Monthly Archives: January 2017

Floating cities for the middle class.

As climate change is accelerating some people seem to be coming up with novel ways to survive and make money. The latest scheme is to construct floating islands and the area where this could occur is in French Polynesia. The islands would be hosted in a tropical lagoon and therefore protected.

At first when I read that news I was amazed, what ingenuity I thought. But then of course, without money and some deep pockets none of this can happen and naturally this idea comes from California. The money was raised from donors who gave 2.5 million dollars to start the pilot project.

The cost to build the pilot islands would amount to 10 to 50 million dollars and would house only a few dozen people. And of course, the buyers would come from the developed world. The islands would be in a special economic zone where they could showcase advances in solar power, sustainable aquaculture and ocean-based wind farms.

Of course, critics of the project abound. What about poorer people, and how could they afford such islands? The developers argue that the price per island would fall as more are constructed and that for atoll nations this could be a solution to rising seas and erosion of the coastal area.

Others argue that such floating cities near areas where poor countries abound would be a bad use of resources, and that the money would be better spent on health and education. Essentially these islands would be cruise ships, nothing more. The other Pacific islands are stuck with the effects of climate change.

Perhaps floating cities are the wave of the future and perhaps atoll nations might not have the chance to survive other than in this fashion. As long as private money is spent on those experiments one can say that only the donor of the monies involved could be hurt, and no one else.


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A record year, again!

Scientists have reported this week that we have hit another record year in terms of temperature this year. It is the first time that three years in a row the highest average temperature has beaten the previous year.

According to scientists there is a long-term trend of rising temperature caused by an increase in levels of carbon dioxide and other gases. The past two years have seen an increase in these temperatures due to the El Nino weather pattern. They fully expect to see a dip this year and watch how all those climate change deniers will pounce on that.

Already these warm temperatures can been seen to cause havoc in the Arctic. There, large areas are much warmer than they used to be as sea ice has declined at an alarming rate and rapid coastal erosion has occurred.

With an increase in the melting of ice the seas have been rising. Communities all over the world will be spending billion of dollars to fight an increase in tidal flooding and despite this Congress in United States has largely ignored the pleas for help. It certainly will not get better under a Republican president, especially with someone who denies that climate change is real and that it is really a Chinese plot.

As always I assume that only once the pocket book is hit will members of Congress wake up. Once their constituents start to holler they will listen, but why wait that long? The day of reckoning may not be too far off.

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In the dead of winter.

Mid-January is a tough time for someone who likes to take pictures. On one hand, you can say that the hard part is behind you and that soon spring will arrive. But in fact it is not quite true as the hardest parts of winter are still around the corner. In other words, it will get tougher still before it gets better.

Sundays is my favorite days to take pictures. At least it was, but today left a bitter taste in my mouth. Everything seemed to conspire to egg me on and then at the last minute it was snatched away from me.

Another cold day with frigid temperatures. At least today we had nice blue skies and a small pesky wind. That was the problem, the pesky wind. I had to put my hood over my head just to feel warm. Lucky for me that my trusted photographer’s mittens did the job as I barely froze my hands. I am sure that a photographer in warmer climates cannot relate to all this.

As I entered the botanical garden I looked at my watch; it was 08:00 am. Early enough for the sun to appear slightly over the horizon. We are slowly getting back some of the minutes that we had lost previously, a sure sign that spring is just around the corner. Yeah right.

It was not before 08:45 that I saw what I was looking for, a fox. It was near where a wooded area is located. It seemed to be sniffing the ground, probably looking for some small prey that was running under the snow. I tried to follow it slowly, sometime stopping in my tracks as the fox looked towards me.

At one point I had to make a decision; to continue to pursue it from afar or to use the road that straddles the small wooded area and hope that it stays in the area. I chose to pursue it, no doubt my appetite for a good picture stimulated by the sight of this semi-wild animal. Bad decision.

I continued walking towards the fox that by then had turned the corner and was trotting along the edge of the wooded area. At one point I could not see it and I knew that it might simply install itself on a rock and just bask in the sun. Should I wait? Of course not, I am still obsessed by getting one good picture. Again, bad decision.

