Sunday 21 March 2010

... and disregards the rest

Up, Down.

Dorothy StangBandeira de Anapu / Anapu Flagall I need these days is to see the word 'grim' or better yet, coupled with something, say, 'grim future' and I am hooked lined and sinkered :-)   even so it may still be worthwhile wondering which came first? the grim or the Grinch? is a Grinch a bird? is that the connection with Leonard Stern? ... is this nothing more than ideological pornography? or too long spent swaying to the music on the sidelines? dunno man ... I don't know a damned thing, some other people, maybe they know something ...

Utilização de retórica para ocultamento de impactos.
The use of rhetoric to conceal the impacts.

     from 'Painel de Especialistas, Análise Crítica do Estudo de Impacto Ambiental do
          Aproveitamento Hidrelétrico de Belo Monte
', (ref 2a. below).

Brasil, Pará, Altamira, Belo Monte:
Belo MonteBelo MonteBelo MonteBelo MonteBelo MonteBelo MonteBelo Monte

an obvious question for many people, if they even give a rat's ptuie, is where the fuck is Belo Monte? Altamira? Anapu? and one of the obvious conclusions in trying to scope that question is that while the Internet should be the vehicle it is not, simply not, not even close, check out these maps which I spent an hour or so finding, and you will see that they are all low-resolution, blurry, illegible, conveying only the most general impression, what ever!

Tuíra Kayapó 'engages' the engineers of Eletrobras, Jose Antonio Muniz Lopes in 1989 when he was an engineer - now he is the CPT (Chefe desta Porra Toda), and Paulo Fernando Vieira Souto Rezende in 2008, and merely shaking her finger at Aloysio Guapindaia in 2009, a government bureaucrat with Funai - Fundação Nacional do Índio, Rezende got cut but it looks like this was as much because he and his colleagues flinched as anything else, here's the video: Índios esfaqueiam engenheiro da Eletrobrás.

Tuíra KayapóTuíra KayapóTuíra KayapóTuíra KayapóTuíra KayapóTuíra KayapóTuíra Kayapó

of course there is a certain frisson in seeing any woman with her tits out whether she is carrying a machete or not, but this Tuíra Kayapó isn't even thinking about it, fierce, fierce and admirable, what a woman!

touching someone with your machete is apparently some kind of curse, it is plain to see that she had no intention of cutting Lopes, and, at the time, her curse worked - the IMF pulled out, at least for a while

some of the landscape around Altamira:
Belo MonteBelo MonteBelo MonteBelo MonteBelo MonteBelo MonteBelo MonteBelo Monte

The Boxer

Simon & Garfunkel 1967I am just a poor boy
Though my story's seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles
Such are promises
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

When I left my home and my family
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station
Running scared
Laying low
Seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places only they would know

Simon & Garfunkel 1993Asking only workman's wages
I come looking for a job
But I get no offers
Just a come-on
From the whores on Seventh Avenue
I do declare
There were times
When I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there

Then I'm laying out my winter clothes
And wishing I was gone
Going home
Where the New York City winters aren't bleeding me
Bleeding me
Going home

Simon & Garfunkel 2009In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of every glove that layed him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving"
But the fighter still remains

... was Paul Simon ever a 'poor boy'? I doubt it, as for 'seldom told' ... ok I guess, who can say?

as for Colin Turnbull - he looks like a faker to me

(see Curtis Abraham The Mountain People revisited, and Bernd Heine The Mountain People: Some Notes on the Ik of North-Eastern Uganda, Africa 1985)

My 'first time' was with a computerit was the way he writes that gave me the clue, a quality of having something unstated to prove, having read his biography as well I might hazard a guess that it is connected with his homosexuality, not that he is a liar because he is gay but that in this particular case I wonder about it, or his promiscuity?

Bernd Heine concludes, "The longer I was able to talk to the Ik about his work the more I got the impression that he tended to project his own feelings on to his research subjects. There are in fact some indications that what he claims to be typical Ik behaviour is rather an indication of his own mentality."

and he quotes a 1973 review by Thomas Beidelman who says, "This book cannot be discussed in any proper sociological terms, for we are provided with only snatches of data. Rather than being a study of the Ik, this is an autobiographical portrait of the author utilizing the Ik as counters for expressing his personal feelings and experiences in the field."

interesting that Tainter seems to have swallowed the Ik story, but what do I know about Tainter? except that he strikes me as a stuffed shirt? but I don't imagine that professional scholarship is an easy row to hoe either, cross pressures everywhere

Be careful, marijuana is addictive ...but thinking about Colin Turnbull has made me look at 2015 a little differently, I imagine that if changes to human behavior addressing global warming are not well in hand by 2015 then we are toast, that's a guess on my part since I am not a scientist, nonetheless that is what I think and not without a basis, Turnbull's lies about the Ik fit in nicely - easier to view collapse as a function of human qualities than as the result of unthinking behavior - so I had a close look at them before I chucked 'em

all good ... now, if I could just find a reason to carry on :-)

Pearls Before Swine

1. A grim future for advanced economies?, Nouriel Roubini, Mar 15 2010.

2-1. Moradores fazem protesto contra obra de Hidrelétrica de Belo Monte, Ambiente Brasil, May 16 2010.
2-2. 'Rio Xingu vai ficar vermelho de sangue se usina for construída', diz cacique, Glauco Araújo, Feb 6 2010.
2-3. Especialistas questionam projeto de hidrelétrica no Rio Xingu, Globo, Oct 13 2009.
2-4. Shame on Brazil: Stop the Amazon Mega-Dam Project Belo Monte, Rebecca Sommer, Mar 11 2010.
     2a. Análise Crítica do Estudo de Impacto Ambiental do Hidrelétrico de Belo Monte 200 pages (pdf).
     2b. Ibama licenciamento_ambiental/Belo Monte (index).
     2c. Hidrograma Ecológico 33 pages (pdf).
     2d. Tenotã–Mõ - executive summary in english.
     2d. Tenotã–Mõ complete in portuguese, 341 pages (pdf).

Tenotã Mõ signifies 'what is coming in the future' or 'what is starting'.

International Rivers - A Knife in the Water.
Intercontinental Cry - Reportback from ‘the Xingu Encounter’.

3-1. The Mountain People revisited, Curtis Abraham, 2002.
3-2. Bernd Heine - The Mountain People: Some Notes on the Ik of North-Eastern Uganda, Africa 1985

4. Texts Without Context, Michiko Kakutani, Mar 17 2010.

A grim future for advanced economies?, Nouriel Roubini, Mar 15 2010.

That's the scenario if private debts are excessively socialized

Nouriel Roubini is professor of economics at New York University's Stern School of Business and chairman of Roubini Global Economics. (see also Hartz Mountain Industries)

The Great Recession of 2008-2009 was triggered by excessive debt accumulation and leverage on the part of households, financial institutions and even the corporate sector in many advanced economies. While there is much talk about deleveraging as the crisis wanes, the reality is that private-sector debt ratios have stabilized at very high levels.

By contrast, as a consequence of fiscal stimulus and socialization of part of the private sector's losses, there is now a massive releveraging of the public sector. Deficits in excess of 10 per cent of GDP can be found in many advanced economies, and debt-to-GDP ratios are expected to rise sharply – in some cases, doubling in the next few years.

As Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff's new book This Time is Different demonstrates, such balance-sheet crises have historically led to economic recoveries that are slow, anemic and below-trend for many years. Sovereign-debt problems are another strong possibility, given the massive releveraging of the public sector.

In countries that cannot issue debt in their own currency (traditionally emerging-market economies) or that issue debt in their own currency but cannot independently print money (as in the euro zone), unsustainable fiscal deficits often lead to a credit crisis, a sovereign default or other coercive form of public-debt restructuring.

