Land Specks

Pop Up Isles, Sinking Atolls &
Havens for Snakes, Cats & Spiders

An unforeseen consequence of rising sea levels is that it puts a dump on that idyllic idea of retiring to a tropical island. Somehow the thought of waking up at its highest peak, with just enough time to hold your breath doesn’t have the same ring that it once had.
It’s a silly dream anyway. So when a 7.7 earthquake shook Pakistan last week, leaving over 500 dead and thousands homeless, in a nation already periodically visited by tragedy, only a heartless optimist would see the birth of a new island as a silver lining of sorts.
And yet, there it is, a 100 feet by 250 feet speck that’s now dotting the Arabian Sea. A rough, cracked piece of the ocean floor, pushed up by methane to 60 feet up above water. Almost like a natural monument and tribute for those who had to go for it to rise up so violently.
As you probably gathered by now, that’s our theme for this evening: islands, those mysterious orphans of continental drifts, giants underwater, tall enough to reach high above the waves, and yet frightfully tiny, once at the surface, always at ready to be swallowed by the vastness around.
They’ve been a surprising copious leit motif at Colltales, having graced these pages half a dozen times in less than three years. Perhaps its their endless diversity, or often violent origins, what pulls us towards them. Or that they can be placid and inhabited only by bugs Continue reading

Blowing in the Wind

Selling Air Bottles, Flying With
Bacteria & Hiring Fake Protesters

As the climate changes and pollution rises, people and corporations scurry to seize positions on all sides of the wind energy debate. While it’s getting harder for humans to grasp a breath of fresh air, it’s just fine for bugs and bacteria, flying in upper layers of the atmosphere.
But even the threat of chocking to death might mean opportunity. Thus an entrepreneur in smog-filled China is selling bottles of air, while a mysterious company would give $20 to anyone who’d show up in Midtown Manhattan, to rally against wind turbines.
Just when you thought that there’s not much going on around you, right? At least not with the air, this constant soothing ghost of a breeze that envelops and kisses our skin ever so gently, but that it’s also the fastest element to mercilessly kill us, whenever it’s short or absent.
Then again, we’ve been stuffing it with some much dirt and soot, chemicals and heavy metal particles, heat and all sorts of flotsam, since at least the Industrial Revolution, no wonder we seem to be reaching critical mass. For millions, the act of breathing in itself is an all-consuming activity.
Billions are routinely spent to support industries and human activities that have a brutal effect on the environment. It’s now a cliche to call it our ‘addiction to carbon fuels,’ but the fact remains that man-made pollution it’s the single greatest factor wreaking havoc with earth’s climate.
But not all is garbage circling the planet, of course. A couple of years ago, a study found out that millions of moths and other bugs travel regularly overnight at some 60 miles an hour, which is faster than many birds migrate. Just like windsurfers, they seem to follow an internal Continue reading

Flight, Interrupted

When Glass Towers
Become Bird Killers

If you never liked modern architecture, and the shiny, glass buildings that have been popping up all over lately, we’re about to add a killer argument to your cause: they’re also killing birds. Not just a few of them; some 100 million to one billion a year, only in North America, according to estimates.
Now a global effort by architects, ornithologists, environmentalists and bird watchers is trying to find ways around it, before our own bird-dependent species begin to suffer another consequence of our expansive lifestyle. Like few other threats, this one can, indeed, cause our extinction.
If you live in a big city like New York, you’re probably facing at least one such tall skyscraper right at this moment. There are many reasons why they’ve become so ubiquitous, not the least of them, because they are weather-adaptable, allowing optimum light exposure and saving lots of energy consumption.
Due to marvels of contemporary construction, they can also be built relatively fast, and may serve to both housing and office space, often, combining the two. It’s a devilish irony then that, after finding lighter and more environmentally-friendly materials, builders ran into such a disheartening problem.
Going back to the Big Apple, construction of big glass towers has reached a feverish pitch, and one group of buildings stand above all others, for what they mean to the city: the ones that are rising at Ground Zero, some already receiving their first tenants, and the tallest of them all, World Trade Center 1, slated to be completed in a year.
Like the doomed Twin Towers they’re now, at least physically, replacing, Continue reading