Empowering communities fighting new mines: an interview with filmmaker Jessie Landerman

first_imgConservation, Environment, Gold Mining, Human Rights, Interns, Interviews, Mining, Water Local communities often suffer from environmental degradation and human rights abuses when mining companies move into their territories.A new series of videos shows local communities that they are not alone by sharing stories of how other communities have combatted, with some success, mining giants.The organization is screening the films for various impacted communities worldwide. It is no secret that mining destroys environments and communities throughout the world. But, beneath the surface there are specific details that are not as widely known. Communities affected by mining sometimes suffer a myriad of human rights abuses. And communities often confront mining companies not knowing how other impacted communities have protected or supported themselves.New Media Advocacy Project (N-Map) saw an opportunity to help communities stand up for themselves. N-Map is a non-profit organization that employs video-based storytelling to advocate for human rights. In its recent series “Beneath the Surface,” they highlight stories of communities that suffered from mining.The goal is to use these stories as a tool to connect communities. Communities targeted by mining companies can screen these videos, get training, and turn screening sessions into action. This way they can get information before companies come in and break the cycle.Jessie Landerman (left) interviews one of the local residents in Luhwindja, Democratic Republic of Congo, where people have lost their land and businesses because of the arrival of BanRo Gold Mining. Photo Credit: Megan Chapman.For example, communities can see how Nigeria’s Bodo community collected baseline data to prove that two Shell oil spills caused significant environmental damage. Or how the Tacana community in Bolivia took control in negotiating an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) when a Bolivian oil company wanted to drill on their land. An EIA measures what impact a project will have on the environment, and outlines what the company will do to reduce this impact.“We see communities have small successes. They are never as grand or perfect as you like them to be. They are often very painful,” Landerman says.The stories show that unity and knowledge are extremely important in breaking this cycle. Targeted communities can see that “they do have options and should come together as a community to decide what is the best strategy for them and become active players in that strategy,” Landerman explained.In an interview with Mongabay, Landerman discusses the impacts of mining, how targeted communities can advocate for themselves, and how New Media Advocacy Project uses video-based storytelling to advance human rights (watch the videos in English, French, Swahili, or Creole).Contaminated water from BanRo’s gold mine outside Luhwindja, Democratic Republic of Congo in South Kivu. Nearby residents have complained of many health problems since mining operations began, and they believe it is linked to the contaminated water. Photo Credit: Jessie Landerman.AN INTERVIEW WITH JESSIE LANDERMANCaitlin Looby for Mongabay: Will you tell us about New Media Advocacy Project? Jessie Landerman: New Media Advocacy Project is a non-profit that is dedicated to using storytelling to advance human rights. What that looks like is creating very targeted audience-focused media or videos that are aimed at supporting specific pursuits of human rights.That could look like any number of issues. We don’t really narrow ourselves based on the issues. We have a very broad definition of human rights, and the same goes for geography…What we offer to people who are already working on the human rights challenge or a human rights campaign is to partner with them to strategically use video.One of the first steps to our process is to identify who the target audience is – not necessarily for video, but for change in general – in order for there to be a just outcome for the human rights challenge. Sometimes that target is at the top of the power pyramid like a judge or legislature. Sometimes it is the base of the pyramid itself, like in “Beneath the Surface.” [This series] is about a community audience, and empowering them through legal and other tactical information about how to defend their human rights.Mongabay: What led you to explore the issue of mining around the world? Jessie Landerman: In part mining is a cornucopia of human rights abuses. Almost any type of human rights abuse is affiliated with mining…The reason we got interested is from working with partners who worked around the world, hearing the articulation of the problems related to communities. There are a lot of stakeholders you can focus on when it comes to abuses related to mining. We really liked the idea that you could focus on communities as