Earth Day Is Your Day

A few thoughts on what Earth Day means for all of us. From my window right now, I can see two European magpies exploring my small garden – I mowed the lawn for the first time this year, and I suppose they are scouting for anything interesting that was revealed. The resident flock of sparrows…

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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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Sipping Glaciers

Travel in the 21st century means you can fly to the other side of the world for a few short days with little more than a toothbrush and a change of clothes. Which is what I did last week when I flew from Geneva, Switzerland to Palmer, Alaska. It took me four blissfully uneventful but…

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Cold Case

It might seem like the project to take ice to Antarctica is the very definition of redundancy. Like taking coal to Newcastle or turning on the lawn sprinkler while it’s raining. But this ice endeavor is more like trying to archive some of the world’s most ancient books even as the ink rapidly vanishes from…

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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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Antarctic Shiver

Everyone knows the best scare stories are those in which the most obvious and visible danger turns out to less dire than an unsuspected peril revealed only later, the deadfall that sends a shiver down the listener’s spine. We’ve all heard about the Antarctic ice shelf melt-off that’s been taking place with increasing speed and…

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Weaving a New Mantle

Moving at a glacial pace is how we’ve always described something so sluggish as to be practically immobile. Geological time is what we sometimes say when we talk about things that take forever to occur, at least when using the yardstick of human life spans. The Earth’s mantle, that layer between the outer core of…

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Reaching New Shores

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a report on the development of climate change and its effects on humans. The 2600-page report is the result of three years work and the collaboration of 300 scientists. It makes for mostly grim reading, with an emphasis on climate impact on food security (not positive),…

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What we talk about when we talk about war (V)

  Permafrost warms, glaciers recede and life that has been dormant is revived – and biodiversity surprises abound. A number of otherwise extinct mosses and lichens have been exposed by the retreat Ellesmere Island’s Teardrop Glacier. A 30,000-year-old virus, benign but previously unknown, was found in ice cores pulled from  Siberian permafrost. Some apprehension is understandable;…

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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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