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  • The DNA of pollution in Rio's Guanabara Bay

    Text by Mirna Wabi-Sabi and photography by Fabio Teixeira Originally published August 2nd, 2023, in Brazilian Portuguese. Rio de Janeiro, Guanabara bay, July 1, 2023. The Brazilian Sanitation Panel states that more than 30% of the population of Rio de Janeiro does not have sewage collection (2021). Today, 18,000 liters (nearly 5 thousand gallons) of sewage per second are dumped into the Guanabara Bay, with state investment quadrupling in the last 3 years, reaching almost 1 billion reais. The expenditures are monumental, while the results are abysmal, and this fiasco would be easy to explain from the perspective of corruption and incompetence in the management of public resources. However, a cultural and historical analysis would better explain what causes these symptoms in the city's administrative processes. Data on costs and levels of pollution are evident, as well as the dangers of this pollution to public health. It has been known for at least 20 years, for example, the alarming rates of Hepatitis A in children in low-income regions of Rio de Janeiro. But these numbers do not lead to solutions by holders of governmental power. The problem is not a lack of money or awareness of the seriousness of the situation, but the legacy of the Hygienist model. The Hygienist movement was born in Brazil in the late 1800s and at the end of the Industrial Revolution. With the formation of urban-industrial centers during the Revolution, there was a massive increase in the population of Rio de Janeiro, and with it chaos, poverty, pollution and environmental destruction. This movement aimed to mitigate these metropolitan symptoms with the implementation of European urban models, which essentially manufactured ghettos. By utilizing the medical theories of European scientists, initiatives were promoted by hygienists which segregated poverty from wealth and destroyed natural environments through the 'beautification' of cities. The culture of European extractivism deals with the non-European environment as a source of resources for human beings, whether practical or aesthetic. It never promotes the balance of local ecosystems, it only promotes profit and high standards of living for those who profit. Therefore, the manufacturing of ghettos guarantees 'Hygiene', as defined by the movement in terms of education and health, in an insular way. The Hygienist model is the manifestation of the expression 'sweeping under the rug'. As long as urban insalubrity was not seen by elites in city centers, it would be as if it did not exist. In other words, it's as mature a system as a game of peek-a-boo. Since cities came to be, the conditions of urban insalubrity have been a class issue with disastrous environmental and human repercussions. In the article "The Hygienist Movement" on the history of private life in Brazil, Edivaldo Góis says that many of the hygienists saw "the lack of health and education of [Brazilian] people [as] responsible for our backwardness in relation to Europe." Being that numerous diseases, customs, and management models from Europe were responsible for this impropriety. A people that promotes class division does not accept the natural reality that the ecosystem does not respect social segregation. Sooner or later, the pollution of a portion of the ocean or of an urban body of water becomes pollution on prime beaches, and 18,000 liters of sewage per second in the Guanabara Bay is a worldwide problem. In the 1990s, 1 billion US dollars were spent on the Guanabara Bay Cleanup Program (PDBG) after alarming evidence of cases of Hepatitis A in children in Duque de Caxias. Even with massive funding from a global source, the results were horrifying. Sewage treatment centers were built but they were never functional, accountability and late payments pointed to poor financial management by the state, hundreds of millions of US dollars were wasted in interest rates, and this failure cannot be attributed to institutional stupidity alone. Now billions of reais are being spent again on infrastructure projects, which are already delayed, to solve this persistent pollution problem of the last century. Rio de Janeiro, entre 2015 e 2019. Sanitation in low-income regions is a challenge today because for more than a hundred years, the class divide fostered by the legacy of the Hygienist movement has disembodied these geographic spaces from "epidemiological surveillance activity" as well as individual provision of sanitation resources. The idea that what is private exists in symbiosis with the public, rather than resulting in the investment of public resources in improving the private environments of low-income individuals, has resulted in reactionary justifications for eugenics. That is why, instead of investing in improving the structures of family and individual homes in poor regions, they invest in a "belt" for collecting sewage around the bay. This means that the sewage that leaves these areas is captured and prevented from affecting noble areas, but the individual context of the residents remains the same. According to a "conceptual study" on this 'belt', the obstacle to "universal sanitation" is cost. The estimate in the report is 1900 reais per inhabitant, totaling more than 33 billion reais in Rio de Janeiro. Since the financing of 1 billion dollars in the 1990s was equivalent to just over 5 billion reais, the price "far exceeds the contribution of resources to the sector". However, 33 billion refers to the cost for the population of the whole state of Rio (not just the city), and the 1 billion dollar funding was specifically aimed at cleaning up the Guanabara Bay. The rivers that pollute the Guanabara Bay the most permeate the geography of the city of Duque de Caxias, called Sarapuí and Iguaçu. If 1900 reais per inhabitant is a reliable estimate, with less than 1.5 billion reais it would have been possible to bring sanitation to the entire population of Duque de Caxias, which between 1991 and 1994 was made up of less than 700 thousand people. But instead of proposing precise strategies, focusing on contextual and local needs, the report soon makes parallels with European and U.S. American models of sanitation. In doing so, it reveals itself to be a descendant of the Hygienist movement. The organization responsible for the report, FGV CERI, explicitly positions itself as interested in an infrastructural development centered on economic growth. For them, infrastructure regulation in the country, even when it involves the environment and public health, revolves around one objective only: "attracting investment". Thus, sustainability fosters the nation when it is economic and financial. Quantifying a socio-environmental problem such as pollution in the Guanabara Bay is not always easy. How many liters of sewage are being dumped illegally? How much does basic sanitation cost per person? How many children have become ill from polluted water bodies in their areas? In this case, the numbers are evident and the reality is inescapable. What is missing is the analysis of the historical and cultural, or genetic, context that leads to these alarming and persistent results. From the creation of the Hygienist movement in Rio de Janeiro, today we are at least the fifth generation to witness the disastrous development of the metropolis that leans over and suffocates this bay. It is necessary to know what was inherited from the DNA of this city, which was named after this magnificently unusual body of water – Guanabara. _ Text by Mirna Wabi-Sabi Photography by Fabio Teixeira

