Environment Forum

Ice thaw exposes trove from pre-Viking hunters

threearchA thaw of ice in the mountains of Norway is helping Lars Piloe and his team of archaeologists uncover a 1,500-year-old trove of equipment used by ancestors of the Vikings to hunt reindeer.

Their work as “ice patch archaeologists” points to one of a few positive side-effects of man-made climate change, widely blamed for shrinking glaciers worldwide.

On other missions to dwindling ice fields they have found arrows, even some with feathers attached. And another expert found a 3,400-year-old leather shoe. (…they speculate that the shoe’s first owner threw it away because it has a hole in the sole).two

I was up by the ice a few days ago with my TV colleague Kurt – luckily about 40 cms of snow that fell shortly before had melted away, or the trip would have been in vain for everyone — on days with snow, ”ice patch archaeologists” can’t find anything.

And at almost 2,000 metres, the season is already extremely short — it starts in mid-August and ends as soon as the autumn snows fall, usually around now. Their finds are a stark sign that the ice has not been this small for centuries: feathers or leather turn to dust within days of exposure unless they are properly preserved.

Attack survivors at UN: Save the sharks!

THAILAND/Jaws needs help.

Nine shark-attack survivors from five countries headed for the United Nations in New York City to plead the case for shark preservation. U.N. member countries could take this issue up this week as part of an annual resolution on sustainable fisheries. They’ll also be reviewing the Millennium Development Goals — a long-range set of global targets that includes stemming the loss of biodiversity, including sharks.

“I’m very thankful to be alive,” said Krishna Thompson, a Wall Street banker who lost his left leg in a shark attack while visiting the Bahamas in 2001.  “I have learned to appreciate all of God’s living creatures. Sharks are an apex predator in the ocean. Whether they continue to live  affects how we as people live on this Earth. I feel that one of the reasons why I am alive today is to help the environment and help support shark conservation.”

DSC00087 aAnother survivor, Yann Perras of LeMans, France, had his leg severed while windsurfing off the coast of Venezuela in 2003. “Even if the movie ‘Jaws’ has scared entire generations, we have to remember that it is only fiction,” Perras said in a statement.

The quest to put solar power back on the White House

betterbill

Bill McKibben, founder of the green group 350.org, is on a quest to convince President Barack Obama to put solar panels back on the roof of the White House.

He’s at the end of a journey to Washington from Maine in a van fired by biodiesel carrying one of the 32 panels Jimmy Carter unveiled in 1979 during the first press conference on the White House roof.

Also in the van are students from Unity College, which got the the panels some time after President Ronald Reagan, no fan of alternative energy, had workers remove the panels during “roof repairs” in 1986.

The Green Gauge: Shell and BASF guilty in Brazil

A Shell petrol station sign is seen reflected in a puddle in London February 4, 2010. Royal Dutch Shell Plc said it planned even deeper cuts to its oil refining and retail operations after downstream weakness caused a 75 percent fall in fourth-quarter profits to $1.18 billion (743.87 million pounds).  The photograph has been rotated 180 degrees.  REUTERS/Luke Macgregor (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS ENERGY)

Royal Dutch Shell and German chemicals maker BASF were dealt a costly blow last month in a court ruling in Brazil that found both companies liable for contaminating groundwater with toxic waste northwest of Sao Paulo.

The ruling puts Shell and BASF in the lead position in this installment of The Green Gauge, a breakdown of companies that made headlines Aug. 22 to Sept. 6 for winning or losing credibility based on environment-related activity.

Selections of companies were made by Christopher Greenwald, director of data content at ASSET4, a Thomson Reuters business that provides investment research on the environmental, social and governance performance of major global corporations. These ratings are not recommendations to buy or sell.

‘Friendly’ push for Facebook to dump coal

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, delivers a keynote address at the company's annual conference in San Francisco, California July 23, 2008. REUTERS/Kimberly White

With half a million signatures backing it up, Greenpeace fired off a letter to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg today calling for the world’s largest social network to cut ties to coal-fired power at its new data center in Oregon.

