Posts Tagged ‘ecology’

This fascinating series of photographs shows what happens when humankind abandons its structures. They have an eerie beauty, modelled, moulded and affected by weather, and the natural world around them.

It is an interesting idea, in an idle way, to wonder how long it would take for most or all of humanity’s structures to be overtaken by the natural planet should we all somehow suddenly disappear. We reckon within a couple of hundred years you almost wouldn’t know we’d been here at all. For those afflicted by human hubris, that’s a sobering thought.

Our favourite is the Hotel in Columbia. Yours?

 

Abandoned Blade Mill, France

Abandoned Blade Mill, France

 

 

Abandoned city of Keelung, Taiwan

Abandoned city of Keelung, Taiwan

 

Abandoned dome houses in Southwest Florida

Abandoned dome houses in Southwest Florida

 

Abandoned 1886 mil in Sorrento, Italy

Abandoned 1886 mil in Sorrento, Italy

 

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

 

Christ of the Abyss at San Fruttuoso, Italy

Christ of the Abyss at San Fruttuoso, Italy

 

Abandoned train depot, Częstochowa, Poland

Abandoned train depot, Częstochowa, Poland

 

El Hotel del Salto, Colombia

El Hotel del Salto, Colombia

 

Fishing hut on a lake in Germany

Fishing hut on a lake in Germany

 

Holland Island, Chesapeake Bay, USA

Holland Island, Chesapeake Bay, USA

 

Kolmanskop. Namib Desert, Namibia

Kolmanskop. Namib Desert, Namibia

 

Miiltary rocket factory, Russia

Military rocket factory, Russia

 

Maunsell Sea Forts, Redsands, Thames Estuary, England

Maunsell Sea Forts, Redsands, Thames Estuary, England

 

Sunken yacht, Antarctica

Sunken yacht, Antarctica

 

The remains of the SS Ayrfield in Homebush Bay, Sydney, Australia

The remains of the SS Ayrfield in Homebush Bay, Sydney, Australia

 

Car graveyard, Chatillon, Belgium

Car graveyard, Chatillon, Belgium

 

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‘Heat dome’ covers the Middle East to bring temperatures up to bring ‘feels like’ temperatures up to 74 degrees.

An “heat dome” has fallen on the Middle East to create “feels-like” temperatures as high as 74 degrees. The people of Iraq were given a four-day holiday last week after the government declared soaring temperatures too much to deal with. Authorities in the Middle East cautioned residents to drink plenty of water and stay out of the sun.

earth on fire
The Iranian port city of Bandar-e Mahshahr recorded an extreme feels-like temperature of 74 degrees on Friday based on a calculated heat index. The formula combined the actual air temperature that peaked at 46 degrees with the highest humidity – or dew point – temperature reading that topped 32 degrees. A dew point exceeding 26 degrees is said to be oppressive on the human body as it struggles to deal with the heat through perspiration.

“That was one of the most incredible temperature observations I have ever seen, and it is one of the most extreme readings ever in the world,” said AccuWeather meteorologist Anthony Sagliani in a statement. Sagaliani pointed to a high-pressure system that has cloaked the region since July for the heat surge, making one of the world’s hottest places even hotter.

The heat dome is a high pressure ridge over the region which makes normal hot temperatures seem even hotter.

The UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported that the “heat index” – a measurement of what weather feels like – is the highest ever recorded. The scientists monitoring the heat index say Iran are probably enduring among the hottest temperatures ever experienced by humans.

Meanwhile it has been warm across the globe with the north-west US and eastern Pacific starting to feel the effects of El Nino in recent weeks following the deaths of hundreds in May’s heat wave across South Asia.

climate-change-denial-350x242And Australia has since an unusually early start to bushfire season with one blaze in the Blue Mountains being fought into its forth day only two weeks after the mountains were blanketed in snow. Northern Australia also had record-breaking July with Gympie noting its hottest July day since records began in 1908 with the temperature reaching 29.4 degrees, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

It’s happening.

And it may already be too late to prevent the low end of temperature rise predictions, let alone the high end. Tell someone.

Fast.

