There are those predicting doom and gloom for electric cars when temperatures drop, and those steadfastedly saying that frigid batteries will not be the end of the road when it comes to fuel-free transportation. The reality lies somewhere in between, but Volvo’s at least doing the right thing: testing the frozen snot out of its C30 Electric way up north of the Arctic Circle. When things get really cold the car can use an ethanol-powered heater to keep things comfortable for both drivers and batteries and, at temperatures down to -30C (that’s -22F), the car has proven to manage a range of 80km, which is just a tick under 50 miles. Given the hatchback is rated for 100 miles of range when warmer that’s not exactly good news for Eskimo environmentalists who love Swedish cars. Still, it also must be said those are rather extreme conditions, as shown in the video below, which also includes footage of some extreme elk reindeer herding.
Update: Viktor wrote in to let us know that the creatures in the video are indeed reindeer, not elk. The person responsible for such an egregious factual error has been sacked, and a sizeable donation made to the “Save the Reindeer from Swedish EVs Foundation.”
A district court in northern Sweden has ruled there is no reason why indigenous Samis there cannot sue the Swedish state for infringing on their fishing and hunting rights.
The court rejected the argument of state lawyers that there were legal errors in the suit. The Sami parliament, which has only advisory powers, had argued that the Sami people should have a major influence over fishing and hunting rights, rather than the Swedish state.
Speaking with Swedish Radio, Mattias Åhrén of the Sami Council, the organization representing the Samis across the Nordic region, says the ruling will have a major impact.
Fertilizer giant Yara says it is favourable to ship ore tailings from its coming Sokoli mine in Finnish Lapland to existing concentrator plant in Kovdor, just cross the Russian border.
Yara fertilizer plant and phosphate rock mining in Siilinjärvi near Kuopi in Finland.
Photo: Yara International ASA
The plan is to start mining in 2014-15. Technical and economic studies are now underway, but Yara Soumi Oy says already that building its own enrichment plant in Sokoli will be too costly.
– It make sense to use the existing concentrator plant for apatite, located only 50 kilometres away, instead of building a new one, says Eero Hemming, coordinator for the project in a press-note posted on Yara Suomi Oy’s own portal.
The concentrator plant in question is located in the Russian mining town of Kovdor, near the border to Finland on the Kola Peninsula.
Hemming says another reason to go for the Russian plant is to make less impact on the environment in the area near Sokli.
The up-coming mining of phosphate and niobium in Sokli has triggered protests from an ad-hoc environmental group. The group Save-Sokli claims the by-products make mining in the area extremely problematic.
Sokli is located in Savukoski, between the Urho Kekkonen National Park and the Värriö National Park, said to be the most significant wilderness camping area of Eastern Lapland. The mines will also influence on migration and grazing area of reindeers of Kemin-Sompio, the largest reindeer herdsman cooperative in Finland.
Urho Kekkonen National Park in Finnish Lapland is one of the most significant wilderness area in the Barents Region. Photo: Thomas Nilsen
By shipping the ore to Russia for concentration, Yara hopes to minimize the environmental impact in Finland.
Yara is now proceeding with the Kovdor plant’s owner EuroChem to find solutions for upgrading the ore at the existing plant cross the border from Sokli. Kovdor is Russia’s second biggest producer of apatite concentrate.
The regional news portal Barentsnova reported earlier in February that Murmansk governor Dmitri Dmitrienko recently approved a long-term program to modernize the plants in Kovdor and to construct production facilities for several other minerals.
According to Yara, ore mined in Sokli can be transported to Kovdor either by tube or train.
Yara has long history of doing business with the fertilizer industry on the Kola Peninsula. The company has bought apatite minerals from both the mines in Kovdor and in Kirovsk. The minerals are shipped from a special designed port in Murmansk to Yara’s fertilizer plants in Glomfjord and Herøya in Norway.
The port facilities for loading of apatite minerals in Murmansk. Photo: Thomas Nilsen
The mining plans in Sokli are welcomed by locals in Finnish Lapland. The mine will create jobs for 110-150 people, and even more in the construction period.
Yara will make a final decision on the mining and processing during 2012.
Can the name Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer be used interchangeably with Rudolph the Red Nosed Caribou? Google the words “reindeer” and “caribou” together and you’ll see that they are often used to refer to the same animal.
(Grazing reindeer/caribou; Credit- Dean Biggins, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
In this week’s Discovery News story concerning Christmas trees and reindeer, I use both words, noting that reindeer are called “caribou” in North America. The longer explanation may be much more complex, however.
