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Archaeologists Discover Ancient Canoes Hidden Beneath a Wisconsin Lake

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Wednesday, June 5, 2024

A 3,000-year-old canoe at the bottom of Lake Mendota Tamara Thomsen / Wisconsin Historical Society Maritime archaeologists have found nearly a dozen canoes at the bottom of Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin. The vessels vary significantly in age, dating to between 2500 B.C.E. and 1250 C.E. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, which has been working in collaboration with Indigenous leaders, the oldest was created some 4,500 years ago—making it the oldest ever recorded in the Great Lakes region. The canoes were found in a section of lakebed in the ancestral territory of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Researchers say the new discoveries could shed light on Indigenous communities that lived in the area. “We have a lot to learn from the Mendota canoe site, and the research happening today allows us to better understand and share the stories of the people who lived here and had a thriving culture here since time immemorial,” says Larry Plucinski, a historic preservation officer with Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, in a statement. Archaeologists uncovered the first vessel, a 1,200-year-old dugout canoe, in 2021. The following year, they found a second canoe, which was 3,000 years old. Divers successfully retrieved both boats and brought them back to a preservation facility in Madison for further conservation and study. Since then, divers have been carefully scanning the area. The Wisconsin Historical Society's Katie Latham and Amy Rosebrough work to preserve the 3,000-year-old dugout canoe. Dean Witter / Wisconsin Historical Society “It was becoming clear that we weren’t just looking at one canoe that had sunk, or two canoes—that we had an assemblage, and they might not all be the same,” Amy Rosebrough, a state archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society, tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Sophie Carson, adding: “We had guessed that people were traveling by dugout throughout this period, but this is absolute proof of it.” Researchers have now identified up to 11 historic canoes in the area. The boats are constructed from different kinds of trees—elm, ash, white oak, cottonwood and red oak—reflecting changing environmental conditions. “The Indigenous peoples of Wisconsin and the wider United States fished, traveled and traded extensively on inland lakes and streams, and until now we have not had a clear look at the canoes used in the Great Lakes region,” Rosebrough tells Fox News Digital’s Andrea Vacchiano. She adds, “To put it in modern terms, it’s like trying to understand life in the Midwest without ever seeing a real pickup truck in person. Canoes allowed people to fish in deeper lakes, to transport goods over hundreds of miles and to travel to faraway places.” The boats were all located in an 800-foot area that was likely once a shoreline, according to the historical society. Researchers think that Indigenous communities intentionally kept the canoes in the water during the winter to prevent them from freezing and warping. Over time, natural forces likely buried the boats and submerged the shoreline. Staffers from the Wisconsin Historical Society transport an ancient canoe after divers retrieved it from Lake Mendota. Dean Witter / Wisconsin Historical Society Eventually, the first two dugout canoes recovered by divers will be displayed at the Wisconsin Historical Society’s History Center, which is scheduled to open in 2027. “Seeing these canoes with one’s own eyes is a powerful experience, and they serve as a physical representation of what we know from extensive oral traditions that Native scholars have passed down over generations,” says Bill Quackenbush, a historic preservation officer for the Ho-Chunk Nation, in the statement. The other canoes will remain undisturbed at the bottom of the lakebed. They are too fragile to move. “Once you get a little further back in time, the wood isn’t really wood anymore,” Rosebrough tells WPR’s Sarah Lehr. “It’s fairly mushy. When you touch it, it feels kind of like a bagel that’s been left out in the rain. All that’s holding the rest of the wood up is the water inside.” The team has also been photographing the vessels’ remains in situ and studying the site using ground-penetrating radar, a non-invasive technology used to examine historic sites without causing damage. Additional analysis of the site is ongoing. “What’s eating away at me, honestly, is: Are there more?” adds Rosebrough. “Is there a bathtub ring of canoes all the way around Lake Mendota? And that’s just one lake.” Perhaps, she says, additional vessels are waiting to be discovered nearby. Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.

One of the vessels dates back around 4,500 years, making it the oldest ever found in the Great Lakes region

Lake Mendota Canoe
A 3,000-year-old canoe at the bottom of Lake Mendota Tamara Thomsen / Wisconsin Historical Society

Maritime archaeologists have found nearly a dozen canoes at the bottom of Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin. The vessels vary significantly in age, dating to between 2500 B.C.E. and 1250 C.E.