  • Separating organic waste can prevent leptospirosis and save lives

    By Mirna Wabi-Sabi and photos by Fabio Teixeira. Published at It can be said that producing less garbage helps to extend human life on the planet, because, among other things, it preserves natural resources on which we depend to survive. Organic waste, in particular, is responsible for the production of methane, considerably increasing humanity's greenhouse gas emissions. But it is possible that the separation of organic waste can save lives in a more immediate way: by preventing cases of leptospirosis. It is not news that food waste in the garbage attracts animals such as rats, and that the urine of these animals can cause leptospirosis in humans. According to the photojournalist Fabio Teixeira, author of the photographic series “Surviving Between Shadow and Light”, anonymous workers, who work in the outskirts of communities in Rio de Janeiro, are victims of racism, police violence, and suffer from diseases caused by the trash. “These unemployed people recycle garbage to find copper, iron, aluminum, and toys to repair and donate. According to information from the recyclers, two deaths were caused by contamination with leptospirosis in November and December of 2022.” 04/03/2023 – Fabio Teixeira – Manguinhos Favela This observation by Teixeira is supported by public health research, although the numbers are likely to be underreported. The community of workers in the recycling and garbage collection industry is described as being at constant risk in the 2017 article called 'Perception of Quality of Life of Collectors of Recyclable Materials', from the nursing journal of the Federal University of Pernambuco. The authors explain that “because this type of work requires permanent contact with agents that are harmful to health”, the “activity that handles garbage” is “unhealthy to the highest degree”. Such statements may sound obvious, but the issue of waste has the potential to affect the entire urban population, not just professionals who handle waste. The Radioagência Nacional, of the Brazilian public communications company, released an alert in March of this year about the increase in “cases and deaths” caused by leptospirosis. Heavy rains and floods exacerbate the problem, and expose a large contingent of the population, leading to 24 cases and 3 deaths recorded by the Rio de Janeiro Health Department in the first two months of 2023. Proposals to mitigate this danger so far have been: preventing children from playing in places with “accumulated water” or taking out the garbage at most one hour before the garbage truck comes by. But these solutions do not protect the population as a whole, since garbage is still taken to places where people come in contact with it and expose themselves to risks. Moreover, the recurrent potential for floods in urban areas makes it impossible to avoid accumulated water. Conscious consumption and disposal of waste is the most effective tool in the hands of individuals and requires a simple reconfiguration of home dynamics. "Don't Throw Your Conscience in the Trash" What constitutes conscious consumption are the practices that begin with the purchase of products. Better than recycling is to produce less garbage. For this, it is pertinent to give preference to products without packaging, such as vegetables and fruits. If there is packaging, opt for compostable packaging, such as paper, or reusable packaging, such as glass jars. When disposing of plastic, tetra pak and fabric, ensure that they are clean, with no food leftovers or smells. It is important that this garbage is free of residues or odors of organic matter because they serve as food for and attract rodents. Separating all food scraps from the garbage prevents the emission of methane into the atmosphere and prevents rats from being attracted by this residue. The question is what to do with this leftover food. Composting is the best way to turn these organic wastes into composted land without producing methane or attracting rodents. But not everyone is able to compost at home. Community gardens such as A Amiga da Planta, in the oceanic region of Niterói, receive and collect organic matter from neighboring residents to use in composting and provide guidance on how to separate these materials – e.g., avoid adding meat, and separate citrus peels in their own containers. The reconfiguration of the culture of consumption and waste disposal at home requires little time and space, but requires interest and awareness. 09/03/2023 – Fabio Teixeira – Manguinhos Favela Consider that someone will handle the garbage and the welfare of those people is of immense importance, as well as consider that this garbage exists for decades or centuries after we throw it away. It is beneficial for all of us that this waste can be separated, reused or recycled in a sustainable and healthy way, without polluting the land or oceans, and without causing deaths. The work of collecting and separating garbage is essential for the sustainability of consumption practices, for environmental protection, and for the preservation of natural resources such as clean water and fertile land. 2022 – Fabio Teixeira – RIO DE JANEIRO Dealing with Public Policy Failure Which actions and programs should be developed by the State to guarantee the well-being of the population? Leptospirosis is a disease caused by the failure of basic sanitation services, the overcrowding of municipalities in favor of the real estate market, and by inhuman levels of social inequality. “The improper disposal of solid waste is involved in determining the appearance of infectious diseases” (2017), and adequacy means not only an appropriate destination, but also adequate equipment and decent living conditions for workers. An intersectional analysis between labor rights, access to health and education, basic sanitation, sustainability and environmentalism allows for the development of a holistic solution to this problem. According to research by the nursing journal of the Federal University of Pernambuco, “the degradation of the natural environment and the generation of waste cause physical health impairments, psychological and psychiatric disorders, and social disintegration.” The well-being of the population depends on actions that consider the physical, psychological, and social spheres. Therefore, solutions such as waiting to take out the garbage or avoiding coming into contact with accumulated water do not fully address the public health problem of leptospirosis. This totality includes family consumption up to its disposal method, various public policy failures, sustainable community practices and an environmentalist perspective. The History of Leptospirosis Leptospirosis was brought to the Americas with the rodents present on European ships during colonization, and it is possible that it caused a massacre of indigenous populations. The article “New Hypothesis for Cause of Epidemic Among Native Americans, New England, 1616–1619” proposes that consideration should be given to “customs that may have been instrumental to the near annihilation of Native Americans, which facilitated successful colonization of the Massachusetts Bay area”. And that these “local customs continually exposed this population to hyperendemic leptospiral infection”. The academic journal ‘PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases’, dedicated to "infectious diseases that promote poverty", published an article on the "Global Burden of Leptospirosis" in 2015. In it, the researchers estimate that leptospirosis is a serious problem for resource-poor tropical countries, including countries in Africa, "due to diagnostic problems and lack of data." Data from Tanzania and the Amazon reveal that fever is a common symptom and malaria is over-diagnosed as a cause. This leads to substantial numbers of leptospirosis 'burden estimates' being misallocated to other infectious diseases such as malaria. Source for graph: SINAN-03/03/2023 According to data published by the Brazilian ‘Notifiable Diseases Information System’ (Sinan) on March 3, 2023, there was an increase in cases of leptospirosis in the country in 2022, or a more drastic than usual underreporting during the COVID-19 pandemic. A few days earlier, on March 1st, the Radioagência Nacional reported 3 deaths in 2023 that are not included in Sinan's figures. It is evident that the magnitude of the impact of leptospirosis in Brazil is not being precisely quantified. Sources of graphs: SINAN-01/03/2023 and SINAN-DOI Due to the population density in the regions of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, their numbers stand out, alongside Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul. Although Rio has a “prevalence rate lower than the national rate” per 100,000 inhabitants, outbreaks of leptospirosis in the city coincide with summer storms since the 1960s, and “areas with occurrence of floods have more cases”. These areas tend to be, as expected, of poor sanitary conditions, with low-income communities. In 2020, Mário Martins and Mary Spink published an article called “Human leptospirosis as a doubly neglected disease in Brazil”, where the following statement is made: "Our analysis shows [...] the arbitrariness of criteria for assigning health priorities, [and] the invisibility of the population profile of human leptospirosis in official data. [...] We conclude that [this is] related to the fact that human leptospirosis affects a population which the State has no interest in keeping alive.” Leptospirosis killed more Brazilians than dengue fever every year between 2000 and 2016 – 3 times more – but received nine times less medical investment. There are more cases of dengue fever, so the questioning is far from being a criticism of funding for its treatment and prevention. But academics have for years been pointing out the severe neglect with which leptospirosis is tackled institutionally, and the parallel with dengue fever highlights this. “Quantifying the magnitude of health loss” due to leptospirosis is difficult because of issues discussed in several academic articles, but there is no doubt that cases are underreported, misdiagnosed, and resources are not sufficiently allocated for research and prevention. Since the arrival of this disease on “slave ships”, it is still a racialized and impoverished population that is forced to live in unhealthy conditions, without appropriate resources and access to decent public policies. At the very least, this should encourage us to take action in our homes and communities to help prevent cases and deaths from this disease – actions such as refraining from adding organic matter to the garbage just as we refrain from pouring grease down the drain. Human beings and the environment can only benefit from the awareness of the population and public institutions of the causes and solutions to the problem of garbage as a risk to human and environmental health. _____ By Mirna Wabi-Sabi and photos by Fabio Teixeira.

  • 'Is it Fake?' The question AI inherited from Art

    Mirna Wabi-Sabi Tate Modern is the one museum people talk about when they discuss art in London. Never have I heard the Courtauld be mentioned in this context. To be fair, it’s really more of an institute or gallery, and the collection is less vast and diverse than Tate’s. But it has some major pieces on display, most notorious of them perhaps being Van Gogh’s self-portrait without the ear, and several pieces by Gauguin, who was somehow involved in the ear-cutting situation. The whole place is a succinct gathering of major artists like Manet, Degas, Cézanne, Renoir, and several Flemish, Medieval and Renaissance masters, in a fantastic building with embellished cantilevered stone stairs. Perhaps even more attention-grabbing than the pedigree of the collection in the classic limestone building is the exhibition that opened on the 17th of June. “Fakes from the Collection” Yes, fake as in forgery. The Art and Artifice expo explores not only several types of fake pieces but also different types of intent behind their production. Of course, some were produced for financial gain, such as those made to look old and expensive but containing paint pigments or nails which didn’t exist in the period they were claimed to be from. Nineteenth century forgeries of medieval paintings on wood, for instance, were uncovered because nails from the alleged date of the work were not produced in the size and standard shape revealed in the x-rays of the pieces. Others had fake signatures and were claimed to be from the “study” days of the artist. The most fun, though, are the ones with unexpected stories. Some pieces were created to fool Nazis, as was the case of the forger Han van Meegeren. He created fake Vermeers during the Second World War and sold it to elite members of the Nazi party. The one on display at the exhibition is a forgery of a painting by van Baburen, a piece featured on the background of two of Vermeer’s paintings. Van Meegeren was applauded for this scheme, not only because of its disruption of the notorious looting and mistreatment of fine art by the Nazis, but also because his forgeries became a valuable technique investigation tool for art students at the institute. Other pieces were just artists practicing their craft by replicating classics, which were never meant to deceive a buyer. And in some cases, researchers still don’t know the true authorship of the piece, as is the case of a Boitard drawing. The technology for producing smooth, grid-less paper wasn’t widely available until decades after his death, but it is possible, though unlikely, that he came across it in the last year of his life, around the time of the ‘revolutionary invention’. Attendees are invited to closely examine the paper with large hand-held magnifying glasses to identify the differences between each drawing. It’s hard to not see parallels with generative artificial intelligence today and its potentially deceitful images. Deceit is nothing new, in media or art, and whenever a new technology comes around, we must adapt our methods of interpretation and consumption of its content. If it’s a new paper-making method, paint pigment, nail type, or digital image-editing feature, innovation is unstoppable, and change is inevitable. How we handle the technological changes of our era, and our ability to keep up with them, defines whether innovation symbolizes the advancement or detriment of society. Earlier in June, just a few days before the opening of the Courtauld expo, NPR published an article with suggestions on how to identify if a digital image was fake; meaning, generated by AI. As a tool, we know that nowadays generative AI is unable to realistically portray hands, teeth, accessories such as jewelry, and complex backgrounds. Holding up a proverbial magnifying glass to these details can give away fake images with relative ease. Some of the images believed to be real and widely shared online, such as the one of the Pope wearing a large white puffy coat, could have easily been, and were, exposed as fakes, though not soon enough to prevent them from going viral. Looking at history, we see that the struggle to identify forgeries is not unprecedented in the realm of images made to deceive in high art or in mass media. The same way it is possible to be unsure of the veracity of a signature, we may be unsure of the source of a realistic-looking digital image. All this means is that we must keep up with technological advances and invest in a modernized education system. Anyone is bound to slip occasionally and fall for a fake. Some details might slip through the cracks, some days the vetting process might be sloppier than others, that’s natural. Not to mention that it’s just a matter of time until digital technology is updated to make AI better at portraying things like hands and we will be caught off guard once again. AI’s current inability to produce realistic images of hands it quite comical, considering hands may be the very first subject of human artistic expression. From ancient pictographs made 40 thousand years ago until classics of the 19th century, hands have been a major focus of human art, especially for painters. Even when they are hidden, hands stand out and become a source of speculation and conspicuous meaning. Da Vinci was notorious for his study of hands, and Michelangelo created one of the most reproduced pair of hands in Western history–in The Creation of Adam. Between the 18th and 19th centuries, when a wave of elite European portraits depicted men with hands hidden in their jackets, it was speculated that perhaps paintings were cheaper when the painter didn’t have to focus on drawing fingers. There is no evidence for that. The pose most likely symbolized power and status, as it was popular with people like Napoleon, for whom money was no obstacle. Either way, we were never expected to take art, and media, at face value. For hundreds of years, we’ve had to keep vetting processes and analyses up to date, we’ve had to learn to ask the right questions at the right time, and this just happens to still be as true now as ever. High-tech is not synonymous with high standards, and nothing corroborates this idea more than high art. Will a robot soon produce a perfect forgery, or perhaps its own masterpiece? If it does, this threat is possibly a tale as old as art itself. Trying to halt innovation will be futile, and expecting change to not meet any resistance is also unrealistic. We’ve known that art made without heart, made as nothing more than a replica, is not valuable. And perceiving value does take training. It takes a robust education that incentivizes critical analysis and requires resources. A better use of our time is learning how to hold up a magnifying glass, and not so much campaigning against technologies which may or may not be used for malignant deceit. +++ Mirna Wabi-Sabi

