Inside the Cork Wars

Happy Friday, folks. It's been a long week over here, much of which was spent writing up some longer form stuff on an unusual effort to kill charcoal in Africa and the result of an illuminating email exchange with a prominent opponent of clean energy projects. Suffice to say, I'm exhausted.

But I did want to share this fun video documentary that the New York Times' climate blogger Andy Revkin sent me; it's an informative look at the under-examined world of cork harvesting. And it seems to be one of the few modern arenas in which we might we're moving away from a uniquely sustainable practice—stripping bark off a species of oak once every ten years—and towards a wasteful one: A prominent alternative to using cork as a cap for wine bottles is plastic.

Revkin co-teaches the documentary class that put the film together, and describes it thusly:

For centuries, this versatile material — harvested by stripping the bark from a certain oak species once every decade or so — was the only choice for sealing wine bottles. At its peak, the trade supported thousands of workers, from bark-stripping crews in the rural communities around the forests to the factory workers in towns like Coruche, in southern Portugal.

It also sustained ecosystems that, while heavily shaped and exploited by humans, have long been a haven for wildlife, from the critically endangered Iberian lynx to the imperial eagle.

Read more about the project on Andy's blog, Dot Earth.

Tags: Portugal

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