Gilets jaunes: grassroots heroes or tools of the Kremlin?
terça-feira, 18 de dezembro de 2018
“Coletes amarelos” querem trancar portagens da Ponte 25 de Abril
17.12.2018 08:29 por Leonor Riso 2240
Manifestação organizada através das redes sociais já tem hora marcada e deverá ocorrer no dia 21 de Dezembro.
Para o dia 21 de Dezembro, está marcada uma manifestação em Portugal dos "coletes amarelos", o protesto que nasceu em França. Está a ser organizada através do Facebook e Whatsapp, e tem hora marcada: 7 da manhã. Entre os locais que os manifestantes prometem afectar, encontra-se a Ponte 25 de Abril: querem trancar as portagens.
De acordo com o jornal i, nas redes sociais também se manifesta a intenção de parar o trânsito no Marquês de Pombal. No Porto, querem impedir a circulação no Nó de Francos. Em Loures, querem parar as portagens da A8. Estão ainda marcados encontros no Rossio, em Viseu, e no Fórum Algarve, em Faro.
Mais de 45 mil pessoas estão interessadas no grupo de Facebook "Vamos parar Portugal como forma de protesto" e 14 mil confirmaram a presença.
A PSP suspendeu folgas para reforçar a prevenção no dia 21 de Dezembro. Serão mobilizados 20 mil efectivos em todo o país.
Governo em “alerta vermelho” com manifestações de sexta-feira
Executivo e polícias acreditam que protesto que imita em Portugal o movimento "coletes amarelos" de França terá grande adesão e temem que manifestações possam ser infiltradas por movimentos extremistas e por criminosos comuns, que provoquem violência, destruição e roubos.
ANA SÁ LOPES e LUCIANO ALVAREZ 18 de Dezembro de 2018, 7:45
O Governo está “muito preocupado” e em “estado de alerta” com a manifestação marcada para a próxima sexta-feira, sob o lema “Vamos Parar Portugal”. A organização do evento está a convocar os cidadãos através das redes sociais para virem para a rua em vários pontos do país, que faz revindicações de vária ordem e que tenta imitar o movimento dos "coletes amarelos" de França.
Um membro do Governo admitiu ao PÚBLICO a sua preocupação com a possibilidade de os protestos virem a ter uma adesão significativa, nomeadamente na sequência da revolta dos "coletes amarelos" em França e com a reacção de Macron. Ou seja, o facto de o Presidente francês ter cedido a algumas das revindicações feitas pelos manifestantes, nomeadamente o aumento de 100 euros no salário mínimo, pode eventualmente levar os portugueses a acharem que vale a pena protestarem porque há exemplos de governos a cederem sob a pressão da rua.
O Governo também teme que a manifestação - que se diz independente dos partidos (até agora não teve a adesão de nenhum deles) e da qual as centrais sindicais também já se demarcaram - seja infiltrada por movimentos extremistas e até por criminosos comuns e que estes, tal como aconteceu em França, provoquem desacatos, destruição de propriedade e até pilhagens.
O facto de os manifestantes estarem a ser convocados para alguns locais considerados sensíveis em termos de segurança, como é o caso das portagens da Ponte 25 de Abril, é outro dos factores de apreensão.
As preocupações dos governantes estão espelhadas nas informações que as forças policiais têm revelado nos últimos dias sobre as medidas de segurança adoptadas para o dia das manifestações, que a PSP acredita serem “de grande dimensão”. Todas as folgas e créditos horários dos agentes foram suspensos no dia 21, de forma a conseguir ter espalhado por todo país um efectivo de cerca de 20 mil agentes, segundo estimou o presidente da Associação Sindical dos Profissionais de Polícia (ASPP/PSP), Paulo Rodrigues. Também na GNR haverá um contingente de prevenção.
“Vamos ter manifestações de grande dimensão em todo o país e mandam as regras do bom senso ter pessoal operacional”, disse à Lusa o porta-voz da Direcção Nacional da PSP, intendente Alexandre Coimbra, na passada sexta-feira.
Já nesta segunda-feira, a direcção nacional da PSP emitiu um comunicado em que diz estar a preparar um "dispositivo adequado" para dia 21 e no qual apela ao respeito pela lei. A direcção da força policial lembra que os promotores das manifestações “têm de comunicar aos presidentes das câmaras municipais, por escrito e com a antecedência mínima de dois dias úteis, a intenção de realizar a manifestação”. A PSP apela ainda “a todos os cidadãos que decidam exercer o seu direito de manifestação, que o façam de forma pacífica e em respeito pela lei”.
Segundo a Lusa, a PSP já se reuniu com os promotores das iniciativas previstas para Braga e Porto, estando agendado para terça-feira uma reunião com os organizadores do protesto de Lisboa.
Os apelos às manifestações começaram a ser feitos nas redes sociais, especialmente no Facebook, há cerca de três semanas, por cidadãos anónimos que apenas assumiam ser da zona Oeste do país.
Ao longo do tempo algumas pessoas têm-se assumido como promotores de algumas das acções de protesto e começaram a ser convocadas manifestações em Lisboa, Porto, Faro, Beja e Viseu. Porém, nos últimos dias, na página do Facebook do movimento, tem-se multiplicado o número de pessoas a fazer convocações de manifestantes para outras cidades, vilas do país e até estradas.
No apelo inicial ao protesto, os promotores pedem manifestações sem violência, “de forma humana e civilizada” e com “respeito, sem xenofobia e racismo”. “Somos um dos países que recebe menos e paga mais imposto etc, etc e ficamos caladinhos como sempre. Temos países a receber o dobro de nós, assim que existe algo que não agrade, reclamam, exigem, protestam até serem ouvidos. E nós portugueses? Chega, vamos dizer basta ao aumento de combustíveis, portagens e tudo o resto que está mal”, diz a convocatória inicial.
“Percebam uma coisa, isto não é nenhuma manifestação. Isso já se fazem 200 por ano e nada. Isto é um bloqueio! Protesto! Revolta do povo unido até o povo ser ouvido! Não somos nenhum partido político, nem algo do género. Apenas somos o povo português, que quer um país mais justo”, acrescenta.
Russian media have seized on the yellow vest protests – but they don’t seem to have played a role in their genesis
Andrew Roth in Moscow and Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
Mon 17 Dec 2018 22.39 GMT Last modified on Mon 17 Dec 2018 22.52 GMT
Russian state television has spent much of the last two weeks playing up the chaos of France’s protests, continuing a trend of coverage that emerged long before troll factories and the modern era of “fake news”.
Seven years ago, the Kremlin-backed TV station Russia Today went all in on coverage of a leftist street protest in the west. Did Occupy Wall Street fit the Kremlin’s interests of showing a western nation in (relative) chaos? Yes. But at that time, few would have suggested that Occupy was anything but a genuine protest movement.
By contrast, at that time it was autocratic governments, like Russia and the monarchies of the Middle East, which suggested that foreign coverage of the Arab spring and the White Ribbon protests of 2011-12 were part of a vast plot from abroad.
Thanks to recent events, specifically the 2016 US election, protests in the west are now treated with wariness, and France is already investigating whether it too has been a victim of Russian disinformation.
Projects that track Kremlin influence abroad, such as the Alliance for Securing Democracy dashboard, listed “#giletsjaunes” as one of the trending terms used by accounts “linked to Russian influence operations”.
The thinktank doesn’t name the accounts it monitors, which makes checking the reports impossible. But in this case it would be hard not to notice Russian media laser-focused on the protests and Russian online trolls doing what they love: trolling.
What similar studies do not measure is the efficacy of Russian messaging. Can fake Facebook groups or flashy RT programming prompt mass protest movements or significantly change voting behaviour abroad?
It is possible that time will come, but there is scant evidence to prove that it has done so already. For the moment, on-the-ground reporting shows that participants in the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) have organic, significant causes for protest that are tied neither closely to Russia or to what they read online.
The gilets jaunes movement is a grassroots citizens’ movement that has no leader or organised structure. The protests began in November against a proposed fuel tax that would have pushed up the price of petrol, affecting many people in rural and suburban areas who depend on cars, having little access to public transport.
On the barricades on roundabouts and at tollbooths in rural and suburban France, gilets jaunes demonstrators said they had joined the protests out of frustration with their struggle to make ends meet.
Although most had organised their protests via local Facebook groups or social media, many said they were protesting because of real difficulties in their lives rather than because of what they had been reading or watching online.
However, the French government has been attentive to foreign leaders trying to jump on the back of the gilets jaunes protests or use them for their own domestic audiences. And Russia has not been the only focus. Donald Trump falsely tweeted on December 8 that French protesters were chanting: “We want Trump!”