According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, which has been working in collaboration with Indigenous leaders, the oldest was created some 4,500 years ago—making it the oldest ever recorded in the Great Lakes region.

The canoes were found in a section of lakebed in the ancestral territory of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Researchers say the new discoveries could shed light on Indigenous communities that lived in the area.

“We have a lot to learn from the Mendota canoe site, and the research happening today allows us to better understand and share the stories of the people who lived here and had a thriving culture here since time immemorial,” says Larry Plucinski, a historic preservation officer with Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, in a statement.

Archaeologists uncovered the first vessel, a 1,200-year-old dugout canoe, in 2021. The following year, they found a second canoe, which was 3,000 years old. Divers successfully retrieved both boats and brought them back to a preservation facility in Madison for further conservation and study. Since then, divers have been carefully scanning the area.

Canoe Research and Preservation
The Wisconsin Historical Society's Katie Latham and Amy Rosebrough work to preserve the 3,000-year-old dugout canoe. Dean Witter / Wisconsin Historical Society

“It was becoming clear that we weren’t just looking at one canoe that had sunk, or two canoes—that we had an assemblage, and they might not all be the same,” Amy Rosebrough, a state archaeologist for the Wisconsin Historical Society, tells the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Sophie Carson, adding: “We had guessed that people were traveling by dugout throughout this period, but this is absolute proof of it.”

Researchers have now identified up to 11 historic canoes in the area. The boats are constructed from different kinds of trees—elm, ash, white oak, cottonwood and red oak—reflecting changing environmental conditions.

“The Indigenous peoples of Wisconsin and the wider United States fished, traveled and traded extensively on inland lakes and streams, and until now we have not had a clear look at the canoes used in the Great Lakes region,” Rosebrough tells Fox News Digital’s Andrea Vacchiano.

She adds, “To put it in modern terms, it’s like trying to understand life in the Midwest without ever seeing a real pickup truck in person. Canoes allowed people to fish in deeper lakes, to transport goods over hundreds of miles and to travel to faraway places.”

The boats were all located in an 800-foot area that was likely once a shoreline, according to the historical society. Researchers think that Indigenous communities intentionally kept the canoes in the water during the winter to prevent them from freezing and warping. Over time, natural forces likely buried the boats and submerged the shoreline.

Canoe transport
Staffers from the Wisconsin Historical Society transport an ancient canoe after divers retrieved it from Lake Mendota. Dean Witter / Wisconsin Historical Society

Eventually, the first two dugout canoes recovered by divers will be displayed at the Wisconsin Historical Society’s History Center, which is scheduled to open in 2027.

“Seeing these canoes with one’s own eyes is a powerful experience, and they serve as a physical representation of what we know from extensive oral traditions that Native scholars have passed down over generations,” says Bill Quackenbush, a historic preservation officer for the Ho-Chunk Nation, in the statement.

The other canoes will remain undisturbed at the bottom of the lakebed. They are too fragile to move.

“Once you get a little further back in time, the wood isn’t really wood anymore,” Rosebrough tells WPR’s Sarah Lehr. “It’s fairly mushy. When you touch it, it feels kind of like a bagel that’s been left out in the rain. All that’s holding the rest of the wood up is the water inside.”

The team has also been photographing the vessels’ remains in situ and studying the site using ground-penetrating radar, a non-invasive technology used to examine historic sites without causing damage. Additional analysis of the site is ongoing.

“What’s eating away at me, honestly, is: Are there more?” adds Rosebrough. “Is there a bathtub ring of canoes all the way around Lake Mendota? And that’s just one lake.” Perhaps, she says, additional vessels are waiting to be discovered nearby.

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Can Culebra’s Coral Survive the Climate Crisis?

Culebra Island, located near Puerto Rico, boasts diverse marine ecosystems with extensive coral reefs protected by various reserves. Despite their ecological importance, these reefs face...

