Date: July 2015
Place: Nesbyen, Norway

Isn’t this little guy the cuteness itself or what?
As the heroes of the previous blog posts, I have encountered these adorable animals this summer when I visited Langedrag Nature Park in Nesbyen, Norway. But, in contrast to other inhabitants of the Park, who stayed obediently in their designated sites, these little mammals were practically everywhere.
Indeed, rabbits are very common in Europe, although more than half of their global population inhabits North America. They are part of the Leporidae family and the Lagomorpha order that also includes hares and pikas. Rabbits are not rodents, whom they are often confused with, as they have two sets of incisor teeth instead of a single pair found in rodents.
The most obvious characteristic of rabbits is their long years. This is an adaptation for hearing and detecting predators, such as foxes and badgers. Eyes also play an important role here: these mammals have the overview of nearly 360 degrees. They even sleep with their eyes open in order to detect any sudden movement. When the threat is spotted, rabbits use their strong and springy hind legs to escape as fast as possible. When captured, it can also use its legs to deliver powerful kicks in the face of a predator.
One curious feature of rabbits is related to their digestion. They are herbivores eating grass and weeds, which are rich in hard-to-digest cellulose. In order to thoroughly digest it and extract sufficient nutrients, these mammals practice the behavior known as coprophagy. It means that they eat certain kind of their own droppings, which allows cellulose to be processed much better in their hindguts.
Rabbits occupy a notable place in human agriculture, culture, and literature. Since the times of the Roman Empire they have been domesticated and bred for meat, fur, and later as pets. In mythology and literature rabbit is often depicted as the symbol of fertility and rebirth. It is also given the image of a trickster, who uses his witty mind and great intellect to survive and come victorious from diverse challenges that life throws at him.



Date: July 2015
Place: Nesbyen, Norway
Aren’t they just beautiful?
Such speed! Such agility! Such grace!
Yes, as you might have already guessed, I admire horses. They are one of my favourite species of mammals. This couple of beauties, like all the animals described in the previous blog posts, I have met this summer in Langedrag Nature Park in NesbyenNorway.
The horse (Equus ferus) comes from the family Equidae that includes also donkeys and zebras. In turn the species Equus ferus has 3 subspecies: the domestic horse (Equus ferus caballus), which you can see practically on all farms; the tarpan (Equus ferus ferus), which has unfortunately become extinct; and the Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus przewalskii), which runs wild in Central Asia.
Horses have several quite interesting anatomical and behavioral characteristics that are related to the need of constantly escaping from predators. For example, they have very strong fight-or-flight response to potential threats that in many cases saves their life. Their eyes are one of the largest ones of any land mammal with approximately 65 percent binocular vision and 285 percent monocular vision. Thus, horses can see everything that happens all around them. Besides, they see very well both in day- and nighttime. In addition, horses can sleep while standing up, thus being constantly ready to make a run for their life. And during the run they make use of an extremely well developed sense of balance to help them control their position, direction, and speed.
The whole skeleton-and-muscle system of the horse is designed for run. For instance, they do not have collarbones: their forelimbs are attached to the spinal column by a powerful combination of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The leg bones and hooves are also made in such way that they can carry a 500 kg horse body with high speed and agility. Technically speaking, horses walk and run always on their tiptoes.
The horse was domesticated about 4000 BC in Central Asia. Now this beautiful and gracious animal has become an important member of our agricultural activities, transportation, sport, culture, and entertainment. Horses have been together with us throughout our history and even now, in the modern age of advanced technology and robots, continue to help us in our economic and social activities. They have truly earned all respect and admiration.