The French foreign minister, Jean Yves le Drian, said on French radio: “I tell Donald Trump – and the French president tells him too – we don’t take part in American debates. Let us live our life as a nation.”
Asked whether Russian tweets may have contributed to protests, he said: “I’ve heard those rumours. An investigation is under way by our secretary general of national defence. We’ll wait for the results.”
Russian television has given significant airtime to suggestions that Moscow is behind the protests, but used it to say the accusations just discredit the west. At the same time, it has also highlighted events that seem to suggest a connection between Russia and what is happening in France.
The Russia-24 state television station aired footage that supposedly showed protesters playing the Russian folk song Kalinka on a piano, which was later shown to be fake.
Sixty Minutes, a hawkish political talkshow, interviewed a French protester who unveiled the flag of a Russian-backed separatist state in east Ukraine during the marches. The hosts urged him to take out the flag again. “This is just a joke,” he said. “But I would like the Kremlin to send me a million dollars.”
But none of that reflects the genuine interests of most French protesters, or indicates that Russian media has done more than jump on a bandwagon.
Theresa May ainda acredita no Pai Natal …
Theresa May awaits a Brexmas miracle
The prime minister delayed a vote on her Brexit deal until the week of January 14.
By CHARLIE COOPER 12/17/18, 9:23 PM CET Updated 12/18/18, 4:07 AM CET
LONDON — Many in Westminster think it will take a miracle to save Theresa May’s Brexit deal — but this U.K. prime minister is still a believer.
As frustrated MPs were told they will not get the chance to vote on the deal until after Christmas, May insisted she would carry on with a negotiation with the EU that few believe will deliver results and which, as far as the other side is concerned, is not even taking place.
Opposition parties and many of her own MPs expressed disbelief that with barely 100 days left of the U.K.’s EU membership, and with no clear majority for her deal, May would not get the apparently doomed vote out of the way. They want the Brexit limbo to end so that MPs on all sides can start debating the alternatives.
In response, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn submitted a motion of no confidence in the prime minister — a largely symbolic move which, as currently worded, does not have the legal force to topple the government, but is the latest sign of the pressure on May from all sides.
Even former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, a pro-EU Conservative who nevertheless is one of the minority indicating they will vote for May’s deal, questioned the wisdom of withholding the vote until the week of January 14.
May said she would continue to push for further "assurances" from the EU on the most controversial element of her deal.
“I honestly do not think our businesses, our employers and our constituents will understand why this house is going on holiday for two weeks when we should be having the meaningful vote this week,” she said in a debate following May's statement to MPs on last week's European Council summit.
A spokesperson for the European Commission confirmed on Monday that "no further meetings are foreseen" with U.K. officials following the statement agreed by EU leaders last week.
And yet, the prime minister persisted.
Determinedly or stubbornly, depending on your point of view, May said she would continue to push for further "assurances" from the EU on the most controversial element of her deal — the backstop insurance policy for avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Nigel Dodds, Westminster leader of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s government and is fiercely opposed to the backstop, spoke for many when he queried what “exactly and precisely … she is asking for” from the EU. He got a vague answer.
May’s plan to continue talking for another month drew accusations from MPs that she was seeking to “run down the clock,” and “intimidate” MPs into voting at the eleventh hour for either her deal or risk leaving the EU with no deal.
The U.K. is legally committed to leaving on March 29, 2019, and May has insisted that this would be the default setting if MPs reject her deal.
Her Cabinet will meet on Tuesday to discuss what she called “the next phase” of contingency planning for such an outcome, and Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to imminently announce where £2 billion of government spending on Brexit preparations will be spent.
The prime minister admitted that a no-deal scenario would lead to “disruption” at ports in the short term and would “risk the jobs, services and security” of British people.
But she repeated that the choice facing MPs was her deal, no deal, or reversing Brexit altogether — and reaffirmed her opposition to the latter, which would require a second referendum on the U.K.’s EU membership.
The problem for May is that this is one of the things that the EU, in solidarity with Ireland, will never give.
She warned former Remainers pushing for a so-called People’s Vote to be careful what they wished for and not to “underestimate the character of the British people,” who, she predicted, would probably “vote in greater numbers” for Leave at a second time of asking.
There were some glimmers of optimism for the prime minister.
Conservative Brexiteers, who last week attempted to oust her through an internal party vote of no confidence, were muted in their criticisms. May has spent nearly 20 hours at the despatch box of the House of Commons since the deal was struck with Brussels in November, and this was the quietest they have been in all that time.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, chair of the Euroskeptic European Research Group of backbenchers, who last week called for May to resign even after she won the confidence vote, this week pledged his personal confidence and offered her some moral support in her vehement opposition to a second referendum.
Veteran Brexiteer Edward Leigh went further, offering what he called an “unfashionably supportive view of the prime minister.”
He pledged that some of his allies, thus far opposed to her deal, might be “persuaded” if she can secure “legally-binding” commitments that the U.K. could unilaterally withdraw from the backstop arrangement — which if triggered would bind the country to the EU’s customs rules and create new economic barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.
The problem for May is that this is one of the things that the EU, in solidarity with Ireland, will never give.
Which leaves her waiting on that Christmas miracle.
Sherlock Holmes and the Brexit mystery
Finding a solution is far from elementary — but one outcome looks increasingly likely.
By PAUL TAYLOR 12/18/18, 4:01 AM CET Updated 12/18/18, 6:00 AM CET
PARIS — How would Sherlock Holmes have solved the Brexit mystery?
“When you have eliminated the impossible,” Britain’s most loved fictional detective famously said, “whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
After another week of melodrama in London and Brussels, the array of plausible outcomes to the longest-running soap opera in European politics may be narrowing, but probably not sufficiently yet to allow for a definitive Holmesian deduction.
Pleading for parliamentary support, Prime Minister Theresa May boiled the conundrum over the U.K.’s future relationship with the European Union down to just three options: “my deal, no deal, or no Brexit at all.”
Actually, there are more alternatives that cannot be ruled out. But if May were right, the prospect of either of the first two solutions coming to pass looks increasingly unlikely.
You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that with barely more than 100 days left, a reversal of Brexit before the deadline is all but impossible.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair invoked Holmes’ method at the weekend to argue for a second referendum on staying in the EU after all.
“It's the old Sherlock Holmes thing: When you exclude the impossible whatever remains, however improbable, is the answer and I don't think it's possible to get any of these other options through parliament," he told Sky News.
May’s chances of parliament approving the Withdrawal Agreement she negotiated last month seem close to nil after she postponed the vote last week and rushed to Brussels to request further legal assurances on the temporary nature of fallback provisions concerning Northern Ireland. She was sent home with a statement of reassurance but a blunt refusal by EU leaders to reopen the treaty negotiations or to set a binding time limit for clinching a future trade deal with the U.K.
May said she would keep working to secure extra guarantees but few officials in London, Brussels or European capitals believe she can get something that will placate enough of the 117 rebels in her Conservative party who cast a no-confidence vote in her leadership last week, and who deeply distrust the EU. Without most of those votes, she cannot win ratification of the accord, since the opposition Labour party is committed to rejecting the deal.
May pretends to believe she can still get her deal over the line. The EU27 pretended to believe her, but put the ball back in her court.
Over Niagara Falls
London and the other 27 EU capitals say they are determined to avoid a no-deal Brexit on March 29 when Britain’s two-year notice to leave expires, even though all sides are stepping up precautionary preparations. A clear majority in the House of Commons also opposes no deal, fearing economic disaster for the U.K. Lawmakers have asserted the right to give the government instructions to avoid such an outcome if no agreement is forthcoming by January 21.
So if May’s deal seems impossible, no alternative deal is on offer, and almost no one wants to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel just to see what happens, that should logically leave no Brexit as the remaining solution, however improbable. But it’s not quite so elementary, my dear Watson.
For starters, Brexit is what 51.9 percent of the electorate voted for in June 2016. Any attempt to go back on that decision would be branded a Great Betrayal by the elites of the will of the people. Public opinion is still split, although polls suggest Remain now has a small advantage over Leave. But surveys showed a comfortable pro-EU majority before the referendum. That’s not how it turned out.
Both May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn are against a second referendum. May wants to enter the history books as the prime minister who delivered a smooth Brexit. Corbyn cares only about getting into power, holding his party together and avoiding blame over Brexit.
Behind their backs, or possibly with their knowledge, May’s right-hand men and Labour MPs have reportedly held exploratory talks about a possible “people’s vote” — the euphemism for a second referendum.
There are daunting hurdles to such a vote, not least around the framing of a question or options, and the voting system.
EU leaders are rightly wary of potential British attempts to spin out the process and use salami tactics to extort more concessions on the Irish backstop
Several steps may have to come first to save political face on both sides — a parliamentary defeat of the Withdrawal Agreement, then perhaps an unsuccessful opposition no-confidence motion, and most likely a run on sterling and a stock market meltdown.
