~~ “There is no road, the road is made by walking” – Antonio Machado, Proverbios y cantares ~~
More than 100 million at risk of starvation, by Umberto Bacchi
The number of people facing severe hunger worldwide has surpassed 100 million and will grow if humanitarian aid is not paired with more support for farmers, a senior United Nations official said.
Turkey’s Pigeon Auction, by Umit Bektas Photo-essay
As night-time approaches in Sanliurfa, southeastern Turkey, most of the alleyways of the city’s old bazaar are emptying out, except for one. The bustle of daytime trading has died down, but on this little street, a stream of men carry cardboard boxes filled with pigeons to a cluster of three teahouses. Here, they sell the birds at Sanliurfa’s famed auctions.
Inmates and the Mustang Border Patrol, by Reuters Photo-essay
American prisoners participating in the Wild Horse Inmate Program train mustangs that will eventually be adopted by the U.S. Border Patrol, providing the agency with inexpensive but agile horses, and inmates with skills and insights they hope to one day carry with them from prison.
Porous Texas Fence Foreshadow’s Trump’s Wall Problems, by Jon Herskovitz
The rose-coloured border security fence starts in a dusty field on the Loop family farm in South Texas – about 15 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico and a mile north of the southern U.S. border. From there, near Brownsville, it stretches about 60 miles west, but with plenty of gaps to drive or walk through. Where it exists, the fence doesn’t always stop illegal immigrants.
East Africans thwart illegal fishing, by Emma Bryce
Toxic Indian lake is cost of cheap drugs, by Zeba Siddiqui
Centuries ago, Indian princes would bathe in the cool Kazhipally lake in Medak. Now, critics say, hundreds of drug firms, lax oversight and inadequate water treatment has created a giant Petri dish for anti-microbial resistance in the storied waterway.
More Food No Answer to Africa’s Hunger, by Alex Whiting
As a young university student of agriculture, Edie Mukiibi believed the latest hybrid seeds which promised bumper crops were the answer to improving the lot of maize farmers in his part of Uganda. But the consequences were “terrible”, he said.
Hunting, fishing, farming biggest threats to wildlife, by Sean Maxwell, James Watson & Richard Fuller
Climate change threatens 19% of globally threatened and near-threatened species. It’s a serious conservation issue. Yet our new study, published in Nature, shows that by far the largest current hazards to biodiversity are overexploitation and agriculture.
Public Health Crucial for Urbanized World, by Nate Berg
About 4 billion people now live in urban areas. Denser concentrations are considered efficient, reduce environmental impact and are more sustainable. They also mean a greater risk of exposure to infectious diseases.
Fishing with Fire: a photo essay, by Tyrone Siu
Under the darkness of the night sky, a small group of Taiwan fishermen set sail off the northeast coast, light a fire on the end of a bamboo stick using chemicals and wait for the fish to come. Like a magnet, hundreds of sardines leap out of the water towards the bright light waved by one fisherman and his colleagues angle their nets and haul in the catch.
Emily Dickinson’s garden, “native” plants, and climate change, by Janet Marinelli
A plant from the homestead of poet Emily Dickinson is challenging basic precepts of conservation practice, such as what is the definition of “native”? Are climate refugees that hitchhike north via horticulture less worthy of protection than plants that arrive on their own? Do they pose a threat to existing native species? Should native plant gardening, the domestic form of assisted migration, be used to help plants stranded in inhospitable habitat?
The Story of the Komagatu Maru, by Rod Mickleburgh
At long last, a formal apology was delivered in the House of Commons for Canada’s racist behaviour in its shameful treatment of Sikh passengers aboard the Komagata Maru who had the effrontery to seek immigration to the West Coast more than a hundred years ago. Not only were they denied entry, they were subjected to two months of exceptionally inhumane treatment by unflinching immigration officers. While many now know the basics of the ill-fated voyage, the story has many elements that are less well known.
The toddler tied to a rock while parents work, by Amit Dave, report
There are about 40 million construction workers in India, at least one in five of them women, and the majority poor migrants who shift from site to site, building infrastructure for India’s booming cities. Across the country it is not uncommon to see young children rolling in the sand and mud as their parents carry bricks or dig for new roads or luxury houses.
Venezuela’s struggle to keep the lights on, by Reuters
Residents of Venezuela’s southern city of Puerto Ordaz enjoy pleasant views of the Orinoco and Caroni rivers and are a half hour’s drive from one of the world’s biggest hydroelectric dams. Yet most days they suffer water and power cuts.
