Environment Forum

Penguin chatter heralds Antarctica’s ‘White Christmas’

Penguins’ chatter outside my tent woke me to Christmas Day in Antarctica, but instead of Santa’s sleigh there was just the usual run to ensure our human waste doesn’t permanently become part of this frozen wilderness.

TonySWith 24 hours of daylight it was, needless to say, very different from the traditional Christmas most of the ten members of the Mawson’s Huts Foundation living in East Antarctica are familiar with.

It was probably not the ‘White Christmas’. I would have imagined as a child growing up in Ireland and very different to the hot Australian festive season I have become used to, marked  by barbecues and often bushfires.

However, it was a fairly typical day for Antarctica, and for this icy plateau.

Here we are about 3,000 kilometres from the nearest part of the Australian mainland, working with a team who are trying to preserve the relics of the legendary 1911-1914 expedition of Antarctic pioneer Sir Douglas Mawson.

Mawson was lucky to survive that expedition, and basic though our living conditions may seem, they are a far cry from what he and his men endured.

Antarctica warms; scientists say we’re to blame

New research shows that both Antarctica and the Arctic are getting less icy – and the best explanation is mankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases.

But will that convert anyone who doubts that global warming is caused by human activities, led by burning fossil fuels?

The scientists, writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, say that a study of temperature records from Antarctica (there aren’t many of them) shows a slight rising trend over recent decades that can be best explained by a build-up of greenhouse gases led by carbon dioxide.

Poor polar bears, but what about the people?

             polarartist.jpg                                Native Alaskan artists visited New York this week with a message not so much about art, nor a species that’s struggling as rising temperatures melt its habitat from under its paws.

“With so much attention on polar bears, where’s the concern about the people? What about fellow Americans?” said Alvin Amason, an artist and member of the coastal Alutiiq people, who lives in Anchorage.

Amason and other Alaskan artists hit New York to celebrate the opening of the Alaska House , a nonprofit cultural center that aims to teach people about the challenges and opportunities the state faces.

The world’s most costly cows?

A Cow stands in her pen at the ‘Internationale Gruene Woche/International Green Week (IGW)’ fair in Berlin January 17, 2008. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele

Farm subsidies in many rich countries are high but the Norwegian $16-a-day cows have to be among the most astronomical examples.

The problem is that Norway wants farmers in the Arctic county of Finnmark to produce milk — but since it’s so cold for much of the year the herds have to live in heated barns and food has to be trucked in.

That’s clearly bad economics and far worse for the environment than cows grazing outside on grass.