Climate Change May Fuel Future Travel Options

climate changeClimate change is a topic that many of us think is something that will affect future generations, perhaps hundreds of years from now. But what if we look at it from a different viewpoint?

What if we could travel back in time 17 million years to when the Grand Canyon was just forming? Would we have believed that the national monument, now nearly a mile deep in places, would some day be a major tourist attraction? Probably not. But time and the forces of nature that come with it, along with the effect of humans on the planet, have a way of changing what we see – sometimes dramatically.

We don’t have to go back millions of years to see such changes either. A recent study indicates that the Arctic will become drastically greener in just a matter of decades. “So what?” one might say. “Who goes there anyway?” Significant to this study on climate change is that it was done in the Arctic where not much can grow or live due to the harsh environment. To see change of any kind is unusual.

The research team included scientists from AT&T Labs-Research, Woods Hole Research Center, Colgate University, Cornell University and the University of York. These are organizations that have a very global view on things that will affect our future.

My father-in-law worked for AT&T during the early days of microwave communications and sometimes told a story of how researchers in his lab used the then-new technology to cook hot dogs. That technology would later also be used for the microwave ovens we all know so well. This story has much of the same, believable flavor.”Such widespread redistribution of Arctic vegetation would have impacts that reverberate through the global ecosystem,” said Richard Pearson of the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation in an RDMag article.

climate changeIt will begin with something as simple as some species of birds being unable to seasonally migrate to particular polar habitats, such as open space for ground-nesting, suggests the study. But things turn worse very quickly as the sun’s radiation, normally reflected back into space when it hits snow, will have less of it to hit and will stick around, accelerating global warming.

Just one commonly accepted effect of global warming is flooding in some coastal areas and more powerful storms.

To the world of travel, that means popular beach destinations could be under water in a few hundred years. More immediate, some of today’s iconic travel destinations, already struggling with sea level issues like Venice, Italy, or the Netherlands, could be doomed much quicker.

Right now, for example, Venice, Italy, is being protected against rising tides in the Adriatic Sea by rows of mobile gates, intended to isolate the Venetian Lagoon when the tide rises above a certain level. The Netherlands, a geographically low-lying country, has a great amount of its land and people at or below sea level and will also be affected by rising ocean levels.

climate changeThis new study, while not talked about much in the press, is a clear indicator of what the future holds and good food for thought.

Of even more immediate concern, and visually a clear indicator of a problem we can do something about, is today’s reality of the “floating island of plastic” in the Pacific Ocean.

Brought to the area by ocean currents that move around the planet like a slow-motion whirlpool, opposing the wind and earth’s rotational forces, tens of thousands of pounds of garbage wash ashore here every year.

“These ecosystems are very connected. If the oceans are in trouble, we humans are in trouble. We don’t realize that we are threatening our own existence,” says Dr. Gregor Hodgson, founder and executive director of Reef Check Organization in this video.



[Image credit – Flickr user Kris Krug]

Revolutionary War battlefield of Saratoga to be excavated

Revolutionary War, Saratoga
One of the most important battlefields of the Revolutionary War is going to be excavated by archaeologists ahead of an EPA cleanup.

Back in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, General Electric dumped polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River near Saratoga, New York. The dumping was banned in 1977 due to risks to public health, and the EPA has ordered GE to dredge up the affected silt from the river. Dredging destroys archaeological sites, though, and has already damaged Fort Edward, a British fort in the area dating to the mid 18th century. Archaeologists are working to excavate the stretch of river near Saratoga before the dredgers arrive.

Saratoga was on the frontier for much of the 18th century and played a large part in the French and Indian Wars (1755-1763) and the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). During the two battles of Saratoga in September and October of 1777, the American army stopped the British advance down the Hudson River Valley, then surrounded them and forced them to surrender. It was a major victory that led to the French coming into the war on the American side. French help was one of the deciding factors in an ultimate American victory, and the creation of the United States.

The Saratoga National Historical Park 9 miles south of Saratoga, New York, includes the battlefield, a visitor center, the restored country house of American General Philip Schuyler, a monument, and Victory Woods where the British surrendered on October 17, 1777.