Fort McMurray: from “black pitch” and salt to oil sands. By Brian Brennan
The story of Fort McMurray is one of long hibernation followed by rapid growth. The oilsands developments turned it from a sleepy little northern frontier town into Alberta’s most explosive boom city. But it took almost two centuries for the development to happen. The boom had been foretold from the time fur trader Peter Pond explored the region in 1778 …read more
Fort McMurray: Boom, bust …burned, by Rod Nickel and Liz Hampton
A convoy of evacuees from the Canadian oil town of Fort McMurray drove through the heart of a massive wildfire guided by police and military helicopters as they sought to reach safety to the south of the burning city. “Our life is here. We will go back and rebuild,” vowed one. …read more
Cremona — Italy’s City of Violins, by Stefano Rellandini. Photo-essay
Making violins is a passion in Cremona, the ancient Italian town that has been producing them since the 16th century, but turning passion into profits has not been easy.
Remembering the Pillar. By Brian Brennan
A century ago, on April 29, 1916, the Irish Republic ended its brief existence with an unconditional surrender. Though successfully thwarted, it set off a series of events that led to the outbreak of an Irish war of independence between 1919 and 1921. Brian Brennan writes about his experience of Ireland’s independence movement halfway between then, and now.
Illegal Gold Mining in the Amazon. By Bruno Kelly
An area the size of Switzerland belongs to the Yamomani people. But in their lust for gold illegal miners — who in the 1980s used guns and disease to kill 20 per cent of the population — continue felling trees and poisoning rivers with mercury. Authorities stage raids and destroy the miner’s equipment. But who are the illicit business interests behind the miners? … read more
Land of the Strays: Costa Rica’s Lucky Dogs, by Juan Carlos Ulate
In a lush, sprawling corner of Costa Rica, hundreds of dogs roam freely on a hillside – among the luckiest strays on earth. Fed, groomed and cared for by vets, more than 750 dogs rescued from the streets of Costa Rica inhabit Territorio de Zaguates or ‘Land of the Strays’, a pooch paradise.
The Causes of Ireland’s Rising. By Conor Mulvagh, Explainer
The rebellion that unfolded in Ireland in 1916 was plotted by a secret rogue cell within a long-established revolutionary organisation – the Irish Republican Brotherhood. This group had held to the mantra that “England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity” since its last (unsuccessful) uprising in 1867.
KINGS OF THE RANCH. By Brian Brennan
After a historic cattle ranch was added to a major conservation site in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, the two eccentric brothers who originally owned the ranch were again in the spotlight. Although they saw the property appreciate in value to an estimated $6 million during the 60 years they lived and worked on it, Maurice and Harrold King always gave the outward impression they were barely keeping the wolf from the door. They were squabbling bachelors who disagreed about almost everything yet couldn’t live without one another.
The fix: world waterworks near obsolescence. Erica Gies
Globally, water systems in developed countries are nearing the end of their useful life. The lead-poisoning crisis in Flint, Michigan, was a wake-up call. Can innovative technology and financing prevent the next disaster?
‘Smeary’ Lake Erie — progress, and setbacks. Brian Bienkowski
The Great Lakes — with 84% of North America’s surface fresh water and about 21% of the world’s supply — have benefited mightily from cleanup and research. However, from plummeting prey fish populations to poopy Michigan rivers, grave threats to the region’s ecosystems remain.
Whales with a Dam Problem, by Chelsey B. Coombs
The only resident population of killer whales in the Pacific Northwest befuddle biologists, because their numbers seem to be stuck at around 80 individuals. The stagnation, recent research shows, may largely come down to the fact that these orcas are picky eaters whose primary food source—salmon—are having population problems of their own.
Undersea Mining: scientists race to the bottom first, by Brooke Jarvis, OnEarth
Ask oceanographer Craig Smith what the Clarion-Clipperton Zone of the Pacific is like beneath all that water, and he’ll describe a strange undulating world far beyond the reach of sunlight, populated by an enormous array of bizarre-looking creatures, both huge and tiny, known and unknown. And he’ trying to get to them before the underwater miners.
