Divers travel to Thailand for some of the best diving in the world on both coasts of the country. The Andaman Sea has one of the most coveted reefs with a world top 5 in Hin Daeng and Hin Muang off of Ko Lanta. The most beginner friendly diving in the world is in the Gulf of Thailand where the island of Ko Tao certifies more divers than anywhere else. Diving wise, what both sides have in common despite different ecosystems, is the opportunity to swim with the elusive, friendly, and very curious giant, the Whale Shark.
There aren’t any reefs that guarantee a Whale Shark sighting, and there are some dive masters that I met in Ko Tao, that despite diving every day, have yet to spot one. That said there is always excitement that grows on the diving boats that this dive might be the lucky one. In that case, abandon the dive game plan, and just hang around the Whale Shark being sure to give it space, especially around its tail.
“There’s an erergy to that island. It’s magic. You have to go to Olkhon.”
That’s all I kept hearing from Siberians when I arrived in Irkutsk. This ain’t hockey so why fight these pesky Russians?
Actually, one thing I learned from being in Siberia and the Baltic states, Ukraine – places that continue to have Russian influence, at least in language – is that a Russian is very much like an African: an over simplified term that can refer to hundreds of different ethnic and cultural groups.
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.
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.
March 11th marks the one year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Since then, the nuclear power debate has predominantly, and understandably so, focused on safety issues. The consequences of a nuclear accident on human life and the environment are substantial. It’s difficult to predict how many people will die due to exposure at Fukushima; however, the fifty-thousand people who had to leave behind their homes during the evacuation have had their lives altered, their futures distorted from everything they were working towards. And of course people died during the evacuation as the toll is all too demanding on the elderly. As for the environment, Japan estimates that the cleanup of radioactive materials can take up to fifty years and 100 billion USD. But who really knows for sure.
Six weeks shy of the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl, the Fukushima accident has shifted public perception of nuclear energy towards safety concerns over energy needs. Chernobyl was painted as Soviet era technology that was inferior and resembled little to the reactors in countries like France, Japan, and the US. But the feeling is that if this could happen to Japan, this could happen to any country.