EEEA

English version

This blog follows our growth in Linkedin and the need to introduce ourselves to a wider audience.

It aims to foster discussion of issues within the professional competence of Environmental Engineering, in any country. So that each can contribute to the progress of Environmental Engineering, stimulating the efforts of all in the scientific discussion and exchange of information, knowledge and technology.

We started 2011 with 382 members and move up to 901 members by the end of the year. Our prime focus for 2011, was to make available new Jobs Opportunities all over the world, now you can find about 25 new job opportunities every week. We also jumped out to Facebook with 60 followers and Twitter with 79 followers by the end of 2011. The 15th September we launched our Blog, we had 414 post about different subjects related to the environment and about 7400 visits.

By the end of 2012 we reached 1.442 members in LinkedIn, in Facebook we reached 299 followers and Twitter with 202 followers. We sarted our presence in Google+ with 36 followers. Our Blog reached by the end of 2012 about 17.000 visits and posted 485 news issues.

This year 2013 we started with a new home @ www.environmenteng.org! From now on, this will be the place in which you will be able to continue to follow us. We ask for your help to continue to make this group the reference for Environment Engineers all over. If you are not a member, join us!

 


 

EEEA

Versão em Português

Este Blog surge na sequência do nosso crescimento no Linkedin e da necessidade de nos apresentarmos a um público mais vasto.

Tem como objectivo fomentar a discussão de temas dentro das competências profissionais da Engenharia do Ambiente, em qualquer país. Para que desta forma se possa contribuir para o progresso da Engenharia do Ambiente, estimulando os esforços de todos na discussão cientifica e troca de informação, conhecimento e tecnologia.

Iniciamos 2011 com 382 membros e fomos crescendo até aos 901 membros no final do ano. O nosso principal objectivo para 2011 foi apresentar novas Oportunidades de Emprego pelo mundo fora, hoje pode encontrar perto de 25 novas oportunidades todas as semanas. Fomos para o Facebook onde tínhamos 60 seguidores no final do ano, bem como para o Twitter onde terminamos com 79 seguidores. No dia 15 de setembro lançamos o nosso Blog, no decorrer do ano passado colocamos 414 temas relacionados com o ambiente e tivemos 7400 visitas.

Em 2012 conseguimos chegar 1.442 membros no Linkedin, no Facebook chegamos a 299 seguidores e no Twitter a 202 seguidores. Iniciamos a nossa presença no Google+ com 36 seguidores. O nosso Blog teve 17.000 visitas e foram colocados 485 temas a discussão.

Iniciamos este ano de 2013 numa nova casa @ www.environmenteng.org! A partir de agora, será este o novo endereço através do qual poderá continuar a seguir-nos. Pedimos a sua ajuda para continuarmos a ser a referência para Engenheiros do Ambiente em todo o lado. Se ainda não está no nosso grupo, junte-se a nós!


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Uma pesquisa sobre o uso de óxido de estanho e óxido de cobre, materiais semicondutores de alta sensibilidade e grande seletividade, bem como de sua aplicação no desenvolvimento de dispositivos para a medição de gases poluentes, foi apresentada durante o “Fronteras de la Ciencia – Brasil y España en los 50 años de la FAPESP”, evento que reuniu na semana passada na Espanha pesquisadores do Estado de São Paulo e de algumas das principais instituições espanholas de ensino e pesquisa.

O estudo, que resulta de uma parceria entre o Instituto de Química da Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp), em Araraquara, e o Departamento de Ciências de Materiais e Engenharia do Instituto de Tecnologia de Massachusetts (MIT), busca desenvolver materiais nanométricos para a fabricação de sensores voltados ao monitoramento ambiental e industrial.

Os resultados apresentados fazem parte do projeto “Avanços em óxidos semicondutores nanoestruturados para sensores de gás”, conduzido no Centro Multidisciplinar para o Desenvolvimento de Materiais Cerâmicos – um Centro de Pesquisa, Inovação e Difusão (CEPID) da FAPESP.

O estudo é coordenado pelo professor José Arana Varela, que também é diretor-presidente do Conselho Técnico-Administrativo da FAPESP e falou ao público na Universidade de Salamanca e também na Casa do Brasil, em Madri.

Na Unesp, os pesquisadores envolvidos, sob coordenação de Varela, têm a missão de sintetizar esses materiais e preparar amostras, cujas análises são feitas por pesquisadores do Departamento de Ciências de Materiais e Engenharia do MIT, sob coordenação do professor Harry Tuller.

“A interação entre os dois grupos tem sido extremamente importante, porque conseguimos acelerar os resultados obtidos pelas pesquisas nas duas instituições”, disse Varela à Agência FAPESP.