  • Can a new law prevent the spread of Fake News?

    Last week, the “US Supreme Court [shot] down cases on social media liability” (Al Jazeera). It unanimously ruled that social media platforms (Twitter and Google) cannot be held responsible for content posted on their websites. Meanwhile, Brazil witnesses a heated debate over a law project that seeks to combat fake news by holding tech companies accountable for misinformation on their platforms. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was used to argue that the companies are not publishers of content and therefore are not responsible for the speech posted on their platforms. On the other hand, platforms have the right to remove content that they believe is objectionable for any reason. Can this type of freedom of content moderation by social media companies, guaranteed by Section 230, be remedied by an anti-Fake News Bill such as the one proposed in Brazil? How would the moderation process ensure the removal of harmful content and not content about harmful practices? For example, how will we remove terrorist content but not content about terrorism? How will we remove racist content but not content about racism? In the scope which these companies operate, answering these questions is far from simple. There is still no legal consensus on how to address this issue in the global digital field; therefore, it is worth analyzing why so many people gravitate towards online content that is radically harmful to society. What are the values that we practice and share in our communities, and how do we fight for them in our day-to-day lives? The Brazilian anti-Fake News Law Project is a polarizing subject. Misinformation permeates the digital universe, and opinions tend to be in favor of the law on the left, or against it on the right. To go beyond binary politics and at the same time avoid ending up in the 'center', we can easily say that fake news is a serious problem, and we can question the extent to which this law is effective, practicable, and durable. Does the law really solve the problem of disinformation online? It is worth remembering that the law is often deliberately vague so that its interpretation can be flexible. This puts a lot of power in the hands of lawyers and their argumentative skills. Therefore, people who do not have access to legal professionals with extensive experience, knowledge and time are at a disadvantage. Because of this, questioning an anti-Fake News Law such as this one is not about protecting tech companies or whoever uses these tech tools to commit atrocities. It’s about finding solutions that don’t rely on a judicial system which proves time and time again that it cannot be relied upon. Issues the anti-Fake News Bill addresses vaguely — How to identify inauthentic accounts “without prejudice to the guarantee of privacy” and without collecting even more user data? What criteria are used to identify whether an account was “created or used for the purpose of spreading misinformation”? Defining purpose can be extremely arbitrary, and requires detailed investigation and motive to provoke that investigation. An activist who uses a pseudonym may be impossible to distinguish from a Bolsonarist troll without judging only the nature of the opinion that each one shares on the networks. Distinguishing opinion from misinformation requires critical analysis from everyone, not just legal professionals or employees of tech companies. — Which tools will be used to guarantee that there will be no “restriction to the free development of the individual personality, artistic, intellectual, satirical, religious, fictional, literary or any other form of cultural expression”? If there were a list of things that distinguished an 'inauthentic' account from a satirical account, or blatant dissemination of disinformation from 'intellectual development', the inauthentic and blatant would have a handbook on how to operate legally, while 'satirists' and 'intellectuals' would migrate to other information dissemination platforms. Maybe that's why a law rarely manages to be specific enough to be effective, and vague enough to be interpreted in different contexts. — What are the methods of “checks from independent fact-checkers with an emphasis on facts”? How is “critical fact-checking” carried out and how will legal entities be selected with the task of fact-checking? Excessive use of the word fact does not bring you closer to it, possibly even pushes you further away. In science, it is understood that a fact exists in a context, and it can and should be questioned at any time. A fact probably boils down to evidence that finds a certain level of consensus, a consensus that can be revoked at any time, because how we contextualize and interpret evidence is subject to human error. There is no group of legal entities that can exercise the function of defining facts in the internet universe. What we can do is have a sense for critical analysis, in order to identify manipulation tools, lack of sources, speculation, conflicts of interest, etc. — What constitutes a use of platforms incompatible with human use? Is any post scheduling tool considered an 'artificial disseminator'? Artificial disseminators can facilitate the work of communication and media professionals. One of the tricks of entrepreneurship is “find what works and automate it”. If you, for example, entered a virtual store, put something in the cart and left without buying it, an automatic message from the store may appear in your inbox reminding you of the product you left there. Automated emails and posts are the norm in the virtual industry, and it's existential to ask what is the number that draws the line between human and inhuman automation. The cost for “application providers” According to this law proposal, Brazilians will not be able to participate in WhatsApp or Telegram groups with more than 256 people or forward a message to more than 5 people. During elections, forwarding is limited to one person or group. That's because WhatsApp and Telegram have more than 2 million users in Brazil. In response, Telegram sent a bilingual message to its users last week accusing the Bill of censorship, among other things. The next day, they communicated that they received “an order from the [Brazilian] Supreme Court that obliges Telegram to remove [the] previous message about PL 2630/2020 and to send a new message to users” saying that it “characterized FLAGRANT AND ILLICIT DISINFORMATION”. When analyzing the first Telegram statement, I see nothing more than a company trying to protect itself financially, despite not mentioning this directly. The court also does not mention the financial scope of this debate, even though it is clear that the main motivation of these companies is profit – the political-electoral debate only becomes a priority when it affects this primordial economic motivation. There's no way this law won't cost these “application providers” a lot of money, in terms of programming and monitoring humanpower, and potential loss of users. The reality is that whoever leaves these social media platforms because they cannot widely disseminate questionable content will find another vehicle – any other vehicle, as we have seen happen throughout the history of mainstream media. The Telegram statement is not disinformation, it is an interpretation of the law from the perspective of an agent with an obvious conflict of interest. It is a very serious thing that we fail to distinguish between differing opinions, misinformation, and fake news. Not all misinformation is fake news, and not all opinions from people and institutions that spread certain narratives out of self-interest are equal to misinformation. If the government starts using the terms ‘disinformation’ or fake news to describe everything that opposes it, we're likely to find something akin to totalitarianism. What we need is not a government or set of legal professionals with the power to decide what is truth and fact. What we need is a population with access to health and education resources to develop critical thinking skills. Does this law really stimulate the population's critical analysis abilities, or does it just seek to claim part of the power over the population that tech companies have conquered? Or worse, is it nothing more than the politics of a government wanting to demonstrate great efforts with no intention of enacting structural changes? Whenever we come across online content, we have the opportunity to analyze this content, ask questions and reflect. This process requires stimulation, training and access to diverse knowledge, which go beyond posts in particular, such as fake news. Knowledge about how information sources are accessed, how communication strategies are developed, and even how websites work, can make all the difference for a person to develop a critical sense about what is seen online. A law cannot fill the chasm caused by the millennial inequality between the minority that controls the narrative, and the majority that consumes it. The democratization of narrative control will be achieved through a complete restructuring of the distribution of resources in society, and not through a dispute between agents that already wield monumental powers. ____ Mirna Wabi-Sabi is a Brazilian writer, site editor at Gods and Radicals and founder of Plataforma9. She is the author of the book Anarcho-transcreation and producer of several other titles under the P9 press.

