Tag archives for science

Sweden has thousands of nameless insects!

The Malaise trap, which has given its name to the project. Once invented by the Swedish entomologist René Malaise, they are a very efficient way of collecting insects. Photo: Kajsa Glemhorn.

I know that  nature can never be entirely mapped. And I knew that there are plants and animals unknown to humanity in the vastness of the world’s jungles, but in Sweden..?

Yes, in Sweden. There are still insects that are new to Sweden, or even to the world. And loads of them.

Within the Swedish Malaise trap project, run by the Swedish Museum of Natural History, 2003 and 2006, insects were gathered with Malaise traps in 75 different locations around Sweden. About 40 million (!!) insects were collected, and now scientists all over the world are working hard to sort them and find out what species every single one of them belong to. This is a job that will take many years, but already two years ago 1000 species that weren’t before recorded in Sweden have been found. About half of these are also unknown by international science.

´Another insect species that hasn’t been found in Sweden before, the Piogaster albina. This is an insect with a creepy story: It attacks spiders and lays its eggs on them. When the larvae comes out of the egg, it sucks the “blood” of the spider, and when the insect finally is born, the spider dies... Photo: The Swedish Malaise trap project.

The aim of this project is to create an unique scientific resource for future research on entomology (insects). In a recent interview in Dagens Nyheter (article in Swedish), Kajsa Glemhorn who leads the project, says she hopes for 5.000 insect species new to Sweden to be “discovered”.

This must be a fantastic opportunity for entomologists to make their own mark in history. Kajsa Glemhorn has for example given the name to a species until now unknown to humanity – the Platygaster Glemhornae!

Don’t let you brain fall asleep during summer

If you want to leave the hammock and dedicate a few sunny minutes to learning the latest about sustainability, a hot tip is to check out the Whiteboard Seminar videos from Stockholm Resilience Centre.

These are short, informal presentations done by researchers on a particular issue. Each last no longer than 10 minutes and the researcher can only use a whiteboard and a pen to present and explain the issue.
Why not create your own summer course?

Some of the latests seminars include:

Envisioning a sustainable future

Beyond Gross Domestic Product

What is systems ecology?

All the seminars can be found here.
Here’s a taste, where Senior Research Fellow Brian Walker gives a simple explanation to what the concept of resilience means:

 

Tipping point: Threat or opportunity?

Photo: Romain Laurent.

For anyone who happens to be in Stockholm before the third of June, I would highly recommend a visit to Kulturhuset, Stockholm’s own house of culture. But not only because it’s one of my favourite places – somewhere you are always welcome, offering culture in all its forms and shapes (and often for free).

For a long time Kulturhuset  has shown a great interest for sustainability, environment and how to live greener. Recently they took a wider perspective on this and opened an exhibition created together with scientists and experts (for example from Stockholm Environment Institute and Stockholm Resilience Centre).

This time it’s not about the small perspective, as how to recycle or our waste, but the big picture: That humanity is a part of nature, what we are doing to the planet and what we can do to change the situation.

In Tucson, USA, several entirely intact hot dogs were find during excavations done 1974–2005. Raises one or two questions about what we put in our food, doesn’t it? Photo: Sara Jeswani.

Tipping Point, which is the name of the exhibition, is a term that describes how a sudden change can have large consequences for both society and eco systems. Like the melting Arctic ice, which isn’t melting gradually, but at a certain point starts to melt uncontrollably because of feed-back mechanisms.
The change in itself can seem small, but might force us to much bigger changes.

Read more » >>

Swedish report: CO2 is threatening our oceans (and it’s expensive!)

The Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Noaml  (CC: By, Nc)

When no arguments seem to work to stop environmental degradation, economy sometimes does. For example it was a report by the economist Nicholas Stern that first opened the eyes of many decision makers towards the threats of climate change.

This time Stockholm Environment Institute has calculated the costs of letting climate change and other human-caused factors ruin the world’s oceans.

Today the oceans are providing humanity with enormous values through for example fishery and tourism. When those functions are reduced, a lot of people will be left without incomes. Costs can also go up because of climate change, which causes sea-level rise, storms and reduces the ability of the ocean to absorb carbon.

Read more » >>

Friday evening’s climate impacts

foam-sweets

One of the latest contributions to the Swedish language is the word “fredagsmys” (meaning something like Friday.. eh… cosiness). It’s simply the act of cuddling up in a sofa after a hard week, taking it easy, maybe watching tv, but above all stuffing oneself with sweets and snacks.

Nothing to be annoyed by from a sustainability point of view, one might think. Friday “cosers” at least aren’t flying off on weekend trips to New York. But now a new report (full version in English) commissioned by the Swedish Food Administration and conducted by the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology shows that this innocent pleasure does in fact cause more environmental harm than most of us had suspected.

The study has made life-cycle analysis of crisps, sweets and soft drinks produced in Sweden and consumed in the Scandinavian capitals. And the results show that sweets and crisps have a climate effect which is actually larger than for apples, milk and bread. For example one kilo of crisps cause emissions of 2,2 kilos of greenhouse gases, which is 20 times more than for one kilo of potatoes. Sweets are even worse : one bag of foam sweets means more emissions than one helping of pork!

The Swedish consumption of sweets, crisps and soft drinks cause about half a million tons of greenhouse gases, which represents 2,6 percent of the food consumption’s climate impact in Sweden.
- This might not seem so much, but considering that soft drinks and sweets are “empty calories” it is an unnecessary contribution to climate change , says Anna-Karin Johansson from the Swedish Food Administration.

Swedes now drink four times more soft drinks and eat twice as much sweets as in the 1960:s (an average of almost 88 liters of soft drinks and more than 15 kilos of chocolate per person and year)… so there are’nt only environmental reasons to make Friday traditions a bit greener.

But to be honest it’s hard to imagine a radical change here. What kind of Friday indulgence would a carrot be? For a middle way let me propose one of my personal favourites: the homemade Swedish classic Kladdkaka (“Sticky cake”). Not exactly full of fibers and vitamins, but easy to make, chocolaty and… wonderful.

kladdkaka

KLADDKAKA

100 g melted butter
2 eggs
250 g sugar
2 tsp vanilla sugar
4 tbs cocoa powder
60 g wheatflour

Mix all the ingredients well and spread the mixture in a baking tin (preferably covered with oven paper, since this cake sticks easily) and bake in a 175 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.
Serve with whipped cream, ice cream or on its own.