Birds and Turbines – An Ornithologist in Poland.

This post originally appeared on the EWEA website. It is a part of my Force series focusing on the stories behind wind energy.

The shadows are still long on the freshly fallen snow when Krzysztof Pietrzak starts out on his daily walk. Spring is in the air here in Goscino, Poland, and during the next few hours Krzysztof will walk 10 km with his dog Ciapa (‘clumsy’). Krzysztof is an ornithologist. Everyday he follows the same route, monitoring the bird and bat activity at the wind farm near Goscino. His primary job is to determine the mortality rates of birds and bats in relation to the turbines. And Ciapa, despite her playful and clumsy character, is a trained professional particularly good at finding bats.

Inevitably one of the first questions Krzysztof receives is; how many birds or bats have these turbines killed?

“In the first few months of working here, I killed more birds with my car driving to the site, than I discovered killed by the turbines.” he responds. The official statistics of this ten turbine farm is eight – 16 birds per year, around one bird per turbine each year. He attributes this to the location of these turbines. They are away from the edges of the forest, marshes, swamps or rivers; places that birds frequent. “Cars, trains, electrical fences, triangular electrical poles; all these things kill more birds then wind turbines.” says Krzysztof.

Krzysztof began working with birds at the age of 15, volunteering for local NGOs in Poland. He credits his love of birds and the natural world to his childhood. His mother taught him sensitivity to the environment and he proudly says that his first steps were taken in the forest. He holds a degree in biology with a specialisation in ornithology, and is further educated in agriculture and physiotherapy.

The growing wind energy industry has been a boon for ornithologists. An unemployed ornithologist is difficult to find in Poland now, quite a shift from a few years ago when there were very few paid opportunities for people in this profession.

“It’s not a job for everyone, it is a lifestyle,” says Krzysztof. “My friend is my dog, the job keeps me fit and I haven’t been sick in years. The most difficult part is the weather. But, I think that I can call myself a happy person, which isn’t very common in Poland.”

Krzysztof spends every day walking under turbines so what does he actually think about them? He says he likes them. However, he insists that it is important to engage an ornithologist early in the planning process to avoid headaches later.

For Krzysztof a larger concern with wind farms is the potential impact on bird migration pathways. It is easy for a flock to go around one farm, but on a long flight from northern Europe to Africa, the amount of wind farms to be avoided is much greater. Typically a migratory flight takes a lot of energy so birds arrive very tired. The addition of what could amount to hundreds of extra kilometres over the whole route could cause problems. Krzysztof admits that studying this issue would be very difficult and so right now it remains only his theory.

The length of the study on birds at the Goscino wind farm is ten years. This means Krzysztof finds himself in the enviable position of having a secure job due to wind energy. He loves it. Walking under the turbines gives him time to think and he dreams of one day canoeing the Yukon River in Canada and joining the Polish Antarctic stations. But, until he makes it to those far-off places, he can be found on his walk under the turbines with his friend, Ciapa, bounding along happily beside him.

Guest Post – Moving Planet in Nepal

This guest post is cross-posted from 350.org and written by Anna Keenan detailing our recent experience in Nepal.

I spend most of my time working as a climate campaigner for Greenpeace International in Amsterdam, however for the 2011 global day of climate action – Moving our Planet beyond fossil fuels – I have somehow ended up in Kathmandu, Nepal, with climate-activist photographer Robert van Waarden. I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to write about what “Moving Planet” has been like in this magical (and slightly crazy) city of contrasts!

Today, there was not just one, but three major events in the Kathmandu area.

Moving Planet action in Nepal

First – we were up at 5am to make it on the bus to Dulikhel with Small Earth Nepal, a wonderful organization who are working on many aspects of sustainability – from awareness-raising, to scientific methodological training, to promoting biogas in rural villages. Today, 100 people hiked from Dhulikhel to Namo-buddha Monastery – where over 350 young monks are living and learning Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. The monks led our group in a meditation on a Zero-Carbon Future.

Aside from philosophical leadership, these monks are also into practical action. One of the many interesting initiatives at the monastery is the on-site production of heating briquettes from the monastery’s paper waste and agricultural waste. These carbon-neutral briquettes are burnt in place of firewood (which is in short supply) to keep the monastery buildings warm in winter – and because the briquettes burn without smoke, they also improve air quality.

The second event Nepalese Youth for Climate Action, along with Kathmandu Cycle City 2020, organised a cycle rally with over 120 keen young cyclists participated! In Kathmandu, every intersection is a chaotic, noisy blur of pedestrians, motorcycles, rickshaws, bicycles, taxis, trucks, as well as chickens, dogs and cows, all competing for space. The diesel fumes choke the city and many residents suffer from allergies or skin reactions. Cycling is not only good for the global climate – it could be a great solution to the local air-quality problem, and with no fuel costs, it is affordable – a big concern for most residents! However, the traffic chaos makes cycling a dangerous choice for anyone trying to ‘do the right thing’. Today’s cycle rally promotes the goal of Kathmandu being cycle-friendly within the decade – these young people are campaigning for cycle lanes so that more people can choose to cycle, in safety.

The third event was a fully solar-powered screening of short eco-films from around Nepal, run by Story Cycle. The solar panels charged the batteries during the day, and when the sun set on Patan’s Durbar Square, that renewable energy powered (despite rainy conditions!) a screening of 15 short films, made by young people, about local eco-issues in Nepal and South Asia.