  • Women in light of Ramadan

    By Mirna Wabi-Sabi Arbaeen procession, mostly observed by Shiites, which make up about 15% of the nearly 2 billion Muslims of the world. Photo by Mostafa Meraji in Mehran, Iran (2019). In light of Ramadan, there are some considerations any non-Muslim can greatly benefit from. I have had very little experience with Muslims growing up in Brazil, the U.S. and the Netherlands. Learning about Islam has shined a light on several behaviors of mine I never realized were Christian. In the west, including places which are heavily colonized and aspire to westernize, like Brazil, Christianity is subtly omnipresent. We often take for granted how religious all our institutions and norms are, from the way we dress to the calendars and alphabets we use (pg. 418-421). Acknowledging the religious roots of these norms is helpful for anyone who wants to improve the social conditions in their own communities in westernizing, non-Muslim countries, because these Christian norms often are as oppressive as Islamic norms are perceived to be. “As oppressive as” is tricky. Oppression takes many forms, and there is little use in ranking them. But it is possible that something we see every day looks less oppressive than something we almost never see in real life. There is oppression that becomes normalized, and we mistake that for it being “less oppressive”. The hijab, for instance. In Brazil it is a rarity. Most Brazilians don’t know the difference between a hijab and a burka, and they see all of it as a symbol of female oppression. This is true for people across the right-left political spectrum. It’s hard to imagine these views being held by people who coexist in real life with happy, well-adjusted, hijab-wearing women in Brazil. Yes, it is possible, these women exist. And upon minimal further inspection, one would realize that feelings of unhappiness or lack of adjustment stem mostly from economic insecurity, which often stems from racist reactions to their hijabs — not from the religion or the hijab itself. Mariam Chami, a Muslim Brazilian woman, which gained well over half a million followers on Instagram by fighting Islamophobia with humor. Either way, aren’t all women sometimes unhappy and ill-adjusted? At one point or another, we deal with difficult relationships with others, with our spirituality, with work or with our sense of independence. We have much more in common with eastern women than we realize, and much to learn from each other. The discussion around women’s head coverings and modesty can resonate with any woman, anywhere. As a woman in a westernized context, it’s impossible to avoid considering the level of modesty of our clothing every single time we dress. We do it so much, we do it automatically, without realizing. There is careful consideration about where we will be, how we will get there, and how much skin is “appropriate” for each step of the way. And by appropriate, I mean, how much to cover and in which context, literally due to fear for our safety (or as statements of defiance). In the West, women are, at one point or another, on a spectrum between getting too much attention of the sexual nature, and not feeling desirable enough. So much of a woman’s value in the west is based on how sexually desirable she is, because our worth happens to often be proportionate to that of the men we are associated with. This is an oppressive paradigm we aren’t conscious of, or at least not as conscious as we are of hijabs and other head coverings when we see them. It may very well be us who are the toxic influence, as the west’s oppressive obsessions with objectifying women’s bodies, hyper sexualization of girls and luxurious plastic surgery are seeping into the Muslim world. When I think of the values and practices of worship of Muslim people in general, I think of the unscrupulous behavior of so-called Christian men I encounter every day, and how hypocritical it is for western women to judge one more harshly than the other. Once I noticed an Uber driver staring at my cleavage then starting to ask me questions to see how drunk I was. People’s response to this story, including my own, was to never get in an Uber alone, drunk, with too much skin showing. We do this because it’s easier to control our own behavior than the behavior of strange men (when taking no control isn’t an option). It’s not just the clothes, it’s also the obsession with alcohol. So many social interactions somehow revolve around having alcoholic drinks. And involve being exposed to music that can be less than pleasant, if not outright offensive. Brazilian Carnaval is the ultimate indulgence in indecency, alcohol and provocative music. In religious theory, Carnaval is a pre-lent celebration, which is meant to be followed by an observance of how Jesus fasted in the desert and resisted all sorts of temptation. We celebrate that by dialing all temptations up to eleven. The word Carnaval even comes from the Latin Carnis levare, meaning to “turn away from the flesh”. Clearly, we take that and do the exact opposite. The last Globeleza, name given to the “mascot” of broadcasted Carnaval. The tradition did not survive the pandemic due to accusations of sexism and racism upon its attempted return this year. There is something special to refraining from music and alcohol, and beginning to dress modestly. It imposes a shift in paradigm and may force us to look at things that are perhaps more authentic in ourselves. How are we really feeling? Do we want to be in this place, with these people? What do we want in life, and what are our values? There is power in music, drugs and clothing — Spiritual power. There is a reason for prayer and chants. There is a reason for religious dietary restrictions and sacred hallucinogenic substances. There is significance in religious garments. These may not hold meaning for everyone equally, but they have endured as practices for millennia in pretty much all human-occupied corners of the planet. If we take a moment through fasting and prayer, or abstaining from music, drugs and alcohol, this moment may connect us to something a bit truer about ourselves — what do we worship? We all worship something, whether we are conscious of its divine nature or not. To broadly state Islam is oppressive implies there is no room for Muslims in a world envisioned as equitable. This rhetoric implicitly aims to legitimize the extermination of a major, non-western segment of the world population, in a literal or epistemological sense. And ethnic or religious extermination is sort of an integral part of fascism. Muslims are as diverse as Christians and have as much the right to practice their faith as we have the right to crack down on vile abuses of power which permeate all segments of society, everywhere in the world. Perhaps we ought to be asking ourselves how we can make room for Muslims in an equitable society. How to make room for all epistemological traditions to flourish into new eras. _____

  • Eco-barriers and the rescue of balance between species on the planet

    Leia esse artigo em português aqui. Ocean pollution threatens the survival of all marine animals, and ours too. It’s difficult to understand the magnitude of the impact that litter has on our lives when we don’t see where it’s going, and how the path that leads to the extinction of so many aquatic species affects human life. Indigenous civilizations, that once survived in symbiosis with the fauna and flora of their regions, now don’t see the same diversity of life and mutualism between existences. The world is not the same. The question is how to move forward in this paradigm. A tool to understand which garbage travels which way towards the ocean makes it possible to identify the source and path of the problem of garbage pollution – the eco-barrier. This understanding helps us to act on the source and symptom of the problem caused by floating waste discarded by the urban population. Eco-barriers are barriers at the mouth of rivers, or outflow points in megacities. A 2011 study by Marcos Freitas points out that the accelerated growth of urban centers, increased consumption, inadequate municipal water management systems and garbage collection contribute to an exorbitant amount of garbage being discarded in rivers. In the context of Rio de Janeiro, only 3 eco-barriers in 2008 collected more than 100 tons of plastic, metal, wood and cardboard (M. Freitas 2011). Data like these are expected, but the interesting thing about this research was that it identified the source of the problem as not being so much “the increase in the production of household solid waste” but the increase in the municipal Gross Domestic Product. That is, increased consumption by individuals does not cause pollution in rivers as much as increased imports and exports, government spending and business investments. Government institutions and businesses are more environmentally irresponsible than individual consumers, and this has only become more evident since 2011. Today, there is an eco-barrier at the mouth of the João Mendes river, in the oceanic region of Niterói, maintained by a group of volunteers. It was funded by ecoponte, a company that manages the Rio-Niterói bridge, and is interested in offsetting its carbon footprint. And the barrier is managed by members of the AmaDarcy organization, whose objective is to protect the natural and urban environment through the preservation of ecologically important areas in the Serra da Tiririca region. According to a report developed by the group in February 2023, “The João Mendes (JM) is a polluted river, despite its crystalline source within the Serra da Tiririca State Park (PESET). Although a significant part of the sewage from the JM hydrographic basin is collected and sent to the Itaipu Sewage Treatment Station (ETE Itaipu), which operates with a nominal flow of 164 liters per second, there is a significant amount of sewage that is not yet directed to the ETE Itaipu and flows directly or indirectly into the João Mendes river and, consequently, into the Itaipu lagoon (Marine Extractive Reserve of Itaipu-RESEX Itaipu), generating its pollution.” “The amount of solid waste (garbage) that has been thrown into the João Mendes river weekly (about 250 kg) also contributes significantly to its pollution, evidencing precarious sanitary conditions. Since September 2022, the NGO AmaDarcy has been collecting garbage weekly at the eco-barrier implanted in the João Mendes river, located near the mouth of this river in the Itaipu lagoon. The total amount of garbage collected and bagged by AmaDarcy between September 2022 and January 2023 was more than 6 tons (more than one and a half tons per month), thus avoiding its disposal in the Itaipu lagoon and in the sea (RESEX Itaipu). The garbage is then removed and taken by the Cleaning Company of Niterói (CLIN) to an appropriate final destination.” The relationship between sewage and garbage pollution is evident when we consider uncontrolled urban expansion, without infrastructure and institutions effective enough to deal with this growth. As volunteers, the group's focus on floating litter makes sense when considering the distance this litter travels, and the difficulty of controlling that flow without these barriers – which don't impede the flow of the river, but fix surface debris in place until a team can collect it. This collection takes place weekly, and when possible, waste is sorted by material and weighed, despite sewage pollution in the area posing a threat to volunteers and instigating the need for cautious hygiene. The recorded data includes not only the type and weight of the garbage, but also the brands of discarded products, the height of the river, and the amount of rain on the day before and during the week of collection. Pluviometric Volume or Index is measured by millimeter of rain per square meter in a certain place and time. Source: (A627, from INMET) The materials found are plastic, glass, metal, fabric (plástico, vidro, metal, tecido), among others. Microtrash (Microlixo) is registered as a separate category, and means a mixture of small waste such as cigarette butts, microtubes of narcotics, fragmented Styrofoam, other plastics and plant parts that become entangled with this waste. Tetra pak is also registered separately, because they are those packages with a mixed composition of metal, paper and plastic, often used for products such as milk, juice and tomato sauce. There are other materials identified (outros), but not individually categorized, such as occasional toys, electronic waste, light bulbs, tires, mattresses, etc. While unidentified waste (não identificados) is the closed bags found at the barrier that are not opened because they may contain materials that pose a risk to the health of volunteers – such as syringes, razors, diapers, condoms, used toilet paper, etc. This data helps us identify the source of water pollution, and makes us aware of our own consumption and waste disposal. According to the 2011 research by Marcos Freitas, there is a correlation between the increase in family income and the increase in public waste, while domestic waste remains in the same range. This could mean that the increase in Gross Domestic Product (and perhaps climatic contexts) leads to "greater consumption in public areas". What does this mean for us and our consumption practices in public areas? What do we know about the waste disposal practices of the businesses we visit and the waste collection on behalf of our municipalities? The problem of waste disposal and ocean pollution has many facets. There is an issue of institutional administration, which reflects on the political decisions of a municipality—to overinvest in one thing while neglecting another. Urban expansion becomes harmful because of the failure of these political administrations, and financial interests which are far greater than each family's home. This is why the municipal Gross Domestic Product generates more environmental problems than the accumulation of individual consumption. On the other hand, community awareness and access to information about the environmental situation in our neighborhoods can not only improve personal consumption practices and waste disposal, but can also encourage the population to demand more responsibility from public administrations and more effective use of public funds. In the meantime, preventing literal tons of garbage from ending up in the ocean helps kick-start a rescue of biodiversity and the balance between species on this planet. _____ By Mirna Wabi-Sabi

