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December 17, 2017

Azzo Rezori: Going on a cruise, and going on a ride

Of all the Sesame Street songs I’ve hummed and whistled to over the years, Going For A Ride is my favourite.

It runs over three verses.

A line in the first verse: “Gonna sit behind the wheel.”

In the second verse: “Gonna speed along the track.”

In the third: “Gonna sail the ocean blue.”

There’s already been a lot of ‘wheel’ and ‘track’ in my life, but not nearly enough ‘ocean blue’. So it’s always the third verse that comes to my mind when I think of the song.

Oh I’m going for a ride

I’m, gonna sail the ocean blue

And I’m gonna be a captain

And I’m gonna have a crew

Gonna sail the seven seas

On the water I will float

‘Cause I’m going for a ride

And I’m riding in a boat.

Well, that’s just what we did the week before last, my wife Brenda, our daughter Gaia, and I — we went on a cruise of the western Caribbean starting and ending in Miami. 

Our first cruise ever.

Getting away from our old selves

It was all about getting away, of course. Away from our same old selves. Away from the people around us who have their own vested interests in us being safely and predictably our same old selves. Away from this place which has played such a crucial role in shaping our same old selves.

Going on the cruise did the trick, even without any of us being the captain and having a crew.

There was no need to keep asking “How am I doing?” The question quickly became, “How’s the world doing?”, and the world replied, “Never mind how I’m doing. You wouldn’t understand anyway. I just am.”

That was good enough for me.  

There was the early morning stroll through the neighbourhoods around our Miami hotel with proof at every corner that things can be different, that the plants we can only cultivate inside up here do thrive outside down there, that coconuts do grow on trees, that Spanish-speaking people really are reclaiming Miami after they lost it to the United States two centuries ago.

Living in a floating village

There was the novelty of making a cabin our home for a week, of learning to find our way through the lanes and alleys of a floating village, of getting to know all kinds of people we’ll never see again. 

We were constantly torn between differences and similarities. No familiar whirling and screeching of sea birds greeted us as we docked at Cozumel Island off the Mexican coast, yet, like the wind-swept barrens of Newfoundland, the low-lying island was covered with its own kind of tuckamore, a tangle of dwarf palms and tropical trees. 

On the jungle trek to cave tubing in Belize we were shown a palm tree which carries small red berries that self-ignite after dropping to the ground and cause wild fires that regenerate the forests. There was also the killer tree which smothers other trees by wrapping itself around them.

The caves are mile-long tunnels with underground streams moving darkly past underground beaches, the walls and ceilings gnarled and twisted with formations that make you wonder how solid rock can flow. Next thing you find asking yourself what comes first in this crazy world, flow or pattern. And while you drift through another cave past another underground beach you realize there’s no either or, it’s all the same, flow and pattern are like energy and matter – two faces of the same thing.

While watching the sun set from our cruise ship balcony, we figured out how the ancients of Egypt and of the Americas came up with the same idea of building pyramids. 

No wonder they worshipped the sun

Was it the Egyptians who crossed the Atlantic and taught the Mayans, as some believe? Was it the Mayans who crossed first and taught the Egyptians, according to others?

It doesn’t have to be one or the other in this case either. Both the Egyptians and the Mayans were sun worshippers and would have noticed on their respective horizons how some sunsets send out shafts of rays that rise like pyramid-shaped altars over the sea and earth.      

In Roatan we spent the day on a small island set up as a sanctuary for rescued animals, while a reluctant jaguar gets dragged to the beach every day so tourists can have their picture taken with it in the water.

On the sandbar inside the barrier reef off Grand Cayman Island we swam with sting rays and weren’t sure who was mobbing whom, they us, or we them. 

The reef itself is slowly dying and looked through our snorkeling masks like a ruined city with tumbles upon tumbles of broken structures stacked on top of each other.

Nothing was obvious yet everything exotically self-explanatory. 

