Archive for the 'penguins' Category

Dec 04 2007


Right now human leaders are meeting in Bali to talk about global warming and the climate crisis. No penguins, spotty owls, polar bears. Lots of humans talking and arguing about how much or how little to do or not do and what it will cost.

Of course, some of them are talking about money and not the billions of living things that are threatened. A very sad and interesting article by Gregor Peter Schmitz of Der Spiegel, the German newspaper, talks about how the United States is working with China and India to make sure no strong limits are set on the greenhouse gases that are creating the climate crisis.

The poorer nations naturally want to catch up with the richer nations. Unfortunately for penguins and polar bears and billions of people, this means more power plants, more cars, and superhighways, and more and fancier things to buy: second homes and speedboats and expensive sneakers.

Countries like China and India don’t feel it is fair to limit their growth and do without all the advantages that the European countries and Australia and Canada and the United States enjoy. And some of the leaders of the United States don’t want to give up anything. Der Spiegel writes about how together they can block real action:

Washington is hoping that the two greenhouse gas emitters will openly declare during the conference that they are unwilling to accept any binding limits on emissions of greenhouse gases — at least not as long as the US is unwilling to do more or if the Western industrial nations do not provide them with more financial aid for climate protection initiatives. If successful, the US could use the tactic to prevent itself from becoming an isolated scapegoat if negotiations in Bali end in a stalemate.

That may make sense to well-to-do humans but it is certainly unfair to the rest of us.

Penguins from all over the world have written us about our new Adopt A Human campaign. Here are some people who could certainly use our help.


Farmers by factory, Baokang, China – Reuters

These farmers are playing cards in the shadow of a cement factory spewing smoke. I’m sure there are several penguins and a porpoise or two or some baby seals who might be willing to chip in and buy them masks.


Children using public toilet, Jakarta harbor – Beawiharta/Reuters

This makes me very sad. For the children. For their parents. For the water.


Chinese miners shovel coal – Oded Balilty/AP


Storm survivors, Bangladesh -Rafiqur Rahman/Reuters


Bali policeman at Climate Conference – Jewel Damad/AFP


Britney Spears – Robyn Beck/AFP

We recently learned that human beings have been searching the world wide web for information about global warming and Britney Spears. According to Glenn Chapman of AFP:

A review of Yahoo searches reveals global warming, celebrity meltdowns, social networking and a literary boy wizard’s final adventure captured mankind’s attention in 2007.

The US Internet giant sifted billions of searches made this year by its hundreds of millions of users worldwide to identify trends regarding what piqued people’s interest …

“It is really a barometer for what is interesting and relevant for the world,” Yahoo director of product marketing Raj Gossain said while discussing the findings with AFP.

Well if anyone knows about meltdowns, we do. Adelie 622 wrote in to say she would be glad to help Britney Spears in any way she could.


Adelie 622 – Photo: George F. Mobley

Adelie 622 sent off an email just the other day. “Swim, Britney. When in doubt, swim. We’re all in this together. Your friend, Adelie 622. Penguins United Chapter 12.” Unfortunately, the email bounced back.

We’ll keep writing.

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Nov 15 2007


One of the biggest problems with human language is how often words and expressions create their own limits. I write Global Warming and you automatically think about heat. I write Climate Crisis and you think about climate and weather.

What I want you to think about is what is happening all around the world – for turtles and coral, for birds and bees, glaciers and lakes. For everything that lives.

A Crisis for All. An Eco-Crisis.

Our human friend Beth Bogart once called the next 10 years “the Do-Or-Die-Decade.”

Let’s all try and think bigger than our own space, your home town, the city you live in, your friends and family.

How about a quick trip around the world.

Since we just heard from our friend Awkward Turtle, let’s look at what some of our turtle friends are dealing with.


Loggerhead Turtle – Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP

According to scientists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there is a big drop in nests for loggerhead turtles. The AP reports:

The number of loggerhead turtle nests was substantially lower in 2007 than in past years, according to preliminary numbers from scientists statewide.

Scientists found 28,500 nests from 19 surveyed beaches, down from almost 50,000 last year. The number was so low that this could be the lowest nesting year on record for loggerheads, said Blair Witherington, a research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The turtles’ nesting numbers have declined in at least four of the past seven years.

The problem is nobody knows why this is happening.

While we are in Florida, people are asking: “Who Will Save the Everglades?” It seems the restoration effort is running out of money. Abby Goodough writes this for the New York Times:

The rescue of the Florida Everglades, the largest and most expensive environmental restoration project on the planet, is faltering.

Seven years into what was supposed to be a four-decade, $8 billion effort to reverse generations of destruction, federal financing has slowed to a trickle. Projects are already years behind schedule. Thousands of acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat continue to disappear, paved by developers or blasted by rock miners to feed the hungry construction industry.


The Everglades – Photo: Barbara Fernandez, New York Times

There’s bill in Congress for water projects, including about $2 billion for the Everglades, but President Bush is threatening to veto it.

the plan aims to restore the gentle, shallow flow of water from Lake Okeechobee, in south-central Florida, into the Everglades, a vast subtropical marshland at the state’s southern tip.

That constant, slow coursing nurtured myriad species of birds, fish and other animals across the low-lying Everglades, half of which have been lost to agriculture and development over the last century.

More birds and fish and animals have lost their homes. Here is a second photo:


Photo: Barbara Fernandez, New York Times

Let’s move southward from Florida to the Caribbean. And spend a moment with the parrotfish and the health of coral reefs. Scientists are warning that the combination of human overfishing and pollution could damage coral reefs beyond their ability to repair themselves.

According to research done at the Universities of Exeter and California Davis. Nature magazine reports:

Professor Peter Mumby of the University of Exeter, lead author on the paper said: “The future of some Caribbean reefs is in the balance and if we carry on the way we are then reefs will change forever. This will be devastating for the Caribbean’s rich marine environment, which is home to a huge range of species as well as being central to the livelihood of millions of people.”

