Are you planning on traveleling to the European Union this summer? Submit a post to be featured on our Across the Pond blog and win prizes!
The third Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class traveled to the Arctic Circle in summer 2014. Check out their blog entries from this summer!
Landscape Architecture Doctoral candidate Caroline Wisler reflects on her travels to Bulgaria.
University of Illinois graduate student in Germanic Literatures and Languages Zach Grotovsky documents his travels throughout Eastern Europe in the summer of 2013.
The Environment and Society in a Changing Arctic class spotted polar bears in Norway!
MAEUS student Levi Armlovich describes his experiences with the protests in Izmir, Turkey.
Friday, July 25, 2014
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
|Akka will have a special place in our hearts!|
|Sam took desperate measures |
to avoid the mosquito hordes.
|Kyle makes himself at home in a Sami earth lodge|
walk back carrying all our luggage. The bus went to the airport in Kiruna first to drop off Jonathan then dropped us off at the hostel. We only had a short time before we were supposed to walk to the Sami culture museum and we did not have time for lunch. The Sami culture museum was interesting in that we finally had some perspective from the Sami’s viewpoint. We were done there at around 330 where we were free to go with a discussion on the topic the following day. We were starving and decided to eat the the “Arctic Thai” food place. It was very good and provided lots of food.
We returned to the hostel and unloaded our stuff a bit. We relaxed for a while before heading to the sauna for what could be the last time in the north of Sweden.
Friday, July 18, 2014
|There must be fairies around here somewhere…|
|The Arctic Willows with their fluffy softness.|
|Jumping on the rocks|
|Natural ice cream|
|Small ice lake|
|Large ice lake|
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
by Alexandar Vujadinovic and Kyle Morrison
There were also some researchers with us, partially to guide us and show a safe path, but also to collect data. Before going up the glacier, our course instructors made sure that everyone had their harnesses on – this would make rescue much easier in case anyone of us fell through a glacial crevasse. The glacier was covered with a thick layer of snow, and some parts were quite exhausting to climb. During the ascent, we were constantly reminded of the dangers associated with glaciers, and that one always should be careful despite the fact that they might look safe. We stopped at the site of an automated weather station to have lunch and relax, although the team of scientists that were with us continued further.
Monday, July 14, 2014
by Lauren Krone and Samantha Morrow
The first thing we did on the moraine was to measure the lichen that had grown on the rocks. Lichen are a symbiosis of algae and fungus. The alga does the photosynthesis, while the fungus collects nutrients from the rocks. Since photosynthesis requires sunlight, lichen can only start to grow once the glacier retreats. This allows us to date the age of the moraine by looking at the size in diameter of the lichen. Such a process is called lichen dating. Lichen growth curves are created by looking at how big lichen are on surfaces where the age is known, such as abandoned mines or old forests. These curves are then applied to the lichen on the moraines, at an average rate of 0.4mm per year.
We split up into groups, and measured different areas of the moraine. This included the inside, top, and
outside of the moraine. We found that the top of the moraine was roughly 200 years old, while the inside of the moraine was only exposed about 100 years ago.
In addition to dating the moraine, we discussed possible problems with using lichen to find the age of the moraine. First, there is difficulty in finding perfectly circular lichen, making the diameter a difficult thing to measure correctly. The uneven growth patterns are due to uneven mineral distribution in the rocks along with micro-topography of the rocks. Moreover, there is a possibility that new landslides or rock falls may cover a moraine, or cause rocks to flip or expose new surfaces. This may make a moraine look younger than it really is, because younger lichen will have colonized the newly exposed rock.