Amid all this diversity of being, our same old selves simply shrank away. And that was the whole point.

They came back though.

Not a single four-letter word of frustration passed my lips while we were on the cruise. I counted at least a dozen on my first day back to work.

So be it till the next ride.

Excerpt from:

Azzo Rezori: Going on a cruise, and going on a ride

Looking for something competitive to do in February (and get a weekend away)? Here’s a few ideas

Feeling the urge for a bit of competition in the coming month? We’ve got you covered with these few suggestions.

Here, we’ve gone for cycling in west Clare, running through mud in north Dublin or doing your first duathlon – and having an excuse to head down to Cork.

So dust off the lycra, pump up those tyres and fill up that tank.

Junior Tour Sportives

What? The Junior Tour is by far and away the best race on the Irish domestic racing calendar for 16-18 year olds. In its 35+ year history the event has attracted some of the best talent from around the world – many of whom have gone on to have long and distinguished careers.

However, the race has run into financial difficulty with the organisers announcing last year that this year’s event – and indeed the future of the race, is in jeopardy as main sponsors have withdrawn their support and there isn’t the requisite funds to run it.

Three cycling sportives have been organised this month in an effort to raise the money needed to keep the race alive.

There’s one in Dublin this Sunday (enter here) featuring 2 routes of 100 and 50 kilometres, respectively while on Saturday week there’s one in Derry, details to be found here and later in the month, there’s a third one in Whitegate, Co. Clare. Details for that can be ascertained here.

When? Sunday, 1 February (that’s tomorrow), Saturday, 8 February and Saturday, 28 February.

Where? Baldonnell, Co. Dublin and Bellaghy, Co. Derry and Whitegate, Co, Clare

DUATHLON

Fota Island Challenge Series Sprint Duathlon

What? A duathlon is a three-part race and this event consists of a 4.8 kilometre run followed by an 18 kilometre cycle and another 4.8 kilometre run to finish.

It’s only the second year of the event but such was the success of the inaugural race in 2014 that it’s now a part of the National Series. The standard will be a real mix, with the top competitors competing for points in respective age groups, and those just out for a bitta craic having the opportunity of a good workout in a stunning location.

Registration is open the day before from 7am to 9.45 am and again from 5pm to 7pm while you can also register on the day in the Recreational Building at Fota, in close proximity to the hotel.

As the event is Triathlon Ireland sanctioned, a race license is required and the fee per participant is €39 and €75 for relay teams. There will be three different categories on the day from individual to relay teams and minimum age is 16.

When? Saturday, 28 February

Where? Fota Island, Cobh, Co. Cork

ATHLETICS

Swords Cross County Race

What?  Ballyheary Park in Swords hosts the very attractive-looking North Country Farmers Cross Country race the weekend after next and anyone over the age of 18 can enter.

The event is part of the Business Houses Athletics Association (BHAA) but you don’t need to be a BHAA member to race, you don’t need to be an employee of any business and you don’t even have to be a member of a running club to compete.

However, to race on the day as a non-member will cost you €15, as opposed to €10 if you are a member.

The event format sees two races happening on the same course with the same start time of 11.30am. The park has two fields with a wide foot bridge connecting both. The small lap involves a loop of the start/finish area field and the longer lap takes in the second field.

The ladies race is two mile course which is one small lap and one large lap. The mens race is 5 miles which involves 3 and 3/4 large laps. It should be noted that ladies are welcome to run in the longer 5 mile race if they wish to do so.

When? Saturday, 7 Feb 2015 at 11:30am

Where? The race headquarters is in Fingallians GAA , Swords. If driving it is recommended to take the M1 Motorway using the Exit 4 – Lissenhall interchange.

Check out the BHAA website for more details.