 

Pope Francis. Photo: 14 June 2015

Pope Francis will call for swift action to protect the Earth and fight global warming, according to a leaked draft of the pontiff’s encyclical. Pope Francis puts much of the blame for global warming on human activities.

The document – published by Italy’s L’Espresso magazine – says global warming is directly linked to human activities and the intensive use of fossil fuels.

The Vatican called the leaking of the draft a “heinous” act. It said the final version would be released on Thursday as planned. However it will once again confirm this Pope as one of the most reforming and progressive in the Church’s history, and given the Roman church’s attitude to the infallibility of the Pope’s utterances, swing hundreds of millions of Roman Catholics behind the movement to combat man-made climate change. The Pope’s rumoured attitude has already brought attacks from right-wing Protestant Republican politicians in America.

One, Rick Santorum, argued the Pope should leave science to scientists, somewhat idiotically ignoring the fact that the Pope is, in fact, a scientist. Back when Pope Francis was still going by the handle of Jorge Bergoglio, he earned a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires.

The pope’s career path isn’t all that unusual. His Jesuit order has a history of producing men with one foot in the spiritual world and another in the scientific realm. Czech astronomer and Jesuit Christian Meyer did pioneering work studying binary star systems in the 18th century. Bavarian-born Jesuit Franz Xaver Kugler did triple duty as a chemist, priest, and researcher of cuneiform tablets. And modern-day science writer and Jesuit Guy Consolmagno studies asteroids and meteorites at the Vatican Observatory.

“Doing science is like playing a game with God, playing a puzzle with God,” Consolmagno once told the Canadian Broadcasting Center. “God sets the puzzles, and after I can solve one, I can hear him cheering, ‘Great, that was wonderful, now here’s the next one.’ It’s the way I can interact with the Creator.”

Gregor Mendel was the founder of the science of genetics.

Gregor Mendel was the founder of the science of genetics.

Significant Roman Catholic contributions to science aren’t limited to the Jesuit order, though. The Augustinian friar Gregor Johann Mendel bred pea plants in the garden of his monastery and discovered the principles of genetics.

In 1927, Belgian priest Georges Lemaitre discovered the “redshift” phenomenon that describes how the farther away a galaxy is from Earth, the more of its light is shifted toward the red end of the visible spectrum. This was two years before the more widely reported discoveries by Hubble.

‘Enormous consumption’

The 192-page draft of the new encyclical – which is the highest level of teaching document a pope can issue – is entitled “Laudato Si: On the care of the common home”.

In the paper, Pope Francis presents both scientific and moral reasons for protecting God’s creation.

He puts much of the blame for global warming on human activities, mentioning the continual loss of biodiversity in the Amazonian rainforest and the melting of Arctic glaciers among other examples.

The draft also says that developing countries are bearing the brunt of the “enormous consumption” of some of the richest.

The pontiff calls on all humans – not just Roman Catholics – to prevent the destruction of the ecosystem before the end of the century and to establish a new political authority to tackle pollution.

The encyclical has been months in the writing, and the Pope is said to be keen for it to set the tone for the debate at a UN summit on climate change in November in Paris, the BBC’s Caroline Wyatt says.

(BBC and others)

Following on from the unlikely success of a post about how pretty sea slugs are, I thought I would post a few more pics from Australia.  Friends overseas are often saying “Oh, we’d love to come!” or “That’s on my bucket list!” but for some reason some people never actually get here.

Which is a great shame, because Oz really is exceptionally beautiful and utterly unique. You can find just about any micro-climate you can name – tropical jungle, desert, temperate forest, grasslands, snow-covered uplands, and you can even hop a sight-seeing tour to Antarctica if you want – and all parts of the country are jam-packed with amazing flora and fauna that you wont find anywhere else. Not to mention some of the most cosmopolitan and welcoming cities you could enjoy anywhere in the world. Oh, and did we mention nice beaches?

