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.