Friday, July 11, 2014
by Tyler Kamp and Vadim Velichkin
The trail that we chose to walk is a part of the Swedish King’s trail (Kungsleden). The major part of the trail went through a valley, with forest growing on both sides of it. The slopes were gentle so this part of the trail was not very physically demanding. On the way there were a lot of interesting things to observe, both natural and artificial. We crossed several moors and mountain rivers. After approximately one and a half hours of walking we have come to a lake where we saw a traditional Sami winter hut. Also, we saw two reindeers that we followed for a short time. The view was spectacular with the mountains standing like timeless giants. Whenever we felt tired we stopped and enjoyed the nature around us. On the way we also came across a meditation stone. At about twenty past three we reached the Tarfala valley and we knew that the hardest part was yet to come. There were tears, a lot of whining and some blood, which basically was Hanna cutting her hand.
At some point we had to cross the snow. We noticed the U-shape of the valley, which hints that the valley has been covered with ice before. Also, we were vigilant to the change in vegetation. Once in the valley we could no longer see any trees. Instead we saw low vegetation in form of lichens, moss, grass and flowers.
Eventually we arrived to the Tarfala station at half past five. We got to know the staff, who received us with open arms and a hot dinner. Since the environment at Tarfala station was new to us one of the scientists held a presentation about the safety rules, after which we were shown to our rooms. Finally we ended our day by enjoying the hot steam in the sauna and watching the Sun disappear behind the mountain tops.
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
by Kate Tyndell and Jinhui Wang
June 25 – LKAB’s Kiruna Mine, Interview with Göran Cars, and Hjalmar Lundbohm Museum
This morning we woke up bright and early for a tour of LKAB’s Kiruna Mine. The mine is located in Kirunavaara, which means “Ptarmigan Mountain” in Sami. This mine is the largest underground iron mine in the world, and relies on an ore body 4 kilometers wide and 80 meters thick. No one knows how deep the ore body goes, but it extends far under the town of Kiruna – causing problems for the residents and for LKAB.
LKAB touts itself as a “green” mining company. During our brief tour of their underground visitor center, the tour guide and video supplements emphasized the sustainability of their mining practices. From their front-end loaders powered by 1000 watts of hydroelectric power, to their 15,000 horsepower trains that generate their own electricity as they charge down Sweden’s mountains to the sea, LKAB’s practices seem to be focused on green energy. A closer look, however, reveals that cost-effectiveness and productivity are the true reasons behind their greenness. The trains cost next to nothing to operate, and if the front-end loaders didn’t run on electricity, diesel fumes would make the work environment unhealthy.
Whatever their motives, the mine tour was fascinating and fun. We learned about their unique mine,
their plans to move Kiruna, and the sheer amount of planning involved with efficiently moving 2% of the world’s annual iron ore production. At the end of the tour, we were given a sample of the concentrated magnetite pellets that make the mine – and the town of Kiruna – possible. Some of us stocked up on pellets, hoping to score on the worldwide iron market. But when we learned that the pellets were worth only 1 SEK per kilo, we were left with nothing but dashed hopes and some heavy souvenirs.
After the mine, we ate lunch, explored, and went to city hall to learn about Kiruna’s planned move.
“Architecture isn’t primarily about buildings. It concerns people and their needs. And from their wishes and dreams, architecture grows.” A presentation about moving kiruna city was given by the project manager, Göran Cars, who is a professor in Urban Planning at KTH and works together with a development group from the Kiruna Municipality. According to his presentation, the present city center has to be moved due to the mining activity. When first start digging the mine it was on the surface and they started digging underground in 1960s. The ore body is sliding 60 degrees angle under the city so they have to move the city and some of the buildings to someplace where is safe. If the mine is closed down, 2/3 of the population in Kiruna will be directly or indirectly affected. Kiruna is about 20000 km2 and has 23000 inhabitants. The moving project will cost about 25 billion SEK and it is carried out by LKAB. The taxpayers in Kiruna should not be affected.
