Thursday, January 31, 2013

31:01.2013 -- Collide-a-Scape ... Part I + II

Dear Friends,

Part II is here;

Be Well.

By Keith Kloor | January 29, 2013 3:10 pm

It’s not often that an aging social movement gets a chance to redefine and reinvigorate itself. Environmentalism has that opportunity now, with the Anthropocene, which National Geographic has dubbedThe Age of Man. What does that mean? As I recently wrote in Slate, the Anthropocene represents a growing scientific consensus that the contemporary human footprint—our cities, suburban sprawl, dams, agriculture, greenhouse gases, etc.—has so massively transformed the planet as to usher in a new geological epoch.

This sounds like The Age of Man is bad for humanity and the earth. But that’s too simplistic. As The Economist noted in its 2011 cover story:

The advent of the Anthropocene promises more, though, than a scientific nicety or a new way of grabbing the eco-jaded public’s attention. The term “paradigm shift” is bandied around with promiscuous ease. But for the natural sciences to make human activity central to its conception of the world, rather than a distraction, would mark such a shift for real.

The question is, what would this new paradigm shift signify? Might it offer a fresh new lens to view the future? Or will it merely reinforce the bleak view that environmentalists have held for the past 40 years?

The answer to that rides on the narrative that emerges from the public discourse on the Anthropocene.

This is where environmental scientists, green activists and eco-minded writers come in. They are the ones that shape the meta-narrative, which the media picks up on and amplifies. By that measure, the chances for a re-imagined environmentalism are small.

As I said in that Slate piece, leading earth scientists

publish high-profile papers warning “that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth” to an irreversible tipping point. They issue reports from prestigious science societies warning about a finite planet being run into the ground. Some hold glitzy, international symposiums that put humanity on a mock trial for the global imprint of its civilization.

The common thread: The Anthropocene is an unmitigated disaster. Humans are planet wreckers. Time is running out for us. 

This was the general picture that Will Steffen portrayed in his keynote speech at the recent Anthropocene Project conference in Berlin. (I love that title; it sounds like a Robert Ludlum thriller.)

Steffen, to his credit, didn’t overplay the collapse theme. He didn’t say doomsday was knocking at the door. However, he did make it clear that he believed the ominous footsteps of peak oil, resource scarcity, runaway climate change, and the “sixth extinction” were edging closer and that we should not ignore them.

Steffen is actually much sunnier than the grim voices that tend to frame environmental discourse.

Like that of Chris Hedges, who, several years ago, wrote in the magazine that triggered Occupy Wall Street:

We stand on the cusp of one of the bleakest periods in human history when the bright lights of a civilization blink out and we will descend for decades, if not centuries, into barbarity.

Or like that of Paul Kingsnorth, the British environmentalist who has retreated into his own private Edenic wilderness, where he lauds theUnabomber in the glossy pages of Orion magazine:

Unlike many other critics of the technosphere, who are busy churning out books and doing the lecture circuit and updating their anarcho-primitivist websites, [Ted] Kaczynski wasn’t just theorizing about being a revolutionary. He meant it.

He sure did!

You have to admit, it doesn’t sound as if people like Hedges and Kingsnorth are keen on the Anthropocene. Are they outliers or merely representative of a darker strain of environmentalism? Perhaps for a larger perspective we should turn to a respected elder statesman, someone with stature in the Big Nature world– like David Attenborough, who recently called humanity a “plague on the earth.”

Oops. Let’s move on.

Maybe the UK’s Royal Society, an august scientific institution, can inject a little sanity into this discussion. It just so happens that Paul and Ann Ehrlich have recently posed a relevant question in a paper the Royal Society published. It’s called,  “Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?”

That would be important to know. Let’s find out what they have to say:

Environmental problems have contributed to numerous collapses of civilizations in the past. Now, for the first time, a global collapse appears likely.

Damn. Maybe Kingsnorth in his Orion piece isn’t such an outlier, after all. He writes:

Our civilization is beginning to break down. We are at the start of an unfolding economic and social collapse, which may take decades or longer to play out—and which is playing out against the background of a planetary ecocide that nobody seems able to prevent.

At this point, you might be asking: Are there any signs of light in this dark and utterly depressing view of humanity’s future? Fortunately, there is, as I discussed here. I’ve also become enchanted with a group of young scholars at Stanford, who are not taking predictions of doomsday at face value. Bless their hearts, they even seem to think that “the narrative of apocalypse has changed in the shadow of the Anthropocene.”

If only.

[This is the first of a two-part exploration of the Anthropocene discourse. Part two will be posted tomorrow.]

Part II

By Keith Kloor | January 30, 2013 3:06 pm

Nearly two decades ago, an environmental historian published a scholarly essay that enraged the environmental community. William Cronon, author of the seminal Changes in the Land (a book that deeply influenced me and manyothers) and the brilliant (equally influentialNature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, began his provocative essay this way:

The time has come to rethink wilderness.