Cornell University conservation scientist Jeff Wells told me that “the taxonomy of caribou is in flux as more detailed genetic analysis continues, but it is clear there are at least two (possibly more) evolutionary lineages represented in North American caribou.”
He explained that one represents a lineage that was pushed south during the last glaciations and survived in what is now the United States. The other survived either in northern Asia or in a western North American refuge before it colonized, or recolonized, the Arctic regions of North America. Animal experts refer to this latter group as the “migratory barren-ground form.” Not as catchy as “reindeer,” but more descriptive.
The bottom line is that some animals called “caribou” now may be what people in Finland and other countries refer to as reindeer, and some may not. There may even be yet another species in the mix. Additional research will hopefully solve the present puzzle.
There’s a serious aspect to such research beyond word play, as some reindeer/caribou herds are nearing extinction, while others are doing OK.
“The largely non-migratory woodland caribou and mountain caribou forms are classified as threatened, though some herds are classified as endangered and some as ‘special concern,'” Wells explained.
More accurate taxonomy will help to better identify the animals of highest priority for conservation. For now, though, unless you are a proper name purist, Rudolph the Red Nosed Caribou works just as well as his better known name.
The unusual exhibition created by Carsten Hoeller contained living reindeer, mice and canaries, giant fly agaric mushroom sculptures, and was inspired by Hindu mysticism and Vedic writings, where a magical potion, a “food of the gods”, Soma, is mentioned. Scholars have looked at fly agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria) for a possible natural explanation for the mythical Soma said to make people fly and “see the gods”.
Amanita Muscaria is considered poisonous, but has been eaten for food many places after parboiling. It contains the compound muscimol which is a hallucinogen. Siberian tribes reportedly drank the urine from reindeer that had eaten fly agaric mushrooms, and used the mushroom both for ritual and recreation.
On closing last sunday the exhibition had drawn close to 100, 000 visitors in the three months it was open. Visitors could even pay to camp in the installation overnight to fully immerse themselves in the experience.
AFP article here
Polnytt reposted article on the exhibition here
Carsten Hoeller website on the project here
TROMSOE, Norway — Indigenous Sami peoples in the Arctic may have found a way to help their reindeer herds cope with climate change: more castration.
Research by Sami experts shows that sterilized males can grow larger and so are better at digging for food — as Arctic temperatures vary more, thawing snow often refreezes to form thick ice over lichen pastures.
Neutered males are more able to break through ice with their hooves or antlers, and seem more willing than other males to move aside and share food with calves that can die of starvation in bad freeze-thaw winters like 2000-01.
“To make herds more resilient in the future, we need to re-learn the traditional knowledge of castration,” said professor Svein Mathiesen, coordinator of the University of the Arctic’s Institute of Circumpolar Reindeer Husbandry.
More castration “could be useful to adapt to climate change,” he told Reuters in the Arctic city of Tromsoe. “These animals are very good diggers for the small calves in the most critical period of the winter.”
Castration has traditionally been used by reindeer herders, partly to make wild animals more docile. Herders on the Yamal peninsula in Russia still neuter about half of all males — usually by biting into the testicles with their teeth.
Far fewer animals are castrated outside Russia. About 100,000 Sami own about 2.5 million reindeer in homelands in the Nordic countries and Russia.
The traditional Sami biting technique aims for “half-castration” — under which the animals become sterile but still produce some of the male hormone testosterone that promotes muscle growth.
Sami in Norway, where laws limit castration to surgery with anesthetics, are now experimenting with a vaccine to recreate the effects of half-castration.
No interest in sex also helps neutered males in winter.
“Males castrated in the traditional way would have an increased chance of survival over other males since they maintain body weight and condition during the rutting season,” according to a research document by Eli Risten Nergaard of Sami University College.
The Arctic region is warming at double the global rate in a trend blamed by the U.N.’s panel of climate scientists on greenhouse gases from mankind’s burning of fossil fuels.
Yamal herders castrate many of their reindeer, partly because they need strong, docile animals to pull heavy sleds. In Norway, Sami have come to rely on snow-scooters and get most money for calf meat, meaning most males are slaughtered young.
The Sami castration study indicates the complexities of adapting to the impacts of climate change. Many other scientists are focusing on issues such as how to cope with river floods or rising sea levels, or ways to develop drought-resistant crops.
Castrated reindeer also keep their antlers for much of the winter while normal males shed their antlers each autumn after the mating season. That implies that Rudolph, pulling Father Christmas’s sled, has been castrated.