Chinese New Year, the world’s biggest consumer festival. By Qing Shan Ding
One of the biggest annual celebrations around the world is upon us. February 8 marks the start of the Lunar New Year in China, the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar, akin to Christmas in the West. It’s a consumer holiday, as people usher in the year of the monkey: spending in 2014 was around 610 billion yuan – almost double the amount American shoppers spent over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Snow, science, solitude: Ny-Alesund, Norway. By Anna Filipova and Alister Doyle, Photo-Essay
A Norwegian chain of Arctic islands, dependent for a century on now-failing coal mines, seeks to turn numbing cold and total winter darkness into a draw for science research and for visitors who usually only venture north for the midnight sun during fleeting summers.
Giant mounds of unsold coal sprout weeds in the makeshift depots marking nearly every junction, and bitter Siberian winds blow sulphurous dust through streets peopled by laid-off miners. The northeast mining city of Jixi bears the scars of China’s slowing economy and ailing heavy industry.
Paris climate talks enter tough new phase. By David Stanway and Richard Valdmanis, Dec. 5, 2015
Global climate change talks in Paris moved into a new, tougher phase as negotiators agreed on a draft accord, albeit one that still leaves hundreds of points of dispute for ministers to resolve.
Climate: the Paris summit in a nutshell. By Reuters and F&O
Some 150 world leaders from U.S. President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Enele Sosene Sopoaga of Tuvalu gathered in Paris to open a summit meant to secure the world’s most ambitious pact on climate change.
World at “breaking point” as Paris summit begins. By Bruce Wallace and Alister Doyle
World leaders launched an ambitious attempt November 30, to hold back the earth’s rising temperatures, with French President Francois Hollande saying the world was at “breaking point” in the fight against global warming. After decades of struggling negotiations and the failure of a summit in Copenhagen six years ago, some form of landmark agreement appears all but assured.
Catastrophe will result if climate summit fails — Pope. By Philip Pullella and George Obulutsa
World leaders must reach a historic agreement to fight climate change and poverty at upcoming Paris talks, facing the stark choice to either “improve or destroy the environment”, Pope Francis said in Africa on Thursday.
Scores killed in Parisian attacks, hostages held. By reporters and photographers
Scores were killed as Paris was rocked by multiple, near simultaneous attacks late November 13. The apparently coordinated gun and bomb attacks came as the country, a founder member of the U.S.-led coalition waging air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, was on high alert ahead of the global climate conference that opens later this month.
Hurricane Patricia spares cities, roars through rural Mexico. By Reuters reporters and photographers
Hurricane Patricia caused less damage than feared on Mexico’s Pacific coast on Saturday, but little was known about an isolated part of the shoreline dotted with luxury villas and fishing villages, where the storm and its 165 mph (266 kph) winds landed.
Andasol: the world’s biggest solar power farm. By Marcelo del Pozo
On a barren, sun-baked plateau in southern Spain, row upon row of gleaming mirrors form one of the world’s biggest solar power plants and harness the sun’s power even after dark. The Andasol plant, whose name combines the local Andalucia region with the Spanish word for sun – “sol,” provides electricity for up to about 500,000 people…
Earthprints: Toronto’s Leslie Street Spit. By Andrea Hopkins/Mark Blinch
Like a rooftop garden in an overcrowded financial district, Toronto’s Leslie Street Spit is an unexpected urban oasis whose narrow escape from development has brought marshes, lagoons and forests to the centre of Canada’s largest city.
What Tibetan Buddhists, Andean Paqos, teach about climate change. Brian Bienkowski
Glaciers have for decades supplied crucial water to mountain communities worldwide—but they also quench spiritual thirst. The ice serves as cultural and religious touchstone for Tibetan Buddhists, Sherpas in Nepal, Paqos in the Andes. For these communities, climate change is cultural change.
Faith and tradition in Cuba. Story and Photo-essay by Reuters
The air was choked with smoke from incense and cigars while the faithful sipped sugarcane liquor from a gourd at the altar and spat mist over the crowd. Niurka Mola 50, stood at the altar .… read more
The sinkholes of the Dead Sea. Text and photo-essay by Amir Cohen
The Dead Sea is shrinking, and as its waters vanish at a rate of more than one metre a year, hundreds of sinkholes – some the size of a basketball court, others two storeys deep – are devouring land where the shoreline once stood.
That a cluster of glaciers in the Northwest Territories is melting is hardly earth-shattering news. What makes the Brintnell/Bologna and nearby glaciers unique is that they comprise the last extensive icefield remaining in the interior of Canada’s Northwest Territories. And because temperatures are rising so rapidly here, the icefield appears to be melting at a rate three times the global average.
