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World population likely to shrink after mid-century, forecasting major shifts in global population and economic power (Science Daily)

Date: July 15, 2020

Source: The Lancet

Summary: With widespread, sustained declines in fertility, the world population will likely peak in 2064 at around 9.7 billion, and then decline to about 8.8 billion by 2100 — about 2 billion lower than some previous estimates, according to a new study.

Illustration of people | Credit: © Mopic / stock.adobe.com

Illustration of people forming a world map (stock image). Credit: © Mopic / stock.adobe.com

Improvements in access to modern contraception and the education of girls and women are generating widespread, sustained declines in fertility, and world population will likely peak in 2064 at around 9.7 billion, and then decline to about 8.8 billion by 2100 — about 2 billion lower than some previous estimates, according to a new study published in The Lancet.

The modelling research uses data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 to project future global, regional, and national population. Using novel methods for forecasting mortality, fertility, and migration, the researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine estimate that by 2100, 183 of 195 countries will have total fertility rates (TFR), which represent the average number of children a woman delivers over her lifetime, below replacement level of 2.1 births per woman. This means that in these countries populations will decline unless low fertility is compensated by immigration.

The new population forecasts contrast to projections of ‘continuing global growth’ by the United Nations Population Division, and highlight the huge challenges to economic growth of a shrinking workforce, the high burden on health and social support systems of an aging population, and the impact on global power linked to shifts in world population.

The new study also predicts huge shifts in the global age structure, with an estimated 2.37 billion individuals over 65 years globally in 2100, compared with 1.7 billion under 20 years, underscoring the need for liberal immigration policies in countries with significantly declining working age populations.

“Continued global population growth through the century is no longer the most likely trajectory for the world’s population,” says IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray, who led the research. “This study provides governments of all countries an opportunity to start rethinking their policies on migration, workforces and economic development to address the challenges presented by demographic change.”

IHME Professor Stein Emil Vollset, first author of the paper, continues, “The societal, economic, and geopolitical power implications of our predictions are substantial. In particular, our findings suggest that the decline in the numbers of working-age adults alone will reduce GDP growth rates that could result in major shifts in global economic power by the century’s end. Responding to population decline is likely to become an overriding policy concern in many nations, but must not compromise efforts to enhance women’s reproductive health or progress on women’s rights.”

Dr Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief, The Lancet, adds: “This important research charts a future we need to be planning for urgently. It offers a vision for radical shifts in geopolitical power, challenges myths about immigration, and underlines the importance of protecting and strengthening the sexual and reproductive rights of women. The 21st century will see a revolution in the story of our human civilisation. Africa and the Arab World will shape our future, while Europe and Asia will recede in their influence. By the end of the century, the world will be multipolar, with India, Nigeria, China, and the US the dominant powers. This will truly be a new world, one we should be preparing for today.”

Accelerating decline in fertility worldwide

The global TFR is predicted to steadily decline, from 2.37 in 2017 to 1.66 in 2100 — well below the minimum rate (2.1) considered necessary to maintain population numbers (replacement level) — with rates falling to around 1.2 in Italy and Spain, and as low as 1.17 in Poland.

Even slight changes in TFR translate into large differences in population size in countries below the replacement level — increasing TFR by as little as 0.1 births per woman is equivalent to around 500 million more individuals on the planet in 2100.

Much of the anticipated fertility decline is predicted in high-fertility countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa where rates are expected to fall below the replacement level for the first time — from an average 4.6 births per woman in 2017 to just 1.7 by 2100. In Niger, where the fertility rate was the highest in the world in 2017 — with women giving birth to an average of seven children — the rate is projected to decline to around 1.8 by 2100.

Nevertheless, the population of sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to triple over the course of the century, from an estimated 1.03 billion in 2017 to 3.07 billion in 2100 — as death rates decline and an increasing number of women enter reproductive age. North Africa and the Middle East is the only other region predicted to have a larger population in 2100 (978 million) than in 2017 (600 million).

Many of the fastest-shrinking populations will be in Asia and central and eastern Europe. Populations are expected to more than halve in 23 countries and territories, including Japan (from around 128 million people in 2017 to 60 million in 2100), Thailand (71 to 35 million), Spain (46 to 23 million), Italy (61 to 31 million), Portugal (11 to 5 million), and South Korea (53 to 27 million). An additional 34 countries are expected to have population declines of 25 to 50%, including China (1.4 billion in 2017 to 732 million in 2100; see table).

Huge shifts in global age structure — with over 80s outnumbering under 5s two to one

As fertility falls and life expectancy increases worldwide, the number of children under 5 years old is forecasted to decline by 41% from 681 million in 2017 to 401 million in 2100, whilst the number of individuals older than 80 years is projected to increase six fold, from 141 million to 866 million. Similarly, the global ratio of adults over 80 years to each person aged 15 years or younger is projected to rise from 0.16 in 2017 to 1.50 in 2100, in countries with a population decline of more than 25%.

Furthermore, the global ratio of non-working adults to workers was around 0.8 in 2017, but is projected to increase to 1.16 in 2100 if labour force participation by age and sex does not change.

“While population decline is potentially good news for reducing carbon emissions and stress on food systems, with more old people and fewer young people, economic challenges will arise as societies struggle to grow with fewer workers and taxpayers, and countries’ abilities to generate the wealth needed to fund social support and health care for the elderly are reduced,” says Vollset.

Declining working-age populations could see major shifts in size of economies

The study also examined the economic impact of fewer working-age adults for all countries in 2017. While China is set to replace the USA in 2035 with the largest total gross domestic product (GDP) globally, rapid population decline from 2050 onward will curtail economic growth. As a result, the USA is expected to reclaim the top spot by 2098, if immigration continues to sustain the US workforce.

Although numbers of working-age adults in India are projected to fall from 762 million in 2017 to around 578 million in 2100, it is expected to be one of the few — if only — major power in Asia to protect its working-age population over the century. It is expected to surpass China’s workforce population in the mid-2020s (where numbers of workers are estimated to decline from 950 million in 2017 to 357 million in 2100) — rising up the GDP rankings from 7th to 3rd.

Sub-Saharan Africa is likely to become an increasingly powerful continent on the geopolitical stage as its population rises. Nigeria is projected to be the only country among the world’s 10 most populated nations to see its working-age population grow over the course of the century (from 86 million in 2017 to 458 million in 2100), supporting rapid economic growth and its rise in GDP rankings from 23rd place in 2017 to 9th place in 2100.

While the UK, Germany, and France are expected to remain in the top 10 for largest GDP worldwide at the turn of the century, Italy (from rank 9th in 2017 to 25th in 2100) and Spain (from 13th to 28th) are projected to fall down the rankings, reflecting much greater population decline.

Liberal immigration could help sustain population size and economic growth

The study also suggests that population decline could be offset by immigration, with countries that promote liberal immigration better able to maintain their population size and support economic growth, even in the face of declining fertility rates.

The model predicts that some countries with fertility lower than replacement level, such as the USA, Australia, and Canada, will probably maintain their working-age populations through net immigration (see appendix 2 section 4). Although the authors note that there is considerable uncertainty about these future trends.

“For high-income countries with below-replacement fertility rates, the best solutions for sustaining current population levels, economic growth, and geopolitical security are open immigration policies and social policies supportive of families having their desired number of children,” Murray says. “However, a very real danger exists that, in the face of declining population, some countries might consider policies that restrict access to reproductive health services, with potentially devastating consequences. It is imperative that women’s freedom and rights are at the top of every government’s development agenda.”

The authors note some important limitations, including that while the study uses the best available data, predictions are constrained by the quantity and quality of past data. They also note that past trends are not always predictive of what will happen in the future, and that some factors not included in the model could change the pace of fertility, mortality, or migration. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected local and national health systems throughout the world, and caused over half a million deaths. However, the authors believe the excess deaths caused by the pandemic are unlikely to significantly alter longer term forecasting trends of global population.

Writing in a linked Comment, Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, University College London (UCL), UK, and Chair of Lancet Migration (who was not involved in the study), says: “Migration can be a potential solution to the predicted shortage of working-age populations. While demographers continue to debate the long-term implications of migration as a remedy for declining TFR, for it to be successful, we need a fundamental rethink of global politics. Greater multilateralism and a new global leadership should enable both migrant sending and migrant-receiving countries to benefit, while protecting the rights of individuals. Nations would need to cooperate at levels that have eluded us to date to strategically support and fund the development of excess skilled human capital in countries that are a source of migrants. An equitable change in global migration policy will need the voice of rich and poor countries. The projected changes in the sizes of national economies and the consequent change in military power might force these discussions.”

He adds: “Ultimately, if Murray and colleagues’ predictions are even half accurate, migration will become a necessity for all nations and not an option. The positive impacts of migration on health and economies are known globally. The choice that we face is whether we improve health and wealth by allowing planned population movement or if we end up with an underclass of imported labour and unstable societies. The Anthropocene has created many challenges such as climate change and greater global migration. The distribution of working-age populations will be crucial to whether humanity prospers or withers.”

The study was in part funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It was conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA.


Story Source:

Materials provided by The Lancet. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stein Emil Vollset, Emily Goren, Chun-Wei Yuan, Jackie Cao, Amanda E Smith, Thomas Hsiao, Catherine Bisignano, Gulrez S Azhar, Emma Castro, Julian Chalek, Andrew J Dolgert, Tahvi Frank, Kai Fukutaki, Simon I Hay, Rafael Lozano, Ali H Mokdad, Vishnu Nandakumar, Maxwell Pierce, Martin Pletcher, Toshana Robalik, Krista M Steuben, Han Yong Wunrow, Bianca S Zlavog, Christopher J L Murray. Fertility, mortality, migration, and population scenarios for 195 countries and territories from 2017 to 2100: a forecasting analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. The Lancet, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30677-2

New model predicts the peaks of the COVID-19 pandemic (Science Daily)

Date: May 29, 2020

Source: Santa Fe Institute

Summary: Researchers describe a single function that accurately describes all existing available data on active COVID-19 cases and deaths — and predicts forthcoming peaks.

As of late May, COVID-19 has killed more than 325,000 people around the world. Even though the worst seems to be over for countries like China and South Korea, public health experts warn that cases and fatalities will continue to surge in many parts of the world. Understanding how the disease evolves can help these countries prepare for an expected uptick in cases.

This week in the journal Frontiers in Physics, researchers describe a single function that accurately describes all existing available data on active cases and deaths — and predicts forthcoming peaks. The tool uses q-statistics, a set of functions and probability distributions developed by Constantino Tsallis, a physicist and member of the Santa Fe Institute’s external faculty. Tsallis worked on the new model together with Ugur Tirnakli, a physicist at Ege University, in Turkey.

“The formula works in all the countries in which we have tested,” says Tsallis.

Neither physicist ever set out to model a global pandemic. But Tsallis says that when he saw the shape of published graphs representing China’s daily active cases, he recognized shapes he’d seen before — namely, in graphs he’d helped produce almost two decades ago to describe the behavior of the stock market.

“The shape was exactly the same,” he says. For the financial data, the function described probabilities of stock exchanges; for COVID-19, it described daily the number of active cases — and fatalities — as a function of time.

Modeling financial data and tracking a global pandemic may seem unrelated, but Tsallis says they have one important thing in common. “They’re both complex systems,” he says, “and in complex systems, this happens all the time.” Disparate systems from a variety of fields — biology, network theory, computer science, mathematics — often reveal patterns that follow the same basic shapes and evolution.

The financial graph appeared in a 2004 volume co-edited by Tsallis and the late Nobelist Murray Gell-Mann. Tsallis developed q-statitics, also known as “Tsallis statistics,” in the late 1980s as a generalization of Boltzmann-Gibbs statistics to complex systems.

In the new paper, Tsallis and Tirnakli used data from China, where the active case rate is thought to have peaked, to set the main parameters for the formula. Then, they applied it to other countries including France, Brazil, and the United Kingdom, and found that it matched the evolution of the active cases and fatality rates over time.

The model, says Tsallis, could be used to create useful tools like an app that updates in real-time with new available data, and can adjust its predictions accordingly. In addition, he thinks that it could be fine-tuned to fit future outbreaks as well.

“The functional form seems to be universal,” he says, “Not just for this virus, but for the next one that might appear as well.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Santa Fe Institute. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Constantino Tsallis, Ugur Tirnakli. Predicting COVID-19 Peaks Around the World. Frontiers in Physics, 2020; 8 DOI: 10.3389/fphy.2020.00217

‘Se Brasil parar por duas semanas, é possível evitar as 125 mil mortes’, diz especialista (Folha de S.Paulo)

www1.folha.uol.com.br

Marina Dias, 28 de maio de 2020


Ali Mokdad dirige parte das projeções feitas pelo IHME, instituto de métrica da Universidade de Washington utilizado pela Casa Branca como um dos principais modelos para monitorar Covid-19.

Desde o meio de maio, Mokdad e sua equipe acompanham o avanço da pandemia no Brasil e suas conclusões são bastantes sombrias. Na segunda-feira (25), o instituto atualizou para cima a expectativa de mortes pela doença no país: de 88 mil para mais de 125 mil óbitos previstos até agosto.

Em entrevista à Folha, Mokdad diz que a tendência de casos e mortes no país é de alta e que a situação pode ser ainda pior se governo e população não levarem a crise a sério e adotarem “lockdown” por duas semanas.

“As infeções e mortes vão crescer e, o mais assustador, haverá a sobrecarga total do sistema de saúde.” Caso cumpra o confinamento total por 14 dias, explica Mokdad, o Brasil conseguirá controlar a propagação do vírus e poderá fazer a reabertura das atividades econômicas de maneira estratégica –e até mais rapidamente.

Especialista em saúde pública, diz sofrer críticas por ter um modelo que varia bastante, mas, no caso da pandemia, prefere que suas projeções se ajustem com o tempo. “Se os brasileiros ficarem em casa por duas semanas, meus números vão baixar. E não porque fiz algo errado, mas porque os brasileiros fizeram algo certo.”

Qual a situação da pandemia no Brasil? Infelizmente o que vemos no Brasil é uma tendência de aumento de casos, que vai resultar no crescimento das mortes no país. Isso se dá por várias razões. Primeiro porque o país não entrou em “lockdown” cedo para impedir a propagação do vírus. O governo e a população brasileira não levaram isso a sério e não fizeram logo as coisas certas para impedir a transmissão do vírus.

Segundo, há muita disparidade no Brasil e a Covid-19 aumenta isso. Nesse caso, é preciso proteger não só os trabalhadores de saúde mas os trabalhadores de serviços essenciais, pessoas pobres que trabalham em funções que as obrigam a sair de casa. Elas não estão protegidas e estão morrendo. A terceira e mais importante preocupação é a sobrecarga do sistema de saúde. Se o país não agir, vai haver mais casos no inverno e não haverá tempo para se preparar. É perigoso e arriscado. Se você colocar tudo isso junto, o Brasil ainda vai enfrentar sérias dificuldades diante da Covid-19.

Em duas semanas, o IHME aumentou as projeções de morte no Brasil de 88 mil para mais de 125 mil até agosto. O que aconteceu? Adicionamos mais estados [de 11 para 19] na nossa projeção, isso é uma coisa. Mas estamos vendo no Brasil mais surtos e casos do que esperávamos. O país está testando mais e encontrando mais casos, mas, mesmo quando ajustamos para os testes, há uma tendência de alta.

No Brasil há também um erro de suposição quando falamos de circulação. Os dados [de mobilidade da população] são baseados no Facebook e no Google, ou seja, em smartphones, ou seja, em pessoas mais ricas. Percebemos que a circulação não parou nas favelas, por exemplo, em lugares onde pessoas mais pobres precisam sair para trabalhar. Se as pessoas se recusarem a levar isso a sério, infelizmente vamos ver mais casos e mortes.

Quais medidas precisam ser tomadas? Fechar escolas e universidades, impedir grandes aglomerações e encontros de pessoas, fechar os estabelecimentos não essenciais, igrejas, templos e locais religiosos. Nos locais essenciais, como mercados e farmácias, é preciso estabelecer regras, limitando o número de pessoas dentro, garantindo que elas se mantenham distantes umas das outras.

A última e mais importante coisa é pedir para quem precisa sair de casa—e sabemos que há quem precise— usar máscara e manter distância de 2 metros de outras pessoas. Para o sistema de saúde, é aumentar a capacidade de tratamento, de detectar cedo a chegada de um surto, fazendo rastreamento e o isolamento de casos, o que é um desafio para o Brasil, onde muitas vezes dez pessoas vivem em uma mesma casa.

Se o Brasil não cumprir essas medidas, qual é o pior cenário para o país? As infeções e mortes vão crescer e, a parte mais assustadora, haverá a sobrecarga total do sistema de saúde. Isso vai causar mais prejuízo à economia do que se fizer o isolamento por duas semanas. Se a população ficar em casa e levar isso a sério por duas semanas, registraremos diminuição da propagação do vírus e poderemos reabrir em fases. É preciso garantir que a retomada econômica seja feita de maneira estratégica, por setores.

É possível evitar o pico de 1.500 mortes diárias em julho e as 125 mil mortes até agosto se o país parar agora? Sim. O Brasil está em uma situação muito difícil e pode ser assim por muito tempo, mas ainda há esperança. Se o governo e a população pararem por duas semanas, podemos parar a circulação do vírus e reabrir o comércio. Se você olhar para estados americanos, como Nova York, depois que há o “lockdown”, as mortes e os casos diminuem. O “lockdown” salvou muitas vidas nos EUA. Fizemos as projeções para o Brasil de 125 mil mortes até 4 de agosto, mas não significa que vai acontecer, podemos parar isso. É preciso que cada brasileiro faça sua parte.

O presidente Jair Bolsonaro é contra medidas de distanciamento social, compara a Covid-19 com uma gripezinha e defende um medicamento com eficácia não comprovada contra a doença. Como essa postura pode impactar a situação do Brasil? Aqui nos EUA temos também uma situação política nesse sentido, infelizmente. Não sou político, vejo os números e dou conselhos a partir do que concluo deles. Pelos dados, o Brasil precisa de uma ação coordenada, caso contrário, vamos ter muitas perdas.

Mas precisamos ter uma coisa clara: Covid-19 não é uma gripe, causa mais mortalidade que gripe, a gripe não causa AVC e nem ataca os pulmões da maneira que a Covid-19 ataca. Contra Covid-19 não há medicamento e ponto final. Não tem vacina. Não é possível comparar Covid-19 e gripe. Fazer isso é passar mensagem errada. Dizer para a população que é possível sair e ver quem pega a doença é inaceitável, é falha de liderança.

Como ganhar a confiança dos governos e da população com projeções que variam tanto e com tanta gente trabalhando com dados sobre o tema? Há muita gente fazendo projeção mas, pela primeira vez na história da ciência, todos concordamos. Os números podem ser diferentes, mas a mensagem mais importante é a mesma: isso é um vírus letal e temos que levá-lo a sério. Meus números mudam porque as pessoas mudam. Se os brasileiros ficarem em casa por duas semanas, meus números vão baixar. E não porque fiz algo errado, mas porque os brasileiros fizeram algo certo. Aprendemos que o modelo muda se novos dados aparecem.

O sr. já foi acusado de ser alarmista ou de produzir notícias falsas quando seus números mudam? Acusado é demais, mas tem gente que fala que meus números são mais altos ou mais baixos do que deveriam ser, e isso eu nem resposto, porque não é um debate científico, é um debate político. No debate científico está todo mundo a bordo com a mesma mensagem.

Trump parece ter sido convencido da gravidade da pandemia em parte baseado nos seus números. Foi isso mesmo? Sim. Nos EUA e também na Inglaterra nossos números mudaram a postura do governante. Claro que lá o primeiro-ministro [Boris Johnson] pegou Covid-19 ele mesmo.

Como é trabalhar tendo isso em vista, com números tão sensíveis e poderosos? A gente não dorme muito por esses dias, é muito trabalho. É muito difícil dizer que 125 mil pessoas vão morrer no Brasil até agosto. Isso não é um número, são famílias, amigos, é muito duro.

