The ice is melting faster!

Scientists in the U.K have just determined that an increase in sunshine in the past 20 years is having an effect on the ice melt in Greenland. This could literally affect millions of people worldwide. If the Greenland ice sheet melted we could see global sea levels rise by 6 meters.

It has been estimated that 25 per cent of global sea level rise can be attributed to the melting of the ice sheet on Greenland. Since 1995 Greenland has lost about 4.000 gigatons of ice.

Scientists believe that as the Arctic is warming faster, it is affecting the weather over Greenland. There are less clouds and more clear skies in now. This increase in sunlight explains about two-thirds of the ice melt in Greenland since the 1990’s. Since 2003 ice loss has nearly doubled.

No doubt that things could simply go on towards the day when the ice sheet in Greenland is no more, and millions of people who live by the shore will be severely affected. Just slowing the rate of melt will be difficult. Perhaps we should prepare people for what seems inevitable, a global rise in sea levels in the next 25 years that could be catastrophic.

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The woodchuck and I.

I had the good fortune today of seeing a woodchuck up close and personal as. I must say that I am always ready for such animal encounters as I always carry my camera when walking in the botanical garden.

I had spotted the animal from afar as I was walking on the road that passes by a large field. This field is used by children who plant vegetables and other produce and are then used by the community. The animal was towards the end of the field where only grass is present.

I immediately walked straight towards the object of my interest, but at a slow pace. Woodchucks are notoriously shy and a sudden advance on them would have been the kiss of death on my photographic projects. I therefore moved only when it was not looking at me.

The animal was content in eating the grass that was in front of it, sometimes turning left and at times not moving and looking in my direction. I acted the part of appearing to be a statue. It would often chew on the grass and then look up. I was always on the move until I was a few feet from it, hiding behind a rock formation that had been shaped as a wheel by employees of the garden. From there I began taking pictures as I was unsure for how long the animal would stay.

The weather was not the best as the skies were cloudy but at times the sun would shine. I was now crouching and taking pictures of the animal and decided to get even closer to it but slowly. I knew that any rapid movements on my part would mean the sudden departure of my subject.

At times the woodchuck exhibited a strange behviour. At one point it stood on its back legs and stood up looking at me, seeming to strike a pose for me. Of course it is possible that it was trying to intimidate me by appearing larger than it really was. Interestingly not a sound was uttered by the animal. I took more pictures especially as the sun’s rays were now shining on my subject. The animal is not a colourful subject as its fur is brown with some reddish tint into it and it has the face of a beaver. But it is wild.

I was now facing the animal squarely and it did not seem to mine. In fact, it was so comfortable that it installed itself on a flat rock and stretched it front paws slightly in front of it. It was still eying me though, keeping a close eye on me. I was happy as I took more pictures while it stretched in the sun.

After about ten minutes of this the woodchuck suddenly got up and entered a small forest at the back of the area leaving me alone. Not once had it uttered a sound. It was always looking at me and knew at all times where I was and what I was doing. I was not doing much of course, except taking pictures.

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A bees life…

Well now it is official; a bees life is shortened because of the use of pesticides called
Neonicotinoids. They die sooner than bees not exposed to these pesticides and it is not by a small amount, almost 25%.

Not only that, there was higher worker mortality and deficits in learning and memory. The queen was affected as well. Bee keepers are not surprised by all this as they have been on the frontlines of this for the past years.

Some of the changes in bees include bees flying longer, worker bees living fewer days and the inability to keep the colony clean of dead bees. The queen was not taken care adequately as well.

For the beekeepers the answer to this problem is clear; when corn seed is treated with these pesticides it should be done on an only-as-needed basis and not as a preventative measure.

Some countries have put a ban on those pesticides that hurt bees and research is still being done on the bees and the effects pesticides have on them. Health Canada is presently considering a ban on two of those pesticides that seem to harm bees.

Let us remember that bees are vital to plant and crop pollination. Bees are not the sole pollinators yet they are the most abundant with 700 species alone found in Canada. We depend on bees.


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The world’s dirty rivers.

I recently read an article that described how dirty the world’s major rivers were. It seems that more than two million tons of plastics are transported to the oceans by them. About 122 rivers contribute 90% of the plastic found in the oceans, and 103 of these rivers are in Asia. Twenty rivers in Asia contribute 67% of the plastic.

The problem of plastics in the oceans is such that the United Nations world conference on the oceans has decided to take a serious look at it. More than 80% of what is found in the oceans consists of plastics, most of which comes from the continents.

