Coastal erosion in Senegal.

One of the effects of climate change is that the sea is eroding more and more the land around the coast where cities are located. In Saint-Louis, a city in Senegal, the effects of the sea battering the coast are very visible. People’s houses are crumbling in some areas, but nowhere more evidently than in the poor areas of Saint-Louis.

In this poor area where 80,000 people live coastal erosion is an immediate threat and this threat has increased in the past decade. The stretch of land that they live on is barely 600 feet wide in some places. People in the area have had to be re-settled elsewhere and more than 250 families have lost their homes to erosion. These people who are fishermen now are further away from the coast and they now have to pay for transportation to the ocean. People did receive a lump sum payment of 900 dollars but nothing else and few can move away from the area due to lack of money.

The government is paying a French company to build embankments that would shield houses from the ocean swell. Giant five-ton bags filled with rocks are put for two miles along the coast but this is only a short-term solution.

Other solutions exist, such as plating mangroves and pine trees to halt erosion and reclaim land. A new sea wall and resanding beaches area are also proposals that have been made. As always, money will be needed to fund these long-term projects. The French government has made a grant of 18 million dollars to further study the problem.


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Drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

Called Australia’s answer to the Galapagos, the Great Australian Bight as it is called is a stretch of pristine ocean facing the Antarctic home to teeming fisheries. A new industry is now appearing on the horizon; the oil industry.

The Norwegian oil giant Statoil plans to drill in the Bight as the area is considered the last great remaining natural gas reserve. People now fear that this area will be damaged from a spill and that the marine world will be damaged. Several industries depend on a pristine coastline.

The coast around the Bight is one that has seen jobs disappear as it is a struggling post-industrial area. New jobs in the area would therefore be important. Local politicians support drilling but the support is far from unanimous. After all, the fishing and tourism industry is worth more than 1 billion dollars.

Should an accident like the Deepwater Horizon blow-out occur it would damage the coastline along a wide stretch. Furthermore, the equipment to contain a blow-out by capping the flow of oil is in Singapore and it would require 35 days to put in place.

All the people opposed to drilling look naturally at worst-case scenarios and these are horrifying. From tuna to oysters, the marine life could be decimated by a spill. People are naturally wondering if it is worth it.

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The White House kills a NASA program.

The White House has secretly killed a NASA program that was destined to monitor carbon dioxide gases and methane gases in the atmosphere. These two gases contribute to global warming.

NASA has said that a lack of funding was the reason for the demise of the program and that in the last budget that was adopted the funding for the program was not there.

Analysts have said that without a monitoring system there was no way of knowing if a country can respect the Paris Accords in combating global change. Naturally as the Trump administration has pulled out of the agreement, why spend money on something that is not needed anymore….

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Methane emissions to double from northern lakes.

It seems that freshwater lakes in the northern hemisphere could see the methane that they emit double in the next fifty years. Methane as a gas is 25 times more warmer than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

It appears that when cattail plants decay and fall in the water they trigger a major increase in the amount of methane that is produced. Microbes in the sediment at the bottom of lakes produce the gas but how much is produced varies from lake to lake.

When tests were made on cattails and conifers the cattails produced over 400 times the level of methane produced by the conifers. It seems that coniferous and deciduous trees prevent the production of methane gas.

It is possible that as the number of cattails colonizing northern lakes in the future increase and double this would elevate the production of methane by 73% between 2014 and 2070. This new method of methane production was underestimated in the past in climate models. Scientists will now be able to incorporate these new measurements into future models of global warming and will better be able to predict what the future climate will look like.

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The Great Barrier Reef under threat.

The Australian government has decided to spent hundreds of million of dollars to rescue the Great Barrier Reef as the reef has been under attack from warming waters caused by climate change. Some believe that it will be a waste of money.

The reef is very popular with tourists and the government hopes that the money will improve the water quality as well as invest in coral restoration. But environmentalists have said that the plan is not enough. The reef supports 64000 jobs.

The prospects for the survival of the reef are grim; huge sections have died over the past two years killed by seawater that is overheated and more acidic, all caused by climate change. Most scientists believe that the damage already done is irreversible and that the only solution is a global one; to reduce fossil fuels and control climate change. Most think that the money is too little too late.