Brazil coronavirus deaths could surpass 125,000 by August, U.S. study says (Reuters)

May 26, 2020 / 1:21 PM

Gravediggers work during a mass burial of people who passed away due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Parque Taruma cemetery in Manaus, Brazil, May 26, 2020. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly

BRASILIA (Reuters) – As Brazil’s daily COVID-19 death rate climbs to the highest in the world, a University of Washington study is warning its total death toll could climb five-fold to 125,000 by early August, adding to fears it has become a new hot spot in the pandemic.

The forecast from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), released as Brazil’s daily death toll climbed past that of the United States on Monday, came with a call for lockdowns that Brazil’s president has resisted.

“Brazil must follow the lead of Wuhan, China, as well as Italy, Spain, and New York by enforcing mandates and measures to gain control of a fast-moving epidemic and reduce transmission of the coronavirus,” wrote IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray.

Without such measures, the institute’s model shows Brazil’s daily death toll could keep climbing to until mid-July, driving shortages of critical hospital resources in Brazil, he said in a statement accompanying the findings.

On Monday, Brazil’s coronavirus deaths reported in the last 24 hours were higher than fatalities in the United States for the first time, according to the health ministry. Brazil registered 807 deaths and 620 died in the United States.

The U.S. government on Monday brought forward to Tuesday midnight enforcement of restrictions on travel to the United States from Brazil as the South American country reported the highest death toll in the world for that day.

Washington’s ban applies to foreigners traveling to the United States if they had been in Brazil in the last two weeks. Two days earlier, Brazil overtook Russia as the world’s No. 2 coronavirus hot spot in number of confirmed cases, after the United States.

Murray said the IHME forecast captures the effects of social distancing mandates, mobility trends and testing capacity, so projections could shift along with policy changes.

The model will be updated regularly as new data is released on cases, hospitalizations, deaths, testing and mobility.

Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Brad Haynes and Steve Orlofsky

Modeling COVID-19 data must be done with extreme care (Science Daily)

Date: May 19, 2020

Source: American Institute of Physics

Summary: At the beginning of a new wave of an epidemic, extreme care should be used when extrapolating data to determine whether lockdowns are necessary, experts say.

As the infectious virus causing the COVID-19 disease began its devastating spread around the globe, an international team of scientists was alarmed by the lack of uniform approaches by various countries’ epidemiologists to respond to it.

Germany, for example, didn’t institute a full lockdown, unlike France and the U.K., and the decision in the U.S. by New York to go into a lockdown came only after the pandemic had reached an advanced stage. Data modeling to predict the numbers of likely infections varied widely by region, from very large to very small numbers, and revealed a high degree of uncertainty.

Davide Faranda, a scientist at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), and colleagues in the U.K., Mexico, Denmark, and Japan decided to explore the origins of these uncertainties. This work is deeply personal to Faranda, whose grandfather died of COVID-19; Faranda has dedicated the work to him.

In the journal Chaos, from AIP Publishing, the group describes why modeling and extrapolating the evolution of COVID-19 outbreaks in near real time is an enormous scientific challenge that requires a deep understanding of the nonlinearities underlying the dynamics of epidemics.

Forecasting the behavior of a complex system, such as the evolution of epidemics, requires both a physical model for its evolution and a dataset of infections to initialize the model. To create a model, the team used data provided by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering, which is available online at https://systems.jhu.edu/research/public-health/ncov/ or https://github.com/CSSEGISandData/COVID-19.

“Our physical model is based on assuming that the total population can be divided into four groups: those who are susceptible to catching the virus, those who have contracted the virus but don’t show any symptoms, those who are infected and, finally, those who recovered or died from the virus,” Faranda said.

To determine how people move from one group to another, it’s necessary to know the infection rate, incubation time and recovery time. Actual infection data can be used to extrapolate the behavior of the epidemic with statistical models.

“Because of the uncertainties in both the parameters involved in the models — infection rate, incubation period and recovery time — and the incompleteness of infections data within different countries, extrapolations could lead to an incredibly large range of uncertain results,” Faranda said. “For example, just assuming an underestimation of the last data in the infection counts of 20% can lead to a change in total infections estimations from few thousands to few millions of individuals.”

The group has also shown that this uncertainty is due to a lack of data quality and also to the intrinsic nature of the dynamics, because it is ultrasensitive to the parameters — especially during the initial growing phase. This means that everyone should be very careful extrapolating key quantities to decide whether to implement lockdown measures when a new wave of the virus begins.

“The total final infection counts as well as the duration of the epidemic are sensitive to the data you put in,” he said.

The team’s model handles uncertainty in a natural way, so they plan to show how modeling of the post-confinement phase can be sensitive to the measures taken.

“Preliminary results show that implementing lockdown measures when infections are in a full exponential growth phase poses serious limitations for their success,” said Faranda.


Story Source:

Materials provided by American Institute of Physics. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Davide Faranda, Isaac Pérez Castillo, Oliver Hulme, Aglaé Jezequel, Jeroen S. W. Lamb, Yuzuru Sato, Erica L. Thompson. Asymptotic estimates of SARS-CoV-2 infection counts and their sensitivity to stochastic perturbation. Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science, 2020; 30 (5): 051107 DOI: 10.1063/5.0008834

Opinion | Forty Years Later, Lessons for the Pandemic From Mount St. Helens (New York Times)

nytimes.com

By Lawrence Roberts – May 17, 2020

The tensions we now face between science, politics and economics also arose before the country’s most destructive volcanic eruption.

Mr. Roberts is a former editor at ProPublica and The Washington Post.

Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980.
United Press International

When I met David A. Johnston, it was on a spring evening, about a month before he would be erased from existence by a gigantic cloud of volcanic ash boiling over him at 300 miles per hour. He was coming through the door of a makeshift command center in Vancouver, Wash., the closest city to the graceful snow-capped dome of Mount St. Helens, a volcano that had been dormant for 123 years. This was April 1980, and Mr. Johnston, a 30-year-old geologist, was one of the first scientists summoned to monitor new warning signs from the mountain — shallow earthquakes and periodic bursts of ash and steam.

As a young reporter I had talked my way into the command center. At first Mr. Johnston was wary; he wasn’t supposed to meet the press anymore. His supervisors had played down the chance that the smoking mountain was about to explode, and they had already reprimanded him for suggesting otherwise. But on this night he’d just been setting measuring equipment deep in the surrounding forest, and his runner-thin frame vibrated with excitement, his face flushed under his blond beard, and Mr. Johnston couldn’t help riffing on the likelihood of a cataclysmic event.

“My feeling is when it goes, it’s going to go just like that,” he told me, snapping his fingers. “Bang!” At best, he said, we’d have a couple of hours of warning.

Mr. Johnston was mostly right. Early on a Sunday morning several weeks later, the mountain did blow, in the most destructive eruption in U.S. history. But there was no warning. At his instrument outpost, on a ridge more than five miles from the summit, Mr. Johnston had only seconds to radio in a last message: “Vancouver! Vancouver! This is it!”

A photograph of David Johnston, who was killed when Mount St. Helens erupted.
Chris Sweda/Daily Southtown, via Associated Press

Monday, May 18, marks the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption, and as we now face our own struggle to gauge the uncertain risks presented by nature, to predict how bad things will get and how much and how long to protect ourselves, it may be useful to revisit the tension back then between science, politics and economics.

The drama played out on a much smaller stage — one region of one state, instead of the whole planet — but many of the same elements were present: Scientists provided a range of educated guesses, and public officials split on how to respond. Business owners and residents chafed at the restrictions put in place, many flouted them, and a few even threatened armed rebellion. In the end, the government mostly accepted the analyses of Mr. Johnston and his fellow geologists. As a result, while the eruption killed 57 people and flattened hundreds of square miles of dense Pacific Northwest forestland, the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands, were spared.

At the first warning signs, state and federal officials moved to distance people from the mountain. They sought to block nonessential visitors from nearby Spirit Lake, ringed with scout camps and tourist lodges. Other than loggers, few people hung around the peak year-round, but the population surged in late spring and summer, when thousands hiked, camped and moved into vacation homes. Many regulars dismissed the risk. Slipping past roadblocks became a popular activity. Locals sold maps to sightseers and amateur photographers that showed how to take old logging roads up the mountain. The owner of a nearby general store shared a common opinion of the threat: “It’s just plain bull. I lived here 26 years, and nothing like this happened before.”

Like the probability of a pandemic, though, it was well-established that one of the dozen or so volcanoes in the 800-mile Cascade Range might soon turn active. Averaging two eruptions a century, they were overdue. A 1978 report by the U.S. Geological Survey, where Mr. Johnston worked, identified Mount St. Helens as most likely to blow next. Yet forecasting how big the event could be was a matter of art as well as science. Geologists could model only previous explosions and list the possible outcomes. (“That position was difficult for many to accept, because they believed we could and should make predictions,” a U.S.G.S. report said later.)

Some scientists suggested a much larger evacuation, but uncertainty, a hallmark of their discipline, can be difficult for those making real-time public policy. The guidelines from federal and state representatives camped out in Vancouver, and from Washington’s governor, Dixy Lee Ray, often seemed in conflict. Moreover, the Weyerhaeuser Company, which owned tens of thousands of acres of timber, opposed logging restrictions, even as some crews got nervous about working near the rumbling dome.

By mid-April, a bulge grew on the north flank, a clue that highly pressurized magma was trapped and expanding. If it burst, a landslide might bury Spirit Lake. The governor, a conservative Democrat who was a biologist by training, finally agreed to stronger measures. She ordered an inner “red zone” where only scientists and law enforcement personnel could enter, and a “blue zone” open to loggers and property owners with day passes. If the zones didn’t extend as far as many geologists hoped, they were certainly an improvement.

Then the mountain got deceptively quiet. The curve of seismic activity flattened and turned downward. Many grew complacent, and restless. On Saturday, May 17, people with property inside the red zone massed in cars and pickup trucks at the roadblock on State Highway 504. Hearing rumors that some carried rifles, the governor relented, allowing them through, with a police escort, to check on their homes and leave again. The state patrol chief, Robert Landon, told them, “We hope the good Lord will keep that mountain from giving us any trouble.” The property owners vowed to return the next day.

The next day was Sunday. At 8:32 a.m., a powerful quake shook loose the snow-covered north face of Mount St. Helens, releasing the superheated magma, which roared out of the mountain in a lateral blast faster than a bullet train, over the spot where Mr. Johnston stood, mowing down 230 square miles of trees, hurling trunks into the air like twigs. It rained down a suffocating storm of thick gray ash, “a burning sky-river wind of searing lava droplet hail,” as the poet Gary Snyder described it. Mudflows clogged the river valleys, setting off deadly floods. A column of ash soared 15 miles high and bloomed into a mushroom cloud 35 miles wide. Over two weeks, ash would circle the globe. Among the 57 dead were three aspiring geologists besides Mr. Johnston, as well as loggers, sightseers and photographers.

About a week later, the Forest Service took reporters up in a helicopter. I had seen the mountain from the air before the eruption. Now the sprawling green wilderness that appeared endless and permanent had disappeared in a blink. We flew for an hour over nothing but moonscape. The scientists had done their best, but nature flexed a power far more deadly than even they had imagined.

Lawrence Roberts, a former editor at ProPublica and The Washington Post, is the author of the forthcoming “Mayday 1971: A White House at War, a Revolt in the Streets, and the Untold History of America’s Biggest Mass Arrest.”

This Is the Future of the Pandemic (New York Times)

Covid-19 isn’t going away soon. Two recent studies mapped out the possible shapes of its trajectory.

Circles at Gare du Nord train station in Paris marked safe social distances on Wednesday.
Circles at Gare du Nord train station in Paris marked safe social distances on Wednesday.Credit…Ian Langsdon/EPA, via Shutterstock

By Siobhan Roberts – May 8, 2020

By now we know — contrary to false predictions — that the novel coronavirus will be with us for a rather long time.

“Exactly how long remains to be seen,” said Marc Lipsitch, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “It’s going to be a matter of managing it over months to a couple of years. It’s not a matter of getting past the peak, as some people seem to believe.”

A single round of social distancing — closing schools and workplaces, limiting the sizes of gatherings, lockdowns of varying intensities and durations — will not be sufficient in the long term.

In the interest of managing our expectations and governing ourselves accordingly, it might be helpful, for our pandemic state of mind, to envision this predicament — existentially, at least — as a soliton wave: a wave that just keeps rolling and rolling, carrying on under its own power for a great distance.

The Scottish engineer and naval architect John Scott Russell first spotted a soliton in 1834 as it traveled along the Union Canal. He followed on horseback and, as he wrote in his “Report on Waves,” overtook it rolling along at about eight miles an hour, at thirty feet long and a foot or so in height. “Its height gradually diminished, and after a chase of one or two miles I lost it in the windings of the channel.”

The pandemic wave, similarly, will be with us for the foreseeable future before it diminishes. But, depending on one’s geographic location and the policies in place, it will exhibit variegated dimensions and dynamics traveling through time and space.

“There is an analogy between weather forecasting and disease modeling,” Dr. Lipsitch said. Both, he noted, are simple mathematical descriptions of how a system works: drawing upon physics and chemistry in the case of meteorology; and on behavior, virology and epidemiology in the case of infectious-disease modeling. Of course, he said, “we can’t change the weather.” But we can change the course of the pandemic — with our behavior, by balancing and coordinating psychological, sociological, economic and political factors.

Dr. Lipsitch is a co-author of two recent analyses — one from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, the other from the Chan School published in Science — that describe a variety of shapes the pandemic wave might take in the coming months.

The Minnesota study describes three possibilities:

Scenario No. 1 depicts an initial wave of cases — the current one — followed by a consistently bumpy ride of “peaks and valleys” that will gradually diminish over a year or two.

Scenario No. 2 supposes that the current wave will be followed by a larger “fall peak,” or perhaps a winter peak, with subsequent smaller waves thereafter, similar to what transpired during the 1918-1919 flu pandemic.

Scenario No. 3 shows an intense spring peak followed by a “slow burn” with less-pronounced ups and downs.

The authors conclude that whichever reality materializes (assuming ongoing mitigation measures, as we await a vaccine), “we must be prepared for at least another 18 to 24 months of significant Covid-19 activity, with hot spots popping up periodically in diverse geographic areas.”

In the Science paper, the Harvard team — infectious-disease epidemiologist Yonatan Grad, his postdoctoral fellow Stephen Kissler, Dr. Lipsitch, his doctoral student Christine Tedijanto and their colleague Edward Goldstein — took a closer look at various scenarios by simulating the transmission dynamics using the latest Covid-19 data and data from related viruses.

The authors conveyed the results in a series of graphs — composed by Dr. Kissler and Ms. Tedijanto — that project a similarly wavy future characterized by peaks and valleys.

One figure from the paper, reinterpreted below, depicts possible scenarios (the details would differ geographically) and shows the red trajectory of Covid-19 infections in response to “intermittent social distancing” regimes represented by the blue bands.

Social distancing is turned “on” when the number of Covid-19 cases reaches a certain prevalence in the population — for instance, 35 cases per 10,000, although the thresholds would be set locally, monitored with widespread testing. It is turned “off” when cases drop to a lower threshold, perhaps 5 cases per 10,000. Because critical cases that require hospitalization lag behind the general prevalence, this strategy aims to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed.

The green graph represents the corresponding, if very gradual, increase in population immunity.

“The ‘herd immunity threshold’ in the model is 55 percent of the population, or the level of immunity that would be needed for the disease to stop spreading in the population without other measures,” Dr. Kissler said.

Another iteration shows the effects of seasonality — a slower spread of the virus during warmer months. Theoretically, seasonal effects allow for larger intervals between periods of social distancing.

This year, however, the seasonal effects will likely be minimal, since a large proportion of the population will still be susceptible to the virus come summer. And there are other unknowns, since the underlying mechanisms of seasonality — such as temperature, humidity and school schedules — have been studied for some respiratory infections, like influenza, but not for coronaviruses. So, alas, we cannot depend on seasonality alone to stave off another outbreak over the coming summer months.

Yet another scenario takes into account not only seasonality but also a doubling of the critical-care capacity in hospitals. This, in turn, allows for social distancing to kick in at a higher threshold — say, at a prevalence of 70 cases per 10,000 — and for even longer breaks between social distancing periods:

What is clear overall is that a one-time social distancing effort will not be sufficient to control the epidemic in the long term, and that it will take a long time to reach herd immunity.

“This is because when we are successful in doing social distancing — so that we don’t overwhelm the health care system — fewer people get the infection, which is exactly the goal,” said Ms. Tedijanto. “But if infection leads to immunity, successful social distancing also means that more people remain susceptible to the disease. As a result, once we lift the social distancing measures, the virus will quite possibly spread again as easily as it did before the lockdowns.”

So, lacking a vaccine, our pandemic state of mind may persist well into 2021 or 2022 — which surprised even the experts.

“We anticipated a prolonged period of social distancing would be necessary, but didn’t initially realize that it could be this long,” Dr. Kissler said.

Claudio Maierovitch Pessanha Henriques: O mito do pico (Folha de S.Paulo)

www1.folha.uol.com.br

Claudio Maierovitch Pessanha Henriques – 6 de maio de 2020

Desde o início da epidemia de doença causada pelo novo coronavírus (Covid-19), a grande pergunta tem sido “quando acaba?” Frequentemente, são divulgadas na mídia e nas redes sociais projeções as mais variadas sobre a famosa curva da doença em vários países e no mundo, algumas recentes, mostrando a tendência de que os casos deixem de surgir no início do segundo semestre deste ano.

Tais modelos partem do pressuposto de que há uma história, uma curva natural da doença, que começa, sobe, atinge um pico e começa a cair. Vamos analisar o sentido de tal raciocínio. Muitas doenças transmissíveis agudas, quando atingem uma população nova, expandem-se rapidamente, numa velocidade que depende de seu chamado número reprodutivo básico, ou R0 (“R zero”, que estima para quantas pessoas o portador de um agente infeccioso o transmite).

Quando uma quantidade grande de pessoas tiver adoecido ou se infectado mesmo sem sintomas, os contatos entre portadores e pessoas que não tiveram a doença começam a se tornar raros. Num cenário em que pessoas sobreviventes da infecção fiquem imunes àquele agente, sua proporção cresce e a transmissão se torna cada vez mais rara. Assim, a curva, que vinha subindo, fica horizontal e começa a cair, podendo até mesmo chegar a zero, situação em que o agente deixa de circular.

Em populações grandes, é muito raro que uma doença seja completamente eliminada desta forma, por isso a incidência cresce novamente de tempos em tempos. Quando a quantidade de pessoas que não se infectaram, somada à dos bebês que nascem e pessoas sem imunidade que vieram de outros lugares é suficientemente grande, então a curva sobe novamente.

É assim, de forma simplificada, que a ciência entende a ocorrência periódica de epidemias de doenças infecciosas agudas. A história nos ilustra com numerosos exemplos, como varíola, sarampo, gripe, rubéola, poliomielite, caxumba, entre muitos outros. Dependendo das características da doença e da sociedade, são ciclos ilustrados por sofrimento, sequelas e mortes. Realmente, nesses casos, é possível estimar a duração das epidemias e, em alguns casos, até mesmo prever as próximas.

A saúde pública tem diversas ferramentas para interferir em muitos desses casos, indicados para diferentes mecanismos de transmissão, como saneamento, medidas de higiene, isolamento, combate a vetores, uso de preservativos, extinção de fontes de contaminação, vacinas e tratamentos capazes de eliminar os microrganismos. A vacinação, ação específica de saúde considerada mais efetiva, simula o que acontece naturalmente, ao aumentar a quantidade de pessoas imunes na população até que a doença deixe de circular, sem que para isso pessoas precisem adoecer.