Anyway, it’s Friday afternoon, and politics is leaving me cold as a a stone at the moment, so enjoy some nice photos instead … 🙂

Brunswick River, NSW

Brunswick River, NSW

Clown Fish on the Barrier Reef

Clown Fish on the Barrier Reef

Estuary Beach, Nelson, Vic

Estuary Beach, Nelson, Vic

Whale at Hervey Bay, QLd

Whale at Hervey Bay, Qld

Lucky Bay, WA

Lucky Bay, WA

Koala - note, NOT Koala Bear

Koala – note, NOT Koala Bear

Natural luminescence, Jervis Bay, NSW

Natural luminescence, Jervis Bay, NSW

Tha Yarra River at dusk, Melbourne, Vic

Tha Yarra River at dusk, Melbourne, Vic

South West Rocks, NSW

South West Rocks, NSW

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Light show plays on the Sydney Opera House, NSW

Light show plays on the Sydney Opera House, NSW

Autumn colours in the Dandenong Ranges, Vic

Autumn colours in the Dandenong Ranges, Vic

Mountain Ash and tree ferns, Dandenong Ranges, Vic

Mountain Ash and tree ferns, Dandenong Ranges, Vic

Turtle, Queensland

Turtle, Queensland

A baby turtle heads for the sun and the cooling surf. Maybe you should, too?

 

As you will see from the page I have linked to below, there is a growing movement in Canada and America to persuade people to stop buying crap for the sake of it. Indeed, frankly, to get out of the habit of buying stuff at all.

http://www.adbusters.org/campaigns/bnd

The campaign has received worldwide coverage on CNN, Al Jazeera and others. It is, essentially, an anti-consumption movement highlighting the deleterious global economic and ecological effects of consumerism. You can get the message by watching this little ad.

The anti-consumerist message has grown out of both the Occupy movement, which seeks to take back control of the narrative (and actions) of our society from big business and government, and also the ecological movement, the “think Green” or “think Small” thread which has been running now since about the later 60s or 70s.

Instinctively I think this is right. Which is why, on 26th November, which is “World” Buy Nothing Day, my 24th Wedding Anniversary gift to my wife will be to draw her my own greetings card, and give her nothing bought from a shop. I will, instead, dig the garden and cut her some roses, or do some extra housework, or cook her a lovely meal, or take her out for a nice long ramble somewhere we’ve never been before. And I know she will understand and approve, which is probably why we’ve managed to stay married for 24 years.

But my real problem is, I work in an industry which is dedicated to increasing consumerism, while being personally convinced that its effects are toxic. Not just to the planet, but also to people’s lives.

Is this really what we hope for ourselves and our children?

My problem is this. At one and the same time I can believe – sincerely – that advertising is a good thing because it promotes freedom of choice and informed populations, just as I simultaneously weep that it encourages us all to put value on things that are essentially unnecessary or value-less.

Stuff.

We all spend money on stuff we don’t really need, because we are encouraged relentlessly to do so. We are told, repeatedly, that the world judges us by how much stuff we have accumulated, and even though we don’t really believe it, we keep on accumulating just in case. We don’t really believe in the Joneses looking over our back fence, but we check for them from under hooded eyelids anyway.

And it’s not just a rich Western phenomenon. As soon as developing populations get wealthy enough, they enthusiastically show signs of the same sickness. It’s a combination of innate human greed and mass media manipulation, and it worries me deeply.

I don’t want consumerism to end, per se.

I am, on balance, a “growth” believer not a “no-growth” believer.

It’s easy in the West, for example, to sneer at consumerism but ignore the fact that much of the stuff we buy is now made by poorer people overseas, and if we didn’t buy it they’d be even poorer than they are. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that the rest of the world wants TV sets and air conditioning and motor cars, and transferring our wealth (accumulated over centuries of colonial exploitation) to their societies is one way to redress the imbalance of wealth in the world.

What the f*** happened? Why, WE happened, Barney. We happened.

But then as we do that, they become trapped in the same unsatisfying cycle of consumerism that has us in its thrall, and one day the whole planet will be rich consumers and then there won’t be any planet left to divvy up, and we will all sit around and look at each other confused and in mutual recrimination.

The answer, I believe, and it is a messy and slow and inadequate answer, is to prevail on private industry – through intelligent, thoughtful public pressure – and government pressure, acting as our representatives – to ensure that private business takes into account legitimate ecological fears, in particular, that they might not otherwise consider.

