Showing posts with label Environmental. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Environmental. Show all posts

Video: The Life and Legacy of John Muir

John Muir was a tireless advocate for protecting and preserving outdoor spaces for others to enjoy. In fact, without his efforts, we might not have places like Yosemite and Yellowstone designated at national parks. Muir was a forward thinking naturalist in a time when that wasn't a popular thing to be, and yet he wrote about the need to ensure that our wild spaces didn't vanish completely from the Earth. In this video, we learn more about the man and his work, and we see first hand the places that he worked to protect. It is a powerful and inspiring tribute to that legacy.

John Muir - The Last Oasis from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

Video: Spring Cleaning with Pro Kayaker Dane Jackson

We all have our approach to spring cleaning around our homes, but pro kayaker Dane Jackson has taken it to another level. He recently traveled to my backyard in Tennessee to spend some time on a river there cleaning up trash and other debris to help make it a better environment for everyone. The early spring trip meant cool weather and fast water, but the results were pretty great. Jackson was able to help motivate a number of other paddlers to come out and join him and work to clean up the area. Check out their efforts in the video below.

Video: Footage of the Massive Crack in the Larsen Ice Shelf

If you've read this blog with any regularity over the past couple of months, you've seen me post several disturbing stories about how climate change is starting to have an impact on the Antarctic, including a recent article about a massive crack on the Larsen Ice Shelf that is spreading at an alarming rate. Today, we have video footage of that giant rift courtesy of the British Antarctic Survey. The clip was shot while flying over the crack a few weeks back, and it gives us a bird's eye view of just how large it truly is. In a manner of months, the crack is expected to reach all the way across the ice shelf, at which time it will collapse under its own massive weight, creating what could potentially be the largest ice berg of all time. It will also allow the glacier that is trapped behind it to tumble unfettered into the Southern Ocean, potentially causing rising ocean levels around the world.

Crack in Antarctic Ice Shelf Grew 17 Miles in Length Since December

I've posted some sobering reports on the impact of climate change on the Antarctic in recent months, but this one may be the most stunning of all. According to an article published by The New York Times yesterday, a crack in the Larsen Ice Shelf is growing at an incredibly rapid rate, signaling a possible complete collapse in the coming months, potentially creating the largest iceberg ever recorded.

According to scientists who have been monitoring the crack, it has grown by as much as 17 miles in the past two months. According to the Times, the speed at which it is spreading is accelerating as well, now growing at a rate of more than five football fields each and every day. At this point, the crack is now just 20 miles away from reaching its end point, which will result in the entire chunk of ice breaking free and slipping into the ocean, something that could happen as early as April or May of this year.

This is alarming for a number of reasons. Not only will it create the biggest iceberg of all time, but as that iceberg begins to float away from the frozen continent, it will begin to melt, and possibly breaking up into smaller icebergs that could cause problems for ships. But, more importantly, the ice shelf serves as a buffer between the ocean waters and the glaciers that sit on the continent itself. Without the ice shelf to help protect it, the glaciers will begin to melt at a much higher rate too, and will tumble directly into the water. If this continues to happen across Antarctic – and evidence suggests it will – we could see the start of a major rice in ocean levels around the world.

I know that there are still a lot of people out there who want to deny the impact of climate change. But, there is something happening to our planet, and the polar regions are the canary in the coal mine. In recent years, we've seen substantial change in both the Arctic and Antarctic, and those changes only seems to be speeding up. Perhaps with the austral winter now nearly upon us, we'll see things slow down at least temporarily, but the Larsen Ice Shelf is about to collapse, and at this point it isn't a question of "if" but "when."

To find out more about his, check out the entire story at NYTimes.com.

Video: Thru Hiking the Grand Canyon - Thirst and Threats in the Godscape (Part 3)

Today we have the third – and final – video in the National Geographic series that follows photographer Pete McBride and journalist Kevin Fedarko on 650 mile (1046 km) thru-hike of the Grand Canyon, as they explore the threats that that place now faces. They've discovered that amongst those threats are environmental issues, climate change, encroaching commercial interests, and more. As their journey nears and end, the two men face a challenge of their own – potentially running out of water in a remote corner of the national park. Find out how their expedition wraps up in this installment of the series.

