Illustration by The New York Times; photograph by Quince Mountain
One year ago, when I first encountered Blair Braverman, I did not follow through to find out more. It is easy to remember why because it was the last stretch of pre-pandemia, and it was the last time I travelled, and that last portion of February, 2020, remains vividly clear in my memory.
As it happens this morning, exactly one year later, we are getting on an airplane and traveling from Costa Rica to Ithaca, New York where we will spend a few days taking care of some paperwork that is a legal requirement for operating our businesses in Costa Rica. I would not get on an airplane right now if it was not a legal requirement, and while we are taking all possible precautions it would be impossible not to have the obvious concerns. In that context, hearing Blair Braverman talk about her work in an odd way has a calming effect. And given that yesterday I was reading about life under the southern ice, it is fitting today to share some perspective on life above the northern ice. Click the image above or the title below to go to the podcast for a half hour of pure escape.
The adventurer Blair Braverman has led a team of sled dogs over a 900-mile race in Alaska, seen her skin dissolve in the desert and overcome Covid-19. What makes it all less terrifying? Accepting the unknown. Continue reading
Caribou graze on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Trump administration has held the first oil lease sale in the refuge. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Thanks to all those who protested the lease sale in the first place, and to National Public Radio (USA) for providing the welcome news that the protests had their intended effect:
Rep. Deb Haaland at a 2018 rally in Washington, D.C., to oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. President-elect Joe Biden has tapped Haaland to lead the Department of the Interior. Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media
One of the Trump administration’s biggest environmental rollbacks suffered a stunning setback Wednesday, as a decades-long push to drill for oil in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ended with a lease sale that attracted just three bidders — one of which was the state of Alaska itself.
Alaska’s state-owned economic development corporation was the only bidder on nine of the parcels offered for lease in the northernmost swath of the refuge, known as the coastal plain. Two small companies also each picked up a single parcel.
Half of the offered leases drew no bids at all. Continue reading
Pot of red gold … Norway exported nearly $9m worth of king crab in October alone. Photograph: Cultura Travel/Philip Lee Harvey/Getty
Invasive species sometimes lead to creative opportunities, but rarely without some tradeoffs:
In the summer of 2005 I worked in Yakutia (officially known as the Republic of Sakha). My strongest memory is a week on a boat going from Yakutsk up into the Arctic circle. I can still feel the intensity of the August sun through my sunglasses at midnight, while freezing air pierced my fleece. My project assistant, who was also my translator, helped me understand from the boat’s captain and two crew members that our passage on the Yana River toward the Laptev Sea was getting easier and easier each year. They had all been Soviet naval crew on this river long ago and could remember plenty of Augusts when the northern stretch of this passage was not possible.
I was aware of climate change as a distant calamity that required urgent action, but did not have a clue what it might eventually mean for this location. The funding for our tourism development strategy came from a natural attraction discovered in the permafrost. Our assumptions about attracting nature tourism to this region were clearly rooted in the permafrost. For the following decade, projects we worked on in the region continued with these assumptions, which seems ignorant now.
In Siberia in late May, thawing permafrost caused an oil-storage tank to collapse, leading to the largest oil spill ever to occur in the Russian Arctic. Photograph by Irina Yarinskaya / AFP / Getty
We have linked out to some of Carolyn Kormann’s various smile-inducing environmental stories, as well as more serious ones. A Disastrous Summer in the Arctic goes darker than her previous darkest, but is a must-read for keeping current on the impacts of climate change in faraway places.
The remote Siberian town of Verkhoyansk, three thousand miles east of Moscow and six miles north of the Arctic Circle, has long held the record, with another Siberian town, for the coldest inhabited place in the world. The record was set in 1892, when the temperature dropped to ninety below zero Fahrenheit, although these days winter temperatures are noticeably milder, hovering around fifty below. Last Saturday, Verkhoyansk claimed a new record: the hottest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic, with an observation of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit—the same temperature was recorded that day in Las Vegas. Miami has only hit a hundred degrees once since 1896. Continue reading
Mark Kurlansky first came to my attention thanks to Seth, whose post I riffed on. Then Seth pointed this out, and I have been on the lookout ever since. And today I was rewarded when listening to the author discuss his new book. Click any image below to go to that interview.
Pink salmon school in the deep pools of the Campbell River, before venturing farther upstream to the spawning beds. British Columbia. (Credit: Tavish Campbell) Continue reading
‘The Arctic refuge is not just a piece of land with oil underneath. It’s the heart of our people; our food security, way of life and very survival depends on its protection.’ Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Thanks to the Guardian for this op-ed by Bernadette Demientieff:
CLICK MAP TO ENLARGE. The route traveled by the Northwest Passage Project in July and August, from Greenland through the Canadian Arctic. YALE ENVIRONMENT 360
A polar bear in the Barrow Strait. As summer sea ice disappears in the High Arctic, polar bears are losing crucial platforms on which to hunt and rest. ED STRUZIK/YALE E360
You have seen the images, in which polar bears look lost or otherwise in peril. The one from this story, taken by its author, illustrates the central theme of ice receding in the locations highlighted in the map above.