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Looking for something competitive to do in February (and get a weekend away)? Here’s a few ideas

An Alaska village's existential dilemma

By Duff Wilson

SHISHMAREF, Alaska (Reuters) – The Chukchi Sea’s unrelenting waves were slowly ripping away the land and homes of the 600 or so residents of this Alaska Native village on a sinking barrier island. U.S. government reports determined that the community was “imminently threatened” with inundation and needed “immediate action” to move to safer ground on the mainland. Villagers voted 161-20 to relocate off the island. Shishmaref, the media proclaimed, would be the United States’ first climate refugees.

That was in 2002.

More than a decade later, the U.S. government has yet to come up with a new location. Shishmaref has stayed put, protected temporarily by a $19 million rock revetment that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished in 2009.

“You almost have to be half the way dead to get help,” said Clifford Weyiouanna, former chair of a relocation coalition.

If Alaska is a test, the U.S. is failing it. The nation lacks any designated agency to help communities relocate even if they are literally falling into the water. Shishmaref is one of three Alaska Native communities on an emergency relocation list put out by the Army Corps and the U.S. General Accounting Office, but none have been able to move.

David Williams, Army Corps project manager for Shishmaref, said the community can’t afford the local share of moving costs nor agree on where to relocate.

Alternative sites selected by federal, state and tribal officials rest on thawing permafrost. The land would slump and sink into a muddy mess unless there was sand or gravel added at great expense to stabilize it. Many residents feel safer where they are, behind the row of rocks the agency installed as a stopgap measure.

“I told them once we build the sea wall, everybody’s going to get comfortable and say we don’t need to relocate anymore,” said Tony Weyiouanna, Clifford’s cousin and president of the Shishmaref Native Corp. “But they don’t see the other problems. The sea level’s rising. It’s going to happen eventually.”

Ironically, the Iñupiats were forced to consolidate on the barrier island about 90 years ago because of federal rules requiring a centralized school. Alaska Natives spread along 100 miles of shoreline were gathered together on a barrier island.

Life here has never been easy. The Iñupiat rely on a subsistence economy, eking out a living on hunting, fishing, berry-picking and food stamps. Seal carcasses litter the town. Most homes have no running water.

The island, just a quarter-mile wide, has lost hundreds of feet of unprotected shore since the 1960s, including another 25 feet or so last year. Water creeps ever closer to the airstrip, the town’s only connection to the outside world. “We don’t have a plan if the airport were washed out,” former Mayor Stanley Tocktoo said in January at a congressional hearing on climate change.

Voting to relocate, without actually relocating, has made things only worse. Water, sewer and health systems have deteriorated; no one is willing to invest in a town that is always talking about relocating.

“The decision to move,” Tocktoo said, “has been very costly for us.”

(Edited by John Blanton)

See original article here:

An Alaska village's existential dilemma

An Alaska village's existential dilemma

By Duff Wilson

SHISHMAREF, Alaska (Reuters) – The Chukchi Sea’s unrelenting waves were slowly ripping away the land and homes of the 600 or so residents of this Alaska Native village on a sinking barrier island. U.S. government reports determined that the community was “imminently threatened” with inundation and needed “immediate action” to move to safer ground on the mainland. Villagers voted 161-20 to relocate off the island. Shishmaref, the media proclaimed, would be the United States’ first climate refugees.

That was in 2002.

More than a decade later, the U.S. government has yet to come up with a new location. Shishmaref has stayed put, protected temporarily by a $19 million rock revetment that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished in 2009.

“You almost have to be half the way dead to get help,” said Clifford Weyiouanna, former chair of a relocation coalition.

If Alaska is a test, the U.S. is failing it. The nation lacks any designated agency to help communities relocate even if they are literally falling into the water. Shishmaref is one of three Alaska Native communities on an emergency relocation list put out by the Army Corps and the U.S. General Accounting Office, but none have been able to move.

David Williams, Army Corps project manager for Shishmaref, said the community can’t afford the local share of moving costs nor agree on where to relocate.