2016 Was The Hottest Year on Record

Stop me if you've heard this one before...

According to NASA and NOAA, 2016 was the hottest year on record, breaking the previous mark for the third consecutive year. And if that wasn't sobering enough news, the latest report on climate change also indicates that 16 of the 17 hottest years ever have taken place since 2000.

Studies indicate that the average temperature across the planet increased by 1.1ºC (1.98ºF) last year, which may not sound like much but it is enough to have a dramatic impact on large sections of the globe – especially in the polar regions. It also means that we're already well on our way towards surpassing the 1.5ºC goal set by the Paris Climate Agreement from 2015.

The cause for the increased temperature remains the same as it has for the past two decades, or longer. The burning of fossil fuels increases carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, and the continued deforestation of rainforests – often referred to as the "lungs" of our planet. These harmful processes seem to be continuing to accelerate, despite efforts to reverse their effects.

Historical records of temperatures have been kept as far back as the 1880's, which means we have more than 130 years of data to compare the current trends to. It is also becoming increasingly more difficult to deny the impact of humans on the environment. As part of the report, Michael Mann, the director of the Earth Science Center at Pennsylvania State University,  said "The effect of human activity on our climate is no longer subtle. It's plain as day, as are the impacts -- in the form of record floods, droughts, superstorms and wildfires -- that it is having on us and our planet."

To make matters worse, the Arctic seems to be warming at a faster rate than the rest of the planet, with temperatures now climbing to 3ºC (5.4ºF) higher than they were a decade ago. That means an increased rate of melting of the ice caps, which in turn leads to raising sea levels around the world. That will have a big impact on coastlines, eventually putting areas that are now inhabited potentially under water.

But, there is cause for some hope. Scientists believe that 2017 won't be warmer than the previous years thanks to El Nino keeping things a bit cooler. This is probably a temporary state of affairs however, even if it does buy us a brief respite.

How anyone can continue to deny climate change is beyond me. Whether or not humans are having an impact doesn't matter any longer. It's happening, and we need to do whatever we can to halt it. It's not too late, but time is running out.

Video: Meet The Snow Guardian

Meet billy barr (yes, that's how he spells it!), a man who has lived alone in a cabin near Gothic, Colorado for 40 years. Over that time, he has been keeping meticulous records of the weather, how much snow has fallen, what the temperature on any given day is, and so on. Those records are now proving invaluable to climate scientists, who view billy as an invaluable resource. This is his story, as told by National Geographic.

Himalayan Stove Project Offers Good Karma Through Carbon Credits

If you've read my blog for awhile now you've probably heard me mention the Himalayan Stove Project on more than one occasion. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to improving the lives of poor families living in Nepal by replacing their old, inefficient, and dangerous cookstoves with new, clean burning versions that are much better for their health and welfare. What I've always loved about the HSP is that while some organizations talk a good game, this one has been making a world of difference for the people that it helps, delivering more than 3500 stoves to those in need.

Now, the Himalayan Stove Project has launched a new intuitive, giving donors the chance to purchase carbon offset credits to help both the environment and future recipients of their stoves at the same time. A new website called CarbonKarma.guru is now selling the credits for just $20, giving individuals and companies the chance to reduce their carbon footprint dramatically, with much of the proceeds going to help the HSP continue its great work in Nepal.

The stoves that the project distributes are made by a company called Envirofit and are said to be 90% more efficient than an open cook fire, which is a common method for preparing meals in many parts of the world. In addition to that, the stoves also use 75% less biomass fuel, which means they are better for our health and the environment in general. Envirofit is the organization that is supplying the Gold Standard carbon credits, which are recognized by more than 80 NGO's operating in 70 countries around the world.

