The saffron war of 1374 lasted 14 weeks driven by a notion that the spice could cure plague. It can’t. But people lost their heads over it. It’s not just gold, diamonds, and oil we cherish and plunder. Seemingly benign commodities—whether it’s medicinal tea or stinky fungus—have exerted power over us for centuries. Here’s just a taste of their recent history.
The eruption of Mount Agung on the island of Bali has sparked worldwide media interest, yet volcanic eruptions in Indonesia are nothing new. Of the country’s 139 “active” volcanoes, 18 currently have raised alert levels, signifying higher than normal seismic activity, ground deformation or gas emissions. On a global scale, in any week in 2017, there were at least between 14 and 27 volcanoes erupting.
When Charles Darwin first sailed into the tropics aboard the HMS Beagle in 1835, he was stunned. The 26-year-old naturalist had expected to find the same level of diversity of plants and animals as he had left behind in the higher latitudes of Plymouth, England. Instead, on the balmy Galapagos Islands, he found a multitude of strange and diverse creatures thriving together.
The facts are these: The climate of our planet is changing at a pace unlike anything seen in the natural fluctuations traced across geological records, and scientists have overwhelmingly traced this global warming trend to human activity.
There is a growing realization today that the world’s weather is inextricably linked: weather is global. And the weather story of the planet begins in the world’s biggest ocean, the Pacific.
You probably don’t think of China as a clean energy champion given its frequent problems with smog and continued dependence on coal power, but you may have to rethink your views after today. The country’s National Energy Administration has revealed that its solar energy production more than doubled in 2016, hitting 77.42 gigawatts by the end of the year. The country is now the world’s biggest producer of solar energy in terms of capacity — it doesn’t compare as well relative to population (Germany, Japan and the US could easily beat it), but that’s no mean feat for any nation.
A newly-discovered peatland in the Congo Basin of central Africa contains an estimated 30.6 billion tons of carbon in its waterlogged soils—equivalent to three times the total annual carbon emissions of every human being alive today.