Bjorny and the red dust

Bjorny and the red dust

How can a scientific report about PCB in Svalbard be shared in an effective way to the public? By making a children’s book of course! Introducing “Bjorny and the red dust”, based on a report that UNIS contributed to. The book release will be at Svalbard Museum 14 November at 14:00.

12 November 2015
Text: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS

“PCB on Svalbard” (download the PDF here) was published in 2011. The report produced an overview of PCB sources in Svalbard, including measurements of PCB concentrations in biota, in the air and in house painting in Svalbard.

“PCB on Svalbard” was made by the Governor of Svalbard together with the Norwegian Environment Agency, UNIS and several other research institutions. From UNIS, adjunct professor Roland Kallenborn and former employees Emma Johansson-Karlsson and Pernilla Carlsson, contributed by investigating occurrence of PCB and also removed local sources of PCB in Svalbard.

However, not only scientists and policy makers need information about pollution in the Arctic, children do too. Project manager Halvard Pedersen and report editor Qno Lundkvist got the idea to make a children’s book about pollution.

Bjorny and the red dust
This year the time came to make the scientific report into a book for children. The premise of “Bjorny and the red dust” is to illustrate how PCBs and other environmental pollutants are transported from urban areas to the Arctic, bioaccumulate in the food web and harm the wildlife, such as polar bears.

Little Bjorny lives on top of the earth, in polar bear paradise among seals, walruses, ivory gulls, ice and snow flakes. One day, Bjorny´s stomach starts to ache and at night he sees red dust that glows and dances across the sky.

Since it is a book for children, it must have a happy ending. The problem with PCBs is discovered and children tell the industry managers about the pollution problem. The managers stop the production of PCBs and the polar bears and walruses in the Arctic live happily ever after.

This is a short and quick version of how scientific research and policies around pollutions work. The environmental chemistry research at UNIS contributes to the understanding of how pollutants are transported to the Arctic and if there are any toxic effects of such pollutants.

“Bjorny and the red dust” is written by Sofie Cappelen (because it is so freezing cold where Bjorny lives, the words in the book huddle together for warmth and suddenly start to rhyme). The English translation was done by former UNIS scientist Elizabeth J. Cooper.

The book is illustrated and designed by Veronica Falsen Hiis og Martin Nesheim. The Norwegian and English editions are published by Kvitøya Publishing. The book project received support from the Svalbard Environmental Fund.

The book release will take place at Svalbard Museum on Saturday 14 November at 14:00.

The book is for sale in Svalbardbutikken and Svalbard Museum, or can be ordered through Kvitøya Publishing here.

Facts about PCB
PCB: Polychlorinated biphenyls. They are a group of persistent organic pollutants (POP) that have been used in electric equipment, building materials and house painting. PCBs are toxic for humans and animals and can affect our hormone systems and reproduction. They are volatile and have been transported from urban areas further south to the Arctic. Since they are lipophilic (“fat-loving”), they bioaccumulate in the food web and we therefore find them at high levels in the food chain, as in e.g. polar bears.

Further reading
PCB on Svalbard: Status of Knowledge and Management” (PDF), April 2011.

Pernilla Carlsson with books

Pernilla Carlsson is one of the authors behind the report “PCB on Svalbard”, which the book “Bjorny and the red dust” is based on. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS

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