the main stakeholders of mining.The problem is communities are facing off against these multinational mining companies alone without access and support, and without knowledge of what other communities in their position have done before.We saw a fantastic opportunity to use video-based storytelling to solve that problem for communities that were targeted for mining. That is what drew us to it – that sense of opportunity and demand. We are really a demand driven organization in terms of solving problems using video. In this case, there were communities out there that were extremely hungry for information about what these mining companies done in other places and what have other communities done to protect their rights.When we started researching it more, we saw there is a playbook that companies play by when they go from community to community. They get what they want, and communities really get screwed. There was an opportunity to use video-based storytelling to provide information to communities in advance, and help them stand up for themselves and break that cycle.Madeleine May of New Media Advocacy (right) produces a video shoot in Bodo, Nigeria, where residents of a fishing city were devastated by an oil spill from a Shell pipeline just off the coast. Because citizens collected environmental samples of soil and water before the spill, the community’s legal representatives were able to definitively prove that Shell had contributed to the massive pollution of the coastal ecosystem. Photo Credit: Andrew Maki.Mongabay: In “Beneath the Surface: The Impacts of Mining,” subjects mention that they were deceived. They thought that mining would be a “blessing.” How do mining companies convince communities to sign on?Jessie Landerman: Based on the stories we have learned and read, companies offer all sorts of economic benefits directly and indirectly. They will often offer people jobs. They will often offer people direct money, saying they will get direct payouts. They say that they will have to relocate, and their new home will be a lot better than their old home. The idea is that people are offered development for their area; they are offered roads, schools, hospitals, and new jobs. And a sense that there is going to be a general rush of prosperity, which logically makes sense. When communities are aware that they have a valuable mineral, it is hard to imagine that you wouldn’t benefit from that. That mineral is under your house or your field. It is hard to think about all this wealth being extracted from where you live and not getting to see any of it.No community that we met and talked to felt that those promises had been realized or that they were better off after mining. Every community that we talked to had suffered and were much worse off after mining. That includes communities that had sued for damages afterwards, and got cash payouts afterwards.Mongabay: Do communities ever benefit? What about from artisanal mining? Jessie Landerman: Industrial mining usually displaces artisanal mining. Also, as in the video from Ghana, if the community is not already mining artisanally, and a company comes in and starts finding indication that there are minerals people will come along before the industrial mine and start mining artisanally. This also has negative impacts on the social fabric and the environment.Mongabay: Broadly, what are the environmental impacts of mining, both on local communities and biodiversity? Jessie Landerman: One of the impacts of gold mining that we focus on the most is water. It is the most immediate and one of the most pressing problems environmentally that results from mining. Mining is bad for both the quantity and quality of water sources.Gold mines use huge amounts of water in all of their processing. Communities have much less water than they used to. Also, water sources are very often contaminated by mining. Mercury and cyanide are frequently used in gold mining. People get very sick and there is tragedy after tragedy with people getting sick from contaminated water… Water [sources] can [also] be destroyed by oil.One of the other cases that we looked at was diamond mining, and people [dying] from water-borne illnesses. Contaminated water is one of the deadliest and most serious impacts of gold mining, and other types of mining.Mariana, an indigenous community leader in the Bolivian Amazon, reviews a summary of the Environmental Impact Assessment for a proposed oil and gas project in her community. Mariana and her neighbors fought hard against the project and forced the company to agree to specific environmental protections in their project plan. Photo credit: Jessie LandermanMongabay: In the second video, the project discusses the importance of collecting baseline data. Why is this so valuable? Jessie Landerman: It gets people to recognize, value, and evaluate their own resources. If a company comes in, and says that they want to use your water you will react differently if