The Monthly Global Change Review #04

| May 25, 2021 | Leave a Comment

The Monthly Global Change Review #04 by Berenice Gagne

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Media Type: Article - Recent

Publication Info: Medium

Date of Publication: May 21

Year of Publication: 2021

Publication City: Lyon, France

Publisher: Medium - Ecole Urbaine de Lyon

Author(s): Berenice Gagne

Volume: 04

Pages: 1

Categories: , ,

Top photo – «Chameleon» (2014) © Michael Johansson

A monthly publication by Lyon Urban School (Université de Lyon), written by Berenice Gagne, dedicated to a better understanding of global change and the Anthropocene urban world: a selection of news in many fields of study, which aims to grasp the world we live in and the world to come.

This month, archaeological excavations and historical research on the planet’s land use show that the transformation of space by humans goes back long before the Great Acceleration of the 1950s. However, this transformation was not synonymous with deterioration. These findings challenge the conservationist dogma and the romantic myth of a “wild” nature damaged by humans, since the current biodiversity crisis cannot be explained by the disappearance of uninhabited “wild” spaces.

Meanwhile, in the city, we discover that the pollution of the Industrial Revolution, which determined the shape of the cities, continues to influence the distribution between rich and poor districts.

Berenice Gagne

Berenice Gagne
Urban School of Lyon – Watching over the Anthropocene Urban World & Global Change. Born in CO2 332ppm, my children 400 and 406

Enjoy reading or listening to original chronicles: Net ZeroAlgorithms , Drink or Drive.
Check out the selection of Anthropocene Good Reads #2020: 60 books in many fields of knowledge to help understand what is happening and what is coming.
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Christ statue under construction in Encantado, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil (April 2021) © Silvio Avila
Christ statue under construction in Encantado, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil (April 2021) © Silvio Avila


– How does past pollution continue to shape cities? Study shows persistence of socio-environmental segregation dating back to the Industrial Revolution — poorer eastern neighborhoods in former industrial cities when prevailing winds blew coal pollution eastward — even decades after pollution emissions stopped (Journal of Political Economy, Volume 129, Number 5, May 2021).

– An incentive to look at metropolization from a different perspective through a comparative analysis of two metropolises: the metropolis of Greater Lyon (France) and the metropolis of Minneapolis Saint Paul (Minnesota, United States). An opportunity to think about regional cooperation from an extended imagination of adjacent areas in a perspective of “metropolitan local, in Europe and in a globalized world” (métropolitiques, 03/05/2021).

– “Re-examine our urban development practices through nomadic lifestyles”: “Working on the subject of welcoming nomadic populations could allow us to rethink the relationship between public and private space, and to deepen the subject of the commons. (métropolitiques, 26/04/2021).

– A very instructive (and somewhat apocalyptic) infographic on the vulnerability of cities around the world to climate change: “High temperatures, sea level rise, and extreme weather are all felt more acutely in urban areas. Built on concrete, they absorb solar radiation but not water, making the effects of both heat waves and heavy rains more severe” (Bloomberg Green, 19/04/2021).


– What interface between the scientific and political fields? Rejecting the monopoly of certain disciplines on objects and conceiving research as a collective and collaborative inquiry with a wider range of non-academic participants impacted or concerned by the issues at stake. Build new knowledge for action, capable of making a more effective link between the world of research and that of decision-making, by placing collective learning at the center (The Conversation, 25/04/2021).

Em Emem: Ci-gît un Arbre (Lyon)«Ci-gît un arbre», Here lies a tree (Lyon) © Ememem


– Agroforestry: To address the harmful effects of corn and soybean monocultures (soil erosion, water pollution, and massive greenhouse gas emissions) that cover 75% of the Midwestern United States, farmers alternate rows with perennial crops such as hazelnut trees. This preserves soil life and the habitat of contributing insects and allows the soil to capture carbon. Hazelnut also represents a high potential market both locally and internationally. Other perennial plants that can be used in agroforestry in the United States include chestnuts, blueberries, papayas and persimmons (Mongabay, 28/04/2021).