We’re not there yet. Having defeated a Conservative revolt against her leadership, May may well cling to hope that with more defiant grandstanding in Brussels after Christmas and a final warning to mutinous backbenchers that the only choice is between her deal and no Brexit, she can still get the Withdrawal Agreement approved in mid-January.
If she fails, or gives up, a no-deal Brexit remains the default setting unless the U.K. rescinds its notice to withdraw under Article 50 of the EU treaty, which the European Court of Justice ruled last week London could do unilaterally, staying in the bloc on its existing terms.
Or unless someone stops the clock.
Race against time
You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that with barely more than 100 days left, a reversal of Brexit before the deadline is all but impossible. Parliament will not dare overturn the stated will of the electorate without consulting voters again, and there isn’t time to hold another referendum before March 29. So the government would have no constitutional basis to renounce Article 50.
It looks increasingly as if the only course left once all impossible avenues are eliminated is to hit the pause button.
May cannot extend the notice period unilaterally. The EU27 would have to agree unanimously to a British request for extra time. And they would need some convincing reason.
Since EU leaders have ruled out any reopening of negotiations on the withdrawal treaty, the only plausible grounds for granting an extension would be to enable the U.K. to hold a second referendum or a general election that might provide a basis for staying in the EU.
EU leaders are rightly wary of potential British attempts to spin out the process and use salami tactics to extort more concessions on the Irish backstop. Some in Brussels fear the precedent of a country using a withdrawal threat and brinkmanship to secure preferential membership terms, as the U.K. has repeatedly done since its first renegotiation in 1974 — just a year after it joined.
There is also the inconvenient timing of May's European Parliament election, in which 27 of the 73 British seats have been reallocated to other countries and the rest put in reserve for future enlargements. If the U.K. has not left by the time of the vote, that could create legal complications.
But many European officials say the strategic prize of having the first member state ever to vote to leave come crawling back, begging to stay after having peered into the abyss, would outweigh all drawbacks.
None of the seemingly impossible alternatives is yet sufficiently dead to permit a definitive Holmesian deduction. The crime scene is littered with twitching corpses.
But it looks increasingly as if Brexit is heading for extra time.
Paul Taylor, contributing editor at POLITICO, writes the Europe At Large column.
At last, divestment is hitting the fossil fuel industry where it hurts
Trillions of dollars of investments are being taken out of carbon-intensive companies. Governments must now take notice
Sun 16 Dec 2018 17.37 GMT Last modified on Sun 16 Dec 2018 18.08 GMT
‘We have recently marked the 1,000th divestment in what has become by far the largest anti-corporate campaign of its kind.’ Photograph: Dazman/Getty Images/iStockphoto
I remember well the first institution to announce it was divesting from fossil fuel. It was 2012 and I was on the second week of a gruelling tour across the US trying to spark a movement. Our roadshow had been playing to packed houses down the west coast, and we’d crossed the continent to Portland, Maine. As a raucous crowd jammed the biggest theatre in town, a physicist named Stephen Mulkey took the mic. He was at the time president of the tiny Unity College in the state’s rural interior, and he announced that over the weekend its trustees had voted to sell their shares in coal, oil and gas companies. “The time is long overdue for all investors to take a hard look at the consequences of supporting an industry that persists in destructive practices,” he said.
Six years later, we have marked the 1,000th divestment in what has become by far the largest anti-corporate campaign of its kind. The latest to sell their shares – major French and Australian pension funds, and Brandeis University in Massachusetts – bring the total size of portfolios and endowments in the campaign to just under $8 trillion (£6.4tn).
The list of institutions that have cut their ties with this most destructive of industries encompasses religious institutions large and small (the World Council of Churches, the Unitarians, the Lutherans, the Islamic Society of North America, Japanese Buddhist temples, the diocese of Assisi); philanthropic foundations (even the Rockefeller family, heir to the first great oil fortune, divested its family charities); and colleges and universities from Edinburgh to Sydney to Honolulu are on board, with more joining each week. Forty big Catholic institutions have already divested; now a campaign is urging the Vatican bank itself to follow suit. Ditto with the Nobel Foundation, the world’s great art museums, and every other iconic institution that works for a better world.
Thanks to the efforts of groups such as People & Planet (and to the Guardian, which ran an inspiring campaign), half the UK’s higher education institutions are on the list. And so are harder-nosed players, from the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund (at a trillion dollars, the largest pool of investment capital on Earth) to European insurance giants such as Axa and Allianz. It has been endorsed by everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Barack Obama to Ban Ki-moon (and, crucially, by Desmond Tutu, who helped run the first such campaign a generation ago, when the target was apartheid).
And the momentum just keeps growing: 2018 began with New York City deciding to divest its $189bn pension funds. Soon the London mayor Sadiq Khan was on board, joining the New York mayor Bill de Blasio to persuade the other financial capitals of the planet to sell. By midsummer Ireland became the first nation to divest its public funds. And this month, a cross-party group of 200 MPs and former MPs called on the their pension fund to phase out its substantial investment in fossil fuel giants.
Heavy hitters like that make it clear that the first line of objection to fossil fuel divestment has long since been laid to rest: this is one big action you can take against climate change without big cost. Indeed, early divesters have made out like green-tinged bandits: since the fossil fuel sector has badly underperformed on the market over recent years, moving money into other investments has dramatically increased returns. Pity, for instance, the New York state comptroller Thomas DeNapoli – unlike his New York City counterpart, he refused to divest, and the cost has been about $17,000 per pensioner.
The deeper question, though, is whether divestment is making a dent in the fossil fuel industry. And there the answer is even clearer: this has become the deepest challenge yet to the companies that have kept us on the path to climate destruction.
At first we thought our biggest effect would be to rob fossil fuel companies of their social licence. Since their political lobbying power is above all what prevents governments taking serious action on global warming, that would have been worth the fight. And indeed academic research makes it clear that’s happened – one study concluded that “liberal policy ideas (such as a carbon tax), which had previously been marginalised in the US debate, gained increased attention and legitimacy”. That makes sense: most people don’t have a coal mine or gas pipeline in their backyard, but everyone has – through their alma mater, their church, their local government – some connection to a large pot of money.
As time went on, though, it became clear that divestment was also squeezing the industry. Peabody, the world’s biggest coal company, announced plans for bankruptcy in 2016; on the list of reasons for its problems, it counted the divestment movement, which was making it hard to raise capital. Indeed, just a few weeks ago analysts at that radical collective Goldman Sachs said the “divestment movement has been a key driver of the coal sector’s 60% de-rating over the past five years”.
Now the contagion seems to be spreading to the oil and gas sector, where Shell announced earlier this year that divestment should be considered a “material risk” to its business. That’s how oil companies across the world are treating it – in the US, petroleum producers have set up a website designed to discredit divestment,. and for a while had me under round-the-clock public surveillance. The pressure is not preventing anyone from acting: when Yale arrested 48 brave students who were occupying its investment offices last week, they left chanting: “We’ll be back.”
Divestment by itself is not going to win the climate fight. But by weakening – reputationally and financially – those players that are determined to stick to business as usual, it’s one crucial part of a broader strategy. The Carbon Tracker initiative in London published the first report laying out the fact that the fossil fuel industry has five times more carbon in its reserves than any climate scientist thinks is safe. And with activists marching and going to jail, phrases such as “stranded assets” were soon appearing in the mouths of everyone from hedge fund managers to the governor of the Bank of England.
As Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who managed to push through the Paris accords in 2015, put it: “The pensions, life insurances and nest eggs of billions of ordinary people depend on the long-term security and stability of institutional investment funds. Climate change increasingly poses one of the biggest long-term threats to those investments and the wealth of the global economy.” Last year she turned down an honorary degree from a US university because it hadn’t yet sold its stock.
We can’t count on governments alone to do the work necessary – governments, from Canada and America to Russia and Saudi Arabia to China and India, are still too often beholden to the fossil fuel companies. We need to keep pushing hard on those companies – and we will.
• Bill McKibben is a writer and co-founder of the climate campaign 350.org
segunda-feira, 17 de dezembro de 2018
The German Capital at a Crossroads
Berlin is changing. That's nothing new, of course, but even as integration challenges have resulted in crime in some neighborhoods, others are trying to find ways to avoid the stasis that comes with gentrification. Success is uncertain.
By Lars-Olav Beier, Hilmar Schmundt and Volker Weidermann
Berlin, where the only constant is change.
December 17, 2018 10:34 AM
"If you move to Paris, chances are you want to become a Parisian. Those moving to Munich want to become Münchners. But people who move to Berlin," says "Babylon Berlin" director Henk Handloegten, "want to subjugate the city." Everyone declares the public space to be their own personal property and makes it clear to others: This is my city.