In countries that borrow in their own currency and can monetize the public debt, a sovereign debt crisis is unlikely, but monetization of fiscal deficits can eventually lead to high inflation. And inflation is – like default – a capital levy on holders of public debt, as it reduces the real value of nominal liabilities at fixed interest rates.

Thus, the problems faced by Greece are only the tip of a sovereign-debt iceberg in many advanced economies (and a smaller number of emerging markets). Bond-market vigilantes already have taken aim at Greece, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland, pushing government bond yields higher. Eventually, they may take aim at other countries – even Japan and the United States – where fiscal policy is on an unsustainable path.

In most advanced economies, aging populations exacerbate the problem of fiscal sustainability, as falling population levels increase the burden of unfunded public-sector liabilities, particularly social security and health-care systems. Low or negative population growth also implies lower potential economic growth and, therefore, worse debt-to-GDP dynamics and increasingly grave doubts about the sustainability of public-sector debt.

The dilemma is that, whereas fiscal consolidation is necessary to prevent an unsustainable increase in the spread on sovereign bonds, the short-run effects of raising taxes and cutting government spending tend to be contractionary. This, too, complicates the public-debt dynamics and impedes the restoration of public-debt sustainability. This was the trap faced by Argentina between 1998 and 2001, when needed fiscal contraction exacerbated recession and eventually led to default.

In countries such as the euro-zone members, a loss of external competitiveness, caused by tight monetary policy and a strong currency, erosion of long-term comparative advantage relative to emerging markets and wage growth in excess of productivity growth impose further constraints on the resumption of growth. If growth does not recover, the fiscal problems will worsen while making it more politically difficult to enact the painful reforms needed to restore competitiveness.

A vicious circle of public-finance deficits, current-account gaps, worsening external-debt dynamics and stagnating growth can then set in. Eventually, this can lead to default on euro-zone members' public and foreign debt, as well as exit from the monetary union by fragile economies unable to adjust and reform fast enough.

Provision of liquidity by an international lender of last resort – the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund or even a new European Monetary Fund – could prevent an illiquidity problem from turning into an insolvency problem. But if a country is effectively insolvent rather than just illiquid, such “bailouts” cannot prevent eventual default and devaluation (or exit from a monetary union) because the international lender of last resort eventually will stop financing an unsustainable debt dynamic, as occurred in Argentina (and in Russia in 1998).

Cleaning up high private-sector debt and lowering public-debt ratios by growth alone is particularly hard if a balance-sheet crisis leads to an anemic recovery. And reducing debt ratios by saving more leads to the paradox of thrift: Too fast an increase in savings deepens the recession and makes debt ratios even worse.

At the end of the day, resolving private-sector leverage problems by fully socializing private losses and releveraging the public sector is risky. At best, taxes will eventually be raised and spending cut, with a negative effect on growth. At worst, the outcome may be direct capital levies (default) or indirect ones (inflation).

Unsustainable private-debt problems must be resolved by defaults, debt reductions and conversion of debt into equity. If, instead, private debts are excessively socialized, the advanced economies will face a grim future: serious sustainability problems with their public, private and foreign debt, together with crippled prospects for economic growth.

Moradores fazem protesto contra obra de Hidrelétrica de Belo Monte, Glauco Araújo, May 15 2010.

Cerca de 1,5 mil pessoas fizeram uma caminhada pelas ruas de Altamira (PA), em protesto contra a construção da Hidrelétrica de Belo Monte, nesta segunda-feira (15). As lideranças das aldeias indígenas que serão afetadas pela construção da usina, no leito do Rio Xingu, no Pará, já afirmaram ao G1 que vão usar todas as armas na luta para evitar que a obra seja concretizada.

A ação foi organizada por integrantes do Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens e Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre. Durante a caminhada, foram queimados bonecos do presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, de Dilma Roussef, ministra-chefe da Casa Civil, e de Carlos Minc, ministro do Meio Ambiente.

Problema ambiental - O Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Ibama) concedeu licença prévia para construção da usina em fevereiro deste ano. A decisão revoltou Luis Xipaia, cacique da aldeia tukaia e presidente do Conselho Indígena de Altamira (Coia). Ele disse que mais de quatro mil índios de nove aldeias da região estão prontos para "pegar em armas".

Xipaia realiza assembleias para decidir ações a serem tomadas para evitar que o projeto da hidrelétrica siga em frente. "O Governo federal só vai construir a usina se matar os índios que vivem aqui. O Rio Xingu vai ficar vermelho de sangue. A nossa resistência será maior do que a realizada na reserva Raposa Serra do Sol."

As entidades que compõem o Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre já fizeram vigílias, em frente ao escritório regional do Ibama, em Altamira (PA), em repúdio pela liberação da licença prévia para construção da usina. Outras manifestações foram realizadas em Santarém (PA) e Belém.

Histórico - O governo quer realizar o leilão de concessão da usina hidrelétrica de Belo Monte até o dia 12 de abril, segundo informação divulgada no balanço de três anos do Programa de Aceleração de Crescimento (PAC).

Especialistas do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (Inpa), da Universidade Federal do Pará, do Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, do Instituto Sócio Ambiental (ISA) e do Fundo Mundial para a Natureza (WWF, pela sigla em inglês) realizaram um estudo apontando impactos ambientais da construção da usina para a vegetação local, animais e até sobre as populações indígenas que habitam um trecho do rio conhecido como Volta Grande do Xingu.

Energia x impacto ambiental - O estudo de impacto ambiental indica falhas na previsão de geração de energia da usina, que seria maior do que a capacidade real do projeto. Os estudos preliminares para a construção de uma hidrelétrica no Rio Xingu foram feitos na década de 1980. O projeto da barragem e de canais desviam parte do leito do rio. O cálculo prevê que cerca de 100 quilômetros do curso d'água fiquem secos.

A obra prevê a capacidade de geração de 4.719 megawatts (MW) no período seco e 11.181 MW com a usina em plena capacidade. A Usina de Itaipu – a maior do Brasil – tem capacidade para 14 mil MW. Os reservatórios de Belo Monte, incluindo os canais, ocuparão uma área de 516 km², o equivalente a um terço do município de São Paulo.

'Rio Xingu vai ficar vermelho de sangue se usina for construída', diz cacique, Glauco Araújo, Feb 6 2010.

Luis Xipaia, da aldeia tukaia, diz que 4 mil índios estão prontos para lutar.
Ibama concedeu licença ambiental para obra da Hidrelétrica de Belo Monte.

As lideranças das aldeias indígenas que serão afetadas pela construção da Usina Hidrelétrica de Belo Monte, no leito do Rio Xingu, no Pará, afirmam que vão usar todas as armas na luta para evitar que a obra seja concretizada.

O Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Ibama) concedeu licença prévia para construção da usina nesta segunda-feira (1º). A decisão revoltou Luis Xipaia, cacique da aldeia tukaia e presidente do Conselho Indígena de Altamira (Coia). Ele disse que mais de quatro mil índios de nove aldeias da região estão prontos para "pegar em armas".

Xipaia afirmou ainda que vai receber uma lista de pedidos dos representantes de todas as aldeias da região contra a obra. Ele quer realizar uma assembleia nesta segunda-feira (8) para decidir quais as ações a serem tomadas para evitar que o projeto da hidrelétrica siga em frente. "O Governo federal só vai construir a usina se matar os índios que vivem aqui. O Rio Xingu vai ficar vermelho de sangue. Fomos esquecidos, deixados de lado e temos o direito de falar o que pensamos sobre essa barragem. A nossa resistência será maior do que a realizada na reserva Raposa Serra do Sol."

Nesta quinta-feira (4), entidades que compõem o Movimento Xingu Vivo para Sempre fizeram uma vigília, em frente ao escritório regional do Ibama, em Altamira (PA), em repúdio pela liberação da licença prévia para construção da usina. Outras manifestações foram realizadas em Santarém (PA) e Belém.