Satellite view of Culebra Island captured on February 10, 2024, by the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8. The remote archipelago is flanked by extensive coral reef areas, but these hubs of biodiversity face a summer of sweltering water temperatures.Culebra Island, located near Puerto Rico, boasts diverse marine ecosystems with extensive coral reefs protected by various reserves. Despite their ecological importance, these reefs face numerous threats such as pollution, rising sea temperatures, and coastal development. Efforts to monitor and conserve these habitats include NASA’s OCEANOS program, which engages students in marine research and coral restoration.It is somewhat of a challenge to reach Culebra Island’s remote location, about 17 miles (27 kilometers) east of Puerto Rico. But those who do make it there find an array of marine ecosystems—including extensive coral reef areas protected by Culebra National Wildlife Refuge, the Luis Peña Channel Natural Reserve, and other conservation measures.The Vital Role of Coral ReefsCoral reefs are sometimes called the “rainforests of the sea” because of the diversity of marine life found amidst their formations. Corals build up slowly over time from the calcium carbonate secretions of small organisms called polyps. While coral reefs cover less than 1 percent of the ocean floor, scientists estimate that nearly 25 percent of all ocean species spend at least part of their lives in or near them, often depending on the structures for food, shelter, and protection. Surveys have documented at least 65 species of stony corals, 112 species of soft corals, and 242 species of reef fish on Puerto Rico’s 3,370 square kilometers (1,300 square miles) of reef. Signs of Culebra’s ecosystems are visible in this Landsat 8 image, captured by the OLI (Operational Land Imager) on February 10, 2024. On land, dry forests (dark green) blanket the hilly terrain, and spectacular sandy beaches (tan) line Culebra’s north shore. Deeper (dark blue) waters surround the island and nearby cays, while shallower (light blue) waters line the shores and lagoons. The green areas in shallow water are likely coral reefs, though seagrass meadows and seaweed patches can look similar.Challenges Facing Culebra’s Reefs“You can absolutely see patch reefs east of Culebra in this image,” said Juan Torres-Pérez, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “But know that many of its reefs are located near the shore and are not easy to distinguish in Landsat imagery, depending on the depth of the water and the type of coral.”Benthic habitat maps from NOAA, based on higher-resolution satellite imagery, aerial photographs, and underwater videos, indicate that fringing and patch reefs encircle much of Culebra but are especially widespread north and east of the main island. Seagrass and seaweed meadows are more common in the shallow waters south of the island. Key reef-building species found in Culebra’s reefs include branching staghorn and elkhorn corals (shown below), mound-shaped mountainous star corals, and brain corals.The remote archipelago is flanked by extensive coral reef areas, but these hubs of biodiversity face a summer of sweltering water temperatures.Reefs around the world face a variety of environmental threats, including coastal development, overfishing, disease, tourism, and increasingly warm and acidic waters. To thrive, corals require clear water within a narrow temperature range that’s free of pollution and sunlight-blocking sediment.Current Threats and MonitoringCulebra’s reefs face such natural and human stressors as well. For instance, local stressors, including population growth and coastal development, have exposed reefs to runoff with sediment, nutrients, and other contaminants that may have taken a toll on coral health, according to local watershed management documents.Ocean temperatures are another concern. Global ocean temperatures soared to record levels in 2023 and have stayed elevated throughout June 2024, prompting NOAA to confirm that Earth’s oceans are in the midst of a global bleaching event, the fourth on record. Coral bleaching occurs when corals become so stressed by warm waters or other factors that they expel the algae living in their tissues, sometimes leading to death.Since the start of the bleaching event in February 2023, widespread bleaching has occurred in 62 countries and territories worldwide, according to NOAA. While bleaching conditions were more widespread during a past event from 2014 to 2017, the current event has been particularly intense in the Atlantic Ocean. Within the past year, 99.7 percent of tropical reef areas in the Atlantic Ocean have experienced bleaching-level heat stress, the agency reported.In many parts of the Caribbean Sea, including the waters around Culebra, a marine heat wave persisted for several weeks in summer 2023. “Culebra’s reefs were affected by the heat, with several major reef-building species bleaching or dying,” Torres-Pérez said. “There is even more concern about this summer since sea surface temperatures are starting out higher than they were last summer.”Educational and Conservation EffortsTorres-Pérez and other NASA scientists will have opportunities to check on some of Culebra’s reefs in the coming weeks and months. Culebra is one of the field sites of NASA’s OCEANOS program, which brings oceanography and marine field research opportunities to graduating high school seniors and first-generation undergraduate students in Puerto Rico.OCEANOS, which stands for Ocean Community Engagement and Awareness using NASA Earth Observations and Science for Hispanic/Latino Students, is a month-long summer internship program that trains participants in remote sensing image analysis and field techniques in ocean science. In addition to studying coral reef ecology and conservation, students build their own bio-optic field instruments, sample plankton, perform shore ecology studies, and replant coral. Torres-Pérez is the project’s principal investigator.As part of OCEANOS, NASA partnered with Sociedad Ambiente Marino (SAM), an organization dedicated to restoring Culebra’s reefs. The organization’s divers have planted more than 160,000 pieces of coral around Culebra in recent years to help fortify the reefs, according to Torres-Pérez. The photo above, courtesy of SAM, shows staghorn corals transplanted onto a metal structure. The group will train OCEANOS students on coral farming, beach profiling, reef ecology, 3D printing of coral colonies, and seagrass conservation.NASA Earth Observatory image by Wanmei Liang, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Photograph courtesy of Sociedad Ambiente Marino.