Archaeologists hope to find artifacts from both wars and are currently looking for a British army camp.

[Image courtesy U.S. government]

New EPA fuel rules could drive cruise ships out of Alaska again

New EPA fuel rules could drive cruise ships out of Alaska againThey went away and then they came back when Alaska government officials raised then lowered their cost of doing business in Alaskan waters. Looking ahead, upcoming Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards may send cruise lines running once again.

It all has to do with regulations in the works that enforce “dramatically tougher pollution limits as early as January 2014” the EPA says of Ocean Vessels and Large ships.

“The tougher standards could add $50 million to $150 million in annual costs for Alaska routes by 2015, when the pollution clampdown gets even tougher” Andy Nelson, vice president of tour operations for Royal Celebrity Tours told the Puget Sound Business Journal.

It’s a topic cruise lines would rather avoid but have taken steps to comply and even go beyond existing regulations.After turning a cold shoulder to an Alaska that seemed determined to tax cruise ships out of the market, cruise lines returned this year to the land of the midnight sun with more ships, sailings and capacity.

“We are particularly appreciative of the efforts of Governor Sean Parnell and the Alaska state legislature that have resulted in meaningful progress toward resolving the challenges facing Alaska’s recovery as a cruise destination,” said Princess Cruises President and CEO Alan Bucklew.

Cruise lines often come under heavy criticism for environmental impact but have been making efforts to be good global citizens. “Plugging in” to shoreside power is a growing way ship emissions are being controlled.

Yes, new EPA fuel rules could drive cruise ships out of Alaska again. But is that what Alaska wants? Cruise lines say no; it’s big business to them and they are trying to comply with regulations. Tourists say no, they want to go there. Alaska residents say no, tourism runs in the hundreds of $ millions.

Bombs under cruise terminal to be removed

Bombs under cruise terminalThe US Army Corps of Engineers says old Navy munitions found under Seattle’s cruise ship terminal are not a major threat and cleanup is underway. Still, that the old shells and weapons were initially uncovered by cruise ship thrusters and that has experts talking.

“Wherever munitions have been handled in the past, they have rolled off the pier, they’ve been dropped out of cargo net. It’s perfectly normal, it’s expected. What is unexpected is that there is a cruise ship terminal built directly above where some of these munitions are.” Jim Barton, an expert in underwater munitions, told Seattle’s King5.com back in October.

Divers started spotting the munitions in April as part of routine security sweeps required by the Coast Guard. Apparently the bombs were dropped in the water between the 1930s and 1970 when the U.S. Navy used the the facility. Initially it was empty shell casings found by divers but later searches revealed live ammunition capable of being exploded under where cruise ships travel.

“These are munitions, designed to kill people. Barton said adding “They’re pretty safe to be around unless you disturb them”

When the munitions were first discovered, Seattle’s cruise ship season was still in operation. Records indicate that at least two times in September, live ammunition was brought to the surface with cruise ships nearby.

This week the Corps of Engineers announced that it is leading a $10 million cleanup project with the Port of Seattle, U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency. Check this initial report about it all below:


Flickr photo iwona_kellie

Historic town fights federal government and lead poisoning

You may never have heard of Caledonia, Missouri, but it’s one of the most historic spots in the state. While the town has fewer than two hundred residents, its tiny downtown is filled with old homes and shops. It boasts 33 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places and a steady stream of visitors who take up the town’s invitation to “step back in time”.

Sadly, that all might be in danger. The Environmental Protection Agency is planning to designate 175 square miles of Washington County as a Superfund Site in order to clean up dangerously high lead levels in the soil and ground water. The little town of Caledonia is right in the middle of this area and stands to lose a lot of business if it’s slapped with the label of being dangerous. People may not want to eat at the local diner or attend the annual Pumpkin Festival if they think they’re going to get lead poisoning.

Caledonia is in southwest Missouri in what used to be known as the “lead belt” thanks to its large lead mining operations from the 18th to late 20th century. Lead from the mines has made it into the soil and ground water across much of this region. There are already three Superfund Sites in Washington County that have dangerously high lead levels.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a gallery dedicated to Caledonia. The town is protesting the EPA’s move, but there seems little it can do about it.