These three events are just the tip of the iceberg (or should I say instead ‘just the edge of a great Himalyan glacier’?) of the Nepali sustainability initiatives that we have had the pleasure of learning about over the last few weeks. With so many different types of climate action happening in one place, and so many inspiring, intelligent young people on the case, a sustainable future for Nepal is looking more likely every moment.

Prague Photography – Quiet Moments in a Heart of Tourism

This morning I returned from Prague, capital of the Czech Republic. What a beautiful city! It has been 10 years since I looked down on the town from the castle. It has also been a while since I shared the streets with so many tourists. Prague is the premier tourism destination in central Europe. Everyone and their family was out on the sunny Saturday afternoon that I took my 85mm for a walk. Below are the moments of calm that I captured from the hustle. I hope you enjoy.

Nuclear Protest on the Dam Square in Amsterdam

On April 16, around ten thousand individuals gathered on the Dam Square in Amsterdam to protest the Dutch government’s decision to authorize the construction of a new nuclear plant. The protest was partially in reaction to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but the unsustainable high costs, both environmentally and financially were also on the agenda. Not only is this decision by the government insensitive to the disaster in Japan, but it comes at the same time that Germany is phasing out all nuclear power and proceeding full steam ahead with green energy.

Why is it that our neighbors are willing to fight for future generations while we proceed with an energy that doesn’t even have a waste disposal plan?

Gallery below.


Nuclear Protest – Amsterdam April 16, 2011 – Images by Robert vanWaarden

10:10:10 in Utrecht – Cradle to Cradle Climate Action

In conjunction with the Global Work Party, Cradle to Cradle, a event informing children and adults about sustainability was held today in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The Cradle to Cradle event was packed with kids and families, enjoying the sun, learning about sustainability and creating cool things with recycled materials. The photographs below show kids making wallets from old milk cartons and art from recycled material.

The Global Work Party was organized by 350.org and 10:10 and is being heralded as the world’s largest day of civil action ever. Be sure to hop on over to 350.org for more photography around the world.

Amsterdam Burlesque Photography

I recently had the opportunity to photograph Amsterdam burlesque talent Miss Lola L’amour. Miss L’amour will be auditioning for the Amsterdam Burlesque Festival (read more or get tickets).

Burlesque is a resurgent art-form, a passionate celebration of the female form from the 20′s and 30′s. The festival promises to be very entertaining (and sexy). I think that we created some beautiful images and she is a shoe-in for the Festival, what do you think?

Climate Faces – Photography Exhibit at the United Nations

greenland panoramic mountains

Exhibition Panel 1 - United Nations

UPDATED IMAGE BELOW

Tomorrow, July 14, the exhibit, Climate Faces – Changing Earth, Changing Lives opens at the United Nations in New York. Featured are my photographs from the 2008 Cape Farewell Voyage.

This exhibit documents young climate activists exploring the impacts of climate change on the Arctic and how they learned to communicate the issue. It follows on the heels of successful showings in locations around the world, including; Trafalgar Square, Parliament Hill Ottawa, India and Mexico.

The exhibit runs until the end of July. If you can’t make it to New York, click here to see some of the images on display.

More about this British Council project.
In September 2008, 28 high school students from Canada, Brazil, Germany, India, Ireland, Mexico and the United Kingdom boarded a Russian research vessel in Reykjavik, Iceland, and sailed around the southern tip of Greenland to Iqaluit on Canada‘s Baffin Island. On the trip, they were accompanied by scientists, artists and educators, who engaged them in a variety of programmes on board the ship and on shore.

Update: A picture of the opening banner at the UN: Provided by Esperanza Garcia

opening at the UN imagea

Green Jobs Photo Censored by the Senate

Recently this image was prohibited from appearing within the Senate Rotunda in Washington, D.C. This image was meant to accompany the National Wildlife Federation Fair Climate Photo Exhibit in Russell Senate Building Rotunda that finished on July 2nd. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the Senate decided that Freedom of Speech was not a right to be upheld within its’ walls and would not allow this image to hang. Also suffering at the hands of the censorship committee was this image by Project Survival Media Coordinator Shadia Fayne Wood.

I guess the Senate felt that there were too many people demanding green jobs and a switch to a clean low carbon future.  Devastating, because we  know that such a switch is necessary to guarantee our survival.

Images Published in National Geographic Traveler

Kids jumping off the wharf in Oman

My first travel photographs in National Geographic Traveler have been published! The June edition of the Netherlands travel magazine includes not one, but two articles illustrated with my images. One article visually highlights the wonderful diversity in Oman, where ancient cultures are clashing with modern, oil driven world. The other is a photo essay about the Salzkammergut region in Austrian Alps. To preview the articles, click here.

To celebrate, I am offering a 30% discount on prints on any of the 25 images that appear in the magazine if you use the coupon code ‘natgeocelebration’.

Go HERE to browse the images

Remember, use coupon code: natgeocelebration on checkout!

And don’t forget to share this with a friend so they can benefit from this offer as well.

Offer expires on June 30, 2010

Arizona Travel Stock Images

The incredible photographic landscape of Arizona was the subject of my lens in May, 2010. This slideshow of my best Arizona photographs includes stock images of the locations of Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, Route 66, Tonto Bridge State Park and Petrified Forest National Park. To license, click an image or here.


Arizona – Stock Photography – Images by Robert vanWaarden