BBC: Iran floods: Homes and people swept away

Screenshot 2019-04-05 at 22.19.56

Rescue operations are under way across Iran as the death toll from severe flooding has reached more than 60.

There are new warnings that dams in some areas could overflow, causing more devastation.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced, and many are in urgent need of food, water, tents and blankets. The BBC spoke to people inside Iran about the situation.

  • 05 Apr 2019

Guardian: Cyclone Idai ‘might be southern hemisphere’s worst such disaster’

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 Cyclone Idai leaves trail of destruction in southern Africa – video report

The devastating cyclone that hit south-eastern Africa may be the worst ever disaster to strike the southern hemisphere, according to the UN.

Cyclone Idai has swept through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe over the last few days, destroying almost everything in its path, causing devastating floods, ruining crops and killing and injuring thousands of people. More than 2.6m people could be affected across the three countries, and the port city of Beira, which was hit on Friday and is home to 500,000 people, is now an “island in the ocean”, almost completely cut off.

The official death tolls in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi are 84, 98 and 56 respectively. But these totals only scratch the surface: the real toll may not be known for many months as the countries deal with a still unfolding disaster.

Mozambique has been hit by cyclones and floods before: the most devastating in recent memory were in 2000. But these could be even worse.

Houses, roads and telegraph poles are completely submerged. The Mozambican and South African military and other organisations are working to rescue people from the air, though because roads and bridges have been ripped up or have huge sinkholes in them, many are struggling to get supplies and teams to the region.

Some people are stranded clinging to trees; others are on houses or other “new islands” that have formed, and have no food, rescue workers said.

Drone footage of Praia Nova village after Cyclone Idai made landfall in Sofala province, central Mozambique.
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 Drone footage of Praia Nova village after Cyclone Idai made landfall in Sofala province, central Mozambique. Photograph: Care/EPA

“Sometimes we can only save two out of five, sometimes we rather drop food and go to someone else who’s in bigger danger,” Ian Scher from Rescue SA told AFP. “We just save what we can save and the others will perish.”

A pilot doing a survey for Mission Aviation Fellowship flew over the basin of Buzi river in Mozambique, which had burst its banks, and was able to provide the first information on the area.

“It was a heartbreaking flight today as we flew over many miles of flooded land in the Buzi River basin. We saw many people stranded on roof tops surrounded by kilometres of water. It was difficult to comprehend and think about that probably many have perished,” Rick Emenaker told the South African site Lowvelder.

With the first flight leaving on Sunday and one mobile network, Movitel, just restored, more details are beginning to emerge of what happened in Beira when the cyclone hit.

A satellite image of Cyclone Idai tracked over Mozambique on 15 March
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 A satellite image of Cyclone Idai tracked over Mozambique on 15 March. Photograph: Meteosat-11/EUMETSAT

“It is a total mess here. Please pray for the thousands and thousands who have lost their homes,” said Jill Lovell, an Australian who runs a mission school in Beira, in an emailed message. “People are in trees and on rooftops. Emergency relief crews are slowly coming in. Rains continue to make it all even harder. So many lives lost and homes destroyed.”

The Red Cross managed to get one truck containing chlorine tablets and 1,500 tarpaulins and tools to make shelters into Beira before it was cut off; another was diverted to Manica, and it is trying to bring in more supplies from the island of Réunion by boat. The World Food Programme managed to get food supplies in and is doing airdrops to stranded people.

 Aerial footage shows Cyclone Idai devastation in Mozambique – video report

“Where there was land, there’s now sea. The city itself is completely cut off. It’s really an island now in the ocean,” said Matthew Cochrane of the Red Cross, adding that an emergency appeal will be launched to raise an initial 10m Swiss francs to provide mostly shelter and clean water.

Health is a major worry and the risk of outbreaks of cholera and typhoid is high, especially as there are reports that water pipelines to the city have been cut.

Mark Ellul, a British doctor who was in Beira when the cyclone hit, said conditions at the central hospital, next to the sea in the middle of the city, had already been bad and it had been operating at full capacity when the storm hit. He heard that patients had been in the wards when Idai struck, ripping off part of the roof and destroying what windows were left.

