The mythological origin of South America’s largest lake

Lake Maracaibo Venezuela

Human beings are curious by nature. And this inquiring spirit has led him throughout his history to forge a wealth of legends and myths that, according to his culture, explain the origin of the universe, the natural phenomena or the elements of the landscape in which it developed. Greek and Roman mythology are well known. And also the Scandinavian one has a certain presence in the collective imagination.

But evidently they are not the only ones and each culture or ethnic group sought its own explanations, more or less complex, to the reality in which it lived.

The indigenous peoples of pre-Columbian Venezuela were no exception, and there are hundreds of myths that have been passed down from generation to generation in each of the indigenous ethnic groups.

Lake Maracaibo, in western Venezuela, is a miracle of nature. With a north-south length of 155 km and a width of 120 km, it is the largest lake in South America. A large part of the waters of the Venezuelan Andes flow into it. Moreover, it is now the country’s main source of income, as it is the source of real oil “rivers”. The original inhabitants of the area are the Indians of the Arawak group, and from them emanates the following legend about the origin of the lake:

 

The origin of Lake Maracaibo

 

It is said that when the Great Zapara ruled the region, a huge jungle occupied the space that today covers the waters. And Zapara ordered to build the villages on the edge of the jungle, which, in turn, was reserved for himself. The Great Zapara, who enjoyed supernatural powers, erected a palace in the center of the jungle using only the sound of his voice and settled down to live there with his daughter Maruma, a beautiful and funny poet and singer, whom his father did not allow to marry because he reserved it to delight himself with his songs and poetry.

But one day he had to leave for a trip to the sea. Meanwhile, her daughter, Maruma, set out into the jungle, armed with bows and arrows, in search of game. In one of these raids, she discovered a deer that had just been shot down by an arrow from another person and then discovered her pitcher, a handsome young man, whom she blamed for disobeying his father for going into the sacred forest.

The boy, named Tamare, justified himself. He was a poet and had been expelled from his village for “being useless”. At once, he said, he would leave the forest. But she, knowing that he was a poet, insisted on inviting him to her palace. There they went and after a banquet on account of the hunting achieved, they gave themselves to songs, verses and kisses for long hours. Time passed quickly without them noticing.

 

The tragedy

 

Zapara returned, and approaching the palace, he began to listen to those verses, where the voice of a man intermingled with that of his daughter. Filled with pain, he suddenly went into a rage, kicked so hard on the ground that the entire forest began to sink, and the mighty rivers of the surrounding mountain ranges began to plunge into the abyss. With his powerful hands Zapara opened the land to the north so that the sea would also turn over in the great basin and, not wanting to survive the catastrophe, he handed over the kingdom to his son Maracaibo and threw himself into the sea, becoming an island, which today bears his name.

For their part, Maruma and Tamare, unaware of anything and oblivious to everything, continued to improvise verses of passionate love, while the water already invaded the palace and entered their room.

The water eventually covered them and brought the waves of their last song to the surface. The songs of the two lovers merged with the waters and from that day on, the lake does not cry out like the sea, nor laugh like other lakes, but whispers poetry or sings stanzas of infinite love.

 

Do you want to know more about lake and ecosystem mythology? Read our category “Focus on”.

The importance of Oceans

ocean

Maud Fontenoy, former French sailor and spokesperson for the UNESCO since 2009 is comitted into the protection of the environnement, especially the seas on which she has lived for many years since she was a child and through her rowings on the oceans in 2003 and 2005.

Irina Bolova, Director-General of Unesco, opened World Ocean Day on 8 June 2017 in front of the high dignitaries and environmental actors from all over the world attending the first United Nations Conference on the Ocean. She questioned the conditions that must be met “to preserve and sustainably exploit an ocean that gives humanity the keys to its survival, from oxygen to a well-functioning climate and the essential elements of our natural and human heritage“.

The ocean to regulate the climate

We know that the ocean is a key player in regulating the global climate, particularly because of its ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is a particularly active greenhouse gas. Without the ocean, which absorbs about a quarter of the carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere by human activities, global warming would be greater and faster than the one we are experiencing today.

It is also known that this absorption of carbon dioxide results in a major disadvantage: it alters the chemical balances that regulate the pH of seawater. The ocean is becoming more acidic, with important consequences in the coming decades for shellfish production activities in our coastal waters, not to mention the impact on corals and other limestone organisms.

Global warming of the ocean

Global warming of the ocean due to climate change has another major disadvantage, which has just been confirmed by an article recently published in the journal.
Indeed, in the ocean, oxygen concentration, an essential element of marine life, has tended to decrease since the mid-twentieth century. The existence of oxygen-free zones (so-called “dead zones”) in coastal marine areas is known: since 1950, more than 500 anoxic coastal sites have been listed.

