrastability” by always monitoring its internal state and cleverly redeploying its spare resources.

Like the spam filter, it didn’t have to specify all the possible disturbances – only the conditions for how and when it must be updated and redesigned. This is no trivial departure from how the usual technical systems, with their rigid, if-then rules, operate: suddenly, there’s no need to develop procedures for governing every contingency, for – or so one hopes – algorithms and real-time, immediate feedback can do a better job than inflexible rules out of touch with reality.

Algorithmic regulation could certainly make the administration of existing laws more efficient. If it can fight credit-card fraud, why not tax fraud? Italian bureaucrats have experimented with the redditometro, or income meter, a tool for comparing people’s spending patterns – recorded thanks to an arcane Italian law – with their declared income, so that authorities know when you spend more than you earn. Spain has expressed interest in a similar tool.

Such systems, however, are toothless against the real culprits of tax evasion – the super-rich families who profit from various offshoring schemes or simply write outrageous tax exemptions into the law. Algorithmic regulation is perfect for enforcing the austerity agenda while leaving those responsible for the fiscal crisis off the hook. To understand whether such systems are working as expected, we need to modify O’Reilly’s question: for whom are they working? If it’s just the tax-evading plutocrats, the global financial institutions interested in balanced national budgets and the companies developing income-tracking software, then it’s hardly a democratic success.

With his belief that algorithmic regulation is based on “a deep understanding of the desired outcome”, O’Reilly cunningly disconnects the means of doing politics from its ends. But the how of politics is as important as the what of politics – in fact, the former often shapes the latter. Everybody agrees that education, health, and security are all “desired outcomes”, but how do we achieve them? In the past, when we faced the stark political choice of delivering them through the market or the state, the lines of the ideological debate were clear. Today, when the presumed choice is between the digital and the analog or between the dynamic feedback and the static law, that ideological clarity is gone – as if the very choice of how to achieve those “desired outcomes” was apolitical and didn’t force us to choose between different and often incompatible visions of communal living.

By assuming that the utopian world of infinite feedback loops is so efficient that it transcends politics, the proponents of algorithmic regulation fall into the same trap as the technocrats of the past. Yes, these systems are terrifyingly efficient – in the same way that Singapore is terrifyingly efficient (O’Reilly, unsurprisingly, praises Singapore for its embrace of algorithmic regulation). And while Singapore’s leaders might believe that they, too, have transcended politics, it doesn’t mean that their regime cannot be assessed outside the linguistic swamp of efficiency and innovation – by using political, not economic benchmarks.

As Silicon Valley keeps corrupting our language with its endless glorification of disruption and efficiency – concepts at odds with the vocabulary of democracy – our ability to question the “how” of politics is weakened. Silicon Valley’s default answer to the how of politics is what I call solutionism: problems are to be dealt with via apps, sensors, and feedback loops – all provided by startups. Earlier this year Google’s Eric Schmidt even promised that startups would provide the solution to the problem of economic inequality: the latter, it seems, can also be “disrupted”. And where the innovators and the disruptors lead, the bureaucrats follow.

The intelligence services embraced solutionism before other government agencies. Thus, they reduced the topic of terrorism from a subject that had some connection to history and foreign policy to an informational problem of identifying emerging terrorist threats via constant surveillance. They urged citizens to accept that instability is part of the game, that its root causes are neither traceable nor reparable, that the threat can only be pre-empted by out-innovating and out-surveilling the enemy with better communications.

Speaking in Athens last November, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben discussed an epochal transformation in the idea of government, “whereby the traditional hierarchical relation between causes and effects is inverted, so that, instead of governing the causes – a difficult and expensive undertaking – governments simply try to govern the effects”.

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman

Governments’ current favourite pyschologist, Daniel Kahneman. Photograph: Richard Saker for the Observer

For Agamben, this shift is emblematic of modernity. It also explains why the liberalisation of the economy can co-exist with the growing proliferation of control – by means of soap dispensers and remotely managed cars – into everyday life. “If government aims for the effects and not the causes, it will be obliged to extend and multiply control. Causes demand to be known, while effects can only be checked and controlled.” Algorithmic regulation is an enactment of this political programme in technological form.

The true politics of algorithmic regulation become visible once its logic is applied to the social nets of the welfare state. There are no calls to dismantle them, but citizens are nonetheless encouraged to take responsibility for their own health. Consider how Fred Wilson, an influential US venture capitalist, frames the subject. “Health… is the opposite side of healthcare,” he said at a conference in Paris last December. “It’s what keeps you out of the healthcare system in the first place.” Thus, we are invited to start using self-tracking apps and data-sharing platforms and monitor our vital indicators, symptoms and discrepancies on our own.

This goes nicely with recent policy proposals to save troubled public services by encouraging healthier lifestyles. Consider a 2013 report by Westminster council and the Local Government Information Unit, a thinktank, calling for the linking of housing and council benefits to claimants’ visits to the gym – with the help of smartcards. They might not be needed: many smartphones are already tracking how many steps we take every day (Google Now, the company’s virtual assistant, keeps score of such data automatically and periodically presents it to users, nudging them to walk more).

The numerous possibilities that tracking devices offer to health and insurance industries are not lost on O’Reilly. “You know the way that advertising turned out to be the native business model for the internet?” he wondered at a recent conference. “I think that insurance is going to be the native business model for the internet of things.” Things do seem to be heading that way: in June, Microsoft struck a deal with American Family Insurance, the eighth-largest home insurer in the US, in which both companies will fund startups that want to put sensors into smart homes and smart cars for the purposes of “proactive protection”.

An insurance company would gladly subsidise the costs of installing yet another sensor in your house – as long as it can automatically alert the fire department or make front porch lights flash in case your smoke detector goes off. For now, accepting such tracking systems is framed as an extra benefit that can save us some money. But when do we reach a point where not using them is seen as a deviation – or, worse, an act of concealment – that ought to be punished with higher premiums?

Or consider a May 2014 report from 2020health, another thinktank, proposing to extend tax rebates to Britons who give up smoking, stay slim or drink less. “We propose ‘payment by results’, a financial reward for people who become active partners in their health, whereby if you, for example, keep your blood sugar levels down, quit smoking, keep weight off, [or] take on more self-care, there will be a tax rebate or an end-of-year bonus,” they state. Smart gadgets are the natural allies of such schemes: they document the results and can even help achieve them – by constantly nagging us to do what’s expected.

The unstated assumption of most such reports is that the unhealthy are not only a burden to society but that they deserve to be punished (fiscally for now) for failing to be responsible. For what else could possibly explain their health problems but their personal failings? It’s certainly not the power of food companies or class-based differences or various political and economic injustices. One can wear a dozen powerful sensors, own a smart mattress and even do a close daily reading of one’s poop – as some self-tracking aficionados are wont to do – but those injustices would still be nowhere to be seen, for they are not the kind of stuff that can be measured with a sensor. The devil doesn’t wear data. Social injustices are much harder to track than the everyday lives of the individuals whose lives they affect.

In shifting the focus of regulation from reining in institutional and corporate malfeasance to perpetual electronic guidance of individuals, algorithmic regulation offers us a good-old technocratic utopia of politics without politics. Disagreement and conflict, under this model, are seen as unfortunate byproducts of the analog era – to be solved through data collection – and not as inevitable results of economic or ideological conflicts.

However, a politics without politics does not mean a politics without control or administration. As O’Reilly writes in his essay: “New technologies make it possible to reduce the amount of regulation while actually increasing the amount of oversight and production of desirable outcomes.” Thus, it’s a mistake to think that Silicon Valley wants to rid us of government institutions. Its dream state is not the small government of libertarians – a small state, after all, needs neither fancy gadgets nor massive servers to process the data – but the data-obsessed and data-obese state of behavioural economists.

The nudging state is enamoured of feedback technology, for its key founding principle is that while we behave irrationally, our irrationality can be corrected – if only the environment acts upon us, nudging us towards the right option. Unsurprisingly, one of the three lonely references at the end of O’Reilly’s essay is to a 2012 speech entitled “Regulation: Looking Backward, Looking Forward” by Cass Sunstein, the prominent American legal scholar who is the chief theorist of the nudging state.

And while the nudgers have already captured the state by making behavioural psychology the favourite idiom of government bureaucracy –Daniel Kahneman is in, Machiavelli is out – the algorithmic regulation lobby advances in more clandestine ways. They create innocuous non-profit organisations like Code for America which then co-opt the state – under the guise of encouraging talented hackers to tackle civic problems.

Airbnb's homepage.

Airbnb: part of the reputation-driven economy.

Such initiatives aim to reprogramme the state and make it feedback-friendly, crowding out other means of doing politics. For all those tracking apps, algorithms and sensors to work, databases need interoperability – which is what such pseudo-humanitarian organisations, with their ardent belief in open data, demand. And when the government is too slow to move at Silicon Valley’s speed, they simply move inside the government. Thus, Jennifer Pahlka, the founder of Code for America and a protege of O’Reilly, became the deputy chief technology officer of the US government – while pursuing a one-year “innovation fellowship” from the White House.

Cash-strapped governments welcome such colonisation by technologists – especially if it helps to identify and clean up datasets that can be profitably sold to companies who need such data for advertising purposes. Recent clashes over the sale of student and health data in the UK are just a precursor of battles to come: after all state assets have been privatised, data is the next target. For O’Reilly, open data is “a key enabler of the measurement revolution”.

This “measurement revolution” seeks to quantify the efficiency of various social programmes, as if the rationale behind the social nets that some of them provide was to achieve perfection of delivery. The actual rationale, of course, was to enable a fulfilling life by suppressing certain anxieties, so that citizens can pursue their life projects relatively undisturbed. This vision did spawn a vast bureaucratic apparatus and the critics of the welfare state from the left – most prominently Michel Foucault – were right to question its disciplining inclinations. Nonetheless, neither perfection nor efficiency were the “desired outcome” of this system. Thus, to compare the welfare state with the algorithmic state on those grounds is misleading.

But we can compare their respective visions for human fulfilment – and the role they assign to markets and the state. Silicon Valley’s offer is clear: thanks to ubiquitous feedback loops, we can all become entrepreneurs and take care of our own affairs! As Brian Chesky, the chief executive of Airbnb, told the Atlantic last year, “What happens when everybody is a brand? When everybody has a reputation? Every person can become an entrepreneur.”

Under this vision, we will all code (for America!) in the morning, driveUber cars in the afternoon, and rent out our kitchens as restaurants – courtesy of Airbnb – in the evening. As O’Reilly writes of Uber and similar companies, “these services ask every passenger to rate their driver (and drivers to rate their passenger). Drivers who provide poor service are eliminated. Reputation does a better job of ensuring a superb customer experience than any amount of government regulation.”

The state behind the “sharing economy” does not wither away; it might be needed to ensure that the reputation accumulated on Uber, Airbnb and other platforms of the “sharing economy” is fully liquid and transferable, creating a world where our every social interaction is recorded and assessed, erasing whatever differences exist between social domains. Someone, somewhere will eventually rate you as a passenger, a house guest, a student, a patient, a customer. Whether this ranking infrastructure will be decentralised, provided by a giant like Google or rest with the state is not yet clear but the overarching objective is: to make reputation into a feedback-friendly social net that could protect the truly responsible citizens from the vicissitudes of deregulation.

Admiring the reputation models of Uber and Airbnb, O’Reilly wants governments to be “adopting them where there are no demonstrable ill effects”. But what counts as an “ill effect” and how to demonstrate it is a key question that belongs to the how of politics that algorithmic regulation wants to suppress. It’s easy to demonstrate “ill effects” if the goal of regulation is efficiency but what if it is something else? Surely, there are some benefits – fewer visits to the psychoanalyst, perhaps – in not having your every social interaction ranked?

The imperative to evaluate and demonstrate “results” and “effects” already presupposes that the goal of policy is the optimisation of efficiency. However, as long as democracy is irreducible to a formula, its composite values will always lose this battle: they are much harder to quantify.

For Silicon Valley, though, the reputation-obsessed algorithmic state of the sharing economy is the new welfare state. If you are honest and hardworking, your online reputation would reflect this, producing a highly personalised social net. It is “ultrastable” in Ashby’s sense: while the welfare state assumes the existence of specific social evils it tries to fight, the algorithmic state makes no such assumptions. The future threats can remain fully unknowable and fully addressable – on the individual level.

Silicon Valley, of course, is not alone in touting such ultrastable individual solutions. Nassim Taleb, in his best-selling 2012 book Antifragile, makes a similar, if more philosophical, plea for maximising our individual resourcefulness and resilience: don’t get one job but many, don’t take on debt, count on your own expertise. It’s all about resilience, risk-taking and, as Taleb puts it, “having skin in the game”. As Julian Reid and Brad Evans write in their new book, Resilient Life: The Art of Living Dangerously, this growing cult of resilience masks a tacit acknowledgement that no collective project could even aspire to tame the proliferating threats to human existence – we can only hope to equip ourselves to tackle them individually. “When policy-makers engage in the discourse of resilience,” write Reid and Evans, “they do so in terms which aim explicitly at preventing humans from conceiving of danger as a phenomenon from which they might seek freedom and even, in contrast, as that to which they must now expose themselves.”

What, then, is the progressive alternative? “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” doesn’t work here: just because Silicon Valley is attacking the welfare state doesn’t mean that progressives should defend it to the very last bullet (or tweet). First, even leftist governments have limited space for fiscal manoeuvres, as the kind of discretionary spending required to modernise the welfare state would never be approved by the global financial markets. And it’s the ratings agencies and bond markets – not the voters – who are in charge today.

Second, the leftist critique of the welfare state has become only more relevant today when the exact borderlines between welfare and security are so blurry. When Google’s Android powers so much of our everyday life, the government’s temptation to govern us through remotely controlled cars and alarm-operated soap dispensers will be all too great. This will expand government’s hold over areas of life previously free from regulation.

With so much data, the government’s favourite argument in fighting terror – if only the citizens knew as much as we do, they too would impose all these legal exceptions – easily extends to other domains, from health to climate change. Consider a recent academic paper that used Google search data to study obesity patterns in the US, finding significant correlation between search keywords and body mass index levels. “Results suggest great promise of the idea of obesity monitoring through real-time Google Trends data”, note the authors, which would be “particularly attractive for government health institutions and private businesses such as insurance companies.”

If Google senses a flu epidemic somewhere, it’s hard to challenge its hunch – we simply lack the infrastructure to process so much data at this scale. Google can be proven wrong after the fact – as has recently been the case with its flu trends data, which was shown to overestimate the number of infections, possibly because of its failure to account for the intense media coverage of flu – but so is the case with most terrorist alerts. It’s the immediate, real-time nature of computer systems that makes them perfect allies of an infinitely expanding and pre-emption‑obsessed state.

Perhaps, the case of Gloria Placente and her failed trip to the beach was not just a historical oddity but an early omen of how real-time computing, combined with ubiquitous communication technologies, would transform the state. One of the few people to have heeded that omen was a little-known American advertising executive called Robert MacBride, who pushed the logic behind Operation Corral to its ultimate conclusions in his unjustly neglected 1967 book, The Automated State.

At the time, America was debating the merits of establishing a national data centre to aggregate various national statistics and make it available to government agencies. MacBride attacked his contemporaries’ inability to see how the state would exploit the metadata accrued as everything was being computerised. Instead of “a large scale, up-to-date Austro-Hungarian empire”, modern computer systems would produce “a bureaucracy of almost celestial capacity” that can “discern and define relationships in a manner which no human bureaucracy could ever hope to do”.

