All I could think of was….. say my name. Say my name. In the pounding surf, in the wind shivering the palms. In the quiet of your arms. Say my name. It has been a total of 168 Days since Hurricane Maria made landfall & 182 Days since Hurricane Irma made landfall on the island […]
The creation of Camp Century, from the outset, was an audacious scheme. Under the thick ice of Greenland, a scant 800 miles from the North Pole, the US military built a hidden base of ice tunnels, imagined as an extensive network of railway tracks, stretching over 2,500 miles, that would keep 600 nuclear missiles buried under the ice. Construction began in 1959, under cover of a scientific research project, and soon a small installation, powered by a nuclear reactor, nested in the ice sheet.
In the midst of the Cold War, Greenland seemed like a strategic point for the US to stage weapons, ready to attack the USSR. The thick ice sheet, military planners imagined, would provide permanent protection for the base. But after the first tunnels were built, the military discovered that the ice sheet was not as stable as it needed to be: It moved and shifted, destabilizing the tunnels. Within a decade, Camp Century was abandoned.
When siting the secret ice base, the military chose a spot where dry snow kept the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet from melting, and when the base was abandoned its creators expected the remains to stay encased in ice forever. But decades later, conditions have changed, and as a team of researchers reported in a 2016 paper, published in Geophysical Research Letters, the now-melting ice sheet threatens to mobilize the dangerous pollutants left behind.
This hazard-in-waiting is a new kind of environmental threat: In the past, there was little reason to worry about water-borne pollution on an ice sheet 100,000 years old. As Jeff D. Colgan, a professor of political science at Brown University, writes in an article released last week in the journal Global Environmental Politics, Camp Century represents both a second-order environmental threat from climate change and a new path to political conflict.
“We’re starting to get better about dealing with the anticipated problems associated with climate change,” says Colgan. “There are going to be a whole host of unanticipated problems that we never saw coming.”
By the time the base was abandoned in 1967, it had its own library and theater, an infirmary, kitchen and mess hall, a chapel, and two power plants (one nuclear, one run on diesel). When the base closed, key parts of the nuclear power plant were removed, but most of the base’s infrastructure was left behind—the buildings, the railways, the sewage, the diesel fuel, and the low-level radioactive waste. In the 2016 paper, which Colgan worked on as well, the researchers suggested that the radiological waste was less worrisome than the more extensive chemical waste, from diesel fuel and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) used to insulate fluids and paints.
Overall, the researchers estimated that 20,000 liters of chemical waste remain at the Camp Century site, along with 24 million liters of “biological waste associated with untreated sewage.” That’s just at Camp Century; the military closed down bases at three other sites in Greenland, too, and it’s unclear how much waste is left there. Over the next few decades, the researchers found, melt water from the ice sheets could mobilize these pollutants, exposing both the wildlife and humans living in Greenland.
Creating these ice-bound military bases required a delicate political negotiation to begin with. The US established its bases in Greenland under agreement with Denmark, which governed the island at the time. (Greenland now has self-rule but is still part of the Kingdom of Denmark.) There were some principles outlined about the two governments’ responsibilities for the bases, but, as Colgan writes in the new paper, the status of American nuclear weapons on Greenland fell into a diplomatic gray area.
The Danish government had taken a stand against nuclear weapons and would never condone a nuclear base on Greenland. But in 1957, an American ambassador, Val Peterson, made an official overture to the Danish prime minister, H.C. Hansen. If—just say—the US had nuclear weapons in Greenland, would the Danish government want to know? Five days later, the prime minister had a response: “I do not think that your remarks give rise to any comments from my side,” he wrote, in a “informal, personal, top secret” paper. The US went ahead with the plan.
There was similar ambiguity around the responsibility for the physical assets of the base. While they remained the property of the United States, the agreement said they could be “disposed of” in Greenland, after input from the Danish government. But it’s not at all clear who’s responsible for dealing with a long-term environmental hazard posed by the waste abandoned there.
This problem—who will pay to clean up environmental waste—is a common one; in the US, the Superfund program assigns responsibility for a polluted site, often across multiple parties associated with it over the years. But in this sort of international agreement between two governments, there’s no parallel process for divvying up blame or costs.
“These agreements are rarely fully specified in what’s written down on paper. There’s no real procedure for addressing disputes,” says Colgan. “If Denmark says, US, you’re responsible, and the US says, no, you’re responsible—we don’t have a good resolution process for that. Climate change is likely to make that kind of problem a lot more common.”
Already, a Greenland politician, who was serving as foreign minister, has lost his job over this issue. After the 2016 paper came out, he started pushing for the US and Denmark to take responsibility for these military hazards; his boss thought he took too aggressive a stance.