Alternative sites selected by federal, state and tribal officials rest on thawing permafrost. The land would slump and sink into a muddy mess unless there was sand or gravel added at great expense to stabilize it. Many residents feel safer where they are, behind the row of rocks the agency installed as a stopgap measure.

“I told them once we build the sea wall, everybody’s going to get comfortable and say we don’t need to relocate anymore,” said Tony Weyiouanna, Clifford’s cousin and president of the Shishmaref Native Corp. “But they don’t see the other problems. The sea level’s rising. It’s going to happen eventually.”

Ironically, the Iñupiats were forced to consolidate on the barrier island about 90 years ago because of federal rules requiring a centralized school. Alaska Natives spread along 100 miles of shoreline were gathered together on a barrier island.

Life here has never been easy. The Iñupiat rely on a subsistence economy, eking out a living on hunting, fishing, berry-picking and food stamps. Seal carcasses litter the town. Most homes have no running water.

The island, just a quarter-mile wide, has lost hundreds of feet of unprotected shore since the 1960s, including another 25 feet or so last year. Water creeps ever closer to the airstrip, the town’s only connection to the outside world. “We don’t have a plan if the airport were washed out,” former Mayor Stanley Tocktoo said in January at a congressional hearing on climate change.

Voting to relocate, without actually relocating, has made things only worse. Water, sewer and health systems have deteriorated; no one is willing to invest in a town that is always talking about relocating.

“The decision to move,” Tocktoo said, “has been very costly for us.”

(Edited by John Blanton)

Link to article:  

An Alaska village's existential dilemma

Special Report: As seas rise, a slow-motion disaster gnaws at U.S. shores

By Ryan McNeill, Deborah J. Nelson and Duff Wilson

SAXIS, Virginia (Reuters) – Chincoteague is the gateway to a national wildlife refuge blessed with a stunning mile-long beach – a major tourist draw and source of big business for the community.

But the beach has been disappearing at an average rate of 10 to 22 feet a year, as a warming planet and other forces lift sea levels. The access road and parking lot have been rebuilt five times in the past decade because of coastal flooding, at a total cost of $3 million.

Officials who run Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge say they face a losing battle against rising sea levels. In 2010, they proposed to move the beach to a safer spot, shrink the parking lot, and shuttle in tourists by bus.

The town revolted. Chincoteague wants the federal government to continue to rebuild rather than retreat. Four years on, after a series of angry public meetings, the sea keeps eating the shore, and the government keeps spending to fix the damage.

The people of Chincoteague are engaged in a battle at the water’s edge against rising seas. All along U.S. shores, people, businesses and governments are confronting rising seas not as a future possibility. For them, the ocean’s rise is a troubling everyday reality.

Reuters gathered more than 25 million hourly readings from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tide gauges at nearly 70 sites on the U.S. coast and compared them to flood thresholds documented by the National Weather Service.

The analysis was then narrowed to include only the 25 gauges with data spanning at least five decades. During that period, the average number of days a year that tidal waters reached or exceeded NOAA flood thresholds increased at all but two sites and tripled at more than half of the locations.

The coastal flooding is often minor. Its cumulative consequences are not. As flooding increases in both height and frequency, it exacts a toll in closed businesses, repeated repairs, and investment in protection. In effect, higher seas make the same level of storm and even the same high tides more damaging than they used to be.

In Charleston, South Carolina, a six-lane highway floods when high tides prevent storm water from draining into the Atlantic, making it difficult for half the town’s 120,000 residents to get to three hospitals and police headquarters.

In Annapolis, Maryland, home to the U.S. Naval Academy, half a foot of water flooded the colonial district, a National Historic Landmark, at high tide on Chesapeake Bay during rainstorms on April 30, May 1, May 16 and Aug. 12.

Engineers say there are three possible responses to rising waters: undertake coastal defense projects; adapt with actions like raising roads; or abandon land to the sea. Lacking a national strategy, the United States applies these measures haphazardly.