The paper argues that in order to secure a future for coral reefs, particularly in light of the predicted impact of climate change, parrotfish need to be protected. Parrotfish are frequently caught in fish traps that are widely used in the Caribbean, with many ending up on restaurant diners’ plates.

Professor Peter Mumby continued: “The good news is that we can take practical steps to protect parrotfish and help reef regeneration. We recommend a change in policy to establish controls over the use of fish traps, which parrotfish are particularly vulnerable to. We also call on anyone who visits the Caribbean and sees parrotfish on a restaurant menu to voice their concern to the management.”


Parrotfish – Photo: University of Exeter

Meanwhile, further south still, the Amazon continues to burn. Christopher Joyce of National Public Radio reports from Brazil:

In Brazil, it’s the end of the burning season, when people use fire to clear land for farms and ranches. But people also use fire as a weapon in range wars to push others off their land.

Scientists say this fire cycle is not just destroying parts of the Amazon’s southern forests, but altering the climate as well.


Photo: Christopher Joyce

Christopher Joyce interviewed John Carter, whose land has been burned several times.

His ranch covers 22,000 acres. He says more than 90 percent of it has just burned. And fires are still consuming what’s left …

Carter isn’t the only victim of these burning duels. These fires put millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere, which makes global warming worse. They’re also drying up the Amazon.

In some places, the ice is melting too fast. In other places the forests are burning too fast. In many places there is just not enough water. The British newspaper, the Independent recently wrote about the drought facing American communities. The big thirst, they called it. The great American water crisis. Here’s a picture of Debbie Cash from Orme, Tennessee. She only has water three hours a day.


Photo: AP

The US drought is now so acute that, in some southern communities, the water supply is cut off for 21 hours a day. Leonard Doyle reports from Chattanooga, Tennessee, on a once-lush region where the American dream has been reduced to a single four-letter word: rain

The odds are Debbie Cash has never met Rod Chalmers from Wakool, Australia. They live many many miles from each other, but they share a similar predicament. They really need water. Australia is in the midst of a dreadful drought. The American magazine, National Geographic, calls it the “Worst Drought in a Century.”

November on Rod Chalmers’ farm in Wakool, Australia, shouldn’t look like this.

It’s springtime, and the wheat fields should be green and waist-high instead of mostly dead.

There are no sheep are in sight either. The animals were sold long ago, because there is no grass for them to graze on.

Chalmers is among many farmers whose crops are withering in an unusual spring heat, following one of the warmest and driest winters on record.

In the seventh year of a crippling drought, much of Australia is in an unprecedented water crisis. The Big Dry, as Australians have dubbed the weather, is the worst in a century and has forced water restrictions on an entire nation.


Australian farmland – Photo: David Gray/Reuters

Here, there and everywhere.

All living creatures.

Bound together.

One earth. One eco-crisis.

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Nov 05 2007


Too much news. Too few penguins. We are buried here at Penguin Central. News reports. Photographs. No wonder humans abandon non-profits for the private sector.
Penguin 8 has barely seen the outdoors. Penguin 4 has a back ache and a stiff neck.

It is not only emotionally exhausting to be reading about the effects of climate change everywhere in the world, but physically exhausting as well to be gathering the information.
We haven’t seen the television program called “Heroes” but we would like to thank one of its heroes or heroines, Hayden Panettiere for her brave action on behalf on our close friends, the dolphins and whales.

Hayden Panettierre

Tim Nudd and Bryan Alexander report in People magazine:

This week a video surfaced from Britain’s Sky News of the actress and six other activists paddling on surfboards out into a cove in the town of Taiji in southwestern Japan, in an attempt to interfere with a dolphin hunt there …

The protesters were intercepted on Tuesday by fishermen on a boat who told them to leave and prodded them with a pole. They were eventually forced back to shore, unable to prevent the hunt. The video shows Panettiere breaking down in tears as she describes what happened. “This baby stuck its head out and kind of looked as us, and the thought that the baby is no longer with us is very difficult,” she said …

“The world and the environment are evolving and that means we must change our ways as human beings as well … The dolphins and whales in our ocean are a part of a larger eco-system that prevents the killing off of other marine life. By destroying these animals and not allowing our future generations to enjoy their beauty, we are causing our own selves damage. I always felt the need to speak on behalf of these helpless creatures who can not defend themselves.”

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Chinese coal workers – AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel

Speaking of morality. Former Senator John Edwards put the issue of the climate crisis in perspective:

“This is the great moral test of our generation. Are we actually going to leave this planet and America better for our children than we found it?” Edwards said at an environmental rally in New Orleans.

“Why have we not addressed the issue of climate change and global warming?” Edwards said. “I’ll tell you why, no question about it: oil companies, gas companies, power companies and the lobbyists in Washington, D.C. We have to have a president who will stand up to these people.”

Coal is a good place to start when we think about the challenges facing us.

China pollution – Photo: Natalie Behring/Bloomberg News

Michael Casey offers this interesting report from Taiyuan, China:

It takes five to 10 days for the pollution from China’s coal-fired plants to make its way to the United States, like a slow-moving storm.

It shows up as mercury in the bass and trout caught in the Willamette River in the western U.S. state of Oregon. It increases cloud cover and raises ozone levels. And along the way, it contributes to acid rain in Japan and South Korea and health problems everywhere from Taiyuan to the United States …

Cheap and abundant, coal has become the fuel of choice in much of the world, powering economic booms in China and India that have lifted millions of people out of poverty. Worldwide demand is projected to rise by about 60 percent through 2030 to 6.9 billion tons a year, most of it going to electrical power plants.

But the growth of coal-burning is also contributing to global warming, and is linked to environmental and health issues ranging from acid rain to asthma. Air pollution kills more than 2 million people prematurely, according to the World Health Organization.