  • ChatGPT is only a threat to those who educate or write poorly

    By Mirna Wabi-Sabi ChatGPT is a subject that provokes much debate about the future of education in the world of writing. Artificial Intelligence which writes these texts, correct and well researched, is a threat only to educators and writers who expect good writing to be mechanical and inauthentic. I rarely describe texts as “poorly” written, because often writing problems have more to do with failing to achieve a purpose than with the quality of word grouping. If your purpose as a writer is to reach a certain audience with a certain message, but your writing isn't meeting that goal, that's not bad writing, it's ineffective writing. On the other hand, a text full of grammatical “errors” can be extremely effective, therefore very well written. Every person who writes has created texts that failed in their purpose. Nobody is born knowing how to write effectively, and the great challenge of writing work is to be willing to fine tune the message you want to convey to an audience and sharpen the tools you use to deliver that message. ChatGPT is a robot. When a robot is authentic, using its writing as your own would be plagiarism. But this is not the reality we live in. A text generated by Artificial Intelligence is nothing more than a text vending machine. And the nutritional value of what comes out of it is just that — something ultra-processed, industrialized, that comes out the same from all machines, it's effective in times of scarcity, but if you live on only that, you'll probably die early. What are we doing, as writers and educators, to encourage authenticity? If authenticity does not exist in the classroom, the class is mediocre and encourages students to be mediocre. If a test is easily hacked by a robot, it is not effective, and anyone who passes it will not do an effective job. Not to mention that there are already tools like GPTZero that aim to reveal whether a text was mostly written by Artificial Intelligence, just as there have been, for a long time, several tools that aim to detect plagiarism. ChatGPT is not a threat, the threat is a long-standing educational system that fails year after year to train young people to produce truthful and impactful intellectual content. If we are concerned about ChatGPT, in reality we should be panicking about how the education system encourages imitation and insincerity.

  • How to edit the writing of people on the autism spectrum

    By Mirna Wabi-Sabi For those of us who work editing people’s writing, one of the first lessons is that each writer handles edits differently, and it’s helpful to be flexible in your approach to feedback. In my career, it has happened that someone’s writing and response to edits made me suspect they might be on the autism spectrum, but there is never a need to confirm a layman’s diagnosis, only to adapt your approach as you would with any other individual writer. Recently, however, quite a few writers have come to me with texts about being on the spectrum, and this led me to identify some patterns and to organize some of my editing tools accordingly. This information can be helpful to those who have felt the urge to abandon a project because they may have observed these signs but interpreted them as confusion, hostility or inexperience. Sign 1–Prolix When a short passage is unclear, and an editor asks for an explanation, the text comes back with a few extra pages, which don’t necessarily address the issue in the first place. Possible cause: Extreme wordiness as a response to being asked for clarity can be a sign that the writer is insecure about their ability to make themselves understood, often even to themselves. Tool: In this case, there is no need to abandon the piece because it got too long and even more confusing than the first draft. Make sure you talk to the writer and agree on what the main point of the article is. With this in mind, remove the passages, sentences or paragraphs that go off on tangents (away from the main point). As you peel off the layers, you will see there is a narrative beneath. Sign 2–Retreat Sometimes, as a response to an editor asking for an explanation, a writer will retreat, saying “nevermind, I don’t want to write or publish anymore.” Possible cause: Frustration over the challenges of trying to connect with an audience can lead any writer down a path of self-doubt mixed with annoyance. For someone on the spectrum, this feeling can be dialed up, making them want to disappear. Tool: Reassure the writer that this frustration is a natural response to the writing process, and that your job as an editor is to help build a bridge between their work and their audience. Then, provide examples of explanations (be as wild as you want in your suggestions). This way, you spark a brainstorming session, inspiring the writer to come up with their own explanation. Sign 3–Diary Some texts sound like entries of a diary. This is when a writer starts too many sentences with the word “I”, the narrative of events is too linear, and they struggle to make the leap from their experience to a slightly more universal one. Possible cause: The narrative style of, “I did this, then I did that. Therefore, this is what I did” can be a sign that the writer is having a hard time putting themselves in someone else’s shoes. In this case, in the shoes of the reader who might be asking themselves, “so what, why do I care?” Tool: Encourage the writer to avoid starting sentences/paragraphs with the word “I” or “It”. Give examples of how to do that, by making the object the subject of a sentence. Ask the question, “for a reader who does not have this specific experience, how would this apply to them?” Sign 4–Prose Perhaps the writing is structured in an unusual way — Extremely long paragraphs, inability to separate themes and to organize these paragraphs, or odd line breaks and punctuation. Possible cause: Unclear overview of the whole text and lack of structure are signs that the writing is happening as a stream of consciousness which doesn’t prioritize the reader’s understanding or access to the content. This type of writing is associated with the aforementioned Prolix and Diary Signs, and shows that the writer is attempting to clarify the content to themselves. Tool: The same tools used for the Prolix and Diary Signs can be used here, with the addition of openness to innovative approaches to structure. If the main point of the article is clear, being flexible to accommodate the writer’s instinctive use of structure can be helpful. Such as, prose poetry, rhythmic line breaks and so on (I, personally, would encourage academia and its professionals to be more open-minded when it comes to this). Of course, not everyone who is prone to some of these behaviors as writers are on the spectrum. But understanding that these behaviors can be approached in an efficient way is helpful to everyone. Communication skills are something we all have to learn, and often struggle with.

  • Can mini ponds influence microclimates in the city?