There are men everywhere peeing on trees like dogs marking their territory. Graffiti artists and taggers cover every free space they can find. Mothers with their twin strollers clear the sidewalks as if to say: "Get out of the way. Here comes your pension!" Aggressive bicyclists race among the pedestrians and, of course, ignore the red lights.
Like most people in this city, they have no doubt that they're in the right, that they're the good guys. Eco-athletes, the urban avant-garde, constantly in close combat with pedestrians who block their path. And with the cars, whose drivers have but a single goal in life: to run them over.
As Berlin gets more crowded, the mood in the German capital has grown more aggressive. Heedlessness and violence have increased in the city, says Karlheinz Gaertner, a retired policeman who spent over 40 years patrolling the streets of Berlin. These days, he writes books about Berlin, including his most recent one, "They No Longer Know Any Limits."
Gaertner, who has the physique of a wrestler, is walking along Sonnenallee, a broad boulevard in the city's Neukölln district, the area he used to patrol. Every now and then, he runs into men he once arrested. He offers guided tours through the neighborhood to groups of visitors interested in learning what a troubled neighborhood in Germany looks like.
A few years back, Neukölln served as a symbol for everything that had gone wrong in a Germany that largely ignored its immigrants and didn't seem to care that they lived in isolated, almost ghetto-like neighborhoods separated from the rest of society. Chaos was the rule in some schools. Arab clans waged war against each other on the streets and the police seemed helpless.
The share of residents with an immigrant background in Neukölln is over 40 percent, with many coming from Turkey and Arab countries. It is the Berlin district with the lowest level of education, the highest dependency on social benefits and the greatest risk of poverty. The unemployment rate in some parts of the district is as high as 25 percent, and the proportion of migrants in some schools is around 90 percent.
Neukölln's former district mayor, Heinz Buschkowsky of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), became a media star with his dramatic, boisterous descriptions of the state of his district in countless talk shows. Some fellow SPD members even wanted to expel him from the party, accusing him of resorting to "right-wing populism" in the debate over immigrants and migration.
For years, Gaertner has been campaigning for action against the knife attacks that are becoming rampant in Berlin. And it's true: In the Berlin of today, there are many more people than there used to be from cultures where knives are frequently carried as an everyday item by young men.
"But you can only grab for your knife if you have one on you," says Gaertner, who has witnessed the suffering of knife-attack victims countless times. The development prompted him to organize initiatives like football tournaments where players are required to disarm if they want to participate. It provides a venue where they can play against the cops and show their true abilities.
In southern Neukölln in September, an Arab repeat offender named Nidal R. was literally executed in broad daylight on the street, sprayed with eight gunshots. Around 2,000 mourners, mostly Muslims, attended his funeral, where they were separated by gender. Some told the television cameras at the event that the 36-year-old had actually been a good guy, despite the fact that Nidal R. had committed over 90 crimes and spent 14 years in prison.
On a concrete wall near the scene of the crime, someone daubed graffiti celebrating the victim as a hero. Meanwhile, the rest of Germany was forced to realize the existence of a parallel society in the country, one that apparently has its own ideas of heroism and masculinity -- and perhaps even of law and order.
The Berlin chapter of the Free Democratic Party, a business-friendly party that isn't opposed to a bit of populism should the situation call for it, quickly put up a poster at the wall: "It's the law of the state that counts, not that of the street." The city of Berlin sent painters to cover up the graffiti.
'Security Guards Are Everywhere'
Berlin frequently whitewashes problems. But sometimes, paint isn't enough. "Look over there," Gaertner says, pointing across the street. A security guard is standing in front of Campus Rütli, which used to be called the Rütli School and became notorious throughout the country for its violence and problems. There are few other industries in Berlin, says Gaertner, that are growing as rapidly as the one for security personnel.
"Security guards are everywhere in the city these days. Several are posted at each outdoor public pool in the summer and, despite their presence, there are constantly fights." Some emergency rooms at hospitals in Berlin are also having to hire security now. There have been numerous cases of assaults on nurses and care providers.
It's no surprise that the Babylonian diversity of cultures and lifestyles in Berlin can lead to conflicts. Often, they're just weird -- such as when a Turkish couple doesn't want their children to go to school with Romanians and opts to send them to a Catholic private school instead. Sometimes, though, the conflicts turn violent.
The Paradox of Integration
Take a jog through Hasenheide, a park nestled between the Neukölln, Kreuzberg and Tempelhof districts, and you'll find yourself slaloming through the myriad drug dealers, most of them of African descent. The Tunisian Anis Amri was one of those Berlin dealers. At one point, he was arrested for such activity, but later released. The security authorities continued monitoring him, taking a wait-and-see approach. But they waited too long: On Dec. 19, 2016, he plowed a semi-truck into the Christmas market next to Berlin's Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and killed 12 people.
Those who sell drugs day after day, night after night to partiers and hipsters, those who are released over and over again despite repeated run-ins with the police, can be forgiven for concluding that they have ended up in a rather decadent society, a den of sin, a lawless quagmire.
It is an erroneous conclusion, though widespread -- on both the right-wing periphery of the political spectrum and among the secret fellow-travelers of global terrorism.
But perhaps the opposite is true. Sociologist Aladin El-Mafaalani believes conflicts are often a sign not of the failure of a multicultural society, but of its success. "Successful integration increases the potential for conflict," he writes in his book "The Integration Paradox." And he asks: "Why do people think that now, suddenly, things are supposed to be harmonious?"
El-Mafaalani, who works in the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry for Children, the Family, Refugees and Integration, believes ongoing conflicts should be viewed as the basis for a new collective consciousness. But what should be done when values and moral concepts collide?
He believes the best approach is to foster a culture of debate, but says the goal should not be an anything-goes attitude. "If everything is equally valid, then people become indifferent," he says. For decades, though, he adds, Germany avoided engaging in serious discussion about how to deal with the country's history of immigration.
"A lack of language courses, no work permits, the threat of being deported every six months, no enforcement of mandatory schooling and catastrophic housing conditions: Those aren't just problems that migrants faced for the first five or 10 years. It is still the reality for many Lebanese who arrived in the 1980s," says El-Mafaalani "The fact that we have a problem with organized crime today doesn't just come out of nowhere. It's the legacy of past mistakes."
How, though, does one go about establishing the culture of debate demanded by El-Mafaalani? It's an illusion to imagine that the different immigrant groups in Berlin will somehow establish an intercultural dialogue of their own accord. People in the city often talk about each other, but not to each other. Multicultural idealism and monocultural nostalgia are often cut from the same cloth of impracticality.
The German television series "4 Blocks," now in its second season, describes the culture clash between long-established members of Arab clans and the students and hipsters who represent a new generation of Neukölln residents. The influx has left many Arabs in Neukölln feeling like they are the original Berliners.
Indeed, diversity can also lead to its own kind of delineation. Many Muslim girls in some neighborhoods of Berlin, for example, are reluctant to leave their districts. They have deep roots in Berlin quarters like Kreuzberg or Neukölln, but they feel uncomfortable in some of the more well-healed districts of the city, like Zehlendorf in the southwest, which is home to the upper middle class and the wealthy. They say they are disparaged in such places for wearing the headscarf and don't really feel like they are even in Germany anymore. Why not? "Because only Germans live there."
On its surface, this may seem like a bizarre statement, but there's also a kernel of truth to it. Terms like "immigration background" suggest a sense of uniformity that doesn't really exist. The inhabitants of Neukölln, for example, hail from more than 160 countries and often share neither language nor religion nor much else -- except the neighborhood where they live, the underfunded schools their children attend and poor job prospects.
Berlin's 'Strategy 2030'
In the popular recent television series "Babylon Berlin," the stenographer Charlotte Ritter, played by the actress Liv Lisa Fries, moves through many different neighborhoods, milieus and social strata. The series' three directors are convinced it is this permeability that has made Berlin special and distinguishes it from other big cities.
"But in the last several years, a phenomenon of prosperity emigration has become established, and that has led to a situation in which the neighborhoods hardly mix anymore," says Handloegten. "People take over a neighborhood and eventually start defending it against change."
The pressure on the real estate market means that those who signed favorable leases years ago now stay in their apartments. This can produce absurd situations, like that of a 60-year-old couple, whose children have long since moved out, living in a 150 square meter (1,615 square foot) apartment. But if they were to move to an apartment half that size, they might have to pay twice the rent.
As such, Berlin's dynamism can lead to stasis, change to intractability. Might there be a danger of the city reverting back to its neighborhoods, back into the seven cities, 59 municipalities and 72 county jurisdictions that were merged a hundred years ago to create Berlin?