Congress actually recognized global warming way back in 1978 with passage of the National Climate Program Act. The law aimed to “assist the Nation and the world to understand and respond to natural and man-induced climate processes and their implications.”

But after $47 billion in direct federal spending on climate change research, Congress hasn’t passed a major piece of legislation to deal specifically with the effects of rising sea levels.

“In the U.S., you have best data set on what’s happening in the world, and yet it’s not used in public policy,” said Robert Nicholls, professor of coastal engineering at the University of Southampton in England and a contributor to the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The lack of clear policy is evident in Chincoteague, population 3,000.

Most visitors come for the mile of ocean-facing public recreational beach, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the refuge. Visitors can drive with all of their gear right up to the edge of the beach to park in a 1,000-space crushed-shell lot.

As erosion worsened, the cost to American taxpayers of repeated destruction of the parking lot and causeway from rising sea levels would only increase, Fish and Wildlife officials said. In 2010, the agency proposed moving the beach to a less-endangered site.

Town leaders pointed to a survey in which 80 percent of visitors said they would not continue coming to the beach if they had to park in town and take a shuttle. Residents also feared that Fish and Wildlife would let the southern end of Assateague Island erode away if the beach were moved.

A series of angry meetings with local Fish and Wildlife officials resolved nothing.

In 2012, Chincoteague got a hearing at the U.S. Capitol on the proposal. Wanda Thornton, an Accomack county supervisor, testified that local residents feared for their jobs.

The agency released a draft plan in May that would relocate the beach to the less unstable site, but keep the parking area at its current size, as long as there’s enough land to do so. As many residents feared, this plan would not replenish the sand at the southern end of Assateague or at the new site as they erode.

A public hearing in Chincoteague on June 26 failed to settle the matter.

(This is an abridged version of a special report. The full package, including unabridged text, interactive graphics and video, is on Reuters.com at http://reut.rs/1nyd8pK )

(Edited by John Blanton)

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Special Report: As seas rise, a slow-motion disaster gnaws at U.S. shores

Hiker dies after falling from treacherous Hawaii trail

(Reuters) – A hiker was killed and another person injured after they fell while hiking a notoriously difficult trail on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the U.S. Coast Guard said on Friday.

A group of five people were hiking the strenuous Kalalau Trail, considered one of the most treacherous in the United States, late on Thursday when a 25-year-old man slipped and fell down rugged cliffs over the Na Pali Coast, the Coast Guard said.

The group called for help around 11:45 p.m. and Coast Guard teams, including a rescue swimmer, located the fallen hiker near the water, said Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie.

The rescue swimmer attempted CPR but the hiker, who was not identified, was pronounced dead at the scene. A second male hiker in the group sustained a severe leg injury falling from the trail and was transported by helicopter to a local hospital, McKenzie said.

The 11-mile trail takes two days to hike on average, with those granted permits to climb the path usually camping for one night along the way, Hawaii state park officials said.

It was unclear if the hikers were camping or still hiking after dark when the accident occurred, McKenzie said. A Kauai Fire Department helicopter hoisted the remaining three hikers off the trail on Friday.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Seattle; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Source: 

Hiker dies after falling from treacherous Hawaii trail

On This Day: Cyprus gains independence from Britain amid ethnic conflict

AUGUST 16, 1960: Cyprus gained independence from Britain amid a bloody ethnic conflict between Greek and Turkish-speaking residents on this day in 1960.

It ended 82 years of British rule after it was gifted the Mediterranean island by the Ottoman Empire in return for military support against Russia.

The decision followed a five-year insurgency by the members of the ethnic Greek majority, which wanted enosis (union) with Greece.

A total of 371 British soldiers and hundreds more Turkish Cypriots, who accounted for 18% of the population and opposed the idea, were killed during this period.

The Turkish Resistance Organisation had also carried out attacks against the Greek EOKA paramilitary group in a bid to gain an ethnic partition of the island.