Historic redlining in California cities linked to disparities in urban wildlife presence: Study

The historic practice of redlining may have led to the redistribution of wildlife populations in four of California's largest cities, a new study has found. Neighborhoods that were subject to the discriminatory practice in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Oakland all have less native and non-native wildlife biodiversity compared to that of greenlined...

The historic practice of redlining may have led to the redistribution of wildlife populations in four of California's largest cities, a new study has found. Neighborhoods that were subject to the discriminatory practice in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Oakland all have less native and non-native wildlife biodiversity compared to that of greenlined areas, according to the study, published on Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “There are stark differences in habitat complexity between greenlined and redlined neighborhoods across the state,” lead author Cesar O. Estien, a graduate student in environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement. The practice of “redlining” stems from a New Deal-era federal policy that led to the creation of several government programs aimed at expanding homeownership through mortgages and loans. Within these programs, areas with primarily Black or immigrant residents were often subject to restrictions on lending that became known as redlining.    At the time, entities such as the Federal Housing Administration and the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation assigned the neighborhood ratings based on loan repayment risk: The greenlined level of “A” was deemed the least risky and the redlined level of “D" most risky — with B and C falling somewhere in between. “Old redlined neighborhoods in California are still burdened with environmental quality issues," Estien said. "So it’s not surprising that they have less wildlife biodiversity than predominantly white, greenlined neighborhoods.” Estien and his colleagues analyzed more than 100,000 entries about area biodiversity on the iNaturalist platform between 2017 and 2022. They also referred to digitized Home Owners' Loan Corporation maps to determine whether those observations occurred in previously redlined areas. What they found was a consistent trend across each city, in which redlined zones consistently showed lower overall biodiversity levels. They identified the greatest disparities in San Francisco and San Diego, where five to 10 times more species were present in greenlined neighborhoods than in their redlined counterparts, according to the study. “San Francisco’s older, more established neighborhoods like the Presidio or Lake Merced tend to have a lot more street trees and native and non-native vegetation in gardens and yards,” Estien said. “It’s a notable difference when you compare it to the Tenderloin, Dogpatch, or Bayview areas.” While biodiversity in Oakland and Los Angeles was the most robust in non-greenlined, B-grade neighborhoods, the redlined areas had half as many native and non-native species as greenlined communities. Estien recalled hearing from longtime residents of the historically redlined areas of Oaklands flats "that they’d never expect to see carnivores beyond raccoons or opossums or birds beyond pigeons and house sparrows.” “But when you go up to the hills, your likelihood of running into charismatic or forest-dependent birds and mammals, like bobcats, goes way up,” he added. Given the results of their study, the authors emphasized a need to further explore the interplay of legacy policies and urban biodiversity disparities — efforts that could help drive equity-informed conservation initiatives. “Whether it’s restoring green space in redlined neighborhoods or preventing the displacement of wildlife in more biodiversity-rich areas, there is a lot that cities can do to ensure that both humans and wildlife have access to better environments,” Estien said.

Cocos Island to Receive $16 Million from GEF for Environmental Protection

Cocos Island will benefit from $16 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for environmental protection. Authorities from Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador met this week in Costa Rica during the Ocean Summit and announced an international aid package. This project aims to protect The Marine Corridor of the Eastern Tropical Pacific (CMAR), which […] The post Cocos Island to Receive $16 Million from GEF for Environmental Protection appeared first on The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel | Real Estate.