This will seem a heretical claim to many environmentalists, since the idea of wilderness has for decades been a fundamental tenet—indeed, a passion—of the environmental movement, especially in the United States. For many Americans wilderness stands as the last remaining place where civilization, that all too human disease, has not fully infected the earth. It is an island in the polluted sea of urban-industrial modernity, the one place we can turn for escape from our own too-muchness. Seen in this way, wilderness presents itself as the best antidote to our human selves, a refuge we must somehow recover if we hope to save the planet. As Henry David Thoreau once famously declared, “In Wildness is the preservation of the World.”

But is it? The more one knows of its peculiar history, the more one realizes that wilderness is not quite what it seems. Far from being the one place on earth that stands apart from humanity, it is quite profoundly a human creation—indeed, the creation of very particular human cultures at very particular moments in human history. It is not a pristine sanctuary where the last remnant of an untouched, endangered, but still transcendent nature can for at least a little while longer be encountered without the contaminating taint of civilization. Instead, it’s a product of that civilization, and could hardly be contaminated by the very stuff of which it is made. Wilderness hides its unnaturalness behind a mask that is all the more beguiling because it seems so natural. As we gaze into the mirror it holds up for us, we too easily imagine that what we behold is Nature when in fact we see the reflection of our own unexamined longings and desires. For this reason, we mistake ourselves when we suppose that wilderness can be the solution to our culture’s problematic relationships with the nonhuman world, for wilderness is itself no small part of the problem.

It’s a long, trenchant piece that was first excerpted (clumsily, I believe) in theNew York Times magazine. It immediately triggered a furor (which I have previously discussed). Since then, a modernist green perspective has emerged, further challenging outdated environmentalist metaphors and orthodoxy. As I wrote in Slate last month, this modernist green outlook has a “broader ecological view.”

It is unclear if traditional, mainstream environmentalists (who drive the environmental discourse and agenda) will be able to escape their nature-centric legacy and put the needs of people on an equal footing. This is not to say that environmental groups ignore important societal concerns. Obviously, public health issues (such as pollution) are a big part of environmental activism.

But make no mistake, groups like the Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and the Wilderness Society are in the business of protecting nature. Mind you, I think that’s important business. There should be devoted watchdogs with clout who are looking after nature. After all, this often translates into the protection of vital ecosystems, watersheds, prairies, forests, rivers, animals and plants. And yes, wilderness, too–even if that is something we created as an unnatural sanctuary to commune with nature. I like to escape to wild places, either via a raft or a meandering hike. I like vacationing inCanyonlands and Yosemite with my family. I spent a sizable chunk of my career as an editor at an environmental magazine.

So I don’t want environmental groups to go out of business. I don’t want them to stop caring about nature.

But, paraphrasing Cronon, I would like them to rethink nature for theAnthropocene. It’s not my job to say what nature should mean in a world shaped primarily by humans–I’m still working it out, myself–but I knowothers feel this is a discussion we should be having. I’m also not the only one who thinks environmental discourse and policy should stop being dominatedby “horror stories.”

Why is this important for the future of environmentalism, as I recentlyindicated? The journalist Paul Voosen scratches the surface here:

Over the past few years, the Anthropocene has become a defining idea of environmentalism. It does much in little space. It ends the separation of humanity from nature. It changes the discussion for a politicized electorate weary of global warming. It broadens the tent, encircling a host of realities: biodiversity loss, resource scarcity, population growth.

In other words, the nature/human dichotomy that has animated environmentalism since its inception no longer applies. This is a point that I made recently to Jon Christensen’s UCLA class, Environmental Communications in the Anthropocene, when I visited there several weeks ago.
What this entails is something that I think environmentally-minded people are grappling with at the moment. There’s an ambivalence about the Anthropocene that is palpable. I saw it in Jon’s class when the subject of my controversial Slate essay came up and he asked students if they considered themselves modernist or traditionalist-minded greens. The ratio was split roughly 50-50. As Andrew Revkin said in his New York Times Dot Earth blog:

Taking full ownership of the Anthropocene won’t be easy. The necessary feeling is a queasy mix of excitement and unease.

This is made all the more difficult because many of us have a complicated relationship with science and technology. The Anthropocene forces us to think hard about genetically modified crops, nuclear power, and perhaps most important of all, an underlying tenet of contemporary environmentalism–the precautionary principle, which the French sociologist Bruno Latour and others believe we should reconsider. How many environmentalists are ready to go that far? I’m betting not many.

Jon Foley, the director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, has a new essay that challenges the strategies and priorities of environmentalists. He starts off:
We are supposed to be in the business of changing the world. The question is: Are we?

I think an even better question–perhaps one Jon will take up in a future essay–is: What do we want to change the world to? That’s the million dollar question the Anthropocene suggests to me.


[This is the second of a two part meditation on the Anthropocene. Part one is here.]