“Whether one bowls on a Sunday or visits a library instead is [of] no consequence since no one checks those things,” he wrote. Not so when computer systems can aggregate data from different domains and spot correlations. “Our individual behaviour in buying and selling an automobile, a house, or a security, in paying our debts and acquiring new ones, and in earning money and being paid, will be noted meticulously and studied exhaustively,” warned MacBride. Thus, a citizen will soon discover that “his choice of magazine subscriptions… can be found to indicate accurately the probability of his maintaining his property or his interest in the education of his children.” This sounds eerily similar to the recent case of a hapless father who found that his daughter was pregnant from a coupon that Target, a retailer, sent to their house. Target’s hunch was based on its analysis of products – for example, unscented lotion – usually bought by other pregnant women.

For MacBride the conclusion was obvious. “Political rights won’t be violated but will resemble those of a small stockholder in a giant enterprise,” he wrote. “The mark of sophistication and savoir-faire in this future will be the grace and flexibility with which one accepts one’s role and makes the most of what it offers.” In other words, since we are all entrepreneurs first – and citizens second, we might as well make the most of it.

What, then, is to be done? Technophobia is no solution. Progressives need technologies that would stick with the spirit, if not the institutional form, of the welfare state, preserving its commitment to creating ideal conditions for human flourishing. Even some ultrastability is welcome. Stability was a laudable goal of the welfare state before it had encountered a trap: in specifying the exact protections that the state was to offer against the excesses of capitalism, it could not easily deflect new, previously unspecified forms of exploitation.

How do we build welfarism that is both decentralised and ultrastable? A form of guaranteed basic income – whereby some welfare services are replaced by direct cash transfers to citizens – fits the two criteria.

Creating the right conditions for the emergence of political communities around causes and issues they deem relevant would be another good step. Full compliance with the principle of ultrastability dictates that such issues cannot be anticipated or dictated from above – by political parties or trade unions – and must be left unspecified.

What can be specified is the kind of communications infrastructure needed to abet this cause: it should be free to use, hard to track, and open to new, subversive uses. Silicon Valley’s existing infrastructure is great for fulfilling the needs of the state, not of self-organising citizens. It can, of course, be redeployed for activist causes – and it often is – but there’s no reason to accept the status quo as either ideal or inevitable.

Why, after all, appropriate what should belong to the people in the first place? While many of the creators of the internet bemoan how low their creature has fallen, their anger is misdirected. The fault is not with that amorphous entity but, first of all, with the absence of robust technology policy on the left – a policy that can counter the pro-innovation, pro-disruption, pro-privatisation agenda of Silicon Valley. In its absence, all these emerging political communities will operate with their wings clipped. Whether the next Occupy Wall Street would be able to occupy anything in a truly smart city remains to be seen: most likely, they would be out-censored and out-droned.

To his credit, MacBride understood all of this in 1967. “Given the resources of modern technology and planning techniques,” he warned, “it is really no great trick to transform even a country like ours into a smoothly running corporation where every detail of life is a mechanical function to be taken care of.” MacBride’s fear is O’Reilly’s master plan: the government, he writes, ought to be modelled on the “lean startup” approach of Silicon Valley, which is “using data to constantly revise and tune its approach to the market”. It’s this very approach that Facebook has recently deployed to maximise user engagement on the site: if showing users more happy stories does the trick, so be it.

Algorithmic regulation, whatever its immediate benefits, will give us a political regime where technology corporations and government bureaucrats call all the shots. The Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem, in a pointed critique of cybernetics published, as it happens, roughly at the same time as The Automated State, put it best: “Society cannot give up the burden of having to decide about its own fate by sacrificing this freedom for the sake of the cybernetic regulator.”

The genesis of climate change activism: from key beliefs to political action (Climatic Change)

Climatic ChangeJuly 2014Volume 125Issue 2pp 163-178,

The genesis of climate change activism: from key beliefs to political action

Connie Roser-RenoufEdward W. MaibachAnthony LeiserowitzXiaoquan Zhao

 Download PDF (660 KB) – Open Access


Climate change activism has been uncommon in the U.S., but a growing national movement is pressing for a political response. To assess the cognitive and affective precursors of climate activism, we hypothesize and test a two-stage information-processing model based on social cognitive theory. In stage 1, expectations about climate change outcomes and perceived collective efficacy to mitigate the threat are hypothesized to influence affective issue involvement and support for societal mitigation action. In stage 2, beliefs about the effectiveness of political activism, perceived barriers to activist behaviors and opinion leadership are hypothesized to influence intended and actual activism. To test these hypotheses, we fit a structural equation model using nationally representative data. The model explains 52 percent of the variance in a latent variable representing three forms of climate change activism: contacting elected representatives; supporting organizations working on the issue; and attending climate change rallies or meetings. The results suggest that efforts to increase citizen activism should promote specific beliefs about climate change, build perceptions that political activism can be effective, and encourage interpersonal communication on the issue.

Mexico Vigilante Leader Demands Community Rule (ABC/AP)

MEXICO CITY — Jul 1, 2014, 5:18 PM ET

The leader of one of the first vigilante movements to spring up in Mexico last year filed a petition Tuesday demanding that the government allow communities in the southern state of Guerrero to elect local officials with open assemblies and show-of-hand votes.

Vigilante leader Bruno Placido said the petition filed with the Federal Electoral Tribunal asks specifically that the collective-vote system be allowed in the town of San Luis Acatlan. But Placido said his People’s Union movement would push for the system to be adopted in all 27 townships where vigilante forces known as “community police” now operate.

The system known as “usage and customs” forbids traditional campaigning and political parties. It currently is practiced in about 420 indigenous towns and villages, almost all in southern Oaxaca state.

Its adoption in non-Indian or mixed towns in Guerrero would mark a significant expansion. To date, its only use outside Oaxaca has been by rebellious Indian towns in Chiapas state and a lone Indian township in the western state of Michoacan, where a vigilante movement also exists.

Placido said the open-vote system would help keep drug gangs and violent crime out of the communities because current election procedures can put politicians in the pocket of drug gangs that finance their campaigns.

“The crime gangs are fomented by the politicians. When they campaign, they are financed with illicit funds, and when they get in, they are controlled by criminal funds,” Placido said. “What we are proposing to do is to get rid of this practice, in which the criminals name the authorities.”

His vigilante movement rose up with old shotguns and rifles in Guerrero in January 2013 and now has several thousand “citizen police” vigilantes serving in several towns.

Guerrero has been the scene of stubborn drug violence, including a Monday confrontation between soldiers and alleged drug gang members that killed 22 suspects at a warehouse and left a soldier injured.

The “usage and customs” system has been criticized for trampling on the rights of women, who are sometimes not allowed to run for office. But Placido said the assembly system would allow members of each of the three main ethnic groups in Guerrero — blacks, Indians and mixed-race — to elect representatives to a sort of town council.

There is no deadline for the federal tribunal to rule on the petition. The town of San Luis Acatlan is scheduled to hold a referendum soon on whether to formally adopt the system.

Mexican courts have generally upheld the right of Indian communities to make their own decisions on local governance issues.

Sociedade pode opinar em contribuição brasileira para acordo do clima (MCTI)

JC e-mail 4967, de 05 de junho de 2014

A consulta pública disponível no site do Ministério das Relações Exteriores (MRE)

Uma consulta sobre mudanças climáticas está disponível no site do Ministério das Relações Exteriores (MRE). O objetivo da consulta à sociedade civil é subsidiar o processo de preparação da contribuição que o Brasil levará à mesa de negociações do novo acordo sob a Convenção-Quadro das Nações Unidas sobre Mudança do Clima (UNFCCC, na sigla em inglês), de forma a ampliar a transparência do processo e dar oportunidade a que todos os setores interessados da sociedade participem e opinem.

A consulta será realizada em duas fases. Esta primeira, aberta até 18 de julho, busca definir devem ser os elementos principais da chamada “contribuição nacionalmente determinada” brasileira. São perguntas abertas com base em um questionário orientador, e comentários adicionais podem ser enviados por e-mail.

Com base nos aportes recebidos, será elaborado um relatório preliminar com indicação de possíveis opções e modalidades para a contribuição nacional – compromisso a ser assumido pelo Brasil no contexto da negociação internacional. Na segunda fase, esse documento será submetido a uma nova rodada de consultas.

Estão em andamento negociações de um novo acordo sob a convenção, a serem finalizadas em 2015, para entrada em vigor a partir de 2020. Nesse contexto, a 19ª Conferência das Partes na UNFCCC (COP-19, realizada em Varsóvia, Polônia) instou os países signatários a iniciar ou intensificar as preparações domésticas de suas pretendidas contribuições ao novo acordo e a comunicá-las antes da COP-21.

(Ascom do MCTI, com informações do MRE)

Tipping the scale: how a political economist could save the world’s forests (Mongabay)

By: Wendee Nicole Special Reporting Initiative Fellow

May 29, 2014

Can Elinor Ostrom’s revolutionary ideas halt climate change, improve people’s livelihoods, and save the world’s forests?

“[T]here’s a five-letter word I’d like to repeat and repeat and repeat: Trust.”

Thus spoke Elinor Ostrom in her 2009 Stockholm lecture, when at age 77 she became the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics. A professor of political science at Indiana University-Bloomington until her death in 2012, she’d spent a lifetime traveling the world and observing everyday citizens cooperating against all odds.

Ostrom's famous smile.  Photo courtesy of the International Land Coalition under a Creative Commons license from’s famous smile. Photo courtesy of the International Land Coalition under a Creative Commons license from

Ostrom frequently encountered groups of people managing commonly shared resources, creating systems based on trust, such as peasant farmers in Nepal cooperatively managing simple irrigation systems, and people working to solve human-wildlife conflict with forest elephants in Kenya. Why, she wondered, were these people sacrificing their own time and energy to collectively solve social and environmental problems, creating local institutions that lasted many generations? Such collective behavior flew in the face of the longstanding theory of the day, which said that people will selfishly take whatever they can, ultimately causing a “tragedy of the commons” – depleting fish stocks, destroying forests and pastures, usurping groundwater, and otherwise destroying the planet and ultimately, their own livelihoods. People, so the theory went, were too stupid or selfish to solve their own problems and needed regulation by market forces or a top-down government, or the planet was toast.

Yet through trial and error and much research, Ostrom had found the secret. “When people have trust that others are going to reciprocate and be trustworthy, including their officials, they will be highly cooperative,” Ostrom said in an interview with journalists after the Nobel Committee announced her prize. “When there’s no trust, no matter how much force is threatened, people won’t cooperate unless immediately facing a gun.” When people don’t trust others, they “cheat” – breaking rules and seeking their own self-interest.

In her 1990 book Governing the Commons – which the Nobel Committee called her most important contribution – Ostrom proposed eight “design principles” (see Sidebar) that she found were consistently present in sustainable, cooperatively managed commons (any resource shared by multiple people). Drawn from several decades of research, Ostrom’s insights stemmed from personally witnessing examples in the real world, but she named the specific principles by statistically analyzing thousands of published studies in many fields.

Ostrom found environmentally and socially sustainable ‘common pool resources’ had several of these principles in place.

Ostrom found environmentally and socially sustainable ‘common pool resources’ had several of these principles in place.

Ostrom devoted the last decades of her life to figuring out how to have sustainable communities and healthy ecosystems (particularly forests) – rather than humans and nature being at odds. She believed in the power and intelligenfce of ordinary people to collectively solve their own problems so long as higher-level governments did not interfere. Her alma mater, UCLA, called her “an ardent champion of the idea that people will learn to share and thrive if given the opportunity.”

“If given the opportunity” is key. Ostrom’s research did not find that people always cooperate. “There are settings in which they will grab like mad,” she explained in a video interview with “Humans are neither all angels or all devils. It is the context in which they find themselves that enables them to have more willingness to use reciprocity, to trust one another.”

“The resources in good condition around the world have users with long-term interest who invest in monitoring and building [trust]. I really want that to be a big lesson,” she said in the final moments of her Nobel lecture. “Unfortunately, many policy analysts and public officials haven’t absorbed the lesson yet, and that’s a problem.”

Ostrom’s work lives on at Indiana University’s Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, and in the many scholars and colleagues who continue to study, refine, and apply her theories in the real world. However, her untimely death from pancreatic cancer three years after receiving the highest honor in her field deprived her work of a folksy, outspoken, kind-hearted champion of the common man and woman.

“She had incredible energy and determination, and an easy way of communicating with ordinary people,” says her colleague Mike McGinnis, IU political science professor and Workshop member.

“VincentVincent and Elinor Ostrom Founded The Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis in the 1970s, where Lin co-directed it until her death in 2012. It is housed in an old house on the Indiana University-Bloomington campus, and Workshop members (professors, graduate students, postdocs, and visiting scholars) have offices in this as well as two neighboring buildings. Photo (c) copyright 2014 Wendee Nicole.

The Nobel brought Ostrom’s already robust theories greater acclaim, and the theories remain super-hot in academic circles, yet her lessons have yet to be fully absorbed into global policy. While many countries have now embraced some forms of decentralization – giving more power to regional and local authorities – these policies do not always mean local people are given more influene. And among the general public there remains a general lack of awareness of Ostrom’s revolutionary ideas; say “polycentricity” or “commons” to a friend, and watch their eyes glaze over.

Yet Ostrom’s theories cut across political party lines and offer deep, meaningful insights about how to manage forests, fisheries, and communities – all of which are in flux as global climate change may reach crisis proportions in the coming decades. In her latter years, Ostrom grew deeply concerned that the United Nations REDD+ [reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation] mechanism would lead to more, not less, deforestation if indigenous and local people are not given rights and land tenure, and she openly discussed the applicability of her research to global climate negotiations. Even though REDD+ policies are designed to benefit locals, without land tenure, those policies could lead to evictions of forest users when people with more power and wealth engage in a “carbon grab,” as a recently publishedreport called it.

“If local users and Indigenous peoples in the developing world are not recognized and assigned clear rights, REDD could lead to more deforestation,” Ostrom said at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP15) in Copenhagen. Neglecting her work could be suicidal in times such as these.

Real Life vs. Theory

“AA portrait of Ostrom at the conference with the laureates of the memorial prize in economic sciences in 2009. Photo courtesy of Holger Motzkau 2010, under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Understanding how cooperation and trust help people create sustainable social-ecological systems began to gel for Ostrom in the 1980s, during her travels around the world. “I came back from a particularly vivid occasion in Nepal … where someone had dug into an irrigation channel and several [people] went running down the hill yelling and screaming [at the perpetrator] and others started patching it immediately,” she says in the interview. “I mean, the energy they put in! There was no rational calculation about this. They just did it. The game theory prediction was they wouldn’t.”

She knew the theory must be wrong, because the real world was staring her in the face.

Game theory came into the public consciousness with the 2001 biopic A Beautiful Mind, about the life of Economics Nobel Laureate John Forbes Nash. The movie simplified his theory this way: most guys go for the best-looking girl (“the blonde”), resulting in a lot of losers since only one gets the girl. In a similar vein, biologist Garrett Hardin theorized in his famous 1968 Science article, “Tragedy of the Commons,” that people adding cows to a commonly used pasture would act selfishly, ignoring the collective good.

“Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit—in a world that is limited,” Hardin wrote, adding dramatically, “Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.”

