The Green Blues Show
In an idyllic Pacific atoll vaporized by atomic bomb tests, seventy years ago, marine life returns …
Genetically modified apples and potatoes raise eyebrows and a few concerns …
And barcoding the millions of creatures in the tree of life, for instant identification.
In response to Earth’s warming atmosphere, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that thermal expansion has raised sea levels by an estimated two tenths of a meter. A subsequent scientific report, based on satellite measurements, announced that the annual rate of sea level rise was even higher — about 1.4 mm per year.
A millimeter rise in ocean levels may seem tiny, but the consequences for coastal communities around the world are huge. In response to increasingly frequent urban floods across North America, Europe and Asia, experts have begun designing flood-proof cities. Step one: get rid of all the pavement, or make it more porous; recruit vegetation and microbes, to filter the water as it seeps back to where it belongs.
In the Netherlands – no stranger to flood — engineers are making more room for rivers and ocean, allocating areas that can be safely, even profitably flooded. In China, sixteen “sponge cities” are being built, featuring dense islands of habitation surrounded by a large lake that can rise and fall, depending on the weather. In response to Hurricane Sandy, urban engineers are re-designing New York City’s flood defenses with coastal ecology, biodiversity, urban beautification and economic development in mind.
It all comes down to resilience – making the most of wet and dryland.
Bikini Atoll, in the central Pacific, is as desolate as a place can be. Here, between 1946 and 1958, the US military carried out 23 nuclear tests. The largest, a 15-megatonne thermonuclear blast codenamed “Bravo,” in March 1954, vaporized several islands and sent a dark column of radioactive coral rocketing into the stratosphere. Not surprisingly, little Bikini has been a lonely place ever since. It’s native population – a couple hundred islanders evacuated for the tests – have never been able to return. Groundwater and local food is still contaminated with Cesium and other radioisotopes. But marine organisms are remarkably resilient. Steve Palumbi a Stanford University marine biologist, has traveled to Bikini to check out what’s going on beneath the azure waters of Bikini atoll. Palumbi is a marine biologist based at Hopkins Marine Station, at Stanford University, in Monterrey, California.
A genetically-modified apple, that doesn’t turn brown when exposed to air, went on the market in the US earlier this year. The ‘Arctic Apple’, the creation of British Columbia company “Okanagan Specialty Fruits,” has yet to be approved for sale in Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada have approved three varieties of GMO potatoes for cultivation and sale. I spoke about these developments with Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.
If genetically modified apples and potatoes raise eyebrows, it’s worth recalling those days, many years ago, when bar codes first appeared on consumer products, and bar code scanners at checkout counters. Now, hundreds of thousands of species have been assigned bar codes of a completely different sort. The Barcode of Life Project is based at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, in Guelph. I spoke with Dirk Steinke, senior researcher and Director for Education and Outreach at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, in Guelph, Ontario.
In today’s show, music from Little Brother Montgomery, Robert Johnson and Dave Van Ronk