Fighting Olympic eviction in Rio favela, photo-essay by Ricardo Moraes, Reuters
As sports arenas rise up around them and the houses of neighbours are reduced to rubble, more than 20 families refuse to leave their favela, or squatter settlement, on the border of the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, vowing to fight eviction whatever the cost. With just a year to go before the Games come to Brazil, over 90 percent of residents in the slum of Vila Autodromo have already left after accepting compensation and their homes destroyed. Some 50 or so families remain, living in a ghost town with sporadic access to water and electricity and having suffered violent run-ins with police. About half of those families are digging in their heels.
Hurricane Katrina 10 years on, a Photo-Essay by Carlos Barria
When I arrived in New Orleans after the 2005 hurricane, which caused flooding in 80 percent of the city and killed 1,572 people, the scene was quietly apocalyptic. There was dark water all around, empty highways, bodies wrapped in plastic. The calm before the storm, the saying goes. But for many survivors of Katrina, it’s the calm after the storm that truly haunts.
Kenyan fishers swap boats for mangroves and mariculture. By Sophie Mbugua
Coastal mangrove forests, which are being destroyed quickly, are among the world’s most important wetland ecosystems, providing crucial habitat for wildlife and fish, slowing coral reef sedimentation, and protecting coastlines from severe weather events. One solution has been found by a Kenyan community group, which acts as a volunteer forest guard, restores Kenyan mangroves, and maintains tidal fish ponds — both helping to conserve local marine life, and make a living for its members as climate change impacts bite and fish catches on the open sea shrink.
Migrants: A Train Towards a New Life. Photo-essay by Ogden Reofilovski, Reuters
This summer tens of thousands of refugees have passed through Macedonia, another step in their uncertain search for a better life in western Europe. They all travel in harsh conditions and face many challenges en route. The small railway station of Gevgelia, a stone’s throw from the border with Greece, has space for about 20 passengers to wait comfortably for a train heading north.
Bison on the prairie, a conservation success. By Todd Reubold, Ensia
Three years ago, 63 bison originally from Yellowstone National Park left a quarantine facility just outside the park’s boundary where they were being monitored for brucellosis and made the journey nearly 400 miles to the Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana. The transfer, which brought bison back to a stretch of the high country prairie from which they had been absent since the 1870s, was part of a larger program aimed at moving the animals to remote locations across the West to boost resilience to diseases that could wipe out a single herd.
Military gambit behind Putin’s Arctic oil ambitions. By James Henderson
The United States Geological Survey has estimated that the Arctic regions contain around 130 billion barrels of liquids and 47 trillion cubic metres of gas, equivalent to 22% of the world’s undiscovered hydrocarbon resources. It is hardly surprising then that all the countries whose coasts encircle the region, the US, Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia, have made claims on territory outside of the clear boundary for each, which stretches 200 nautical miles from their shoreline.
Blasts in Chinese port kill 50, injure at least 700. By Sui-Lee Wee and Adam Rose
Huge explosions tore through an industrial area where toxic chemicals and gas were stored in the northeast Chinese port city of Tianjin, killing at least 50 people. At least 700 people were injured, more than 71 seriously.
The search for sustainable plastics. By Phil McKenna
The fate of the world’s oceans may rest inside a stainless steel tank not quite the size of a small beer keg. Inside, genetically modified bacteria turn corn syrup into a churning mass of polymers that can be used to produce a wide variety of common plastics.
Old Traditions, New Pastures: Portugal’s last shepherds. By Rafael Marchante
Reuters photographer Rafael Marchante accompanied a flock of sheep and goats from the Portuguese region of Seia during the first three days of ascent, living alongside some of the last shepherds who preserve this ancient tradition. Transhumance, the ascent in search of better pastures, is a seasonal ritual followed since Roman times.
The march of the king crabs: a warning from Antarctica. By Kathryn Smith
Hundreds of metres below the surface of the freezing ocean surrounding Antarctica, the seafloor is teeming with life. The animals living there have no idea that an army is on the brink of invading their tranquil environment. The army is composed of king crabs. Until 2003, there were no crabs in this fragile Antarctic ecosystem. Now, driven by warming waters, their arrival heralds a major upset.
Behind the scenes of the Tour de France. By Reuters.
Photographing the Tour de France cycling race comes with highs and lows: the buzz from capturing just the right image, the tedium of long journeys, the painstaking set-up of equipment, the breath-taking scenery.