No caso da Covid-19, há estimativas de que para a doença deixar de circular intensamente será preciso que cerca de 70% da população seja infectada. Isso se chama imunidade coletiva (também se adota a desagradável denominação “imunidade de rebanho”). Quanto à situação atual de disseminação do coronavírus Sars-CoV-2, a Organização Mundial da Saúde (OMS) calcula que até a metade de abril apenas de 2% a 3% da população mundial terá sido infectada. Estimativas para o Brasil são um pouco inferiores a essa média.

Trocando em miúdos, para que a doença atinja naturalmente seu pico no país e comece a cair, será preciso esperar que 140 milhões de pessoas se infectem. A mais conservadora (menor) taxa de letalidade encontrada nas publicações sobre a Covid-19 é de 0,36%, mais ou menos um vigésimo daquela que os números oficiais de casos e mortes revelam. Isso significa que até o Brasil atingir o pico, contaremos 500 mil mortes se o sistema de saúde não ultrapassar seus limites —e, caso isso aconteça, um número muito maior.

Atingir o pico é sinônimo de catástrofe, não é uma aposta admissível, sobretudo quando constatamos que já está esgotada a capacidade de atendimento hospitalar em várias cidades, como Manaus, Rio de Janeiro e Fortaleza —outras seguem o mesmo caminho.

A única perspectiva aceitável é evitar o pico, e a única forma de fazê-lo é com medidas rigorosas de afastamento físico. A cota de contatos entre as pessoas deve ficar reservada às atividades essenciais, entre elas saúde, segurança, cadeias de suprimento de combustíveis, alimentos, produtos de limpeza, materiais e equipamentos de uso em saúde, limpeza, manutenção e mais um ou outro setor. Alguma dose de criatividade pode permitir ampliar um pouco esse leque, desde que os meios de transporte e vias públicas permaneçam vazios o suficiente para que seja mantida a distância mínima entre as pessoas.

O monitoramento do número de casos e mortes, que revela a transmissão com duas a três semanas de defasagem, deverá ser aprimorado e utilizado em conjunto com estudos baseados em testes laboratoriais para indicar o rigor das medidas de isolamento.

Se conseguirmos evitar a tragédia maior, vamos conviver com um longo período de restrição de atividades, mais de um ano, e teremos que aprender a organizar a vida e a economia de outras formas, além de passar por alguns períodos de “lockdown” —cerca de duas semanas cada, se a curva apontar novamente para o pico.

Hoje, a situação é grave e tende a se tornar crítica. O Brasil é o país com a maior taxa de transmissão da doença; é hora de ficar em casa e, se for imprescindível sair, fazer da máscara uma parte inseparável da vestimenta e manter rigorosamente todos os cuidados indicados.​

The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations (New Yorker)

What felt impossible has become thinkable. The spring of 2020 is suggestive of how much, and how quickly, we can change as a civilization.

By Kim Stanley Robinson May 1, 2020

A heat map shows people standing in a distanced line.
Possibly, in a few months, we’ll return to some version of the old normal. But this spring won’t be forgotten.Photograph by Antoine d’Agata / Magnum

The critic Raymond Williams once wrote that every historical period has its own “structure of feeling.” How everything seemed in the nineteen-sixties, the way the Victorians understood one another, the chivalry of the Middle Ages, the world view of Tang-dynasty China: each period, Williams thought, had a distinct way of organizing basic human emotions into an overarching cultural system. Each had its own way of experiencing being alive.

In mid-March, in a prior age, I spent a week rafting down the Grand Canyon. When I left for the trip, the United States was still beginning to grapple with the reality of the coronavirus pandemic. Italy was suffering; the N.B.A. had just suspended its season; Tom Hanks had been reported ill. When I hiked back up, on March 19th, it was into a different world. I’ve spent my life writing science-fiction novels that try to convey some of the strangeness of the future. But I was still shocked by how much had changed, and how quickly.

Schools and borders had closed; the governor of California, like governors elsewhere, had asked residents to begin staying at home. But the change that struck me seemed more abstract and internal. It was a change in the way we were looking at things, and it is still ongoing. The virus is rewriting our imaginations. What felt impossible has become thinkable. We’re getting a different sense of our place in history. We know we’re entering a new world, a new era. We seem to be learning our way into a new structure of feeling.

In many ways, we’ve been overdue for such a shift. In our feelings, we’ve been lagging behind the times in which we live. The Anthropocene, the Great Acceleration, the age of climate change—whatever you want to call it, we’ve been out of synch with the biosphere, wasting our children’s hopes for a normal life, burning our ecological capital as if it were disposable income, wrecking our one and only home in ways that soon will be beyond our descendants’ ability to repair. And yet we’ve been acting as though it were 2000, or 1990—as though the neoliberal arrangements built back then still made sense. We’ve been paralyzed, living in the world without feeling it.

Now, all of a sudden, we’re acting fast as a civilization. We’re trying, despite many obstacles, to flatten the curve—to avoid mass death. Doing this, we know that we’re living in a moment of historic importance. We realize that what we do now, well or badly, will be remembered later on. This sense of enacting history matters. For some of us, it partly compensates for the disruption of our lives.

Actually, we’ve already been living in a historic moment. For the past few decades, we’ve been called upon to act, and have been acting in a way that will be scrutinized by our descendants. Now we feel it. The shift has to do with the concentration and intensity of what’s happening. September 11th was a single day, and everyone felt the shock of it, but our daily habits didn’t shift, except at airports; the President even urged us to keep shopping. This crisis is different. It’s a biological threat, and it’s global. Everyone has to change together to deal with it. That’s really history.

It seems as though science has been mobilized to a dramatic new degree, but that impression is just another way in which we’re lagging behind. There are 7.8 billion people alive on this planet—a stupendous social and technological achievement that’s unnatural and unstable. It’s made possible by science, which has already been saving us. Now, though, when disaster strikes, we grasp the complexity of our civilization—we feel the reality, which is that the whole system is a technical improvisation that science keeps from crashing down.

On a personal level, most of us have accepted that we live in a scientific age. If you feel sick, you go to a doctor, who is really a scientist; that scientist tests you, then sometimes tells you to take a poison so that you can heal—and you take the poison. It’s on a societal level that we’ve been lagging. Today, in theory, everyone knows everything. We know that our accidental alteration of the atmosphere is leading us into a mass-extinction event, and that we need to move fast to dodge it. But we don’t act on what we know. We don’t want to change our habits. This knowing-but-not-acting is part of the old structure of feeling.

Now comes this disease that can kill anyone on the planet. It’s invisible; it spreads because of the way we move and congregate. Instantly, we’ve changed. As a society, we’re watching the statistics, following the recommendations, listening to the scientists. Do we believe in science? Go outside and you’ll see the proof that we do everywhere you look. We’re learning to trust our science as a society. That’s another part of the new structure of feeling.

Possibly, in a few months, we’ll return to some version of the old normal. But this spring won’t be forgotten. When later shocks strike global civilization, we’ll remember how we behaved this time, and how it worked. It’s not that the coronavirus is a dress rehearsal—it’s too deadly for that. But it is the first of many calamities that will likely unfold throughout this century. Now, when they come, we’ll be familiar with how they feel.

What shocks might be coming? Everyone knows everything. Remember when Cape Town almost ran out of water? It’s very likely that there will be more water shortages. And food shortages, electricity outages, devastating storms, droughts, floods. These are easy calls. They’re baked into the situation we’ve already created, in part by ignoring warnings that scientists have been issuing since the nineteen-sixties. Some shocks will be local, others regional, but many will be global, because, as this crisis shows, we are interconnected as a biosphere and a civilization.

Imagine what a food scare would do. Imagine a heat wave hot enough to kill anyone not in an air-conditioned space, then imagine power failures happening during such a heat wave. (The novel I’ve just finished begins with this scenario, so it scares me most of all.) Imagine pandemics deadlier than the coronavirus. These events, and others like them, are easier to imagine now than they were back in January, when they were the stuff of dystopian science fiction. But science fiction is the realism of our time. The sense that we are all now stuck in a science-fiction novel that we’re writing together—that’s another sign of the emerging structure of feeling.

Science-fiction writers don’t know anything more about the future than anyone else. Human history is too unpredictable; from this moment, we could descend into a mass-extinction event or rise into an age of general prosperity. Still, if you read science fiction, you may be a little less surprised by whatever does happen. Often, science fiction traces the ramifications of a single postulated change; readers co-create, judging the writers’ plausibility and ingenuity, interrogating their theories of history. Doing this repeatedly is a kind of training. It can help you feel more oriented in the history we’re making now. This radical spread of possibilities, good to bad, which creates such a profound disorientation; this tentative awareness of the emerging next stage—these are also new feelings in our time.

Memento mori: remember that you must die. Older people are sometimes better at keeping this in mind than younger people. Still, we’re all prone to forgetting death. It never seems quite real until the end, and even then it’s hard to believe. The reality of death is another thing we know about but don’t feel.Video From The New Yorker Throwing Shade Through Crosswords

So this epidemic brings with it a sense of panic: we’re all going to die, yes, always true, but now perhaps this month! That’s different. Sometimes, when hiking in the Sierra, my friends and I get caught in a lightning storm, and, completely exposed to it, we hurry over the rocky highlands, watching lightning bolts crack out of nowhere and connect nearby, thunder exploding less than a second later. That gets your attention: death, all too possible! But to have that feeling in your ordinary, daily life, at home, stretched out over weeks—that’s too strange to hold on to. You partly get used to it, but not entirely. This mixture of dread and apprehension and normality is the sensation of plague on the loose. It could be part of our new structure of feeling, too.

Just as there are charismatic megafauna, there are charismatic mega-ideas. “Flatten the curve” could be one of them. Immediately, we get it. There’s an infectious, deadly plague that spreads easily, and, although we can’t avoid it entirely, we can try to avoid a big spike in infections, so that hospitals won’t be overwhelmed and fewer people will die. It makes sense, and it’s something all of us can help to do. When we do it—if we do it—it will be a civilizational achievement: a new thing that our scientific, educated, high-tech species is capable of doing. Knowing that we can act in concert when necessary is another thing that will change us.

People who study climate change talk about “the tragedy of the horizon.” The tragedy is that we don’t care enough about those future people, our descendants, who will have to fix, or just survive on, the planet we’re now wrecking. We like to think that they’ll be richer and smarter than we are and so able to handle their own problems in their own time. But we’re creating problems that they’ll be unable to solve. You can’t fix extinctions, or ocean acidification, or melted permafrost, no matter how rich or smart you are. The fact that these problems will occur in the future lets us take a magical view of them. We go on exacerbating them, thinking—not that we think this, but the notion seems to underlie our thinking—that we will be dead before it gets too serious. The tragedy of the horizon is often something we encounter, without knowing it, when we buy and sell. The market is wrong; the prices are too low. Our way of life has environmental costs that aren’t included in what we pay, and those costs will be borne by our descendents. We are operating a multigenerational Ponzi scheme.

And yet: “Flatten the curve.” We’re now confronting a miniature version of the tragedy of the time horizon. We’ve decided to sacrifice over these months so that, in the future, people won’t suffer as much as they would otherwise. In this case, the time horizon is so short that we are the future people. It’s harder to come to grips with the fact that we’re living in a long-term crisis that will not end in our lifetimes. But it’s meaningful to notice that, all together, we are capable of learning to extend our care further along the time horizon. Amid the tragedy and death, this is one source of pleasure. Even though our economic system ignores reality, we can act when we have to. At the very least, we are all freaking out together. To my mind, this new sense of solidarity is one of the few reassuring things to have happened in this century. If we can find it in this crisis, to save ourselves, then maybe we can find it in the big crisis, to save our children and theirs.

Margaret Thatcher said that “there is no such thing as society,” and Ronald Reagan said that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” These stupid slogans marked the turn away from the postwar period of reconstruction and underpin much of the bullshit of the past forty years.

We are individuals first, yes, just as bees are, but we exist in a larger social body. Society is not only real; it’s fundamental. We can’t live without it. And now we’re beginning to understand that this “we” includes many other creatures and societies in our biosphere and even in ourselves. Even as an individual, you are a biome, an ecosystem, much like a forest or a swamp or a coral reef. Your skin holds inside it all kinds of unlikely coöperations, and to survive you depend on any number of interspecies operations going on within you all at once. We are societies made of societies; there are nothing but societies. This is shocking news—it demands a whole new world view. And now, when those of us who are sheltering in place venture out and see everyone in masks, sharing looks with strangers is a different thing. It’s eye to eye, this knowledge that, although we are practicing social distancing as we need to, we want to be social—we not only want to be social, we’ve got to be social, if we are to survive. It’s a new feeling, this alienation and solidarity at once. It’s the reality of the social; it’s seeing the tangible existence of a society of strangers, all of whom depend on one another to survive. It’s as if the reality of citizenship has smacked us in the face.

As for government: it’s government that listens to science and responds by taking action to save us. Stop to ponder what is now obstructing the performance of that government. Who opposes it? Right now we’re hearing two statements being made. One, from the President and his circle: we have to save money even if it costs lives. The other, from the Centers for Disease Control and similar organizations: we have to save lives even if it costs money. Which is more important, money or lives? Money, of course! says capital and its spokespersons. Really? people reply, uncertainly. Seems like that’s maybe going too far? Even if it’s the common wisdom? Or was.

Some people can’t stay isolated and still do their jobs. If their jobs are important enough, they have to expose themselves to the disease. My younger son works in a grocery store and is now one of the front-line workers who keep civilization running.

My son is now my hero: this is a good feeling. I think the same of all the people still working now for the sake of the rest of us. If we all keep thinking this way, the new structure of feeling will be better than the one that’s dominated for the past forty years.

The neoliberal structure of feeling totters. What might a post-capitalist response to this crisis include? Maybe rent and debt relief; unemployment aid for all those laid off; government hiring for contact tracing and the manufacture of necessary health equipment; the world’s militaries used to support health care; the rapid construction of hospitals.Advertisement

What about afterward, when this crisis recedes and the larger crisis looms? If the project of civilization—including science, economics, politics, and all the rest of it—were to bring all eight billion of us into a long-term balance with Earth’s biosphere, we could do it. By contrast, when the project of civilization is to create profit—which, by definition, goes to only a few—much of what we do is actively harmful to the long-term prospects of our species. Everyone knows everything. Right now pursuing profit as the ultimate goal of all our activities will lead to a mass-extinction event. Humanity might survive, but traumatized, interrupted, angry, ashamed, sad. A science-fiction story too painful to write, too obvious. It would be better to adapt to reality.

Economics is a system for optimizing resources, and, if it were trying to calculate ways to optimize a sustainable civilization in balance with the biosphere, it could be a helpful tool. When it’s used to optimize profit, however, it encourages us to live within a system of destructive falsehoods. We need a new political economy by which to make our calculations. Now, acutely, we feel that need.

It could happen, but it might not. There will be enormous pressure to forget this spring and go back to the old ways of experiencing life. And yet forgetting something this big never works. We’ll remember this even if we pretend not to. History is happening now, and it will have happened. So what will we do with that?

A structure of feeling is not a free-floating thing. It’s tightly coupled with its corresponding political economy. How we feel is shaped by what we value, and vice versa. Food, water, shelter, clothing, education, health care: maybe now we value these things more, along with the people whose work creates them. To survive the next century, we need to start valuing the planet more, too, since it’s our only home.

It will be hard to make these values durable. Valuing the right things and wanting to keep on valuing them—maybe that’s also part of our new structure of feeling. As is knowing how much work there is to be done. But the spring of 2020 is suggestive of how much, and how quickly, we can change. It’s like a bell ringing to start a race. Off we go—into a new time.


A Guide to the Coronavirus

Kim Stanley Robinson is a science-fiction writer who lives in Davis, California. His next novel, “The Ministry for the Future,” will be published in October.

Not quite all there. The 90% economy that lockdowns will leave behind (The Economist)

It will not just be smaller, it will feel strange

BriefingApr 30th 2020 edition

Apr 30th 2020

Editor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hub

IN THE 1970s Mori Masahiro, a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, observed that there was something disturbing about robots which looked almost, but not quite, like people. Representations in this “uncanny valley” are close enough to lifelike for their shortfalls and divergences from the familiar to be particularly disconcerting. Today’s Chinese economy is exploring a similarly unnerving new terrain. And the rest of the world is following in its uncertain steps.

Whatever the drawbacks of these new lowlands, they are assuredly preferable to the abyss of lockdown. Measures taken to reverse the trajectory of the pandemic around the world have brought with them remarkable economic losses.

Not all sectors of the economy have done terribly. New subscriptions to Netflix increased at twice their usual rate in the first quarter of 2020, with most of that growth coming in March. In America, the sudden stop of revenue from Uber’s ride-sharing service in March and April has been partially cushioned by the 25% increase of sales from its food-delivery unit, according to 7Park Data, a data provider.

Yet the general pattern is grim. Data from Womply, a firm which processes transactions on behalf of 450,000 small businesses across America, show that businesses in all sectors have lost substantial revenue. Restaurants, bars and recreational businesses have been badly hit: revenues have declined some two-thirds since March 15th. Travel and tourism may suffer the worst losses. In the EU, where tourism accounts for some 4% of GDP, the number of people travelling by plane fell from 5m to 50,000; on April 19th less than 5% of hotel rooms in Italy and Spain were occupied.

According to calculations made on behalf of The Economist by Now-Casting Economics, a research firm that provides high-frequency economic forecasts to institutional investors, the world economy shrank by 1.3% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020, driven by a 6.8% year-on-year decline in China’s GDP. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York draws on measures such as jobless claims to produce a weekly index of American economic output. It suggests that the country’s GDP is currently running about 12% lower than it was a year ago (see chart 1).

These figures fit with attempts by Goldman Sachs, a bank, to estimate the relationship between the severity of lockdowns and their effect on output. It finds, roughly, that an Italian-style lockdown is associated with a GDP decline of 25%. Measures to control the virus while either keeping the economy running reasonably smoothly, as in South Korea, or reopening it, as in China, are associated with a GDP reduction in the region of 10%. That chimes with data which suggest that if Americans chose to avoid person-to-person proximity of the length of an arm or less, occupations worth approximately 10% of national output would become unviable.

The “90% economy” thus created will be, by definition, smaller than that which came before. But its strangeness will be more than a matter of size. There will undoubtedly be relief, fellow feeling, and newly felt or expressed esteem for those who have worked to keep people safe. But there will also be residual fear, pervasive uncertainty, a lack of innovative fervour and deepened inequalities. The fraction of life that is missing will colour people’s experience and behaviour in ways that will not be offset by the happy fact that most of what matters is still available and ticking over. In a world where the office is open but the pub is not, qualitative differences in the way life feels will be at least as significant as the drop in output.

The plight of the pub demonstrates that the 90% economy will not be something that can be fixed by fiat. Allowing pubs—and other places of social pleasure—to open counts for little if people do not want to visit them. Many people will have to leave the home in order to work, but they may well feel less comfortable doing so to have a good time. A poll by YouGov on behalf of The Economist finds that over a third of Americans think it will be “several months” before it will be safe to reopen businesses as normal—which suggests that if businesses do reopen some, at least, may stay away.

Ain’t nothing but tired

Some indication that the spending effects of a lockdown will persist even after it is over comes from Sweden. Research by Niels Johannesen of Copenhagen University and colleagues finds that aggregate-spending patterns in Sweden and Denmark over the past months look similarly reduced, even though Denmark has had a pretty strict lockdown while official Swedish provisions have been exceptionally relaxed. This suggests that personal choice, rather than government policy, is the biggest factor behind the drop. And personal choices may be harder to reverse.

Discretionary spending by Chinese consumers—the sort that goes on things economists do not see as essentials—is 40% off its level a year ago. Haidilao, a hotpot chain, is seeing a bit more than three parties per table per day—an improvement, but still lower than the 4.8 registered last year, according to a report by Goldman Sachs published in mid-April. Breweries are selling 40% less beer. STR, a data-analytics firm, finds that just one-third of hotel beds in China were occupied during the week ending April 19th. Flights remain far from full (see chart 2).

This less social world is not necessarily bad news for every company. UBS, a bank, reports that a growing number of people in China say that the virus has increased their desire to buy a car—presumably in order to avoid the risk of infection on public transport. The number of passengers on Chinese underground trains is still about a third below last year’s level; surface traffic congestion is as bad now as it was then.