Cocos Island will benefit from $16 million from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for environmental protection. Authorities from Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador met this week in Costa Rica during the Ocean Summit and announced an international aid package. This project aims to protect The Marine Corridor of the Eastern Tropical Pacific (CMAR), which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. CMAR includes natural treasures such as Cocos Island, Galapagos, Malpelo, and Coiba. The plan, called “Beyond 30×30,” aims to ensure resilience in the Eastern Tropical Pacific through strengthened cross-border cooperation. It includes strengthening CMAR governance and sustainability, improving regional corridor management, promoting the regional blue economy, and enhancing regional communication, monitoring and evaluation, knowledge management, and learning activities. Resources will be administered by Conservation International and executed by Fundación Pacífico. During his speech at the Summit on Friday, President Rodrigo Chaves announced the readjustment of the island’s management parameters. He said the government had published the general management plan for Cocos Island National Park and was set to reveal the General Management Plan for the Bicentennial Marine Area by the end of the year. “We will boost scientific research, our protection regulations, and sustainable development to better protect marine biodiversity in this area of more than 100,000 km²,” stated President Chaves. The Minister of Environment (MINAE), Franz Tattenbach, mentioned that funds from the Blue Fund and the Earthshot Prize given by the United Kingdom will be concentrated on the island. Tattenbach also pointed out that controls have been implemented using beacon technology, which has reduced illegal entry into protected waters. Within the framework of the summit, the United Nations Convention for Regulations on the High Seas was also sent to Congress. This international convention, signed in 2023 after almost 20 years of negotiations, addresses the sustainability of marine biological diversity located beyond national jurisdiction. According to Minister Tattenbach and President Chaves, the adoption of this agreement signifies a significant milestone in efforts to save the ocean. The post Cocos Island to Receive $16 Million from GEF for Environmental Protection appeared first on The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel | Real Estate.

Could Venomous Flying Spiders Be Dropping in on You Soon?

If you live in the New Jersey and New York area, brace yourself—giant venomous spiders could soon be flying your way.

If you live in the New Jersey and New York area, brace yourself—giant venomous spiders could soon be flying your way. In January, the company New Jersey Pest Control cautioned the public that the Joro spiders native to East Asia have spread to the southeastern United States, and were expected to move north to the New Jersey area later in the year. The invasive species have a leg span of up to 4 inches and yellow and black bodies, according to the company. While Joro spiders are venomous, their venom isn’t dangerous to humans, Gothamist reported. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “These spiders are hard to miss,” the company said. “What sets them apart, however, is their ability to fly, a trait uncommon among spiders.” The company clarified that the spiders don’t fly in the way birds do, but they use a technique called “ballooning,” which involves them releasing silk threads into the air and being carried by the wind. Experts suspect that the spiders came to the U.S. because they were accidentally transported through cargo shipments, international trade or personal travel, according to the company. While exactly how they were brought to the U.S. is uncertain, “the consequences of their arrival are becoming increasingly evident,” New Jersey Pest Control said. Georgia is believed to be the “ground zero” of the Joro spider invasion. Read More: How Trillions of Buzzy Cicadas Will Affect People on the Autism Spectrum Last year, University of Georgia biologist Andy Davis, who studies Joro spiders, told The New York Times that the arachnids could reach New York by the summer, but none have been spotted yet. David Coyle, an assistant professor in the department of forestry and environmental conservation at Clemson University and one of the authors of a peer-reviewed study about the spiders that was published last fall, had previously said in a Clemson University press release that “these things are here to stay.” The study found that Joro spiders will be able to inhabit most of the eastern U.S. Coyle has since clarified that there’s no set timeline on when the spiders could arrive on the east coast. “I think the Joro *has the ability* to spread beyond the Southeast based on environmental conditions in its native range. In terms of a time frame… there isn’t one. It might be this year. Might be a decade. Heck, it might not happen at all,” Coyle told PIX11 News. “Spread rate depends on many factors, some environmental, some human, some that are just spider biology.” Linda Susan Rayor, senior lecturer and senior research associate in the department of entomology at Cornell University who has written about the spiders, told PIX11 News that she didn’t believe the spiders would arrive in New York this summer “unless people move them” because “they are unlikely to balloon for many hundreds of miles.” Get alerts on the biggest breaking news stories here

By not mining vital minerals, NZ is ‘offshoring its own environmental footprint’ – is that fair?

Shane Jones’ draft mining strategy is politically divisive. But New Zealand must face the practical and ethical implications of its own reliance on the critical minerals extracted elsewhere.