you take it for granted than if you are actively engaged in valuing and thinking about all the ways to use that resource.There is also a lot of policy-based processes, there are agreements that are signed and studies that are conducted. Communities are largely blocked from that process. It is very difficult for them to engage in part because it is to the benefit of companies to not engage communities. Getting communities confident and armed with their own data can really shift those scales. It can help them from getting steamrolled in a lot of these processes.We also think the data that they collect is a tool that they can deploy at various points both before mining occurs and if it does happen and there is an accident, like contamination.Mongabay: In “Beneath the Surface: Community Mapping and Resistance to Mining in Ghana,” it is mentioned that people become disconnected from their culture. How does mining do this? How is it impacting culture and society? Jessie Landerman: The presence of outsiders. A lot of times mines are created in communities that are small and close-knit. The influx of outsiders, like workers at the mine can really devastate communities. Mining areas are very highly correlated with sex work and with drugs because there is a lot of transient migrant workers. Often times people working at the mines are not people from the community. When you have a large influx of outsiders, many of whom are migrant male workers, you end up with a lot of new dynamics in a community that can really change the social fabric.Also, because mining is so damaging to land and to water, people often can’t farm anymore. When you disrupt an economic pillar of society everything else starts to shift. And what we see is that it doesn’t shift for the better.Villagers in the Democratic Republic of Congo who were relocated to make way for BanRo’s Twangiza gold mine watch N-Map’s video The Impacts of Mining. The video features interviews with members of their community describing the suffering and unfulfilled promises caused by the company. Following the screening, the community engaged in a discussion about how it has been affected by the mine. Photo Credit: Jessie Landerman.Mongabay: What are some of the challenges you face in producing videos like this?Jessie Landerman: Mining is often done in very remote areas. It is a challenge to plan a video production that is several days long in a remote place where you may not have electricity. One of the cases that we highlight in the series is filmed in Bolivia, and it is about an Environmental Impact Assessment. To get there took at least three days. Flying from New York to Lima, flying to the Peruvian Amazon, getting on a boat to the Bolivian Amazon, and your boat breaks down. Then someone from the community shows up with their small boat, and you put all your equipment in it. Every night you are charging your batteries on a generator at someone’s house. You have to bring all of your food and water with you.One of the other challenges is if a community has already been affected by an industrial mining company there is a level of distrust and trauma of outsiders who come in with an agenda. Not only to hear their stories, but to partner with them is a commitment.At New Media Advocacy Project’s core is a commitment to partner with communities, civil society organizations, and NGOs. We would never show up in the Bolivian Amazon with our gear and try to solicit their testimony. We spend weeks and months building relationships with people explaining what we want to do and why, and also learning from them how it can be a reciprocal process. Sometimes knowing they are sharing their story with others is very valuable to communities. A lot of times the video itself is a tool that they can use to sustain their goals or for their own advocacy.Mongabay: What stories in this series will you be producing next? Jessie Landerman: We have two forthcoming videos in this series that we just filmed. One is from the Philippines that is a resistance movement that has a lot of strong female leadership. That is one angle that we wanted to focus on: the role of women in community-based human rights defense and organizing.Mongabay: Do you ever reach out to the miners or companies, like Shell and Azumah, involved in destroying these environments?Jessie Landerman: In the scope of this project, no. That is really not our goal because there is so much need in addressing mining abuses and human rights we had to be more rigid on where we focus our energy. We are focused on communicating with communities and between communities, and connecting them with each other. There is temptation to do that. There is a role for advocacy to these companies. That is not our role in this particular project. But, I recognize that it is an important part of human rights advocacy to mining.Mongabay: What are the best methods for communities to resist mining companies from coming in? What can they learn from