“The ones that could walk tried to get out of there and get into the corridors and the ones who couldn’t walk just kind of held on to their beds,” he said.

Ellul pulled out the plumbing and barricaded himself under the sink in his hotel room during the cyclone, and when he came out, saw debris thrown everywhere, trees ripped up and roofs thrown off, electricity poles pushed over the roads, and met many people who said they had seen bodies in the street or had had neighbours killed.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2019/03/archive-zip/giv-390200Q9lDG4cUv4/

Residents of Beira also said there were reports of dams 70km from the city bursting: possibly Chicamba dam above Chimoio, north-west of Beira, or perhaps the Mavuzi dam, a smaller reservoir. Other dams are thought to be full to the brim, and will have to open their floodgates soon. The colossal Kariba and Cahora Bassa dams on the Zambezi river are not currently thought to be under threat, but both were built about 50 years ago and the Kariba needs urgent maintenance.

The Red Cross has started a list of people registered as alive, or missing, which family members can search or add to.

NPR interview: Earthshattering: Violent SuperNovas…and other hazards to our live in our universe

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Earth-Shattering: Violent Supernovas, Galactic Explosions, Biological Mayhem, Nuclear Meltdowns, And Other Hazards to Life in Our Universe. Bob Berman.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Global warming, polar ice caps melting, general doom and gloom – well, how’s this for a cheery book title? “Earth-Shattering: Violent Supernovas, Galactic Explosions, Biological Mayhem, Nuclear Meltdowns, And Other Hazards To Life In Our Universe.” Author Bob Berman joins us now from the studios of WAMC in Albany, N.Y.

Welcome to the program.

BOB BERMAN: Well, thank you, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what prompted you to write a book full of so many cataclysms?

BERMAN: Well, I keep hearing – when I’m doing lectures or when I was running this community observatory, people would always be worried about things colliding with Earth. And some of them were imaginary. Like, there’s this imaginary planet Nibiru that supposedly is on a collision course. And so I realized that there’s a lot of juice and interest in it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There is – and a lot of movies about it, too. I mean, I’m a personal fan of the sort of end-of-the-world scenario movies. So let’s go through a few disastrous greatest hits. There’s the Big Bang, of course. But much more recently, many more stars have gone supernova, including one that was visible by humans in the 11th century. Tell us about that.

BERMAN: Yeah. And that was big because not only did nobody see it coming, but it was the brightest light in the sky that’s ever been seen in terms of a point source – something that looked like a star. It easily cast shadows. It was much brighter than Venus looks. Now we know it’s a supernova. But they didn’t even have that word back then.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What did they think it was?

BERMAN: It was not good. That’s for sure.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: A bad omen.

BERMAN: Yes. Changes in the sky were always bad things. And usually, the worst they had to put up with were comets every 15 to 20 years. But this was off the charts entirely.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But supernovas actually do – you write – some good for humans.

BERMAN: Oh, yeah. They end up being good. In the short term, they completely incinerate their solar system – so part of the good news, bad news thing. But they do create every element that’s heavier than iron. So the iodine, for example, in our thyroid glands in our necks right now could only have come from a supernova.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Amazing. What was the most surprising thing while you were looking into this? What was the thing that you thought, wow, I had no idea that this was something that was so devastating to humanity?

BERMAN: Maybe it was the 1918 Spanish Flu because – concerning that was an H1N1 ordinary-type flu not too different from the kind that goes around in our own lifetimes – you wouldn’t think that the flu could ever suddenly get so virulent that it would destroy one or two percent of the Earth’s population. So that was fascinating to me.

Another was something that was very reassuring. I found that in really studying the nuclear power plant accidents that make up a few of our chapters, things were not as bad as they were made out to be. For example, in the Fukushima what we call disaster, the real disaster was in the tsunami – the tidal wave that came earlier that day from the greatest earthquake that has ever hit Japan. That’s what produced all the loss of lives.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So why do you think so many of us are interested in the end of days?