There are still many issues at stake: stakeholders with conflicting interesting, mutual interdependence between stakeholders (politicians, residents, business, real estate owners, LKAB, County administration Board, the Swedish Transport Administration, Investors, Developers). The municipality is still working on making agreement between the stakeholders. Then what are residents’ expectations of future Kiruna? According to the survey, residents want to have a shopping center where can shop both sides of the street; a city square where has meeting places and hotels; a modern theater which can be used for holding conference and showing movies. The project is now under rush and the city hall will be the first building to be affected.
The day wrapped up with a visit at Hjalmar Lundbohm’s former home, which is now a museum. Inside, we learned a lot about the history of Kiruna, which began as a wild, ragged mining town. Hjalmar Lundbohm, LKAB’s first manager, turned the town into a model community by supporting schools, churches, and the arts. In addition, Lundbohm banned hard liquor but this didn’t stop him from enjoying cognac and cigars in his lounge!
Monday, July 7, 2014
by Otto Rimfors and Erica Sheeran
The industrial age hasn’t left us; rather, it, in a strange parody of nature, evolves in its own way. This
morning, we visited the Aitik mine in Gällivare, about an hour and a half outside of Kiruna. The car ride there was full of nature and Nordic-ness (which are very much in the same vein of thought, if not synonyms): trees, natural streams, and Björk, among other things. Yet, upon arriving to Aitik, the shift from natural to man-made was striking: trees became crushed gravel and grassy planes became a sleek building that required hospital-esque plastic booties over hiking boots as not to damage a painstakingly clean floor. The mine hadn’t been seen in person, but postcards and informational flyers hinted at what was to come. (And, as a bonus, there was free coffee and candy.)
|Tonka truck up close. Otto for scale.|
From a distance, the vehicles doing the work looked like child’s toys: big Tonka dump-trucks and little Hot-Wheels pick-up trucks. However, we got the chance to play on one of those “Tonka trucks” at the next stop (the machine repairs) and they were far from miniscule. They are massive, with just the tires dwarfing a person. The view from up on the driver’s ‘deck’ showed many blind spots and an impressive height. We learned that these vehicles are hard workers: they usually take out 40 tonnes of material per truck and can be in operation for more than 10,000 hours. As mine production has gotten bigger, the trucks have gotten bigger in an almost ridiculous parody of nature.
|The reconstruction of the shanty-town. |
Alias: I thought I was in a horror movie.
In terms of production, Aitik is scheduled to increase its production of copper by means of continuing to dig in their new pit. Aside from copper, Aitik also pulls up silver and gold. To potentially increase profits, they are looking at refining methods that would pull out gold. Additionally, they are looking for ways to lessen the copper in the water; their strategy for landscape recovery includes a good bit of water. In any case, Aitik’s people were friendly, the buildings spotless, and, like any good business, are looking for any ways to continue to up production, even if it means going bigger.
As a bridge into the afternoon, the Malmberget mine was inaccessible, but museums around it were of interest. The two visited—the Mining Museum and a reconstruction of Malmberget’s original shanty town, had conflicting stories. The Mining Museum was essentially promoting LKAB. It was a good resource; however, for a brief history of industry through a company’s point of view. The reconstructed shanty-town, on the other hand, was a narrative of what Malmberget was initially, which seemed to be a mixture of poor, hardworking, and, in this reconstruction, super creepy.
|Parts of the lift that during one period |
carried ore out of the Malmberget mine.
bit by bit into a seemingly never ending pit. For a sudden and unaware visitor, this process might be difficult to spot. The birds sing as usual and the greenery is as green as ever.
But unexpected and often ill-tended fences, roads that end as if they pass through an invisible portal and strange signs with WARNING in capital letters could reveal an enormous hole just on the other side of the tree line. You might not be able to see it, but it is there. If you would sleep over you might feel the midnight rumbling hiccup from deep below. If you would stay for decades and be able to fly across the landscape it would be obvious. The pit is growing and not stopping for anything. Like a force of nature but of the needs or greed of humankind.
