You are currently browsing the Breaching The Web blog archives for April, 2009.

Antarctic Tourism

April 8th, 2009

The dramatic collapse of part of the Wilkins Ice Shelf and yesterday’s joint meeting of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and the Arctic Council have renewed the debate over polar (but mostly Antarctic) tourism.

I’m of two minds about Antarctic tourism. On the one hand, Antarctic tourism brings people face-to-face with the beauty, harshness and stunning otherness of that continent. It most likely creates supporters of or sympathizers with rules and regulations that protect the continent. On the other hand, it’s a dangerous, unregulated industry that’s growing and putting further stress on a fragile ecosystem. The fact that most tourists visit the Antarctic peninsula, where the Wilkins Ice Shelf is now so threatened, makes tourism seem even more risky.

Overall, I think I favor heavily regulating or even banning Antarctic tourism — but which of those two options I prefer depends on the day. However, the current unregulated state of affairs is dangerous for the tourists and for the environment. Unfortunately, supra-national organizations the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and the Arctic Council have difficulty making any headway on issues like this during the best of times — which this most certainly isn’t.

Wilkins Ice Shelf close to collapse

April 6th, 2009

The Wilkins Ice Shelf is a curling, finger-like appendage of ice that reaches out from the continent of Antarctica. It’s been there for thousands of years. The shelf rises 60 feet (~20 meters) high out of the sea, and is attached to Antarctica via a few key bridges — one of which recently collapsed, leaving the future of the shelf in doubt. Antarctica has experienced a temperature rise of 2.5C in the last 50 years, making it a “hot spot” for global climate change, and making these ice shelves increasingly unstable.

Unsurprisingly, the most comprehensive stories about the collapse are coming from New Zealand, which is likely to see very large icebergs head its way if/when the shelf collapses completely. Wilkins is not large enough to contribute to a rise in ocean levels by itself, but it’s part of an alarming and quickening trend. Ten such shelves have broken off, broken up, or collapsed in recent years.

Whistle-stop

April 2nd, 2009

I have always loved trains and train whistles. My husband and I had an outdoor wedding ceremony, in a history house in an older part of Tucson by the train tracks. The site coordinator couldn’t promise us no trains, but she did say they were uncommon on Saturdays. Right before the ceremony started, a train came by. One of my fondest memories of that day is the sound of that train rumbling by while the bell choir played Ode to Joy.

All of which is a set-up for me to say this: As much as I love trains, even I wouldn’t pay $300 for a tea kettle with a train whistle.

Tea prices on the rise

April 1st, 2009

As drought rages in multiple tea-growing countries like Kenya, India and Sri Lanka, tea consumption is also increasing leading to a surge in tea prices. Like oil, tea is traded in dollars, and with the dollar regaining a lot of lost ground against the British pound and other currencies, the surge in prices is likely to have only a moderate effect in the US. I’d give you a link for that info about the US price of tea, but we don’t drink enough of it for it to be an issue worth reporting on here, so I’m just speculating. Major tea consuming-countries, like Australia, Russia and England will likely see much greater price increases. Also like oil, rising prices can be expected to have mixed effects on people in tea producing regions. Most likely, the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. It’s an old story.