Date: July 2015
Place: Nesbyen, Norway
These cute little guys are the calves of the moose, also called elk (Alces alces). Like the “predatory superstars” described in the previous blog post, I have met them this summer in Langedrag Nature Park in Nesbyen, Norway.
Moose is considered to be the largest existing species of the deer family (Cervidae). An adult moose can reach up to 2 m high at the shoulder and weigh up to 700 kg. Its main distinguishing feature, the palmate antlers, can have a span of up to 1.5 m. These giant deer live in boreal and mixed deciduous forests across the Northern Hemisphere. You can meet them in Canada, Alaska and northern parts of the US, the Scandinavian and Baltic States, Poland, Czech Republic, Russia, and northern Ukraine. But in contrast to many other deer species, moose prefer solitude and do not live in herds.
Moose is an herbivore feeding mostly on forbs and fresh shoots from such trees as birch and willow. For grabbing tree branches and pulling forbs these mammals have very sensitive prehensile upper lip. They also like chewing on aquatic and underwater plants. In fact, moose are the only deer species capable of eating underwater. To make it possible, their nose has special pads and muscles that close the nostrils and prevent water from entering the nose.
Moose is hunted for meat, and this has significantly reduced their original widespread population. However, due to some conservation and reintroduction programs their population is not threatened anymore. There are also a number of programs to domesticate these animals, but this is not a widespread phenomenon. So, moose continue to roam in the wild and be admired for their might and uniqueness.



Date: July 2015
Place: Nesbyen, Norway
I am sure you know a lot about these sexy guys. Indeed, they are said to be one of the best recognized, known, and researched animals in the world. And I have met them this summer in Langedrag Nature Park in NesbyenNorway.
Yes, that’s right. This is the gray wolf (Canis lupus), also known as western wolf, from the Canidae family. Most probably you have already met it in different legends and fairytales, as the wolf is a popular character there. Although in many of them it appears as the Big Bad Wolf, in some cultures, like in the Japanese mythology, this animal was worshipped as near deity. In Ancient Greece and Rome wolves were connected to the sun and the god Apollo. But most of the time these social predators are depicted as dangerous and evil. For example, in the Bible wolves serve as symbols of greed and destructiveness.
In spite of this dark image given to the gray wolf, it is rarely a threat to humans, as they are not part of his natural prey. Wolves feed on both small and large mammals, including hares, foxes, deer, moose, wild goats, wild boar, and others. They hunt mostly in packs, although single wolves or mated pairs were also observed hunting.
Wolves are very social and territorial mammals. They also have complex expressive behavior, body language, and facial color patterns. Wolves also use howling to assemble the pack (something like “Avengers, assemble!”), send out an alarm, or locate each other across large distances.
Wolves are hunted by people for their thick and durable fur, which is used for making scarves, jackets, rugs, etc.



