Old Growth Rainforest—What Still Stands is More Valuable Than Ever

British Columbia’s Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park on Vancouver Island. Credit: Dan Klotz.

British Columbia’s Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park. Credit: Dan Klotz.

No matter where I have traveled in the world, I have found that the many of the larger stretches of primeval forests can only be reached by logging roads. Consider the old growth stands of Sitka spruce and red cedar in the Carmanah Valley, on a remote part of southeast Vancouver Island.  Canada’s tallest tree, 313 feet high, grows in this valley, yet you won’t find throngs of tourists having their picture taken next to it.

In fact, you won’t find any tourists next to it. British Columbia’s Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park is only reachable by a rough three hour drive on a gravel road that is the domain of logging trucks, not tour buses and rental cars. To find out why you need to see it (and view a few more photos), read my latest post at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog at http://on.natgeo.com/15aWbIu.


Explosive Agriculture and That Larger April Fireball

Corn tassels. Credit: Huw Williams.

Corn tassels. Credit: Huw Williams.

In mid-April, a humongous explosion rocked the Texas town of West when a fire broke out at an agriculture retail facility storing ammonium nitrate. The blast killed 14 people, injured more than 200, and left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep. If this and other forms of ammonia are so explosive before being used as fertilizer, what happens when it is used in agriculture? More at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog, http://on.natgeo.com/10oCQjh.

The Fight Against Climate Change Needs a Retrofit

Looking south from the Empire State Building. Credit: Dan Klotz

Looking south from the Empire State Building. Credit: Dan Klotz

The New York City apartment building where I grew up was built in the early 1960s. The building’s heating system still has only one thermostat for more than 150 apartments, and that thermostat is usually set in the mid-70s. If it’s too hot, you must manually adjust each radiator in the apartment (and there’s one for each room). Most people simply open a window or two instead, which is not a very climate-smart solution. More at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog, http://on.natgeo.com/10sNPuz.

Climate Change Wins Big in 2012 Elections

Post-Tropical Sandy rolling inland on Tuesday, October 30 (Credit: NOAA/NASA GOES Project)

Post-Tropical Sandy rolling inland on Tuesday, October 30 (Credit: NOAA/NASA GOES Project)

The 2012 Presidential elections was proceeding as most elections do, with one notable exception: for the first time since 1984, neither candidate mentioned climate change during any of the campaign debates.  Then Hurricane Sandy struck, changing the coastline and the policy landscape.  More at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog, http://on.natgeo.com/YVHz1o

Lonesome Larry: An Unsung Hero

In early August, I wrote for NationalGeographic.com on the nexus between Woody Guthrie and sockeye salmon. The occasion? The folk singer’s 100th birthday, and the 20th anniversary of Lonesome Larry, the only sockeye to make it to Redfish Lake in 1992 (in decades past, the sockeye in the lake numbered at least 30,000). More at National Geographic’s NewsWatch blog. http://on.natgeo.com/RTEbQv

Celebrating an Anniversary in the Arctic Circle

The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas in Syria. Credit: Global Crop Diversity Trust/Britta Skagerfalt

Rarely do you celebrate an anniversary with raw chick peas and fava beans.

But these seeds, from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), highlighted the fourth anniversary shipment for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault—located on the colder side of the Arctic circle in Norway.  The Global Crop Diversity Trust maintains the seed vault in partnership with the Norwegian government and the Nordic Genetic Resources Center, as a back-up to the living crop diversity collections housed in “genebanks” around the world.

I helped publicize this shipment as part of my work for Burness Communications; click here to read more.

Extreme Winter Weather–Groundhog Day Edition

January crocuses in Maryland. Credit: Dan Klotz

When is partly cloudy and 70 degrees Fahrenheit considered extreme? When it happens in Washington, D.C., on February 1st and the temperature ends up more than 25 degrees above normal.

On Groundhog Day, the delightful weather makes for an interesting backdrop as the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal showcased another back-and-forth on the political debate about climate change. But the bottom line is: it’s here, it’s extreme, and we need to get used to it.  http://bit.ly/xqLdHm

Climate Change Activists Need To Talk About Population Too

Maps prepared by Population Action International overlay data on populations with high growth rates and low resilience to climate change.

“The environment does not exist as a sphere separate from human actions, ambitions, and needs, and attempts to defend it in isolation from human concerns have given the very word ‘environment’ a connotation of naivety in some political circles.”

These words come from the foreword of “Our Common Future: Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development,” a landmark United Nations report that was written when the world’s population reached five billion. The report triggered the 1992 “Earth Summit” in Rio De Janeiro and a number of United Nations treaties and agreements all focusing on sustainable development.

It’s now 2012, and a new Earth Summit is being prepared for June of this year.  But what progress has been made in sustainable development in the past two decades, and how can you answer the problems without looking at the growing population? In my next piece for NationalGeographic.com, I take a look at how these questions were addressed at an Aspen Institute event this past Thursday. http://bit.ly/xtJndW