other communities who have successfully repelled mining companies?Jessie Landerman: One of the biggest lessons is somewhat abstract, but it has to do with unity and communicating and information sharing within the community. Divide and conquer is one of the rules of the playbook for mining companies. If communities fall prey to that it is going to be very difficult for them to recover and implement any other tactical strategy. Whether it is doing a baseline water survey or creating a community-based organization in order to speak with one voice, the first step is unity and communication within the community itself.Mongabay: Can areas recover from mining? If so, how long does it take for an ecosystem to recover? Jessie Landerman: We haven’t researched thoroughly what happens after a mine closes. I know that it is still a huge problem area, and in many aspects after a mine closes the water system doesn’t support the community anymore. There [are] abandoned materials and pits scattered all over the globe.One of the biggest and uplifting success stories has been the continuation of the story in Bolivia. A community was getting an oil and gas project forced on them and in order to fight back they took a very active role in all of the institutional processes around the mine, like permitting and studies that were conducted. Those are conversations that very often happen at the higher levels of government and the mining company, and people on the ground are left out. They seized the opportunity to insert themselves into that process. As a result, they were able to negotiate specific protections into the project plan that were so inconvenient for the project that the project was abandoned.We see communities have small successes. They are never as grand or perfect as you like them to be. They are often very painful. These communities are in pain. But, there are these successes, but they are much more complex and nuanced. That has been a huge learning experience for me because as a video storyteller sometimes we seek these ideal, grand stories. The stories are grand, but they are also very complicated.At a workshop with New Media Advocacy, community organizers in Northern Haiti view N-Map’s “Impacts of Mining” video and plan how to use the “Beneath the Surface” series to educate and empower their own communities. Photo Credit: Karen Heredia.Mongabay: What is the big take home message you want a viewer to walk away with?Jessie Landerman: Our strategy for distribution of the films is to provide projection equipment and training to community advocates so that they can screen the films in their own communities. We’ve identified partners in several target countries where there is an interest in mining.We provide them with equipment for a battery powered screening for up to 200 people. We provide them with a projector, a speaker, a screen, and the videos in the appropriate language. And most importantly, customized training and support on who their audiences are, how to gather those audiences, and how to facilitate a discussion. Essentially, how to turn a video screening into community-based action.In that sense, the target audiences are the communities themselves. We want them to walk away with a sense that their unity matters. They do have options and should come together as a community to decide what is the best strategy for them and become active players in that strategy. Rather than having far away elected representatives in the capital city decide on their behalf. Article published by Maria Salazarcenter_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredlast_img read more

Brazilian firm wants to build new dams in Amazon’s Aripuanã basin

first_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsored Amazon Biodiversity, Amazon Conservation, Amazon Dams, Amazon Destruction, Amazon Mining, Amazon People, Biodiversity Hotspots, Controversial, Dams, Deforestation, Drivers Of Deforestation, electricity, Energy, Energy Politics, Environment, environmental justice, Environmental Politics, Ethnocide, Featured, Flooding, Forests, Green, Hydroelectric Power, Hydropower, Illegal Mining, Indigenous Culture, Indigenous Cultures, Indigenous Groups, Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Rights, Infrastructure, Land Conflict, Land Grabbing, Land Rights, Land Use Change, Mining, Rainforest Deforestation, Rainforest Destruction, Rainforest Mining, Rainforests, Rivers, Saving The Amazon, Social Conflict, Social Justice, Threats To The Amazon, Tropical Deforestation Article published by Glenn Scherercenter_img With the bancada ruralista mining / agribusiness lobby in control of the Temer government and Congress, a Brazilian company, Intertechne Consultores, sees it as an opportune time to revive a shelved plan to build dams in the Amazon’s Aripuanã basin.The company has asked federal officials to allow viability studies for 3 new dams in this very remote, biodiverse region — the Sumaúma and Quebra Remo