What is the recipe for a 100% sustainable world?
In my opinion, you need the following ingredients:
+ 20 g of research and innovation
+ 20 g of renewable energy and energy efficiency technology
+ 50 g of environmentally friendly and resource-saving habits and behavior
+ One “teaspoon” of spices of sustainability policies, economic incentives, and sound legislation…
… and other ingredients depending on the vision of sustainable world you are “cooking” and where you are doing this.
Did I miss anything?
Oh, yes, I forgot to mention the basis of our “cake”, the dough!
This is to be prepared from an efficient and thorough mixture of economic, social, and environmental data and knowledge.
Indeed, such data are very important for practically everything: goal setting, decision making, progress tracking, evaluation of results achieved, and their comparison to the goals and vision of a sustainable world. Without this information we would not be able to determine where we stand in sustainable development, measure our ecological footprint, assess the state of climate change, decide upon sustainability strategies, and implement them in an efficient way. Data is like “solar energy” charging the “photovoltaics” of sustainability research and action.
These statements are based on numerous examples.
Take climate change mitigation and adaptation, for example. The dominant majority of our knowledge about climate change comes from the Assessment Reports prepared and periodically updated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They serve as the information basis for education on climate change, development of climate policies and strategies, and even the global climate negotiations with the next one (COP 21) to take place this November – December in Paris, France. And what makes the IPCC Assessment Reports so valuable for such important and globally influencing things? The data. Concrete, comprehensive, analyzed, and verified data. Of course, there are still many gaps, as climate change is an enormously complex field of science. But without the data gathered through technology and research and made available to the broad public in an open way we wouldn’t have even considered this issue and would have continued to emit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions uncontrollably, thus aggravating the already serious problem.
I use certain environmental data myself. For instance, when I was an activist within the global movement Let’s Do It!, which aims to reach the vision of a green, clean, and zero waste world, I had done research and education on waste pollution and management. My objective was to obtain the most up-to-date information on waste pollution and GHG emissions from it, communicate it to the broad public, and educate people about this issue. For this purpose Toomas, my coordinator at Let’s Do It!, and I have created the Waste Explorer – an on-line visualization tool for the waste data in all countries of the world. And now it is used for various research, raising awareness, and education activities on the topic of waste pollution and management in many other organizations worldwide.
Talking about environmental education and specifically eco-friendly habit formation, this is where data and knowledge have great potential. Nowadays there is a growing number of initiatives that try to explore it. And they are all based on daily collection and measurement of key environmental and behavioral data, display them to the beneficiary in an easily understandable and attractive manner, and then suggest information and solutions that are most effective both for well-being of the user and the protection of the environment. One example I got to know and interacted with recently is the smartphone app BreezoMeter claimed to be the first real time air quality data platform. What BreezoMeter does is that it gathers air quality and weather data and displays it in a simple and user-friendly way for people to be able to make informed decisions on choosing the least polluted areas of their residential areas to go to, thus minimizing health risks from air pollution.
We at the organization Moldovan Environmental Governance Academy (MEGA) also actively use environmental and social data to form eco-friendly habits and nurture sustainable behavior among both individuals and organizations. Our MEGA vision is a sustainable world, where every person contributes to sustainable development and creation of positive social/environmental impact in a collaborative and fun way anywhere in the world. In order to achieve this vision we apply gamification to educate people about environmental issues, offer them solutions to address these issues, and then showcase their real positive impact. All this is wrapped up into an innovation called MEGA Game: The Game with Impact, where data and knowledge are integrated into the game platform to assist in collaborative decision making for sustainable development.

As you can see from these examples, data and knowledge and their open availability to decision makers and the broad public are the crucial components of a well-informed, effective, and equitable progress in sustainable development. Luckily, the attention to such data continues to increase, and the technology of gathering, processing, and displaying it continues to improve. Therefore, I envision that in the nearest future we will have open access to comprehensive information delivered in an easily understandable way through a number of technological means, which will guide our daily choices and policy making for a better and sustainable world. This will be the “delicious cake for everyone to enjoy in an equal, respectful, and knowledgeable way”.
And it seems that such a vision is not far from being realized. Already such initiatives as Eye on Earth are focusing on ensuring open access to comprehensive environmental, social, and economic information for supporting citizen engagement and decision-making for sustainable development. If you are interested in this topic, you are welcome to attend or follow on-line the Eye on Earth Summit to take place during the 6th – 8th of October, 2015, in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

1. Let’s Do It! (2013). Blog: Behold – The Waste Explorer!
2. MEGA (2015). About MEGA.
3. The House of Cakes (2015): Earth Cake 2.



Date: July 2015
Place: Oslo, Norway
These broad leaves of about 3 meters in diameter floating on the surface of water on a submerged stalk belong to the plant called Victoria amazonica. It comes from the family of water lilies (Nyphaeaceae), the aquatic herbs that can be found mostly in temperate and tropical climatic conditions. Victoria amazonica specifically is a happy resident of the Amazon River basin. But the plant on the photo has actually been found by me in the Botanical Garden in Oslo, Norway, that I visited in July this year.
Besides the very large leaves, Victoria amazonica is also known for its big (up to 40 cm in diameter) flowers that change colour: the first night they are open the flowers are white, but the second night they become pink. With both of these features, the large leaves and flowers, Victoria amazonica is considered to be the biggest water lily in the world.



