RSS

Category Archives: Reportages

The Anthropocene epoch: have we entered a new phase of planetary history?

It was February 2000 and the Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen was sitting in a meeting room in Cuernavaca, Mexico, stewing quietly. Five years earlier, Crutzen and two colleagues had been awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry for proving that the ozone layer, which shields the planet from ultraviolet light, was thinning at the poles because of rising concentrations of industrial gas. Now he was attending a meeting of scientists who studied the planet’s oceans, land surfaces and atmosphere. As the scientists presented their findings, most of which described dramatic planetary changes, Crutzen shifted in his seat. “You could see he was getting agitated. He wasn’t happy,” Will Steffen, a chemist who organised the meeting, told me recently.

What finally tipped Crutzen over the edge was a presentation by a group of scientists that focused on the Holocene, the geological epoch that began around 11,700 years ago and continues to the present day. After Crutzen heard the word Holocene for the umpteenth time, he lost it. “He stopped everybody and said: ‘Stop saying the Holocene! We’re not in the Holocene any more,’” Steffen recalled. But then Crutzen stalled. The outburst had not been premeditated, but now all eyes were on him. So he blurted out a name for a new epoch. A combination of anthropos, the Greek for “human”, and “-cene”, the suffix used in names of geological epochs, “Anthropocene” at least sounded academic. Steffen made a note.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/may/30/anthropocene-epoch-have-we-entered-a-new-phase-of-planetary-history

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 12, 2019 in Reportages

 

Tags: ,

Who killed the prime minister? The unsolved murder that still haunts Sweden

On the last night of February 1986, the Swedish prime minister Olof Palme and his wife, Lisbet, were strolling home through downtown Stockholm. They had taken an impromptu trip to the cinema and decided, as they often did, not to bring bodyguards. Palme made a point of living as much as possible like an ordinary person; he did not want the fact that he was running the country to come between him and his countrymen. “You saw him in the streets all the time,” says the Swedish ethnologist Jonas Engman. “You could speak to him. There was an intimacy to it.”

At 11.21pm, as the couple walked down Sveavägen, one of Stockholm’s busiest streets, a tall man in a dark coat walked up behind them. The man put one hand on Palme’s shoulder, and with his other hand fired a single round from a gun into the prime minister’s back. He grazed Lisbet with a second bullet before fleeing up a flight of 89 steps that links the main street with a parallel road above.

It was a Friday, and Sveavägen was packed with people ambling between bars and restaurants. Bystanders rushed to try to revive Palme, who now lay on the pavement in an expanding pool of blood. Six minutes later, he was taken to the nearest hospital, where, shortly after midnight, he was officially declared dead. It was later determined that the bullet had severed his spinal cord and that he had died before hitting the ground.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/may/16/olof-palme-sweden-prime-minister-unsolved-murder-new-evidence

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 7, 2019 in Europe, Reportages

 

Tags:

Report from Rojava: What the West Owes its Best Ally Against ISIS

As the de facto chief negotiator of the liberated region called the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, Ilham Ahmed, the Kurdish co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council, has much on her mind. In recent months, she has traveled in the US and Europe, negotiating the future of a domain that is home to an estimated 5 to 6 million people, including a substantial portion of Syria’s 6.2 million internally displaced persons, and, now in addition, thousands of families implicated in Islamic State terrorism who are today living in refugee camps. As Ahmed continues delicate talks with the world’s superpowers over the status of this territory, its future is, to a certain degree, in her hands.

With determination in her eyes and a furrowed brow, her face bears witness to this formidable responsibility. But riding in her black armored utility vehicle through plains lush with green spring grasses and grazing sheep, south toward Deir al-Zour province for the official announcement last month of the defeat of ISIS’ so-called caliphate, Ahmed allowed herself a moment to muse about a lesson from history. In the year 612 BCE, she told me, the Guti, ancient inhabitants of Mesopotamia whom Kurds sometimes identify as forebears, banded together with the Medes and other tribes to throw off their oppressor, the Assyrian King Zuhak.

https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2019/04/04/report-from-rojava-what-the-west-owes-its-best-ally-against-isis/

 
 

Tags: , ,

CO2 ǀ Hört endlich auf zu fliegen! — der Freitag

CO2 Weniger als 20 Prozent der Weltbevölkerung haben jemals ein Flugzeug bestiegen. Diese Luxuselite sind wir – eine Bedrohung für das Klima des Planeten

Kennen Sie den? Drei schwäbelnde Alt-Hippies wollen auf ein Festival nach Marseille und streiten sich über die beste Route: die eine kostet zu viel Maut, die andere zu viel Sprit. So geht das hin und her, bis die Tochter dazwischengeht: Warum fliegen wir eigentlich nicht? Die Botschaft: kostengünstig und kraftstoffsparend mit dem Flugzeug reisen, den O-Saft gibt’s umsonst dazu, „Fliegen ist das neue Öko.“ Kein Witz, sondern ein Werbevideo, mit dem sich der Bundesverband der Deutschen Luftverkehrswirtschaft, die Lobbyorganisation von deutschen Fluglinien und -häfen, im Jahr 2016 blamiert hat.

