The Mountain People of Nepal: Culture in the Annapurna Circuit (Annapurna, Nepal)

Day 16 Muktinath to Kagbeni 016

Being completely absorbed in a majestic, large-scale natural environments for days on end can render man-made divides as petty in the grader picture. One gets this sense from travelling through the Annapurna region of the Nepalese Himalayas. The inspiring landscape of the Himalayas is well-documented, but what requires closer investigation is the diversity and multi-culturalism present among the towns scattered through the mountains and along the rivers. Continue reading

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Jeep Trekking: The Consequences of a Road on the Annapurna Circuit (Nepal)

“The jeep road to Manang is no good for trekkers and no good for locals – no good for no one!” proclaims an exasperated Purna Gurung. He recently opened a guesthouse in Chame, Nepal, along the world’s most famous trek: the Annapurna Circuit. He blames the newly-built road as the source of his business struggles.

Day 9 Braka to Sheree Kharka 017

“I don’t know why they built the road, or who it benefits. The government decides, and that’s all.”

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A Swampy Paradise: Volunteering with Siberia’s Great Baikal Trail (Frolikha, Russia)

“I wanted to do something for Baikal, for infrastructure, for ecology, and this was a chance,” says Irkutsk native and local entrepreneur, Sergei Redkin, as he explains his reasons for volunteering with the Great Baikal Trail (GBT).

Frolikha Marc (35)

GBT is an organization whose name may seem evident at first glance. It is a trail-building establishment near Lake Baikal in Russia’s Siberia. In addition to trail building and maintenance of pre-existing paths, the group also promotes ecological education in the region.

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Dual Identity: Turkey’s Perspective in Orbit (Ankara, Turkey)

Originally Published for Dispatches International in 2011

“Turkey is a medium-sized country and there is going to be a power vacuum because historically we have a perspective of Europe and if we stop having this perspective we will have to have another one. Unfortunately, the closest option for Turkey is the eastern world,” says Asli Postaci, a PhD candidate in political science at Yeditepe Univeristy in Istanbul.

With the ongoing unrest in the Arab world, Turkey is starting to become a major player in the region. It has become clear that the European Union has put any plans to add Turkey as a full member on hold. As a result Turkey has shifted its policies in the Middle East. This past May, Turkish relations with Israel were greatly strained with the Gaza Flotilla Raid. This was a Turkish demonstration to show that it will create its own foreign policy in the Middle East, even if it directly opposes policies that Western powers have in the region.

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Crackdown: A Summer of Unrest for Beijing’s Expats (Beijing, China)

Originally Published for Dispatches International

Editor’s note: All persons interviewed have been given pseudonyms to protect their identity due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter.

July 20th, 2012 – It is day 66 of Beijing’s 100-day crackdown on those working and living illegally in the country’s capital. The atmosphere appears calmer than during the initial phases of the government’s campaign. However, many are still choosing to err on the side of caution. Those with legal documentation looking to avoid the hassle of reporting themselves to the police station carry photocopies of their passport, visa, and temporary residence registration form on their person at all times.

Beijing reports that there are over 120,000 foreign immigrants in the city with as many as 200,000 foreigners passing through each day. The vast majority are here legally on valid tourist, business, or work visas.

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Visiting Siberia’s Wilderness: Eco-Tourism at Lake Baikal

Originally Published for Dispatches International

“Lake Baikal is not such a good place for a restful vacation or a place at the beach because it snows [every] four hours, it’s cold enough in the morning, and mosquitoes [are] everywhere,” says Vladimir Hidekel, a professor of ecology at Irkutsk State University. “[But] it’s good for people who understand the beauty of wild nature.”

Sunset at Ayaya Bay

In addition to his work as an ecologist, Hidekel is an outdoorsman. He works as a project leader for the Great Baikal Trail (GBT), an ambitious project that aims to develop the first environmental trail system in Russia. “People need access to the wild nature and beautiful places,” Hidekel says about the trail network.

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China’s Energy Consumption and Canada’s Energy Resources: A Match Made in an Environmentlist’s Nightmare? (Beijing, China)

As China’s economy grows, the environmental problems faced by the country keep pace. Between coal mining, water scarcity, and air pollution, public awareness of environmental issues and desire for a cleaner, healthier world have become more and more amplified. However, the growing middle class is dependent on an expanding economy, one which requires energy to keep the machine running. China has met its energy demand by consuming more fossil fuels, further increasing carbon emissions.

When environmentalists talk about carbon, they are usually referring to how fossil fuel consumption causes climate change. The problem with using “energy” when discussing environmental issues is illustrated by the latest favorite catchphrase for politicians: “energy independence.” It is becoming clear that in an economy-centered world, a truly reliable source of energy is just as good as “independence,” as it strengthens trade relations and effectively binds economic prosperity with energy security.

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Upcycling in China: An old Tradition Becomes a Trending Topic (Beijing, China)

Originally published for Dispatches International

With so much economic growth in such a short amount of time, China is in constant cultural flux. In prior generations, people were impoverished; now, obesity is a problem. The effect of adding a middle class to Chinese society has shifted China’s stance to being not only the leading manufacturer of goods, but also the largest consumer in the world.

With the smog surrounding large Chinese cities due to coal burning, the environmental impact of this production and consumption becomes unfortunately clear. There are, however, forces to combat this impending environmental risk that are becoming trends for positive social change in China. These include participation in environmentalism and artistic design. A combination of these is called “upcycling.”

85-year-old Mrs. Lang crafts baby shoes from clothing that would otherwise go to waste. She has not heard of the term ‘upcycling’ but practices its tenets daily.

Suvi Rautio, who runs Upcycle Beijing, elaborates. “Upcycling moves materials back up the supply chain to be reused and re-purposed with higher value and without degradation to their latent value. By upcycling materials, people rethink the concept of waste and a product’s life cycle.”

The concept is simple. Upcycling goes beyond recycling: while recycling a wine bottle requires energy to be spent in collection, transportation, and transformation, upcycling a wine bottle requires less energy and will make that specific bottle something worth more than it was for its original purpose. An example of upcycling would be turning the wine bottle into a lantern or candle holder.

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Clay Brick Families (Samaipata, Bolivia)

“I think that the parents are more than happy to send their children here, instead of keeping them at home. They don’t know me, they have never even seen me before, yet they still send them; it is not a problem, it is one less mouth to feed.”

Elizabeth, a European woman who has lived in Bolivia for over eight years, discusses the particulars of being a child guardian in South America’s poorest country. “Some children grow up in a place that really has nothing, no running water, no electricity, nothing at all,” she says. “When it rains, it rains on their beds; the beds they share by the half-dozen.”

This is one of the reasons Elizabeth brings children in from the village. She stresses that there are children living here that already lost every opportunity in life. Many can barely read and write, and the majority begin to work at an early age.

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