Climate change is at work, 24/7, creating the sense of loss, peril and worse that we have not been shying away from in our pages. We are leaning in to try to understand what changes we can make, and promote, to live and work and play more responsibly. Thanks to Ed Struzik for both the words and images of this article:
The icebreaker Oden sails through first-year ice in Lancaster Sound in the Canadian Arctic last month. COURTESY OF TOMER KETTER
After decades of travel in the Far North, E360’s Arctic correspondent joins a voyage through the Northwest Passage and witnesses a world being transformed, with ice disappearing, balmy temperatures becoming common, and alien invaders – from plastic waste to new diseases – on the rise.
An abandoned Hudson’s Bay trading post on Somerset Island that was shut down in 1948 because supply ships could not get through the thick sea ice. COURTESY OF TOMER KETTER
Elwin Bay is carved into a steep, flat-topped mountain range along the northeast coast of Somerset Island in Canada’s High Arctic. For as long as anyone can remember, hundreds of beluga whales show up every year on an annual migration from Greenland through Canada’s Northwest Passage. Their fidelity to this site is remarkable given that 19th-century whalers killed more than 10,000 of them there – 840 during one notably gruesome, 17-day stretch – between 1874 and 1898.
Helicoptering over the bay earlier this month with members of a U.S. National Science Foundation-sponsored research expedition, we saw too many belugas to count accurately in waters riddled with rapidly disintegrating sea ice. Five hundred? Eight hundred? None of us could estimate with certainty. All we knew was that there were likely equal numbers of whales congregating in similar bays and estuaries, such as Cunningham Inlet, which we sailed past a few days earlier.
Polar bears were there as well — a female and cub in this case, homing in on a dead beluga that had presumably swum too far up the shallow estuary before the tide turned and trapped it. Continue reading
Thanks to the Guardian for the latest story in this series. We have avoided adding our voice to the many rightly concerned about the radically pro-extraction, carbon-freewheeling policies of the United States since early 2017. The concern is loud and widespread. We have listened. Today, reading this story, I pictured a naughty boy, a bully, getting away with bad behavior for an extended period. Any period of bad boy behavior is intolerable but it happens. Until it is no longer tolerated. Which eventually always happens. And that may be the best stand-in for optimism these days:
Exclusive: a new study reveals the vast extent of public lands being opened up to the energy industry. The Guardian heard from three communities on the frontlines
by Charlotte Simmonds, Gloria Dickie and Jen Byers
Colter Hoyt, an outdoors guide and conservationist, at Grand Staircase-Escalante. Photograph: Charlotte Simmonds for the Guardian
In the great expanses of the Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument, the silence hits you first. Minutes pass, smooth and unbroken as glass. The smallest sound – a breath of wind, a falling rock – can seem as loud as passing traffic.
Colter Hoyt knows this landscape well. As an outdoor guide, he walks the monument almost daily. Yet these days he is full of fear. This remote paradise of red rocks, slot canyons and towering plateaus faces an uncertain future, following a controversial presidential proclamation that removed 800,000 acres from the monument and opened land up for potential energy development.
When Trump took office in 2016, he promised the energy industry a new era of “American energy dominance”. This would only be possible by exploiting America’s 640m acres of public land: mountains, deserts, forests and sites of Native American history that cover more than a quarter of the country. Continue reading
A Xikrin woman walks back to her village from the Cateté River in Brazil. Photograph: Taylor Weidman/Getty Images
Thanks to Lisa Cox, the Guardian’s Australia correspondent for environment, for this:
First map of Earth’s intact ecosystems shows just five nations are responsible for most of them – but it will require global action to protect them
Map of the world’s remaining wilderness. Green represents land wilderness, while blue represents ocean wilderness. Photograph: Nature
Just five countries hold 70% of the world’s remaining untouched wilderness areas and urgent international action is needed to protect them, according to new research.
Researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have for the first time produced a global map that sets out which countries are responsible for nature that is devoid of heavy industrial activity.
It comes ahead of the conference of parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Egypt in November where signatory nations are working towards a plan for the protection of biodiversity beyond 2020.
Conservationists are calling for a mandated target for wilderness conservation that will preserve the planet’s vulnerable ecosystems. Continue reading
Deniers, we already know you will find a way to see this from some other perspective, and we have given up trying to understand why you do that. But for everyone else, there is still time to understand the implications of this science. And there is no shame in using props to help learn. Thanks to Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich for making sure we get the point, with clear graphical illustration, about what this recent study is saying and why every one of us should care:
Extreme heat will be much more common worldwide under 2°C of warming compared to 1.5°C, with the tropics experiencing the biggest increase in the number of “highly unusual” hot days.