De acordo com a pesquisa, materiais desenvolvidos a partir de nanocompósitos apresentam alterações em sua estrutura e suas superfícies se tornam mais sensíveis e seletivas, fator de extrema importância no caso da detecção de gases presentes na atmosfera.

“Esse é o melhor exemplo de um tipo de aplicação para esses materiais nanoestruturados. Estamos estudando como melhorar sua sensibilidade, para que tenham respostas mais rápidas e precisas, afinal o sensor em questão deverá ser voltado para a detecção, na atmosfera, de gases maléficos à saúde”, disse Varela.

A pesquisa já demonstrou a sensibilidade desses materiais – semióxidos e semicondutores – e também a importância de se obter uma superfície maior, que apresente mais contato com o gás que está sendo medido.

“Quando o gás entra em contato com a superfície, muda a resistência elétrica do material, e com base nessa alteração física podemos identificar a quantidade de gás presente durante a análise”, explicou Varela.

O parâmetro para essa medida é obtido usando-se um gás neutro e estabelecendo um nível de condutividade. Outro tipo de gás, ao passar pelo dispositivo, modifica as condições sensíveis e seletivas do sensor, permitindo verificar se há aumento ou diminuição do tipo de gás que está sendo medido.

“Obtivemos um fator de sensibilidade de até mil vezes a capacidade do material, mas precisamos controlar todas as suas condições para que possa haver reprodutibilidade dos resultados das pesquisas. O passo seguinte será o desenvolvimento de um dispositivo que mantenha a sensibilidade e a seletividade apontadas em laboratório”, disse Varela.

O material deverá ser objeto de patente internacional, com créditos divididos entre a Unesp e o MIT. “Há demanda para esse tipo de aplicação na indústria, pois os sensores atualmente disponíveis não apresentam sensibilidade tão alta”, disse.

Autor: Samuel Antenor – Agência FAPESP
Fonte: Instituto Carbono Brasil
Original: http://goo.gl/Z66Qo


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20mph speed limits, a levy on plastic bags and reducing night lighting would cost little but deliver significant benefits


Plastic bags: ‘as a small step towards cutting pointless resource use, and cleaning up our towns, cities, countryside rivers and seas, this truly is an easy win’. Photo: Andy Rain/EPA

It’s new year’s resolution time – the mince pies are sitting heavy on the stomach, the Christmas tat is spewing from every bin and it’s time for a fresh start.

For Britain’s environment, clearly the most important resolution is to restructure the government’s energy bill to put energy conservation at its heart, to restore the target of decarbonising electricity by 2030 and to follow most of the developed world in drawing a final line underneath the failed decades of expensive nuclear power.

But that’s a tough one to face this early in the year. So for now, let’s start with the small, the easily delivered, the no-brainers, the cheap and the free.

First, the simplest. Ireland did it yonks ago, Wales has done it, and Scotland is doing it: let’s put a levy on single-use plastic bags in English shops. (It’s even party policy for one party in the coalition government.) It’s surprising it’s not Conservative policy really, given the Daily Mail has made it a flagship campaign.

Bag use rose by around 5% to 6.75bn in the past year, despite claimed voluntary efforts by stores to cut back. How many times do you have to say “no bag please” in your local chain stores? The London assembly has backed action, there’s lots of excellent local campaigns. So now is the time for England to catch up with the rest of the UK.

No, it’s not going to save the planet, but as a small step towards cutting pointless resource use, and cleaning up our towns, cities, countryside rivers and seas, this truly is an easy win. Let’s get back to parity with China on this one please.

Next, let’s cut down on unnecessary night time lighting of shops in cities and towns. The French are leading the way, having banned neon shop lighting in the early hours last year, and they’re now looking at insisting the lights inside shops go off for similar hours.

Yes, I admit that those people who love to window shop between 1am and 6am might be slightly discommoded – not that I know anyone who does that. But I know that a lot of people would enjoy a reduction in light pollution – both those who like to gaze up at the stars and those trying to sleep in glare-ridden bedrooms around the shops. And even the Daily Mail might like the fact that we could build a few less wind turbines if we cut demand for electricity instead. There would be a saving on shop electricity bills and so perhaps even a saving on our shopping bills.

And this would be a small step towards the bigger range of energy reduction measures that we need, as with insulating and draft-proofing our dreadful quality housing stock and making sure that all new build homes meet the highest energy standards. It costs us all to provide extra energy capacity – we can all save cash, and improve our lives.