“O ato serve para mostrar aos governantes e autoridades que não nos intimidamos com a forma pela qual eles estão conduzindo este processo, de forma antidemocrática, ditatorial, desrespeitosa e sem ouvir as populações locais, principalmente as comunidades indígenas,” disse Antonia Melo, uma das coordenadoras do movimento.

Áreas afetadas

Os índios consideram que o alagamento previsto na obra da usina vai extinguir cemitérios indígenas, templos sagrados e sítios arqueológicos na região. "Querem acabar com a cultura e a história dos índios do Xingu", disse Xipaia. Segundo o Ministério do Meio Ambiente, apenas as cidades de Brasil Novo (PA), Altamira e Vitória do Xingu (PA) serão atingidas pela obra. As lideranças indígenas dizem que também serão afetadas as cidades de Senador José Porfírio (PA) e Anapu (PA).

Segundo o Ibama, há 40 pontos abrangendo questões relativas à qualidade da água, fauna, saneamento básico, população atingida, compensações sociais e recuperação de áreas já degradadas a serem resolvidos antes do início da obra. O projeto da usina sofreu alterações e uma delas teria sido a redução de áreas alagadas, de acordo com nota divulgada pelo instituto.

Processo em andamento

O governo quer realizar o leilão de concessão da usina hidrelétrica de Belo Monte até o dia 12 de abril, segundo informação divulgada no balanço de três anos do Programa de Aceleração de Crescimento (PAC).

Especialistas do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (Inpa), da Universidade Federal do Pará, do Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, do Instituto Sócio Ambiental (ISA) e do Fundo Mundial para a Natureza (WWF, pela sigla em inglês) realizaram um estudo apontando impactos ambientais da construção da usina para a vegetação local, animais e até sobre as populações indígenas que habitam um trecho do rio conhecido como Volta Grande do Xingu.

O cacique Xipaia disse que os índios "não vão assistir passivamente a transformação do território em um imenso canteiro de obras para a construção de uma usina, que produzirá no máximo 4.000 MW de energia, que nem será barata e muito menos limpa."

Energia x impacto ambiental

O estudo de impacto ambiental indica falhas na previsão de geração de energia da usina, que seria maior do que a capacidade real do projeto. Os estudos preliminares para a construção de uma hidrelétrica no Rio Xingu foram feitos na década de 1980. O projeto da barragem e de canais desviam parte do leito do rio. O cálculo prevê que cerca de 100 quilômetros do curso d'água fiquem secos.

A obra prevê a capacidade de geração de 4.719 megawatts (MW) no período seco e 11.181 MW com a usina em plena capacidade. A Usina de Itaipu – a maior do Brasil – tem capacidade para 14 mil MW. Os reservatórios de Belo Monte, incluindo os canais, ocuparão uma área de 516 km², o equivalente a um terço do município de São Paulo.

Desenvolvimento econômico

O Fórum Regional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Sócio Ambiental da Transamazônica e Xingu, que congrega mais de 170 entidades da região, considerou a licença prévia do Ibama positiva, mas apontou a necessidade de que o restante do projeto seja desenvolvido de maneira sustentável.

De acordo com Vilmar Soares, coordenador do fórum, a usina é considerada vital para a região e deve colaborar para resolver problemas como a falta de regularização fundiária e licenciamento ambiental das atividades produtivas.
“Esperamos também que a usina traga investimentos nas áreas da saúde, educação e de infraestrutura. Esta é uma região que viveu durante décadas em abandono."

Especialistas questionam projeto de hidrelétrica no Rio Xingu, Globo, Oct 13 2009.

Usina de Belo Monte ficará no PA e será uma das maiores do país.
Grupo de cientistas mostra impactos negativos do empreendimento.

Um grupo de 40 especialistas protocolou no Ibama um documento questionando os estudos e a viabilidade da usina hidrelétrica de Belo Monte, que pode ser construída no Rio Xingu, no Pará. O empreendimento está previsto para ser oferecido em leilão em novembro.

No parecer, estudiosos classificam a possível hidrelétrica como “uma intervenção de obras civis sobre um monumento da biodiversidade”, e avaliam que a movimentação de terras para a construção da obra seria equivalente às escavações do Canal do Panamá, com 200 milhões de m³ de terra e pedras remexidas.

A maior preocupação dos especialistas são os impactos sobre plantas, animais e populações indígenas que habitam um trecho do rio conhecido como Volta Grande do Xingu, onde se pretende construir a usina.

Os acadêmicos também afirmam que há falhas no estudo de impactos ambientais da obra, onde haveria exageros na previsão de geração de energia e ao mesmo tempo números inferiores à realidade em relação ao impacto às populações vizinhas.

O estudo, protocolado no Ibama em 1º de outubro e divulgado nesta segunda-feira (12), foi realizado por pesquisadores voluntários de diversas instituições de pesquisa brasileiras, como o Inpa (instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia), a Universidade Federal do Pará e o Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi. Grandes ONGs brasileiras, como o Instituto Sócio Ambiental (ISA) e o WWF também apoiaram a confecção do documento.

Plano antigo

Os primeiros estudos para a construção de uma hidrelétrica no Rio Xingu são de 1980. Na última concepção do projeto, foi planejada uma barragem e canais que desviam parte leito do rio e levam a água para uma casa de força. Por conta disso, um pedaço do curso d’água de cerca de 100 km ficará mais seco.

A obra prevê a capacidade de geração de 4.719 MW no período seco e 11.181 MW com a usina operando em plena capacidade. Para se ter uma ideia, a usina de Itaipu – a maior do Brasil – tem capacidade para gerar 14 mil MW. Os reservatórios, incluindo os canais, ocuparão uma área de 516 km², o equivalente a um terço do município de São Paulo.

Shame on Brazil: Stop the Amazon Mega-Dam Project Belo Monte, Rebecca Sommer, Mar 11 2010.

International groups expressed in a joint letter their outrage and opposition against Brazil's plan to build Belo Monte, a mega-hydroelectric project.

Belo Monte would be the third largest dam in the world, and the largest development project in the Amazon, that would devastate an extensive area of the Brazilian rain forest, threatening the survival of indigenous peoples, and severely violating their rights.

If constructed, Belo Monte would inundate 500 square km of land and divert most of the Xingu River’s flow through artificial canals. An enormous stretch of the Xingu River’s “Big Ben" would dry out.

The letter, signed by 140 organizations was delivered to president Lula on March 11, 2010:
"The goal of this letter is to publicly denounce the reckless and immoral conduct of the Brazilian government in approving the Belo Monte hydroelectic dam project. This letter demonstrates an emerging movement of a broad coalition of international human rights organizations, indigenous peoples and environmental groups firmly opposing this project. " said Tom Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. Plans to build hydroelectric dams on the Xingu river have existed since the 1970s but have repeatedly failed to materialize, partly as a result of fierce pressure from environmental groups, indigenous peoples and local communities of the Xingu Basin, that have fought Belo Monte for more than 20 years on the same grounds that they continue to oppose it now. "We want to make sure that Belo Monte does not destroy the ecosystems and the biodiversity that we have taken care of for millennia," Megaron Tuxucumarrae, a leader of the Kayapo Indians said. "We are opposed to dams on the Xingu and will fight to protect our river."

In the letter, the groups complain that during Belo Monte's approval process, the rights of the population were curtailed in an authoritarian, undemocratic, dictatorial style by Lula's government. That Brazil intends to shove Belo Monte down the throats of the directly affected Indigenous and riverine communities, against their consent, and without a credible consultation process.
Many Brazilian experts raised their concerns about the planned project. Two senior officials at IBAMA, Leozildo Tabajara da Silva Benjamin and Sebastião Custódio Pires, resigned their posts last year, citing high-level political pressure to approve the project.