Wanting a car, though, will not mean being able to afford one. Drops in discretionary spending are not entirely driven by a residual desire for isolation. They also reflect the fact that some people have a lot less money in the post-lockdown world. Not all those who have lost jobs will quickly find new ones, not least because there is little demand for labour-intensive services such as leisure and hospitality. Even those in jobs will not feel secure, the Chinese experience suggests. Since late March the share of people worried about salary cuts has risen slightly, to 44%, making it their biggest concern for 2020, according to Morgan Stanley, a bank. Many are now recouping the loss of income that they suffered during the most acute phase of the crisis, or paying down debt. All this points to high saving rates in the future, reinforcing low consumption.

A 90% economy is, on one level, an astonishing achievement. Had the pandemic struck even two decades ago, only a tiny minority of people would have been able to work or satisfy their needs. Watching a performance of Beethoven on a computer, or eating a meal from a favourite restaurant at home, is not the same as the real thing—but it is not bad. The lifting of the most stringent lockdowns will also provide respite, both emotionally and physically, since the mere experience of being told what you can and cannot do is unpleasant. Yet in three main ways a 90% economy is a big step down from what came before the pandemic. It will be more fragile; it will be less innovative; and it will be more unfair.

Take fragility first. The return to a semblance of normality could be fleeting. Areas which had apparently controlled the spread of the virus, including Singapore and northern Japan, have imposed or reimposed tough restrictions in response to a rise in the growth rate of new infections. If countries which retain relatively tough social-distancing rules do better at staving off a viral comeback, other countries may feel a need to follow them (see Chaguan). With rules in flux, it will feel hard to plan weeks ahead, let alone months.

Can’t start a fire

The behaviour of the economy will be far less predictable. No one really knows for how long firms facing zero revenues, or households who are working reduced hours or not at all, will be able to survive financially. Businesses can keep going temporarily, either by burning cash or by tapping grants and credit lines set up by government—but these are unlimited neither in size nor duration. What is more, a merely illiquid firm can quickly become a truly insolvent one as its earnings stagnate while its debt commitments expand. A rise in corporate and personal bankruptcies, long after the apparently acute phase of the pandemic, seems likely, though governments are trying to forestall them. In the past fortnight bankruptcies in China started to rise relative to last year. On April 28th HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, reported worse-than-expected results, in part because of higher credit losses.

Furthermore, the pandemic has upended norms and conventions about how economic agents behave. In Britain the share of commercial tenants who paid their rent on time fell from 90% to 60% in the first quarter of this year. A growing number of American renters are no longer paying their landlords. Other creditors are being put off, too. In America, close to 40% of business-to-business payments from firms in the spectator-sports and film industries were late in March, double the rate a year ago. Enforcing contracts has become more difficult with many courts closed and social interactions at a standstill. This is perhaps the most insidious means by which weak sectors of the economy will infect otherwise moderately healthy ones.

In an environment of uncertain property rights and unknowable income streams, potential investment projects are not just risky—they are impossible to price. A recent paper by Scott Baker of Northwestern University and colleagues suggests that economic uncertainty is at an all-time high. That may go some way to explaining the results of a weekly survey from Moody’s Analytics, a research firm, which finds that businesses’ investment intentions are substantially lower even than during the financial crisis of 2007-09. An index which measures American nonresidential construction activity 9-12 months ahead has also hit new lows.

The collapse in investment points to the second trait of the 90% economy: that it will be less innovative. The development of liberal capitalism over the past three centuries went hand in hand with a growth in the number of people exchanging ideas in public or quasi-public spaces. Access to the coffeehouse, the salon or the street protest was always a partial process, favouring some people over others. But a vibrant public sphere fosters creativity.

Innovation is not impossible in a world with less social contact. There is more than one company founded in a garage now worth $1trn. During lockdowns, companies have had to innovate quickly—just look at how many firms have turned their hand to making ventilators, if with mixed success. A handful of firms claim that working from home is so productive that their offices will stay closed for good.

Yet these productivity bonuses look likely to be heavily outweighed by drawbacks. Studies suggest the benefits of working from home only materialise if employees can frequently check in at an office in order to solve problems. Planning new projects is especially difficult. Anyone who has tried to bounce ideas around on Zoom or Skype knows that spontaneity is hard. People are often using bad equipment with poor connections. Nick Bloom of Stanford University, one of the few economists to have studied working from home closely, reckons that there will be a sharp decline in patent applications in 2021.

Cities have proven particularly fertile ground for innovations which drive long-run growth. If Geoffrey West, a physicist who studies complex systems, is right to suggest that doubling a city’s population leads to all concerned becoming on aggregate 15% richer, then the emptying-out of urban areas is bad news. MoveBuddha, a relocation website, says that searches for places in New York City’s suburbs are up almost 250% compared with this time last year. A paper from New York University suggests that richer, and thus presumably more educated, New Yorkers—people from whom a disproportionate share of ideas may flow—are particularly likely to have left during the epidemic.

Something happening somewhere

Wherever or however people end up working, the experience of living in a pandemic is not conducive to creative thought. How many people entered lockdown with a determination to immerse themselves in Proust or George Eliot, only to find themselves slumped in front of “Tiger King”? When mental capacity is taken up by worries about whether or not to touch that door handle or whether or not to believe the results of the latest study on the virus, focusing is difficult. Women are more likely to take care of home-schooling and entertainment of bored children (see article), meaning their careers suffer more than men’s. Already, research by Tatyana Deryugina, Olga Shurchkov and Jenna Stearns, three economists, finds that the productivity of female economists, as measured by production of research papers, has fallen relative to male ones since the pandemic began.

The growing gender divide in productivity points to the final big problem with the 90% economy: that it is unfair. Liberally regulated economies operating at full capacity tend to have unemployment rates of 4-5%, in part because there will always be people temporarily unemployed as they move from one job to another. The new normal will have higher joblessness. This is not just because GDP will be lower; the decline in output will be particularly concentrated in labour-intensive industries such as leisure and hospitality, reducing employment disproportionately. America’s current unemployment rate, real-time data suggest, is between 15-20%.

The lost jobs tended to pay badly, and were more likely to be performed by the young, women and immigrants. Research by Abi Adams-Prassl of Oxford University and colleagues finds that an American who normally earns less than $20,000 a year is twice as likely to have lost their job due to the pandemic as one earning $80,000-plus. Many of those unlucky people do not have the skills, nor the technology, that would enable them to work from home or to retrain for other jobs.

The longer the 90% economy endures, the more such inequalities will deepen. People who already enjoy strong professional networks—largely, those of middle age and higher—may actually quite enjoy the experience of working from home. Notwithstanding the problems of bad internet and irritating children, it may be quite pleasant to chair fewer meetings or performance reviews. Junior folk, even if they make it into an office, will miss out on the expertise and guidance of their seniors. Others with poor professional networks, such as the young or recently arrived immigrants, may find it difficult or impossible to strengthen them, hindering upward mobility, points out Tyler Cowen of George Mason University.

The world economy that went into retreat in March as covid-19 threatened lives was one that looked sound and strong. And the biomedical community is currently working overtime to produce a vaccine that will allow the world to be restored to its full capacity. But estimates suggest that this will take at least another 12 months—and, as with the prospects of the global economy, that figure is highly uncertain. If the adage that it takes two months to form a habit holds, the economy that re-emerges will be fundamentally different.

Opinion | When Will Life Be Normal Again? We Just Don’t Know (The New York Times)

nytimes.com

By Charlie Warzel, April 13, 2020

Many Americans have been living under lockdown for a month or more. We’re all getting antsy. The president is talking about a “light at the end of the tunnel.” People are looking for hope and reasons to plan a return to something — anything — approximating normalcy. Experts are starting to speculate on what lifting restrictions will look like. Despite the relentless, heroic work of doctors and scientists around the world, there’s so much we don’t know.

We don’t know how many people have been infected with Covid-19.

We don’t know the full range of symptoms.

We don’t always know why some infections develop into severe disease.

We don’t know the full range of risk factors.

We don’t know exactly how deadly the disease is.

We don’t have answers to more detailed questions about how the virus spreads, including: “How many virus particles does it even take to launch an infection? How far does the virus travel in outdoor spaces, or in indoor settings? Have these airborne movements affected the course of the pandemic?”

We don’t know for sure how this coronavirus first emerged.

We don’t know how much China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in that country.

We don’t know what percentage of adults are asymptomatic. Or what percentage of children are asymptomatic.

We don’t know the strength and duration of immunity. Though people who recover from Covid-19 likely have some degree of immunity for some period of time, the specifics are unknown.

We don’t yet know why some who’ve been diagnosed as “fully recovered” from the virus have tested positive a second time after leaving quarantine.

We don’t know why some recovered patients have low levels of antibodies.

We don’t know the long-term health effects of a severe Covid-19 infection. What are the consequences to the lungs of those who survive intensive care?

We don’t yet know if any treatments are truly effective. While there are many therapies in trials, there are no clinically proven therapies aside from supportive care.

We don’t know for certain if the virus was in the United States before the first documented case.

We don’t know when supply chains will strengthen to provide health care workers with enough masks, gowns and face shields to protect them.

In America, we don’t know the full extent to which black people are disproportionately suffering. Fewer than a dozen states have published data on the race and ethnic patterns of Covid-19.

We don’t know if people will continue to adhere to social distancing guidelines once infections go down.

We don’t know when states will be able to test everyone who has symptoms.

We don’t know if the United States could ever deploy the number of tests — as many as 22 million per day — needed to implement mass testing and quarantining.

We don’t know if we can implement “test and trace” contact tracing at scale.

We don’t know whether smartphone location tracking could be implemented without destroying our privacy.

We don’t know if or when researchers will develop a successful vaccine.

We don’t know how many vaccines can be deployed and administered in the first months after a vaccine becomes available.

We don’t know how a vaccine will be administered — who will get it first?

We don’t know if a vaccine will be free or costly.

We don’t know if a vaccine will need to be updated every year.

We don’t know how, when we do open things up again, we will do it.

We don’t know if people will be afraid to gather in crowds.

We don’t know if people will be too eager to gather in crowds.

We don’t know what socially distanced professional sports will look like.

We don’t know what socially distanced workplaces will look like.

We don’t know what socially distanced bars and restaurants will look like.

We don’t know when schools will reopen.

We don’t know what a general election in a pandemic will look like.

We don’t know what effects lost school time will have on children.

We don’t know if the United States’s current and future government stimulus will stave off an economic collapse.

We don’t know whether the economy will bounce back in the form of a “v curve” …

Or whether it’ll be a long recession.

We don’t know when any of this will end for good.

There is, at present, no plan from the Trump White House on the way forward.

We’re working on a project about the ways people’s lives might be permanently altered by the coronavirus, even after the pandemic subsides. In what ways do you think your life will change in the long term? What will be your new “normal”?

‘Instead of Coronavirus, the Hunger Will Kill Us.’ A Global Food Crisis Looms (The New York Times)

By Abdi Latif Dahir – April 22, 2020

The world has never faced a hunger emergency like this, experts say. It could double the number of people facing acute hunger to 265 million by the end of this year.

In Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya, residents already live in extreme poverty. Coronavirus lockdowns have caused many more to go hungry.
Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Published April 22, 2020; Updated April 23, 2020, 6:39 a.m. ET

NAIROBI, Kenya — In the largest slum in Kenya’s capital, people desperate to eat set off a stampede during a recent giveaway of flour and cooking oil, leaving scores injured and two people dead.

In India, thousands of workers are lining up twice a day for bread and fried vegetables to keep hunger at bay.

And across Colombia, poor households are hanging red clothing and flags from their windows and balconies as a sign that they are hungry.

“We don’t have any money, and now we need to survive,” said Pauline Karushi, who lost her job at a jewelry business in Nairobi, and lives in two rooms with her child and four other relatives. “That means not eating much.”

The coronavirus pandemic has brought hunger to millions of people around the world. National lockdowns and social distancing measures are drying up work and incomes, and are likely to disrupt agricultural production and supply routes — leaving millions to worry how they will get enough to eat.

The coronavirus has sometimes been called an equalizer because it has sickened both rich and poor, but when it comes to food, the commonality ends. It is poor people, including large segments of poorer nations, who are now going hungry and facing the prospect of starving.

“The coronavirus has been anything but a great equalizer,” said Asha Jaffar, a volunteer who brought food to families in the Nairobi slum of Kibera after the fatal stampede. “It’s been the great revealer, pulling the curtain back on the class divide and exposing how deeply unequal this country is.”

Already, 135 million people had been facing acute food shortages, but now with the pandemic, 130 million more could go hungry in 2020, said Arif Husain, chief economist at the World Food Program, a United Nations agency. Altogether, an estimated 265 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by year’s end.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” Mr. Husain said. “It wasn’t a pretty picture to begin with, but this makes it truly unprecedented and uncharted territory.”

The world has experienced severe hunger crises before, but those were regional and caused by one factor or another — extreme weather, economic downturns, wars or political instability.

This hunger crisis, experts say, is global and caused by a multitude of factors linked to the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing interruption of the economic order: the sudden loss in income for countless millions who were already living hand-to-mouth; the collapse in oil prices; widespread shortages of hard currency from tourism drying up; overseas workers not having earnings to send home; and ongoing problems like climate change, violence, population dislocations and humanitarian disasters.

Already, from Honduras to South Africa to India, protests and looting have broken out amid frustrations from lockdowns and worries about hunger. With classes shut down, over 368 million children have lost the nutritious meals and snacks they normally receive in school.

There is no shortage of food globally, or mass starvation from the pandemic — yet. But logistical problems in planting, harvesting and transporting food will leave poor countries exposed in the coming months, especially those reliant on imports, said Johan Swinnen, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington.

While the system of food distribution and retailing in rich nations is organized and automated, he said, systems in developing countries are “labor intensive,” making “these supply chains much more vulnerable to Covid-19 and social distancing regulations.”

Yet even if there is no major surge in food prices, the food security situation for poor people is likely to deteriorate significantly worldwide. This is especially true for economies like Sudan and Zimbabwe that were struggling before the outbreak, or those like Iran that have increasingly used oil revenues to finance critical goods like food and medicine.

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In the sprawling Petare slum on the outskirts of the capital, Caracas, a nationwide lockdown has left Freddy Bastardo and five others in his household without jobs. Their government-supplied rations, which had arrived only once every two months before the crisis, have long run out.

“We are already thinking of selling things that we don’t use in the house to be able to eat,” said Mr. Bastardo, 25, a security guard. “I have neighbors who don’t have food, and I’m worried that if protests start, we wouldn’t be able to get out of here.”

As wages have dried up, half a million people are estimated to have left cities to walk home, setting off the nation’s “largest mass migration since independence,” said Amitabh Behar, the chief executive of Oxfam India.

On a recent evening, hundreds of migrant workers, who have been stuck in New Delhi after a lockdown was imposed in March with little warning, sat under the shade of a bridge waiting for food to arrive. The Delhi government has set up soup kitchens, yet workers like Nihal Singh go hungry as the throngs at these centers have increased in recent days.

“Instead of coronavirus, the hunger will kill us,” said Mr. Singh, who was hoping to eat his first meal in a day. Migrants waiting in food lines have fought each other over a plate of rice and lentils. Mr. Singh said he was ashamed to beg for food but had no other option.

“The lockdown has trampled on our dignity,” he said.

Refugees and people living in conflict zones are likely to be hit the hardest.

The curfews and restrictions on movement are already devastating the meager incomes of displaced people in Uganda and Ethiopia, the delivery of seeds and farming tools in South Sudan and the distribution of food aid in the Central African Republic. Containment measures in Niger, which hosts almost 60,000 refugees fleeing conflict in Mali, have led to surges in the pricing of food, according to the International Rescue Committee.

The effects of the restrictions “may cause more suffering than the disease itself,” said Kurt Tjossem, regional vice president for East Africa at the International Rescue Committee.

Ahmad Bayoush, a construction worker who had been displaced to Idlib Province in northern Syria, said he and many others had signed up to receive food from aid groups, but that it had yet to arrive.

“I am expecting real hunger if it continues like this in the north,” he said.

The pandemic is also slowing efforts to deal with the historic locust plague that has been ravaging the East and Horn of Africa. The outbreak is the worst the region has seen in decades and comes on the heels of a year marked by extreme droughts and floods. But the arrival of billions of new swarms could further deepen food insecurity, said Cyril Ferrand, head of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s resilience team in eastern Africa.

Travel bans and airport closures, Mr. Ferrand said, are interrupting the supply of pesticides that could help limit the locust population and save pastureland and crops.

As many go hungry, there is concern in a number of countries that food shortages will lead to social discord. In Colombia, residents of the coastal state of La Guajira have begun blocking roads to call attention to their need for food. In South Africa, rioters have broken into neighborhood food kiosks and faced off with the police.

And even charitable food giveaways can expose people to the virus when throngs appear, as happened in Nairobi’s shantytown of Kibera earlier this month.

“People called each other and came rushing,” said Valentine Akinyi, who works at the district government office where the food was distributed. “People have lost jobs. It showed you how hungry they are.”

Yet communities across the world are also taking matters into their own hands. Some are raising money through crowdfunding platforms, while others have begun programs to buy meals for needy families.

On a recent afternoon, Ms. Jaffar and a group of volunteers made their way through Kibera, bringing items like sugar, flour, rice and sanitary pads to dozens of families. A native of the area herself, Ms. Jaffar said she started the food drive after hearing so many stories from families who said they and their children were going to sleep hungry.

The food drive has so far reached 500 families. But with all the calls for assistance she’s getting, she said, “that’s a drop in the ocean.”

Reporting was contributed by Anatoly Kurmanaev and Isayen Herrera from Caracas, Venezuela; Paulina Villegas from Mexico City; Julie Turkewitz from Bogotá, Colombia; Ben Hubbard and Hwaida Saad from Beirut, Lebanon; Sameer Yasir from New Delhi; and Hannah Beech from Bangkok.

The Pandemic Isn’t a Black Swan but a Portent of a More Fragile Global System (New Yorker)

newyorker.com

Bernard Avishai – April 21, 2020

Nassim Nicholas Taleb at his home in Larchmont N.Y.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb says that his profession is “probability.” But his vocation is showing how the unpredictable is increasingly probable.Photograph Michael Appleton / NYT / Redux

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is “irritated,” he told Bloomberg Television on March 31st, whenever the coronavirus pandemic is referred to as a “black swan,” the term he coined for an unpredictable, rare, catastrophic event, in his best-selling 2007 book of that title. “The Black Swan” was meant to explain why, in a networked world, we need to change business practices and social norms—not, as he recently told me, to provide “a cliché for any bad thing that surprises us.” Besides, the pandemic was wholly predictable—he, like Bill Gates, Laurie Garrett, and others, had predicted it—a white swan if ever there was one. “We issued our warning that, effectively, you should kill it in the egg,” Taleb told Bloomberg. Governments “did not want to spend pennies in January; now they are going to spend trillions.”

The warning that he referred to appeared in a January 26th paper that he co-authored with Joseph Norman and Yaneer Bar-Yam, when the virus was still mainly confined to China. The paper cautions that, owing to “increased connectivity,” the spread will be “nonlinear”—two key contributors to Taleb’s anxiety. For statisticians, “nonlinearity” describes events very much like a pandemic: an output disproportionate to known inputs (the structure and growth of pathogens, say), owing to both unknown and unknowable inputs (their incubation periods in humans, or random mutations), or eccentric interaction among various inputs (wet markets and airplane travel), or exponential growth (from networked human contact), or all three.

“These are ruin problems,” the paper states, exposure to which “leads to a certain eventual extinction.” The authors call for “drastically pruning contact networks,” and other measures that we now associate with sheltering in place and social distancing. “Decision-makers must act swiftly,” the authors conclude, “and avoid the fallacy that to have an appropriate respect for uncertainty in the face of possible irreversible catastrophe amounts to ‘paranoia.’ ” (“Had we used masks then”—in late January—“we could have saved ourselves the stimulus,” Taleb told me.)