    By Mirna Wabi-Sabi [1] During the isolation of the pandemic, I had more time to observe my garden, its movements, growths and beings. This led me to start an experiment with developing mini ponds without pumps or filters to accommodate frogs, dragonflies, etc. In the process, I not only learned a lot about the lives and behaviors of different beings, but also about the existence of different living beings, including plants, and their functions for a balanced ecosystem. The city, today, is not a balanced ecosystem. Just as our knowledge about the animals and plants around us, or which are no longer around us because of urban imbalance, is insufficient. Can mini ponds not only remedy our lack of knowledge by exposing us to certain aspects of nature in an accessible and daily way, but can they also influence the urban habitat to mitigate the greenhouse effect and the damage caused by global warming? Cities and Weizi Settlements A recent study, from July 2022, called 'Impacts of Water Bodies on Microclimates and External Thermal Comfort' describes how small artificial ponds relate to sustainable environmental revitalization in a human settlement. Using as reference a Chinese village of Weizi tradition (or Wei zi) called Xufan, an analysis is made on the influence that urban characteristics, such as asphalt and tall buildings, have on microclimates, in contrast with the characteristics of human habitats that use aquatic resources. A Weizi village "is a typical model of traditional Chinese human settlement that combines human habitat with farmland and water conservancy." It adapts, transforms, and utilizes an aquatic environment through the intersection of climatic conditions, local natural resources, rural culture and Fengshui — where ancestral and environmental science merge. Xufan, in the Guanweizi village, in the municipality of Guangshan in Henan (China), was listed as one of these traditional settlements in 2017. There, it was possible to analyze how water bodies affect the temperature and humidity of the environment, and influence human coexistence and production. The study reveals that bodies of water absorb heat during the day and release heat at night, maintaining the stability of their microclimates. They also affect humidity, which through winds and breezes connects with microclimates of other bodies of water in certain radiuses of distance. This densifies the region's vegetation, regulates the climate and sustains local agriculture. These effects are interrupted when approaching the urban center. In cities, buildings shield wind and breezes, interrupting the flow of humidity between different bodies of water and its cooling effect on the local temperature. It may be instinctive to understand asphalt and car engines as things that heat up an environment, and buildings that in turn shield the microclimate created in their streets. The main function of asphalt is waterproofing, and the engine operates on the basis of small explosions burning fuel. The rising of temperature and decreasing of humidity are microclimates in themselves — urban ones. Images: “Research on the Forms and Changes of Jianghuai Shuiwei Settlements — Take the Western Jianghuai Area as an Example". What are Microclimates? Water not only satisfies needs of agroecosystems, but also regulates thermal comfort, which is a specific effect of microclimates. The PET (Physiological Equivalent Temperature) “is an index based on the thermal balance of the body”, and represents the thermal comfort or discomfort in urban or non-urban microclimates. As such, microclimates are nothing more than the atmospheric conditions of a certain environment, resulting from certain elements of that environment. Vegetation, bodies of water, asphalt and buildings are examples of geomorphological elements that influence microclimates. The urban microclimate is sometimes referred to as a “heat island” as a result of what I would call exogenic relief agents. City infrastructures are, in a way, exogenic geomorphological elements that significantly alter the Earth's surface, among other things. With the undeniable damage that the industrial revolution caused to the planet and to the levels of pollution in urban centers from the mid-19th century onwards, many damage mitigation strategies were developed, with perhaps mediocre results. Combating urban pollution The coal industry, which has been responsible for much of the industrial pollution since the mid-19th century and also for decreasing human life expectancy, is in decline in the US, as are deaths associated with coal mining. On the other hand, in China, coal production is on the rise. Another strategy to combat pollution in cities has been to make cars more efficient. Electronic injection, for example, is effective in reducing pollution by mixing air and fuel more economically than manual regulation. The catalytic converter neutralizes the harmful gases that enter the atmosphere as they leave through the exhaust system, with effect on up to 98% of them. The Driver Training Manual (Brazilian Edition 2022) states that Brazil “started to produce one of the best fuels in the world from an environmental point of view”. By adding ethanol to gasoline, emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) and other harmful gases are reduced. It is said that, compared to 1986, the average CO emissions per vehicle today is half a percent of what they used to be (from 54g/km to 0.3g/km). That all sounds good, but on closer inspection, one-off issues seem to be partially resolved while others come up simultaneously. CO is just one of the harmful gases emitted by cars, many of which have not declined on such a scale. The numbers differ depending on the source because they vary with the car's year of manufacture, region and regulations. Regulations are not properly enforced. And even if the laws were imposed and followed, the adaptation of the legislation aims to protect the environment when it is also in the interest of the “development of the automobile industry” (Art. 2: I—Vetoed). So, to say that pollution in cities has improved compared to 100 years ago through technology is not saying much. A holistic view of how to deal with the environmental harmfulness of urbanization would overcome the limitations of national laws and the car industry, as the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect do not operate according to financial and legal logics. The financial and legal logics, in fact, operate according to the population's set of beliefs, even if they are often manufactured by the financial and legal sectors themselves. Do city dwellers want to live in places like São Paulo, where traffic and money never stop pulsing? Images: “Vernacular Ecological Architecture — Weizi Folk Houses in the Southeast Henan". Is the heat island inescapable? The city's microclimates alienate animals and plants. But with a reconfiguration of belief systems about what city life can or should be, creating urban microclimates that invite animals and plants to thrive is feasible. Green terraces reduce the effects of urban heat islands, and vegetation is concentrated around water bodies naturally. Therefore, bodies of water can and should be introduced in urban gardens, community gardens and terraces where there is already vested interest in landscaping. To take advantage of the cooling effect of plants and ponds in urban contexts, a self-sufficient structure that minimizes the use of resources such as public water and electricity is not only affordable and accessible, but also ancient. As Weizi villages are described, “the water-adaptive space presents ancestors’ wisdom to adapt to and moderately transform the water environment and utilize water resources in a low-technology, low-cost, low-maintenance, and sustainable way.” Wei, in addition to having been an illustrious territory in ancient China, also means housing that uses water trenches to satisfy a variety of community needs such as irrigation, drainage, washing, thermal comfort and protection. Buildings facilitate the passage of breezes, trenches serve as defense walls, water and animals nourish the agriculture and, as such, vernacular architecture and urbanism express valuable ancestral and scientific knowledge. In the modern urban context, adapting to water can mean collecting rainwater, which in turn encourages awareness of rainfall frequency and air quality (which influences rainwater quality), as well as minimizes the use of city water supply. The increase in humidity of microclimates, with the presence of a breeze between each body of water, can help regulate the frequency of rainfall (since we know that humidity and rain are mutually favorable). To control mosquito proliferation, small fish can be introduced into the water body. A well-planted pond, with an adequate amount and type of fish, does not need a pump or filter. A partial water change is sufficient, and the nutrient-rich pond water can be used for watering plants. Animals such as lizards, beetles, dragonflies, ants, and birds contribute to the maintenance of these natural elements and minimize the need for human maintenance. By inviting these beings, we observe and understand them better. Part of understanding them better means understanding that the prosperity of these beings means our prosperity, the human future. Knowledge about nature teaches us to appreciate, respect and, in turn, protect. And it teaches us about urban microclimatic contexts, whose affronts to human existence we often fail to identify, denounce, and modify. The researchers of the article 'Impacts of Water Bodies' state that the impact of different formats of water bodies will be the focus of their next research. This indicates a lack of data regarding the diversity of possibilities to mitigate the negative impacts of “man-made underlying surfaces” using bodies of water. Therefore, there is still much to be explored. The execution of this proposal presents a sharp learning curve and adaptation of the population's sets of beliefs, apart from a reconfiguration of what private or individual spaces mean in the context of the relationship between urban microclimates and the future of the planet. Gradually, awareness of how each individual deals with their private space, and acts in relation to nature in cohesion, has the power to reconfigure the status quo of urbanization. Who knows, the micro in a cascading effect becomes macro, and the heat island is little by little re-signified by oases. [1] Founding member and director of Plataforma9, author of Anarco-transcriação.

