Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays!

I would like to wish the readers of this blog happy holidays and all the best for 2008!
Thank you for stopping by this blog!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dresden and Leipzig among the 10 most popular cities for Tourists reports that Dresden and Leipzig are among the 10 most popular citties for tourists. Last year nearly 53 million overnight stays were booked in German hotels. However, no single regions seemed to be more popular than another and the Top 10 presenting cities from North to South.
Here is the ranking (number of overnight stays booked in brackets:
1. Berlin (6.0 million)
2. Munich (4.2 million)
3. Frankfurt/ Main (2.5 million)
4. Cologne (1.6 million)
5. Hamburg (1.6 million)
6. Dusseldorf (1.2 million)
7. Stuttgart (830.000)
8. Dresden (490.000)
9. Hanover (416.000 )
10. Leipzig (307.000)

Well, in the spirit of this blog I would like to encourage tourists to travel more to the east of Germany to discover places from the Baltic Sea, Lake M├╝ritz to Saxony Switzerland, cities like Rostock, Schwerin, Potsdam but also Weimar, Jena and Seiffen.
In this spirit I'd like to send you to a lightbox on Istock of pictures from the East found here:

shut down excacator

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Guest Blogging: Dams - beauties or beasts?

Spray Lakes, Kananaskis Country, AB

Sunset can hide a lot from the eye. Here it is the complicated and laden subject of hydroelectricity. Just beyond the foot of the mountain on the right is a dam that controls the waterflow of the lake and that creates hydroelectricity that gives the town of Canmore, lying a few kilometers beyond that dam, a lot of its necessary power. It could be argued that dams provide green energy, because no burning of gas, coal or oil is needed. However, dams have huge impacts on the environment and not seldomly also on (indigenous) people. The lakes that form behind the dams flood huge areas and the plant material there will slowly rot, releasing methane. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 is, so the CO2 emissions that dams save is at least partially nullified by that. The changes caused by the sudden appearance of a large lake takes the natural system quite a while to adapt to, especially if wildlife corridors or important habitat is suddenly lost. In the dammed river too, the changes are huge. The river itself of course is one big wildlife corridor and fish and other animals and plants are much hindered in their travels. Dams have caused dramatically reduced diversity in rivers, including the loss of breeding grounds for salmon in many parts of North America and the rest of the world.
In quite a few cases the building of dams led to the forced moving of native people (not only in North America!), not seldomly without any compensation for their losses. In some cases, where these people lived in such remote places that it was perceived to be too much trouble to seek them all out, they were not even warned and simply suddenly saw the water rising above their heads.
Such is the thirst for power (in more than one sense of the word) that dams have been built in many places thoughout the world, arguably producing green power, but at huge costs.

Brilliant Dam, near Castlegar, BC

Read a related article here.

Written by Arthur Sevestre

In support of Project Canada this blog will feature small articles written by Arthur Sevestre about environmental and conservational issues in Canada. If you are interested in the goals of this project, please check out the website.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Guest blog: Living in bear country

Living in an area where bears occur means that you need to adapt to them. The sheer size and strength of bears makes them a factor that you have to consider for many of the decisions you take in your daily life. Take going out for a walk for example. For your own safety it is a good idea to become a bit of a biologist so that you can recognize where you might encounter a bear and a bit of an animal behaviorist to know how to act to avoid an attack in case an encounter does happen. That extra knowledge is also important for decisions like where to store your trash, your dog food and if you will have a birdfeeder in your garden. Seemingly trivial things for those who do not live in 'bear country', but essential if you do and want to avoid luring bears to your house with all that potential food. Once that happens, a bear is often doomed. A food conditioned bear is not afraid of humans and will actively search them out because it knows that food is always nearby. Knowing that there are bears in the forests and mountains around you is one thing, but bumping into one when you open your backdoor is quite something else. Some very smart bears have even developed a way to scare hikers out of their backpacks in order to get to the food inside it. By chance they found out that hikers often drop their backpack to distract an aggressive bear's attention so that they had a chance to escape. From that it was only a small step for the bears to learn that a bluff charge will make the human simply drop the food right in front of your feet! Now if that isn't easy food! However, not much is needed to transform such a bluff charge, really not intended to hurt the hiker, into a full charge. So, conditioning bears to our food, be it in the garbage or in a backpack, intentional or not, can lead to extremely dangerous situations. Even if a conditioned bear has not been aggressive towards people yet, quite often the bear will be killed as a precaution because the conditioning is very hard to undo.

a grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) in Kananaskis Country

Negative conditioning is possible though, but is usually only successful in the very early stages. Because it can not only save human lives, but also that of bears, it is an important tool in the conservation of the animals. The method is often to shoot a bear with non-lethal rubber bullets, by making lots of noise and sometimes by letting specially trained dogs (Karelian bear dogs) harass the bear. This is done when a bear is found feeding or looking for food in or very close to a human settlement, so that it will start to associate that place with pain, irritation and other negative experiences instead of with an easy meal. This sounds easier than it really is. First of all, you have to be ready to start the negative conditioning as soon as the bear strikes. To be able to do this, some areas have specialized teams that are on the alert all the time. As you can see on this photograph of a grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) in Kananaskis Country (Alberta, Canada), some bears wear transmitters (you can see an antenna hanging down from the ear tag), so that it is possible to keep an eye on their whereabouts. If the bear comes too close to a human settlement, the team can be ready on the spot, which makes the process all the more effective. The earlier a bear can be treated, the greater the chance of success and the smaller the chance that it will have to be shot.

The transmitter is not only used for this, but also for studying bears. A better understanding of the animals is also necessary for the conservation of the species, but can also help to reduce the risk of conditioning and dangerous encounters. Amongst other things, being able to monitor the places where bears hang out through the seasons has shown that they often choose different places as the year progresses. In Banff National Park for example, that has led to closures of certain areas for the public in a certain period of the year because it is very likely that bears will be there at that time. This way, a lot of trouble can be avoided and it makes it easier for humans and bears to share their living space in peace.

Written by Arthur Sevestre

In support of Project Canada this blog will feature small articles written by Arthur Sevestre about environmental and conservational issues in Canada. If you are interested in the goals of this project, please check out the website.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Little Sister

Yesterday "Aufbau Ost" got a little sister blog. Since I started to earn a bit of money with my photography I created a blog promoting my work. If you are interested, you can check it out here:

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Renft Street really coming?

Remember my post from last October? The one announcing the Tamara-Danz-Street? In that post I asked: "Now, I am wondering if we will see in the future a Renft-square or a Dreilich-Road? Maybe a suggestion for urban planners?"

Today the Leipziger Volkszeitung reported that Leipzig might become its Renft-Street, a street named after Klaus Renft who passed away last year after loosing a battle with cancer. Apparently city-councillor Guenther Poetzsch had the idea for a Renft-Street which is supported by the city committee for cultural affairs.

Plans so far suggest that the street to be named after Renft will be in Moeckern, near the "Anker" a cultural institution that is host to many musical guests. The naming of the street might take place on October 9th, 2007 which marks the first anniversary of Renft's passing. Naming the street after him shall recognize Renft's constant critical thinking about the totalitarian regime of the GDR and he thus had become a role model for many.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Turnout high and low

It seems as if yesterday was a beautiful day all over Europe. In terms of electoral participation it had its positive and negative effects. As well noted throughout the media, electoral turnout was the highest in 25 years in the presidential race in France.
Things are quite different in Saxony-Anhalt. Electoral turnout set a new record there as well - a record low. Only 35,3 per cent (Source: Volksstimme) of those allowed to vote decided to actually cast their vote. The lowest turnout happened in the "Saalekreis" where only 32.2 percent of the voters went to vote.
Just like in the state elections last year, Saxony-Anhalt makes headlines with its low turnout numbers. The low turnout in this election may be due to the nature of the election, which became necessary because of the administrative reform in the state. With the creation of new counties elections became necessary, however, the councils are rather distant organs for voters. On the other hand, it seems as if overall dissatisfaction with politics plays another major role in the low turnout numbers. Infratest dimap (through the MDR) cites disappointment in politics as the number-one reason (51%) for the low turnout. On the other hand, 58% of the respondents of a survey said that they weren't interested in local elections.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Sarcastic Campaign

There are local elections tomorrow in Saxony-Anhalt. A few weeks ago I spotted this campaign poster in Merseburg:

The printed part says (roughly translated): Saxony-Anhalt - we are moving forward
The handwritten part adds: towards disaster.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Guest blog: Wildfires in the Kootenay National Park (Canada)

In support of Project Canada this blog will now from time to time feature small articles written by Arthur Sevestre about environmental and conservational issues in Canada. This is the first one. If you are interested in the goals of this project, please check out the website.

Kootenay National Park has suffered much under wildfires in the past decade or two, as this picture shows. Many square kilometers of forest have been burned, especially during the extremely hot and dry summer of 2003 and much of that area's 'cover of vegetation' still consists only of blackened dead trunks of burned trees. The ground is still barren, nothing grows there, wildlife finds nothing to eat there and that will remain so for years...