Are countries legally required to protect from climate change? By Sophia V. Schweitzer, Ensia
On June 24, 2015, a court in The Hague ruled that greenhouse gas reduction is a state obligation. This marks the first time the issue has been legally declared a state obligation, regardless of arguments that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend on one country’s efforts alone. Here’s what that could mean for the rest of the world.
Up close with Pluto. By Monica Grady
NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft, launched in January 2006, travelled for nine and a half years for a flyby lasting only about 15 minutes. It doesn’t sound much of a reward for all the effort of designing and building the spacecraft – but for planetary scientists, the data coming back from the mission is pure gold.
How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars, and Built Six Haitian Homes. By Justin Elliott, ProPublica, and Laura Sullivan, NPR
The neighborhood of Campeche sprawls up a steep hillside in Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. Goats rustle in trash. Children kick a deflated volleyball in a dusty lot below a wall with a hand-painted logo of the American Red Cross. In late 2011, the Red Cross launched a multimillion-dollar project to transform the desperately poor area, which was hit hard by the 2010 earthquake. The main focus of the project — called LAMIKA, an acronym in Creole for “A Better Life in My Neighborhood” — was building hundreds of permanent homes. Today, not one home has been built in Campeche.
Killing the Colorado: End of the Miracle Machines By Abrahm Lustgarten
The Navajo Generating Station is a monument to man’s outsized confidence that it would always be possible to engineer new solutions to an arid region’s environmental limits. Now, 15 years into a historic drought, it is becoming increasingly clear that the era of engineering more and more water out of the Colorado River is coming to a close. The Navajo Generating Station is more a caution than a marvel, showing how much energy it takes to move water through an artificial river system, and the unforeseen damage produced by doing so.
Killing the Colorado: Water Rights and the Right to Waste. By Abrahm Lustgarten
High in the Rocky Mountains, snowmelt fills a stream that trickles down into Ohio Creek and then onward toward the Upper Gunnison River. From there, it tumbles through the chasms of the Black Canyon, joining the Colorado River, filling the giant Lake Powell reservoir, and, one day, flowing to Los Angeles. But before the water gets more than a few miles off the mountain, much of this stream is diverted into dirt ditches used by ranchers along the Ohio Creek Valley. Standing astride one of those ditches one day last fall, Bill Ketterhagen dug his boot soles against the concrete edge of a 5-foot-wide dam. He spun a steel wheel and opened a gate that allowed water to pour into his fields of hay crops.
Killing the Colorado: How US dollars fund the water crisis. By Abrahm Lustgarten and Naveena Sadasivam
Getting plants to grow in the Sonoran Desert is made possible by importing billions of gallons of water each year. U.S. federal subsidies that prop up cotton farming in Arizona are just one of myriad ways that policymakers have refused, or been slow to reshape laws to reflect the West’s changing circumstances. Western leaders also have flinched repeatedly when staring down the insatiable, unstoppable force of urban sprawl.
Vancouver: not mind-numbingly boring, but vacuously vain. By Jonathan Manthorpe
The flood of vast wealth from China into Canada has not only contorted and distorted the Vancouver housing market beyond redemption, it has changed the sort of community the western Canadian metropolis is going to be for generations to come. In a bizarre piece of absence of mind and lack of attention, it has also hitched the future of Vancouver to the fate of the Chinese Communist Party. Vancouver’s low self-confidence and its destructive vanity have both played a part in these failures.
Nepal’s Predictable Agony. By Deborah Jones
The massive earthquake that shattered Nepal on April 25, 20115, came as no surprise to anyone. The country sits atop one of the world’s most seismically dangerous places. There have been countless warnings about Nepal’s rickety infrastructure, haphazard housing, lax building codes, and rampant urban development. There was even a warning a few weeks ago that a quake was imminent, precisely where it occurred.
Earthquake postpones Nepal’s bright dawn. By Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)
The earthquake that struck in April has set back for at least a decade the early stages of Nepal’s climb out from the basement of global economic development, where it has languished for generations. Many will doubt whether Nepal’s fledgling democratic institutions are robust enough to manage the onslaught of the well-meaning, but often destructive, attentions of international aid agencies that will now batter the country. But there are reasons to be optimistic.
How to make seal flipper pie. By Greg Locke
It’s spring on Canada’s east coast and that means sea ice and the seals it brings to the waters of the Labrador Sea and the Gulf of St Lawrence. Its also means its seal hunting season for the fishermen of Newfoundland, Labrador and Quebec. But forget the politics and propaganda, Greg Locke has sought out the perfect recipe for Newfoundland’s traditional seal flipper pie.
