Environment Forum

Holy water!

Aletsch glacier, the largest glacier in the Swiss Alps is seen on August 18, 2007. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Are the residents of Fiesch and Fischertal in Switzerland particularly pious, desperate or both? I wonder after learning that villagers there want Pope Benedict’s blessing to stop the melting of Europe’s longest glacier. That, after hundreds of years of praying for it to stop growing. Researchers predict winter temperatures in the Swiss Alps will rise by 1.8 degrees Celsius in winter and 2.7 degrees Celsius in the summer by 2050.

You can track the fate of the Aletsch glacier here, but don’t expect to see a repeat of Spencer Tunick’s 2007 naked photoshoot.

Undoubtedly, Switzerland’s tourism industry has suffered this summer, with 148,000 fewer foreign visitors bunking at chalets and the like in June compared to the same month last year. Of course it’s not clear if the decline was due to melting glaciers or the credit crisis.

Back in the United States, melting glaciers aren’t a big source of concern.

A task force from the American Psychological Association, citing a Pew Research Center poll that found that climate change ranked last in a list of 20 compelling issues, concluded that psychological barriers like uncertainty, mistrust and denial were to blame. It added that habits can change, especially if money is involved.

Maldives: “Paradise Drowning”, partly due to tourism?

A tourist from London plays with her daughter on the jetty outside the Maldivian resort of Banyan Tree on January 9, 2005. Most tourists are leaving the Maldives after the atoll nation was hit by the Asian tsunami. REUTERS/Anuruddha Lokuhapuarachchi AL/TWThe Maldives has a dilemma — it fears that rising seas caused by global warming could wipe the country off the map but it doesn’t want to restrict tourists who visit the Indian Ocean coral islands in aircraft whose emissions are a cause of climate change.

Read Melanie Lee and Neil Chatterjee’s story about the problem faced by President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who is writing a book about ”Paradise Drowning” but wants to keep the tourist-dependent economy going.

What should countries like the Maldives do?

Ending poverty is the overriding goal for developing nations, but how far should they take part in fighting global warming, caused by people in rich nations on the other side of the world?

Kenya crisis hits Mara game reserve hard

Joseph Kimojino, a ranger with Mara Conservancy, talks with a group of Maasai men outside Enkereri village, near Maasai Mara game reserve, April 3, 2008. The Maasai tribesmen of the Oloololo Escarpment have been hit hard, with only a trickle of visitors to the world-famous park meaning the breakdown of a compensation scheme meant to stop them hunting lions. But with the Mara Conservancy facing a monthly shortfall of at least $50,000 due to gate receipts that have plummeted 80 percent — and therefore unable to pay out when predators kill valuable Maasai livestock — tensions are rising fast. REUTERS/Radu SighetiHuman-animal relations are at breaking point in Kenya’s renowned Maasai Mara game reserve.
Visitor numbers have dropped 80 percent since a deadly post-election crisis at the start of the year, meaning the Mara Conservancy, the non-profit organisation that manages the park, is in financial crisis.
It has had to cut back on anti-poaching patrols, lay off staff and suspend a successful cattle compensation scheme that had encouraged conservation by paying local Maasai for livestock killed by leopards and lions.

Attacks by predators are on the rise, and some Maasai say they are ready to hunt down the big cats stalking their herds – something that would slash animal numbers in the park and hurt any revival of Kenya’s vital tourism sector.

In a bid to continue protecting the reserve’s wildlife, two Conservancy staff members have taken their fundraising efforts online, both with modest success.  A Maasai man walks around a cattle enclosure in Enkereri village near Masai Mara game reserve April 3, 2008. The Maasai tribesmen of the Oloololo Escarpment have been hit hard, with only a trickle of visitors to the world-famous park meaning the breakdown of a compensation scheme meant to stop them hunting lions. But with the Mara Conservancy facing a monthly shortfall of at least $50,000 due to gate receipts that have plummeted 80 percent — and therefore unable to pay out when predators kill valuable Maasai livestock — tensions are rising fast. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

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