Racism in Sofia

Racism in Sofia

The events at Sofia – where Bulgaria vs. England had to be halted twice over racist abuse – seem all the more remarkable in the light of Bulgaria’s historical stand against racism. During WW II, the Bulgarians managed to save nearly all their Jewish citizens from the Holocaust. How did they do it?...
Las Ramblas on fire again

Las Ramblas on fire again

Heated scenes in Barcelona where protesters clashed with riot police. Not since the 1960’s and 1970’s, the city has witnessed street fights on such large scale. back then, communists, catholics and Catalan separatists joined forces to undermine Franco’s rule. Today Barcelona’s youths and immigrants, with too much free time, fight for distant ideals…...
Oxitec: the bio mosquitoe killer

Oxitec: the bio mosquitoe killer

Zika, malaria, dengue and yellow fever. These are just a few diseases unleashed by stings of aedes aegypti, the deadliest creature on Earth. This particular mosquito kills over a million people every year and annually causes illness to hundreds of millions more. Demographers argue that throughout the ages infectious disease, caused by mosquitoes, claimed more deaths than all wars in history combined. Oxitec gives killer mosquitoes a taste of their own medicine To end this terror British tech company Oxitec in 2002 developed Self-Limiting Mosquitoes. These lab-grown insects, bred in Oxford and Brazil,  are sterilised and given a self-limiting gene. When the male Self-Limiting Mosquitoes –females are prematurely done away with- are set out in the wild, they mate but their offspring will never see the light of day. According to Oxitec, their method of biological control is available at relatively low costs, since mosquitoes are cheap to export. Moreover Oxitec’s ‘Operation Romeo’ doesn’t rely on chemical pesticides (to which mosquitoes by now are resistent anyway). Similar attempts at biological control have been tried with mixed success. Mosquitofish, who eat 500 mosquito larvae per day, helped the Soviets clear their Black Sea coast from malaria in the 1950’s. As a token of appreciation the city of Sochi built a monument in 2008 to honour the mosquitofish. On the other hand, when in 1925 the same mosquitofish were unleashed in Australian waters, events took a turn for the worse. The supposed to be control agents aggressively disrupted the maritime ecosystem and chased away other species who lived of mosquitoes. As a matter of fact, the  introduction of mosquitofish may have...
Jurassic Park in real life

Jurassic Park in real life

Global warming affects unexpected places. In Siberia temperatures have increased by 3 degrees in 40 years. Climate change is turning millions of hectares, an area as big as France and Germany combined, into swamps. Permafrost is beginning to thaw, causing alarming effects. Siberian cities built on frozen ground, such as Norilsk (175.000 inhabitants) and Yakustk (100.000 inhabitants), are witnessing the collapse of the foundation of their buildings because of melting permafrost. To make matters worse, billions of tonnes of methane and carbon will be unleashed into the atmosphere if the degradation of permafrost continues.  However, if it’s up to Sergei Zimov and his son Nikita, the greenhouse gasses will stay in the ground. These Russian geologists administer a 1600 ha wide nature reserve, Pleistocene Park, in which they keep the Siberian permafrost frozen using unconventional methods. With a tank Sergei crushes trees to prevent the thick forest from absorbing sunlight. Secondly, Sergei removes the thick layers of snow on the ground, allowing the frigid Siberian air to cool down the permafrost. ‘In Pleistocene Park we try to recreate a prehistoric ecosystem’, says Sergei. ‘The same one in which now extinct animals used to live 20.000 years ago. The same circumstances, the same plants, the same vegetables. I’m sure they will be able to live together.’  In his view the reindeers, musk oxen, Bactrian camels, bisons and mammoths that roamed Siberia ‘much like the nowadays savannes of Afrika’, would restore  the natural equilibrium necessary for keeping the permafrost intact. Animal hoards topple trees, trample snow and, in addition, spread manure full with nutrients which allows plants and grass to grow...