Indian woman carries water jug across Osman Sagar Lake – Photo AFP

Some of the most pressing problems you humans are facing. How does climate war sound? Well, there’s a sad analysis in a recent report, “A Climate of Conflict.” Robin McKie, the science editor of the UK Observer writes:

A total of 46 nations and 2.7 billion people are now at high risk of being overwhelmed by armed conflict and war because of climate change. A further 56 countries face political destabilisation, affecting another 1.2 billion individuals.

Much of Africa, Asia and South America will suffer outbreaks of war and social disruption as climate change erodes land, raises seas, melts glaciers and increases storms, it concludes. Even Europe is at risk.

‘Climate change will compound the propensity for violent conflict, which in turn will leave communities poorer and less able to cope with the consequences of climate change,’ the report states.

The worst threats involve nations lacking resources and stability to deal with global warming, added the agency’s secretary-general, Dan Smith. ‘Holland will be affected by rising sea levels, but no one expects war or strife,’ he told The Observer. ‘It has the resources and political structure to act effectively. But other countries that suffer loss of land and water and be buffeted by increasingly fierce storms will have no effective government to ensure corrective measures are taken. People will form defensive groups and battles will break out.’

Consider Peru, said Smith. Its fresh water comes mostly from glacier meltwater. But by 2015 nearly all Peru’s glaciers will have been removed by global warming and its 27 million people will nearly all lack fresh water. If Peru took action now, it could offset the impending crisis, he added. But the country has little experience of effective democracy, suffers occasional outbreaks of insurgency, and has border disputes with Chile and Ecuador. The result is likely to be ‘chaos, conflict and mass migration’.

Australian Drought affects Lake Eucumbene – Photo: Mark Nolan/Getty Images

Already drought is taking its toll on Australian farmers. Leigh Dayton writes “Climate fears paint bleak future” for the Australian News:

CRAIG Harsant is coping. But the Queensland farmer confesses it’s been tough making a living in his bone-dry corner of Australia, and he worries some of his neighbours may be feeling the bite of the black dog of depression. “But blokes are not keen on talking about that sort of thing,” he says …

Little wonder Harsant is “not surprised” by findings of a report released this week by Research Australia (RA), a national non-profit alliance of health and medical research organisations.

It warns of skyrocketing rates of depression in rural communities if, as predicted, climate change triggers ever more extreme events, from drought to fire to flood. “Assuming climate change is real, you can imagine life on the land would become harder,” says Harsant. “You can imagine health issues like depression would follow suit.”

Wivenhoe Dam, Brisbane, AU Photo: Jonathan Wood/Getty Images

Some facts from Reuters about the Australian drought:

Australia had its driest September this year since records began in 1900.
The eastern state of New South Wales is 78.6 percent in drought.
The southern state of Victoria has declared 100 percent of farmland in drought.
Australia is the second-largest wheat, canola and beef exporter in the world and the largest barley exporter.
Drought cut the 2006/07 wheat crop to 9.8 million tonnes from 25.0 million tonnes the year before. Forecasts for the current wheat crop are 15 million tonnes or less, down from 26 million tonnes earlier this year before the drought hit.
The number of Australian farms has declined by 25 percent over the last 20 years to 129,934, due to falling commodity prices, mechanisation, technology and a strong trend of younger people moving to cities. About 99 percent of farms are family-owned.
Average farm income dropped to A$26,000 in the year to June 30, 2007, its lowest level in over 30 years, because of drought. A total of 77 percent of farms operated at a loss in 2006/07.
Average farm debt rose to A$412,700 at June 30, 2007, from A$357,380 the year before, bureau figures show. Farmers say debt has now risen into the millions for many.

Back to Laigh Dayton’s report:

Climate experts have long argued that climate change is real. But it’s only recently that their medical colleagues have begun considering the implications planetary warming holds for the health of people living on a changing globe, claims epidemiologist Tony McMichael. “Climate change doesn’t exist in isolation,” said McMichael, the head of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at Canberra’s Australian National University and lead author of the Research Australia report. “Increasingly, the risk it poses to human well-being and health is now being seen as part of the policy discussion agenda.”

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Oct 05 2007


Published by under floods,penguins

Names. like dollars, are your ways. We are accustomed to tone and touch and smell and sight, to song. But as your philosopher Darwin taught us all, you have to adapt to survive. Along the way we have learned to appreciate the gifts and intentions of some very kind humans. That helps a small bit to counterbalance the melting of the ice, the loss of life, and the destruction of home, the death of Mother Earth.

We are grateful to our dear friend Lannie Moore and her friend Bronwyn Cooke who bring us pictures of some of our brothers and sisters in Boston.

We have yet to make it there ourselves, so it is always a pleasure to learn of our extended family.



Photos: Lannie Moore

There is, of course, some important news to share.

Like the dragonflies in the arctic skies.
Dawn Walton of the Toronto Globe and Mail writes about what Pierre Tautu has been seeing around his Nunavut home in Chesterfield Inlet, at the top of Hudson Bay.

“We still have ice year-round, but there’s been a little bit of changes,” he said. “Different kinds of insects and different kind of birds that come around our area now.”

His hamlet (population 330) is a prime nesting ground for a variety of birds, but last summer the 44-year-old hunter and guide spotted a type of owl he had never seen that far north. For the first time, he also saw a dragonfly in his Inuit community.

“We don’t have dragonflies around, but I’ve seen one,” Mr. Tautu said. “This was just out in our backyard and I was pretty surprised to see one.”

500 miles from Alaska – Photo – Andy Armstrong NOAA

Julian Borger of the UK Guardian writes about the damage the climate crisis is wrecking right now: the increase in floods and droughts and storms.

A record number of floods, droughts and storms around the world this year amount to a climate change “mega disaster”, the United Nation’s emergency relief coordinator, Sir John Holmes, has warned.

Sir John, a British diplomat who is also known as the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said dire predictions about the impact of global warming on humanity were already coming true.