Yet, for anyone who knows his work, Taleb’s irritation may seem a little forced. His profession, he says, is “probability.” But his vocation is showing how the unpredictable is increasingly probable. If he was right about the spread of this pandemic it’s because he has been so alert to the dangers of connectivity and nonlinearity more generally, to pandemics and other chance calamities for which COVID-19 is a storm signal. “I keep getting asked for a list of the next four black swans,” Taleb told me, and that misses his point entirely. In a way, focussing on his January warning distracts us from his main aim, which is building political structures so that societies will be better able to cope with mounting, random events.

Indeed, if Taleb is chronically irritated, it is by those economists, officials, journalists, and executives—the “naïve empiricists”—who think that our tomorrows are likely to be pretty much like our yesterdays. He explained in a conversation that these are the people who, consulting bell curves, focus on their bulging centers, and disregard potentially fatal “fat tails”—events that seem “statistically remote” but “contribute most to outcomes,” by precipitating chain reactions, say. (Last week, Dr. Phil told Fox’s Laura Ingraham that we should open up the country again, noting, wrongly, that “three hundred and sixty thousand people die each year “from swimming pools — but we don’t shut the country down for that.” In response, Taleb tweeted, “Drowning in swimming pools is extremely contagious and multiplicative.”) Naïve empiricists plant us, he argued in “The Black Swan,” in “Mediocristan.” We actually live in “Extremistan.”

Taleb, who is sixty-one, came by this impatience honestly. As a young man, he lived through Lebanon’s civil war, which was precipitated by Palestinian militias escaping a Jordanian crackdown, in 1971, and led to bloody clashes between Maronite Christians and Sunni Muslims, drawing in Shiites, Druze, and the Syrians as well. The conflict lasted fifteen years and left some ninety thousand people dead. “These events were unexplainable, but intelligent people thought they were capable of providing convincing explanations for them—after the fact,” Taleb writes in “The Black Swan.” “The more intelligent the person, the better sounding the explanation.” But how could anyone have anticipated “that people who seemed a model of tolerance could become the purest of barbarians overnight?” Given the prior cruelties of the twentieth century, the question may sound ingenuous, but Taleb experienced sudden violence firsthand. He grew fascinated, and outraged, by extrapolations from an illusory normal—the evil of banality. “I later saw the exact same illusion of understanding in business success and the financial markets,” he writes.

“Later” began in 1983, when, after university in Paris, and a Wharton M.B.A., Taleb became an options trader—“my core identity,” he says. Over the next twelve years, he conducted two hundred thousand trades, and examined seventy thousand risk-management reports. Along the way, he developed an investment strategy that entailed exposure to regular, small losses, while positioning him to benefit from irregular, massive gains—something like a venture capitalist. He explored, especially, scenarios for derivatives: asset bundles where fat tails—price volatilities, say—can either enrich or impoverish traders, and do so exponentially when they increase the scale of the movement.

These were the years, moreover, when, following Japan, large U.S. manufacturing companies were converting to “just-in-time” production, which involved integrating and synchronizing supply-chains, and forgoing stockpiles of necessary components in favor of acquiring them on an as-needed basis, often relying on single, authorized suppliers. The idea was that lowering inventory would reduce costs. But Taleb, extrapolating from trading risks, believed that “managing without buffers was irresponsible,” because “fat-tail events” can never be completely avoided. As the Harvard Business Review reported this month, Chinese suppliers shut down by the pandemic have stymied the production capabilities of a majority of the companies that depend on them.

The coming of global information networks deepened Taleb’s concern. He reserved a special impatience for economists who saw these networks as stabilizing—who thought that the average thought or action, derived from an ever-widening group, would produce an increasingly tolerable standard—and who believed that crowds had wisdom, and bigger crowds more wisdom. Thus networked, institutional buyers and sellers were supposed to produce more rational markets, a supposition that seemed to justify the deregulation of derivatives, in 2000, which helped accelerate the crash of 2008.

As Taleb told me, “The great danger has always been too much connectivity.” Proliferating global networks, both physical and virtual, inevitably incorporate more fat-tail risks into a more interdependent and “fragile” system: not only risks such as pathogens but also computer viruses, or the hacking of information networks, or reckless budgetary management by financial institutions or state governments, or spectacular acts of terror. Any negative event along these lines can create a rolling, widening collapse—a true black swan—in the same way that the failure of a single transformer can collapse an electricity grid.

COVID-19 has initiated ordinary citizens into the esoteric “mayhem” that Taleb’s writings portend. Who knows what will change for countries when the pandemic ends? What we do know, Taleb says, is what cannot remain the same. He is “too much a cosmopolitan” to want global networks undone, even if they could be. But he does want the institutional equivalent of “circuit breakers, fail-safe protocols, and backup systems,” many of which he summarizes in his fourth, and favorite, book, “Antifragile,” published in 2012. For countries, he envisions political and economic principles that amount to an analogue of his investment strategy: government officials and corporate executives accepting what may seem like too-small gains from their investment dollars, while protecting themselves from catastrophic loss.

Anyone who has read the Federalist Papers can see what he’s getting at. The “separation of powers” is hardly the most efficient form of government; getting something done entails a complex, time-consuming process of building consensus among distributed centers of authority. But James Madison understood that tyranny—however distant it was from the minds of likely Presidents in his own generation—is so calamitous to a republic, and so incipient in the human condition, that it must be structurally mitigated. For Taleb, an antifragile country would encourage the distribution of power among smaller, more local, experimental, and self-sufficient entities—in short, build a system that could survive random stresses, rather than break under any particular one. (His word for this beneficial distribution is “fractal.”)

We should discourage the concentration of power in big corporations, “including a severe restriction of lobbying,” Taleb told me. “When one per cent of the people have fifty per cent of the income, that is a fat tail.” Companies shouldn’t be able to make money from monopoly power, “from rent-seeking”—using that power not to build something but to extract an ever-larger part of the surplus. There should be an expansion of the powers of state and even county governments, where there is “bottom-up” control and accountability. This could incubate new businesses and foster new education methods that emphasize “action learning and apprenticeship” over purely academic certification. He thinks that “we should have a national Entrepreneurship Day.”

But Taleb doesn’t believe that the government should abandon citizens buffeted by events they can’t possibly anticipate or control. (He dedicated his book “Skin in the Game,” published in 2018, to Ron Paul and Ralph Nader.) “The state,” he told me, “should not smooth out your life, like a Lebanese mother, but should be there for intervention in negative times, like a rich Lebanese uncle.” Right now, for example, the government should, indeed, be sending out checks to unemployed and gig workers. (“You don’t bail out companies, you bail out individuals.”) He would also consider a guaranteed basic income, much as Andrew Yang, whom he admires, has advocated. Crucially, the government should be an insurer of health care, though Taleb prefers not a centrally run Medicare-for-all system but one such as Canada’s, which is controlled by the provinces. And, like responsible supply-chain managers, the federal government should create buffers against public-health disasters: “If it can spend trillions stockpiling nuclear weapons, it ought to spend tens of billions stockpiling ventilators and testing kits.”

At the same time, Taleb adamantly opposes the state taking on staggering debt. He thinks, rather, that the rich should be taxed as disproportionately as necessary, “though as locally as possible.” The key is “to build on the good days,” when the economy is growing, and reduce the debt, which he calls “intergenerational dispossession.” The government should then encourage an eclectic array of management norms: drawing up political borders, even down to the level of towns, which can, in an epidemiological emergency, be closed; having banks and corporations hold larger cash reserves, so that they can be more independent of market volatility; and making sure that manufacturing, transportation, information, and health-care systems have redundant storage and processing components. (“That’s why nature gave us two kidneys.”) Taleb is especially keen to inhibit “moral hazard,” such as that of bankers who get rich by betting, and losing, other people’s money. “In the Hammurabi Code, if a house falls in and kills you, the architect is put to death,” he told me. Correspondingly, any company or bank that gets a bailout should expect its executives to be fired, and its shareholders diluted. “If the state helps you, then taxpayers own you.”

Some of Taleb’s principles seem little more than thought experiments, or fit uneasily with others. How does one tax more locally, or close a town border? If taxpayers own corporate equities, does this mean that companies might be nationalized, broken up, or severely regulated? But asking Taleb to describe antifragility to its end is a little like asking Thomas Hobbes to nail down sovereignty. The more important challenge is to grasp the peril for which political solutions must be designed or improvised; society cannot endure with complacent conceptions of how things work. “It would seem most efficient to drive home at two hundred miles an hour,” he put it to me.“But odds are you’d never get there.”

A Guide to the Coronavirus

Bernard Avishai teaches political economy at Dartmouth and is the author of “The Tragedy of Zionism,” “The Hebrew Republic,” and “Promiscuous,” among other books. He was selected as a Guggenheim fellow in 1987.

Recovered, almost: China’s early patients unable to shed coronavirus (Reuters)

uk.reuters.com

Brenda Goh, April 22, 2020

WUHAN, China (Reuters) – Dressed in a hazmat suit, two masks and a face shield, Du Mingjun knocked on the mahogany door of a flat in a suburban district of Wuhan on a recent morning.

FILE PHOTO: Medical personnel in protective suits wave hands to a patient who is discharged from the Leishenshan Hospital after recovering from the novel coronavirus, in Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Hubei province, China March 1, 2020. China Daily via REUTERS

A man wearing a single mask opened the door a crack and, after Du introduced herself as a psychological counsellor, burst into tears.

“I really can’t take it anymore,” he said. Diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in early February, the man, who appeared to be in his 50s, had been treated at two hospitals before being transferred to a quarantine centre set up in a cluster of apartment blocks in an industrial part of Wuhan.

Why, he asked, did tests say he still had the virus more than two months after he first contracted it?

The answer to that question is a mystery baffling doctors on the frontline of China’s battle against COVID-19, even as it has successfully slowed the spread of the coronavirus across the country.

Chinese doctors in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December, say a growing number of cases in which people recover from the virus, but continue to test positive without showing symptoms, is one of their biggest challenges as the country moves into a new phase of its containment battle.

Those patients all tested negative for the virus at some point after recovering, but then tested positive again, some up to 70 days later, the doctors said. Many have done so over 50-60 days.

The prospect of people remaining positive for the virus, and therefore potentially infectious, is of international concern, as many countries seek to end lockdowns and resume economic activity as the spread of the virus slows. Currently, the globally recommended isolation period after exposure is 14 days.

So far, there have been no confirmations of newly positive patients infecting others, according to Chinese health officials.

China has not published precise figures for how many patients fall into this category. But disclosures by Chinese hospitals to Reuters, as well as in other media reports, indicate there are at least dozens of such cases.

In South Korea, about 1,000 people have been testing positive for four weeks or more. In Italy, the first European country ravaged by the pandemic, health officials noticed that coronavirus patients could test positive for the virus for about a month.

As there is limited knowledge available on how infectious these patients are, doctors in Wuhan are keeping them isolated for longer.

Zhang Dingyu, president of Jinyintan Hospital, where the most serious coronavirus cases were treated, said health officials recognised the isolations may be excessive, especially if patients proved not to be infectious. But, for now, it was better to do so to protect the public, he said.    

He described the issue as one of the most pressing facing the hospital and said counsellors like Du are being brought in to help ease the emotional strain.

“When patients have this pressure, it also weighs on society,” he said.

DOZENS OF CASES

The plight of Wuhan’s long-term patients underlines how much remains unknown about COVID-19 and why it appears to affect different people in numerous ways, Chinese doctors say. So far global infections have hit 2.5 million with over 171,000 deaths.

As of April 21, 93% of 82,788 people with the virus in China had recovered and been discharged, official figures show.

Yuan Yufeng, a vice president at Zhongnan Hospital in Wuhan, told Reuters he was aware of a case in which the patient had positive retests after first being diagnosed with the virus about 70 days earlier.

“We did not see anything like this during SARS,” he said, referring to the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak that infected 8,098 people globally, mostly in China.

Patients in China are discharged after two negative nucleic acid tests, taken at least 24 hours apart, and if they no longer show symptoms. Some doctors want this requirement to be raised to three tests or more.

China’s National Health Commission directed Reuters to comments made at a briefing Tuesday when asked for comment about how this category of patients was being handled.

Wang Guiqiang, director of the infectious disease department of Peking University First Hospital, said at the briefing that the majority of such patients were not showing symptoms and very few had seen their conditions worsen.

“The new coronavirus is a new type of virus,” said Guo Yanhong, a National Health Commission official. “For this disease, the unknowns are still greater than the knowns.”

REMNANTS AND REACTIVATION

Experts and doctors struggle to explain why the virus behaves so differently in these people.

Some suggest that patients retesting as positive after previously testing negative were somehow reinfected with the virus. This would undermine hopes that people catching COVID-19 would produce antibodies that would prevent them from getting sick again from the virus.

Zhao Yan, a doctor of emergency medicine at Wuhan’s Zhongnan Hospital, said he was sceptical about the possibility of reinfection based on cases at his facility, although he did not have hard evidence.

“They’re closely monitored in the hospital and are aware of the risks, so they stay in quarantine. So I’m sure they were not reinfected.”

Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said the virus may have been “reactivated” in 91 South Korean patients who tested positive after having been thought to be cleared of it.  

Other South Korean and Chinese experts have said that remnants of the virus could have stayed in patients’ systems but not be infectious or dangerous to the host or others.

Few details have been disclosed about these patients, such as if they have underlying health conditions.

Paul Hunter, a professor at the University of East Anglia’s Norwich School of Medicine, said an unusually slow shedding of other viruses such as norovirus or influenza had been previously seen in patients with weakened immune systems.

In 2015, South Korean authorities disclosed that they had a Middle East Respiratory Syndrome patient stricken with lymphoma who showed signs of the virus for 116 days. They said his impaired immune system kept his body from ridding itself of the virus. The lymphoma eventually caused his death.

FILE PHOTO: A volunteer walks inside a convention center that was used as a makeshift hospital to treat patients with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Wuhan, Hubei province, China April 9, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

Yuan said that even if patients develop antibodies, it did not guarantee they would become virus-free.

He said that some patients had high levels of antibodies, and still tested positive to nucleic acid tests.

“It means that the two sides are still fighting,” he said.

MENTAL TOLL

As could be seen in Wuhan, the virus can also inflict a heavy mental toll on those caught in a seemingly endless cycle of positive tests.

Du, who set up a therapy hotline when Wuhan’s outbreak first began, allowed Reuters in early April to join her on a visit to the suburban quarantine centre on the condition that none of the patients be identified.

One man rattled off the names of three Wuhan hospitals he had stayed at before being moved to a flat in the centre.  He had taken over 10 tests since the third week of February, he said, on occasions testing negative but mostly positive.

“I feel fine and have no symptoms, but they check and it’s positive, check and it’s positive,” he said. “What is with this virus?”

Patients need to stay at the centre for at least 28 days and obtain two negative results before being allowed to leave. Patients are isolated in individual rooms they said were paid for by the government.

The most concerning case facing Du during the visit was the man behind the mahogany door; he had told medical workers the night before that he wanted to kill himself.

“I wasn’t thinking clearly,” he told Du, explaining how he had already taken numerous CT scans and nucleic acid tests, some of which tested negative, at different hospitals. He worried that he had been reinfected as he cycled through various hospitals.

His grandson missed him after being gone for so long, he said, and he worried his condition meant he would never be able to see him again.

He broke into another round of sobs. “Why is this happening to me?”

Reporting by Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Jack Kim in Seoul, Elvira Pollina in Milan, Belen Carreno in Madrid, and Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Philip McClellan

Saiba o que os grandes filósofos estão dizendo sobre coronavírus (Ilustríssima/Folha de S.Paulo)

Artigo original

Úrsula Passos, 12 de abril de 2020

[RESUMO]Ameaça representada pelo coronavírus mobiliza diversas áreas do conhecimento, da medicina à filosofia. O que dizem os filósofos contemporâneos? Há os que apostam numa mudança de paradigma e há também os céticos, que apontam certo misticismo em prognósticos sobre grandes transformações políticas e econômicas. Veja a seguir um roteiro de navegação pelos debates filosóficos do momento, travados em sites e publicações internacionais.

Desde que a epidemia do novo coronavírus surgiu num horizonte então ainda distante, chamado Wuhan (China), configurava-se uma ameaça potencial a vidas e modos de viver em todo o planeta.

O assunto mobiliza cientistas envolvidos nas pesquisas relativas à Covid-19 e estudiosos e pensadores de diversas áreas, como as chamadas ciências humanas. Refletir sobre nossas sociedades e as maneiras pelas quais enfrentamos e poderemos sair dessa inesperada crise também tem ocupado os filósofos de nosso tempo.

A urgência do pensamento encontra na internet seu meio de veiculação ideal, que vê surgir debates como o que opôs, de um lado, o italiano Giorgio Agamben, e, de outro, o francês Jean-Luc Nancy e o também italiano Roberto Esposito, grandes nomes da filosofia política contemporânea, sobre as políticas de contenção do vírus.

Para ajudar o leitor a navegar por essa série de esforços do pensamento, a Ilustríssima apresenta este guia do debate, com um resumo do que cada um desses autores diz.

O debate sobre a exceção

Giorgio Agamben

Em 26 de fevereiro, o filósofo italiano publicou um artigo chamado “A Invenção de uma Epidemia” no site de sua editora. O texto provocou uma série de respostas no blog coletivo italiano Antinomie em parceria com a revista European Journal of Psychoanalysis.

Um dos maiores pensadores da atualidade, Agamben é autor de “Homo Sacer” (editora UFMG), no qual explicita o conceito mais caro de sua filosofia, o de estado de exceção ­—que se refere à situação em que, para conter um conflito ou uma ameaça, o governo usa de sua soberania para cassar ou suspender direitos e estabelecer um estado de guerra.

No texto, ele qualifica as medidas de contenção tomadas pelo governo italiano como “frenéticas, irracionais e totalmente imotivadas”. A mídia e as autoridades, segundo ele, estariam espalhando um clima de pânico que legitimaria o estado de exceção.

Para o filósofo, as medidas fazem parte de uma tendência crescente de usar o estado de exceção como paradigma normal de exercício do poder. A epidemia não seria mais que um pretexto para instaurar o pânico e tornar as limitações de liberdade aceitáveis em nome do desejo de segurança.

Jean-Luc Nancy

No dia seguinte à publicação, o filósofo francês (autor de, entre outros, “Corpus”, no qual aborda sua experiência de transplante de coração), respondeu ao colega afirmando a gravidade da Covid-19.

O pensador, para quem a noção de comunidade é central, considerou que Agamben falhava ao não perceber que a exceção já se tornou a regra no mundo atual, em que a intervenção da técnica sobre todas as coisas atinge uma dimensão nunca antes vista.

Para ele, desconsiderar que o governo é apenas um executor do que é preciso ser feito parece mais uma manobra diversionista do que uma reflexão política.

Roberto Esposito

Dois dias depois foi a vez do filósofo italiano, que também trabalha com o conceito de estado de exceção em seus estudos sobre biopolítica, responder a seu conterrâneo. O autor de “Categorias do Impolítico” (Autêntica) afirma ser um exagero falar em riscos à democracia neste momento.

Esposito, porém, admite que o estabelecimento da emergência empurra a política para procedimentos excepcionais que desfazem o equilíbrio do poder. Segundo ele, uma crescente politização da medicina distorce as tarefas de controle social porque seus objetivos não incluem mais indivíduos ou classes, mas segmentos de população diferenciados por saúde, idade, sexo e até etnia.

“Parece-me”, escreve ele, “que o que acontece hoje na Itália, com a caótica e um tanto grotesca sobreposição de prerrogativas estatais e regionais, tem mais o caráter de uma decomposição dos poderes públicos que o de uma dramática contenção totalitária”.

Giorgio Agamben

No dia 17 de março, o italiano voltou ao debate, mas sem mudar a postura. Segundo ele, o pânico mostrou que a sociedade não acredita em nada além de “vidas nuas” e que os italianos estão dispostos a sacrificar tudo para evitar ficarem doentes.