In spite of giving money to save the reef the Turnbull government is still subsidizing the gas and coal industry. One plan that is waiting approval concerns the Adani coal mine. It would push coal on boats near the reef. Clearly we have a case here of governments trying to do two things that are opposites; either we give money to save the reef or to the fossil fuel industry, not both. Governments must be more green and commit to being green, not when it suits them or when elections are around the corner.


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Climate change and the Clown fish.

Clown fish are fishes that have a special relationship with anemones. These fish live among the tentacles and are protected by them from being dinner to other species. Now scientists have discovered that the clown fish may be stressed out due to a warmer ocean.

The fish live among the tentacles for protection for its eggs and itself. When warmer temperatures cause coral and anemones to bleach, things change. Algae that live inside the anemones die off and this affects the clown fish as it does not reproduce so readily.

It seems that the fish suffer because of the additional effort needed to survive in a warmer ocean. Scientists know that clown fish secrete hormones to help them cope with stress. A changing environment means more stress to the fish. The result is that their metabolic rate, the minimum of energy that is required to live, is much higher than ordinarily.

Clown fish living among bleached anemones had a higher metabolic rate than those living in anemones that were normal. Using up more energy to swim and find food will surely adversely affect the clown fish in the future as the warming of oceans continue. It is possible that the higher metabolic rates observed is only temporary. With time, the anemones could also recover or possibly the clown fish could get accustomed to warmer oceans. More studies will be required.

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Attacked by a turkey!

As some readers of this blog know I like to take pictures, having taken pictures for the past twenty years or so. Just being in the natural world and seeing animals in the wild is really incredible, especially when one lives in a city like I do.

Last Sunday morning I was nearly attacked by a turkey as it literally flew at me with a seemingly malevolent intent. So yes, I took poetic license in describing the encounter as an attack. Let’s just say that had I been in the flight path of that turkey I would probably suffer from a concussion by now.

I was not alone in these woods as another photographer was with me, and it was him who provoked this sudden departure of the bird. He told me that he had seen a bird high up in a tree and that he wanted to take a picture. No doubt that the turkey was astonished at this biped walking towards it and the strange apparatus that was being aimed in its direction. Maybe the bird had a memory of being shot by a hunter in the past and thus reacted strongly. I admit that I am speculating here, not knowing if turkeys have a memory, but I am pretty sure that they can experience fear and must use this as a defence mechanism.

So here I was, by the side of an open trail in a small wooded area, when all of a sudden I hear a whoosh coming from behind me and travelling towards me. I turned around and saw a gigantic bird with its wings at its maximum width gliding towards me. I just had the time to step aside as it landed a few feet in front. I admit that at first I thought that it was a duck, but when I saw how big it was I knew that it was not a duck but a turkey, minus the flap of skin that hangs below the face. It was probably a male.

Imagine my astonishment at this nightmarish vision. It must have weighed at least 40 pounds. It did not land quite well so that I could see that one of its legs had been slightly hurt, but this did not stop the bird from beginning to peck at the ground, picking up bits of food.

I immediately snapped out of my self-induced coma and began shooting pictures, and no doubt that the bird was thankful that they were not bullets. It looked at me strangely, cocking its head at strange angles and eying me warily. I had not moved much from where I had been at the beginning but now decided to move in its direction. I was slightly fearful as I had seen its feet and legs and thought that they could probably inflict some pain to me if I got too close to it. Visions of the bird slashing my stomach and spilling my guts swirled in my mind, no doubt due to having seen one too many sci-fi movie of that kind.

There was no light in the area but I still took pictures, amazed at my good luck. The other photographer had the good sense of staying behind me and was following me. No doubt he probably thought that if the bird attacked me he could take a great picture; me on the ground having my eyes pecked out and my guts in my hands, begging for help or a swift final mercy kick to the head. Visions of that swirled in my head as well.

Eventually the bird walked out of the wooded area and was still seen walking slowly in an area that looked more like the great plains with its flat surface. Other photographers saw the bird and even one told me that the bird crossed the main road separating the garden area from buildings. No doubt that if foxes or coyotes had seen it that would have made a great dinner for them. Visions of that swirled in my head as well. I think that I had too many visions that day. Perhaps after all the turkey did sideswiped me as it landed…..

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