Date: July 2015
Place: Oslo, Norway

I have met these cute but carnivorous little “smiles” in the Botanical Garden in Oslo, Norway. However, they are not native in this cold country, as their origins lie in the subtropical wetlands of the North America.
These “smiles” are actually the leaves of a very peculiar carnivorous plant called the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula). The leaves form clever snap traps that help the plant capture and then digest small insects and arachnids. The trap closes only when the trigger hairs inside are touched twice in rapid succession, thus avoiding unnecessary movements that could have been caused by dust and other particles falling on the lobes of the trap. The speed of closing of the lobes when triggered is about one-tenth of a second. When closed, the trap creates some sort of a hermetically sealed “stomach” that digests its prey for about ten days. After that the trap opens up again and is ready for the next unlucky bug.
Venus flytrap is the most popular cultivated carnivorous plant. It is being sold worldwide as houseplant. Sometimes it is also used in herbal medicine.



September 21st, 2014 became one of the historical moments in the global action to raise awareness about climate change issue and mitigate it. On this very day the largest march on calling for climate change action in human history took place. More than 675 thousand people (around 0.01% of global population) marched on the streets of New York, Barcelona, Paris, London, Rome, Berlin, Istanbul, Jakarta, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Melbourne, Sydney… There were over 2800 climate-change-related events in 166 countries that day. This so-called People’s Climate March became the largest and loudest call for action to mitigate climate change and its negative consequences so far.

All that was organized to push the global leaders, who are gathering on September 23rd, 2014, at the UN Headquarters in New York City for the UN Climate Summit 2014 to discuss the state of climate change nowadays, what is currently being done, and what still needs to be done in order to reduce (as avoidance is already not feasible) the economically, socially and environmentally damaging consequences of global climate change caused by anthropogenic activities. The one-day programme of the Summit includes announcements of national action and ambitions from the participating countries, forum for private sector, and then announcements of multi-stakeholder initiatives agreed upon. All in all, it is expected to be a surprisingly short event with quick discussions on such a complex and crucial issue as global climate change.

As I am currently doing research at IÖW in Berlin, Germany, as one of the winners of the Green Talents competition, I managed to participate in the Climate March and Festival here. Approximately 10 000 Berlin residents marched in a Silent Climate Parade from the Neptune Fountain (Neptunbrunnen) towards the Brandenburg Gate, where the Parade transformed into a Festival with music, dances and climate-change-related exhibits. Different environmental organizations, both local and international, such as Avaaz and Greenpeace, put up their stands to inform people about the issue of climate change, what it leads to, and how can we mitigate it through common action.

Indeed, such event attracted much attention of pedestrians, visitors, local residents, and mass-media. Still, did it succeed in communicating the whole complexity of the issue and the urgent need for action? This is the question I keep asking myself since the participation in the Berlin Climate March.
Firstly, the general message was mostly about the problems related to climate change. Much less focus was on possible solutions for climate change mitigation. What can a person do to reduce his/her carbon footprint and at the same time maintain the same level of happiness and well-being (and perhaps increase it)? It would have been great to have more showcasing of solutions to climate change offered for the people by the people.

Secondly, although there were some solutions expressed, they were targeting dominantly the transport and energy sector. Indeed, these are the largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting sectors (approximately 20% and 30% of the global emissions respectively), but they are not the only ones. Industrial processes (~15%), unsustainable agricultural practices (~10%), and commercial and residential activities (~10%) also contribute to the release of carbon dioxide, methane and other GHGs into the atmosphere. So, we also need to account for them in shaping up the global climate action. For instance, the Climate Festival in Berlin created quite a volume of paper and other waste that could have been avoided. Yes, much of it will probably be recycled. But that also means that energy will be used for the recycling process. And what have I pointed out about the energy sector above?

Thirdly, the way we communicate messages about climate change and environment protection should be improved. For instance, the Berlin Climate Festival ended up as an ordinary music festival with people around selling merchandise, dancing and getting drunk. Only those participants, who already knew about the importance of climate change, kept the interest and passion for climate action till the end.