The fox had begun to settle down when it saw me. It promptly got up and continued its trotting but at a faster pace. I knew that I was about to lose it so I quicken the pace. Again, a bad decision.

I emerged from the wooded area and could not see the fox anymore. Sorrow grips my heart as  I may have lost the only chance to get a good picture of a fox today simply because I had pressed too hard. I continued walking on the main road looking afar at the empty fields beside it with row after row of seemingly dead trees.

Suddenly I saw the fox. It was still sniffing the ground but it was far from me. I took the decision to quickly walk in its direction. The fox had not spotted me yet. I was trying to intercept it as it was oblivious to me. I knew that my boots were making noises now. It is hard to avoid this when the snow is hard and one is walking briskly.

I was still on course to intercept the fox when it decided to look up in my direction. I stopped, waiting to see what it would do. It continued it’s trotting along but then it quickened the pace as I did. It knew that I was pursuing it from afar. I was still too far for a good picture as my lens is not a strong one, only 300 mm. I needed to get close. Too late, as now it was running quickly away.

I lost it, somewhere in the area where small shrubs are located. I could hear on the main road bands of runners hooting and hollering. That could probably spook the fox towards me I thought. I climbed up a small hill beside those shrubs and there I saw the fox, obviously listening to the runners.

I was now on the hill and waited for the fox to move. It did, in the direction of the feeding stations for birds. I pursued it and promptly lost it again. I moved slowly around the area and then on a hunch decided to walk around the small pond near the feeding station. And there I saw not one but two foxes, the male and the female playing around in the sun. Once again I was too far. I finally decided to walk around the perimeter of the pond to see them much closer but they bolted, with one fox crossing the fence into another public park. The second fox disappeared without a trace.

In the end, for two hours of walking around the garden I took a few pictures but none were keepers. At least I had seen the foxes but nothing much else. I would describe this as my usual routine; you get close but never quite get the thing you desire. It happens often in winter. Spring is around the corner, I mumble to myself as I leave the garden to take my bus. Yeah right.

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Climate change claims another victim!

Well, not quite, but in the next 50 years it could. The victim is a tree is called Yellow Cedar and it thrives in soggy soils from Alaska to Northern California. As the climate warms it could simply decline and disappear. As the snow cover decreases it lets the roots open to the outside and they freeze. In turn, it also leads to colder soils.

The decline of Yellow Cedar is not new, having begun its slow downward spiral in about 1880 according to the U.S Forest Service. These trees are not true cedars but more in the cypress family. They can grow to 60 metres and can live for more than 1,200 years. The tree is also plagued by the fact that it is a slow growing tree. Because it grows slowly it is out-competed by faster trees such as spruce or hemlock which can grow in lower light conditions. Already north of Vancouver island there is a 70% mortality covering 4.000 square kilometres of Yellow Cedar trees.

It was interesting that while the U.S Fish and Wildlife service may put the Yellow Cedar on its endangered list this September the director of the Alaska Forest Association remains opposed to such a move. He claimed that the Yellow Cedar did have a die-off last century and the trees that died were eventually replaced by the same trees. He claims that it was just a stupid effort to tangle up the timber supply. Another supporter of Trump I presume…Anything for a quick buck it seems.

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The cheetah is in danger!

Well another of the world’s big cats is in danger. Cheetahs number 7,000 worldwide and up to now scientists thought that they were doing well. But they have now discovered that if one excludes the cheetahs living in protected areas such as parks and refuges the animals are not doing so well in fact.

The problem is that three-quarters of the territory where the big cats live is unprotected, which in turn means that they are preyed upon by hunters for bush meat as well as the capture of the young cats for pets.

Countries in which this predicament is happening includes fro example Zimbabwe which lost 85% of its cheetahs in about 25 years. Cheetahs of course can be found in many African countries as the big cat does not respect boundaries or terrains, trespassing into many nations. Add to that that they share the land with some of the poorest farmers and herders anywhere in the world.

Reclassifying the cats as an endangered species is a first step, the second step would be to develop incentives to protect the cheetah across national and regional boundaries. Perhaps reduced poaching could be achieved by cash rewards as well as developing ecotourism where the cheetah lives. Failure to act will result in the cheetah surviving in special areas like parks only and refuges.

A Happy New Year to all my readers.

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