October 16, 2011

Container ships, we hardly knew ye


Just threw a couple more logs into the wood stove.  Mighty chilly here today.

One of my online pals sent me a link to some pictures by a fellow name of Edward Burtynsky.  He’s a photographer who says his theme is “nature transformed through industry.”

One of the sections on his website is called “Shipbreaking.”  A whole bunch of photos of industrial container ships — or really, their skeletons  — in their final resting places, rusted out on the shore of Bangladesh.  Sort of like a graveyard of hulls.  Sad but majestic too.

"Shipbreaking #4," 2000. Photo by Ed Burtynsky.

They’re hard for me to look at, because I hate to see these great old vessels looking like husks of their former selves.  But Burtynsky explains a little bit about why he does what he does:

We are drawn by desire – a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success.

The people wandering around in the shadow of the ships give me pause.  I love spotting ships.  To see folks scavenging around these “ship graveyards” for spare metal and the like…

These ships bring everything to everybody in the world.

Seems like the distribution’s off, though.

Off to reheat my Sanka.

October 12, 2011

‘We must do all we can to find the resources’


The International Council for Science, or ICSU, which has played a behind-the-scenes role in fostering scientific integrity and global collaboration since 1931, has elected Nobel Prize-winning scientist Yuan Tseh Leah of Taipei (Taiwan) to be president of its Earth System Sustainability Initiative  for the next three years.  Yuan addressed the assembly that elected him and talked about the enormous challenges humanity faces:

If we are to avoid catastrophe and ensure humanity’s continuation on this planet, the keyword for the next few decades will be transformation. That is, we must begin to transform our global society into a truly sustainable civilization…

In the past many excellent ideas were abandoned because there was no funding.  This is really heartbreaking.  If there is a worthy idea, we must do all we can to find the resources. Just imagine what we could do if just 1% of the estimated US$1 trillion spent by governments on defense every year could be devoted to global sustainability research. After all, the greatest threats to security today no longer come from across borders but are caused by humanity on humanity itself….

Our primary theme for the coming years must be “Action – and solutions -now!”

Needless to say, we couldn’t agree more, as we count the ever-greater number of creatures on the Endangered Species list.  Occasionally we joke about feeling jealous of our scientific colleagues who work for the defense industry, with its seemingly inexhaustible supply of funding and enthusiasm.  Mustn’t get bitter, though.  Chin up and all that.

September 21, 2011

Octopus’s Garden

I love that old Beatles song. “I’d like to be/Under the sea/In an octopus’s garden in the shade.”

So the polar icecaps are melting and the sea level is rising.  It’s already risen about 20-40 centimeters, depending on where you are on Earth.  And there are a lot of predictions about how much more ice is going to melt, and when.

Some folks made a chart about it in January of 2010 with the funny title When Sea Levels Attack!  

It shows how many years it will take for various big cities around the world to become completely submerged.  It’s spooky stuff, that’s for sure.  The chart shows that if everything goes as predicted, in 1,000 years almost all the world’s major coastal cities will be underwater.  There are these little tiny world maps on there too.  There’s one that depicts what a world map will look like 8,000 years from now.  The data sources are at the bottom of the graph along with a spreadsheet if you want to really be a geek about it. 

Then again, the water levels might not rise that far. Though I’m sure there must be some folks already investing in real estate in sub-Saharan Africa.

Know where the title for Octopus’s Garden came from?  Ringo Starr, who wrote  the song, was on a boat with Peter Sellers and the ship’s captain told Ringo that octopuses travel along the seabed picking up stones and shiny objects to build gardens.  (Those gardens are more like rocky dens for the octopuses to live in, but ‘garden’ sounds nicer, doesn’t it. )

I suppose if all this sea level stuff really happens, the octopuses will really go nuts with their gardening.  Imagine all the stuff that’ll be submerged underwater!

The future of shipspotting may well involve stilts. 

Gotta go warm up my potful of Sanka.

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    "The Next Forever" is a song from The Great Immensity. The footage was taken on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal by videographer David Ford. Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman.
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