“We are seeing the effects of climate change. Any year can be a freak but the pattern looks pretty clear to be honest. That’s why we’re trying … to say, of course you’ve got to deal with mitigation of emissions, but this is here and now, this is with us already,” he said …

More appeals were likely in the coming weeks, as floods hit west Africa. “All these events on their own didn’t have massive death tolls, but if you add all these little disasters together you get a mega disaster,” he said.

2 girls rescue a dog in flood in Trinidad, Bolivia – Photo, Aizar Raldes, AFP

Since we have been writing lately about the arctic, it is appropriate to end with two articles which much sum up the problems we face.

Stephen Leahy of IPS News writes “U.S. Moving Backwards:”

As global warming melts the Arctic, the United States’s biggest banks are investing billions of dollars in as many as 150 new coal-fired power plants around the country.

The obvious climatic and fiscal stupidity of such investments is staggering, say environmentalists.

“What are they (the banks) thinking?” asked Leslie Lowe, energy and environment programme director at the Interfaith Centre on Corporate Responsibility …

“It is folly to build new coal-fired plants,” she said.

And yet that is just what Bank of America and Citi (formerly Citigroup) are doing, according to the new report “Banks, Climate Change & the New Coal Rush” by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN).

Electricity generation from coal is the biggest source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the world — larger than deforestation or the transportation sector, says Rebecca Tarbotton, director of RAN’s Global Finance Campaign

The 150 proposed new plants would add 600 million to 1.1 billion tonnes of carbon annually into the atmosphere, Tarbotton said in an interview. Total global emissions of carbon are currently about 8 billion tonnes.

“There is no hope of averting climate catastrophe if a significant number of those plants are built,” said Bill McKibben, author and founder of Step It Up, the largest demonstration against global warming in history.

Dollars and more dollars and even more dollars. And fewer polar bears.

Photo – USFWS

Andrew Revlin of the New York Times writes:

Two biologists who measure field time with polar bears in decades sat in a federal building here, envisioning two possible fates for this denizen of ice in a warming world — and neither future looked bright …

On one possible track, the bears, facing a chronic food gap, could weaken and reproduce ever less as the ice-free summer season expands. The other course could be a swift collapse, should more summers unfold like this past one, said Steven C. Amstrup of the United States Geological Survey …

The script for a slow fade-out may already be on display along the western shores of Hudson Bay in northern Canada, Dr. Amstrup said.

After binging on ringed seals early each year, this southern population, well below of the Arctic Circle, leaves the melting ice and scrounges snow geese and lyme grass, losing weight all summer.

“It appears they’ve reached a point where the earlier departure of the sea ice and their earlier appearance onshore is starting to affect their survival,” he said.

But an abrupt collapse could occur, as well, Dr. Amstrup said.

Yes, and an abrupt collapse could occur as well.

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Sep 25 2007


Another day without a penguin dollar. One of the benefits of living without money. As world leaders gather at the United Nations for talk, more talk, there is more news about the ice.

The BBC says “Ice withdrawal ‘shatters record.'” Which means we have lost more ice than ever before:

“The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said the minimum extent of 4.13 million sq km (1.59 million sq miles) was reached on 16 September.

The figure shatters all previous satellite surveys, including the previous record low of 5.32 million sq km measured in 2005.

Earlier this month, it was reported that the Northwest Passage was open.”

The fabled Arctic shipping route from the Atlantic to the Pacific is normally ice-bound at some location throughout the year; but this year, ships have been able to complete an unimpeded navigation.

East Greenland 2 – Photo, Christian Morel

Words don’t do ice justice. You have to see it the ice to understand. There are human scientists who have dedicated themselves to better understand the ice. Their project is called the International Polar Year. They have some extraordinary photographs on their website, including many by a truly gifted photographer, Christian Morel. Look. Feel. Experience. Mourn the loss of the ice.

Antarctic Peninsula – Photo, Christian Morel

Speaking to BBC News on Monday this week, Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist at the NSIDC, said: “2005 was the previous record and what happened then had really astounded us; we had never seen anything like that, having so little sea ice at the end of summer. Then along comes 2007 and it has completely shattered that old record.”

He added: “We’re on a strong spiral of decline; some would say a death spiral. I wouldn’t go that far but we’re certainly on a fast track. We know there is natural variability but the magnitude of change is too great to be caused by natural variability alone.”

Svalbard – Photo, Christian Morel

And so what does it mean to you, this melting ice. The islanders of Tuvalu already know what is happening. Do you?

The Associated Press can help:

How would some of the United States’ best known cities look if seas rise by slightly more than 3 feet? It’s a disturbing picture.

The projections are based on coastal maps created by scientists at the University of Arizona, who relied on data from the US Geological Survey. Many scientists say sea rise of 1 meter is likely to happen within 100 years. Here is a look at what that might do:


Fourth of July celebrations wouldn’t be the same. The Esplanade, where fireworks watchers gather, would be submerged by a rising Charles River, along with the Hatch Shell where the Boston Pops stages its annual concert. Some runways at Logan International Airport will be partially covered, and the neighborhoods tourists know best would be smaller.

Hatch Shell Boston Pops – Photo, Winslow Townsend, AP

New York

At the southern tip of Manhattan, sea water would inundate Battery Park City, now home to 9,000 people. Waves would lap near the base of the new Freedom Tower. Beachfront homes from the blue collar Rockaways to the mansions of the Hamptons, could be swamped by advancing surf.

New Yorkers seeking a change of scene would find it tougher to get out of town, since both runways at LaGuardia Airport would be partly underwater. But all that would pale compared to what would happen during a bad storm. If giant storm walls were built across key waterways, that might protect parts of the city, “but that doesn’t help anyone outside the gates,” said Malcolm Bowman, who leads a storm surge research group at Stony Brook University.


You can kiss goodbye the things that make south Florida read like an Elmore Leonard novel: the glitz of South Beach, the gator-infested Everglades, and some of the bustling terminals of Miami International Airport.