Finally, an environmental measure that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and make our towns and cities far more pleasing places – let’s introduce 20mph speed limits everywhere people live, work and shop: make it the default urban limit. No need for lots of expensive signage – in fact you could probably clear a lot of street clutter. And motorists would see a saving in fuel costs and wear and tear, at the “cost” of an average of 90 seconds being added to their journeys.

We’re seeing big progress around the country on 20mph limits – the London borough of Islington is likely to soon be followed by others – but we could make a big national leap and save a lot of campaigners’ time and energy, and a significant number of lives, if we took an immediate step across England and Wales.

The cost of all of these three measures would be tiny, and the benefits – to our finances and quality of life – significant. They’re perfect easy resolutions to start with – then we can get more ambitious.

Author: Natalie Bennett
Source: The Guardian
Original: http://goo.gl/QTG1Y


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A concretizar-se a aprovação final das autoridades de saúde norte-americanas, este será o primeiro animal transgénico a chegar legalmente às mesas dos EUA.


O salmão transgénico atinge o tamanho adulto duas vezes mais depressa do que o não transgénico (à frente) AQUABOUNTY

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a agência federal norte-americana responsável pela aprovação de novos alimentos e medicamentos, emitiu um parecer onde conclui que o consumo de um tipo de salmão geneticamente manipulado, produzido pela empresa AquaBounty Technologies, não apresenta “riscos nem perigos significativos para a segurança alimentar”.

A FDA considerou ainda que, dadas as características destes salmões e a forma como são criados (são fêmeas estéreis e crescem em condições de estrito isolamento), mesmo que alguns exemplares conseguissem escapar dos tanques isso não afectaria o ambiente.

O salmão transgénico em questão, criado em 1989 e baptizado AquAdvantage, é um salmão do Atlântico ao qual foi acrescentado o gene da hormona de crescimento do salmão-rei (Oncorhynchus tshawytsch), uma espécie muito comum do Pacífico. Esta manipulação genética faz com que cresça duas vezes mais depressa do que os seus congéneres naturais.

Segundo a imprensa internacional, o parecer da FDA já estava pronto em Abril, mas a sua publicação fora adiada pela Casa Branca, que receava eventuais reacções negativas dos seus eleitores (recorde-se que as presidenciais estavam mesmo à porta…).

À vitória eleitoral veio juntar-se a publicação, na segunda quinzena de Dezembro, de vários artigos no site slate.com que não deixaram outra alternativa ao Executivo norte-americano senão tornar público o parecer da FDA. Naqueles artigos, Jon Entine, director do Projecto de Literacia Genética (associação sem fins lucrativos dedicada a “separar a ideologia da ciência” e a desmistificar os mitos em torno da engenharia genética), denunciava o atraso na divulgação do documento e salientava que isso “levantava questões legais e éticas de interferência política na ciência e no trabalho independente das agências federais”. Dois dias mais tarde, o parecer da FDA era tornado público online, enquanto se aguardava pela sua versão impressa.

Contudo, lê-se na revista New Scientist, a aprovação final não será imediata. O parecer deve agora ser submetido a discussão pública e a FDA precisará de realizar, a seguir, uma derradeira avaliação, que pode ainda ser demorada – mas que, em princípio, não deverá apresentar surpresas.

O salmão transgénico também há-de chegar às mesas europeias? Segundo o diário britânico The Independent, quando o AquAdvantage passar a ser “legalmente comercializado e consumido nos EUA, os produtores de salmão britânicos e europeus vão sentir-se pressionados a seguir o exemplo”.

Autor: Ana Gerschenfeld
Fonte: Ecosfera – Público
Original: http://goo.gl/88HpH


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Elephants in the Samburu reserve in Kenya. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)

ARCHER’S POST, Kenya — Julius Lokinyi was one of the most notorious poachers in this part of Kenya, accused of single-handedly killing as many as 100 elephants and selling the tusks by the side of the road in the dead of night, pumping vast amounts of ivory into a shadowy global underground trade.

But after being hounded, shamed, browbeaten and finally persuaded by his elders, he recently made a remarkable transformation. Elephants, he has come to believe, are actually worth more alive than dead, because of the tourists they attract. So Mr. Lokinyi stopped poaching and joined a grass-roots squad of rangers — essentially a conservation militia — to protect the wildlife he once slaughtered.

Nowadays he gets up at dawn, slurps down a cup of sugary tea, tightens his combat boots and marches off with other villagers, some who had never picked up a gun before and are little more than volunteers, to fight poachers.

“We got to protect the elephants,” said Mr. Lokinyi, whose hooded eyes now glow with the zeal of a convert.