On shore and at depth

This is a direct result of the massive increase in organic or mineral waste as a result of agricultural or urban activities. First, it results in a massive production of opportunistic algae that accumulate on the beaches, followed in a second stage by an increased consumption of oxygen to oxidize the organic matter accumulated, with at the end of the process, production of malodorous and toxic gases for marine animals, even for humans.

Numerous examples have existed in western European coastal waters for several decades. In Brittany, we can take the one of Mor Braz (bay of Vilaine) where a massive mortality of fish was observed in July 1982: the waters had become transiently anoxic following a malfunctioning of the Arzal dam.

The new element of the study published in Science is that, beyond the coastal zones,”deoxygenation” seems to affect the ocean in its entirety. Since the mid-twentieth century, in the deep ocean, areas naturally low in oxygen have grown by an area of 4.5 million km2, equivalent to that of the European Union.

No doubt about it. Not only is it urgent to implement sustainable development that keeps global warming within reasonable limits, but it is also essential to develop an active and rigorous environmental policy. In this global demand, France has its part to play. Another challenge for Nicolas Hulot, the French Minister of Ecological and Solidarity Transition since May 2017.

Organic food : What is worth eating

Organic food - worth it

Organic food is becoming increasingly popular. The activism of celebrities like Michelle Obama, Gwyneth Paltrow or Chef Jaime Oliver has been an example for many people concerned about their health and also about the environment.

 

A consumption increasing day by day

 

The figures show that the message has taken hold: in the United Kingdom, the demand for organic food has increased by 7% in particular and exceeds 15% in the restaurant sector, according to The Guardian. In Spain, one third of the population consumes organic food, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment (MAFE). But they also have more followers among those with a good socioeconomic level; just take a look around the Upper East Side and Upper West Side. Those are two of New York’s wealthiest neighborhoods and where you can find the shops with the most variety of organic products.

An analysis of MAFE reveals that the main reason for Spaniards to consume organic food is the concern for healthy living. This is followed by the desire to avoid products that have received chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Moreover, the interest in nature conservation coincide with interests of consumers in other countries.

However, science is not unanimous about the true impact of organic food on human health, so the decision to eat organic is ultimately purely personal. Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at the American university and one of the most authoritative voices in the field, acknowledges, telling The New York Times, that organic food is more expensive.

 

Which ecological products are best for us?

 

If the higher price and the lack of confirmation of the scope on human health have not diverted us from the decision to fill the refrigerator with organic products, the logical thing is to give priority to the foods of daily consumption. Take your shopping cart and in case of doubt, please use the following list:

 

Oranges:  juicy food

 

Fruits and vegetables represent 37% of organic food consumption and, among them, oranges are the most demanded. The ecological navel variety contain 5% more pulp (they provide more fiber to the diet). They are more juicy than those of conventional production and are also rich in essential oils. Furthermore, organic oranges also contain 10% more vitamin C than conventional ones.

 

Beef and chicken meat: longer shelf life

 

Animal welfare is not the only reason for choosing to buy organic meat. Organic production implies  pharmaceuticals are eliminated, which forces the producer to know how to manage disease prevention practices very well.

 

Eggs: for animal welfare

 

At the moment, there is no scientific evidence to support the fact that the consumption of organic eggs is better from a nutritional point of view. Although society believes that the taste of organic eggs is different and better. This has not been scientifically proven. The only difference is in the chicken’s living conditions (caged, released or semi-freedom).

 

Fish: lower risk of parasites

 

Ecological fish has the advantage of being free of chemicals, heavy metals, antibiotics and other medicines. The advantages of traceability are the lower risk of containing parasites. Traditional fishing is known where it lands but not if it has been given chemicals to conserve it.

 

Olive oil: even better for cardiovascular health

 

Extra virgin olive oil obtained by conventional methods is an extraordinary product. However organic production further improves the composition of fatty acids. In the fatty acid fraction, the genetic factor is one of the most influential factors. In other words, an oil from an apicual tree will have a very different composition from a hojiblanca tree, and this is genetically marked.

 

If you want to know more about ecological matters, you can read the linked articles.

ESA Certification: You can now become a certified ecologist

Red Ambiental - ESA certification

Our world is changing and the methods which used to work in the past are no longer enough to restore our planet. To counteract the effects of pollution we must change our ecological practices and develop new sustainable projects. With this ecological wave, new career opportunities have opened for those who love and respect our nature. Red Ambiental presents to you the professional ecologist certification by ESA.

