The Liberty to Rant…
When members of my family in the UK talk about somebody “ranting on”, they’re normally not being flattering. The suggestion is that they get carried away with a particular “hobbyhorse” kind of issue. That’s probably why I was surprised the first time (quite a long time ago) I heard colleagues at the BBC use the term to mean a “form of journalistic expression”. It doesn’t have an exact equivalent in German (or in the German media?) – correct me if you can come up with one! There are political commentaries, the “Glosse” (anybody got a good translation for that)but not one single word for the right to go on at length in a very personal manner about something you feel strongly about. Right,blogs are the ideal place for that. Ha! Found my medium.
I’ve been reading a German book called “Öko” (translates as eco)- “Al Gore, the New Fridge and Me”, by journalist Peter Unfried. It’s all about how Al Gore’s film, amongst other things, inspired him to try to live a sustainable lifestyle without becoming a fanatic or a “green weirdo”. (I came across an interesting climate blog as I was looking at other opinions on the book. Most of the entries are in German, but not all. Here’s the link:)
Climate Blog by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, “the green political foundation”
I can sympathise with a lot of Peter Unfried’s experiences. One of the issues is plane travel. I got an email from my sister this week about our problems trying to find a weekend for a family reunion. She mentions, kind of tongue-in-cheek, something about me trying to save polar bears but flying around the world for conferences and reporting trips. It’s a tough one. Of course you can say you compensate by paying into the funds that plant forests etc. And it is my job to report on things and draw attention to global warming, endangered species etc. But she has got a point and, yes Sis, I have got a guilty conscience. Her other point (equally tongue-in-cheek sister, I assume?!) was the summer in northern England was so bad maybe a bit of warming wouldn’t do any harm. Well that brings me to the summer here in Bonn, Germany, which has just come to an end – from the meteorological point of view. It was something like 1.6 degrees warmer than the long-term average. But we had far less sunshine than in other years. And there was a shortage of rain. Now I still managed to get enough water for my garden from the rain barrels, and water warm enough to shower – MOST of the time from the solar collectors. But this is making us think whether our project of putting photovoltaic cells on the roof is really going to be a good idea. A lot of people think climate change will just mean better weather for countries in northern and central Europe. In fact it’s much more complicated than that, as this summer’s statistics for my own region here could seem to indicate. In degrees Centigrade it was warmer, but subjectively we feel it was a poor summer with so many dull days.
Meanwhile, I’m still watching the US election campaigns with interest and concern. My colleague Nancy Greenlease gives an interesting assessment after watching last week’s Democratic Congress.
Listen to Nancy’s report
Public attention has turned to the story of Sarah Palin’s daughter’s teenage pregnancy. Well, these things happen. What’s worrying me is that the governor of Alaska and candidate for the vice-presidency supports oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
DateSeptember 17, 2008 | 10:03 am
Is the Arctic Fridge becoming a Heater?
I’ve just come back from the studio where I was recording an interview with Dr. Martin Sommerkorn, Senior Climate Advisor with WWF’s Arctic Programme.
He was talking about the drastic decline of Sea Ice in the Arctic. It seems set to reach its lowest ever, and he tells us the scientists are desperately trying to revise their models to reflect this. “Reflect” is an appropriate word, because the most worrying thing is that white snow and ice reflect the sun’s heat back up off the earth, keeping the planet cooler. Darker water, on the other hand, absorbs it, heating up the planet further.
He says the Arctic could soon stop acting as a fridge that cools the planet and become a heater.
He explains it very well, so here’s the interview for a listen.
There will be a longer version available later in the week. I’m keeping it short here because it not everybody has broadband and a fast computer.
DateSeptember 15, 2008 | 12:50 pm
Climate Change threatening Arctic Seed Vault
I heard one piece of news this week which shocked me – and it worries me that it didn’t make its way into most of the media.
Earlier this year, the Global Seed Vault was opened on the Norwegian Arctic island of Spitsbergen. The idea is to store seeds of all the earth’s important plants, so that if we should experience any kind of major catastrophe, from nuclear explosions to mass epidemics or – yes – climate change, there could be a new start with the seeds from this bunker. It’s built into a hill, supposedly covered with permafrost.The seeds have to be kept between minus 18 and minus 20 degrees C.
But the vault hasn’t even survived one polar summer, with temperatures on the rise. The permafrost has partially thawed and the entrance tunnel to the vault has been damaged.