Getty ImagesWhen Resources Minister Shane Jones recently unveiled his draft strategy for mineral mining, it was quickly criticised by the Labour opposition as “taking New Zealand backwards”. One environmental group even called it a “love letter to mining companies”. But the government’s ambition to double the sector’s export value to NZ$2 billion by 2035, with flow-on effects for local employment and regional economies, deserves a broader debate. In particular, New Zealanders opposed to mineral mining must ask whether it is ethically fair and reasonable to effectively outsource the risks of mining to other countries, while benefiting from the modern technologies those minerals make possible. The government’s mining strategy aims to produce a list of “critical minerals” for exploration. The International Energy Agency identifies minerals such as copper, lithium, nickel, cobalt and rare earth elements as essential components in many of today’s rapidly growing clean energy technologies – from wind turbines and electricity networks to electric vehicles. Indeed, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, these critical minerals are increasingly necessary for decarbonising energy systems. One of the three pillars of the draft minerals strategy is the delivery of minerals “for a clean energy transition”. How we source those minerals is an important question. Mount Aspiring National Park: many New Zealanders resist the idea of mining in pristine wilderness areas. Getty Images Environmental impacts of mining New Zealand has a rich mining history, with a wide variety of resources still extracted from underground and opencast mines. There is also a long history of opposition to mining, especially in national parks and on conservation land, as well as on privately owned hill country. And there are legitimate concerns about the environmental, social and governance implications of mining. First, it can have devastating environmental effects, especially the extraction of high-value critical minerals that often require enormous “strip ratios” and generate huge volumes of waste rock tailings that must be stored. Put simply, the strip ratio represents the amount of waste material (also known as overburden) that must be moved to extract a given amount of ore. For example, an overburden thickness of 100 metres and an ore thickness of 50 metres would yield a strip ratio of 2:1. The actual concentration (known as the “grade”) of the target metal within the ore is the other factor to consider. For example, copper ore usually contains about 0.5% to 2% copper. A high-grade ore may be extracted from a mine with a high strip ratio, potentially generating enormous volumes of waste rock. The waste is crushed, liquidised into slurry and pumped behind tailings dams, where it desiccates over time. Tailings dams are constructed to grow in height over decades as the mine progresses. Effective management is integral to the safety of a mine and any downstream population. Tailings dam failures can lead to high-velocity flood disasters. But the well managed and stable tailings storage facility at OceanaGold’s Martha mine at Waihi shows what can be achieved with sufficient engineering and environmental regulation. Offshoring our environmental footprint Second, mineral extraction has caused and fuelled decades of unrest and civil war in some countries. The minerals most associated with funding conflict – the “three Ts” of tin, tungsten and tantalum – are present in many everyday products such as smartphones and laptops. Tantalum in particular is listed as a “conflict mineral” by the European Union. According to the US Geological Survey, the source of tantalum has dramatically changed in recent years. In 2000, Australia produced 45% of global tantalum concentrates, but by 2014 this had dropped to 4%, offset by extraction in the mineral-rich but war-torn Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. New Zealand is hardly in the same category. But the country’s mineral deposits are often found in mountainous areas, formed by the heat and pressure associated with tectonic processes over millions of years. Often these upland areas are beautiful national parks. At the same time, New Zealand will need to use extracted minerals – either from its own mining operations or those of other countries – to make the transition to green energy and maintain present standards of living. By not exploring the mineral mining potential in its own backyard, while simultaneously consuming those minerals from other sources, New Zealand is conveniently offshoring its own environmental footprint. To assume foreign landscapes and environments are more expendable raises serious ethical and moral questions that need to be addressed within the current debate over the government’s draft mining strategy. Reciprocity and obligation One response might be for New Zealand, where it can, to look at extracting and exporting minerals within its own strict safety and environmental regulations. This would help share the global environmental burden of mineral extraction in a more sustainable way. Such an approach (which might also be applied to the countries from which we source minerals) also fits with the Māori ethic of reciprocity, tauutuutu. This has been applied to modern economic and environmental thinking, and defined as: an indigenous concept that places an ethical obligation on communities and enterprises to emphasise balance, reciprocity, and symbiosis in their social and environmental relationships. Behavioural economics has shown that reciprocal behaviour builds trust, which is crucial for long-term relationships. Countries that embrace reciprocity are better positioned to navigate complex global challenges, achieve UN sustainable development goals, build resilient supply chains, and work toward a green future that energy transition will allow. In anticipation of the critical minerals list the government has requested, New Zealand needs to consider how it can meet the demands of a new economy, practically as well as morally and ethically. Martin Brook receives funding from MBIE.

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