Monthly Archives: February 2013

Classical Gas

The ancient Romans were pioneers of Air Pollution – Joseph Stromberg

Before the Industrial Revolution, our planet’s atmosphere was still untainted by human-made pollutants. At least, that’s what scientists thought until recently, when bubbles trapped in Greenland’s ice revealed that we began emitting greenhouse gases at least 2,000 years ago.

Célia Sapart of Utrecht University in the Netherlands led 15 scientists from Europe and the United States in a study that charted the chemi­cal signature of methane in ice samples spanning 2,100 years. The gas methane naturally occurs in the atmosphere in low concentrations. But it’s now considered a greenhouse gas implicated in climate change because of emissions from landfills, large-scale cattle ranching, natural gas pipeline leaks and land-clearing fires.

Scientists often gauge past climate and atmosphere conditions from pristine ancient ice samples. The new research was based on 1,600-foot-long ice cores extracted from Greenland’s 1.5-mile-thick ice sheet, which is made up of layers of snow that have accumulated over the past 115,000 years.

Sapart and her colleagues chemically analyzed the methane in microscopic air bubbles trapped in each ice layer. They wanted to know if warmer periods over the past two millennia increased gas levels, possibly by spur- ring bacteria to break down organics in wetlands. The goal was to learn more about how future warm spells might boost atmospheric methane and accelerate climate change.

The researchers did find that methane concentrations went up—but not in step with warm periods. “The changes we observed must have been coming from something else,” Sapart says.

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Posted by on February 15, 2013 in Archaeology, History


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Denial Is a Bigger Betrayal

By Rahul Pandita Open 11th Feb 2013

The politics of untruth about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits

In Moments of Reprieve, one of Primo Levi’s remarkable works on the Jewish holocaust, he writes: ‘Well, it has been observed by psychologists that the survivors of traumatic events are divided into two well-defined groups: those who repress their past en bloc, and those whose memory of the offense persists, as though carved in stone, prevailing over all previous or subsequent experiences. Now, not by choice but by nature, I belong to the second group.’ Like Levi, I too belong to the second group. For more than 20 years, I have struggled with the story of what happened to my family and other Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley in 1990. There were times when I would give up and try and be one among the first group. But then, like Levi says, I would be startled from smells ‘down there’. I remembered everything, every moment of those scary days—how we were hunted one by one on the roads, and inside our houses; how nobody came to our rescue; how we became refugees in our country; how we suffered in the early years of exile in the summer heat of the plains that, now as I remember it, felt like that menacing dog in Abu Ghraib. We lost our homes, and some of us lost near and dear ones. We lost our honour, our dignity in those torn tents in refugee camps in Jammu, in those door-less toilets of one-room dwellings, while standing in queues for free blankets that Samaritans in Delhi donate to beggars in winter outside Lodi Road’s Sai Baba temple.

Though I remembered, I never felt as angry about our condition as I have in the past few years. I told my story to many people, but inside, as I realise now, I didn’t feel much except being startled with flashes of remembrance. We have been in exile for 23 years now. I have never broken down in all these years, except when I took an overnight bus from Delhi to Jammu in June 1997 and at the Jammu border found a newspaper with my brother’s photo on the front page. He had been dragged out of a bus by terrorists of the Hizbul Mujahideen and shot. A year later, I went to Srinagar for the first time after the exodus, as a journalist. I felt a tug at my heart but I did not allow it turn into a hole. I never went back home. In fact, I even avoided travelling in that general direction. In 2007, when I finally went there, a Muslim friend who accompanied me, cried. But I did not. Later, when we were leaving, he told me that he wondered how I could control myself. But I had no answer. I did not know myself. I felt something, but it was not anger. I think it was just sadness—a sadness that exile brought, an insurmountable sadness, like Edward Said had said. I also knew in my heart that I was uprooted inside, that I suffered from this permanent sense of homelessness.


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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in India, People


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