"Belo 'Monster' dam is the most outrageous crime, against humanity, the environment and the climate, to be perpetrated by this developmental insanity and deserves the strongest international campaign and support and visibility we can mobilize, specially because it is emblematic of the consolidation of a larger ongoing territorial strategy to integrate the entire Amazon region into systematic plundering and destruction. " said brazilian climate and energy expert Camila Moreno from Friends of The Earth Brazil.

The environment of the Xingu region has already begun to succumb to the advances of unscrupulous destruction and annihilation, making it uninhabitable and causing desertification, as can be observed in some regions.

"The hydroelectric plant of Belo Monte is a pharaonoic project that will have disastrous consequences, disastrous and irreversible, forcing some 30,000 people from their homes. It will destroy or modify one hundred kilometers of a succession of waterfalls, rapids, natural channels and, apart from the enormous, tragic, irresponsible environmental disaster, the population in the region will not have enough water for their needs, Indigenous and traditional communities will be without water, fish, or a means of river transport." said Dom Erwin Kräutler, Bishop of the Prelazia of Altamira of the Xingu region, and president of the Indigenous Missionary Council CIMI.

Brazil's environment minister Carlos Minc said the winning company that would construct the project would be forced to spend around $800m (£501m) offsetting the environmental damage caused by the project.

"There is not going to be an environmental disaster," he told Brazilian television.

"The decision of the Brazilian Government to go ahead with this devastating project is particularly cynical in the light of the massive amounts of funding they are currently receiving from donors like the Norwegian Government to presumably "reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation"(REDD). " said Simone Lovera, Executive Director of the international group Global Forest Coalition.

"In the conversation I had with President Lula he told me he did not intend to repeat the disaster of the Balbina Dam, located in Uatumã river in the state of Amazonas, which can be classified as a monument of insanity. But if Lula's government insist on the construction of Belo Monte, it will go into history as a predator of the environment, of the Amazon, and as the government that determined the extinction of the indigenous peoples of the Xingu. Belo Monte, instead of progress, will bring death." Kräutler added.

Read the letter to Brazilian's president Lula, that was signed by over 140 groups from around the world:

Your Excellency President Luis Ignácio Lula da Silva,

We’re writing you to express our indignation and urge you to immediately suspend the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam project on the Xingu River in the state of Pará due to the tremendous social, environmental, and economic risks posed by this project to the Amazon Region.

In July of 2009, you met with representatives of Brazilian civil society and leaders of Indigenous communities from the Xingu River basin in Brasilia, promising them renewed dialogue on the looming mega-project and assuring them that “Belo Monte will not be shoved down anyone’s throat.” We understood this to mean that Belo Monte would only be approved once affected communities had been adequately consulted about the project, understood its implications, and consented to its construction.

Yet less than a year later, your government has given the green light to the project, despite the outrage of local communities as well as glaring concerns and warnings by Brazilian experts. Even two senior officials at IBAMA, Leozildo Tabajara da Silva Benjamin and Sebastião Custódio Pires, resigned their posts last year, citing high-level political pressure to approve the project. It is clear that there are serious concerns and criticisms originating from numerous groups and figures within Brazilian civil society, including Dom Erwin Krautler, the Catholic Church’s National Council of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB), Leonardo Boff, and many others. Regardless of these concerns from your fellow Brazilians and your earlier promise to them, we see that your government indeed intends to shove Belo Monte down the throats of the directly affected Indigenous and riverside communities in the Amazon.

We are not only extremely concerned with the decision to build such an enormous, environmentally destructive mega-project, but also with the unethical process through which the government excluded civil society from any kind of open debate. Those who stand to be most impacted by the construction of this project - the people of the lower Xingu River - were particularly kept out of the decision-making process. The people of the Xingu Basin have fought Belo Monte for more than 20 years on the same grounds that they continue to oppose it now.

As you know, Brazil voted for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which enshrines their right to self-determination, including free, prior and informed consent, and is now considered part of International Human Rights norms. Brazil is also a party to Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization which guarantees Indigenous peoples the right to free, prior and informed consultation to development or infrastructure projects that will impact their lives and livelihoods, such as the proposed Belo Monte dam. Leaders of local Indigenous groups have made it clear that this right was completely disregarded in approving Belo Monte and sanctioning its impacts on Indigenous territories.

Traditional populations and Indigenous peoples have had their rights violated during this entire process, and we urge you to remedy this situation. We believe the construction of Belo Monte represents the serious violation of nearly every article of UNDRIP, such as Articles 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 32, 38, 40, 43, 44. Brazil is also in violation of Article 231.3, Chapter VIII, of its own 1988 Constitution, which legally guarantees Indigenous Peoples’ right to challenge the exploitation of water resources on their lands, and of Article 10-V of CONAMA resolution 237 (19 December 1997), which requires public consultation of environmental impact assessments.

As you are aware, the Belo Monte dam will inundate some 500 square km of land, and divert nearly the entire flow of the Xingu through two artificial canals to the dam's powerhouse. This alone will leave Indigenous and traditional communities along a 130 km stretch of the Volta Grande without water, fish, or a means of river transport. The lowering of the water table would destroy the agricultural production of the region, affecting Indigenous and non-Indigenous farmers, as well as water quality. In all probability, the rain forests in this region would not survive. The formation of small, stagnant pools of water among the rocks of the Volta Grande will be a prime environment for the proliferation of malaria and other water-borne diseases. Communities upstream, including the Kayapó Indians, will suffer the loss of migratory fish species that are a crucial part of their diet.

In addition to these devastating impacts to the Volta Grande, an estimated 20,000 people will be forced from their homes, including inhabitants of the city of Altamira, which will be partially flooded. In spite of this, Belo Monte is held up as a model for your government’s ambitious Program for Acceleration and Growth (PAC) program, which promises a future for Brazil’s development with minimal social and environmental impacts. We join the Brazilian opponents to Belo Monte in saying these impacts are an unacceptable price to pay for a project of dubious economic and technical viability that offers questionable benefits to the Brazilian public. Indeed, it risks calling PAC’s entire image into question both in Brazil and worldwide, as the building of the Belo Monte dam would be completely contrary to the sustainable development and social benefits it espouses.

Independent investigations have found that the project’s environmental impact assessment is incomplete and underestimates the extent of Belo Monte's potential impacts. While it’s known that the flow along the Volta Grande of the Xingú would be seriously reduced by the canals; water quality, instream flow, and geological studies for the Volta Grande are still incomplete. Francisco Hernandez, an electrical engineer and co-coordinator of a group of 40 specialists who analyzed the project, doubts Belo Monte’s engineering viability and warns that this extremely complex project would depend on the construction of not only one dam, but rather a series of large dams and dykes that would interrupt the flow of water courses over an enormous area, requiring excavation of earth and rocks on the scale of digging the Panama Canal. We are particularly concerned with the disregard the government has shown to the opinions of the specialist panel as well as technical analysis issued by IBAMA last November, which is a fundamental piece of the environmental licensing process.

Belo Monte will generate only 10% of its stated installed capacity of 11,233 MW during the three to four-month dry season. Furthermore, there is uncertainty over the total costs of the project; while the Empresa de Pesquisa Energética estimates R$16 billion, private investors estimate R$30 billion. The project’s inefficient energy supply and uncertainties over incomplete environmental data do not justify such an enormous investment. We are appalled by the lack of responsibility of corporate and financial actors that seek to materialize this project, such as Brazil’s national development bank BNDES, which is irresponsibly planning to use public taxpayer funding to finance the majority of Belo Monte. Belo Monte is not only a bad predicament for the people of the Xingu, it is a bad investment for Brazil.