The city-state's government is currently developing a strategy called "Berlin 2030" in order to rein the rampant metropolis back in. The plan is to be adopted in 2020. The growing city, according to the internal strategy paper, "is not perceived by large sections of the population as an advantage, but increasingly as a threat ... above all through the rental developments and the gentrification associated with them."
The plan is "to involve society in as representative a way as possible" in the process through workshops with "100 stakeholders," "20 representatives of organized society" and "30 randomly chosen, representative citizens." It certainly sounds nice, but to critics it is little more than empty verbiage. They say the plan is far too narrowly focused on housing construction.
"The Berlin Strategy 2030 in its current form doesn't work," says city researcher Klaus Brake. He argues that the strategy paper puts the city government in the driver's seat and jumps to the second step before taking the first. It immediately wades into the urban development issue before the fundamental question has been clarified: How do we want to live together in Berlin?
In an open letter, critics have called for a "mobilization of urban society" in a manner that is free of "divided and selfish lobbyist groups." At first hearing, that sounds like out of touch idealism. How, after all, are 3 million mavericks supposed to communicate with each other in this behemoth of a city?
A closer look reveals a hodge-podge of hundreds of individual initiatives. Take, for example, the "Lause," an alternative housing project in Lausitzer Strasse in the Kreuzberg district with studios and handicraft businesses. It is in danger of becoming a target of real estate speculators. Among those demonstrating at a recent protest against the complex's owner, a Danish real estate mogul, was the popular ice cream seller Mauro Luongo, who stores his supplies in the building. He even handed out free gelato at the event -- from the very same ice cream truck that was struck by five bullets during the execution of clan member Nidal R., as children waited in line for their ice cream in front of the vehicle.
Google had planned to build a new campus on a neighboring street, and demonstrations by those opposed to the project regularly went late into the night. "Google is not a good neighbor," the protest signs read. "Google off to Adlershof," read another, referring to a technology center located far out in the city's eastern outskirts. But precisely that kind of spatial separation of living and working is the opposite of the mix that characterizes life in Berlin.
Google finally gave up in late October and announced the building would be made available to nonprofit organizations. "It's the city government's job to mediate here and to communicate all of the advantages projects like this bring to the local community," says Florian Nöll, the head of German Startups Association. Kreuzberg, he predicts, "will now immediately become known as a no-go area for tech companies."
The Holzmarkt development along the Spree River in the city's Friedrichshain district also has its own story to tell. If you walk from Alexanderplatz, Berlin's eastern center, to the Spree River, you wind up at Holzmarkt. Here, where the Berlin Wall and the death strip once cut through the city, a village of wooden shacks with a restaurant, salon, day care center, campfire, nightclub, theater and bakery have been thrown together. Delegations from as far away as Tel Aviv and New York come here to marvel at the model project.
It's creators once ran Berlin's legendary Bar 25 club across the river until they were driven out. Then, they used a run-down building on the other side. Now, they've changed sides again. They are constantly finding ways to navigate through the inertia and ignorance of various government authorities who can't fit the urban activists neatly into their Excel tables and who would rather do things by the book with a traditional investor.
The municipal administration's helplessness creates a lot of freedom in the city. But that can then also be taken away just as arbitrarily. No matter, the Holzmarkt people will continue partying at their club for as long as they can -- all night long, from Fridays to Mondays, often in the form of themed costume balls dedicated to the "golden gangster era of the 1920s: dark and glamorous." Holzmarkt's logo encapsulates this hard-partying metropolis' disposition: a tomcat (a play on the German word for "hangover") with a black eye and a broad grin.
Such extemporaneous facilities have something of a tradition in the city. If the series "Babylon Berlin" has a center of gravity, then it's the devilish club Moka Efti, where different languages and social strata form a cocktail of Russian revolutionaries, German nobles, crooks, police and night owls.
A Culture Clash in the Garden
Chaos creates problems today, but it also points the way toward possible solutions. Immigration may be a strain on the city, but the scars of World War II and its Cold War division also provide some relief in the form of fallow land and open spaces, of which Berlin has far more than other metropolises. They are now being rediscovered, but they are also coming under economic pressure.
Berlin has a long tradition of allotment gardens, known as Schrebergärten, many of which contain small shacks for spending the night. They are the most German of all small German escapes -- but they have an uncertain future. Berlin is home to almost 900 allotment garden colonies, which make up around 3 percent of the city's total area. Demand for these gardens is huge and candidates often have to spend several years on a waiting list to secure one.
Some garden colonies have even appointed integration officers, an apparently necessary step. A garden with the rather ironic name of "Peace," for example, has been a frequent site of dispute because members sought to reject applicants of Turkish origin by saying "they can't be integrated." That's nonsense, of course. If there's anything that can contribute to integration, it is spending time together among the carrot beds and fruit trees, a truth lived at other communal gardens in the city.
Such as the Allmende-Kontor at the vast Tempelhofer Feld park, an expanse established on the site of the now-closed Tempelhof Airport in the heart of the city. Students and creative types from the neighborhood started the urban gardening project here and were later joined by neighbors with Turkish roots as well as immigrants from some of the 190 other nationalities present in Berlin. In addition to kohlrabi and sunflowers, arguments are also cultivated here, a proclivity among nature lovers. Some gardeners with Turkish roots at times feel stifled by the aesthetic preconceptions of their ethnic German neighbors. They, in turn, sometimes find their foreign neighbors to be a blight on the garden because they "drag all their stuff out of the basement" and clutter the flower beds with old bicycle frames, kitchen cabinets and plastic furniture.
But once they get everything off their chest, they meet again and chat over shisha or beer and share watering duties. These delicate green shoots of a cultivated debate culture are currently under immense pressure, because Berliners not only have the need to hang out in gardens, but an urgent need for thousands of apartments in a city that has been hit with a housing shortage. Several allotment gardens are slated to be bulldozed soon to make way for new apartment buildings.
All of these are individual projects that, at most, will affect a few thousand residents. The search for a larger debate on strategy invariably ends up sooner or later in a discussion with a Catholic priest.
In 2006, Leo Penta founded the German Institute for Community Organizing at the Catholic University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. On Sundays, the priest, a charismatic man with a full beard, celebrates the Holy Mass in English. He was born in New York in 1952 and became a priest at the age of 27, going on to fight misery in the slums in keeping with Catholic social teachings.
"When I started as a community organizer in Brooklyn in the 1970s, things there looked a lot worse than anything you could imagine here in Berlin," Penta says. "The area called Brownsville and East New York was completely rundown and destroyed, almost like Dresden after the war."
Penta has lived in Berlin for 22 years and he has been striving to establish methods of grassroots community organizing here as well.
When asked what he thinks about the inclusion of "stakeholders" in projects such as "Strategy 2030" in Berlin, he says: not much. "Citizen participation at the government's initiative is usually either citizen participation light or an elite event," he says.
Penta's German is perfect and almost accent-free, making him an example of the integration paradox. Penta has made Berlin his home, and he wants to change things here. He may be a foreigner, but he's here to stay -- and establish new local traditions along the way.
His services are idiosyncratic. An altar server with a pony tail dressed in sneakers and a T-shirt assists him. People arriving a half-hour late are still welcome because the grassroots priest is perfectly aware that 10:30 a.m. is an ungodly hour on weekends in Berlin. It's only at around 11 a.m. that his chapel fills up, and he affably points latecomers to empty seats. After communion, the high point of the service comes when, rather than a sermon, everyone talks about the Bible -- or simply about their personal experiences -- with their Slavic, German or Italian accents.
Penta listens, talks, prods, and he believes the gospels are also about a kind of "counterculture." His interpretation of the Bible is less about pure doctrine than about misunderstandings and squabbling between Jesus and his disciples. Penta asks his congregation over and over again: What do you think? "Yes" and "amen" don't seem to be his thing. Can what he's doing still even be counted as Roman-Catholic? Or is it more Berlin-Catholic?
Penta is also rather unorthodox in his approach to his second job as community organizer. In stark contrast to the city government's vision of citizen participation, he wants organic participation from below and within rather than ordered from the top and outside. When industry went into decline in the Schöneweide district of eastern Berlin, the area was threatened with decay and unemployment. Snotty residents of central Berlin thumbed their noses at the district, acting as if it were a hopeless case. But Penta was familiar with the symptoms of crisis there from his years in Brooklyn. In 2000, he set about coordinating Germany's first civic platform: an alliance of 23 civil society groups, associations and church congregations.
Pentas' platform has helped shape the former industrial wasteland by, for example, successfully fighting for the establishment of part of the University of Applied Sciences (HTW) in the area. Today, Schöneweide is teeming with thousands of students. Of course, citizen's groups can also have smaller goals -- for example, his group's efforts to keep Berlin's oldest ferry connection in operation, the F11. While the Silicon Valley is turning to platform capitalism, Penta is banking on platform communitarianism.