BERMAN: My own guess is that even though we’re all more likely to be done in by our own stupidity, by smoking when we know we shouldn’t or not watching our cholesterol or things like that, I think people naturally want to tie their lives in with a bigger picture and that the idea of when they leave the Earth, the Earth goes as well because, you know, loss of life is a disaster.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It’s our vanity.

BERMAN: It’s – well, I don’t know if it’s so much vanity as much as trying to find an epic meaning to things.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what’s the most likely thing to wipe us out?

BERMAN: Well, the most likely thing is the thing that we don’t have to think about because it’ll happen in 1.1 billion years. And that’s the fact that the sun gets 10 percent hotter every billion years. The Earth will equalize at about 710 degrees, which will boil off all the oceans. And Earth will be uninhabitable. That’s just in 1.1 billion years. And there’s no getting away from that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Bob Berman – his book is called “Earth-Shattering: Violent Supernovas, Galactic Explosions, Biological Mayhem, Nuclear Meltdowns, And Other Hazards To Life In Our Universe.” Thank you so much. And good luck to us all.

BERMAN: Thank you, Lulu.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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Quartz: The difference between a snafu, a shitshow, and a clusterfuck

Screenshot 2019-02-11 at 16.02.27

By Corinne Purtill

link to article also here.

Let’s say the situation at work is not good. The project (or product, or re-org, or whatever) has launched, and the best you can say is that things aren’t going as planned. At all. It’s a disaster, though the best word for it is the one you drop over drinks with your team and when venting at home: it’s a clusterfuck.

Clusterfucks hold a special place in public life, one distinct from the complications, crises, and catastrophes that mar our personal and professional existences. The F-Word, former Oxford English Dictionary editor Jesse Sheidlower’s comprehensive history of the term, defines a clusterfuck as “a bungled or confused undertaking or situation.” Stanford business professor Bob Sutton goes further, describing clusterfucks as “those debacles and disasters caused by a deadly brew of illusion, impatience, and incompetence that afflicts too many decision-makers, especially those in powerful, confident, and prestigious groups.”

The term dates at least as far back as the Vietnam War, as military slang for doomed decisions resulting from the toxic combination of too many high-ranking officers and too little on-the-ground information. (The “cluster” part of the word allegedly refers to officers’ oak leaf cluster insignia.)

“I have a weird obsession with clusterfucks,” Sutton tells Quartz At Work. He and Stanford Graduate School of Business colleague Huggy Rao took on the topic directly in their 2014 book Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less, though publishers demanded that the softer substitute “clusterfug” appear in the final text. (This was not Sutton’s choice: His other books include The No Asshole Rule and The Asshole Survival Guide.)

To appreciate what a clusterfuck is—and to understand how to avoid one—it is first helpful to clarify some of the things a clusterfuck is not:

A fuck-up. “A fuck-up is just something all of us do every day,” Sutton says. “I broke the egg I made for breakfast this morning. That was kind of a fuck-up.” Whereas clusterfucks are perfectly preventable, fuck-ups are an unavoidable feature of the human condition.

A SNAFU. While sometimes used as a synonym for minor malfunctions and hiccups, this slang military acronym—“Situation Normal, All Fucked Up”—actually refers to the functionally messy state that describes many otherwise healthy companies (and many of our personal lives). A SNAFU work environment is usually manageable; one that is FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Repair, another military legacy) probably isn’t. “When my students with little experience go to work at a famous company and it isn’t quite as they dreamed, I do ask them if it is FUBAR or SNAFU, and tell them SNAFU will describe most places they work,” Sutton said.

 A shitshow. No less an authority than the Oxford English Dictionary describes a shitshow as a “situation or state of affairs characterized by chaos, confusion, or incompetence.” A clusterfuck may come to possess all those characteristics, but is more properly identified by the decisions that produced it than its outcome.