Read the rest of this graphics-rich story here.
Alan Taylor, who compiles and edits the news photo blog “In Focus” for the Atlantic, shares 21 spectacular images with captions that help even a lay person understand better the science of climate change:
An iceberg floats in a fjord near Tasiilaq on June 16, 2018. # Lucas Jackson / Reuters
Earlier this year, Lucas Jackson, a photographer with Reuters, joined a team of scientists affiliated with a NASA project named Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) and traveled with it to the Greenland ice sheet and fjords. Jackson photographed the researchers as they set up their scientific equipment and took readings to help understand the ongoing impact of the melting glaciers and map out what to expect in the future. Jackson says: “For both journalists and scientists, climate change is difficult to document. It most often happens imperceptibly—a tenth of a degree increase in temperature, a few less inches of rain, a slowly melting ice sheet.” Continue reading
We recommend this interview in the Atlantic, with the author of the book above, a veteran conservationist reckoning with his career studying animals in the most extreme places on Earth:
In the winter of 2011, Joel Berger and his colleague Marci Johnson happened upon a ghostly Arctic death scene. Body parts and tufts of brown fur poked out of a frozen lagoon. This was all the biologists could find of a herd of 55 musk oxen they had been following.
The cause of mass mortality, they later determined, was an ice tsunami, the result of an unusual storm that slammed seawater and ice into the lagoon where the unfortunate musk oxen stood. Berger is a conservationist who works in some of the most hostile environments in the world, and he studies the enigmatic species, like musk oxen, that live there. His new book, Extreme Conservation, chronicles his career in Alaska, Siberia, Namibia, Tibet, Mongolia, and Bhutan. He is now a biologist at Colorado State University and a senior scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society. Continue reading
Thanks to Kendra Pierre-Louis for this explanatory note, which references the article in taking us a step closer to understanding the mystery of mosquitoes’ value to the planet:
Ask just about any human and they’ll tell you that mosquitoes are pests we’d be better off without, especially since some mosquitoes carry deadly diseases. Even many scientists agree: A 2010 article in the journal Nature concluded that a world without mosquitoes would be less itchy and less deadly for us, with few drawbacks for other species, outside of some ecological niches.
One of those niches is the Arctic, where mosquitoes play a bigger role in sustaining the ecosystem but may be threatened by the changing climate, said Lauren E. Culler, a research assistant professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College.
“You can collect pollen off of mosquitoes, indicating they may have a role in pollination,” she said. “And we know that they’re also food for other organisms in the food web.” Continue reading
“We completely regret what happened,” a spokesman for the cruise company said, adding the bear was killed in self-defense.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is not the worst company in the world but it sure is trying hard. And they are in a very dirty business. The lead photo in this story by Yonette Joseph is just too depressing to share here, so the map is shown instead. That photo requires viewing as an act of witness to the cruise industry’s lack of ethics, so read on and click through:
LONDON — A polar bear was shot and killed on Saturday after it attacked and injured a guard from a cruise ship that had stopped at an Arctic archipelago, the Norwegian authorities said.
The death of the bear at the hands of another cruise ship employee drew condemnation on social media, with some calling it “abhorrent” and others questioning killing the polar bear for “acting like a wild animal.” Continue reading
Jane Tansell, one of the two handlers responsible for the rodent detection dogs, looks on from the background as a seal stares down the camera on South Georgia Island earlier this year.
Oliver Prince/Courtesy of South Georgia Heritage Trust
These three pairs of words in the post title, placed together in this order in a search engine, produce some interesting results from around the world. And today we find one more to add to the database. Thanks to National Public Radio (USA)’s Colin Dwyer for sharing this story:
The South Georgia pipit, seen posing for a glamour shot earlier this year, had been among the species hardest hit by the island’s invasive rodents.
Ingo Arndt/Courtesy of South Georgia Heritage Trust
There are no other birds quite like them in the world. The South Georgia pipit and pintail are so distinctive in the grand pantheon of ornithology, in fact, they draw their names from the one place they’ve made their home: South Georgia Island, sitting lonely in the forbidding South Atlantic not far from Antarctica.
Yet even in such a remote location, surrounded by penguins, fur seals and seemingly endless ocean, the birds have long been besieged by tiny alien invaders: rodents. Since the first European ships arrived in the late 18th century bearing rodents as stowaways, the voracious predators have devastated the South Georgia birds — which, with no trees to nest in, must make their vulnerable homes on the ground or in burrows.
Now, after more than two centuries, those invaders have been rebuffed. Continue reading
Before Henry Worsley set off alone, his family painted messages on his skis. “Come back to me safely, my darling,” his wife wrote.