Overall, the People’s Climate March became a significant historical moment within the global people’s movement to address and mitigate the climate change issue. People succeeded in coming together and raising their voice full of desire to reduce the negative effects of the issue now and in the future. Still, as the Berlin Climate Festival showed, the ways of communicating the climate-change-related messages need to be improved. Climate change is a multi-faceted issue that should be considered in all its complexity and from all its sides. Our call for climate action should reflect that. And I hope it will be so in the near future.

For now, we will see what outputs the UN Climate Summit 2014 produces and whether the People’s Climate March have had any effect on them. Then we should prepare for the next important event – the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP-20, that is going to happen in Lima, Peru, in the period of December 1st – 12th, 2014. It is there the global climate agreement is expected to be finally decided upon. And it is there that our loudest call for change in history is expected to be heard.



At the beginning of September 2014 I participated in the Degrowth 2014 conference that took place in Leipzig, Germany. This became possible due to the support from IÖW, a Berlin-based research institution, where I am currently doing research on the Maker Movement and its connection to sustainable development.
Degrowth is a global movement based on environmental economics and anti-consumption ideas that promote decoupling of human development, happiness, and sustainability from economic growth. Supporters of the degrowth concept argue that environmental issues can be resolved and social welfare can be achieved by downscaling production and consumption and shifting our behavior to non-consumptive means, such as collaboration, co-creation, sharing, creativity, art, music, etc. Of course, this concept meets certain criticism and disbelief in the “degrowth utopia”. And this is exactly what the Degrowth conference was all about.
The goal of my participation there was to find out about the latest developments on the Maker Movement scene in Germany, as well as determine its relation to the degrowth concept. And that goal was achieved. So, here are the most interesting outputs from Degrowth 2014 in relation to open-source eco-innovation and collaborative sustainable development:
#1. Nowadays the means of manufacturing become more and more accessible to individuals, meaning that one is potentially less dependent on consuming products from large capitalist companies. If you want a piece of hardware, you can just produce one at home (this approach is called DIY, Do-It-Yourself). And if you cannot do it alone, you can use the collaborative power of the community, both virtual and real, to co-create the thing you need (this is what is called DIT, Do-It-Together). There is an increasing number of co-working spaces and open workshops popping up all around. There you can use the tools and machines available to create individually or with peers the things you need. In this way you produce them locally, thus avoiding transportation of stuff and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with it. Besides, as you are the one, who created the thing, it is likely that you will put more value on it and therefore will keep and use it as long as possible, minimizing waste in this way.
#2. However, you may argue that more accessible manufacturing means can lead to more production and consumption, and thus more waste, GHG emissions, and other environmental damage. Indeed, this is a valid point to consider. And the conference provided part of the response for it. Certain open workshops with professional machines, so-called Fab Labs, have started to apply principles of circular / closed-loop flow of materials. This is how the concept of “Green Fab Lab”, an open workshop with complete resource sustainability and zero waste outputs, has been born. And there is technology allowing it to happen already. For instance, with an open-source device called FilaMaker you can shred plastic things and waste from your 3D printer into a new filament input for it. The device is still far from perfect, but you can imagine where this is going. Ideally we would be able to 3D print the things we need and then, at the end of their life cycle, recycle them into material for new things. Furthermore, you can expect no extra waste from this process, as the 3D printer software is already designed to calculate how to print an object with the least amount of material needed.
#3. Such accessibility of manufacturing means combined with the power of collaboration and sharing allow the appearance of “degrowth businesses” – companies that rely on community engagement, collaboration, and open source rather than closed innovation and profit maximization. An example presented at the Degrowth 2014 conference was Premium Cola. Its business model is based on an open sharing of all product developments and collaborative construction of its business. The company does little marketing, allowing the community members to decide on whether to purchase and promote the product or not. Such businesses are extremely difficult to launch and run, but, as shown by Premium Cola, it is possible. However, they still need to prove whether they really contribute to the “degrowth utopia”.
The concept of degrowth and its connection to sustainability and environment protection is still full of knowledge gaps, like Swiss cheese is full of holes. This has been proven by the outcomes of the Degrowth 2014 conference. Still, there is also more and more research in this field happening nowadays. It should help closing the gaps and support the decision-making regarding the concept of degrowth. And I am excited to contribute to this research with my own study of the Maker Movement in Berlin. So, you can expect more interesting posts and articles on this topic coming soon from my side.