Beyond Lassie: seeking dogs to protect livestock, and predators. By Ben Goldfarb
Throughout the American West, recovering populations of wolves and grizzly bears have crept beyond the boundaries of national parks, clashing with sheep and cattle as they advance. A good guard dog, however, forestalls conflict by warding off carnivores before they attack. “Ideally the sheep don’t die, the wolves don’t die, the dogs don’t die,” a researcher explains. Can a domestic animal truly help restore some of the world’s wildest creatures while at the same time saving livestock?
Earth getting greener, despite deforestation. By Yi Liu, Albert Van Dijk, and Pep Canadell
While the news coming out of forests is often dominated by deforestation and habitat loss, research published this month in Nature Climate Change shows that the world has actually got greener over the past decade. Despite ongoing deforestation in South America and Southeast Asia, we found that the decline in these regions has been offset by recovering forests outside the tropics, and new growth in the drier savannas and shrublands of Africa and Australia. Plants absorb around a quarter of the carbon dioxide that people release into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. With a greening globe, more plants may mean more absorption of carbon dioxide. If so, this will slow but not stop climate change.
ISIS destruction of ancient artefacts a message of intent By Peter Edwell
Distressing scenes of the destruction of ancient artefacts by ISIS in the Archaeological Museum in Mosul in northern Iraq have been widely reported in recent days. Video footage showed individuals wielding sledgehammers at ancient statues which the perpetrators claimed were images of gods. The exact identification of the destroyed artefacts is speculative, but most of the destruction appears to have been wrought on statuary of the Assyrian period (1365 BCE–609 BCE) and from the ancient trading principality of Hatra.
Condemnation of memory: the destruction of World Heritage. By Bastien Varoutsikos
Why, despite international efforts such as the UNESCO, is cultural heritage still under attack worldwide? Some have blamed nationalistic regimes, which often attempt to politicize cultural artifacts, using them to reinterpret the past for specific ideological purposes. Others have highlighted the striking contrast between the massive profit created by the illegal antiquity market and the relatively low penal risk tied to it. And some have also pointed to the lack of enforcement of UNESCO regulations But above all, there seems to be a disconnect among nations and individuals in how they comprehend the concept of world heritage, and its importance as a means to safeguard mankind’s memory.
Cultural traditions are slowly disappearing under the pressure of a more globalized and modern world. As the older generation passes away their knowledge and skills often die with them, their only trace left in anthologies and history books. UNESCO’s “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” aims to highlight global diversity and help preserve traditions.
Alaskan volcanos could cause trans-Atlantic airline chaos. By Sean Pyne-O’Donnell and Britta Jensen
A volcanic eruption in Iceland caused massive disruption throughout Europe in 2010. A huge ash cloud grounded more than 100,000 flights and delayed 10m passengers, costing the aviation industry more than £2 billion. This wasn’t a freak event. New evidence shows such ash clouds are more common than we thought, and they can even cross the Atlantic from volcanic hot-spots in North America. We need to be wary as another major ash cloud could arrive at any time.
Canada’s government released images today of the bell from HMS Erebus, the doomed ship from Britain’s legendary Franklin Expedition, found in Nunavut territory in September. Erebus was named after the Greek god of darkness, whose sire is Chaos. (You might have thought the name would give them pause.)
Climate change caused by humans will result in food shortages, mass extinctions and flooding, warns the world body of climate experts in its most comprehensive report yet, signed in Bonn on November 2, 2014. It says the science is now 95 per cent conclusive, that today’s climate change is unprecedented, and warns that the world must act, together and immediately, on adaptation and mitigation. It says some changes are already inevitable and the risk of not acting is extreme: “Without additional mitigation efforts beyond those in place today, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts, globally.”
Book excerpt — Great Bear Wild: Dispatches from a Northern Rainforest. By Ian McAllister
Great Bear Wild, a book of observations and photographs, and a video (see below), is the latest project by Ian McAllister, conservationist, photographer, and 25-year resident of the Great Bear Rainforest on Canada’s West Coast. He describes it as “a deeply personal journey from the headwaters of the region’s unexplored river valleys down to the hidden depths of the offshore world. Globally renowned for its astonishing biodiversity, the Great Bear Rainforest is also one of the most endangered landscapes on the planet, where First Nations people fight for their way of life as massive energy projects threaten entire ecosystems.”