He has already initiated four citizen alliances in the city -- in Schöneweide, Neukölln, Wedding-Moabit and Spandau -- which together incorporate around 80 groups that claim to represent a combined 100,000 people. And they don't see themselves as just harmless clubs for discussion, but aim to negotiate at eye level with district leaders and city officials.
Can the chaotic, rudderless Babylonia of Berlin become a laboratory for a new form of citizen involvement? All coordinated by a Catholic priest in the diaspora of a godless city where 60 percent of the residents are unaffiliated with any religion?
That, too, might be part of this city's laissez-faire approach -- that in addition to all the other whackos, a Catholic priest can go ahead and do his thing in helping the deeply apostate Berlin society reinvent itself.
Penta's skepticism of big top-down visions seems to have hit a nerve -- as exemplified by Tempelhofer Feld, the vast empty field right in the heart of the city. Once an airport, the city proposed turning it into a new city quarter once it was closed down in 2008. But what did Berliners want? It's not so easy to say. To approach an answer, it's best to visit the place.
Up until a decade ago, you could still fly from downtown Berlin to places like Vienna or Brussels. But in the 10 years that have passed since the last flight took off, not much has happened at the site. It is pretty much completely empty and it is so big that New York's Central Park could fit inside with plenty of room to spare. It is a huge luxury in a city where housing is becoming increasingly tight.
But in a 2014 referendum, voters decided to keep it as it is. They elected to change nothing. No apartment buildings on the edges, no international garden exhibition, no lake, no mountain, no rocks. Critics complain that the city isn't even allowed to put in bathrooms and park benches.
The vote was essentially the people of Berlin thumbing their noses at turbo-capitalism, which was threatening to chew up the city's open spaces after having already transformed the real estate market into an El Dorado for speculators. It was a huge, loud rejection of change.
And it was fueled by the dream of creating a vast oasis, perhaps the biggest in the world located right in the center of a metropolis, a place where everyone can come together and relax, long-time Berliners and recent newcomers alike. A place where everyone can do more or less as they please.
The only things in the park are the two runways through the middle, a few trees here and there and a six-kilometer-long strip of pavement around the outside, with a string of red dots marking the best route for those biking or running the loop.
It has become a utopia for the stressed-out residents of the capital who yearn for the outdoors, for peace and quiet, for expansiveness, for a view of something other than the gray buildings and dour faces that otherwise dominate the cityscape. It has turned into an unregulated place of myriad possibilities in a constantly growing city -- right where Adolf Hitler held a massive demonstration of his power on May 1, 1933, a place where warplanes were assembled underground during World War II. And a place where American planes landed during the Berlin Airlift, saving West Berlin from the Soviet blockade.
"That is the fascinating thing about Berlin," says the Oscar-winning British actress Helen Mirren as she looks out over the field. "This city continually redefines historical places." For the episodic feature film "Berlin, I Love You," which will hit the theaters next year, Mirren filmed a part about the refugees who are sheltered at the old airport. "It is fantastic to have such a space where everyone can be themselves. It would be unthinkable in London."
In fact, a kind of mini-Germany has taken shape at Tempelhofer Feld. It seems just as compartmentalized as the country at large, despite the referendum. It seems that every segment of the population has carved out a section of their own and lives their own reality there, separated from the rest of the world.
In one corner is the dog exercise area, essentially a vast kennel where men and women throw balls for their pets and stand at the edge smoking and watching the action. Then there are the small parcels set aside for the urban gardeners, so small that tears of sympathy well up when you think of the older rental-gardens elsewhere in the city, rejected for their uncoolness by many newer Berliners.
In the southwestern corner of Tempelhofer Feld, a Segway rental company has cordoned off its own section, a necessary measure to teach the lurching tourists how to ride the things. Next door is a go-kart rental. And a place to rent tiny electric cars. Each recreational-vehicle collection behind its own fence.
There is also a piece of asphalt for the oddballs with their drones and remote-control cars. Signs denote where the area for skate-sailing begins and ends. Toward one side of the field is an area reserved for barbecuing, though it isn't fenced off -- nor does it need to be. In the summer, the smoke creates its own kind of barrier.
For a good portion of the year, a huge chunk of the field is blocked off for skylarks, with signs noting that it is the only place left for them to breed. And this fall, a shepherd drove his sheep through the dried out, brown landscape for a week, with two dogs keeping the herd together and not a single fence to block their path. There were only the two runways -- the shepherd calling to make sure it was okay before crossing them.
There is one, slightly larger clump of trees that has been taken over by mountain bikers -- and it is generally frowned upon when lovers wander into the copse of trees. It is one of the few areas in the park that offers a bit of privacy. It's for riding, not romance.
There's also an area for pot smokers, though it isn't fenced off. In the evenings, the clouds of cannabis smoke are almost as thick as the ones over in the barbecue corner.
There is a small rise that offers the kind of sunset view that you can't find anywhere else in the city. In the evenings, everyone lies in the grass and watches as the sharply divided areas of the park slowly disappear into the gathering darkness.
Far away, on the other side of the field, are a bunch of white containers, a small village for the refugees. They, too, are behind a fence. But to ensure that residents don't have to look through the mesh, a one-meter-high catwalk has been built along the fence around the village, allowing for an unobstructed view.
Tempelhof freedom. Berlin's utopia. Berlin's empty center. Everyone together, but to each their own.
Pilaretes de cimento e de pedra estão a ser removidos em diversas ruas e avenidas do centro de Lisboa
Pilaretes de cimento e de pedra estão a ser removidos em diversas ruas e avenidas do centro de Lisboa
17 Dezembro, 2018
Há milhares de pilaretes de cimento nas ruas da capital. Muitos deles estarão na origem de muitos acidentes. Como não são facilmente visíveis, foram considerados ilegais. Por isso, as algumas juntas de freguesia estão a removê-los. A intervenção começou nas Avenidas Novas, onde já foram eliminados 575 pilaretes. A ideia é retirar 2300, dos quais mais de metade não serão substituídos por pilartes metálicos. O que acontecerá apenas em áreas onde o estacionamento é mais difícil e onde muitos automobilistas acabam por estacionar em cima do passeio. A Associação dos Cidadãos Auto-Mobilizados receia que a retirada dos obstáculos deixe muitas áreas pedonais desprotegidas. “O parqueamento abusivo é um problema grave em Lisboa e conseguiu-se melhorar bastante. Os pilaretes não são a solução ideal, mas são um mal necessário neste momento”, diz Mário Alves, dirigente da associação. A Junta de Freguesia das Avenidas Novas garante que nesses casos voltará a colocar pilaretes, mas metálicos. Este é um dos projectos “mais importantes” para as Avenidas Novas, uma vez que a autarquia recebe muitas reclamações de pessoas que caem na via pública.
Nas freguesias das Avenidas Novas, Arroios e Areeiro, começaram a ser removidos centenas de pilaretes de cimento e de pedra. Devido ao seu tamanho reduzido, estas estruturas têm provocado quedas, algumas com gravidade, principalmente a invisuais. Além disso, o Decreto-Lei da Acessibilidade, revisto recentemente, proíbe a construção deste tipo de pilaretes de tamanho reduzido. A Junta de Freguesia das Avenidas Novas apresentou um projecto de eliminação de pilaretes à Câmara Municipal de Lisboa (CML), que terá decidido alargar a intervenção a mais freguesias. Nas Avenidas Novas, uma das freguesias com mais pilaretes de Lisboa, já não há pilaretes no Largo Azeredo Perdigão, nas avenidas Miguel Bombarda e Defensores de Chaves e nas ruas Ivone Silva e Laura Alves. As avenidas João Crisóstomo e Marquês de Tomar serão as próximas a serem requalificadas.
Na zona, quase ninguém tinha conhecimento desta intervenção no espaço público. Numa pastelaria virada para o Largo Azeredo Perdigão, o primeiro sítio onde foram eliminados e substituídos os pilaretes, ninguém reparou na troca. “Não vimos nada e, sinceramente, para nós é um bocado indiferente”, diz a proprietária do estabelecimento comercial. Quem anda na rua, porém, recebe a notícia com agrado. “Os idosos estão sempre a cair nos pilaretes pequenos, já vi quedas assustadoras”, diz Isabel Martins, moradora. Já Filipe Brito, 41 anos, dono de um quiosque, está mais preocupado com a falta de lugares de parqueamento e diz que as prioridades da autarquia deveriam ser outras. “Os blocos de cimento ficam horríveis, mas os pilaretes grandes também são muito feios. O ideal era haver mais lugares de estacionamento”, sugere.