The Belo Monte project is being pursued at the expense of viable and less destructive alternatives such as improvements in energy efficiency, and the promotion of renewable energy such as solar and wind. A WWF-Brazil study published in 2007 showed that by 2020 Brazil could cut the expected demand for electricity by 40% through investments in energy efficiency. The power saved would be equivalent to 14 Belo Monte hydroelectric plants, and would save Brazil around R$33 billion in the process.

While viable and sustainable alternatives do exist, Belo Monte is being proposed as a model for Brazil’s renewable energy matrix, an important part of the country’s 38% reduction in domestic emissions by 2020. In fact, the opposite is true: the dam will emit large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than C02. Big dams also cause considerable direct and indirect environmental destruction, such as widespread deforestation and an increase in emissions. There is nothing clean or sustainable about Belo Monte.

We believe your meeting last July was a very positive step towards opening new channels of dialogue and trust between your government and local populations on the Xingu River. However, we are seeing that the stark failure to follow through on this promise for dialogue is pushing this issue towards a boiling point, with the prospect of mass mobilizations and violent confrontations growing closer to reality every day.

In conclusion, we see your government’s approval of this mega-project as a highly irresponsible and reckless act. Forcing Belo Monte down the throats of thousands of Indigenous peoples and riverine families, while laying waste to the lower Xingu River, is an immeasurably high price to pay for an inefficient, costly and environmentally devastating form of electricity.

Brazil does not need Belo Monte to secure its energy future. We strongly urge your government to adopt less-destructive alternatives to fuel Brazil’s economic growth, perform adequate consultation with local communities, and to immediately suspend this disastrous project out of respect for the rights of the inhabitants of the Xingu River and the integrity of the region’s ecosystem.

The Mountain People revisited, Curtis Abraham, 2002.

Curtis Abraham went to Ik-land in Uganda and saw how wrong Colin Turnbull, the British-born American anthropologist, was in his 1972 book on the Ik, the mountain people.

On 1 February 1966, Colin M. Turnbull, while among the Ik people of Karamoja, northeast Uganda, wrote a letter to his friend and boss at New York's American Museum of Natural History American Museum of Natural History, incorporated in New York City in 1869 to promote the study of natural science and related subjects. Buildings on its present site were opened in 1877.

Responding to an idea suggested by Shapiro (a noted anthropologist in his own right who had once devised a method for identifying unknown soldiers during World War II) of a thorough documentation of how a traditional society reacts under famine conditions, Turnbull answered nervously:

"Brother, you talk of stress again. Let me put my two remaining nerves together and I'll be delighted to think of attempting something more full of stress than what I am coping with now!"

Turnbull went on to write The Mountain People, his acclaimed and controversial portrait of the Ik during the devastating 1965-66 famine in that region.

In the book, he wrote of witnessing food being snatched out of the mouths of elderly Ik, children swallowing dirt and stones for food, Ik mothers abandoning their very young children to fend for themselves, women stuffing their mouths with "grass" while the more energetic ones followed vultures to scavenge rotting carcasses.

Sex to the Ik was simply a way of getting rid of semen. The Ik defecated on each other's doorstep including Turnbull's. He called them the "Loveless People" and said they "were as unfriendly, uncharitable, inhospitable and generally mean as any people can be".

He said their society was akin to the inhumane conditions under which the Jews, Gypies, Blacks and countless others were exterminated in Nazi death camps during World War II. In this, he saw not only the inevitable extinction of the Ik, but projected it on a global scale and predicted the ultimate destruction of mankind.

Many of the world's leading academics, scholars and personalities were quick to applaud Turnbull for The Mountain People, including Sir Julian S. Huxley, one-time director of UNESCO.


However, the book caused a storm of controversy when it was first published in 1972. The Norwegian anthropologist, Fredrick Barth, recommended that both Turnbull and his book be sanctioned, "and to be held up as a warning to us all." The Ik themselves, upon hearing of the contents of the book, felt that Turnbull had given them a bad reputation ("If Turnbull were to return to our land, we shall bury him alive!") and asked if it was possible to take legal action against him. However, The Forest People, Turnbull's earlier and endearing chronicle of his experience among the Ituri pygmies of what is now the DRCongo, and The Mountain People are often seen as complementary accounts of humankind's potentiality for good or evil.

Turnbull's impassioned prose in The Mountain People brought him international literary recognition. A Washington Post article in 1972 reported that the book had been nominated for a National Book Award in Contemporary Affairs. It did, however, win the 1974 Annual Award of the National and American Academies of Arts and Letters "for bringing together both art and science."

The book went far beyond anthropological circles. The story of the Ik was produced into a theatrical play by Peter Brook, the renowned British film and theatre director.

Les Ik (The Iks) as the play was titled in France, was staged not only in a number of European capitals including Paris, London, Vienna and Venice but in 1976 it toured the United States as a gift from the government of France to America for its bicentennial celebrations.

Valery-Ann Gisgard D'Estaing, daughter of the former French president, who, as a cultural attache travelled with the cast to the US, said the play was "both moving and convincing."

However, Turnbull's study was deeply flawed both on ideological and ethnographical grounds. For starters, Turnbull's "love affair" with the pygmies (as Margaret Mead is said to have called it) greatly coloured his perception of the Ik.

Although Turnbull made it known in the book that he had no academic expectations, he did, consciously or unconsciously, expect to find a people similar to the Ituri Pygmies, which is one reason why he continued to insist in his writings that the Ik were indeed a traditional hunter/gathering community even though all the evidence suggests that the Ik have been practising agriculture for over 2,000 years.

This yearning to be among the pygmies often gripped Turnbull while among the Ik. In a field report written to Harry Shapiro on 13 January 1966, Turnbull lamented: "What the hell am I doing up in those arid wastelands of the north when there are pygmies, no less in lush tropical forests much closer to the delights of Kampala?"

He would tell something of the sort to Denis Hills, the British journalist and author who visited Turnbull in Ik-land in July and August 1966, and who years later was sentenced to death by Ugandan president, Idi Amin.

Turnbull also harboured his own personal expectations before he left New York for Ik-land. For when he heard of the brave and jovial character of individual Ik tribesmen from Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, the American author who met some of the Ik while living among the Dodo pastoralists in the area, "Colin's eyes lit up."

A large part of Turnbull's misinterpretation and misunderstanding of the Ik also arose from his ideological outlook of traditional societies. He and others like him arrived on the African continent with the naively romantic view of primitive man as the "noble savage", a view that assumes that all societies that seem simpler than modern Western society have retained those virtues absent in more advanced societies.

Alive and well

Despite Turnbull's fatalistic predictions of the inevitable extinction of the Ik ("These people are finished as a society", he wrote to Shapiro in 1966) current population figures for the Ik, which was gathered by Oxfam, says that they number over 5,000 strong and that their society continues to grow along the lines of 2.7% annually, the average growth rate for Uganda.

As to the factual accuracy about the Ik society, Turnbull appears to have seriously missed the mark. Among other things, he chose the wrong place for his field camp. At that time Pirre, an isolated area about 40 kms southeast of the Uganda/Sudan border which is today a deserted and dangerous no-man's land was on the periphery of the Ik areas.

Moreover, it contained members of neighbouring pastoral tribes like the Dodos, the Toposa and the Diding'a, some of whom became Turnbull's main informants like Lomeja who was really a Diding'a from Sudan.

"If Dr. Coliin had gone to Timu Forest, he would have met only the Ik people there," says Pilipino long'oli, the Ik Mkungu (government appointed chief) of Pirre in 1965.

The Timu is a forested area of some 70 square kms near the Uganda/Kenya frontier. It is the ancestral homeland of the It.

This was confirmed by various accounts of explorers, writers and British military personnel who mentioned them as living in he Timu Forest, most of them being "forest people."

The Timu is also the Ik ritual centre as all agricultural related rituals begins here, then spread out in an east to west direction.

