Posts by Fei Gao

In Argentina, Tensions Remain Between Mining and Glacier Protection

Posted by on Apr 6, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

In Argentina, Tensions Remain Between Mining and Glacier Protection

Spread the News:ShareA recent article “Defending Glaciers in Argentina” in the journal Peace Review, written by Asmaa N. Khadim, explores the history of one of the world’s largest mining companies, Barrick Gold Corporation, and its conflict with Argentina’s environmental protectors. Many of its mining projects are in proximity to glaciers, which are a crucial water source for local residents. In recent years, to bolster its economy, the Argentine government created incentives to attract foreign capital to invest in mining, which includes lower royalties, favorable foreign investment laws, and a competitive tax regime. But it has not always paid attention to environmental issues. Many multinational companies want a share of Argentina’s natural resources, like Barrick Gold, Strata, and Meridian Gold, all which have invested heavily in the country’s mining industry. Many of their gold mining operations lie in the Andes, and this region is considered to be one of the most important gold and silver districts across the world. However, many ore deposits lie near glaciers. This location creates risks of water pollution and of mismanagement of water resources, including groundwater. Mining operations could also create soil and air pollution in these settings. Two particular projects, Veladero and Pascua Lama, in this region have caused many of the disputes, because of their proximity to numerous glaciers high in the Andes. These two projects are run by Barrick Gold Corporation, a Canadian company. The Andes are environmentally sensitive, not only because it is home to massive glaciers, but also because of the significance of glaciers as a source that contributes to Argentina’s water supply. In 1987, the Brundtland Commission released the paper Our Common Future defining sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This paper reframed the vision of environmental rights, which led many countries, including Argentina, to add environmental protection to their constitutional frameworks. In late 1990s, local environmental organizations saw the risks of mining development in the Andes. They started to press the Argentine government for a law to protect glaciers. As the paper in Peace Review recounts, “The first bill was approved by Congress in 2008, but was subsequently vetoed by President Cristina Fernandez on the basis of economic development arguments.” Later, in September 2010, a new version of the glacier protection law, the National Glacier Act, was ratified by the Argentine senate. The role of this law is to act as an inspector to identify areas that require protection. This law faced significant resistance from mining companies. The companies allocated funds to lobby legislators to oppose the  bill. They also paid for nationwide advertising campaigns which opposed this bill and its enforcement. Jorge Daniel Taillant, an Argentine researcher, has documented these efforts in his book Glaciers: The Politics of Ice. As a result of the pressure from powerful mining companies, a federal court judge suspended the implementation of the 2010 glacier protection law within the province of San Juan, where many mining projects are located. It was not until 2012 that Argentina’s Supreme Court overruled this decision and restored the application of the law to this province. The tension between mining interests and environmentalists has become more severe as the mining projects continue. Mining brings negative impacts on ecosystems and  biodiversity, water quality, and human health. Khadim describes how Barrick Gold Corporation has hired private security and pressured local provincial police to repress the environmental organizations. Violence and riots have resulted. It remains a question whether the 2010 law will protect glaciers and water resources. “While constitutional entrenchment alone may not...

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Watch This Dramatic Glacial Ice Collapse

Posted by on Mar 23, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Watch This Dramatic Glacial Ice Collapse

Spread the News:ShareAn ice bridge collapsed at Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina earlier this month. Hundreds of tourists and locals gathered to witness the dramatic event.   Huge glacier collapses in Argentina:   On March 9, huge masses of ice broke up into pieces and fell into Argentino Lake, the largest lake in the country. This is a periodic process that happens every three to four years; the last one happened in 2012. “The Perito Moreno Glacier began its breakup process. We’re waiting! (We) came to experience it firsthand!” the Tourism Secretariat of El Califate said, according to Fox News Latino. There is no precise calculation as to when the breakups happen, but based on the history it starts when the glacial outflow begins to occur, during which water constantly flows out through an opening at the bottom of a glacier. The Perito Moreno ice field generates pressure and forces the glacier to grow toward the southern arm of Lake Argentino, forming a dam. As the amount of water increases within the dam, the flow of water creates a tunnel through the glacier. Gradually the water flow washes out the exterior of the ice wall and creates the famous ice bridge. When the ice bridge can no longer hold the weight of ice above it, the spectacular collapse happens. The bridge structure is believed to have consisted of several thousands tonnes of ice. In 2008, the ice fell apart in winter in the Southern Hemisphere for the first time, according to Reuters. There were concerns as to whether global warming had an impact on the collapse. However, experts said the collapse only happened because of natural physical processes and no climate change factor was involved. In fact, Argentina’s Perito Moreno glacier is one of a few glaciers that are growing in spite of global warming, according to NBC News.   “We’re not sure why this happens,” a glaciologist, Andres Rivera, with the Center for Scientific Studies, in Valdivia, Chile said according to NBC News. ”But not all glaciers respond equally to climate change.” The Perito Moreno Glacier, located in the Los Glaciares National Park, is one of the most important tourist sites in Argentina and is the world’s third largest freshwater reservoir as well. A spokesman for Los Glaciares National Park Matilde Oviedo told The Daily Mail there was a “tremendous noise” when the bridge fell, according to a report. “There were a lot of people but we were expecting it to happen a little later.”   Video of Argentina’s ice-bridge collapse:   Spread the...