With daily news reporting razed tropical forests, biological extinctions, eroded and desertified land and an atmosphere rapidly accumulating CO2, it seems that these theories match reality. Why then, did Ostrom keep finding real-world situations that defied the predictions?

“ABatwa men and women in Uganda’s Makongoro village process reeds from the forest to weave baskets which they sell to make money for their families and communities. Now conservation refugees evicted from their traditional forest home, now they must receive permits from the Ugandan government to harvest forest products, but most are not educated and need assistance to fill out forms and paperwork. In contrast with Ostrom’s design principles, the government did not actively consult the Batwa when evicting them from the forest but chased them out with guns, giving no land or resources to establish new lives. Photo (c) copyright 2014 Wendee Nicole.

Taking Hardin, Nash and similar theorists to heart, policymakers opted for two opposite solutions to protecting the commons: privatize natural resources (leading to “payment for ecosystem services” type projects), or have governments lock natural areas up in preserves. The latter usually meant stripping rights from locals who had long used these commons for subsistence fishing or hunting, or in the case of forests, gathering firewood, medicinal plants, and other forest products. Many governments (supported by large conservation organizations) evicted indigenous peoples from their homeland in the belief they damaged ecosystems. Ostrom’s research found that such policies are sometimes counterproductive. Many of the evicted people receive little or no government assistance and end up as “conservation refugees,” adrift with nowhere to go and no means to support themselves.

In Uganda, indigenous Batwa forest pygmies lived within the Echuya Forest Reserve, acting as forest monitors for non-indigenous locals who could only access the forest once per week. Compared to four other community-managed forests where Batwa did not live, the Echuya forest experienced the least illegal firewood harvest and other non-sanctioned activities. Yet in 1992, Uganda evicted Batwa from all government forests in order to create national parks for tourism. Regaining rights to harvest forest products has been a slow, uneven process and these indigenous people now suffer some of the worst poverty in all of Uganda. As Ostrom’s theories would predict, evidence suggests that poaching and illegal access of the forest have increased since the Batwa were evicted.

Three young Batwa children run and play in their land adjacent to Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The Batwa were evicted by the government in 1991 and now live as conservation refugees outside the park, often in extreme poverty. Research by Workshop scholar Abwoli Banana (who runs the Uganda IFRI Center) showed that forests in which Batwa lived before their eviction had less, not more, forest degradation, than other community-managed forests, which matches Ostrom’s theories. Photo (c) copyright 2014 Wendee Nicole.

“There are environments, especially in some of the developing world, where [locals’] own institutions that had evolved over long periods of time were taken away from them. They’ve lived under top-down regimes and some of the trust and capability of working together have been destroyed,” Ostrom said in a documentary created about the 2009 Economics Nobel Laureates, herself and Oliver Williamson. “It’s very hard to re-establish [trust] once you’ve taken it away.” Ostroms found that taking rights away from locals and indigenous can lead to more, not less, forest degradation.

Lin the Connector

Described by The Economist as “a little like Agatha Christie’s detective, Jane Marple, apparently a bit sweet and scatty, in reality sharp as a paper cut,” Ostrom was remarkably far-sighted in her long, illustrious career.

“I’ve never met anyone like her in my life. She was a ball of energy,” says Burnell Fischer, her IU colleague and current co-director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, which Ostrom directed until she died in June 2012. (Her husband, Vincent Ostrom, died within weeks of Lin’s passing).

“She was connected to all kinds of people around the world, says Fischer.”

Ostrom not only knew people in varied fields the world over, she connected them – and their ideas. She was what Malcolm Gladwell would call a Connector, one of the rare few whose “ability to span many different worlds is a function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, and energy” – the type of person who can spark a fire, tip the scales, and change the world. “By having a foot in so many different worlds,” writes Gladwell in The Tipping Point, “[connectors] have the effect of bringing them all together.”

“Stories of Ostrom’s collaborative genius are legion: suggesting just the right article or idea to jump-start a dissertation; making a contact that launches a recently minted Ph.D.’s career,” wrote Jeremy Shere in IU’s SPEA (School of Public and Environmental Affairs) magazine.

Born Elinor Awan, her life – and her interest in cooperation – began under less than ideal circumstances. Raised mainly by a single mom in Los Angeles during the Depression, she first saw people cooperating during the war, planting victory gardens and voluntarily limiting the use of their resources. Whatever passions drove her, Ostrom overcame obstacles throughout her life with a surprising degree of self-confidence. Peers taunted her over her father’s Jewish heritage, even though she attended her mother’s Protestant church, and setbacks she experienced as a woman in academia gave her much empathy for those who experience discrimination. Setbacks only seemed to push her forward.

Photo taken January 1992 of Vincent Ostrom, Tej Kumari Mahat (chair person of the FMIS in Sera-baguwa bandh irrigation system, Tharpu, Tanahu) and Elinor Ostrom in Tharpu village, Tanahu. Photo under the Digital Library of the Commons.

In an article about her life, Ostrom explains that because she stuttered in high school, a teacher told her to join Speech Club. When she recited poetry in the club, others called poetry a “sissy” thing, so she enrolled in debate instead. She loved debate so much that upon enrolling at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), she asked her undergraduate advisor if she could major in debating. He recommended education, ‘the best major for a girl.’ Her parents, neither of whom had attained a university degree, considered college a wasted investment, so she worked to pay her way. Her freshman year, she took a political science class and made it her major, despite the advisor’s advice. After graduating, she became the first woman with a job higher than secretary at a firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she helped her first husband through Harvard Law School. The first question asked in her interview was, “Do you know shorthand?”

After her divorce in the early 1960s, she returned to L.A. and was easily accepted in a political science Masters program at UCLA, but applying for a doctorate proved challenging. She wanted a Ph.D. in Economics, but did not have enough mathematics because her undergraduate advisors had dissuaded her from those classes. But soon she became one of four women – the first in 40 years — accepted into the political science Ph.D. program after the department faculty argued vehemently over whether to admit any women.

Lin – as everyone called her – met her second husband Vincent Ostrom in a seminar in which each student picked a groundwater basin in southern California to study. They soon fell in love, and married in 1963. She continued studying irrigation systems for her graduate research, and when Hardin published his famous “Tragedy of the Commons” article, she was immediately skeptical – and stayed so, eventually showing that his theory was wrong in many situations.

Lin followed Vincent to Indiana University, where he got a job as a tenure-track professor and she was hired only as a lecturer. As the Vietnam War escalated, the political science department asked her to serve as graduate advisor to some 90 students, at which point she negotiated to have IU hire her as a full-time faculty member.

During the 1970s, she and Vincent, who made furniture as a hobby, created the “Workshop in Political Theory”, modeled after an artisan-style woodworkers’ workshop, where people from varied disciplines could collaborate, brainstorm, and hammer out ideas. The workshop and the offices the Ostroms filled with their larger-than-life personalities are located in a large old house on the IU-Bloomington campus.

Design for the Commons

People in many academic fields and nations had studied the use of “common pool resources” or commons (any resource that is used in common with others), but since disciplinary and regional “silos” rarely communicate, nobody had synthesized the information to develop a unified understanding. “Historians, anthropologists, economists, political scientists – a vast array of people had written sometimes long histories or descriptions,” Ostrom said in her Nobel talk, “but they wrote about a particular sector or a particular region of the world.”

In the mid-1980s, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences gathered researchers from varied fields together, including Ostrom, to compile data on the management of common pool resources around the world. The NAS work resulted in the Common Pool Resource Database, still online, and Ostrom’s book, Governing the Commons. As she tested what made people cooperate and self-organize and worked on her book while on a sabbatical in Germany, she became exasperated.

“I tried like mad to see statistically, aha, the market always works, or hierarchy always works, or entry limitation [barriers to the number of people allowed in a system] always works,” she said in the Nobel documentary. “I really struggled.”

Photo taken March 1993 of elephant embankment platform in Ghadgain, (L to R) Indra Sharan K.C., Douglas Vermillion, Elinor Ostrom and Rabi Poudel during the final day of Workshop outing to the RCNP. Photo under the <a href=>Digital Library of the Commons</a>.
Photo taken March 1993 of elephant embankment platform in Ghadgain, (L to R) Indra Sharan K.C., Douglas Vermillion, Elinor Ostrom and Rabi Poudel during the final day of Workshop outing to the RCNP. Photo under the Digital Library of the Commons.

“I tried to move up a level – [to ask] what were the generalities across the systems,” she explained in the interview. “Maybe we could call it best practices.” These became her eight design principles present in successful “institutions” and missing from unsuccessful ones.

The design principles include allowing the people most invested in the resource to both make and modify the rules of use; having clear, agreed-upon rules that outside authorities respect and that do not conflict with other levels of governance; allowing the users of a resource to monitor its use; having a system of graduated sanctions; and cheap, accessible means of conflict resolution. In the words of Tore Ellingsen of the Economics Nobel Committee, “successful groups are relatively democratic.”

“When rules are created and enforced by outside authorities, groups often fail to utilize resources efficiently,” added Ellingsen. “In part, such outside interventions fail because the interventions pay inadequate attention to local conditions.”

As Ostrom teased out her design principles from thousands of studies, including her own, she wanted to test what she saw in a simplified lab setting. “I was very fortunate that [IU Economics professor] Jimmy Walker came to Bloomington just as I was getting hungry for [asking], how would we ever put these things in a carefully developed laboratory experiment?,” she said in a 2009 interview with the Annual Review of Political Science. “It’s enabled us to take things that I observed in the field, then … go to the lab and test [it]. Was this just an unusual set of things that I saw in the field, or would you find it repeated under situations that were very carefully designed?”

Not Just Cheap Talk

As it turns out, Ostrom’s real-world observations matched what she and her colleagues found in their social science lab experiments beginning in the 1980s: communication completely changed the classic game theory predictions that the optimal behavior was to act selfishly or “cheat” rather than cooperate. In each experiment, eight people sat at computers and had the ability to “invest” either in a commonly shared resource, or in a private fund. The commons paid better – up to a point – just like a pasture that is vulnerable to overcrowding, or a forest that can be used sustainably or overharvested.

“When subjects … couldn’t communicate, the theory was right. They overharvested even worse than predicted,” Ostrom describes in her Nobel lecture. “However, when they could communicate face to face, theory was wrong.” Trust could be achieved through simple communication. It was a radical breakthrough: the commons need not be a tragedy.

Unlike a prisoners’ dilemma (as John Nash’s theory was often modeled), where people are, well, in prison, they often hold the power to change their circumstances in the real world. Ostrom boldly challenged the longstanding theories depicting people as always trapped or “rationally” self-interested – and with sarcasm to boot. “[T]hose attempting to use these models as a basis for policy prescription frequently have achieved little more than a metaphorical use of the models,” she writes in Governing the Commons. She calls such models “dangerous” when used as a foundation for policy because they assume “all users of natural resources are similarly incapable of changing their constraints.”

With characteristic optimism Ostrom concludes, “I would rather address the question of how to enhance the capabilities of those involved to change the constraining rules of the game to lead to outcomes other than remorseless tragedies.”

And who better to change the rules of the game than the people most invested in a resource? “Here we had this notion that rational individuals were ‘trapped’,” said Ostrom in her Nobel lecture. “Us theorists were supposed to come up with the optimal solution, give it to a public official and they’d impose it. And there were only two solutions: government or private ownership.”

Why did experts and authorities have solutions but ordinary citizens didn’t? It defied what she’d seen around the world. Even Hardin himself later admitted his theory of tragedy only applied to “Unmanaged Commons.”

Design for a Sustainable World

Methodist Primary School building. Elinor Ostrom standing in a school room with one teacher and one student posing in front of the blackboard. Photo under the Digital Library of the Commons.

As Ostrom became more involved in ecology and forestry research in the 1990s, the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) came to her, wanting systematic information on global forests and the people depending on them. She founded the International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) research network, still the only interdisciplinary, long-term research program focusing on both forests and social-ecological conditions. Researchers in the 15 centers around the world – including Tanzania, Uganda, Bolivia, Nepal, and India – use a common set of research protocols to facilitate global research.

In the last decade of her life, Ostrom became increasingly vocal about how her findings applied to climate negotiations, particularly REDD+ policies, which many indigenous groups oppose. REDD is a “market” mechanism, which compensates landowners either to maintain existing forest or plant new trees, but indigenous and locals relying on forests fear it may concentrate wealth in the hands of a few and cause conflict among neighbors. Also, many indigenous and local forest dwellers do not have formal tenure rights to the land they live on and use, which REDD requires; international markets are unable to compensate people who do not have secure land ownership, which offers no guarantee forests will remain intact.

Having seen how powerful governments and, environmental groups have at times trampled the rights of locals and indigenous groups, Ostrom was concerned. “I hope in our negotiations that … we are very, very careful to be sure that the rights of indigenous people and local owners that have not been recognized in the past are recognized, protected, and that they’re given a chance to get technical advice,” she said at COP15.

At the time, REDD policies were still being negotiated, and since the Warsaw framework for REDD+ was passed in November 2013, such projects have started around the world. But Ostrom’s research suggests that if REDD+ policies are merely designed by top-level authorities, without involvement of the local people who use the forests, the policies will fail to create the trust necessary for sustainable community-managed forests, and could instead lead to forest degradation and loss.

Ostrom had strong views on REDD, but according to her colleagues she was not anti-market, despite what some detractors have claimed. Neither is she anti-state, although her work has been both praised and criticized by people of varying political bents.

“Lin’s work has been misunderstood and misrepresented by advocates on both the left and the right,” explains McGinnis. “I vividly recall one day shortly after she received the Nobel when she came down from her office really frustrated because she had just completed two phone interviews. In one the reporter asked her why she was so vehemently anti-market, and in the very next interview she was asked why she was so vehemently anti-state. Her findings never fit neatly within the dominant left-right political discourse in the U.S., and she was very comfortable with that lack of fit.”

The Test of Time

Framed pencil drawing of Elinor Ostrom that hang at the University of Mande Bukari. Photo under the Digital Library of the Commons.

Since they were first published in 1990, Ostrom’s design principles have stood the test of time. “Pretty much all [the design principles] have some degree of support,” says IU Anthropology professor Catherine Tucker, and also a Workshop member. “Some are harder to examine because they’re harder to find in the modern world, such as the lack of state intervention. The freedom to design institutions without interference from the state – that’s one that’s problematic [to test].”

Too often, though, top-down governments interfere with the solutions locals have crafted, as happens when governments evict indigenous people from their homelands, or government corruption wreaks havoc on local projects. Local projects can succeed even if higher governments are not supporting them, so long as they do not interfere.

One design principle with very strong empirical support is having locals monitor the use of a resource. “In sustainable forests around the world, the users are the active monitors of the level of harvest occurring in the forests,” Ostrom explained in her Nobel lecture. But the effectiveness of the monitoring depends on who does it. “Users monitoring forests is more [effective] than when government does it.” Also, as Ostrom saw in Nepal, resource users sanction others, but in a graduated way for repeat offenses. Draconian punishment for first-time infractions ends up causing mistrust and resentment, leading to less willingness to cooperate, she found.

Having outlined her big-picture design principles, Ostrom also identified the factors influencing whether people will cooperate and trust. “Field and lab experiments found that communication among participants, the reputation of participants being known, high marginal return, a longer time horizon so if [people] cooperate [they] really have a chance of gaining the benefits over time, [and] an agreed upon sanctioning mechanism,” as well as entry and exit capability (the ability of resource users to begin or end their participation), “are the factors that we repeatedly find have a strong impact on levels of cooperation.”