From Tanzania to Cameroon, tens of thousands of elephants are being poached each year, more than at any time in decades, because of Asia’s soaring demand for ivory. Nothing seems to be stopping it, including deploying national armies, and the bullet-riddled carcasses keep stacking up. Scientists say that at this rate, African elephants could soon go the way of the wild American bison.

But in this stretch of northern Kenya, destitute villagers have seized upon an unconventional solution that, if replicated elsewhere, could be the key to saving thousands of elephants across Africa, conservationists say. In a growing number of communities here, people are so eager, even desperate, to protect their wildlife that civilians with no military experience are banding together, grabbing shotguns and G3 assault rifles and risking their lives to confront heavily armed poaching gangs.

It is essentially a militarized neighborhood watch, with loping, 6-foot-6 former herdsmen acting as the block captains, and the block being miles and miles of zebra-studded bush. These citizen-rangers are not doing this out of altruism or some undying love for pachyderms. They do it because in Kenya, perhaps more than just about anywhere else, wildlife means tourists, and tourists mean dollars — a lot of dollars.

It is not unusual here for a floppy-hatted visitor to drop $700 a night to sleep in a tent and absorb the sights, sounds and musky smells of wondrous game. Much of that money is contractually bound to go directly to impoverished local communities, which use it for everything from pumping water to college scholarships, giving them a clear financial stake in preserving wildlife. The safari business is a pillar of the Kenyan economy, generating more than a billion dollars a year and nearly 500,000 jobs: cooks, cleaners, bead-stringers, safari guides, bush pilots, even accountants to tally the proceeds.

Surprisingly, many jobs in the safari industry can pay as much as poaching. Though the ivory trade may seem lucrative, it is often like the Somali pirate business model, with the entry-level hijacker getting just a minuscule cut of the million-dollar ransoms. While a pound of ivory can fetch $1,000 on the streets of Beijing, Mr. Lokinyi, despite his lengthy poaching résumé, was broke, making it easier to lure him out of the business.

Villagers are also turning against poachers because the illegal wildlife trade fuels crime, corruption, instability and intercommunal fighting. Here in northern Kenya, poachers are diversifying into stealing livestock, printing counterfeit money and sometimes holding up tourists. Some are even buying assault rifles used in ethnic conflicts.

The conservation militias are often the only security forces around, so they have become de facto 911 squads, rushing off to all sorts of emergencies in areas too remote for the police to quickly gain access to and often getting into shootouts with poachers and bandits.

“This isn’t just about animals,” said Paul Elkan, a director at the Wildlife Conservation Society, who is trying to set up community ranger squads in South Sudan modeled on the Kenyan template. “It’s about security, conflict reconciliation, even nation building.”

The rangers tend to be hardened and uneducated, drawn from different ethnic groups and the surplus of unemployed youth. Gabriel Lesoipa was a goat herder; Joseph Lopeiyok, a cattle rustler; John Pameri won his coveted spot because he was fast — at the time he was selected, the first entry requirement was a grueling 11-mile race.

Many are considered warriors in their communities, experts in so-called bushcraft from years of grazing cattle and goats across the thorny savanna — and defending them against armed raiders. They can follow faint footprints across long, thirsty distances and instantly intuit when someone has trespassed on their land.

The American government is throwing its weight behind such community conservation efforts, contributing more than $4 million to Kenya. But there are obvious risks. In Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other African countries, homegrown militias initially mustered to protect communities have often turned into predators themselves.

“It’s pretty hopeless to stop elephant poaching in Africa unless you get local buy-in,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, one of the world’s most celebrated elephant researchers, who runs Save the Elephants. “But implementing this is a different matter. If you don’t do this carefully, you’ll have people killing each other.”

Nonprofit Army

In 1989, during Africa’s last poaching crisis, Ian Craig sat up on a rock in the craggy Mathews range of northern Kenya, where his family owned a big cattle ranch, and watched helplessly through a pair of binoculars as poachers mowed down a whole herd of elephants.

It was a searing lesson.

“Government couldn’t be everywhere,” he said. “And poaching was everywhere.”

So Mr. Craig, who is often considered the grandfather of Kenya’s community conservation efforts, began enlisting local men to help protect wildlife. At first, the national government refused to arm them, saying there was absolutely no way it was going to deputize civilians, especially when Kenya, like many African countries, has a shoot-to-kill policy for any armed poacher spotted in a wildlife zone.

But after Kenya’s wildlife department changed leadership in the mid-1990s, Mr. Craig prevailed, and he has slowly but steadily built a nonprofit army. The Northern Rangelands Trust, the umbrella organization he helped found in 2004, is made up of 19 communities, with another 32 asking to join. It has 461 scouts patrolling nearly 8,000 square miles; two small airplanes and a million-dollar helicopter on its way; an “ops” center with flat-screen monitors tracking elephants by satellite; and a “strong room” packed with thermal-imagery scopes and a rack of weapons.