A British Pathé newsreel shows UK troops struggling to comb the mountainous island for terrorists during the declared State of Emergency.

Yet, by the end of the 1950s, it was recognised by both the government in Greece and Greek Cypriots that Turkey, which is just 70 miles away, would not allow enosis.

The Greek Cypriot army stages a Pre-independence Day parade (Rex Features)The Greek Cypriot army stages a Pre-independence Day parade (Rex Features)


So both ethnicities agreed to a deal that would give the island independence while also prohibiting both enosis and partition (taksim).

Under the plan, Britain kept two sovereign military bases in the new Republic of Cyprus, which it continues to maintain to this day.

Soldiers from Greece and Turkey – at a 3:2 ratio – were also to remain present on the island in a bid to keep the peace.

And, under the new constitution, Greek Cypriots would elect the president from their own ethnicity and Turkish islanders would vote for vice president from among theirs.

[On This Day: Britain deports Archbishop Makarios from Cyprus for actively fostering terrorism]

Archbishop Makarios III, who was exiled during the guerrilla war, was elected the first head of the new independent state while Fazıl Küçük became his deputy.

Yet, despite agreeing to a power-sharing deal at the 1959 London and Zurich Conferences, this system did not secure peace and both sides continued the violence.

Makarios had secretly drawn up a plan to destabilise the government and pave the way for a referendum on enosis with the vain hope of international approval.

Archbishop Makarios III was elected the first head of the new independent state (Getty)Archbishop Makarios III was elected the first head of the new independent state (Getty)


Turkey threatened to invade in December 1963 when bloodshed followed the decision by Turkish Cypriots to quit parliament after refusing to water down power sharing.

Over two days, during what became known as Bloody Christmas, Greek islanders killed 133 ethnic Turks and forced 25,000 others to flee their homes.

It prompted the United Nations, which had earlier refused to support both enosis and taksim, to send a peacekeeping force composed of Canadian, Irish and Finnish troops.

Greek soldiers were also withdrawn from Cyprus, which finally ensured Turkey did not invade and brought temporary peace to the island.

[On This Day: Israel declares independence from Britain]

Intercommunity violence flared once again and a Cyprus Airline jet was blown up in 1967, which prompted Turkish Cypriots to form their own illegal administration.

Turkey finally invaded on July 20, 1974 after Greece’s military rulers supported a coup that ousted Makarios and installed the even more pro-enosis Nikos Sampson.

They took control of 38% of the island and prompted 200,000 Greek Cypriots to flee the northern occupation zone – with 60,000 Turks leaving their homes in the south.

The Greek Army contingent parading in Cyprus in 1964 on the anniversary of Greek Independence (PA)The Greek Army contingent parading in Cyprus in 1964 on the anniversary of Greek Independence (PA)


Since then the Greek-majority Republic of Cyprus has ruled the south and remains the internationally recognised government of the whole island, except the British bases.

However, in reality, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus administration controls the northern part, although it is only recognised by Turkey.

The island has been largely peaceful since 1974, although bitter division continues and the UN patrols a 112-mile-long buffer zone that is up to 4.6 miles wide in places.

[On This Day: Ireland gains independence from Britain as Free State is born]

And Nicosia remains the only divided capital in the world, with the Green Line running through the city, although both citizens have been able to cross it since 2003.

Referendums were held across the island in 2004 over whether to accept a UN plan calling for Cyprus to be reunified as a federation of two states.

Turks overwhelmingly backed the idea, which would have ended a trade embargo – but only 24% of Greeks supported it.

[On This Day: Lynmouth floods killed 34 people in 1952 after three month’s worth of rain fell in just 24 hours]

But Greek Cypriots’ romantic quest for enosis was dealt a huge blow when its financial system followed Greece and collapsed under the weight of the euro.

