Tuesday, October 29, 2013

West Papua Expedition First Look !

Deep in Korowai territory, in West Papua, the family which hosted us last night. They own virtually nothing, move from a tree house to a new one they build every two years or so.

Bobosun, a young Korowai. They don't know their age. He is probably 10. What is he dreaming about? What is future will be like?

Hunting wild pig with Oni, a Korowai elder in West Papua. Later, building a basket to catch fish in river (with ant nest bait) http://ow.ly/i/3y0rE http://ow.ly/i/3y0rQ http://ow.ly/i/3y0sh

Spending a relaxing evening and night in a Korowai tree house with our new friends...

The new generation of Korowai: The kid will probably end up in 'school' in a few years. The governement is building wooden houses in villages along the main rivers to try to convince Korowai tribes to move to 'civilization'...

A giant bat (wingspan probably 80-100cm) flies over us as we progress along the Braza river in West Papua

A balanced meal for our Korowai expedition: bananas, grilled bananas and fried bananas... but no banana split
A balanced meal for our Korowai expedition: bananas, grilled bananas and fried bananas... but no banana split :(

Security check at Wamena airport, West Papua... ;)

Where the Korowai of West Papua live. 'Civilization' is approaching fast and will change their lifestyle. For better or worse?
My bathtub last week... really...

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hello from West Papua.
We are still making progress through the deep jungle. The weather is very hot and humid and there are a lot of insects but the good news is we are spending time with the friendly Korowai tribes. Last night we slept in a tree house with a Korowai family.
More news, videos and photos will be posted later on http://www.paxarctica.org/

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

About to leave for my next expedition: Tribes of West Papua – impact from environmental changes on vanishing tribes... far from the poles!
More to come on paxarctica.org

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Climate change hits Upper Mustang


The ever increasing scarcity of water for irrigation and for people to drink has forced a historically and culturally rich community of Upper Mustang to migrate to a new place, residents of the region have claimed.
While there has not been any official study into what is being seen as a ‘climate refugee’ issue, people leaving the area and individual foreign researchers point out to the rising temperatures in the mountains, causing snow to disappear, as the main reason for the area to dry up.
A total of 18 households representing the entire Samzong village in Tsosher VDC, located at an altitude of around 4000 meters above sea level, were finding it hard to live in their ancestral home as the Samzong stream, fed by the snow during winters started drying up three years ago. As the water eventually stopped flowing in the stream, the community is being relocated in Namshung, a small village on the banks of the Kali Gandaki river and a glacier catchment area in Mustang district.
Recent findings of ancient caves in the area suggest that the place had been hosting human civilisation dating back to 3,000 years. Samzong, a very remote village is the only place in Mustang, the district also known as ‘Himal pariko Jilla,’ where local inhabitants speak the Tibetan language only.
“For decades now, locals in Samzong and nearby villages in Upper Mustang have been facing a water crisis due to less rainfall and inadequate snowline,” said Lama Ngawang Kung Bista, a local from Mustang and the founder director of Lo Mustang Foundation, an organisation facilitating the relocation plan for the affected villagers.
“However, it was only in recent years that the high retreat of the glaciers left the villagers staring at a severe water crisis, threatening the existence of the entire village,” Bista added.  According to him, the proposed land for resettlement belongs to the royal family of Mustang, the district that has also earned the sobriquet of ‘the forbidden kingdom.’
The royal family has agreed to part with the land for the villagers’ relocation.
Two other villages, Yara and Dheye, in the same region are also facing various environmental and economic challenges, leading them to abandon their settlements for a better life elsewhere. “The main challenge for the villagers who depend on subsistence farming and livestocks for livelihoods is water for irrigation, which is inadequate or almost nil,” Bista said.
Generally, Mustang is considered a desert with little rainfall activity (few millimeters annually) observed over the decades due to its terrain. It is located in the rain shadow of mountains along the Tibetan plateau. The glaciers in the mountain ranges are the main source of water for people in the entire region.
In recent years, glaciers melted at an alarming rate and the region experienced extreme weather events such as heavy rain and snowfall during winters, which are linked to the changing weather and rainfall patterns.
Two years ago in July, Lo-manthang in Upper Mustang located at an altitude of 3,705 metres above sea level witnessed incessant rainfall for almost 48 hours, triggering flashfloods and landslides and killing one person. Weather experts had then termed the activity an ‘extreme event’ as the average annual rainfall has decreased from around 250 mm in the late 70s to 115 mm in recent years in Mustang.
According to Giovanni Kappenberger, a glaciologist, meteorologist and climatologist from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) and a mountaineer, precipitation is likely to increase with more occurrences of extreme events in the region.
“There is a marked rise in the temperatures during all seasons in the mountain regions, with Tibet and Mustang areas expecting to heat more than India,” he said in his research work published in 2011.
He said a general shrinking has been observed in glaciers in the Mustang region. He added that smaller glaciers in the region will disappear ‘within decades’ and big glaciers in centuries and very high altitude glaciers (above 6,500 meters) will survive.
Ghana Shyam Gurung, conservation director at WWF Nepal, one of the I/NGOs working in the Mustang area said communities which are already living under hardships in lack of basic necessities, need to be provided with better adaptation measures to deal with the various environmental challenges.
Posted on: 2013-09-28 08:25

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gulf of Mexico natural gas rig blew while completing 'sidetrack well'

The blowout that occurred on a natural gas well in the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday morning happened as Walter Oil & Gas Corp., of Houston, was completing work on a "sidetrack well" to prepare that well for new production, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. A sidetrack well uses the same hole as the original well but then spreads to a new location at the same depth.

