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People of Brazil Say No to Forest Law Changes

People of Brazil Say No to Forest Law Changes

World Wildlife Fund

Thousands of people occupied the great lawns in front of the Brazilian National Congress sending a resounding message to President Dilma Rousseff against granting amnesty for illegal deforestation, exemption from the obligation to recuperate devastated Permanent Protection areas and restore legal reserve vegetation, and vehemently repudiating the new pro-ruralista legislation.

The demonstration that took place Nov. 29 in Brasilia shows how far the House of Representatives and Federal Senate are failing to represent the interests of Brazilian society as a whole in the discussions on the proposed changes to the Forest Law. Thousands of students, environmentalists, researchers, family farmers, progressive parliamentarians and representatives of civil society occupied the lawns in front of the Congress and the Três Poders Square, in Brasilia, to show that Brazil is not willing to accept modifications to its environmental legislation that only promote the interests of a favored few—in this case the big agribusiness and landholding interests of the ruralistas.

The group unfolded a peaceful protest against the legal text of the draft reform bill that will come before the Senate for voting, probably in the next few days. Criticism is most vociferous against the proposal to pardon environmental crimes committed before July 2008, the proposed changes to the form of calculating the size of Permanent Protection and legal reserve areas, the exemption from the obligation to recuperate illegally deforested areas and the transfer of the power of decision on a series of environmental issues to the state and municipal spheres of authority.

Former Senator and ex-Minister of the Environment Marina Silva defended the mobilization of the people to pressure senators to reject the retrograde proposals and to call on the president to veto the provisions that promote amnesty and reduce protection for the legal reserve and Permanent Protection areas. “Dilma will be more than justified in vetoing these points of the law in keeping with the commitments she made during the second round of the presidential election campaign," she said.

Senator for Amapa Randolfe Rodrigues (PSOL) also spoke out during the demonstration. He regretted last week’s approval of the draft version presented by Senator for Acre Jorge Viana (PT). “The draft bill as it stands only benefits a handful of big agribusiness groups and large landowners and it will actually be promoting and rewarding deforestation in the Amazon. The text sets us against the tide of history, it stands for economic power alone, which destroys and debilitates so many beautiful things," he said.

Via Campesina representative Luiz Zarref feels that the people have been sending very clear messages that they are not willing to accept the changes proposed in the ruralistas’ draft bill. “Agribusiness has no serious commitments to society as a whole. They release their pesticides from their crop-dusting aircraft onto the crops, families, cities forests and wild animals below. Those that only know how to produce commodities for export see the forest as an enemy. Family-based agriculture produces food crops without resorting to the destruction of the forests," he said.

University of Brasilia sociology student Pedro Piccolo highlighted the grassroots mobilization on this issue and declared that society’s dissatisfaction with the changes that are being pushed through in the Senate and House of Representatives is very clear. “The Congress and the federal government are on their knees before the big agribusiness interests. The supposed concern for governability is casting out our dreams of a better country," he said.

There were also around 300 children in the Tres Poderes square showing the Congress and the president of the Republic that the upcoming generations are the ones that will be most highly jeopardized by the changes to the Forest law. A petition with more than 1.5 million signatures was handed in to the president of the republic expressing society’s deep discontent with the direction taken by the debate on the draft bill in the Senate and House of Representatives and calling on the president to veto those provisions that contemplate amnesty for deforestation and the reduction of Permanent Protection and Legal Reserve areas.

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"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

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What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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