But the problem isn’t going to go away, and Colgan emphasizes that these second-order environmental consequences of climate change—which he calls “knock-on effects”—are only going to become more common, creating knotty political disputes. Think, for instance, of the chemical and oil refineries that, damaged by Hurricane Harvey, started dumping waste.
Many of these environmental hazards, though, can be linked to multiple causes; in Greenland, it’s easier to pinpoint the precipitating issue.
“What’s helpful about Camp Century is that, because it’s so isolated, we can be really clear that what’s causing the problem is climate change,” says Colgan. In the 1960s, there was little reason for the US military to imagine that their secret ice-base would cause environmental problems decades in the future. After all, it was encased in ice and should only have been buried deeper into the frozen surface over time.
More Info: www.wired.com
(CNN/WAVY) – There are supermoons. There are blood moons. There are also blue moons. Depending on where you are on January 31, you will be able to see all three in one!
A supermoon occurs when the full moon is closer to earth and brighter than normal. A blood moon occurs when it takes on a reddish tint as it passes through earth’s shadow in a lunar eclipse. The blue moon designation has nothing to do with color. It simply refers to the very unusual occurrence of two full moons in a single month.
January’s first full moon occurred Jan. 1.
“The lunar eclipse on January 31 will be visible during moonset. Folks in the Eastern United States, where the eclipse will be partial, will have to get up in the morning to see it,” explained Noah Petro, a research scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “But it’s another great chance to watch the Moon.”
Stargazers, astronomers and curious sky-watchers are getting chance to witness the first and only full-moon supermoon of 2017. On Sunday night, the moon was 16% brighter and appeared 7% larger than its usual size. Last year, a memorable supermoon was marked in the history books. In November 2016, the moon was closest to the Earth…
After weeks of tell-tale rumbles, Mount Agung is spewing ash clouds over Bali while residents and travelers fear for the worst. The Indonesian resort island saw the volcano erupt at least three times over the course of Saturday night and Sunday. In the process, the volcano shot ashes 19,000 feet high, according to CNN. The New York Times further reports that officials designated an area of six miles surrounding the volcano for mandatory evacuations, which has resulted in 24,000 people flocking from their homes and hotels.
To further complicate matters, especially for tourists, the island’s international airport has been closed for safety reasons. As a result, approximately 7,000 passengers saw cancellation of their flights. And on Monday, matters may grow worse — a realization that has prompted officials to prep for an “imminent” massive eruption by raising the alert classification:
Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation raised its aviation notice from a red alert to a green one on Monday, indicating the potential for a larger eruption is imminent.
Over the weekend, residents were evacuated from 224 points around the island while Lombok International Airport on Pulau Lombok, the island due east of Bali, closed temporarily, said Ari Ahsan, spokesman for Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali … amid worsening conditions Monday, Jetstar Airways canceled all flights in and out of Bali.
The last time (1963) that Mount Agung saw a significant eruption, at least 1,100 people lost their lives. However, the latest rounds of tremors commenced in September 2016, which saw over 145,000 people evacuate. Since that time, businesses surrounding Mount Agung have been feeling the crunch as tourists increasingly avoided the area. Monday’s impending “green” alert is considered a Level 4 classification, although the National Board for Disaster Management says that the island’s condition remains “safe” for the moment.
After weeks of tell-tale rumbles, Mount Agung is spewing ash clouds over Bali while residents and travelers fear for the worst. The Indonesian resort island saw the mountain erupt at least three times over the course of Saturday night and Sunday. In the process, the volcano shot ashes 19,000 feet high, according to CNN. The…
Featured image courtesy of Yahoo
This 2017 video from Fiji is called Vatuvara Private Islands.
22 Nov 2017
Exploring the untouched island of Vatuvara
This is the first time a full biological survey has ever been performed on this remote, almost untouched island in the South Pacific. The intriguing and fascinating results have redoubled the Vatuvara Foundation’s efforts to safeguard this lush wildlife haven.
By Steve Cranwell
The island of Vatuvara perfectly embodies the intrigue and beauty of the South Pacific islands. Located in the north of Fiji’s Lau group, the 800-hectare island has been uninhabited for most of human history. This is due in part to the absence of a permanent water source – but the sharp, unforgiving coral terrain certainly doesn’t help.
For a time, the island hosted a fortified village atop the 300-metre summit – no doubt a strategic lookout point for Fijian warriors. But apart from a desperate attempt at coconut production during Fiji’s plantation era, Vatuvara has largely been spared the impacts of human influence. And that includes many invasive species common on other South Pacific islands – making Vatuvara an invaluable refuge for wildlife.
