October 25, 2013

Fine-particle pollution from wildfire smoke can cause asthma attacks and pneumonia, as well as worsen chronic heart and lung diseases.     Photo: dbvictoria36/Flickr

Study: Wildfire Smoke Travels Farther Than Thought

Cause respiratory problems

A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has found that smoke travels over a much greater distance than originally thought. And thanks to climate change-induced dry weather, we are likely to experience more wildfires in the coming years, inceasing the risk of smoke-related health problems.

According to the study, while nearly 22 states didn't experience wildfires within their borders in 2011, eight of them nevertheless experienced at least a week of medium- to high-intensity smoke, drifting in from wildfires nearby. Illinois, which hosted zero wildfires, had the second-highest number if people affected by wildfire smoke, at 12 million, as shown in this graphic from the NRDC:

 

 

Smoke carries across state lines for hundreds of miles, the study reports, and as the nation dries out from climate change, the likelihood for wildfires increases, and respiratory problems are destined to rise.

"Heat waves are very likely to occur more frequently and last longer," says Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Working Group 1.

The NRDC encourages residents not to go outside when the air is smoky, and urges communities to set up more monitoring stations to prevent health problems.

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The last winter Olympic flame in Vancouver, BC.     Photo: Noel Reynolds/Flickr

Olympic Flame Reaches North Pole

First time in historic location

The Olympic flame arrived at the North Pole for the first time in history last week. According to organizers of the Sochi Winter Games, the torch was able to reach the historic location with the help of a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker, the Associated Press reports. 

At the North Pole sign, 11 torchbearers from around the world ignited a special bowl as a part of the ceremony. The Russian icebreaker, which set out from the port town of Murmansk, completed the journey in a record-breaking 91 hours according to AP news.

This Olympic torch relay travels nearly 40,000 miles in everything from a reindeer sleigh to a plane. The flame, safely enclosed inside a lantern, will travel more than any other in Olympic history

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Bikes at the station in Cologne, Germany.     Photo: Flowizm/Flickr

Bikes Outselling Cars in Europe

Germany Leads the Way

Last week, we reported that Groningen, Netherlands, is the most bike-friendly city in the world. Turns out, the rest of Europe is pretty bike friendly, too. In 2012, NPR reports, bicycle sales outpaced new-car sales in 23 of the 27 member states of the European Union. 

The figures might even be higher than that, as data was not available for Cyprus and Malta. Germany had the highest number of bike sales (3.9 million), followed by Britain, France, Italy, and Spain. Belgium and Luxembourg were the only countries in which bicycle sales were not greater than car sales.

Unfortunately, the slump in car sales is likely due to the worldwide recession.

According to NPR, sales are picking up, though—slowly in Europe, and quickly across the pond. Americans purchased 1.5 million vehicles in August, up 17 percent from a year ago.

The National Bicycle Dealers Association, however, states that U.S. bike sales are “solid” (we know that’s the case in Washington, at least).

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Snowboarder Esben Pedersen being dropped of by helicopter onf an isolated peak in the Chugach Mountains on April 22, 2002.     Photo: Soren Egeberg Photography / Shutterstock.com

Aspen Ski Co. Cans Controversial Ski Package

Not environmentally conscious

Aspen Ski Company, which operates the Aspen/Snowmass resort complex, has decided against offering a special vacation package that would include heli-skiing in Silverton and a private jet trip to Ojai Valley Inn and Spa in California because of its environmental impact, the Aspen Times reports.

Auden Schendler, Skico's environmental affairs spokesperson reportedly said the "carbon-intensive" travel methods did not align with the company's values, and CEO Mike Kaplan, officials at Little Nell, and Aspen Ski Co.'s sales team met Wednesday and agreed to nix the idea before it ever left the ground. Since the promotion was never advertised and unsold Skico officials were surprised word was leaked out.

"It's not the right approach," Skico told the Times. "We're not moving forward with it."

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A view of Black Island Station, from the film Antarctica: A Year in Ice.     Photo: Anthony Powell/Banff Centre

2013 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival

Show kicks off this weekend

The 2013 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival opens this weekend in Alberta, Canada. From October 26 through November 3, more than 80 adventure films will be showcased from around the world.

This year's festival will highlight adrenaline-oriented films like Cascada and Split of a Second, and will also include some of the larger productions of the year like Valhalla, and Into the Mind.  

Banff crowds will be treated to a preview screening of The Last Great Climb, which captures the story of a group of climbers attempting a new route on Antarctica's Ulvetanna Peak. Also appearing next week will be a special 3D screening of the New Zealand film Beyond the Edge, a depiction of a 1953 summit bid on Everest.

In November, the festival will leave the Banff Centre for an extensive tour around the world. Outside will be at Banff next week, so look out for updates.

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