Es war der verzweifelte Versuch, dem Fliegen das schlechte Gewissen zu nehmen. Denn entgegen allen PR-Maßnahmen wissen heute immer mehr Menschen: Fliegen schadet dem Klima. Die Stimmung nähert sich langsam, aber sicher dem Kipppunkt: Rund 47 Prozent der Bundesbürger können sich laut einer Umfrage des Instituts Yougov sogar vorstellen, auf Flugreisen aus Umweltschutzgründen zu verzichten. Die Klimadebatte ist ein wachsendes Imageproblem für die Luftfahrt.

Und das aus gutem Grund. Das Flugzeug bleibt pro Kopf gerechnet das schmutzigste Verkehrsmittel: Laut Umweltbundesamt (UBA) produziert die Bahn pro Personenkilometer sechs Mal weniger Treibhausgase als ein Flug, sogar der Pkw liegt weit dahinter. Am klimafreundlichsten bewegt man sich immer noch mit dem Reisebus fort.

https://www.freitag.de/autoren/der-freitag/hoert-endlich-auf-zu-fliegen

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 27, 2019 in Reportages, Uncategorized

 

Tags:

Why we stopped trusting elites

For hundreds of years, modern societies have depended on something that is so ubiquitous, so ordinary, that we scarcely ever stop to notice it: trust. The fact that millions of people are able to believe the same things about reality is a remarkable achievement, but one that is more fragile than is often recognised.

At times when public institutions – including the media, government departments and professions – command widespread trust, we rarely question how they achieve this. And yet at the heart of successful liberal democracies lies a remarkable collective leap of faith: that when public officials, reporters, experts and politicians share a piece of information, they are presumed to be doing so in an honest fashion.
The notion that public figures and professionals are basically trustworthy has been integral to the health of representative democracies. After all, the very core of liberal democracy is the idea that a small group of people – politicians – can represent millions of others. If this system is to work, there must be a basic modicum of trust that the small group will act on behalf of the much larger one, at least some of the time. As the past decade has made clear, nothing turns voters against liberalism more rapidly than the appearance of corruption: the suspicion, valid or otherwise, that politicians are exploiting their power for their own private interest.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/nov/29/why-we-stopped-trusting-elites-the-new-populism

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 23, 2019 in Reportages, Uncategorized

 

Tags:

Can the world quench China’s bottomless thirst for milk?

Beijing-based film-maker Jian Yi, now 43, clearly remembers the arrival of fresh milk in his life. It was an image of it, not the real thing. “It was the 1990s, and I first saw it in an advert on TV. The ad said explicitly that drinking milk would save the nation. It would make China stronger and better able to survive competition from other nations.”
Like most ethnic Han, who make up about 95% of the population, Jian was congenitally lactose-intolerant, meaning milk was hard to digest. His parents did not consume dairy at all when they were growing up; China’s economy was closed to the global market and its own production very limited. Throughout the Mao era, milk was in short supply and rationed to those deemed to have a special need: infants and the elderly, athletes and party cadres above a certain grade. Through most of the imperial dynasties until the 20th century, milk was generally shunned as the slightly disgusting food of the barbarian invaders. Foreigners brought cows to the port cities that had been ceded to them by the Chinese in the opium wars of the 19th century, and a few groups such as Mongolian pastoralists used milk that was fermented, but it was not part of the typical Chinese diet.

As China opened up to the market in the 1980s, after Mao’s death, dried milk powder began appearing in small shops where you could buy it with state-issued coupons. Jian’s parents bought it for him because they thought it would make him stronger. “It was expensive, I didn’t like it, I was intolerant, but we persuaded ourselves it was the food of the future,” he said. “You have to understand the psychology here – there is a sense in China that we have been humiliated ever since the opium wars, but that now we are no longer going to be humiliated by foreign powers.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/29/can-the-world-quench-chinas-bottomless-thirst-for-milk

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 23, 2019 in Asia, Reportages, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , ,

“I am a woman and I am fast”: what Caster Semenya’s story says about gender and race in sports

“I am Mokgadi Caster Semenya. I am a woman and I am fast.”