Eye to the Future

“A lot of people are now waiting for international negotiations to solve [the climate crisis],” she said, responding to a journalist’s question about the implications of her work in a recorded interview after the Nobel announcement. “That’s again this presumption that there are public officials who are genius and the rest of us are not. It is going to be important that there is an international agreement, but we can be taking steps at family level, community level, regional level, provincial, state, national, and there are many steps that have already been taken that are not going to solve it themselves but cumulatively can make a big difference.”

Indiana University-Blooomington Professors Mike McGinnis and Burnell Fischer near the Ostrom Room inside the The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis on campus.
Indiana University-Blooomington Professors Mike McGinnis and Burnell Fischer near the Ostrom Room inside the The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis on campus. Photo (c) copyright 2014 Wendee Nicole.

For example, even without federal emissions-reductions targets, at least 30 U.S. states have developed climate action plans and more than 1,000 cities have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Individuals, communities, and groups can also take action.

Ostrom’s stance hails from her discovery that “polycentric” governance is the most effective way to govern – a concept first developed by Vincent in the 1960s. Polycentricity refers to having multiple levels of governance in place; for example, local people solve dilemmas while interacting in a cooperative manner with laws and regulations at regional, national and sometimes international levels. In an article written in the days leading up to the 2012 UN Rio 20+ Summit and published on the date of her death, Ostrom wrote, “Inaction in Rio would be disastrous, but a single international agreement would be a grave mistake… Decades of research demonstrate that a variety of overlapping policies at city, subnational, national, and international levels is more likely to succeed than are single, overarching binding agreements.”

Academics continue Ostrom’s research, but whether her findings get incorporated into policy in time to solve some of the world’s pressing issues remains to be seen. The morning Ostrom died, IU President Michael A. McRobbie called her “an irreplaceable and magnificent treasure,” and George Mason University professor of Economics and Philosophy Pete Boettke posted a fitting tribute to her legacy for the scholars who have studied under her, alongside her, and who continue the research she began. “Lin leaves behind a tremendous intellectual legacy,” Boettke wrote. “We have much work to do, and we will honor her by getting on with that task…Think about how much can be accomplished when the very best of us exhibit such traits and set the example for all the rest of us to strive to emulate.”

Elinor and Vincent Ostrom at Yuan Ming Yuan Gardens. Photo under the <a href=>Digital Library of the Commons</a>.
Elinor and Vincent Ostrom at Yuan Ming Yuan Gardens. Photo under the Digital Library of the Commons.

Lectures Aren’t Just Boring, They’re Ineffective, Too, Study Finds (Science)

12 May 2014 3:00 pm

Blah? Traditional lecture classes have higher undergraduate failure rates than those using active learning techniques, new research finds.

Wikimedia. Blah? Traditional lecture classes have higher undergraduate failure rates than those using active learning techniques, new research finds.

Are your lectures droning on? Change it up every 10 minutes with more active teaching techniques and more students will succeed, researchers say. A new study finds that undergraduate students in classes with traditional stand-and-deliver lectures are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in classes that use more stimulating, so-called active learning methods.

“Universities were founded in Western Europe in 1050 and lecturing has been the predominant form of teaching ever since,” says biologist Scott Freeman of the University of Washington, Seattle. But many scholars have challenged the “sage on a stage” approach to teaching science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses, arguing that engaging students with questions or group activities is more effective.

To weigh the evidence, Freeman and a group of colleagues analyzed 225 studies of undergraduate STEM teaching methods. The meta-analysis, published online today in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that teaching approaches that turned students into active participants rather than passive listeners reduced failure rates and boosted scores on exams by almost one-half a standard deviation. “The change in the failure rates is whopping,” Freeman says. And the exam improvement—about 6%—could, for example, “bump [a student’s] grades from a B– to a B.”

“This is a really important article—the impression I get is that it’s almost unethical to be lecturing if you have this data,” says Eric Mazur, a physicist at Harvard University who has campaigned against stale lecturing techniques for 27 years and was not involved in the work. “It’s good to see such a cohesive picture emerge from their meta-analysis—an abundance of proof that lecturing is outmoded, outdated, and inefficient.”

Although there is no single definition of active learning approaches, they include asking students to answer questions by using handheld clickers, calling on individuals or groups randomly, or having students clarify concepts to each other and reach a consensus on an issue.

Freeman says he’s started using such techniques even in large classes. “My introductory biology course has gotten up to 700 students,” he says. “For the ultimate class session—I don’t say lecture—I’m showing PowerPoint slides, but everything is a question and I use clickers and random calling. Somebody droning on for 15 minutes at a time and then doing cookbook labs isn’t interesting.” Freeman estimates that scaling up such active learning approaches could enable success for tens of thousands of students who might otherwise drop or fail STEM courses.

Despite its advantages, active learning isn’t likely to completely kill the lecture, says Noah Finkelstein, a physics professor who directs the Center for STEM Learning at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and was not involved in the study. The new study “is consistent with what the benefits of active learning are showing us,” he says. “But I don’t think there should be a monolithic stance about lecture or no lecture. There are still times when lectures will be needed, but the traditional mode of stand-and-deliver is being demonstrated as less effective at promoting student learning and preparing future teachers.”

The current study didn’t directly address the effectiveness of one new twist in the traditional lecturing format: massive open online courses that can beam talks to thousands or even millions of students. But Freeman says the U.S. Department of Education has conducted its own meta-analysis of distance learning, and it found there was no difference in being lectured at in a classroom versus through a computer screen at home. So, Freeman says: “If you’re going to get lectured at, you might as well be at home in bunny slippers.”

A mobilidade dos movimentos sociais (Fapesp)

Análise das redes de organizações da sociedade civil contraria tese da “onguização”

MÁRCIO FERRARI | Edição 216 – Fevereiro de 2014


Movimentos sociais tiveram papéis ativos nos processos de democratização ocorridos na América Latina nas últimas décadas do século XX. Daquele período até os dias de hoje, muitos passaram por uma evolução amplamente registrada na literatura das ciências sociais, especialmente naquela dedicada ao estudo da sociedade civil na região. Um aspecto quase consensual entre os pesquisadores do setor é que a partir dos anos 1990 houve uma renovação da sociedade civil e que ela se deu de forma substitutiva – isto é, com certos tipos de atores tomando o lugar de outros. Isso teria culminado, a partir dos anos 1990, numa preponderância das organizações não governamentais (ONGs), deslocamento que ficou conhecido como “onguização” dos movimentos sociais, entre os que estudam esses fenômenos.

Em suma, os movimentos populares, formados pelos próprios interessados nas demandas de mudança, teriam cedido espaço para organizações que também defendem mudanças, mas em nome de grupos que não são seus membros constituintes (atividade chamada de advocacy nas ciências sociais). Essas ações teriam acarretado uma despolitização da sociedade civil.

O cientista político Adrian Gurza Lavalle, da Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas da Universidade de São Paulo (FFLCH-USP), pesquisador do Centro de Estudos da Metrópole (CEM), no entanto, vem conduzindo estudos que contradizem a tese da “onguização”. Um mapeamento das organizações em dois dos maiores conglomerados urbanos da América Latina, São Paulo e Cidade do México, que configuram as “ecologias organizacionais” das cidades da região, demonstrou que as ONGs conquistaram e mantiveram protagonismo, mas os movimentos sociais também estão em posição de centralidade, apesar das predições em contrário. “Nossas pesquisas contrariam diagnósticos céticos que mostram uma sociedade civil de organizações orientadas principalmente para a prestação de serviços e a trabalhar com assuntos públicos de modo desenraizado ou pouco voltado para a população de baixa renda”, diz Gurza Lavalle, que também é pesquisador do Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento (Cebrap). “Mais: elas mostram que a sociedade civil se modernizou, se diversificou e se especializou funcionalmente, tornando as ecologias organizacionais da região mais complexas, sem que essa complexidade implique a substituição de um tipo de ator por outro.”


Essas conclusões vêm de uma sequência de estudos comandados por ele nos últimos anos. Os mais recentes foram desenvolvidos em coautoria com Natália Bueno no CEM, um dos 17 Centros de Pesquisa, Inovação e Difusão (Cepid) financiados pela FAPESP. O trabalho tem como pesquisadores convidados Ernesto Isunza Vera (Centro de Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, de Xalapa, México) e Elisa Reis (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro). Concentra-se no papel das organizações civis e na composição das ecologias organizacionais nas sociedades civis de diversas cidades no México e no Brasil.

O que o cientista político apresenta nos seus estudos de rede pode ser uma contribuição para que os tomadores de decisão conheçam melhor a heterogeneidade das organizações civis. “Há implicações claras para a regulação sobre o terceiro setor, no sentido de que ela se torne menos uma camisa de força e mais um marco que ofereça segurança jurídica aos diferentes tipos de organizações da sociedade civil que recebem recursos públicos ou exercem funções públicas”, diz o pesquisador.

“O trabalho que vem sendo realizado por Gurza Lavalle, seus alunos e colaboradores é especialmente valioso porque, por meio da análise de redes, permite mapear com mais rigor e de maneira mais fina as relações entre os movimentos sociais”, diz Marisa von Bülow, professora do Instituto de Ciência Política da Universidade de Brasília (UnB), especializada no estudo das sociedades civis latino-americanas. “A análise de redes não é necessariamente o melhor método, mas complementa muito bem métodos como as pesquisas qualitativas e de campo, as entrevistas etc. Permite que se vejam coisas que não poderiam ser lidas com tanta clareza pelas vias tradicionais. No caso das pesquisas de Gurza Lavalle, acabaram mostrando que as sociedades civis da região são mais diversas e plurais do que se pensava.”

“As análises que tínhamos eram geralmente leituras impressionistas ou dados sem capacidade de produzir inferências”, diz Gurza Lavalle. Ele tirou da literatura local a evolução dos atores sociais na região, que identifica duas ondas distintas de inovação na mobilização social: tomando como plano de comparação as organizações tradicionais como as entidades assistenciais ou as associações de bairro, a nova onda de atores surgida nos anos 1960, 1970 e metade dos 1980, e a novíssima onda de atores que ganhou força nos anos 1990.

A primeira se caracterizou pelas organizações criadas em razão de demandas sociais de segmentos amplos da população durante a vigência do regime militar. É o caso das pastorais incentivadas pela Igreja Católica e os movimentos por moradia, pela saúde e contra a carestia. As organizações da segunda onda costumam ser agrupadas na denominação de ONGs, que por sua vez deram origem às entidades articuladoras, aquelas que trabalham para outras organizações, e não para indivíduos, segmentos da população ou movimentos localizados – por exemplo, a Associação Brasileira de Organizações Não Governamentais (Abong) ou a Rede Brasileira Agroflorestal (Rebraf).

A análise de redes, segundo Gurza Lavalle, permitiu avaliar a influência das associações, “tanto no seio da sociedade civil quanto em relação a outros atores sociais e políticos”. Esse resultado foi obtido por um conjunto de medidas de centralidade que computam os vínculos no interior da rede, não só aqueles diretos ou de vizinhança, mas, sobretudo, aqueles indiretos ou entre uma organização e os vínculos de outra organização com a qual a primeira interage e aos quais não tem acesso direto. “Quando nos relacionamos, estamos vinculados de forma indireta aos vínculos dos outros”, diz o pesquisador.


A análise de redes, de acordo com o cientista político, registrou desenvolvimento acelerado nas últimas duas décadas e é aplicável a diversas áreas do conhecimento. “Graças aos avanços da análise de redes é possível, por exemplo, detectar padrões de difusão de doenças, pois permite identificar estruturas indiretas que não estão à disposição dos indivíduos, mas atuam num quadro maior. É um caminho para superar as caracterizações extremamente abstratas e estilizadas dos atores comuns nas ciências sociais, mas sem abrir mão da generalização de resultados.” Segundo Gurza Lavalle, uma das principais vantagens desse método é complementar e ir além dos estudos de caso e controlar as declarações das próprias organizações estudadas (autodescrição) e investigar as posições objetivas dos atores dentro das redes, bem como as estruturas de vínculos que condensam e condicionam as lógicas de sua atuação.

O método de amostragem adotado para apurar a estrutura de vínculos entre as organizações é conhecido como bola de neve. Cada entidade foi chamada a citar cinco outras organizações importantes no andamento do trabalho da entidade entrevistada. Na cidade de São Paulo foram ouvidos representantes de 202 associações civis, que geraram um total de 827 atores diferentes, 1.368 vínculos e 549.081 relações potenciais. Essa rede permitiu identificar claramente a vitalidade dos movimentos sociais, semelhante à das ONGs. Além disso, o estudo detectou quatro tendências da ecologia organizacional da sociedade civil em São Paulo e, em menor grau, na Cidade do México: ampliação, modernização, diversificação e, em alguns casos, especialização funcional (capacidade de desenvolver funções complementares com outras organizações).

O que o pesquisador utiliza como aproximação aos “movimentos sociais” são organizações populares, “entidades cuja estratégia de atuação distintiva é a mobilização popular”, como o Movimento de Moradia do Centro, a Unificação de Lutas de Cortiços e, numa escala bem maior, o Movimento dos Sem-Terra. Estas, na rede, estão em pé de igualdade com as ONGs e as articuladoras. Numa posição de “centralidade intermediária” estão as pastorais, os fóruns e as associações assistenciais. Finalmente, em condição periférica, estão organizações de corte tradicional, como as associações de bairro e comunitárias.

“As organizações civis passaram a desempenhar novas funções de intermediação, ora em instituições participativas como representantes de determinados grupos, ora gerindo uma parte da política, ora como receptoras de recursos públicos para a execução de projetos”, diz Gurza Lavalle. “As redes de organizações civis examinadas são produto de bolas de neve iniciadas em áreas populares da cidade e por isso nos informam a respeito da capacidade de intermediação das organizações civis em relação a esses grupos sociais.”

Outros estudos confirmam as conclusões do trabalho conduzido por Gurza Lavalle, como os de Lígia Lüchmann, professora do Departamento de Sociologia e Ciência Política da Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, que vem estudando as organizações civis de Florianópolis. “Eu confirmaria a ideia de que a sociedade civil é hoje funcionalmente mais diversificada do que costumava ser, com atores tradicionais coexistindo com os novos”, diz. Ela cita, na capital catarinense, a atuação de articuladoras como a União Florianopolitana de Entidades Comunitárias e o Fórum de Políticas Públicas.

No cenário latino-americano, Gurza Lavalle e Marisa von Büllow veem o Brasil como um caso excepcional de articulação das organizações sociais ao conseguir acesso ao poder público, o que não ocorre no México. Gurza Lavalle cita como exemplos os casos do Estatuto da Cidade, que teve origem no Fórum Nacional da Reforma Urbana, e do ativismo feminista no interior do Movimento Negro, cuja história é um componente imprescindível da configuração do campo da saúde para a população negra dentro da política nacional de saúde, embora sejam mais conhecidos os casos do movimento pela reforma da saúde ou do ativismo de organizações civis na definição das diretrizes das políticas para HIV/Aids.

Centro de Estudos da Metrópole – CEM (nº 2013/07616-7); Modalidade Centros de Pesquisa, Inovação e Difusão (Cepid); Pesquisadora responsável Martha Teresa da Silva Arretche; Investimento R$ 7.103.665,40 para todo o Cepid (FAPESP).

