Posts Tagged ‘atlantic’

Ascension Island: Like Easter Island, Ascension Island has lessons for the planet—cheerful ones (Economist)

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

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[Editor's note: Fun geo writeup of that spot of rock in the Atlantic near St. Helena. Thanks Derek!]

AT THE top of Green Mountain, the central peak of Ascension Island, there is a small pond, dotted with lilies, shadowed to one side by the fronds of a pandan tree. It is the only open body of fresh water on the island—and for a thousand kilometres in any direction. Around Dew Pond grows a grove of towering bamboo, beyond which the trade winds blow incessantly from the south-east. Within the grove the air is still and damp.

Along the trailing ridge of the summit are fig trees, Cape yews and a garland of remarkably vigorous ginger. Below, on the mountain’s lee side, trees and shrubs from all parts of the world spread down the hillside to a landscape of casuarina trees—ironwood, or she-oak—and thorny chaparral around its base. Even on the bleaker windward slope, grasses and sedges are dotted with Bermuda cedar and guava bushes. Above, the bamboo scratching at their bellies, are the clouds the trade winds bring; some days they cover the mountain top.

Once seen as too dry to be worth inhabiting, Ascension Island is becoming greener at an increasing rate. People are responsible. In part, their contribution was unwitting: the thorny mesquite that anchors a lot of the island’s scrub was introduced for a landscaping project just 50 years ago. But the forest on the peak of Green Mountain represents a deliberate attempt to change the island’s climate to make it more habitable. It is the centrepiece of a small but startling ecological transformation which is part experiment and part accident, part metaphor and part inspiration.

Ascension was discovered by the Portuguese in 1501. Just to the west of the mid-ocean ridge that separates South America’s tectonic plate from Africa’s, it is the top of a volcano which rises steeply from abyssal plains more than four kilometres below the surface of the ocean. The volcano made it above that surface only a million or so years ago, since when the island has grown to about 100 square kilometres. Before people arrived it was home to just a flightless bird, a land crab and no more than 30 species of plant, none as big as a bush. It was so barren and isolated that during the following three centuries of assiduous empire-building neither the Portuguese nor any other nation bothered to claim it. When Captain Cook passed by in 1775, Georg Forster—later to become renowned for his accounts of exploration—wrote it off as a “ruinous heap of rocks”, drearier even than Tierra del Fuego and Easter Island. But Forster’s naturalist father Johann saw something more promising:

Continue reading at The Economist . . .

Interactive Map: The Shaping of America (Atlantic Mag)

Friday, March 6th, 2009

[Editor's note: Interactive Google Maps mashup based in Flex (Flash) animating maps of 3 themes showing the US cities and how they stand to benefit or loose from the current economic crises. From the Atlantic, "Urban theorist Richard Florida explains how the current meltdown will forever change our geography." Thanks Laris!]

Republished from the Atlantic magazine.
Text by Richard Florida. Interactive by Charlie Szymanski.
March 2009 edition.

“No place in the United States is likely to escape a long and deep recession. Nonetheless, as the crisis continues to spread outward from New York, through industrial centers like Detroit, and into the Sun Belt, it will undoubtedly settle much more heavily on some places than on others. Some cities and regions will eventually spring back stronger than before. Others may never come back at all. As the crisis deepens, it will permanently and profoundly alter the country’s economic landscape. I believe it marks the end of a chapter in American economic history, and indeed, the end of a whole way of life.”

Continue reading full article at The Atlantic magazine . . .

View original interactive version. Two more views from the interactive.

The Nation Barack Obama Inherits (Atlantic)

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

[Editor's note: Compare the state of the nation via an oddball set of statistics for when Bush took office and and Obama now in 2009. Thanks Laris!]

Republished from the Atlantic, January / February 2009.

By Timothy Lavin. Timothy Lavin is an Atlantic associate editor.

Then and Now. On March 4, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt addressed a crowd of 400,000 at his first inauguration. The past few years had seen a spectacular decline in the nation’s fortunes, born of what he called the “mad chase of evanescent profits.” Banks were failing, savings disappearing, real estate and commodities collapsing. Fascism was rising abroad. In response, Roosevelt pledged “a disciplined attack upon our common problems.” He didn’t get much more specific than that. And, really, he didn’t have to. The people wanted change, in the current vernacular—or, more precisely, they wanted a government that could respond coherently to the profound changes that were already under way.

Barack Obama assumes the presidency this year amid a similar sense of national crisis, and having made similar promises of change. And, like Roosevelt, he’ll be leading a country very different from the one his predecessor inherited: as the statistics on this map show, change itself is one thing we’ve seen in abundance in the past eight years. Making sense of that upheaval will be the first responsibility of the new administration.

Since 2000, America has changed in small ways, in big ways, and in ways that seem innocent enough now but no doubt herald some radical disruptions to come. Many more people are poor, uninsured, and in prison. Many more are billionaires. The burden of health-care costs has grown heavier, and so have we. We charge more, save less, and play a lot more video games. Even the things that haven’t changed much—like the amount of oil we consume, or the price of cocaine, or the size of our military—reflect not so much stasis as unsustainable trajectories. For Obama, responding to these problems will require breaking deep national addictions—to oil, to etherealized finance, to profligacy of all kinds—and, somehow, easing the tremens along the way. Perhaps, in doing so, he should heed a warning Roosevelt issued on the campaign trail: “Without leadership alert and sensitive to change,” he said, “we are bogged up or lose our way.”

Click image above to view larger version of the map.

Click here to see the sources from which this map was compiled.