So said the reigning Olympic champion in the women’s 800-meter last year, in a statement challenging rules that could threaten her athletic career.

The rules, issued by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), require some female runners whose bodies produce high levels of testosterone to take medication to lower those levels. Many saw the rules as a direct effort to target Semenya, who is believed to have a condition that produces high testosterone. The runner appealed the new regulations, but on Wednesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled against her.

Semenya’s story is about the ongoing efforts by sports governing bodies to develop gender divisions that are fair to all athletes. But it’s also about what happens when an athlete — especially a black athlete — doesn’t conform to other people’s ideas about womanhood.

https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/5/3/18526723/caster-semenya-800-gender-race-intersex-athletes

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 21, 2019 in Reportages, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , ,

Can China become a scientific superpower?

TO LAND ON the Moon, as China’s Chang’e -4 spacecraft did on January 3rd, is not quite the pinnacle of achievement it once was. Both the Indian government and a well-backed Israeli team of enthusiasts will attempt landings there this year; in 2020 various American companies intend to light out for the lunar provinces, too. But all these non-Chinese efforts will land on the Moon’s Earth-facing near side, and thus within the solicitous sight of Earthbound controllers—just as all previous lunar landings, whether American, Soviet or, since 2013, Chinese, have been.

Chang’e-4’s landing site in Von Kármán crater, though, is on the far side of the Moon, where the spacecraft can no more easily be reached by radio than it can be seen through a telescope. Landing there and getting data back afterwards is possible only with the help of a cunningly pre-positioned relay satellite. Other countries have considered such missions, but none has ever mounted one. China has been carefully building up the capacity to go where they have not; now it has done so.

https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2019/01/12/can-china-become-a-scientific-superpower

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 21, 2019 in Asia, Reportages, Uncategorized

 

Tags:

Is Prison Necessary? Ruth Wilson Gilmore Might Change Your Mind

There’s an anecdote that Ruth Wilson Gilmore likes to share about being at an environmental-justice conference in Fresno in 2003. People from all over California’s Central Valley had gathered to talk about the serious environmental hazards their communities faced, mostly as a result of decades of industrial farming, conditions that still have not changed. (The air quality in the Central Valley is the worst in the nation, and one million of its residents drink tap water more poisoned than the water in Flint, Mich.) There was a “youth track” at the conference, in which children were meant to talk about their worries and then decide as a group what was most important to be done in the name of environmental justice. Gilmore, a renowned geography professor (then at University of California, Berkeley, now at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan) and an influential figure in the prison-abolition movement, was a keynote speaker.

She was preparing her talk when someone told her that the kids wanted to speak with her. She went into the room where they were gathered. The children were primarily Latino, many of them the sons and daughters of farmworkers or other people in the agriculture industry. They ranged in age, but most were middle schoolers: old enough to have strong opinions and to distrust adults. They were frowning at her with their shoulders up and their arms crossed. She didn’t know these kids, but she understood that they were against her.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/magazine/prison-abolition-ruth-wilson-gilmore.html

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 21, 2019 in North America, Reportages

 

Tags: ,

Can’t-do country: how Australia is on the brink of environmental disaster

The great Australian clichés: G’day; fair dinkum; dinki-di; fair go; no worries; good on yer; she’ll be right; mateship; whingeing Poms; the lucky country. Only one of these has been known to cause its progenitor any grief. The late Donald Horne’s book The Lucky Country was published in 1964 and became an Australian phenomenon, described by one critic as “a bucket of cold saltwater emptied on to the belly of a dreaming sunbather”.

“Dad was very happy that the phrase caught on,” said Dr Julia Horne, associate professor of social history at the University of Sydney. “But if he was watching TV and saw it being used without irony he would stick his thumbs in his ears and waggle his fingers at the set. A wine started using the name and he couldn’t bear it.

“Much of the luck came from the postwar mineral boom. His point was the luck of the boom would run out. He believed that Australians were forward-thinking but that their politicians and businessmen were stunted creatively and imaginatively.”

Donald Horne died in 2005. Minerals boomed again; Australia is still lucky. Gamblers’ luck. And, as a nation of punters ought to know, that is not something that repeats itself indefinitely.

https://www.newstatesman.com/world/australasia/2019/03/can-t-do-country-how-australia-brink-environmental-disaster

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 14, 2019 in Oceania, Reportages, Uncategorized

 

Tags: ,