Agamben se pergunta no que as relações humanas se transformariam se nos acostumássemos a viver assim, como se outros seres humanos fossem apenas possíveis contaminadores. “O que é uma sociedade cujo único valor é a sobrevivência?”, pergunta.

Os homens, acostumados a viver em permanente crise, não percebem que a vida foi reduzida à condição biológica, perdendo suas dimensões social, política e emocional. Uma sociedade em permanente estado de emergência, diz, não pode ser livre.

Sua preocupação é com o pós-pandemia, se, passada a emergência médica, os experimentos que os governos conseguiram implementar se mantiverem e continuarmos com escolas e universidades fechadas, sem encontros para debater política e cultura, trocando mensagens virtuais e interagindo somente com máquinas.

O descrente

Alain Badiou

O filósofo francês, autor de “Em Busca do Real Perdido” (Autêntica), em que questiona a compreensão do real apenas pela ciência e economia, escreveu no final de março um artigo no qual se mostra descrente de uma grande mudança política após a pandemia.

Ele recusa a ideia de que estejamos vivendo algo inédito com o novo coronavírus, apontando ameaças anteriores, como o HIV e a Sars. “É verdade que esses deveres [como o de ficar em casa] são cada vez mais urgentes, mas, ao menos num exame inicial, não requerem nenhum grande esforço analítico ou a constituição de um novo modo de pensar”, escreve. Quanto às medidas tomadas pelos governos, são simplesmente as necessárias nesta situação.

Para Badiou, o Sars-CoV-2 evidencia uma grande contradição contemporânea: a economia está sob a égide do mercado global, enquanto os poderes políticos continuam sendo essencialmente nacionais.

Cético quanto ao que alguns aventam como possibilidades políticas na atual crise, ele percebe uma dissipação da atividade da razão que está levando a “misticismo, fabulação, profecias e maldições” e que, no pós-pandemia, será preciso avaliar tais perspectivas que acreditaram que algo politicamente inovador poderia surgir.

Valor das vidas

Judith Butler

A filósofa americana, responsável pelo conceito de performatividade de gênero e pela teoria queer, autora de “Problemas de Gênero” (Civilização Brasileira), parte da tentativa de Donald Trump de garantir apenas aos EUA uma possível vacina contra a Covid-19 para tratar do acesso desigual à saúde no país.

Ela volta às ideias expostas no livro “Vida Precária: Os Poderes do Luto e da Violência” (Autêntica), em que o luto aparece como elemento fundamental de um sentimento de comunidade que se opõe ao individualismo.

Embora todas as vidas sejam precárias e o vírus possa contaminar qualquer um, a desigualdade social e econômica permite que o vírus discrimine.

“Por que nós, como povo, ainda nos opomos à ideia de tratar todas as vidas como se tivessem o mesmo valor?”, pergunta.

Tchau Europa, olá China

Theodore Dalrymple

Dalrymple é o pseudônimo do psiquiatra e crítico cultural conservador britânico Anthony Daniels, autor, entre outros, de “Nossa Cultura… ou o Que Restou Dela” (É Realizações), conjunto de ensaios sobre a degradação dos valores.

Em dois textos sobre a Covid-19, ele trata do novo protagonismo da China e do fim da Europa como liderança e modelo para o mundo, tendência exacerbada pela pandemia.

O primeiro texto, do início de março, mostra como epidemias ou guerras fazem com que tanto a população quanto a classe política vivam uma dialética entre complacência e pânico, entre a análise de estatísticas e o medo do desabastecimento que leva à corrida a supermercados.

Ali, Dalrymple comenta o fato de que, com a falta de insumos, os governos acordaram para o perigo de deixar que a China seja a fábrica do mundo, confiando ao país diversas partes da cadeia produtiva.

O segundo texto trata de como os europeus, para se consolarem do fato de não terem respondido ao vírus com a mesma eficiência de países asiáticos, se apegam à ideia de que são livres e de que não vivem sob regimes autoritários.

Sociedade do medo

Frank Furedi

Nascido na Hungria e professor da Universidade de Kent, na Inglaterra, o sociólogo e autor de “Politics of Fear” (política do medo) tem escrito diversos artigos sobre a Covid-19 na revista online Spiked.

No final de janeiro, Furedi alertava para que a reação à doença não fosse extrema, dizendo que neste século já vimos o surgimento de outros vírus e que já começavam as teorias da conspiração e o apontar de dedos em busca de culpados.

Em texto de meados de março, ele trata de como a pressão para que políticos ajam de forma a aquietar a opinião pública pode impedir que as melhores decisões sejam tomadas. Mas não são os governos, e sim as comunidades, diz ele, que asseguram que a dor e o sofrimento sejam minimizados.

Em “Um Desastre sem Precedentes”, de 20 de março, Furedi aborda os impactos do coronavírus, não pelo aspecto da saúde, mas pelo ângulo da reação de governos, entidades internacionais e comunidades. “É como a sociedade responde a um desastre que determina que legado, a longo prazo, o desastre terá”, escreve.

O modo como se responde a uma pandemia é mediado pela maneira como se percebe a ameaça, pela sensação de segurança existencial e pela capacidade de dar significado ao imprevisto.

Ele então enumera questões do nosso cenário cultural que influenciam a nossa resposta: no século 21 os indivíduos deixaram de se enxergar como resilientes e passaram a se definir por suas vulnerabilidades; existe uma grande “psicologização” dos problemas da vida cotidiana e da existência; e uma percepção contemporânea de que a existência humana está ameaçada —“o termo extinção humana é usado casualmente nas conversas cotidianas”.

Em oposição a isso, Furedi fala da necessidade de desenvolver a coragem como valor compartilhado —e valores compartilhados são essenciais à solidariedade.

No artigo mais recente, de 2 de abril, ele volta a tratar da sanha por achar culpados pelo novo coronavírus. A maior parte das narrativas de culpa é, segundo ele, influenciada por inimigos de seus autores. Setores da esquerda culparam a austeridade e a falta de investimento no setor público, enquanto a direita responsabilizou migrantes e estrangeiros pela situação.

Para compreender tal busca por culpados, o sociólogo enumera três fases da maneira como a humanidade lida com catástrofes ao longo da história. Antes apontavam para Deus e outras forças sobrenaturais; após o Iluminismo, passamos a culpar a natureza; agora, buscamos culpados entre os seres humanos. Ainda hoje os desastres devem ter significados por trás deles e raramente são percebidos como acidentes.

Resposta imunológica

Han Byung-chul

O filósofo sul-coreano radicado em Berlim, autor de “Sociedade do Cansaço” (Vozes), em texto de meados de março passa em revista os modos distintos com que Ásia e Europa enfrentaram a Covid-19 —testagem em massa e controle digital de um lado, isolamento social de outro.

Ele aponta questões culturais que levam a tais diferenças, como a tradição confucionista que engendra uma mentalidade autoritária, a maior obediência e menor relutância, mais confiança no Estado e sobreposição da coletividade sobre o indivíduo nos países asiáticos.

Han também aborda uma mudança na ideia de soberania, que, segundo ele, está ultrapassada como é vista na Europa. É soberano, afirma, quem dispõe de dados. E a vigilância digital impera na Ásia.

“O capitalismo continuará com ainda mais pujança”, diz ele. E agora a China poderá vender seu Estado policial digital com orgulho para o Ocidente. O vírus não vencerá o capitalismo, pois, ao nos isolar e não gerar nenhum sentimento coletivo, não mobiliza revoluções.

A solução socialista

David Harvey

O geógrafo marxista britânico, autor de “Os Limites do Capital” (Boitempo), no qual reinterpreta Marx à luz das dinâmicas espaciais da urbanização, publicou “Políticas Anticapitalistas em Tempos de Covid-19” em seu site, em meados de março.

Não há, segundo ele, desastres naturais, porque todos dependem, mais ou menos, da ação humana. Os impactos econômicos e demográficos do vírus dependem de fissuras e vulnerabilidades que já existiam no modelo econômico.

Em diversos países as autoridades regionais não tiveram acesso a recursos para a saúde pública por conta de políticas de austeridade que subsidiaram corporações e os ricos, escreve.

Ele contesta, ainda, a ideia de que a doença atinja igualmente a todos, pois a força de trabalho que cuida dos doentes é racializada e feminina. A diferença também está naqueles que podem ou não trabalhar de casa, e nos que podem ou não se isolar.

Os trabalhadores na maior parte do mundo, segundo ele, foram ensinados a se comportar como bons sujeitos neoliberais, mas as únicas políticas que surtirão efeitos agora serão socialistas.

Nada deve ser como antes

Bruno Latour

O francês, sociólogo e filósofo da ciência, é autor de, entre outros, “Jamais Fomos Modernos” (editora 34), sobre como a noção de moderno é usada no Ocidente em oposição a outras culturas. Em texto do final de março, defende que não voltemos ao estado anterior, de superprodução e consumismo, após a pandemia.

Segundo ele, os globalistas vão se aproveitar da crise para voltarem mais fortes, ignorando os sinais climáticos. “É agora que devemos lutar para que, uma vez terminada a crise provocada pela pandemia, a retomada da economia não traga de volta o mesmo velho regime climático que temos tentado combater”, escreve.

Não se trata mais de retomar ou de transformar um sistema de produção, mas de abandonar a produção como o único princípio de relação com o mundo. Ao final, ele propõe um exercício ao leitor: fazer um inventário das atividades que não gostaria que fossem retomadas e daquelas que, pelo contrário, gostaria de ampliar.

A nova fronteira

Paul B. Preciado

No começo de março, o filósofo trans espanhol, autor do “Manifesto Contrassexual” (N-1 edições), um marco dos estudos de gênero, adoeceu pela Covid-19. Logo depois, escreveu um texto a respeito dos dias que passou alheio aos acontecimentos e sobre como pensou que a nova realidade poderia agora ser escrita em pedra. “Valeria a pena viver nos moldes do confinamento?”, ele se perguntava.

No dia 28, voltou ao assunto em outro artigo, no qual enfatiza a filosofia de Michel Foucault da biopolítica, segundo a qual o corpo é o objeto central de toda política.

As diferentes epidemias, segundo ele, materializam na esfera do corpo de cada um as obsessões que dominam a gestão política da vida e da morte das populações. Sendo assim, o vírus atua replicando e estendendo a todos as formas dominantes de gestão da vida e da morte que já existiam, mas em dimensões nacionais.

Estamos, em nossa época, passando de uma sociedade orgânica para uma digital, de uma economia industrial para uma imaterial. As pessoas não são mais reguladas pela passagem por instituições disciplinares, como escola, fábrica, casa, mas por tecnologias biomoleculares, digitais e de transmissão de informação.

“O que está sendo testado em escala planetária por meio do gerenciamento do vírus é uma nova maneira de entender a soberania em um contexto em que a identidade sexual e racial está sendo desarticulada”, escreve.

Golpe no capitalismo

Slavoj Zizek

No fim de fevereiro, o esloveno, o mais pop dos filósofos, publicou um artigo no qual define o novo coronavírus como um golpe à la “Kill Bill” no capitalismo.

O autor de livros como “Menos que Nada” (Boitempo), no qual articula Hegel e Lacan, faz referência ao golpe mortal aplicado pela protagonista em seu inimigo ao final do longa de Quentin Tarantino.

Para Zizek, o novo coronavírus sinaliza que uma mudança radical é necessária. A crise econômica que se espera como consequência da pandemia mostra a urgência de uma reorganização da economia global em que não se esteja à mercê dos mecanismos do mercado.

Ele prepara novo livro sobre a pandemia, que já está em pré-venda. Zizek fala de um socialismo de emergência, no qual trilhões serão gastos, violando as leis de mercado, mas que ainda assim corre o risco de ser um “socialismo para os ricos”, ajudando apenas a elite, como em 2008.

E mais alguns pensadores

Noam Chomsky

O linguista americano conversa com o filósofo croata Srećko Horvat em vídeo do final de março. Ele diz que o coronavírus é preocupante, mas que estamos sob duas maiores ameaças, uma iminente guerra nuclear e o aquecimento global, além da ameaça de deterioração da democracia. Neste momento, os países pobres, num mundo civilizado, deveriam estar recebendo ajuda dos países ricos para que as pessoas não morressem de fome.

Ao superarmos a crise teremos algumas opções, de estados altamente autoritários e brutais, com os quais o neoliberalismo ficaria feliz, à reconstrução radical da sociedade em termos mais humanos, em que o lucro não seja o mais importante.

Naomi Klein

A escritora e ativista canadense, autora de “A Doutrina do Choque”, falou à Vice e ao Intercept sobre o novo coronavírus. Klein diz que em momentos de crise as ideias mais inesperadas de repente se tornam possíveis de serem executadas e defende o chamado “green new deal”, que investe em indústrias limpas.

Peter Singer e Paola Cavalieri

O filósofo australiano, grande voz na defesa dos animais, e a jornalista e filósofa italiana, autora de um projeto que estende aos grandes primatas os direitos humanos, publicaram no início de março um texto no qual traçam um panorama do possível surgimento do Sars-Cov-2 em mercados de animais silvestres na China.

Eles defendem que não apenas leis que protejam espécies sejam instituídas, mas que o mundo todo proíba mercados em que animais são vendidos vivos.


Úrsula Passos é jornalista da Folha e mestre em filosofia pela USP.

The Coronavirus Death Count Will Be a New Battle in the Culture Wars (Gizmodo)

Ed Cara – 10 de abril de 2020

As parts of the United States settle in for what may be the worst weeks of their local covid-19 outbreaks, a familiar refrain is sure to emerge.

Some people will complain that the death count attributed to the coronavirus is being exaggerated. Others, including researchers, have argued that covid-19 related deaths are actually being undercounted, as people die at home without being tested. Still others will point to the final death count and say that because it’s lower than X (whether that number be flu deaths, car accident deaths, or some other moving goalpost), then that means the efforts and sacrifices made for social distancing weren’t worth it—ignoring, of course, that social distancing was the reason the toll wasn’t much higher. Figuring out how deadly covid-19 truly is will take far more time to untangle than anyone would want, and no one’s likely to be fully satisfied with the answers we get.

As of April 10, there have been around 1.6 million reported cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus worldwide. There have also been over 96,000 reported deaths, with over 16,000 deaths documented in the U.S. But these numbers are largely acknowledged as a very rough, possibly even misleading estimate of the problem, given the wide gaps in testing capacity across different countries and even within a country.

On the political right, many have taken to fostering conspiracy theories about these deaths. You don’t have to go far on social media to see people accusing doctors and health officials of fudging the numbers higher to make President Trump look bad or to (somehow) profit off the tragedy. Other conservative voices like the disgraced sex pest Bill O’Reilly are less paranoid but similarly dismissive, arguing that many of those who died “were on their last legs anyway.”

It’s true that older people and those with underlying health conditions are at greater risk of serious complications and death from covid-19. But the same can be said for almost every other leading cause of death, whether it’s cancer, heart attack, or diabetes. And just as living is hardly a simple affair, so too is dying. Sometimes you can point to a single factor that kills a person, but often it’s a mix of ailments, with a viral infection like covid-19 being the final shove.

The key point here is that epidemiologists and others who try to estimate how many people die from any given cause per year know the above very well. The flu, for instance, doesn’t usually kill in isolation either—it too disproportionately kills the elderly and otherwise already sick. Yet many of the same people who are now trying to downplay covid-19 deaths also argued that its early death toll wasn’t coming anywhere close to the typical seasonal flu’s annual tally (an argument meant to push back against the idea of doing anything too serious to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus).

That said, we’re much better at estimating how many deaths in the U.S. are flu-related because the influenza virus is a known entity. We have a decent sense of how many people are infected with the flu every year, how many people go to the doctor or are hospitalized, and how many people it helps kill, thanks to a well-established nationwide surveillance system. But that isn’t true for covid-19.

There’s steady evidence indicating that covid-19 cases nearly everywhere in the world are being undercounted. That’s partly because testing remains so haphazard and has inherent limitations. The most common type of covid-19 test right now, for instance, can only confirm an active infection, not whether you had a previous case (newer antibody tests can address that problem but have their own flaws). It’s also because the virus infects a still-unknown percentage of people without making them feel sick at all.

Many more people have had or will catch the coronavirus than any current tracking will ever indicate. These hidden cases are almost certainly less deadly on average than the known cases that wind up in hospitals, so it’s likely that the current documented fatality rate of covid-19 (over 5 percent worldwide) is an overestimate. But that doesn’t mean more people aren’t dying from covid-19 than are being reported.

In areas of China and Italy hit hard by the coronavirus, news reports have suggested a wide gulf between the official number of covid-19-related deaths in a town and what residents are seeing for themselves. In the U.S., there are still regions where testing is limited and people who may have died from covid-19 in their homes are never tested, including New York City. And there’s the simple harsh reality that we’re probably still in the very beginning of this pandemic.

Even if outbreaks start to peter out in the U.S. and elsewhere, there’s the risk that loosening our restrictions on distancing will fuel new ones. And even if the summer heat in the U.S. makes it harder for the virus to spread here, as some experts hope, a second wave in the fall and winter could certainly happen, much as it did for the last pandemic (a strain of flu) in 2009.

All of these variables will affect the final death toll from covid-19, as will how countries continue to respond to the crisis. Ironically, the steps we take to prevent new cases and deaths may be the very thing that makes people doubt they were necessary.

In late March, the White House and U.S. public health officials announced that they projected 100,000 to 200,000 deaths in the country by the pandemic’s end, provided everything was done to slow its spread. On Thursday, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that newer modeling data has suggested the U.S. death toll may end up closer to 60,000, so long as we keep mitigating the outbreak. Almost immediately, some people chose to take it as evidence that mitigation efforts aren’t necessary and that the initial warnings about the virus were overblown—ignoring, again, that the reason for the downward revision in projected deaths is the success of social distancing.

There are still a lot of things we don’t know about the coronavirus, and many of the things we think we know are going to keep changing. But here’s something to remember.

By the end of the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, the World Health Organization reported that about 19,000 people were confirmed to have died from the virus. By 2013, several studies estimated that the true death toll was at least 10 times higher and even higher still when you took into account other causes of death indirectly worsened by the flu, like heart attacks. Knowing how deadly covid-19 will be could very well take that long to nail down too.

Another article of interest:

New York City’s covid-19 death toll is likely higher than reported, due to the fact that the…Read more

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

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

baby-mammoth

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

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

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

Id./p3, 110

bernhardi-erratics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Distant tropical storms have ripple effects on weather close to home (Science Daily)

Researchers describe a breakthrough in making accurate predictions of weather weeks ahead

Date:
February 20, 2018
Source:
Colorado State University
Summary:
Researchers report a breakthrough in making accurate predictions of weather weeks ahead. They’ve created an empirical model fed by careful analysis of 37 years of historical weather data. Their model centers on the relationship between two well-known global weather patterns: the Madden-Julian Oscillation and the quasi-biennial oscillation.

Storm clouds (stock image). Credit: © mdesigner125 / Fotolia

The famously intense tropical rainstorms along Earth’s equator occur thousands of miles from the United States. But atmospheric scientists know that, like ripples in a pond, tropical weather creates powerful waves in the atmosphere that travel all the way to North America and have major impacts on weather in the U.S.

These far-flung, interconnected weather processes are crucial to making better, longer-term weather predictions than are currently possible. Colorado State University atmospheric scientists, led by professors Libby Barnes and Eric Maloney, are hard at work to address these longer-term forecasting challenges.

In a new paper in npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, the CSU researchers describe a breakthrough in making accurate predictions of weather weeks ahead. They’ve created an empirical model fed by careful analysis of 37 years of historical weather data. Their model centers on the relationship between two well-known global weather patterns: the Madden-Julian Oscillation and the quasi-biennial oscillation.

According to the study, led by former graduate researcher Bryan Mundhenk, the model, using both these phenomena, allows skillful prediction of the behavior of major rain storms, called atmospheric rivers, three and up to five weeks in advance.

