How to Lose World Heritage Site Status

A swath of desert just inland from the Arabian Sea coast and a meandering stretch of a major central European river framed by 18th and 19th-century architecture may not seem as though they would have anything in common, but they very much do. Oman’s Arabian Oryx Sanctuary and Germany’s Dresden Elbe Valley are the only two…

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A Gallery of Contrasts Along International Borders

We may think of borders as merely invisible lines on maps, but over time these ‘imaginary’ lines can become very real indeed. Countries regulate (or fail to regulate) the usage of their lands in very different ways. US astronaut and former NASA Chief Scientist John Grunsfeld remarked earlier this year how the differences in land…

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The European Green Belt: From Conflict to Conservation

Recent articles have discussed both the Chernobyl Zone of Alienation and the Korean Demilitarised Zone, two areas formerly densely inhabited by humans that have been largely abandoned in recent times for environmental and political reasons.  Thanks to this abandonment, nature has begun to reclaim these areas with regenerating vegetation regenerating and growing wild animal populations,…

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Surtsey: Evolution of an Island

For the past half-century, the Icelandic island of Surtsey has been the ultimate laboratory.  Not only were scientists able to watch the live birth of a volcanic island as it emerged newborn from the ocean floor in late 1963, but they have been able to observe the development of the island as plant and animal…

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Life in the Chernobyl Zone of Alienation

Trees and grasses in bloom, Pripyat, Ukraine.  Source: Audun K, http://www.flickr.com/photos/kvitlauk/3803903860/.  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-2.0 Generic licence. It’s been one year this month since the series of explosions and meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor site in eastern Japan which led to the evacuation of 70 000 people that lived in the…

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Deception Island

Hot tubs. Volcanism.  Cruise tourism.  Graffiti. Century-old gravestones.  Not exactly the first things which come to mind when someone says ‘Antarctica’.  But not only can these things be found on the frozen continent, they can be found in one place. Source: Treehill, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Deception_Island_Map.svg.  Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence. Just off the northern tip of the Antarctic…

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Anholt: Cast Adrift in the Kattegat

Source: J. Gao, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anholt_Island_Denmark.jpg.   Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence. Halfway between Denmark and Sweden in the middle of the Kattegat, the small sea that helps join the Baltic to the Atlantic, lies what is a very isolated island by European standards.  A three-hour boat ride from Jutland on the Danish side or Halland on the…

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