The Global Seed Vault management seem to be playing this down and say they’ll just have to use the bunker’s cooling system more often. But surely, that’s not quite the point?
Story and pictures on Spiegel Online
And here’s the link to the Global Seed Vault project:
All about the Spitsbergen bunker:
DateSeptember 11, 2008 | 7:38 am
Anyone Spotted those Polar Bears?
This polar bear (Ursus maritimus), is pictured on the pack ice in the Arctic circle. The photo is from WWF.
(c) WWF / www.JSGrove.com
I read a story about a whole group of polar bears, said to be swimming for their lives off the coast of Alaska. I asked my colleague Emily Schwing in Alaska if she had any more background. She agreed to send us her own guest blog entry. Here it comes:
On August 16th, nine polar bears were sighted swimming in the open waters of the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska. Federal observers were conducting aerial surveys when they spotted the bears swimming more than 15 miles off shore. One bear was sighted nearly 65 miles off the coast and some of the animals were reported swimming north.
Environmentalists argue the recent sighting could indicate that polar bears are opting to take longer, more dangerous, energy demanding swims in search of land or stable sea ice. Sea ice coverage in the Artic was reported at a record low in 2007 raising serious questions about the extent of polar bear habitat available to the marine mammal. Polar bears depend on sea ice as a way to hunt ringed seals and other prey.
Between 1987 and 2003, only 12 bears were observed swimming in open water. But in 2004, 51 bears were found swimming in the open ocean. That same year, four polar bears were found drowned in the Beaufort Sea following a storm. The fate of the nine bears sighted last week is unknown.
According to biologists with the US Geological Survey, polar bears are very strong swimmers, but distances of 50 to 100 miles could be exhausting for the animal. Scientists and environmentalists alike speculate that as sea ice continues to decline, events like this could happen more often
Federal marine contractor, Science Applications International Corp was conducting the aerial surveys for the Minerals Management Service, which leased 2.76 million acres offshore for future oil and gas development in February. The surveyors were looking for whales and other marine mammals when they spotted the polar bears.
The US department of the Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in May of this year, after a large body of scientific information indicated that arctic sea ice will continue to decline.
The state of Alaska, under Governor Sarah Palin is currently suing the US Federal Government over the listing of the bear citing a lack of strong scientific data and information that relies on too broad a timescale.
And if anyone hears any more about those bears, please let us know. You can put the comment on the blog or send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily found this interesting bear story on the reuters website and promises more on US and Canadian attitudes towards polar bears in the near future.
DateAugust 28, 2008 | 3:01 pm
Catching up with the Comments
I’ve just finished putting together a little audio-collage about climate-saving projects being run by young people. It makes me optimistic.
Listen to the young climate activisits
Now I still have two “blog jobs” on my conscience for today.
Beth Lunsford from the USA says she likes the blog,and that the whole world has to work together on climate change. Thanks for that Beth, I think you’re absolutely right.Beth’s comment was prompted by the pictures of the “polar bears” at the Brandenburg gate in Berlin. But she’s sceptical about the aims of Barack Obama’s world travels and thinks they were only just for photo opportunities. It’s good to hear what people in the USA think about all this. I really enjoyed being in the USA for 4 weeks this summer.
(This has got to be one of favourite radio station buildings, discovered while travelling on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State. If anybody from the station reads this, please drop me a mail, I’d have loved to meet you and have a look round!)
Apart from seeing some beautiful landscapes, as a British-born European based in Germany, it was great to get a feel for the US lifestyle and follow some of the election campaigning. A lot of us here in Europe feel that there could be a positive development in the climate policy of the USA after the election. But I share the view of those experts who think our expectations might be so high, we’re bound to be disappointed. I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has an opinion on this issue.
And while we’re on the subject, I’d like to thank Andreas Eister, who actually took the pictures at the Brandenburg Gate for WWF. And let me tell you here, Andreas, that the close-up of the “bear” is one of my all-time favourites.
Marie Laure, who runs a project called “Cool Mountain”, aimed at getting people to use less water and power in ski resorts, has asked whether she can post something on the blog. Sure Marie Laure, I’d be delighted to pass on some info about your project. I’d put up a web link, but I haven’t actually found this particular project on the internet. Look forward to hearing from you!
DateAugust 13, 2008 | 2:39 pm