Artigo científico
GURZA LAVALLE, A. e Bueno, N. S. Waves of change within civil society in Latin America: Mexico City and Sao PauloPolitics & Society. v. 39, p. 415-50, 2011.

Model predicts growth, death of membership-based websites (Science Daily)

Date: February 4, 2014

Source: Carnegie Mellon University

Summary: Facebook is a proven success in what the late Nobel laureate Herbert Simon called “the marketplace of attention.” A new model assesses the viability of websites and social networks in this new attention economy to predict which sites are sustainable and which are not. The model attempts to replicate the dynamics of membership sites, including the role of active users as catalysts of website activity, turning dormant website members into active users and keeping them active.

Chart of Facebook use including predictions for future use. Credit: Image courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University

Facebook, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, is a proven success in what the late Nobel laureate Herbert Simon called “the marketplace of attention.” A new model devised at Carnegie Mellon University assesses the viability of websites and social networks in this new attention economy to predict which sites are sustainable and which are not.

The model, developed by Bruno Ribeiro, a post-doctoral researcher in Carnegie Mellon’s Computer Science Department, attempts to replicate the dynamics of membership sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and TeaPartyNation, including the role of active users as catalysts of website activity, turning dormant website members into active users and keeping them active.

In applying the model to six years of user statistics for 22 membership-based websites, Ribeiro found that it was able to reliably predict which sites will be sustainable for the foreseeable future — including the Huffington Post news site, Ashley Madison dating site and The Blaze commentary site — and which sites could not be sustained, such as, and

Unlike a recent, widely publicized academic study that predicted an 80 percent drop in Facebook membership from 2015 to 2017, Ribeiro’s model shows Facebook to be sustainable for the foreseeable future. As with all of these predictions, however, Ribeiro points out that even sustainable sites are vulnerable to upstarts that steal the attention of their members, as Facebook famously did to MySpace.

Ribeiro said his model could help investors understand which sites are self-sustaining and which are likely to fail, as well as help website managers identify and correct problems in the dynamics of attention to their sites.

It’s not enough to look at the total membership or the growth of membership of a site to understand which sites will be successful, Ribeiro said. His model accounts for the tendency of active members to become inactive, the influence that active members can have in encouraging friends to join or become active members, and the role of marketing and media campaigns in convincing people to join.

Ribeiro said he was inspired to take this approach by the writings of Simon, a Carnegie Mellon professor who won the 1978 Nobel Prize in economics. Simon had observed that many information systems were designed as if information was scarce, when the problem was just the opposite. “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it,” he said.

Ribeiro tested the model by evaluating both successful and unsuccessful sites. “If you don’t look at the negative examples, you never understand what makes for success,” he explained. Six years of daily number of active users (DAU) data, beginning in 2007, were obtained for 22 sites from Alexa, a Web analytics company. “This study couldn’t have been done even two years ago,” he added, “because data of this quality and breadth simply didn’t exist.”

In addition to separating the self-sustaining from the unsustainable sites, the model was able to discern which sites grew primarily from word of mouth, such as Facebook, and LinkedIn, and those powered by media and marketing, such as The Blaze, Bandstack and OccupyWallSt.

Unfortunately, the model also suggests that in the quest for attention, many sites are likely to increase annoying behaviors, such as sending emails about what friends on the site are doing.

“If this model is correct, social network sites will try to make your friends’ lives seem more interesting and your feedback on their posts more urgent,” Ribeiro said. Many teens, for instance, seem glued to their smartphones for fear of missing something that might get posted on a social site by or about a friend. “From the model’s perspective it is beneficial for companies to be encouraging this type of behavior,” he added.

Are you political on Facebook? (Science Daily)


January 29, 2014

Source: Inderscience

Summary: Social media and networks are ripe for politicization, for movement publicity, advocacy group awareness, not-for-profit fund-raising campaigns and perhaps even e-government. However, the majority of users perhaps see these tools as being useful for entertainment, interpersonal connections and sharing rather than politics. A research paper reinforces this notion. The results suggest that the potential for political activism must overcome the intrinsic user perception that online social networks are for enjoyment rather than utility, political or otherwise.

Social media and networks are ripe for politicization, for movement publicity, advocacy group awareness, not-for-profit fund-raising campaigns and perhaps even e-government. However, the majority of users perhaps see these tools as being useful for entertainment, interpersonal connections and sharing rather than politics. A research paper to be published in the Electronic Government, An International Journal reinforces this notion. The results suggest that the potential for political activism must overcome the intrinsic user perception that online social networks are for enjoyment rather than utility, political or otherwise.

Tobias Kollmann and Christoph Stöckmann of the E-Business and E-Entrepreneurship Research Group, at the University of Duisburg-Essen, and Ina Kayser of VDI — The Association of German Engineers, in Düsseldorf, Germany, explain that while social networks have become increasingly important as discussion forums, users are not at present motivated to accept political decisions that emerge from such discussions. As such, Facebook is yet to properly break through as the innovative means of political participation that it might become.

The team roots this disjuncture in the psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance where two opposing concepts cannot be rationalized simultaneously and an individual discards one as invalid in favour of the other to avoid the feeling of psychological discomfort. For example, users enjoy logging on to a social network, such as Facebook, so that they can share photos, play games and chat online with friends. This is inherently at odds, it does not resonate, with the idea of Facebook being useful as a tool for discussing and implementing the perhaps more important realm of human endeavour we know as politics.

However, the team says, the advent of politically oriented Facebook games, such as “Campaigns” and “America 2049” blur the lines between the area of enjoyment and political discussion. Moreover, they point out that the boundaries were already blurred in terms of interpersonal discussions among some users where political discussion is facilitated by the network and also perceived as an enjoyable part of participation despite it falling in the “useful” camp. Indeed, the team’s data from several hundred randomly selected Facebook users would support the notion that the perception of mutual benefit arising from political participation on Facebook positively adds to the perception of usefulness as well as being enjoyable. They allude to the fact that the findings might apply equally well to other so-called “Web 2.0” tools on the Internet.

Journal Reference:

  1. Tobias Kollmann, Ina Kayser, Christoph Stöckmann. Understanding political participation on Facebook: the moderating role of intrinsic motivation.Electronic Government, an International Journal, 2013; 10 (3/4): 310 DOI:10.1504/EG.2013.058786

Protestos contra Copa do Mundo terminam com atos de violência (OESP)

Manifestantes ateiam fogo em carro durante protesto contra a realização da Copa do Mundo no Brasil, na região central de São Paulo, neste sábado.

São Paulo, 25 jan (EFE).- Os protestos que aconteceram neste sábado em diferentes pontos do Brasil contra a organização da Copa do Mundo transcorreram em sua maioria com normalidade, embora em cidades como São Paulo tenham sido registrados vários atos de violência e destruição de patrimônio público.

No final da manifestação da capital paulista, que durante as primeiras horas aconteceu de maneira pacífica, um grupo de manifestantes quebrou vidros de várias agências bancárias e de uma concessionária, além de terem atacado um veículo da Polícia.

Na mesma avenida, um automóvel foi incendiado após ser atingido por um objeto inflamável, embora alguns dos manifestantes tenham tentado apagar as chamas.

Além dos estabelecimentos que iam fechando à passagem do protesto, um hotel no qual vários manifestantes tinham se refugiado por volta das 20h foi fechado pelas tropas de choque da Polícia Militar, que em várias ocasiões tentou dispersar os presentes com tiros para o ar e bombas de efeito moral.

Por enquanto, não há informação de feridos nem detidos.

Os protestos se repetiram em mais de uma dezena de cidades, como Rio de Janeiro, Brasília e Belo Horizonte, embora em todas elas a presença de manifestantes tenha sido muito menor do que a esperada.

Na sexta-feira, mais de 40 mil pessoas confirmaram sua presença nas manifestações através das redes sociais, previstas a princípio em mais de 30 cidades, enquanto em São Paulo, onde aconteceu a mais movimentada, se concentraram ao redor de 2.500 pessoas, segundo a PM.

Em Goiânia, 200 pessoas protestaram esta manhã pelo mesmo motivo. O encontro aconteceu com tranquilidade, embora no último momento alguns encapuzados tenham queimado vários pneus.

A manifestação foi promovida por várias organizações sociais com o objetivo de criticar a despesa elevada do Governo na realização da competição, em detrimento de outros serviços como educação e saúde.

O manifesto da convocação denuncia, entre outros fatos, a despesa extra prevista da organização do Mundial e atribui o aumento do orçamento à corrupção nas instituições responsáveis pela construção dos novos estádios que estão sendo construídos para o evento esportivo.

“É um absurdo que o Brasil organize uma Copa do Mundo porque há problemas na saúde, na educação e na habitação que estão em condições péssimas”, afirmou à Agência Efe Daivis Souza, que participava do protesto de São Paulo. EFE

*   *   *

Protesto no Brasil contra a Copa deixa saldo de 143 detidos (OESP)


São Paulo, 26 jan (EFE).- Pelo menos 143 pessoas foram detidas neste sábado acusadas de participar de distúrbios ocorridos nas manifestações que aconteceram em diferentes cidades em protesto contra a organização da Copa do Mundo.

Em São Paulo, 128 pessoas foram detidas, por enquanto, após as manifestações registradas na capital paulista, e que terminaram com confrontos entre a Polícia e os manifestantes, informou a Polícia Militar (PM) através de sua conta no Twitter.

Em Fortaleza, 15 pessoas foram aprisionadas pelos protestos registrados em frente do estádio Arena das Dunas, inaugurado na quarta-feira passada pela presidente Dilma Rousseff.

Um grupo de manifestantes tentou invadir o estádio, danificou uma arquibancada de acesso ao local e ateou fogo em uma loja utilizada pelos trabalhadores da recém inaugurada obra, informou a “Folha de São Paulo”.

De acordo com as autoridades, 15 pessoas foram detidas por tal ação.

As manifestações começaram de forma pacífica na maior parte das cidades, embora tenham terminado com alguns focos de violência em algumas delas. EFE

For some in Brazil, World Cup means evictions (Washington Post)

By Donna Bowater, Published: January 25, 2014

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — Where there was once a soccer field in this city in southern Brazil, there is a highway.

And where there were once shanty homes, there are piles of timber, bricks and the debris of those who used to live there.

The reason is the World Cup. The mega-event that will play out this summer in a dozen Brazilian cities is driving a frenzy of road construction, airport renovations and other projects.

The impact is being felt most strongly among the poorest citizens, including residents of Porto Alegre’s largest favela, or slum, who have come to regard the soccer championship as synonymous with evictions, removals and demolition.

Activists say that as many as 250,000 people across the country are threatened with eviction — although some of those efforts have been underway for years and are likely to outlast the soccer tournament as building projects continue. Brazil is also preparing to host the Summer Olympics in 2016.

Some Brazilian officials insist that most displacements are not linked to World Cup preparations. Independent researchers say they have to rely on witness reports. But residents of the Santa Teresa neighborhood here, as well those in other poor areas, say there is no doubt that evictions are underway, as they lose neighbors and open space.

“It breaks a cycle of friendship, a cycle of custom,” said 42-year-old Antonio Daniel Knevitz de Oliveira, who lives deep in the heart of Santa Teresa, where he grew up.

“Brazil is by far and away the champion of forced removals,” said Christopher Gaffney, a visiting geography professor at the Fluminense Federal University in Rio de Janeiro. “This is clearly the most impactful World Cup ever, with a lot of ambitious projects.”

In some of the affected cities, the World Cup and the Olympics are the latest justifications used by authorities to clear favelas.

Characterized as “irregular” settlements where many do not have deeds to their properties, there have been long-standing attempts to reclaim the slums where more than 11 million Brazilians live.

The added pressure of hosting the two biggest sporting events in the world has given authorities additional incentive to act.

The scale of displacements in Rio de Janeiro prompted Amnesty International to launch a campaign, Enough Forced Evictions, after it found evidence of housing rights violations in the city. A network of Brazilian activists, the National Coalition of People’s World Cup Committees, sought to sound the alarm last year in a report to a U.N. human rights panel.

That group said as many as 32,000 people in Porto Alegre could be at risk of eviction because of World Cup projects, with more than 1,500 families affected by the road-widening project.

Porto Alegre is Brazil’s 10th-largest city, with a sizable population of European immigrants and a rapid rate of economic growth. About 13 percent of residents live in favelas, including those in Santa Teresa who were evicted so that a nearby road could be widened to improve traffic flow around the soccer stadium.

Residents say the loss of the soccer field meant children were playing barefoot pickup games deep inside the favela, where violent drug traffickers rule.

The government is compensating families forced to move, but the resettlement packages of $22,000 are described by activists as inadequate in a country where real estate prices have been soaring.

For Knevitz, who has three jobs and three children, the upheaval has compounded a sense of uncertainty about his family’s future.

“I don’t want to run the risk of seeing another World Cup or big event and the authorities saying, ‘You’ll be removed,’­ ” he said.

Voices of Brazil: ninja journalist Bruno Torturra, who runs an alternative press collective (The Guardian)

‘I want the people of the world to hear a different narrative from the World Cup; from a point of view of people on the street, not the stadiums or the press,’ says Bruno Torturra, leader of the Mídia Ninja collective of citizen journalists

Luke Bainbridge

The Observer, Sunday 26 January 2014

Ninja journalist Bruno Torturra sitting on the floorBruno Torturra: ‘In the casas it was brilliant to see young people putting into practice their ambition for a utopian cultural economic system.’ Photograph: Marcos Villas Boas

It is hard to imagine anyone who looks less like a Japanese assassin, but Bruno Torturra is a leader of the self-styled Mídia Ninja collective, which emerged as an alternative to the mainstream Brazilian press during the protests last summer.

The group arrived as a loose collective of citizen journalists who, spurred by advances in digital media that put the powers of reporting and distribution in their hands, reported and live-streamed hours of footage from protests in different cities.

Armed with smartphones and digital cameras, they were determined to tell what they saw as the true narrative of news that was being distorted. They quickly grew in popularity with those similarly disenchanted and frustrated with the coverage of the protests by traditional media, while polarising opinion among established commentators. And they hit the national headlines when they filmed a police infiltrator throwing a Molotov cocktail at a protest during Pope Francis’s trip to Brazil in July 2013.

The first seeds of Mídia Ninja were sown in 2012 when Torturra, then a journalist for Trip magazine, wrote a piece on the music and social collective Fora Do Eixo (FDE). Members live in shared casas, with their own alternative economy. “I found them fascinating,” says Torturra, when we meet in his local café in São Paulo. “I thought it was brilliant to see so many young people living together and putting into practice their ambition for a utopian cultural economic system.”

A few months later Torturra was covering a march to legalise marijuana. “The police really cracked down on the protesters. I was beaten and inhaled tear gas,” he says. “I wrote a huge article on my blog and the next morning everyone was sharing it on Facebook.”

The blog got a bigger reception than anything Torturra had written in nine years at TripPablo Capilé from Fora Do Eixo called Torturra and suggested they talk about working together. With other FDE members Rafael Vilela and Felipe Altenfelder they began streaming events under the name Post TV, building an increasing following until last summer, when Torturra wrote a more defined manifesto and they became Mídia Ninja.

At the height of the protests they had several thousand independent citizen journalists. The extent to which they polarised opinion was clear when they were invited on to a Brazilian talk show and Torturra and Capilé were given a grilling from an invited panel of established journalists, and to many came out on top.