 

What is the ESA?

 

The Ecological Society of America or ESA, is one of the largest organization of professional ecologists in the United States. This nonpartisan and nonprofit organization funded by scientists in 1915 aims to promote ecological science. Their main axes are the improvement of communication among ecologists, the rise of awareness and the increase of available resources to conduct ecological science. Moreover, they want to ensure the appropriate use of ecological science for political decisions between the ecological community and policy-makers.

ESA counts over 9.000 members which address environmental issues, including biotechnology, ecological restoration, ecosystem management, species extinction and loss of biological diversity.

Red Ambiental specifies that at the Education and Diversity Programs office, ecology-related professions are diverse. This is made in order to engage the public into research to improve the quality of ecological education.

 

The ESA certification by Red Ambiental

 

A certification is always valued when it comes to apply for a job. So, if you want to become an ecologist at all levels, you may consider taking this special training to add a credential to your resume. Demonstrate your expertise and exhibit your skill levels to your potential employers.

The ESA certification guarantees you an application for different career categories. You may apply to ecologist in training, associate ecologist, certified ecologist, senior ecologist and emeritus senior ecologist.

Reference requirements are a must for all candidates. For instance, if you’re willing to apply you will need 2 recommendation letters. In order to apply, one reference must be part of the ESA. Lastly, only one of the letters must be from the candidate’s home institution.

The problem of Chinese pollution

air-pollution-china

It’s called air-pocalypse. This phenomenon of air pollution that strikes China every year and envelops large cities in toxic fog. Shangai, Peki, Harbin, Chengdu and even Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, are heavily affected.

There are two main causes : first, electricity production, especially to heat the population in winter. Especially since 70% of China’s energy is produced from coal in more than 1000 power plants throughout the country. A record consumption that burns half of the world’s pollution every year.
But there is also the explosion of automobile traffic. Within 7 years, the number of cars in the country tripled from 21 million in 2005 to 74 million in 2011. Today, a car makes its debut in the Chinese fleet every two seconds. As a result, emissions of carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and ammonia are constantly increasing in some regions.
However, the public is particularly concerned about fine particles. The most formidable ones are called PM 2.5. They measure 2.5 micrometers, infiltrate the lungs and their low concentration has recently set all records. In Beijing, up to 671 micrograms of these particles per cubic metre of air were recorded. In Harbin, further north, the 1000 micrograms per cubic metre were crossed. This is 40 times more than the 25 microgram threshold recommended by the World Health Organization.

Heavy consequences and government actions

 

The consequences are terrible. In 2010, external pollution is estimated to have caused more than one million premature deaths, largely due to lung cancer. On a global scale, one in three people who die prematurely because of pollution is Chinese. In the face of this health catastrophe, the government promises measures. In Beijing or Shanghai, for example, the number of new registrations is limited to 240 or 100,000 per year.
Concerning industry, the authorities promise to reduce these most polluting emissions by 30% in 5 years. As for coal, its share of energy production is expected to increase from 70 to 65% this year.
But these timid promises leave people skeptical because Beijing faces major industries and local governments for whom improving air quality is an obstacle to economic development.
Meanwhile, China continues to cough…

 

France and climate

carbon-neutrality

By a collective of politicians, scientists, climatologists, academics and economists. Among them, Jacques Attali and Maud Fontenoy in particular.

Two years after the signing of the Paris agreement, the world has failed to contain its greenhouse gas emissions and reduce its dependence on fossil fuels: greenhouse gas emissions have even risen and fossil fuels (coal, gas) continue to dominate all segments of the energy mix.

Despite the general awareness, political willingness and the rise of new technologies, the transition to a carbon-neutral world is taking too long in view of the climate emergency.

This difficulty in changing models is illustrated across the Rhine. Engaged in a costly and unproductive energy transition, Germany is at an impasse. Canada remains one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases. Coal and lignite continue to produce more than 40% of the country’s electricity: a German emits 80% more CO2 than a Frenchman. On the climate issue, Germany has lost all credibility.

France as a source of inspiration

This dark context should not, however, obscure the fact that an effective ecological transition is possible. As the least CO2-emitting country in the G7, France can use these results to inspire an alternative energy model.

To mobilize the international community, climate leadership must be embodied. France can do this because it is one of the few countries that has succeeded in efficiently decarbonizing its electricity. It has achieved this by orchestrating the complementarity between low-carbon production sources (nuclear and renewable energy) to detoxify from fossils. Today, 94% of its electricity is produced from low-carbon sources.