Purchasing carbon credits is a real way to make a difference for the environment, and doing so through CarbonKarma.guru will help the Himalayan Stove Project too. But, if you just want to donate to the HSP, you can do that simply by clicking here. It is a great organization that is doing great things in Nepal, and every bit of assistance helps.

Himalayan Stove Project founder George Basch has set an ambitious goal of donating enough stoves that if they were stacked on top of one another they would reach from Everest Base Camp to the summit of the mountain. At the moment, the organization is about a third of the way towards that goal. To reach the top, the HSP will have to install 10,856 stoves, so more work has yet to be done. Let's help them get there!


Himalayan Stove Project - Help Us Reach the Summit in 2017! from George Basch on Vimeo.

Temperature at the North Pole Climbs 50º Higher Than Normal

It has been a record breaking year for temperatures all across the globe, as climate change seems to be wreaking havoc with our atmosphere. We got a reminder of this yesterday, when temperatures at the North Pole soared by as much as 50º above normal, reaching 0ºC/32ºF on the surface. That's the same temperature as the Arctic usually encounters during the summer months, but it is highly unusual for it get so warm at this time of year.

To put things into perspective, that means that temperatures were warm enough to melt snow and ice, even as winter is arriving in the Northern Hemisphere. That should set off alarm bells about the state of the polar ice caps, which seem to be already retreating at an alarming rate. We've had a lot of somber news from the Antarctic recently as well, but this is just another indicator that our planet is definitely in a state of flux right now, and we're running out of time to do anything about it.

It also doesn't bode well for any explorers hoping to make an expedition to the North Pole. If it is this warm in December, what will the conditions be like in March and April, or even into the summer. I know that there are a couple of expeditions planned for the Arctic next spring, but they could be dealing with unprecedented ice break up, and the largest leads of open water that have ever been seen at the top of the world.

Of course, we do have a long winter to go, and temperatures are sure to return to normal at some point. But so far, November and December have been unseasonably warm, and have climbed up close to the 0ºC mark once before as well. Worse yet, the long-range predictions are saying that 2017 could be another very warm year, with further melting of the ice caps.

I'm not sure how much longer climate deniers are going to keep their head buried in the sand. The signs are there, and we're mostly ignoring them at this point. Still, it isn't too late to try to make a change. Hopefully that will be the New Year's Resolution for some important people who are in a position to have an impact on policy and reform. Time will tell.

An Antarctic Base is Being Relocated Because of Massive Crack

It seems we've been hearing a lot about the shifting ice sheets in the Antarctic lately. Last week we learned that climate change is causing those sheets to collapse into the sea, and a few days ago I posted a story about a 300-foot (91 meter) crack that was causing another ice shelf to begin its inevitable drop into the ocean as well. Now, we have yet another story of the ice breaking apart on the frozen continent, and this time it is threatening an actual research station that will now be relocated to avoid disaster.

Yesterday, the British Antarctic Survey announced that it was relocating its mobile Halley VI research station due to the possibility that the ice shelf it is resting on could break off and fall into the sea. If that were to happen, the station currently finds itself on the wrong side of the crack that is developing across East Antarctica, and it would end up floating off into the Southern Ocean along with the massive iceberg. To avoid this, the base – which was designed to be moveable – will be towed 23 km (14 miles) inland to a safer position.

The Halley VI has been in its current position since it was first constructed on the ice back in 2012. It rests on the Brunt Ice Shelf, where it has been conducting research on climate change, the ozone layer, and various other environmental projects over the past few years. One of the things that scientists have discovered is that a nearby crack in the ice – believed dormant for more than 35 years – has begun to widen, and the entire shelf could calve off into the ocean.

Now that the Antarctic summer has arrived, a team of engineers has traveled to the base to begin uncoupling its 8 different modules, and start the slow process of relocating the station. While they do that, scientists will continue to conduct research at is current site in temporary facilities before moving back into the Halley VI next year.