Torturra is aware that there’s a huge appetite around the world to find out more about the complex situation in Brazil, which will only be heightened in the next 12 months. “We have huge potential for this year,” he says. “It is the year of Brazil. Even we don’t know exactly what is happening right now. The World Cup is a horrible idea. I think the government now realises that, but it’s too late to stop it. The cost is so huge. It’s proven to be a lie that the World Cup brings better infrastructure and leaves a legacy. The only legacy is more expensive stadiums and a lot of public money gone to the toilet.

“We’re in a really good position to cover it in a different way, not only for Brazil but the world,” he says. “I’m planning to make Mídia Ninja a stream in English and Spanish as well, so people of the world can hear a different narrative from the World Cup; from a point of view of people on the street, not the stadiums or the press. We’re not interested in the football. That will be over-covered by other people.”

PT responde movimento #nãovaitercopa e cria o #vaitercopa (OESP)

13.janeiro.2014 17:48:50

Desde domingo, 12, sigla vem utilizando redes sociais para promover o evento que vem sendo alvo de críticas de movimentos sociais

Carla Araújo

São Paulo – Após a presidente Dilma Rousseff publicar no Diário Oficial da União, no último dia 10, decreto que destinou dois novos funcionários para Secretaria-Geral da Presidência para promover “diálogo com os movimentos e segmentos sociais por ocasião da Copa do Mundo FIFA 2014″, o Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) usou a página da presidente e do partido no Facebook para estimular uma campanha defendendo a realização da Copa no País.

Com a marca #VaiTerCopa, no domingo, 12, o PT publicou a mensagem: “Tá combinado. Uma boa semana para todos que torcem pelo Brasil. #VaiTerCopa”. Já na página oficial da presidente, que é administrada pelo partido, a mensagem afirmava: “LÍQUIDO E CERTO. Uma boa semana para todos que torcem pelo Brasil. #VaiTerCopa.”

Apesar de a expressão ser evidentemente uma resposta ao protesto que tem sido marcado para o próximo dia 25 em todo o País, com a mensagem “Não vai ter Copa”, o responsável por gerenciar as redes sociais do PT, o vice-presidente do partido, Alberto Cantalice, afirmou que a ideia “Não teve um objetivo concreto. É porque as pessoas ficam cobrando que a gente fale alguma coisa.”

Segundo Cantalice, a ideia não foi para fazer contraposição ao provável protesto. “Não foi uma coisa para fazer resistência à movimentação popular, até porque a população é amplamente favorável à Copa”, afirmou. Ele disse ainda que a ideia de colocar mensagem na página do PT e da presidente foi uma forma de “testar, para ver se a mensagem ia pegar”. “Não foi nada articulado, só colocamos ali para ver como ia ser e foi extremamente positivo”, avaliou.

Até a tarde desta segunda-feira, a mensagem postada pelo PT havia sido compartilhada por 595 pessoas e curtida por 1.059 pessoas. A página petista tem pouco mais de 75 mil seguidores. No caso da página da presidente, o texto foi replicado por 1.796 e curtido por mais de 5 mil pessoas. A página de Dilma possui 185 mil fãs.

Confira a mensagem postada pelo PT no Facebook

Foto: Reprodução

Além da página administrada pelo PT, Dilma se comunica com os internautas por meio da página do blog Dilma Rousseff, onde as mensagens costumam ser mais institucionais. Apesar de não ter postado até o momento a mensagem #vaitercopa, a página postou nesta segunda-feira, 13, um texto destacando a situação do estádio Beira-Rio, em Porto Alegre, que já está com 97% das obras concluídas.

Protesto. Após os protestos de 2012, internautas tentam se mobilizar para realizar a primeira grande manifestação do ano utilizando o apelo da Copa no Brasil. O movimento, que ganhou o nome de Não Vai Ter Copa, está se organizando nas redes sociais para o próximo dia 25 um ato de repúdio ao evento esportivo. A comunidade oficial do ato no Facebook, no entanto, ainda não atingiu um grande número de pessoas comparado aos eventos de 2013. Criada no dia 15 de julho do ano passado, a comunidade possui apenas 4.764 seguidores até o momento.

Em São Paulo, o protesto está marcado para as 17h, no vão livre do Masp. Até o momento, a página criada para estimular o evento tem 1.653 participações confirmadas. O texto com a assinatura “We are Anonymous” (nós somos anônimos) critica os gastos do governo com a Copa e cobra ações da presidente Dilma prometidas durante as manifestações. “Junho passou. Cadê a reforma política prometida pela presidenta Dilma? Via plebiscito ou não, desapareceu. Não houve nenhuma mudança real no parâmetro político ou social desde o começo dos levantes”, diz o texto.

Os ativistas dizem ainda que durante a Copa das Confederações no ano passado “todas as cidades lutaram pelo fim dos jogos”. “O Brasil precisa mudar, e não é no futebol. O clamor popular de Janeiro em diante terá apenas uma voz: NÃO VAI TER COPA”. No Rio de Janeiro, o grupo que criou a comunidade oficial do movimento também está organizando os protestos para as 17 horas do dia 25. A princípio, conforme informação publicada no Facebook, o local da manifestação será em frente ao Copacabana Palace.

Uma outra leitura do não vai ter Copa e a disputa histórica das Jornadas de Junho (Fórum)

08/01/2014 | Publicado por Renato Rovai em Política 

As Jornadas de Junho ainda têm sido tratadas de forma maniqueísta por muitos dos que tentam interpretá-la e disputar seu legado. De um lado, há os que buscam transformá-la num movimento de coxinhas e fascistas. Do outro, gente que sonha com novos levantes de rebeldia que sejam controláveis e possam levar o governo federal a ter prejuízos eleitorais. E há ainda um terceiro grupo que quer oportunizar uma ação que é horizontal a partir de um discurso dirigente com contornos de esquerda.

Os primeiros, erram no fundamental. As milhões de pessoas que foram as ruas em centenas de cidades do país querem, na essência, um Brasil melhor. E deixaram claro que cansaram da política de gabinete baseada no toma lá da cá de uma governabilidade que precisa de um novo arranjo. Ao mesmo tempo exigem um serviço público melhor do que o atual e querem um Estado forte.

Essas demandas nunca foram fascistas e sempre foram de esquerda. E não podem deixar de ser apenas porque hoje quem está no governo é um partido mais identificado com bandeiras populares.

Transformar todos aqueles que defendem essas teses em coxinhas e fascistas e exigir adesão total a um governo que muitas vezes fala grosso com o movimento social e fino com o capital, não é exatamente um postura progressista. Ao contrário, é algo que se aproxima muito da prática fascista que esses setores criticam. O fascismo, entre outras coisas, oprime o contraditório porque sabe que ele é parte fundamental do processo democrático.

Já quando os colunistas da direita desejam como presente de ano novo mais gente na rua para mudar o Brasil, o que de fato querem é o povo tomando o Planalto Central, mas não para que esse mesmo povo assuma as rédeas do país.

Querem que esse povo patrocine o caos para que a solução seja um novo governo forte. Ou seja, pretendem um golpe civil por saberem que quarteladas caíram em desuso e tem alto custo do ponto de vista político internacional.

Já certos setores que se consideram de esquerda radical sonham com o que sempre sonharam. Acham que a correlação de forças pode se alterar como num passe de mágica num levante popular. E que o povo pode assumir o poder e tudo virar lindo e maravilhoso da noite para o dia.

As Jornadas de Junho, porém, não tem nada a ver com o desejo de uns e a análise de outros. Foram um momento muito mais impactante na vida nacional. Um grito democrático com diferentes táticas e estratégias de luta. Um grito de um país que provou ter uma democracia mais madura. Que suporta milhões nas ruas e em movimento. Mas que não aceita colocar todas as suas conquistas em risco para produzir qualquer resultado.

Havia muito mais responsabilidade nas ruas do que nas análise de gabinete. E por isso o movimento produziu tantos resultados e obteve vitórias.

Além da diminuição objetiva no preço das passagens de ônibus e metro, entre as suas inúmeras conquistas de junho, por exemplo, pode-se destacar a virada na agenda do transporte público nas grandes cidades. Em São Paulo, por exemplo, o prefeito Haddad disse em entrevista recente que fez em um ano o que pretendia fazer em quatro no setor.

O Mais Médicos também foi antecipado naquele contexto. Era um programa que vinha sendo maturado, mas que poderia ter sido realizado com muito menos força e mais pra frente.

As Jornadas de Junho também trouxeram para o debate político uma geração inteira. Gente que estava vendo a banda passar e que agora quer tomar o Brasil nas mãos. Uma garotada que está fazendo rap, participando de coletivos de cultura, que trabalha em co-workings, que toca projetos sociais ou que labuta de sol a sol e estuda à noite sonhando com uma vida melhor.

Esse jovem não é fascista, não é coxinha e também não é babaca.

Ele não é marionete da Globo e não está disposto a ser papagaio de tucano. E quer fazer valer uma nova agenda. Onde o meio ambiente seja mais respeitado, onde os indígenas sejam protegidos dos grileiros, onde haja mais recursos para moradia, saúde e educação.

Querem também menos corrupção e mais transparência no uso dos recursos públicos. Querem direitos humanos para os pobres, principalmente jovens e negros. E uma polícia que não seja um instrumento de tortura dos setores populares na mão do Estado.

Essa agenda pode levar muitos deles a participarem de um movimento como o “Não vai ter Copa”. Até porque até o momento a Copa que está sendo vendida é a dos outros. Da elite daqui e dos ricos de fora. Não é um Copa produzida para ser a afirmação de um povo e de uma história de lutas de um país que tem oferecido ao mundo avanços democráticos e projetos como o Bolsa Família.

É uma Copa da Fifa. E da exclusão.

Por isso, cabe perguntar: quem está errado, os jovens que entendem que esse pode ser um momento de afirmação de suas ideias ou quem não está disposto a conversar com eles? Quem está errado, os oportunistas que querem aproveitar essa energia para desgastar o governo ou certos governistas que estão achincalhando esse povo que quer discutir seu país?

É preciso ir além desse maniqueísmo de lado bom e lado ruim. A Copa pode ser um excelente momento para discutir o Brasil e ao mesmo tempo assistir futebol e se congregar com as milhares de pessoas de todas as partes do mundo que aqui estarão.

A Copa pode ser um tempo de uma nova agenda na democracia brasileira. Uma Copa com povo e política. Com manifestações de rua fortalecendo as lutas populares e comemorações de rua de torcidas de cada uma das seleções.

Poucos países do mundo podem oferecer um espetáculo desses. E o Brasil é um deles.

Um país multicultural onde há grande respeito à multiplicidade. Um país que deu um enorme salto social nos últimos anos, incluindo milhões de pessoas. Um país que tem desafios imensos ainda pela frente, mas que, a despeito das disputas políticas, tem uma institucionalidade forte. Um país com um movimento social que tem atores coletivos respeitados em todo o planeta, como, por exemplo, o MST e as organizações sindicais.

Poucas nações podem fazer de fato uma Copa das Copas, onde os projetos do outro mundo possível estejam presentes na agenda de um torneio de seleções.

A sociedade civil brasileira tem o dever de assumir esse processo como seu. O slogan “não vai ter Copa” é muito bom e forte para ter apenas uma leitura. E uma das leituras possíveis é que a Copa não vai ser mais a mesma depois de sua passagem pelo Brasil.

De agora em diante, onde a Copa for, o movimento social irá. E colocará suas demandas, fazendo seus fóruns ao lado do evento. E internacionalizando causas de todo o povo do país sede e de outras partes do mundo.

Se isso vier a acontecer o jogo será apenas um detalhe desse imenso espetáculo. E as nossas causas disputarão espaço entre os resultados das partidas. Que ao final terão apenas um campeão. Diferentemente da Copa das Copas, que é a de todos que lutam por um mundo melhor. E onde muitos podem ganhar juntos.

Quem tem que ter medo das ruas é a elite. E não os que se dizem de esquerda. Ou algo está muito, mas muito errado.

Noam Chomsky: What Is the Common Good? (Truthout)

Tuesday, 07 January 2014 10:41

By Noam ChomskyTruthout | Op-Ed

 (Image: <a href="" target="_blank"> Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Brian Hillegas, Reigh LeBlanc, abrinsky</a>)(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Brian Hillegas, Reigh LeBlanc, abrinsky)

This article is adapted from a Dewey Lecture by Noam Chomsky at Columbia University in New York on Dec. 6, 2013.

Humans are social beings, and the kind of creature that a person becomes depends crucially on the social, cultural and institutional circumstances of his life.

We are therefore led to inquire into the social arrangements that are conducive to people’s rights and welfare, and to fulfilling their just aspirations – in brief, the common good.

For perspective I’d like to invoke what seem to me virtual truisms. They relate to an interesting category of ethical principles: those that are not only universal, in that they are virtually always professed, but also doubly universal, in that at the same time they are almost universally rejected in practice.

These range from very general principles, such as the truism that we should apply to ourselves the same standards we do to others (if not harsher ones), to more specific doctrines, such as a dedication to promoting democracy and human rights, which is proclaimed almost universally, even by the worst monsters – though the actual record is grim, across the spectrum.

A good place to start is with John Stuart Mill’s classic “On Liberty.” Its epigraph formulates “The grand, leading principle, towards which every argument unfolded in these pages directly converges: the absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversity.”

The words are quoted from Wilhelm von Humboldt, a founder of classical liberalism. It follows that institutions that constrain such development are illegitimate, unless they can somehow justify themselves.

Concern for the common good should impel us to find ways to cultivate human development in its richest diversity.

Adam Smith, another Enlightenment thinker with similar views, felt that it shouldn’t be too difficult to institute humane policies. In his “Theory of Moral Sentiments” he observed that “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.”

Smith acknowledges the power of what he calls the “vile maxim of the masters of mankind”: “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people.” But the more benign “original passions of human nature” might compensate for that pathology.

Classical liberalism shipwrecked on the shoals of capitalism, but its humanistic commitments and aspirations didn’t die. Rudolf Rocker, a 20th-century anarchist thinker and activist, reiterated similar ideas.

Rocker described what he calls “a definite trend in the historic development of mankind” that strives for “the free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life.”

Rocker was outlining an anarchist tradition culminating in anarcho-syndicalism – in European terms, a variety of “libertarian socialism.”

This brand of socialism, he held, doesn’t depict “a fixed, self-enclosed social system” with a definite answer to all the multifarious questions and problems of human life, but rather a trend in human development that strives to attain Enlightenment ideals.

So understood, anarchism is part of a broader range of libertarian socialist thought and action that includes the practical achievements of revolutionary Spain in 1936; reaches further to worker-owned enterprises spreading today in the American rust belt, in northern Mexico, in Egypt, and many other countries, most extensively in the Basque country in Spain; and encompasses the many cooperative movements around the world and a good part of feminist and civil and human rights initiatives.

This broad tendency in human development seeks to identify structures of hierarchy, authority and domination that constrain human development, and then subject them to a very reasonable challenge: Justify yourself.

If these structures can’t meet that challenge, they should be dismantled – and, anarchists believe, “refashioned from below,” as commentator Nathan Schneider observes.

In part this sounds like truism: Why should anyone defend illegitimate structures and institutions? But truisms at least have the merit of being true, which distinguishes them from a good deal of political discourse. And I think they provide useful stepping stones to finding the common good.

For Rocker, “the problem that is set for our time is that of freeing man from the curse of economic exploitation and political and social enslavement.”

It should be noted that the American brand of libertarianism differs sharply from the libertarian tradition, accepting and indeed advocating the subordination of working people to the masters of the economy, and the subjection of everyone to the restrictive discipline and destructive features of markets.