Ironically, forest fires are part of the natural processes in these forests. The species are adapted to them and for some of them regular fires are even vital for their survival. But there are roughly two kinds of fires. Under normal natural circumstances, the first kind only burns the surface and what is above it, leaving the seedbank deeper down in the soil intact. The dying of the trees and other older plants gives the seeds in the ground the space and light that they need to develop. Some seedpods that accumulate on or just underneath the surface actually only open to release their seeds when they are burned. And so, not long after the fire, there will be a whole fresh cover of young plants that will eventually grow out into a forest again. This fresh cover is a very important foodsource for many species that cannot find enough food in older forests, which typically offer less of the easy to digest and easy to reach young vegetation. These herbivores then serve as food for predators and so the circle of life runs its course. The size of these fires is usually relatively small and only occurs where enough flammable material has accumulated, which is often only in mature forests where old dry leaves, needles and bark pile up. The relatively low temperatures of this fire makes it burn slowly and when it reaches a place with less highly flammable material, like a recent burn with young vegetation, it will simply go out. In this way, only small patches here and there are rejuvenated, which helps to keep the natural system dynamic and diverse.

Unfortunately, management has suppressed these natural forest fires for many years because they were deemed destructive and harmful instead of rejuvenating and necessary (interestingly, many native people knew about the beneficial powers of wildfires long before 'the white man' even arrived in the Americas). This led to two important results and eventually to the second kind of fire. The first result was that there was no more rejuvenating. The whole area kept on developing into mature forest, and the young vegetation typical for recent burns disappeared. This disturbed the circle of life, because animals that needed the fresh greens to survive were going hungry, and their predators awaited the same fate. The second result was that the heaps of dry leaves, bark and moss that under normal circumstances would have ignited a 'rejuvenating' fire, were kept from doing so and thus only grew higher. The suppression of fires went as planned for a certain period, but with more and more flammable material it kept getting harder and harder to keep it from igniting. In the extremely hot and dry summer of 2003 especially, suppression was no longer possible and many areas of British Columbia and some in Alberta finally caught fire. But this fire had a completely different result compared to the first one. The abundance of food for the flames made them much hotter and they did not only burn the surface, but also the seedbank. Moreover, the uniformity of the forests meant that the fires found food everywhere and were not stopped by areas with less flammable material. Therefore, much larger areas burned in one time. These fires were not rejuvenating, they were sterelizing! And instead of bringing diversity and dynamics, diversity took a deep dive and the area will not be dynamic anymore for a long time. It will take many years for seeds to arrive in the area again and for nature to restore itself again.

Since the last decade of the 20th century, realisation is growing that wildfires will have to keep occuring. Fortunately, management is adapting to that knowledge and now sometimes intentionally sets fire to certain areas before there will be enough food for the flames to make them too hot. The fires are still more or less controlled in that way, so that human activities in the area are less affected by unpredicted fires. It is a step in the right direction, but much research is still needed to find the best ways to manage this phenomenon.

written by Arthur Sevestre

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday, April 06, 2007

Leipzig - View from the "Fockeberg"

Anne Ruthmann, whose photographic work I admire, told the readers of her blog to blog something on their own blog, so she has something to see when she cannot sleep. So here we go with some views of Leipzig downtown, taken from the top of the Fockeberg (in the south of Leipzig) last week.

View to downtown showing the mdr highrise and the Messehochhaus

View to downtown showing the townhall on the right, the roof (greenish color) of the Federal administrative court and the Westin Hotel highrise

I know this all is not that spectacular, more to see and read in the next few days, promise!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Project Canada 2007

Support Project Canada and get a signed print free!

This project's goal is raising awareness of natural values in the Canadian Rockies.The first period of Field research was done in 2005. The fieldwork period in 2005 was mainly intended for reconnaissance and building up a network with relevant organizations and individuals. Both have worked out well. The period resulted in several published articles and photos in magazines. Now Arthur Sevestre is back in Canada to conduct further research. If you want to help making this fieldwork period successful, if you want to help making this whole project more efficient and if you can afford it, then please consider supporting Project Canada. This project is a self-financed research project. In return for your support , you will receive Arthur's deep gratitude, a special mention on the project's website, a signed photograph of your choice and a discount on the book that this project will eventually culminate in!

For further details see: Project Canada

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Natural Curtains

It's snowing outside. In fact, it has snowed these past two days of spring than it snowed all winter.