I had two take aways from this story. First, this seems like yet another sign of climate change having a dramatic impact of the Antarctic with the third story of massive chunks of ice potentially calving into the sea in less than a week. And secondly, I'm impressed at the foresight of the engineers who designed and built the station to be able to move it relatively easily. Yes, it is a massive undertaking to relocate the base, but in doing so they are saving millions of dollars and allowing important research there to continue. It is a pretty impressive feat of engineering to put this base together in such an extreme place, and to move it is no less impressive.

It appears that Antarctica is going through a dramatic shift right now, and there probably isn't a thing we can do to stop it.

NASA Discovers 300-foot Rift on Antarctic Ice Shelf

Last week I posted a article about how climate change was causing the collapse of ice sheets in Antarctic, and today we have another sobering story to share. It seems that NASA has found a massive rift on the Larsen C Ice Shelf on the frozen continent which will eventually cause a massive chunk of ice – the size of state of Delaware – to break off and fall into the ocean.

The crack, which measures 300 feet (91 meters) across, was discovered on November 10 as NASA researchers were making a flyover of the region as part of a survey of the shifting ice in Antarctica. This is the eighth consecutive year that the so called "IceBridge" team has traveled to the bottom of the world to measure the impact of climate change on the Larsen Ice Shelf, and their findings were startling even to them. The crack extends for more than 70 miles (112 km) and is a third of a mile (.5 km) deep.

The massive rift doesn't go entirely across the ice shelf – at least not yet. But once it does, the chunk of ice will collapse, sending it into the ocean. For the researchers studying the changing area, this isn't a matter of "if" this will happen, but "when." It seems to be only a matter of time at this point, particularly since the crack has only continued to get wider and longer since the survey was there last year.

As mentioned in the article I posted last week, the collapse of the ice shelf itself won't lead to increased sea levels since they are already displaying massive amounts of water. But the removal of this ridge will clear the way for other sheets of ice on the Antarctic continent to flow into the Southern Ocean, which will cause water levels to rise globally. In this case, a sheet of ice roughly the size of Scotland is behind the Larsen C Ice Shelf. That entire section of ice will then become vulnerable and start melting into the sea.

This section of Antarctica has seen both air and water temperatures rise in recent years, which is of course having an impact on the ice there. The alarming thing in these photos isn't necessarily the size of the rift, but how quickly it is growing. Climate change seems to be out-pacing some of the predictions and models that we've seen in the past, at least in this area of the world. What that means for the future remains to be seen, but it is sobering to say the least.

Video: Salomon TV Presents Guilt Trip in Greenland

When a group of professional skiers decides to travel to Greenland to attempt the first descent of a mountain there, they are understandably excited at first. But then, as they begin to plan their expedition, a feeling of guilt sets in over the carbon footprint that their journey will create. That's the premise behind this short documentary film from Salomon TV. And just what do these skiers do about this issue? They invite world renowned glaciologist, Alun Hubbard along to study the impact of climate change on the region. But that is only the very beginning of their adventure, which only gets more difficult and complicated from there. Their full story can be found in the video below.

Nat Geo Gives Us 10 Iconic Trails that are at Risk

If you're like me, hiking and backpacking are amongst your favorite pursuits. But, did you realize that some of the most iconic trails in the world are facing some major challenges. Between environmental issues, political infighting, encroaching commercial entities, natural disaster, and even war, these routes could potentially be altered or closed forever. To highlight these challenges, National Geographic has put together a list of 10 of the best trails that are currently at risk.

Most of the trails that earned a spot on this dubious countdown are ones that you've heard before. Each entry comes with an explanation of what is exactly at risk, and what the threat to the trail actually is. For instance, the first entry on the list is Arch Trail in Utah, which faces a number of threats that included ATV usage and the potential for public lands to be transferred to the public sector. The trail happens to be home to archaeological sites for former Native American villages, and it is seen as a treasure trove of knowledge on how those tribes lived in the distant past. Just how endangered the trail truly is is spelled out in the accompany paragraphs, with a final prognosis on its future too.