Many of the beachside places where tourists flock and the rich and famous luxuriate would be under water. Spits of land would be left in fashionable South Beach and celebrity-studded Fisher Island.

While the booming downtown would be mostly spared, inland areas near the airport and out to the low-lying Everglades would be submerged. Miami would resemble a cookie nibbled on from the south and east.

New Orleans

If the levees break again and the nation gives up the fight to save the lowest parts of New Orleans, the Big Easy would be reduced to a sliver of land along the Mississippi River, leaving the French Quarter and the oldest neighborhoods as the only places on dry ground.

Another article by Seth Borenstein of AP puts it this way:

Experts say that protecting America’s coastlines would run well into the billions and not all spots could be saved.

And it’s not just a rising ocean that is the problem. With it comes an even greater danger of storm surge, from hurricanes, winter storms and regular coastal storms, Boesch said. Sea level rise means higher and more frequent flooding from these extreme events, he said.

All told, one meter of sea level rise in just the lower 48 states would put about 25,000 square miles under water, according to Jonathan Overpeck, director of the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth at the University of Arizona. That’s an area the size of West Virginia.

The amount of lost land is even greater when Hawaii and Alaska are included, Overpeck said.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s calculation projects a land loss of about 22,000 square miles. The EPA, which studied only the Eastern and Gulf coasts, found that Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and South Carolina would lose the most land. But even inland areas like Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia also have slivers of at-risk land, according to the EPA.

And for you college students:

Storm surges worsened by sea level rise will flood the waterfront getaways of rich politicians – the Bushes’ Kennebunkport and John Edwards’ place on the Outer Banks. And gone will be many of the beaches in Texas and Florida favored by budget-conscious students on Spring Break.

Spring Break! Gone! Kaput! Like Tuvalua!

If that’s not enough to get you moving, nothing is.

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Sep 05 2007


Penguin 11 isn’t one of those penguins who sticks out in a crowd. She’s shy and retiring. Quiet and smart. Many times we have to remind ourselves that she is in the room.

Just the other day, Penguin 11 came up to us with something she had thought about and asked whether this was something we would write about.

Some of you may well say this is something we should keep our beaks out of. Too political. Well it’s a bit late for that, don’t you think. Now that the ice is melting it’s everyone’s business. Don’t you think it’s important to see how we use energy?


Rare Photo of Penguin 11 Jogging Far Right – Photo by Joan Koele

So without further ado, how about a nice hand and flipper-smack for Penguin 11:

Dear Penguins and friends of Penguins. As many of you know I spend a lot of time thinking and walking and walking and thinking. I think humans call it daydreaming. And sometimes days are long here.

Anyway, one day I was thinking about Al Gore. It’s not what you think. I’m very happy for Tipper. But I thought about how he spoke out against the war in Iraq, and how he speaks out against the climate crisis. But he doesn’t put them together. Some of us were able to see LiveEarth and I don’t think anyone really talked about the Iraq War & Global Warming. How much energy was being used by humvees, and tanks, and fighter jets and all those large bombers.

Anyway while vacationing in the Falklands, I decided to put some penguin thought to the matter. It was the end of yet another beautiful day when I decided to do some research.


Photo Ben Tubby

With the help of Marsha at the internet cafe, I found this interesting article quoting Dr. Sohbet Karbuz who used to work in the energy statistic department of the International Energy Agency in Paris. The city of lights:

Which government agency is one of the world’s largest landlords and has a budget that could be ranked as the world’s 17th largest economy and could be ranked as the world’s 31st largest oil consumer and the world’s biggest purchaser of oil?

The United States Department of Defense (DoD)!

Here are some interesting statistics:

The Department of Defense is one of the world’s largest landlords with a physical plant consisting of more than 571,900 facilities (buildings, structures and utilities) located on more than 3,740 sites, on nearly 30 million acres” (121 400 km2) says the Base Structure Report for Fiscal Year 2005 of the US Department of Defense …

Defense outlays (actual expenditures) as a share of GDP is 3.0 in fiscal year 2006 ($424.4 billion). This figure does not include supplemental appropriations to cover costs of the war in Iraq.

The US DoD is the largest oil consumer in the US, and 31st largest in the world.

“Military fuel consumption makes the Department of Defense the single largest consumer of petroleum in the U.S” [2]

“Military fuel consumption for aircraft, ships, ground vehicles and facilities makes the DoD the single largest consumer of petroleum in the U.S” [3]

[The] American GI is the most energy-consuming soldier ever seen on the field of war.

“The Army calculated that it would burn 40 million gallons of fuel in three weeks of combat in Iraq, an amount equivalent to the gasoline consumed by all Allied armies combined during the four years of World War I.” [2]

In May 2005 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, Robert Bryce gives another example; “The Third Army (of General Petton) had about 400,000 men and used about 400,000 gallons of gasoline a day. Today the Pentagon has about a third that number of troops in Iraq yet they use more than four times as much fuel.”

The US DoD spent $8.2 billion on energy in fiscal year 2004.

“In fiscal 2005, DESC will buy about 128 million barrels of fuel at a cost of $8.5 billion, and Jet fuel constitutes nearly 70% of DoD’s petroleum product purchases.”[4]

For some, this is not enough though. “Because DOD’s consumption of oil represents the highest priority of all uses, there will be no fundamental limits to DOD’s fuel supply for many, many decades.” [5]


[1] T. A. Mehuron, The Defense Budget at A Glance, Air Force Magazine, April 2005.
[2] Presentation by American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Red Cavaney held at the USAF/API Awards Banquet ˆ Arlington, Virginia, July 15, 2004.
[3] E. C. Aldbridge and D. M. Etter testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on June 5, 2001.
[4] American Forces Information Service News Article by G. J. Gilmore, DoD Has Enough Petroleum Products for Anti-Terror War, August 11, 2005.
[5] More Capable Warfighting Through Reduced Fuel Burden, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, The Defense Science Board Task Force on Improving Fuel Efficiency of Weapons Platforms, January 2001

Here is a short excerpt from Robert Bryce’s article. We’re too broke to subscribe and get the whole thing:

The Department of Defense now has about 27,000 vehicles in Iraq—and every one of them gets lousy gas mileage …

Although the Pentagon has tried to reduce the number of fuels it consumes, and now relies primarily on a jet-fuel-like substance called JP-8, the Defense Energy Support Center is currently supplying fourteen kinds of fuel to U.S. troops in Iraq.