The three main contributors to clusterfucks

Sutton and Rao analyzed countless cases of scaling and expansion, both successful ones and those that ended in disaster. In reviewing the most spectacular failures, they identified three key factors that resulted in the kind of expensive, embarrassing, late-stage collapse that is the hallmark of a clusterfuck. They were:

Illusion. A clusterfuck starts with the decision maker’s belief that a goal is much easier to attain than it actually is. The expectation that two car companies with different languages and different cultures would merge together flawlessly, as the architects of the doomed Daimler-Chrysler merger apparently believed? Clusterfuck. The Bush Administration’s estimate that the invasion and reconstruction of Iraq would take no more than a few months and $60 billion? A clusterfuck prelude of tragic proportions.

Impatience. A misguided idea alone does not produce a clusterfuck. The idea also needs a champion determined to shove it along, usually over the objections of more-knowledgeable underlings. Sergey Brin’s reported insistence (paywall) on introducing Google Glass to the public against its engineers’ wishes turned a potentially groundbreaking piece of technology into a stupid-looking joke.

Incompetence. When errors of information and timing meet blatantly stupid decisions by people who should know better, disaster tends to ensue. Bear Stearns wasn’t the sole cause of the global financial crisis, of course, but former CEO Jimmy Cayne’s decision to spend 10 days of the 2007 subprime mortgage loan meltdown playing at a bridge tournament without phone or email access contributed to the firm’s collapse—and to the worldwide disaster that followed.

All three of these failings share a common root: people in power who don’t (or won’t) acknowledge the realities of their environment, and who don’t push themselves to confront what they don’t know. Nobody likes to spoil the heady euphoria of an exciting new project by discussing the possibility of failure. The problem is, if potentially bad outcomes aren’t addressed pre-launch, they are more likely to surface afterward, when the reckoning is public and expensive.

The antidote to clusterfuckery, Sutton argues, is a willingness to confront the possibility of failure and disappointment built into every new venture, and to plan accordingly.

He cites a favored decision-making tactic of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman (who in turn credits it to psychologist Gary Klein). Before a big decision, teams should undertake what Kahneman calls a “premortem.” Split the group in two. One is assigned to imagine a future in which the project is an unmitigated success. The other is to envision its worst-case scenario. Each group then writes a detailed story of the project’s success or failure, outlining the steps and decisions that led to each outcome. Imagining failure and thinking backwards to its causes helps groups identify the strengths and weaknesses of their current plans, and adjust accordingly.

“People make better decisions when they look into the future and they imagine that they already failed, and they tell a story about what happened,” Sutton says. With better planning, it won’t be a story that has to be bleeped out.

 

 

BBC: ‘Welcome to my high-fashion, trash shopping mall’– its in Sweden!

Screenshot 2019-02-01 at 17.53.53

Anna Bergstrom

Anna Bergstrom had a dilemma. She loved the glitzy world of high fashion, but had also come to feel that it was unsustainable and bad for the planet. She’s now found peace of mind by running a stylish shopping mall in Sweden, where everything is second-hand.

“Do you notice the smell?” Anna Bergstrom says, as she surveys her mall from the mezzanine level. “It smells nice here, doesn’t it?”

It’s very important to Anna that this place is enticing, because she feels it is making a statement. Everything for sale here, in 14 specialist shops covering everything from clothes to DIY tools, is recycled.

She is usually turned off by the smell of second-hand stores, she explains, even though she adores vintage fashion.

For most people flea-markets and charity shops carry a stigma, she thinks – a mark left by countless bad experiences. Too often they are worthy but depressing, Anna says. Her mission is to bring second-hand shopping into the mainstream.

ReTuna

The mall itself is spacious and appealing, almost Ikea-like. An art installation – a tree and circular bench all fashioned from recycled materials – greets customers at the entrance.

There is even a coffee shop and gift-wrapping service.

The mall is called ReTuna. “Tuna” because that’s the nickname for the city where it is based – Eskilstuna, an hour’s train journey west of Stockholm – and “Re” because the goods on sale have been recycled or repurposed.

It was set up by Eskilstuna’s local government in 2015, in a warehouse which used to house trucks for a logistics company.

ReTuna

The shops inside it are run as businesses rather than charities, and each pays a combined charge of rent and business rates.

Anna Bergstrom’s business mantra which she repeats to each shopkeeper is, “Do it like Hugo Boss.” She wants the mall to stand toe-to-toe with a regular, commercial, glitzy mall.