Some of the guns are Mr. Craig’s. Others are provided by the Kenya police reserve, which makes a cursory background check before handing out weapons to civilians. But once the guns are in the hands of the roaming citizen-rangers, there is little direct government oversight.

The militiamen receive anywhere from $25 to $320 a month, which comes from the nonprofit wildlife zones, known as conservancies, that are obligated to give 60 percent of their safari revenues to local communities and hire 75 percent local staff.

The local incentive to protect wildlife seems self-evident. Namibia, for instance, now has more than 70 community conservancies. And villagers there take them very seriously, ready to pounce — or at least alert the authorities — if there are any intruders.

“An enemy of wildlife is an enemy of the people,” said Rob Moffett, an executive with Wilderness Safaris, a company in Namibia.

On a recent day, a squad of community scouts near Archer’s Post, in Kenya’s arid north, were guarding Matt, a massive, treetop-high bull with enormous tusks — six feet long and as thick as paint cans, a poacher’s dream. The plan was to shadow Matt as he ranged across the veld, knocking down trees and snacking on leaves.

“No elephants, no money,” explained Mr. Lopeiyok, the former cattle rustler turned scout.

He and the other scouts said that they had killed several poaching suspects, sometimes showing off the pictures, and that they do not blink at taking a human life to protect an elephant’s.

It is difficult to measure the success of the community ranger programs, but Kenya’s poaching levels have declined drastically from the slaughter days of the 1970s and 1980s, when thousands of elephants were poached each year.

This year, Kenyan authorities say, around 350 elephants have been poached, triple the number in 2008 — but those are just the confirmed kills, and many carcasses are never discovered. The government is trying to work more closely with the community rangers, running training courses for some of them.

A Killer Transformed

Mr. Lokinyi is one of the rookie rangers, around 28 years old and slowly emerging from his days of ill repute. His stipend is a mere $25 a month. He calls himself “a volunteer.”

“I had this Somali friend, a poacher, who said to me, ‘You kill elephants, we share,’ ” said Mr. Lokinyi, recalling how he got into the business. “I had raided cattle. I had killed many people. So killing elephants caused no feeling.”

He became the leader of a secretive gang that would take specific orders, maybe 6 tusks today, 10 the next. After they killed the elephants and hacked out the ivory, they waited until the middle of the night to rendezvous with ivory brokers, often Somalis from nearby Isiolo, a frontier town of hard looks where Somalis, Samburus, Boranas and Turkanas have feuded for years. Yet the money he made flowed through his fingers like sand, and he had become a liability for his community, with the authorities constantly looking for him and harassing his relatives.

That is when Benjamin Lopetet stepped in. Mr. Lopetet is a fellow Turkana who left a comfortable job at a bank to run the Nakuprat-Gotu community conservancy, which started last year.

“Whenever we heard of an elephant getting killed,” Mr. Lopetet said, “it was always Lokinyi, Lokinyi, Lokinyi.”

He spent months begging Mr. Lokinyi’s relatives to set up a meeting, and when they finally met last year, Mr. Lopetet explained that Somali ivory traffickers were exploiting Mr. Lokinyi, paying him peanuts and using the money to buy rifles to kill Turkanas. “I realized I was being used,” Mr. Lokinyi said. “And that I was useless.”

Mr. Lopetet offered him a deal: stop poaching elephants and work with us.

Of course, there is always a risk in trying to reform a poacher.

“It’s backfired before,” Mr. Craig said. “We’ve had bad guys become good guys and then bad guys again. But you got to try.”

These days Mr. Lokinyi sports his crisp camouflage fatigues with pride and patrols the same scratchy miles of thorn bush he used to stalk, using his bushcraft to predict where the poachers will strike next. He went through a proper redemption ritual this spring in which goats were slaughtered and fat smeared over his body. He moved into a new home and was even given a new set of ceremonial parents, elders who took him in.

“I’ve done many bad things,” Mr. Lokinyi said. “But now I am clean.”

Author: Jeffrey Gettleman
Source: The New York Times
Original: http://goo.gl/GL7QB


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Fato apontado por estudo aumenta temores de degelo que elevaria o nível do mar de São Francisco, nos EUA, a Xangai, na China


Antártida Ocidental: Temperaturas médias anuais na estação de pesquisa de Byrd, na Antártida Ocidental, subiram 2,4 graus Celsius desde os anos 1950

Oslo – A Antártida Ocidental está se aquecendo quase duas vezes mais rápido do que se acreditava anteriormente, um fato que aumenta os temores de um degelo que elevaria o nível do mar de São Francisco, nos EUA, a Xangai, na China, de acordo com um estudo divulgado neste domingo.