In short, the American GI is the most energy-consuming soldier ever seen on the field of war. For computers and GPS units, Humvees and helicopters, the modern soldier is in constant need of energy: battery power, electric power, and petroleum. The U.S. military now uses about 1.7 million gallons of fuel a day in Iraq. Some of that fuel goes to naval vessels and aircraft, but even factoring out JP-5 fuel (which is what the Navy primarily uses), each of the 150,000 soldiers on the ground consumes roughly nine gallons of fuel a day. And that figure has been rising.


King Penguins, The Falklands – Ben Tubby

We are penguins and war and politics seems very complicated to us. But it seems to me that when people are thinking about simple ways to save energy – using compact fluorescent lightbulbs and buying hybrid cars – it would be worthwhile to think about ending this war. Save lives, save energy, save the ice!

No species survives without some violence. We survive on krill and small fish. But no species on earth is as strong or as powerful as yours. We have not endangered the Earth, our home and yours.

Yours truly,
Penguin 11

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Aug 22 2007



Penguin 134 saw the headline and just had to read the story. She’s a big fan of the British newspapers. Especially for some reason I can’t remember a fan of the Independent:

What can dying penguins tell us about the future of the planet?

It turns out there are a bunch of excerpts from a book by Meredith Hooper “The Ferocious Summer: Palmer’s penguins and the warnings of Antartica.”

You’d probably want to read an article called “What can dying people tell us about the future of the planet?”

Anyway here are some of Meredith Hooper diary entries:

2 January 2002
The night before arriving at Palmer, Bill gives me a briefing. Dr Bill Fraser is a seabird ecologist, one of an inner group of US scientists who have dedicated themselves to Antarctic research …

The news is shocking. The season, Bill says flatly, has gone to hell. Palmer’s Adélie penguins are in crisis, barely holding on. The weather has been relentless, dire. The seabird work is under real pressure. “We are arriving to a catastrophe, walking into a bitter scenario produced by climate change,” he says. “The Adélie penguins don’t have the capacity to survive the drastic changes that are occurring. There’s no doubt. ”

The real penguin losses in Antarctica are happening on the Antarctic Peninsula, where the greatest warming is occurring …


Michael Van Woert, 1998 NOAA

And some penguin-inspired poetry:

“There’s a revelling in the intense activity of a penguin summer. Its rhythm catches you up. It’s there in all the accounts – the early explorers, scientists, delighted visitors, dedicated penguin observers, everyone engrossed in the privilege of watching, the luck of being there. Becoming in a small way part of it, because they are tolerated. Stop watching, and you miss something. Keep watching and you begin to recognise the stages.


Adelie penguin & minke whale – Peter Rejcek, NSF

But this time there is so little noise. So little smell. Such small groups. So few chicks. An almost complete absence of guano, that starburst of pink radiating out from each nest, that signal of occupancy, of chicks at home, of regular feeding, of the need to feed, of rotation of parents with their full bellies coming back from the ocean. Some of the smaller colonies have only one successful nest with one chick, very occasionally two, under the one bird. Seeing the Adélies for myself is shocking. In my head are memories of busy, functioning penguin colonies. The din of living, the pervasive smell of food being crammed in and processed out. Of beaks snapping and clashing, of the haze of dust and feathers rising over massed nests …

Last time, each colony, each subset, seemed to me like a suburb, most households roughly similar. Now the rookery feels like an urban city in a war zone. Some colonies are reasonably active, some almost non-functioning. But in general the city is severely depleted. There appear to be very few “families,” lots of singles and childless partners.


Patrick Rowe, NSF

One leopard seal has been working the area periodically, another full-time. Pickings are easy at Torgersen, where birds have to stack in bottlenecks to come ashore. Beach access has been confined by snow to two narrow locations, and the water churns as a leopard thrashes a penguin out of its skin. Birds grab morsels. If the dead penguin is one of a functioning pair – this season that’s not just a loss, it’s a disaster.

There’s a small amount of pebble-carrying and nest-tidying, but very little. I see one pair attempting a fumbling copulation: beaks clacking, flippers waving, male attempting to balance on the female’s back. Many birds are sitting in the brooding position. But nothing is happening. What do birds do when the eggs have failed? Does the pair bonding remain? Does alternate feeding continue when there’s no need to relieve each other on the nest? I find just one empty egg on a rock; but no eggshells. I see dead penguins on the ground, bones and sinew, but the carcasses could belong to last year, or the year before. The skuas seem particularly confident. Where have all the penguins gone?”

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Aug 08 2007


Good day. This is Penguin 5 back from my extensive travels. I have seen a great many things and have spent some time relaxing. Gentle Yoga. Deep breathing. Meditation. It’s amazing how it helps to stare into the water and imagine a better world. I wish I could say it’s the solution but …

One day while waddling my way down to the water, it all came clear to me. Men are from Mars, Women from Venus, and for better or worse, we penguins are from Earth.

Not only does this help explain the human difficulty in maintaining relationships, but the very different perspective humans and penguins seem to have.

We only have this one, single planet – our home – to worry about. You seem to imagine leaving this one behind when it no longer suits your purpose.

Although I confess I never have really understood how many of you can actually expect to make it on the spaceships – or who will decide the passenger list.

We are here, really here, stuck on Earth. We struggle to stay alive. To survive the winter wind. To protect our young from predators. To survive our ever-increasing popularity. For it seems we have become cute. A tourist attraction.

