Monthly Archives: October 2016

Protecting the Ross Sea.

This week was a great week for the marine environment around Antarctica. A deal has been made between many countries so that the world’s biggest marine reserve will be established. The protected zone will be in the Ross sea and will encompass 600,0000 square miles of ocean. The Ross Sea is a deep bay of the Southern Ocean in Antarctica, between Victoria Land and Marie Byrd Land.

Because the Ross Sea is isolated from human activities it is one of the last seas that are free from pollution and invasive species. Because of that environmentalists have focused on this sea and campaigned to have it protected.

The establishment of this reserve had to take into account that various interests among countries had to be settled. Marine conservation had to be accepted as well as a long-term fishery in the area as well as scientific interests. The Russians had been the last country to oppose the deal due to fishing rights in the area. The Ross Sea is home to species of mammals as well as birds and over 95 species of fish.

The one negative about this new marine reserve is that it is not a permanent one. A so-called sunset clause has been included. It is only a reserve for the next 35 years and if no accord is reach after that it would revert to being unprotected. For this reason it does not meet the definition of a marine protected area as it is not permanent.


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Ethics in photography.

As I have previously said I like to take pictures but strictly as an amateur. I just love trying to capture animals in the wild, big and small. But when I do it, I always to it in a safe way and more importantly, in respecting the animals independence. I especially do not use artificial means to get the pictures that I want. I do not try to attract the animals.

Last week I had met a photographer that I knew who told me about his new app which reproduces the songs of birds. When the song is played the chances of attracting that bird are higher. I immediately told him of my disapproval of that method. He reacted rapidly by saying that he only used it if after a while he did not see any birds. I supposed that I half-believed him. But now I know better and I have lost all respect for him.

This week I meet the same guy but I noticed that he was behind me, having arrived later in the area. I had walked in that area before and he was nowhere to be seen. Suddenly I began to hear bird songs out of the blue. I turned and saw him with his phone, calling the birds. Evidently he lost patience rapidly and used this gadget to attract the birds that he wanted to see.

Instead of confronting him I simply ignored him and continued on my way. It was obvious to me that he did not understand the harm he could be doing to the birds in the area.

A bird that is attracted to the song will exert energy to come and see what it is all about. This energy will have to be replenished sooner or later. If many people use these apps this will simply amplify the problem. It is akin to using bait to attract bears as one cook I knew used to do in a wooded area where he worked. Of course he had great pictures of bears rummaging in the area but at what cost to the bear? And the danger to humans in the area?

There is no difference to me between someone using an app to attract birds and someone giving seeds to them, or feeding the ducks or the foxes or bears. Except that using an app is not illegal while feeding wild animals is. It may not be illegal but it is unethical to say the least.

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A victory for Earth!

For years we have known that some chemicals used in air-conditioners as well as refrigerators were destroying the environment. Now, a deal has finally been struck between 170 countries that will cut the use of these chemicals, and that is good news for Earth,

The big difference between the Paris accords on the climate and this one was that this one targets only one gas, the HFCs which are the chemical coolants used in the air-conditioners and the refrigerators. These HFCs are a small percentage of all greenhouse gases but as a supercharged gas they are much more dangerous to the environment trapping 1,000 times the heat-trapping ability of carbon dioxide.

The great thing about this deal is that contrary to the Paris accords that are mostly voluntary, this deal has specific targets as well as trade sanctions to punish offenders. Rich countries will also help poorer ones by helping to finance the transition.

This deal thought could have been more stringent in its implementation, but poorer countries objected to the proposed plan. In India, millions of people are on the verge of being able to afford those air-conditioners. To tell them that they would have to wait more or to change to something else was unpalatable.

As always, compromises had to be made between rich and poor countries. The wealthy nations will move more quickly on this issue while poorer countries will take their time to do so. In the end the world will be divided into three tracks; the rich world like Canada and the United States will freeze the production and consumption of HFCs by 2018. The rest of the world will freeze HFC use by 2024 while a smaller group of hottest countries like India will freeze the HFC by 2028.

It was clear that a one size fits all solution was not possible, so a compromise on the targets for freezing and reducing these gases was the best alternative. For the planet, such a deal means that combined with the imperfect Paris accords the climate of the earth will be better in the future and will ensure our survival for the long-term.

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The bold jumper.

No, the title in this short piece is not about someone jumping from great heights. It has more to do with a spider, called the bold jumper or in latin, Phiddipus audax. I like to take pictures and sometimes I love to do macro photography. This essentially means that you take pictures of insects as well as spiders and anything that is small.

These spiders are very curious and seem intelligent, with their two big eyes and smaller ones all around the head. Their legs are very furry as well. When I would approach with my lens they would often look up to me. They seemed to know that I was there looking at them. Other spiders simply ignore you even if you face them. They seem only to react to a stimulus like touching the web but these bold jumpers acknowledge your presence.

Indeed it is a bold jumper this spider. I was often surprised at the jumps it would make. It does not create a web but hunts for other small insects. When it jumps it always has a drag line behind it, a sort of safety line it seems.

Last week was a great week for such photography and more specially, to locate the bold jumper. On that particular day, it was nice and sunny with the temperatures in the 70 degrees or 21 to 25 Celsius. The winds were absent, a crucial element in macro photography.

I started at 11:00 and went straight to an area where I had noticed such spiders and indeed, I was able to find one. It measured only about one quarter of an inch. With my 150 macro lens I was able to see it quite nicely and took several good shots. It was in the sun and moving around in the shrub. I had often seen them in the sun. The shots were perfect.

I moved on and this time, in a different area of the garden I noticed something not moving on the tip of a plant. Sure enough, there was another one but of a different variety. The colors I could see on the main legs were of a green metallic nature. It was more shy than the other spider but nevertheless it did stay out in the open and so once again I got several good shots.

I finally ended my stay near the banks of a little stream where I had previously seen such spiders. The disadvantage of this area was that the spiders were on ground level. To stoop down to try and locate a spider that is smaller than a quarter of an inch or less is a challenge, and one needs very good eyes to spot them. In this case, the small spider moved around the area and this helped me tremendously. Just beside this spider was the web of the garden spider, easily recognized by the z-pattern in the web. This female spider was easy to spot as it was much larger than the bold jumper.

After nearly three and a half hours of looking for spiders I had enough of searching. The winds were now picking up and more tourists were flooding the area, the perfect time to exit, which is what I did, satisfied that my outing had been fruitful.

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The Great Enrichment.

I recently read an article by an economics professor about how rich we really are, and what were the real causes of that wealth. Her argument was that equality, liberty and justice is what propelled us in a world of infinite riches, and that it will go on as long as people are given a chance to be free.

She explains how all this began in the 17th century Holland and by the 18th century it had moved to England and the American colonies. By 2010 the level of enrichment was between 1000 to 3000 percent from the levels of 1800 in terms of average daily income.

Those who have gained the most was not the rich, as commonly thought, but the poor. If one looks only at the basic comfort in essentials it was them who gained the most. As for financial inequality, it was greater in the 1800 and 1900 than it is now. Paul Collier, an Oxford economist notes that only 50 years ago 4 billion people out of 5 billion lived in miserable conditions. In 1800 it was 95 percent of one billion.

According to this economist what caused this increase in wealth was liberalism, in the free-market European sense. When masses of ordinary people have equality before the law and equality of social dignity, and then left to their own devices, they will become creative and energetic.

I do not dispute the figures, but the rising tide never rises every boat and there are always some who are left behind. It is to them that a good social security net is essential. One may think that the rise of demagogues presently in various countries is in part due to governments entering into trade deals without a good enough social net.

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