Northern Cyprus, though poorer, has remained stable in large part due to subsidies from Turkey, which has the fastest growing economy in Europe and is thriving.

This changed scenario –and the discovery of huge gas fields off the northern shore – has prompted unprecedented talks, which remain ongoing.

Link:  

On This Day: Cyprus gains independence from Britain amid ethnic conflict

'Star Wars' Filming in Ireland Exposes Birds to the Dark Side

Conservationists fear the filming of the new Star Wars movie on a remote Irish island this week could create more than a phantom menace for thousands of nesting birds.

The island of Skellig Michael features stunning alien-like cliffs and landscapes, making it a great set for director J.J. Abrams’ ;Star Wars: Episode VII. Skellig Michaelis also home to six ground-nesting bird species that are currently in the height of their breeding season.

“Skellig Michael is internationally important for six seabird species,” said Stephen Newton, senior conservation officer at BirdWatch Ireland, one of the organizations that have criticized the plan to film on the island.

Three of those species—Atlantic puffins, Manx shearwaters, and European storm petrels—nest below the ground, where they can’t be seen. The shearwaters and petrels are also nocturnal, which makes them hard to observe and track.

“They nest in burrows, holes, and crevices and only visit their nests during the hours of darkness to feed their young,” Newton said.

That makes it hard to protect the birds’ nests because even locating them is a challenge. “How can the authorities safeguard these birds from disturbance when they do not know where they are?” Newton asked.

The Irish Naval Service is doing more to safeguard the film set from prying eyes than anyone appears to be doing to protect the birds. The navy has set up a two-mile exclusion zone around Skellig Michael, effectively sealing off the island from tourists and fans hoping to get a sneak peek of the movie. The Irish Examiner reported that even the ferrymen who were contracted to shuttle the film crew back and forth needed to get special security clearances.

The United Nations has also wondered about the production’s impact on the island. Skellig Michael is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a designation established nearly 20 years ago to protect the island’s seventh-century Christian monastery.

A UNESCO spokesperson told The Irish Times that the organization has requested information on how and why permission was granted to film on the island. The Irish National Monuments Service said it would provide a report to UNESCO “later this week.” Filming is only scheduled to take place for three days, and the crew will be on to its next location by the end of the week.

None of the six bird species nesting on the island are endangered, but all face declining populations, and Newton pointed out that the Skellig Michael is critical to their future.

“Skellig has at least 10,000 pairs of storm petrels and is one of the largest colonies in the world,” he said.

BirdWatch Ireland had requested information on how the production company would safeguard the birds, but it has not yet been provided.

For its part, the Irish Film Board, which approved the shoot, said the crew’s week on Skellig Michael “has been designed to specifically avoid disturbance of breeding birds on the island.”

All the same, conservationists are definitely feeling a disturbance in the Force, as the production’s long-term impact on the island remains to be seen.

Related stories on TakePart:

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Is the Emperor Penguin Marching Into Oblivion?

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Original article from TakePart

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'Star Wars' Filming in Ireland Exposes Birds to the Dark Side

How Google Street View is Tackling Methane Leaks

Steven Hamburg, chief scientist at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), contributed this article to Live Science’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Throughout history, maps have played a critical role in shaping decisions — helping people determine where they are going and how to get there. Now, maps are defining a way to address methane leaks, a potent contributor to climate change. Environmental Defense Fund and Google Earth Outreach have just launched a series of maps that show methane leaks from natural gas pipelines under city streets in Boston, Indianapolis and Staten Island. The new tool has the power to greatly improve how cities and utilities can minimize methane emissions.

 

Why care about methane?

A recent tide of scientific studies, such as a recent study of emissions in Pennsylvania, have examined how methane — the primary component of natural gas — is escaping from the natural gas supply chain. Such research has made it clear how much that leakage is affecting global carbon dioxide levels.