Ouvido por O Corvo, o dirigente da Associação dos Cidadãos Auto-Mobilizados (ACAM), Mário Alves, apoia a remoção destes obstáculos, mas avisa que esta poderá ter consequências. “Se deixarem muitos passeios desprotegidos, vai haver problemas de estacionamento abusivo. Sabemos que a polícia não actua. Preocupa-me a invasão das zonas pedonais, é um problema grave em Lisboa e conseguiu-se melhorar bastante, nos últimos dez anos. Os pilaretes não são a solução ideal, mas são um mal necessário neste momento”, reconhece. O especialista em transportes lembra que, durante décadas, colocaram-se pilaretes em betão, que agora é necessário eliminar aos poucos. “Do ponto de vista das acessibilidades, os pilaretes muito curtos e baixos poderão ser mais facilmente ‘tropeçáveis’. Os metálicos têm uma altura que, às vezes, parece exagerada, mas tem a ver um bocadinho com a sua visibilidade. Se forem muitos baixinhos, não os vemos”, explica a O Corvo.
Nas Avenidas Novas, já foram removidos 575 pilaretes, desde Setembro passado. A ideia é eliminar os 2300 mini-blocos de cimento existentes na freguesia, 200 deles em pedra. Destes, 1.840 não serão substituídos e 460 serão trocados por pilaretes metálicos, com 90 centímetros, por se encontrarem em zonas onde o estacionamento abusivo é comum. Quase metade dos pilaretes que serão apenas removidos, sem serem substituídos, encontram-se nas avenidas João Crisóstomo, Marquês de Tomar e Miguel Bombarda – nesta última, foram removidos 300, permitindo um alargamento dos passeios. “Só fizemos a substituição no Largo Azeredo, porque não tem estacionamento, mas tem uma grande placa de passeio. Se não puséssemos aí pilaretes, provavelmente os carros iriam estacionar em cima do passeio”, explica Dora Lampreia, vogal do Espaço Público e Urbanismo da Junta de Freguesia das Avenidas Novas.
Apesar de grande parte dos pilaretes retirados não terem sido substituídos, ainda poderão haver ajustes. “Se virmos que há carros que começam a estacionar, procedemos à colocação de metálicos”, acrescenta. Outra das preocupações da autarquia, acrescenta Dora Lampreia, é a melhoria da mobilidade dos peões. “Estamos preocupados com a acessibilidade e o alargamento dos passeios acaba por ser uma consequência deste trabalho. O principal objectivo, contudo, é libertarmos a freguesia de um elemento perigoso, que causa acidentes. E estando juntos a eixos rodoviários, as pessoas podem cair para cima da via. É um problema que tinha mesmo de ser erradicado”, reforça.
Estes pilaretes são muito antigos e, depois da criação da Empresa Municipal de Estacionamento de Lisboa (EMEL), deixaram de ser necessários, explica Ricardo Moutinho, assessor da vogal do Urbanismo. “Dos 1.840 que não serão trocados, mais de dois terços encontram-se ao lado do estacionamento tarifado. Quase de certeza que o parqueamento indevido será uma situação excepcional, mas a experiência do dia-a-dia pode levar-nos a fazer alterações”, adianta. Agora, explica a Junta de Freguesia das Avenidas Novas, vão observar a reacção dos automobilistas. “As pessoas podem aprender, é uma forma de fazer essa experiência”, explica Ricardo Moutinho.
A falta de civismo de alguns automobilistas e o parqueamento abusivo já são discutidos há algum tempo em sessões públicas do executivo. O presidente da Câmara Municipal de Lisboa (CML), Fernando Medina (PS), em Fevereiro de 2017, lamentou o facto de Lisboa ter mais pilaretes do que qualquer outra cidade europeia, mas admitiu não conseguir dar outra resposta ao estacionamento abusivo em áreas pedonais. “Confesso que não conseguimos fazer melhor, porque a alternativa ao pilarete é ter lá um automóvel em cima do passeio”, reconheceu, em reunião camarária, em Fevereiro de 2017. A retirada dos pilaretes e a requalificação de vias públicas terá sido utilizada por muitos “com total falta de civismo”, criticou o autarca socialista. “É impossível termos soluções adequadas, quando estamos confrontados com baixos níveis de civismo. A colocação de pilaretes junto a passadeiras é intencional e tem acontecido em várias zonas da cidade, infelizmente, devido à falta de civismo dos automobilistas”, explicou ainda, naquela altura.
A presidente da Junta de Freguesia das Avenidas Novas, Ana Gaspar (PS), defende que a colocação de pilaretes é inevitável, em algumas zonas, mas também acredita que o estacionamento indevido poderá acabar. “A mobilidade suave era uma prioridade há algum tempo. Queremos uma cidade sustentável e civilizada e espero que as novas gerações imponham outro modus vivendis e haja uma alteração do paradigma. Há uma percentagem muito grande de licenciados e doutorados nas Avenidas Novas e quero acreditar que isso produzirá algum pensamento crítico também a este nível da sustentabilidade”, afirma. Este era um dos projectos “mais importantes” para este executivo, explica ainda, uma vez que recebiam muitas reclamações de pessoas que caiam na via pública.
Raquel Abecassis (CDS-PP) , líder da oposição na Junta de Freguesia das Avenidas Novas, diz que há queixas recorrentes na freguesia relacionadas com os pilaretes e a própria já terá caído mais do que uma vez. “Esses pilaretes não se vêem e as quedas são terríveis. Do ponto de vista da mobilidade, retirar esses obstáculos não será o mais essencial, mas, de facto, são um problema, principalmente numa freguesia com pessoas muito idosas, concordo que sejam mudados. Há muitos que não estão lá a fazer nada a não ser a chatear-nos”, diz. A centrista lembra ainda que há “um problema grave” de estacionamento nas Avenidas Novas e que a tendência é piorar. “Na Avenida Defensores de Chaves, as pessoas conseguem estacionar na placa central, por isso acho que os pilaretes são mesmo mais para chatear. A falta de estacionamento é um drama da freguesia e vai piorar, porque a EMEL tinha lá um parque de estacionamento que está em obras e deixará de ter essa função”, antevê.
No Areeiro, os pilaretes já começaram a ser removidos há pelo menos três anos. À excepção de alguns, eliminados pela Câmara de Lisboa, foram todos retirados pela Junta de Freguesia. “Assim que foram considerados ilegais, por não serem detectáveis – a cor, cinzento, confunde-se com a calçada -, começámos a tirá-los”, conta o presidente da Junta de Freguesia do Areeiro, Fernando Braamcamp (PSD). O autarca social-democrata explica que, ao contrário do que se passa nas Avenidas Novas, todos os obstáculos foram substituídos por outros metálicos. “Só não substituímos uma quantidade muito residual, aqueles ‘chalhauzitos’ que atrapalham”, explica. Braamcamp reage com surpresa à intenção da Câmara de Lisboa de levar o projecto da Junta das Avenidas Novas à sua freguesia. “Não tinha conhecimento de nada, continuamos a substituir os ‘fradinhos’, como são conhecidos, mas somos nós que o fazemos”, conclui.
Democracy has no clothes
Experiments with citizens’ juries point to a better way of making decisions.
By PATRICK CHALMERS 12/13/18, 10:32 AM CET Updated 12/17/18, 5:43 AM CET
In France, Yellow Jacket protesters have taken umbrage at years of perceived neglect |
TOULOUSE, France — In the Danish fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” it was a little boy who pointed out what no adult dared expose: The king was naked; his court, a cast of pompous fools beguiled by tricksters.
It’s time to do the same with our own reified system of government — representative democracy and its so-called free and fair elections.
Shocking? Of course it is. We’ve been taught to hold our voting rights as sacred — that despite our political system’s many flaws, representative democracy is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, “the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
But what if there were, after all, a real alternative? What if there were something less corruptible than pure democracy by election? That something needn’t replace periodic elections, or at least not at once, but it could certainly guard us against their worst failings. Not least of those is the grossly outsized influence of narrow interests at the expense of everyone else’s.
"We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not" — Greta Thunberg, 15-year-old climate activist
Because, let’s face it, the current system’s not working as advertised. The evidence is everywhere. Voters are frustrated with their lack of influence over political decisions made in their name. Many growl their complaints in private, some find minority scapegoats and others take to the streets to try to make themselves heard.
In London, Brexit campaigners wave Union Jacks at Remainers’ European flags, while their prime minister tries to herd together her mutinous party. In France, Yellow Jacket protesters have turned to violence — cars set alight, vandalized monuments on Paris’ most iconic boulevards — in anger at years of imperious presidencies.
The risks from political dysfunction are severe and weigh on multiple fronts. Most dangerous of all is climate change, the poster child for political failure at every level of government. Among the core causes of climate inaction is representative democracy and its vulnerability to being hijacked. The system’s baked-in electoral pressures turn the rhetorical lions of campaign trails to squeaky mice when it comes to real-world actions. The short-term calculus of votes and seats trumps any hope of long-term thinking.