Some of the other trails that make the list include Stairway to Heaven in Hawaii (erosion, budget shortfalls), Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon (commercial development), and Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (climate change). I'll leave the rest of the list for you to discover on your own, but rest assured that each of the hiking routes are spectacular, and each is facing an uncertain future.

They say that the first step towards solving a problem such as the threats that are facing these trails, is to raise awareness of the situation. That's exactly what this article from Nat Geo is doing. By getting the word out to those of us who actually care about such issues, perhaps it isn't too late to save some of these natural wonders before they are lost to us all. Climate change is a difficult problem to solve on our own of course, but preventing over development of the lands and protecting the trails from misuse are all things that we can help prevent now. Maybe that will ensure that future generations will be able to hike these same routes too.

Patagonia to Close All Stores in the U.S. for Election Day

Last week I posted the news that REI would once again close all of its stores – and website – for Black Friday here in the U.S. Now, we have word that another major gear manufacturer is following suit for another very important day in America. Last week, Patagonia announced that it would close all of its retail outlets, its cooperate headquarters, and important distribution centers to on November 8, which is election day in the U.S.

The move comes as part of Patagonia's Vote Our Planet initiative, which encourages us to support candidates that take a tough stand on environmental issues, something that should be of major concern for all outdoor enthusiasts. The idea is to rally around men and women who are running for office that are looking to preserve the planet for future generations and protect wildlife and wild spaces.

“During a time of catastrophic environmental crisis, when America needs strong leadership to confront the fundamental threat of climate change, voter turnout threatens to reach historic lows as people are turned off by the ugliness of politics,” said Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario. “As a business, we have a unique ability to take a stand and choose to prioritize the health of the planet over profit, and I think it’s important we take that opportunity when it truly matters. We want to do everything possible to empower citizens to make their voices heard and elect candidates up and down the ballot who will protect our planet.”

Obviously the presidential election to be held next week is an important one for many reasons. I don't often use this blog as a place to make a political statement or support any one candidate over another. But I will say that the future of the country, and perhaps the world, rests in the hands of who will be elected to the White House on November 8. While I have my own opinions on who should or should not be in charge, what is most important to me is that everyone get out to vote. Patagonia is making that a little easier, at least for its own employees and customers. 

If you care about the environment, do a little research on the candidates in your area and get out and vote for the ones that are looking at ways to make things better moving forward. We are at a critical point when it comes to climate change and other environmental factors, and now is the time to have our voices heard. Vote on November 8 to at least play a role in that process. 

Couple Completes a Year of Living in the Wilderness

Remember Dave and Amy Freeman? They're the couple that not only were named Nat Geo Adventurers of the Year back in 2014 for their 11,000 mile (17,700 km) journey across North America, but last year they embarked on a 12-month odyssey that saw them living in the wilderness in an attempt to raise awareness of threats to the environment in Voyageurs National Park. I even wrote about the start of that adventure last September. Now, a year later, they have emerged from the wilderness at last, bringing an end to this stage of their project.

Last Friday, September 23, Dave and Amy paddled their canoe up the Kawisihiwi River in Minnesota, finishing their epic 12-month journey near a sulfide-ore copper mining operation, which is exactly the threat they've been battling. Those mines have the potential to spoil the natural environment of the Minnesota Boundary Waters, something they've shared a great deal of information about on their Save the Boundary Waters website.

During their year in the wilderness the Freemans travelled more than 2000 miles (3218 km) by canoe, dogsled, on skis, snowshoes, and by foot. Over that period, they paddled more than 500 lakes and rivers, and called 120 different campsites home. Along the way they faced steamy hot days in the summer, and frigid nights in the winter, when temperatures dropped to -30ºF (-34ºC). Those extremes were to be expected of course with the changing of the seasons, but it was a challenge for them to maintain the correct gear and stay focused nonetheless.