Just as we no longer produce lead-painted toys for children to lick, so we need to insist that those who feed our addiction to stuff do so with maximum thought about wise energy use, recyclable materials, smart technologies that have a lighter footprint on the planet, and labour and capital practices in developing countries that sees reinvestment in things they badly need, like decent housing, clean water, health care, and sustainable agriculture. And if they don’t, some sort of sanction is needed to ensure they do.

At the same time, we need to persuade consumers in the West to think more globally about the choices they make.

Hamilton Island Sailing by Jenie Yolland

We’re lucky: we’re rich. Maybe we can afford just a little more to buy a high-quality – read long-lasting – handmade item from around the corner, rather than just buy the cheapest possible item manufactured on a production line in India or China.

The result will be both to support local craftspeople and also to encourage overseas suppliers to up their game. Like, er, you could choose handmade beautiful glassware from my wife.

(Blatant plug going out to millions of Wellthisiwhatithink readers, please add that to your wedding anniversary gifts, darling.)

And we need to persuade Westerners to invest in people, rather than just in things, as ways to show our love for our folks back home. Such as giving the gift of food, books and education, technology support, medicine – or even just clean water – to overseas communities in lieu of just buying more crap every time.

Every now and then, as I wrote about a few days ago on World Toilet Day, I buy clean water for an overseas community and give a card with that message in to my gift recipient at home. It’s always appreciated.

And I know that my gift really is the gift that keeps on giving, to people for whom the basics of life are denied without our help.

Years ago, I was in South Africa soon after the ANC government first came to power.

As we sat drinking sundowners at our immaculately manicured whiteman’s house in a delightful English cottage garden, which required watering liberally every day, I watched a long line of Zulu women walking back along the dusty path by the house to their nearby village, singing to encourage themselves as they swung their arms in time to their song.

On their heads were red earthenware pots filled with water drawn from the nearby river.

Trust me when I tell you, these pots were so large and so heavy – empty – that you would have struggled to lift them, let alone walk along, seemingly unperturbed, with them full of gallons of precious water balanced on your head.

Their stoic dignity affected me greatly, and still does to this day.

They would perform this trek (how ironic that “trek” is a word so associated with the white Afrikaaner Boers) twice a day. Once before dawn, once before the evening meal.

The next day, I was privileged to be granted a discussion with a newly appointed ANC government official in Durban, the mother of an old family friend, and we spent much of the hour she graciously gave me talking about water.

She kindly and politely listened to my community politics experience from the UK and Australia, and then put it in the context of a society where maybe a third of the 35 million or so black people did not have access to running water.

We discussed the women with their pots and she sighed deeply. “Imagine the difference it would make”, she said to me, “imagine what it would mean as a feminist issue, if just one tap was centrally installed in their village, or one well dug”.

She made a note of the location on a pad. But she was overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the work to be completed.

“We don’t have roads to lots of these places,” she explained.

“No doctors. The homes are little more than corrugated iron sheets, and it gets damned hot. People don’t sleep properly. Do people think black people don’t feel the heat? Preventable disease is rife. The people can’t fix things up for themselves because in some communities unemployment is 100%.”

She looked at me directly. “I am damn glad the world stood up to the apartheid regime on our behalf, but now is when we need the help. We got rid of the Nationals; where is the help we need now?

It would be such a great start, you know, if those women didn’t have to walk there and back every day.”

As I left, her exquisitely beautiful young Zulu receptionist smiled at me with a sudden flash of impossibly white teeth, and shyly said “It must be nice in Australia, eh? I’d love to be in Australia. No money here.”

Yes, yes. Yes it is. It is nice to be in Australia. It’s so nice, I really don’t need anything else to make it any nicer, except maybe another few productive years and good health, please God. And that’s why, on Monday, I’ll be giving someone else that I dont know some water to thank my wife for 24 years of support. Because an ad guy persuaded me I shouldn’t buy my wife a gift she doesn’t really want or need, and another ad guy then reminded me I need to keep giving away water.

And I’ll try and feel better about myself, and my life, and my industry. You can too. Click the link.

Make it “Buy Something That Matters Day”.

http://www.charitywater.org/