From: http://www.nola.com/traffic/index.ssf/2013/07/gulf_of_mexico_natural_gas_rig.html#incart_river

Monday, May 20, 2013

Arctic Council Adds 6 Nations as Observer States, Including China

KIRUNA, Sweden — The Arctic Council agreed on Wednesday to expand to include six new nations, including China, as observer states, as a changing climate opens the Arctic to increasing economic and political competition. 

The inclusion of observer states to the council came after a spirited debate at its biennial meeting and reflected the growing prominence of the issues facing the region. The council is made up of the eight Arctic nations: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. 

With the Arctic ice melting, the region’s abundant supplies of oil, gas and minerals have become newly accessible, as have shortened shipping routes and open water for commercial fishing, setting off a global competition for influence and economic opportunities far beyond the nations that border the Arctic. 

From the NY Times : http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/16/world/europe/arctic-council-adds-six-members-including-china.html?_r=1&

Carbon-dioxide concentrations hit their highest level in 4m years

The measure of global warming

AT NOON on May 4th the carbon-dioxide concentration in the atmosphere around the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii hit 400 parts per million (ppm). The average for the day was 399.73 and researchers at the observatory expect this figure, too, to exceed 400 in the next few days. The last time such values prevailed on Earth was in the Pliocene epoch, 4m years ago, when jungles covered northern Canada.

There have already been a few readings above 400ppm elsewhere—those taken over the Arctic Ocean in May 2012, for example—but they were exceptional. Mauna Loa is the benchmark for CO2 measurement (and has been since 1958, see chart) because Hawaii is so far from large concentrations of humanity. The Arctic, by contrast, gets a lot of polluted air from Europe and North America.
The concentration of CO2 peaks in May, falls until October as plant growth in the northern hemisphere’s summer absorbs the gas, and then goes up again during winter and spring. This year the average reading for the whole month will probably also reach 400ppm, according to Pieter Tans, who is in charge of monitoring at Mauna Loa, and the seasonally adjusted annual figure will reach 400ppm in the spring of 2014 or 2015.

Mauna Loa’s readings are one of the world’s longest-running measurement series. The first, made in March 1958, was 315ppm. That means they have risen by a quarter in 55 years. In the early 1960s they were going up by 0.7ppm a year. The rate of increase is now 2.1ppm—three times as fast—reflecting the relentless rise in greenhouse-gas emissions.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Does the recent boom in fracking help or hurt the fight against climate change?

EPA methane report further divides fracking camps

Pittsburgh — The Environmental Protection Agency has dramatically lowered its estimate of how much of a potent heat-trapping gas leaks during natural gas production, in a shift with major implications for a debate that has divided environmentalists: Does the recent boom in fracking help or hurt the fight against climate change?

Oil and gas drilling companies had pushed for the change, but there have been differing scientific estimates of the amount of methane that leaks from wells, pipelines and other facilities during production and delivery. Methane is the main component of natural gas.

The new EPA data is "kind of an earthquake" in the debate over drilling, said Michael Shellenberger, the president of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental group based in Oakland, Calif. "This is great news for anybody concerned about the climate and strong proof that existing technologies can be deployed to reduce methane leaks."

We need more green billionaires like Tom Steyer

Tom Steyer: The Wrath of a Green Billionaire

Billionaires get frustrated by Washington ineptitude just like everybody else. The difference is that they can afford to do something about it. Tom Steyer, who founded the San Francisco-based hedge fund Farallon Capital Management and retired last year with an estimated $1.4 billion fortune, is one such fed-up billionaire. Steyer’s particular grievance is the lack of government action to combat global warming. “If you look at the 2012 campaign, climate change was like incest—something you couldn’t talk about in polite company,” he says. “With the current Congress, the chance of any significant energy or climate legislation that would move the ball forward is somewhere around nil—possibly lower.”

So Steyer, 55, a major Democratic contributor, quit Farallon to devote his time and much of his money to changing this reality. In doing so, he’s joined an emerging class of billionaires—including this magazine’s owner, Michael Bloomberg and Facebook (FB) co-founder Mark Zuckerberg—who have forsaken the traditional approach of working through the political parties and instead jumped directly into the fray, putting their reputations and fortunes behind a cause.