EcoFlor

There is a sports shop stuffed with skis and (slightly scuffed) sledges, a kids’ shop bursting with toys (a little faded), a bookshop, a DIY store, a homeware specialist, even a pet accessory shop.

As well as “pre-loved” items for sale, there are also many that have been upcycled. These are unwanted items that have been taken apart and turned into new objects.

In a store that specialises in handmade household ornaments, Bergstrom is keen to show off a nice example of this, from one of her star tenants.

Shopkeeper Maria Larsson proudly shows off her best-selling product – a container that resembles the body of a pine cone. Each segment of its skin has been cut from leather jackets – upcycling in action.

Holder

However, Maria confesses to being a little worried. She is struggling to keep up with customer demand for this design because she can’t get enough jackets.

This makes more sense once you understand ReTuna’s location.

It’s right next to Eskilstuna’s recycling centre, which is also run by the municipality.

A steady stream of cars passes through it, bringing cardboard, mattresses and other typical unwanted household items.

But many of these cars go past the metal skips and then head down a ramp to a road that runs right next to the mall.

Here locals drop off their unwanted household things if there is a possibility they can be resold or upcycled.

Drop off

In a vast area beneath the mall, a small army of workers in fluorescent jackets sifts through the donations, carrying them to designated zones.

Every day the shopkeepers can come down and inspect what has arrived: kids’ toys, household appliances, gardening equipment… perhaps even a leather jacket. This is what they call their “treasure”, says Anna. Their business rent gives them privileged access to it.

Shopkeepers sometimes hang around the basement to look at what is coming in to their zones. Anna calls these people “peekers” and gives them a telling-off, because they are meant to wait for set times to inspect their assigned stock.

Basement

Many of the shopkeepers will come to informal arrangements with one another. So if the clothes shop knows that Larsson wants leather jackets for upcycling, they will pass on any that are too damaged to be re-sold.

Any items that are unwanted by all the shopkeepers go to the recycling centre next door.

“You see,” says Anna, “this is why I sometimes joke that this is the ‘high fashion trash shopping mall’.”

She thinks her passion for ethical, sustainable shopping goes back to her upbringing with her hippie parents.

She was born in a commune, though her family moved out to the countryside to pursue a simple life when she was three years old.

Anna, with her parents
Presentational white space

Her parents rejected consumerism in all its forms and tried to protect her from it.

She wasn’t allowed Barbie dolls or any toys at all at Christmas, she recalls.

But as she grew up she reacted against this.

“Everyone has to be their own punk revolution,” she says cryptically.

Anna Bergstrom
Presentational white space

In fact she ended up forging a career in the temples of modern consumerism: shopping centres. She began by setting up retail shops, then ran two commercial malls in the Stockholm area.

It was only when she had children – four daughters – that she began to have doubts. She took about a year’s maternity leave for each child, which gave her time to reflect. Perhaps maternal instinct revived in her some of the values instilled by her parents, she thinks.

As her daughters grew, so too did her doubts about the world she’d brought them into, and its throwaway culture.

She watched them become seduced, as teenagers, by a modern kind of consumerism – their lives became shaped by big brands, promoted by influencers on social media, says Anna. They became governed by whatever the Kardashians were doing on reality TV or Instagram, she says in a tone of dismay – before breaking into a smile.

In desperation she tried cutting her daughters’ pocket money so they couldn’t buy the latest clothes, but offered to pay for second-hand ones instead – with limited success.

She realised she had to do something more, so the opportunity for a job at the ReTuna mall three years ago, as its first manager, came at the perfect time for her.


Find out more

Anna Bergstrom

“I realised that I needed to become a role model for my children, doing something good for the planet,” says Anna.

She calls the mall “my baby”, and wants it to be a place her teenage children are proud to visit.

And they do visit. Though she hasn’t persuaded them to tag it as a location on an Instagram post yet – she’s working on that.

Anna’s bigger hope is that what works for her family can work for Swedish society as a whole.

Swedes love the concept of living sustainably and doing things for the planet, but there is a “gap” when it comes to action, she says.