Survival Lessons in Iceland’s Resilience. By Johanna Hoffman
HEIMAY, Iceland – The grassy slopes above this small Icelandic fishing town exploded with lava and ash 41 years ago. Rolling meadows erupted into a raw volcano and columns of 2,000º molten rock burst from the Earth. The surprise five-month eruption nearly destroyed the town. Yet residents found ways to not only return but benefit from the devastation. That Heimay’s townspeople bounced back with speed and agility is no accident. For Icelanders, long tested by fire and ice, resiliency to environmental change is par for the course.
“Volcano Season” — is it real? By Robin Wylie
The Earth seems to have been smoking a lot recently. Volcanoes are currently erupting in Iceland, Hawaii, Indonesia and Mexico. Others, in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, erupted recently but seem to have calmed down. Many of these have threatened homes and forced evacuations. But among their less-endangered spectators, these eruptions may have raised a question: Is there such a thing as a season for volcanic eruptions? Surprisingly, this may be a possibility.
The Hitchbot’s Guide to a Continent. By Frauke Zeller and David Harris Smith
How do you rate your chances of completing a transcontinental road trip? What if you can’t drive and don’t have car? What if you can’t even move unaided? In fact, what about if you’re not even human? Tweeting, GPS-equipped robot Hitchbot managed it, hitchhiking across Canada this summer from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia. The cylindrical robot, sporting a digital LCD smile and a fetching line in matching yellow rubber gloves and boots, completed the 6,000km journey in around 20 days.
The haunted painting of Sir John Franklin’s ship. By Laura MacCulloch
At Royal Holloway College at the University of London, Edwin Landseer’s picture Man Proposes, God Disposes (1864) is covered by a Union Flag every year during exams. Not because of any fears of cheating during history exams but because students believe they will fail their exams (or even go mad) if they look at it. This fear of the painting goes back a long way in the history of the college. The subject matter of the picture is highly grisly and macabre.
Who are the Yazidis? By Christine Allison
In 1918, the Yazidis of Sinjar mountain received an ultimatum from Ottoman forces – to hand over their weaponry and the Christian refugees they were sheltering, or face the consequences. They tore it up and sent the messengers back naked. The Sinjaris are the “Highlanders” of the Iraqi Yazidis – tough and proud. After suffering terrible casualties and appealing to the allied forces for help they were able to survive the subsequent attack and live out the war in their mountain homeland.
Can Disneyfication save a Chinese City’s Poetic Soul? By Michael Silk and Andrew Manley
Chinese cities are often contradictory bricolages of old and new. They wrestle with extraordinarily rapid rates of economic growth, concentrated urbanisation, the growth of a burgeoning middle class as well as extreme social, political and economic disparities. Award-winning Suzhou has not escaped the extraordinary rates of urban growth of other Chinese cities, and the traffic congestion and internationalisation that comes along with it. Yet, unlike other Chinese cities, administrators are seeking to preserve its poetic soul.
Fracking Water Contamination Feared in California Drought, by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica
California officials ordered an emergency shut-down of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites and a review more than 100 others in the state’s drought-wracked Central Valley in July, out of fear that companies may have been pumping fracking fluids and other toxic waste into drinking water aquifers there.
The Forgotten Concentration Camp, by Toby Thacker
On July 23 1944, Soviet Army troops discovered the huge Nazi concentration camp of Majdanek just outside the Polish city of Lublin, virtually intact. Along with a few hundred ill and emaciated survivors, they found plentiful evidence that men, women, and children from all over Europe had been brought to this camp by the SS, and that tens of thousands had been murdered there. Now, anniversaries of the liberation of Majdanek pass almost unnoticed.
A Whale for the Taking, by Locke and Jones (Subscription)
After a rough winter in the waters around Newfoundland on Canada’s east coast a number of dead whales, including a number of endangered North Atlantic blue whales, washed up on the beaches of many small fishing villages. The question became how to dispose of a 100 tonne, 25 metre, rotting carcases that threatened the health of the people in the communities and dampened the pending tourist season. Its a story of something no one was going to touch …until someone wanted it. Then the stink began.