“It’s impressive, considering that current state-of-the-art numerical weather models, such as NOA’s Global Forecast System, or the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts’ operational model, are only skillful up to one to two weeks in advance,” says paper co-author Cory Baggett, a postdoctoral researcher in the Barnes and Maloney labs.

The researchers’ chief aim is improving forecast capabilities within the tricky no-man’s land of “subseasonal to seasonal” timescales: roughly three weeks to three months out. Predictive capabilities that far in advance could save lives and livelihoods, from sounding alarms for floods and mudslides to preparing farmers for long dry seasons. Barnes also leads a federal NOAA task force for improving subseasonal to seasonal forecasting, with the goal of sharpening predictions for hurricanes, heat waves, the polar vortex and more.

Atmospheric rivers aren’t actual waterways, but”rivers in the sky,” according to researchers. They’re intense plumes of water vapor that cause extreme precipitation, plumes so large they resemble rivers in satellite pictures. These “rivers” are responsible for more than half the rainfall in the western U.S.

The Madden-Julian Oscillation is a cluster of rainstorms that moves east along the Equator over 30 to 60 days. The location of the oscillation determines where atmospheric waves will form, and their eventual impact on say, California. In previous work, the researchers have uncovered key stages of the Madden-Julian Oscillation that affect far-off weather, including atmospheric rivers.

Sitting above the Madden-Julian Oscillation is a very predictable wind pattern called the quasi-biennial oscillation. Over two- to three-year periods, the winds shift east, west and back east again, and almost never deviate. This pattern directly affects the Madden-Julian Oscillation, and thus indirectly affects weather all the way to California and beyond.

The CSU researchers created a model that can accurately predict atmospheric river activity in the western U.S. three weeks from now. Its inputs include the current state of the Madden-Julian Oscillation and the quasi-biennial oscillation. Using information on how atmospheric rivers have previously behaved in response to these oscillations, they found that the quasi-biennial oscillation matters — a lot.

Armed with their model, the researchers want to identify and understand deficiencies in state-of-the-art numerical weather models that prevent them from predicting weather on these subseasonal time scales.

“It would be worthwhile to develop a good understanding of the physical relationship between the Madden-Julian Oscillation and the quasi-biennial oscillation, and see what can be done to improve models’ simulation of this relationship,” Mundhenk said.

Another logical extension of their work would be to test how well their model can forecast actual rainfall and wind or other severe weather, such as tornadoes and hail.


Journal Reference:

  1. Bryan D. Mundhenk, Elizabeth A. Barnes, Eric D. Maloney, Cory F. Baggett. Skillful empirical subseasonal prediction of landfalling atmospheric river activity using the Madden–Julian oscillation and quasi-biennial oscillation. npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, 2018; 1 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41612-017-0008-2

Nível do mar na costa brasileira tende a aumentar nas próximas décadas (Pesquisa Fapesp)

05 de junho de 2017

Elton Alisson | Agência FAPESP – O nível do mar na costa brasileira tende a aumentar nas próximas décadas. No Brasil, contudo, onde mais de 60% da população vive em cidades costeiras, não há um estudo integrado da vulnerabilidade dos municípios litorâneos a este e a outros impactos decorrentes das mudanças climáticas, como o aumento da frequência e da intensidade de chuvas. Um estudo desse gênero possibilitaria estimar os danos sociais, econômicos e ambientais e elaborar um plano de ação com o intuito de implementar medidas adaptativas.

As conclusões são do relatório especial do Painel Brasileiro de Mudanças Climáticas (PBMC) sobre “Impacto, vulnerabilidade e adaptação das cidades costeiras brasileiras às mudanças climáticas”, lançado nesta segunda-feira (05/06) durante um evento no Museu do Amanhã, no Rio de Janeiro.

A publicação tem apoio da FAPESP e parte dos estudos nos quais se baseia são resultado do Projeto Metrópole e de outros projetos apoiados pela Fundação no âmbito do Programa FAPESP de Pesquisa sobre Mudanças Climáticas Globais (PFPMCG) e do Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia (INCT) para Mudanças Climáticas, financiado pela Fundação e pelo Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq).

“A ideia do relatório foi mostrar o estado da arte sobre mudanças de clima e cidades costeiras, baseado em uma exaustiva revisão de publicações internacionais e nacionais sobre o tema, e também identificar lacunas no conhecimento para que os formuladores de políticas públicas e tomadores de decisão no Brasil possam propor e implementar medidas de adaptação”, disse José Marengo, coordenador-geral de pesquisa e desenvolvimento do Centro Nacional de Monitoramento e Alertas de Desastres Naturais (Cemaden) e um dos autores e editores do relatório, à Agência FAPESP.

De acordo com dados do documento, entre 1901 e 2010 o nível médio do mar globalmente aumentou 19 centímetros – com variação entre 17 e 21 centímetros.

Entre 1993 e 2010, a taxa de elevação correspondeu a mais de 3,2 milímetros (mm) por ano – com variação entre 2,8 e 3,6 mm por ano.

No Brasil também há uma tendência de aumento do nível do mar nas regiões costeiras com algum grau de incerteza porque não há registros históricos contínuos e confiáveis, ponderam os autores.

“Ainda não conseguimos detectar o aumento do nível do mar no Brasil por conta das poucas observações existentes e de estudos de modelagem para avaliar os impactos. Mas já identificamos por meio de estudos regionais diversas cidades de médio e grande porte que apresentam alta exposição à elevação do nível relativo do mar e já têm sofrido os impactos desse fenômeno, particularmente na forma de ressacas e inundações”, disse Marengo.

Entre essas cidades, onde 60% da população reside na faixa de 60 quilômetros da costa, estão Rio Grande (RS), Laguna e Florianópolis (SC), Paranaguá (PR), Santos (SP), Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Vitória (ES), Salvador (BA), Maceió (AL), Recife (PE), São Luís (MA), Fortaleza (CE) e Belém (PA).

Nos estados de São Paulo e do Rio de Janeiro, por exemplo, têm sido registradas taxas de aumento do nível médio do mar de 1,8 a 4,2 mm por ano desde a década de 1950.

Na cidade de Santos, no litoral sul paulista, onde está situado o maior porto da América Latina, o nível do mar tem aumentado 1,2 mm por ano, em média, desde a década de 1940. Além disso, ocorreu um aumento significativo na altura das ondas – que alcançava 1 metro em 1957 e passou a atingir 1,3 m, em 2002 – e na frequência de ressacas no município.

Já no Rio de Janeiro, a análise dos dados da estação maregráfica da Ilha Fiscal – que tem a série histórica mais antiga do Brasil e fica no meio da Baía da Guanabara – indica uma tendência média de aumento do nível do mar de mais ou menos 1,3 mm por ano, com base nos dados mensais do nível do mar do período de 1963 a 2011 e com um índice de confiança de 95%.

Por sua vez, em Recife o nível do mar aumentou 5,6 mm entre 1946 e 1988 – o que corresponde a uma elevação de 24 centímetros em 42 anos. A erosão costeira e a ocupação do pós-praia provocaram uma redução da linha de praia em mais de 20 metros na Praia de Boa Viagem – a área da orla mais valorizada da cidade –, apontam os autores do relatório.

“Existem poucas observações como essas em outras regiões do país. Quando tentamos levantar dados dos últimos 40 ou 100 anos sobre o aumento do nível do mar em outras cidades do Nordeste, como Fortaleza, por exemplo, é difícil encontrar”, disse Marengo.

Impactos socioeconômicos

De acordo com os autores do relatório, as mudanças climáticas e um acelerado ritmo de elevação do nível do mar podem causar sérios impactos nas áreas costeiras do Brasil.

Os impactos socioeconômicos seriam mais restritos às vizinhanças das 15 maiores cidades litorâneas, que ocupam uma extensão de 1,3 mil quilômetros da linha costeira – correspondente a 17% da linha costeira do Brasil.

Entre as principais consequências da elevação do nível do mar, entre diversas outras, estão o aumento da erosão costeira, da frequência, intensidade e magnitude das inundações, da vulnerabilidade de pessoas e bens e a redução dos espaços habitáveis.

“Os impactos mais evidentes da elevação do nível do mar são o aumento da frequência das inundações costeiras e a redução da linha de praia. Mas há outros não tão perceptíveis, como a intrusão marinha, em que a água salgada do mar começa a penetrar aquíferos e ecossistemas de água doce”, ressaltou Marengo.

As projeções do quinto relatório (AR5) do Painel Intergovernamental sobre Mudanças Climáticas (IPCC) são que a elevação do nível do mar globalmente varie entre 0,26 e 0,98 metro até 2100 – em um cenário mais pessimista. O relatório apresenta estimativas similares para a costa brasileira.

Considerando que a probabilidade de inundações aumenta com a elevação do nível do mar pode ser esperada uma maior probabilidade de inundações em áreas que apresentam mais de 40% de mudanças no nível do mar observadas nos últimos 60 anos – como é o caso de várias metrópoles costeiras brasileiras, ressaltam os autores.

As inundações costeiras serão mais preocupantes no litoral do Nordeste, Sul e Sudeste, e também podem afetar o litoral sul e sudoeste da cidade do Rio de Janeiro. Os seis municípios fluminenses mais vulneráveis à elevação do nível do mar, de acordo com estudos apresentados no relatório, são Parati, Angra dos Reis, Rio de Janeiro, Duque de Caxias, Magé e Campos dos Goytacazes.

“A combinação do aumento do nível do mar com tempestades e ventos mais fortes pode provocar danos bastante altos na infraestrutura dessas cidades”, estimou Marengo.

Exemplo de plano

O documento destaca o Plano Municipal de Adaptação à Mudança de Clima (PMAMC) da cidade de Santos como exemplo de plano de ação para adaptação às mudanças de clima e os seus impactos nas cidades [Leia mais sobre o assunto em http://agencia.fapesp.br/21997/].

A elaboração do plano foi baseada nos resultados do Projeto Metrópole, coordenado por Marengo.

O estudo internacional estimou que a inundação de áreas costeiras das zonas sudeste e noroeste de Santos, causada pela combinação da elevação do nível do mar com ressacas, marés meteorológicas e astronômicas e eventos climáticos extremos, pode causar prejuízos acumulados de quase R$ 2 bilhões até 2100 se não forem implementadas medidas de adaptação.

O estudo é realizado por pesquisadores do Cemaden, dos Institutos Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe) e Geológico (IG) e das Universidades de São Paulo (USP) e Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp), em parceria com colegas da University of South Florida, dos Estados Unidos, do King’s College London, da Inglaterra, além de técnicos da Prefeitura Municipal de Santos.

“Nossa intenção é aplicar essa metodologia utilizada em Santos em outras cidades litorâneas brasileiras para termos pelo menos uma estimativa inicial do custo de adaptação à elevação do nível do mar”, disse Marengo.

Human societies evolve along similar paths (University of Exeter)

PUBLIC RELEASE: 

Societies ranging from ancient Rome and the Inca empire to modern Britain and China have evolved along similar paths, a huge new study shows.

Despite their many differences, societies tend to become more complex in “highly predictable” ways, researchers said.

These processes of development – often happening in societies with no knowledge of each other – include the emergence of writing systems and “specialised” government workers such as soldiers, judges and bureaucrats.The international research team, including researchers from the University of Exeter, created a new database of historical and archaeological information using data on 414 societies spanning the last 10,000 years. The database is larger and more systematic than anything that has gone before it.

“Societies evolve along a bumpy path – sometimes breaking apart – but the trend is towards larger, more complex arrangements,” said corresponding author Dr Thomas Currie, of the Human Behaviour and Cultural Evolution Group at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

“Researchers have long debated whether social complexity can be meaningfully compared across different parts of the world. Our research suggests that, despite surface differences, there are fundamental similarities in the way societies evolve.

“Although societies in places as distant as Mississippi and China evolved independently and followed their own trajectories, the structure of social organisation is broadly shared across all continents and historical eras.”

The measures of complexity examined by the researchers were divided into nine categories. These included:

  • Population size and territory
  • Number of control/decision levels in administrative, religious and military hierarchies
  • Information systems such as writing and record keeping
  • Literature on specialised topics such as history, philosophy and fiction
  • Economic development

The researchers found that these different features showed strong statistical relationships, meaning that variation in societies across space and time could be captured by a single measure of social complexity.

This measure can be thought of as “a composite measure of the various roles, institutions, and technologies that enable the coordination of large numbers of people to act in a politically unified manner”.

Dr Currie said learning lessons from human history could have practical uses.

“Understanding the ways in which societies evolve over time and in particular how humans are able to create large, cohesive groups is important when we think about state building and development,” he said.

“This study shows how the sciences and humanities, which have not always seen eye-to-eye, can actually work together effectively to uncover general rules that have shaped human history.”

###

The new database of historical and archaeological information is known as “Seshat: Global History Databank” and its construction was led by researchers from the University of Exeter, the University of Connecticut, the University of Oxford, Trinity College Dublin and the Evolution Institute. More than 70 expert historians and archaeologists have helped in the data collection process.

The paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is entitled: “Quantitative historical analysis uncovers a single dimension of complexity that structures global variation in human social organisation.”

¿Adiós al Servicio Meteorológico? Un biólogo argentino predice el clima estudiando hormigas (y acierta) (La Nación)

Jorge Finardi anticipa lluvias y tormentas a partir del comportamiento de insectos

LA NACION

JUEVES 26 DE ENERO DE 2017 • 17:44

¿Chau Servicio Meteorológico? El biólogo argentino que predice el clima estudiando hormigas

¿Chau Servicio Meteorológico? El biólogo argentino que predice el clima estudiando hormigas. Foto: Archivo 

Jorge Finardi predice el clima a través de las hormigas. Estudia sus movimientos, los registra, los compara y llega a la conclusión, por ejemplo, de que mañana a la tarde lloverá. Y acierta. Esta semana, Finardi anticipó con su método el calor sofocante del lunes, la tormenta del martes, y la caída de la temperatura del miércoles. Nada mal.

Finardi es químico, biólogo, y lleva adelante la cuenta de Twitter @GeorgeClimaPron. En ella, comunica sus pronósticos climatológicos. En una entrevista con LA NACION, explica su sistema.

-¿Cómo funciona tu método de análisis?

-En primer lugar, determino el grado de actividad de las hormigas en una escala del 1 al 10. Para armar la escala tengo en cuenta la cantidad de interacciones entre las hormigas, el número de hormigas involucradas, y el tipo y tamaño de carga que llevan, además, de la clase de hormiga que trabaja.

-¿Y de qué manera se relaciona con el clima? ¿Más actividad es indicativa de lluvia?

-En parte sí, pero depende de la carga que lleven. Por ejemplo, cuando las hormigas llevan palitos y barritas, es porque tienen que fortalecer el hormiguero, debido a que se aproxima lluvia o frío. Cuando hay movilización de tierra es porque se viene una lluvia fuerte. Cuando llevan cereal, viene frío, porque el cereal fermenta dentro del hormiguero y produce calor para que nazcan los hongos que ellas comen.

Para las altas temperaturas, por otro lado, se acondicionan los túneles: las hormigas empiezan a abrir “chimeneas”, que son como agujeritos esparcidos dentro del hormiguero, que puede llegar a tener metros de profundidad. Cuando pasa eso, se viene una ola de calor.

-¿Cómo te interesaste por el tema?

-Desde los tres años me paso horas mirando las hormigas y todo tipo de insectos. Por otro lado, mi profesión me ayudó a profundizar estos temas, y también a hablar con gente de edad avanzada que vive en el campo y no se fija en los pronósticos. No los necesita. Así avancé. Así y con un poco de prueba y error. Al principio introduje hormigas en un terrario para poder observarlas más cómodo. Pero ellas se comportaban de otra manera, por el aislamiento. Ahora las sigo con una cámara.

-¿Además de las hormigas, analizás otros insectos?

-Sí. Las arañas, por ejemplo, tienen la capacidad de detectar actividad eléctrica, cuando aparecen y están muy activas. Las libélulas pueden anticipar una tormenta o viento. Las cigarras anuncian calor. Los gallos, cuando cantan a media noche, anuncian neblinas. También hay que prestar atención a las hormigas cuando están desorientadas, porque pueden captar actividad sísmica a grandes distancias.

-¿Este tipo de análisis es científico?

-No. Hay que destacar que el método no es científico, no es positivista, pero sí es cualitativo, experimental y observacional. Y sirve. Los hombres estamos acá desde el período cuaternario, pero las hormigas, por ejemplo, están desde la época de los dinosaurios. Están muy adaptadas, son muy sensibles a los cambios de ambiente. Y la naturaleza, así, nos habla, nos presenta síntomas. Hay que saber leerlos.

Um Brasil mais vulnerável no século XXI (Pesquisa Fapesp)

Projeções apontam aumento do risco de desastres naturais, como enchentes, deslizamentos de terra e secas extremas, nas próximas décadas 

MARCOS PIVETTA | ED. 249 | NOVEMBRO 2016

CAPA_Desastres_249_info 1Fora da rota dos grandes furacões, sem vulcões ativos e desprovido de zonas habitadas sujeitas a fortes terremotos, o Brasil não figura entre os países mais suscetíveis a desastres naturais. Ocupa apenas a 123ª posição em um índice mundial dos países mais vulneráveis a cataclismos. Mas a aparência de lugar seguro, protegido dos humores do clima e dos solavancos da geologia, deve ser relativizada. Aqui, cerca de 85% dos desastres são causados por três tipos de ocorrências: inundações bruscas, deslizamentos de terra e secas prolongadas. Esses fenômenos são relativamente recorrentes em zonas tropicais e seus efeitos podem ser atenuados, em grande medida, por políticas públicas de redução de danos. Nas últimas cinco décadas, mais de 10.225 brasileiros morreram em desastres naturais, a maioria em inundações e devido à queda de encostas. As estiagens duradouras, como as comumente observadas no Nordeste, são, no entanto, o tipo de ocorrência que provoca mais vítimas não fatais no país (ver Pesquisa FAPESP nº 241).

Dois estudos baseados em simulações climáticas feitos por pesquisadores brasileiros indicam que o risco de ocorrência desses três tipos de desastre, ligados ao excesso ou à falta de água, deverá aumentar, até o final do século, na maioria das áreas hoje já afetadas por esses fenômenos. Eles também sinalizam que novos pontos do território nacional, em geral adjacentes às zonas atualmente atingidas por essas ocorrências, deverão se transformar em áreas de risco significativo para esses mesmos problemas. “Os impactos tendem a ser maiores no futuro, com as mudanças climáticas, o crescimento das cidades e de sua população e a ocupação de mais áreas de risco”, comenta José A. Marengo, chefe da Divisão de Produtos Integrados de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento do Centro Nacional de Monitoramento e Alerta de Desastres Naturais (Cemaden), órgão ligado ao Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia, Inovações e Comunicações (MCTIC), que coordenou as simulações climáticas. Parte dos resultados das projeções já foi divulgada em congressos e relatórios, como o documento federal enviado em abril deste ano à Convenção-Quadro das Nações Unidas sobre Mudança do Clima (UNFCCC, na sigla em inglês), e serve de subsídio para direcionar as estratégias do recém-criado Plano Nacional de Adaptação à Mudança do Clima. Mas dados mais detalhados das simulações vão sair em um artigo científico já aceito para publicação na revista Natural Hazards e em trabalhos destinados a outros periódicos.

Arredores da usina de Sobradinho, Bahia: estiagens devem atingir outras partes do país nas próximas décadas

Expansão das secas
De acordo com os estudos, as estiagens severas, hoje um problema de calamidade pública quase sempre associado a localidades do Nordeste, deverão se intensificar também no oeste e parte do leste da Amazônia, no Centro-Oeste, inclusive em torno de Brasília, em pontos dos estados do Sudeste e até no Sul. “Embora parte do Nordeste seja naturalmente mais árido, a seca não se deve apenas ao clima”, afirma o engenheiro civil Pedro Ivo Camarinha, pesquisador do Cemaden. “A vulnerabilidade da região se dá também por uma série de problemas de ordem socioeconômica, de uso do solo e devido à baixa capacidade de adaptação aos impactos das mudanças climáticas.” A carência de políticas públicas específicas para enfrentar os meses de estiagem, o baixo grau de escolaridade da população e a escassez de recursos são alguns dos fatores citados pelos autores como determinantes para aumentar a exposição de parcelas significativas do Nordeste a secas futuras.