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How to Digitally Record/Video a UFO sighting:

Como registar digitalmente ou gravar um vídeo de um avistamento de um UFO:

Stabilize the camera on a tripod. If there is no tripod, then set it on top of a stable, flat surface. If that is not possible lean against a wall to stabilize your body and prevent the camera from filming in a shaky, unsteady manner.

Estabilize a camera com um tripé. Se não tiver um tripé, então coloque-a em cima de uma superfície estável. Se não for possível, então encoste-se a uma parede para estabilizar o corpo e evitar que a camera registe de maneira tremida e instável.

Provide visual reference points for comparison. This includes the horizon, treetops, lampposts, houses, and geographical landmarks (i.e., Horsetooth Reservoir, Mt. Adams, etc.) Provide this in the video whenever is appropriate and doesn’t detract from what your focus is, the UFO.

Forneça pontos visuais de referência para comparação. Isso inclui o horizonte, cimo das árvores, postes de iluminação, pontos de referência geográficos (como o Reservatório de Horsetooth, Mone Adams, etc) Forneça esses pontos no vídeo sempre que for apropriado e não se distraia do que é o seu foco, o UFO/a Nave.

Narrate your videotape. Provide details of the date, time, location, and direction (N,S,E,W) you are looking in. Provide your observations on the weather, including approximate temperature, windspeed, any visible cloud cover or noticeable weather anomalies or events. Narrate on the shape, size, color, movements, approximate altitude of the UFO, etc and what it appears to be doing. Also include any unusual physical, psychological or emotional sensations you might have. Narrate any visual reference points on camera so they correlate with what the viewer will see, and thereby will be better able to understand.

Faça a narração do vídeo. Forneça pormenores sobre a data, hora, local e direcção (Norte, Sul, Este, Oeste) que está a observar. Faça observações sobre as condições atmosféricas, incluindo a temperatura aproximada, velocidade do vento, quantidade de nuvens, anomalias ou acontecimentos meteorológicos evidentes. Descreva a forma, o tamanho, a cor, os movimentos, a altitude aproximada onde se encontra o UFO/nave, etc e o que aparenta estar a fazer. Inclua também quaisquer aspectos pouco habituais de sensações físicas, psicológicas ou emocionais que possa ter. Faça a narração de todos os pontos de referência visual que o espectador irá ver e que, deste modo, será capaz de compreender melhor.

Be persistent and consistent. Return to the scene to videotape and record at this same location. If you have been successful once, the UFO sightings may be occurring in this region regularly, perhaps for specific reasons unknown, and you may be successful again. You may also wish to return to the same location at a different time of day (daylight hours) for better orientation and reference. Film just a minute or two under “normal” circumstances for comparison. Write down what you remember immediately after. As soon as you are done recording the experience/event, immediately write down your impressions, memories, thoughts, emotions, etc. so it is on the record in writing. If there were other witnesses, have them independently record their own impressions, thoughts, etc. Include in this exercise any drawings, sketches, or diagrams. Make sure you date and sign your documentation.

Seja persistente e não contraditório. Volte ao local da cena e registe o mesmo local. Se foi bem sucedido uma vez, pode ser que nessa região ocorram avistamentos de UFOs/naves com regularidade, talvez por razões específicas desconhecidas, e talvez possa ser novamente bem sucedido. Pode também desejar voltar ao mesmo lugar a horas diferentes do dia (durante as horas de luz)para ter uma orientação e referência melhor. Filme apenas um ,inuto ou dois em circunstâncias “normais” para ter um termo de comparação. Escreva tudo o que viu imediatamente após o acontecimento. Logo após ter feito o registo da experiência/acontecimento, escreva imediatamente as impressões, memórias, pensamentos, emoções, etc para que fiquem registadas por escrito. Se houver outras testemunhas, peça-lhes para registar independentemente as suas próprias impressões, pensamentos, etc. Inclua quaisquer desenhos, esbolos, diagramas. Certifique-se que data e assina o seu documento/testemunho.

Always be prepared. Have a digital camera or better yet a video camera with you, charged and ready to go, at all times. Make sure you know how to use your camera (and your cell phone video/photo camera) quickly and properly. These events can occur suddenly, unexpectedly, and often quite randomly, so you will need to be prepared.

Esteja sempre preparado, Tenha sempre uma camera digital, melhor ainda, uma camera vídeo consigo, carregada e pronta a usar sempre que necessário. Certifique-se que sabe como lidar com a sua camera (ou com o seu celular/camera fotográfica) rápida e adequadamente. Esses acontecimentos podem acontecer súbita e inesperadamente e, por vezes, acidentalmente, por isso, necessita estar preparado.

Look up. Be prepared. Report. Share.

Olhe para cima, Esteja preparado, Relate, Partilhe.



Pf., clique no símbolo do YouTube e depois no quadrado pequeno, em baixo, ao lado direito para obter as legendas CC, e escolha PORTUGUÊS

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What time is Around the World?


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NGC - UFO's in EUROPE (Porugal included)

FEBRUARY 7, 2013 - 7:00PM EST

FEBRUARY 7, 2013 - 7:00PM EST