Travel writers (us included) frequently compare tropical rainforests such as those found in Costa Rica or The Amazon to Jurassic Park. But scientists have recently discovered the world’s largest known fossil forest in the United States, located 250 to 800 feet beneath the ground in a southern Illinois coal mine.
The forest was discovered in a series of eight mines which make up the Springfield Coal mines, which have been heavily mined for several decades now and make up a significant portion of the area’s energy resources. The Springfield forest is believed to be dated to 307 million years ago, which makes it only slightly younger than the Earth’s oldest forest, the Gilboa Fossil Forest, in Schoharie County, New York – which is 380 million years old.
The significance of this discovery is tremendous, according to an interview with University of London paleontologist Howard Falcon-Lang by the New York Times. “Effectively you’ve got a lost world,” Lang said. “It’s the closest thing you’ll find to time travel.”
But the deeper importance is the discovery’s implications on climate-related scientific research. Millions of years before dinosaurs roamed the earth, a river running through the forest flooded due to rising temperatures and heavy rainfall caused by global warming. The flooding river entombed the forest in mud, which can be seen today on the ceilings of the Springfield Coal mines. The discovery offers an incredibly rare insight into a mass-global warming event of the past, not unlike what many environmental scientists are predicting may happen in the future.
The fossilized remains of the Springfield forest are quickly disintegrating due to exposure, but more ceilings are being revealed every day. With what is believed to be 100 more miles of undiscovered fossilized remains in the Springfield forest alone, we can be sure that plenty more secrets of the past will be uncovered as scientists continue to put the pieces of the Earth’s global warming past into perspective. –Raffi Simel
If you enjoyed Underground Fossil Forest in Illinois, then you might also like:
Those in the hospitality industry know how challenging it is to keep up with ambiguous sustainability standards. In fact, for years, the UN World Tourism Organization’s “Indicators of Sustainable Development for Tourism Destinations” has been the lone source of guidance for international attractions and accommodations. Thankfully, that will change once the Global Sustainable Tourism Council establishes its Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria for Destinations.
“While many destinations have been impacted by unsustainable development in the past,” says Erika Harms, Executive Director of the GSTC, “more and more destinations are now realizing the importance of sustainable tourism and are seeking outside support and guidelines to help set them on the right path. The GSTC’s Destination Criteria outline 45 specific actions that a destination can take to choose a different future—to make their cultural and natural attractions a source of delight for visitors, and a source of employment for locals, for many generations to come.”
The Destinations Criteria –the guidelines will discuss everything from community support to cultural heritage protection and waste management– were instituted by a panel of business owners and government officials after they analyzed the WTO’s indicators. Because it’s deemed as an internationally recognized set of sustainability steps, the Destination Criteria are viewed as baseline that each destination should adjust as needed.
Another promising aspect to the new criteria is that they won’t be shaped solely by hotel managers and academics; public consultation is also being sought in the matter. Through June 2, 2012, any concerned individual can write in here with suggestions to help the Destinations Criteria establish itself as the global voice in sustainable tourism. –DEMARCO WILLIAMS
If you liked Global Sustainable Tourism Council Redefining Sustainable Travel, you might also like:
Amur Leopards are “teetering on the brink of extinction” says Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, head of the World Wildlife Fund’s species program. Classified as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), only about 30 of these amazing animals are believed to exist in the wild, with a just few hundred others remaining in captivity.
Fortunately, the world’s rarest wild cats (which are also known as the Far Eastern Leopard) have been given a home in the newly established Land of the Leopard National Park in Russia’s Far East. The park is set on 650,000 acres of contiguous forest in the Amur-Heilong watershed. The Amur-Heilong is an area roughly equal to the size of Alaska which holds numerous species that only exist in this region, including Amur tigers, musk deer and brown bears. Needless to say, both the area and the animals that inhabit it are well worth protecting.
But the Amur leopard is the penultimate concern of wildlife conservation efforts in the area. These gorgeous cats have been continuously threatened for decades by poaching, exploitation of forests, encroaching civilization and climate change. Human-induced fires are also a concern to the leopards’ survival, as these fires create open, savannah-type landscapes that leopards tend to avoid, creating an unsuitable habitat for the rare cats.
These are some of the many reasons that the Land of the Leopard National Park has been established. As part of the wider Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA)– an cooperative initiative between Russian and western conservation organizations to conserve the Amur leopard and Amur tiger– the park will include protective measures such as 4 anti-poaching teams, a 5-member fire-fighting team, a special police task force of police and satellite devices to keep the leopards safe. The conservation efforts also include education programs and media campaigns around the world to help protect what very well could be the last chance for Amur leopards’ survival. For more info on how you can help protect the Amur Leopard, visit the ALTA website. –Raffi Simel
If you liked Save Amur Leopards, then you might also like:
In 2011, for the first time in history, the total trilateral merchandise trade among the United States, Mexico, and Canada surpassed $1 trillion. This increasing economic interconnectedness has led to a desire for something even more urgent– energy cooperation.
Meeting last week in Washington, DC, President Obama sat with the leaders of Mexico (President Felipe Calderon) and Canada (Prime Minister Stephen Harper) to increase dialogue and expand cooperation in energy sharing. The three leaders pledged to develop “continental energy, including electricity generation and interconnection” across national borders.
The leaders expressed intentions to accelerate reduction of emissions of “short-lived climate pollutants,” saying that, “reducing our emissions of these substances, which include methane, black carbon, and many hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), offers significant opportunities to reduce the rate of global warming in the near term, in the context of our broader efforts to address climate change, while also yielding many health, agricultural productivity, and energy security benefits.” Though few definitive plans have been made, the commitment is a great step towards combating climate change, creating clean energy jobs, and promoting investment in clean energy technologies.
In a joint news conference, President Obama said, “Between us, we represent nearly half a billion citizens, from Nunavut in the Canadian north to Chiapas in southern Mexico. In between, the diversity of our peoples and cultures is extraordinary. But wherever they live, they wake up every day with similar goals– to provide for their families, to be safe in their communities, to give their children a better life. And in each of our countries, the daily lives of our citizens are shaped profoundly by what happens in the other two. That’s why we’re here.” It’s encouraging to witness the U.S., Mexico, and Canada entering into a collaboration as important as this one. But only time will tell if they’ll adhere to their commitments. –Raffi Simel
Tonight, March 31, at 8:30 pm local time, people and major organizations around the world are being encouraged to celebrate Earth Hour, demonstrating their commitment to conserving the planet’s natural resources by switching off their lights for 60 minutes. This eco-friendly call to action will serve to recognize the benefits of energy conservation and sustainable living practices on every continent, with hundreds of countries, businesses, communities and famous landmarks– including New York’s Empire State Building, Wrigley Field, Washington, DC’s National Cathedral and even Times Square– taking part by switching their lights off. But even when the lights go back on, this event encourages all of us to be more conscious of little things we can do to benefit our beautiful planet, whether it’s donating to supporting pro-environment causes, joining WWF’s Conservation Action Network, shopping for eco-friendly products, working to optimize your home’s energy efficiency, or taking political action to promote environmental causes and curb climate change. We here at Green Global Travel encourage all of readers to do their part to help, for Earth Hour and every hour! –Bret Love