dams on the Aripuanã River, and the Inferninho dam on its tributary, the Roosevelt River.The Inferninho dam, if built, would highly impact the Cinta Larga Indians, the victims of Brazilian-inflicted genocide in the 1960s. The Roosevelt Indigenous Reserve contains one of the world’s five largest diamond reserves, a cause of past violent conflicts.Moves may be afoot in Congress to end a ban of mining on indigenous lands. If passed, a new law could allow mining on Cinta Larga land, with new mines potentially powered by the new hydroelectric dams. These projects, if built, would likely be a source of intense new controversy and conflict in the Amazon. There are four dams already on the Aripuanã River. Intertechne Consultores wants to build two more there, plus one on the Roosevelt River, which could ultimately provide power to new diamond mines, should they be allowed in indigenous territory. Photo credit: Haka´s photos via VisualHunt / CC BY-NDA Brazilian company, Intertechne Consultores, has asked Aneel, the federal Agency for Electric Energy, to authorize viability studies to build three new dams in the Aripuanã river basin — the Sumaúma and Quebra Remo dams along the Aripuanã River itself and the Inferninho dam along its tributary, the Roosevelt River. The company provides consulting, engineering and construction management services for hydroelectric dams and has worked on several dams in the Amazon, including the controversial Belo Monte dam.The Aripuanã basin is considered one of the best-preserved regions in Amazonia with a high level of endemic plants and animals. While there are, as yet, no dams on the Roosevelt River, there are already four on the Aripuana, which is a tributary of the Madeira river, which flows north from Bolivia to join the Amazon at Itacoatiara.One of these existing dams — Dardanelos — has been controversial. In 2010, its builders dynamited a cemetery belonging to the Arara indigenous group, providing a foretaste of the controversy that erupted a few years later when a river rapids sacred to the Munduruku was blasted away to construct the Teles Pires dam in the Tapajós watershed.Major cataract near the Dardanelos dam on the Aripuanã River. Photo credit: Christopher Borges via Visualhunt / CC BYArara leader, Aldeci Arara, said at the time: “This was a big cemetery, which contained all our ancestors, many generations of our tribe, in the middle of the construction site. It is a sacred place for us.” Today, it is gone — something equivalent to blowing up the Vatican to build a road, indigenous experts say.The Brazilian government has been talking about expanding the hydropower network in the Aripuanã basin for some time. In April 2012, it said it was planning seven more dams there — four along the Aripuanã River, including Quebra Remo and Sumaúma, and three along the Roosevelt River, including Inferninho.However, the projects didn’t go ahead due to widespread criticism from environmentalists and indigenous supporters. Marcelo Cortez, WWF-Brazil’s conservation analyst at the time, said that the dams would impact the Mosaic of Southern Amazonia, created in 2011, which includes 40 conservation units covering seven million hectares (2,703 square miles).Indigenous reserves would also have been significantly affected.The controversial Dardanelos dam. In 2010, its builders dynamited a cemetery belonging to the Arara indigenous group, resulting in the Indians’ occupation of the dam in protest. Photo credit: Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento (PAC) via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SAEnergy experts, including Anderson Bittencourt, who worked then for the Department of Environment and Sustainable Development in the Amazonas state government, were critical of the large amount of forest that would be flooded in return for fairly modest quantities of energy. He said that Brazilian hydroelectric dams on average need to flood 0.5 square kilometers to generate 1 megawatt (MW) of electricity, but that the new dams would flood much more forest than this.Anxious to reassure critics, the president of Intertechne, Antonio Fernando Krempel, told the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper that it would be different this time. “We intend to carry out new studies. We will have a different approach … We know there are viable alternatives,” he said.Even so, Bittencourt’s concerns still seem relevant. The three new dams in question would flood 1,085 square kilometers (419 square miles) of forest, while generating just 1,035 MWs. In other words, about 1 square kilometer would need to be flooded to generate 1 MW — twice the average for Brazilian dams.Moreover, large areas of vegetation would be left to rot in the water, raising concerns about emissions of greenhouse gases. It is now understood by scientists that tropical dams contribute significantly to methane release, a greenhouse gas more than 20 times as powerful as carbon dioxide.Waterfalls