One of natural gas’s potential benefits over other fossil fuels is that, when burned, it produces less carbon dioxide — half as much as coal — to yield the same amount of energy. If used wisely to rapidly displace dirty coal-power plants, for example, natural gas could help the country dramatically reduce overall greenhouse-gas emissions. 

Unburned, however, methane is 84 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide for the first 20 years after it is released. While methane doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat. If too much methane escapes along the supply chain — anywhere between the well and the end user — it could postpone the climate benefits of fuel switching, a delay we can ill afford. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, roughly one-third of methane emissions in the United States come from the oil and gas industry, and one third of the warming we are currently experiencing comes from anthropogenically released methane in the atmosphere — addressing methane leakage in the natural gas supply chain is critical. 

With great data comes great responsibility

For our analysis of methane emissions from local distribution pipes, Google equipped three Street View cars with methane analyzers and drove through large portions of Boston, Staten Island and Indianapolis collecting methane concentration data, GPS data and wind speed and direction data every half second. Our science team, in partnership with Colorado State University (CSU) researchers, developed a first-of-its-kind algorithm to translate the patterns of concentration data collected by the Street View cars into methane-leak rates for individual leaks. These data and the accompanying maps are designed to help the public, utilities and regulators better understand the pattern and scale of urban methane leaks. 

For example, we observed one leak per mile of road driven in Boston and Staten Island, a borough of New York City. Depending on the size of those leaks, the climate impact over the next 20 years — for each leak — ranged from the equivalent of driving a car 100 miles every single day up to driving more than 9,000 miles every day. These data will allow utilities to better prioritize which leaks to repair or pipes to replace, enabling them to get rid of the larger leaks much faster than was possible before. 

Helping utilities help themselves 

The local utilities — like National Grid, the utility in both Boston and Staten Island, and Citizens in Indianapolis — helped validate the data and provided insight into where their repair efforts should be targeted. Leaks even larger than those we saw in our surveys are of the greatest public safety concern; but those leaks are usually identified and fixed quickly. Smaller leaks are monitored by the utilities, but can go unfixed for long periods of time, spewing significant amounts of climate pollutants into the atmosphere. The new methodologies developed to produce the maps hold the potential to benefit both public health (as leaks can sometimes trigger explosions) and the climate.  

In addition to providing a picture of leak rates across cities, these maps clearly show the value of investing in a modern natural-gas infrastructure. Older pipes made of cast iron and unprotected steel can corrode as they age, making them more vulnerable to leaks. Plastic pipes, which are used in newer systems, are more durable over time and leak much less. The 200-times-lower frequency of leaks in Indianapolis, versus Boston and Staten Island, clearly indicates the value of Indianapolis’s decision to upgrade to plastic pipes.  

Investing in newer infrastructure pays off three-fold: 

  • Minimize safety risks from explosions;
  • Climate benefits; 
  • Keeps marketable product out of the air and in the pipeline.

In the early 80s, the utility Citizens in Indianapolis made replacing the city’s aging pipelines a priority. Today, pipes vulnerable to corrosion make up only one percent of Indianapolis’s local distribution system, and leak rates there are congruently low. Our efforts found only five leaks in the pipelines examined — one leak for every 200 miles mapped. While Boston, where about half of the pipes are made of materials vulnerable to corrosion and have been in the ground for more than half a century, averaged roughly one leak per mile mapped.

EDF has focused on “finding the ways that work” for almost 50 years, and this collaborative mapping project is indicative of our commitment to tapping the power of science in pursuit of effective solutions. This project takes a major step toward providing local gas-distribution utilities and regulators the scientific tools to better understand methane leaks and should spur meaningful local efforts to reduce emissions of climate pollutants — with more opportunities for effective action. By continuing our collaborations with Google, CSU, local utilities and the public, we can broaden the scope of what we know, map more pollutants in more cities and spark changes to slow the planet’s warming. 

Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — on Facebook, Twitter and Google +. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.

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How Google Street View is Tackling Methane Leaks