strange behaviors

Cool doings from the natural and human worlds

  • Richard Conniff writes about behavior, in humans and other animals, on two, four, six, and eight legs, plus the occasional slither.

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Posts Tagged ‘Peru’

Gaining Ground in the Fight to Stop Illegal Logging

Posted by Richard Conniff on February 9, 2018

Illegal logging of Spanish cedar along the Las Piedras River, Madre de Dios, Peru. (Photo: Andre Baertschi)

by Richard Conniff/The New York Times

Strange as it may sound, we have arrived at a moment of hope for the world’s forests. It is, admittedly, hope of a jaded variety: After decades of hand-wringing about rampant destruction of forests almost everywhere, investigators have recently demonstrated in extraordinary detail that much of this logging is blatantly illegal.

And surprisingly, people actually seem to be doing something about it. In November, the European Court of Justice put Poland under threat of a 100,000-euro-per-day fine for illegal logging in the continent’s oldest forest, and last month Poland’s prime minister fired the environment minister who authorized the logging.

In Romania, two big do-it-yourself retail chains ended purchasing agreements with an Austrian logging giant implicated in illegal logging there. And in this country, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, normally dedicated to free trade at any cost, has barred a major exporter of Read the rest of this entry »

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Thank the Conquistadors for South America’s First Big Mining Pollution

Posted by Richard Conniff on February 11, 2015

Pizarro: Massey Energy Co. role model?

Pizzaro: Massey Energy Co. role model?

A few years ago in Suriname, I was struck by how the most remote and undeveloped areas are now polluted with mercury, from gold mining.  Now it turns out that the large-scale poisoning of South America got started by the Conquistadors. And you thought Pizarro and Cortés were only responsible for torture, religious persecution, genocide, and other such crimes.

Here’s the press release:

In the 16th century, during its conquest of South America, the Spanish Empire forced countless Incas to work extracting silver from the mountaintop mines of Potosí, in what is now Bolivia — then the largest source of silver in the world. The Inca already knew how to refine silver, but in 1572 the Spanish introduced a new technology that boosted production many times over and sent thick clouds of lead dust rising over the Andes for the first time in history.

Winds carried some of that pollution 500 miles northwest into Peru, where tiny remnants of it settled on the Quelccaya Ice Cap.

There it stayed — buried under hundreds of years of snow and ice — until researchers from The Ohio State University found it in 2003.

In the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they report discovery of a layer within a Quelccaya ice core that dates to the Spanish conquest of the Inca, contains bits of lead and bears the chemical signature of the silver mines of Potosí.

The core provides the first detailed record of widespread human-produced

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