on the Aripuanã River in Mato Grosso state. A Brazilian company, Intertechne Consultores, has asked the government to authorize viability studies to build three new dams in the Aripuanã river basin — the Sumaúma and Quebra Remo dams on the Aripuanã River, and the Inferninho dam on its tributary, the Roosevelt River. Photo credit: Cleber Rech via VisualHunt.com / CC BYMap of the Aripuanã and Roosevelt rivers. The Roosevelt flows north into the Aripuanã, which flows north into the Madeira River, which then flows to the Amazon. Map by Shannon under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2Perhaps the worst impact would be felt by the Cinta Larga Indians, who have suffered greatly from the arrival of outsiders on their land. Their territory would be directly impacted by the Inferninho dam on the Roosevelt River.These Indians first came to public notice when they shadowed the famed Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition, without ever making contact. The journey was undertaken in 1913-14 by Cândido Rondon, a military officer and explorer, renowned for his lifelong support of indigenous communities, and by former U.S. president Teddy Roosevelt and his son Kermit. Together, they worked out the route taken by the river to reach the Amazon. The near disastrous expedition attracted attention in the press, and even resulted in the river’s renaming, from Rio da Dúvida (River of Doubt) to the Roosevelt River.Although no violent incidents occurred during the expedition, the indians’ subsequent contacts with outsiders were far less peaceful. In subsequent years, the Cinta Larga were involved in a series of violent contacts with outsiders who entered their land to tap rubber, extract timber or mine for gold and diamonds.Teddy Roosevelt writes of the 1913-14 expedition: “We have had a hard and somewhat dangerous but very successful trip. No less than six weeks were spent… forcing our way down through what seemed a literally endless succession of rapids and cataracts. For forty-eight days we saw no human being. In passing these rapids we lost five of the seven canoes… One of our best men lost his life in the rapids. Under the strain one of the men… murdered [another] and fled into the wilderness.” Photo courtesy of Cornell University LibraryWhile the Rondon-Roosevelt expedition encountered no indigenous people along the river, wildlife didn’t fare as well. Colonel Roosevelt and the first jaguar killed. Photo courtesy of http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trbrazil.htmlCândido Rondon, a military officer and explorer, renowned for his lifelong support of indigenous communities. Here, Colonel Rondon poses with the second jaguar killed. Photo courtesy of http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trbrazil.htmlThe most notorious incident occurred in the 1960s when an unknown number of Cinta Larga, probably over three thousand, were killed. According to Ulisses Capozzoli, who worked with the Indians then, they were given food mixed with arsenic by local landowners, in cooperation with employees from Brazil’s Indigenous Protection Service (SPI), precursor of today’s indigenous agency, Funai. “They also flew over villages, throwing down toys contaminated with flu, measles and chickenpox viruses,” he recalled. It is widely considered one of the worst incidents of genocide in the history of indigenous contact in the Amazon.Toward the end of the century, the Cinta Larga began mining for diamonds themselves. In 2004, they murdered 29 non-indigenous miners who illegally entered their land to extract diamonds. The deaths caused a furore. A year of negotiations followed until federal authorities got the Indians to agree to close the mine in exchange for a government grant.However, with diamonds still in the ground, it seems unlikely these mineral conflicts have come to a permanent end. According to the Brazilian government’s Company for Research and Mineral Resources (CPRM), the Roosevelt Indigenous Reserve contains one of the world’s five largest diamond reserves.Senator Romero Jucá, a leading member of the rural caucus. In 1996 he presented a bill (PL 160/1996) to allow private companies to mine indigenous land. That bill is reportedly gaining support today in congress. Photo courtesy of WikipediaAt present, it is illegal to mine on indigenous land, but this could change. In 1996 Senator Romero Jucá, a leading member of the rural caucus that today controls over half the votes in Congress, presented a bill (PL 160/1996) to allow private companies to mine indigenous land. The bill, approved by the Senate then, has been languishing in the Lower Chamber ever since. Recent reports say that the measure has moved up the political agenda.If the bill is approved, there will undoubtedly be a new flurry of interest by mining companies in the diamonds lying beneath the Roosevelt Indigenous Reserve. It also seems logical that electricity generated by the new Inferninho