Now, the married couple will begin reintegrating back into normal life, where they'll welcome being home for a while and enjoying the luxuries of civilization. But they weren't completely cut off during their year in the wilderness. They often made blog posts while they were exploring the Boundary Waters, and more than 300 visitors helped to keep them fully supplied or spent a few days traveling with them as well. Still, the return to the daily life will be both welcomed and challenging at the same time.

Of course, their fight against the mining companies is far from over, and the duo are urging government officials to not renew the leases for the Twin Metals company that is operating in the area that the Freemans are trying to protect. To that end, they'll head to Washington, D.C. today to talk with lawmakers, and are already planning both a book and a documentary about their experience. After a year in the wilderness, I'm sure they have some good stories to share.

Are You the 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year?

Listen up all aspiring photographers out there. National Geographic has begun accepting entries into this year's Nature Photographer of the Year contest, and is giving away some great prizes to winners. If you've taken an outstanding photo of nature in 2016, they want to see it. And it could send you off on an impressive adventure of your own.

The contest website says "We’re looking for photos that showcase the awe-inspiring and diverse natural world around us. That could be a powerful wildlife shot, a stunning landscape, or a look at a complicated environmental issue—whatever nature means to you." In other words, there is a pretty broad interoperation out there of what exactly Nat Geo means by "nature." I'm sure more than a few have you have captured some great images over the past 12 months that you can submit to the contest. Entries are begin accepted until November 4, after which a panel of judges will decide which photos are worthy of making the cut.

Of course, there are some great prizes for those who win the contest. Each of the categories – Landscapes, Animals, Action and Environmental – will have three winners. First place will be awarded $2500 in case, while second place will get $750 and a signed National Geographic book. The third place winner goes home with $500.  But best of all, the Grand Prize finisher will receive a 10-day trip for two to the Galapagos Islands courtesy of Natural Habitat Adventures. I can't think of a better place to take more photos of nature than that destination.

As you would expect, competition is sure to be tough in this contest, but you just might have the wining photo sitting on your hard drive right now. Pick out your best and submit them for consideration. Who knows, you just might be on your way to the Galapagos in the near future.

Video: The 17-Million Year Old Grand Canyon is Still Teaching Us New Things

In this video, we join 17-year old Katie Winkelman as she takes part in a youth group that is exploring the Grand Canyon on foot and by raft. While in the Canyon, she learns a lot more about how it was formed and its continued importance in the lives of more than 40 million people who depend upon the Colorado River – which carved the dramatic landscapes there – for fresh water. The health of this place, and the waters that pass through it, are incredibly important, which is why we must continue to strive to protect it.

Nat Geo Gives Us 20 National Park Leaders Under the Age of 30

As most everyone knows by now, last week the National Park Service celebrated its 100th anniversary. In the days since then, we've seen a lot of celebrations across the country, with thousands of people saluting the government agency tasked with protecting the parks while at the same time making them accessible to the public.

The celebration will continue throughout the rest of the year, but it is also a time to begin looking forward to the next century. There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that the national parks will be around for future generations to enjoy as well. To that end, National Geographic has selected 20 scientists, filmmakers, activists, and educators who have dedicated their lives to protecting the parks, both in the U.S. and abroad. Oh yeah, and each of these men and women happen to be under the age of 30 as well.

Amongst those making the list are Ben Masters, a filmmaker and horseman who is working to protect wild mustangs. He's joined by Cassi Knight, an NPS scientist who is searching for dinosaur remains in Denali National Park, and Elizabeth and Cole Donelson who spent the past 12 months visiting all 59 U.S. national parks. Others include Jen Guyton, a scientists helping to protect animals from poachers in Mozambique, and cartographers Ross Donahue and Marty Schnure, who are mapping remote areas of Patagonia.

As you can see, this is a diverse and interesting group of individuals, each of which is playing a vital role to help promote national parks both at home in the U.S. and in other countries around the world. The concept of creating public lands that are set aside for future generations to enjoy too has been called "America's Best Idea," and these young men and women are helping to spread that idea further. Hopefully in another hundred years we'll be continuing to celebrate the National Park Service, and the effort that these individuals have made along the way.