  • Remembering Queer Victims Of The Holocaust

    By Jördis Spengler, originally published at Dialogueperspectives. The 27th of January 1945 marks the liberation of the concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Auschwitz has long since become the synonym for the German horrors of a state-guided, industrialised genocide of Jews, Sinti and Roma, prisoners of war, and those deemed undesirable within the Nazi state and society, such as (but not limited to) disabled people homosexuals, so called ‘antisocial individuals’, and ‘criminals’. Since a 2005 UN resolution, 27 January is observed as International Holocaust Remembrance Day – in Germany, it has been a national day of commemoration since 1996. The homosexual victims have been listed as a victim group for decades. However, this year will be the first time that the German (and Austrian) governments will specifically commemorate the queer victims of the NS regime. Why is it that sexual and gender identity became central topics of commemoration only with such delay? Before we can answer this question, there are some points to highlight. Firstly, sexuality and the Holocaust are two topics seldom combined, and when they are, it seemingly causes instant discomfort, as pointed out by Anna Hákovjá (2018). Secondly, another difficulty is speaking about the experiences of those in the past using contemporary terms. The label queer, which the following text will use at some points, is an anachronism. It is used to summon a variety of practices and gender identities, without serving the social construct of the gender binary that divides heterosexuality and homosexuality. The term homosexuality will be used when it is appropriate to the historical context. Thirdly, a parallel comparison of the persecution of homosexuals and the oppression of lesbians or queer people within the NS regime with the Shoah is, to quote scholars like van Dijk, non-logical. There was no ‘gay holocaust’, rather, the prosecution of non-conforming gender and sexuality aimed at ‘re-education’ and punishment (van Dijk, Ostrowska, Talewicz-Kwiatkowska 2002:16) rather than at total extinction. However – as Adorno famously put it in Education after Auschwitz – ‘to quote or haggle over the numbers is already inhumane’ (Adorno 1971:89). To commemorate queer Holocaust victims is to recognise how gender, sexuality, and fascism have always been intertwined, reinforced, and reproduced by each other and cannot be thought of as separate throughout a history that began much earlier than the Nazi regime and ended much later. Paragraph 175 was established in the German criminal code in 1871, persisted through the fall of the German Empire, and remained enshrined in law during the short life of the Weimar Republic. There, it was disputed and its abolition even considered in 1929. However, under the revisions of 1935, paragraph 175 was tightened and expanded. Beforehand, intercourse-like actions between men were punishable and needed to be proven; following the revision, the sheer suspicion of being homosexual was enough for persecution. Approximately 50,000 men were found guilty and sentenced to prison or labour camps; ten thousand were sent to concentration camps between 1936 and 1945 (Grau 2013:171). One of them was Karl Gorath, who was denounced and arrested in 1939 and sent to the concentration camp Neuengamme after finishing his prison sentence. When he refused to reduce bread rations for Russian prisoners, he was subsequently deported to Auschwitz Stammlager and later to Mauthausen. After the liberation of Mauthausen, Karl Gorath was in 1947 again charged for violating – the still in force – paragraph 175. Not only was he prosecuted under the same paragraph 175, but he also found himself before the same judge. This shows a continuity of Nazism and repressive thought in Germany despite the glorified discourse around de-Nazification (or Aufarbeitung) and reckoning with the past. Gorath was sentenced to five years in prison in the newly founded BRD, by the same institutions and actors, and under the same law. He spent another five years in prison and sought no parole, saying, ‘I did not want mercy – not from this state and not from its justice’. (as above, Huetter) Due to his criminal record, Gorath was deemed unsuitable for employment. His pension entitlement was reduced based on calculations including his time spent unemployed and his time spent in the concentration camps, impoverishing him. Lawsuits challenging the pension decision and asking to be recognised as a victim of the Nazi regime, and therefore eligible for compensation, were denied until his death in 2003 [1]. §175 was abolished in 1994. The battle for legal compensation for homosexual victims of the Nazi regime went on until 2017 [2]. Women and trans-people were not even recognised as distinct groups worth remembering, as they did not have their own category in the criminal code of the NS regime. However, while they were not subjected to prosecution for their sexual practice and identity by law, queerness or suspected queerness served as a justification and intensifier of persecution, as was the case with Elli Smula. She was imprisoned after being denounced for participation in drunken and homosexual acts and was later sent to Ravensbrück. She was categorised as a political prisoner, with the notation ‘lesbian’. She died either of an injection from SS Doctor Herta Oberheuer in 1942, or as a result of the conditions of the concentration camp in 1943 [3]. The axes of power and persecution at play in the case of Elli Smula were varied but, nonetheless, based on the Nazi ideology of racial purity and genetic superiority. To recognise the heterogeneity of persecution does not serve to establish a hierarchy of victimhood, but is an important means of analysing and understanding German fascism and the continuity of Europe-wide queer oppression. The queer lens enables us to see victims of persecution beyond the classifications of the NS regime and make their stories of resilience and resistance heard. To engage in queer remembrance breaks the cycle of silence and concealing of queer identities such as Fredy Hirsch, an athlete and Zionist who worked with Maccabi Hatzair. Fredy Hirsch, who was Jewish and German, emigrated to Prague after the Nuremberg Laws came into force in 1935 to flee the increasing persecution of Jews and gay men. There, he later organised activities for the children of occupied Prague. When deported to Theresienstadt, he became a youth supervisor, even convincing the SS to hold Maccabi games inside Theresienstadt in 1943. Openly gay and Jewish, living with his partner in the Ghetto, Hirsch was well-known and admired for his constant efforts to make life in Theresienstadt survivable and bearable for the children. When he was deported to Auschwitz, he became the supervisor of the so called ‘family camp’ children’s block, helping children to survive and to receive a minimum of education and hygiene despite the death camp conditions. When it was decided that everybody from the camp was to be murdered by gas, Hirsch went with the children to the ‘quarantine’ camp, although he was warned against it. However, he was unwilling to be spared if he could not save the children. He was later found comatose; it is disputed if it was suicide or a murder to prevent an uprising. He was transported with the children into the gas chambers [4]. What we can learn from even these three individual stories is that dignified remembrance must include a look at the present, must include a fight against existing discrimination and marginalization so that crimes like the Holocaust will truly ‘never happen again’. The minimal representation of queer and feminist perspectives and remembrance in general is symptomatic of a neglect of those requisites for dignity. Pluralistic commemoration is a difficult task that not only the German state, but German society as a whole, have to manage. In acknowledging and diversifying the frame of remembrance, we allow memory, thus the past, to manifest in the present. To show the significance of historic acts for contemporary society, acknowledgment is a must. To understand the significance of the acknowledgment of queer victims of the Nazi regime it is vital to examine the history of prosecution of homosexuality in the NS regime and beyond, and to engage in the task of a queer holocaust history. The late remembrance of queer victims of the Holocaust mirrors the complexity of dealing with a persecution that didn’t end in 1945 and the intersection of sexuality and society in research and memorial culture. Whether they were incarcerated through Paragraph 175, and then from 1938 on marked with the pink triangle in the concentration and death-camps; whether they were denounced, marked, and stigmatized as criminal or antisocial; or whether they were the countless others who suffered discrimination and violence within the concentration camps – it is vital to remember them. It is also an example that demonstrates the complex relation of the German state with its own history of fascism as well as of the repression of non-heteronormative people up to the present day. It serves as a cautionary and informative tale about the interpretative sovereignty of a perpetrator state towards its victims as well as the possibilities for redemption and the need for intersectional perspectives. The policies of remembrance are political. Thus, the question of recognition of queer victims of the Holocaust must be one of redefining and abandoning the inhumane categories of the NS regime, rather than reproducing them within remembrance. So, this 27 January 2023, when queer victims of Nazi Germany will be commemorated, we will have space to remember and honour them without imposing the inhumane categories that led to their persecution. Queer remembrance can thereby serve as a powerful intervention in politics, culture, and social representation that uncovers the stories of those who have always been part of history, but who were previously hidden in silence. Por Jördis Spengler Online Sources Paragraph 175, Antidiskriminierungsstelle. Paragraph 175 STGB. Hájková, Anna (2018). Literature Adorno, Theordor W. : Erziehung zur Mündigkeit, Frankfurt/M. 1971 Gat, Rubi: Dear Fredy, Israel 2017 Grau, Günter (Ed.): Homosexualität in der NS-Zeit, Frankfurt 2013 Kogon,Eugen: Der SS-Staat, Stockholm 1947 Ostrowska, Joanna; Talewicz-Kwiatkowska, Joanna; van Dijk, Lutz (Eds.): Erinnern in Auschwitz. Auch an sexuelle Minderheiten, Berlin 2020 Sofsky,Wolfgang: Die Ordnung des Terrors. Das Konzentrationslager, Frankfurt/M. 1993 Notes [1] For the whole story of Karl Gorath, see [2] See also: [3] For more information on Elli Smula, see Claudia Schoppmann: Elli Smula. In: [4] See Dear Fredy, documentary, 2017 by Rubi Gat.