Welcome to Iceberg Alley: Mixed blessing of icebergs in Newfoundland. Photo essay by Greg Locke (Subscription)
In most places, it’s flowers that signal the coming of spring. Newfoundland and Labrador have the flowers – but also icebergs. It’s not uncommon to wander the coastal trails and fishing villages on a warm sunny spring day, with a backdrop of icebergs drifting by on an impossibly blue ocean. This is because Newfoundland is at the end of Iceberg Alley, an ocean current that brings icebergs from Greenland glaciers and the Canadian Arctic down the Labrador Sea, crashing them into the north coast of the island and out onto the shallow waters of the Grand Banks, where they melt and fade away.
Frack Fluids can Migrate to Aquifers: Study. By Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica
A new study has raised fresh concerns about the safety of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, concluding that fracking chemicals injected into the ground could migrate toward drinking water supplies far more quickly than experts have previously predicted. Scientists have theorized that impermeable layers of rock would keep the fluid, which contains benzene and other dangerous chemicals, safely locked nearly a mile below water supplies. This view of the earth’s underground geology is a cornerstone of the industry’s argument that fracking poses minimal threats to the environment. But the study, using computer modeling, concluded that natural faults and fractures in the Marcellus, exacerbated by the effects of fracking itself, could allow chemicals to reach the surface in as little as “just a few years.”
Beat Cops on the High Seas: Bluewater posse hunts drift-net fishers. By Deborah Jones
Shemya Island, on the far western edge of Alaska, is about the last place you’d expect to find Canadian law-enforcement agents. But dozens of Canadian fisheries and military officials are working from the desolate Aleutian island as Canada takes its yearly turn at being beat cop on the high seas. Not so long ago, Shemya was on the edge of the world’s last true wild west. For decades, within the millions of square kilometres between the Aleutians and Japan, as many as 700 boats plundered the lawless North Pacific, fishing for salmon with driftnets.
Bragging Rights on Snow: Ski Instructing tourism. By Deborah Jones
Mad Descents: Downhill mountain biking is not mainstream. By Deborah Jones
The start of Espresso, a gnarly mountain-bike trail on British Columbia’s famous North Shore, is unimposing. Bikers — and these are ”bikers,” whose body armor and monstrous downhill machines make other cyclists seem effete — start each run on residential streets, where suburban gardens flourish on the edge of wilderness. Though a mere cyclist, I am here to stretch my comfort zone, intrigued by claims that the extreme sport of downhill biking is becoming mainstream.
Swept Away: Beaches, Dunes, Wharves Pulled to Sea. By Charles Mandel
At Basin Head, one of the Island’s world-renowned beaches, the wharves have been washed away, as has a major sand dune that anchored them. Gone are the famous Panmure Island dunes. The story is the same in the Prince Edward Island National Park, where tonnes of sand forming the attraction’s dunes have been dragged out to sea.
Killer Highway: Canada’s demonic and blissful Sea to Sky. By Deborah Jones
This morning, the “Killer Highway” of British Columbia looks harmless. Blissful, even. Dawn creeps across Sea to Sky country as I drive south from Whistler to Vancouver. Hoar frost sparkles on winter-bare trees and the sunrise reflects dazzlingly off the mountain peaks above. Just south of Squamish the vista seems preposterous, a work of art by a delirious angel who paints Howe Sound blue and white-capped, sets pink and fluffy clouds dancing in a cobalt sky, flings into infinity an ethereal vista of ocean, mountain, air. It’s pretty, all right. But I’m not fooled. You see, I know this road.
No Home for the Flower Children: Evicting Sombrio Beach squatters. By Deborah Jones
When Mike Callaway arrived on this remote beach, he just wanted time to recover from the painful break-up of a band he’d played in, the Codfish Cowboys. And so, on a rocky strip of land sandwiched between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the towering mountains of southern Vancouver Island, accessed only by a narrow coastal road winding from Victoria 90 minutes away, Mr. Callaway set up house in a crude shelter under the moist canopy of rain forest. “I had a spiritual feeling that I belonged around here.”
The Vikings are Coming: A 1,000-year-old Viking journey revisited. By Deborah Jones
Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of America in 1492 is accepted as fact around the world. But modern supporters of other long-ago adventurers, from European fishermen to Viking voyagers, are publicizing the feats of their heroes.
The “Dragon Paths” of Atlin. By Anne Tempelman-Kluit
It’s been said that “dragon paths of energy” run close to the surface of the earth in Atlin, and that this energy will one day will attract aliens. One resident even proposed building a landing strip on top of Atlin Mountain, for visiting space craft. But lethargy, not energy, strikes first upon arrival here. And while no aliens have appeared in Atlin, perhaps the “dragon paths” help explain this Western Canadian town’s artistic energy.