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For Jill Pelto, Science Intersects With Art

Posted by on Mar 8, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

For Jill Pelto, Science Intersects With Art

Spread the News:ShareJill Pelto aspires to use art, especially screen printing, to communicate climate change, rising sea levels, and the state of threatened species to the world. She has a background in both art and science— she graduated from the University of Maine in 2015 with a double major in Studio Art and Earth Science— and says on her website that ”art is a uniquely articulate lens: through it I can address environmental concerns to raise awareness and inspire people to take action.”   Pelto witnessed glacier retreat first-hand as a teenager, and since then images of glaciers have left her with a strong impression. She’s visited glaciers on many occasions. She has accompanied her dad, a glaciologist, to the North Cascade Glaciers of Washington state, and has assisted with research conducted on mountain glaciers in that state. Pelto’s recent work was featured at the University of Maine Art Department’s senior studio art exhibit, “The Ghosts of Carnegie Hall.” Now she is a graduate student at the University of Maine, studying in the Earth Science Program. She spoke to GlacierHub by email.  GlacierHub: Are there any interesting stories or particular feelings you would like to share from you previous visits to glaciers? Jill Pelto: Working in the field is perhaps my favorite part about working as an Earth Scientist; these trips also lead to a lot of interesting stories. I think it’s very important to note the rate of change that is occurring on Earth. We hear a lot of people state that change in the climate are natural and so on, yet they do not realize that unprecedented rate that has led us to call this a global warming. I think it is important that more people understood why the current changes are not like any in the past, and that they are caused by human influence. I have worked with the North Cascade Glacier Climate Project on a group of glaciers in Washington for the past seven years. This is not a long period of time, yet over this interval I have seen huge changes to the glaciers and ecosystems, including the creations of a new meltwater lake. This past field season, August 2015, I was stunned and saddened by the effects of the drought: almost no snow on the glaciers, huge ice volume loss and retreat, reservoirs and streams depleted, a new lake beneath Columbia Glacier, and forest fire smoke engulfing the sky. When I returned from the field I was inspired to create a series that used data to show people: look, this is happening! It is going to be difficult to change our relationship with the environment, but it is essential that we do so now! I hope that my artwork will communicate both this sense of loss that is occurring, yet also inspire hope and action.   GH: What component do you consider the most important when communicating science to public? JP: I am really still figuring out how best to share science to a broad audience, but I have always thought artwork was an excellent form of communication. I think this is because the aesthetic visual quality often evokes an emotional reaction. I am trying to use my artwork to share with people the emotions I feel about environmental issues: worry and anger, but also hope and the belief that we can change our relationship with nature for the better. Using research and data in my art has helped communicate well because it informing people about a topic and showing a trend, yet it does not rely on the graph by itself...

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Roundup: Glacier Lakes, Crevasses and Laws

Posted by on Mar 7, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Roundup, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Roundup: Glacier Lakes, Crevasses and Laws

Spread the News:ShareEach week, we highlight three stories from the forefront of glacier news. Decreasing Diversity in Glacier Lakes From Universität Innsbruck: “Professor Ruben Sommaruga from the Institute of Ecology, and Hannes Peter from the research group Lake and Glacier Ecology have studied shifts in diversity during the transition from turbid glacial to clear mountain lakes and now report on their surprising findings. Their research work has been published in the Nature Publishing Group’s journal ISME Journal.”   Learn more about the research here. Glacier Crevasses: Observations, Models, and Mass Balance Implications From AGU publications: “We review the findings of approximately 60 years of in situ and remote sensing studies of glacier crevasses, as well as the three broad classes of numerical models now employed to simulate crevasse fracture. The relatively new insight that mixed-mode fracture in local stress equilibrium, rather than downstream advection alone, can introduce nontrivial curvature to crevasse geometry may merit the reinterpretation of some key historical observation studies. In the past three decades, there have been tremendous advances in the spatial resolution of satellite imagery, as well as fully automated algorithms capable of tracking crevasse displacements between repeat images.” Read more about Glacier Crevasses here. Defending Glaciers in Argentina From Taylor & Francis Online: “Constitutional law has been utilized in many countries to promote the protection of environmental rights, with varying degrees of success. This essay offers gold mining in Argentina as a case study for examination of the tensions that exist between economic interests and the need to protect the environment, notwithstanding the provisions made for environmental rights within the National Constitution. Due to the significance of the country’s glacier region, the Argentine public has resisted mining developments that threaten this natural resource by taking a multipronged approach.” Read more about Argentina’s law to protect glaciers here. Spread the...

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Photo Friday: Arctic Sea Ice Extent Reaches a New Low

Posted by on Feb 19, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Photo Friday: Arctic Sea Ice Extent Reaches a New Low

Spread the News:ShareAs global warming continues, Arctic sea ice broke the record this year, reaching a new low extent for the month of January. January is typically a month of relatively large sea ice extent, with the annual maximum occurring between February and April. A low sea ice extent in January suggests that the annual maximum, coming in a month or so, will also be low. Temperatures across most of the Arctic Ocean were around 13 degrees F (6 degrees C) according to a recent report.  This was due to Arctic Oscillation, a cyclical pattern of atmospheric pressure in the Northern Hemisphere. The Arctic Oscillation has entered into a negative phase during the first few weeks of the month according to National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Under such an impact, warmer air would extend further north. The ice extent retreating in Arctic might have some correlated effects on Antarctic ice shelves. Antarctic sea ice extent also was below average in January, although it just hit the record of reaching a maximum extent in 2014 according to a NASA report. In general, the Arctic sea ice is decreasing, and yet the Antarctic ice continues to grow despite the ocean around it is warming. 2015 is the hottest year on record according to researchers. Would it be the last straw to end the growing trend of Antarctic ice shelves? Antarctic Ice Shelf Map Antarctic Ice Shelf Map Polar Ice Shelves ross ice shelf in Antarctica ross ice shelf in Antarctica Antarctic Ice Melting Antarctic Ice Melting ross-ice-shelf ross-ice-shelf   Spread the...

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