Anarchism is, famously, opposed to the state, while advocating “planned administration of things in the interest of the community,” in Rocker’s words; and beyond that, wide-ranging federations of self-governing communities and workplaces.

Today, anarchists dedicated to these goals often support state power to protect people, society and the earth itself from the ravages of concentrated private capital. That’s no contradiction. People live and suffer and endure in the existing society. Available means should be used to safeguard and benefit them, even if a long-term goal is to construct preferable alternatives.

In the Brazilian rural workers movement, they speak of “widening the floors of the cage” – the cage of existing coercive institutions that can be widened by popular struggle – as has happened effectively over many years.

We can extend the image to think of the cage of state institutions as a protection from the savage beasts roaming outside: the predatory, state-supported capitalist institutions dedicated in principle to private gain, power and domination, with community and people’s interest at most a footnote, revered in rhetoric but dismissed in practice as a matter of principle and even law.

Much of the most respected work in academic political science compares public attitudes and government policy. In “Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America,” the Princeton scholar Martin Gilens reveals that the majority of the U.S. population is effectively disenfranchised.

About 70 percent of the population, at the lower end of the wealth/income scale, has no influence on policy, Gilens concludes. Moving up the scale, influence slowly increases. At the very top are those who pretty much determine policy, by means that aren’t obscure. The resulting system is not democracy but plutocracy.

Or perhaps, a little more kindly, it’s what legal scholar Conor Gearty calls “neo-democracy,” a partner to neoliberalism – a system in which liberty is enjoyed by the few, and security in its fullest sense is available only to the elite, but within a system of more general formal rights.

In contrast, as Rocker writes, a truly democratic system would achieve the character of “an alliance of free groups of men and women based on cooperative labor and a planned administration of things in the interest of the community.”

No one took the American philosopher John Dewey to be an anarchist. But consider his ideas. He recognized that “Power today resides in control of the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Whoever owns them rules the life of the country,” even if democratic forms remain. Until those institutions are in the hands of the public, politics will remain “the shadow cast on society by big business,” much as is seen today.

These ideas lead very naturally to a vision of society based on workers’ control of productive institutions, as envisioned by 19th century thinkers, notably Karl Marx but also – less familiar – John Stuart Mill.

Mill wrote, “The form of association, however, which if mankind continue to improve, must be expected to predominate, is . the association of the labourers themselves on terms of equality, collectively owning the capital with which they carry on their operations, and working under managers electable and removable by themselves.”

The Founding Fathers of the United States were well aware of the hazards of democracy. In the Constitutional Convention debates, the main framer, James Madison, warned of these hazards.

Naturally taking England as his model, Madison observed that “In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place,” undermining the right to property.

The basic problem that Madison foresaw in “framing a system which we wish to last for ages” was to ensure that the actual rulers will be the wealthy minority so as “to secure the rights of property agst. the danger from an equality & universality of suffrage, vesting compleat power over property in hands without a share in it.”

Scholarship generally agrees with the Brown University scholar Gordon S. Wood’s assessment that “The Constitution was intrinsically an aristocratic document designed to check the democratic tendencies of the period.”

Long before Madison, Artistotle, in his “Politics,” recognized the same problem with democracy.

Reviewing a variety of political systems, Aristotle concluded that this system was the best – or perhaps the least bad – form of government. But he recognized a flaw: The great mass of the poor could use their voting power to take the property of the rich, which would be unfair.

Madison and Aristotle arrived at opposite solutions: Aristotle advised reducing inequality, by what we would regard as welfare state measures. Madison felt that the answer was to reduce democracy.

In his last years, Thomas Jefferson, the man who drafted the United States’ Declaration of Independence, captured the essential nature of the conflict, which has far from ended. Jefferson had serious concerns about the quality and fate of the democratic experiment. He distinguished between “aristocrats and democrats.”

The aristocrats are “those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes.”

The democrats, in contrast, “identify with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depository of the public interest.”

Today the successors to Jefferson’s “aristocrats” might argue about who should play the guiding role: technocratic and policy-oriented intellectuals, or bankers and corporate executives.

It is this political guardianship that the genuine libertarian tradition seeks to dismantle and reconstruct from below, while also changing industry, as Dewey put it, “from a feudalistic to a democratic social order” based on workers’ control, respecting the dignity of the producer as a genuine person, not a tool in the hands of others.

Like Karl Marx’s Old Mole – “our old friend, our old mole, who knows so well how to work underground, then suddenly to emerge” – the libertarian tradition is always burrowing close to the surface, always ready to peek through, sometimes in surprising and unexpected ways, seeking to bring about what seems to me to be a reasonable approximation to the common good.

© 2014 Noam Chomsky
Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro: ‘O capitalismo sustentável é uma contradição em seus termos’ (IHU On-Line/Envolverde)

07/1/2014 – 12h23

por Julia Magalhães*

Crítico feroz do neoliberalismo, de seus ícones e verdades, de suas políticas de “crescimento” que destroem a natureza, do consumo que empobrece as vidas, do Estado que as administra (não sem constrangimentos) e da esquerda (conservadora e antropocêntrica). “A felicidade, diz, tem muitos outros caminhos”.

Enquanto esperamos que a Tinta Limón Ediciones termine a edição (mais ou menos alterada) do livro de entrevistas com Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, o sítio Lobo Suelto! convida à leitura da última – muito transcendental – conversa com o antropólogo brasileiro.

Confira a entrevista:

viveiros2 300x186 ‘O capitalismo sustentável é uma contradição em seus termos’

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro

Qual é a sua percepção acerca da participação política da sociedade brasileira?

Prefiro começar com uma “des-generalização”: vejo a sociedade brasileira profundamente dividida em relação à visão sobre o país e seu futuro. A ideia de que existe “um” Brasil – no sentido de que as ideias de “unidade” e “brasilidade” não são triviais – parece uma ilusão politicamente conveniente (para os setores dominantes), mas antropologicamente equivocada. Há, pelo menos, dois ou muito mais “Brasis”.

O conceito geopolítico de Estado-Nação unificado não é descritivo, mas normativo. Há rachaduras profundas na sociedade brasileira. Há setores da população com uma vocação conservadora enorme, que não necessariamente compreendem uma classe específica, apesar de que as chamadas “classes médias”, ascendentes ou descendentes, estão bem representadas aqui. Grande parte da chamada “sociedade brasileira” – temo que seja a maioria – se sentiria muito satisfeita com um regime autoritário, especialmente se conduzido midiaticamente por uma autoridade paternal de personalidade forte. Mas, esta é uma das coisas que a minoria liberal que existe no país – e, inclusive, é uma certa minoria “progressista” – prefere manter-se envolta em um silêncio constrangedor. Repete-se o tempo todo, e para qualquer propósito, que o povo brasileiro é democrático, “cordial” e amante da liberdade e da fraternidade, o que é uma ilusão muito perigosa.

É assim que vejo a “participação política do povo brasileiro”: como a de um povo fragmentado, dividido, polarizado. Uma polarização que não necessariamente condiz com as divisões políticas (partidos oficiais etc.). O Brasil segue como uma sociedade visceralmente escravocrata, obstinadamente racista e moralmente covarde. Enquanto não nos darmos conta deste inconsciente, não iremos “em frente”.

Em outras ocasiões, fui claro: insurreições esporádicas e uma certa indiferença pragmática em relação aos poderes constituídos é o que se evidencia entre os mais pobres – ou os mais alheios ao drama montado pelos setores de cima, na escala social – que inspiram modestas utopias e moderado otimismo por parte daqueles que a história situou na confortável posição de “pensar o Brasil”. Nós, em suma.

O que é necessário para mudar isto?

Falar, resistir, insistir, olhar além do imediato. E, obviamente, educar. Mas, não “educar o povo” (como se a elite fosse muito educada e devesse – ou pudesse – conduzir o povo até um nível intelectual superior), mas criar as condições para que as pessoas se eduquem e acabem educando a elite – e, quem sabe, inclusive, se livrem dela.

O panorama da educação do Brasil é, hoje, o de um deserto. Um deserto! E não vejo nenhuma iniciativa consistente para tentar cultivar neste deserto. Pelo contrário, tenho pesadelos de conspirações, em que sonho que os projetos de poder não se interessam realmente em modificar o panorama da educação do Brasil; domesticar a força de trabalho – se é isto que está se tentando (ou planejando) – não é, de nenhuma maneira, o mesmo que educar.

Isto é apenas um pesadelo, obviamente. Não é assim, não pode ser assim… Espero que não seja assim. Mas o fato é que não se vê uma iniciativa para mudar a situação, considerando a espetacular abertura de dezenas de universidades sem a mínima infraestrutura física (para não falar de boas bibliotecas, um luxo quase impensável no Brasil), enquanto a escola secundária segue muito deficitária, com professores que ganham uma miséria, com as greves dos professores universitários reprimidas, como se fossem ladrões.

A “falta” de educação – que é uma forma de instrução muito particular e perversa, imposta de cima para baixo – é talvez o principal fator responsável pelo conservadorismo reacionário de grande parte da sociedade brasileira. Por fim, é urgente uma reforma radical da educação brasileira.

Em “A floresta e a escola”, Oswald de Andrade sonhava. Infelizmente, parece que já deixamos de ter uma e ainda não temos a outra. Pois, sem escola, já não cresce a floresta.

Por onde se começa a reforma da educação?

Começa-se de baixo, é claro, a partir da escola primária. A educação pública deveria ter uma política unificada, orientada a partir de uma – com perdão da expressão – “revolução cultural”. Ela não será alcançada através da redistribuição da renda (ou melhor, com o aumento da quantidade de migalhas que caem da mesa dos ricos) apenas para comprar um televisor e para assistir ao BBB, e ver a mesma merda. Não é assim que se redistribui a cultura, a educação, a ciência e a sabedoria. Deve-se oferecer ao povo as condições de fazer cultura ao invés de consumir aquela produzida “para” eles.

Está havendo uma melhora nos níveis de vida dos mais pobres, e talvez também nos da velha classe média. Uma melhora que vai durar todo o tempo em que a China continuar comprando do Brasil ao invés de comprar da África. Mas, apesar da melhora no chamado “nível de vida”, não vejo nenhuma melhora real na qualidade de vida, na vida cultural ou espiritual, se me permite usar essa palavra arcaica. Pelo contrário. Será que é necessário destruir as forças vivas, naturais e culturais das pessoas, do povo brasileiro de instrução, para construir uma sociedade economicamente mais justa? Duvido.

Neste cenário, atualmente, quais são os temas capazes de mobilizar a sociedade brasileira?

Vejo a “sociedade brasileira” magnetizada – ao menos em termos de sua auto-representação normativa, por parte dos meios de comunicação – por um patriotismo oco, uma espécie de besta orgulhosa, deslumbrada pela certeza de que, de uma vez por todas, o mundo se inclinou frente ao Brasil. Copa do Mundo, Jogos Olímpicos… Não vejo mobilização acerca de temas urgentíssimos, como poderiam ser o da educação e da redefinição da nossa relação com a terra, quer dizer, com o que há debaixo do território. Natureza e cultura, enfim, que agora se encontram, não apenas mediadas, midiatizadas pelo mercado, mas mediocrizadas por ele. O Estado se uniu ao Mercado contra a natureza e a cultura.

E estas questões não mobilizam?

Existe certa preocupação da opinião pública por questões ambientais, um pouco mais do que em relação às questões da educação, o que não deixa de ser algo para se lamentar, pois as duas vão juntas. Contudo, tudo me parece “too little, too late”: muito pouco e muito tarde. Está se demorando tempo demais para difundir a consciência ambiental. Uma conscientização que o planeta requer, com absoluta urgência, de todos nós. E esta inércia se traduz na escassa pressão sobre os governos, corporações e empresas que apenas investem nesse conto chinês do “capitalismo verde”. Em particular, evidencia-se muito pouca pressão sobre as grandes empresas, sempre distraídas e incompetentes quando se trata do problema da mudança climática.

Não se vê a sociedade realmente mobilizada, por exemplo, por Belo Monte, uma monstruosidade provada e comprovada, mas que conta com o apoio desinformado (é o que se deduz) de uma parte significativa da população do sul e do sudeste, para onde irá a maior parte da energia que não for vendida – a um preço extremamente barato – para multinacionais de alumínio fazerem latas de saquê – no baixo Amazonas – para o mercado asiático.

Necessitamos de um discurso político mais agressivo em relação às questões ambientais. É necessário, sobretudo, falar com as pessoas, chamar a atenção a respeito de que o saneamento básico é um problema ambiental, de que a dengue é um problema ambiental. Não se pode separar a dengue do desmatamento e do saneamento. Temos que convencer os mais pobres de que melhorar as condições ambientais é assegurar as condições de existência das pessoas.

No entanto, a esquerda tradicional, como está sendo demonstrado, apresenta-se completamente inútil para articular um discurso sobre os temas ambientais. Quando suas cabeças mais pensantes falam, parece haver a sensação de estar “indo para trás”, tratando desastradamente de capturar e de reduzir um tema novo ao já conhecido, um problema muito real que não está em seu DNA ideológico e filosófico. Mesmo quando a esquerda não se alinha com o insustentável projeto “ecocida” do capitalismo, revela sua origem comum a este, com as névoas e obscuridades da metafísica antropocêntrica do cristianismo.

Enquanto continuarmos sustentando que melhorar a vida das pessoas é lhes dar mais dinheiro para comprar uma televisão, ao invés de melhorar o saneamento, abastecimento de água, saúde e educação primária, nada mudará. Escuta-se o governo dizer que a solução é consumir mais, mas não se percebe a menor ênfase para abordar estes aspectos literalmente fundamentais da vida humana nas condições do presente século.

Isto não significa, obviamente, que os mais favorecidos pensem melhor e que possam ver além dos mais pobres. Não há nada mais estúpido que estas Land Rovers que vemos em São Paulo ou no Rio de Janeiro, andando com adesivos do Greenpeace, de slogans ecológicos, coladas no para-brisa. As pessoas vão às ruas nestes 4×4 e bebem um diesel venenoso… Gente que pensa que o contato com a natureza é fazer um Rally no Pantanal…

É uma questão difícil: falta educação básica, falta o compromisso dos meios de comunicação, falta agressividade política no tratamento da questão do meio ambiente.

E sempre que se pensa que existe um problema ambiental, algo que está longe de ser o caso dos governantes atuais, estes mostram, ao contrário, e, por exemplo, a preocupação em formar jovens que possam manobrar com segurança e, ao mesmo tempo, mantém firme sua aposta no transporte individual, em carros, em uma cidade como São Paulo, em que já não cabe nem uma agulha. Um governo que não se cansa de se orgulhar pela quantidade de carros produzidos por ano. É absurdo utilizar os números da produção de veículos como um indicador de prosperidade econômica. Essa é uma proposta podre, uma visão estreita e uma proposta muito empobrecedora para o país.

Você está dizendo que os apelos ao consumo vêm do próprio governo, mas também há um apelo muito forte procedente do mercado. Como avalia isto?

O Brasil é um país capitalista periférico. O capitalismo industrial-financeiro é visto por quase todo o mundo como uma evidência palpável, o modo inevitável em que se vive no mundo atual.

Diferentemente de alguns companheiros de caminhada, eu entendo que o capitalismo sustentável é uma contradição em seus termos. E que nossa atual forma de vida econômica é realmente evitável. Então, simplesmente, nossa forma de vida biológica (quer dizer, a espécie humana) não será mais necessária e a Terra irá favorecer outras alternativas.