– Climate change has reduced agricultural production growth by 21%. Climatic hazards have been responsible for half of the sudden crop losses since the 1960s. “This decrease is not uniform and depends largely on geographic latitude. The hottest regions and those most affected by climate change are the ones with the most marked deficits” (Nature Climate Change, April 2021).

– An analysis of 118 studies conducted over 50 years in 51 countries sought to determine the influence of farm size on factors other than food production: large farms account for most of the world’s food supply, but the 84% of farms under 2 hectares protect biodiversity for a comparable yield (Nature Sustain, 29/03/2021).


– The report by insurance and reinsurance company Swiss Re (which insures many insurance companies around the world) on the economics of climate change projects an 11–14% decline in global economic output by 2050. Annual production losses due to reduced agricultural yields, disease and rising seas devastating coastal cities are estimated at $23 trillion. The poorest countries, which are generally more exposed to climate change, are the most affected because they have fewer resources to adapt their infrastructure and economies. This report will influence insurance companies in their pricing and investments (The New York Times, 22/04/2021).

– A very comprehensive article on the threats of carbon neutrality policies (Net Zero). The current narrative is that by 2050 the world will be carbon neutral, meaning that all greenhouse gas emissions will be offset by technologies that remove them from the atmosphere. Unfortunately, these technologies do not exist and the policy of carbon neutrality has mainly allowed the perpetuation of unsustainable economic activities that mortgage the future. This policy conveys a harmful belief in technosolutionism and deadens the legitimate sense of urgency we should feel. Carbon removal technologies are necessary, but in addition to a drastic reduction in emissions (The Conversation, 22/04/2021).

Michael Johansson: Chameleon, 2014
«Chameleon» (2014) © Michael Johansson


– To save the indigenous languages is also to save the planet. “By erasing a language, they have also erased useful knowledge: the environmental stewardship, the production of food, the respect of Nature, the knowledge of medicinal plants, irrigation techniques, seasonal calendars” (NEON, 22/04/2021).

– GeoContext : giving up the belief in the objectivity of Science that would be apolitical and separated from social issues, geoscientists create modules to help teachers introduce the social and political context of the history of their discipline in order to question the perpetuation of tools based on racist, sexist and discriminating ideologies (Eos, 09/03/2021).

– New issue of the Feminist Africa review (open access): “Extractivism, resistance, alternatives”. Here is the summary:


– An article by the economist and sociologist Pierre Veltz, who regrets the lack of a systemic vision of the French climate law, and the confinement of ecology to the endless story of improving the “efficiency of our technical and economic processes”. He calls for “matching the search for efficiency with that of sobriety “. He questions the definition of this sobriety, too often caricatured as resting on individual sacrifices, in terms of economy. “The real challenge is to imagine an economy that is globally and structurally sober, that is also socially just and that creates value and quality jobs, a sine qua non condition for its acceptability” (Le Monde, 20/04/2021).

– “Ecological transition, accounting revolution”, an interview with chartered accountant and management science researcher Jacques Richard. He postulates that “accounting standards and systems could be a key to the social and environmental crisis we are going through” and he proposes a new model — Alternative Accounting for Environmental Responsibility — a universal accounting system that integrates human and nature (Anthropocene2050, 14/04/2021).


– The German Constitutional Court ruled that the objectives of the Climate Law (a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels) were insufficient. The Karlsruhe judges consider that “the contested provisions infringe on the liberties of the applicants, some of whom are still very young. They irreversibly postpone considerable burdens in terms of emissions reduction to the period after 2030” (Carbon Brief, 29/04/2021).


– Women and Climate Migration: The Habitable research project aims to better understand the links between the effects of climate change and migration behavior. It focuses in particular on the empirical study of social and gender dynamics. Indeed, the consequences of climate change affect women and girls more severely as they participate less in decision-making (e.g. the decision to migrate) and have less access to education and resources. Yet women and girls are also agents of change: they “develop and implement innovative solutions and accelerate household and community-level resilience building”. This is why it is “crucial to better understand gender roles, including the power relations between women and men, and how these factors influence vulnerability to climate change and climate-related displacement” (Habitable, 01/05/2021).


– “Anti Car”. “It is a fact: it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of the car. (Le Grand Continent, 12/04/2021).