The behaviour of the Ik at that time, according to according to independent witnesses, was nothing our of the ordinary as Turnbull made them out to be. "It was only hunger. They were only starving people," says David Itoga, a former police officer who was stationed at Pirre during Turnbull's visit.

In his effort to portray the Ik as "incredible subhumans, Turnbull wrote that their society was devoid of rituals. Not so. The Ik have a small but vital number of rituals related to agriculture, including Itowe-es ("blessing the seeds"), Dziber-ika mes ("beer of the axes"), Inunum-es ("opening the harvest"), and Iroikes.

According to Fausrino Lopye, the nyampara or "headman" at Pirre in 1965, Turnbull's method of collecting data from his various Ik and non-Ik informants leaves much to be desired. Evidently he relied heavily throughout his stay in Ik-land on the linguistical skills of one Sergeant A.E. Abwatu, one of 20 police officers who were stationed there between 1963-1967.

Loype states that Turnbull would ask the sergeant a question in English, then Abwatu would ask Arum arum, common name for the Araceae, a plant family mainly composed of species of herbaceous terrestrial and epiphytic plants found in moist to wet habitats of the tropics and subtropics; some are native to temperate zones. , Turnbull's chief informant in Akarimojong, the language of the pastoralist, then relay Atum's answer back to Turnbull in English. None of the Ik language was spoken.

Worse still, Sergeant Abwatu was not a native of Karamoja but belong to the Ireso people whose territory borders Karamoja in eastern Uganda. Iris to this reliance on Abwatu that the Ik say is the reason behind why Turnbull missed certain vital aspects of Ik culture.

Pilipino Longoli says that unless Abwatu came to assist Turnbull with interpreting, Turnbull was more inclined to remain inside his hut or landrover and did nor venture our.

His aloof disposition is also littered throughout The Mountain People with such passages like:

"I could not see the view of course, then neither could I see the Ik, and even though they were the people I was meant to he studying and I had been there only three months or less, the privacy gave me intense pleasure."

The Turkana threat

In writing about Ik relations with the Turkana nomads from Kenya, Turn-bull has given us a one-sided view. He writes very fondly of the Turkana, even devoting an entire chapter to them in which he claims that of all the pastoralists in the region, the Ik "liked the Turkana the best." Yet he failed to emphasise that it is the Turkana who cause the Ik their greatest problems.

"The people disturbing us are the Turkana," says Philip Asroui, an informant and one of a handful of Western-educated Ik who recently passed away.

Although the Turkana had been traditional traders with the Ik over the last century (they once traded cattle, goats and their diary for Ik tobacco and gourds), it is they who now loot, rape and even kill members of this small agricultural community. Over the last decade, there has been an escalation of these raids during which Ik homes and their food granaries have been burnt by marauding bands of Turkana.

In spite of their "fame", the Ik still remain a neglected population. Part of this apathy has surely to do with the stereotypical perception of the people of Karamoja as primitive savages by the rest of Uganda.

However, organisations like the UN World Food Programme and the Roman Catholic Church Roman Catholic Church, try to cater for the Ik in times of need like the serious food shortages that occurred in 2000.

Since Turnbull's day, some important changes have taken place within the Ik society. One of the most important has been their venturing out of their mountain stronghold.

"Before, they did not like to see anybody apart from the Ik themselves. They wanted to maintain what they were," says Father Simon Lokodo, a Dodo parish priest formerly at Kaabong. "But now the Dodos have gone to their areas to farm and the Ik have taken an effort to learn Akarimojong which is of great importance to them to come out of their mountain environment."

Like other tribes in the region, the Ik (a traditionally peace loving society) have obtained modern firearms. Such weapons the Ik have bought and lease from neighbouring pastoralist peoples like the Dodos and use them mainly for hunting and protecting themselves against Turkana attacks.

The acquisition of AK47 and G3 automatic and semi-automatic rifles will only increase since the Ik live in a zone of rampant gun and ammunition trafficking, mainly by former rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). Some members of the Ik are also joining rebel movements such as the SPLA.

The Ik, like some other groups in Karamoja, face an uncertain future. Due to the unpredictability of rain and unproductive soils, successful harvests vary from year to year. The wide ownership and use of illegal guns in Karamoja has dramatically depleted the once vast herds of wild game that hunters like the Ik depended on.

The receding forest like Timu has made the gathering of roots, fruits and vegetables by Ik women more difficult. But the most serious threats to their survival are the Turkana raids and the unprovoked attacks by other pastoralists.

Ultimately the Ik saga says more about the internal hopes, dreams and aspirations of individuals like Turnbull rather than the external realities of the people they study.

And on a continent like Africa where the wounds of colonialism still run deep, the psychological scar far from healed, the Ik suffer not only from the obvious inferiority complex that grips Africa as a whole hut they are also bearing an extra burden of being "the most savage sub-humans on the planet" simply because of one foreigner's naivety and unfulfilled expectations.

How many other Westerners like Turnbull have been similarly wrong in their interpretation of traditional cultures in Africa and elsewhere?

Texts Without Context, Michiko Kakutani, Mar 17 2010.

In his deliberately provocative — and deeply nihilistic — new book, “Reality Hunger,” the onetime novelist David Shields asserts that fiction “has never seemed less central to the culture’s sense of itself.” He says he’s “bored by out-and-out fabrication, by myself and others; bored by invented plots and invented characters” and much more interested in confession and “reality-based art.” His own book can be taken as Exhibit A in what he calls “recombinant” or appropriation art.

Mr. Shields’s book consists of 618 fragments, including hundreds of quotations taken from other writers like Philip Roth, Joan Didion and Saul Bellow — quotations that Mr. Shields, 53, has taken out of context and in some cases, he says, “also revised, at least a little — for the sake of compression, consistency or whim.” He only acknowledges the source of these quotations in an appendix, which he says his publishers’ lawyers insisted he add.

“Who owns the words?” Mr. Shields asks in a passage that is itself an unacknowledged reworking of remarks by the cyberpunk author William Gibson. “Who owns the music and the rest of our culture? We do — all of us — though not all of us know it yet. Reality cannot be copyrighted.”

Mr. Shields’s pasted-together book and defense of appropriation underscore the contentious issues of copyright, intellectual property and plagiarism that have become prominent in a world in which the Internet makes copying and recycling as simple as pressing a couple of buttons. In fact, the dynamics of the Web, as the artist and computer scientist Jaron Lanier observes in another new book, are encouraging “authors, journalists, musicians and artists” to “treat the fruits of their intellects and imaginations as fragments to be given without pay to the hive mind.”

It’s not just a question of how these “content producers” are supposed to make a living or finance their endeavors, however, or why they ought to allow other people to pick apart their work and filch choice excerpts. Nor is it simply a question of experts and professionals being challenged by an increasingly democratized marketplace. It’s also a question, as Mr. Lanier, 49, astutely points out in his new book, “You Are Not a Gadget,” of how online collectivism, social networking and popular software designs are changing the way people think and process information, a question of what becomes of originality and imagination in a world that prizes “metaness” and regards the mash-up as “more important than the sources who were mashed.”

Mr. Lanier’s book, which makes an impassioned case for “a digital humanism,” is only one of many recent volumes to take a hard but judicious look at some of the consequences of new technology and Web 2.0. Among them are several prescient books by Cass Sunstein, 55, which explore the effects of the Internet on public discourse; Farhad Manjoo’s “True Enough,” which examines how new technologies are promoting the cultural ascendancy of belief over fact; “The Cult of the Amateur,” by Andrew Keen, which argues that Web 2.0 is creating a “digital forest of mediocrity” and substituting ill-informed speculation for genuine expertise; and Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows” (coming in June), which suggests that increased Internet use is rewiring our brains, impairing our ability to think deeply and creatively even as it improves our ability to multitask.