France is thus one of the few countries to have already achieved the greenhouse gas emission targets set by most European countries… by 2050.

Switzerland and Sweden have also adopted this model of electricity decarbonisation. They too have been able to make the most of nuclear-renewable complementarity to reduce the amount of CO2 produced by their electrical system.

These three countries can now consider using low-carbon electricity to develop new uses where fossil fuels continue to dominate.

France can be a source of inspiration for all countries that want a carbon-neutral society.

They make up the collective signatory:

Jacques Attali, Economist; Julien Aubert, LR MP; Yves Bamberger, Academician of Technology; François Marie Bréon, Climatologist; Catherine Césarsky, Senior Scientific Advisor; Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Nobel Prize in Physics; Maud Fontenoy, Navigator; Yves Bréchet, Academician of Science; Kirsty Gogan, Director of Energy for Humanity; François G

 

Methane gas resources endanger the mexican ecosystem

Red Ambiental - Methane gas

Red Ambiental, an environment company, appeals to caution as a result of the latest methane emissions causing possible environment damages.

 

Alarming observations

 

During the summer, the country experienced a transition to commercial exploitation of its shale gas. As a consequence methane, a gas that strongly pollutes the environment (more than carbon dioxide – CO2) was released.

In order to exploit shale gas and oil, a mixture of water, sand and chemical are injected to the ground. The concoction is severely damaging for the planet and causes health and environment issues.

An analysis led by the United States of America over 137 deposits in 41 countries, places Mexico in the 6th place for shale gas reserves. Last march, the Agency of Industrial Safety and Environmental Protection released a regulation identifying the risks of fracking fluid leaks.

Red Ambiental recalls the blast caused by methane gas in 2013 which caused the death of 37 people and injured 120 others. This event happened after the construction of a building over a leaked methane gas ground that reacted to an electrical sparkle. In order to prevent any future tragedy, the company proposes various environmental and energetic solutions.

 

Methane gas in Mexico

 

Another research led by the Texas A&M University of Galveston and other collaborators, shows an alarming methane-fueled ecosystem in flooded caves. The studies conducted in the Ox Bel Ha cave showed a natural production of methane in those soils. They are then released towards the atmosphere where microbes can feed of them and fuel a food web dominated by crustaceans.

Concerning non-natural production, Mexico has emitted 126 million tonnes of methane in the atmosphere during 2013. These numbers follow the 608 million tonnes of CO2 released by the country the same year.

The emissions increased by 329% between 2012 and 2014 as a result of venting and gas burning. As such, the country burned over five billion cubic meters of gas in 2015. The numbers dragged the country on the 8th place worldwide.

To improve Mexico’s environment issues several solutions are proposed as green energy or green construction.

From fossil fuel to renewal energy explained by Geoffroy Stern

Fossil fuel and renewable energy by Geoffroy Stern

If renewable energy is so awesome why haven’t we pulled the plug on fossil fuel yet? If you watch the news regularly, you probably know that climate change is a serious looming problem. But maybe you are not aware of what is going on. Geoffroy Stern, economics consultants gives us a highlight of the situation.

The current climate situation

We are burning too many fossil fuels, releasing too much carbone dioxide into the atmosphere, raising the planets average temperature. As it goes up, we see melting ice caps, sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns. And if burning fossil fuels is at the root of those problems, why haven’t we kicked the dirty habit yet?
But you won’t be surprised to learn it is complicated. Firstly there is the fact that power sources like coal and natural gas are so entrenched. In the United States the first practical coal plant was built by Edison in 1882 and by 1961, coal was the major source of electricity.

From coal to natural gas

Opposed to European countries such as France, the United States has not really been able to get off coal since. It has been scaled back: 33% of power has been generated by coal this year. But the ground coal gave up was taken over by another fossil fuel: natural gas.
Geoffroy Stern explians that new extraction techniques; like fracking, made it cheaper helping it take over some of coal’s load and about 32% of our energy needs. While these sources are at the root of the greenhouse gas problem, they do have certain advantages over renewable energy: mainly they can ramp up output to meet demand. Solar and wind can’t do that. You only get energy when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. So we have to build capacitors and batteries to store energy for when we need more. Otherwise we will have to have some fossil fuel or nuclear plants to meet demand.

Wind and solar renewable energy

According to Geoffroy Stern, investing in renewable energy is looking more and more attractive. We are getting to the point that building and running wind and solar facilities will be competitive with coal and natural gas plants over their life time.
They are more expensive upfront but their fuel cost zero dollar. So they become more reasonable over time. Stills renewable energy will need a bit of help by way of tax credits and subsidies to be truly competitive.