Anna thinks her mall can bridge this gap.

And there is evidence this may be happening. Sales are slowly rising year-on-year. Since opening, the mall has sold £2.8m worth of products and last year it attracted 700 visitors per day.

“If you can have a trendy, fashionable way to do sustainable living,” says Anna, “I think mainstream customers can follow that – in high heels.”

You can follow writer Dougal Shaw on Twitter: @dougalshawbbc

 

at the bottom of the article you can find a short film on the shopping mall for more information.

Guardian: Global warming of oceans equivalent to an atomic bomb per second

screenshot 2019-01-08 at 11.27.21Still from Dr. Strangelove, Kubrick, 1964

Global warming has heated the oceans by the equivalent of one atomic bomb explosion per second for the past 150 years, according to analysis of new research.

More than 90% of the heat trapped by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed by the seas, with just a few per cent heating the air, land and ice caps respectively. The vast amount of energy being added to the oceans drives sea-level rise and enables hurricanes and typhoons to become more intense.

Global warming has heated the oceans by the equivalent of one atomic bomb explosion per second for the past 150 years, according to analysis of new research.

More than 90% of the heat trapped by humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions has been absorbed by the seas, with just a few per cent heating the air, land and ice caps respectively. The vast amount of energy being added to the oceans drives sea-level rise and enables hurricanes and typhoons to become more intense.

for the full article: Global warming of oceans equivalent to an atomic bomb per second

Guardian: ‘It’s warm water now’: climate change strands sea turtles on Cape Cod shores

Screenshot 2018-12-26 at 09.17.09

The Gulf of Maine’s rapidly warming waters draws in larger numbers of Kemp’s ridley turtles, enticing them to stay longer

Staff at the Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys work to intubate a cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley turtle flown in from Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
 Staff at the Turtle hospital in the Florida Keys work to intubate a cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley turtle flown in from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

At the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in a repurposed shipyard building south of Boston, the casualties of climate change swim in tanks as they recover after being pulled stunned from the beach.

Every year, as autumn turns to winter and ocean temperatures off Massachusetts drop below 10C (50F), dead, dying and stricken sea turtles wash up on the shores of Cape Cod as those shelled reptiles that have failed to migrate south start to die in the chilly waters.

In the 1980s, the number of sea turtles stranded on the shores of Cape Cod every year averaged in the dozens. That average went up through the 1990s and 2000s, but over the past decade it has risen dramatically: 2014 saw more than 1,200 turtles make landfall. This year, more than 790 sea turtles have washed up on Cape Cod so far. Some 720 of those are Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, a critically endangered species that nests on the shores of the much warmer Gulf of Mexico.

Staff members at the Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys tend to some of a group of 32 cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley sea turtles rescued off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. They will be released in the warmer waters off Florida once they are healthy.
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 Staff members at the Turtle hospital in the Florida Keys tend to some of a group of 32 cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley sea turtles rescued off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. They will be released in the warmer waters off Florida once they are healthy. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

It is an event unmatched in magnitude anywhere else in the world.

Those who study sea turtles say part of the reason that annual strandings are up in Massachusetts is that efforts to conserve and boost Kemp’s ridley populations have been successful. But the other part is that the Gulf of Maine is rapidly warming in the face of climate change and proving to be a more hospitable environment for turtles than it used to be, drawing them in larger numbers and resulting in them staying longer into the year.

“It’s warm water now,” said Bob Prescott, the director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary on Cape Cod.

The Mass Audubon tracks turtle strandings and is on the frontline of turtle rescue. “What we don’t think they understand is the change in the seasons. These are tropical and sub-tropical turtles and I don’t think they understand the change in season, cold fronts and the water getting colder and colder,” Prescott said.

The Gulf of Maine, which the Cape Cod peninsula juts into like a flexing arm, is warming faster than 99% of the world’s waters. This year marked the gulf’s third-warmest year on record. The warming is responsible for a boom in the lobster industry in Maine and has invited new fish species, such as the black sea bass, to the area. But for turtles, it has proved dangerous.