Old structures from previous mining eras act as post-apocalyptic playgrounds, standing tall and trying to resist corrosion, reaching through the grass and flowers that eventually will take over with time. They patiently wait and willingly share their memories with us who are fascinated by what was.
When looking at an active open pit mine up close, if it’s large enough, it’s difficult to understand how this landscape could ever be restored, is that even the intention? What does “restore” mean? What time perspective do we have?
We live fast, our lives are filled with technology that makes everything work faster, easier. We cannot watch old movies. They are normally to slow. We fall asleep in lectures. We get anxious when we don’t have anything to do. It’s difficult to understand the time it will take for a landscape to recover (not being restored). Nature needs time to reclaim an area. The natural succession where bare rock eventually becomes forest could take hundreds of years. Are we prepared to wait?
We try to help by planting trees, bringing in soil, spreading seeds. But maybe nature does this job better than we do. Maybe we should just make sure that none of the pollutants that were once stuck in the rock, are released into the environment.
And maybe we should get rid of the fences. Nature doesn’t like fences, and neither do visitors.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
by Alexandar Vujadinovic and Kyle Morrison
The day began with a lecture by Åsa Persson, leader of the Mining Inspectorate (Bergsstaten), a
governmental agency responsible for decisions concerning permits for exploration and mining. It was very interesting to hear her presentation of the decision-making behind the mining operations in the northern territories of Sweden. In the presentation, she gave an overview on how different companies apply for exploration permits, how the Mining Inspectorate tries to evaluate the capability of the interested party to actually perform development in the area, and the other steps that are necessary when attempting to establish a mine. Mining and exploration activities need to comply with environmental regulations, and applicants may be rejected if they are obviously incapable of conforming to the regulations, or have a record of violating rules. We learned about controversies that may arise in this business regarding the decisions made by the Mining Inspectorate. The only areas that are protected from mining are state-owned national parks and city areas that are defined for a specific usage in the municipality area plans.
We also got a more detailed insight in Kiruna’s status as a mining town, and why a significant amount of people actually are supportive of the upcoming move of the town, even if it means that their homes will be demolished, and that they’ll have to be relocated to new ones. Studies have shown that parts of Kiruna will collapse into the ground as mining activities goes deeper into the ground, which ultimately led to the decision to relocate the inhabitants and companies. The mining activities are the main sources of income for the town, and many are aware of the fact that it’s a very remote community with relatively limited opportunities to support its existence at the current state, should the mining be stopped.
The group had prepared a set of questions before the meeting and a lot of them revolved around the
area’s status as native Sami lands. One of the questions asked was if Åsa Persson’s opinion on the aspects that make Sweden different from other countries that traditionally are associated with colonialism. It was apparently hard to find a good answer, but one noticeable difference was the fact that the Sami weren’t associated with a lower socio-economic status, as native populations in some other states in many cases do. Another question was whether there were any people from the Sami communities in the Mining Inspectorate. The answer was that there were none. Negotiations are usually held with Sami people that are affected by mining activities, but none from the community are part of the Mining Inspectorate’s authority to make final decisions on resource extraction.
In the afternoon our field work task was to explore the mining landscape at the mountain Luossavaara – one of the main mining areas at Kiruna, nowadays closed. We studied the area – and the way the Kiruna municipality narrates it – by hiking up the Midnight sun trail (Midnattssolstigen). The trail was about 4.5 kilometers. At the top we were asked to document the sights of the landscape and how we believed humans had overall changed the landscape. The landscape at first glance looks untouched but when taking a closer look one can see many differences that have been affected by mankind. In the distance there were many electrical wires and also open-pit mines that had been refilled with water and made into lakes. There were also a large and flat plateau which was clearly not natural to the landscape. Another interesting point to bring up was that even the trail and the signs that surrounded us were changes to the landscape that had been implemented to this area. The largest and most apparent of all the changes to the landscape was of course the iron mine that had created an unnatural canyon near this trail.
Photographs by Alexandar Vujadinovic