Is the Grand Canyon in Jeopardy?

Yesterday I posted a beautiful video of the Grand Canyon in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service later this week. Everyone knows that the national park is one of the most iconic outdoor destinations in the entire world, with some of the most amazing opportunities for adventure. But are we losing the Grand Canyon to commercial and industrial development? That is the question posed in a new article from National Geographic that reveals an uncertain future for one of the U.S.'s most famous landscapes.

In order to explore the threats to the Grand Canyon, journalists Kevin Fedarko and Pete McBride have spent the better part of the past year exploring its wonders. Starting last fall, the two men have trekked for more than 650 miles (1046 km) through remote wilderness to not only get to understand the Canyon better, but to discover how its fragile ecosystem has increasingly become under siege by outside interests.

Along the way, they talked with people living in and around the park as the two men learned about the potential for over development and the increased stress put on the Grand Canyon due to a larger number of tourists visiting. But most importantly, they discovered that mining operations just outside the park's borders could have a long-lasting, and incredibly devastating, impact on the park itself, creating a potentially dangerous environmental catastrophe. For example, uranium is one of the substances that is mined near the park that could have severe impact on its future. In fact, U.S. Geological Survey data says that 15 springs and five wells near the Grand Canyon already have levels of uranium that are considered unsafe to drink. This is mostly due to incidents from older mines in the area, but it underscores the problem none the less.

While the story is already quite eye-opening, Fedarko and McBride aren't quite done yet. They're continuing to explore the Grand Canyon even now, with plans to wrap up their investigative expedition sometime in October. The story is of course still unfolding, but the hope is that we're not too late in spreading the word about the threats to this incredibly popular national park. After all, it is a place that has been presumably preserved for future generations to enjoy as well, so why would we want to spoil it now? Hopefully that won't happen.

Solar Impulse Completes Round-The-World Flight

Solar Impulse, the innovative aircraft powered only by the rays of the sun, completed its historic flight yesterday by landing back in Abu Dhabi, the city from which it departed from back on March 9 of 2015. In doing so, the solar-powered plane became the first to circumnavigate the globe without the use of any form of fossil fuels. 

The entire journey was broken down into 17-stages that covered a distance of more than 42,000 km (26,000 miles). The flight path crossed four continents, three seas, and two oceans, beginning and ending in the United Arab Emirates. The longest leg of the expedition took place between Nagoya, Japan and Hawaii, covering some 8924 km (5545 miles) of Pacific Ocean in the process. That stage alone took 118 hours to complete, giving pilot Andre Borschberg the record for the longest solo flight. 

Throughout the flight Borschberg split time at the controls with fellow pilot Bertrand Piccard, who was at the helm of the Solar Impulse when it made the final flight from Cairo, Egypt to Abu Dhabi yesterday, bringing an end to the 17-month odyssey that proved clean energy can be used to power an aircraft. The two pilots has hoped to complete the journey in a much shorter timeframe however, but a catastrophic failure of the aircraft's battery system caused it to be grounded for 10 months while repairs and upgrades were made. 

The Solar Impulse has a wingspan of over 72 meters (236 ft), which is larger than even a 747 commercial aircraft. Those wings contain more than 17,000 individual solar cells, which collect power and store it in onboard batteries. Those batteries can than be used to power the aircraft even at night. 

While this was an impressive demonstration of technology and the steps being taken to improve the use of clean energy, don't expect the Solar Impulse to have a dramatic impact on the commercial aviation anytime soon. Solar cells will need to improve their efficiency drastically before that can happen, as it is currently impossible to power a large aircraft using just the light of the sun. Still, this is a step in the right direction, show us a potential future where clean aircraft could whisk passengers off to remote destinations without having a dramatic impact on the environment. While that vision is still in the distant future, it is good to know that we're taking small steps towards making it a reality now.