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Global Ideas

Through the lens

It's been an eventful week. We saw a part of the highest mountain in the world break off (or not), floodings, bathing and a water filter for the ocean.

Mountains have an air of permanence. They are "rock solid" after all. That's why one climber's statement earlier this month caused quite a stirr. "The Hillary Step is no more," Tim Mosedale stated on his Facebook page. The Hillary Step is (or was) a rock face on Mount Everest and is considered the last major challenge before reaching the summit of the highest mountain in the world via the southeast route. Mind you, Mosedale is no adventure tourist, he has summitted Everest six times. So this statement caused a frenzy in the climbing world. Then, last week, Nepali climber Pemba Dorje Sherpa reached the site and reported that a large rock had fallen but the step was still there. Now the Nepal Mountaineering Association has decided to investigate what really happened up there at the dizzying height of 8,790 meters.

Down at sea level, Sri Lankans encountered severe hardship when the worst flooding and mudslides in 14 years killed at least 164 people this past week and drove almost half a million people from their homes. The bad weather is expected to continue, which could make the situation even worse. The government has deployed dozens of aircraft for the rescue efforts but many villages still remain inaccessible. 

Water borne threats of a different kind are the subject of a new study published by the European Union this past week. The European Environment Agency (EEA) confirmed that more than 96 percent of bathing water sites in the EU fulfill the minimum water quality reqirements, in Germany it was even 98 percent. Furthermore, in more than 85 percent of the sites, water quality was excellent. That's a marginal improvement over last year. Now in terms of water temperature ... 

And while we're on the subject of water quality: This strange-looking tube was recently installed in the harbor in Helsinki. It is called the Seabin, and collects floating trash at the ocean surface by sucking water in at the top and pumping it back out at the bottom. In the process it traps solid waste on the inside, which can then be removed and recycled. Helsinki is one of several pilot sites, where the system is being tested before sales officially kick off this summer.