“It’s actually a good foraging habitat for them, really,” said Kate Sampson, the sea turtle stranding and disentanglement coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office in Gloucester, Massachusetts. “It’s just unfortunate that it brings them right into this area that has a trap.”

That trap is Cape Cod, which many sea turtles counterintuitively have to swim north and then east to get around in order to flee to warmer waters when winter approaches.

“Cape Cod Bay we often call a deadly bucket,” said Tony LaCasse, the New England Aquarium’s spokesperson. As turtles swim north, they run into colder water “and their instinct tells them something is wrong … their instinct tells them to retreat back into the shallow warmer water of the bay and wait it out. But the problem is it’s the end of the season and there’s no way to get out”.

Kemp’s ridley turtles begin their lives on beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. The few that survive the mad dash from their eggs to the water and the predators of the shallows settle down for the first few years of their lives in sargassum, floating forests of seaweed that offer safety to the tiny adolescent turtles. The Gulf Stream carries sargassum north and it is believed that the turtles washing up on Massachusetts’ coast – which are largely between two and four years old according to Sampson – are exploring a coastal habitat for the first time.

Kara Dodge, a research scientist who focuses on sea turtles at Boston’s New England Aquarium, said beyond the Gulf of Maine’s warming, changes to ocean circulation patterns due to climate change could also affect the magnitude of stranding events by bringing more young sea turtles up from the Gulf of Mexico into the western Atlantic.

If climate change continues as expected, she said, “the prediction is that we will continue to see these high-stranding events, hundreds of animals, for the foreseeable future”.

Cold-stunning events sometimes affect sea turtles elsewhere, such as along the Gulf coast off Florida and Texas, but they are generally short-lived, the result of a sudden cold snap. The challenge in Massachusetts, researchers say, is that turtles washing up on shore have largely been exposed to long-term hypothermia.

The large-scale turtle stranding events that Massachusetts has seen in recent years have resulted in the rise of a large, complex network of rescuers working to save as many turtles as possible.

Employees of the Massachusetts Audubon Society and an army of volunteers patrol Cape Cod’s northern beaches in November and December looking for stranded turtles. Cold-stunned turtles recovered on Cape Cod are then driven to the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, near Boston, where hypothermic, emaciated and often sick turtles are rewarmed, treated and rehabilitated. The process usually takes months.

One of a group of 32 cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley sea turtles rescued between late November and early December off Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
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 One of a group of 32 cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley sea turtles rescued between late November and early December off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Photograph: Handout/Reuters

The sea turtle hospital in Quincy has treated more than 400 turtles so far this year. However, it has struggled to keep up with the sharp rise in strandings and moves stabilised turtles to treatment facilities elsewhere in the country when it reaches capacity.

Edward Filangeri is a volunteer pilot who helps the organisation Turtles Fly Too to move turtles from Massachusetts to other facilities. Every year since 2014, Filangeri has flown his single-engine aircraft up from New York’s Long Island, where he lives, to Massachusetts to pick up turtles packed in banana boxes and ferry them south. By flying during November and December he has to contend with winter weather while also working to keep the temperature in his small aircraft turtle-friendly.

“When we get the temperature just right they want to start swimming and I know we’re doing a good job when I hear a lot of cardboard rubbing in the back of the plane,” he said.

Those working to save the turtles say every bit of help they can give is worth it.

“Personally I spend a lot of my time doing this and the network spends a lot of their time doing this because we all believe that this does make a difference,” said Sampson, the Noaa turtle stranding and disentanglement coordinator. “These are an endangered species, we have to do all we can to help recover their population.”

BBC: Warning against ‘volcano tourism’ risks

Screenshot 2018-12-20 at 22.43.00

Thrill-seeking tourists are putting themselves in danger and hampering emergency services by heading towards volcanoes when they erupt.

A report from the Royal Geographical Society warns of the growing risks caused by “volcano tourism”.

Emergency authorities in countries such as Iceland now have to contend with the arrival of tourists who rush there to get close to an exploding volcano.

The study says such tourists fail to understand the seriousness of the risk.

