Clepsydra Elegy

It should come as no surprise that one of the earliest tools humans used to tell time was water. After all, it’s what we are, what we need to live. A clepsydra is an ancient clock system that, at its most basic, uses two bowls, one nested inside another. The outer bowl is filled with…

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Fueling Fossil Feelings

Over the past year, a variety of elections, polls and movements have demonstrated that, for all the endless access we have to information, we are entering an era that emphasizes acting on emotions and fears rather than weighing facts. Maybe it’s because the constant tsunami of facts threaten to overturn our personal vessels – it’s…

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Patch Job

A study published earlier this year pointed to a decrease in the size of the ozone hole over the Antarctic. This healing process indicates the success of the Montreal Protocol, the 1989 treaty intended to limit the production and use of ozone-harming chemicals. Ratified by all United Nations Members, as well as Niue, the Cook…

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Glacial Flight

My visit to Alaska last week, to attend a memorial for a young friend, was marked by both tears and laughter. Tears because of his tragic and early death, laughter in memory of his brilliant and raucously funny spirit. In the midst of this, I was offered a chance to take a flight over the…

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Shifting Outlines

How a map is drawn says more about the interests and intentions of the cartographers than it does about the space it describes. Take, for example, these various maps of the Arctic. For most of human existence, the Arctic has been a place of myth, fascination and exploration. For a very few, it’s been home.…

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Arctic Oil Hubris

The U.S. government has approved plans by Royal Dutch Shell to begin drilling for oil off the Alaskan coast this summer. This comes after years of industry lobbying to explore what some estimate to be major oil deposits in the Chukchi Sea. Some estimates run up to 15 billion barrels. On the one hand, the…

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Heedless Ways

Chimpanzees in Uganda’s Kigali National Park have been getting up to some unusual business at night. These daytime foragers with poor night vision have been leaving the safety of the forest, crossing a bridge over a large ditch meant to keep elephants out of neighboring crop areas, and raiding corn fields. And they aren’t the…

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Portrait of Living Wind

A century ago this month, the world’s last passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) died in the Cincinnati Zoo, long after the last passenger pigeon had been seen in the wild. The passenger pigeon, once populous beyond imagining, took only a century to disappear. It seems that more than one factor was responsible for the population decline and how…

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Dickens, Luck & the Woolly Mammoth

“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.” Charles Dickens (born 7 February 1812), Great Expectations So many of Charles Dickens writings are concerned with those who succeed and those who fall by the wayside. Usually in his novels, success (or at least, survival) can be due to a number of factors in…

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Unforeseen Gatherings

Walrus Sea ice located along the shallow continental shelf of the Bering Sea usually provides a diving board, a hunting perch and resting place for female walrus and their young. With sea ice retreating into water too deep for hunting, the walrus have had to find safer shores. Around 10,000 of them have gathered on…

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