Photograph by Sebastian Copeland
If you have not read it yet, go straight to it. If you have read it already, next you will want to listen to the author, the subject (via field recordings) and the subject’s wife.
Henry and Joanna Worsley at the Korean War Veterans Memorial, in Washington, D.C., in 2015. Worsley served in the British Army for thirty-six years.
Photograph courtesy Joanna Worsley
We have linked to stories about explorers, though none specifically about Shackleton, in the past. The subject of this story has something important to say about his hero, and it is worth hearing his voice as well as his wife’s (click here).
The author, who we have linked to more than once, gave two excellent interviews about his process as a long-form story-teller, and if this is your thing, then you will want to listen to both, first here and more recently here.
A solitary journey across Antarctica.
I. Mortal Danger
The man felt like a speck in the frozen nothingness. Every direction he turned, he could see ice stretching to the edge of the Earth: white ice and blue ice, glacial-ice tongues and ice wedges. There were no living creatures in sight. Not a bear or even a bird. Nothing but him.
It was hard to breathe, and each time he exhaled the moisture froze on his face: a chandelier of crystals hung from his beard; his eyebrows were encased like preserved specimens; his eyelashes cracked when he blinked. Get wet and you die, he often reminded himself. The temperature was nearly minus forty degrees Fahrenheit, and it felt far colder because of the wind, which sometimes whipped icy particles into a blinding cloud, making him so disoriented that he toppled over, his bones rattling against the ground. Continue reading
Time and again, the petroleum industry has used its political might to stymie global action on climate change. Now cities and states have become the new battleground. Photograph by Robert Nickelsberg / Getty
Some things we lose slowly, which seems better than losing them quicker; other things we gain too slowly:
Tuesday should have been a day of unmitigated joy for America’s oil and gas executives. The new G.O.P. tax bill treats their companies with great tenderness, reducing even further their federal tax burden.
Part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, known as the 10-02 area, serves as the summer breeding ground for two hundred thousand caribou. Photograph by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty
And the bill gave them something else they’ve sought for decades: permission to go a-drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But, around four in the afternoon, something utterly unexpected began to happen. A news release went out from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, saying that New York was going to divest its vast pension-fund investments in fossil fuels. The state, Cuomo said, would be “ceasing all new investments in entities with significant fossil-fuel-related activities,” and he would set up a committee with Thomas DiNapoli, the state comptroller, to figure out how to “decarbonize” the existing portfolio. Continue reading
The upper Colville River and headwaters on Alaska’s North Slope | Joel Sartore
Thanks to Christopher Solomon, contributing editor at Outside magazine, for this important story published in the New York Times. The interactive element highlighting each ecosystem, followed by migration visuals drive home the extremity and unprecedented nature of the policies that the federal government of the United States of America is now promoting.
Several years ago a mapping expert pinpointed the most remote place in the Lower 48 states. The spot was in the southeast corner of Yellowstone National Park, 20 miles from the nearest road. Roman Dial read the news and wasn’t much impressed. To him, 20 miles — the distance a hungry man could walk in a long day — didn’t seem very remote at all.
Mr. Dial is a professor of biology and mathematics at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage, and a National Geographic explorer. He decided to figure out the most remote place in the entire nation. His calculations led him to the northwest corner of Alaska, where the continent tilts toward the Arctic Ocean. The spot lay on the Ipnavik River on the North Slope, 119 miles west of the Haul Road (otherwise known as the Dalton Highway), which brings supplies and roughnecks to the oil fields at Prudhoe Bay. Continue reading
A series by Mr. Guariglia depicting the impacts of agriculture and mining on the Asian continent. The shimmering panels are layered with gold and other precious-metal leaf, gesso and acrylic ink. Below right is botryoidal slab of malachite from a mine in Africa. Credit Nathan Bajar for The New York Times
Tapping into a long, intertwined history of “photographers depicting nature with an eye to its fragility”, multimedia artist Justin Brice Guariglia translates his unprecedented access to NASA mission flights to visually quantify what is currently coined the Anthropocene Era.
Readers lucky enough to have the opportunity to view his coming exhibition, at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Fla., from Sept. 5 to Jan. 7 should do so!
Earlier this year at the Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, the artist Justin Brice Guariglia fell into conversation with a stranger.
“I got stuck on a gondola ride with a climate change denier,” Mr. Guariglia said recently. The stranger clearly had no idea who he was dealing with.
Not only had Mr. Guariglia previously talked his way into joining a NASA scientific mission over Greenland so that he could photograph melting polar ice caps. He also had even created a mobile app called After Ice, which allows users to take a selfie that is overlaid with a watery filter indicating the sea level projected in their geo-tagged location in the 2080s.
So when the man on the gondola said the earth’s warming temperatures were just part of a cycle, Mr. Guariglia recalled, “I took off my jacket and I said, ‘Does this look like a cycle to you?’” Continue reading