“Other cloud-based companies face similar choices and challenges as you do in building data centers, yet many are making smarter and cleaner investments,” executive director of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo, writes. He points to Google and its a recent agreement to buy wind power from NextEra Energy for the next 20 years to power its data centers.

The letter adds to what’s turning into a miserable week for Zuckerberg, who is also fighting a civil lawsuit by a man who claims to own a huge chunk of the social network site and is seeking to uncover “unnecessary details” about Zuckerberg’s private life.

The World Bank’s $6 billion man on climate change

BIRDFLU INDONESIAAs the special envoy on climate change for the World Bank, Andrew Steer might be thought of as the $6 billion man of environmental finance. He oversees more than that amount for projects to fight the effects of global warming.

“More funds flow through us to help adaptation and mitigation than anyone else,” Steer said in a conversation at the bank’s Washington headquarters. Named to the newly created position in June, Steer said one of his priorities is to marshall more than $6 billion in the organization’s Climate Investment Funds to move from smaller pilot projects to large-scale efforts.

While the World Bank is not a party to global climate talks set for Cancun, Mexico, later this year, it is deeply engaged in this issue, Steer said. Acknowledging that an international agreement on climate change is a long shot this year, he said there are still opportunities to make changes to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that spur climate change.

Genetically engineered fish, anyone?

Would you eat a genetically modified fish? What about pork from a pig with mouse genes? Beef from cattle with genes spliced to resist “mad cow” disease?

CHILE-SALMON/CRISISThese are questions Americans may soon have to answer for themselves if the U.S. health regulators allow the sale of a genetically engineered salmon. The company that makes it, Aqua Bounty Technologies Inc <ABTX.L>, expects an agency decision by year’s end.

The biotech says its Atlantic salmon grows nearly twice as fast as normal salmon and could help Americans get more locally farmed fish. That could cut down on U.S. imports of roughly $1.4 billion a year in Atlantic salmon from other countries such as Chile while also easing pressure on wild Atlantic salmon in the nation’s Northeast.

SF activists mark Katrina anniversary with Big Oil protest

USA/After playing dead on top of oil-black plastic sheets outside a Chevron office, protesters marched through downtown San Francisco on Monday to denounce “oil addiction” on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, as the U.S. Gulf Coast recovers from its more recent disaster.

About 100 marchers, drawn from activist groups ranging from Code Pink to the Rainforest Action Network, took part in the ”Climate Justice” protest to demand that BP pay to clean up the mess in the Gulf and that the industry clean up its act in general. (BP has agreed to set aside $20 billion for spill damage claims and to pay all legitimate losses related to the spill.) Protestors also called for ”real solutions” after briefly blocking the entrance to the headquarters of Chevron Energy Solutions, the oil giant’s solar power arm.

“Let’s get power from the sun: oil is over, oil is done,” the marchers chanted, on their way to the local branch of the Environmental Protection Agency and then to a BP office. Some of them wore bright white jumpsuits splattered with molasses to simulate oil stains.

Could wind push energy bill to fruition?

A state-of-the-art wind turbine at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL) National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) spins on a sunny day near Boulder, Colorado July 21, 2010.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking

–Andris (Andy) E. Cukurs is chief executive officer of North American operations of India-based Suzlon Energy Ltd., the world’s third-largest wind turbine manufacturer. Any views expressed here are his own.–

The climate bill may have stalled and, with it, a renewable electricity standard that would promote wind and other renewable-energy sources. But at the same time, wind energy continues to make strong strides.

Just look at the commitment of large corporations, like  Google, purchasing 20 years of wind-generated electricity in Iowa, ostensibly to operate its huge data centers. Or SC Johnson & Son, installing turbines at its Wisconsin headquarters and putting up a windmill at its largest European manufacturing plant – in addition to nearly half its Ziploc plant in Michigan powered with wind.

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