The study, published by the Royal Geographical Society and written by University of Cambridge geographer Amy Donovan, warns that such visitors can create dangerous problems for already stretched rescue services.

‘Volcanophiles’

The phenomenon of “volcano tourism” has seen thousands of people trying to get close to the site of erupting volcanoes for the physical experience of seeing, hearing and feeling the heat of such a natural spectacle.

Dr Donovan says that such people are fascinated by the elemental power of volcanoes and are attracted by such an intense experience.

VolcanoImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionHow close is too close for tourists chasing volcanoes?

“You can breathe the gas, hear the sounds the earth is making. They want to get closer to feel the power of the earth,” she says.

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At the extreme end, she says there are so-called “volcanophiles” who chase exploding volcanoes around the world.

She says the increase in volcano tourism could be driven by the rise of mobile phones, where people want to be able to record themselves in such dramatic settings.

But they also fail to realise the great danger they could face.

There are injuries from people being hit by chunks of rock or lava bombs. Or else people might get close to a “fire fountain” and not realise there could be poisonous gases.

Tourists might not understand how quickly eruptions could change or that other threats such as flooding could emerge.

Media captionEven experienced scientists and journalists can be caught out by the unpredictability of volcanoes – as a BBC crew experienced in March 2017

In such cases, the need to rescue tourists can put emergency services in danger and delay their safety plans.

An eruption in Iceland saw a group of tourists avoiding safety limits by hiring a helicopter to try to land at night near the volcano.

In 2010, there were two deaths among tourists in Iceland trying to cross a glacier to reach a volcano.

The study says that civil defence services can be left frustrated, as tourists push into areas from which they could not be easily evacuated.

While the tourist industry might want to encourage such travel, Dr Donovan says it can become a big challenge for authorities in an emergency.

“People break safety regulations. You can’t police the site of a volcano at night.

“Many active volcanic countries face the dilemma of wanting tourists, but also wanting to keep people safe, which creates a difficult conundrum,” said Dr Donovan.

NYTimes Magazine: The Insect Apocalypse Is Here

Screenshot 2018-12-04 at 08.59.41By Brooke Jarvis

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Sune Boye Riis was on a bike ride with his youngest son, enjoying the sun slanting over the fields and woodlands near their home north of Copenhagen, when it suddenly occurred to him that something about the experience was amiss. Specifically, something was missing.

It was summer. He was out in the country, moving fast. But strangely, he wasn’t eating any bugs.

For a moment, Riis was transported to his childhood on the Danish island of Lolland, in the Baltic Sea. Back then, summer bike rides meant closing his mouth to cruise through thick clouds of insects, but inevitably he swallowed some anyway. When his parents took him driving, he remembered, the car’s windshield was frequently so smeared with insect carcasses that you almost couldn’t see through it. But all that seemed distant now. He couldn’t recall the last time he needed to wash bugs from his windshield; he even wondered, vaguely, whether car manufacturers had invented some fancy new coating to keep off insects. But this absence, he now realized with some alarm, seemed to be all around him. Where had all those insects gone? And when? And why hadn’t he noticed?

Riis watched his son, flying through the beautiful day, not eating bugs, and was struck by the melancholy thought that his son’s childhood would lack this particular bug-eating experience of his own. It was, he granted, an odd thing to feel nostalgic about. But he couldn’t shake a feeling of loss. “I guess it’s pretty human to think that everything was better when you were a kid,” he said. “Maybe I didn’t like it when I was on my bike and I ate all the bugs, but looking back on it, I think it’s something everybody should experience.”

I met Riis, a lanky high school science and math teacher, on a hot day in June. He was anxious about not having yet written his address for the school’s graduation ceremony that evening, but first, he had a job to do. From his garage, he retrieved a large insect net, drove to a nearby intersection and stopped to strap the net to the car’s roof. Made of white mesh, the net ran the length of his car and was held up by a tent pole at the front, tapering to a small, removable bag in back. Drivers whizzing past twisted their heads to stare. Riis eyed his parking spot nervously as he adjusted the straps of the contraption. “This is not 100 percent legal,” he said, “but I guess, for the sake of science.”

 

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