Unlike “Digital Barbarism,” Mark Helprin’s shrill 2009 attack on copyright abolitionists, these books are not the work of Luddites or technophobes. Mr. Lanier is a Silicon Valley veteran and a pioneer in the development of virtual reality; Mr. Manjoo, 31, is Slate’s technology columnist; Mr. Keen is a technology entrepreneur; and Mr. Sunstein is a Harvard Law School professor who now heads the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Rather, these authors’ books are nuanced ruminations on some of the unreckoned consequences of technological change — books that stand as insightful counterweights to early techno-utopian works like Esther Dyson’s “Release 2.0” and Nicholas Negroponte’s “Being Digital,” which took an almost Pollyannaish view of the Web and its capacity to empower users.

THESE NEW BOOKS share a concern with how digital media are reshaping our political and social landscape, molding art and entertainment, even affecting the methodology of scholarship and research. They examine the consequences of the fragmentation of data that the Web produces, as news articles, novels and record albums are broken down into bits and bytes; the growing emphasis on immediacy and real-time responses; the rising tide of data and information that permeates our lives; and the emphasis that blogging and partisan political Web sites place on subjectivity.

At the same time it’s clear that technology and the mechanisms of the Web have been accelerating certain trends already percolating through our culture — including the blurring of news and entertainment, a growing polarization in national politics, a deconstructionist view of literature (which emphasizes a critic’s or reader’s interpretation of a text, rather than the text’s actual content), the prominence of postmodernism in the form of mash-ups and bricolage, and a growing cultural relativism that has been advanced on the left by multiculturalists and radical feminists, who argue that history is an adjunct of identity politics, and on the right by creationists and climate-change denialists, who suggest that science is an instrument of leftist ideologues.

Even some outspoken cheerleaders of Internet technology have begun to grapple with some of its more vexing side effects. Steven Johnson, a founder of the online magazine Feed, for instance, wrote in an article in The Wall Street Journal last year that with the development of software for’s Kindle and other e-book readers that enable users to jump back and forth from other applications, he fears “one of the great joys of book reading — the total immersion in another world, or in the world of the author’s ideas — will be compromised.” He continued, “We all may read books the way we increasingly read magazines and newspapers: a little bit here, a little bit there.”

Mr. Johnson added that the book’s migration to the digital realm will turn the solitary act of reading — “a direct exchange between author and reader” — into something far more social and suggested that as online chatter about books grows, “the unity of the book will disperse into a multitude of pages and paragraphs vying for Google’s attention.”

WORRYING ABOUT the public’s growing attention deficit disorder and susceptibility to information overload, of course, is hardly new. It’s been 25 years since Neil Postman warned in “Amusing Ourselves to Death” that trivia and the entertainment values promoted by television were creating distractions that threatened to subvert public discourse, and more than a decade since writers like James Gleick (“Faster”) and David Shenk (“Data Smog”) described a culture addicted to speed, drowning in data and overstimulated to the point where only sensationalism and willful hyperbole grab people’s attention.

Now, with the ubiquity of instant messaging and e-mail, the growing popularity of Twitter and YouTube, and even newer services like Google Wave, velocity and efficiency have become even more important. Although new media can help build big TV audiences for events like the Super Bowl, it also tends to make people treat those events as fodder for digital chatter. More people are impatient to cut to the chase, and they’re increasingly willing to take the imperfect but immediately available product over a more thoughtfully analyzed, carefully created one. Instead of reading an entire news article, watching an entire television show or listening to an entire speech, growing numbers of people are happy to jump to the summary, the video clip, the sound bite — never mind if context and nuance are lost in the process; never mind if it’s our emotions, more than our sense of reason, that are engaged; never mind if statements haven’t been properly vetted and sourced.

People tweet and text one another during plays and movies, forming judgments before seeing the arc of the entire work. Recent books by respected authors like Malcolm Gladwell (“Outliers”), Susan Faludi (“The Terror Dream”) and Jane Jacobs (“Dark Age Ahead”) rely far more heavily on cherry-picked anecdotes — instead of broader-based evidence and assiduous analysis — than the books that first established their reputations. And online research enables scholars to power-search for nuggets of information that might support their theses, saving them the time of wading through stacks of material that might prove marginal but that might have also prompted them to reconsider or refine their original thinking.

“Reading in the traditional open-ended sense is not what most of us, whatever our age and level of computer literacy, do on the Internet,” the scholar Susan Jacoby writes in “The Age of American Unreason.” “What we are engaged in — like birds of prey looking for their next meal — is a process of swooping around with an eye out for certain kinds of information.”

TODAY’S TECHNOLOGY has bestowed miracles of access and convenience upon millions of people, and it’s also proven to be a vital new means of communication. Twitter has been used by Iranian dissidents; text messaging and social networking Web sites have been used to help coordinate humanitarian aid in Haiti; YouTube has been used by professors to teach math and chemistry. But technology is also turning us into a global water-cooler culture, with millions of people sending each other (via e-mail, text messages, tweets, YouTube links) gossip, rumors and the sort of amusing-entertaining-weird anecdotes and photographs they might once have shared with pals over a coffee break. And in an effort to collect valuable eyeballs and clicks, media outlets are increasingly pandering to that impulse — often at the expense of hard news. “I have the theory that news is now driven not by editors who know anything,” the comedian and commentator Bill Maher recently observed. “I think it’s driven by people who are” slacking off at work and “surfing the Internet.” He added, “It’s like a country run by ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos.’ ”

MSNBC’s new program “The Dylan Ratigan Show,” which usually focuses on business and politics, has a “While you were working ...” segment in which viewers are asked to send in “some of the strangest and outrageous stories you’ve found on the Internet,” and the most e-mailed lists on popular news sites tend to feature articles about pets, food, celebrities and self-improvement. For instance, at one point on March 11, the top story on The Washington Post’s Web site was “Maintaining a Sex Life,” while the top story on, a user-generated news link site, was “(Funny) Sexy Girl? Do Not Trust Profile Pictures!”

Given the constant bombardment of trivia and data that we’re subjected to in today’s mediascape, it’s little wonder that noisy, Manichean arguments tend to get more attention than subtle, policy-heavy ones; that funny, snarky or willfully provocative assertions often gain more traction than earnest, measured ones; and that loud, entertaining or controversial personalities tend to get the most ink and airtime. This is why Sarah Palin’s every move and pronouncement is followed by television news, talk-show hosts and pundits of every political persuasion. This is why Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh on the right and Michael Moore on the left are repeatedly quoted by followers and opponents. This is why a gathering of 600 people for last month’s national Tea Party convention in Nashville received a disproportionate amount of coverage from both the mainstream news media and the blogosphere.

Digital insiders like Mr. Lanier and Paulina Borsook, the author of the book “Cyberselfish,” have noted the easily distracted, adolescent quality of much of cyberculture. Ms. Borsook describes tech-heads as having “an angry adolescent view of all authority as the Pig Parent,” writing that even older digerati want to think of themselves as “having an Inner Bike Messenger.”

For his part Mr. Lanier says that because the Internet is a kind of “pseudoworld” without the qualities of a physical world, it encourages the Peter Pan fantasy of being an entitled child forever, without the responsibilities of adulthood. While this has the virtues of playfulness and optimism, he argues, it can also devolve into a “Lord of the Flies”-like nastiness, with lots of “bullying, voracious irritability and selfishness” — qualities enhanced, he says, by the anonymity, peer pressure and mob rule that thrive online.

Digital culture, he writes in “You Are Not a Gadget,” “is comprised of wave after wave of juvenilia,” with rooms of “M.I.T. Ph.D. engineers not seeking cancer cures or sources of safe drinking water for the underdeveloped world but schemes to send little digital pictures of teddy bears and dragons between adult members of social networks.”