As temperaturas médias anuais na estação de pesquisa de Byrd, na Antártida Ocidental, subiram 2,4 graus Celsius desde os anos 1950, uma das altas mais velozes no planeta e três vezes a média mundial de mudanças climáticas, revelou o trabalho.

O grande e inesperado impulso no aquecimento provoca um maior temor de que a camada de gelo possa ser vulnerável ao descongelamento. A Antártida Ocidental tem gelo suficiente para elevar o nível dos oceanos em pelo menos 3,3 metros se toda ela se derreter, num processo que poderia levar séculos.

“A parte ocidental da camada de gelo está experimentando quase duas vezes o aquecimento que se imaginava que iria ocorrer”, afirmou a Universidade Estadual de Ohio em uma nota sobre o estudo liderado pelo professor de Geografia David Bromwich.

O aquecimento “levanta novas preocupações sobre a futura contribuição da Antártida para o aumento do nível do mar”, diz o comunicado. Temperaturas mais altas do verão provocam o risco de derretimento da superfície de gelo e neve, embora a maior parte da Antártida fique congelada ao longo de todo o ano.

Países de baixa altitude, como Bangladesh e Tuvalu são especialmente vulneráveis à elevação do nível do mar, como são as cidades costeiras, de Londres a Buenos Aires. O nível do mar subiu cerca de 20 centímetros no século passado.

O painel de especialistas em clima das Nações Unidas estima que o nível do mar vá aumentar entre 18 e 59 centímetros neste século, e que a elevação poderá ser ainda maior se o degelo da Groenlândia e da Antártida se acelerar em decorrência do aquecimento global causado pelas atividades humanas.

Autor: Alister Doyle – REUTERS
Fonte: Exame
Original: http://goo.gl/6tIuq


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Environmental and indigenous groups have protested the Xingu River project, which the government says is needed to bring power to the booming country. One villager is waiting as long as he can to leave.


Valcione da Silva makes a living catching tiny, delicate fish in Brazil’s Xingu River. A dam project is forcing him and many others from their homes and livelihoods. (Matthew Teague / Los Angeles Times / December 29, 2012)

SANTO ANTONIO, Brazil — The wind blows in from the river, mingling with the scent of the day’s last meal in the kitchen. The smells of work and home for Valcione da Silva. He sits on a worn bench and watches children play on the floor, laughing. Somewhere outside, a siren begins, long and loud.

Da Silva reaches beneath his bench to retrieve two knives, double-edged like daggers. They’re not weapons, he says, clattering them together. They’re special fishing tools. “Only wood,” he says. He ignores the siren.

He pulls out what appears to be a string of plastic Coke bottles dangling from a belt. “Look,” he says, pressing into the side of a bottle. It flexes open along a slit in the plastic. When he lets go, it springs closed again. “Very simple. I can keep them alive in here.” His fish are delicate, he says.

A moment later a thunderous WHOOMP shakes the little home, and a concussion rolls the air like a wave on the river. Dirt dances on the floor. The nearly bare shelves rattle. Another WHOOMP, and outside in the yard, the leaves of Da Silva’s mango tree flicker green and silver.

Da Silva walks to his doorway with his wooden daggers, and looks like a man standing at the edge of the world.

Over the last year the villagers around him have packed up and left. A few days ago the school closed, because all but Da Silva’s children had left. His wife was the teacher, so she continues their lessons at home. Santo Antonio would look like a ghost town, except that bulldozers have leveled all the empty homes.

Da Silva watches the trucks as they rumble past, carrying countless tons of earth, blown with dynamite from the hillsides where he was born.

“I want to stay and fish,” the 36-year-old says. But it’s early December, and he’ll have to leave soon; clever men with clipboards have outmaneuvered him.

In the morning, he says, he will do the only thing within his power. He’ll break the law.

***

Progress and the past are colliding at Da Silva’s doorway.

His small home sits at the foot of the Belo Monte dam site, where a consortium is building the third-largest dam in the world, almost four miles across the Xingu River, a $16-billion construction project in the heart of the Amazon basin.

Indigenous peoples and environmental groups have cried out against the dam for reasons local and global; the people here depend on the mighty Xingu River — one of the Amazon’s largest tributaries — for transportation, and their livelihoods. Environmental groups say the dam will destroy rain forest that the world needs to breathe. The builders counter that millions of Brazilians need the electricity, and construction continues.