A vulnerabilidade a inundações e enxurradas tende a se elevar em 30% nos três estados do Sul, na porção meridional do Mato Grosso e em boa parte da faixa litorânea do Nordeste, segundo um cenário projetado para 2100 pelas simulações climáticas. No estado de São Paulo, o mais populoso do país, a intensificação da ocorrência de enchentes-relâmpago, aquelas originadas após poucos minutos de chuvas torrenciais, deverá ser mais modesta, da ordem de 10%, mas ainda assim significativa. No Brasil Central, a vulnerabilidade a enchentes deverá cair, até porque as projeções indicam menos chuvas (e mais secas) em boa parte da região. “Os modelos divergem sobre o regime futuro de chuvas no oeste da Amazônia”, explica Marengo, cujos estudos se desenvolveram em parte no âmbito de um projeto temático da FAPESP. “Um deles aponta um aumento expressivo na frequência de inundações enquanto o outro sinaliza um cenário de estabilidade ou de leve aumento de enchentes.”

O padrão de deslizamento de terra, associado à ocorrência de chuvas intensas ou prolongadas por dias, deverá seguir, grosso modo, as mesmas tendências verificadas com as inundações, ainda que em um ritmo de crescimento mais moderado. O aumento na incidência de quedas de encostas deverá variar entre 3% e 15% nos lugares hoje já atingidos por esse tipo de fenômeno. O destaque negativo recai sobre a porção mais meridional do país. As áreas sujeitas a deslizamentos no Rio Grande do Sul, em Santa Catarina e no Paraná deverão se expandir e abarcar boa parte desses estados até 2100. No Sudeste, a região serrana na divisa entre São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro e Minas Gerais deverá se tornar ainda mais vulnerável a esse tipo de desastre. “Precisamos implementar com urgência políticas públicas nas regiões mais vulneráveis a inundações e deslizamentos de terra”, afirma o geógrafo Nathan Debortoli, coautor dos estudos, que hoje faz estágio de pós-doutorado na Universidade McGill, do Canadá. “A maior exposição às mudanças climáticas pode tornar a sobrevivência inviável em algumas regiões do país.”

Enchente de 2014 em União da Vitória (SC): Sul deverá ser palco de mais inundações

Para gerar as projeções de risco futuro de desastres, foram usados dois modelos climáticos globais, o HadGEM2 ES, desenvolvido pelo Centro Hadley, da Inglaterra, e o Miroc5, criado pelo centro meteorológico japonês. Acoplado a eles, rodou ainda o modelo de escala regional Eta, desenvolvido pelo Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe). Trabalhando dessa forma, os autores conseguiram avaliar os padrões predominantes do clima futuro que estão associados à ocorrência de desastres naturais em áreas de, no mínimo, 400 quilômetros quadrados, um quadrado com os lados de 20 quilômetros de extensão.

Mais convergências que divergências
Os resultados fornecidos pelos dois modelos climáticos são semelhantes para cerca de 80% do território nacional. Isso dá robustez às projeções. O modelo inglês é usado há mais de 10 anos em simulações feitas por climatologistas brasileiros, que têm boa experiência acumulada com ele. O japonês começa agora a ser empregado com mais frequência. Há, no entanto, algumas discordâncias nas simulações de longo prazo geradas pelos dois modelos. A lista, por exemplo, dos 100 municípios mais vulneráveis a episódios de seca nas próximas três décadas fornecida pelas simulações do HadGEM2 ES é diferente da obtida com o Miroc5. As cidades de maior risco ficam, segundo o modelo japonês, em quatro estados do Nordeste: Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Pernambuco e Alagoas. As fornecidas pelo modelo inglês se encontram, em sua maioria, em outros estados do Nordeste e também no Centro-Oeste e no norte de Minas Gerais. “Com exceção desses exemplos extremos, as projeções dos dois modelos coincidem em grande medida”, comenta Camarinha. No caso dos fenômenos hídricos, a discrepância mais significativa diz respeito ao regime de chuvas na Amazônia, em especial nos estados do oeste da região Norte (Acre, Amazonas e Rondônia). O HadGEM2 ES projeta mais chuvas — portanto, risco aumentado de inundações e deslizamentos — e o Miroc5, menos. “Prever as chuvas na Amazônia ainda é um desafio para os modelos”, afirma Marengo.

Para quantificar o risco futuro de ocorrer desastres naturais em uma área, é preciso ainda incluir nas simulações, além das informações climáticas, uma série de dados locais, como as condições econômicas, sociais e ambientais dos mais de 5.500 municípios brasileiros e de sua população. Ao final dos cálculos, cada área é classificada em um de cinco níveis de vulnerabilidade: muito baixa, baixa, média, alta e muito alta. “O modelo escolhido, a qualidade dos dados de cada cidade e o peso que se dá a cada variável influenciam no índice final obtido”, explica Camarinha.

CAPA_Desastres_249_info 2O peso do homem
Além da suscetibilidade natural a secas, enchentes, deslizamentos e outros desastres, a ação do homem tem um peso considerável em transformar o que poderia ser um problema de menor monta em uma catástrofe. Os pesquisadores estimam que um terço do impacto dos deslizamentos de terra e metade dos estragos de inundações poderiam ser evitados com alterações de práticas humanas ligadas à ocupação do solo e a melhorias nas condições socioeconômicas da população em áreas de risco.

Moradias precárias em lugares inadequados, perto de encostas ou em pontos de alagamento; infraestrutura ruim, como estradas ou vias que não permitem acesso fácil a zonas de grande vulnerabilidade; falta de uma defesa civil atuante; cidades superpopulosas e impermeabilizadas, que não escoam a água da chuva – todos esses fatores não naturais, da cultura humana, podem influenciar o desfecho final de uma situação de risco. “Até hábitos cotidianos, como não jogar lixo na rua, e o nível de solidariedade e coesão social de uma população podem ao menos mitigar os impactos de um desastre”, pondera a geógrafa Lucí Hidalgo Nunes, do Instituto de Geociências da Universidade Estadual de Campinas (IG-Unicamp). “Obviamente, há desastres naturais tão intensos, como os grandes terremotos no Japão, que nem mesmo uma população extremamente preparada consegue evitar. Mas a recuperação nos países mais estruturados é muito mais rápida.”

Em seus trabalhos, os pesquisadores adotaram um cenário global até o final do século relativamente pessimista, mas bastante plausível: o RCP 8.5, que consta do quinto relatório de avaliação do Painel Intergovernamental de Mudanças Climáticas (IPCC). Esse cenário é marcado por grandes elevações de temperatura e recrudescimento tanto de chuvas como de secas intensas. No caso do Brasil, as projeções indicam que o país deverá ficar ao menos 3 ºC mais quente até o fim do século e que as chuvas podem aumentar até 30% no Sul-Sudeste e diminuir até 40% no Norte-Nordeste. As mudanças climáticas devem tornar mais frequentes os chamados eventos extremos, que podem se manifestar de diferentes formas: secas prolongadas, picos de temperatura, tempestades mais intensas, chuvas prolongadas por vários dias, ressacas mais fortes. Essas ocorrências aumentam o risco de desastres. “Não é, por exemplo, só uma questão da quantidade de chuva que cai em um lugar”, explica Marengo. “Às vezes, a quantidade pode até não mudar, mas a distribuição da chuva ao longo do tempo se altera e essa mudança pode gerar mais desastres.” Numa cidade como São Paulo, chover 50 milímetros no decorrer de três ou quatro dias dificilmente causa danos. Mas, se a pluviosidade se concentrar em apenas uma tarde, provavelmente ocorrerão alagamentos.

CAPA_Desastres_249_info 3Para testar o grau de confiabilidade do índice de vulnerabilidade, os pesquisadores brasileiros compararam os resultados obtidos pelos modelos com os registros reais de desastres do passado recente (1960 a 1990), compilados pelo Atlas brasileiro de desastres naturais. Dessa forma, foi possível ter uma boa ideia se os modelos eram, de fato, úteis para prever as áreas onde ocorreram inundações, deslizamentos de terra e secas no Brasil durante as últimas décadas. Os dados do atlas também serviram de termo de comparação, como base presente para se quantificar o aumento ou a diminuição da vulnerabilidade futura de uma área a desastres. Para estiagem, as simulações do Miroc5 se mostraram geralmente mais confiáveis na maior parte do território nacional. No caso das enchentes e deslizamentos de terra, o HadGEM2 ES forneceu previsões mais precisas para áreas subtropicais e montanhosas, no Sul e Sudeste, e o Miroc5, para o resto do país. A Amazônia, como já destacado, foi o alvo de discórdia.

Um trabalho com metodologia semelhante à empregada pelos estudos de Marengo e de seus colaboradores, mas com enfoque apenas na situação atual, sem as projeções de aumento ou diminuição de risco futuro, foi publicado em abril no International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. Em parceria com pesquisadores alemães, o geógrafo Lutiane Queiroz de Almeida, da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN), calculou um conjunto de índices que apontaria o risco de ocorrer desastres naturais em cada município do país. Denominado Drib (Disaster risk indicators in Brazil), o indicador é uma adaptação do trabalho feito em escala mundial pela Universidade das Nações Unidas e instituições europeias (ver mapa e texto às páginas 22 e 23). Além de levar em conta dados sobre o risco de secas, enchentes e deslizamentos de terra, o Drib inclui em seu índice a exposição dos municípios costeiros ao aumento do nível do mar. Para esse tipo de problema, as cidades que se mostraram em maior perigo foram Vila Velha e Vitória, no Espírito Santo, Santos (SP) e Salvador (BA).

Almeida produziu índices de vulnerabilidade para os principais tipos de desastre em todo o território nacional e um número final, o Drib, que indicaria o risco geral de um lugar para a ocorrência de eventos extremos. Chamou a atenção a classificação de praticamente todo o território do Amazonas e do Acre e de metade do Pará como áreas de risco muito elevado, com populações socialmente vulneráveis e expostas a inundações. Entre os 20 municípios com pior desempenho no índice Drib, 12 são da região Norte. Os demais são do Nordeste (seis) e do Sudeste (dois). “Esses municípios têm pequenas populações, entre 3 mil e 25 mil habitantes, alta exposição a desastres e baixa capacidade adaptativa”, comenta o geógrafo da UFRN. “O estudo aponta que apenas 20% dos municípios brasileiros estão bem preparados para mitigar os impactos e reagir imediatamente a eventos extremos.” Em geral, essa é uma característica das regiões Sul e Sudeste.

Deslizamento em Nova Friburgo (RJ) em 2011: alta vulnerabilidade a desastres

Tragédias que se repetem
Muito antes das discussões atuais sobre as mudanças climáticas, os cataclismos naturais despertam interesse no homem. Os desastres são um capítulo trágico da história da humanidade desde tempos imemoriais. Alegado castigo divino, o mítico dilúvio global que teria acabado com a vida na Terra, com exceção das pessoas e animais que embarcaram na arca de Noé, é uma narrativa presente no Gênesis, primeiro livro do Antigo Testamento cristão e do Tanach, o conjunto de textos sagrados do judaísmo. Supostas inundações gigantescas e catastróficas, antes e depois da publicação do Gênesis, aparecem em relatos de várias culturas ao longo dos tempos, desde os antigos mesopotâmicos e gregos até os maias centro-americanos e os vikings. As antigas cidades romanas de Pompeia e Herculano foram soterradas pela lava do monte Vesúvio na famosa erupção de 79 d.C. e, estima-se, cerca de 2 mil pessoas morreram. Dezessete anos antes, essa região da Campania italiana já havia sido afetada por um terremoto de menor magnitude. “Costumamos dizer que, se um desastre já ocorreu em um lugar, ele vai se repetir, mais dia ou menos dia”, comenta Lucí.

Projeto
Assessment of impacts and vulnerability to climate change in Brazil and strategies for adaptation option (nº 2008/58161-1); Modalidade Auxílio à Pesquisa – Programa de Pesquisa sobre Mudanças Climáticas Globais – Temático (Acordo FAPESP/CNPq – Pronex); Pesquisador responsável José A. Marengo (Cemaden); Investimento R$ 812.135,64.

Artigos científicos
DEBORTOLI, N. S et al. An index of Brazil’s vulnerability to expected increases in natural flash flooding and landslide disasters in the context of climate change. Natural Hazards. No prelo.
ALMEIDA, L. Q. et alDisaster risk indicators in Brazil: A proposal based on the world risk index. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. 17 abr. 2016.

Com 516 milímetros de chuva em 5 anos, Ceará tem pior seca desde 1910 (G1)

09/09/2016 09h20 – Atualizado em 09/09/2016 11h57

Previsão para 2017 ainda é indefinida devido ao “Oceano Pacífico Neutro”.
Águas do Açude Orós estão sendo transferidas para o Castanhão.

Do G1 CE com informações da TV Verdes Mares

VER VIDEO

Levantamento feito pela Fundação Cearense de Meteorologia e Recursos Hídricos (Funceme) nesta quinta-feira (8) mostra que nos últimos cinco anos, de 2012 a 2016, foram apenas 516 milímetros de chuva, em média, no Ceará. O índice é o menor desde 1910.

De acordo com o meteorologista Davi Ferran, vai ser preciso conviver com a incerteza pelos próximos meses, já que ainda é cedo pra afirmar se 2017 vai trazer chuva ou não.

Ano Chuva (mm)
2012 388
2013 552
2014 565
2015 524
2016 550
Média 516
Fonte: Funceme

“No período chuvoso do ano que vem, ou seja, março, abril e maio, que é o período chuvoso principal, a maior probabilidade é que o Oceano Pacífico não tenha El Niño nem La Niña. Vamos ter o Oceano Pacífico neutro. Em anos de Oceano Pacífico neutro, a probabilidade de chuvas no Ceará depende mais fortemente do Atlântico. Então a previsão vai ser divulgada somente em janeiro”, explica.

Enquanto isso, segundo a Companhia de Gestão de Recursos Hídricos (Cogerh), os reservatórios secam cada vez mais. No momento, o nível médio dos 153 açudes monitorados pela Cogerh é de apenas 9,4% do volume total.O “Gigante” Castanhão, responsável por abastecer toda a Região Metropolitana de Fortaleza, está praticamente sem água. Há apenas sete anos, ele chegou a inundar a cidade de Jaguaribara com a enorme vazão das comportas.

Hoje, a Cogerh diz que o maior açude do Ceará está com apenas 6% da capacidade. Bem perto dele, o Açude Orós, também na Região Jaguaribana, sangrou em 2004 e 2008. Na época, virou até atração turística no Centro Sul do Estado.

Agora em 2016, o Orós aparece nesse cenário de seca em forma de ajuda. Desde julho, as águas do açude estão sendo transferidas para o Castanhão. Segundo a Cogerh, essa água deve chegar às residências da Região Metropolitana de Fortaleza em setembro, e garantir o abastecimento pelo menos durante esse período  de crise hídrica.

“Nossa programação é até o final de janeiro. Ou seja, até janeiro vamos estar operando de forma integrada os dois reservatórios. O caso da Região Metropolitana, ela está totalmente integrada à Região do Jaguaribe por dois grandes canais: o do Trabalhador e Eixão das Águas. Então é o caso de uma bacia hoje tem uma maior dependência de outra região, de outra bacia hidrográfica, mas elas estão integradas. Esse é o caso que eu diria mais emblemática no Estado”, explica o presidente da Cogerh, João Lúcio Farias.

saiba mais

Tsunami meteorológico? Entenda fenômeno que assustou Santa Catarina (UOL Notícias)

Fernando Cymbaluk*
Do UOL, em São Paulo 19/10/2016, 12h44 

VIDEO: http://tv.uol/15G3x

 

Uma onda que atingiu duas praias no sul de Santa Catarina arrastou carros e assustou os banhistas em um dia de calor e fortes ventos. O fenômeno foi provocado por uma grande tempestade no mar que impulsionou a onda “gigante”. O evento, que é raro e perigoso, tem nome: tsunami meteorológico.

Sim, podemos dizer que ocorrem tsunamis no Brasil. Comuns no leste e sudeste da Ásia, tsunamis são ondas que avançam na costa provocando danos (em japonês, “tsu” quer dizer porto, e “nami” significa onda).

Os tsunamis que já devastaram grandes áreas de países como o Japão são provocados por abalos sísmicos em um ponto do oceano. Eles são muito mais drásticos do que o caso brasileiro, com ondas bem maiores, que alcançam diversas praias após irradiarem do epicentro do tremor.

Já o tsunami meteorológico, como o nome diz, é provocado por eventos meteorológicos (da atmosfera) e ocorre mais localmente. É mais propício na primavera e no verão, época de tempestades.

Apesar de raro, há registros de sua ocorrência em locais como Cabo Frio (RJ) e Florianópolis (SC). Uma onda mais forte atingindo a praia é algo perigoso para banhistas e pessoas que morem nas costas. Além disso, tempestades no mar também trazem riscos devido aos ventos, raios e trovões.

Carros arrastados por onda em Balneário Rincão (SC). Ao fundo, nuvem de tempestade que provoca tsunami meteorógico

Como se forma

Um tsunami meteorológico ocorre quando um conjunto de cúmulo-nimbo, a nuvem que provoca as tempestades, se propaga em paralelo sobre o oceano. Nesse cenário, uma grande onda pode se formar caso as ondas do mar também estejam alinhadas a essas nuvens.

“Ocorre uma ressonância entre a onda de pressão [nuvem] e a onda do mar, que se aproxima da costa, cresce em amplitude e pode inundar a região costeira”, explica Renato Ramos da Silva, professor de física da atmosfera da UFSC (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina).

Em uma tempestade, o ar sobe, formando uma zona de baixa pressão atmosférica. Tal mudança nas condições atmosféricas ocorre de forma brusca. Essa formação é chamada de linha de instabilidade. Seu rápido deslocamento acoplado às ondas do mar faz com que a onda ganhe tamanho.

O nome tsunami meteorológico, contudo, não é consenso entre os meteorologistas. Para José Carlos Figueiredo, meteorologista da Unesp, a grande onda que se verificou em SC é comum no Nordeste, sem contudo ser chamada de tsunami.

“Em algumas praias, há ondas que invadem a areia. O avanço pode ser provocado por tempestades naturais no mar”, diz Figueiredo. Ele lembra ainda que ciclones que ocorrem no Sul do Brasil provocam ressacas em praias de SP e RJ. Nesses episódios, fortes ondas também invadem a costa.

Para o meteorologista, outro fenômeno, conhecido como “downburst”, pode explicar para a grande onda que atingiu as praias catarinenses. Nesse tipo de evento, a chuva, “em vez de precipitar normal e pausadamente, precipita tudo de uma vez”, explica. A grande chuva poderia, assim, ter levado a formação de uma onda maior.

Difícil de prever

Tsunamis meteorológicos não são nada fáceis de serem previstos. Isso porque sua ocorrência é muito localizada, dependendo da formação de tempestades em um ponto do oceano e das condições do mar um lugar específico.

Segundo Silva, para prever o fenômeno a tempo de avisar a população seria necessária “uma boa previsão meteorológica junto de um modelo oceânico de previsão de ondas”.

* Com colaboração de Gabriel Francisco Ribeiro

Relembre tornado que atingiu SC

27.abr.2015 – A presidente Dilma Rousseff sobrevoa o município de Xanxerê, em Santa Catarina, e observa os estragos provocados pelo tornado que devastou a cidade do interior catarinense (situada a 551 km de Florianópolis), na última segunda-feira (20). De acordo com o último balanço da Defesa Civil, 4.275 pessoas estão desalojadas e há 539 desabrigadas em Xanxerê, por conta dos ventos que ultrapassaram a velocidade de 250 km/h  VEJA MAIS > Imagem: Roberto Stuckert Filho/PR