Because the use of plastics is a recent phenomena its influence on the oceans began to be scrutinize only around the year 2000 by scientists. It was then that continents of floating islands of plastics were discovered and are now well known.

That Asian rivers are heavily polluted is no surprise, especially considering the rapid pace of development since the 1970’s and 1980’s. Perhaps by pointing out the obvious at the United Nations world conference on the oceans solutions will be presented and the Asian nations will seek help as a lot of these countries are still too poor to embark alone on a program of cleaning up their rivers.

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The fox in the cage.

I often visit the botanical garden to take pictures, and when I go I always go very early, before 07:00. There are less people and the wildlife is more visible. I love taking pictures of the foxes that roam the area, but according to the garden too much of a good thing is bad.

Foxes have been roaming the garden for at least 10 years. I vividly remember that before their arrival rabbits were plentiful as well as squirrels. That is certainly one reason why foxes were permitted to establish themselves: to control the population of squirrels and to eradicate the rabbits. These two are pests as they uproot plants and destroy the habitat.

However the garden likes the foxes, they usually leave every year only a couple of foxes to start the cycle again every year. They usually capture most young foxes starting in July or August. But this year it seems that they have started earlier, or it was always like that and I never noticed until it was too obvious to miss.

On that Saturday morning recently I was walking in an area called the children’s garden. This area is reserved for children in the neighbourhood so that they can plant vegetables and collect prizes for them. A friendly competition between the children. Naturally, too many foxes running around the area could pose a problem, although I have yet to see a fox eat carrots or turnips. But they do eat raspberries.

I walked behind a section where the employees have a small building. This is also used by the children from what I have seen. Behind it, well hidden from people, I found a cage and in it was a small fox.

It seemed to look frightened of me, trying to get at the back of the cage well away from me. It had these brown eyes that looked imploringly at me, as if asking what will I do now.

I thought about it for about 30 seconds and then walked away. Two reasons motivated my inaction; one, there were still 5 young foxes running around on top of four adults. That is still a lot of foxes to take pictures of. Secondly, odds are that even if I had released it the fox would be back in that same cage sooner or later, having eaten the free food inside. In other words, it was a losing proposition for me and for the fox.

I did feel bad as I left the fox in that cage as in all probability it would be destroyed. One less fox roaming around. But I also did not know how to open the cage securely and I was afraid of being bitten by the fox accidentally. I know that this sounds as excuses but they did enter my mind as I weighed my decision. Happy that I am not a judge. And of course, I do not go to the garden every day. In other words, of the foxes that get trapped eventually nothing I can do on a single day will change this. Or the cage would be moved in areas where I cannot access it. A losing proposition for me and the fox. Sometimes in life there are no real choices to make. Sometimes the hand that you are dealt is bad and nothing cane be done about this but to play what you have and hope for the best.



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Beavers on the move!

Just another confirmation that climate change is real and is happening literally in front of our eyes. Canadian beavers are moving north, colonizing areas that had not seen a beaver in generations.

Because of a warming climate beavers are making their way to the Arctic coastline. This migration has caused problems for the native ecosystem but as well to the people of the north. Fish-bearing creeks are being plugged by the beavers and some lakes have dried up.

As the Arctic becomes more green the beavers are finding it more to their liking, but at the same time this warming is threatening species such as caribou, reindeer and pikas.

Fishermen in the Mackenzie Delta are worried that beavers may become so plentiful as to affect their livelihood. Favourite fishing creeks are being dammed up.

Other people in the area are less worried. Some of the older generation remember when beavers were far numerous in the Mackenzie Delta. Beaver populations seem to fluctuate in the area.


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The effect of climate change on human health.

It now seems that not only will our physical world will be affected by climate change but even our health. It seems that even our sleep will be affected. Once again it will be the poor who will suffer.

Scientists have looked at the issue and as poorer people do not have air-conditioning they will have more sleepless nights. The study made by an American scientist came to the conclusion that for every 100 Americans 6 additional sleepless nights in a month will be the result. A hotter climate will also affect the elderly as they have trouble adjusting to heat waves. More heat waves could mean more deaths. Add to that more grumpiness as well of course.

Admittedly, this side-effect of climate change is far down the list of things that worry scientists, but nevertheless, it just shows how varied and pervasive this change in the climate will be. We are, after all, the subjects of this experiment. We are the guinea pigs. Once again, the richer you are the easier you will ride this thing out.

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