Michael Johansson: Ghost II, 2009
«Ghost II» (2009) © Michael Johansson


– 12,000 years ago (at the very beginning of the Neolithic period), nearly three quarters of the planet’s land was inhabited and thus transformed by human societies, including more than 95% of temperate forests and 90% of tropical forests. The current biodiversity crisis cannot therefore be explained by the disappearance of uninhabited “wild” spaces, as the conservationist paradigm claims. This catastrophe is the result of the appropriation, colonization and intensive use of cultural spaces rich in biodiversity, long transformed and maintained by prior societies. “Global land use history confirms that empowering the environmental stewardship of Indigenous peoples and local communities will be critical to conserving biodiversity across the planet” (PNAS, 27/04/2021). To complete the picture, an archaeological excavation at a site on the shores of Lake Malawi shows that humans were transforming the landscape with fire 85,000 years ago, probably to diversify their food resources (The Conversation, 05/05/2021).

– A troubling finding: “climate disruption, essentially fueled by CO2 emissions, and therefore directly linked to economic activity” represents a negligible part of macroeconomic thinking. “Of the 77,000 articles published by the most reputable academic journals in economics, only 57 related to the theme of climate change, a proportion of 0.074%” (Le Monde, 26/04/2021).

– A conversation with historian Dipesh Chakrabarty who revisits “the missions of the historian in an age when historicity is slowly being lost. He proposes a critical collision to structure new kinds of history and answer this fundamental question: ‘How did we get here?’” (Le Grand Continent, 13/04/2021).

– Here is the summary of The Anthropocene Review April issue:

– A sensitive and critical analysis of the geospatial representation of what is considered the “Great Pause” imposed by the pandemic and which is blind to the intense ecosystem of agents making this pause possible for some. Indeed, the macroeconomic and health data that imposed this suspended moment gave rise to numerous visualizations but made invisible the strong inequalities that were nevertheless exposed by the pandemic. The anthropologist Shannon Mattern suggests a cartography of the margins, of the persons silenced by history, a cartography of erasure and of what the blanks of the maps hide. She underlines the usefulness of artificial intelligence — often accused of bias — to reveal the biases of archives… She suggests mapping “the ecology of resources and services that have made it possible for some of us each sourdough selfie, each Zoom class, each Netflix binge”. She proposes to rethink our practices of conceptualizing and modeling urban life (Places, mars 2021).

– A very detailed review of the notion of Anthropocene in geological terms by the American Geophysical Union. The article compares this geological (chronostratigraphic) definition with broader uses in the humanities and social sciences, in an interdisciplinary perspective (AGU-Earth’s Future, 01/02/2021).


– “A democracy enhanced by the ecological transition?” Are democracies less well equipped than authoritarian regimes to face the climate challenge?” A reflection on the necessary articulation between the ecological transition and the transformation of democratic processes. The transition “can enhance democratic, participatory and deliberative processes”. (AOC, 29/04/2021).

– Analysis of the international stakes so that French and European political parties can develop a real geopolitical climate policy (Le Grand Continent, 26/04/2021).


– Another look at the phenomenon of the crisis of meaning and professional reconversion. Instead of approaching it from the individual angle of personal fulfillment and unavoidable resilience, why not see the desire to transform society within a collective, to serve the commons, to experiment with non-market relationships, to become politically involved and to reinvent occupations? (lundi matin, 26/04/2021).

– A study by economic researchers on ecological inequality in France. “A household belonging to the richest 10% emits on average 2.2 times more than an average household in the poorest 10%”. These social disparities are evident in terms of mobility. The place of residence also has a significant influence on emissions: “Living in an urban environment systematically leads, at the same level of income, to a smaller average footprint than if you live in the countryside or in the suburbs. Ecological inequalities are therefore not only social inequalities but also spatial ones (Varia, revue de l’OFCE, n°169, novembre 2020).


– Where do the microplastics in the air come from? A study determines that 84% of them come from the tires of cars on the roads and 11% from the ocean: the ocean has accumulated so much plastic that at any given moment, there are more microplastics coming out of the ocean than those going in (Wired, 13/04/2021).

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