So our elected governments, despite their fine talk, have wasted decades postponing effective responses. The short-term winners have been rich-country voters, encouraged by fossil-fuel firms and other companies that enable our growth addictions and mass-consumption lifestyles. The losers are poor countries, all people’s children and everything else living on the planet.
To break free of dysfunctional decision-making, we’ll also need to break free of electoral dynamics. Just as the clothes-less emperor had to face his own nakedness, we’ll have to reflect on our deepest-held beliefs.
Elections, after all, were always a corruption of democracy. Ancient Athenians saw them as bound to create oligarchic government — meaning power in the hands of a self-serving few.
Their original democracy — literally rule by the people — involved assemblies of citizens and random selection of all bar a handful of public servants. Yes, Athens excluded slaves and women from decision-making but so also did the original United States of America. Athenian citizens made their voices heard and took part in decision-making by shows of hands. Urgent decisions were made by small groups of randomly selected citizens in juries, serving short, limited terms.
It was only with the French and American revolutions that elected representatives were introduced. The result was the hijacking of democracy — as both a word and process.
If our democracy has no clothes, it’s apt that one those pointing that out is a 15-year-old Swedish high school student. Greta Thunberg emerged as an unlikely activist rockstar last August after refusing to go to class in protest against her government’s climate policies.
More than 20,000 students have joined Thunberg’s #fridaysforfuture movement. School strikes have spread to at least 270 towns and cities, including ones in Australia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, the U.S. and Japan.
Like the boy who burst the naked emperor’s delusion, Thunberg exposed the trumped-up adults at the global climate summit in Poland this month.
“We have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future,” Thunberg told climate negotiators in Katowice, Poland. “They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.”
Ireland managed to counter foreign influence on its abortion referendum in May this year | Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Thunberg’s efforts may seem like small fry but movements like these point beyond democracy’s frustrated potential. They certainly seem more likely to pressure governments into action than waiting for the next chance to cast a ballot.
At the same time as Thunberg, another politically savvy movement has sprung up in the U.K., one taking a page from democracy’s Athenian past. The Extinction Rebellion includes thousands of supporters pushing for credible climate action by the government. Among their proposals: the creation of a citizens’ jury to determine how the U.K. could cut emissions to zero by 2025.
The idea that a group of randomly selected citizens could open more direct channels between politicians, activists and voters is certainly worth taking seriously. Others have gone down that route, with promising results.
Ireland, drawing lessons from the economic mauling it took during the global financial crisis, is the stand-out example. It held a series of citizens’ juries of different formats and focus, restoring some credibility to its political processes along the way. More concretely, the Irish channeled citizens’ thinking to create fairer policies on hot button issues such as same-sex marriage and ending the country’s de facto abortion ban.
Ireland’s public juries, comprised of randomly selected citizens, helped fuel informed, constructive debates ahead of public votes. The country even dampened the risks of foreign money being spent on social media ads to swing the abortion ballot.
And while the Irish are undoubtedly the pioneers of the jury approach, they’re certainly not alone.
“Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago" — Greta Thunberg
The use of public juries is burgeoning around the world — in Australia, Canada, across European nations and even the U.S. A school project in Cochabamba, Bolivia has experimented with replacing class elections to choose student governors with lotteries. Even Poland’s port city of Gdańsk is in on the action.
None of these processes is perfect, or immune to political capture. Yet their joined-up debates most certainly stand tall in comparison to the money-corrupted campaigning for elections.
Our common futures quite literally depend on how we take political decisions. After all, it’s representative democracy that gives us the U.S. Senate. James Madison imagined this arm of government explicitly to “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” The effects of its design have blocked U.S. citizens from playing their considerable part in fighting climate change.
Unless we transform our approach — and find new ways to hold politicians to account and make our voices heard — the same fate awaits any climate change deal worth its ink emerging from Katowice, however perilous that might be for the planet.
If we do change course effectively, it will be because we’ll have listened to people like Thunberg. Or, better yet, because we’ll have become people like Thunberg.
“Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago,” the young activist told the grandees gathered in Katowice.
Her sentiment is hard to dispute. If we’re to work together as conscious, thinking humans we need to clothe our systems of government. It’s time to wrap up democracy by election.
Patrick Chalmers is a journalist, film maker and campaigner for better systems of government.
This article is part of “Democracy Fix,” a series looking at efforts to counter rising illiberalism, digital disruption and dropping confidence in institutions of the Western world.
It’s the end of Europe as we know it (and it feels fine)
While it’s easy to dismiss Europe as a place where nothing really works, somehow most everything does.
By MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG 12/17/18, 4:02 AM CET Updated 12/17/18, 7:06 AM CET
BERLIN — It was a helluva week in the hellhole. Paris was “burning;” Brexit a “psychodrama;” autocracy was “making a comeback.”
You know Europe’s image is taking a hit when American liberals start feeling superior.
Even the staid Wall Street Journal was concerned: “Divisions over economics, culture and geography are challenging governments’ longevity or their ability to pursue their agenda.”
Translation: Europe’s screwed.
But is it?
At a time when terrorists are on the rampage, Italy’s cooking the books and Viktor Orbán has become Central Europe’s answer to Il Duce, it’s tempting to pile on the EU.
Europe lacks real leadership and vision; it has become, as Canadian composer Chilly Gonzales memorably put it, “a movie with no plot.”
And yet, as another annus horribilis draws to a close, it’s difficult to deny that Europe has once again survived more or less intact.
The paradox of Europe to foreigners and natives alike is that while it always seems like it's on disaster’s doorstep, doomsday never actually arrives (except, of course, in 1939, 1914, 1805, 455, etc ... but hey, all those days of the apocalypse predate the EU).
Indeed, given Europe’s myriad woes, its citizenry is surprisingly upbeat. Public backing for the EU is the highest it’s been in more than a generation, while support for the euro has reached record levels.
Across the Continent (with notable exceptions), trains run on time, health care and education are accessible to all and generally sound, the justice system fair and cities safe.
Though it’s easy to blame the media for Europe’s bad reputation, the real culprits are to be found among the Continent’s political leaders.
The region’s economy, though showing signs of strain, is still growing. Unemployment in the EU, though still a major challenge in some countries, has fallen to its lowest level since 2000.
At a time when free trade seems increasingly under siege, the EU concluded two landmark trade agreements, with Canada and Japan.
So while it’s easy to dismiss Europe as a place where nothing really works (Greece, Brexit, migration, Jean-Claude Juncker), somehow most everything does.
Even most populists have given up on trying to leave the EU.
Though it’s easy to blame the media for Europe’s bad reputation, the real culprits are to be found among the Continent’s political leaders.
Beginning with the euro crisis, politicians have been using the threat of Europe’s pending demise as a rhetorical bludgeon. “If the euro fails, then Europe will fail,” Angela Merkel first warned in 2010, as she tried to rally support for her bailout strategy.
“Europe must change or risk death,” Pierre Moscovici, France's EU commissioner, said in 2016.
“The project is in mortal danger,” Günther Oettinger, Germany's commissioner, declared in September, as he tried to win approval for his budget blueprint.
If the past decade of perpetual crisis has taught us anything, it’s that whatever happens next, Europe’s demise is the least likely outcome.
The danger is that the end-of-days prophecies will become self-fulfilling. Hardly a week passes without a political challenge being cast as a do-or-die moment for Europe.
Merkel’s recent decision to step down as leader of her party brought Europe’s would-be Cassandras out in force. Merkel’s pending exit didn’t just pose a significant challenge to the EU, it could have “dire consequences,” the Guardian warned, invoking the 1930s.
The latest ooh-la-la moment? France’s Yellow Jackets protests. Some fear the return of the guillotine and a revolution that could sweep across Europe. Others, especially Germans, are unsettled by President Emmanuel Macron’s response, specifically his decision to throw money at the problem — as if the entire Continent would crumble if France (and Italy) misses the EU’s arbitrary 3 percent deficit target.
Europe’s liberals, meanwhile, are rallying to save the French president.
For some, he’s the new euro: “If Macron fails, Europe fails,” Henrik Enderlein, a prominent German academic, warned over the weekend in a column for Der Spiegel.
If the past decade of perpetual crisis has taught us anything, it’s that whatever happens next, Europe’s demise is the least likely outcome.
With its aging population and unwieldy bureaucracy, the EU may not become the world's next economic motor. On the global stage, Europe is destined to remain the 50-year-old at the disco: well past its prime and hopelessly awkward in the company of the trendsetters.
Yet it will stay on the dance floor because what its citizens fear most is what could happen once the music stops.