There had always been talk of a gigantic dam. During the dictatorships of the 1970s, important men made speeches about the riches of the Amazon, waiting to be discovered.

In 1972, President Emilio Medici showed up with a construction crew just outside Santo Antonio. The president cut down a Brazil nut tree — a symbol of the rain forest — and stood on its fresh stump to make a speech about bringing industry, roads and population to the Amazon. Part of the plan, starting in 1975, was to build a massive hydroelectric dam.

There’s a pattern, in Brazilian history, of industries focusing on one natural resource, stripping it, and moving on to another. When Portuguese colonials arrived, the Brazil nut tree was so plentiful that the explorers named the country after it. Now the trees are endangered. Later prospectors found so much gold that they named an entire state Minas Generais, or General Mines. The gold is dwindling too. The same happened with the rubber trees, and the diamonds.

The Amazon’s river system, though, seemed to resist progress for many years. The first bridge in the entire Amazon basin wasn’t built until 2010. The area was too difficult to reach. Too wild a riverbed. Populated by too wild a people.

The dictator’s workers symbolically paved the top of the stump where Medici stood to make his speech, and today it stands shrunken and cracked. Now an enormous concrete power pole looms over the stump. It’s one of an endless series of identical towers, marching electricity to the reawakened site of the dam called Belo Monte: the Beautiful Mountain.

***

Men came to Da Silva’s door a couple of years ago, and knocked.

We are subcontractors to Norte Energia, the head man told him. We are building the dam.

They entered his home with a clipboard, writing a list of all his meager possessions. He followed them from one small room to another, as questions tumbled through his mind: What on Earth is Norte Energia? And why do these men have a clipboard?

Life in Santo Antonio had stayed quiet for three decades, but elsewhere in Brazil a revolution had been underway, an industrial, financial and cultural revolution. The country had recently surpassed Britain to become the sixth-largest economy in the world. And the Brazilian machine needs electricity.

“Electricity is development,” said Joao Pimentel, director of institutional relations for Norte Energia, a consortium of private and state-held companies that plans to begin operating Belo Monte in 2015. “Without electricity we will go nowhere.”

“If all the electricity went to homes, the dam would provide power for 60 million people,” Pimentel said.

It won’t do that, exactly. Seventy percent of the dam’s power will flow to public utilities, sold on the national grid for business and domestic consumption. The other 30% will be divided among shareholders.

So how many Brazilian citizens will receive electricity once it trickles down? “It’s difficult to say,” Pimentel said.

“That’s a lie,” said professor Rodolfo Salm, who researches ecology at the federal university in Altamira, the largest town near the dam site. “This energy is not for homes, it is for mining.”

As Brazil expands its economic reach in the world, Salm said, it exports more goods. Aluminum, for instance.

“It takes a lot of energy to produce aluminum,” he said. “In Japan, they need aluminum but have an energy shortage. So what we are really doing is exporting energy.”

The ecological repercussions are more complex, he said. Hydropower is among the cleanest ways to make electricity, but in the Amazonian rain forest the consequences unfurl in ways that can’t be fully predicted. Belo Monte is only the beginning: The government is expected to grant concessions for at least 30 dams in coming years. The resultant flooding could cover thousands of square miles of rain forest, Salm said, releasing vast quantities of methane gas from rotted trees.

“The deforestation is already happening,” the professor said. People are moving to Altamira on the promise of an economic boom from the dam, and where the human population goes, trees disappear. “This year’s rains should have begun by now,” he said, pointing to a dusty window. “But they haven’t. It’s because we get our rains from the forest.”

The list of consequences grows.

“Look at the fish species,” the professor said. “As oxygen in the water lowers, they cannot survive. They die, and it breaks the ecology.”

The men with the clipboard, when they entered Valcione da Silva’s house two years ago, weren’t impressed with the possessions he valued most: his wooden daggers and Coke bottles. They would tally his worth back at their office, they said, and make him a settlement offer. They suggested he accept it.

***

Da Silva’s brother-in-law, Alessandro da Silva, joins him, and they sling their equipment in packs over their shoulders.

They climb onto Da Silva’s off-road motorcycle. He fires it up, and the two scoot into the rumble of transfer trucks. Dust coats the men, and the tires of the other vehicles tower above them.

Gigantic machines scrape and gouge and dynamite rock and dirt and load it into the trucks, which haul it to other sites, where they unload and repeat. Da Silva and Alessandro weave through a landscape that stopped resembling the rain forest long ago; now it looks lunar.