Here we are. Take a look:


13000 Emperors – Bob Finks

Perhaps a few examples will help:

Rebecca Fox reports from New Zealand that

“The future of yellow-eyed penguins at Sandfly Bay on the Otago Peninsula could be under threat from unregulated tourism.

The accessibility of prime penguin-spotting sites had become common knowledge and Sandfly Bay had even found its way into travel guides, University of Otago zoology lecturer Dr Philip Seddon said.

Tourists in their thousands were finding their way to the bay.

Studies by his department showed penguins at Sandfly Bay exposed to unregulated tourism showed significantly lower breeding success and fledgling weights than sites visited infrequently.

Is this a surprise to you? Remember “There but for the grace of God go I.” Take a moment. Think penguin. Feel penguin. Be penguin. How happy are your feet?

Speaking about spaceships, here’s a species that never made it on board. Where’s Noah
when you need him?

Bye-bye Yangtze River dolphin:

The long-threatened Yangtze River dolphin in China is probably extinct, according to an international team of researchers who said this would mark the first whale or dolphin to be wiped out due to human activity.


The Yangtze River dolphin, with its distinctive long nose, is likely to have been lost to the planet for ever

The freshwater dolphin, or baiji, was last spotted several years ago and an intensive six-week search in late 2006 failed to find any evidence that one of the rarest species on earth survives, said Samuel Turvey, a conservation biologist, at the Zoological Society of London, who took part in the search.

He said the dolphin’s demise — which resulted from overfishing, pollution and lack of intervention — might serve as a cautionary tale and should spur governments and scientists to act to save other species verging on extinction.

I think I definitely need to take a moment. And some deep breathing. In with the good thoughts. In, one two three four five. Out with the negative. Out, one two three four five.

We’re not talking about some johnny-come-lately species here. This is the Baiji Yangtze River dolphin. A Chinese report puts it in greater perspective:

Regarded in China as the “goddess of the Yangtze”, the 20 million year old river dolphin was one of the world’s oldest species. The Baiji is the first large mammal brought to extinction as a result of human destruction to their natural habitat and resources.

In the beginning of the 1980s the Yangtze still had around 400 Baiji cavorting in its waters. However, the river dolphin became a victim of China’s rapidly growing economy. A 1997 survey still showed 13 confirmed sightings. The last confirmed sighting of a Baiji was in September 2004. QiQi, a dolphin male, who was rescued in 1980, died in July 2002 at the Institute of Hydrobiology in Wuhan.

The baiji was for more than 20 years among the most disputed conservation issues between chinese and western scientists. There has been especially in the nineties endless arguments and disputes about strategies how to save the species – whether to leave them in their natural habitat or capture and move them to a safe place like the Tian-e-Zhou Oxbow “Semi Natural” Reserve. “Now we do not have to discuss any longer. We have lost the race. The Baiji has gone”, said August Pfluger.

20 million years! Take a deep breath. That’s 20 million years! So then the question is how long have people lived on Earth:

Fixing a time when the human race actually came into existence is not a straightforward matter. Various ancestors of Homo sapiens seem to have appeared at least as early as 700,000 B.C. Hominids walked the Earth as early as several million years ago. According to the United Nations’ Determinants and Consequences of Population Trends, modern Homo sapiens may have appeared about 50,000 B.C.

Now there are still an awful lot of humans who want nothing to do with the early hominids. So let’s leave the answer somewhere between several million and 52,000 years. That still gives the Baiji Yangtze River dolphin at least a 10:1 time advantage.

Imagine how hard it must have been to survive for 20 million years! They did pretty darn good until they ran into the Men from Mars and the Women from Venus!

And just in case you feel like blaming the dolphin, add this story into the mix. According to an article by Martyn McLaughlin in The Scotsman, the Scottish puffin population
is starving as a result of climate change.


In the darkness of their burrows, the puffin chicks starve to death while food lies decomposing in front of them.

They are not able to swallow the snake pipefish brought back from the North Sea by their parents because it is covered in a hard exo-skeleton.

With no fat on their bodies, the pufflings soon perish. Shunned even by predators, they are left to decay atop the cliffs of St Kilda – the latest victims of climate change.

Come on kids. These puffins are cute. Almost as cute as penguins. Well that’s asking for too much, but pretty cute nonetheless. How about making some “SAVE THE PUFFIN” posters and getting out on those Scottish streets!

The article continues:

With about half of Britain’s population, few of the World Heritage Site’s puffins are coming of age, which some conservationists say is leaving the entirety of the birds’ population “verging on catastrophe” …

Yet barely over half of the eggs hatched fledged chicks last year. While that figure of 57 per cent represents an increase on 2005’s all-time low of 26 per cent, it remains perilously below the average, which stands at about 71 per cent.

Across other sites in Scotland, the threat to the puffin population is equally severe …

Conservation experts have told The Scotsman, the issue is inextricably bound to the mismanagement of Scotland’s waters.

Over the past two decades, the surface temperature in the southern North Sea has risen by 2C.

It appears at first to be a negligible increase, but it is playing out a complex choreography on the food needed during the seabirds’ breeding seasons.

Whereas once the puffins, also known as sea parrots, thrived on the likes of oil-rich sand eels, young herring, or sprats, they are now forced to eke out what little nutritional value is available from snake pipefish, which until recently, was rarely seen.

Whoops! A 2C rise in temperature and all of a sudden the puffins are “verging on catastrophe.”

Oh well I promised Penguins 2 and 4 I’d offer you something entertaining.

Forget starving puffins for a moment. Have you heard these:

“According to a new U.N. report, the global warming outlook is much worse than originally predicted. Which is pretty bad when they originally predicted it would destroy the planet.” –Jay Leno

“According to a survey in this week’s Time magazine, 85% of Americans think global warming is happening. The other 15% work for the White House.” –Jay Leno

“Has anybody seen the Al Gore movie about global warming and the environment? Well, the Bush administration has seen it and they are very annoyed about the whole thing. As a matter of fact, earlier today, Dick Cheney shot a projectionist. … One very dramatic scene in the Al Gore global warming movie is when a glacier melts and they find more Al Gore ballots from the election.” –David Letterman

There’s always Mars for Men and Venus for Women!