“…The planet is no longer a patient observer and victim of human intervention. It is now a raging beast that we continue to poke. And geoengineering might well be regarded as poking it even more…” – That was one of the conclusions of the first international Climate Engineering Conference (CEC 2014) that took place on October, 18 – 21, 2014, in Berlin under the topic “Critical Global Discussions”. The speakers and participants of the conference included such prominent scientists, economists, politicians, and writers, as Prof. Dr. Mark Lawrence, Dr. Georg Schütte, Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Klaus Töpfer, Dr. Harry Lehmann, Mr. Jamais Casico, Mr. Rene Röspel, Mr. Oliver Morton, and others. I managed to participate in it as ELP alumni with the generous support of IASS Potsdam.
The discussions at CEC 2014 were indeed critical considering the controversy around the topic of geoengineering. As the conference website explains, geoengineering, also known as climate engineering, is a combination of “technologies and techniques for intentionally manipulating the global climate, in order to moderate or forestall the (most severe) effects of climate change”. These technologies can be organized into two categories:
1. Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) that aims to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and includes Carbon Capture and Storage underground facilities, aforestation, ocean fertilization, etc.
2. Solar Radiation Management, or Sunlight Reflection Methods (SRM) are methods of minimizing the amount of solar energy and heat reaching the Earth atmosphere by either reflecting sunrays away from the planet by large space mirrors, or dispersing them in the planet’s atmosphere by creating artificial clouds or spreading sulfur dioxide particles in the atmosphere.
As one can see, there are rather drastic methods that require enormous investments and influence the climate and hence life all over the globe. Moreover, we still know very little about such technologies and the climatic system they should have effect upon. So, there is much anxiety regarding the potential unforeseen negative consequences and risks associated with geoengineering. And last but not least, it raises a multitude of questions and heated discussions about ethics and equity of experimenting with these technologies, not to mention deploying them.
And this is exactly what happened at CEC 2014. The questions discussed ranged from “What is so special about geoengineering and why should we put so much attention to it?” to “Will the global society be prepared for sudden rise of support for geoengineering due to governmental approval or, let’s say, Rupert Murdoch’s supportive tweet? And what consequences it will bring to the environment and society?”
Certainly, the participants of the conference included both active supporters of geoengineering and its active opponents. The “clashes of the geoengineering titans” happened mostly around three topics: the possible military use of climate engineering technologies; the potential of experiments with such technologies and their deployment to redirect attention from actual climate change mitigation (that is, prioritizing “treating symptoms” over “fighting the disease”); and the possible and currently unknown consequences of geoengineering on the developing countries (climate equity issue) and the planet as a whole.
Right from the beginning of the conference there was even a document, the so-called Berlin Declaration, proposed for participants’ support and signature. This document called upon governments, research funding organizations and scientific and professional bodies to give approval or endorsement of any experiments on geoengineering (especially on SRM) ONLY in case of these experiments having open and transparent review process and the “social licence” necessary for them to operate. However, the conference organizers immediately communicated that the Berlin Declaration is not and will never be an official output of CEC 2014 and that its signing is the personal decision of each participant. During the conference the document had been renamed into A Framework for More Democratic Governance of Climate Engineering, also known as the Scandic Principles, and enriched with the list of risks the geoengineering experiments ought to take account of and a more detailed description of transparency, open governance and other principles to regulate geoengineering technologies. Still, the document remained as an unofficial individual initiative and not the official public output of the event.
All in all, the 5-days conference, including its open-for-public panel “The Anthropocene – An Engineered Age?” on October, 22, 2014, at the House of World Cultures in Berlin, concluded that geoengineering must not be a substitute for climate change mitigation and that much care and regulation is needed before we can move forward to large-scale experiments and implementation of these technologies. Still, many questions remained to be discussed and answered. And thus the true “clashes of geoengineering titans” are yet to come.