dam on the Roosevelt River would be utilized to power any new mines in the area. All of this would open up this remote region for settlement, as new roads and transmission lines are built.With the Temer government and bancada ruralista, rural caucus in power, events could align quickly in the Aripuanã basin for a new rush by industry and government to profit from the Amazon’s mineral wealth and its hydroelectric potential. Observers also fear that the pieces are falling into place for renewed indigenous conflict: with the federal agencies dealing with indigenous and environmental affairs reeling from severe budget cuts, and with indigenous communities and their supporters, along with environmentalists, ready to resist big new infrastructure projects in this isolated, culturally and biodiversity rich Amazon region.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page.Through the Brazilian wilderness (1914) by Teddy Roosevelt: “We have put on the map a river about 1,500 kilometers in length… Until now its upper course has been utterly unknown to every one, and its lower course… unknown to all cartographers.” Of course, the so-called Rio da Dúvida (River of Doubt), was well known to the Cinta Larga Indians who lived all along its length, and who shadowed the Rondon-Roosevelt expedition unseen. The Cinta Larga have since suffered greatly due to invasions of their land by adventurers and companies seeking rubber, diamonds and gold. Photo courtesy of Cornell University Librarylast_img read more

Googles DeepMind is using StarCraft II to help train selfdriving cars

first_img 2020 Hyundai Palisade review: Posh enough to make Genesis jealous 2020 BMW M340i review: A dash of M makes everything better 6:08 Jaguar’s I-Pace gets the Waymo treatment 38 Photos Now playing: Watch this: More From Roadshow (Hint: it’s a lot like driving a car.)What’s happening with StarCraft II’s AI is that Google’s DeepMind system is using a type of algorithm called population-based training to mimic natural selection. The algorithm shortcuts the learning process by starting with the most efficient units and then basing future adaptations on those.The same thing is happening with self-driving development. DeepMind is selecting the aspects of the neural network that are most efficient and using those when it needs to retrain or adjust its procedures as new data comes in.”One of the key challenges for anyone doing machine learning in an industrial system is to be able to rebuild the system to take advantage of new code,” Matthieu Devin, director of machine learning infrastructure at Waymo, said in an interview with MIT Technology Review. “We need to constantly retrain the net and rewrite our code. And when you retrain, you may need to tweak your parameters.”Google has already commercialized some of its machine-learning technology, but it’s specifically using this population-based training model on its fleet of Waymo self-driving vehicles, which is already viewed by many as the most advanced self-driving car program in the world and one that has driven billions and billions of simulated miles. 2019 Porsche Cayenne Turbo review: The performance SUV par excellence Enlarge ImageGoogle’s Waymo is using DeepMind’s StarCraft II skills to retrain its neural networks. Waymo Finding new ways to train neural networks is becoming more important all the time, especially as the race to develop autonomous cars heats up. This has led developers to come up with some reasonably inventive ways of getting their networks up to speed, and one of them seems to involve the game StarCraft II.What could a nearly decade-old game possibly have to do with training state-of-the-art neural networks? More than you’d think actually. See, according to a report published Thursday by MIT Technology Review, the techniques that some people are applying to make the game’s AI smarter and harder to beat can be carried over to neural network development.See, in StarCraft II, you’re tasked with controlling dozens of individual units, each with unique skills, all while managing resources and fighting an opponent who is trying to wipe you out. It’s a complicated task that humans are good at, but machines can struggle with. Sound kind of familiar? center_img 0 Autonomous Vehicles Video Games Share your voice Post a comment Tags Self-driving cars A ride on public streets in Waymo One Waymo Google Self-driving carslast_img read more

McDaniel College Presents The Vagina Monologues Benefit

first_imgThe Vagina Monologues performance at McDaniel College on Feb. 3, and Feb. 4, with proceeds benefiting Rape Crisis Intervention Services of Carroll County, Family and Children’s Services of Central Maryland and the One Billion Rising Foundation. This is the 14th year that the college has hosted this performance in honor of V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. Contact Cheryl Knauer via email cknauer@mcdaniel.edu or 410-857-2294 for more information.last_img