And for those of us left behind some deep breathing. In with the good thoughts. In, one two three four five. Out with the negative. Out, one two three four five.

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Jul 18 2007


Published by under penguins

Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Who knows where time goes? It seems to be melting all around us.

I think we at Penguins United have been a bit depressed lately. Perhaps that explains the silence.

Penguin5 has returned. He is resting and will likely be writing you soon.

He has travelled far and wide and met with many penguins and many humans.

Young Mary, an apprentice at the PC – that’s what we sometimes call the Penguin Center – arranged for a delegation of us to watch Live Earth on what she called their big screen TV.

A lot of people. Not enough penguins. And what’s with this Metallica?

She showed us the website. Not enough penguins.

Al Gore got all these people together to answer the call.

What are we missing here:
I will change four light bulbs to CFLs at my home.
I will shop for the most energy efficient electronics and appliances.
I will shut off my equipment and lights whenever I’m not using them.
I will ride public transit or carpool one or more times per week.
I will forward a Live Earth email message to 5 friends.
Add my name to the Live Earth pledge.

And from Somini Sengupta in this morning’s New York Times:
“This is how a glacier retreats.
At nearly 13,000 feet above sea level, in the shadow of a sharp Himalayan peak, a wall of black ice oozes in the sunshine. A tumbling stone breaks the silence of the mountains, or water gurgles under the ground, a sign that the glacier is melting from inside. Where it empties out — scientists call it the snout — a noisy, frothy stream rushes down to meet the river Ganges …

Three years ago, the snout was roughly 90 feet farther away. On a map drawn in 1962, it was plotted 860 feet from here.

The thousands of glaciers studded across 1,500 miles of the Himalayas make up the savings account of South Asia’s water supply, feeding more than a dozen major rivers and sustaining a billion people downstream. Their apparent retreat threatens to bear heavily on everything from the region’s drinking water supply to agricultural production to disease and floods.”

A lot of people planned LiveEarth. Not enough penguins.

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Jun 05 2007


Published by under penguins

Goodmorning all – it’s Tuesday June 06 2007 here. First, thanks to all those of you who have written. It’s impossible to answer all of you personally – but I do want to say to Dorothy in Aukland that all of the photographs we use have been taken by people photographers not penguins and we always try to give them credit. Flippers, you know what I mean! An opportunity most of the time but a slight problem when it comes to point and shoot.

There is great concern in the Penguin Nation over recent new reports. Where is Penguin5 when you need him?

On May 30 some NASA scientists, led by James Hansen, issued a warning:

“NASA and Columbia University Earth Institute research finds that human-made greenhouse gases have brought the Earth’s climate close to critical tipping points, with potentially dangerous consequences for the planet.”

Here’s where they get a bit technical but … ” From a combination of climate models, satellite data, and paleoclimate records the scientists conclude that the West Antarctic ice sheet, Arctic ice cover, and regions providing fresh water sources and species habitat are under threat from continued global warming … Tipping points can occur during climate change when the climate reaches a state such that strong amplifying feedbacks are activated by only moderate additional warming.”

If I understand it, at this point even a little bit of warming can have a bigger effect than you might imagine.

And they added a photograph from space showing that here in Antarctica more ice melted into the ice than we added by snowfall. You know, of course, that no penguin has ever seen our home from space:



But here are the most important points of all:

“we probably need a full court press on both CO2 emission rates and non-CO2 forcings, to avoid tipping points and save Arctic sea ice and the West Antarctic ice sheet.” and “With another decade of ‘business-as-usual’ it becomes impractical to achieve the ‘alternative scenario’ because of the energy infrastructure that would be in place says Hansen.”

Wouldn’t it be great if scientists spoke penguin? Now remember we don’t play basketball but you’d have to be dead not to know about LeBron and Kobe. And here where teamwork is everything, we especially appreciate Steve Nash and Tim Duncan. Anyway enough of the full court press.

So here goes: take away the scientese and we’ve got 10 years to save the ice. To save our home.

But this is the part that we penguins find so puzzling.

A day later comes this news report:

“NASA administrator Michael Griffin continues to draw the ire of preeminent climate scientists inside and outside of NASA, as well as members of Congress, after apparently downplaying the need to combat global warming.

In an interview broadcast yesterday … Griffin was asked by NPR’s Steve Inskeep whether he is concerned about global warming.

“I have no doubt that a trend of global warming exists,” Griffin told Inskeep. “I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.”

Our ice is melting. Our home is in danger. And the head of your space agency thinks that “I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.”

Do I sound like Penguin5?

Just a few days, even more evidence appeared. The Independent, a British newspaper – do Americans read British newspapers – published the following report:

“Global warming is accelerating three times more quickly than feared, a series of startling, authoritative studies has revealed.

The study, published by the US National Academy of Sciences, shows that carbon dioxide emissions have been increasing by about 3 per cent a year during this decade, compared with 1.1 per cent a year in the 1990s.

The significance is that this is much faster than even the highest scenario outlined in this year’s massive reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – and suggests that their dire forecasts of devastating harvests, dwindling water supplies, melting ice and loss of species are likely to be understating the threat facing the world.”

Understating the threat facing the world. That is very hard to believe.

Yesterday, the Associated Press published an article revealing that:

“The Bush administration is drastically scaling back efforts to measure global warming from space, just as the president tries to convince the world the U.S. is ready to take the lead in reducing greenhouse gases.

A confidential report to the White House, obtained by The Associated Press, warns that U.S. scientists will soon lose much of their ability to monitor warming from space using a costly and problem-plagued satellite initiative begun more than a decade ago.”

What you can’t see, can’t hurt you.

Well, time is running out!


Photo: NOAA


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