Just a quick note for fellow amateur skywatchers like me. Tonight is the best night for seeing the Perseid meteor shower. The shower is debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle and the earth passes through this trail of debris every year, the best nights for viewing in the northern hemisphere always occurring somewhere around 8th to 12th August.
When we moved away from town and out into the countryside it struck me how little of the night sky many of us humans see because of light pollution. Without street lighting, on moonless nights the darkness can be almost inky black out here and it’s great for sky gazing. On our first Summer at this house we sat out in the garden on some old reclining Summer chairs around the night of the 12th, children on our laps and all wrapped in warm blankets. It was fantastic fun to watch the skies and see who could spot the meteors, although it wasn’t hard because this light show is a spectacular one on a good night, with several bolts of light visible in every minute.
I’m still not back in my usual spot with the computer after the arrival of the carpets guys. Time here is therefore limited but I hope things will be back to normal this weekend and I’ll be able to devote some proper time to catching up with everyone.
Who is the biggest polluter in the world now? China? India? Here’s a chart you may find interesting:
China, as a developing country, is not yet required to reduce its emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, but as it accounts for one fifth of the world’s population, its emissions could dwarf any cuts made by industrialised countries.
The U.S. withdrew from its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6%, preferring instead to support voluntary reductions through the development of cleaner technologies. (A strategy which, according to this chart, didn’t seem to be working). Finding more recent figues has proved difficult but according to an April 2008 article China and the U.S. were still vying for the dubious title of being the world’s top carbon polluter.
If, like most people, you are a follower of the theory that greenhouse gases are responsible for global warming, then this all makes for depressing reading.
A breakdown of the countries on the above chart, together with their commitment and performance relating to the Kyoto Protocol can be seen here.
There is also a fascinating ‘live map’ of the earth, showing CO2 emissions, birth and death rates over at breathingearth.net.
This week a meeting will take place in Copenhagen of the ‘Polar Bear Specialist Group’, set up by the IUCN / Species Survival Commission. What is quite extraordinary is that one of the world’s foremost experts on polar bears, Dr. Mitchell Taylor will not be attending. He has been told to stay away because his views do not accord with the rest of those attending. Dr Taylor has studied polar bears for the last 30 years and contrary to the popular view, has stated on more than one occasion that polar bear numbers are actually much higher than they were 30 years ago.
You can read the full article here and while you’re at it, you might also note that the famous ‘polar bears on a melting iceberg’ shot that has been used over and over by people such as Al Gore to support their standpoint was taken by photographer Amanda Byrd just off the Alaska coast. She has said that the bears were in fact in no danger, and that the photo was taken simply because the wind-sculpted ice on which they were standing made for a striking image – it wasn’t taken to illustrate global warming.
All of which goes to show that you can prove anything if you speak to the right people and find the right tools to illustrate your point.
There is a wonderful set of images posted at the moment on The Big Picture site, all by photographer Jason Hawkes. Jason has been photographing aerial shots since 1991 and I just love the different view that this gives us of the world – both thought provoking and beautiful. It’s very hard to pick just one favourite. This one below caught my eye because it’s of tomatoes dumped on the banks of the River Durance in France. From the air it looks like a painting. Go and have a look for yourself at this great collection.