Off a side road they pass the village’s empty church, and the demolished houses of their former neighbors. As they get closer to the Xingu River the signs start appearing: Do not enter, they say. This land is now protected by the law. Do not enter.

They pass a water depot, where a machine pumps river water into trucks that will spray it along the roads to keep down the dust. The rain has not yet come.

More signs: Do not enter.

The two men drop on their motorbike over the riverbank, out of sight. Working quickly, they slide down the bank to their dugout canoe, crank its small motor and then navigate into the Xingu.

The Xingu is special among all rivers in the Amazon system. Where the Amazon descends just 260 feet over its length of almost 4,000 miles, the Xingu drops 295 feet over a 60-mile segment here.

And it is special for another reason, Da Silva says.

“Getting close now,” he says.

He putters past another sign, this one bobbing in the water: Do not enter.

***

The Belo Monte project itself was deemed illegal, briefly, by a Brazilian federal court. In mid-August, the court intervened to halt all construction.

Two weeks later, the Supreme Court reversed the decision. Civil rights and environmental groups cried out against the decision, claiming the court had bowed to pressure from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, whose election last year was underwritten in part by the companies interested in building the dam.

In September, the indigenous peoples who live in the dam-affected area rose up and overtook one of the dam’s largest construction sites. About 150 protesters, wielding clubs and spears, held the site for several days until Norte Energia’s representatives heard their concerns.

Another group, of indigenous fishermen, gathered in November. They converged on Norte Energia’s waterfront office in Altamira, demanding to know what sort of settlement the company would offer them once they’re no longer able to fish on the Xingu.

One of their leaders was Cecilio Kayapo, a man with skin like tree bark. Afterward, he shrugged. “They have told us nothing new,” he said. And then a common, defeated refrain among the fishermen: “They are clever.”

For a moment Kayapo stood and looked at an enormous, meticulous model of the Xingu under glass in Norte Energia’s office. He surveyed the water he had navigated his whole life, but from this vantage, none of it made sense.

The dam is a complex, multi-stage affair, but it will work like this: The Xingu flows downhill from Altamira to Santo Antonio — Valcione da Silva’s village — where the water will crank the dam’s turbines. Between those two points, though, the river swings through what locals call the Big Bend. It’s a wide loop where botanists, zoologists and anthropologists study life of all sorts; it’s also flat, so the river loses much of its valuable energy. So a support dam will shunt most of the Xingu directly from Altamira to the dam, through a man-made canal. It will cut out the Big Bend and slowly lower the river there.

Kayapo wanted to speak with the people of the Big Bend. He began a two-day journey in his small boat. The Arara tribe greeted him warmly, and the leader, Leoncio Arara, called a meeting in his hut. After Kayapo’s defeated report, the chief nodded. “They are clever,” he said.

He was 74 years old. He counted on his fingers the important moments of his life — all on the river — and finally threw up his hands. “The river is our road, and our food,” he said. “It is our life.”

***

Valcione da Silva steers his dugout boat around a final bend.

He will take the settlement, he says. He has no choice. Norte Energia alone cannot cast him from his home, but the government can. He will have to take the money — about $20,000, he says — and move from his home. But he will hold out as long as possible.

He stops the boat at the center of the river, and Alessandro throws out the anchor. At the center of the boat, Da Silva takes the cover off a funny old engine, which looks like something salvaged from a steam ship. It’s bright yellow, all gears and wheels and chains. It sputters to life.

“Air compressor,” Da Silva says. Two plastic tubes run from the engine, and the two men each place the free ends in their mouths. They pull on goggles, strap the Coke bottles around their waists, and tuck the wooden daggers into their belts.

They leap.

The bashing of the dump trucks fades, and the heat of the sun gives way to cool water. The dirt from the dam construction swirls around him, even underwater. Every day there are fewer fish to be found.

Da Silva dives deeper, and as he descends, darkness closes around him. He flicks on a waterproof flashlight.

Along the riverbed he finds the rocks he wants, stacked and smoothed by countless years of flowing water. He pulls the daggers from his waistband and reaches with them to the underside of the rocks, pulling the wooden edge along the stone.

Slowly he finds them — the beautiful fish. Ornate, tiny fish. Rare fish. At the market in Altamira he can sell them for $2 or $3, although they will sell for a hundred times that much eventually. He doesn’t know the scientific names, or the ones they’ll have by the time they reach aquariums in Tokyo or New York. But here they’re called the zebra, the old black man, the tiger.

They resist, hiding under the river rocks. But his daggers eventually, inevitably, sweep them from their homes.

Author: Matthew Teague
Source: Los Angeles Times
Original: http://goo.gl/vUEKs


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