Despite the detailed knowledge of the indigenous Fijians, practically the only formal scientific account of the island comes from the remarkable Whitney Expeditions, which visited Fiji in 1924, identifying the endemic Fiji Banded Iguana Brachylophus fasciatus among other native flora and fauna species.
Now under the care of Vatuvara Private Islands, the island is protected as a nature reserve. In November, BirdLife International Pacific, together with NatureFiji-MareqetiViti (BirdLife in Fiji) and the US Geological Survey, joined the Vatuvara Foundation to conduct a pioneering four-day survey.
The survey initially focused on the island’s reptiles, in particular the Banded Iguana – currently threatened with extinction – and a snake, the Pacific Boa Candoia bibroni. During the night, several sleeping reptiles were stealthily extracted from the branches above for identification.
Coconut crabs Birgus latro proved to be a very visible part of the island fauna. Although active throughout the day, it was at night that the forest came alive to a slow, deliberate dance as the world’s largest arthropods (weighing up to 4kg and a metre from leg to leg) shuffled about the forest floor, or climbed trees and vertical rock faces in search of sustenance. Once common throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans, these unique, long lived terrestrial crabs, who can survive for 40-60 years, are under threat. Considered a local delicacy, crab populations are now increasingly confined to remote inaccessible islands or locally protected areas.
Vatuvara is an island for birds. Dawn and dusk resounded to a cacophony of calls as the Wattled Honeyeater Foulehaio carunculatus, along with the 20 other species we identified, made their presence known. Almost all were forest birds, a validation of the quality of Vatuvara’s forest. A particularly encouraging sighting was the Shy Ground Dove Alopecoenas stairi, threatened with extinction elsewhere due to introduced predators such as feral cats and rats.
In terms of invasive species, no evidence of cats, pigs, goats, Black rats Rattus rattus, mongoose, invasive ants or any of Fiji’s usual suspects could be found. However, the Pacific rat Rattus exulans was present. This non-native rat predates small birds and their eggs, as well as many of Fiji’s invertebrates and fauna.
All good surveys pose as many questions as they answer, and something of a surprise for Vatuvara was the notable absence of seabirds, generating numerous hypotheses, including what influence Coconut Crabs may pose. Ornithologist Vilikesa Masibalavu also noted an unusual phenomenon among the Island’s Fiji Whistlers Pachycephala vitiensis. They weren’t hard to find – but they were strangely silent, and not a single male could be found.
While much still remains to be discovered on Vatuvara, the survey highlighted the Island’s vital importance to Fiji’s natural history. It was found to hold a wealth of diverse native plants and wildlife increasingly under threat on other islands. Future work will build on this baseline, tracking trends in birds, coconut crabs and reptiles and ensuring harmful invasive species don’t establish. In protecting the island, the Vatuvara Foundation have made a visionary commitment to safeguarding a crucial haven for Fiji’s wildlife.
This 2017 video from Fiji is called Vatuvara Private Islands. From BirdLife: 22 Nov 2017 Exploring the untouched island of Vatuvara This is the first time a full biological survey has ever been performed on this remote, almost untouched island in the South Pacific. The intriguing and fascinating results have redoubled the Vatuvara Foundation’s efforts […]
SLOTHS AT A GLANCE
NUMBER REMAINING IN THE WILD
Dependent on species
HOW ENDANGERED ARE SLOTHS?
There are two different types of sloth and six different species. Of those, the pygmy sloth is critically endangered and the maned sloth is vulnerable. The other species are all classed as of least concern, but unless action is taken sooner rather than later this could change as deforestation continues to accelerate in the regions within which the sloths live.
Pygmy sloth numbers are thought to be as low as 100 and this is an indication of what could happen to the other species if action is not taken now.
THREATS SLOTHS ARE FACING
The health of the world’s sloth population is entirely dependent on the health of the world’s rainforests and this symbiotic relationship could prove disastrous to the sloths if deforestation continues at its current rates.
Sloths need forests full of trees to survive, and without them they become exposed to the forest floor where they are vulnerable to the many predators that share the forests with them. Sloths are defenceless to fend off predators when this happens, and that is why trees are so crucial to their survival.
- Even though the two different types of sloths are named the two-toed sloth and three toed sloth, they all actually have three toes! Their names are actually in reference to the claws on their front limbs!
- We all know sloths move very slowly, but did you know that on land they move at just 2 meters per minute? They are slightly faster up in the trees where they can move at 3 meters a minute!
- Sloths have very long tongues, and some can stretch up to 10-12 inches out of their mouths!