As ideias de crescimento negativo, ou de objeção ao crescimento, ou a ética da suficiência são incompatíveis com a lógica do capital. O capitalismo depende do crescimento contínuo. A ideia de manter certo nível de equilíbrio em relação ao intercâmbio de energia com a natureza não se ajusta na matriz econômica do capitalismo.

Este impasse, gostemos ou não, será “resolvido” pelas condições termodinâmicas do planeta em um período muito mais curto do que pensávamos. As pessoas fingem não saber o que está se passando, preferem não pensar nisso, mas o fato é que temos que nos preparar para o pior. E o Brasil, pelo contrário, sempre se prepara para o melhor. Este otimismo nacional frente a uma situação planetária é extremamente preocupante, assim como perigoso… E a aposta de que vamos bem dentro do capitalismo é um tanto ingênua, se não desesperada…

O Brasil segue como um país periférico, uma plantação “high tech” que abastece com matérias-primas o capitalismo central. Vivemos de exportar nossa terra e nossa água em forma de soja, açúcar, carne bovina, para os países industrializados: são estes quem têm a última palavra, os que controlam o mercado. Estamos bem neste momento, mas de modo nenhum em condições de controlar a economia mundial. Se a coisa muda um pouco para um lado ou para o outro, o Brasil simplesmente pode perder esse lugar no qual se encontra hoje. Para não mencionar, claro, o fato de que estamos vivendo uma crise econômica mundial que se tornou explosiva em 2008, que está longe de terminar e que ninguém sabe aonde irá parar. O Brasil, neste momento de crise, é uma espécie de contracorrente do tsunami, mas quando a onda quebrar vai molhar muita gente. Deve-se falar sobre estas coisas.

E como você avalia a macropolítica em relação a esta realidade, as políticas macroeconômicas, com as realidades rurais do Brasil, os indígenas e ribeirinhos?

O projeto de Brasil, que tem a atual coalizão do governo sob o mando do Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), considera os ribeirinhos, os indígenas, os campesinos, os quilombolas como pessoas com atraso, um atraso sociocultural, e que devem ser conduzida para outro estado. Esta é uma concepção tragicamente equivocada. O PT é visceralmente paulista, o projeto é uma paulistização” do Brasil. Transformar o interior do país em um país de fantasia: muita festa de peão de vaqueiro, caminhonetes 4×4, muita música country, botas, chapéus, rodeios, touros, eucaliptos, gaúchos. E do outro lado, cidades gigantescas e impossíveis como São Paulo.

O PT vê a Amazônia brasileira como um lugar para civilizar, para domar, para obter benefícios econômicos, para capitalizar. Em uma lamentável continuidade entre a geopolítica da ditadura e a do governo atual, este é o velho “bandeirantismo” que hoje faz parte do projeto nacional. Mudaram as condições políticas formais, mas a imagem do que é ou deveria ser a civilização brasileira, daquilo que é uma vida digna de ser vivida, do que é uma sociedade que está em sintonia consigo mesmo, é muito, muito similar.

Estamos vendo hoje uma ironia muito dialética: o governo, liderado por uma pessoa perseguida e torturada pela ditadura, realizando um projeto de sociedade que foi adotado e implementado por esta mesma ditadura: a destruição da Amazônia, a mecanização, a “transgenização” e a “agrotoxicação” da agricultura, migração induzida pelas cidades.

E por detrás de tudo isso, certa ideia de Brasil que se vê, no início do século XXI, como se devesse ser, ou como se fosse, o que os Estados Unidos eram no século XX. A imagem que o Brasil tem de si mesmo é, em vários aspectos, aquela projetada pelos Estados Unidos nos filmes de Hollywood nos anos 50: muitos carros, muitas autopistas, muitas geladeiras, muitas televisões, todo mundo feliz. Quem pagou por tudo isso? Entre outros, nós. Quem irá nos pagar agora? A África, outra vez? Haiti? Bolívia? Para não falar da massa de infelicidade bruta gerada por esta forma de vida (e de quem se enriquece com isto).

Isto é o que vejo com tristeza: cinco séculos de maldade continuam aí. Sarney é um capitão hereditário, como os que vieram de Portugal para saquear e devastar a terra dos índios. Nosso governo “de esquerda” governa com a permissão da oligarquia e necessita destes capangas para governar. Podem ser feitas várias coisas, desde que a melhor parte fique com ela. Toda vez que o governo ensaia uma medida que a ameaça, o Congresso – que sabemos como é eleito – e a imprensa bombardeiam, o PMDB sabota…

Há uma série de becos para os quais eu não vejo saída ou que não têm saída no jogo da política tradicional, com suas regras. Vejo um caminho possível pelo lado do movimento social – que hoje está desmobilizado. Mas, se não for pelo lado do movimento social, seguiremos vivendo neste paraíso subjetivo de que um dia tudo vai ficar bem. O Brasil é um país dominado politicamente pelos grandes proprietários de terra e grandes empreiteiros que jamais sofreram uma reforma agrária e ainda dizem que atualmente não é mais necessário fazê-la.

Acredita que as coisas começarão a mudar quando chegarmos a um limite?

É provável que a crise econômica mundial afete o Brasil em algum momento próximo. Contudo, o que vai ocorrer, com certeza, é que o mundo vai passar por uma transição ecológica, climática e demográfica muito intensa durante os próximos 50 anos, com epidemias, fome, secas, catástrofes, guerras, invasões. Estamos vendo como as condições climáticas mudaram muito mais rápido do que pensávamos. E há grandes possibilidades de desastres, de perdas de colheitas, de crises alimentares. Neste meio tempo, hoje em dia, o Brasil até se beneficia, mas um dia a fatura irá chegar. Climatologistas, geofísicos, biólogos e ecologistas são profundamente pessimistas sobre o ritmo, as causas e consequências da transformação das condições ambientais em que se desenvolve a vida atual da espécie. Por que deveríamos ser otimistas?

Acredito que se deve insistir que é possível ser feliz sem ficar hipnotizado por este frenesi de consumo que os meios de comunicação impõem. Não sou contrário ao crescimento econômico no Brasil, não sou tão estúpido para pensar que tudo se resolveria mediante a distribuição do dinheiro de Eike Batista entre os agricultores do nordeste semiárido ou cortando os subsídios à classe político-mafiosa que governa o país. Não que não seja uma boa ideia. Sou contrário, isto sim, ao crescimento da “economia” do mundo, e sou a favor de uma redistribuição das taxas de crescimento. E também sou, obviamente, a favor de que todos possam comprar uma geladeira e, por que não, uma televisão. Sou a favor de uma maior utilização das tecnologias solar e eólica. E estaria encantado em deixar de dirigir o carro, se pudéssemos trocar este meio de transporte absurdo por soluções mais inteligentes.

E como vê os jovens neste contexto?

É muito difícil falar de uma geração à qual não se pertence. Nos anos 1960, tínhamos ideias confusas, mas ideais claros: pensávamos que poderíamos mudar o mundo e imaginávamos que tipo de mundo queríamos. Acredito que, em geral, os horizontes utópicos têm retrocedido enormemente.

Algum movimento recente no Brasil ou no mundo chamou a sua atenção?

No Brasil, a aceleração difusa do que poderíamos chamar de uma cultura “agro-sulista”, tanto da direita quanto da esquerda, pelo interior do país. Vejo isto como a consumação do projeto de branqueamento da nacionalidade, deste modo muito peculiar de a elite governante no poder acertar as contas com seu próprio passado (passado?) escravista.

Outra mudança importante é a consolidação de uma cultura popular vinculada ao movimento evangélico popular. O evangelismo da Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus associa, por certo, a religião ao consumo.

O como você vê o surgimento das redes sociais, nesse contexto?

Essa é uma das poucas coisas a respeito das quais sou muito otimista: o relativo e progressivo enfraquecimento do controle total dos meios de comunicação de cinco ou seis conglomerados midiáticos. Esse enfraquecimento está muito vinculado à proliferação das redes sociais, que são grande novidade na sociedade brasileira e que estão contribuindo para que circule um tipo de informação que não tinha lugar na imprensa oficial. E estão habilitando formas, antes impossíveis, de mobilização. Há movimentos inteiramente produzidos pelas redes sociais, como a marcha contra a homofobia, o churrasco da “gente diferenciada”, os diversos movimentos contra Belo Monte, a mobilização pelas florestas.

As redes são nossa saída de emergência frente à aliança mortal entre o governo e os meios de comunicação. São um fator de desestabilização – no melhor sentido da palavra – do poder dominante. Se puder ocorrer alguma mudança importante na cena política, acredito que será através da mobilização pelas redes sociais.

E por isso se intensificam as tentativas de controlar estas redes, em todo o mundo, por parte do poder constituído. Contudo, controlar o acesso é um instrumento vergonhoso, como o caso do “projeto” da banda larga brasileira, que parte do reconhecimento de que o serviço será de baixa qualidade. Uma decisão tecnológica e política antidemocrática e antipopular, equivalente ao que se faz com a educação: impedir que a população tenha acesso pleno à circulação das produções culturais.

Parece, às vezes, que haveria uma conspiração para evitar que os brasileiros tenham uma boa educação e um acesso à Internet de qualidade. Essas duas coisas andam de mãos dadas e têm o mesmo efeito, que é o aumento da inteligência social que, diga-se de passagem, é necessário vigiar com muito cuidado.

Você imagina um novo modelo político?

Um amigo que trabalhava no Ministério do Meio Ambiente, na época de Marina Silva, criticava-me dizendo que meu discurso, feito à distância do Estado, era romântico e absurdo, que tínhamos de tomar o poder. Eu respondia que, se tomássemos o poder, tínhamos, sobretudo, de saber como mantê-lo depois, pois aí que a coisa se complica. Não tenho um desenho, um projeto político para o Brasil, eu não pretendo saber o melhor para o povo brasileiro em geral, e em seu conjunto. Só posso expressar minhas preocupações e indignações, apenas aí me sinto seguro.

Penso, de qualquer forma, que se deve insistir na ideia de que o Brasil tem – ou a esta altura tinha – as condições geográficas, ecológicas, culturais para desenvolver um novo estilo de civilização, que não seja uma cópia empobrecida do modelo da América do Norte e da Europa. Poderíamos começar a experimentar, timidamente, algum tipo de alternativa aos paradigmas tecno-econômicos desenvolvidos na Europa moderna.

Todavia, imagino que se algum país do mundo irá fazer isso, esse país é a China. É certo que os chineses têm 5.000 anos de história cultural praticamente contínua e o que nós temos para oferecer são apenas 500 anos de dominação europeia e uma triste história de etnocídio, deliberado ou não.

Ainda assim, é imperdoável a falta de inventividade da sociedade brasileira – ao menos de sua elite política e intelectual – que já perdeu várias ocasiões de gerar soluções socioculturais – tal como o povo brasileiro historicamente ofereceu – e articular, assim, uma civilização brasileira minimamente diferente da que propõem os comerciais de televisão.

Precisamos mudar completa e, primeiramente, a relação secularmente depredadora da sociedade nacional com a natureza, com a base físico-biológica de sua própria nacionalidade. Já é hora de começar uma nova relação com o consumo, menos ansioso e mais realista frente à situação de crise atual. A felicidade tem muitos outros caminhos.

* A entrevista é de Julia Magalhães, publicada por Lobo Suelto!, em 4-12-2013. A tradução é do Cepat.

** Publicado originalmente no site IHU On-Line.

Plano Clima: Versão final deve ser apresentada no primeiro trimestre de 2014 (Ministério do Meio Ambiente)

13/12/2013 – 12h16

por Tinna Oliveira, do MMA

klink Plano Clima: Versão final deve ser apresentada no primeiro trimestre de 2014

Klink: propostas da sociedade foram incorporadas. Foto: Martim Garcia/MMA

Reunião presencial marca fim da consulta pública do Plano Clima

A sociedade civil contribuiu, por meio de consulta pública, para a atualização do Plano Nacional sobre Mudança do Clima (Plano Clima), o principal instrumento para a implantação da Política Nacional sobre Mudança do Clima. A consulta pública eletrônica ficou aberta de 25 de setembro a 8 de novembro. Nessa quinta-feira (12) aconteceu a última reunião presencial. Durante o período, qualquer cidadão brasileiro pode oferecer suas contribuições, por meio do formulário disponível na internet. Do total de 27 formulários enviados, foram totalizadas 111 contribuições da consulta pública eletrônica. A versão final do plano revisado deve ser apresentada no primeiro trimestre de 2014.

O Ministério do Meio Ambiente (MMA) é o coordenador do Grupo Executivo (GEx) do Comitê Interministerial sobre Mudança do Clima (CIM). Apresentado em 2008 pelo governo federal, o Plano Clima visa incentivar o desenvolvimento e o aprimoramento das ações de mitigação no Brasil, colaborando com o esforço mundial de redução das emissões de gases de efeito estufa, bem como objetiva a criação das condições internas para lidar com os impactos da mudança global do clima (adaptação).


O secretário de Mudanças Climáticas e Qualidade Ambiental do MMA, Carlos Klink, destacou que a consulta pública permitiu incorporar os avanços que aconteceram no Brasil na questão de mudanças do clima e a suas articulações com a negociação internacional. “Isso mostra o tamanho da ambição que o tema mudanças do clima tem dentro do país, pois não é só uma questão internacional, mas também a sociedade brasileira está muito engajada”, enfatizou.

Klink lembra que existem nove planos para mitigação e já está sendo construído o Plano Nacional de Adaptação, previsto para ser concluído até 2015. O tema de mudanças do clima está em destaque no País. “Estamos nos tornando um exemplo internacionalmente e, aqui no Brasil, está criando raízes muito fortes em todos os setores da sociedade”, explicou. Para o secretário, a governança permite um diálogo para construção e elaboração de todos esses planos, com envolvimento de todos os setores dentro e fora do governo. “O documento reflete esse avanço e mostra de maneira sintética esse tremendo trabalho de coordenação”, salientou.


A atualização do Plano Clima passou por várias etapas. Desde janeiro, foram realizadas 17 reuniões do Grupo Executivo e sete reuniões do Fórum Brasileiro de Mudanças Climáticas (FBMC). “O fórum é o canal entre a sociedade e o governo para essa questão clima, por isso a gente sempre estimulou que a sociedade usasse o Fórum nas discussões”, explicou o diretor de Climáticas do MMA, Adriano Santhiago.

Segundo ele, vários setores trouxeram contribuições que foram incorporadas no texto apresentado durante a consulta eletrônica. A contribuição da população foi encerrada nesta reunião presencial, na qual participaram representantes do governo, da academia, do setor produtivo e da sociedade civil. O próximo passo é uma discussão governamental para fechar o documento final.

Em 2009, o Congresso Nacional aprovou a Política Nacional sobre Mudança do Clima, com o ineditismo da adoção de vários compromissos nacionais voluntários de redução de emissões. Além disso, foi criado o Fundo Nacional sobre Mudança do Clima e lançados diversos planos setoriais. Outros pontos que merecem destaque são a redução substancial do desmatamento no país, a mudança do perfil das emissões nacionais de gases de efeito estufa e a transformação substantiva da forma como diversos setores, governamentais ou não, se engajaram no esforço para enfrentar a mudança do clima..

* Publicado originalmente no site Ministério do Meio Ambiente.