  • Lula and the Yanomami: Uproar Over Photos in Brazil

    Two situations caused major uproar in Brazil this month, both involving photos. First is a double exposure image of Lula with shattered glass pointing at his heart. The other of a Yanomami woman who died due to severe malnutrition. Debates which used to be directed at the Lula/Bolsonaro dichotomy have turned inward, within leftists, over how to handle post-victory political crises. Many people were horrified at the photo of Lula on the cover of a major São Paulo newspaper, claiming it incited violence against him. The shattered glass was from the capital building attack on January 8th, and the artistic composition by a renown leftist photographer was harshly criticized because it’s too dubious in a landscape where most feel there is no space for nuance. To me, the photo depicts a bulletproof scene, where there was a failed attempt to destroy his presidency, and he leaves smiling victorious among the ruins. But to others, the possibility it might promote violence against the president, as if someone ought to shoot him in the heart, was enough to promote violence against the photographer herself. She was the target of an online mob until a more problematic scene arose. Quite frankly, since the first news of what happened to those in the Yanomami territory, I couldn’t read anything about it because I couldn’t stand looking at the photos that came with the texts. Social media became infested with images of not just a crime, but of victims of what is the brink of genocide. The sharing of these images were justified as needed evidence, but that never convinced me. In court cases involving white children, the visual evidence is not publicized. More often than not, testimonies are enough. From the beginning, to utilize the images felt dehumanizing to me. Now that one of the women from this community died from malnourishment, Yanomami leaders are finally pleading for people to stop sharing her image in a show of respect for Yanomami tradition. Still, people argue against it, saying this image has to be shared on the internet as evidence, as if the internet was the grand forum where justice is achieved by exposing violated marginalized peoples. The images of malnourished Yanomami children were never tolerable to me, and it’s intolerable that to some, at this point, they are still needed as evidence for what the Brazilian government puts these peoples through. This resonates so much with what the brilliant professor and journalist Allissa V. Richardson says about black people and the need for mediatic evidence for the racist violence perpetrated against Black Americans. She says: “I would like to get to the point where we don’t need the videos to believe black people […] Why are black people asked to produce this footage to kind of pre-litigate the fact that they didn’t deserve their own demise?” When it comes to the subject of ‘Bearing witness’ to racist brutality, black and native people find common ground in the use of media. Considering the hundreds of years of colonization, what do people think Indigenous rights activists have been fighting against? Did the main stream think it wasn’t that bad, so they needed photographic evidence of how bad it actually has been? Do they think this is as bad as it gets? Or, they just need another reason to continue to blame Bolsonaro for everything bad that has ever happened in Brazil? Indigenous peoples have endured rampant assault, starvation and murder for hundreds of years, the fraction which survived are still enduring this paradigm, and the last 4 years are not single-handedly responsible for the injustices these peoples have been faced with, only for allowing business to go on as usual. The Yanomami have been dealing with the issue of absurd numbers of garimpeiros invading their land since at least the 70s. There has been rampant disease, malnutrition and massacres since then, even a declared genocide in 1993... If it took these images in 2023 for someone to realize the inhumane and undignified living conditions natives have been submitted to, they haven’t been paying attention. And it surely is not the responsibility of the Yanomami to make an exception to their way of living (in dealing with death) to serve non-native people’s need for a wake-up call. Were it so, wouldn’t that just be an extension of the dehumanization forced upon them? I also ask myself what the purpose is to juxtapose images of the Yanomami with historic images of Holocaust survivors. If this is an attempt to stress how violent it is what is happening to natives, it’s utterly inadequate and anachronistic, because what is happening in Brazil has been happening for much longer and to many more people than what happened in Nazi Germany. And the same goes for making the parallel with malnourished children in sub-Saharan Africa, as if Brazil should be above that, when in reality, it's a tragedy that this is happening anywhere for any reason. Could it be that when we think of the hundreds of years of genocide perpetrated against Indigenous and African people in Brazil, that doesn’t carry the same weight as what happened in Europe, with Europeans? So we take something way older and bigger, like colonial genocide, and try to fit it into a Eurocentric narrative. This way, perhaps, people will see it as more unacceptable, and therefore, ensure it never happens again. Yes, we want the genocide of Indigenous people to stop and for it to happen ‘never again’. Indigenous people have wanted that at least since a century before the Second World War. If this isn’t resilience, I don’t know what is. Maybe that’s why I can’t stand these images being used as evidence. Because they are used as evidence of something of a frail, defeated group of people, when in reality they couldn’t be farther from that. The Yanomami have endured the unimaginable for hundreds of years — this is not a story of weakness, it’s a story of power, and we should be so honored to stand next to them and fight for their dignity. Against this background, Lula doesn’t look so vulnerable double-exposed to shattered glass, smiling, fixing his tie, does he? He is shielded by much more than bullet-proof glass, cars, vests and suits. He’s shielded by passing-whiteness, by the global markets and its super-powers. When it comes to his flesh, blood and consciousness, it will be the Yanomami who will save him, not the other way around, and they deserve the world in exchange for that. _______ Mirna Wabi-Sabi is a Brazilian writer, site editor at Gods and Radicals and founder of Plataforma9. She is the author of the book Anarcho-transcreation and producer of several other titles under the P9 press.

  • Is the Brazilian Left Numb?

    Written by Renato Libardi Bittencourt Photographed by Fabio Teixeira There was and still is a certain air of “promise” and “hope” here in Brazil that, after Lula's electoral victory, we would re-establish the “normality” of life in the fragile Liberal Democracy. What has been said around (see MST note on roadblocks) is that it would be enough to wait passively and orderly for the newly elected president to take office and let the extreme right agonize in what would be its last breath. However, since the day the results of the polls were defined, the extreme right has taken to the streets in a clear attempt at a Coup and a demonstration of strength, thus showing that, far from being on its last breath, they are united, articulated, strong and cohesive. Since the 30th of October we have had: road closures throughout much of the national territory; requests for a military intervention in the streets and military headquarters (which continue until now and with no end in sight); buses invaded by Bolsonaristas who attacked students; the dean of a Federal university filing a document in support of the coup's lockout; support and connivance of the State security forces to the coup's and anti-democratic manifestations; manifestations of xenophobia and racism against North-easterners of the country; swastikas and arson at the MST (Landless Workers Movement) headquarters in Pernambuco; apart from the tantrums of "Deus Mercado" or the Market God. (See, for example, this article in Brasil de Fato.) The curious (or tragic) thing about this whole absurdity is the absolute immobility of the majority, hegemonic and institutional left, which, faced with such absurdities, was incapable of reacting. No, this is not about calling for a civil war. We know that the Brazilian security forces and justice are not on our side (much less would be enough for a “bloodbath” against us by the police). But, since when do we need state support or a favorable situation to occupy what has historically always been ours, the streets? It is true that any type of demonstration carries its own risks and that the current situation inspires fear in many of us. However, that old saying by Marighella is still current: “I didn't have time to be afraid”. RIO DE JANEIRO, October 30th. By Fabio Teixeira. On the side of the revolutionary, autonomous and combative left, the story was quite different. On November 1st, the page “Antifa Hooligans Brasil” issued a statement calling on organized supporters to stop the coup attempt, unblock the roads and defend the limited democracy we still have left. On that same occasion, the MTST (Homeless Workers Movement) also issued a statement to its militancy to thwart the coup leaders and their financiers. Differently and in strategic disagreement with the MTST, the Landless Workers Movement (MST) issued a note calling on the left to remain calm, trust the institutions and await Lula's inauguration. Well, here we have an evident theoretical and strategic conflict within the left. After all, should we or should we not occupy the streets at this moment? Is it safe? What to do in the face of all this? Will Lula's inauguration be the beginning of better times? These are complex questions that do not have a simple answer or a magic recipe that can objectively guide us in the face of so many challenges. However, the good old philosophical tradition teaches us that, in the face of difficult questions, it is wise and prudent to ask more refined questions on top of the original questions. For example: “Does it make sense to fear a civil war when, for someone who is black and from the periphery, war and genocide happen every day”? Does this question reflect the division of class and race within the left itself? The argument of the “civil war”, that is, that the militancy and the people in the streets could truly provoke a real war, a bloodbath and a great systemic rupture, only reveals the privileges or a certain degree of social alienation of those who use it to justify a left that looks more and more like the System which they once opposed in a more radical and honest way. Let's be frank, you don't just die from bullets in Brazil. One dies of hunger, helplessness, the scrapping of public health and even political indifference, as is the case in question. The argument of the “civil war” reminds me of the lyrics of the song “Estamos Mortos” by Rapper Eduardo Taddeo (former Facção Central) which begins by saying: “Nobody can be considered alive; Eating leftovers from dumpsters; Raising hands for alms; Smoking crack; Losing health pulling cardboard wagons (...)” and ends by emphasizing that: “As long as we cannot prevent genocide; The racism; The alienation; Mass imprisonment; Extreme poverty and social nullification; We will be nothing more than breathing corpses; My condolences to all of us who vegetate; In the morgue of the living.” RIO DE JANEIRO, October 20th. The question I ask myself at the moment is: are we anesthetized? Is this anesthesia the result of so much beating we've taken in recent years from liberals and the extreme right? Was the damage such that we lost the ability to react accordingly? Are we meek as lambs? Do we let the righteous anger of our hearts metamorphose into a depressed, lethargic state? No, once again, I am not evoking those plastic and stereotyped scenes of militants throwing Molotov cocktails at the Military Police and “playing terror” (as much as I like this dreamlike vision). I'm talking about ordinary people en masse taking to the streets. Even if there are those who say that this would only bring more confusion and give more visibility to the extreme right and to Bolsonaristas, this is an urgent matter, a duty dear to the anti-fascist tradition: “no stage for fascists”. It is true that the liberals and the extreme right had a large and overwhelming victory in the last elections, but to continue to clear the avenue for the extreme right to pass instead of putting a foot in the streets and shouting “they shall not pass!” has catastrophic historical results. Every time that, in history, we have ignored the rise of fascism and have not dismantled them with combative strategies of direct action, guess what: they triumphed, grew, bore fruit and boosted their social reach even further among the masses.

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