AT THE SAME time the Internet’s nurturing of niche cultures is contributing to what Cass Sunstein calls “cyberbalkanization.” Individuals can design feeds and alerts from their favorite Web sites so that they get only the news they want, and with more and more opinion sites and specialized sites, it becomes easier and easier, as Mr. Sunstein observes in his 2009 book “Going to Extremes,” for people “to avoid general-interest newspapers and magazines and to make choices that reflect their own predispositions.”

“Serendipitous encounters” with persons and ideas different from one’s own, he writes, tend to grow less frequent, while “views that would ordinarily dissolve, simply because of an absence of social support, can be found in large numbers on the Internet, even if they are understood to be exotic, indefensible or bizarre in most communities.” He adds that studies of group polarization show that when like-minded people deliberate, they tend to reinforce one another and become more extreme in their views.

One result of this nicheification of the world is that consensus and common ground grow ever smaller, civic discourse gets a lot less civil, and pluralism — what Isaiah Berlin called the idea that “there are many different ends that men may seek and still be fully rational, fully men, capable of understanding each other and sympathizing and deriving light” from “worlds, outlooks, very remote from our own” — comes to feel increasingly elusive.

As Mr. Manjoo observes in “True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society” (2008), the way in which “information now moves through society — on currents of loosely linked online groups and niche media outlets, pushed along by experts and journalists of dubious character and bolstered by documents that are no longer considered proof of reality” — has fostered deception and propaganda and also created what he calls a “Rashomon world” where “the very idea of objective reality is under attack.” Politicians and voters on the right and left not only hold different opinions from one another, but often can’t even agree over a shared set of facts, as clashes over climate change, health care and the Iraq war attest.

THE WEB’S amplification of subjectivity applies to culture as well as politics, fueling a phenomenon that has been gaining hold over America for several decades, with pundits squeezing out reporters on cable news, with authors writing biographies animated by personal and ideological agendas, with tell-all memoirs, talk-show confessionals, self-dramatizing blogs and carefully tended Facebook and MySpace pages becoming almost de rigeur.

As for the textual analysis known as deconstruction, which became fashionable in American academia in the 1980s, it enshrined individual readers’ subjective responses to a text over the text itself, thereby suggesting that the very idea of the author (and any sense of original intent) was dead. In doing so, deconstruction uncannily presaged arguments advanced by digerati like Kevin Kelly, who in a 2006 article for The New York Times Magazine looked forward to the day when books would cease to be individual works but would be scanned and digitized into one great, big continuous text that could be “unraveled into single pages” or “reduced further, into snippets of a page,” which readers — like David Shields, presumably — could then appropriate and remix, like bits of music, into new works of their own.

As John Updike pointed out, Mr. Kelly’s vision would in effect mean “the end of authorship” — hobbling writers’ ability to earn a living from their published works, while at the same time removing a sense of both recognition and accountability from their creations. In a Web world where copies of books (and articles and music and other content) are cheap or free, Mr. Kelly has suggested, authors and artists could make money by selling “performances, access to the creator, personalization, add-on information” and other aspects of their work that cannot be copied. But while such schemes may work for artists who happen to be entrepreneurial, self-promoting and charismatic, Mr. Lanier says he fears that for “the vast majority of journalists, musicians, artists and filmmakers” it simply means “career oblivion.”

Other challenges to the autonomy of the artist come from new interactive media and from constant polls on television and the Web, which ask audience members for feedback on television shows, movies and music; and from fan bulletin boards, which often function like giant focus groups. Should the writers of television shows listen to fan feedback or a network’s audience testing? Does the desire to get an article on a “most e-mailed” list consciously or unconsciously influence how reporters and editors go about their assignments and approaches to stories? Are literary-minded novelists increasingly taking into account what their readers want or expect?

As reading shifts “from the private page to the communal screen,” Mr. Carr writes in “The Shallows,” authors “will increasingly tailor their work to a milieu that the writer Caleb Crain describes as ‘groupiness,’ where people read mainly ‘for the sake of a feeling of belonging’ rather than for personal enlightenment or amusement. As social concerns override literary ones, writers seem fated to eschew virtuosity and experimentation in favor of a bland but immediately accessible style.”

For that matter, the very value of artistic imagination and originality, along with the primacy of the individual, is increasingly being questioned in our copy-mad, postmodern digital world. In a recent Newsweek cover story pegged to the Tiger Woods scandal, Neal Gabler, the author of “Life: the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality,” absurdly asserts that celebrity is “the great new art form of the 21st century.”

Celebrity, Mr. Gabler argues, “competes with — and often supersedes — more traditional entertainments like movies, books, plays and TV shows,” and it performs, he says, “in its own roundabout way, many of the functions those old media performed in their heyday: among them, distracting us, sensitizing us to the human condition, and creating a fund of common experience around which we can form a national community.”

However impossible it is to think of “Jon & Kate Plus Eight” or “Jersey Shore” as art, reality shows have taken over wide swaths of television, and memoir writing has become a rite of passage for actors, politicians and celebrities of every ilk. At the same time our cultural landscape is brimming over with parodies, homages, variations, pastiches, collages and others forms of “appropriation art” — much of it facilitated by new technology that makes remixing, and cutting-and-pasting easy enough for a child.

It’s no longer just hip-hop sampling that rules in youth culture, but also jukebox musicals like “Jersey Boys” and “Rock of Ages,” and works like “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” which features characters drawn from a host of classic adventures. Fan fiction and fan edits are thriving, as are karaoke contests, video games like Guitar Hero, and YouTube mash-ups of music and movie, television and visual images. These recyclings and post-modern experiments run the gamut in quality. Some, like Zachary Mason’s “Lost Books of the Odyssey,” are beautifully rendered works of art in their own right. Some, like J. J. Abram’s 2009 “Star Trek” film and Amy Heckerling’s 1995 “Clueless” (based on Jane Austen’s “Emma”) are inspired reinventions of classics. Some fan-made videos are extremely clever and inventive, and some, like a 3-D video version of Picasso’s “Guernica” posted on YouTube, are intriguing works that raise important and unsettling questions about art and appropriation.

All too often, however, the recycling and cut-and-paste esthetic has resulted in tired imitations; cheap, lazy re-dos; or works of “appropriation” designed to generate controversy like Mr. Shields’s “Reality Hunger.” Lady Gaga is third-generation Madonna; many jukebox or tribute musicals like “Good Vibrations” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” do an embarrassing disservice to the artists who inspired them; and the rote remaking of old television shows into films (from “The Brady Bunch” to “Charlie’s Angels” to “Get Smart”), not to mention the recycling of video games into movies (like “Tomb Raider” and “Resident Evil”) often seem as pointless as they are now predictable.

Writing in a 2005 Wired article that “new technologies redefine us,” William Gibson hailed audience participation and argued that “an endless, recombinant, and fundamentally social process generates countless hours of creative product.” Indeed, he said, “audience is as antique a term as record, the one archaically passive, the other archaically physical. The record, not the remix, is the anomaly today. The remix is the very nature of the digital.”

To Mr. Lanier, however, the prevalence of mash-ups in today’s culture is a sign of “nostalgic malaise.” “Online culture,” he writes, “is dominated by trivial mash-ups of the culture that existed before the onset of mash-ups, and by fandom responding to the dwindling outposts of centralized mass media. It is a culture of reaction without action.”

He points out that much of the chatter online today is actually “driven by fan responses to expression that was originally created within the sphere of old media,” which many digerati mock as old-fashioned and passé, and which is now being destroyed by the Internet. “Comments about TV shows, major movies, commercial music releases and video games must be responsible for almost as much bit traffic as porn,” Mr. Lanier writes. “There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but since the Web is killing the old media, we face a situation in which culture is effectively eating its own seed stock.”

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